System Setup Variation

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System Setup Variation

Postby BroAdso » Fri Sep 30, 2016 12:41 am

Reading the Galaxies document (which is great community collaboration!), I wondered how far we could go in tinkering with the basics of the system. If this should go in the Research & Development forum, I'd be happy to move it there, but a lot of the Galaxies talk has been going on in here anyhow.

Here's my idea in short form: in addition to the basic stats, each system also gets a Commerce stat (COM). This stat is added to Utilized Productivity in order to get the EP income a trade fleet produces in a system, and can be increased like Productivity, though it is slightly cheaper. It could have other uses too, like maybe increasing Raid chance?

I included a modified version of the System Bonuses table to include bonuses to Commerce, and differentiated the Inhabited/Uninhabited versions of those bonuses. Here's the detailed version, please pick it apart and tell me why it's crazy heresy to add a whole new base system stat, or how I might re-balance the bonuses to include Commerce differently.

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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 30, 2016 2:29 am

I think continuing the discussion here is fine, although R&D might be more appropriate and if we get a lot of other discussions on here in the future I might move these threads over there. Although, if we get enough threads going on Galaxies I may just create a forum for us to throw everything into so that we can discuss things in a continuous thread there, instead.

As for "how far we could go in tinkering with the basics in the system," at this point I'm open to prototyping about anything and then letting playtest and general feedback guide us from there. This entire topic started with the questions from Stefan and his group about 1E encounters, and has since blossomed into the current "let's see if we can't tune things and make them better" discussion.

As some background, during 2E I experimented several times with splitting Productivity up into different stats. At one point I had six different stats, but the most common ones were Mining (income), Industry (construction), Agriculture (food/growth), Commerce (trade), Research (tech investment), and Shipyards (ship construction). None of these ended up working right because they either ended up overcomplicating the rules or creating stats that players rarely felt the need to invest in.

You're constraining things by having two stats, but I have a feeling that Commerce would end up being a "second-run" stat that players may not invest in, or would focus on only in certain areas. I could be wrong, but that's my immediate fear.

What if you added the construction component of Productivity into Commerce to bump it up a full 10x cost stat? That way you'd have two "levers" in play: one that would be converting Raw into economic points, and another that would be providing construction capacity? The system's trade value could then be derived from adding the two stats together.

I think I tried something like that during 2E's lifespan, and for some reason I think it blew up on me for the same reason that you ended up with one stat that players were just not willing to invest into outside of specific situations, but my memory is hazy on that point. I know I'm wary just because the seven hells I went through playing this that stuff in 2E. But I think it's an idea worth exploring. Maybe run through a 1-2 year solo sandbox game and see how it plays out? (I know I need to do similar with a lot of the rules I've been throwing out there).

So, no, it's not crazy heresy to add new base system stat, but it's a windmill that I've tilted at before and came away empty handed. But that doesn't mean that it might not work now given the other changes in Galaxies thus far.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:23 pm

Another thing to consider that may address some of the issues (but not necessarily commerce) is the "dedicated economies" optional rule that I've toyed with off and on.

Basically you retool a system's economy to perform a single task, doubling its efficiency, but sacrificing the rest.

Mining Colony: 2 x income, but can't build anything
Industrial Colony: 2 x construction capacity, but doesn't generate any income
Research Colony*: convert 2 x income into tech investment, can't do anything else
Agriculture Colony: Add Utilized Productivity to population increase roll, no other output (alt: roll population increases every turn)

* = that only works if we restrict max tech investment spending to Utilized Productivity, which I think it is already.

You could easily add a Commerce Colony to the mix, which doesn't produce any income but gets a massive Commerce bonus (or earns income from every foreign trade fleet there).

I wouldn't want this as a standard rule, but maybe it's something worth exploring further for an advanced game option?
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 30, 2016 6:11 pm

Another wild thought just hit me RE: Commerce.

In Stars Divided, Noel introduced the concept of civilian bases that you could build or that would sometimes appear on their own from random events.

Now, what if the Commerce stat effects you are looking for were tied into that kind of civilian base infrastructure instead? You could then have three grades of civilian base: Small, Medium, Large. You'd have to build the small base first, then you could upgrade it to a medium base, and then finally to a large base.

Given the scheme you had in place where it was 6x new level in cost to purchase Commerce, let's apply that same logic to the bases. First, how much Commerce bonus would each civilian base provide? For the sake of argument we'll set it like this: Small (+2), Medium (+4), and Large (+6).

Small base (6x1)+(6x2) = (6x3) = 18 EP
Medium base upgrade (6x3+6x4) = (6x7)= 42 EP
Large base upgrade (6x5+6x6) = (6x11) = 66 EP

I think we could simplify this down to the following:

  • It costs 20 EP to build a Small Base in a system
  • A Small Base can be upgrade to a Medium Base for 40 EP
  • A Medium Base can be upgraded to a Large Base for 60 EP
  • Only the largest civilian base in the system provides any benefit

You could even discount it further and make it a flat 20 EP per jump regardless of size.

The advantages I can see to doing it this way are:
  • No new system statistic - maintains existing balance and rules compatibility
  • Provides a way to increase the commerce/trade value of a system that allows some systems to be made useful even if they wouldn't be otherwise
  • Exposes the commerce hub to space combat, making it a valid and interesting military target
  • Provides an additional unit "hook" that could be tied to future rules, such as corporate "underworld" empires
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:57 pm

I've adjusted the system generation slightly:

  • As per BroAdso's playtest (or as I inferred it), I shifted the System Importance Table to be a straight d6 roll now, with a 33% chance of each importance.
  • I reordered the Special Traits Table. A '2' is now a Garden World (Roll Twice), I moved Precious Minerals to spot '3' and renamed it Strategic Resources (that is a way for me to get around needing special rules for strategic resources, and because I didn't want the +2 Raw result to be the most common table result), shifted the rest of the special traits up to fill the slot.
  • Shortened System Anomalies to just Anomalies.
  • The system importance modifiers were missing for the Jump Lanes Table.
  • A previous change, but now major lanes are only received on a 6+ on the Jump Lane Class Table. This gets rid of the plethora of major lanes that were popping up much too frequently.

I created a test Tiny map with these settings and found that none of the systems had a Raw less than 1 (fixed that situation in the base game!) and there were a larger number of major systems on the map. I ended up with one Garden World (two traits), which did make it the best system on the map (better than my home system). I didn't activate any NAW/NPE, however I did roll several '12' when I was still doing 2d6 for system importance. If I'd been rolling those for traits I would have had a good chance of running into someone else out there in the void.

I experimented with allowing the 2 hex jumps when other connections were available, but I think I prefer as it is now that you only use these "long jumps" if no other valid connections are available. It does help the map become more dynamic, as you can end up with some interesting back doors into territories that would otherwise not have existed.

vbam-galaxies-tiny-map-test.png
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You can see where I had Home make a long jump. I rolled two 2d6 and both were 2's, so I decided to give it a try. It kind of messed with the map, so I wouldn't recommend it.

If this were part of a larger galaxy, and I was based out of Home, I would need to secure Mindinao and Borneo as my top priority, and then see where I could expand from there. The mess of lanes down near Guam would make exerting control over that area tricky, to say the least. Imagine if there were more jump lanes heading south from that area. I would be tempted to try holding on to Guam and building up a supply depot and military base there, but it's too easy to get cut off there and have to deal with enemy ships in my rear territories, so I'm not sure I could hold on to that system long term.

The Rennell => Kavieng => Woodlark chain is a result of there being no valid jump destinations left. It's an oddity on the map, and a pretty worthless area to be honest.

I could see this being an interesting scenario if you had each player start in control of a major system and then the rest of the systems neutral with some very basic defenses. Then let them expand and conquer to their heart's content. It would kind of be a civil war scenario.

Alternatively, you could have a two player game where each player takes turns picking systems to control, and then setup the game as would be normal for old VBAM. You could end up with disconnected systems and some pretty scattered warfare.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Oct 02, 2016 2:27 am

As I continue to just throw things out at everyone willy nilly, those that want to pursue keeping a Biosphere like stat in the game, consider using CAP / 2 (round up) as that modifier. That would be about equivalent to what it is in 2E.

For population growth, I'm still thinking it might be easier to have a fixed modifier based on system importance, but at the same time having a derived Bio that is just equal to 1/2 Cap wouldn't be horrible. I just don't think we want to dilute the Cap/Raw modifiers on the special traits table.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby BroAdso » Mon Oct 03, 2016 10:52 am

A couple of thoughts, really quickly....

I love the civilian bases idea. However, since nothing else in VBAM "levels up" that way, I think the idea of building them as orbital civilian units like Shipyards is quite appealing. If each one adds a set amount to trade fleets in the system and you cap the total number of civilian trade stations in the system at the system's PROD (or maybe 1/2 its PROD), you could avoid having to keep track of the special 'levels' of the building.

I like the system generation, even though the 'long jumps' are a bit awkward and not as pretty and symmetrical as I'd like. One possible fix, so that long jumps come up less often, is to use the following rule:

When generating a system, roll for the number of jumplanes....(jumplanes table)....First, place one jump connection to each unexplored system directly bordering the one for which you are generating jump lanes in random order. Then you may place, in random order, connections to any unexplored systems two jumps away along the 'spines' of the hexes. If there are no unexplored systems within two jumps, remaining jump lanes are not generated.


I'll put that on the Google Doc later today.

Jump lanes are an important and core part of the game, but now that we have a hex grid as standard, part of me rather likes the idea of just letting fleets move to any hex which borders the one they occupy. One could easily determine "bad borders" or "good borders" of each hex at system generation which act as restricted or major jump lanes. Not sure what you might do with that, but as long as you're spitballing radical changes...

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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Oct 03, 2016 2:15 pm

I'll add the civilian bases to the Google Doc and we can start hammering out other cost factors. 10 EP a piece would work, or we can make them a bit cheaper if need be. They would then be another civilian unit that can be built, giving you +1 trade value in the system. The max number could be equal to Carrying Capacity, or half Carrying Capacity. We'll have to see what ends up being appropriate.

Jump lane upgrades followed a similar upgrade path, but I agree that just being able to build them once and forget about them would be kind of nice.

The old "Sector movement" rule has been converted into a new FTL drive type for the Companion which does pretty much what you describe. Each system effectively has a minor lane connecting it to each adjacent hex and you just move accordingly, with the ability to build "warp lanes" for faster travel if you want some major lanes on the map.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby wadewan » Tue Oct 04, 2016 6:05 am

I was messing about with some of the proposed changes being discussed in VBAM Galaxies and came up with the attached system generation tables for my solo exploration campaign. Mostly its my attempt to link star type and system type to output (Biosphere/Special Traits). I would love to generate systems on the Admiral Level but my previous Traveller experiences tempered my enthusiasm.

Basically what I am attempting to do is back-off the climate (Census/Productivity) traits relative to the world/system type. For example if the system is Unimportant (i.e. Hostile) it is probably not going to have good conditions so I replaced some traits with Moon Traits from the Campaign Moderator.

Please note that "Hostile" is just my personal preference instead of "Unimportant".
If I have this wrong please let me know.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Oct 04, 2016 2:12 pm

Having the three special traits tables certainly gives you more control over what each system can have and makes the three system importance levels more distinct. I could definitely see situations where that level of design control would be nice.

And I agree with multi-planet systems being something of a bear to manage. We have a system for Companion that tries to combine the best elements of Admiral and Commodore level systems, but you still end up having a lot more elements to manage once you drill down to that level of detail. It can make for a more immersive campaign experience, but it also seems to make exploration games go much slower because you have so much planetary real estate available in each system that you really don't need to expand as aggressively.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby wadewan » Tue Oct 04, 2016 2:53 pm

I tried out each of the system generation methods and preferred using the less detailed one. The description of each system type (major, minor, unimportant) sufficiently describes what's there and can be modified with a few more dice rolls.

The special traits tables can be more descriptive if wanted, such as "mineral rich asteroid belt present +1 Raw" or you could roll 1d6 and have a feature (asteroid belt, gas giant) on result of x+ which a lot of player campaigns do.

I have in the table an option to roll a second or more systems using a 1d6 -3 using the original column used to generate the main system that I am experimenting with to give Scouts additional reasons to stay in a sub-sector for a while.

Anyways VBAM is great for tailoring to one's taste without breaking the system. I like this community's willingness to share ideas and input so I am throwing my stuff out there for people to give advice on what they are doing or how I can improve my gaming experience.

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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Oct 04, 2016 4:03 pm

wadewan wrote:I tried out each of the system generation methods and preferred using the less detailed one. The description of each system type (major, minor, unimportant) sufficiently describes what's there and can be modified with a few more dice rolls.

The Companion model assigns each planet type a base set of stats and then a number of special traits. Now, if Galaxies changes are folded into that, it would only be one special trait except for Garden Worlds, but it was an easy way to achieve some variety without going completely overboard.

The special traits tables can be more descriptive if wanted, such as "mineral rich asteroid belt present +1 Raw" or you could roll 1d6 and have a feature (asteroid belt, gas giant) on result of x+ which a lot of player campaigns do.

That's right, tying those in to special traits would be one way to add some of the detailed star system components into the base rules! Then we could have gas giants be a thing in the base rules if we wanted, just by having a special trait indicate their presence. Similarly, asteroids could be removed from being an anomaly and just be a normal special trait -- just one with a possible combat effect.

Anyways VBAM is great for tailoring to one's taste without breaking the system. I like this community's willingness to share ideas and input so I am throwing my stuff out there for people to give advice on what they are doing or how I can improve my gaming experience.

It's fun seeing how everyone addresses similar problems in different ways. There are very few ways to completely break the VBAM rules; you can bend them pretty far before you have to start worrying. I know I am always tinkering with the rules, working around the edges seeing where improvements can be made or where new ideas can be injected. That's probably why I'm so slow getting new "finished" content out. It's something I am working to correct, but that's part of the reason I wanted to throw this community project together: then we can all work together to see if there are any better ways of doing things out there and get the creativity flowing.

As I go through more of my backlog content I'll probably throw some of it up here on the forums for us to discuss. I am really liking the direction that Galaxies is taking because it makes the rules easier to navigate.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Emiricol » Tue Nov 29, 2016 4:57 am

I am adding Civilian Bases to my solo game, but using Tyrel's original 3-tiered base idea mostly because I like the idea of having a trade hub in an otherwise unimportant system. I'll probably tweak piracy chances down the road, but not worrying about that yet.

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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:42 pm

Let me know how that works out! I think the Civilian Base concept (Starports, Trading Posts, what have you) is going to be the best way to directly modify the trade value of a system in a way that seems natural, and also helps to represent that there is some sort of civilian infrastructure presence in the system that makes a system worth visiting.
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Re: System Setup Variation

Postby Emiricol » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:27 pm

Nice idea. Purely fluff, but I'm going to call the tiers Trading Post, Market, and Spaceport. The civ base idea is great for in-game purposes, but also if I want to use a setting for fiction or as an RPG setting.

EDIT - here is my setup for Civilian Bases, playtesting in my Rising Tide solo campaign.

Civilian Bases
These hubs of civilian commerce come in three sizes, detailed below. The additional trade income cannot exceed 1/2 Utilized Productivity of the system, with a minimum of +1EP. Each system may only receive this extra trade income from one CB.
- CB1 (Trade Depot) - 20EP / +1 total extra Trade Income
- CB2 (Market Station) - 40EP / +2 total extra Trade Income
- CB3 (Spaceport) - 60EP / +4 total extra Trade Income


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