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    Default What changes in Space Adventures?

    I am deliberately avoiding the term science fiction, as what I am having in mind has very little to do with physics or hyper-technologies. The kind of game I am thinking of is more swashbuckling and pulpy adventures. In SPACE! Things like Star Wars or Flash Gordon.

    In many ways, these kinds of settings take a lot from fantasy and westerns, even more so than from science fiction. But new aditions like space ships, radio, guns, and a range of technological gadgets does have an impact on stories, encounters, and the options that are open to players that are different from a typical adventure game.

    I am thinking of taking a break from fantast and take a shot at Stars Without Number, giving the game a more pulpy and retro-futurisric angle. As someone who's pretty much entirely run elfgames set in Fantasyland, what changes in how GMs have to approach and think of things?

    The main thing that comes to mind is that the big dungeon crawl no longer seems appropriate. You can still have hostile outposts full of enemies, but with even the most primitive communication technology any single guard can alert the entire place. And of course everyone will know you're there once a gun is fired. If players don't manage to take out guards quietly on first try, the game is up and the options come down to fignting their way back out of the place, or taking out all the opposition inside.
    Partly it's ot course a question of the system, but I think generally you expect in gunfights that even super skilled heroes can't beat vastly more numerous enemies in the way that high level fighters and wizards could hold out against giant hordes of goblins. The game mechanics might allow it, but I think it just wouldn't feel right. Escaping from hundreds of evil minions who can't aim is fun, mowing down those hundrefs of minions would be quite appalling.

    The other big thing is that I think in the vast majority of campaigns, everyone would expect the party to have space transportation at their free disposal pretty early on. Players could have a boat in a coastal fantasy setting which would work quite similar, but that's quite rare. In space adventures it's the default assumption.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    First up, communication devices makes splitting up when you're not expecting combat much more viable. I've been in groups that have had each character go their own way because they can always call each other when they need to pay information along. The more stealth you're using the less practical this is, and of course if you're transmissions are unencrypted (you idiot) anybody can listen in, but it's a massive game changer when investigating.

    Secondly if you're actually in space powerful weapons become a liability. Especially if your ship doesn't have internal airlocks between sections. Doubly especially if you're anywhere near hydrogen tanks (and there's probably a 50% chance rocketships are using hydrogen, if not it'll likely be water). While going more pulpy gives you leeway on decompression having multiple holes in the ship is just asking for trouble.

    A badass with good weapons can take down a room full of enemies with surprise. With decent armour they can do it without the element of surprise. With powered armour they might be able to withstand anti tank weapons, but you're getting into Lensman territory there. But even the strongest armour will go down to heavy fire, whether you're a Space Marine or Imperial Stormtrooper. Hundreds of enemies is pushing it, tens is probably fine with decent equipment. So more crowds and less hordes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    One big thing is the difficulty in getting help.

    In a typical fantasy game, you can always just teleport back home when things get out of control. Or, if you don't have teleportation abilities yet, you can still run back to the big city. If you disturb a small army of orcs, you can wander back to the safety of the big city walls.

    In space, no one can hear you scream.

    That is, once you start to get outnumbered, you're not going to be able to run home so easily. And the enemies probably have spaceships too and their spaceships might be faster. And they might have more of them than you do. If you get into trouble, you're on your own. Running back home isn't an option.

    Also, the enemies might wreck your spaceship. Then you're stuck on some other rotten planet. With the enemies, no doubt.

    At best, you can radio back home and tell them that there's trouble. And they'll tell you that the nearest ship that can help you will arrive in two months. At worst, your communications are jammed and you're stuck. Of course, if you're an outlaw, then you don't have anybody to call for help anyway, most likely.

    And if you fall through a wormhole into the Delta Quadrant, then you're totally screwed.
    Last edited by SimonMoon6; 2021-09-12 at 04:08 PM.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    This makes me realize that space battles probably make it much more feasiible to have situations in which PCs are getting capured. Players near universally have a very strong resistence to surrendering. They always think that a fight should be possible to win and subconsciously assume that the GM won't let them all get killed and the story end unresolved, so they just keep in fighting and refuse to accept that they are beaten while they are still alive. (Justified metagame assumptions, actuallly.)
    But when you are out in space with your engines destroyed and no ability to go anywhere, I think players will be much more lilely to realize that there really is no other option but to see what will happen in captivity.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Secondly if you're actually in space powerful weapons become a liability. Especially if your ship doesn't have internal airlocks between sections. Doubly especially if you're anywhere near hydrogen tanks (and there's probably a 50% chance rocketships are using hydrogen, if not it'll likely be water). While going more pulpy gives you leeway on decompression having multiple holes in the ship is just asking for trouble.
    What exactly is the issue here and its consequence?
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    What exactly is the issue here and its consequence?
    The general idea is that having conducting a firefight in the interior of a starship is generally a bad idea and depending on the technologies involved and whether or not the starship has been hardened against such weapon impacts has a decent chance of permanently disabling the starship (or at least that section of the starship) and killing everyone involved. While explosive decompression doesn't actually occur the way it's often shown in movies and comics, space is still a 'hard' environment, especially compared to land-based battles.

    Partly it's ot course a question of the system, but I think generally you expect in gunfights that even super skilled heroes can't beat vastly more numerous enemies in the way that high level fighters and wizards could hold out against giant hordes of goblins. The game mechanics might allow it, but I think it just wouldn't feel right. Escaping from hundreds of evil minions who can't aim is fun, mowing down those hundrefs of minions would be quite appalling.
    This is actually almost a purely mechanical question and has nothing to do with whether you're fighting with guns versus swords because in a game you can decide how much damage those weapons do and how impactful fictional armor is. Star Wars has churned out games using fantasy mechanics (often copied with minimal modification from actual fantasy systems such as D&D and WoW) for decades now and no one complains loudly. And mecha-style fantasy is often less lethal than traditional because when the pilot's machine is sufficiently battered they can just eject.

    If you wish to up the lethality that's fine, but it's a matter of mechanical choices. You can always juggle the space fantasy technologies however you wish to justify it in-universe.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    As far as dungeon crawls IN SPACE, I think they'd still be possible, you just have to change the parameters. Have an abandoned space station overrun by rampaging killer robots, or a colony base where the inhabitants have been driven mad by alien fungus spores. Radio communication can instantly alert other guards, but the people being attacked have to be intelligent enough to do so in the first place.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Ah, handguns inside space ships. I was thinking about ship weapons, which lead to my confusion.

    As more people have shared in recent years, knives are actually extremely dangerous in gun fight if they happen at close range. Like the ranges inside cramped space ships. Combined with the danger of hiting something important when shooting inside a ship, this makes for plausible reasons why people would carry big knives and small swords to have that good old swashbuckling action.
    Stars Without Number specifically had a system where close range weapons cause some injury even on missed attack rolls unless the target is sufficiently heavily armored. When you get into a knife fight, you are goung to get cut. And this means even if guns do much more damage, being in a close range fight with a gun against someone with a blade might put you in the worse position, because you won't do anything when your attack rolls miss. (A rule I found odd in the fantasy version Worlds Without Number, but which seems brilliant for space operas with devastating guns.)
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    What exactly is the issue here and its consequence?
    The major problem about using powerful weapons anywhere on a ship is decompression, and thus lack of air. You can fight in vacuum suits to make it less of an issue, but unless you have very fast space drives you'll need to take the suit off at stone point.

    The point of internal airlocks is to be able to shut off a section that's been depressurised so that the rest of the ship still has an atmosphere. Plus there are some instances where you'll want to intentionally depressurise part of your ship, raging fires being a well known example.

    The issue with hydrogen tankage is that, while it's one of the good remass solutions for fission and fusion rockets it's very explosive. The absolute best case scenario is that you lose your remass and now can't go anywhere, the worst result is that the majority of your spaceship's volume just underwent a violent reaction.

    Because reactionless drives are for those with no server of adventure.
    Last edited by Anonymouswizard; 2021-09-12 at 05:24 PM.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    This makes me realize that space battles probably make it much more feasiible to have situations in which PCs are getting capured. Players near universally have a very strong resistence to surrendering. They always think that a fight should be possible to win and subconsciously assume that the GM won't let them all get killed and the story end unresolved, so they just keep in fighting and refuse to accept that they are beaten while they are still alive. (Justified metagame assumptions, actuallly.)
    Ah, potential issues abound there. Been there, had that problem. Depending on the players they may assume that attacking customs agents and such is a good thing because of that and the long distance from "help" for the government guys. You may have to explain three or more times (for some reason twice wasn't enough) that two warships twice the size of the pc's trade ship will not take aggression and failure to surrender with "ok we'll just go home".

    The other issues are, of course, dropping big things from orbit and the fact that any spaceship engine powerful enought to move you anywhere fast enough to be interesting is also a weapon of mass destruction.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    One thing I find whenever there's a ship scale and person scale is that you have to keep in mind that figuring out a way to bring a ship scale weapon to bear against a person scale obstacle is always potentially on the table, and either that can overwhelm any kind of reasonably attainable person-scale challenge, or you get some very wonky things happening at the ship scale. I don't necessarily mean firing your ship's missiles into a melee between the party and their enemy, but more like 'rather than going and having a shootout with those bandits, we could just call in an airstrike'. So individual protagonists and antagonists are even less stable as fixtures of conflict than in something like D&D. The BBEG might be a dangerous assassin who is unbeatable in close quarters, undetectable, and can get past any level of security. But if the space station he's on happens to get blown up he's as dead as anyone else.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    One thing I find whenever there's a ship scale and person scale is that you have to keep in mind that figuring out a way to bring a ship scale weapon to bear against a person scale obstacle is always potentially on the table, and either that can overwhelm any kind of reasonably attainable person-scale challenge, or you get some very wonky things happening at the ship scale. I don't necessarily mean firing your ship's missiles into a melee between the party and their enemy, but more like 'rather than going and having a shootout with those bandits, we could just call in an airstrike'. So individual protagonists and antagonists are even less stable as fixtures of conflict than in something like D&D. The BBEG might be a dangerous assassin who is unbeatable in close quarters, undetectable, and can get past any level of security. But if the space station he's on happens to get blown up he's as dead as anyone else.
    StarWars D6 handles this quite well with die Caps to the To Hit, Dodge and Damage between different scale weapons (from Character to Deathstar)


    This is also a good system that is designed to be played like the films, fast and loose.
    Re the Comms mentioned in the 1st post - how well do storm troopers communicate - if you look at the films generally very badly

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    I don't think this has been mentioned (though I admittedly skimmed some of the answers) but I think an important part is that being in space feels different than being on a planet. That sounds incredibly vague but what I mean is that being in space shouldn't just be like being on Earth except with space suit and blaster instead of chain mail and sword — it's a very different environment and that should ideally be reflected in both descriptions and mechanics.

    I'm currently playing in a space adventure and although fun in general, I find it a little lacking in this regard. For example, we had a gun fight on a largish asteroid (so basically no gravity) but aside from some token mentions, it didn't really feel any different from having it on a planet.

    Granted, the influences you mention are usually pretty bad at stuff like that, but I would attribute that more to the technical limitations (though I suppose the Flash Gordon comics don't have that excuse) than something inherent to the genre.
    Last edited by Batcathat; 2021-09-13 at 03:11 AM.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Ah, potential issues abound there. Been there, had that problem. Depending on the players they may assume that attacking customs agents and such is a good thing because of that and the long distance from "help" for the government guys. You may have to explain three or more times (for some reason twice wasn't enough) that two warships twice the size of the pc's trade ship will not take aggression and failure to surrender with "ok we'll just go home".

    The other issues are, of course, dropping big things from orbit and the fact that any spaceship engine powerful enought to move you anywhere fast enough to be interesting is also a weapon of mass destruction.
    If we are doing excessively realistic space adventures then bigger ships are not really much better at fighting than smaller ones because even a tiny ship can carry amounts of firepower sufficient to break enough a big ship to cause the need for an evacuation.(and you can not really do efficient evasive manoeuvring either in realistic space adventures because it takes a lot of time to accelerate relatively to the amount of cover(none) and to the acceleration or speed of the weapons(insanely high) due to the humans in the ships)
    In space warfare firing first is really important and those two warships might both be destroyed while destroying the trade ship that have 50 custom fit weapons(ranging from railguns to seeker nukes) added by the pcs (and yes it is horrible because everyone dies on both sides: fighting was not the good plan).
    Last edited by noob; 2021-09-13 at 03:31 AM.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    I have GM'ed a few games with in SWN.

    Dungeon Crawls: You can totally have those, if desired. Abandoned space hulk full of cyber-zombies, ancient alien temple on an uncharted jungle world, sewers and underbowels of a crime-infested megacity, even a boarding action / infiltration mission against a large enemy vessel can be run like a dungeon crawl.

    Com Systems: If instant communication between bad guys is a problem, establish how the systems in place can be jammed or misdirected and provide equipment and rules that can be used to that effect. One of our groups has a dedicated combat hacker that can disable communication grids, hijack surveillance drones and disable security systems. In other words, the SWN version of a D&D rogue.

    Nukes from Orbit: Can be a problem for some adventure plots. Possible solutions to enforce boots on the ground include: Hostile base is located in a zone protected by intact pre-tech Planetary Defense Array. Hostages / civilians / the McGuffin / vital infrastructure that can't be sacrificed without repercussions or in good conscience are in the same area. A powerful third party will turn a blind eye towards attacks against that particular group of domestic villains, but not if it includes an orbital bombardment against their own planet. Of course, sometimes the players should be able to feel like angry gods and obliterate the opposition by virtue of their awesome starship. It seems to be quite cathartic.
    Last edited by Berenger; 2021-09-13 at 04:02 AM.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    I don't think this has been mentioned (though I admittedly skimmed some of the answers) but I think an important part is that being in space feels different than being on a planet. That sounds incredibly vague but what I mean is that being in space shouldn't just be like being on Earth except with space suit and blaster instead of chain mail and sword — it's a very different environment and that should ideally be reflected in both descriptions and mechanics.

    I'm currently playing in a space adventure and although fun in general, I find it a little lacking in this regard. For example, we had a gun fight on a largish asteroid (so basically no gravity) but aside from some token mentions, it didn't really feel any different from having it on a planet.

    Granted, the influences you mention are usually pretty bad at stuff like that, but I would attribute that more to the technical limitations (though I suppose the Flash Gordon comics don't have that excuse) than something inherent to the genre.
    I think it depends on if 'adventures in space' is important or 'adventures in exotic locals' is. I've been rewatching a lot of classic Doctor Who and it's fiber even though it pretty much never feels like (realistic) space even when on spacecraft. That said it also tended to avoid situations where gravity would be important, although it did certainly come up in The Monster.

    When going for classic science fiction there's very much a scale that on the one hand has Flash Gordon (where it being space doesn't matter) and on the other hand Skylark (where it very much does matter, although the characters get used to free fall remarkably quickly). What's more important than what side of the scale you pick is deciding on a point along it and sticking to it. Rocket Age is fine despite asteroids having more gravity than you'd expect because this is a specific thing that the game assumes (alongside operating outside your home gravity not being that difficult).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    You can greatly reduce the risk of using firearms inside a ship by using weapons that won't penetrate a bulkhead. Shotguns, beanbag rounds, tasers, or anything else that won't punch through metal is relatively safe to use on ships. Conversely, borderline suicidal berserker pirates eho use regular munitions should be utterly terrifying to EVERYBODY if they can get into boarding torpedo range.

    One thing that will (or at least should) be very different from your average fantasy game is the distances involved. Interplanetary travel should take weeks or months. Instellar travels should take years, unless you have some kind of warp gates.

    Communication will not be instantaneous. Even if you get a distress call out, nobody may receive it for weeks. PCs in space are fundamentally on their own in ways that simply do not apply to most genres. There is no cavalry coming, and if you can't get your engine running it's a race to see whether you freeze or asphyxiate first.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I think it depends on if 'adventures in space' is important or 'adventures in exotic locals' is. I've been rewatching a lot of classic Doctor Who and it's fiber even though it pretty much never feels like (realistic) space even when on spacecraft. That said it also tended to avoid situations where gravity would be important, although it did certainly come up in The Monster.

    When going for classic science fiction there's very much a scale that on the one hand has Flash Gordon (where it being space doesn't matter) and on the other hand Skylark (where it very much does matter, although the characters get used to free fall remarkably quickly). What's more important than what side of the scale you pick is deciding on a point along it and sticking to it. Rocket Age is fine despite asteroids having more gravity than you'd expect because this is a specific thing that the game assumes (alongside operating outside your home gravity not being that difficult).
    Sure, realistic space physics aren't important (at least not in the genre we're talking about) but I do think the experience is better if it's at least notably different from adventuring on an Earth-like planet. The locals feel a lot more exotic if they don't just have extra moons and people with weird foreheads but actually behave in a different way.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    Sure, realistic space physics aren't important (at least not in the genre we're talking about) but I do think the experience is better if it's at least notably different from adventuring on an Earth-like planet. The locals feel a lot more exotic if they don't just have extra moons and people with weird foreheads but actually behave in a different way.
    Oh sure, recognising the effects of differing gravity or having significantly differing ecosystems or aliens are in my opinion better. But at the same time did the Star Wars characters ever have to deal with that?

    Honestly, if you're on an asteroid or other low gravity environment it should come up. But it's also very easy to make that a non issue.


    I've also considered running a humans only space opera game, because alien cultures are hard. But I don't have a group to pitch it to yet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    One significant difference is that the players usually will have a ship. Having a ship allows far more freedom of movement than a traditional fantasy game.

    Broadly speaking there are 4 different models of how a ship affects a campaign.

    1) The ship is a taxi (Firefly, Dr Who, Alien)
    The ship does not have any meaningful combat capacity and you don’t get involved in ship to ship combat. The ship serves as a vehicle for getting the party from point A to point B. The party doesn’t need to sink too many character points into ship handling.

    2) You’re in the navy (Star Trek)
    The players are officers commanding a large ship. The ship is bought and paid for by someone else. The players will be sent on missions by a higher command. Combat involves the players ordering the crew to take actions. Ship to ship combat happens relatively rarely.
    Sub-genre (Warhammer 40k, HALO, Aliens) The players are marines and take part in boarding actions in combat while the mechanics of ship to ship combat occur off screen.

    3) The ship is a character (Blake’s 7, Star Wars TESB RotJ)
    The players are the crew of a small ship and handle the combat duties hands on. Roles include pilot, e-warfare expert, gunner, fighter pilot, and navigator. Ship to ship combat is expected on a regular basis.
    The capacity of the ship is a vital consideration when choosing missions and how to carry them out.
    Ship handling capacity is a vital part of character creation, as every character will need to pull their weight in ship to ship combat.

    4) The ship is a burden (Cowboy Bebop, Star Wars aNH, The Mandalorian)
    Similar to the ship is a character, but with the important distinction that the cost of operating the ship (fuel, maintenance, repairs, docking fees and so on) is a constant and significant drain on the party’s resources.
    Players will have to choose what gets repaired and what remains inoperable/jury rigged. Players will feel pressure to take on higher risk missions for the higher reward. Taking the safe option may not always be an option.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by noob View Post
    If we are doing excessively realistic space adventures then bigger ships are not really much better at fighting than smaller ones because...
    A. Space opera is the current discussion topic. IRL its mass & fuel concerns that make you want to strip out every excess kilogram and make a ship just capable of surviving its own thrust. Space opera usually isn't into taking 3+ months to reach the next planet and having all combat be one hit kills.
    B. The incident I was talking about was a customs inspection where the pcs trade ship was at zero velocity relative to two ships designed for exactly this. The pcs literally attacked the customs teams as soon as the shuttle airlocks opened. The customs teams scuttled back and broke lock, then the cruisers punched holes through the trader's control & engine rooms. End of game.

    The responses I get, to this day, revolve around "level appropriate" and "we thought the ships were smaller than us". In a Traveller game, where there are no 'levels' and the phrase "your 300t trader is bracketed by two 600t imperial customs warships" (or words to that effect, it was a number of years ago now) was said twice.

    I'm simply saying that you can't expect players to make rational decisions like their characters should. People will often bring in expectations and habits from other games & media. Most players don't actually read much setting stuff or pay attention to things that aren't their character or the immediate encounter. They probably won't tell the DM anything about their assumptions until something blows uo in their faces.

    I've see this in things like ShadowRun too. Often only people playing riggers (jack your brain into a car to be extra awesome at driving archetype) will pay enough attention to a vehicle description to hear th DM mention the freaking autocannon turret on the ex-police riot suppression vehicle in the parking lot. Then they're all surprised when their mugging goes wrong and a pc gets one-shot.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    The biggest issue in my experience is when you have to do spaceship combat. To put it simply, it sucks.

    Inevitably, you have characters who have basically nothing to do. If you're the ship's pilot or you're shooting the guns, that's great. If you're anyone else on the ship, your options are generally limited to just making a skill check to repair something or scan something or adjust something. Or assist someone who has an actual job.

    For a movie example, let's look at the escape from the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope. They've just rescued Princes Leia and watched Obi-Wan get killed by Darth Vader, and the party escapes on the Millennium Falcon. Han and Luke rush to man the guns. With Han occupied, Chewbacca gets to fly the ship. R2-D2 briefly repairs something, while C-3PO and Princess Leia do literally nothing. If it were being played at a table, this combat could take an hour in real time to resolve (at least, the way my group usually plays). It's bad.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    The biggest issue in my experience is when you have to do spaceship combat. To put it simply, it sucks.
    The best answer I've found is simply don't do space combat. This is also the solution that seems to have been reached by all the great space fantasy video game RPGs, with space combat either reduced to minor mini-games or ignored entirely. You can do combat inside ships - since repelling boarders is just another tactical variation, but combat between ships should be avoided, played as background or cutscenes only.

    The tricky part can be justifying why you're not doing space combat, especially in the classic 'tramp-freighter' scenario when the PCs are the ship's only crew - compare to Mass Effect where none of the members of Shepard's team are naval crew with assigned space combat roles. This is doubly-so in 'retro-future' scenarios because you can't just say 'the ship's AI does the fighting at space combat speeds' like you might plausibly claim in a truly future tech setting.

    One option is to offer up some sort of setting chicanery such that all space combat is boarding for some reason. Possibly you could do Dune-style shields at ship scale, such that high-speed weapons can't penetrate defenses so only a shuttle carrying crew can make an assault. You can also say that every ship has some impossibly valuable and easily damaged resource aboard such that everyone in space has agreed not to actually destroy the ships - for example if hyperspace access is dependent upon some kind of living psychic or something, and the psychics object to the death of their own, then destroying a ship means you can't do FTL any more so you just don't do that. This sort of thing has downstream setting implications though, so it needs to be handled carefully.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    The tricky part can be justifying why you're not doing space combat, especially in the classic 'tramp-freighter' scenario when the PCs are the ship's only crew
    Isn't the obvious answer to not just have the tramp-freighter be armed? It's not as if every 18 wheeler or freight ship in the real world comes with their own missiles. Firefly is a classic example of what you're talking about (unless I misunderstand?) and the closest thing they come to space combat is having Jayne clinging to the outside of the ship with his gun.

    Of course, that means that unless they can escape, the PCs are kinda screwed if they meet an armed enemy ship but that's also true if a party in a fantasy campaign without flight or reliable ranged attacks meet a flying enemy.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Yeah, I've got at least one setting premise that makes FTL relatively easy to activate combined with ship weapons being heavily regulated (and some planets regulating personal weapons). Space piracy just isn't practical due to the vastness of space and ease of running away, and interstellar wars are rare (leading to small navies).

    The bigger issue is making sure that customs officers don't find the contraband you're running for your criminal contacts.

    Suffice to say I've become very fond of 'ship as taxi', particularly because space combat can be boring. I even once got rid of ships entirely, their only use was to find terraformable planets and set up wormhole stations on them which was incredibly boring (although the group voted against that game, which revolved around taking down a criminal empire).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    I notice that very few space themed works seem to bother much with history before living memory. More often than not, it's even only the last 20-30 years. Specifically, that last big war we had in which the heroes fought not that long ago, but which is now water under the bridge.
    Most fantasy stories would work with such a setup as well, but it seems rather uncommon. In fantasy, big history is expected. Space adventures rarely bother with it.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by SimonMoon6 View Post
    That is, once you start to get outnumbered, you're not going to be able to run home so easily. And the enemies probably have spaceships too and their spaceships might be faster. And they might have more of them than you do. If you get into trouble, you're on your own. Running back home isn't an option.
    Starfinder has a unique form of magitech FTL (The Drift) that solves this one - no matter where you are in the galaxy, returning to Absalom Station always takes just 1d6 standard days because of the giant Starstone artifact housed at the station's core. This works with any drift engine-equipped ship, so even if the PCs severely damage or outright lose their own vessel, finding or jury-rigging a drift drive on the clunkiest space junker provides them a means to get back to civilization relatively quickly. I don't know whether SWN has a similar mechanic, but this could be something worth thinking about if you want to encourage exploration but still have a sense of safety that feels credible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    The other big thing is that I think in the vast majority of campaigns, everyone would expect the party to have space transportation at their free disposal pretty early on. Players could have a boat in a coastal fantasy setting which would work quite similar, but that's quite rare. In space adventures it's the default assumption.
    You have a lot of control over the pacing here. One sample progression might be:

    1) No transit - the PCs start off dealing with local problems on a starting space station, planet, or moon. No need for space travel.
    2) Public transit - The PCs can't afford a ship yet but they can take a public shuttle, e.g. from a planet to a moon. Travel outside a system is unlikely, and even within a system, will focus on the most populated/cosmopolitan worlds.
    3) Private transit - The PCs are beginning to make a name for themselves. Still can't afford their own ship, but a sponsor of some kind (organization or benefactor) is happy to send them somewhere that is outside of normal transportation lanes, and arrange for pickup when the job is done. Travel outside a system is likely but may stay within a cluster.
    4) Rental Ship - The PCs are loaned or lease a standard ship. They can control where it goes within reason (subject to limits both soft and hard, regulatory or practical) but can easily be prevented from simply sailing off into the Black. Paying off the ship or keeping its owner happy is a great source of plot hooks. Travel outside a cluster is possible but unlikely.
    5) Owned Ship - whether found or purchased outright, this will be the first ship the PCs can truly think of as theirs. This will usually be a standard model, though some customization is possible - think starter home. Because of this, lengthy exploration is possible but likely to stay within charted space.
    6) Custom Ship - The ultimate form of transport, this would be the kind of ship you can build a whole campaign around. Maybe it's an experimental prototype, maybe the PCs have a degree of customization that truly makes it theirs, maybe it has a sentient AI on board, but the main calling card of this kind of ship is that it feels unique to the party and they get a true sense of attachment with it. The far reaches of the galaxy are becoming reasonable aspirations for the party, but of course will come with unique dangers. It may also have a unique form of FTL other ships don't (think Star Trek Discovery).
    Last edited by Psyren; 2021-09-14 at 10:33 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by KillianHawkeye View Post
    The biggest issue in my experience is when you have to do spaceship combat. To put it simply, it sucks.

    Inevitably, you have characters who have basically nothing to do. If you're the ship's pilot or you're shooting the guns, that's great. If you're anyone else on the ship, your options are generally limited to just making a skill check to repair something or scan something or adjust something. Or assist someone who has an actual job.
    That's actually not the case in Stars Without Number. The space combat system is specifically designed to have a slot and meaningful options for: one pilot, one captain, one comms officer, one engineer and one or more gunners. All of them require different skills to operate. Enemy hits regularly result in wounded crew or some variety of crisis on board that can be usually be dealt with in several ways. I have not yet encountered a character without at least a secondary or tertiary skill applicable in spaceship combat.
    Last edited by Berenger; 2021-09-14 at 10:52 AM.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I notice that very few space themed works seem to bother much with history before living memory. More often than not, it's even only the last 20-30 years. Specifically, that last big war we had in which the heroes fought not that long ago, but which is now water under the bridge.
    Most fantasy stories would work with such a setup as well, but it seems rather uncommon. In fantasy, big history is expected. Space adventures rarely bother with it.
    Eh, I've read several science fiction series with long histories. Most Peter F. Hamilton works include a timeline for going from roughly present day to the start of the series, as does Revelation Space. Both Revelation Space and Nights Dawn also include various short stories filling out the earlier eras. Then if we go right bank Lensman not only had history going back to humanity's early days in size, but the core conflict stretches bank to the first sentient species in the two galaxies it deals with (maybe even the entire universe).

    It is less common to have it have any impact on the story though, and you'll rarely get anything but broad outlines in the text itself. Science fiction is much more likely to have the threat be 'the new superweapon' than 'the ancient demon lord'.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Berenger View Post
    That's actually not the case in Stars Without Number. The space combat system is specifically designed to have a slot and meaningful options for: one pilot, one captain, one comms officer, one engineer and one or more gunners. All of them require different skills to operate. Enemy hits regularly result in wounded crew or some variety of crisis on board that can be usually be dealt with in several ways. I have not yet encountered a character without at least a secondary or tertiary skill applicable in spaceship combat.
    While I haven't played that system, the same could be said about Starfinder or Star Wars RPGs (on paper, at least). But what of people who don't fit into those roles? And do the captain and engineer really get equal play time to the pilot and gunners in that system?

    If that's all true, it's a welcome exception and I may have to look into it further the next time we play a sci-fi game.
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    Default Re: What changes in Space Adventures?

    There's always the option to keep space battles short and rare. A 15 minute space battle every 3 or 4 games in which one or two players don't have much to contribute are really not a big deal.
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