Though standard combat armor is meant to protect its wearer from harm, by either slowing or deflecting attacks, there is always a trade-off between protection, mobility, and stealth. In game terms, it’s similar to the difference between plate mail, chain mail, and leather.
- Plate is great for stopping attacks, but you are usually slow and clunky while wearing it.
- Leather is supple and quiet, but only provides a fraction of the protection.
- Chain mail moves with you, but is heavy and can make a good amount of noise.
And now you’re wondering – well, that’s great but what does that have to do with Aliens & Asteroids?
Let’s look at the basic kinds of armor available:
- Environment Suit (AR1/AP5)
- Exoskeleton (AR2/AP30)
- Standard Combat Armor (AR4/AP20)
- Mechanized Armor (AR5/AP40)
If we take the Standard Combat Armor as the default, we have already talked a little about how it could be “beefed up” with additional plating (see “Seven Things About Armor in Aliens & Asteroids“). At my table, I might say that adding additional plating may also increase the difficulty of some common actions. Perhaps running is slowed down slightly (each additional point of AR cuts your speed in half without mechanical aid). And operations requiring finesse (such as fine tools work) is more difficult while wearing bulky armored gloves. But that will be up to the Referee to determine at your table.
One of our players has been itching to do more stealth-style operations, so I’ve been pondering how to enable that without going overboard and I think I’ve hit upon an easy mechanic. All of this is very preliminary, but I think the approach has some merit.
Stealth technology comes down to dampening or eliminating a particular element. These elements may include:
- Visual cues such as heat (IR), ultraviolet (UV), and the standard visual spectrum (VS).
- Motion cues through the detection of disturbances through sound, infrared, microwave, or radio waves.
- Sound cues through ultra-sensitive microphones.
Then there are the concepts of dampening, scattering, or absorbing these various types of information to blend into the background. It’s better to be missed than paint yourself with a large target if you’re an individual without the benefit of a quick getaway. The possibilities are endless.
So it becomes a question of what exactly the stealth technology is meant to overcome. No single tech is going to be able to avoid everything equally, even in the future.
However, when it comes down to the implementation it becomes a question of materials and weight, not to mention cost.
Space suits are designed to protect the wearer against not only physical threats such as micrometeors, but an amazing array of radiation emitted by the sun and other galactic sources. It doesn’t help if your suit is perforated by a cloud of dust traveling at speed and it doesn’t help if you’re cooked by an unexpected band of x-rays. Though there are new materials in the future used to keep your biological self alive in the harsh environment of space, you’re never prepared for everything.
Let’s look at a particular scenario. Let’s say you have a group of space marines attacking an enemy base on a moon. They have decided to attack when the base is shrouded in darkness and they have to move across 100m of darkened lunar terrain. That means they want to keep their own silhouettes dark against the dark landscape to minimize someone spotting them out of hand. UV is less of an issue, since there will be no sunlight during their attack window. But IR is definitely an issue. A normal suit would show up brightly on an IR scan.
To minimize this, their technician concocts a plan to redirect and cool all body heat emitted by the suit. Perhaps it uses liquid cooling. Maybe it is materials-based and simply traps the heat inside long enough for the party to achieve their destination. Either way, it adds to the bulk of each suit unless they cut away something else. If they add it on, they become very slow, cutting their speed in half. If they adjust their suit, they can reduce their AR and AP by one factor (AR1/AP5) and gain their IR stealth tech without decreasing their speed.
But there is always a cost. Here are a few adjusted suits to ponder:
- Standard Visual Camouflage over Standard Combat Armor (AR4/AP20) (no adjustment)
- IR Dampened Stealth Armor (AR3/AP15) (wearer doesn’t show up on IR scans)
- UV Dampened Stealth Armor (AR3/AP15) (wearer doesn’t show up on UV scans)
- IR/UV Dampened Stealth Armor (AR2/AP10) (wearer doesn’t show up on IR or UV scans)
Without going into the tech, which we don’t know and can only expound on in a science fiction kind of way, this seems the best way to keep things manageable in-game.