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Area Fire of Phasers

posted May 23, 2018 01:39:23 by TimKellogg
The book does not mention any useful result for "Area" fire. What if I used area fire against a cloaked ship? Could that reasonably decrease the difficulty of hitting it? Is this mentioned in the rules, somewhere? Shouldn't it be?!
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7 replies
StephenBirks said May 23, 2018 07:52:42
Pg 231 - AREA: The attack affects a wider area, and can affect several targets at once

Area requires targets. Cloaking makes attacks an impossible task because you cannot target. If you could somehow negate that, then area is only useful if there are multiple cloaked targets. If there is only one ship and you could somehow target it, then spread is much better as they will have no shields.
jonrcrew said May 23, 2018 08:50:52
Phasers are, at best, arc weapons - they can fire in a broad swathe across an arc of 3-dimensional space. If you don't know where the target is, you're still likely to miss! (Unlike on the ground, where there's a pretty good chance the target has a presence around a meter up.) Area fire is aiming this arc to catch several visible targets or shooting several times in quick succession from an array.

It's very rare that anyone tries to shoot at a cloaked ship in the shows, but we do have a canon precedent from Balance of Terror in the "proximity-fused" torpedoes, plus The Undiscovered Country's homing torpedo.

This would be one for the Advantage rule? Someone would have to justify creating an Advantage with the relevant rules, to enable shooting at the target. Examples might be proximity-fuses, tracking ion trails, retrofitting a torpedo to home in on photon exhaust etc.

I think the GM would then be justified in applying a targeting penalty due to the difficulty of shooting something that might move before you hit it. You could then reduce that with scanning moves.
Nathan.Dowdell said May 23, 2018 09:15:29
As standard, no. With phaser arrays, and other energy weapon arrays (currently, the only weapons with Area), Area represents targeting multiple enemies at once, rather than a blast that affects a region of space. Even for ones representing blasts, they're still not covering an entire zone, so there's no guarantees of hitting anything.

However, Cloaking uses the Traits/Advantages/Complications rules, so there's a degree of GM discretion built in. As standard, the assumption of a ship with a Cloaked trait is that it makes attacks impossible (you can't target the ship), but circumstances (like a particular attack plan) may make it so that instead of making an attack impossible, it increases the difficulty of attacks by 1 instead. Using area attacks to saturate a zone (providing that it's the zone where the cloaked ship is) is a possible way to make that switch.
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TimKellogg said May 23, 2018 20:05:45
"Area requires targets. Cloaking makes attacks an impossible task because you cannot target. If you could somehow negate that, then area is only useful if there are multiple cloaked targets. If there is only one ship and you could somehow target it, then spread is much better as they will have no shields.
Star Trek Adventures Resource Wiki "

BUT - Beta Quadrant book specifies a (I don't remember what it is, I don't have the PDF open) difficulty for cloaking and states that the Klingon cloak is less efficient and can be seen by a quick helmsman.
TimKellogg said May 23, 2018 21:25:10
For the purposes of discussion: why couldn't one use "area" fire against a cloaked target? The Beta Quadrant book, on Pg 44 right column top, second paragraph states: "You should be aware that Klingon cloaks will be generally easier to detect than their Romulan counterparts." Lower on the page in the sidebar "Attempting to detect a Klingon vessel with a cloaking device reduced the difficulty by 1 as well, as Klingon understanding of the cloak technology is not as nuanced and sophisticated than that of the Romulans." Now I am not making a case for whole sale bombardment of every millimeter of space, but say a crew has a reasonable belief there is a cloaked ship is in a region, or say it just recloaked after a sneak attack. Why couldn't a GM rule that "area" fire could be used, since it blankets a suspected area where a cloaked vessel could reasonably be? I am concerned that cloaking technology could be used as a method of killing a characters ship without any hope of it defending itself. Or, more likely, a crew getting hold of a cloak, making it work on their ship and wreaking havoc! Yes, I know that the cloaked ship must decloak before firing, and it is vulnerable in the moments between dropping the cloak and raising shields - but that could be a very fine point for survival! LOL

Due to the power consumption of a cloak, the ship would probably not run from point a to point b in cloak, yet it is done in the show, numerous times. I am thinking of DS9, and the DEFIANT.
StephenBirks said May 24, 2018 07:58:48
I feel like you are considering "Area" to be like a D&D-esque cone. My take away from area is 1 beam that cuts across or 3-4 beams in quick succession. In either case the actual area covered is minute.

The sidebar on page 44 also clearly states that whilst it is easier to detect Klingon cloaked vessels, the vessel must be detected before it can be targeted with an attack. So not impossible like I first mentioned (I forgot they expanded the rules in Beta), but the rest of my point still stands. The Area attack specifically targets multiple vessels, thus is useless against 1 target.

I also feel that what you are suggesting with your "Area" is in essence an attempt at detection. As a GM I would rule that if the players came up with a suitable suggestion to detect a ship, like maybe configure the phasers to fire in a mist like pattern, then that would satisfy an attempt to detect. (Maybe increase the power usage for an unorthodox method). If successful the players could then spend 2 momentum for a swift task to fire on the ship before losing it again.

Being able to cloak is a very powerful tool, but consider the mentality of the faction using it. Klingons use it for a first strike attack, after which they tend to raise shields and fight normally. Romulans tend to not fight and use the cloak to spy and move covertly. When they do fight they use it to hide their numbers. In either case they will case a devastating first strike attack has to cripple the player's ship, because after that, the shields are up and the player's will be working on repairing. The players can subsequently defend themselves, though admittedly starting at a handicap. "Without any hope of defending itself" is inconsistent with expectations set by the setting.
jonrcrew said May 24, 2018 08:52:28
@Tim: I think Nathan pretty much covered that :)
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