From Mark of the Pixie
Age of Sail Battles
My general rule is to go with whatever the players suggest. The description is however they want to describe it, but the mechanics stay as normal.
So, if they declare they are going to “cross the T of the other ship and broadside its mainsail,” I say, “OK, you can try.” They make a normal roll (or card draw) to determine if their tactics work.
If it works, I say so. If it fails, I tell them it has failed and ask them what is most likely to have caused this. “The bastard must have put down his sea anchor!” I have no idea if it makes sense, but the PCs can hardly complain.
I do not give bonuses or penalties unless I understand what is going on. Their raw stats should do fine.
I try to spread the ship’s functions between the PCs as evenly as I can.
- Pilot / Gunner – Is the minimum; pilot handles maneuvering and dodging, gunner handles shooting at stuff.
- Engineering – Handles generating and distributing power; they can add their successes to either pilot or funs as needed, or patch systems to reduce penalty from damage.
- Tactics – Handles tactics and larger scale; they can use successes to add to pilot or guns, or save them for later to represent their forward planning.
- Comms – Adds electronic warfare, signaling, jamming, sensors readings, faking sensor readings and so on.
Beyond this you start breaking up the tasks. This gives more people more roles, but runs the risk of giving each person less to do (boredom risk). For example:
- Pilot can break into navigation (maneuvering) and helm (dodging)
- Gunner breaks into different weapons (lasers, missiles, etc.) or different areas of the ship (fore, aft, above, below, etc.).
- Engineering breaks into subsystems such as engines, weapons, shields.
- Comms also breaks into duties: offensive, defensive, sensors, hacking (each system is separate, and a successful hack does not give you the whole ship).
Boarding parties (and repair crew) can get bored in the early battle, as the ships are not within range to board and are not yet damaged. It may help to have them take secondary roles in case they are not needed.
Deploying fighters is another great way to get PCs into the action. They can be tasked with offence, defense, interference, seek and destroy and special missions.