Jump to content
Spence

Ships as locations instead of characters.

Recommended Posts

So, my topic title is “Ships as locations instead of characters”. 

The first thing I should do is try to explain what I mean by that, and then solicit some opinions.

 

I’ll start my thoughts by asking some questions about an inn. 

 

If you are running a fantasy sword swinger, you know, warriors and wizards and rogues and such, and they come across an inn on their travels.  Do you go to the Vehicles and Bases section of the rules and stat out the inn?  Or do you sketch/draw out a floor plan and list some NPC names and short descriptions and then run on the fly?  That is what I do.  I may fill in more detail if the party stays there for a while.  But I have never bothered to stat an inn.  Why?  Because the “stats” are irrelevant to the game.  If I need to know the BDY/Def of a wall, I can either make it up or use the Object Table to grab the appropriate numbers.  I have a sketch/drawing because if the payers can see the layout of the place they are in, they can roleplay far better. 

 

What has this to do with ships? Well for years I would stat out ships using the Vehicle rules and sometimes have a deckplan so the players could see where they were.  As tile went on I put more and more emphasis on having a great deckplan because I noticed that a really good deckplan really got the players into a session.  And I noticed than most of the ship board adventure wasn’t “ship vs ship”.  It was “Ship going from A to B, with 90% of the session taking place on/inside of it.  When there was “ship to ship” action is was usually a chase followed by a bit of long ranged action followed by boarding.  Once again, PC skills and abilities drove the ship movement and 90% of the action was when the two ships were grappled and the action was on/inside the ship.   After a while I stopped stat’ing out ships at all.  I made sure I had a decent picture of each ship to give the players a visual idea, a general deckplan with all the decks drawn out (not hard for pre-gunpowder sailing ships).  Not over detailed, but enough so the players had an idea of where the main parts were.  And then a short card with a few notes for ship action, things like relative size of vessels, relative speeds and relative maneuvering.   Notice I didn’t say what any of them were, I just said “relative” this or that. 

 

Why? Because in game the players are going to describe things and their PC’s will make skill rolls or ability checks and I will describe the result.  A longship will maneuver rings around a Carrack.  Unless there is a strong wind and a driving sea, in which case the bigger and stronger ship with more freeboard that can raise and hold more canvas will out run the longship.  Speed and maneuverability for sailing vessels on the ocean is not a one size fits all.  It depends on many factors and the weather conditions at that moment. 

 

So, like that inn or like a village.  I stopped “stat’ing” them out.  Like that inn, I make sure I have a good layout map and a list of NPC’s.  Or I should say I have a card with the various ships that may be encountered and a short “value” list of their relative abilities plus a layout map/deckplan for each and a NPC list to draw on.  I’ll add more detail as a ship becomes more important to the game. 

 

In the end though, “stat’ing” out a ship for an RPG is just a waste of time.

 

I know people will say that you need all the details so you can have a fight between ships.  But do you?  I have played a lot of naval wargames, miniature games and scifi games and they all had detailed rules for movement both tactical and strategic and combat.  But I have never needed to use that type of detail for an RPG.  For an RPG the players need to be able to visualize the ships.  They need to be able to know were ship stuff is.  Like where there are the passageways and ladders.  Where are holds, how many holds. And so on. 

 

And this is why I have pretty much given up on so called “RPG Ship Sourcebooks” because they usually have very little of anything actually useful.  They are usually just text and use ship type names with little regard to what and when they actually existed and 99% fail to have any kind of information that a GM can actually use to portray the ship.  Usually each ship has a small pic of it from the side or an angle and an occasional item that provides an idea of scale.  Most times that is way off and usually the artist based the drawing of one of many drawings that share the same thing, zero research into what a real ship of the type actually looked like.  For the last decade all of medieval fantasy has had nothing but Black Pearl’s running around. 

 

If I were to write a ship supplement, it would present the ships as a location. As a stage for the PC's to act out the adventure.  Deckplans and a good visual of the ship so players could actually visualize them.  And a brief, very brief description of various attributes, just enough to allow the GM to describe the action.  

 

Thoughts? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds to me like it's not that you're not statting the ships, but instead that you're statting the ships in a much simpler system.  You clearly have stats, given the lists of relative abilities.  It's just not naval wargame stats. 

 

Which is about the way I treat noncombatant NPCs in HERO.  Their combat statline is "DCV 3, KO'd by any two-digit amount of STUN, dying from any two-digit amount of BODY, Characteristics of 7 (10-)".  Their noncombat statline is a handful of very very broad 'skills', like "Lawyer 13-, Parent 10-, US Citizen and Human 8-".  Anything beyond that isn't worth tracking to me. 

 

I'd say it's more that you seem to be making the decision to zoom out on things that your group doesn't care about and zoom in on things your group does (like the deckplans).  Which is just good GMing. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I've never bothered to stat out ships or anything in my games. Never seemed to be any point to it. 

If ship to ship combat happens I make it up on the spot based on character rolls and actions and what makes dramatic sense and is fun. 

 

For example one way I've tried it and worked pretty well was in a sci-fi game where the players were the crew of one ship and were fighting another ship. The players all had different roles on board, and same with the NPC's on the other starship. So I just made it that each turn they made Opposing Skill Rolls vs their counterparts on the other ship. Tactics vs tactic for the Captains, system operations vs system operations for engineers,  Navigation vs navigation for the navigators, combat piloting vs combat piloting for the pilots, etc...  and then added up the total of combined successes for each side, per turn. First side to reach 15 successes above the other side won the battle (there were a couple of more rules, like if one side lost all the rolls in one turn then they were all at -1 for their rolls the next turn, or they could try and make complementary skills rolls based on Luck or Invention skill or something similar to represent coming up with a great "idea" at the last moment like in Star Trek, etc...) . This was so much more fun and involving for all the players, then having one person roll OCV combat checks and damage and so on and working out range and speed and DCV and on and on. It was a team based effort with everyone rooting on the other players. It also added some fun detail to the battle because if one turn the Pilot made a super roll and trounced the opposing pilot it meant that the ship had made a great maneuver and gotten behind the other ship or something, same if the Engineer readily beat the other engineer it meant he/she was able to "boost the power to the guns" for one turn or something like that. 

 

But then, I've played with the same core group of friends (more or less) for the last 15 years and we are all on the same page for how much detail we want or like in our games. 

 

Obviously different groups and individuals will feel differently about it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

It sounds to me like it's not that you're not statting the ships, but instead that you're statting the ships in a much simpler system.  You clearly have stats, given the lists of relative abilities.  It's just not naval wargame stats. 

Well, yes.  But not exactly stats in the traditional sense.  More of a + or - to be applied to player rolls based on the differences between of the two (maybe three) ships in question.   The number is applied directly to the PCs skill roll.  For instance the PC's are on a longship trying to cut off a cog that is attempting to reach the shore, it might have a +3 to maneuver and +4 for speed.  These are not the exact bonuses, just examples if the concept.  The PC at the steering oar would gain a +3 to their skill roll to accomplish a maneuver against the cog. I'd need to work out ground rules for exact numbers if I ever wanted to share, currently when I do this in a game I guesstimate as I go.

 

But my primary point was the one that I didn't actually write down :nonp:

 

That point was going to be ranting about how a ship book can call itself a ship book without some kind of deck plans. Not to mention a few details of its use.

 

Also the ships should at least be from the same general development level.  Not technology developed 3 or 4 hundred years apart.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, mallet said:

Yeah, I've never bothered to stat out ships or anything in my games. Never seemed to be any point to it. 

If ship to ship combat happens I make it up on the spot based on character rolls and actions and what makes dramatic sense and is fun. 

 

For example one way I've tried it and worked pretty well was in a sci-fi game where the players were the crew of one ship and were fighting another ship. The players all had different roles on board, and same with the NPC's on the other starship. So I just made it that each turn they made Opposing Skill Rolls vs their counterparts on the other ship. Tactics vs tactic for the Captains, system operations vs system operations for engineers,  Navigation vs navigation for the navigators, combat piloting vs combat piloting for the pilots, etc...  and then added up the total of combined successes for each side, per turn. First side to reach 15 successes above the other side won the battle (there were a couple of more rules, like if one side lost all the rolls in one turn then they were all at -1 for their rolls the next turn, or they could try and make complementary skills rolls based on Luck or Invention skill or something similar to represent coming up with a great "idea" at the last moment like in Star Trek, etc...) . This was so much more fun and involving for all the players, then having one person roll OCV combat checks and damage and so on and working out range and speed and DCV and on and on. It was a team based effort with everyone rooting on the other players. It also added some fun detail to the battle because if one turn the Pilot made a super roll and trounced the opposing pilot it meant that the ship had made a great maneuver and gotten behind the other ship or something, same if the Engineer readily beat the other engineer it meant he/she was able to "boost the power to the guns" for one turn or something like that. 

 

But then, I've played with the same core group of friends (more or less) for the last 15 years and we are all on the same page for how much detail we want or like in our games. 

 

Obviously different groups and individuals will feel differently about it. 

Some good stuff here, thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Spence said:

Also the ships should at least be from the same general development level.  Not technology developed 3 or 4 hundred years apart.

 

If vessels from different levels of technology are included it should be explained that that is happening, and they should be grouped together in non-anachronistic lists.

 

If they coexist, there needs to be a reason why - perhaps they are used by different societies with little if any contact.

 

That aside, my pet peeve is pre-gunpowder artillery on ships. This was historically rare - but apparently game authors feel the need to replace cannon with something.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...