Does anyone here have a view/ruling on adding ship Talents to NPC ships (like a Bird of Prey or a Galor) above what they come with as standard (up to their Scale of course)?
I know as a GM, there’s nothing stopping me from changing things like this, but this is more a question of ‘should I’ in this case. I’m in the midst of running a Dominion War season, and Galors just don’t have the teeth to reasonably threaten the player ship, but I don’t want to be running them as full starships just to get them to last a bit longer in combat.
Or if anyone has a reasonable system for ‘upgrading’ NPC ships in a consistent way, I’d love to hear it?
I think it’s perfectly reasonable as long as you’re comfortable with the outcome… Just remember that the special rules probably count as Talents, and that there’s a Scale limit to the number of Talents.
Effectively, you’re either creating a new variant class or individual Villain-status ships, so definitely ok.
Canonically however, Galors are not actually that threatening. They’re quite tough, but tend to need to gang up on Federation vessels to cause trouble.
This is a key point, actually. The Galor-class dates back to before the Federation-Cardassian War, in the 2350s, and tends to operate in squadrons rather than individually. They’re a bit outdated and lacklustre compared to the top of the line Starfleet vessels of the decades after - during the war, they were facing off against older Excelsiors and Mirandas, and the newest ships they had to deal with were Ambassadors. The Cardassians did make refits and upgrades, of course (and that should be all the justification you need to add a talent or two or tweak the stats of a ship), and they brought in the more potent Keldon-class in 2371, a couple of years before the Dominion War started.
From a designer perspective, NPC ships weren’t given the same number of talents as PC ships because most NPC ships needed to be simpler so the GM could run more than one in combat where necessary. However, that ‘blank space’ also gives GMs room to add extra special abilities if you want a particular ship to stand out as unusual, or have exceptional capabilities, or be a prototype, etc., etc. Discovering that the Romulan Warbird you’re facing is equipped with Quantum Torpedoes built from stolen plans, or that the Ferengi Marauder you’re facing is fitted with a black market Cloaking Device is part of the thrill.
If you want some mechanical structure to go with it, I’d treat it similarly to Escalation on NPCs - equipping a Klingon Warrior with a disruptor rifle or bat’leth costs 1 extra Threat. As the biggest factor with ship potency is scale, I’d say that if you want to reveal that an NPC ship has a particular extra talent, it costs Threat equal to the ship’s Scale.
If the fact that the NPC ship is differently-armed is obvious before the scene, that’s free (as that allows the players the chance to account for it) - the Threat is for the sudden reveal as much as the increased effectiveness.
Thanks @Modiphius-Nathan for the guideline ideas for how to ‘cost’ any potential changes to NPC ships. I like having a framework to use so that I don’t overwhelm the players…at least not unfairly
And it’s a fair point that the Galors are a relatively lacklustre vessel, it just seems funny/unusual that my players are more scared of a Scale 3 Jem’Hadar Attack Ship than a Scale 4 Galor. Admittedly the players are flying around comfortably in a Resistance 8 Akira class and any ship with Piercing 2 weapons suddenly makes them worried.
I’m thinking a simple ‘Dominion War’ refit of Improved Hull Integrity and/or Advanced Shields should be enough to make Galors feel a little more threatening.
Also worth pointing out that pre-Dominion, they were referred to as Cruisers. During the Dominion alliance, they were relegated to Destroyers, and various sources state they operate in squadrons/wings against Federation ships.
My players just had a battle with a Steamrunner, an Akira and a dozen Fighters against 3 Jem’Hadar Attack Ships and 2 Galors. The Steamrunner, and half of the fighters were “in the background” against the Jem’Hadar, and their Akira was against the Galor.
The Galors were having slightly bad luck, but they were not really doing much against the Akira (although they did have a few Breaches, and they accidently glanced against a transport) - even to the point that they were able to fire a volley of Torps to aid the Steamrunner (and fluked destroying one of the Attack Ships - it was a beautiful shot, to be fair). It hammered home, to me, that the Galor really needs to be in a squad of 2-5 to be a serious threat.
Also the default Galor does not have any torpedoes, reducing their one on one capabilities.