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Is there a way to have Star Wars space combat make sense?
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Surgo
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:57 pm    Post subject: Is there a way to have Star Wars space combat make sense? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

When you think about ships blasting each other into pieces you naturally think of Star Wars (or at least I do). And that happens because Star Wars space combat is fucking awesome. Something about the X-Wing, TIE fighter, Star Destroyer, and whatnot duking it out totally resonates with people. It works okay on the big screen, but is there a system where it would work after thinking about it for a few minutes?

I'm thinking along the lines of capital ships and tiny fighters. If we're talking Star Wars we want to have both Star Destroyers and X-Wings flying around shooting things. But if the X-Wing can reasonably damage the Star Destroyer then having a Star Destroyer feels a little bit like having a battleship in 1942 (or 2002 for that matter): an ineffectual waste of money. Why have Star Destroyers at all instead of cheap carriers launching a bunch of cheap fighters? But if the X-Wing can't even scratch the Star Destroyer we have the opposite issue: what's the point of bringing the X-Wings along? Why are we having fighter-versus-fighter combat anyway when none of that shit actually matters? Putting these two together feels a bit like unifying general relativity and quantum mechanics. Throw in the ability for the player to make a difference on either one of these scales and now it's double hard.

I figure what you need to think about is a list of objectives that you want your space combat fleet to be able to accomplish. Here's a few I had in mind:
    Embargo a planet or section of space
    Destroy planetary infrastructure
    Destroy space infrastructure
    Capture an enemy vessel
    Carry troops and material
    Provide fire support to the ground


Then you'd need to tune it so that capital ships and fighters get enough of these to each have a reason to exist. Like maybe capital ships are great at destroying planetary and space infrastructure with their big guns, but they are also really slow so they totally suck in an embargo situation because they can't catch anybody. Or maybe that doesn't work at all and I'm an idiot; I don't know, just throwing ideas out there.

So what do you think -- is there some system of making this sort of combat that is obviously really desirable to have, possible and sensible? Is there a way to do it while having players able to make a meaningful difference on either side of the equation?
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spongeknight
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
But if the X-Wing can reasonably damage the Star Destroyer then having a Star Destroyer feels a little bit like having a battleship in 1942 (or 2002 for that matter): an ineffectual waste of money.


One of the X-wing books (forgot which one, I read it in high school) solved this problem pretty neatly: Fighters can only realistically punch through capital ship shielding with a coordinated barrage of missiles or other heavy secondary weapons. This means that as long as the enemy has a screen of fighters on the field, any attempt of fighters damaging capital ships makes them sitting ducks in a dogfight. So basically, if your fighters kill the enemy fighters they can help out against capital ships, but when enemy fighters are on the field only capital ships can damage other capitals.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:39 am    Post subject: Re: Is there a way to have Star Wars space combat make sense? Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Surgo wrote:
having a Star Destroyer feels a little bit like having a battleship in 1942 (or 2002 for that matter): an ineffectual waste of money.


Here's the thing: Star Wars space combat in the movies is based on naval combat in WW2. Actually having wars that encompass entire planets across the galaxy is bizarre.
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maglag
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Empire just likes hUGE ships. That's kinda the whole point of the original trilogy, the emperor decided to build the Death Star. Then it got blown up by some tiny X-wings, and the emperor just went "let's build another one, we'll just need to make it bigger!"

Ancient History wrote:
Surgo wrote:
having a Star Destroyer feels a little bit like having a battleship in 1942 (or 2002 for that matter): an ineffectual waste of money.


Here's the thing: Star Wars space combat in the movies is based on naval combat in WW2. Actually having wars that encompass entire planets across the galaxy is bizarre.


I'm pretty sure that in WW2 trying to board enemy ships no longer was a viable strategy.

But driving closer to the enemy ship, cutting a hole and sending in troops is something that happens all the time in star wars. It's literally how the first original movie starts.

So rule of cool basically. Just like the good characters don't really bother with armors or helmets beyond disguising.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The main issue is that having a star destroyer is exactly like having a battleship in 1942, in that Star Wars space combat was based on WW2 naval combat, and unlike WW2 effective fighters aren't a relatively recent invention so there's no excuse for still having a bunch of star destroyers lying around which we may as well use just because hey, we've already got 'em.

EDIT: I shouldn't have let this post stay open in a tab for half an hour before posting. Now I just look like a jerk for bringing up the exact same issue AH did.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I don't know why X-wings are capable of FTL travel and TIE-fighters aren't, but that's established in the first movie. Star Destroyers carry a contingent of fighters. Capital ships are also able to defend themselves. Against a dozen fighters, a Star Destroyer will win every time. Against 50? Those odds are probably not good. And considering the investment, that would be a bad trade - there are 40,000 people on a Star Destroyer.

Obviously they don't just build fighters so Star Destroyers have to have an additional role beyond carrier. I think planetary bombardment is where they shine. In Rogue One there was a planetary shield - there was no way any number of fighters could break through.

Without support, a Star Destroyer is vulnerable (not as much as an aircraft carrier, but about like a Battleship). As Spongeknight said, with fighter support it is relatively safe from other fighters. Without fighter support, it can get overwhelmed.
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erik
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If only capital ships have enough power to make longer distance jumps then they immediately serve a purpose. In Star Wars tho that doesn't seem to be the case since even tiny x wings have hyperdrive. Sigh.

And if all tiny ships can go light speed or better then they can tactically do about anything a capital ship can. Troop delivery, orbital bombardment, destroying anything by lobbing relativistic speed projectiles.

Trying to make sense of Star Wars tactics within their technology canon is silly. It ain't that kind of movie kid.
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Star Wars combat is weird, because a lot of authors have spilled a lot of ink about it and presented very different conclusions.

The standard scenario is Glactic Empire materiel and combat doctrine versus Rebel Alliance material and combat doctrine and got very well developed by a number of authors with solid fantasy space combat credentials Zahn and Stackpole most effectively.

The Galactic Empire built their fleets around the principle of fleet superiority - because they wanted their big ships (which started at Imperial Star Destroyer and got bigger from there) to be able to project power effectively. They needed to be able to conduct planetary bombardments and surface attacks as prelude to said bombardments (which is what the Battle of Hoth was, only the Rebels escaped before anyone got around to raining turbolaser fire down on Echo Base) in addition to conducting fleet battles. They were also combat carriers, but Imperial fighter doctrine was extremely hidebound and viewed the fighters in a primarily defensive/recon role - in combat a Star Destroyer is supposed to deploy its TIEs as a defensive screen so that coordinated enemy bombardments are impossible and then utilize superior fleet strength to beat down whatever enemy ships there were.

In the WW2 scenario this is basically building a bunch of battleships/cruisers, but also letting them launch a CAP to defend themselves, they just had no (or actually very few, TIE bombers were a thing just kind of obscure) fighters capable of attack against shielded targets.

The issue the Empire had was that their doctrine for fighter deployment was limited and their actual primary starfighter choice, the TIE, kinda sucked hard. This was partly political, the Emperor didn't want to produce high capability general purpose fighters that could operate independently (TIEs had no hyperdrive except in special command models) of capital ships believing - entirely correctly by the way - that it would increase factionalism and weaken the military centralization he viewed as necessary for Galactic dominance.

The Rebellion, having no real means to produce capital ships in sufficient numbers to challenge even a fraction of the Imperial fleet, chosen/stole the ability to produce fighters capable of multiple mission types and able to operate one their own at vast distances from fixed bases entirely without capital ship support.

The net effect was rather like having one side with a whole bunch of Dreadnaughts and a swarm of Zeroes, and the other side had a bunch of F9 Panthers but no ships at all.

The Imperial solution to this particular problem was to develop dedicated anti-starfighter light capital ship platforms. They had at least two in the Legends continuity - the Tartan-class patrol cruiser and the Lancer-class frigate (they were technically both 'frigates') which were ships that basically had a whole bunch of fighter-slaughtering turret hardpoints like the ones on the Millennium Falcon. Unfortunately for the Empire they never got around to building that many of them, and the command staff, which was wedded to heavy capital ships, didn't like using the ones they had.

In terms of your general objectives, here's how the lore works:
1. Embargo a planet or section of space.
- You can only really embargo space using interdiction technology, which is expensive, complicated, and basically requires you to build the whole ship around it. On the other hand you can embargo a planet with a big ship that's capable of deploying fighters and staying on station for a while (this was one of the things that Star Destroyers were explicitly very good at, and canonically, Luke and co. only managed to escape Tatooine in New Hope because Han Solo is Han Solo).

2. Destroy Planetary Infrastructure
- You need something with turbolasers mounted on it, preferably something big enough to shrug off retaliatory hits from ground-based weaponry and with enough power to punch through less than current industry-standard planetary shields (the economics of Star Wars being such that you have a whole class of planets with shield systems that are incomplete or haven't been upgraded in centuries). Consensus on how big a ship you need is something in the range of cruiser-size. The Acclamator-class ships seen at the end of Clone Wars would be a good example.

3. Destroy Space Infrastructure
- Most space infrastructure (not counting Rakata or Infinite Empire-built McGuffins and so forth) is relatively vulnerable and may actually be much more fragile than starships. Dedicated bomber starfighters are capable of this.

4. Capture an enemy vessel
- You need a ship big enough to mount a tractor beam with real power behind it (as opposed to one that's basically just a manipulator arm in disguise). It also really helps to be larger than whatever you're trying to capture, particularly if you can fully encompass the vessel within a hangar. This is another reason why Star Destroyers were made so big, the Empire liked to humiliate planetary defense navies.

5. Carry troops and material
- Troops need space, because even if they're nearly bionic soldiers like Clones/Stormtroopers they still have to sleep and occasionally take the armor off and shit. They also need supplies - except for droids, but canon came down hard on droid armies in order to support the Zeroth Law of Space Combat (also because it helped justify beating the Confederacy). So you ship is going to need to be fairly big. Again, to carry any truly significant number of troops in Star Wars for a significant period of time you're looking at bulk freighter/cruiser size.

6. Provide Fire Support to the Ground
- this is functionally the same as destroy planetary infrastructure. Planetary combat in Star Wars is actually kind of funky. The authors acknowledge that a ship sufficiently large to mount some real turbolaser batteries can basically wipe any unshielded object (up to whole mountain ranges) off the map and a fleet of ships can even conduct a Base Delta Zero bombardment that would kill anything more complex than a bacterium on a planet. As a result ground campaigns are mostly about destroying planetary shield protections and then sending down whatever ultimatums you wish. Storytelling, of course, demands ground combat, and has provided all sorts of McGuffins, politics, internal conflicts, and other reasons to go fight planetside
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czernebog
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 1:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

To see how people have emphasized the connections between WWII naval battles and Star Wars space battles, you can consult Youtube. But the basic template is that that relatively small planes, piloted by heroic young hotshots, can project force against lumbering behemoths. Everything else should follow. If you're a military tactics nerd or your last name is "Stackpole," then applying a moderated dose of historical knowledge gives you additional depth and flavor.

As far as in-universe lampshades go, here are a few other considerations:

  • Not all space battles have to be giant pitched affairs where each side has lines of heavy capital class ships. The Rebels are supposed to engage in a lot of hit-and-run tactics on supply lines, putting the fact that their starfighters carry torpedoes, hyperdrives and astrogation units to good use. The notion of "supply lines" that consist of a tightly clustered group of slow-moving heavy freighters in space makes very little sense, but it's a conceit of the setting.
  • Draw on older source material and let your players mind-caulk the rest: if you're playing with people from the right generation, they probably played something in the line of the X-Wing/TIE Fighter combat simulators, or at least one of the less crappy Rogue Squadron games (or, if they were unfortunate, maybe just Rebel Assault). The physics and actual combat scenarios of those games make no goddamn sense once you start picking them apart, so don't. You'll have to use established in-universe tropes, or you're going to spend all your time papering over holes in the setting and wind up with some horrible pastiche where sometimes it's a grimderp 40k universe where everyone is perpetually holding a technological idiot ball, and the rest of the time you get a half-baked Mass Effect with all the trappings of an advanced spacefaring civilization but no one who actually acts like they live in one.
  • To stay true to form, steal from the X-Wing/TIE Fighter combat missions and the X-Wing novels. The Rebels and Imperials should be using tactics and have goals from their respective scenarios. Here's a fan database of scenarios. Looks like the original X-Wing missions are there, credited to "LucasArts." TIE Fighter missions are here. You'll probably have to adapt them to whatever combat engine you're running things in.
  • On Star Destroyers and other heavy capital class ships: you might find that the really heavy capital class ships make more "sense" in the context of planetary sieges and Imperial conquest. F'rinstance, Star Destroyers are there to project the threat of the imminent use of force against a planetary population. (Jesus Christ, KJA's prose is terrible. Don't stare at it too long.) See also the Tarkin Doctrine.
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Surgo
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

To respond to a few specific points.

Chamomile wrote:
The main issue is that having a star destroyer is exactly like having a battleship in 1942, in that Star Wars space combat was based on WW2 naval combat, and unlike WW2 effective fighters aren't a relatively recent invention so there's no excuse for still having a bunch of star destroyers lying around which we may as well use just because hey, we've already got 'em.

Well, that is sort of the point of the thread: to give them a reason to be used. Because their presence is awesome. That their reason to be around is retrofitted around that fact doesn't matter so much.

erik wrote:
Trying to make sense of Star Wars tactics within their technology canon is silly. It ain't that kind of movie kid.

Well yeah, that's obvious. But ultimately Star Wars space combat is awesome. So having some rules that support that but don't immediately collapse in on themselves, if at all possible, is great.

Mechalich wrote:
1. Embargo a planet or section of space.
- You can only really embargo space using interdiction technology, which is expensive, complicated, and basically requires you to build the whole ship around it. On the other hand you can embargo a planet with a big ship that's capable of deploying fighters and staying on station for a while (this was one of the things that Star Destroyers were explicitly very good at, and canonically, Luke and co. only managed to escape Tatooine in New Hope because Han Solo is Han Solo).

I don't have any idea how various Star Wars writers up to and including George Lucas have handled embargoing or preventing people from blipping away through FTL travel or whatever. I just figure that if you declare capital ships to be slow and starfighters to be fast, you've just given them an important role in embargoes: chasing down people who have managed to get past the capital screen.

Mechalich wrote:
6. Provide Fire Support to the Ground
- this is functionally the same as destroy planetary infrastructure. Planetary combat in Star Wars is actually kind of funky. The authors acknowledge that a ship sufficiently large to mount some real turbolaser batteries can basically wipe any unshielded object (up to whole mountain ranges) off the map and a fleet of ships can even conduct a Base Delta Zero bombardment that would kill anything more complex than a bacterium on a planet. As a result ground campaigns are mostly about destroying planetary shield protections and then sending down whatever ultimatums you wish. Storytelling, of course, demands ground combat, and has provided all sorts of McGuffins, politics, internal conflicts, and other reasons to go fight planetside

It's not really the same thing though. If you've got a squad of five soldiers struggling to break through an encampment you don't go drop a tactical nuclear weapon on them. You probably don't even drop a blockbuster bomb on them. Instead you send a gunship.

Ground combat like that will always exist because there will always be objectives to actually capture, not just destroy.

czernebog wrote:
On Star Destroyers and other heavy capital class ships: you might find that the really heavy capital class ships make more "sense" in the context of planetary sieges and Imperial conquest. F'rinstance, Star Destroyers are there to project the threat of the imminent use of force against a planetary population. (Jesus Christ, KJA's prose is terrible. Don't stare at it too long.) See also the Tarkin Doctrine.

It's certainly a solid reason to have capital ships, which is good. Not necessarily one to have star destroyers versus a couple of troop carriers, aircraft carriers, and floating space guns, but it gets us half of the way there at least. Planetary embargoes probably happen a lot, as planets are literally the thing you fight over.
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

czernebog wrote:

Not all space battles have to be giant pitched affairs where each side has lines of heavy capital class ships. The Rebels are supposed to engage in a lot of hit-and-run tactics on supply lines, putting the fact that their starfighters carry torpedoes, hyperdrives and astrogation units to good use. The notion of "supply lines" that consist of a tightly clustered group of slow-moving heavy freighters in space makes very little sense, but it's a conceit of the setting.


The economics of Star Wars are wonky as fuck. The general consensus is that there's roughly three classes of planets: run down hellholes filled with subsistence economies that produce effectively nothing of import - ex. Jaku; cultural or industrial powerhouses with an output that may dwarf the throughput of tens of thousands of lesser planets - ex. Kuat (industry), Alderaan (culture); planets of limited settlement that are primarily colonized for resource extraction purposes - ex. Mustafar.

So 'supply lines' represents the extraction of raw materials from the Mustafars of the galaxy and their transportation to the Kuats, and the converse of the distribution of finished products from the Kuats to everywhere. Trade routes and freighter convoys remain kind of weird, but the idea is that trade cooperatives can hire/build their own armies to do so. All the Trade Federation ships are supposedly there to protect their convoys. Trade vessels are actually most vulnerable immediately after launch and before landing, because Star Wars hyperspace ends near to a gravity well - so you have to come out in high orbit, which is where pirates/enemy navies can attack you.


It is also important to note that the Imperial navy performs particularly poorly against the Rebellion because it was not designed to fight them. The Empire existed for 21 years pre-Endor, and the Rebellion was only a thing during the last 6, and only of any military significance for the last 4 (and this is true in both continuities, in fact in the new canon its even stronger, since the Rebel fleet gets its head handed to it at Scarrif in Rogue One).

The Imperial fleet was designed to take and hold territory from all the recalcitrant states and planets that didn't like the idea of being part of a Galactic Empire and also to (retconned) build a military force suitable to fight the Yuuzhan Vong (which is incredibly dumb, but it's there). So planetary bombardment and on-site sustainability in hostile territory and so forth were really important.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So star destroyers are naval destroyers, the deathstar is a battleship, x-wings and tie fighters are prop planes.

I guess Tattoine is Mexico and Endor is the Philippines.

Here's some previous threads on space combat:

Talking about space combat gameplay
http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=50535&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=

Star Wars Edge
http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=53692&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=

Space Combat Hangups

http://tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=52590&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
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Mechalich
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
So star destroyers are naval destroyers, the deathstar is a battleship, x-wings and tie fighters are prop planes.


Actually, no. This is a trick of Star Wars scale. The Star Wars galaxy is a galaxy, and galaxies are huge. The Galactic Empire, according to the Essential Atlas, contained 1.5 million full member worlds, 69 million colony worlds, and held dominion over perhaps as many as a billion settled planets in total.

The Imperial Navy had, at its height, 20,000 Imperial Star Destroyers. That meant they only had 1 for every 3500 worlds. These were ship-of-the-line general purpose vessels analogous to the largest battleships of WW2, while also being troop transports and modest carriers. There were maybe several hundred Battlecruisers and Star Dreadnaughts (the Executor, Vader's ship in Empire and Jedi, is a Star Dreadnaught) that were even bigger. However these ships were a tiny fraction of the total number of ships in the fleet, of which there were millions. These included troop transports, starfighter carriers, smaller destroyer-like ships, and many more. So the bulk of the Imperial fleet actually was composed of smaller ships with specialized roles that were considerably less vulnerable to being swarmed by high-end fighters.

The movies, and later the books, just tended to concentrate on the big guns.

Ultimately, yes, the Empire would have been much better off building a fleet composed mostly of smaller ships - and several authors had various Imperial commanders actually say this out loud at points in the post-Emperor Empire - rather than expending resources on giant ships that were vulnerable to being swarmed under and tied up excessive resources in one place. They built so many Star Destroyers out of a combination of intimidation as doctrine, political paranoia on the part of Palpatine, and because (retconned) giant ships were particularly useful against Yuuzhan Vong military technology and Palpatine could see the future and knew the Vong were coming (yeah, I know, the EU could be really stupid sometimes).

Surgo wrote:
It's not really the same thing though. If you've got a squad of five soldiers struggling to break through an encampment you don't go drop a tactical nuclear weapon on them. You probably don't even drop a blockbuster bomb on them. Instead you send a gunship.

Ground combat like that will always exist because there will always be objectives to actually capture, not just destroy.


Well, yes and no. Again, the Star Wars galaxy is so huge that an entire planet (especially one like Tatooine that has a net industrial output close to zero) is a relatively small piece of territory. The Empire, and particular Palpatine, operated on such a scale that blowing whole planets to bits simply for having the gall to dare defy was totally cool and he let Tarkin make that pretty much official doctrine (and in the EU created things like the Galaxy Gun and actually did it). So unless a planet is particularly special in some unusual way, you didn't bother with ground forces, you achieved superiority in local space and then liquidated it. The MMO TOR is instructive here, in that pretty much every planet you land on that is in any way contested has some kind of super-special-awesome unique resource that both sides want that prevents them from just blasting the place to shreds (Hoth, Belsavis, Corellia, Makeb, Voss) or has specific political implications that function similarly (Taris, Voss).

Surgo wrote:
Is there a way to do it while having players able to make a meaningful difference on either side of the equation?


To address this I will note that, given the massive scale of any sort of general fleet engagement in Star Wars, players aren't going to shift engagements via conventional combat (the X-wing books have battles were the nominal PCs do due this, but their engagements are largely at the squad level). And, of course, in the movies they don't. In New Hope Red Squadron gets conventionally destroyed, but that doesn't matter because they hit the objective. The Battle of Endor and the Battle of Scarrif both turn on the ability of ground teams to seize squad level objectives that turn the tide of the battle without contributing to the naval engagement directly in any way. The Battles of Geonosis and of Corsucant in the Prequels are both structured around attempts to cut off the head of the snake by the PCs. So the only movie battle where a party member turns the tide in a remotely conventional way in a set piece battle is in Phantom Menace, and I think we can all agree that particular incident is a good example of what not to do.

So generally, for RPG purposes, a giant set piece battle is taking place in the background of whatever the PCs are doing, and if they are exerting influence over it they do so view some sort of McGuffin, or via eliminating leadership or influencing some massive automated system rather than by shooting a lot of people in the face. Several of the small group missions in TOR - particularly Battle of Ilum and The False Emperor, which were the storyline conclusion at launch - are structured this way.


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Lokathor
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I tried to nail down some space tech and what it generally does and how that might affect the setting in Interregnum. It's loosely star wars, not quite exactly star wars, and I'm not sure that I really nailed down things at all. But you can scan it for ideas.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

In WW2, it was smart to use battelships because we had them already, so the choice wasn't between a battleship and a carrier, it was between a battleship and bugger all. If your players (we're in IMHO, so I assume this is for RPG purposes) aren't the ones personally commissioning the fleets of the Galactic Republic/Empire/Rebel Alliance/whatever, then they have a good reason to use capital ships because the fleets they are put in command of already have them.

If you really need to explain the fleet doctrines in terms of what's being produced and not just what's being deployed, then we have way more problems than have already been stated. KotOR and the various Clone Wars era media have reliably depicted starship combat as being reliant on the same combination of capital ships and fighters for at least several generations, if not several thousand years, before the Empire, which means explanations that apply solely to the Empire's intimidation doctrines can't explain things on their own. Additionally, the Rebel Alliance also employs capital ships, and in Rogue One we see them deploying them quite early in the conflict, even.

So let's look at Star Wars: Galaxy at War, an RTS that necessarily has to handle exactly this problem. Both fighters and capital ships exist in that game, and if the Rebel player wanted to, he totally could make gobs of X-wings and never make a single Mon Calamari cruiser. The way the balance of that game works, X-wings are useless against capital ships in all but the most absurdly high numbers, but Y-wings are the Rebels' only answer to Imperial capital ships for most of the game (Mon Calamari cruisers also rip up star destroyers of all sizes, but they're at the very top of the Rebel tech tree and the Imperials get their smaller size star destroyers at around the transition from early- to mid-game). Y-wings crumble to TIE fighters, which all star destroyers come equipped with for free, but X-wings are effective against TIEs. So, the Rebel strategy is to use X-wings to tie up and ultimately destroy the TIEs while using Y-wings to bomb the star destroyers. Tartan patrol ships are the Imperials' answer to X-wings, Corellian corvettes are the answer to that, and then star destroyers are the answer to Corellian corvettes and we've closed the loop.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The key thing about Star Wars ships is that their weapons are fucking awful. Turbolasers and blasters do not make particularly big holes in things, it's a bit like shooting Roman Candles at people. Most specifically, if a Star Wars ship like an X-Wing or a TIE Fighter wants to bombard a city, it has to fly down to the city. Blasters do not seem to penetrate regular atmospheres, the bolts of plasma losing coherence and dissipating long before they do any real damage. Bombers and such exist, but they seem to have to fly down to near surface to drop bombs on things.

Actual planetary bombardment requires ridiculously large weapons which requires ridiculously large ships. Star Destroyers can do some limited planetary bombardment, and of course the Death Star can blow up an entire planet. But if you have an X-Wing and you want to blow up an installation on the ground you have to fly down and risk getting shot at by ground-based flak blasters to do it.

The Empire building Star Destroyers and larger ships is simply because they had a military need to threaten cities and planetary colonies. The Rebels did not have that need and so they invested heavily in anti-ship ships.

The comparison point is not World War 2 but the Revolutionary War. Britain needs the capability to shell cities and forts so they invest in big ships of the line with massive guns, but the Colonies only need to break blockades and blow up big ships, so they invest in a privateer fleet of smaller vessels that hunt in packs.

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Whipstitch
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:

The comparison point is not World War 2 but the Revolutionary War. Britain needs the capability to shell cities and forts so they invest in big ships of the line with massive guns, but the Colonies only need to break blockades and blow up big ships, so they invest in a privateer fleet of smaller vessels that hunt in packs.

-Frank


This. The boarding action from Episode 1 is more like something from the War on Terror than the Battle for Midway. One ship was so vastly superior to the other that the naval part of the encounter was basically just a really cool establishing shot--one ship literally engulfs the other and then suddenly a bunch of stormtroopers kick down the door and raid the joint in order to capture the ringleader for interrogation. The part where risks are taken and people die could have happened on land as easily as in space and none of the tactics used really give us any indication of what would happen if two Star Destroyers were to throw down.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Depends.
As we established, Star Destroyer Weaponry is mostly rubbish.
Aside from the Bombardment Laser. Depending on how good the targeting systems are for a weapon that is meant to shoot at the biggest things in space from a relatively speaking stabile non moving position.
If the bombard lasers CAN target and hit a target the size of a star destroyer, it will end after the first shot hits. Otherwise, going broadside to broadside? Stalemate. Because they are both armored and shielded heavily enough to simply shrug off the secondary weaponry that is mostly meant as defensive fire against smaller attack ships like Star Fighters.

Edit:
Actually, looking at some design documents and wikis . . they have nothing BUT self defense weaponry and some medium sized anti ship weaponry o.O
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Zaranthan
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Is there anything in canon about how orbital bombardment actually works? It seems plausible that they just use Thor shots and all the lasers are for shooting things in hard vacuum (or at a range of "less than one atmosphere"). That leaves room for lasers that can't hit fighters but also don't instagib other capital ships.
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FatR
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
The key thing about Star Wars ships is that their weapons are fucking awful.


Star Wars ships burned their way through an asteroid field only a couple orders of magnitude less dense than a solid planet. For days on end. Death Star's firepower scaled down to Star Destroyer size still means the amounts of bigatons per ship that is sufficient to pretty quickly remove something as fragile as atmosphere and biosphere. Small privately-owned freightes can pack WMDs capable of blasting large cities to rubble. A drive sufficient to pull Millenium Falcon-sized loads, never mind Star Destroyer-sized out of gravity well of an Earth-sized planet in a minute cannot possibly fail to produce extinction-event level kinetic kill vehicles. Sure, Star Wars' stuff is pretty weak if you compare it to Cultureverse or some other high-end setting, but as with most space opera settings, it still risks falling apart once you start extrapolating feats observed on screen.

I've produced certain explanations of my own when preparing for an SW game, in an attempt to reconcile various stuff on screen into a somewhat coherent picture for players. I don't pretend they are in any way canonical.

(1)Shielding technology (this covers both capital ships vs. starfighters, and the reason why open wars last more than a couple of days). Bubble shielding that is sometimes visible on screen cannot cover anything above the size of a small freighter. Capital ships and planets usually depend on an array of "shield plates". For capital ships these overlay tightly so that getting past them without overcoming them is usually impossible, in case of planets layers of various-altitude shield plates leave no gaps for orbital bombardments, but something not moving in a straight line, like fighters and transports, can get through, albeit with a risk. That also was the case for the Death Star.

Shields can absorb fuck huge amounts of firepower, that swiftly scales with shielding generator size, so planetary shielding makes kinetic attacks virtually useless, and missile swarms accomplish next to nothing in space combat. To deal relevant damage you need to get close enough to hit with your relatively slow-moving turbolaser bolts. In case of ship-to-ship combat this also means that fighters on their own rarely can overcome a capital ship, and even corvettes and frigates can effortlessly tank anything smaller than a whole squadron attacking with perfect coordination. However, presence of fighters on the space battlefield means than enemy ships cannot divert all power to parts of their shielding directly facing the enemy, and whenever a lucky blast from a friendly capital ship short-circuits generators for just one or two shield plates, fighters around can exploit that chance and strike the weak spot for massive damage.

Strength of planetary shields, at least on planets that actually are major industrial and political centers, also means that you cannot just alpha strike the enemy capital as your opening act of war, and outcome of conflicts does not boil down to a single decisive fleet battle. Battering down a first-rate planet may take days or weeks, and is likely to result in severe casualties if the planet also has surface-to-space batteries worth mentioning. So even if you rout your enemy's fleet, you may be left with insufficient combat strength to conquer a major world, or siege may take enough time for the enemy fleet to recover/receive reinforcements.

Alternatively a besieging fleet can exploit the above-mentioned shielding flaws and try to deploy large number of fighters and landing troops to fly past the shield and take out its generators, or for that matter the rest of your planetary defenses, because when launching genocidal annihilating strikes against the entirety of your enemy's planetary infrastructure is no longer cheap and easy, playing by the rules and not using weapons that can kill large swathes of civilian population is much more prudent.

Death Star, of course, was made explicitly to bypass all those limitations, both dispencing with expensive and protracted planetary sieges, and making even the wealthiest, most protected worlds defenseless.

(2)Hyperdrive technology. First, no, you cannot hyperdrive out of/into the atmosphere, or under a shield. That will kill you. Second, time necessary to warm up your hyperdrive from zero to jump is inversely proportional to your ship's size. Unless you have all the time you want to harmonize jumps, fighters, small cargo ships, corvettes, etc, can jump very swiftly, unless nothing is physically blocking their exit trajectory and they are not being tractor beamed/interdicted by a specialized ship. Large warships need substantial time to get ready for a jump. Therefore the Rebellion preferred to use fighters and other small fry at the time when it had no resources to stand and fight, and was forced to rely on hit-and-run tactics.

Speaking of hyperspace interdiction, the technology does exist, but is not used that often. Empire built interdictor frigates because it wanted to actually exercise control over spacelanes, also because due to the above-mentioned composition of Rebel flotillas, they were difficult to catch otherwise. But usually people relied more on their planetary shield to buy enough time for help to concentrate in case of sudden attacks.

(3)Different sort of planets. Pretty much what mechalich wrote above. A lot of the Galaxy consists of shitholes which do various equivalents of subsistence farming and have no military or economic value to speak of. Then there are extremely important industrialized worlds, each of whom runs a ton of colonies and dependencies, from automated mining stations, to pastoral planets whose main "trades" are cool scenery and quality resorts. Because assaulting a major world directly is perilous, as described above, unless one side in war has a massive advantage (and perhaps even then), a war primarily consists of struggles for control of those lesser world which may have only token defensive forces on their own, with the end purpose of cutting imports to your adversary's major worlds and either force submission or weaken them for the final assault. Because the Galaxy is absolutely enormous, and significant conflicts unfold over tens of thousands systems at a time, even though armies and fleets of every faction worth mentioning are massively big too, with an equivalent of private security force fielding dozens of battleships/carriers, individual engagements and campaigns may therefore feature forces limited enough for PCs' heroics to leave a noticeable immediate impact.


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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
The boarding action from Episode 1 is more like something from the War on Terror than the Battle for Midway.


That scene is a star destroyer picking on a Corellian corvette (I'm assuming you mean Episode IV, since no scene from Episode I fits at all). The Rebel fleet has Mon Calamari cruisers and Nebulon frigates in it. The exact same ship that gets swallowed up by a star destroyer in A New Hope is ejected from a Rebel cruiser in Rogue One. Rebels have ships of the exact same size as the Empire, and they have them by the midpoint of the civil war. That scene isn't the standard confrontation between Rebel and Imperial forces, it's an Imperial cruiser chasing down a routing Rebel corvette in the immediate aftermath of a major fleet confrontation.

FatR wrote:
A drive sufficient to pull Millenium Falcon-sized loads, never mind Star Destroyer-sized out of gravity well of an Earth-sized planet in a minute cannot possibly fail to produce extinction-event level kinetic kill vehicles.


Only if it operates using sheer velocity instead of technomagically cancelling gravity.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Zaranthan wrote:
Is there anything in canon about how orbital bombardment actually works? It seems plausible that they just use Thor shots and all the lasers are for shooting things in hard vacuum (or at a range of "less than one atmosphere"). That leaves room for lasers that can't hit fighters but also don't instagib other capital ships.


In KotOR, Malak levels the surface of Taris with just the Leviathan, and that was accomplished by having every single turbolaser firing at the planet. I also seem to recall reading somewhere in the EU where it's stated that it would take an entire fleet of Star Destroyers to accomplish the same feat, so my guess is that the answer is "it depends on the author."

Also, something that should always be kept in mind when discussing Star Wars tech is that SW is far more a fantasy setting than it is a sci-if one, and the setting has not always given much of a shit as to how it's technology works, and does not try nor care to be scientifically plausible.
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I think if the slapdash rebel base on Hoth can have an anti-bombardment shield sufficient to hold off the fucking Executor, then either bombardment tech sucks or the capital ships aren't actually designed for it.
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Whipstitch
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
That scene isn't the standard confrontation between Rebel and Imperial forces, it's an Imperial cruiser chasing down a routing Rebel corvette in the immediate aftermath of a major fleet confrontation.


That was kinda my point. I only mentioned that bit about A New Hope because maglag said that boarding actions are common and cited one being the first scene in the series when really a star destroyer is so out of scale with a single corvette that you can't really make many conclusions from the whole incident.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Oh, I have maglag on ignore, so I missed the context there.
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