'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Friday, August 17, 2018

The Expanse RPG: Ship Combat!

Today in an Expanse Extra Kickstarter update we got our first flavors of what ship to ship combat will look like in the rpg. The RPG is a literary license and not a TV license, so although we have seen some cool ship combat realized on the screen, I don't expect it to be what drives the RPG ship combat.

The ship combat in the books is good and as with the other outer space stuff it tries to be as realistic as possible. To realize this we need ship momentum, range and 3d space, all of which can be tricky in a wargame scenario where the ships are the *WHOLE* game. Let's take a look at the sample we got today to see how well it stacks up. Is it a good mix of realism vs excitement and playability?

Upon first glance it appears a ship combat phase has a few segments. Please don't forget these are just my first impressions from the example and I could be totally out to lunch on how the rules will actually look.
  • Orders.
  • Maneuvers.
  • Electronic Warfare.
  • Weapons Fire.
  • Defensive Action.
  • Weapons Damage.
  • Damage Control.

From the example I will try and break down what is going on in each phase.


The Captain makes a Communication(Leadership) roll to see if the orders are successful, gaining stunt points which can be used later. Failure here doesn't cripple the ship, but the crew has no stunt points from the Captain to help them out of a tough situation.


We don't get much information on maneuvers, but from the example it looks like they are a way for the ships to primarily control range against each other, meaning all the specifics of 3d space may simply be left to the GMs description. I don't hate that idea. We also see that pulling high G maneuvers will have possible negative effects on the crew represented, at least in this example, by Constitution(Stamina) checks

Electronic Warfare

This looks like a simple Intelligence(Technology) roll giving the players a bonus to their defensive maneuvers, or the opportunity to use the stunt points. We see a ship rendered unable to attack by spending 3 SPs in the example.

Weapons Fire

The example makes this out to be a simple declaration of fire.

Defensive Maneuvers

This portion is where the hits and misses are determined. Generally rolling piloting vs the attacking ships sensor suite +10. ie A sensor score of 10 means your evasion roll is against 14. This is where we can use those EW points.

Weapons Damage

If a hit is scored simply roll damage and subtract the hull rating of the ship, which appears to be a rolled number. Remaining damage is handled through losses, which read much like how we deal with player damage. Each loss, I suspect, reduces remaining damage by 1d6. It is possible a ship can only handle a certain number of losses in a turn, as we see a ship removed from play as, even after 2 losses, a single damage point remains. The largest question I have here is if ships have hull points like characters have fortune points. We see these losses cause all kinds of havoc from the reduction in Piloting to collateral damage amongst the crew, meaning they behave like a condition applied to a character. It will be interesting to see how this all comes together in the rules.

Damage Control

This looks to be a simple Intelligence (Engineering Test) allowing a player to fix the ship, ie remove penalties. We also see these describes as advanced tests, so the players might be working hard to fix a problem and end up with another before they are finished.

I suspect we will see a list of stunts for spaceship combat, possible for most of the areas, with the command stunts able to help out the remaining crew members as needed.

Overall it looks like it has potential to be a cool system, and the use of those stunt points and EW points is going to make every member of the crew important in the game universe. If however you were hoping for some kind of wargames system to allow Expanse style miniature combat, this is not that.

What are your thoughts on this combat system? Drop me a comment below and lets get some discussion going!

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