E-War is a real world fact. In a game based in some far flung future with spaceships and faster than light travel it should probably be as ubiquitous as aliens, droids and laser pistols.
Starfinder rules provide some rudimentary E-War through crew actions and such. I’m not really satisfied with their generality though so I’m leveraging some EVE Online mechanics to flesh out the science and clarify the fiction with both equipment and crew actions.
E-War, for this exercise, is broken into the following categories.
Electronic Counter Measures – Reactive Module/Action – This is a module that emits sensor noise in an attempt to break existing target locks. This module operates in two modes: Burst and Targeted. Burst mode is less powerful but could break multiple target locks while targeted jamming requires a target lock on the aggressor but operates with greater effectiveness.
Mechanics-wise I would say an opposed Computer (defender) vs Targeting (attacker) check to determine if the lock is maintained. This would happen once the attacker has managed to hit the target’s AC or TL value.
Weapon Disruption – Proactive Module/Action – Turret Tracking & Missile Guidance Disruption. This is a module that will enhance the defensive values of a ship. Each module is specific to disrupting Direct Fire turrets or Tracking weapons like missiles or torpedoes.
Upon activation the module effectively increases the AC or TL value as appropriate based on the class/level of the module.
Sensor Dampening – Proactive Module/Action – Reduces range and resolution of a targeted ship’s on-board scanners. This is an ideal solution to keep from getting locked onto by a opposing targeting system.
Activation of this module imposes a penalty for anyone attempting to use sensors to scan or target the host ship.
Target Painting – Makes the target easier to lock by increasing it’s sensor signature. This is a fairly lightweight module that requires a target lock before activation. Once activated the AC and TL values of the affected ship decrease making attacks easier.
As is the case in all complex systems there are details and bugs to be worked out. But this could make space encounters a bit more dynamic and require more of positions that see little use during a conflict.
Once more into the universe of Sci-Fantasy table top role playing!
This will be my second run at GMing Paizo’s Starfinder system. This time I’ve decided to keep it ‘simple’ with an Adventure Path. Here’s the setup:
The crew operates a salvaged Tier 1, Renegade-class Transport the “Exarch Reliant”. While the ship has seen better days the crew manages to scrape enough credits together to keep it operational for hauling cargo and passengers seeking a certain discretion around the solar system and near space. It’s a solid frame with significant potential.
The crew have been operating for a few cycles now, sticking to safe space lanes and making the usual connections for freelance haulers. The pay is barely enough to keep the thrusters online but living as a freelance crew is ideal for beings that may have crossed the line a few times in their lives or are wanted in other less savory circles.
Each crew member found themselves involved with the Stewards (law enforcement) in some fashion. Due to the interest and intervention of an Android Agent, Cedona-17, they all found themselves with a clean record and operating a ramshackle ship in return for a few off-book hauls when the Stewards needed a ‘package’ picked up or delivered quietly.
A few months ago Cedona-17 transferred to a position on the planet of Nakondis out in the Vast. This event left the crew with less contact with the Stewards, less official sponsorship and fewer related paydays.
A job came across the links recently from AbadarCorp looking for a transport to haul basic supplies to Nakondis. Standard cargo, slightly better rates than usual due to the distance. A payday and an opportunity to visit with an old contact that may have more lucrative opportunities in an area way off the beaten path.
What could possibly go wrong?
I have added a link to my ‘official’ story line site, The Aeon Incident, in the main navigation at the top of RPGOracle. Instead of adding posts here I will be posting session summaries on that site so everyone can keep up with the fun.
Character summaries are up for review as well a a very thorough overview of the crew’s ship.
Everyone seems fairly hyped for the game and setting. We’ll see how long it takes to completely derail the planned course of the adventure and spiral out of control.
First, let me say, I was skeptical of a second edition because I lived and suffered under the constant development of Basic, 1st Ed and 2nd Ed of Dungeon’s & Dragons. It was an arms race of hard backs and splat books seemingly for no reason other than to drain any and all ‘disposable’ income gamers in the 80s and 90s had to offer.
With the release of 3rd Ed D&D it seemed to get worse with some excellent third party sources that meshed with varying levels of balance. That was about the time pirated PDF files began circulating around the Internet saving tons of $$ and simplifying hauling libraries of expansion and rule books from game to game.
Now, digital libraries are all the rage with troves of every game imaginable available for download for those that idly run a search on the right engine.
Enter Pathfinder 2nd Ed. I purchased the Core Rulebook and Bestiary PDFs directly from Paizo on release. I perused the digital pages and discovered the fundamental differences of the fresh take on a classic system. I bought the ‘deluxe’, physical core rule book to experience the system as the publisher intended. I must say it’s a completely different experience.
From character generation to how magic and gear are presented the entire system seems like an overhaul for the sake of appealing to console and computer gamers. Then, in the second glance of the rule set, it becomes apparent that they wanted to compartmentalize everything into bite sized morsels for ease of consumption.
Character generation isn’t a matter of rolling the dice to generate the core ability scores. It’s a basic point buy system by default but you can still use the dice method if you prefer. Character creation is still a bit cumbersome as your building an alternate ego; a complete persona.
You’re supposed to begin with a character concept. Then generate the ability scores. Those base scores are modified in various ways by the character’s Ancestry, Background and Class.
Ancestry, is a more encompassing term than Race. Each Ancestry still imparts some basic details that helps your character reflect their unique racial heritage. Ancestries establish a baseline for Hit Points, Size, Speed, Ability ‘Boosts’ and ‘Flaws’, languages, traits and other special abilities. Ancestry provides Heritages to reflect variations in the racial types that impact the cosmetics of each sub-race. Finally, Ancestry Feats are earned as the character advances in level. This allows your Ancestry to influence the character’s advancement as much as their Class. No more cookie cutter elves, dwarves or even humans.
Backgrounds, if you’ve ever played 2nd Edition AD&D, are much like Secondary Proficiencies. What did your character do before becoming an adventurer? What skills did they use to earn a living? What kind of lifestyle did they live? You’ll get some bonus Feats and Skills here.
Finally, Class choices are what your character is doing now as an adventurer. Balance between all the classes has always been a hot topic but, after reviewing the system a few times I think Paizo may have managed to reach a reasonable balance.
Martial classes have been top dog since 3rd Ed D&D with access to piles of Feats through advancement and access to combat tactics that none of the other classes could really compete against.
Magic focused classes all suffered from being relegated to support ‘buff bot’ roles to keep the martial classes alive and improve their capabilities. Not playing that role was challenging and, at lower levels, really never worked.
Now, all classes have the capacity to stand on their own more reasonably providing both support and active combat capabilities. The flexibility of Class focused Feats, steady progression of Ancestry Feats and more focus on skills during play allows everyone to play their character like they want instead of being pidgin holed into a single role.
Speaking of Feats, these are not the overwhelming Feats of 3rd Ed simply rehashed. Every Feat has been ‘re-balanced’. Many of the general feats apply skill modifiers instead of arbitrarily boosting a character into nearly superhuman status. More number crunching in several ways but hopefully they keep a reign on how Feats impact game play moving forward.
The role of currency has been adjusted a bit too. Gear is no longer hundreds of coins. Starting currency is a flat 15 gold with which you can comfortably purchase starting gear. I’m guessing some one finally ran the numbers on carrying large sacks of coin and figured out how impractical it was.
Magic, as a system is always complex for a player or GM to account for effects and impact on game play. PF2E handles spell progression allowing spells to grow with the caster as appropriate. In previous editions of D&D and PF, for instance, Magic Missile projects bolt of force at an opponent for 1d4+1 damage. The caster gains an extra missile every two levels to a maximum of five missiles.
In PF2E, with their new action system you can cast one extra bolt for every action you spend for a total of 3 in a single round. In addition you can cast the 1st level spell as a 3rd level spell and gain on extra missile. This progression continues but the level of the spell increases by two for each additional missile. The only limitation being the level of spell you can cast.
A further example, Fireball, traditionally inflicts 1d6 of damage per caster level to a maximum of 10d6. Now, as a 3rd level spell, it inflicts 6d6 of damage but can be increased by 2d6 by increasing the level of the spell by one. So, a 17th level Wizard could cast a Fireball that inflicts a total of 18d6 damage as a 9th level spell.
Beyond the impact of damage from spells, D&D and PF have both been struggling with legacy spells and effects. It feels like Paizo actually walked through the list of spells and carefully considered some of the arbitrary limitations that have been propagated since 3rd Edition.
Spell duration was one of the seemingly broken things we repeatedly encountered over the last decade. Mage Armor, for example, used to be 1 hour per character level and provided a spell caster or another touched creature with a +4 bonus to armor class. PF2E took the spell, eliminated the option for use on another creature and provided scaling to keep it on par with what a Fighter might have access to at a similar level.
Now Mage Armor provides a +1 Item Bonus to AC with a maximum Dexterity modifier of +5. Heightened to a 4th level spell provides saving throws with a +1 item bonus. At 6th level the AC bonus increases to +2 and retain the +1 to saving throws. In addition, the spell remain in effect till the next day when you prepare spells.
Overall, Pathfinder 2nd Edition is not just a rehash of the overgrown 3rd Edition D&D Open Game License rules. It stands on it’s own as a definite growth and re-balance that table top gaming has been looking for since Hasbro bought WotC.
This is not going to be a simple adaptation for us older gamers. It’s a new and complex system requiring patience and some unlearning of old habits. I plan on using the new system during my next turn at the GM seat when we cycle back to Fantasy. Meanwhile, I’ve got some studying to do.
Here we are in June, around 10 sessions under our belts and the journey continues. I’ve opted for a more narrative level progression loosely tied to actual earned XP. The sketchiest part of the game, thus far, has been currency and converting loot into liquid assets.
Players have been hijacking the plot as expected so all systems normal there. The group managed to progress to sixth level on average. We’ve added a new player who decided to play another Lashunta Envoy.
The players constructed a robot that interfaces with their significantly upgraded starship providing more Dark Matter style to the game. I provide hooks, they seize on a minor detail and run with it. It’s amusing and exhausting.
They’ve encountered alien life forms, violent and peaceful. They’ve negotiated lucrative employment opportunities with various larger organizations to keep the engines burning.
At this point it’s a definite mercenary crew. Morals are flexible when credits are involved. If they don’t catch you, it’s not wrong/illegal.
This is Jyles Pain’s journal/notes from his recent excursion in the lands of Iuz in the Greyhawk setting.
I may swing back and add dialog but I’ve always sucked a bit at conversations in narrative text.
The Dyv is a fickle bitch and always invites disaster. Since the ravagers chained me to an oar all I’ve seen is piss water mixed with vomit as we labor to drag this decrepit vessel from one shadow port to another.
This night, however was different. Screams from above deck and rushed footsteps. The oar master whipped us from our half slumber and screamed “Full Speed”. That’s never good.
After exhausting the oarsmen we began to falter and take fire from another vessel. Soon, the sounds of a crushing hull and screams of death told us the fight and our ship was lost. Our best hope was that the victors would loot the ship and either release or recover the slaves. Neither happened. The filthy water began getting deeper with more rushing in as the portholes sunk below the waterline.
The three closest oarsmen were a fit lot and we managed to break our bonds and swim through the frigid water clearing the sinking slave ship. No sign of the other ship, no sign of land. We found a sizable bit of wood and clung to it for rest.
Not an ideal time to get to know the men you’re about to die with but what else was there to discuss.
Lucan, the Divinate of Pholtus is a Paladin of the Pale. His memories of being captured were a bit clouded between hoods and beatings but we took solace that perhaps the Lord of Light may provide for his follower and, through him, us.
Reath, a woodsman from the west lands was captured while hunting near the Vesve Forest. His skill with navigation kept him from the hardest labors on the ship but he harbors a burning hatred for the Orcs that took him and stole all of his gear.
Hinrick, a barbarian warrior-priest of Kord was nearly as strange a companion as Lucan since his tribe is from the far north east of the great war. However, with his strength and faith we managed to stay moving on the surface of the Dyv.
Minutes turned to hours, hours crept slowly by as the night became darker and the mists of the Dyv thickened. The frigid waters seemed to seep into our bones. Hope began to fade and we took turns dozing and paddling our little plank.
A light! Surely Lucan was hallucinating but sure enough, there it was. Faintly, through the thick mists, a tiny flickering pin of light. We began paddling in a focused effort to escape the inevitable watery death that awaited us if we didn’t reach shore.
— The Shore —
Soon we could hear the water lapping at the shore and the pinpoint of light grew into a full campfire. Warmth, food and sweet respite awaited. As we washed ashore and gathered our bearings Reath caught a glimpse of the stars and discovered that we were on the northern shore of the Dyv. Enemy territory. The guttural voices from the campsite above soon verified his assessment; Orcs. We were deep in the territory of Iuz with no equipment, no rations and no significant hope of survival.
None of us were willing to simply lay down and die. We’d made it to shore. With solid ground under our feet we would make Iuz’s forces pay for our corpses.
We needed equipment, the Orcs likely had plenty that could be liberated off their dead bodies. We slipped up a creek bed under a bridge, circled back around and eliminated the two orc guards quickly and quietly. Now, with two nearly worthless spears and two sets of reeking hide armor we decided to head east along the road.
Not long after laving the orcs behind we heard booted feet tromping toward us from the east. Slipping off the road we managed to evade a patrol of hobgoblins. Exhausted and hungry we weren’t as lucky with the next patrol. Ten hobgoblins appeared over a small hillock and spotted us in the light of the rising sun. They formed up and charged with their spears. The first three went down quickly but their tactics and our fatigue worked in their favor. Finally we eliminated the soldiers and their squad leader. Now we had more acceptable gear after scavenging their hide armor, shields and spears.
After moving along the road a bit longer we decided it was time to rest. A nearly destroyed sign indicated a sanctuary of Heironious to the north along an overgrown trail. It had to be better than sleeping right next to a heavily patrolled road. Maybe Reath could scare up some game on the way.
Topping a small rise we see a small burned out stronghold. Bodies litter the walls and everything that isn’t stone appears to have been damaged by fire. Upon stepping foot into the courtyard we were set upon by two lesser fiends, Dretches, that immediately engage Lucan. The ensuing battle was short but hard fought as we had spears and our fists to defeat the infernal creatures.
After binding Lucan’s wounds we quickly search the lower level of the compound. Reath discovers a hidden chamber with much better arms and armor. Two full sets of chain mail, two metal shields, a bundle of javelins and spears, a bastard sword, a two-handed sword and a battle axe. We decided that this small, hidden room would be the best place to hold up and rest.
— Day 2 —
The next day, while exploring the rest of the small hold we discovered beds, blankets and clothes on the second floor. Reath managed to snare a rabbit and squirrel for a decent stew. Best, first warm meal since making land fall.
Best I can tell the most direct path to safety is east across the border with the County of Urnst. My Company has a chapter house in Radagast City. The trick will be reaching the border and then slipping across without alerting the hordes of humanoids and fiends watching for targets of opportunity. I inform my new companions and we agree, for now, that it seems to be the only reasonable option.
We slept another night and headed out at first light.
— Day 4 —
Traveling parallel to the large road we observe more patrols of hobgoblins and even mounted human brigands. Near mid-day we spot another orc encampment similar to the one when we washed ashore. Being daylight most of them were asleep. We start with the bridge guards and quickly assault the camp. The fight is swift and short lived as we’re rested and better armed.
As we finished basking in the victory of defeating our enemies we spot a group of fiends moving toward us from the west. We form up on the bridge to narrow their field of attack and engage on our terms. Two fiends approach on foot while the third remains on his horse observing. Both fiends touch Lucan and he flees in terror. We close ranks and begin battle in earnest. As we dispatched the last of the duo their leader turns and retreats, no doubt to return with reinforcements. We turn to discover Lucan returning out of breath. He informs us that while under the effects of infernal terror he encountered a human patrol. Somehow he managed to convince them to go get reinforcements from the east.
At this point we’ve raised enough alarm to make life very short in Iuz. We use the cover of the running water and travel up stream for a mile or so to a dense copse of trees. We settle in for a very long night listening to inhuman howls and cries. Early in the evening we spot two human figures trying to sneak up to our cover, obviously seeking shelter themselves.
Turns out that they are scouts from the Felreev Forest looking for strong arms and willing combatants to aid in the full rebellion taking place in their home. They offer to lead us north advising that encounters are fewer since most of the focus is at the border regions. After a short deliberation, we all agree and the next day we all head north to become freedom fighters.