System Anomalies

Blue? Green? Red? Refuse? It's time to talk about rules for a new community edition of the VBAM rules!

Which system anomalies do you believe should be included as default options in Galaxies?

Abandoned Colony
4
8%
Black Hole
2
4%
Dense Asteroids
5
10%
Derelict
5
10%
Dust Cloud
2
4%
Guardian
2
4%
Irradiated
1
2%
Megastructure
2
4%
Nebula
3
6%
Plasma Storm
2
4%
Pulsar
0
No votes
Splinter Colony
6
12%
Strategic Resource
7
14%
Radiation Belt
0
No votes
Ruins
7
14%
Wormhole
2
4%
 
Total votes: 50

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Tyrel Lohr
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System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:59 pm

Okay, if we are going to include a few system anomalies in the base game, which ones do players feel are necessary? What anomalies are so common in 4x space games like this that you'd practically expect to see them?

For reference, here is what I already had in the 2E Companion draft right now: Abandoned Colony, Black Hole, Dense Asteroids, Derelict, Dust Cloud, Guardian, Irradiated, Nebula, Plasma Storm, Pulsar, Splinter Colony, Strategic Resource, Ruins, Wormhole, Mysterious Encounter (or CM's Choice).

Depending on if we go with a d6 or d10 table, we'll have between 5-9 different anomalies. The last slot is always going to be occupied by Mysterious Encounter, as that is the springboard that lets us bring in all types of other anomalies into the game later on (currently slated for Lost in a Sea of Stars).

We've already had votes for Asteroids, Nebula, and maybe a Radiation Belt. Any other ideas? I'll add everything to a poll and we can see what people think are the most iconic and vital to have in a main rule book.

I have generally found that wholly negative anomalies aren't very interesting for players to encounter. Even if an anomaly has some negative connotations you want there to be some perk that makes a player say "that's AWESOME!". Take a Nebula: you get a -4 surprise modifier to battles fought there, and it reduces Scouts by 1, but ships that start the turn there gain +1 Stealth. It's horrible to be forced to fight in the nebula, but you might be able to establish a hidden fleet base there.

Players really like it when there is that silver lining that gets their braining running wondering how they can use it to their advantage. Even in the Mysterious Encounters, when you run into a Harbinger of Doomsday Machine you're going "oh no, that is horrible" but at the same time you have to deal with an event that is not disastrous but forces you to alter your game play as you adapt to the changing situation.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby murtalianconfederacy » Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:00 am

I voted Abandoned/Splinter Colony, Ruins, Dense Asteroids and Black Hole.

The first two are because, in general, my campaigns always tend to be centred on the lost colony reaching back into space. Ruins is fairly similar to that, and for thematic reasons it might give another dimension (such as Charlie's NEA campaign where the NEA discovered the relics of an ancient civilisation). The other two are because I like some astronomical variety in my campaigns.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:38 pm

Based on the current voting totals, it looks like we have:

Abandoned Colony
Dense Asteroids
Derelict
Nebula
Mysterious Encounter
Splinter Colony
Strategic Resource
Ruins

...as shoe-ins, and then the last two slots are going to be a toss up between Dust Cloud, Guardian, Megastructure, and Wormhole.

We'll see if anyone else registers and votes in the poll this next week, but otherwise I'll start implementing the winning anomalies into the draft this weekend.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby BroAdso » Sat Oct 08, 2016 3:07 pm

I would, as always, suggest that the anomalies which will involve sub-procedures and special tables like Derelicts might stay in the Companion.

Stuff which is relatively consistent and simple - like Asteroids enabling a special Mission in that system, Nebula allowing ships to hide, Ruins giving you a one-time infusion of EP into your Tech Advancement - are the ones I voted for and the ones I think would be most at home in the base rulebook of Galaxies.

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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 08, 2016 3:35 pm

Derelicts are kind of an edge case, but I think I an accommodate them by having one basic table for the derelict and then moving the advanced elements of those rules to the Companion. That would give you one table with unit stats for derelicts, and then the discussion of creating your own derelicts could move elsewhere.

The only reason I am wary of moving Derelicts to the Mysterious Encounters is that it's a stock enough anomaly that I want players to have a reasonable chance of encountering them. The Mysterious Encounters are really strange things that are going to likely be unique to any given campaign -- which is good, you only want to find so many Tomb Worlds that are infected with deadly contagions. :)

Something that I'm trying to do with the anomalies this time around, too, is ensure that even if there is an obvious penalty associated with them that they provide some other bonus that makes them interesting to encounter, so that players can get some benefit from them, even if it is situational.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:32 pm

I'm actually at a bit more of an impasse when it comes to dealing with including Strategic Resources. I had retained the different types for the 2E Companion, but that doesn't really seem workable with Galaxies because we'd end up taking two pages just to work through all of those different options. That's part of the reason I had initially just slapped "Strategic Resources" on the +2 RAW result on the special traits table. But people evidently love them!

For the record, what I have in the Companion right now is provided below. I think if I had to pick a single effect for the Strategic Resources it would be to double the trade value of the system to represent how much money there is to be made by having a resource monopoly. The other bonuses could then be introduced as optional rules if there is a strong desire to keep them around.

4.14 ▶ Strategic Resources
Strategic resources are rare substances that confer major advantages to the empires that control them. In popular science fiction, strategic resources often appear as forms of unobtainium that are valuable because they are very rare or impossible to synthesize. Locating and controlling these resources is a major concern in many science fiction settings, and a common point of conflict.

The way that a Victory by Any Means campaign handles strategic resources differs from campaign to campaign but, in general, strategic resource deposits provide an advantage of some kind to the systems where they are located. Some possible advantages are discussed later in this section.

If a system has a strategic resource, you must determine the specific type of resource that is in the system. The resource type can be selected at random by rolling on the Strategic Resource Table (which is recommended) or at the discretion of the CM (if the resource is related to an overarching campaign plot).

Strategic Resource Table (d6)
Roll Resource Type
1 Trade Advantage
2 Military Advantage
3 Industrial Advantage
4 Scientific Advantage
5 Morale Advantage
6 Supply Advantage

A system can transfer its strategic resource to another friendly system using a special CG @@ Construction Pipeline. Transport Fleets used to move the strategic resource cannot also transfer construction capacity at the same time, however. The source system no longer benefits from the resource after it is transferred. Only the destination system benefits from the resource. A system can only benefit from one resource of each type at the same time (i.e., their effects are not cumulative).

4.14.1 ▶ Trade Advantage
This resource conveys a commercial benefit to its system, doubling the system’s Utilized Productivity for the purposes of calculating CG @@ Commerce Income only. For example, a system that has 6 Utilized Productivity and a Trade resource would have an effective 12 Utilized Productivity when calculating the amount of commerce income is earned by the Trade Fleets that are actively trading there.

4.14.2 ▶ Military Advantage
This resource enhances the combat capabilities of military units built in the system. A Military resource confers a bonus to a random unit statistic. This bonus can either be fixed (ex: +1 DV) or relative (ex: +25% AS, rounding up). Roll on the Military Advantage Table to determine the statistic that this system’s Military resource affects. Depending on the statistic chosen, the resource can affect either space or ground units. No more than one Military Advantage resource can be utilized in a single system, even if they affect different unit types, or different unit statistics.

Military Advantage Table (d10)
Roll Unit Statistic
1 Defense Value
2 Anti-Ship
3 Anti-Fighter
4 Carrier Value
5 Command Rating
6 Attrition
7 Defense
8 Attack
9 D Factor
10 Special Ability or CM’s Choice

Player’s Note: Military resources can be unbalanced if they are too powerful. Special care should be taken to ensure that the advantages conferred by these strategic resources are significant enough to be valued but not so powerful as to be easily abused.

4.14.3 ▶ Industrial Advantage
The resource can make it easier (but not cheaper) to build military units. The construction capacity of the system where the Military resource is located is doubled. This accelerated unit construction allows an empire to mass produce military units and other war materiel in the system, though each unit costs the standard amount.

4.14.4 ▶ Scientific Advantage
This resource has unique physical properties that offer fascinating new insights into the universe. The scientific applications of the resource seem to be endless, and they give a major boost to the local research establishment. The system’s owner can build units that have an In-Service Date that is X years higher than its current Tech Year, where X is the system’s Raw value, but only within the system in which the resource is located.

4.14.5 ▶ Morale Advantage
This resource has a calming effect on the local population. Any time that the system gains Morale, it receives an extra point of Morale. Additionally, every time that it loses Morale, roll d6; on a 5+ the Morale loss is nullified. This makes it easier for the system to recover from Morale losses over time.

4.14.6 ▶ Supply Advantage
This system contains a rich source of helium-3, which is an isotope of helium that is used in nuclear fusion reactors and as fuel for the fusion-based torch drives that power most starships. The reliance on helium-3 as a fuel source makes securing strategic reserves a priority for most empires. Supply Depots built in this system can trace basic supply routes twice as far as normal (four jumps instead of just two).
Player’s Note: This strategic resource can be used to represent any other kind of rare or limited resource that a setting uses to fuel its space forces. Look to your campaign setting for cues as to what exactly this trait is supposed to represent in your game.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Oct 14, 2016 7:57 pm

Okay, after mapping out what could fit in the Mysterious Encounter category for Lost in a Sea of Stars, it looks like our 10 finalists are:

Abandoned Colony
Dense Asteroids
Derelict
Dust Cloud
Nebula
Plasma Storm
Splinter Colony
Strategic Resource
Ruins
Mysterious Encounter

I may still swap Plasma Storm and Guardian, but I think it is more interesting to have Plasma Storms be a common anomaly than to have Guardians be common. We might swap these out eventually, but for right now that's what I think we're looking at.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby BroAdso » Sat Oct 15, 2016 1:25 am

I like this final list, though I would still prefer swapping out Derelict, that may be out of a personal preference for anomalies which represent "features" rather than encounters. I like the differentiation you've settled on between splinter colony and abandoned colony, as well - a tricky one to settle on.

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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 15, 2016 6:04 am

BroAdso wrote:I like this final list, though I would still prefer swapping out Derelict, that may be out of a personal preference for anomalies which represent "features" rather than encounters. I like the differentiation you've settled on between splinter colony and abandoned colony, as well - a tricky one to settle on.


Derelict does add a few complications, and it could still get pushed to the Mysterious Encounters, but if it does then I will have to make it one of the more common encounters to balance out the others being pretty "out there" and of the "once per campaign" variety. I think Derelicts should be more common than that, though, which is what makes me cling to them a bit more.

That being said, I may have to end up moving the advanced derelict rules to another book and make the outcome in Galaxies more straightforward. I think I have it boiled down right now to the point that it shouldn't be too much of a problem, but if it turns out that it's too wordy we also have the option of having you pick advanced units off of the existing empire force lists. However, I'm not sure right now if the force lists are going to extend that far in the base book, because with 8-10 sample empires it's going to be about 2 pages per empire just to list about 40 units out to TL 3 if we do 10 units per TL.

The Abandoned Colony was my attempt to capture those old cityscapes that you find in sci-fi that are still inhabitable but no one is actually there. It makes it an interesting find without adding too many extra rules.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Dec 04, 2016 2:58 am

As a follow up on system anomalies, would it make more sense for us to have a separate System Anomalies table that you roll on that has about a 50% chance of "no anomaly" and the rest of the anomalies filled in versus the current setup of anomalies occurring as a result of a roll on the Special Traits table?

After seeing what I think Emiricol is doing in his test campaign, it got me thinking that having it be a "cascade" from the Special Traits Table is really more of a holdover from 1E than anything else and might not have any reasoning behind it other than "this is how we've always done it."

Any strong feelings one way or the other? Having the anomalies be on their own table is a bit different way of handling things. We'd be a bit more limited on distribution if it is a 2d6 result table like special traits (I like consistency), and increasing the result range to about 50% chance of there being an anomaly might make them a bit too common. But I could see it being thematic in a lot of settings to run into more systems that have certain types of anomalies.
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Re: System Anomalies

Postby BroAdso » Sun Dec 04, 2016 3:35 am

Tyrel Lohr wrote:Any strong feelings one way or the other? Having the anomalies be on their own table is a bit different way of handling things. We'd be a bit more limited on distribution if it is a 2d6 result table like special traits (I like consistency), and increasing the result range to about 50% chance of there being an anomaly might make them a bit too common. But I could see it being thematic in a lot of settings to run into more systems that have certain types of anomalies.


This depends on the final list of anomalies. If there's a 50% chance of a system having an anomaly, but that anomaly will almost always be a crystal asteroid field, a dust cloud, a nebula, or something similar, that probably wouldn't "break theme" in most generic settings about space exploration. The problems comes when there are five ancient alien colonies found within a few years of another, or three splinter colonies, or four abandoned cruisers or something. Those sorts of anomalies have more impact in terms of both game balance and difficulty to incorporate into your setting and fluff.

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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Emiricol » Sun Dec 04, 2016 3:44 am

The way I'm doing it, with stellar anomalies (plasma storm, etc) being separate from System Anomalies (derelicts, lost colonies, etc) is working out for me pretty well. I first roll to see if there's a Stellar anomaly. If so, I'm done; if not, I roll out the system as normal with the single added roll to see if there's a system anomaly or not. It's on a curve with the fat center being no result, so out of the 4 systems I've scouted only the first had a system anomaly and I've had no stellar anomalies yet. My system traits table doesn't have anomalies at all on it, just the things that actually modify the world/colony's stats.

The end result is that I don't spend time developing a system only to find out it's a black hole after all; all NPEs are the result of the System Anomalies table, after the system is developed (telling me if it's a colony or a homeworld...); and I seem to be getting the right ratio of normal:special systems.

I may change my Stellar Anomaly table to include the system importance chart, so I save one more die roll, but I've been too lazy to go do that.

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Re: System Anomalies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Dec 06, 2016 6:18 pm

If we switch to having a separate roll for anomalies, here is an example of what that table could look like:

Stellar Anomalies Table (2d6)
Roll Stellar Anomaly
2 Splinter Colony
3 Abandoned Colony
4 Strategic Resource
5 Dense Asteroids
6-8 No Effect
9 Nebula
10 Ruins
11 Derelict
12 Mysterious Encounter (or Roll Twice)

This would put the chance of "No Effect" being roughly 44% of the table results, which significantly increases the chance of a system having an anomaly compared to how it is right now. The most common anomaly results would then be Strategic Resource (8%), Dense Asteroids (11%), Nebula (11%), and Ruins (8%). This make the chance of No Effect, Asteroids, or Nebula at 66%, so each system would only have a 33% chance of having any of the other anomaly types.

This kind of approach would significantly increase the rate at which anomalies are encountered in the game, as right now there is about an 11% chance of an anomaly per system versus 56% with this other system. That's a 5x increase. Now, that chance could be ratcheted even further if we were willing to sacrifice one or two more anomalies or otherwise change the distribution on the table. But it would definitely lend itself to a more "interesting" galaxy map to have more of these elements floating around. I think they might not be quite as special at that point, but in the classic rules it seemed like we ran into specials fairly often if only because minor and major systems received additional special traits rolls that could generate special encounters.

Another option entirely is to just push anomalies back to the optional rules and have "Strategic Resources" just be a +3 RAW result on the special traits table with no other special effects, or an optional set of strategic resource rules. Then we'd just have some special rule that if a system rolls a "Roll Twice" result then it also gets an anomaly or something. That would go back to making them extremely rare, but I'm just not sure how common we want these things to be.
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