Does anyone have any thoughts on/ experience with making spaceship combat interesting using the DW system?

Does anyone have any thoughts on/ experience with making spaceship combat interesting using the DW system?

Does anyone have any thoughts on/ experience with making spaceship combat interesting using the DW system?

I’m running a Star Wars campaign in DW and the space combat has been lackluster at best. I think part of the reason is that the party has a cruiser class ship, with fighters in a hangar bay. Yet they never climb into the fighters. They just sit in the cruiser and volley over and over again.

A related question: Has anyone found any custom ruled for space combat in the DW system?

14 thoughts on “Does anyone have any thoughts on/ experience with making spaceship combat interesting using the DW system?”

  1. There’s Star Wars World.  Haven’t read it myelf, but it came up with a brief web search.  It’s not technically a DW hack – DW is an Apocalypse World hack, and Star Wars World is one as well.  So the similarities will be there.

  2. Star Wars World works better as a combat simulator for space combat just because AW has better combat moves. All due respect to DW, but it is replicating D&D “I hit it with me sword” “he hits back” “I fire my bow” stuff. Sure, it expands on that with Defying Danger and all, but its more rigid. Combat is mostly scribbling out HP over time.

    In AW (and therefore SWW), combat involves controlling momentum and locations, terrifying the enemy, and similar stuff as a matter of standard procedure. It automatically assumes things other than whacking each others’ heads are happening.

    Nuanced combat in DW requires, in my experience, fights to have motivations. Whacking heads in an empty room because you’re both there will never be interesting. You’re better off understanding that a fight is an inconvenient distraction from something that really matters – ie, escaping the Death Star, saving Han from Boba Fett, saving Han from the Sarlacc.

    You want space combat to be interesting? I’d ask if you’re making the combat an interesting series of choices – if the PCs can get away with spamming volley, it sounds like you’re not? I don’t know. What does space combat normally flow like? Are they fighting about something?

  3. There’s a few Apocalypse based space RPG hacks being worked on that may help.

    My own Beyond (in development) doesn’t have custom moves for ships (yet – not sure if it will need them), instead characters use their own and Beyond’s basic moves to perform ship functions in combat. Ships have their own weapons, armor and HP ratings. Performance differences are handled in the fiction.  It works well in practice, and should handle cruiser/fighter combinations seamlessly (be very interested to hear how it goes as we haven’t tried that sort of combo ourselves yet).

    In particular, see the Hotshot playbook p29-31 and the vehicle rules p59-62 (NB: there’s a typo on p61, maneuver does not get +1.)

    Any feedback you have would be very welcome. 

    Sean Gomes has been working on Uncharted Worlds which is ship oriented – don’t know how far it’s got with ship combat.

    Post feedback at

    Sean Nitter has an Apoclaypse Galactica hack that may have something helpful:

    p.s. just found the aforementioned Star Wars World:

  4. In my Pirates! hack sailing ships have maneuverability, damage die, hitpoints, and armour.(On their own sheets)

    Anything that demands maneuvering triggers a roll+Man. That includes cannon salvos, for cannons on a sail ship are fairly fixed.

    When a ship takes damage the pcs defy danger. On 10 they take no damage, on 7-9 they are stunned and on a fail they take half the damage the ship took. If the ship loses most of its hp it is crippled. If it loses all it is destroyed. Crew losses are simply proportional to the ships HP losses. Specialist crew members give bonuses to certain rolls.

    I would make just one change for space ships, and that is to use the gunner’s own shooting stat for volley moves, if the gunner a pc.

    Other Star Wars refinements could be hit locations like jump drive and shields.But I would be careful to add too many stats though. Keep it simple.

    So my system works very well and fast because there is only one combat move: Describe what you want to do and roll+Man. If your ship takes damage PCs Defy Danger or take half its damage. If a ship loses half its hp half its crew are gone. etc.

    Thats all there is to it!

  5. Must add to that:

    Large Man O Wars have low maneuverability and high damage dies, HP and armor.

    Smaller vessels like Sloops have high maneuverability and low damage, HP and armor. So the vessel you have makes huge fictional differences.

    (And there is a boarding move. )

  6. Thanks for the props, Wynand Louw and Alfred Rudzki. I’m very happy with SWW, so much so in fact that I’ve been trying to dedicate a bit of time each week to updating it. I am very happy with the current revisions.

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