I'm excited to say that I've 100% completed the internal "beta" draft of my new ship-to-ship and mass-combat rules and we will be working hard this month to fit them into the Companion.
I have OK'd with Mataxes some brief previews, to give you all an idea of how the new rules will work and to get some early feedback. Please keep in mind that none of the text previewed here is necessarily how the final version will look, and there may be some updated previews in the Friday blogs in a few weeks.
My system has changed significantly over a few iterations. Having said that, I'm going to focus this first post of the new thread on the basics that drive the current system, in bullet point form, and then preview the new ship-weapon that I (and my 1st edition ED gamemaster) brainstormed up.
- Ship-to-ship and mass-combat/boarding-battle turns are 1-minute in length. Each ship (or company) in the scene gets one major action (called a Maneuver) per turn, and may respond to other Maneuvers with a limited set of "reactions" (called Officer Maneuvers, limited to 1 for every 4 ranks in the Captain's ship-ability, with some opportunities to activate one for free). The rank for each ship-specific ability is called that character's Rating, and the total step for the ability is called the rating step (used in various tests). There are 4 core Maneuvers: Assault, Board, Break Off, and Ram. There are also 10 Officer Maneuvers available, but some of these must be used at the start of a turn during the Declare phase, or end of a turn during the Damage Control phase.
- Maneuvers are chosen "in the open" at the start of the turn, as found in the previous system. Then, the captains all roll their Maneuver Tests (usually a ship's Speed or Maneuverability plus their Rating step). Maneuvers are then resolved in descending order of these Tests results, by comparing the acting captain's Maneuver result against a difficulty (usually the target's Physical defense, which is Maneuverability +5). If the Maneuver is a success, the captain nominates an officer to roll a bonus Maneuver test (same pool as the Maneuver tests, but with that officer's Rating step) in order to add successes to the maneuver. Each success in a Manuever like Assault or Board allows the captain to activate a unit (a ship-weapon battery, or a boarding party unit). Officer Maneuvers allow the acting captain or the target a chance to return fire (or hit with a full broadside), perform evasive maneuvers, counter-attack during a boarding maneuver, fire at ships attempting to ram yours, get first-aid to casualties, etc, etc.
- When a unit is activated in ship-to-ship or mass-combat, it does not roll attack tests. Instead, an Attack Rating is calculated by adding the base unit member (or commander)'s Melee/Missile/Unarmed step, plus the Unit's Size (3-20), plus their Challenge Rating. This result is modified for the situation and compared to the target's Physical Defense (incorporating Cover or reactive skills like Avoid Blow), and a "hit" is scored for each success generated. Each "hit" activates a squad (in mass-combat units), or a ship weapon (in a battery unit) to roll for Damage. This cuts out a lot of "rolling to hit", but keeps individual ship-weapon Damage rolls (& aligns mass-combat damage to the same scale). So, we get to the really interesting part: how much Damage did we do/how many Casualties did they suffer.
- All Adepts, and GMCs/Creatures of 9th+ Circle/Challenge Rating, are considered "individual units" in mass combat, although they can be attached to a unit as a commander. Adepts with the Leadership ability can lead up to 5 other Adepts as an "elite team" that can be activated as a single unit. During each mass-combat turn, all of these type of characters may take "one rounds worth of actions, rolling tests as normal, and may add their Circle/Challenge Rating to one Action test and one Effect test to represent multiple rounds of action or simply being in the right place at the right time". Spellcasters can trade one or both of these bonuses for an additional round or two of threadweaving.
- Finally, there are 2 methods to "zoom in" while playing at the 1-minute turn scale. Player Characters can take a "Decisive Moment", taking 2 rounds worth of actions to handle a hazard or current combat scene, but may take fallout damage or be attacked directly by nearby enemies (this usually requires a Maneuver or Officer Maneuver). On the other hand, you can zoom in to regular 6-second combat rounds. In this case, ship Maneuvers (& reaction Officer Maneuvers) happen every other combat round and are used for the action that is outside the influence of the Player Characters. There are rules to break Units into Squads that are run as a "single character" but are limited to 1-5 individuals. Instead of the Unit's Size and Challenge rating bonuses, Squads receive a Squad Step bonus to one Action and one Effect test each combat round. The Squad Step starts at 0 for a single individual, and adds +2 for each individual after the first. This simplifies running masses of crew in boarding battles when you zoom in by rolling for initiative, but it is still aligned to the same Damage scale, so you don't have to worry about your player's turning their Fire Cannon against the incoming boarding party. It's already set up for that (interesting note, the Dragon's Breath weapon now does the same Damage step as a Drake's Dragon's Breath, etc, etc).
Crew: 2 (see text)
Damage step: Spell Effect Test + Adept’s Circle
Short Range: Spell Range x2
Long Range: N/A
Base Cost: 5,000 Silver
Weight: 150 pounds / 2 per duari
Created by a mysterious windling Wizard in the days after the fall of Sky Point and Vivane, the arcane focus is a rare ship weapon. The major powers of Barsaive (such as Throal, Blood Wood, the major cities, or the t’skrang houses) only possess a handful of these devices each. An arcane focus resembles the tip of a thunderbolt thrower mounted on a gear driven ballista-swivel, with a “sighting tube” above the mass of crystal and orichalcum wire. Runic enchantments are inscribed on every wooden surface and the device hums audibly when a spellcasting adept approaches it. The unstable mana means these weapons may not be placed near each other and each arcane focus counts as a battery when activating ship-weapon units. The arcane focus requires one assistant, and allows the spellcaster operating it to attune one of their matrix talents to the device by making a Patterncraft test against the spell in the matrix’s reattunement difficulty. The attunement will last a number of minutes equal to the number of successes scored. Once attuned, the device may be used once per minute (10 combat rounds) to aid the caster in creating the astral arc to the target sighted. The chosen spell may then be cast at a single target (including ships or units) up to double the normal spell range with a bonus to the Spellcasting test equal to the adept’s Circle. When activated the spellcaster may take up to 4 rounds worth of actions to weave all required threads before spellcasting, and may add a bonus to the Effect test equal to their Circle. These rules replace the normal bonuses Adepts receive in mass combat. Called shots may not be made with an arcane focus.