Aerial Combat

Air-Chases and Dog-Fights

In the modern era, Aerial Combat is about launching missiles, not about getting behind the other guy and blasting him with your 50mm cannons. This is expedient, but it's not very interesting to role play. Luckily, the era of Birds of War is one where missile technology and radar are not fully developed yet or in widespread use.

The art of the dogfight isn't about shooting the other pilot, its about getting in to a position where you can make a shot. This occurs only in one place; with the enemy aircraft directly in front of you. The only safe way to do this is to get behind the other airplane. If they are coming right at you, not only are they on a collision course, but usually they are shooting back, which has its own issues.

So you are trying to get on the tail of the other guy, the other guy is trying to get you off his tail then try and maneuver to get on your tail. This is a dogfight, the heart of Aerial Combat.

The Maneuver Point System

The maneuver point system is an attempt at a streamlined, easy to follow combat system. It's a system that is optional, meaning the normal rules of FATE would allow you to do approximately the same things, but it would take longer and have a lot more confusion involved. This system is meant to be something more approachable, a one stop shop for how to make airplanes fight each other. The rules are in constant refinement so please, offer your feedback where you find it.

In this system, combat and dog fighting is abstracted in to a series of maneuvers that the pilots perform in their aircraft. These maneuvers reflect the efforts of pilots to gain position, to shoot the enemy and to avoid being shot themselves. Combat, that is, damaging another players aircraft, is only allowed when a Pilot chooses a maneuver that specifically opens combat, with the terms and conditions of the maneuver specifying any modifiers.

Maneuvers are purchased for 1-5 Maneuver points, depending on the maneuver chosen. There are Attack, Defensive and Special Maneuvers. Some attack maneuvers include defensive bonuses, while some defensive maneuvers allow attacks on the attacker.

It is highly advised that players familiarize themselves with the maneuvers and the options -before- they get involved in a dog fight with multiple players.

Turn Flow:
1: Determine Initiative
2: Choose Maneuvers (Lowest Init chooses first)
3: Resolve Combat (Highest Init resolves first)
4: Return to step 1.

Relevant Stats

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  • Player Skills:
    • Guns: Used in most situations of firing or inflicting damage on another aircraft
    • Piloting: Used to determine Maneuver points, to defend against attacks.
  • Player Stunts: Handled specifically below.
  • Aircraft Statistics:
    • Maneuver: This statistic marks how maneuverable a craft is and limits the amount of Maneuver Points it can generate. A plane cannot generate more maneuver points than its maneuver statistic unless specifically directed by a maneuver.
    • Speed: This statistic marks how fast a craft is, and helps determine the results of a chase.
    • Armament: This statistic marks how heavily armed an aircraft is and limits the amount of damage it can generate. A plane cannot generate more damage than its armament statistic unless specifically directed by a maneuver.
    • Stress: This statistic marks how robust an aircraft is and limits how much damage it can take.
    • ATA/ATG: Some aircraft are more or less able than others at certain missions. These numbers do not raise armament limitations; they simply make it more likely that a craft will perform well. These numbers only apply to attack rolls, not to Maneuver checks.
  • Aircraft Improvements: As per improvement.

Aircraft Listing: A list of approved and ready to use 'stock' aircraft, ranging from bi planes to heavy bombers.


Stunts

Pilot Stunts

  • Defensive Flying: -1 cost on defensive maneuvers to a minimum of 1
  • Turn On Two Wings: -1 cost on special maneuvers, to a minimum of 1
  • Flying Ace: Unchanged. May use Pilot in the place of Guns.
  • Death From Above: Instead of (Shifts/2) damage on this maneuver, Pilots with the Death-From-Above stunt do (Shifts). Additionally this Maneuver costs only 1 point.

Guns Stunts

  • Snap Shot: By spending a fate point, the pilot may preempt the usual combat initiative order and move when he pleases. If two pilots have snap shot, then highest pilot skill goes first. If that is matched, default to Empathy.
  • Rain of Lead: Using this stunt, a pilot may attempt to block an action by an enemy aircraft on another defending aircraft; it may not be used to stop someone attacking your aircraft. This costs 1 MP.

Aircraft Stunts

These stunts should be worked out and understood before entering in to a dogfight with a Signature Aircraft or Aircraft of Destiny, so that its unique effects can be balanced in to the system to allow for playability.

  • Craftsmanship This provides a +1 bonus to the pilots skill when flying his aircraft; but it does NOT raise the planes statistics. It simply makes it more likely the plane will perform to its potential.

Situation Aspects

Every scene has aspects that any player in the scene can invoke or compel for various effects. These can involve dangerous obstacles, weather conditions or anything else that could be of issue. They are not required, but they can be interesting.

Sample Scene Aspects
Bright Sun Darkness Foggy Thunder storm
Mountain Peaks High Buildings Canyon Country High Clouds
Civilian Traffic Strong Winds Lightening Strikes Flak!
Extreme Cold Unexpected Updrafts Rain

Initiative

Initiative is determined by adding a players Pilot Skill to his or her aircraft Maneuverability Statistic. Maneuvers are chosen in reverse order, with the lowest scoring player choosing first, the highest choosing last. Then for resolution, the highest resolves first, the lowest resolves last.

This allows faster acting players to act based on their understanding of what the other players are doing. Every box of stress a plane suffers lowers its initiative by one, to a minimum of 1. This reflects that damaged planes are less responsive.

Maneuvers can lower initiative as well.


Generate Maneuver Points and Choosing Maneuvers

In this phase, players generate Maneuver Points. Each player will roll their Pilot Skill with no modifiers. The player's successes (Shifts) are used as Maneuver Points to purchase maneuvers from the lists below. Players choose maneuvers in the order of lowest first, highest last. Combat maneuvers must have specific targets.

  • A player will always have at least 1 maneuver point, even if they roll no Shifts. This will allow for a basic defense or attack regardless of how badly you suck as a pilot.
  • A player's aircraft determines it's peak performance. A pilot may only score as many Maneuver Points as his planes Maneuverability Stat. The more maneuverable aircraft have a greater range of options available to them. Fate points may be spent to increase this for a single round.
  • While a player can take the same maneuver multiple times,
    • More than one of the same attack cannot be used against the same target. You cannot perform two basic strafes. Instead, select a two point attack that does as much damage.
    • No more than one defensive maneuver can be used against any single attack. One attack, one defense.
  • Aircraft with a +1ATG or ATA receive this as a bonus to their rolls for maneuvering and combat rolls, but this does NOT raise the limiting statistics, instead it only allows the plane to perform at a consistently higher level.

Example: The Red Baron and Eddy Rickenbocker are in a dogfight over Norther France. The Red Barons Fokker Triplane has an 'Average(+1) Maneuverability statistic. Eddy's Sopwith has a 'Fair(+2)' statistic. Both Pilots roll their pilot skill. The Red Baron scores 6 Shifts of success on his roll, while Eddy scores only 3. Despite the rolls, both pilots are limited by their planes and the Red Baron scores only 1 Maneuver point while Eddy Rickenbocker scores 2.


Resolve Combat

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If you chose a maneuver that allows an attack on another player, resolve it during this phase, in order of your initiative, from highest to lowest. The highest initiative resolves combat first. Defensive Maneuvers may be played at any time, as a response to combat. Aircraft forced to disengage before their initiative cannot use combat maneuver.

Unless specifically directed by a maneuver, a Pilot cannot score more Shifts on a combat roll than a planes armament statistic. In a contested roll, this is after shift cancellation. For example: A plane with 'fair' armament (+2) cannot score more than 2 shifts of success on a Guns roll. If the damage is halved by the maneuver used, then only 1 Shift is scored. Fate points may be spent to increase this limit for a single maneuver.

The lowest damage a successful attack can do, is 1.

  • Medium and Heavy Bombers, and all classes of Zeppelins may always perform a basic strafe on any aircraft attacking them, on the initiative of the aircraft attacking them. This maneuver costs no points and is resolved immediately.

Example: That Dastardly Red Baron comes out of his sudden dive, now opening his guns on Eddy Rickenbocker's Sopwith camel. He fires, using a Focused Attack II (Shifts-1 Damage). His guns score 4 shifts of damage. Eddy scores 2 shifts of pilot success, lowering the Red Barons success rate to 2 shifts. However, the Fokker triplane he flies only has 'Average (+1)' Armament. His shifts are reduced to 1. As a result, he does only 1 stress to Eddy Rickenbockers Sopwith.


Aborting Attacks to Dodge

A player may choose to abort an attack to make defensive maneuvers, at a loss of one Maneuver Point. Subtract one from the value of the aborted attack and select a defensive maneuver equal to the remaining. That manouver must be applied to the attack being dodged immediately.

Example: The Red Baron does not win the initiative against Eddy Rickenbocker in a four player dogfight. The Red Baron selects a 2 point 'Death From Above' attack, hoping that Edward will be distracted the other aircraft present. However, Eddy chooses a 'Focused Attack III' against the Red Baron. Suddenly assaulted unrelentingly, the Red Baron aborts his 2 point death from above attack, choosing a 1 point 'Sudden Dive' defense.


Damage

Aircraft have stress just like people do. When a plane takes more stress than it has capacity for, it takes a Consequence. Consequences are persistent Aspects that can be invoked by other players or the GM. If a plane takes 3 consequences, it's considered shot down.

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  • All fractional damage points round down, to a minimum of 1 damage.
  • Every point of stress a plane suffers will lower its initiative by one.

Minions

Minions do not have a major or direct effect on Aerial Combat. They exist as support to their leader.

If a player possesses minions, he can sacrifice them to prevent stress to his plane from other planes. He cannot sacrifice them to prevent damage that is the result of a maneuver he preforms himself, only damage incoming from other aircraft. Additionally, so long as a player possesses minions in combat, the Armament Stat of his aircraft is raised by one, representing wing men who fire on his targets.

If another player wishes to attack a Minion directly, it has 1 stress, 2 pilot, for purposes of defense.

Minions will never attack independently in air-to-air combat.

Example: With the Red Barron focusing on him, and lacking any attacks he can abort, Eddy Rickenbocker's wingman sacrifices himself, interposing himself between the Red Baron and the targeted Sopwith. One point of stress goes to the minion, removing him from the combat, but preventing the damage to Eddy. The Red Baron curses their English brotherhood!


Aerial Combat Maneuver List

Predator: Attacking Plane
Prey: Target Plane


Attack Maneuvers

One Point Attacks
Attack Name Attack Notes Roll Damage
Basic Strafe This represents a simple attack run. Guns vs Pilot +1 on target
Head-On Attack This Maneuver represents coming at a plane directly from the front. While it allows for attacking the Prey, it also allows the Prey to attack its Predator. Guns vs Pilot +((1/2 Shifts)-1) to target, +1 to Attacker
Focused Attack I This Maneuver represents the pilot focusing on his prey to the exclusion of others. Guns vs Pilot +((1/2 Shifts)-1) to target, +1 from further incoming attacks this round.
Split S Attack I This attack can only be used on a plane that has previously attacked you in the same round. Your aircraft pulls up or dives, while rotating, to travel in the opposite direction, bringing you in to an attack vector. This attack takes place immediately after the attack that triggers it, on the other players initiative. Guns v Pilot +1 on target
Two Point Attacks
Attack Name Attack Notes Roll Damage
Focused Attack II This Maneuver represents the pilot focusing on his prey to the exclusion of others. Guns vs Pilot. +(Shifts-1) on target. +1 from further incoming attacks
Tagged! This attack represents a specific, aimed attack such as 'Tail damage!' or 'Fuel Leak'. This becomes a temporary Aspect on the other plane. 3 Shifts are required. The exact effect of the tag is up to the GM of the scene, and not all will affect stats. Possible Tags: Tail Damage, Fuel Leak, Gun Jam, Engine Damage, Blinded/Smoke in Cockpit, ect. Guns v Pilot See text
Death From Above This maneuver represents getting the high angle on the Prey, diving down on them from above. This has the bonus of making you harder to hit in a dive. Guns vs Pilot +(Shifts/2) on Target, -1 on a single incoming attack.
Split S Attack II This attack can only be used on a plane that has previously attacked you in the same round. Your aircraft pulls up or dives, while rotating, to travel in the opposite direction, bringing you in to an attack vector. This attack takes place immediately after the attack that triggers it, on the other players initiative. Guns v Pilot +2 on target.
Three Point Attacks
Attack Name Attack Notes Roll Damage
Focused Attack III This Maneuver represents the pilot focusing on his prey to the exclusion of others Guns vs Pilot. +(Shifts+1) stress on target, +2 stress on incoming attacks
Split S Attack III This attack can only be used on a plane that has previously attacked you in the same round. Your aircraft pulls up or dives, while rotating, to travel in the opposite direction, bringing you in to an attack vector. This attack takes place immediately after the attack that triggers it, on the other players initiative. Guns v Pilot +3 on target
Spray and Pray I This attack represents just filling the sky with lead, lots of lead, and hoping to god you hit something. This allows you to hit 2 aircraft in a single Maneuver. The attacker rolls once, with both defenders rolling separately and comparing separately. Attacking aircraft may make no other attack actions. This is an excellent anti-minion tactic. Guns v Pilot +1 to each target hit
Four Point Attacks
Attack Name Attack Notes Roll Damage
Focused Attack IV This Maneuver represents the pilot focusing on his prey to the exclusion of others Guns vs Pilot. +(Shifts+2) on target, +2 on incoming attacks
Unexpected Tactics This represents a broad variety of tactics that are up to the player to describe, from mooning the other pilot to throwing a wrench in to his air intakes. Guns vs Pilot +(Shifts) damage, May exceed Armament by 1
Spray and Pray II This attack represents just filling the sky with lead, lots of lead, and hoping to god you hit something. This allows you to hit 3 aircraft in a single Maneuver. The attacker rolls once, with all defenders rolling separately and comparing separately. Attacking aircraft may make no other attack actions. This is an excellent anti-minion tactic. Guns v Pilot +1 to each target hit
Five Point Attacks
Attack Name Attack Notes Roll Damage
Spray and Pray III This attack represents just filling the sky with lead, lots of lead, and hoping to god you hit something. This allows you to hit 4 aircraft in a single Maneuver. The attacker rolls once, with all defenders rolling separately and comparing separately. Attacking aircraft may make no other attack actions. This is an excellent anti-minion tactic. Guns v Pilot +1 to each target hit
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