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Episode 788: What's Up? Dock!


Landing a spaceship is presumably a terrifying task requiring vast amounts of training. Landing a plane is a thing you need a lot of training for, and can be risky and nerve-wracking. Landing a spacecraft is a thing that only a handful of humans have ever done, and every single one of them was about as intensely trained for the job as anyone can be.

Yet this is usually abstracted away with a single skill roll in a game. Or even assumed to occur safely without any need for a roll at all, in the absence of complicating conditions. Which kind of makes sense from a logical point of view. After all, trained pilots do succeed in landing safely more than 99.99995% of the time*, whereas if you insist on even not rolling a critical failure with a +10 skill bonus in, say, GURPS, that corresponds to 1 accident in every 216 landing attempts. Clearly you can't take that as a realistic simulation of the piloting job.

But! Logic be damned! It's much more fun to have PCs try landing craft in complicated situations where all sorts of etxraneous circumstances come into play. Storms! Enemy fire! Aliens breaking into the cockpit while you have nothing to hold them back with but the plastic cutlery given to economy class passengers to eat their in-flight meals! Make every flight an event! Make every landing an adventure in itself!

Remember, any landing the PCs can walk away from means you didn't throw in enough complications.

* This page quotes accident rates of approximately 1 per 2 million flights, and presumably only a fraction of those are landing accidents.


Luke: I really think we should be going the other way.
Han: Who's flying this ship? You?
Luke: You bet I could!
Han: Chewie! Hit the... uh... forward!
Chewbacca: "Forward" engaged.
Han: Match the rotation! Match the rotation!
Chewbacca: Rotation zero radians per second: matched.
Han: We're coming in too hot!
{The Millennium Falcon enters a hangar on the Peace Moon, watched by two clone troopers}
Clone Trooper 1: Wow. Slowest landing ever.
Clone Trooper 2: But so elegant!
Clone Trooper 1: Would you care to waltz?

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Published: Thursday, 04 October, 2012; 03:11:01 PDT.
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