ZeroSpace:Starships

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If this were a starship combat game, rather than a space fantasy roleplaying game, we would make this section much more complicated. A ship's Mass would make Piloting rolls more difficult, different weapons would be more or less effective against different defenses, and so on. But it's not a starship combat game, so this section is deliberately quite simple.

Overview

All starships have four basic systems: Computer, Engines, Sensors, and Mass. Many starships also have Weapons and Defenses, and some starships have specialized equipment such as camouflage fields or tractor beams.


Table: Starship systems
System Description
Computer Computer rank adds to crew members' Astrogation and Orbital Mechanics action value
Engines Computer rank adds to crew members' Spaceship Piloting action value
Sensors Sensors rank adds to crew members' Sensor Operation action value
Mass Mass enables the starship to withstand more levels of integrity damage
Weapons Weapons rank adds to crew members' Starship Gunnery and Star Fighter Combat attack value (AV)
Defenses Defenses rank add to the ship's defense value (DV) when it is attacked
Other Other equipment will be described in its entry below


In game terms, starships operate much like characters' personal equipment: the action value (AV) of the character using a starship's systems is equal to the character's relevant attribute plus the rank of the given system. For example, the action value of a character using a starship's sensors would be their Perception plus the rank of the starship's Sensors.

If no crew member with the appropriate general skill is available, the action value of the character making the roll is equal to the rank of the ship's system. For example, if no crew member with the Navigation skill is available, any member of the crew can attempt Sensor Operation rolls. The character's action value would be equal to the ship's Sensors rank.

Order Of Play

As with personal combat, everything that happens in a round of starship combat is assumed to occur more or less simultaneously, but we make people take turns to keep the game orderly.

The most important factor in determining which starship acts before which is situational awareness. If a starship is not aware of their opponent, then they don't have the opportunity to attack. If the combatants become aware of their adversaries in a set order, then that is the order in which they act in combat.

However, if the various combatants become aware of each other more or less simultaneously, or if you would prefer to roll dice to see who goes first, the players and the GM should each make a Perception + Sensors task roll at the beginning of the conflict. Turns proceed each round from the highest roller to lowest.

Combining Effort

Starship combat, piloting, and repair are exceptions to the Combining Effort rules. Combining Effort does not provide any additional benefit: larger starships have more to repair, but they also have larger crews, so it's assumed that everyone who can help with a given task already is, and it all balances out.

Computer

The ship's computer performs two main roles, aside from mundane housekeeping and diagnostic tasks: Astrogation and Orbital Mechanics. If the ship's navigator has expertise in one of these areas, then they get a roll bonus (+3) when making rolls related to those tasks. As always, only one bonus or one penalty applies.

Astrogation

Astrogation pertains to getting from one stellar body to another. This could be two stars, a star and a nebula, or just two arbitrary locations which are not in the same solar system. If the character using the computer has the Navigation skill, their action value (AV) is equal to the character's Reason rank plus the ship's Computer rank. If the character using the navigation computer does not have the Navigation skill, then their action value is equal to the ship's Computer rank. The difficulty value (DV) is based on how well-known the destination is.


Table: Astrogation difficulty value examples
Difficulty value Examples
-- Routine Navigate between two well-documented locations along an established route
3 Challenging Navigate to an unfamiliar location along an established route, or to a familiar location along an undocumented route
6 Demanding Navigate to a location using uncorroborated course data
9 Frustrating Navigate to a location using incomplete course data
12 Nigh-impossible Navigate to a location using improvised course data


Note that the distance to the destination does not directly impact the difficulty value. However, the more remote the destination, the farther off-course the ship will be on a failed Navigation roll.

Orbital Mechanics

Orbital Mechanics pertains to getting around within a solar system. If the character using the computer has the Navigation skill, their action value (AV) is equal to the character's Reason rank plus the ship's Computer rank. If the character using the navigation computer does not have the Navigation skill, then their action value is equal to the ship's Computer rank. Orbital Mechanics is usually an opposed roll, because it's not really possible to get lost within a solar system. The typical reason for making an Orbital Mechanics roll is to reach a destination before someone else does. The difficulty value (DV) is equal to the Reason of the other pilot plus the Computer of their ship. On a successful Orbital Mechanics roll, the navigator has plotted a trajectory that will allow their ship to reach its destination several hours ahead of the other ship. On an extreme success, the navigator's course has put them a full day ahead of their competitor for each 3 that they rolled over the target number (one day at 3-5, two days at 6-8, etc.).

Engines

A starship's engines are its most important asset, because without them, it's going nowhere. If the ship's pilot has expertise in Spacecraft, then they get a bonus (+3) when making starship Piloting rolls. As always, only one bonus or one penalty applies. If the character at the controls has the Piloting skill, their action value (AV) is equal to the character's Agility rank plus the ship's Engines rank. If the character at the controls does not have the Piloting skill, then their action value is equal to the ship's Engines rank. The difficulty value (DV) is based on the complexity of the maneuver being attempted.


Table: Piloting difficulty value examples
Difficulty value Examples
-- Routine Landing at a starport or on level ground, docking with a relatively motionless starship
3 Challenging Landing in violent weather, landing on uneven ground, flying slowly through obstacles
6 Demanding Landing on uneven ground in violent weather, flying through a cityscape at full speed, docking with a moving but cooperative starship
9 Frustrating Flying through an incomplete space station at full speed
12 Nigh-impossible Flying through an asteroid field at full speed, docking with a cooperative starship at full speed


A failed Piloting roll will usually result in damage to the ship. For every three that the character rolls under the target number, the ship loses one level of structural integrity. So if a character attempted a frustrating Piloting task (difficulty value 9, target number 8 + 9 = 17), and the player rolled 13, the starship would lose two levels of integrity. If the player had rolled 11, the ship would lose three levels of integrity. It's difficult to destroy a starship by flying it poorly, but an exceptionally bad pilot can do it.

Pursuit

Closing with another starship requires an opposed Piloting roll. The difficulty value (DV) is equal to the Agility of the fleeing pilot plus the Engines of their ship. If both ships want to close, the roll is not opposed: instead it is treated as a challenging task (difficulty 3).

On a successful pursuit roll, the range between the ships decreases by one range band. On an extreme success, the range decreases an additional range band for each 3 that the pursuing ship rolled over the target number (one range band at 0-2, two range bands at 3-5, etc.).


Table: Extreme success in starship pursuit
Roll
Succeeded By
Range Band
Change
0-2 1
3-5 2
6-8 3
9-11 4


The pilot of a pursuing ship can choose to stay farther away than their roll would permit. For example, if the pursuing pilot rolls an extreme success and could move into close range, they may choose to remain at medium (or longer) range. If both pilots want to pursue the other ship, but one pilot wants to remain farther away then the other, the pilot whose Piloting roll had the larger margin of success dictates the range between the ship on that round.

If both ships want to flee, or if one ship wants to flee and the other ship declines to pursue them, the fleeing ships are automatically successful.

Sensors

A starship's sensors are used to find things and to analyze them. The item being sought or examined could be a specific asteroid, a crippled starship, a starship with a camouflage field, or a strange energy reading. If the character using the ship's sensors has the Navigation skill, their action value (AV) is equal to the character's Perception rank plus the ship's Sensors rank. If the character using the sensors does not have the Navigation skill, then their action value is equal to the ship's Sensors rank. The difficulty value (DV) is based on the subtlety of the thing being searched for or analyzed.

If the character using the ship's sensors has expertise in Sensor Operation, then they get a roll bonus (+3). As always, only one bonus or one penalty applies.


Table: Sensor Operation difficulty value examples
Difficulty value Examples
-- Routine Locate an active starship within long range, locate a familiar energy signature within long range
3 Challenging Locate an active starship beyond long range, locate a familiar energy signature beyond long range, analyze a starship within medium range, analyze a familiar energy signature within medium range
6 Demanding Locate an inactive or disabled starship within medium range, locate an unfamiliar energy signature within medium range, analyze a starship within long range, analyze a familiar energy signature within long range
9 Frustrating Locate an inactive or disabled starship within long range, locate an unfamiliar energy signature within long range, analyze a starship beyond long range, analyze a familiar energy signature beyond long range, analyze an unfamiliar energy signature within medium range
12 Nigh-impossible Locate an inactive or disabled starship beyond long range, locate an unfamiliar energy signature beyond long range, analyze an unfamiliar energy signature within long range
  1. Range Bands


Note that making a successful Sensor Operation roll is required each round in order to attack a ship with an active camouflage field. If the character at the controls of the ship with the camouflage field has the Piloting skill, the difficulty value (DV) of the Sensor Operation roll is equal to that pilot's Agility rank plus the rank of the ship's camouflage field. If the character at the controls of the ship with the camouflage field does not have the Piloting skill, the difficulty value (DV) of the Sensor Operation roll is equal to the rank of the ship's camouflage field.

Mass

Mass helps a starship withstand attacks. The higher the starship's rank in Mass, the more times it may survive attacks which impair it. A starship has a number of integrity levels equal to its Mass + 4: mint, scuffed, impaired (as many levels as its Mass), crippled, and disabled. For example, a ship with Mass 5 would have nine total integrity levels: mint, scuffed, impaired x5, crippled, and disabled.

Integrity

Integrity represents a ship's ability to withstand damage. A starship's integrity begins at "mint" when it is completely undamaged, and proceeds through "scuffed", "impaired", "crippled", and "disabled" as it takes more hits.


Table: Integrity levels
Integrity Effects
Mint The ship is shiny, tuned up, and ready for action.
Scuffed The ship has seen some action. It isn't shiny anymore, but it's still got fight in it.
Impaired The ship has taken some solid hits. It can't take much more of this.
Crippled The ship is still holding together, just barely. It can move slowly through space, but its veespace engines are offline, and using any of its systems, including weapons and sensors, incurs a penalty (-3).
Disabled The ship is out of commission: all systems are offline, and life support is on emergency power.


A starship may be "impaired" a number of times equal to its Mass. For example, a ship with Mass 5 would have nine total integrity levels, like so:


Table: Integrity example
Integrity Effects
Mint
Scuffed
Impaired ☐ ☐ ☐ ☐ ☐
Crippled
Disabled


If this starship lost two integrity levels from an attack, the boxes next to "mint" and "scuffed" would be crossed out: the ship would now be "impaired". If the ship took another few hits, inflicting six levels of integrity damage, the boxes next to "impaired" and "crippled" would be crossed out: the ship would then be "disabled". If the starship still has a crew, additional attacks will put more holes in the ship, but there is no need to track them. "Disabled" is as bad as a starship gets as long as there are still people on it. If the ship no longer has anyone aboard, additional attacks will destroy the starship, turning it into an expanding cloud of used starship parts.

If the starship has not been destroyed, it may be repaired. Repair is much easier at a starship repair facility called a stardock. Most full-service starports have stardock facilities. One level of integrity damage is repaired on the first day in stardock. After that, one level of integrity damage is repaired for each additional week in stardock. Without a stardock facility, repairing one level of integrity damage takes several days, and further repairs are impossible. Of course, characters with extraordinary Engineering skill are accustomed to doing the impossible.

Weapons

A starship without weapons is simply a moving target. Small starships, with a maximum crew of three or four (and often a crew of just one), use the Star Fighter Combat area of expertise. Larger ships, with crews from five up to several thousand, use the Starship Gunnery area of expertise. If the ship's gunners have expertise in these areas, then they get a bonus (+3) when making those rolls. As always, only one bonus or one penalty applies.

Starships can attack a number of times per round equal to the ship's rank in Weapons, or equal to the number of gunners, whichever is less (each gunner can only fire one weapon once per round).

In addition to adding to the gunner's attack value (AV), the ship's rank in Weapons dictates the range of its weapons. The range of the ship's weapons are covered in Range Bands, below.

Starship weaponry is much more powerful than the blasters carried by individuals. If a starship weapon is brought to bear against an individual rather than against a structure or another craft, the attack value (AV) is increased by 10.

Star Fighter Combat

Star Fighter Combat pertains to the weapons on small, maneuverable fighter craft, which typically have a crew of one or two -- four crew members, at most. If the gunner on such a craft has the Combat skill, their attack value (AV) is equal to the character's Agility rank plus the ship's Weapons rank. If the gunner does not have the Combat skill, then their attack value is equal to the ship's Weapons rank. The defense value (DV) is based on sturdiness and maneuverability of the target (see Defenses, below).

Starship Gunnery

Starship Gunnery pertains to aiming large weapons at things, usually from a console. If the character using the weapon console has the Combat skill, their attack value (AV) is equal to the character's Reason rank plus the ship's Weapons rank. If the character using the weapon console does not have the Combat skill, then their attack value is equal to the ship's Weapons rank. The defense value (DV) is based on sturdiness and maneuverability of the target (see Defenses, below).

Range Bands

As with terrestrial combat, there are five range bands in starship combat: close, short, medium, long, and remote. Standard starship weapons have an effective range based on the Weapons rank of the ship. Due to the vast distances involved, attacking more distant targets is usually not possible. If the GM declares that the attack is possible, the attacker incurs an attack penalty (-3) when attacking a target beyond the ship's effective weapon range.

Special weapons may have an effective range that is independent of the starship's Weapons rank: these are described under Other Equipment, below.

The "typical weapons" listed below are mostly for flavour. They don't usually make any difference in the game. (However, see Point Defense Systems, below.)


Table: Starship range bands
Weapons
rank
Range Typical weapons
1-2 Close Arc generator, turbolaser, railgun
3-4 Short (10 km) Disruptor, particle cannon, plasma torpedo
5-6 Medium (50 km) Nemesis cannon, fusion cannon, proton torpedo
7-8 Long (500 km) Hellbore, laser cannon, photon torpedo
9+ Remote Planetary defense battery, warp missile


If you'd prefer to emulate a setting more like Star Trek and less like Star Wars, multiply the weapon ranges by a factor of one thousand. So instead of short, medium and long ranges being 10 km, 50 km, and 500 km, they'd be 10,000 km, 50,000 km, and 500,000 km. (This doesn't actually make any difference in the game.)

Targeting Specific Systems

Before resolving whether an attack is successful, an attacker can declare that they are targeting a specific system: bridge, cargo, computer, crew quarters, defenses, engines, engineering, gravity control, life support, sensors, or weapons. If the attack is successful, the attacker rolls 2d6 and consults the "Targeting starship systems" table. If the attacker's roll is within 0-2 of the desired system, that system is affected as described; otherwise, the system rolled is affected as described.

For example, if the attacker was targeting the bridge (requiring a roll of 2) and rolled a 4, they would have successfully damaged the bridge. If they rolled a 5, however, they would have damaged the starship's computer, reducing the ship's Computer rank to zero until the end of the attacker's next turn.

Targeting a specific system reduces the amount of damage done to the ship by one integrity level. This means that if an attack inflicts only one level of integrity damage, the attack damages one system instead, and the target's integrity level is unchanged.


Table: Targeting starship systems
2d6 System Effect
2 Bridge Named crew members on the bridge are struck by exploding consoles or are pinned by falling debris, and incur a penalty (-3) on all rolls until the end of the attacker's next turn; unnamed crew members are dead
3 Defenses Defenses are offline (rank 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn
4 Engineering Any systems currently offline remain offline an additional round
5 Computer Computer is offline (rank 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn
6 Crew quarters Named crew members in their quarters are trapped until rescued; unnamed crew members are dead
7 Cargo/supplies Cargo or supplies are destroyed; if the ship has unusual equipment, that equipment is offline (rank 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn
8 Gravity control Characters without the Zero-G Combat advantage incur a penalty (-3) on all rolls until the end of the attacker's next turn
9 Sensors Sensors are offline (rank 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn
10 Engines Engines are offline (rank 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn
11 Weapons Weapons are offline (rank 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn
12 Life support Characters who need to breathe incur a penalty (-3) on all rolls until the end of the attacker's next turn

Defenses

It's a dangerous universe. Defenses, which may be armor, energy shields, or a combination of the two, protect a starship from enemy attacks and damaging environments. If the character at the controls has the Piloting skill, the defense value (DV) of the ship is equal to the character's Agility rank plus the ship's Defenses rank. If the character at the controls does not have the Piloting skill, then the ship's defense value is equal to the ship's Defenses rank.

Evasive Maneuvers

During the ship's turn, the pilot may choose to initiate evasive maneuvers. Performing evasive maneuvers reduces all attackers' margin of success by 3. A ship which is using its action to perform evasive maneuvers continues to receive this benefit until the pilot takes their next turn.

A ship taking evasive maneuvers is not able to attack (the ship can fire its weapons, of course, but they won't hit anything).

Other Equipment

Camouflage Fields

Camouflage fields are an unusual defensive system based on the theory that an opponent can't destroy what they can't target. Camouflage fields do not provide any protection against direct damage. Instead, an attacker must make a successful Sensor Operation each round in order to attack a ship with an active camouflage field. If the character at the controls of the ship with the camouflage field has the Piloting skill, the difficulty value (DV) of the Sensor Operation roll is equal to the pilot's Agility rank plus the rank of the ship's camouflage field. If the character at the controls of the ship with the camouflage field does not have the Piloting skill, the difficulty value (DV) of the Sensor Operation roll is equal to the rank of the ship's camouflage field.

If the navigator of the other ship fails their Sensor Operation roll to detect the camouflaged ship, that ship can't target the camouflaged ship with weapons.

Camouflage fields and weapons are mutually incompatible: a starship equipped with both can only use one of them during its turn.

Point Defense Systems

Point defense systems offer additional defense against indirect weapons (any weapon with the words "missile" or "torpedo" in the name). If a ship with a point defense system is being attacked by a ship equipped with any weapon with the words "missile" or "torpedo" in the name, the defending ship gains a bonus (+3) on its defense value (DV).

Tractor Beams

Tractor beams are close range gravitic weapons intended to prevent the target from moving. Tractor beams are targeted like ordinary large starship weapons. If the character using the tractor beam console has the Combat skill, their attack value (AV) is equal to the character's Reason rank plus the ship's Weapons rank. If the character using the tractor beam console does not have the Combat skill, then their attack value is equal to the ship's Weapons rank. The defense value (DV) is based on sturdiness and maneuverability of the target (see Defenses, above).

However, tractor beams do not inflict integrity damage on the target. Instead, on a successful roll the Mass rank of the attacking ship is subtracted from the Engines rank of the defending ship for as long as the tractor beam is focused on the target. If the target's Engines are reduced to zero, the ship is unable to move.