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What Makes a Space Battle Interesting?


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Opinion question: What sort of things make reading or participating in a space battle interesting to you as a reader or roleplayer? What are some ways that Star Army can make battles feel the most exciting and keep characters involved?


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The Kuvexian War battles had a good formula that made them fun to participate in. Which is to say that having a battle‘s groundwork laid out in GM posts and subsequent updates while allowing players great leeway with regards to writing epic scenes was a lot of fun for Glimmergold and Third Nataria.

On the readership side, I think the above formula allows for really enjoyable entertainment as well. It’s not any kind of hard science, but I’ve noticed the most reacted-to RP posts seem to have been really rad depictions of characters being cool in battle. Whether these characters are doing small or big things within the battle, the most fun posts to read are the ones that take full advantage of the aforementioned narrative freedom present in the recent battle RPs to tell a unique story within the larger conflict.

So I guess just keep doing what’s been happening already for future space battles. The format is both fun to participate in and to read.

Maybe one thing I’d change is the scope of future space battles. They don’t need to be decisive turning point fights every time. As much as I enjoy playing my Taishos, too many command-level posts aren’t the most engaging part to either RP or read because they end up being detailed explorations of the broad strokes already laid out in GM posts. In future battles, it might be wise to allow universal participation for any character whilst also limiting the conflict to a particular task force’s operation in-character so that only the GM needs to say what all the friendly NPC squadrons are doing.


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I'll second a lot of what Raz said. One of the coolest things about the recent big battles was that it felt like you could just drop in, do your thing, and roll the dice. GM didn't get to you? That's cool, just follow the narrative and do it yourself. Made it very easy to engage in and the RP was definitely fun to read.

Alex Hart

Generally, what make a battle fun to me are unique circumstances and interesting premises beyond "The two very large fleets fly at each other and shoot at each other with X event happening in the background which the PCs cannot interact with in any way". Also, PCs should be able to have the potential to change the outcome of an event by their mistakes and successes rather than an event having a preset outcome (For example, The Star Army wins, with [insert adjective here] losses). While this does require actual improvisation, I think it is the core of what makes RP fun and interesting to do.

What really is a turn-off for me personally is when large forces come to save the day when the "heros" can't win on their own. It feels very much like a deus ex machina for when the GM has set the scale too high, and imbalanced the forces too much against the PCs and put them in a situation they can't possibly win in, so it feels like the characters didn't actually earn the win.


Retired Staff
I think (might have been said above and I missed it) that the fun part of a big battle is the survival instinct, nobody is invincible or a super power and that is what I loved in the kuvexian war where we were pushed to survival point of view and showed our weakness. Of course details of a battle can make or break a thread


The Smollest Smol
FM of Elysia
Personally, I like to look at things on a smaller scale than a larger scale for battles, and that allows things to get a little more flexible:

-Tactics, instead of strategy. Examples of this can include some battles in the Star Wars expanded universe where people would interdict their own ships to ambush an enemy with surprise reinforcements mid-combat.
-"""Terrain""", where there could be a nebula, large asteroids, debris, etc. That affect the battle. This can be something as simple as providing cover between engagements, or a wide-area effect that shuts down every ship's sensor system and you have to, well... Fly blind, without being able to scan or detect things around you unless you can literally see them. Or perhaps, taking some inspiration from the game FTL, a chaotic storm that interferes with power generators and can easily cripple an unprepared ship.
-Scenarios, where perhaps the ships we're paying attention to - the plot ships - are forming essentially a "spec-ops squad"; a large battle is started with the intent to distract the bulk of the enemy force, while the ships that actually matter can sneak in and perform an objective. In this case, it promotes coordination, taking out an enemy ASAP (preferably in a single hit) to not get noticed, and a soft time limit (your allies are fighting to distract and delay, not to win, so they won't stick around forever).
-Specialized warships. This is a big one I'm a fan of from playing the game Starsector; each ship on the field will serve a distinct purpose. Some ships are devoted to electronic warfare and support, where they need to be in the fight to be able to hamper the enemy - but this makes them vulnerable, so they hide behind the main battle line of the heavily armored and shielded ships. To take those support ships out you might want a fast, aggressive hunter ship that can skirt around the battle and pick off the supporters, but you won't have the staying power of a line ship. Adding specialization to ships, rather than generalization, can improve the interplay between ships in a space battle. Plus, for a plot ship, it would be cool if you had to make a choice between risking a fight against something that can take you on easily, or falling back and rethinking your options.


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There are a lot of things that can help make battles better, so I'll just focus on two I think is important. Here are two quotes that for me define what military force is about.

If you wanted to teach a baby a lesson, would you cuts its head off? ... Of course not. You'd paddle it. There can be circumstances when it's just as foolish to hit an enemy with an H-Bomb as it would be to spank a baby with an ax. War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government's decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him but to make him do what you want him to do. Not killing but controlled and purposeful violence.

There are a dozen different ways of delivering destruction in impersonal wholesale, via ships or missiles of one sort or another, catastrophes so widespread, so unselective that the war is over because that nation or planet has ceased to exist. What we do is entirely different. We make war as personal as a punch in the nose. We can be selective, applying precisely the required amount of pressure at the specified point at a designated time. We've never been told to go down and kill or capture all left-handed redheads in a particular area, but if they tell us to, we can. We will.

We are the boys who will go to a particular place, at H-hour, occupy a designated terrain, stand on it, dig the enemy out of their holes, force them then and there to surrender or die. We're the bloody infantry, the doughboy, the duckfoot, the foot soldier who goes where the enemy is and takes them on in person. We've been doing it, with changes in weapons but very little change in our trade, at least since the time five thousand years ago when the foot sloggers of Sargon the Great forced the Sumerians to cry "Uncle!"

In short, superweapons are cool and all, but individual-level objectives and how the little person fits into the big picture is really important.

The second is similar but slightly different. Consider for a moment the climax of Return of the Jedi. Return of the Jedi's climax is a conversation between father and son. A son who sees the good in his father, and a father who must be pushed to reveal it. This personal conflict, about the choices the characters are making. This is what gives the significantly less flashy battle its power. As the conflicting values wax and wane, so does the battle. This is what gives the scene its power.

The purpose of a battle is to reveal character and force them to make hard decisions. A satisfying battle isn't satisfying because of big explosions and such, it's satisfying because of what is happening to the characters. For me, one of the most memorable battles I've played in was Mamemameshi. Not because of the battle, but because of two moments that established her character. First, when she tossed Miko bodily into a Hanger because he had triggered her ptsd. Second, when William got wounded and Sacre had to admit to herself that she felt a friendship for him that she couldn't deny. The first breath of warmth on melting her ice queen persona. Both were important establishing moments for her.

TLDR; 1. Superweapons are cool, but how the little person fits in the big picture is really important. 2. Revealing character is what really makes conflicts meaningful.

Primitive Polygon

Well-Known Member
Fast paced, engaging battles are hard to write, but I'll always remember the way that Paladin's Orochi Squadron plot basically played out like a shmup, whilst also respecting personal character interactions. The sheer scale of space, and the concept of these tiny, vulnerable power armor pilots charging headlong into volley after volley of space battleship fire just to reach their target really made an impact on me.

I echo what a lot of people are saying here; Specific, concrete missions are highly necessary for a plot to have good drama, even if you end up throwing the players a curveball by having the enemy get the drop on them. Terrain and environment also makes the situation feel more 'real' and gives the player characters something to specifically react to.

You've totally done a good job of making individual enemies on the ground threatening, Wes, even the unpredictable Rixxikor at times; But maybe the threat of having enemies that are technologically superior is something you have kind of shied away from?

Sharon D Love

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The battle of space is an important aspect of science fiction, especially space opera, and we want to join it.
Like any other conflict, space battles follow the basic rules of storytelling. They need the right island, strong motivation, a clear turning point, and so on. But space battles also have their own specific requirements. So far there has never been a war in space. But there is some weapons-testing activity.
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