Friday, November 25, 2011

Starmasters Update: Rockin' Combat System

Just had an awesome day of playtesting the combat system for Starmasters with my co-conspirator David Welborn. We've officially traded in the old wargame style action sequencing (i.e., 1. All Move, 2. All Ranged Attacks, 3. All HTH Attacks, 4. Non-attack Actions) for a new phased system that really supports the fast-paced style of the sci-fi action. However, the core action mechanics ("to hit" rolls, combat modifiers, damage, etc.) haven't changed, just the way movement and actions are handled within "close-action time."

We play-tested some some 5-man free-for-all combat situations (with each character being one of the 5 primary races from the game) and, so far, it plays really smoothly and seems really balanced (even when some of the characters entered combat with archaic blade weapons). Each situation played rather quickly (if you don't include the stop/starts for game theory discussions of the actual rules, etc.) and resolved itself within about 30 seconds of game time (but if everybody has a blaster, and the blasters are deadly, that should be the case.) BTW, I know I just mentioned this, but I'll say it again... combat is VERY deadly, so bring plenty of Redshirts with you.

Another pleasant surpise is how well the adaptations from my recent d30 Feature postings have worked out considering Starmasters uses only d6s and a d20. These adaptations include a damage determination system similar to the d6 Result by Rank chart, and slot-based attribute generation which REALLY worked out well, producing balanced characters with attribute strengths and weaknesses appropriate for their race in the context of a "roll for your stats" mechanic.

The real "game changer" moment of the day came from the way that careful aim (in lieu of making any movement) worked. It was deadly when it should have been deadly, but reasonably forgiving in the context of a fast-action situation.

One thing we've still left to work out... where a plasma cannon blast should go off when it misses its target, but handled in such a way that it doesn't bog down combat resolution. Hmmm...

I know Friday is normally by d30 Mechanic of the Week day, but somehow I feel still like this still counts. After all, we wouldn't have made some of the leaps in the system mechanics that we did had it not been from my recent d30 obsession.


  1. "One thing we've still left to work out... where a plasma cannon blast should go off when it misses its target, but handled in such a way that it doesn't bog down combat resolution. Hmmm..."

    Here's an option.

    Instead of a target number that you need to equal or exceed, give blast radius weapons a target range. Like: 7-13 with a d20 is a hit.

    Then your result doesn't just show a hit or miss, but where the shot landed in relation to your target. Rolling under 7 means it landed short, over 13 and it went long. Odd numbers went left, even numbers landed to the right. Distances would be based on the range of the target.

    Might work best with the bell curve results from using multiple dice for the hit roll, like 2d10 or 3d6 or something.

  2. Thanks, Quibish. Good thoughts there. There's a mechanic we're using that would require an entire second of rules to handle this type of resolution, but I definitely think there are thoughts here that, combined with some of our thoughts from yesterday, that will definitely lead us to the right answer. Thanks for the insights!

  3. I love that cover art piece. Is it an original by you, a re-purposed piece, or one commissioned especially for Starmasters?

  4. @ pahoota: I wish it were by me. It's a public domain pulp piece that seemed to perfectly fit the original conception of what Starmasters was supposed to be. At this point, we're really re-evaluating the setting/world, and it's possible this art will change by the time we're ready for press. It's also possible it won't change, as we're really starting to tweak out setting around a sort of sci-fi future re-envisioning of the mid-20th century cold war.