Aerial Combat (and also Dunkirk)

So me and the grill-fiend went and saw Dunkirk the day before yesterday. I can’t say it didn’t deserve its good reviews, because it probably did. And the aeroplane combat scenes were just great. In fact, so great, they made me want to write a system for flying planes in your RPG system. Or mostly air combat. With fighter planes.

First off: for flying skill checks and so on, roll tests in whatever way you normally do…

The planes have some stats: size, weaponry, and… that’s it. As this is WWII era, it stays quite simple. I’m not even sure if different levels of armoring needs to be factored into the equation, so I’m not going to bother with that.

I’m going to say that all planes have enough fuel for 15 one-minute air-combat rounds, with the larger ones having bigger tanks but also bigger needs.


The lightest plane, made for inter-aircraft combat.

Size: 2
Arms: Machine Gun (5d6) or Cannon (3d4)


Medium plane, made for target bombing and supporting land troops.

Size: 3
Arms: Cannon (3d6), and bombs (one use) or Turret Gun (4d6)


The heaviest plane, made for mass bombings of areas.

Size: 4
Arms: Cannon (3d8), and bombs (two uses)


Attack Dice and Size

When an attack is made, roll the noted dice. Any die that comes up equal to or lower than the target’s Size scores one hit on them.

For each hit, roll on the Hull Damage table.


  • Evade. Try to get someone off your tail. Roll opposed flying checks against them. If you win, you get out of their sights, if you were there, or you get them off your tail if you weren’t. This is also the defense against getting shot at.
  • Maneuver. Try to get on someone’s tail, or moving in on an objective. Can also be used to try and lure an enemy on your tail into the sights of an ally.
  • Shoot. Gun away. Roll the noted dice if you have your target in your sights. If you’re just on their tail, replace all dice with d12’s.

Position and Speed

Generally, assume the planes are either flying in generally one direction, or circling some kind of objective. Relative positions are used. You can move to engage a plane in one round (unless particularly distant). Engagement either takes the form of a dogfight or you following them [maneuver]. Generally, opposed Pilot checks are made whenever you try to get into position of someone (with the exception of challenging someone to a dogfight).


You can choose to fly straight at someone. They must either accept (and then you both trade attacks) or turn away (in which case you can get on their tail).

Hull Damage

Roll Effect
1-4 Minor damage: add a stacking +1 to following rolls here.
5-6 Engine damage: stacking 10% chance of only gliding each round.
7-8 Fuel leak: lose an additional round of fuel per round.
9-10 Pilot damage: deal lots of damage to the pilot (native system).
11-12 Wing damage: stacking 10% chance of going down per round.
13+ Explosion: the plane crashes in a ball of fire.


…and on the movie. It was good. There was a lot of building atmosphere without very little dialogue and battle scenes. Actually, the only proper fight scenes were the aerial combat. The mood that is built up feels fitting for the disaster that proceeded the time where it takes place. I might not have given it the 94 rating from metacritic myself, but it’s definitely a great movie.


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