Starship Operations

Drive Systems

Space-faring vessels rely on at least an in-system drive for short-distance propulsion and for power to operate the ship’s functions. In some settings, they also have an interstellar drive that enables the craft to “jump” to points across the galaxy.

Power Plant

The power plant provides energy to the drives as well as onboard components like computers, weapons, life-support equipment, and shields. In game terms, the plant provides a set number of energy units used to power other systems (each with their own energy unit cost). Should a power plant sustain damage, it may reduce the energy unit output available for operations (though battery systems and burst capacitors allow limited function for most systems).

In-System Drives

Most vessels use conventional drives to fly between the various features of a star system: worlds, moons, orbital facilities, jump points, spacedocks, and asteroid fields. The drive not only consists of the main engines but other hardware (jets, retros, thrusters, or anti-grav pads) that enables greater maneuverability in both space and atmospheric flight. Such propulsion systems also allow smaller craft to enter planetary atmospheres and land on the surface, though some capital ships may also have strong enough drives and reentry shields to enable atmospheric flight.

Few vessels use conventional drives to travel between even neighboring systems. Such ships take vast amounts of time, sometimes upwards of a century to reach their destination. Characters sometimes see such drive configurations aboard automated freighters ferrying bulk cargo with no arrival deadline. Lower-technology civilizations often equip colony ships with such drives as their only method of reaching nearby systems; settlers survive the journey in suspended animation or are part of a generation ship (and their descendants arrive at the planet).

Interstellar Drives

The machinery enabling interstellar flight sits near the conventional drives. Each space setting might rely on a different faster-than-light travel technology, or several might exist within the same universe.

Interstellar drives propel the ship from one system to another at speeds beyond that of light. Some open a controlled wormhole in the space-time fabric, forming a tunnel between the point of origin and the destination. Others open a rift into a parallel dimension (sometimes called hyper- or jumpspace) where different laws of physics allow phenomenal speeds. Drives might cause space to fold, temporarily warping the universe to link the jump point with a distant location.

The exact technology isn’t important in the game or the setting (it’s more for flavor) — most people take interstellar travel for granted, though few know precisely how or why it works. Note that, in most settings, the interstellar drive may not be activated within a planet’s atmosphere. Some settings may go so far as to dictate where in a solar system an interstellar drive may be activated without dire consequences.

Drive Ratings

Every interstellar drive has a rating that determines how fast the vessel travels using that drive. Most civilian ships have ratings between 0.1 and 0.5, while military drives rate 1 or higher. To figure the duration of a jump, determine the base time using the “Interstellar Flight Times” chart, then divide that number by the drive rating. For instance, if the base time is 5 days, a civilian light freighter with a 0.5 drive would take 10 days to reach the destination, while a battle cruiser with a drive rating of 2 would take 2.5 days.

Variable Drive Rating

Some settings may prefer to allow their ships to travel at speeds less than the ship’s full driving rating. This does not affect the difficulty in anyway, though the amount of energy consumed by the ship is reduced by a proportionate amount. (Thus, if the ship has a drive rating of 0.5 but only moves at 0.25, the energy consumption for the interstellar drive is reduced by half.) Game Masters also can use this method for deciding the maximum interstellar movement rate when the drives are crippled or don’t have enough power going to them.

Space Flight Times

In System

Destination from OrbitFlight Time
Planetary surface1–5 minutes (1D minutes)
Interstellar transition point5–10 minutes (or more, depending on setting) (1D+4 minutes)
Planetary moon10–60 minutes (1D x 10 minutes)
Nearby planet1–6 hours (1D hours)
System’s outer limits10–48 hours (1D hours)

Interstellar

DestinationFlight Time
System in same sector1D days
System in same region2D days
System in neighboring region2D weeks
System in distant region2D months

> Halve travel time for well-known routes.

> Increase time by 1D (days, weeks, or months) for hazardous routes.

Gazetteer

The “Interstellar Flight Times” chart serves as a general guide to setting route durations between particular destinations. Game Masters should note the results each time they roll on this chart so they can remain consistent for future trips between systems.

A gazetteer is a matrix that cross-indexes two travel points and the route time. Every time the heroes visit a new system, Game Masters should add its name to both axes of the gazetteer, then note the travel time from the point of origin in the appropriate space. Should the characters travel to a destination from a different location later, Game Masters can fill in the appropriate blank with the flight time they roll.

As an alternative, Game Masters can maintain a planet log, jotting down basic information about a destination, including typical travel times from other locations in the universe.

Sample Gazetteer

Game Masters can use this gazetteer as a guideline for charting their own jump times between systems. The column includes both place names and parenthetical descriptions, while the row simply list names. Note that not every route has a time listed — this represents an evolving campaign setting where the characters have not yet traveled along (and therefore the Game Master has not yet determined durations for) every route.

PlanetAra’venaCamlethGaralothKul-SoolTonn
Ara’vena (pleasure world)3 days2 weeks?3 months
Camleth (sector capital)3 days?4 weeks?
Garaloth (feudal technocracy)2 weeks???
Kul-Sool (alien Sara-vak outpost)?4 weeks?6 days
Tonn (primitive backwater)3 months??6 days

Sample Planet Log

This sample journal entry includes basic Game Master notes about a planet the heroes visit, including travel times to other established campaign destinations.

Ara’vena: Pleasure World

Run by the Tuuva, pot-bellied humanoids with wide smiles and jovial demeanors, the resorts of Ara’vena provide numerous diversions for citizens of every government and species. Different ports cater to various clienteles (such as rough smugglers, refined aesthetes, and pompous bureaucrats) with diverse amenities (including casinos, pleasure arcades, spas, concert halls, and meditation gardens).

Costs

> Port Fees: Moderate (3D x 100 credits)

> Accommodations: Moderate (3D x 100 credits)

> Good Meal: Easy (1D+2 x 10 credits)

> Night’s Entertainment: Easy (1D+2 x 10 credits) to Moderate (3D x 100 credits)

Travel Times

> Camleth: 3 days

> Garaloth: 2 weeks

> Tonn: 3 months

Jump Activities

In many campaigns, engaging the interstellar drive propels characters out of danger and into the relative safety of jump space. Since such journeys can last from a few days to many months, the heroes potentially have a lot of time on their hands. Game- masters can simply cut to the next significant action, usually arriving at their destination or being yanked back into normal space by some anomaly, pirates, or obstruction.

In some cases, however, characters might want some shipboard downtime away from constant action to pursue personal or scenario-related goals. Game Masters should decide if any activities advance the story, develop characters, or gain future advantages enough for the participating heroes to receive Character Point bonuses.

Character Interaction: The heroes might use this time to interact with each other, discussing recent developments, planning their next move, or talking with Game Master’s characters along for the ride.

Research: Using computer databanks, laboratories, or instruments aboard the ship, heroes might conduct research pertinent to the adventure at hand or their professional interests. Long transit durations provide plenty of time for such extended actions.

Maintenance and Repairs: Those with engineering talents might spend time maintaining or repairing the vessel’s accessible systems, especially if damaged in recent confrontations. Most ships include engineering spaces to reach various components from within, plus stores of spare parts that tend to wear down. Depending on the length of a journey and the severity of damage, heroes might have time to make several flight systems repair rolls.

Personal Improvement: Heroes might seek to improve them- selves by pursuing knowledge, engaging in hobbies, or trying to improve their skills. The star-struck stowaway might write love poetry to his sweetheart back home, the tech wiz might tinker with spare parts or modify her robot, and the mystic pilgrim might find peace in meditation. Game Masters also could allow heroes to advance in game terms by permitting them to spend Character Points under the pretense that their self-improvement pursuits have tangible results.

Detrimental Drive Technology

What if a society’s interstellar drive technology has subtle side effects that slowly emerge during the course of a campaign? Such defects in accepted scientific principles might not immediately matter to the heroes, but they could eventually become embroiled in a conspiracy to hide the truth. Devious Game Masters can use one of these sinister elements to add a dark undercurrent to their campaign.

Solar Fuel: Although a ship’s conventional drive provides the initial energy to engage interstellar flight, a dimensional tether actually drains the power for sustained travel from distant and (hopefully) uninhabited stars. A space-faring society eventually begins collapsing suns and igniting supernovas. Unless someone harnesses an alternate energy source for such drives, stars within settled space may start to explode.

Dark Dimensions: Evil forces reside in the alternate dimension in which ships travel faster than light. Each time a vessel jumps, elements of this foul presence seep into the normal universe. They seek out powerful individuals to corrupt into instruments by which they can free masses of their foul kind from their interplanar imprisonment.

Alien Sacrifices: Every few jumps, starship crews must replace large buffer capacitors in the interstellar drive assembly, a minor expense and simple maintenance operation. Only the highest government officials know that these capacitors contain imprisoned aliens enslaved on a remote, secret world. Each jump drains the creatures’ vast inner power or mental energy to correctly open the portal into hyperspace or navigate the ship to its destination.

In such situations, governments try to conceal evidence of these dangers while searching for other, less harmful means of interstellar flight. Should anyone discover the truth about the dangers of interstellar flight, they become targets for authorities willing to go to any length to protect these technologies. The heroes could uncover such information and become hunted fugitives, or they might work for the authorities to “eliminate” inquisitive scientists, environmental activists, and political dissidents intent on exposing the secret. Characters might even become involved in developing and testing some new, safer interstellar drive.

Space Navigation

Ships with interstellar drives must navigate the vast distances and myriad hazards to their destinations. A complex navigational computer linked with the craft’s interstellar drive enables the pilot or navigator to set, calculate, and initiate a safe course to distant star systems. Established routes require simple calculations, but courses to less-visited systems or entirely unexplored destinations call for intricate computations. Astrographical hazards like nebulae, black holes, asteroid fields, supernovas, and neutron stars can make even short jumps longer or more difficult to calculate.

Navigation Checklist

Captains or navigators traveling to other systems must undertake several steps to calculate their course:

1. Verify the trip destination and duration.

2. Calculate coordinates for the interstellar journey.

3. Figure out the navigation difficulty number.

4. Roll navigation and determine results.

1. Verify the trip destination and duration: Using guidelines from this chapter’s “Interstellar Drives” section, determine the destination and how long the jump should take. Game Masters can refer to the “Interstellar Flight Times” chart or might consult their own gazetteer, planetary profiles, or other campaign notes for jump durations. Divide this base time by the ship’s drive rating to figure the actual flight time for this particular craft. Game Masters may require an astrography roll to figure out the destination, its distance, the best route, and so on. The less well know the destination is to the navigator, the greater the difficulty.

2. Calculate coordinates for the interstellar journey: Com- puters run calculations at amazing speeds, but the information needed for accurate and safe interstellar flight requires careful entry and massive processor activity. Captains with regular schedules often begin calculations for their next destination as soon as they land, even if for a week-long layover. Others hastily program their nav-computers while fleeing from authorities or other adversaries … and hope they don’t botch the job. Use the “Calculation Time” chart to determine how long it takes to enter and process the course coordinates. The more well-traveled a route, the shorter the time. Cut the time in half if rushing, but don’t forget to add +10 to the final navigation difficulty in the next step.

3. Figure out the navigation difficulty number: Calculating accurate coordinates requires a base Moderate navigation roll, adjusted by the conditions outlined on the “Navigation Roll Modifiers” chart. Captains piloting vessels with interstellar drives and no operational nav-computer have a +30 adjust- ment to their difficulty, assuming they possess antiquated instruments that manually plot courses they program into the drives themselves.

4. Roll navigation and determine results: Upon engaging the interstellar drives, the navigator or captain makes a navigation roll to beat the set difficulty. Find the difference between the difficulty number and this skill roll total (which may be positive or negative) and reference the “Space Navigation Results” chart to see how well the journey went.

Navigation Mishaps

Game Masters shouldn’t limit themselves to the outcomes on the “Space Navigation Results” chart, especially if more specific mishaps would further the story.

For instance, a damaged starship system might prompt the characters to visit a strange port for repairs, or require them to do without the equipment for the rest of the scenario. The obstacle that wanders into their path, forcing the interstellar drive to cut out, might divert them to a different adventure: exploring a rogue planet, scavenging a massive derelict alien vessel, or avoiding a vast enemy fleet.

In cases where the navigation roll fails miserably, Game Masters can improvise dire results. Rather than the computer simply disallowing the calculation and aborting any jump before it begins, it might send the heroes far into uncharted territory, on a near-miss course with a mysterious nebula, or directly into the hands of their adversaries. At the very least, it could seriously damage their ship, stranding the characters far from home in a very strange part of space.

Calculation Time

ConditionTime
Precalculated coordinates1 minute
Well-traveled route1 minute
Uncertain route to known planet30 minutes
First time traveling to system2D hours
Lost in space1 day (from miscalculation or obstacle)

Navigation Roll Modifiers

SituationModifier
No navigation computer30
Hasty calculations10
Each extra hour added to trip-1
Each hour saved on trip1
Obstacles along course+1 to +30 or more

Space Navigation Results

These are only suggestions; Game Masters may modify this chart as appropriate for their own campaigns and individual circumstances.

Result PointsResult
+5 or moreSaved an hour on the trip per 5 points over the difficulty (round down).
0 to +4Trip occurred without mishap.
-1, -2A radiation surge or other mishap affects the drive’s performance and damages another system on the ship (Game Master selects). The characters must use the appropriate repair skill with a Moderate difficulty to fix it. The trip is extended by 2D hours.
-3, -4The calculations were good enough to get the characters to a destination, just the wrong one (perhaps from a computer malfunction or an unplotted obstacle).
-5, -6The interstellar drive cut-out to avoid a collision with an unplotted obstacle. A Moderate flight systems repair roll is necessary to get the engines back on line. The characters must also replot a course from their new position over the course of a day.
-7 or moreThe computer refuses the calculation and requires them to be refigured.

Intercepting Interstellar Craft

Various agencies often seek to intercept vessels traveling between systems on interstellar drives. Pirates set traps for unsuspecting freighters they can disable, board, and pillage. Military fleets seek to intercept and engage enemy ships head- ing for fresh targets. Corporations attempt to eliminate rivals in the depths of space where nobody can find the evidence. Sector authorities try to ambush outlaws. Such people often employ one of three effective strategies for intercepting vessels with interstellar drives.

Forced Drive Disengage: Most interstellar drive systems key into the ship’s sensors to detect anomalies in the space just ahead and then automatically disengage the drive in cases of imminent collision. This dumps the craft out of any parallel travel dimension or warp speeds and into normal space in the immediate vicinity of the obstacle. Usually this results from faulty navigation coordinates but sometimes from deliberate interference. Enemies intent on intercepting a target that’s engaged its interstellar drive simply place some obstacle in the victim’s way. This often occurs along major travel routes, or when those waiting in ambush know the target’s intended course. Depending on their resources, raiders can tow a massive asteroid (or sometimes an entire field, given time), maneuver a small fleet, or jettison enough large debris into the victim’s path. Governments sometimes employ special craft with huge gravity field generators to simulate an obstacle. The forced drive disengage often damages the target, though raiders always stand prepared to close in, disable, and board craft.

Sabotage: When adversaries have advanced knowledge of a target’s identity and course, they sometimes send a saboteur to infiltrate the craft while docked and rig it to disable the drives at a location advantageous to the ambushers. Since they’re under surveillance before the event, the victims have some chance to notice someone’s monitoring them, but unless they conduct a detailed inspection of their ship, they won’t realize anything’s amiss until the drives cut out. Refer to the sabotage rules in the “Starship Damage” section for more details.

In-System Intercept: For those without the knowledge or means to sabotage the target or force the drive to disengage, the easiest way to catch a ship with interstellar drives remains intercepting it in a system. Planetary officials rely on this method when checking vessel identification near starports and other destinations. But catching craft unaware often involves intercepting them just before it engages its drive or just after it disengages it on entering a system. Unfortunately little cover exists for raiders to lurk undetected, since most points from which craft engage their interstellar drive must avoid interference from gravity fields generated by massive astrographical features like planets and moons. Fast-attack vessels rush the target craft first to distract or disable the victim while larger, slower ships move into range to trap it and prepare for boarding. This situation, however, provides the most escape possibilities for the victim.

In-System Operations

Most space-faring civilizations have common conventions regarding flight within star systems, from the trade-route hub and sector capital to the most remote backwater and unexplored worlds. Spacers regard these protocols as courtesies to ignore when it best suits their purpose, though in some more regulated regions polite procedure forms the basis for enforced travel laws.

Sensors

Upon entering a system or departing from a planet or orbital station, ships scan nearby space for other ships, unexpected hazards, or threatening activity. The scanner operator rolls her sensors skill to notice anything using the craft’s instruments, adding any dice if the ship has upgraded sensors. (Characters should make a Perception or search roll to make observations while peering through viewports.)

Operators generally run three different scans depending on the kind of information they seek about the space around their ship:

Basic Scan (Easy difficulty): A vessel’s sensors always run a passive scan that collects signals from nearby objects: ship identifier broadcasts, active comm frequencies, energy from operational spaceships, stars, planets, moons, and other bod- ies. Characters use this level to detect the most obvious bodies around their craft.

Full Scan (Moderate difficulty): An active scan emits waves, beams, or other energy outward from a craft and picks up sig- nals reflected from other objects in space. This provides more detailed information about targets, but it also alerts others to the scanning ship’s presence (and in many cases the fact that it’s performing a scan).

Dedicated Scan (Difficult difficulty): Operators can focus an active scan on a particular area or object of interest to gain even more details about its nature. Tightening the sensor’s emissions and concentrating on return pings from a narrow target has the side effect of washing out readings normally gathered through basic scans.

Although the kind of scan determines the base difficulty for successfully noticing objects using the scanner skill, any target’s activity (even if as yet undetected by the sensor crew) also affects the ability to effectively detect it. Use the “Sensor Target Activity Modifiers” chart for guidelines on adjusting difficulties for specific sensors rolls.

Use the “Result Points and Success” chart to help determine how many details and the quality of the information gathered from the scan.

Sensor Target Activity Modifiers

Target ActivitySensor Modifier
Actively scanning, engaged in combat-10
Moving-5
Significantly larger than scanning vessel-5 (or subtract scale modifier)
Ship identifier off3
Significantly smaller than scanning craft+5 (or add scale modifier)
Hiding in asteroid fields, behind moon, amid spaceborne objects5
Running silent10
Near astrographical interference+1 to +10 or more

Ship Identifier

In many settings, vessels have ship identifiers (also known as transponders) that broadcast basic information about their configuration and registration to other craft in the system and starport traffic control facilities. This alerts others to the ship’s presence for purposes of safe transit, landing, and departure. Should a craft crash land, a transponder functions as a basic rescue beacon even if other emergency signals exist. Authorities also scan transponders to identify outlaws or vessel’s in violation of local and regional regulations, while military fleets use them to tell friend from foe.

Transponder pings send out short bursts of information: the ship’s official name, registry number (including owner and captain’s names, home port, and any government affiliation), and class (fighter, liner, freighter, capital ship, etc., and the degree of armament). This data helps authorities give priority in traffic patterns, assign routes around the system, and generally guide flight to avoid accidents.

In most civilized space, law enforcement agencies consider vessels running without broadcasting a regular transponder signal as criminal. They view turning off the transponder as a criminal act by spacers who wish to conceal their identity and avoid authorities. Unless characters can prove their transponder is damaged, their ship quickly acquires a notorious reputation.

Countermeasures

Some ships can engage various forms of countermeasures to avoid detection or obscure accurate sensor readings. Turning off the transponder is the easiest and least effective of countermeasures. Depending on a vessel’s equipment, captains might use other strategies.

Astrographical Interference: Astrographical features that naturally interfere with sensor readings (nebulae, quasars, black holes, neutron stars, etc.) can jam scanners and mask a vessel drifting nearby. The effectiveness directly relates to how close to the interference the captain can pilot the craft — often a dangerous proposition.

Broadcast Jamming: Some engineers rig the ship’s communications and sensor arrays to broadcast electronic garbage (a Very Difficult flight systems repair or sensors task, the skill depending on whether the rigging uses hardwiring — requiring repair — or software — requiring sensors). Other vessels’ scanner readings get flooded with useless junk. Although sensors can locate the jamming ship, they have difficulty determining anything else about it.

Decoys: Some vessels carry decoys that, when deployed, scatter and transmit sensor data as if they were the target ship. Exorbitant cost sets these systems beyond the reach of normal space-faring civilians, leaving governments to equip couriers and spy ships with such gear. Others might simply jettison cargo, debris, gas, liquids, or other materials to create obstacles to scanning and pursuit. Both methods often confuse opposing sensor operators.

Running Silent: By shutting down all systems, including life support and the power plant, a ship becomes nearly invisible to all but the most focused electronic scans. Unfortunately few vessels can survive for more than five minutes without powered life support unless they tap into emergency stores of air. Powering down an entire ship may take several minutes (depending on its size and complexity), and re-engaging power might take just as long in an emergency.

Communications

Besides running sensor scans when arriving in a system, most spacers also contact the local traffic authority to announce their presence and intended course, and receive any special instructions, general messages to spacers, flight advisories, or notice of military activity. Officials often initiate contact with incoming or departing vessels as a standard procedure for monitoring activities in their territory. Only discourteous travelers or those with something to hide refrain from contact with system authorities and other ships.

Vessels communicate with each other and traffic control facilities using subspace transceivers that can broadcast messages using specific energy forms and frequencies within a system. Without sophisticated and expensive encrypting devices at both sending and receiving ends, these transmissions are made “in the clear,” intelligible to most within the sector tuning into a given channel. Certain frequencies remain reserved for emergency communications, traffic control, military activity, advisories, and official starport and enforcement messages.

Most craft with more than one command station often link the crew with an internal intercom hardwired into the craft’s circuitry. Each station has a speaker-microphone set-up with a “send” button, though more sophisticated systems exist using headsets plugged into an interface. Eavesdropping on such internal communications requires either special “bug” devices to boost signals and retransmit messages or some direct link to the hull. Only military ships and commercial communications arrays possess transceivers that can broadcast real-time messages between systems, and even these require powerful relays and boost stations.

Spaceship Movement

Pilots and helm commanders fly their ships through space (and various obstacles they encounter) using their piloting skill. For speed-related actions, they rely solely on this skill. When maneuvering, they add their vessel’s Maneuverability code to their piloting skill. Any hazards of atmospheric or astrographic terrain may modify these rolls — consult the “Space Movement” chart for space travel, or the “Movement Difficulty Modifiers” chart for atmospheric flight.

Vessels travel at various sublight rates associated with their Move scores, as determined by the pilot. Each rate affects the difficulty of piloting rolls and the in-system drive’s power consumption.

Full Stop: The ship comes to a complete stop. This requires no piloting roll unless the ship is slowing from cautious speed to a full stop in a docking maneuver or a difficult landing. Ships in atmosphere should be near the ground or they begin a rapid dive. At this rate, the drive consumes no energy units.

Cautious: The vessel travels at half its Move. This is generally a free action requiring no roll, but hazardous conditions may increase it from its base difficulty of zero. Craft in atmosphere must be attempting to reach a higher or lower altitude at this rate, and they cannot maintain altitude at cautious speed. Drives consume one-quarter of their energy unit requirement.

Cruising: The ship travels at its Move. This requires an action, but characters should roll only if movement conditions would otherwise modify the difficultly from zero. Cruising vessels consume half of energy units of the drive’s standard rate.

High: The craft travels at twice its Move. This requires a piloting roll with a base difficulty of 5, modified by existing conditions. Drives consume the standard energy unit requirement. All-out: The ship travels at 4 times its Move, requiring a piloting roll with a base difficulty of 10, modified by existing conditions. Drives consume 2 times as many energy units. Ships may travel anywhere between half their current speed and the full current speed at each level.

Pilots may accelerate or decelerate one level higher or lower than their current movement rate at the difficulty listed in the description. For example, a ship at cruising speed may increase to high speed or decrease to cautious speed; it cannot jump to all-out speed or full stop without greater difficulty.

To accelerate or decelerate faster, the pilot generates a pilot- ing roll with a difficulty of the ship’s scale. If the pilot succeeds, he can change his speed by one additional level (for two levels total). If his total is at least twice his ship’s scale, he may change two levels (for a total of three). And if the total is three times the ship’s scale (or more!), he may change three levels, for a grand total of four; this is enough to bring a ship from full stop to all out (or vice versa) in one round. Failing this roll means the pilot was able to make his single free change, but nothing more. A Critical Failure with a failure means the ship’s speed did not change at all (due to an engine malfunction, computer error, or some other mishap).

Space Movement

Base Difficulties

SpeedBase DifficultyEnergy Consumed
Full Stop00
Cautious025.00%
Cruising050.00%
High5100.00%
All-out10200.00%

Note: Modifiers from the “Space Movement” chart and the “Space Stunts” chart affect these base piloting difficulties.

Difficulty Modifiers

Flight ConditionsModifier
Clear space with no navigational hazards0
Cluttered space, light starship traffic, minor obstacles5
Crowded space, moderate debris field, narrow passage, reasonable traffic10
Combat zone, dense traffic, heavy debris15
Hazardous space, asteroids, starship wreckage20

Note: Base movement difficulty depends on speed.

Space Units

“Space units” are an imaginary measure of distance in space that promotes a more cinematic feel to adventures. Game Masters may define this measure as any value that they feel is appropriate for their games, though numbers between a few hundred kilometers and a few hundred thousand kilometers would be most suitable for emphasizing the size of space.

Standard Maneuvers

Maneuvers in relation to static or nonintelligent objects such as docking facilities and asteroids require a piloting roll augmented by any dice for the vessel’s Maneuverability. The kind of maneuver determines the difficulty, while various conditions may modify it. Refer to the “Space Stunts” chart for a summary of spaceship maneuvers and their associated difficulties and modifiers.

Maneuvers relative to enemy craft as targets or attackers often require opposed piloting rolls (with any Maneuverability and scale modifiers) from the captains. Defenders often employ their piloting skill as characters would dodge (use the active partial or full defense rules to determine defense totals required to hit ships evading adversaries). For craft with fixed weapons or limited fire arcs, pilots might have to make a successful roll to maneuver into a favorable position from which gunners can fire. (Firing counts as a separate action from piloting.)

Small craft in space or atmospheric flight can attempt other maneuvers besides those listed on the “Stunt Difficulties/Modifiers” chart. The following entries describe several starfighter combat maneuvers and the advantages they afford if successfully executed. (All modifiers are to the speed difficulty, including any other modifiers.)

Break (+10 difficulty): A craft with an enemy on its tail can attempt to break away, flying out of the adversaries’ forward field of fire. If successful, the breaking ship peels off and the pursuer must make a new roll to reacquire his prey.

Inside Turn (+10 difficulty): Dogfighting vessels often chase each other’s tails, attempting to fly in tighter circles to bring the other into the range of fixed, forward-firing guns. Success brings the enemy craft into one’s field of fire.

Overshot (+15 difficulty): Craft under pursuit can try slamming on the retro thrusters, allowing attackers to overshoot them and come into range of fixed, forward-firing guns. Captains must make a piloting roll with a +15 difficulty modifier to reduce their speed by two levels and maneuver out of the way of the pursuing ship. Failure sends the ship spinning out of control for at least one round or until the captain regains control (on a Moderate piloting roll); serious failure (by more than 10 points and with a Critical Failure) causes both vessels to collide.

Retro Skid (+20 difficulty; space flight only): Fighters with fixed forward-firing weapons cannot normally shoot at pursuers. By making a piloting roll with a +20 difficulty modifier, the captain can use thrusters to spin the ship while maintaining forward momentum, essentially flying backwards and bringing pursuers into his field of fire. Ships hit while performing this maneuver immediately careen out of control until the captain regains stable flight (on a Moderate piloting roll). To pull out of this configuration and engage in normal, forward-flying operation, the captain must make a Very Difficult piloting roll or lose control of the craft.

Flying in Formation (+5 difficulty): Fighters flying in formation often gain advantages based on their configuration. For a unit to maintain formation, every maneuver for each captain increases by +5. Failure breaks up the formation and eliminates any bonuses from their flight pattern. Several generally accepted formations confer different advantages:

Vee: Two rear wing ships flank a forward central leader in an inverted V shape. This arrangement allows the leader to spot targets, adjust course, and engage foes, while the wing ships cover him. In this formation, the wing ships gain a +5 sensors bonus to notice enemy craft attempting to pursue or outflank the unit.

Box: Also known as the Finger Four or Wingman Pairs formation, this arrangement puts two fighters in the forward position, followed behind and slightly to the side by two wing ships. While maintaining this formation, the wing ships gain a +5 gunnery bonus the first round they attack any enemy craft engaging the lead vessel.

In-Line: Commonly called Follow the Leader, this formation puts all craft in a straight line behind a lead ship. When engaging a single target, it concentrates defensive fire on the lead vessel, which peels off after attacking so the subsequent, undamaged fighters take turns firing. All but the lead ship gain a +3 gunnery bonus when attacking from this formation.

Space Stunts

Difficulties and Modifiers

StuntDifficulty
Docking/landing at a friendly facility*6
Regaining control (in situations other than ramming or sideswiping)**15
Sideswiping**10
Easy turn5
Fast 45-degree turn**9
Fast 90-degree turn**15
Fast 180-degree turn**21

* If docking or landing at cruising speed, add 3. Otherwise, add the speed difficulty to this difficulty.

** If attempting these maneuvers at speeds higher than cruising, add the speed difficulty to this difficulty. If performing these maneuvers at cautious speed, subtract 3.

ConditionModifier
Ramming10
Unlimited landing area-3
Limited landing area3
Almost no landing are6
Rough or unsteady landing area+3 or more
Climb or dive of 45 degrees or more from current direction+6 or more
Flying in formation5
Break10
Inside turn10
Overshot15
Retro skid20

Fleet Maneuvers

Since a fleet operates as a large group of individual vessels, maneuvers in formation become more complicated. To properly execute a fleet maneuver (including assembling in formation), the overall commander must make an Moderate command roll, modified by the conditions for the skill’s sample difficulties. A single command roll (again, modified by circumstances) determines the initiative for the entire fleet.

Aboard large vessels, each captain under the commander must make an Easy command roll to effectively order her crew to perform the maneuver; helm operators must then make successful piloting rolls with difficulties based on speed, modified by various conditions (including any maneuver modifier), with a +5 difficulty modifier for maneuvering in formation. When a single commanding pilot controls the ship’s helm, simply make the piloting attempt; the command roll isn’t necessary. Any failures mean individual vessels go out of formation, negating any advantages.

Although other fleet formations exist, commanders usually favor three.

Fleet Box: Like the fighter formation, this arrangement puts two capital ships in the forward position, while two cover ships hang back and slightly to the side. In this formation, the rearward ships gain a +5 gunnery bonus when attacking any adversaries engaging the lead vessels until they themselves become engaged by enemy craft. Commanders often arrange their fleets in several boxes, sometimes creating a broad assault line.

Fleet In-Line: This attack formation mimics the fighter strategy. A lead craft — often a particularly heavily armed and armored capital ship — leads a line of vessels, shielding those that follow from fire from the target dead ahead. When within adequate weapons range, the ships peel off to attack, having survived the initial onslaught of defensive fire behind the lead craft. All but the lead ship gain a +3 gunnery bonus the first round they attack the chosen target from this formation. Should enemy craft break through and engage any craft behind the lead vessel, the commander must decide (and issue orders) whether she wishes the fleet to hold formation or break to directly con- front the flanking attackers.

Fleet Swarm: Commanders can arrange their vessels in a broad wall with a bearing perpendicular to the target. This enables all ships to come into firing range about the same time against concentrated enemy formations or single vessels, focusing firepower and swiftly eliminating them. If successfully executed, all ships in the formation may fire at the chosen target at the same time and range. At minimum, the target uses one damage resistance total against each attacking vessel’s damage total. The Game Master also may include an additional bonus to each skill and/or damage total for a particularly well coordinated maneuver.

This maneuver works particularly well against fleets flying the in-line formation.

Movement Failures

A character failing a piloting roll while changing speeds, attempting maneuvers, or otherwise flying the ship loses control of the vessel for one round. The vessel might collide with obstacles or other craft nearby — see the “Speed Damage Modifier” and “Collision Damage Modifier” charts for results. If an immovable force or solid obstacle doesn’t stop the vessel that round, the pilot may attempt to regain control (a base difficulty of 15) on the subsequent round. The craft remains unmanageable until the pilot successfully regains control.

Lightening the Load

Obviously, a cargo bay filled with goods masses more than one that’s empty, but keeping track of a ship’s mass-to-drive ratios gets complicated quickly. Thus, for every full 20% of the ship that’s empty or depressurized, the pilot receives +1 to her piloting total. (Of course, those who need to breath in depressurized areas must to be in enviro-suits or they suffocate.) These guidelines, while not entirely realistic, serve well enough for quick calculations.

Tracking Starship Movement

Game Masters can use minis, counters, or other handy materials to keep visual track of ship locations during space battles. Most toy stores have small space- or aviation-themed toys that can represent fighters, freighters, and capital ships in the game. Some wargames produce lines of vehicles and ships. The artistically inclined might draft their own minis: flat counters, folded tent cards, or complex cardstock models. Even common items found around the gaming table — dice, coins, game pieces, pencils — can represent vessels and obstacles in combat. Mats or boards using dry-erase pens offer a surface for noting ship positions, speeds, and actions.

Game Masters should allow players to move and position pieces representing their ships, adjusting them according to rules and skill rolls so everyone knows where everything stands. Impose a standard scale; one inch, five centimeters, or one square equals one space unit works best. Consider this the sensors display aboard the heroes’ ship, which tracks all nearby movement. Game Masters might withhold notations for hidden or undetected craft, and they might remove the visual aids altogether if the sensor system goes offline.

Boarding

Personnel on one craft may have need to board other vessels in the absence of any traditional spacedock facilities. Pirates swarm aboard disabled prey to pillage valuables. Rescue par- ties establish escape docks to evacuate personnel on severely damaged vessels. Customs inspectors board both cooperative and noncompliant freighters to examine cargo. Corporate and criminal ships dock in deep space or remote reaches of systems for clandestine meetings.

Several methods exist for coordinating boarding maneuvers.

Shuttlecraft: Ships with docking bays and shuttles can ferry personnel between them. Docking a shuttle within a landing bay requires an Easy piloting roll (assuming a cautious speed). This method is the easiest means of boarding another craft.

Mated Airlocks: Personnel can pass between vessels through a seal formed with exterior airlocks on each ship. One craft must maneuver alongside the other, match airlocks, and activate the seal. Ships with boarding tubes can extend these pressurized corridors to allow personnel access to an exterior hatch, including escape airlocks intended only for egress and maintenance access panels. This method requires the captain of one ship to hold his vessel stable while the other matches speed and makes a Moderate piloting roll. Add the craft’s Maneuverability dice and modify the difficulty for any extraordinarily adverse or favorable conditions. (For example, boarding tubes greater than six meters long add 1 to the difficulty for each additional six meter.) The vessels remain mated at the airlock until they mutually deactivate the seals. Should either craft sustain damage in combat, pilots must adjust their attitude in relation to the other vessel by making a piloting roll greater than or equal to the amount of damage sustained (regardless of how well the ship holds up). If this roll fails, the airlocks tear apart; although the inner hatches maintain pressure, the outer hatches and seals remain permanently inoperable.

EVA Boarding: When other boarding methods aren’t pos- sible, personnel don spacesuits and undertake extravehicular maneuvers to reach another vessel. Characters can use their flying/0-G skill to traverse open space between ships, but in most cases, anchored tether wires link both craft near serviceable airlocks, ensuring safe personnel transit. Personnel shuttle between them with their enviro-suits secured to the lines to avoid drifting off. Although tethers limit movement along the cables, they modify the difficulty of flying/0-G skill attempts by -5. The vessels remain tethered until someone severs the wires or deactivates the anchors. If either craft takes damage in combat, the captain must correct her ship’s attitude to maintain the tether link by making a piloting roll greater than or equal to the amount of damage sustained. If this roll fails, Game Masters should randomly determine if the cables go slack (increasing the difficulty of personnel moving along them by +10), or go taut and break (possibly spilling personnel into open space, or trapping them on the other vessel).

Forced Entry: Boarders resort to more severe methods when hatches remain stuck, damaged, locked, or inaccessible, or when a disabled ship does not wish to accept hostile boarders. A ship must first successfully maneuver to establish a mated airlock link or EVA tether. Although boarders can force an entry by cutting hull plates with plasma torches or trying to circumvent security control panels at airlocks, most break through using explosives or a fast- burning welding paste. Entering through an existing hull breach also allows access to depressurized sections of the vessel.

Towing

Sometimes one ship needs to tow another, disabled vessel. Captains usually achieve this in normal space by applying tractor beams, magnetic grapples, anchor tethers, or other methods to secure the craft together. Assuming the disabled ship does not resist towing efforts, another vessel may haul it. Towing another ship halves the Move rate, doubles the energy units consumed at any particular speed, and increases the difficulty of any maneuvers by +10. Game Masters can adjust this to reflect the relative sizes of each vessel.

Towing craft across interstellar space isn’t so easy. Most assembly facilities customize and lock interstellar drive field configuration to fit the shape of the individual vessel for maximum operational efficiency. Ships disabled in deep space must either fit into a rescue vessel’s enclosed docking bay, or wait for a specialized tow craft that employs special field generators to engulf the disabled ship within its interstellar drive configuration. Most deep-space salvage craft incorporate at least one enclosed bay for docking and disassembly, though larger recovery vessels have special programs that allow them to reconfigure their drive’s fields to haul larger ships using their interstellar drives.

A doubling of the field allows the ship to engulf other ships up to half the recovery vessel’s size into the expanded field. It also uses twice as much power as normal. It can also be a little trickier to make the navigation calculations, with larger towed ships making the situation more challenging than smaller ones.

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