I had a conversation with one of my playtesters today about space battles. I love my playtesters, I could not do what I do without them. There are two different types of playtester, those that know me and those that don’t. The ones that don’t are worth their weight in gold. They are the ones that do not feel any obligation to be nice, just to save hurt feelings.
This playtester game huge amounts of great feedback about how their group found the game. For that I am eternally thankful but it is kind of sad in that their group doesn’t want to play the game any more.
From the very first session what this group wanted was big toys. They wanted rules for mechs, powered armour and spaceship battles. The game was an OSR character driven game and an attempt to make a more rules light retro clone of a rules heavy 1980s game.
I find when you start dishing out mechs and powered armour what you get is people playing their inventory rather than their character. I think a space battle should be a role-playing setting not a tactical wargame extension to a game about individuals.
In short, the game I have written was never going to please the players playing it. It was the wrong game. This is a real pity. I don’t like losing playtesters and I don’t like people playing my games not having fun.
What I don’t like about space battles is that one bad roll, or bad tactical decision can lead to a TPK, in an instant. Some of the best characters I have ever played were combat medics, or magical healers. These characters have little or no roll in a battle of missiles and laser cannons. They are fantastic characters to play during adventures, they are hugely valuable to a group, in social situations they often command respect and when playing them you get an extra thrill in putting a character into extremely dangerous situations they know they are not equipped to cope with.
You are unlikely to find a medic manning the guns on a battle cruiser.
But am I wrong?
I could easily build in a set of spaceship combat rules. It would probably take me a month and then we would need additional testing.
No Space Battles?
Or I can stick to a more narrative space combat system. The game itself is modular. It is also OGL. Anyone could write these rules and drop them into the game. That was how it was designed. That is how I am inclined. I can always add, but it is harder to take things out of a game once they are in there. These simplified rules allow you to have space combat but as a background to role play, not as a fight between proxy characters.