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Combining Bridge Positions and Starship Combat

posted May 20, 2018 00:47:41 by NervePinch

My apologies if this seems like a silly question and please correct me if I'm mistaken on anything:

Let's say you have three players - one is Captain, the other science and the last is helm/tactical. In starship combat each players gets a turn. The ship has a scale of 4 so a supporting cast/ npc is taking a turn as well.

If helm and tactical are combined into one station, like in TOS, and the officer chooses a helm task, like evasive maneuvers, does that mean he cannot fire weapons until his next action? Meaning the enemy can fire each round but the players could only fire every other round?

Also, Command and Operations are different tracks in character creation so why would a station combine helm with tactical?

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4 replies
jonrcrew said May 20, 2018 11:45:03
The starship combat turns rules are one of the more confusing things in the game, so it's never a silly question! If you're lucky, Nathan or one of the others will drop in and give you a definitive answer (it's buried in the past threads somewhere), but, as I understand it...

Officially, the players only get one turn each and the scale determines turns thing is for NPC vessels (note that with large player groups on small vessels this swings the other way). Supporting cast don't get extra turns, because they can only be active if a player is not controlling their own character. But, if you have a small player group on a larger ship, then they're definitely at a disadvantage, so there's a lot of discussion over house-ruling this. Having a dedicated supporting crew member handle it is certainly one solution.

As far as your group is concerned, if you don't want to house-rule, you're stuck with 3 turns. The player of your Captain would be best off activating a supporting crew member with a more active role for combats. The Captain's game effect in these is mostly support anyway so less of a loss. Otherwise, the Captain can Direct supporting cast to do things as per the role ability.

As far as helm/tactical goes, remember that any station can Override any other at a penalty, and this includes overriding stations that have already acted, so a second player could carry out the attack. Again the Captain (if active) can Direct, and there are certain momentum spends that allow the helmsman to get second actions as well.

Helm/Tactical is an established combination, but, yes it is odd. I think the main argument is that the divisional thing was a bit hazy in the 60s, really only being firmed up for TNG. In the later (red coat) movies, there were 7 (at least) distinct departments, none of which were Ops or Conn! Gunnery and flight control both fell under Engineering (which is usually Ops), while navigation came under Science, so that's different again...

If it's an issue for you, consider reorganising this per the section on bridge stations. I swapped weapons control over to the navigator (helm got sensors) and this seems to work quite well for us.
NervePinch said May 20, 2018 14:37:08
Thank you, joncrew!

Some good suggestions there for possibilities.

Question for you: When you combine helm/ sensors do you not miss out on -scan for weakness- and -evasive action- when the situation calls for it (unless you spend momentum, etc)? How does your group deal with that?
[Last edited May 20, 2018 17:14:40]
Nathan.Dowdell said May 20, 2018 17:28:54
joncrew has covered a lot of what I was going to say, but to lay it out in full.

As with personal combat, each player may perform up to two Tasks per Round, but they only receive one automatically - they can spend 2 Momentum or 1 Determination to get an extra Task, or they may be granted an extra Task from a commander using Direct. This allowance for a second Task allows a single character to, say, move the ship and fire the phasers.

The suggestion of a combination of Helm/Tactical comes from TOS - Sulu is the helmsman, but he also operates the weapons. What little ship combat we see in TOS tends to be more static than we see in TNG, and much more static than the combat seen in DS9 or Voyager so the idea of having a choice between movement and shooting makes sense in that context (Balance of Terror, the episode with the most ship combat, is more like a battle between submarines than the more agile ship battles seen in later shows, as is the fight in the nebula in The Wrath of Khan). In that context, combat is liable to focus on patiently finding the right opportunity to attack, and then dealing a telling blow. The Navigator aids and supports the Helm in difficult or precarious positions, and attacking happens infrequently.

(In game terms, you could model this by each side creating Advantages and Complications that represent positioning and defensive posture, making it harder to/impossible to attack; the combat focuses on trying to create Advantages and remove Complications to open up a chance to attack before the enemy can do the same. That's inspired by the Swashbuckling Duels option in the Fate Toolkit, where neither side can make direct attacks until they've "gained the upper hand")

As for why it would be laid out that way? Characters aren't always entirely one division or another. Many Command characters have Operations experience - either they started in Command (as Conn officers) and were transferred to Operations during their career (we see this with both LaForge and Worf in TNG), or they started out in Operations and transferred to Command later on. And, well, a Starfleet Officer is expected to be broadly skilled - this is why everyone has at least 1 in every Discipline. It's entirely feasible to have a character with Conn as their highest Discipline and Security (for tactical) as their second, and that setup would be quite effective in a mixed Helm/Tactical role (especially with the Flyby talent, which is designed for that kind of character).

Any combination of roles is liable to force choices for the players. That's a good thing a lot of the time, as interesting choices are at the heart of good gaming. The TNG Bridge setup (Conn is Helm/Navigator, Ops is Internal Systems/Sensors, Tactical is Tactical/Security/Communications) is a bit more flexible for combat with a lot more movement, but it forces a decision between power management/repairs and sensor uses like scan for weakness (unless you've got someone in Engineering).

Now, with a Supporting Character involved... if you're granting the Supporting Character their own Turn, then that can ease the pressures of a small group having a lot to do, but you can go without it:

A uncontrolled Supporting Character (one without a turn of their own) can make Difficulty 0 Tasks freely, and can assist other characters. In ship combat, the position that uses Difficulty 0 Tasks most often is Helm (the three basic movement actions, unless there's something increasing the difficulty), so you can have a Supporting Character at the helm and the ship can still move around, even if you can't use Evasive Action or Attack Pattern without someone using Direct or Override (in this case, allow unlimited Directs on Supporting Characters). I tend to view that as the TNG approach (Tactical, Command, and Ops are all main cast, Conn is a secondary character a lot of the time).

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NervePinch said May 20, 2018 17:47:37
Nathan, I appreciate your time on this. As you can see the power gamer in me is trying to find ways to blow the hell out of the bad guys.

I'm gearing up for my first game and STA looks like a very different type of RPG than what I'm used to and I think that's a good thing. I have a chemist friend who I'm asking for advice to help bring a level of reality to the game and I'm pretty excited about it.
[Last edited May 20, 2018 17:51:51]
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