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Vehicles / Vehicle Encounters

Vehicles In Tactical Combat

Source Tech Revolution pg. 88
Whether your PCs are facing off against space goblins driving junk dune buggies on Akiton or cybernetic ninjas riding enercycles on the streets of Verces, adding vehicles to a tactical encounter gives another dimension to the action. Vehicles provide secondary targets for the PCs to attack or defend against, such as goblins’ scrapheap ATVs the PCs have to wreck before they can crash into the PCs’ own vehicles and explode. Even more crucially, vehicles represent a big change to speed and action economy, with one creature piloting a vehicle while all of the passengers benefit from the free movement around the battlefield. Vehicles might even be a crucial tool in accessing an environment, such as a hovercar that enables the PCs to chase enemies escaping over the waves.

Choosing the Right Vehicle

Source Tech Revolution pg. 88
The vehicles you choose strongly determine an encounter’s feel. An skirmish with goblins in dune buggies is very different than those same goblins driving through the desert on a huge, heavily armored transport scavenging scrap metal.
Is the tactical combat likely to evolve into a chase, or is it the conclusion of a chase? If either is true, choose vehicles with capabilities similar to your PCs’ vehicles. Evenly matched vehicles keep the tension high, as both parties stand a fair chance of victory. Using a vehicle with a slightly different movement form (wheeled travel compared to hover-based movement, for example) can help you create specific zones to give your PCs the advantage or disadvantage, depending on your needs.
How much cover does the vehicle provide? When a vehicle provides improved cover or total cover, its passengers usually become so difficult to harm that the vehicle itself becomes the only viable target. However, if your NPCs are of lower CR, the massive cover benefits might increase their defenses to competitive levels that keep them in the fight for a few additional rounds. Compare this to a vehicle that provides cover, partial cover, or no cover, which leaves the passengers exposed and invites gunfire between rival crews.
If you don’t see the perfect vehicle in an official resource, try using the vehicle creation rules in this book (page 76) to make your own vehicle for the encounter.

Power Level

Source Tech Revolution pg. 88
Technically, a vehicle doesn’t have a Challenge Rating, and it’s not part of an NPC’s typical gear allowance. So how does one account for a vehicle when building and balancing an encounter? There’s no magical formula, but there are important qualitative considerations. A vehicle might simply grant a creature more mobility without significantly increasing their power, such as how ysoki on motorcycles don’t have greater firepower or defenses, in which case no adjustment is needed. A vehicle that provides substantial cover, passenger space, or mobility options might significantly change the encounter, though, allowing gunners to fire freely from untouchable heights or behind durable barriers. A vehicle might even have potent integrated weapons that could exceed the passengers’ usual gear allotments. In these cases, consider increasing the CR by 1, much as recommended on page 389 of the Core Rulebook.
Don’t overlook the impact vehicles can have on the PCs’ resources. A powerful vehicle might make a fun challenge, but it could also represent a huge boost to wealth if captured. In some cases, stealing such a tank is the encounter’s goal, yet it could easily upset the balance of subsequent encounters. Lower-level vehicles, on the other hand, are unlikely to upset wealth and encounter balance, even if sold.