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Thread: Phaser Settings Table (and What's Wrong With It)

  1. #1
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    Phaser Settings Table (and What's Wrong With It)

    After an exhaustive search of Memory Icon, the internet in general, and this forum, I must admit to being amazed that no one else has brought this up, given the age of the Icon Trek rules. I find myself with the unpleasant task of addressing a glaring issue, one that apparently everyone else has simply accepted for over a decade:

    The phaser damage table, in both the DS9 and TNG rulebooks (plus the DS9 Narrator's Screen) has some glaring errors, a few inconsistencies, and is somewhat unbalanced.

    Before I go into detail about this (and try to reason out ways to fix it), I'd like to see who's still paying attention here, and ask whether or not I'm covering old ground.

  2. #2
    I'm not sure if any issues with the phaser table has ever been brought up or not.

    But I am interested in knowing what you feel is wrong with them. Over the years I have not really noticed anything wrong, but I didn't ever really look to closely at the charts.

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    I too would like to see what you view as wrong with them. While playing I did find the Phaser damage tables somewhat wanting, but to be honest Star Trek games tend to be less about trading phaser fire and more about thinking your way out of problems. As far as the tables go if you read the accompanying text to the table (page 239 DS9 campaign book) it states that you should not be too concerned with the listed damage, which was "provided for game purposes, to allow characters some chance of resisting and surviving energy damage", and use the "notes" column to determine what happens to the target if hit by phaser fire.

    For example a phaser set at level 10 (heavy disrupt A)
    forgo the 30+9d6 damage, which BTW would be enough damage to do exactly what the notes state to a normal unprotected human
    and use the "notes - vaporize any substance, energy rebound prior to vaporization common"
    Last edited by WaveMan; 04-18-2015 at 12:03 AM.

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    Okay, here's the table; I'll point out the issues afterward.

    Setting Damage Chg Notes
    1 Light Stun (2+2d6) 1 Stun a Human for 5 minutes
    2 Medium Stun (4+2d6) 2 Stun a Human for 15 minutes, or a Klingon for 5
    3 Heavy Stun (6+4d6) 3 Stun a Human for 1 hour, or a Klingon for 15 minutes
    4 Light Thermal 8+2d6 5 Cut a 1m hole in 10cm of wood in 3 minutes
    5 Heavy Thermal 10+2d6 8 Cut a 1m hole in 10cm of steel in 3 minutes
    6 Light Disrupt A 12+3d6 12 Cut a 1m hole in 10cm of steel or rock in 30 seconds
    7 Light Disrupt B 14 + 4d6 15 Kill a humanoid; cut a 1m hole in a duranium bulkhead in 10 minutes
    8 Light Disrupt C 16+4d6 20 Vaporize a humanoid
    9 Light Disrupt D 24+5d6 30 Vaporize resilient alloys (beam ricochets possible)
    10 Heavy Disrupt A 30+9d6 40 Vaporize any substance (energy rebound prior to vaporization common)
    11 Heavy Disrupt B 40+12d6 50 Explode 10 cubic meters of rock into rubble
    12 Heavy Disrupt C 60+12d6 60 Explode 50 cubic meters of rock into rubble
    13 Heavy Disrupt D 80+18d6 70 Explode 100 cubic meters of rock into rubble
    14 Heavy Disrupt E 100+12d6 80 Explode 160 cubic meters of rock into rubble
    15 Heavy Disrupt F 120+12d6 90 Explode 400 cubic meters of rock into rubble
    16 Heavy Disrupt G 160+12d6 100 Explode 600 cubic meters of rock into rubble
    Now, here are the problems I'm seeing. For comparison to the notes that mention stunning or killing, I'm going to assume the targets are average members of their species. This gives Humans a Resistance of 2 (solely from their Fitness), with seven 2-point Wound Levels. Klingons have Resistance 5 (Fitness 3, +2 Vitality) and nine 5-point Wound Levels. Also, they suggest that stunning lasts for 2-3 minutes, with an extra 5 minutes for each damage point taken beyond the Stunned level.

    The first setting will do, on average, 9 Stun damage. This will do 7 points to the Human, rendering him Injured (specifically, 3 points over being Stunned, which means the base time + 15 minutes). To the Klingon, it will only do 4 damage, not quite enough to stun him.

    The second setting does only two points more -- but that does 9 to the Human (stunned for +25 minutes), and 6 to the Klingon (Stunned = stunned for 5 minutes). This means setting 2 nearly does exactly what it claims.

    The third setting does 20 points, enough to knock a Human out cold (Stunned + 40 minutes or more), and leave a Klingon Wounded (which would knock him out for the base time + 25 minutes).

    Now, for the kill settings:

    The difference in damage between settings 4 and 5 is only 2 points, but the higher setting costs 60% more power. That 3-point difference in power consumption is enough to spell the difference between cutting wood and steel, but its effects on a creature are nearly identical.

    It's worse when you go from settings 7 to 8. 7 is enough to "kill a humanoid" (and it will; 28 points will kill an average Human, but only Wound a Klingon), but 8 is enough to vaporize him. By the numbers, though, it's only a 2-point difference in damage (which won't hurt a Klingon any further), for a 5-point increase in power. (It takes setting 10 to do enough to kill an average Klingon, so it's hard to imagine a lesser setting automatically vaporizing one.)

    These oddities keep going from there. Setting 9 adds only 8+1d6 damage (11.5 on average), while setting 10 adds 6+4d6 (20 on average), and 11 adds 10+3d6 (20.5 on average). In all three cases, the power-consumption goes up by 10.

    Then there's setting 13, which claims to do 80+18d6 damage. The dice go back down to 12 on setting 14.

    Incidentally, the formatting error on setting 7 (where it puts spaces in "14 + 4d6") is in all three copies of this table, which means it was copied directly from the version in the TNG Core Rulebook, errors and all.

    The reason I'm bringing all this up is because I'm going to be starting a game of my own soon, I expect a fair amount of combat, and I'm trying to keep things structured. These errors (especially that "18d6") stand out to me; I can't help but see them.

    Ranting aside, I have some ideas for adjusting things so that they better reflect the notes section, and to make the damage scale upward in a more sane manner. Before I post those ideas, I'd like to hear your input. You may think of something I haven't yet, and I don't want to bias your answers.

  5. #5
    Does it look like they derive charge costs and damage points from the phaser setting chart in the TNGTM or is this just one of those needless delineations so popular in mid-90s game design?

    Anyway, practically speaking the combat use of phasers is restricted to Stun, Kill or Extra-Super-Duper-Kill (as demonstrated on poor Yuta in 'The Vengeance Factor,' I'd probably rewrite the table as follows:

    Stun: On a hit, all their Stunned boxes are filled up, and they wake up sometime after the combat ends or 15-(Resistance) minutes. One charge.
    Kill: Roll 1d6 damage for every charge spent on the shot.
    Vapourize: Target is vapourized. Ten charges.
    Last edited by The Tatterdemalion King; 04-18-2015 at 01:19 AM.
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    I agree with TTK, dispense with the damage as stated in the table if it offends you overly, and just go with the "notes" description. Phasers will always cause troubles with narrators and players as they kill players so easily.

    In games I played in the narrator and players came to an "unspoken agreement", if the players leave all phasers on stun so too will the enemy (except in very special circumstances). A single Type 2 phaser is capable of damage on a massive scale, though at higher level settings they run out of energy quite quickly.

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    It's not that the entire thing "offends" me, it's the errors and inconsistencies -- I think they can be fixed to make the numbers scale up better. The problem with the all-or-nothing approach is that it discourages PCs from engaging in combat. If the only outcomes are being knocked out with no long-term effects, or being completely vaporized, then there's really no sense of risk.

    It's an old tactic in warfare that a dead or unconscious enemy hinders one enemy's ability to fight, while an injured enemy hinders two. At the table, it also gives an incentive to pick up medical skills and equipment. If the only injuries you can sustain are a) death and b) disintegration, there's no reason to ever expect to patch someone up.

    When I can post from my main computer, I'll put up my suggested revisions. In the meantime, I've thought of a simpler way to count stunning that makes the Notes section (mostly) accurate. Change the time to "five minutes per Wound Level" (5 for Stunned, 10 for Injured, etc.), and change the damage for the lowest setting to (2+1d6). That's still enough to stun an average Human, and a Klingon won't even notice it -- and then you actually have a worthwhile difference between settings 1 and 2.

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    Except for the game-specific damage and charge columns, this is the table written by Sternbach and Okuda for the STTNG Tech Manual. It's as close to base-line Trek as it gets. LUG did not write the table, they inherited it from the production staff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Owen E Oulton View Post
    Except for the game-specific damage and charge columns, this is the table written by Sternbach and Okuda for the STTNG Tech Manual. It's as close to base-line Trek as it gets. LUG did not write the table, they inherited it from the production staff.
    I had a feeling. I'd rather make the mechanics match the Notes column, than just ignore it altogether. I've found that if a game with lots of rules has "fluff" that happens to work the same way, it helps newcomers understand the crunchy bits.

  10. #10
    After reading your breakdown of the issues on the damage table I can understand your opinion.
    I do feel I should point out that there is a problem of comparing the two charts and then including Klingons, the reason being that Klingons in the Next Generation book are not as hardy as they are in Deep Space Nine. Prior to the DS9 book there is no Organ Redundancy advantage, even in The Price of Freedom book Worf has the same number of wound levels as everyone else.

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    I hadn't spotted that before (even though the core TNG book does mention the trait, it doesn't spell out its mechanical benefits). The table, however, is identical in the TNG book, the DS9 book, and the DS9 Narrator's Screen. (Organ redundancy is mentioned in TNG Core, p. 267, and the phaser table on p. 234 is the same as the one I posted.)

    Anyway, I did a little renovating on the numbers -- both damage figures and power consumption -- to try to get the progression to make a little more sense, and to make the dice results match the notes as best I could.

    On a side topic, there's something I haven't been able to find. How do the higher phaser settings translate to damaging ships? In other words, how much damage would a phaser have to do to equate to a single point of ship-scale damage? (I found a line that specifies that personal weapons can't penetrate shields, but they say nothing about hitting an unshielded vessel -- say, if a shuttlecraft's shields were disabled.)

    Setting Damage Chg Notes
    1 Light Stun (2+1d6) 1 Stun a Human for 5 minutes
    2 Medium Stun (4+2d6) 2 Stun a Human for 15 minutes, or a Klingon for 5
    3 Heavy Stun (6+4d6) 3 Stun a Human for 30 minutes, or a Klingon for 15
    4 Light Thermal 8+2d6 6 Cut a 1m-diameter hole in 10cm of wood in 3 minutes
    5 Heavy Thermal 10+3d6 9 Cut a 1m-diameter hole in 10cm of steel/rock in 3 minutes
    6 Light Disrupt A 12+4d6 15 Cut a 1m-diameter hole in 10cm of steel/rock in 30 seconds
    7 Light Disrupt B 16+5d6 20 Kill a humanoid; cut a 1m hole in a duranium bulkhead in 10 minutes
    8 Light Disrupt C 20+6d6 25 Vaporize a humanoid; cut a 1m hole in a duranium bulkhead in 3 minutes
    9 Light Disrupt D 24+7d6 30 Vaporize resilient alloys (beam ricochets possible)
    10 Heavy Disrupt A 30+9d6 40 Vaporize any substance (beam ricochets likely)
    11 Heavy Disrupt B 40+11d6 50 Explode 10 cubic meters of rock
    12 Heavy Disrupt C 60+12d6 60 Explode 20 cubic meters of rock
    13 Heavy Disrupt D 70+14d6 70 Explode 40 cubic meters of rock
    14 Heavy Disrupt E 90+15d6 80 Explode 80 cubic meters of rock
    15 Heavy Disrupt F 100+17d6 90 Explode 160 cubic meters of rock
    16 Heavy Disrupt G 120+18d6 100 Explode 320 cubic meters of rock

  12. #12
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    you will also note that most phaser rifles (type-3c compression rifle for example page 109 players handbook or page 99 Price of Freedom) after 2370's have 2 extra settings above 16 (as in 17 and 18), and with the higher settings forgoing dice rolled and just have a listed damage total.
    (setting 17 heavy disrupt H [240 damage] 120 charges vaporize 50 cubic meters of solid duranium)
    (setting 18 heavy disrupt I [300 damage] 150 charges vaporize 100 cubic meters of solid duranium, explode up to 1200 cubic meters of rock in to rubble


    From memory 100 points of small arms fire equals 1 point of ship damage (but don't quote me on that)

    I would also suggest if you are planning on playing a combat intensive series you should look to allowing players access to portable force field generators (say reverse engineered from Borg personal shields). The arm shields described in the Players Handbook page 109 are OK but somewhat limited. Star Trek seemed to be very limited in regards to personal force fields, and the designers seemed to want to restrict that sort of technology severely.

    In games I played we developed several designs (loosely based on Personal Defense Shields from Battle Lords of the 23rd century)

    Haven PDS provides 600 protection (so allows a person to survive 2 hits from a phaser set on level 18) . This small unit is the size of a 21th century mobile phone (cell phone for the Americans...LoL) and attaches to the persons belt. Can operate for 1 hour in stand by mode before needing to be recharged.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by WaveMan View Post
    I would also suggest if you are planning on playing a combat intensive series you should look to allowing players access to portable force field generators (say reverse engineered from Borg personal shields). The arm shields described in the Players Handbook page 109 are OK but somewhat limited. Star Trek seemed to be very limited in regards to personal force fields, and the designers seemed to want to restrict that sort of technology severely.
    Well, aside from those just not appearing as Federation technology during the series, they'd last all of two seconds against a motived group of PCs. Imagine a PC with a phaser vs. a wizard with a beam-reflection spell on: "Well, he might have an AC of 25, but the ceiling above him doesn't..."
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    Heh. I really don't know how much personal combat is going to come up in the game yet — that's going to depend on what the players want to do, and whether or not they buy into my initial concept. If they do, they get to spend a lot of time sitting between the Romulan Neutral Zone and the Typhon Expanse, so they'll have the Romulans on one side, the Borg on the other, and a prime source for time/space anomalies within spitting distance.

    I like the idea of reverse-engineering Borg personal shields; if it looks like phaser battles are going to be common, I'll try to nudge any engineering types into 'discovering' the idea. Or I could introduce something new, either as experimental tech or an 'artifact' recovered from a vanished civilization.

    I'll try out the 100:1 ratio should anyone get the idea of blasting a ship with hand weapons. Granted, they'll have to make sure it doesn't have any shielding first, but that's part of the challenge.

    In the meantime, if you think any of the numbers in my proposed revision need adjusted, let me know.

  15. #15
    The main problem with personal shields is that, if your players start meeting guys with them, will just start upgrading to carrying more firepower, and vice versa—and the natural end point of that progression is the players deciding they should probably stick close to the largest mobile generator they can find, i.e., on board the ship. FPS game logic isn't RPG game logic.
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