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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Streamlining Space Combat

This blog post does not add additional tonnage to your Space Combat rules, but it does increase their cost by 10%.

After having two space combat sessions in Traveller nearly back to back, I've noticed that things don't flow quite as smoothly as they should. While the Order of Events in the core book makes perfect sense from a layout perspective, in practice things get a little odd -- especially when it comes to damage.

Here, then, is my own work-in-progress system to help make space combat a little less confusing for the harried GM.  For completeness' sake, I shall list the entire order of events; changes to rules as written are indicated through italics. While the outline is longer than the original, this should help prevent the GM having to frantically thumb through the section, looking for what happens when.


Order of Events

  1. Setup
    1. Determine range between ships
    2. Determine crew positions
    3. Determine initiative
      1. Commanders make Tactics (naval) check
      2. Effect is added to ship initiative score
    4. Determine number of reactions based on initiative
  2. Maneuver Phase
    1. Burn initiative for bonus reactions? Y/N
    2. Pilots allocate thrust to movement or maneuvering
    3. Position of ships is changed based on thrust
    4. Pilot make skill rolls for maneuver actions
      1. Dock with another vessel
      2. Help line up a shot
      3. Perform evasive maneuvers
        • Spend thrust as a reaction
        • Each point of thrust spent allows Pilot check.
        • Each successful check gives -2 DM to attacks against that ship.
        • These DMs stack until end of turn.
  3. Combat Phase
    1. In order of initiative, ships can take actions. Reactions are performed by ship being fired upon.
    2. Fire turret weapons (each turret uses a single Gunnery (Turret) roll)
      • Reaction: Launch Sand? Y/N
        • May only be used as a reaction if Sensors are functional
        • If not, sand is launched along with turret weapons
        • Sand cloud disperses at end of turn
    3. Launch Missiles (if from a turret with mixed weaponry, uses the above roll)
      • Reaction: Point Defense? Y/N
        • Can only be used in the turn they will impact
        • 1 hit = missile destroyed 
        • Gunner may keep shooting at missiles until one is missed
        • Each point defense roll after the first suffers cumulative -1 DM
    4. Attempt boarding action
      • Reaction: Point Defense vs. Boarders? Y/N
      • Use Quick Resolution of Boarding Actions (p. 148) if desired
    5. Repeat until all ships have taken all actions.
    6. Resolve damage
      1. All energy weapons from one turret count as one incoming block of damage.
      2. See if missiles hit (table, p.149)
      3. Resolve all missile hits separately.
      4. Determine damage to ship.
      5. Resolve crew hits from radiation
  4. Ship Action Phase
    • In order of initiative ships may take actions:
      • Increase initiative through Leadership (Captain)
      • Repair damaged systems (Damage Control)
      • Switch computer programs (Computer/Sensor/Comm)
      • Establish sensor lock (Sensor)
      • Determine type of missiles inbound (Sensor)
      • Perform electronic warfare (Comms)
      • Communicate with other ships [including hostile] (Comms)
        • Check to see if electronic warfare prevents this
        • If so, comms operator must defeat jamming through opposed roll
      • Launch/retrieve small craft (Pilot[Small Craft])
      • Perform Jump (Engineer [Jump Drive])
    • Only one action per crew member each phase
  5. Next turn - go to Maneuver Phase, above


  1. Ahhh, much clearer all laid out like this.

    Though I think you might want to clarify the maneuver phase on step 3. To clarify that the range between the ships is updated there.

    Might want to clarify which options on the list require initiative based actions, and which are automatic. If I'm using the terms right.

    Hmmm. Is electronic warfare sensors or comms?

  2. I thought "Position of ships is changed based on thrust" was clear, but okay.

    Initiative only affects who goes first and how many reactions they may have.

    As for EW... funny, that. In the rules it's all sensors, sensors, sensors, but when you read the skill descriptions, it's Comms that has to do with jamming (although there is an example for Sensors skill being used to *overcome* jamming). I figured Sensors was over-represented and that Comms needed some love.

  3. PS: Please note the changes in to-hit and damage and how they are different from how we've played. I'm trying to cut down on excessive dice rolling.

  4. As a former aficionado of Star Fleet Battles, I had to say this Order of Events is really very straightforward and easily understood.

  5. As someone with a character who has Comms 2 and doesn't use it much... I won't complain.

    Though in fairness my most recent comms roll (pinging SDBs) was awesome.

  6. I like how it's laid out. I'm not familiar with Traveller, but this reminds me of the Battletech turn and its phases (initiative, move, shoot, physical attacks, heat).

    Nonrelated comment: Why do budding game designers think excessive complexity in their system is a selling point?

    Case in point: this past DragonCon I got to try out the Imagine system. It's like someone took 3rd edition D&D and bolted on some of the more time-consuming aspects of 2E.

  7. To be fair, the turn sequence was (mostly) done by other folks; I just moved some things around to places where they made more sense, and clarified others where they'd been lurking in the text.

    And to address your point, a lot of folks think that "Doing more things" equals "Having more fun" and thus make complex systems with more things to do.

    I might be slightly guilty of this...

  8. 1 Bad guys fire.
    a Did the players bribe me sufficently?
    1. No = Hit players die
    2. Yes = if dramatically appropriate, hit, players live. If not, miss.

  9. I think everyone is guilty of it at some point. They trip and forget that the point is ROLE-playing, not number-playing.

    What made the DCon game less of a chore and more entertaining was how two friends and I took our roles and ran wild with them. I was playing an insectoid explorer/adventurer type, and played him like a strange cross of Indiana Jones, Deekin (from NWN), and Waspinator from Beast Wars.

    That's what makes RPGs fun. The mechanics are just a framework for the role you take on.

  10. Do you count establishing a sensor lock as electronic ware?

  11. No. Per the rules, EW consists of baffling smart missiles or breaking sensor locks other vessels have on you.

  12. Has anyone ever used Traveller rules as a framework for battles in Weber's Honor Harrington universe? Just wonderin'.

  13. Almost certainly. I haven't seen it, but it seems like a very high level of probability.

  14. What's your opinion on the differences between Starship Combat and Personal Combat? One thing I always wonder about is the difference in hit effect on damage. In personal combat if you hit by 2 (IE you get a 10 and need an 8) you inflict 2 more points of damage. Perhaps, this is because "you hit so well". Perhaps its precision damage. In starship combat, this isn't the case. No matter how well you hit the target the damage is always constrained to the damage done solely by the weapon. Do you think there should be some sort of precision damage for starship combat?

  15. Some potential addendums to the sequence? I think you can only burn initiative for bonus reactions rather than actions. Also as part of initiative Tactics can be rolled as a benefit to initiative throughout the combat (on both sides).

  16. Good catches.

    And yes, -2 was probably per attack, but I'm trying to reduce the number of die rolls overall. Since it's impossible to "dodge" a laser, I am interpreting that as performing evasive maneuvers (aka "jinking") and doing that really should apply the penalty to all attacks, not just one.

    In other words, yes it's a house rule, but one I think most will agree with.

  17. I haven't yet run vehicle combat. I'll investigate.


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