I have been playing a lot of Wings of War (rebranded Wings of Glory) and Ace Patrol recently.

I'm looking for a roleplaying game that captures the feel and the complexity, but also the speed and split second reactions of dogfighting in the skies.

I don't have any specific requirements for the roleplaying game aspect. The game should feature full blown characters, with social interactions and a life of their own. For example I think that Death Watch did a pretty good job of having a military organisation and mission-based feel in a roleplaying game. But it was pretty restricted on the actual roleplaying side due to the setting, I would not mind more social interaction (and rules governing that part) between characters and NPCs. Other than that, I don't care. Class-based or not, level-based or not, stats or attributes, skill or feats, whatever it's called, that's fine.

Prefered settings are WWI or WWII. Alternate history is fine, steam punk or maybe something like Warhammer 40K Imperial Guards is okay, too. Star Wars RPGs in my experience has dogfighting as something that might happen narratively and for only a few characters while the others watch. I would like a game where all players participate in those dogfights as a main part of the game. Comparable to D&D just with planes instead of all other encounters.

The game does not have to be rules light (I don't think that would fit in with the mechanics of dogfighting very well). It should feature a kind of map or board or system for having miniatures or counters for visualisation. This is not a hard requirement, I just cannot see how else it would work. If you found something that works well without visualization, feel free to mention it.

The planes should have a somewhat realistic damage model not just an amount of hitpoints.

Even if it's not WWI or II, it should not feature any kind of prominent magic. I don't mind the existance of magic or psykers or a "force", but if it exists it should be a background story thing, not something the players come into contact with regularly. It should be air planes, mechanical devices, not magic carpets or huge birds or whatever fantasy someone can come up with.

We are 3 players and a GM right now, so the game should work in that setup.

I have noticed War Birds and would not rule it out. If anyone has experience, I'd like to hear it. But it does not seem to be the perfect fit, so I am here looking for more.


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Flying Mice Games published games specifically for WWI aviation (Aces in Spades) and WWII aviation (Aces and Angels) as part of their "In Harm's Way" line. They use the same general system to power a wide range of naval and space games. They're all designed by Clash Bowley. Here's some reviews of Spades and Angels respectively. They have a full and very complex dogfight system with status sheets and optional counters/miniatures.

Interesting side note, back in the beginning when TSR hadn't gotten stuck in the D&D Ghetto and was publishing RPGs in every genre, they published Dawn Patrol, a WWI aviation RPG.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Dawn Patrol apparently has RPG-like elements but is missing significant portions that would make it functional as a stand-alone RPG. That makes it one of those things that calls itself a "roleplaying game" that's not an RPG in the modern sense, only the sense that you control a single character ('role'). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 29 '15 at 2:16

Honestly, you might want to look up a good chase mechanic frame work (Shard of the Exalted Dream had one I could recommend, as did the Unknown Armies core book) and use that with difficulties for the RP you want for the core roleplaying. The differences between a chase and a dog fight, if you still want some level of abstraction about such things as a vehicle's exact position or speed, is immaterial. Then you get to worry about picking the right RP for the mechanical appeal for the game you want.

If you wanted to do it in the Exalted core system, it would be easy to create a Heroic Mortal scale game, ignore the essence requirements and magical under pinning of the fluff and have the PCs screaming across the skies in three fighter planes with the stats of a jet fighter, as shown in Shard of the Exalted Dream, perhaps with slight tweaks here and there among the enemies fighters to show different makes and models.

You then have a system that can not only handle coordinated attacks on the enemy wing to get them off you're flight leader, but dealing with the bureaucratic mess of the complaints the general's wife made about you having a bomb shell babe painted on the side of your plane, or you operating a small still hidden somewhere on the base because the Mormon captain won't allow any alcohol under his command.

I have used a modified version of the Exalted Heroic Mortal system to play in an Earth-alt history setting before, and it handles well. You might need to make a few house rules, especially if you're dealing weapons from outside of the iron age, modern, or sci-fi categories, as it's a little light on 1900s era fire arms, but if it could handle muskets, it can handle your fire arms and planes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds interesting. Are the chase rules available somewhere so I can have a look before buying the whole book? After all, I would discard most of the book's content, so I'd like to be sure that the part I'd use is dead on target. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Apr 1 '15 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry but not that I would know of that doesn't violate copyright laws. The book does contain the chase rules, how to apply them to dog fights, and stats for modern fighter planes and space fighters though. \$\endgroup\$ – The Amused Muse Apr 1 '15 at 15:40

There exists a Finnish indie game (in the sense of independent; the system is traditional), currently in development, called Vector. The designer is Antti Eronen.

Vector has standard, though very rules-light, system for characters taking actions when not in vehicles. What makes it different is that there are rules for constructing vehicles and for fighting with them. The rules were originally designed for post-apocalyptic car combat, but I've also played in a game where they were used for space battle in the setting of Battlestar Galactica. They adapt to anything with fast vehicles that shoot each other.

For the vehicle construction one first selects a chassis and then adds armour and weapons, with a possibility for other enhancements.

In vehicle combat the game uses an abstract map composed of eight sections (the compass directions) and figures with speed. Speed determines initiative, so that the slowest actor declares actions first and everything is resolved simultaneously. Position and speed determine which vehicles can fire at which vehicles and how easy it is to hit. Position and direction also determine where the vehicles can move.

To use this for dogfighting planes one might want to consider interpreting the speed as a combination of speed and altitude, which (to me) seems reasonable, and maybe consider a minimum speed for the planes.

If there is interest I can point the designer to this url or forward an email to him.


There's Kriegszeppelin Valkyrie, a Fate Core setting in the Fate Worlds: Worlds on Fire expansion by Evil Hat.

It's a game where you portray the life of the pilots in the namesake airship/aircraft carrier, in a WWI aftermath quasi-fantastic alternate history. It focuses on the missions that Kriegszeppelin Valkyrie and her crew & complement of pilots must carry out, as well as the competitive social life of the hotshot aces aboard the gigantic airship.

Fate Core being a system made for hacking, I think you will find it easy to tweak the setting and the rules to play in any similar setting if this doesn't turn out to be exactly what you want. I'd say it is at least worth reading for some inspiration.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Could you discuss your personal experiences in this? what's a dogfight like? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Mar 28 '15 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I could find very little on it, the description only talks of a setting that's fitting but I could not find out if there's actually dogfights or just people running around on the zeppelin. If you played it, I'd like to hear your experiences! \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Apr 1 '15 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, not directly, but I appropriated some of its features (including dogfights) for another Fate game. I think it counts for what you are asking for. Little time to write now but I will update my answer later. \$\endgroup\$ – edgerunner Apr 2 '15 at 8:28

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