Friday, May 27, 2022

Stargrave: Homebrew Grenade & Gunfighter Rules Patches

Grenades and grenade launchers seem to generate a lot of discussion (some of it pretty heated) in the Stargrave community.  Common complaints about them revolve around them being overpowered, or their rules being unrealistic, or both.  After playing a fair bit and listening to other folks' issues I'm adopting some house rules for future games to see if I can produce a more enjoyable experience.

As far as power balance goes, I'm not really sold on grenades being all that over-effective compared to the other "heavy weapon" options.  Rapid fire guns hit harder, can still engage multiple targets and have excellent range.  Flamethrowers are short ranged but can easily affect many targets at once, hit hard and ignore most armor and some cover, as well as requiring fewer gear slots than the others.  Both benefit a great deal from Shoot advances when used by an officer as well.

Grenade launchers fall between the other heavy guns for range but largely ignore line of sight limitations, and while they gain no damage bonus their area of effect can be extremely punishing to crews that refuse to spread out when faced with them, especially ones that are relying on group activations.  They're also more versatile, since they have the option to drop smoke templates that can be enormously impactful to gameplay.  On the down side, they can endanger allies with scattered shots and they get no direct damage benefit from improved officer Shoot scores.

Regular hand-thrown grenades are similar but have very short range, making a bad scatter roll a real danger that launcher bombardments doesn't often suffer from.  They're also more of a secondary optional weapon on soldiers, and use only one gear slot for both types of grenades on officers.

They also get a little better every time more advanced tech version of them come out, and we've see four of those (six if you count Bug Bombs and Sparkle Dust) in just two supplements, compared to one piece of anti-grenade tech (one-use, no less) and a single power to counterbalance them. 

On the whole, I do feel that grenade launchers and to a lesser degree grenades are a bit too good for their cost (be it a grenadier soldier or gear slots on an officer).  But only a bit, and mostly because they punish your opponent so harshly for staying within officer activation range and because they can use smoke at will, which is effectively a cut-rate power akin to Holographic Wall in effect.

Accordingly, I'm making the following changes:

When caught in the area of effect of a frag grenade, any model that isn't already Stunned or engaged in melee combat may declare that it's "hitting the dirt" before the grenade detonates.  The model becomes Stunned per the normal rules, which will give a bonus to its Fight rolls against Shooting attacks.

In addition, increase the Fight modifier for being Stunned by an extra +1 (total +3) against frag grenade attacks (and other advanced tech grenades that act like frags, eg force grenades from Q37), regardless of how the model became Stunned in the first place.

This significantly increases the odds of surviving a grenade attack in exchange for accepting the Stunned condition, which can be removed as normal by either losing an action in your next activation or by someone applying a medic kit to the Stunned figure.  Figures that are already Stunned are also safer from grenade blasts.  Remember the absolute cap of +10 to any Fight roll, which will come up more often with combinations of the improved Stun modifier, cover and advanced officer stats.

As to the realism issue, I've seen plenty of ideas for modeling arcing fire, terrain shadows, forward observer requirements and similar mechanical crunch, absolutely none of which strikes me as being worth the effort of using.  Stargrave is a rules-light, fast-playing system, not a serious military simulation in the vein of Advanced Squad Leader.  I'd prefer to keep it that way.

That said, you do see some pretty silly game situations now and then, especially with very tall terrain pieces.  My answer to that's pretty rudimentary, and is more a "quality of life" hack than a house rule:

When measuring range for an indirect grenade attack, take a piece of string of the appropriate length (6" or 16") and lay it out over the line of fire from the attacker to the target point, letting it drape over terrain in the way.  This will naturally reduce the total distance you can shoot when lobbing a round over elevated terrain, sometimes pretty dramatically.  String works better than most tape measures or other rigid measuring tools since it's more flexible, and being cut to length means you don't have to try to read the correct range when it's in position.

Easy to do, materials cost virtually nothing, and it works in other rule systems.  Sometimes the simple approach is best.


On the opposite end of the power scale is the gunfighter from Q37, a specialist shooter who wields two pistols at once.  Unfortunately, they're not very good as written.  Essentially they're snipers (same raw stats and hiring cost) that trade out their carbine and hand weapon for two pistols and a knife and special rule that gives them a +1 Damage bonus to Shooting as long as they have two or more pistols that aren't jammed.  So essentially a very accurate shooter with a 10" range and a +1 Dam that might go away temporarily if they jam.

The problem being that the aforementioned sniper can (like any model with a carbine) swap it out for a shotgun.  Which makes them a very accurate shooter with a 12" range and a +1 Dam.  Flat out better range and does more damage in melee than the gunfighter thanks to not being saddled with a knife.  The gunfighter's anti-jamming gimmick doesn't look very good by comparison, especially with the short 10" pistol range making getting caught in melee more likely.  At the very least there's not much difference in play style between the two soldier types, which seems a wasted opportunity.

So, how would I change the gunfighter to give it a more distinct style and better utility?  I'd re-word the Two-gun Fighter trait as follows:

Two-gun Fighter:  While this figure is carrying two or more unjammed pistols, when making a Shooting attack it may opt to either gain a +1 Damage bonus or make two Shooting attacks at two separate targets.  Note that when splitting fire there's no limitation on distance between the targets, unlike the similar rule for Rapid-Fire weapons.  Additionally, this model's Shooting attacks never have the Hasty Shot modifier applied to them.

With focused fire the gunfighter is now on par with a shotgunner and actually slightly better than a rapid-fire (the higher Shoot is better than the higher Dam bonus of a focus-firing gunner) for raw damage.  With split fire, gunfighters would have more options and higher (but more dispersed) damage potential than a shotgunner, and better ability to hit spread-out targets than the rapid-fire gunner (but less damage potential when the gunner is using its move + action to fire full auto).  The ability to move before attacking without suffering the Hasty Shot mod makes the Gunfighter much more mobile than either and helps give them an edge on a shotgun-sniper when the latter has to move to get into range. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Stargrave: Ship Upgrades Overview & Homebrew Additions

Ship upgrades are an important part of Stargrave campaign play, offering players a place to spend money for some truly permanent improvements to their crews.  New soldiers, weapons, and gear can all be lost in action, but ship upgrades are currently immune to loss no matter how badly your last battle went.  This post will take a look at each of them, as well as adding a couple of suggestions for new upgrades.

But first, a word about a very important new soldier type added to the game in Last Prospector.  The engineer is an expensive specialist with very lackluster gear and stats, but he's not there for his on-table abilities.  Instead, he grants a large discount on the cost of all ship upgrades (and repairs, but those aren't a thing in the game - yet).  His hiring cost (while high) is still low enough that he pays for himself several times over with just one of the more expensive upgrades, and all but the cheapest of them will still be at least a break-even case.  In short, if you have the credits saved up to buy one or more upgrades, consider hiring an engineer to gain his discount.  You'll save a lot of money in most cases, and you can then fire him and buy a different specialist with more on-table utility for your next game.

Ship upgrades that first appeared in Last Prospector are marked as (LP) below.  Quarantine 37 didn't have any new upgrades.  

Independent Starship Vehement Denial of Oblivion in flight.

Advanced Medical Bay - Middling cost but requires the crew include a Medic to use, this is a good one for reducing soldier (but not officer) casualties and can wind up saving you quite a lot of credits over time.  If you have one of these you should always test for any Medics who were knocked out of action first, since if they survive they can use the upgrade on another soldier.  It's risky to use this on a Badly Wounded result since you have to take the second result and may wind up killing the patient, but living through a game at half health is tricky anyway.

Note that this upgrade works on Robots, but it probably shouldn't.

Armament Workshop - Middling cost, requires an officer with the Armory power to use.  Greatest benefit probably goes to crews with combat armor suits to maintain, but it's still useful without.  If used with combat armor it will pay for itself after ten games.

Communications Array - Cheap but very narrow in application, affecting only the Bribery power.  The very high target number to activate that power makes the bonus from this upgrade meaningful, but it's still paying a lot for a 10% increase to use a once-per-game power.  

I recommend letting the upgrade also apply a +1 bonus to activate the Contacts and Info Broker powers (which were added in Quarantine 37 and Last Prospector), but only one power can receive a bonus this way between each game.  That might be too good for some players, especially since an aristo captain can start with this for free, but cheap as this is it's pretty terrible without something more going for it than the base rules.

Drone Charging Bay (LP) - Incredibly expensive, allows you to field a drone (pg. 144, with the Robot trait added per the errata) in your starting crew that doesn't count against your soldier limit, letting you put eleven models on the table in normal games.  This drone can't carry gear or Physical Loot but can carry Data Loot.  If reduced to zero health and it fails its survival roll you can replace it for an exorbitant price.  You can't use this with similar upgrades to get more than eleven models on the table at the start of the game.  

External Cargo Pods - Cheap, generates significant bonus money for any trade goods you find.  If you have this, you'll want to focus on grabbing Physical Loot, since trade goods don't appear as Data Loot.  Physical Loot is obviously harder to get off the table, so that's a small drawback to keep in mind.

Extra Quarters - Very expensive but lets you take an extra specialist soldier, which is a big benefit.  Saving up for getting this as soon as possible is worth considering, but remember that you also need to pay to hire that extra elite soldier.

Do you actually need a miniature for your crew's ship?  Hell, no.  But since when did needing a mini matter more than wanting a mini?

Hacker Suite (LP) - Very expensive, lets you reroll one roll on the Data Loot table after a game where you carried at least one Data Loot off the table.  This is very helpful for improving the odds of getting Secrets or Info, but you're paying a lot for the privilege.  Probably not worth it unless you have the Info Broker (LP) power on one or both officers. 

Meditation Chamber - Inexpensive, although unlike other upgrades it can be taken twice top let both your officers benefit from its bonus to the the Mystic Trance power.  You can do a lot of nasty tricks with Trance, but it requires you to activate itself and a second power pre-game without exertion, which can be a big ask.  The bonus from the upgrade helps quite a bit without using precious experience advances to improve Trance's activation number.

Repairbot Charging Bay (LP) - Expensive, allows you to field a repairbot (pg. 148, without the Unaggressive trait since it's player controlled) in your starting crew that doesn't count against your soldier limit, letting you put eleven models on the table in normal games.  Repairbots are even worse fighters than recruits and runners, but it is an extra body for loot hauling, outnumbering foes in melee, etc.  On the plus side, replacing the thing is free if it fails a survival roll.  You can't use this with similar upgrades to get more than eleven models on the table at the start of the game.

Robotics Workshop - Expensive and grants a small bonus to activate one of three powers out-of-game, two of which start at a base 14 TN.  It's just plain not very good as written.  I would suggest improving it by either increasing the bonus or allowing it to benefit all three powers instead of just one.

I'd also suggest that you change Advanced Medical Bay so that it only works on non-Robot soldiers, but let the Robotics Workshop perform the same function it has on Robot soldiers in addition to its activation bonus.  Treating an out-of-action Robot in this way wouldn't require a Medic soldier in the crew, but still stands a chance of rerolling a Badly Wounded ("Incompletely Repaired" in this case) into a Dead ("Scrapped For Parts") result.

Science Lab (LP) - Expensive, gives you a single dose of your choice of three drugs from the core book's Advanced Technology tables after each game.  Pretty good value over time, although you may want to use your officer gear slots for carrying more potent stuff.  Selling the output of your lab could also make some spare credits, more than enough to (say) pay upkeep on a suit of combat armor.   

Shengrylla Cages (LP) - Incredibly expensive, allows you to field a shengrylla (pg. 151) in your starting crew that doesn't count against your soldier limit, letting you put eleven models on the table in normal games.  By far the most combat-capable of the three "extra model" upgrade options, but still weaker than most basic crew and useless for loot interactions due to having the Animal trait.  It's also unduly expensive to buy a new pet if the current one fails a survival roll, which is pretty much the sunk cost fallacy in action.  You can't use this with similar upgrades to get more than eleven models on the table at the start of the game.  

Weapon Locker - Middling cost, grants a simple combat bonus to one basic weapon each game.  Not vital but versatile, there's almost never going to be a game where you can't get some benefit from this.  

The ISS Vehement is an informally decommissioned (read: stolen) interface-capable rapid deployment craft of the Noble Vanguard class, formerly in service to the collapsed Oligarchy of Quun.  Originally designed for insertion and support of platoon-level special forces groups, she serves well as a small crew's transport between the stars.   

Observant players will have noticed that many of the upgrades provide bonuses to activate Out-of-Game powers.  Almost every such power has an associated upgrade, and it's a good thing since spending XP to improve them is generally a terrible idea.  Improving a power you can use once before a game is a much worse choice than one that can be used many times during a game despite the action economy involved.  One small set of powers has been left out of the party though, all associated with the biomorph background.  This seems like a needless omission to me, and I suggest you add the following option to the Ship Upgrades chart:

Genetic Resequencing Tanks (homebrew) - 500 Credits - Grants +1 to the Activation Roll for any one of the following powers when used Out of Game:  Armor Plates, Restructure Body, Toxic Secretion.  Only a single crew member may gain this benefit each game, but this upgrade may be purchased twice and thus be used by two different crew members.

Despite her fairly heavy armaments, sturdy hull and good maneuverability, this is the profile her crew prefers to show to the universe.  ISS Vehement, exiting the scene post haste.  There are far too many dangers out there (and far too few repair facilities) to get into casual dogfights, and no matter how many pirates you kill there are always more.  A lot more.

There's also obvious room to add more upgrades in general, so I'll offer one more that touches on an aspect of the game not currently being played around with.  I strongly suspect we'll eventually see a new power that does something similar, but messing around with such is something I'll leave to the supplements.

Augmented Recon Gear (homebrew) - 450 Credits - When rolling to select table edges at the start of a game, this ship's crew gains a +2 bonus.  If a tie is rolled (after the modifier is applied) the re-rolls to break the tie do not receive this bonus.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Stargrave: Powers Overview Part 4 (Remote Guidance - Weapon Maintenance)

 Remote Guidance

Background:  Robotics Master

Pre-game or contact range power that lets one robot always be eligible to activate with the user in the appropriate officer phase.  Usual limit of three soldiers per officer applies.  Quite useful for letting a distant loot hauler or backfield shooter activate before the soldier phase.  Gains a bonus to activate pre-game from the same ship upgrade that benefits Create Robot and Re-wire Robot.  Combo with Command to let you activate with two distant soldiers at a time, and with Drone to let you more easily shift Remote Guidance to another robot in-game. 

Repair Robot

Background:  Robotics Master

This is the Heal power only for robots.  Slightly less useful overall since you can't heal living models with it (most importantly your officers) and robots are never wounded so they need healing a bit less than squishy organic types.  On the plus side the activation number isn't affected by armor, so feel free to suit up.

Restructure Body

Background:  Biomorph

Fantastically versatile power that lets the user gain one of a menu of useful attributes at a time.  You can use it both pre-game (with the usual "no exertion" restriction) to start with an attribute and during the game to gain a new attribute if circumstances call for it.  A real toolbox power that will almost always help at some point during the game. 

Re-wire Robot

Background:  Robotics Master

Very difficult pre-game power that lets you slightly tweak certain stats of a robot soldier.  The change is permanent and can only be done once per robot.  Gains a benefit from the same ship upgrade that Create Robot and Remote Guidance do.  Pretty good for any robot when it works, although I question whether you'd ever want to improve the Armor stat instead of Fight.  Be a more viable option if Armor got a larger bonus. 

Saving Grace (LP)

Background: Fatewinder (LP)

Modest TN but penalized by armor.  The next time the target model is caught under a grenade or flamer template that would generate an attack (eg frag grenades or the Psionic Fire power, but not a smoke grenade) they move the minimum distance so that they're no longer under the template.  This movement can't take you into or out of combat, which is limiting but this is still a hard counter to people using a lot of frag grenades and/flamethrowers.

Seize the Initiative (LP)

Background: Fatewinder (LP)

Simple, mildly strenuous power that grants a huge bonus to the next initiative roll, which only affects who becomes Primary Player, not any scenario effects based off the rolls.  Can't be stacked. 

Smash and Grab (LP)

Background: Investigator (LP)

Simple, mildly strenuous power that lets the user ignore movement penalties for physical loot tokens and unlocks one loot marker of either type within 1" as long as there are no enemies nearby.  Someone still needs to pick up the unlocked loot, though.

Study Prey (Q37)

Background: Hunter (Q37)

Difficult out-of-game power that rewards you with extra XP for killing uncontrolled creatures during a game, which don't count toward the usual 300 XP cap.  Held back a bit by only getting one chance to activate it each game (a common problem with all such powers) and because not all scenarios see enough uncontrolled creatures to make this really mean much.  Probably at its best in solo or co-op games, where the other player isn't poaching your kills or getting the edge on you while you're hunting NPCs.  Obviously works better in combination with Beast Call, although it's not the most reliable trick. 


Backgrounds:  Investigator (LP), Mystic, Psionic

Difficult, somewhat unreliable, and mildly strenuous power that grants a small movement effect and forces the target to drop any loot they have.  Not great if you want to use it on friendly models but extremely nasty against enemy loot haulers.  Potential game-winner, but it does suffer from armor penalties to activation that will make it absurdly difficult to use for armored officers.  

Target Designation

Background:  Hunter (Q37), Veteran

Very strong and easy to use debuff to a model's shooting defense.  Doesn't stack but can be in place on multiple targets at once.  Will often result in more overall damage than actually attacking yourself even when you're sporting a +6 Shoot stat.  Can be stripped by Cancel Power.  

Target Lock

Background:  Cyborg

Mildly strenuous power that grants an immediate shot with a grenade or launcher that automatically lands on target regardless of line of sight.  Can be fired from the user or another model in contact during a group activation, and the latter doesn't even count it as an action.  Extremely dangerous to bunched up enemies, and combos well with using a drone to apply the effect to a backfield grenadier.

Temporary Upgrade

Background:  Cyborg

Difficult but versatile power that applies one of a menu of stat bonuses to the user.  Only one bonus can be on at a time but you can change it by using the power again.  Much like Re-wire robot I question why you'd ever choose to improve Armor rather than Fight with the rules as written.

Toxic Claws

Background:  Biomorph

Mildly strenuous power that grants the user a very potent melee weapon, on par with the best in the game.  If you want to murder people in close combat this is a great power, but consider whether spending your officer actions of brawling is the best action economy.

Toxic Secretion

Background:  Biomorph

Difficult pre-game power that grants any two crew models poisoned attacks for the game.  Pretty good most of the time but weak if you have to face a lot of robots, other immune creatures, or even just someone with a lot of medikits to cancel the poison effects.  As with all pre-game powers you can't exert to activate this.


Background:  Tekker

Mildly strenuous medium range movement shenanigans power.  Only works on friendly crew and has line of sight restrictions that powers like Pull and Lift lack, and it forces loot drops so not much use for your haulers.  Doesn't suffer from the armor penalties most movement powers do, which is arguably its best selling point.  

Treasure Seeker (LP)

Background: Fatewinder

Moderate difficulty out-of-game power that lets you roll twice for one physical loot and choose the result you prefer.  As written can't be used successfully more than once per game no matter how much loot you have.

Void Blade

Background:  Mystic

Turns a hand weapon you're carrying into a lightsaber.  Extremely strong melee weapon that gives a huge defensive bonus against shooting attacks from many weapons.  Defense buff doesn't stack with cover mods but it's so good you can stand in the open without losing much.  Turns off if you're ever stunned.  Limits you to using 1-slot weapons while the power is active so leave your flamethrower at home.  Significantly, there's no activation penalty for wearing armor with this power, because Darth Vader, that's why.  Stacks well with the shooting defense buff from the Camouflage power.  

Wall of Force

Background:  Psionic

Difficult, mildly strenuous power that creates a wall which blocks movement (including climbing) and shooting but not line of sight.  Grenade weapons can arc shots over it, and any shot at the wall itself has a small chance to end the power.  You can have multiple walls in play at once, which is some serious battlefield manipulation.  Likely to win games by blocking (or shielding) loot haulers on both crews.  Weirdly immune to Cancel Power, which seems like a mistake design-wise.

Weapon Maintenance (Q37)

Background:  Hunter (Q37)

Modest difficulty out-of-game power that turns one basic ranged weapon into the equivalent of a pretty good Advanced Weapon for a game.  Doesn't have to be a weapon the user is carrying, so it functions a bit like an improved version of the Weapons Locker ship upgrade - and could presumably be combined with it, since Damage bonus effects normally stack with each other.  The reasonable activation number makes it worth thinking about for non-Hunters as well.

Stargrave: Powers Overview Part 3 (Heal - Remote Firing)


Background:  Mystic

This is the gold standard of healing powers in terms of versatility and potency, but it comes with the drawback of penalizing you for wearing armor.  Still well worth considering even for non-Mystics unless you've gone crazy with the number of robot soldiers you're using.  This is one of many powers that combines well with Drone, which can let you extend your range enormously.

Holographic Wall

Background:  Tekker

Creates line of sight blocking terrain that can be moved through in exchange for modest strain and a small chance of the power expiring each turn.  You can have as many walls in play as you like, which makes this a pretty hard counter for crews relying on conventional shooting to do damage.  Beware of grenades and fire coming from elevated positions.

Indifference (Q37, LP)

Background:  Aristocrat (Q37), Investigator (LP)

Difficult and mildly strenuous power that prevents wound penalties and allows you to choose whether to accept Stun results or not each time you suffer one.  Restructure Body can duplicate the first half of this power more easily as well as being much more versatile, but the option to choose between hitting the dirt (with the defensive benefits it grants) or ignoring Stun is unique and quite potent.

Information Broker (LP)

Background: Investigator (LP)

Moderate difficulty out-of-game power that lets you sell a single piece of Info worth 100cr or more or a Secret without crossing it off your crew sheet.  This lets you sell it again next game but the value drops each time you do this.  At most it'll earn an extra 150 credits over three games, but you can use Info for 20 XP or a Secret to try for a specific item in a fight no matter what its current value is, so you'll often sell the same data a time or two and then use the secondary function rather than taking the last 50cr.  Can be used by both officers if you have at least two data lots.  

Inspiring (Q37)

Background:  Aristocrat (Q37)

Moderate difficulty power that can either grant a Fight bonus for the rest of the game or instantly end a Stun with no penalties on any model in line of sight.  Calling this good is an understatement, and its made even better because (unlike the similar Coordinated Fire power) you can use it on any model, not just your own crew.  Feel free to buff a dangerous uncontrolled model near your opponent, or clear the Stun on one that your opponent expected to only be getting one action on its turn.

Investments (Q37)

Background:  Aristocrat (Q37)

Difficult out-of-game power that just plain earns you a modest amount of credits.  Might actually be worth improving the activation number to make the extra income more reliable, but those are advances you won't be applying to powers used on the tabletop and you won't be earning XP from this power. 

Life Leech

Background:  Mystic

Self-healing power that discourages wearing armor, a recurring theme with Mystic and Psionic powers.  Requires a living target who may resist the effect to cancel both the damage they take and prevent you from healing.  Can be used on allies in a pinch, but they won't be working for you afterward.  For medic duties Healing is stronger, more reliable and has much better target options, but LL lets you deal damage and heal yourself in a single action. 


Background:  Psionic

Strong movement shenanigans for friendly crew but penalizes user for wearing armor and models moved with this power can't take actions afterward.  This makes it somewhat less useful for speeding up loot haulers outside of combined activations or Drone tricks.  Weirdly better for first mates than for a captain, since you can ignore the "no action" penalty on figures that have already activated that turn and mates go after the Captain Phase.

Mystic Trance

Background:  Fatewinder (LP), Mystic

Pre-game power that lets you use another power pre-game just before the first turn.  This has a lot of potential combos, although you can't affect enemies or target points on the table with the second power.  At its most basic you can use it to put up a buff on a friendly model (including the user), but you can also do things like summoning a Drone, using Create Robot (although you'd need to leave a crew slot open to do so and it still wouldn't appear in this game), or using a movement power on friendly crew.  Unique in that one of the ship upgrades can be taken twice to let both your officers gain a large bonus to use this power.  As always with out-of-game powers, remember that neither this power nor the one it may enable can use exertion to activate.

Pistol Expert (LP)

Background: Investigator

Simple power that makes the user's pistol(s) indestructible, prevents them from jamming for any reason, and lets them crit on 19-20.  Cancelled if you get stunned, which is a big drawback for a combat officer.  Much less versatile than the Crack Shot power but easier to use and doesn't strain the user.

Power Spike

Backgrounds:  Cyborg, Hunter (Q37), Veteran

Self-only buff that greatly increases the damage of your next shooting attack with some weapon types at the cost of modest strain.  Stacks with other damage bonuses but not itself, and fizzles if you miss your next shot.  The extra damage is meaningful when it works, but the requirement to use this as its own action rather than it granting an immediate shot makes it a fairly inefficient way to use an officer action.

Probability Curve (LP)

Background: Fatewinder (LP)

Easy to activate power that gives the user two dice on their next d20 roll, taking their choice of either result.  Penalized by armor like many "magic/psionic" powers.

Psionic Fire

Background:  Psionic

Super-flamethrower attack with minor strain cost and the usual activation penalty for the user wearing armor while using "magic' powers.  Remarkably brutal against bunched-up soldiers, in part because flamethrowers are darned good to start with.  Obvious drawback is the short range of the flame templates, and thankfully it can't be channeled with the Drone power.

Psychic Shield

Background:  Psionic

High-strain power that also suffers an armor penalty for activation but significantly reduces damage from the next shooting attack that deals any damage at all to whatever model you use this on.  Can be stripped off by Cancel Power.  Sometimes a real life-saver but hard to use repeatedly without healing powers to manage the strain costs.  More versatile and generally more powerful than the similar Energy Shield, and the two do stack with each other.


Background:  Psionic

Difficult, modestly strenuous and somewhat unreliable but versatile movement shenanigans power that works particularly well for accelerating loot haulers.  Weirdly difficult to use on yourself if you've increased your Will stat - although amusingly, you could use a token from the Fortune power to reroll your resistance stat to try to fail.   

Puppet Master

Background:  Mystic

Difficult, highly strenuous power that brings a dead non-robot friendly crew back to life adjacent to the user.  Text raises the question of whether all members of a crew counts as "soldiers" for this power or if you aren't able to raise a fallen officer.  Situationally pretty good either way when you can get it to work, although it benefits a lot from the crew having some healing effects to go with it.  Like many Mystic powers the user is penalized for wearing armor.


Backgrounds:  Cyborg, Rogue

Personal movement trick that uniquely lets you leave combat and mitigates terrain effects at the cost of modest strain.  Best way to get out of an unfavorable melee combat situation.  Has some positional restrictions but becomes more versatile if you've been tagged with Antigravity Projection or have the right Restructure Body bonus beforehand.  Maddeningly out of alphabetical order in the powers listing, this appears on pg.114 after Restructure Body, a full page after where you'd expect it to be.


Background:  Biomorph

Of the various healing powers this is by far the easiest to use but lacks potency and target selection options.  Often a difficult choice between using this power or making an attack instead, although as always the 3" power move factors in to that decision.

Remote Firing

Background:  Robotics Master, Veteran

Lets a friendly robot soldier make an immediate medium range shot with a solid attack bonus.  The shot doesn't use any of the robot's actual weapon rules and any robot is fair game, even ones without a ranged weapon like a Guard Dog or Mule.  Hell knows what that represents, maybe the power makes the batteries short and arc electricity into its target.  Killing someone with a Drone (which, again, should have the Robot attribute) this way is grounds for post-game celebration.

Stargrave: Powers Overview Part 2 (Coordinated Fire - Haggle)

 Coordinated Fire

Background:  Veteran

Simple but effective non-stacking ranged attack buff that can be applied to anyone but a highly-experienced officer.  Can be stripped off by Cancel Power.  Likely to be a go-to choice for when you're not sure what power to use but want the 3" extra movement more than you want to take an attack action.

Crack Shot (Q37)

Background:  Hunter (Q37)

Moderate difficulty and moderate strain power that doubles the crit chance of the user's shooting attacks for the rest of the game.  Also prevents weapon jams.  Narrow focus but if you're building an officer for ranged combat rather than buffing, melee, or battlefield manipulation it's a good one, especially if you gear up with a heavy weapon.  Every chance you miss to shoot with your Crack Shot model is wasted potential, so getting the most out of it is really going to hurt your XP earnings for using powers. 

Create Robot

Background:  Robotics Expert

Very difficult to activate post-game power that lets you recruit a robotic crewman for free.  Injury results occur before power use so you can see what soldiers you've lost before building a new robot, and you can fire a soldier at any time to make room for a robot instead.  These are permanent crew, not temporary, and the end effect is that you wind up saving about 50-100 creds every time this power works.  If you really want to lean into this power, take Mystic Trance to attempt to use CR both before and after each game.  Also benefits from one of the ship upgrades, but only for one user at a time. 

Dark Energy

Background:  Mystic

Strong medium-ranged shooting attack that costs modest strain.  Uniquely capable of hitting the exact target you want when fired into melee, and very strong against robots.  Harder to use when wearing armor, although other effects that increase your Armor stat don't affect the activation number.  Using this regularly calls for some kind of healing power to manage strain damage.

Data Jump

Backgrounds:  Rogue, Tekker

Simple, strong and versatile data loot manipulation power with modest strain cost.  Very good at getting the loot past interceptors, and can easily win games for you.

Data Knock

Backgrounds:  Cyborg, Tekker

The Break Lock power again, only for data loot.  Good way to let low-Will models without a deck access data loot counters. 

Data Skip

Background:  Tekker

Difficult, highly strenuous power that can move unattended open data loot and steal carried data from enemy loot haulers.  Somewhat unreliable for the latter role, but incredibly frustrating when it does work.  Another Tekker trick that can win games for you.

Destroy Weapon

Background:  Psionic

Medium ranged high-strain power that breaks a selected enemy weapon.  Brutally effective against some soldier types and irritating against almost anyone.  Currently the only reason that Indestructible weapons are highly desirable when you can get them.


Backgrounds:  Robotics Expert, Tekker

Trades modest strain to summon a drone (which should have the Robot attribute added, per the errata) from the Creature bestiary as a temporary crew member.  While fragile and bad at fighting, drones are decent loot haulers and more importantly, they let their summoner use many powers as though they were standing at the drone's location.  You should review the Flying attribute rules when taking this power, as well as looking at potential combos with other powers that could benefit from channeling at a distance, such as Fling or Target Lock.     

Electromagnetic Pulse

Backgrounds:  Robotics Expert, Tekker

Versatile but strenuous power that either forces a robot to take a very high-TN test or skip its next activation entirely, or causes all guns carried by a non-robot model to jam and suffer a damage debuff when the jams are cleared.  Remarkably potent when used wisely, but beware of Cancel Power ending its effects instantly.  The NPC creature robot you'd most like to use this on is, predictably, immune to the power. 

Energy Shield

Backgrounds:  Cyborg, Veteran

Gives a small non-stacking damage buffer against shooting attacks to the user.  Compared to other healing and damage prevention tricks this one has the advantage of being fairly easy to use, not requiring you to skimp on armor, and being proactive rather than reactive since the buff can be applied before taking damage rather than healing it afterward.  Just watch out for non-shooting damage which bypasses the power.


Background:  Biomorph

Easy to activate but mildly strenuous, this power gives you options for movement and stun shenanigans on both friendly and enemy figures.  Noteworthy for being able to move figures carrying loot counters without trouble - but weirdly, not unattended loot.  Very nasty when used at an elevation where falling damage becomes a factor.


Backgrounds:  Fatewinder (LP), Rogue, Veteran

Grants a non-stacking one-use reroll to attack rolls and stat tests made by the user.  Quite good given the high variability of d20 rolls, but let down a bit by the fact you can't use it defensively against shooting and its fairly high activation number.


Background:  Rogue

Post-game power that gives a sizable bonus to the sale value of any one item you put on the market.  Quite a solid money-maker, although like all out-of-game powers you can't exert to activate it.

Stargrave: Powers Overview Part 1 (Adrenaline Surge - Control Robot)

 Start of a series of posts taking a look at each power in Stargrave with an eye toward utility, combos, and other tricks.  Many powers benefit in some way or another from specific loot items, but there are too many to mention.  I will mention Ship Upgrades where relevant, since you have more control over getting them.  Powers introduced in the supplements will be tagged as either (Q37) or (LP) as appropriate, with supplement-specific backgrounds similarly indicated.

Adrenaline Surge

Backgrounds:  Biomorph, Fatewinder (LP)

Offers remarkable action efficiency for the user for two whole turns at the cost of serious strain and a high base activation number.  Due to the rule that restricts models from using more than one Use Power action per turn, the primary effect is to let you use AS, make a power move, then take a second action to do something else.  Removes the usually hard decision between using a power and trying to kill something or open loot counters.  Could be used turn after turn to effectively grant 3" extra movement but you'll need healing to manage the strain.  A move 7 model with AS could cover 17" running flat out, or 8.5" while hauling physical loot.   

Antigravity Projection

Background:  Tekker

Handy mobility buffs that can be handed to anyone on the crew, but it doesn't directly increase speed.  Vulnerable to being suddenly ended by Cancel Power, so be careful about committing to positioning that relies on the AP buff staying active - like hovering over lava in the Fire Moon scenario.  If putting the buff on yourself, remember to take your power move after rolling so that you have the buff active if you succeed.  Gets better the more obnoxious and/vertical terrain the table has on it.

Armor Plates

Background:  Biomorph

Strong armor buff for the user at a high strain cost, one of the few ways to reach max 14 Armor without special gear.  Text seems to suggest that powers used before a game that cause strain reduce your starting Health, which should probably be spelled out more clearly as a universal rule both for future proofing and for Mystic Trance combinations.  Remember that if used pre-game you cannot exert to pass the activation roll but you won't suffer strain if you fail. 


Background:  Veteran

Either saves money on combat armor upkeep costs or hands out a small but meaningful damage buff on one basic shooting weapon.  Versatile and handy power that gets twice as good with one of the ship upgrades.  Slightly unclear whether the damage buff stacks with advanced weapons (or the gun from the weapons locker upgrade) that have a similar buff.  As a pre-game power you only get one try to activate it and cannot exert yourself to pass.

Bait & Switch

Backgrounds: Investigator (LP), Rogue

Difficult, taxing, and unreliable power that seriously messes with loot haulers when it does actually manage to work.  Can easily win games for you, but try not to get in situations where you need it to go off to avoid losing.  

Beast Call (Q37)

Background:  Hunter (Q37)

Difficult and moderately strenuous power that lets the user trigger an immediate roll on the Random Encounter table from the core book.  Obviously intended to work in combination with the Control Animal power, but note that 45% of the results (including the most dangerous ones by far, the Warbots and Warphounds) on that chart aren't Animals.  You do get to reroll the random location the creature(s) appear at if you dislike the first one, and you can't use this power again as long as the original summmons is on the table.  Presumably some future supplement will offer variant Random Encounter tables to reflect different, less generic environments and hopefully they'll include mention of this power when that happens.

Break Lock

Background:  Psionic

Medium strain power that lets you stop worrying about being unable to open a physical loot counter.  The way the rules are worded won't let a friendly model immediately pick up the loot for free when you use this even if they're in position to - unless that friendly model is you.  Even if you have better odds to conventionally open a loot counter you're in contact with, it may be worth using BL instead so you can grab the loot and immediately make a 1.5" power move.  Every inch counts when you're dragging a crate around.    


Background:  Aristocrat (Q37), Rogue

Extremely difficult pre-game power that gives you a one use token with a strong but limited use.  Cannot be stacked so you only get one token even if both captain and mate pass their roll on Bribe.  Gains a strong benefit from one of the cheaper ship upgrades.  Seems weak and very unreliable to me, although it would be a lot more palatable if the token could be used after a shooting roll rather than before.   


Backgrounds:  Biomorph, Cyborg, Hunter (Q37), Investigator (LP)

Incredibly strong defensive power for the user against most shooting that also messes with the creature AI rules.  Comes with a high strain cost and unlike many buffs you lose it if you're stunned.  Extremely nasty combo with Void Blade power, which could give you a cumulative +5 to Fight against many shots - but VB is also lost if you're stunned, so it's an all-or-nothing trick that would take time and strain to put back in place.

Incidentally, this is currently the power that's shared between the most different backgrounds.

Cancel Power

Background:  Rogue

Potent "counterspell" that lets you strip many buffs for a modest strain cost.  Has the drawback of being useless if the enemy crew isn't using any of those buffs, which will happen when you run into "greedy" enemy officers that concentrate on Self-Only powers.  Cannot remove most of the power buffs you'd most want to get rid of, but still pretty handy most of the time.


Background:  Aristocrat (Q37), Fatewinder (LP), Veteran

Deceptively potent power that lets you activate a crew model in an officer phase on top of whatever ones you could normally activate with, and with a line of sight 24" range to boot.  Useful for letting an isolated model act before soldier phase, which can help a backfield sniper get off a key shot or a loot hauler leg it for the table edge.  The wording will even let you activate your first mate with this, although they wouldn't be able to activate nearby soldiers when they do so since they're acting in the "wrong" phase.  Still a good way to get your mate to act before the enemy captain does, though.  If the mate has Command itself, they could activate a soldier with it that way, letting six models go during your captain's phase.      

Concealed Firearm

Background:  Aristocrat (Q37), Rogue

Close-combat power that lets you trade modest strain damage to take a strong point-blank shot that will shove and stun the target if it works.  Good alternative to fighting when outnumbered or otherwise disadvantaged.  Wording means that anything that affects shooting will apply to this attack for better or worse, so (for ex) your target would get +1 for a hasty shot if you moved into combat beforehand.  It appears that you can't use a power move before using this power (since you wouldn't be in combat to even attempt to activate it) but you can certainly do so afterward if you hit your only foe.  Quick-Step, another Rogue power, offers a more reliable but less aggressive way to avoid a bad melee situation.

Contacts (Q37, LP)

Background:  Aristocrat (Q37), Investigator (LP)

Moderate difficulty out-of-game power that lets you select one piece of gear from any Advanced technology table (including the new ones in Q37 and LP) to purchase before the next game.  This is going to let you cherry-pick whatever items you want as long as you have the credits to spend, although thankfully you can't select things from the Advanced Weapons or Alien Artifacts tables.  If nothing else, this will keep you well-supplied with cheap consumables like Combat Drugs and Anti-gravity Patches as long as you can keep passing the activation roll.    

Control Animal

Background:  Hunter (Q37), Mystic

Rather situational power that lets you add an animal NPC as a temporary crewman in exchange for modest strain.  Unusual in that it can be cancelled as a free action, so you could use it to grab an animal, move it somewhere problematic for your foes (eg into melee) then release it and grab another one.  Obviously useless if there are no animals on the table (which is a good argument for taking the Beast Call power from Q37) but it's fairly good if there are lots of them to choose from.  Beware of high-Will targets and things that look like animals but aren't, such as Warp Hounds.  Also watch out for Cancel Power stripping your control at an inopportune moment.  Newly-controlled animals will generally wind up moving in your soldier phase, or maybe your first mate phase if positioned right. 

Control Robot

Backgrounds:  Cyborg, Robotics Expert

Pretty much Control Animal except it works on robots instead, allows repeated Will checks to escape control, and has a slightly lower TN to resist.  Utility is going to vary a lot based on how much your opponent likes robot soldiers in their crew, as NPC creature robots are rarer than animals and many of them are maddeningly immune to this power.  This power is one of the major drawbacks to using robots, and people being afraid to use robots is one of the major drawbacks of this power.  It's the circle of metagaming in action.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Stargrave: Sentrabot Rules Fix & Kitbashes

 Sentrabots are one of more unusual randomly appearing NPCs with rules very much like Tamix Phage from the Dead or Alive solo rules, but greatly toned down with shorter range on the reactive snap fire trick and minimal melee capability as well as being much less durable.  Unfortunately, their mechanics don't work at all well with the standard AI chart, making them something of a joke to deal with instead of at least a mild threat.

Accordingly, when using them I recommend using the following AI behavior for these things rather than the default one on pg.65 of the core book:

1.  Is the Sentrabot in combat?
Yes:  The Sentrabot uses its first action to fight, choosing the enemy with the lowest Health if facing multiple targets.  If it wins the fight it will push the enemy back.  If it is no longer in combat after this go to step 2, otherwise its activation ends.
No:  Go to Step 2.

2.  Is there a crew member in line of sight?
Yes:  The Sentrabot will use all its available actions to move either toward or away from the closest visible enemy figure until it is as close to 8" away as possible, taking the most direct path it can and climbing if necessary.
No:  Go to Step 3.

3.  Target Point or Random Movement
Follow the rules on pg.66, using the Step 2 above rather than the one in the rulebook if called for, but stopping when it reaches 8" distance from a target point.

Following this AI program will lead to Sentrabots trying to stay at a "safe" 8" distance from whatever the nearest visible threat is so it can keep using Surprise Shot rule as long as possible, even backing off from melee if it's lucky enough to win a fight.  Won't happen often, but these things are quirky enough that giving them slightly different behavior will make them more memorable than most NPCs.

If you find this makes Sentrabots too impactful on the game, I'd suggest modifying them so that they treat ALL non-Sentrabot figures on the table as enemy, whether they're part of a player crew or not, and are similarly treated as crew (and therefore enemies) by other NPC figures, whether they're creatures or pirates like those poor troopers pictured above.

Could make a neat scenario (perhaps as a co-op game) out of trying to clear a bunch of Sentrabots (using their improved AI) from an area, perhaps with reinforcements coming in over time or support from a Warbot.

This trio of Sentrabots were kitbashed from bits box parts, some of them dating back over twenty years.  Knew I'd find a use for those spare legs from I-Kore eventually.