Starfire without WP's?

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Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 13:58

Hi everyone...

I want to start a discussion on the concept of "Starfire without WP's".

I know that a lot of people have a serious attachment to the WP paradigm in Starfire. Hell, to a considerable degree, I do too. But I also feel that over time, it appears to me that the WP paradigm has created a number of serious gameplay problems that really cannot be fixed with mere tweaks in the WP rules. My thinking is that without WP's, it would be possible to create a considerable more exciting, fast-moving, and free-wheeling version of Starfire without the baggage that WP's bring... such as the phenomena known as WP stagnation.


For those that haven't hear the term before, WP Stagnation refers to the situation that begins to occur when automated weapons start becoming available in the mid TL's (EL's/SL's/whatever) and WP assaults become increasingly bloody for the attacker to the point that the game "stagnates" because players prefer not to take such heavy losses, and search for backdoor WPs into their enemy's rear. In 3e, WP Stagnation only really starts to end when SBMHAWKs become available at TL9. However, the problem is that many campaigns may not survive the stagnation and the players may just give up.


My thinking is that without the WP paradigm things would become much more open and free-flowing. There'd be no game "construct" that'd cause a lockdown in the game's flow.

At this point, I think that the first step is that people have to be willing to break with the paradigm of WP's and give up thinking that Starfire wouldn't be Starfire without WP's. It may not be Starfire as you knew it, but it might actually be something much better ... an exciting, free-flowing strategic and tactical game without the construct of WP's to bog the game down and cause some campaigns to grind to a halt.


Note that I haven't actually stated how one might do Starfire without WP's. There are a number of ways. I have a prefered way, but I also recognize the idea that Dan Preston is using in his new "Dark Stars" solo 3rdR campaign is extremely intriguing. I'd urge anyone interested to go on over to the fiction section and the Dark Stars subforum and check out his "campaign" rules to understand how he's doing Starfire without WP's. But without too many details, Dan's doing it by making the (knowingly) unrealistic assumption that the distance between star systems is VASTLY shorter ... mostly on the order of a handful of StMP's. And then think of those old Traveller sector map books with their 8x10 hexmaps, except that the hexes were 1 StMP in size, not 1 LY (or were they 1 parsec) per hex, and assume about 5-15 systems per sector. And that's his rough idea. (There's more to it, and if you're interested, check out the details in his fiction subforum.) It looks like it would be a much more free-wheeling campaign to me without the stagnation issues that WP's will invariably cause.

I somewhat prefer a more FTL model, but I have to admit that it would come with its own issues. Note however that using anything like "stargates" instead of WP's is a pointless exercise, as "star gates" are merely artificial WP's and would eventually create the same stagnation issues.

I think that the real aim of any "no WP's" scheme is to get away from the problems that WP's inevitably cause, and create an entirely different paradigm of strategic game play.



I know that some will say "WP's are good because they let the little guys have a chance". While there might be a bit of truth to that, I'd argue that it actually might be good to be blowing the little guys away faster since it would promote a faster, less stagnating pace of strategic play.

Others will say that "no WP's will cause all battles to be open space battles". This may or may not be true. It may actually be that more battles would take place around planets than in open space, since defenders might prefer to do their fighting near a planet and get the benefit of any static defenses.

And I'm sure that there may be other arguments, but I'm getting to be of the opinion that the benefits of getting rid of the WP paradigm outwiegh any and all of the arguments in favor of keeping them.

What say you?

Chime in!
Last edited by Crucis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 18:12, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby darbycmcd on Sat 18 Jul 2009 15:11

I am with you on this, WPs make the game feel more trench warfare than freewheeling epic space battle. Opening up the gameboard allows for more interesting strategic possibilities. You have the possibility of rear-area raiding, piracy, LRRP, etc. You also would force players to garrison the rear, which would help dilute some of the massive fleets that can potentially arise. This would probably offset the disadvantage small empires have in losing WPs.

I would also think that the ability for ships to leave a system when crippled in combat would not be so bad. The all or nothing aspect of combat in SF makes players a bit nervous about sending probes out.

I think just putting the map on a hex grid and counting them as StMP would work fine, they can be defined any way you want as far as distance. I'm not sure what you mean by a more FTL system.

For background fluffishness check out traveller 2300, I think it works well for a game like SF.

If people really freak out about losing WPs, maybe just make the entry and emergence more of a zone than a point, large enough so that automated weapons can't cover them. But for the record I am very very pro get rid of WP!
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 15:51

darbycmcd wrote:I am with you on this, WPs make the game feel more trench warfare than freewheeling epic space battle. Opening up the gameboard allows for more interesting strategic possibilities. You have the possibility of rear-area raiding, piracy, LRRP, etc. You also would force players to garrison the rear, which would help dilute some of the massive fleets that can potentially arise. This would probably offset the disadvantage small empires have in losing WPs.


Your point about the need to garrison your rear areas helping to dilute the potential for large offensive fleets is a very good one. I was actually aware of this thought and have brought it up in offline discussions. I actually left out a lot of additional thoughts in my initial post, a) to keep it from getting toooooooo long, and b) to let other people bring them up.


I would also think that the ability for ships to leave a system when crippled in combat would not be so bad. The all or nothing aspect of combat in SF makes players a bit nervous about sending probes out.


Could be true. This is one idea that I hadn't considered. It should be noted that without WP's, sending probe missions out to check out potential enemy star systems won't require a WP assault to get into the system.



I think just putting the map on a hex grid and counting them as StMP would work fine, they can be defined any way you want as far as distance. I'm not sure what you mean by a more FTL system.


What I mean by "more FTL system" is that rather than making an unrealistic assumption about the distance between star systems, a more realistic model that didn't use WP's (or "star gates", which are just artificial WP's) would require some sort of FTL drives to get from star system to star system. My general preference would be that those drives be relatively small so that their impact on what Starfire ships as you know them would be minimal.



If people really freak out about losing WPs, maybe just make the entry and emergence more of a zone than a point, large enough so that automated weapons can't cover them. But for the record I am very very pro get rid of WP!


Actually, if a no WP's paradigm was used, there's no actual reason that you couldn't actually have some rare WP's (or call'em worm holes)... Of course, if even some rare WP's existed, you might have certain familiar issues with them, like automated defenses, etc. But like you suggest, you could use some rather interesting mechanics to make them different than traditional WP's in traditional Starfire. And honestly, it'd be MUCH easier to justify the sort of WP you suggest in a (mostly) no WP's paradigm, since the basic paradigm of WP's would have been broken.


Darby, I actually think that playing Starfire with all of the rest of its familiar aspects but without WP's would actually make for a very exciting, free-flowing game.
Last edited by Crucis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 18:11, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Dawn Falcon on Sat 18 Jul 2009 16:14

Ah, Starfire-with-hyperdrives

There's an awful lot of assumptions in the rules which would need looking at, to me primarily those in the system generation rules. Habitable planets probably don't need to be anything like as common, and you can do an awful lot with, say, decreasing income for "badworlds" based on the distance from habitable planets.

There are an awful lot of rules which can be explored for movement as well, from the size of the drives (necessatating a "carrier/rider" model), to instant transports between star systems, but lenghty periods of recharing. Then there's ship detection, if lightspeed, FTL or even strategic-FTL ranged. And then communications, remembering Starfire has none..that has /major/ implications in itself for with hyperdrives, far more than for Starfire where buoys on WP's can carry FTL messages through for you, and then there's were you can enter and exit hyperspace from. Weapons balance is also affected, since you will /allways/ have to close through enemy long-range fire, and tactical vs strategic speed is impacted as well.

Taking my "Oasis" universe, there is a relatively slow "phase" FTL drive which allows you to enter deep into a system but you can only exit from roughly saturn-orbit, then each habitable system has a huge gate, which are expensive as heck to make and run, but allow instant transport to 2-4 other gates (and transits must be authorised on both ends, so no "hostile" transits). Each planet has an "Oasis" surrounding it of "badworld" colonies, thus, and in several cases they overlap. There's no FTL comm or sensors, but you can use unmanned messenger drones with the quicker "rip" drives (An Oasis can be several months across by phase drive, but three days for a rip drone), but you can detect the "echos" of approaching ships about a day out.

Pickets are important, the common strategy is to have fleet bases scattered mid-oasis to trade off flight time vs force concentration, etc.

Or there's my "Starfall: Genesis" universe, there's two forms of FTL, one which is purely in-system between gravitational "flat" points, and uses gates, and instant inter-system (but short-ranged, you'd expect at least a half-dozen transits between hab worlds!) FTL which requires huge ships, "Capitals" and "Carriers" which carry "Riders", and which can enter and exit quite close to gravity wells but have a ten to twelve minute drive cycle time for even the shortest hop. F-type weapons don't exist either, although there are dimensional weapons only Capitals can use (Carriers dedicate the space to more riders).. oh, and there's a limited-range FTL comm, so a lot of systems have a small comm relay.

There's an awful lot of implications there, including minimum size of useful of picket forces (since the smallest attacking enemy force will be one capital or warship, and they have the manouver advantage), taking out an enemy's comm relay bases is important for later surprise but needs a FTL ship, etc.


There's an awful lot you can play arround with once you've done away with wormholes. But it does change the game. A theoretical set of hyperspace rules would absolutely not need to be prescriptive, they could present all the options for players to consider and customise for their own campaigns. (And to be honest neither of the above is ideal for a campaign, I'd like a model which allowed more commerce raiding)

Also, mapping wouldn't be at all the nightmare it is for larger Starfire campaigns, and there's quite a few software packages out there which can handle this sort of thing easily. Even in three dimensions, should you so wish.


Crucis: The problem with rare WP's is demonstrated by the Honourverse, though. Those connections take on massive importance, since they are effectively bottlenecks for far wider areas.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 17:18

Andrew, I think that you're overthinking the entire idea of Starfire without WP's. The idea would be to make the number of changes required to support a no WP's environment, be it in Dan Preston's model, or in a Hyperspace model, as minimal as possible, not to use is as an excuse to look for more complexities.

For one thing, this is why I suggested that it might be better to use a "small" paradigm hyperdrive so that all of the issues relating to the large HD "mothership and parasites" paradigm can be avoided.

I agree that there'd quite like be "hyperlimits" inside of which you could not enter or exit hyperspace. I'd strongly suggest that there be no ability to intercept nor interact with hyperships for a number of game mechanics reasons. A. It avoids having to calculate intercepts on a strategic scale. B. It avoids all concern about combat in hyper space. C. It is the absolute simplest method of making a conversion into a no WP's/hyperspace model.

I don't like the "star gate" concept because all they are is just artificial WP's.... and if they can be manufactured, they can become common, and you're back to the WP problems that you were trying to avoid.

I agree that strategic concerns like detection and communications would be an issue to be addressed (and I already have thoughts on the matter).

As for the thing about rare WP's in the Honorverse creating bottlenecks, I'm not sure I see it as a problem. The point of rare WP's (that make long "jumps") would be for them to BE important and valuable, and to be potential points of contention. They'd make their star systems worth finding, and defending.... (or finding and taking!). And I'd say that that was probably more of a good thing...
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Dawn Falcon on Sat 18 Jul 2009 17:23

Well, the thing is there's a lot of ways to do Starfire-with-hyperspace and I'm not sure that answering them all is the correct thing to do. As I said, you could present a series of options with the associated rules for each, rather than being prescriptive. Heck, done in a modular way you could easily keep adding on options.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 17:34

Oh, and yes, the system generations rules might need a tweak or 2, but not as many as you might think... well, aside from the entire WP section. Of course, there'd be no such thing as "Starless nexuses".

The biggest difference would be the following. In Starfire, you have no clue whatsoever what lies on the other side of a WP until you go look. But in a no-WP's environment, you really should be able to see the stars out to a considerable distance, and know a couple of very basic pieces of data before you bother to go to a star system, such as whether it's a single, binary, or trinary system and the Star Types of the star(s) at a bare minimum. If nebula rules were used/included, you'd know if the system was in a nebula.

Also, if nebulae were used, they should seriously impact the distance at which you could see another star system if your "line of sight" passed through a nebula hex.


Being able to know the basic data on a star system at a distance is important because in a no-WP's environment, you clearly have to ability to choose your own destinations, rather than being limited to where the WP takes you.

Of course, this wouldn't be true for those "rare wormholes", since you'd have no clue where they went until you checked them out....
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 17:35

Dawn Falcon wrote:Well, the thing is there's a lot of ways to do Starfire-with-hyperspace and I'm not sure that answering them all is the correct thing to do. As I said, you could present a series of options with the associated rules for each, rather than being prescriptive. Heck, done in a modular way you could easily keep adding on options.


Ohhhh, I take your meaning now. It didn't sink in the first couple times I read this post...
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby PracticalM on Sat 18 Jul 2009 19:16

The entire reason WPs become stagnated is that income is too high. Any time you can place 9x the max transit HS in ships at a WP you have a good chance of sealing the system. Under Ultra there are some interesting ways to change that and you get Drones pretty early so I've rarely seen unbreakable WP defenses.

WPs give you
Clearly defined boarders
Mystery of Exploration
Gives a good reason to keep SRW tech high (otherwise go max with LRW as the enemy always has to cross that range)
Allows slower ships to engage enemy (Max speed ships with Max range weapons are very valuable in a no WP situation)
Secret ways into empires
Wj tech gives you some interesting avoidance systems

A non WP system would need a way to prevent players from sending large waves of separate fleets forcing the enemy to try to figure out which fleet is the big attack fleet.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Cralis on Sat 18 Jul 2009 19:21

Fred, have you seen Admiral's Challenge yet?
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