Monday, August 22, 2016

Threat Axis Aleph - Basic Weapons for the setting

Squadron Strike.  I want to do more with it, but I keep getting bogged down in minutia.

Sure, there's the various bundled campaign settings (and I await the Traveller PDF with baited breath...).  My problem is I want to build and bash.  I want a game that fills the niche that Classic Battletech and Starfire have left.  I want to build and bash my own ships.

The "problem" is that SS is not just a spaceship game.  Ken Burnside included a large spreadsheet to build and bash with.

But it's not a build and bash game.  You need to design weapon systems before you can design ships to bash with.

But it's not a weapons and ship design game, you need to establish the campaign setting before you can start designing weapon systems to put in your ships to bash with.

But you need to design the UNIVERSE before you design the campaign setting to design the weapon systems that go into the ships you are bashing with.

This is not a game, it's a toolkit to design the universe, create an innovative setting, craft interesting weapons, and put them into fun ships to bash with.  This is power.  The problem I have is that I end up with option overload, and I don't get beyond "I have an idea" and then I lock up on "How do I do the detail I don't care about yet...".

So, for Threat Axis Aleph, I am going to do this in several steps.  Step 1 is to create a small subset of simple weapons, and put them into two ships.  I'll start designing scenarios and playing SS at this point.  Step 2 will be to design one new ship for each of my four star-nations.  I'll use the simple weapons to start with.  Step 3 will be, design new weapons for each star nation, based on the experiences to that point.  Step 4 will start making new ships with those weapons... And so on.

I've decided to constrain myself by creating weapons based on my old favorite, Classic Battletech.  I'll use the small, medium, and large laser, and the PPC.

Btech used 2d6 to roll to hit, and had 4 range bands, Short Medium and Long.  The SS Spreadsheet I am using[Note 1] has room for seven range bands.  SS also uses 1d10 to hit.

Short range, was a 4+ to hit, Medium range a 6+ to hit, and long range a 8+ to hit on 2d6.  Initially, I was just going to use those numbers, but I remembered, the odds are different.  I looked up someone's table of probable percentages on the 'net, and specified 2+, 4+ and 7+ to hit on 1d10.  I rounded a little, but it should have the simple flavor of what I wanted.  The PPC has a "myopic" zone within 3 hexes, so I simply estimated the die modifier from Btech, and used the appropriate D10 approximation.

Damage was simple.  Small Laser - 1 point,  Medium Laser - 3 points, Large Laser - 8 points, PPC - 10 points.

SS has a mechanic for "Penetration".  Once you hit my ship, you roll 2D10, and take the lowest number thrown.  Compare that number to the PEN value for the weapon.  You ADD the lowest of pen value, or the result from your "2d10-" roll, to the basic damage of that weapon.  This can add in some variability in weapon damage.

I have a personal dislike of variable weapon damage.  This goes back to Btech, and my ability to hit with a missile salvo, and then roll the minimum damage value for that hit!  So for SS, I've chosen to set the PEN to ZERO.  This has the side effect of making it unnecessary to roll the PEN dice in SS.  This should speed the game up a bit.  A simplification that is totally allowed within the rules!

So, here are the simple weapons that all four nations start with in Threat Axis Aleph...

Small Laser
0-1 hexes, 2+ to hit, 1 point damage
2 hexes, 4+ to hit, 1 point damage
3 hexes, 7+ to hit, 1 point damage

Medium Laser
0-3 hexes, 2+ to hit, 3 points damage
4-6 hexes, 4+ to hit, 3 points damage
7-9 hexes, 7+ to hit, 3 points damage

Large Laser
0-5 hexes, 2+ to hit, 8 points damage
6-10 hexes, 4+ to hit, 8 points damage
11-15 hexes, 7+ to hit, 8 points damage

Particle Projection Cannon
Same hex - can't hit or damage
1 hex, 6+ to hit, 10 points damage
2 hexes, 4+ to hit, 10 points damage
3 hexes, 3+ to hit, 10 points damage
4-6 hexes, 2+ to hit, 10 points damage
7-12 hexes, 4+ to hit, 10 points damage
13-18 hexes, 7+ to hit, 10 points damage

Now, back to the spreadsheet, to design a small patrol boat, and a medium sized warship.

[Note 1] I am using an outdated version of the spreadsheet.  I don't have excel, so I am limited to the last version ported to libreOffice.  This is sub-optimal, but I don't want to not play with this until I get a box with excel installed.  I'll try to keep my description as generic as possible, so it should work on the latest spreadsheet.  Barring some massive change to the sheet.


  1. For Battletech-esque weapons and Battletech-esque armor, you're going to want to limit yourself to the following defenses:

    Ablative Shields (definitely)
    *maybe* general shield regenerators
    *maybe* faced shield regenerators
    *maybe* ECM/ECCM
    *maybe* component armor (No level 2 component armor, as it'll skew your weapons)

    I would recommend something like this:

    Ablative shields for everybody.
    Faction A has shields and high component armor (9-12 slots
    Faction B has shields and (modest) ECM (ECM 2 or less), and light shield regeneration (say up to 4 general regeneration)
    Faction C has shields and light component armor and modest faced regeneration
    Faction D has shields and high faced regeneration

    If you're trying to replicate SRMs, I'd use the Bursting trade or the Raking Fire trait, possibly with High Impact 1:2. This will combine the Accuracy roll with the "number of missiles hit" effect from Battletech.

    Due to the differences in damage allocation systems, SRMs doing a bunch of lone 2-point hits aren't the crit-hunters in this game that they are in Battletech.

    1. Ah,Thanks Ken! I'm not sure how close I'm going to go to Battletech. But it's my departure point for this effort.

      And of course, while I was in the office today, I realised I could do old-skool Starfire I. I'd use Mode 1 movement, nice wide firing arcs, and go from there. I probably won't do it, but I was happy to see the possibilities.

    2. Old School Starfire would be Span 4 weapons - where it breaks is defenses and damage allocation (somewhat).

      But yes, this is a toolkit as well as being a fun game.