Category Archives: Space Ships

Space Ships: Revisions, & Modules

Space ShipI recently wrote a a pretty long post on the subject of adding Space Ships to D&D. I’m stoked to transform my post apocalyptic game into a space opera, but designing rules to make it work the way I want has been tricky. I thought I was on a pretty good track, but as I was hammering out the closing paragraphs of that post, it occurred to me that there was a much simpler way to achieve pretty much the same ends.

In this post, I’m going to reexamine that original idea, building off the simplifications I posited before. I’m also going to fill out a list of potential ship modules, so this isn’t entirely a retread of what we did last week. By the end of this post, we should have everything we need to start making and playing with spaceships.

Fundamentals & Combat

Little about how either of these were written in the previous post needs to change at all. Ships have Hit Dice, Hull Points, Maneuverability, Space, and Power as their five core attributes. The only thing that changes here is that you do not add 10 to to your Hull Points. Just roll your pool of hit dice, and add them together.

In combat, attack rolls are made against maneuverability, and on a successful hit, damage is dealt to hull points. Ships do not have negative hull points. So, if a hit would drop a ship below 0, then it merely drops to 0 instead.

Once a ship is at 0, each hit damages one of the ship’s systems. Which system is hit can be determined randomly, or may be chosen by the attacker if they have that ability. When a system is hit, it and its operator both take damage equal to the damage roll. One point of system damage can be restored for each round  a character spends repairing it. So, if the life support is hit for 6, then it will take one person 6 rounds to repair it, or two people can repair it in 3 rounds.

If a module takes 10 or more damage, then it’s too extensive to be fixed simply. Each point of repair will take an hour, and will probably require access to the outside of a ship, either by landing, or by using space suits.

If a module takes 20 or more damage, it is irreparable in the field. It will have to be taken to a ship dock.

Ships still move in abstracted units called AU, but it should be noted that ships can share the same “space,” and that this is the only way to fire most weapons without penalties.

Power Allocation

In order for a system to function, it needs power. 1 power powers 1 system. It’s up to the engine operator to determine how power is allocated throughout the ship at any given time.

If players wish to, they may “overpower” a system, by putting 2 or more points of power into it. By doing this, they can enhance the effectiveness of that system in some appropriate way, which the referee can adjudicate at the table. Some modules have suggestions for how overpower can function, but don’t allow these to impede your player’s creativity.

SpaceshipModules

Modules are what the players use to take actions while on the ship. At any given time, each module can be used by a player to do something. What that is, depends entirely on the shared creativity between the player and the referee. Players could perform fairly typical tasks (like using the cockpit to fly the ship, or using the weapon systems to attack), or they could try to be unconventionally clever (perhaps by opening an airlock to cause the ship to move in an unexpected way, or modulating the shields to protect a smaller ship).

Engine (Variable Space)

Engines have 2 functions. First, they produce power, which is used all over the ship by various systems. A basic engine will produce 1 power for every unit of space it takes up. Most take up 10, but larger or smaller options are common.

Second, they consume power to move the ship through space. When powered, the basic engine allows a ship to move at 1 AU per round. Overpowering the engine may allow it to move faster.

The engine operator controls the allocation of power around the ship, as well as being able to make adjustments to the ship’s thrusters on the fly.

Speedy Engine (Variable Space)

Functions as a normal engine, save that when powered it allows the ship to move at 2 AU. Overpowering the engine may allow it to move faster.

Workhorse Engine (Variable Space)

Functions as a normal engine, save that it produces 2 power per unit of space it takes up.

FTL Drive (1 Space)

Allows a ship to accelerate beyond the speed of light, traversing light years of distance in mere hours. FTL drives only function in open space. Ships within a gravity well will stall if they attempt to jump into hyperspace.

Because space is a vast empty void, a malfunction could easily leave a ship stranded in the literal middle of nowhere, with no chance of rescue. To minimize this, FTL jumps are carefully planned to pass within communications range of as many inhabited planets as possible. This means most trips require careful planning using a Navigation Computer.

Navigation Computer (1 Space)

Allows any crew member to calculate a safe FTL jump. A proper, safe jump requires a full turn (10 minutes) to plot out. Emergency, short-range jumps can be plotted in as little as 1 minute (10 rounds), but have a 1-in-6 chance of encountering a hazard, causing the ship’s hull points to be reduced by half, and dealing 5 damage to every ship system. In extreme emergencies, players can plot a course in a single round. However, such a course is extremely dangerous. Roll a d6. On a 6, the jump completes successfully. On a 2-5, the ship encounters a hazard, as described above. On a 1, the jump fails. The ship loses all power, and both the engine, and the FTL drive take 15 damage.

Cockpit (2 Space)(Does not require any power)

Allows the pilot to control the ship’s movement. The basic functions are simple enough for any crew member to perform. However, a trained pilot may add their skill level to the ship’s maneuverability rating, making the ship more difficult to hit in combat. An individual pilot’s skill cannot be higher than 6.

Large Cockpit (4 Space)(Does not require any power)

Allows for both a pilot and a copilot. They may both add their piloting skill to the ship’s maneuverability. However, they cannot add more than 6 total.

Autopilot (1 Space)

Can perform any of the basic ship’s functions, as if it were an unskilled pilot.

Premium Autopilot (1 Space)

An autopilot which can function with a skill of 1-4. (Autopilots cannot have more than 4 piloting skill). More advanced autopilots are progressively more expensive.

Artificial Gravity (1 Space)

Produces gravity in the ship without requiring any spinning. Can be manipulated to produce more or less gravity, or to orient gravity in whatever direction may be useful for making repairs. Do note that any shifts in gravity may cause damage to unsecured items.

Without artificial gravity, movement through the ship becomes much more difficult, and resting in the ship becomes impossible.

Atmosphere Recycler (1 Space)

Maintains oxygen and heat to human comfort throughout the ship. Without it, the crew would need to wear environment suits to survive.

If the AtmoRecycler loses power, conditions will degrade rapidly. One minute after the system loses power (10 turns), the maximum hit points it will be possible to have within the ship is set at 25, and any action that must be taken by people within the ship takes twice as long. (This means, for example, that it takes 2 rounds to repair 1 point of system damage).

Each minute this condition persists, the maximum hit points of the crew is further reduced by 5 (to 20, then 15, and so on, until after 6 minutes the maximum hit points of the crew hit 0). Also, the number of rounds required for any action is doubled (so that after 2 minutes, it will take 4 turns to repair one point of damage, after 3 minutes it takes 8 turns, etc).

Fire Suppression System (1 Space)

Rooms are equipped with foam sprays which can can be used to safely and quickly put out any fires that ignite there. If powered when the fire begins, the system will automatically come on.

Door Blast Shielding (1 Space)

Without power, this central control can still be used to open, close, and lock any external or internal doors. With power, this module generates a shield around each door, which makes them dramatically more difficult to force open.

Spartan Living Quarters (Variable Space)(Does not require any power)

Can house 3 people for every 1 unit of space. (Bunk beds)

Allows a players to remain on ship for longer than a day without taking penalties for exhaustion. Only functions so long as gravity and atmosphere are maintained.

Proper Living Quarters (Variable Space)(Does not require any power)

Can house 1 person for every unit of space. Includes space and amenities sufficient not only to sleep, but to get some proper exercise, enjoy some entertainment, and eat meals that aren’t freeze dried rations.

Having proper living quarters allows the ship to serve as a Haven for the purposes of rest and recuperation. Proper living quarters do not enable most forms of Haven activity (such as training), but are required in order to have a Haven turn at all.

Magic Laboratory (Variable Space)(Does not require any power)

Functions as any magic laboratory. Shipboard labs require 1 space for every 2,000 total value they have.

Prison (Variable Space)(Does not require any power)

Can house 2 prisoners for every 1 unit of space.

Cryogenics (Variable Space)

Requires 1 space and 1 power for every 2 frozen people. If power to this room is lost, each frozen person has a 1-in-6 chance to die, re-rolled every hour.

Communications Console (2 Space)

Allows communication with anything within the same hex you’re communicating from. (If there is a relay satellite there, you may be able to connect to a communications network)

Long Range Communications (3 Space)

Allows communication with anything in the same hex you’re communicating from, or an adjacent hex. (If there is a relay satellite in rage, you may be able to connect to a communications network)

Shields (5 Space)

Reduces all incoming damage by 1.

If shields are directed in a specific direction (fore, aft, port, starboard, up, down), then their effectiveness is doubled in that direction, but completely removed in other directions.

Weapons (2 Space + 1 for each Weapon)

In order for a ship to have weapons, it must have a weapons control system. The weapons can be fired whether or not anyone is personally manning them. But if someone is manning a weapon, they can use their attack modifier to improve the attack roll. They must divide their modifier between all the weapons they’re controlling (which can be as many or as few as they want)

If someone is manning an individual weapon (rather than operating multiple weapons), they can attempt to target specific systems on the enemy ship, robbing it of capabilities.

Weapon: Blaster Cannon

Deals 1d8 damage.

Takes a penalty of -1 to hit for every AU away from the target you are.

Weapon: Halberd Laser

Deals 2d4 damage, Cannot strike more than 2 AU away.

On an 8, the target vessel is cut open to space.

Weapon: Space Torpedo

Before this can be fired, a target lock is needed. This is done by making an attack roll. If the ‘attack’ hits, then the lock is established and the torpedo can be fired.

Deals 2d8 damage. Ignores shields. Takes a -2 penalty for every AU of distance away the target ship is.

Weapon: Flak Cannon

Designed to overload shields. Takes a -2 to hit for every AU of distance away the target ship is. On a successful hit, target’s shields are down for 1d6 rounds before they can automatically recharge.

Drones (2 space + 1 for each Drone)

Each active drone requires power. Not because it is drawing power from the ship (they have their own internal power source), but because the Drone Control System needs more power in order to direct each active drone.

Drone: (External) Anti-Missile

Has a laser on it. Combines its own targeting data with its mother ship’s to get a perfect lock on incoming missiles and shoot them down before they hit home. Has a 4-in-6 chance of shooting down each missile fired at the ship. Up to 2 per round.

Drone: (External) Probe

Equiped with a full range of sensors. Can be sent out at a speed of 1AU/Round, or may be left sitting somewhere. Probes are very difficult to detect, and will relay their information to the ship up to 1 hex away.

Drone: (External)  Laser

Has an automated blaster cannon on it, which will move at up to 2 AU to keep up with a target ship, firing on it every round from whatever position it is in. Attack is unmodified.

Drone: (Internal) Repair

A robot which can perform repairs as if it were a PC. Will follow directions, or will move to repair whatever is currently the most important damaged system (with life support, shields, engines, and weapons being at the top of that list) and work on it until it is done.

Cloak (5 Space)

Blocks all incoming sensors, AND outgoing sensors. Makes a ship invisible, but blind.

Advanced Cloak (7 Space)

Blocks only incoming sensors. Makes a ship invisible. Taking obvious action (such as firing weapons) will enable others to calculate your ship’s position.

Hacking (2 Space)

Someone with the Tech skill may attempt to use a Hacking station to hack into enemy ships. 1 Power allows the hacker to access ships sharing the same AU as them. Additional power allows hacking to be attempted from further away.

A successful check allows the hacker to break into the enemy ship’s computer. After which, each successful hacking attempt allows them to manipulate a single action from one of the ship’s systems. They can choose to reallocate power, redirect shields, etc. Any failed attempt causes the hacker to be immediately booted from the target computer.

If a hacker is discovered, ships may try to protect themselves in various ways, such as modulating their shields to the hacker’s frequency, or having someone with a tech skill attempt to counter-hack.

Arms (2 Space per Arm)

Tractor beams are expensive. Mechanical arms mounted on the exterior of the ship allow the operator to directly manipulate objects within the ship’s direct vicinity.

Tractor Beam (1 Space Per Beam)

If you can afford them, tractor beams are superior to mechanical arms in nearly every way. As an energy-based manipulator, they have greater flexibility, range of motion, strength, responsiveness, and even take up less room. Just about the only drawbacks are that they must have line of sight (rarely a problem in open space), and that they can be disrupted more easily than physical arms can.

Sensors (2 Space)

Allows the operator to find information about their environment. Can scan up to 1 AU away for every point of power pumped into the system.

Without sensors, players are limited to only the most basic information about their surroundings. Just what their eyes can tell them by looking out the view ports. They may not even be aware of an enemy ship until it’s in the same AU that they are.

Science Station (4 Space)

Allows for analysis of data gathered by sensors. Science stations allow players to simulate the answers to complex questions, such as “if we took some of that unknown element and ate it, what would happen?”

Teleporter (4 Space)

Disassembles the teleported object, transmitting it as energy to another location, where it is reassembled again. Teleporters cannot work through energy interference, such as shields, or ion storms.

Each person being teleported at a given time requires 1 power. If they are transporting outside the same AU that the transporter is in, they will require even more power.

ExoPod (2 Space)

A small, 1 person pod with thrusters to allow it to move independently of its host ship. Power, atmosphere, etc are provided to the ExoPod via a cabel, which can reach up to 1 AU away from the ship. ExoPods can be equipped with one of the ship’s weapons if the players so desire.

Gravity Well Generator (12 Space)

Creates a miniature gravity well, preventing any ship from entering hyperspace within 30 AU. Can also be used to drag ships out of hyperspace, if you know where they’re traveling. Being dragged out of hyperspace unexpectedly works like encountering a hazard, as described in the Navigation Computer module above.

Knowledge Database + Training Area (5 Space)(Does not require any power)

Allows a ship to serve as a Haven for the purposes of training.

Docking Bay (Variable Space)(Does not require any power)

Docking bays may be any size. In order for a ship to successfully dock within it, the docking bay must be 1 space larger than the total space of the docking ship.

Docking bays are often kept open to space, with only a mag-shield keeping heat and atmosphere contained. (Though docking bays do tend to be chilly, as heat does leak out). If need be, they do have sliding doors which can move into place if need be.

Docking bays are useful for storing shuttles and fighter craft.

Escape Pod (3 Space)(Does not require any power)

Each pod can house 2 people. They have minimal life support, thrusters, food for a week, minimal sensors, and a robust communications package.

SpaceshipEnemy Ship Statblock

Complexity in the player’s ship can be good. It gives the players something to tinker with, and allows them a full range of interesting options.

Complexity with NPC ships is bad, because it makes the referee’s job way too hard. Keep it simple: a single line of basic stats, followed by a list of systems that will be relevant in combat (weapons, drones, hacking, etc) If it comes up, the referee can rule at the table about precisely what other systems they have–just like the referee does when the players ask what they find in a random bandit’s pockets.

This should be good enough for most encounters:

Crew 5, Maneuver 7, Movement 2, 3 HD (12hp), Shield 1, Morale 8
2 Blaster Cannon 1d8 (-1 per AU distance)
Space Torpedo 2d8 (Requires Lock, Ignores Shield, -2 per AU distance)

Conclusions

I feel good about this. I think that, through play, this could really grow into a fun, robust system.

Space Ships for D&D

SpaceshipIn session 3 of my ORWA campaign, the players successfully retrieved an ancient artifact. It was a flat green square, with little cylinders and boxes on one side; what you and I would recognize as a circuit board. They decided they weren’t getting paid enough for all the trouble they went through, and wanted to negotiate for more.

Figuring out who was even paying them turned into a little adventure all its own. By the end of session 4, the players had figuratively sold their souls to the devil, and sealed the pact by killing an innocent man. In exchange, they were inducted into “The Internet,” a secret society of techno-wizards, united in their efforts to someday escape from their doomed little habitat on Mars by building a space ship.

Ever since then, a dramatic change in the game’s genre has been looming on the horizon. Because, of course, my players want that space ship for themselves. If and when they do get it, ORWA will stop being about a group of post-apocolyptic primitives trying to make a life for themselves on a dying world. They’ll be able to go anywhere they want, and ORWA will become a wide open space epic.

It’s a change I’m excited for. Much as I love ORWA, the idea of having a campaign so completely shift from one style to another is enticing.

As of this writing, it’s been over 50 sessions since the possibility of the spaceship was first introduced. And that shift in gameplay doesn’t seem so far off anymore. I’d be surprised if we weren’t exploring the galaxy in another 20 or 30 sessions. And, once we get there, I’m going to need some rules for running a D&D game in space.

Unfortunately, none of the space games I’ve read will work for me. The majority seem to have drastically different design goals from classic D&D. The few games which do attempt “D&D in space” range in quality from “not what I’m looking for,” to “fucking awful.” There are useful tidbits here and there, but to get what I want, I’m going to need to stitch things together myself.

This shouldn’t be terribly difficult. Most elements of Science Fiction can be modeled by processes I’m already using. Aliens are just monsters, and planets  are just hexes. The one big sticking point is space travel. Nothing in my D&D experience has really prepared me for dealing with that.

Of course, I’ve played in games where sailing or air ships have featured prominently. But they’ve always been treated either as a means of conveyance (moving the characters between adventure locations), or as a setting (actions take place on the vehicle, rather than with the vehicle). A space ship can (and will) serve in both these capacities, but I don’t want that to be the limit of its function in the game. The space ship should be a collective playing piece.

On land, each player has a character to serve as their piece, and through that piece, they interact with the game’s world. In space, those characters get stuck together in the ship. Wherever the ship goes, they all go, and if the ship explodes, they all die. That’s interesting to me.

That’s also why ships are usually relegated to being either a conveyance, or a setting. If the players only have a single collective playing piece between them, then most of the group doesn’t have any interesting decisions to make moment-to-moment. That needs to be fixed if this is going to work.

Given all that, I believe a higher level of complexity than I usually prefer is justified here. Ships need to explicitly facilitate every person on a space ship being able to make interesting decisions in every situation. It should feel like a true team effort, rather than just having a few decision makers, and a bunch of passengers.

SpaceshipFundamentals

Ships have 5 core numbers, which describe their basic capabilities.

First, there’s the number of hit dice the ship has. Ships of poor quality may have only 1 hit die, with better ships having commensurately more.  A ship’s hit dice can be raised if the ship is overhauled by a skilled mechanic, which takes 1 month.

To determine the cost of increasing a ship’s hit dice, compare it’s current hit dice to the fighter’s experience table. All values are multiplied by 10. So, to get a ship from 1hd to 2hd will cost 20,000 money. To get it from 2hd to 3hd will cost 40,000 money. Values are not cumulative.

For each hit die a ship has, roll a d8, and add the results together, then add 10. This determines the vessel’s ship hull points (shp). In combat, successful hits against the ship cause shp to go down. At a repair dock, players may pay to restore their ship’s hull points

. Each restored hull point costs 250 money.

In order to deal one hull point worth of damage, an attack must deal at least 10 hit points of damage. Most of the weaponry that will be encountered in space probably deals shp damage directly. However, if a ship is attacked using a smaller weapon (like a sword), then divide the damage by 10, drop any remainder, and subtract the result from the ship’s hull points.

Third is Maneuverability. Each ship has a base maneuverability according on its size. Large ships start at 0, mid sized ships start at 3, while tiny ships start at 6. When a ship is attacked, the attacker must make an attack roll to hit, as in normal combat. The maneuverability serves as a ship’s armor rating.

If there is a pilot in the cockpit when an attack is made, the maneuverability of the ship will be modified by the pilot’s skill. Cockpits, of course, are a necessary module in order for the ship to function.

The fourth number is Space. Space is an abstraction of the internal size of a ship. Each module, explained below, will take up some amount of space. Any unused space is considered to be cargo holds, until it is used.

Finally, there’s Power. Power is provided by the ship’s engine, which (along with the cockpit), is one of two modules that are necessary for a ship to function. Without it, a ship’s power is 0.

SpaceshipMovement & Combat

At its core, combat functions the same way it does on the ground. Players operating weapons modules roll a d20 to attack, adding any modifiers they may have, and trying to overcome their target’s defense–in this case, represented by maneuverability.

On a successful hit, they deal damage to their target’s shp according to the type of weapon they are using.

If an attack rolls damage in the upper half of its range (so, for example, 4-6 on a d6), then one of the target ship’s systems is also affected. The referee should prepare a table of all a ship’s systems, and roll on it whenever this occurs. The system that is hit will take a penalty of -1 for every 3 points of damage dealt. These penalties apply to the system’s maximum power.

So, if a system can take up to 5 power, then with a -1 penalty it will only be able to reach power 4. Players may spend an action attempting to repair a damaged system, removing one -1 penalty for each round they spend in repair.

Each round, the ship can move at any speed up to its full movement rate, determined by how much power they’re feeding back into the engine module. Movement in space is measured in abstract units called AU. (Astronomical Unit). There is no specific distance tied to this measurement.

SpaceshipModules

Modules are everything that makes a ship interesting. Without them, it’s just a big, empty, zero-gravity hull, where everybody needs to wear space suits to survive. Like a rowboat without any oars, in the middle of the ocean.

Each module is like a cross between a mini-character class, and a piece of equipment. Which module a character is standing at determines what actions that character can take. But, like equipment, characters can switch between them freely. Also, like any piece of gear, there’s always a better version out there. So instead of rewarding your players with a +1 sword, you may want to give them a +1 life support system.

There are two categories of modules: Passive Systems, and Action Stations.

Every type of module will have Capabilities, which are benefits they add to any ship they are installed on. Most of the time, these will be delineated by power consumption. The more power you pump into a module, the more it can do for you. Though, there are some passive systems which don’t require power at all.

In addition to its capabilities, action stations will have Manned Options. These are only available if there is a character currently attending to that station, and will require them to spend an action.

The lists of manned options are not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, they are meant to give both player and referee an idea of the capabilities of that system. And, like any piece of equipment, systems can be used in creative ways.

The purpose of a sword is to stab enemies. But only a bad referee would refuse to allow a player to use their sword to lift a rug, or pry open box, or conduct electricity, etc. Anything that seems reasonable for a sword to do, we allow the sword to do. The same is true of spaceship systems.

Here are a few illustrative sample modules:

Engines (Action Station)(Variable Space)

The engine of a ship has two functions. First, it produces power which is used all over the ship to power its various systems. Second, it consumes power to move the ship through space. A basic engine will produce 1 power for every unit of space it takes up. Most take up 10 space, but larger or smaller engines are common.

Capabilities

  • 1 Power = 1 AU of movement.
  • 2 Power = 2 AU of movement.
  • 3 Power = 3 AU of movement.
  • 4 Power = 4 AU of movement.
  • 5 Power = Faster than light travel.

Manned Options

  • Allocate Power (1 Combat Round): If no one is attending the engine, it takes a full adventuring turn to change the way power is allocated around the ship. If someone stays at the engine, and tends to it, they can do the same thing in a single combat round.
  • Coordinate Maneuver (1 Combat Round):  By communicating with the pilot, and manipulating the engines to assist in their actions, the engine operator can add 1 to the pilot’s skill for that round. (Even if this would push it above the normal maximum)
  • Flare Engines (1 Combat Round): Intentionally unbalance the fuel mixture, causing a brilliant flash of energy to erupt in space. This will temporarily disrupt the sensors of any ship that is too close, and will confuse any target locks currently on the player’s ship.
  • Overdrive: Enable the ship to move up to double the speed allowed by its current level of power. Each round this persists, there is a 1-in-6 chance the engines will fail, taking a penalty equal to the amount of power they were using at the time of failure. So, if the engines were consuming 4 power, then a failure causes the engines to take a -4 penalty, which will need to be repaired.
  • Overproduce: Enable the ship to produce double the power allowed by the amount of space it currently takes up. Each round this state persists, there is a 1-in-6 chance that the engines will fail. Their output will drop to 1d6 – 1 power. Each successful repair check will restore one point of lost power.

Improvements

As the players adventure, they may discover, or have the opportunity to purchase, better engines.

  • Level 2 Engine: The first four power levels all produce +1 AU of movement.
  • Level 3 Engine: Creates 2 power for each unit of space it takes up, rather than only 1.

Cockpit (Action Station)(2 Space)

Someone must be stationed in the cockpit in order for the ship to move at all. Anyone can handle the basic functions. Getting from points A to B, taking off, landing, docking, these are all things that anyone qualified to work on a space ship at all will know how to do. They are trivial.

However, there is a piloting skill, which characters may train in, or put skill points into. Unlike most other skills, this is not a die roll where the chance of success improves. It is a static number, starting at 1. It can be raised as high as 6.

While a character is piloting a ship, their pilot skill is added to the ship’s maneuverability rating.

Capabilities

  • 1 Power = Basic Function. Allows the ship to be controlled. Without this, the ship can only stand still, or move in a straight line.
  • 2 Power = Enables the autopilot, which is capable of performing any simple flight function. Has an effective pilot skill of 0.
  • 3 Power = Autopilot has a skill of 1.
  • 4 Power = Autopilot has a skill of 2.
  • 5 Power = Autopilot has a skill of 3.
  • 6 Power = Autopilot has a skill of 4.

Manned Options

  • Evasive Maneuvers (Combat Round): Prevents any enemy weapons from gaining a target lock during this turn.
  • Subtle Flying (Combat Round): The pilot may make a stealth check using their own stealth skill, to fly their ship with subtlety. This functions similarly to how stealth normally functions. However, bear in mind that there’s pretty much nowhere to hide in space, so most movements will end in an “Observed Location.”
  • Formation Flying (Combat Round): Position your ship close to another object, while moving.
  • Navigate Obstacles (Combat Round): Move through an environment full of potential hazards without taking damage.

Improvements

  • Cockpit Requiring 4 Space: Has room for a copilot. Both pilot’s skills can be added together. Cannot add more than 8 total to the ship’s maneuverability.
  • Level 2 Cockpit: The autopilot has +1 skill at each level.

Life Support (Action Station)(2 Space)

Standard on most ships.

  • 1 Power = Either artificial gravity, OR, a livable atmosphere.
  • 2 Power = Both artificial gravity AND a livable atmosphere.
  • 3 Power = Enable Blast Shielding on doors.
  • 4 Power = Enable Foam-Based Fire Suppression System

Manned Options

  • Selective Application (1 Combat Round): Can single out rooms to have, or not to have, any particular aspect of Life Support.
  • Remote Door Operation (1 Combat Round): Open or close any door in the ship, including external ones.
  • Reorient Gravity (1 Combat Round): Determine a new direction for gravity to pull in. May be done selectively.
  • Adjust Atmosphere Mix (1 Combat Round): Usually, the atmosphere is a healthy mix of oxygen and nitrogen. This can be manually adjusted to be more or less pure oxygen, or even to include other compounds which the player may have access to.

Improvements

  • Level 2 Life Support: The listed options for each level of power move down one.

Living Quarters (Passive System)(Variable Space)

A comfortable living space, where the crew can rest and relax. For each unit of space devoted to living quarters, a ship can support 2 people.

Having living quarters allows the ship to function as a Haven, for the purposes of rest and recovery. Does not allow for other haven turn actions, such as carousing, or training.

Living quarters do not function unless Life Support can be maintained at 2 power for the full period of rest.

Obviously this is just a few of the possible modules. I’ve got a whole list of ideas, which I plan to share in a later post. Hopefully, though, this has given you an idea of how modules should work. It’s not terribly difficult to write up new ones, making the ship system infinitely extensible.

SpaceshipReflection, & Presentation

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that the complexity of this system already terrifies me a bit. There’s a good idea here, but I worry I maybe took it too far. I’m not sure what I’d want to remove, but it’s difficult to imagine how this system would work at the table. I’m sure, once I have some play experience, I’ll have plenty of ideas on how to simplify.

For now, the ship is going to need its own character sheet. Something prepared by the referee, with all of the ship’s modules listed. and a space to notate each module’s current power and damage. Each player would need a copy of the sheet to help them describe where they go and what they do.

NPC ships, like NPCs themselves, would need a dramatically simplified statblock. Something a referee could throw together in a moment anytime their players are going to be accosted by mooks.

If these ships really are too big to handle at the table, I could see removing the whole concept of power from the equation. That would dramatically simplify things, but it would be sad to lose. Forcing the players to choose between having gravity, and having an extra punch to their lasers is a really interesting dilemma, and a classic aspect of any SciFi adventure.

I could also see dropping the explicit “Manned Options” from the action stations. They exist in their current form because I want to make clear to the players that they can get creative with systems they might not normally think of, such as life support. But the classic danger of this, exemplified by 3rd edition, is that players will think they’re locked in to only the explicit options, which is the very opposite of my intent.

Potentially, you could break the various modules up into component parts. So “Life Support” would go away, and become Atmosphere, Gravity, Door Control, and Fire Suppression. Power, instead of being a gradient of increasing effect, could be a simple on/off. A module either has power, and is functioning, or it doesn’t, and it isn’t.

What we lose there is a clear guide for how to do something like “divert all auxiliary power to the shields!” Though, I suppose that could be handled via adjudication at the table.

…fuck. I think I just came up with a better idea for a ship system while writing the closing paragraphs. I honestly might end up going that way.

 

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