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Realistic Small Craft Complements
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2019 12:54 am    Post subject: Realistic Small Craft Complements Reply with quote

In a discussion elsewhere, it has come up that the small craft complements on ships in the SWU aren't really an accurate reflection of how many fighters can be launched in the context of the game. For example, an ISD may have 72 TIEs of different types hanging on its launch racks, but those TIEs can't all just be spam launched the round after the PCs do a strafing run on the ship's bridge. Any realistic rule would have ships launching in stages, with the characters first facing the ship's Combat Air Patrol already in flight, followed up a few rounds later by the ready alert fighters, followed several by everything on the ship that didn't get downchecked on pre-launch (assuming the threat is dire enough to necessitate a full-deck launch).

Bottom line, it's far less useful for a GM to know exactly how many fighters are carried by a big capital ship than it is to know A) how many fighters are already in flight when the battle starts, B) how many can take off within the next 2D rounds, and C) how many more can take off within the next 1D minutes.

For a story driven campaign, it's far more useful for the GM to be able to say, "there's a flight of four TIE fighters in your path and they're moving to intercept. If you're going to fight them, make it fast because the destroyer is getting ready to launch two full squadrons in [rolls 2D] eight rounds," than it is to know that an Executor carries two full TIE wings (which was always a ridiculously low number for a ship that massive anyway).

What I'm picturing is using the existing Starfighter Complement stat block as a base from which to generate fighter strength for PCs to face that will increase the longer they're in the fight. In rough terms, it would be something like so:
    Standard Patrol
      CAP (already in flight): /12
      Ready Alert (warmed up & ready to launch in 1D rounds): /6
      Full Scramble (can be launched in 6D rounds): All Remaining
    Yellow Alert (Heightened State of Readiness)
      CAP: /6
      Ready Alert: /3
      Full Scramble: All Remaining
    Red Alert (Battle Ready)
      Ready Alert: All Fighters.
So a Nebulon B, for example, with 24 TIEs assigned, would always have 2 on patrol, with another 4 waiting in the bays ready to launch at a moment's notice, and the remaining 18 available within a couple minutes or so. However, if it were on Yellow Alert, the CAP would be doubled, with 4 TIEs constantly on patrol and 8 more ready to launch in 1D rounds, followed in 6D rounds by the remaining squadron. And finally, if on Red Alert, the Nebulon would have its entire complement either ready to launch or already in space by the time combat starts.

Now, I use the term "realistic" advisedly, as we aren't gaming in a realistic universe. In a truly realistic setting, prepping fighters to launch from a cold start could take an hour or more, and combat could easily be long over before most ships could even get off the deck. The goal behind this idea is to add a blend of realism and cinema to starfighter readiness operations.

I'm tired as I write this, so I'm sure I'm missing something (or somethings), but I want to get this out there. Let me know what you think.
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PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2019 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like where you're going with this. Now I won't claim to know much about carrier operations so hopefully we have at least one knowledgable carrier salt among us, but your CAP number seems high. Also, don't forget the escorts. Capital ships are rarely alone and unescorted.

I'd say for Standard Patrol, knock your CAP down to 4 (2 elements performing early warning / interception) along with the escorts (who are spread out specifically to detect threats before they can blow up the big important capital ship).
Ready Alert: 6 seems reasonable, allowing for a good watch/duty rotation.

For Yellow Alert, just double the numbers. If they're expecting trouble, they'll want more fighters in space.

You might want to substitute one or two TIE/rc's to your CAP to act in an AWACS role or maybe a couple of dedicated TIE Bombers. Other than that, you have a solid idea and a good foundation. Smile
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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2019 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My reasoning has a lot to do with the maintenance time per flight hour that's mentioned in the RASB (pg. 72) and AJ# 10 (pgs. 247 & 250). The premise is that fighters have to spend a lot more time being maintained for combat readiness than they do actually flying or fighting.

The premise I'm working on in the OP is that, in a normal 24-hour day (standard patrol w/o combat), every ship in a 12-ship squadron will be spending 2 hours actually flying, then 18 hours down on diagnostic tests, standard maintenance, refueling and rearming, then 4 hours on standby waiting to launch, which starts the cycle over again.

It's also likely that, in addition to the 12 ships in the normal operational cycle, the squadron will have 2-4 additional ships being worked on in the hangar, undergoing some sort of major repair or overhaul, which won't be available in the launch cycle or for combat scrambles. This number may vary, of course, so the total number of ships available to a squadron at any given time might be more like 9+1D rather than a flat 12.

Of course, this assumes that required maintenance hours and down-time for diagnostics is going to resemble that of real world fighter aircraft. We could alternately assume a higher readiness state, because [insert technobabble], an double the numbers on standard patrol. That would be a 2-ship element from each squadron on a four-hour patrol flight, with 4 more on standby in the bays ready to launch, and the remaining six somewhere in the standard maintenance and refueling pipeline.

With the higher alert states, you could either double those numbers, with a 4-ship flight already in space, with the remaining 8+ sitting in the bay waiting to launch and the maintenance routine thrown right out the window. Of course, this sort of op-tempo couldn't be maintained for long, and would probably require some sort of significant down-time with no ships launched at all.

Then you'd have the highest alert state, usually reserved for a pre-planned attack where everything is either in the bay ready to launch the moment the carrier comes out of hyperspace, or already launched and either ready to fight or accompanying the carrier via their own hyperdrives.

EDIT: Bear in mind that the heightened alert states aren't something that can be instantly activated, probably more like an hour or two to come to that state. Usually, a ship's captain will have some sort of reason to go to either version. Yellow alert would be something implemented if a captain was expecting an eminent attack, but couldn't confirm precisely when the attack would occur. Red alert would be implemented pretty much only on the offensive, where the captain would know precisely when and where he planned to attack.

For example, the Imperial fleet at Endor could potentially have been at Yellow Alert, but it would depend greatly on who the Emperor told about the Alliance's planned attack. The Alliance fleet, on the other hand, would most definitely been at Red Alert, with every fighter possible in space and ready to fight the moment they dropped out of hyperspace.
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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2019 5:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Realistic Small Craft Complements Reply with quote

CRMcNeill wrote:
What I'm picturing is using the existing Starfighter Complement stat block as a base from which to generate fighter strength for PCs to face that will increase the longer they're in the fight. In rough terms, it would be something like so:
    Standard Patrol
      CAP (already in flight): /12
      Ready Alert (warmed up & ready to launch in 1D rounds): /6
      Full Scramble (can be launched in 6D rounds): All Remaining
    Yellow Alert (Heightened State of Readiness)
      CAP: /6
      Ready Alert: /3
      Full Scramble: All Remaining
    Red Alert (Battle Ready)
      Ready Alert: All Fighters.
So a Nebulon B, for example, with 24 TIEs assigned, would always have 2 on patrol, with another 4 waiting in the bays ready to launch at a moment's notice, and the remaining 18 available within a couple minutes or so. However, if it were on Yellow Alert, the CAP would be doubled, with 4 TIEs constantly on patrol and 8 more ready to launch in 1D rounds, followed in 6D rounds by the remaining squadron. And finally, if on Red Alert, the Nebulon would have its entire complement either ready to launch or already in space by the time combat starts.

I like this. It seems very reasonable. And very game-able / PC friendly. I'd add two caveats.

(1) Sometimes there would be no CAP. We see ships with fighter complements that have no fighters on CAP, e.g. the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin in ANH. I'm pretty sure there are other examples from the TV shows, if not the movies, where no fighters are visible. Overconfident vessel commanders may choose not have any fighters on CAP. As may commanders who don't want to strand any fighters w/o hyperdrive if their capital ship needs to jump to hyperspace.

(2) I think the minimum CAP would ideally or usually be 2 (1 and plus 1 wingman). Which means that ships with complements < 24 would need to launch 2 fighters (with eventual maintenance and readiness issues) or would need to launch none.
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PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2019 9:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Realistic Small Craft Complements Reply with quote

Bren wrote:
(1) Sometimes there would be no CAP. We see ships with fighter complements that have no fighters on CAP, e.g. the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin in ANH. I'm pretty sure there are other examples from the TV shows, if not the movies, where no fighters are visible. Overconfident vessel commanders may choose not have any fighters on CAP. As may commanders who don't want to strand any fighters w/o hyperdrive if their capital ship needs to jump to hyperspace.

Based on a Tactics roll, maybe? Say, a Base Difficulty of Moderate, with failure meaning no starfighters on patrol, and a flight of 4 ready to launch in 1D rounds. On a basic success, the ship would be on Standard Patrol, and on a success of 10 or more, the ship will be at Yellow Alert?

Of course, the base failure result would also be the standard for ships in hyperspace...

Quote:
(2) I think the minimum CAP would ideally or usually be 2 (1 and plus 1 wingman). Which means that ships with complements < 24 would need to launch 2 fighters (with eventual maintenance and readiness issues) or would need to launch none.

I tend to agree. This being space opera, we could always fudge the required maintenance hours because of [insert technobabble], maybe with 2 fighters per squadron on a four-hour patrol, with 2 more on standby alert for four hours (which will take over for the patrolling pair at shift-change) and the remaining 8 going through standard refueling, rearming and maintenance.

There's also room for a good Command roll by the captain to shorten the response times, which can be explained by having a good commander constantly drilling his crew to sharpen them up...
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PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2019 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maintenance and repairs are made easier by droids, so that should allow a fairly robust op tempo. Plus, it's the Empire so you do your work or you're shot. Wink
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PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2019 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pel wrote:
Maintenance and repairs are made easier by droids, so that should allow a fairly robust op tempo. Plus, it's the Empire so you do your work or you get Force-choked. Wink


FIFY, Pel. Wink

But yeah, adding on these house rules for fighter complements makes alot of sense to me.
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PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2019 3:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Realistic Small Craft Complements Reply with quote

CRMcNeill wrote:
Based on a Tactics roll, maybe? Say, a Base Difficulty of Moderate, with failure meaning no starfighters on patrol, and a flight of 4 ready to launch in 1D rounds. On a basic success, the ship would be on Standard Patrol, and on a success of 10 or more, the ship will be at Yellow Alert?
While a Moderate roll is not unreasonable, the stats for Tarkin, Motti, et al would seem to make it highly likely that they would have been able to succeed at a Moderate roll...and yet they clearly did not.

As a GM I would first make the decision based on NPC personality over actual tactical ability and second on what might make an interesting tactical situation for the PCs. If it seemed like no CAP was interesting I would set the difficulty higher (or just make a fiat decision). If having a CAP was interesting I'd keep the difficulty at Moderate (or even Easy if that fit the initial tactical situation) or make that the fiat decision. But I like having a semi-objective benchmark like what you have suggested as a starting point.




Quote:
This being space opera, we could always fudge the required maintenance hours because of [insert technobabble], maybe with 2 fighters per squadron on a four-hour patrol, with 2 more on standby alert for four hours (which will take over for the patrolling pair at shift-change) and the remaining 8 going through standard refueling, rearming and maintenance.
Maintenance is a longer term issue which will seldom matter for the NPCs (unless the GM is tracking and rolling a lot for the NPCs). So long term maintenance is really more a matter for the PC side of the equation. In that case good skills, CPs, good die rolls, FP use, etc. can easily cover how they PCs are able to handle maintenance more quickly than is standard. It could even be an interesting plot point.

Quote:
There's also room for a good Command roll by the captain to shorten the response times, which can be explained by having a good commander constantly drilling his crew to sharpen them up...
I like this. Very Happy It reminds me of how characters like Captains Hornblower and Aubrey drill their crews to fire their guns faster than other vessels.
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PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2019 11:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Realistic Small Craft Complements Reply with quote

Bren wrote:
While a Moderate roll is not unreasonable, the stats for Tarkin, Motti, et al would seem to make it highly likely that they would have been able to succeed at a Moderate roll...and yet they clearly did not.

As a GM I would first make the decision based on NPC personality over actual tactical ability and second on what might make an interesting tactical situation for the PCs. If it seemed like no CAP was interesting I would set the difficulty higher (or just make a fiat decision). If having a CAP was interesting I'd keep the difficulty at Moderate (or even Easy if that fit the initial tactical situation) or make that the fiat decision. But I like having a semi-objective benchmark like what you have suggested as a starting point.

There something to be said for the degree of threat starfighters might be expected to pose to, say, a Nebulon B relative to the Death Star. Perhaps a double system, using a Moderate Tactics roll as a base for random encounters, then allowing GMs to make exceptions based on the specific needs of their campaign?

Quote:
Maintenance is a longer term issue which will seldom matter for the NPCs (unless the GM is tracking and rolling a lot for the NPCs).

I think I can tie maintenance into the relative Command level of the ship's captain. As I mentioned above, most squadrons have more than 12 ships, but at least one of them will generally be laid up in the hangar missing some critical part. So, rather than a flat 12 ships to a squadron, it could be said that a squadron will normally be assigned 16 ships, but that only 9+1D of them will be available for combat. As with below, the captain could roll Command to indicate how hard he had been pushing his crews to maintain high readiness standards, and thus shift the number of available ships up by 1 for every 5-10 points of success on his roll, up to a maximum of 15, as there will pretty much always be at least one "hangar queen" that is missing something critical and has been scavenged for parts to keep other ships operational. The "hangar queen" phenomena is likely officially discouraged, but smart commanders will generally look the other way in order to maximize their readiness state).

Quote:
I like this. Very Happy It reminds me of how characters like Captains Hornblower and Aubrey drill their crews to fire their guns faster than other vessels.

I'm a big fan of the Honor Harrington series (which David Weber actually based on Hornblower, even going so far as to give his heroine the same initials), and one of the things that gets made pretty clear in that series is that much of what a captain or flag officer does to improve his own force's chances in battle largely happens before the battle ever starts, based on how well he drilled his forces, and how well he provisioned and positioned them. Commands giving during battle can be critical, but the orders are better carried out by a crew that has had their duties hammered into them in advance.

In fact, it's worth considering to have a ship's captain roll his Command skill at the beginning of a combat round to generate a general crew skill bonus (stacked with any base crew quality modifier), as well as the modifier for available ships per squadron and the reduction in launch times.

So, I'm thinking of doing the larger number, with every squadron having an element (2 ships) on a rotating, four-hour patrol, with a further two elements sitting in the hangar on standby alert, and the remaining available elements in the maintenance and refueling cycle leading up to being put on standby alert.
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PostPosted: Sat May 04, 2019 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In fact, the base Command Difficulty could be tied into this, with the captain's success or failure on his Command roll being used to generate either bonuses or penalties in both how his crew performs in combat and in how well his starfighter crews respond to sudden emergencies...
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PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2019 4:42 pm    Post subject: Re: Realistic Small Craft Complements Reply with quote

CRMcNeill wrote:
There something to be said for the degree of threat starfighters might be expected to pose to, say, a Nebulon B relative to the Death Star. Perhaps a double system, using a Moderate Tactics roll as a base for random encounters, then allowing GMs to make exceptions based on the specific needs of their campaign?
Your original and all of the options you mentioned all fall within the bounds of what I think is reasonable. How much benefit there is from getting into the details (and how far to go with the details) will vary based on the type campaign being run. When I ran a starfighter squadron campaign where we had individual stats and pics for each pilot and tracked their CPs something like this would be great. For a campaign where none of the PCs even know how to fly a starfighter...then probably not so much.

Quote:
I'm a big fan of the Honor Harrington series (which David Weber actually based on Hornblower, even going so far as to give his heroine the same initials)...
I liked the early novels more than the later ones. The technobabble rationale for why the ships act like ships from the era of Wooden Ships and Iron Men was clever. I do wish Weber had decided to be less transparent with the French Revolution aspect of the Republic of Haven. The name Rob S. Pierre just jumped off the page at me the first time I saw it...and not in a good way.

Quote:
...and one of the things that gets made pretty clear in that series is that much of what a captain or flag officer does to improve his own force's chances in battle largely happens before the battle ever starts, based on how well he drilled his forces, and how well he provisioned and positioned them. Commands giving during battle can be critical, but the orders are better carried out by a crew that has had their duties hammered into them in advance.

In fact, it's worth considering to have a ship's captain roll his Command skill at the beginning of a combat round to generate a general crew skill bonus (stacked with any base crew quality modifier), as well as the modifier for available ships per squadron and the reduction in launch times.
I agree with you about the importance of before the battle. A roll at the start of the battle makes sense. Rolling every round seems like too much rolling and too many modifiers. I'd be inclined to use one roll for overall command - Admirals for the Fleet, Captains for their ship, possible Lieutenants for a Division of a ship - at the start of the battle. I'd only make additional rolls if the situation changes or if the captain is trying to specifically affect something, e.g.

Captain M'Klane put her hand on the helmsman's shoulder, "OK, Niko, you are the best pilot in the fleet. If you can't get us through this asteroid field, no being can. Now, take us in slowly."

Something like this could warrant an opportunity for another roll to get a better bonus.
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PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2019 4:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Realistic Small Craft Complements Reply with quote

Bren wrote:
How much benefit there is from getting into the details (and how far to go with the details) will vary based on the type campaign being run. When I ran a starfighter squadron campaign where we had individual stats and pics for each pilot and tracked their CPs something like this would be great. For a campaign where none of the PCs even know how to fly a starfighter...then probably not so much.

I can see a different randomizer system being appropriate for a starfighter campaign, perhaps something based on the Crew Quality modifier (pg. 34 of the Star Wars Rules Companion), using the Crew Skill state from each ship as a base value. Maybe something the GM can roll to generate random pilot quality for a starfighter battle. Of course, the Command skill of the squadron commander is likely to have an effect on crew quality there as well...

Quote:
I liked the early novels more than the later ones. The technobabble rationale for why the ships act like ships from the era of Wooden Ships and Iron Men was clever. I do wish Weber had decided to be less transparent with the French Revolution aspect of the Republic of Haven. The name Rob S. Pierre just jumped off the page at me the first time I saw it...and not in a good way.

The series certainly isn't perfect, but one think I think he got very right was what makes a good commander and leader. Honor has a touch of Mary Sue about her (being bad at math except in combat, for one thing), but her handling of the day-to-day aspects of building a crew of a warship into a fighting team is exemplary. We get hints of this with commanders like Thrawn in the EU, but the Honorverse show it in a lot more detail.

Quote:
I agree with you about the importance of before the battle. A roll at the start of the battle makes sense. Rolling every round seems like too much rolling and too many modifiers.

I agree, and that was actually my intent; "round" was poor word choice on my part

Quote:
I'd be inclined to use one roll for overall command - Admirals for the Fleet, Captains for their ship, possible Lieutenants for a Division of a ship - at the start of the battle.

I don't know if I'd go as far as the division officers on a ship, but I can see a multi-tier system for GMs to generate a pretty granular unique crew for a given ship in a random encounter:
    1) Roll on Chart 1 for Random Crew Quality Generator (modifier applied to stock stat's Crew Skill rating.

    2) Roll on Chart 2 for Crew Specialty Skills to generate bonuses to specific skills for something the crew of this particular ship does better than others, such as Skilled Gunners (+1D to Gunnery), Skilled Shield Operators (+1D to Shields), etc.

    3). Roll the Captain's Command Skill against a flat difficulty (perhaps based on crew size) to generate a bonus compounded with the results from Charts 1 & 2.

    Basic squadron size, launch times and total craft available would also be plugged in, as well.


Quote:
I'd only make additional rolls if the situation changes or if the captain is trying to specifically affect something, e.g.

Captain M'Klane put her hand on the helmsman's shoulder, "OK, Niko, you are the best pilot in the fleet. If you can't get us through this asteroid field, no being can. Now, take us in slowly."

Something like this could warrant an opportunity for another roll to get a better bonus.

I'd suggest limiting this just to PC ships, and letting the above system (whatever form it ends up taking) serve for NPCs.
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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Of course, there would also need to be some mechanism for randomizing a captain or commodore's Command skill, as well...
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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So how does this look as a 2D Random Table for generating a Crew Competence modifier (applied to the Crew Skill stat for 2E ships?
    2D Result (Odds) = Crew Rating (Modifier)
    2-5 (10-in-36)= Green (+0D)
    6-8 (16-in-36)= Average (+1D)
    9-10 (7-in-36)= Veteran (+2D)
    11-12 (3-in-36)= Elite (+3D)
I know this is getting off topic, but I see realistic fighter capacity as part of a larger ship readiness concept, so this will all tie back in in the end.
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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 12:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd knock each tier down 1D (so Green is -1D and Elite is +2D). For one, you'll never have an all-green or all-elite crew. Two, rookie crews make mistakes and lots of them. Granted, they learn from them, but that takes time.
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