March 22, 2010

Aspects as applied to Ships in Neb SE

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — bilbo @ 9:31 pm

I have been giving some thought to Aspects as they could be applied to ships in Nebuleon SE. A few things I think would be useful:
1. Ships should still be divided up into 10 areas that are the systems of the ship. So, you might have
1 – Main Computer
2 – Propulsion
3 – Life Support
and so on…

2a. Aspects are specific characteristics of the ship. So, you might have “Over protective” for the AI in the computer.


2b. Aspects are the abstract characteristics of the ship. So, one example could be “Battered but never falls apart”.


2c. Aspects are game mechanics applied to the ship. For example, “Built for Atmospheric Speed” receives a +20 to any piloting in the atmosphere.

I can see advantages to any of those. What to you think?


  1. I like the first idea about it covering sections “aspects” of the ship, I particularly liked the AI angle (heh, Dark Star anyone:.)

    not so keen on 2B

    Comment by Alan Hume — March 23, 2010 @ 4:59 am

  2. Aspects perform two functions – they are simultaneously descriptors and modifiers. I think you should combine the three ways of using them into one. Really, 2a and 2b are identical, as they are both Aspects as descriptors. 2c is Aspect as modifier. If you use the phrase “the GM is the ultimate judge of the applicability of these Aspects to the current situation”, I think you can give a +10 (or +20) bonus to all uses of these Aspects as modifiers. In other words, whenever this bonus is applicable, you have it. As pure descriptors, there is no need to restrict their use.

    You can take one of the following routes:

    1. Limit the number of Aspects a ship can have to what is designed into it. This means Aspects need to be limited to those which can be designed into the ship. No one is going to design an AI that is overprotective.

    2. Allow PCs to buy new Aspects. This limits Aspects to those that can be retro-fitted, and also to positive Aspects. PCs aren’t going to buy negative aspects.

    3. Allow ahips to gain aspects with use. This would function like your Weapon Aspects.

    4. Combine 1 and 3, limiting 1 to aspects that should be designed in – “Built for Speed in Atmosphere” – and limiting 3 to aspects that can be discovered through use – “Battered but Never Falls Apart” – AKA rolls a crit in that situation, a la your weapons Aspects. The PCs are never going to “discover” that their ship is fast in atmosphere – that is something that has to be designed into the ship. Conversely, no ship designer is going to create a ship that is battered but solid – that’s something that has to be discovered in use.


    Comment by clash bowley — March 23, 2010 @ 7:51 am

  3. Clash,
    2a and 2b function the same but this is what I mean when I say you are a systems guy, they are radically different from an in-setting descriptor stance. To systems guy, there is not difference because they both affect the system similarly. From a setting POV, 2a describes a specific area defined a 1. However, 2b describes the entire ship.

    As to the rest, I was thinking of a combination of 1 and 3. Much as you describe in 4 but allow initial purchase of +’s. So, you would have ++ Built for speed in atmosphere allowing the GM to know it is better, stronger Aspect. Additional plusses and even minuses can be had.

    I am considering a balance. Say, the +’s must balance with the -‘s. So, you might have ++Hardened Hull but then need a –Terrified of Damage AI.

    Alternatively, drop the +’s and -‘s and just go with ranks.

    Comment by bilbo — March 23, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  4. That all looks very cool to me, Bill! I like the balance idea – self-balancing systems are my ideal. Yes, I am looking at this from a systems viewpoint, but my question is really “Is the difference between 2a and 2b important enough to separate them?” Some Aspects modify the ship, and some modify a sub-set of the ship. Would the game really be different if you threw them in together and let the players choose?


    Comment by clash bowley — March 23, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  5. I think the aspects should be strictly story driven by critical successes and critical failures giving ranked bonuses and penalties. So if the ship makes a critical success roll flying through an asteroid belt, it gets a rank 1 “flying through astroids” bonus. The next time the ship flys through an asteroid field a +10% bonus is applied. If there is another critical success, it becomes a rank 2 bonus giving a +20% bonus. A critical failure erases one bonus though.
    The problem with built-in bonuses is that they are not balanced. I like the idea of aspects, but don’t care to see the players having access to them. I’d rather they were story driven because we are role playing. With critical driven bonuses and penalties you will be random, but the players are the ones incorporating them, when they roll crits, with the GM determining the affects of each crit.
    This way the aspects would appear wherever they are rolled, so you may have an aspect that applies to one area of the ship (engines -1) that offsets an aspect of the ship (speed +1) as a whole.
    Perhaps a critical success at repairs could erase one negative rank on a system.

    Comment by scott — March 23, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  6. Wow, I am sooooooo not a systems guy:.)

    I like Clash’s idea of merging them all, if it can work, why not

    I hae to disagree with Scott, but, being hoinest I just dont see the logic in giving a spaceship a bonus for having been succesful at something like maneuvering through an asteroid field, maybe the ship’s crew but not the ship

    Comment by Alan Hume — March 24, 2010 @ 3:17 am

  7. OK – maybe some clarification is in order on my view of the ship’s Aspects.

    Some Aspects have to be designed into the ship – things like “Maneuverable in Atmosphere”, “Modular Hull”, “Built for Speed”, or “Hidden Cargo Hold” have to have been designed into the ship in the first place, or physically added. These things cannot be improved in play without a visit to a dockyard and some serious physical restructuring. These Aspects can and should be bought by the the PCs.

    Some Aspects are naturally the result of play – things like “Battered but Unbreakable”, “Utterly Dependable”, “Overprotective AI”, and “Sweet to Land” can come up and be confirmed – i.e. raised – in play, with crits.

    These two types of Aspects are mechanically identical, yet separate in how they come about. All the time in the world won’t make a hidden cargo hold magically appear in your ship, but the ship’s AI *can* become overprotective in time, as it develops.


    Comment by clash bowley — March 24, 2010 @ 11:03 am

  8. I forgot to say that I think those Aspects which are gained through Crits can be lost the same way, as Scott said, so maybe Permanent Aspects are those designed into the ship, or built in by a shipyard – i.e. payed for. There should be some limit – either hard (i.e 5 Max Permanent Aspects) or flexible (Positive and Negative Permanent Aspects must Balance). Temporary Aspects, those which are the result of crits, should be unlimited.

    I’m liking the hard limit, actually. No one wants to pay for negative Aspects, and it’s cool that you might have to give up “Maneuverable in Atmosphere” for “Hidden Cargo Hold”, or vice versa. It actually makes sense.


    Comment by clash bowley — March 24, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  9. I’m with Crash in that there should be a blending of your three options. There should be the upgrade version of the aspects, but I have a hard time with balancing that with a neg. Having hung around some people who customize vehicles – I don’t know too many people that would make an improvement at the cost of something else. If an upgrade detracts from previous improvements; 9 out of 10 the new upgrade is going into “well, that didn’t work like I wanted. . .” circular file. For me upgradeable vehicles or weapons almost take on an npc status – the more the vehicle is with them the more it adapts and changes just like any other party npc. I would limit aspects to one per ship section/system with exponential time and cost going into upgrades or changing the Aspects in a ships section that has had a previous Aspect. It’s one thing to customize stock, but changing customizations is a whole new bird.

    Comment by Mike Noorman — March 25, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  10. Clash, your “Physical” and “Action” aspects are very much what I meant when I said 2a and 2b were different from a setting POV. One is locked to the physical of the ship and the other is more abstracted to the general description of the ship.

    This said, I like the solution you have come to and will gleefully steal it. ;P

    Mike, I will most likely make it most greivous to start tweaking your ship too much. I am notorious for my “Yeah, you can have it but its gonna hurt” approach to vehicle design. The thought I have for that is to allow certain high tech solutions, or even ancient tech, to be able to slot in more. So, I imagine a ship will be rated with X Aspects and the number will be related to two things:
    1. the tech level of the hull
    2. the size of the hull.
    So, let us say, a middlin number is 5 Aspects. No two may be built into a space. This is already built in with my space unit system (although I am thinking of scrapping that system in favor of just allowing a series of Aspects). Now, you could spend say, 3 ranks of Aspects on a computer in area 1 to gain a self aware, self motivated computer. The other two ranks may be added to say, sensors to give exceptional sensor capability. Perhaps this adds a +20 to Sensor Ops skill checks or just figures into the GM and how he might spring a trap on you.

    All of those ranks cost though. The higher the ranks the more credits it takes. Even a smugglers hold is likewise since it means you need to higher really good craftsmen to do the work.

    Then we have the earned Aspects. In this case, like the entry on Chevalier and Aspects of weapons, you get the ship’s crew believing that it is so and it adds to it. This does not mean you get things like “Radiates a death field” but more the kind of thing confidence in the ship could do, so, like “Fastest ship in the quadrant” for a critical success on a Navigation check before FTL. What it means is you cut those gravity wells just bit closer or drop out of Flux just a little closer to the system. I could see a failure on such an Aspect possibly resulting in catastrophe…just a thought.

    Comment by bilbo — March 25, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

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