Space Combat

Interaction between space-faring craft is not limited to peaceful sensor sweeps and communications. Combat inevitably results when captains disagree with each other’s objectives: patrol commanders hunting down pirates, customs officials chasing smugglers, fighter squadrons engaging enemy gunships, or explorers and aliens misinformed by translation difficulties.

Combat Duties

Everyone plays a role in starship combat. Captains maneuver for good positions using their piloting skills and their ship’s Maneuverability dice (if any). Sensor operators scan the area for targets and threats. Comm jockeys communicate with other friendly vessels to coordinate strategies and avoid friendly fire. Engineers repair damaged systems. Gunners engage targets with their craft’s weapons.

Players should determine beforehand what stations everyone’s character normally crews during flight and in combat. Although this might stereotype some heroes, it helps everyone quickly dive into combat. For instance, the pilot and co-pilot occupy the relevant stations in the cockpit, while someone else operates the sensor and comm boards (usually in the same area). Gunners take their places at their weapon controls. Technicians stand ready in the engineering spaces to handle damage as it occurs. Not every hero finds their place aboard ship. Some don’t have the necessary skills, others can’t find any open positions. Nonetheless, Game Masters should involve everyone during space combat. A spare hand might hastily try calculating new coordinates to a system to which the ship can retreat if necessary. Someone could assist the engineer fetching parts or holding tools. Does someone need to look after or reassure any passengers, or check up on cargo that might sustain damage? A person at the computer could identify adversaries, find information on worlds to uses for shelter or repairs, or search for nearby astrographical hazards that might offer cover.

Even if a character refuses to become involved, Game Masters shouldn’t let them sit out the fight with nothing to do. Perhaps they’re trapped in a damaged part of the ship and must escape. Maybe the fight disturbs their preferred activity. If even this fails, Game Masters should still check with heroes to see if they wish to undertake any actions, even if they aren’t related to combat.

Running Mass Space Battles

Game Masters have an overall view of any mass battle, from small skirmishes to vast fleet actions. Heroes, how- ever, only view their limited perspective. To bring a huge battle alive, Game Masters must distill larger events to the characters’ level.

Take a large fleet engaging a pirate force. The action involves several capital ships and a few fighter squadrons on each side, plus a few retreating pirate freighters. After the initial long-range salvos, the confrontation degenerates into a confusion melee, with pirate vessels protecting their cargo ships, fighters seeking soft targets, and cruisers slowly closing in through the fray.

Game Masters should break down this overall strategy into individual encounters that can affect the overall out- come. Say the heroes are part of a fighter squadron hunting the pirates. As they fly out to engage the enemy, they must first dodge the opening rain of shots traded by both sides. They peel off to engage pirate snub fighters intent on striking the cruisers, diving into several individual dogfights. After dispatching some fighters, they close with a pirate frigate intent on ramming the lead cruiser; if they fail to stop the frigate, it might seriously impede the other cruisers’ progress. Once they eliminate this threat, they can weave through the pirate lines to disable the cargo vessels.

Game Masters can break down such large battles from the perspectives of fighter squads, capital ship crews, and even boarding parties, making sure everyone has some obstacle or adversary to overcome before proceeding to the next challenge and ultimately victory or failure.

Mechanics of Combat

Hitting a target requires a gunnery roll equal to or greater than a base difficulty number of 10, modified for various conditions, including range and any active full or partial defense maneuvers. Some ships have upgraded targeting computers that give gun- ners bonuses to their roll. Game Masters should determine the difficulty, taking into account all conditions, then players should make the gunnery roll and determine its success.

Each weapon lists its range in space units, shown as short, medium, and long (with short defined as one space unit to the listed number). Most starship-mounted weapons cannot tar- get enemies less than one space unit away. Consult the “Space Combat Range Modifiers” chart to adjust the difficulty number to hit a target based on its distance.

Targeted captains may use their piloting skill as characters would dodge. If they forego all actions in a round, they may make a full defense, adding their piloting roll (plus the ship’s Maneuverability modifier) to the base difficulty of 10. If they engage in other activities while maneuvering the craft out of harm’s way (such as attempting a stunt), they can make a partial defense; their piloting plus Maneuverability roll becomes the new difficulty for attackers to hit them. These conditions are cumulative with any range modifiers.

Starships may also take cover behind nearby objects — asteroids, capital ships, space stations, debris, or the like — assuming their captains can make piloting rolls to reach them. Use the cover modifiers as guidelines.

Damaging Parts of a Ship

Instead of making a general shot at a target, some ships find it more effective to go after a small portion of a larger ship. This adds a called shot modifier of +1D (+3) to the difficulty, but the attacker may now use the scale of the small target instead of that of the whole vessel. Unless otherwise specified in a description of the part (or at the Game Master’s discretion), the target has a Toughness equal to its vessel’s Toughness (including armor and shields). Generally, a damage total of 13 or more destroys the part, though it has no effect on the larger ship (except that it can no longer use that part). Of course, if the target happens to be a weak spot, the larger vessel could be in serious trouble …

Targeting Projectiles

Mines, missiles, torpedoes, and probes have a scale value of 5 for purposes of targeting or defending against them. They resist damage with a Toughness of 3D. Beating the Toughness by one to nine points makes them to go off prematurely, causing their damage (not including scale modifiers) to anything within one space unit of them. Exceeding the damage resistance total by 13 or more obliterates them.

For purposes of determining damage, a projectile’s scale value is not altered by its launching ship’s size.

Space Combat Range Modifiers

Short (1 space unit to first value)0
Medium (first to second value)5
Long (second to third value)10

Note: Most weapons can’t lock on targets closer than one space unit; those that can specify that ability in their descriptions or are designated by the Game Master.

Scale and Space Ships

A larger ship attacking a smaller ship has a modifier to its combat difficulty and to its damage. Note that the damage modifier does not mean that the bigger ship actually did more damage; rather, because the defending ship is small, it has less area over which to spread the effects of the attack, thus making it seem like more damage was done. Shields

Although every vessel uses low level energy shielding to resist micro-meteors, debris, space dust, and the heat of atmospheric re-entry, most rely on weapons-grade shields to repel enemy fire and other serious damage.

Raising shields requires three steps:

1. Determine which sections of the ship to protect.

2. Divide shields dice among areas.

3. Determine the difficulty and roll shields skill.

1. Determine which sections of the ship to protect: Opera- tors must decide over which quarters of the vessel to deploy shields. They may choose any combination of forward, aft, star- board, and port. For instance, a fleeing craft might raise shields aft to deflect fire from pursuing adversaries. A ship charging into battle might activate shields fore, starboard, and port.

2. Divide shields dice among areas: Ships have shield die codes representing their strength. Divide these dice and pips (remembering that each die has three pips in it) among the protected areas. If shields cover only one area, use the full die code when absorbing hits. If a ship with +2D shields raises them over three areas, the operator might divide the strength evenly as +2 or unevenly as +1D+1 forward, +1 starboard, and +1 port. Areas not covered by shields take hits directly to the hull and do not add any shields dice to resist damage.

3. Determine the difficulty and roll shields skill: The difficulty to successfully deploy shields depends on the number of areas covered, as shown in the “Shield Deployment” chart. The more areas to protect, the more the operator must scramble to angle the deflectors, divert energy to the proper generators, and successfully activate the system. Success brings the shields online with die code strengths determined earlier. Failure represents the inability to raise shields adequately, allocate power resources, or channel the deflectors over the proper quarters. Operators may try again next round.

When a quarter protected by shields sustains a hit, add the shield die code allocated to that area when rolling the ship’s damage resistance total (which also includes its hull Toughness, armor, and, possibly, scale modifier).

Shields remain deployed until powered down, overloaded, or damaged. Deflector generators overload when any section protected by shields permits more than three times the current setting die code of damage to get through (not including pips). The shields shut down, and the operator must spend another round reactivating them. Damage that penetrates the hull may also disable the shields temporarily or permanently. The greater the damage, the more likely this is to happen.

Shield Deployment

Number of AreasDifficulty

Tractor Beams

Vessels equipped with tractor beams may use them to capture other ships. These energy fields inhibit movement and often draw one craft closer to the other.

Locking a tractor beam onto a target requires a successful gunnery roll. Compare the beam’s “damage” against the target’s hull Toughness (taking into account scale modifiers if using optional combat rules on page 83 of the D6 Space rulebook). If the total is equal to or higher than the defender’s total, the tractor beam gains a hold. If lower, the target manages to break free or evade the beam at the last minute.

Operators can slowly reel in passive targets for boarding actions effected through landing bays or docking gantries. Few targets prove so cooperatives. Ships can break free if they roll their hull Toughness higher than the tractor beam’s damage. If the beam’s damage is greater than or equal to the hull Toughness roll, the target ship slows, drawing closer to its captor. Consult the “Tractor Beam” chart to see how the results limit the target’s maximum movement rate.

Example: A vessel resisting a tractor beam at all-out speed fails its hull Toughness roll against the beam’s damage by 12 points. Next round it can only resist at cruising speed (two levels less than all-out speed).

Resisting a tractor beam’s pull sometimes damages the captured craft’s drive. Ships that fail their roll against the beam’s damage by 16 or more points lose all thrust and sustain severe damage (see the “Starship Damage” section for details on effects and repairs).

Tractor Beam Effect

Tractor Beam Roll Minus Hull RollTarget’s Max Move
4–81 level less
9–122 levels less
13–153 levels less
16 or moreDrives blown

Tracking Energy Units

A ship’s power plant output powers all onboard systems. This usually suffices for standard operations, even in combat. But when varying speeds especially, demand might overwhelm the energy unit supply, leaving some essential systems without power. In cases where enough energy units aren’t available, currently powered systems take precedence over systems just coming online. If increasing speed, raising shields, or discharging a weapon take too much power, the action simply fails. A vessel’s computer automatically diverts power from damaged systems so energy units don’t bleed off into useless machinery.

Players may wish to keep simple notes to track how much power their craft uses in various situations. They should jot down how many energy units their vessel uses under normal operation, cautious operation (power for shields and all weapons), and at various speeds. All-out speed consumes 4 times as many energy units as at cruising speed. Under some circumstances, captains might have to decide between powering the drives, raising shields, and discharging weapons.

Boosting Power Output

Red-lining a ship’s power plant to generate more energy is never a good idea, but some pilots need the extra boost to survive desperate situations. A technician working in the engineering spaces must undertake this complicated procedure; captains of single-pilot craft or ships without ready access to power sources cannot try boosting the power output.

Technicians must make a flight systems repair roll to tap into emergency battery relays, reconfigure power flow parameters, ignite burst capacitors, and overload the power plant, increasing the number of energy units available for three rounds. The difficulty starts at 5 for a 10% increase and goes up by +5 for each additional 10%, up to a maximum of 50%. Round the energy unit increase down.

After three rounds, the power plant overloads and sustains Heavy damage; power plant output drops to half until repaired, and the craft loses 1D from Maneuverability or, if at 0D in Maneuverability, top Move speed is decreased by one level. The Game Master may allow exceptional rolls to further increase the power, allow the power plant to sustain that output for longer than three rounds, or lower the effects of the damage.

Shutting down the power plant before the beginning of the third round reduces the plant damage to Light. Furthermore, the power plant may not be boosted until after it’s been repaired. Should the technician fail her roll, the plant generates no additional energy units, and it sustains severe damage: output drops to half until repaired, and the ship goes out of control, decelerating by two levels each round until it comes to a stop or crashes into something.

Using the Extra Power

The extra energy units generally are spent in one of two ways: to increase speed or to improve shields. Increasing speed is fairly obvious: To go faster at sublight speeds, the in-system drive requires more power. Some or all of the energy boost can “pay” for the cost of an increased Move rate.

Improving shields requires more finessing. The engineer can provide a +1 bonus to the shield’s total (not to the die code) for every two energy units she devotes to that task. This bonus is per area; if the shields operator wants to improve multiple areas, each bonus draws energy separately. If one or more shield areas are increased beyond a value equal to 5 times the number in front of the “D” for the total shield die code, the system takes damage. The level starts at Very Light and increases by one level for each additional area that was boosted beyond the max.

Example: A ship has 1D in shields. The operator wants to increase one area by +2; this draws an additional four energy units from the power plant. If she wants to give this bonus to three areas, the per-area bonus is still +2 but the energy draw jumps to 12.

Some Game Masters may also allow characters to boost the damage of their energy weapons. or the skill bonus provided by a system. This requires 3 times the normal energy for a +1D increase (see the relevant chart in the “Revised Ship Design” chapter). It also does one level of damage to the equipment for each 2D increase in effect, unless (time-consuming) precautions are taken.

Starship Damage

Gunnery rolls equal to or greater than the difficulty to hit a target inflict damage. The attacker rolls the weapon’s damage die code, while the defender rolls his vessel’s hull Toughness, plus any bonuses from armor raised shields in the hit quarter. If using optional combat rules, factor in modifiers for scale. If the damage total does not exceed the hull Toughness roll, the weapon only buffeted the ship, singed the hull, or failed to penetrated deployed shields.

If damage exceeds hull Toughness, compare the difference between the two and consult the “Ship and Passenger Damage” chart. The higher the damage total, the more harm the craft sustains. Crew and passengers also may take damage as shown on the chart.

Levels of Damage

Very Light damage causes the ship to lose 1D from Maneuverability for the current round and the next. Redundant systems automatically reroute power, while others reactivate after going down for a moment.

Light damage reduces the vessel’s Maneuverability by 1D or decreases the top Move speed by one level. This damage remains until repaired. Minor systems blow out, straining the power plant.

Heavy damage lowers the craft’s Maneuverability by 2D or drops the top Move speed by two levels. If using advanced damage allocation, various essential systems sustain damage and go offline until repaired.

Severe damage completely disables the drives, sending the ship is out of control, decelerating it by two levels each round until it comes to a stop or collides with something. With the optional damage allocation, this damage destroys various onboard systems.

Destroyed craft never operate again — everyone onboard perishes unless they somehow managed to get in and jettison escape pods at the last moment.

Ship and Passenger Damage

Damage Total Minus Resistance TotalVehicle DamagePassengers Suffer…
1–3Very LightNo damage
4–8Light1/4 Damage Total
9–12Heavy1/2 Damage Total
13–15Severe3/4 Damage Total
16DestroyedAll Damage Total

Note: All modifiers are cumulative. A vessel may take an unlimited number of Very Light and Light levels of damage. At Heavy or above, any additional level of damage above Very Light bumps the damage to the next level.

Ship Damage Modifiers Due to Speed

Level at which the damaged vehicle is travelingDamage

Ship Damage Modifiers Due to Collision

Rear-end, sideswipe-3D
Nose to side0
Into something very hard0
Into something yielding-1D or more

Note: Modifiers are cumulative. Situation is the one in which the damaged vehicle is.

Optional Damage Allocation

Game Masters may decide to vary the results for vessels sustaining Heavy and Severe damage instead of or in addition to reducing a ship’s Maneuverability dice or top Move speed. Heavy or Severe hits may take entire onboard systems offline. Roll on the “Damaged Systems” table to see which components go offline. Ignore or reroll results for already inoperative systems.

Systems hit by Heavy damage remain inoperative for 1D rounds, or until someone makes a Moderate flight systems repair roll. In the case of communications, sensors, and the navigation computer, a Moderate roll in the appropriate operations skill reboots the system and brings it back online. Systems sustaining Severe damage remain offline until repaired or replaced.

Game Masters may also wish for starship damage to affect the heroes and their movement within their craft. Each time the vessel sustains Heavy or Severe damage, roll on the “Onboard Damage Events” chart. Although these conditions don’t immediately affect the ship’s flight and tactical operations, they provide additional challenges for the crew, as well as events to involve those not immediately participating in combat activities.

Gravity Offline: The vessel’s artificial gravity generators go down, leaving the entire ship in a state of zero-gravity. Although crew strapped into their seats have no problem discharging their duties, anyone moving about the craft (using handholds, hatch entries, and other static features) must do so on an Easy flying/0-G roll.

Debris Blockage: A hit dislodges debris from a storage locker, cargo web, or blown corridor panel. Heroes seeking to pass the blockage and move to another section of the ship must first clear it with a Moderate lift roll or, if gravity went offline, a Difficult flying/0-G roll.

Onboard Fire: A power surge sparks a fire that bursts from a control panel near one of the crew. Game Masters should choose the fire’s location, or roll on the “Damaged Systems” chart to randomly determine the operator’s station from which it explodes. Those coming in contact with the fire take 2D damage. By law, most ships carry flame extinguishers or fire-suppression networks, though these may be lacking due to lax enforcement or limited resupply funds. If heroes don’t act to extinguish the fire, it might spread to damage other onboard systems.

Lights Burn Out: An energy spike from damage or the drives blows out all the lights, plunging the ship into darkness. Only the indicator diodes, button illuminators, and display screens on control panels provide minimum lighting. Those characters not engaged in activities at active command stations undertake all actions with a +3D (+9) difficulty modifier.

Head Explodes: A blown pipe, smashed strut, or other violent internal damage causes the waste removal system in the lavatory to explode. Anyone in the head at the time has a good chance of catching some disease or infection if they don’t wash down immediately — a difficult proposition if the craft has only one head and no functioning waste removal system. Otherwise, the blown head simply stinks up the ship and complicates personal hygiene until repaired.

Life Support Down: The air scrubbers, oxygen supply, and ventilation system take a hit, disabling life support in part or all of the vessel. If not repaired or circumvented in five minutes (or if the ship doesn’t land at a pressurized facility), the crew begins to suffocate at a rate of one Body Point per round or one Wound level every six rounds. (Armor cannot protect against this; the Game Master may limit what other Special Abilities can resist this injury.)

Damaged Systems

1D RollDamaged System
5Navigation computer
6Interstellar drive

Onboard Damage Events

1D RollEvent
1Gravity offline
2Debris blockage
3Onboard fire
4Lights burn out
5Head (lavatory) explodes
6Life support down


Adversaries sometimes seek to disable or destroy vessels by sabotage. Corporations plot to delay their competition. Pirates hope to disable freighters with valuable cargoes in favorable ambush zones. Military forces incapacitate enemy shipping while avoiding direct confrontation in battle.

Sabotage involves infiltrating a ship and rigging its components to malfunction or explode. Two approaches accomplish this effect: setting explosives or jury-rigging the craft’s existing systems (such as the drives, power plant, or weapons).

Explosives: Using the demolitions skill, characters can set explosives to detonate at a given time, under predetermined conditions, or when a particular ship’s system activates, depend- ing on the type of trigger device used. This requires a Moderate demolitions roll, with a +5 modifier to the difficulty for each +1D of additional damage desired. Other modifiers from “Example Skill Difficulties” for demolitions may also apply. In most cases, an explosive deals damage to a specific ship’s system near the blast. Assume that most components possess from 3D to 4D Toughness for purposes of determining damage effects. Game Masters might wish to use the optional scale modifiers if the explosion affects the entire craft. Planting charges near a particular system requires the saboteur to successfully infiltrate the ship. Setting explosives on exterior components seems easier, but has less-predictable results; in these cases, treat blast damage as if it were dealt against the vessel’s hull Toughness and not a specific system.

Jury-Rigged Sabotage: More subtle methods of sabotage require more artistry than simply blowing up parts of a ship. Skilled technicians can rig starship systems to malfunction — sometimes violently — using materials available onboard: spare parts, tools, and existing components. This requires a base Moderate flight systems repair roll, even though the actual work resembles more destructive modifications than repairs. Game Masters can adjust this roll based on the saboteur’s familiarity with the craft, available parts, desired effect (from simple system deactivation to full-out explosion), and the degree to which such tampering remains hidden from the crew. This approach almost always requires internal access to the target vessel, putting the saboteur in danger of discovery. The ultimate results depend on the saboteur’s purpose. In some cases, specific systems simply malfunction at particularly inopportune moments for the crew: the shields go down in the midst of a battle, the interstellar drive malfunctions before a jump, weapons lock up. Saboteurs may also try to permanently disable or destroy these systems without compromising the rest of the ship. Other times jury-rigged modifications cause massive explosions within the hull, usually the result of causing power feeds, emergency batteries, and burst capacitors to overload near other sensitive components. In this case, increase the flight systems repair difficulty by +5 for every +1D extra damage, assuming an exploding component causes 2D to 3D base damage.

Detecting Sabotage: Crew members performing checks for tampering must successfully search the correct area sabotaged. They must make an opposed roll using Perception (with a +5 difficulty modifier), flight systems repair, or search against the saboteur’s demolitions or flight systems repair total. Attempts to further conceal sabotage may increase the difficulty to spot it. Alert heroes might also spot saboteurs in the act, especially if they must enter the craft to effect their destructive modifications.


Under certain circumstances characters may wish to set their ship to self destruct.

Most military and espionage craft possess integrated scuttling protocols, often controlled directly from the bridge or cockpit and needing little more than a key or code to initiate. Deactivating such self-destruct measures without the proper authorization requires a Very Difficult computer interface/repair roll if making the attempt at the primary controls, or a Very Difficult flight systems repair roll if trying to disengage scuttling hardware at the main drives. Don’t forget to add any modifiers for rushed actions or other stressful conditions.

Vessels without integrated self-destruct mechanisms require a bit more work to scuttle. Captains often find some way to set the drives to overload; in most cases, the trick is to set them to explode after everyone escapes the ship. The technical aspects of blowing the power plants (or some other explosive part of the craft) requires a Very Difficult flight systems repair roll. Timing the destruction sequence according to one’s own preferences requires a Difficult computer interface/repair roll. Failing either can result in premature detonation, no overload at all, or some disabling but not fully lethal effect.

D6 Space Ships (WEG 51017), © 2005 Purgatory Publishing Inc.
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