The meat of the work for setting up my Savage Worlds campaign is going to be in the technology, and a majority of that will hopefully be space ships. And there are three areas I'm focusing on; content, activities and speed. I think each of these areas are very important for a successful combat system.
Content means to me that there is loot, there are settings, there are enemies and there are allies, and there are many different varieties. The player ship will be broken down into a hull and several systems. Depending on the hull class and subtype it will have differing numbers and potential qualities of systems. The NPCs will appear very different (easy fluff) and have a variance of hull type, role and faction bonus' (this partly plays into the speed category) When I'm done, hopefully I can create the ships with a series of dropdowns in an excel sheet rather quickly. There should be at least 6 hulls, 4 roles and 10 factions, for a reasonable 240 possible ships. There should also be a variance in the skill of the crew, however that will be a tad more complicated. As for settings, it's space, it's beautiful, full of nebulae and asteroid fields and unknown phenomena.
Activities is VERY important, especially for the style of space game I am pursuing. Each person in the ship will need to take on a role, and each role will need to be interesting. The main roles I'm considering in the ship right now are; Gunner, Science, Navigation and Engineering.
Gunners shoot things, they do it well and they do it with skill. This will be more than just the shoot skill, it will also require knowledge (gunnery) This skill refers to the ability to do advanced actions with weapons, route extra power, advanced aiming, utilizing the computer systems for more than stock optimizations, lock on with missiles/torpedos and so on. It's a fairly straightforwards role, in combat they will be busy, outside, they may assist with grapples and other likely unrelated skill checks.
Science is software. While the Engineer will be dealing with cables and patching holes, the science specialist's job will be both defending against and jamming enemy communications and scanning, they will also help with any other software tools, including hacking and stabilizing systems. This is a harder role for me to narrow down the purpose for in combat, but I think with enough development this is the right direction. Outside of combat (or rarely inside combat) they should also be responsible for watching the scanners (notice checks) and advanced scans for activities like salvaging and investigating anything other than visual analysis.
Navigation is moving the ship. This is another interesting one, while it seems like it would be a rather key role, in space it tends to be just open... well space. Most of the summary of combat would be, get closer to them, get further from them, stay at X range from them. Therefore I'm going to look into creating a system of maneuvers including evasive and offensive. Choosing an offensive maneuver against target A grants a bonus based on how well you do to attack A, choosing an evasive causes an bonus to defense. Other maneuvers if the players ever work with other ships, would be things like formations. Outside of combat, they will function making rolls during asteroid fields, knowing destinations and locations and performing FTL calculations.
Finally Engineering, the hardware of the ship. Engineers perform upgrades, repairs and manual stripping of other ships. They manage routing power and emergency repairs during combat. Emergency repairs could be reducing the effects on damage to systems and emergency hull patches to prevent breaches. Power routing sends power to various systems that either automatically get converted by the computer for certain uses, or used for other things based on the operator of the system. (Extend the range or power of guns, improve the signal of scanners, boost the maneuvering engines and so on...) Out of combat, they perform complete repairs, convert spare parts to ammo, repairs, or new systems, salvage hardware, or whatever else hardware might be required.
Now these four roles are separated only in concept, theoretically everyone could have a little of each, as to take on a role requires only two or three skills. This would work, especially if each player instead of taking a destroyer between the four of them, went with fighters. Of coarse this means their travel will be pretty restricted, and their average skill rather low, that and ideally a few supporting skills will aid every role. During creation for the first game, I'm going to ask all the characters to choose a role and explain them just to get things going in the right direction.
Finally, speed is a concern. I want the combats to not take FOREVER as I resolve four NPC ships and one player ship. In the beginning when the enemy will be fighters (one to two man craft) this should be easy, but later I'm considering treating them using averages for skill with the exception of boss ships. But as is, each player should be performing one or two actions, and referring to no more than three skills with a very consistent effect. Outside of combat, skills should be almost exactly like adventuring with a few modifiers based on equipment.
I am a bit concerned about balancing bonuses. Right now there is a high potential for granting bonuses to the gunners. Science, Engineering AND Navigation each able to grant a bonus. It makes me wonder if with all these bonuses if I should counterbalance the ability to miss and heavier weight armor to make hits less devastating. This area I think will work itself out with tweaking and playtesting. Right now I'm considering maximum power tolerances and possibly making bonuses only apply to different traits. (navigation removes penalties, science increases accuracy and engineering increases damage or something.)
So I have a few questions to anyone who may actually read this. Assuming you had any interest in a space campaign, do any roles interest you? Do you find the idea of customizing your own ship intriguing? Do you see any areas that could heavily slow down play?