Another use for Diaspora Social Combat

At the end of our last session, the characters had allied with an emerging power in the cluster to attack an orbital base in an isolated system. (You can check out the adventure log here if you’re interested). Their allies were technologically inferior, but they were hoping to make up for it in numbers and ferocity.

I wanted the attack on the base to be the focus of the session and I wanted it to be as tense as possible. My first instinct was to use space combat because, well, the conflict was taking place in space. The immediate issue was that the orbital base isn’t capable of any kind of dramatic movement – it has only enough thrust to maintain an orbital position. That made positioning and navigation rolls pretty much pointless, so space combat was out.

However, the social combat rules once again proved to be more than flexible enough to be adapted. This obviously isn’t a “social” combat scenario, but the principles worked flawlessly.

In the past I had success using social combat to run a heist scenario, so I decided to use the same basic map. You can download the PDF here: Orbital Base Assault Diagram.

All I changed were the names of the tracks, as the rest of the layout seemed appropriate to the scenario. The three avenues I wanted to make available were Piloting, Digital (Hacking) and Gunnery. I wanted to keep track of how much damage the character’s ship was suffering so I used a Damage track as well.

Setup

The players need to create four markers using the stats of their characters. If there are more than four characters, some of them will have to combine their stats. If you have fewer, allow the players to share stats. One marker will be placed on each of the three main tracks (Piloting, Digital, and Gunnery) and the final is placed on the Damage track.

The GM sets one marker on each of the grey circles to represent the defenses of the orbital base.

Piloting

I decided the marker on the piloting track would be limited to using Pilot or Navigation. This was to represent physically moving the ship closer and closer to the orbital base without crashing into it.

Digital

The marker on the Digital track could use Communications or Computers. This was to represent the efforts of the crew to electronically disrupt the defenses of the orbital base.

Gunnery

As the name suggests, the marker on this track could use the Gunnery skill. This was intended to represent using the ship’s weapons to counter and disable the physical defenses of the orbital base. It didn’t come up, but there could have been a problem if Gunnery had already been used on offense and therefore wouldn’t be available for defense. I would just allow the characters to narrate an interesting use of another skill if it does come up.

Damage

Instead of a regular time track I decided to provide time pressure by having a damage track that advanced one box at the end of each turn. In addition, I advanced the damage track one box for each defender marker that shared a zone with a character marker at the end of a turn. If the damage track reaches 8, the attack fails and a concession needs to be negotiated. After applying damage, the player controlling the marker on the damage track can make an Engineering check at a target equal to the box the marker is on. For each positive shift, move the marker one place lower on the track.

At the end of the scenario I ad-libbed that the character’s ship took a moderate consequence since they were at 5 boxes on the damage track when they won. If you’re looking for something more concrete you might try:

1 box = no consequences

2-3 boxes = mild

4 boxes = moderate

5 boxes = moderate and mild

6 boxes = severe

7 boxes = severe and moderate

8 boxes = potentially destroyed, but negotiable as part of the concession

Winning

The players win as soon as they have all three of their markers in the bottom zone.

General Notes

The scenario plays out well using the normal rules for Social Combat (with the exceptions noted above). My instinct was to disallow Composure attacks, but in retrospect I think they would probably work fine if the players can come up with appropriate narration. Even using Gunnery to do physical damage could be appropriate if you have multiple characters that want to use that skill. This does allow the defenders an additional win condition, however, since the players can’t win without all three markers in the bottom zone…

It would also have been appropriate to factor the ship’s statistics into the stats of the markers. I didn’t do this, and everything worked fine, but it’s something to consider.

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