Friday, 4 May 2012

Fading Suns 3, Starships

The final chapter of the Fading Suns Third Edition (FS3) Players Guide covers starships and some basic aspects of space travel. In the previous edition of the game (FS2), this aspect was left underdeveloped (a little odd for a game that is essentially space opera). In part, this was supposed to be tied into the Noble Armada miniatures game, but not everyone wanted to use miniatures to represent ship-to-ship combat.

In FS3 we made a determined effort to give Fading Suns its own space combat rules and ship construction system. (Please note that there is no crosslink with Mongoose Publishing's "A Call to Arms: Noble Armada". Though these two properties were both created by HDI and exist in the 'Universe of the Fading Suns', the development of both games is separate.)

There are quite a few changes between the FS2 and FS3 starships, not least of which is the new dependence upon a ship reactor. At the heart of every starship is a reactor that produces all the power the ship uses to maneuver, fire weapons, project shields, etc. But the more you want to do, the hotter you have to run the reactor and the more 'visible' the ship becomes. This introduces an element of stealth into starship encounters.

In FS1/2 if the characters were faced with an Inquisitorial jumpgate blockade, they had one option: fight. In FS3, when faced with a blockade, you can power up all your weapons and shields and fight it out or you can power everything down and try to slip past undetected.

Another big difference with FS3 is the number of jumps a ship can make. This mirrors limits that were in place in FS1, but removed in FS2. In FS2 a ship could jump as many times as it needed, meaning that if it did not have to land on a planet -- it could visit any system in the Empire within a few days. Now jumpdrives have a limited number of jumps before they must be overhauled. We feel this enhances the 'age of sail' feel of the setting, where voyages took time to get from one place to another. The rationale for this overhaul is based on a buildup of Wyrd energies in the arcane technology of the jumpdrive, which can only be dealt with safely while docked. (Perhaps a ship without a Sathra Damper doesn't have the same problems?)

Starship construction is a simple affair, and features both pick-and-mix components and starship benefits and afflictions. If a character (or group of characters) wants to buy a ship during character generation, they can, and they can buy the benefit cost down with various problems that afflict the ship, from hauntings to a poorly-shielded reactor core.

Something that is difficult to achieve with 'generic' spaceships is to individualize the starships of the Known Worlds. No two ships are quite the same, so while we present a small catalogue of sample ships with a base line stat profile, we also give a couple of customized examples for each class to try and get across the idea that the base stat line is just the beginning.

Starship weapons have also been examined and undergone a few changes. Some have been renamed -- lances replacing lasers, batteries replacing slug guns, etc. Some have been redesigned -- the heat blaster has been reworked as a heat caster and has a completely new effect, gremlin guns and EM pulse guns swapped their effects (to make them more intuitive), and EM pulse guns were renamed to volt pulse guns to make them more thematic.

Some weapons were designated as 'arcane' and are highly restricted in availability, usually finding their way onto Church vessels or House Capital ships, but rarely on the kinds of ships employed by PCs.