Monday, June 1, 2020

Running A Dogfight

One of the campaign ideas I've wanted to run for years and years now is a 'fighter squadron' campaign. The most common version of this want is set in the Star Wars universe with the PCs being a squadron of fighter jocks working for the Rebellion or New Republic with the idea for the campaign being along the lines of the Rogue Squadron & Wraith Squadron series of books.

Other ideas have included things akin to the Ace Combat series, Battle Star Galactica, the Halo universe, Dragon riders, basically anything where the point would be getting the PCs in the air for the primary for of combat and tense situations.

The idea has always run into two key problems. First, I rarely have 4-6 people looking to all be pilot characters for a game - or while open to the idea, they're all more excited about other ideas. Second, not a lot of systems have good, engaging rulesets for handling the unique setup that a dogfight has. Which is also why I was intrigued when I found out about the RPGs Tachyon Squadron and Warbirds, and even more intrigued when I found they both did Dogfights/Furballs basically the same way.

The video above covers it for Warbirds, and Tachyon Squadron uses a similar system only with the top of the chart being "Undetected" for any ships not currently known about in the fight (just joining, stealth ships, etc.) and the bottom being "Special" to cover ships leaving the area, capital ships, and other things like that.

For those unable to watch the video, the system is fairly simple. Initiative basically determines who you can and can not attack. You can attack anyone equal or below you in initiative (you have 'advantage' on them so to speak) and you can be attacked by anyone with equal or superior initiative to you. Which means if you are top dog for initiative you have your pick of targets. Bottom of the pact is probably looking to change their position. And people in the middle can choose their targets, but also have to consider anyone coming for them at the same time.

What I really like about this system is that its simplicity makes it incredibly portable. Yes, moving it to other systems will take additional tweaking but the core setup is easy to understand while simultaneously conveying some of how dogfights and furballs work where your positioning is just as, if not more, important than the weapons you have ready to go.

Perhaps someday I'll get to run that fighter pilot campaign. When I do, you can guarantee that Tachyon Squadron and Warbirds are going to be closely read in the setup, if not flat out the systems used.

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