Air Combat, in tabletop Role Playing Games?

Kind of a silly, odd question, and I’m probably going to get all the terminology wrong, but I was wondering…are there any kind of established rules or procedures for dealing with Air-to-Air combat in any RPGs? Especially with modern aircraft and weapons?

That’s…it, I think.

The Battletech pencil and paper strategy game had a rulebook called Aerospace which featured rules for air-to-air combat in both space and atmospheric combat. However, I don’t know anyone who actually played Battletech with actual aerospace fighters, because short of calling in airstrikes or something, keeping track of so many stats (altitude, fuel, ammo, armor, critical hits, etc) was a pain in the ass. Also, it was really easy to crash- a bad piloting skill roll on some mundane maneuver could throw the flying piece of 31st century technology into a stall, or hurtling into an asteroid. So it was probably really lfrustrating (or really fun, depending on how you look at it). But the Mech combat of the game was complex enough for my friend and I- even memorizing the stats of the weapons and roll modifiers (which saved time) playing a company battle (12 mechs vs 12 mechs) could easily take over four hours :eek:

Well, it depends on what system of rules you’re using. D&D and Spycraft are both powered by the d20 set of rules and each game has at least some rules on combat while in flight. D&D would deal with dragons and other fantastic creatures while Spycraft deals with helicopters and planes.

Really, since each RPG typically has their own set of rules there just isn’t any single way of dealing with air-to-air combat. What game are you playing?


I enjoyed BT many years ago but Aerospace was a terrible game. All they did was take the BT system and shoehorn it into an airplane game.


The Star Wars d20 RPG has a whole chapter of rules devoted to starfighter combata with X-Wings and TIE Fighters and whatnot. I personally don’t care for the rules which make heavy use of miniatures but they are probably some of the best air combat rules that I’ve seen in my years of RPG-ing.

If your air combat is placed in a particular real time on earth, you should be able to find a minature based war game that fits the bill. Then you just need to create your own system for translating characters too and from that war games rules. I played in an excellent WWI based Cathulhu campaign where the player charaters were mostly RFC (I think Royal Flying Corps was the name at the time) pilots and gunners. When an air battle was necessary, then we switched to the war game, with players appropriate skills (piloting and gunning mostly) were converted into pilot stats for the aircraft. Add to that an especially high chance of surviving a bale out and the game went very smoothely.

I also played through a WWI Call of Cthulu type scenario wherein we incorporated the excellent gaming system used in Ace of Aces. Worked great.

I just wanted to pitch Dogfight…A flight game I played as a kid.

Great game.

No game, really. But I use a flight sim that has network/internet play, but very limited combat simulation (weapons are there, but they’re unguided, do no damage, and they can only be seen on one computer). There’s usually one quasi-military mission or another being staged in this flight sim’s community, but it’s always being hampered by the problems with the sim’s limitations.

I couldn’t help wondering if there might be something in an RPG we might be able to adapt to “simulate” some elements of combat outside the simulator itself. (Say, “if I launch an AIM-54 at such-and-such a speed and altitude, the target is such-and-such distance away and making evasive maneuvers, what are the chances the missile will hit him, and how badly is he damaged or destroyed?” )

Ace of Aces was fun, though it wasn’t really a “system” as much as a portable two-player air combat game (“In my day, we didn’t have Gameboys or Lynxes or N-Gage! We had two little paperback books and we liked it that way!”).

That said, AoA had one gaping flaw in the rules – the two airplanes could fly through each other without any problems… :smiley:

Going WAY back, there’s Blue Max. But more recent and more famous are the two Crimson Skies games. The still in print one is a full minatures game, but the original by FASA is a really good simulation.

Blue Max was the game we used, and we used HO/O (sp?) scale airfix models as the minatures (yes we were geeky in those days :wink: ) as we had a lot of room to play the game in.

Good technically – I dunno – but a heck of a lot of fun was Mustangs by Avalon Hill. WWII era planes. Geared to one on one, or two on two dogfights.


I love D&D, but I hate the air-to-air combat rules. Been playing 3rd edition since its inception, and I still can’t make heads or tails of the rules for it. We tend to play very fast and loose with the rules.

Spycraft has a pretty innovative chase system that works for any sort of chase: on foot, in the air, in cars, speedboats, you name it. My second Spycraft session involved terrorists hijacking the Goodyear blimp, blowing holes in it with grenades, and making their escape with backpack-operated hang-gliders, while we chased them down with jetpacks. It was great!

It’s not a technically-accurate system by any means, but it’s very freeform and very fun. I recommend it.

Twilight: 2000 had some air combat rules, but because the game was mainly about ground units they weren’t exactly simulation-like in their realism, and its main focus was airstrikes. The game took place in a post-WWIII setting after a nuclear war in 1997. The players were soldiers in Europe after most armies and governments had collapsed in the year 2000. It was fairly hard sci-fi with real world settings and weapons… No mutants, no laser guns, no hovercars, not a single luxury! Might be worth looking at.


I’ve always been fond of how the old d6 Star Wars game handled air combat. Very elegant, in my opinion. They basically worked the same way as space combat and ground vehicle combat. Not very miniature friendly, though–it was all fairly abstracted.