ZeroSpace 3e EN:Starships
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.
All starships have five basic attributes: Computer, Engines, Defenses, Mass, and Endurance. Many starships also have Weapons, and some starships have specialized equipment such as camouflage fields, fully equipped medical bays, and tractor beams.
On very small ships, a single crew member may be responsible for some or all of the ship's systems. In a starfighter, for example, the pilot, the navigator, and the engineer are all the same person. On larger ships, these responsibilities are usually distributed among specialists: the ship may have several pilots, navigators, and engineers, as well as dedicated scientists, sensor operators, and medical professionals.
In game terms, starships operate much like characters' personal equipment: the player rolls their dice, counts the dots, and adds the result to the character's relevant attribute plus the rating of the given system. For example, a character piloting a starship would attempt a Piloting (Agility) roll, adding the ship's Engines rating.
|Analyzing scientific data||Science (Reason + ship's Computer rating)||Moderate (DV 3), remarkable (DV 6), extreme (DV 9), inconceivable (DV 12)|
|Charting a course||Piloting (Reason + ship's Computer rating)||Moderate (DV 3), remarkable (DV 6), extreme (DV 9), inconceivable (DV 12)|
|Evading pursuit||Piloting (Agility + ship's Engines rating)||Piloting (Agility + ship's Engines rating)|
|Flying through an asteroid field||Piloting (Agility + ship's Engines rating)||Extreme (DV 9)|
|Targeting an enemy ship||Warfare (Reason + ship's Weapons rating)||Warfare (Reason + ship's Defenses rating)|
|Using the ship's sensors||Computing (Reason + ship's Computer rating)||Moderate (DV 3), remarkable (DV 6), extreme (DV 9), inconceivable (DV 12)|
|Withstanding enemy attacks||Warfare (Reason + ship's Defenses rating)||Warfare (Reason + ship's Weapons rating)|
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 Science (Reason + ship's Computer) roll at the beginning of the conflict. Turns proceed each round from the highest roller to lowest.
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.
A starship's Computer is its most important asset, because without it, nothing on the ship works. The ship's computer can used to analyze data or to chart a course through space.
Navigation pertains to getting from one stellar body to another. Navigation generally requires a Piloting (Reason + ship's Computer rating) roll. The difficulty (DV) of the roll is based on how well-known the destination is.
|--||Routine||Navigate between two well-documented locations along an established route|
|3||Moderately difficult||Navigate to an unfamiliar location along an established route, or to a familiar location along an undocumented route|
|6||Remarkably difficult||Navigate to a location using incomplete course data|
|9||Extremely difficult||Navigate to a location using improvised course data|
|12||Inconceivable!||Navigate to a location using a blind guess|
Note that the distance to the destination does not directly impact the difficulty. However, the more remote the destination, the farther off-course the ship will be if the navigator fails to chart the correct course.
Orbital mechanics pertains to getting around within a solar system. Orbital mechanics usually requires an opposed Piloting (Reason + ship's Computer) roll. The typical reason for making an orbital mechanics roll is to reach a destination before someone else does, because it's not really possible to get lost within a solar system. The navigator who rolls higher has plotted a trajectory that will allow their ship to reach its destination several hours ahead of the other ship.
A starship's sensors are used to find things and to analyze them. Using a ship's sensors generally requires a Computing (Reason + ship's Computer) roll. The difficulty (DV) of the roll is based on the subtlety of the thing being searched for or analyzed.
|--||Routine||Locate an active starship within long range, locate a familiar energy signature within long range, analyze a familiar energy signature within medium range|
|3||Moderately difficult||Locate an active starship beyond long range, locate a familiar energy signature beyond long range, analyze an unfamiliar energy signature within short range|
|6||Remarkably difficult||Locate an inactive or disabled starship within long range, locate an unfamiliar energy signature within long range, analyze an unfamiliar energy signature within medium range|
|9||Extremely difficult||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|
|12||Inconceivable!||Analyze an unfamiliar energy signature beyond long range|
A starship's Engines are its most important asset, because without them, it's going nowhere. Piloting a starship generally requires a Piloting (Agility + ship's Engines rating) roll. The difficulty (DV) is based on the complexity of the maneuver being attempted.
|--||Routine||Landing at a starport or on level ground, docking with a relatively motionless starship|
|3||Moderately difficult||Landing in violent weather, flying through obstacles, docking with a moving but cooperative starship|
|6||Remarkably difficult||Flying through an incomplete space station at full speed, docking with a moving uncooperative starship|
|9||Extremely difficult||Flying through an asteroid field at full speed, docking with an uncooperative starship at full speed|
|12||Inconceivable!||Flying blind through an asteroid field at full speed|
A failed Piloting roll will usually result in damage to the ship. For every failed Piloting roll, the ship loses one point of Endurance. It's difficult to destroy a starship by flying it poorly, but an exceptionally bad pilot can do it.
Closing with another starship is only easy if both pilots agree. Closing with a ship that wants to flee usually requires an opposed Piloting (Agility + ship's Engines rating) roll. The pilot who rolls higher has increased or decreased the range between the ships by one range band, depending on whether the better pilot wants to flee or pursue.
SIDEBAR: Exact travel times
There is no equation to give you exact travel times based on the distance traveled and the Engines and Mass of the ship. The GM should decide the travel time on a case by case basis, using the rough guidelines given here. The plot is always more important than an equation in some book.
The time required to travel interstellar distances increases logarithmically as the distance itself increases linearly. For example, a journey between two star systems in the same region of a galaxy typically takes from a few hours to a few days, traveling from one edge of a galaxy to the other takes a week or two, and traveling from one galaxy to the next takes a month or two. Ships which have higher Mass ratings are slower than less massive ships, and ships with higher Engines ratings are faster than ships with lower Engines ratings. Travel using warp engines does not remove a vessel from our universe. However, due to the Lorentzian manifold (or "warp bubble") around it, the vessel is effectively blind, deaf, and incommunicado for the duration of its journey.
A starship's Defenses are its most important asset, because 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. Withstanding enemy attacks and damaging environments generally requires a Warfare (Reason + ship's Defenses rating) roll.
Starship defenses are much more powerful than the blasters carried by individuals. If a personal weapon such as a blaster is brought to bear against a starship, the defense roll of the starship is increased by 10.
At the beginning of the ship's turn, the pilot may choose to initiate evasive maneuvers. Performing evasive maneuvers grants the defending ship a bonus die on all defensive rolls. A ship which is using its action to perform evasive maneuvers continues to receive this benefit until the beginning of the ship's 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).
At the beginning of the ship's turn, the crew members on the weapons and defensive consoles may agree to set shields to maximum. Setting shields to maximum grants the defending ship a bonus die on all defensive rolls, but a penalty die on all offensive rolls. Setting shields to maximum is a quick action. A ship which has set its shields to maximum continues to receive this benefit until the beginning of the ship's next turn.
A starship's Mass is its most important asset, because Mass rating reflects the physical structure and durability of the ship. A starship which is large or densely constructed will have a higher Mass rating than one which is smaller or less dense.
Endurance represents a ship's ability to withstand damage. The higher the starship's Endurance rating, the more times it may survive attacks which impair it. A starship's Endurance is normally equal to its Mass rating. If a ship's Mass permanently changes, its Endurance also changes, but damage to a ship's Endurance does not reduce its Mass.
When a ship is successfully attacked, one (or more, if using the optional margin of success rules) is temporarily subtracted from its Endurance. A ship which has been reduced to 1 Endurance incurs a penalty die on any offensive or defensive action. A ship which has been reduced to zero Endurance is disabled: it is out of the fight, and it will probably require extensive repairs. Endurance may not be reduced below zero.
Normally, the crew of a damaged starship may repair half of the ship's lost Endurance (rounded up) by working on it for about a day. Further damage may only be repaired at a starship repair facility called a stardock. Most full-service starports have stardock facilities. Barring some extraordinary event, a ship's Endurance will be completely repaired after a week in a stardock.
If the ship has taken some other form of damage, such as damage to one of its systems, this damage is temporary. It is all repaired once the crew has had a day to work on it.
A starship's Weapons are its most important asset, because a starship without weapons is simply a moving target. Starships can attack a number of times per round equal to the ship's rating in Weapons, or equal to the number of crew members at the weapons consoles, whichever is less (each crew member can only fire one weapon, once per round). Using a ship's weapons generally requires a Warfare (Reason + ship's Weapons rating) roll against the defending pilot's Warfare (Reason + ship's Defenses rating) roll.
The ship's rating in Weapons also dictates the range of its weapons. The range of the ship's weapons are covered in Range Bands, below.
Note that the ship's rating in Weapons is not the number of its physical weapons. A ship with a Weapons rating of 5 might have only two weapons, or it might have twenty, depending on the design, size, and placement of the weapons themselves.
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 roll is increased by 10.
As with terrestrial combat, there are five range bands in starship combat: close, short, medium, long, and extreme. Standard starship weapons have an effective range based on the Weapons rating 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 a penalty die when attacking a target beyond the ship's effective weapon range.
The "typical weapons" listed below are mostly for flavour. They don't usually make any difference in the game.
|1-2||Close (1 km)||Arc generator, flak guns, turbolaser, railgun|
|3-5||Short (10 km)||Disruptor, particle cannon, plasma torpedo|
|6-8||Medium (100 km)||Nemesis cannon, fusion cannon, photon torpedo|
|9-11||Long (1,000 km)||Hellbore cannon, meson cannon, singularity torpedo|
|12+||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 one thousand. So instead of close, short, medium and long ranges being 1 km, 10 km, 100 km, and 1,000 km, they'd be 1,000 km, 10,000 km, 100,000 km, and 1,000,000 km. (This doesn't actually make any difference in the game.)
Targeting Specific Systems
SIDEBAR: Standard cargo units
A standard cargo module in the ZeroSpace universe is 28m x 15m x 15m -- 6300 cubic meters. This is referred to in naval architecture terms as "6300 tonnes". Most people assume that this is because 6300 cubic meters of water has a mass of 6300 tonnes... but this is just a very common assumption. No one actually knows how this volume became a standard, or why it is referred to by starship architects as "tonnes" of cargo capacity.
Fun fact! A standard cargo module holds one Shadow Legion in cryostasis -- 1000 genetically modified, fanatically loyal soldiers of the Infinite Dominion in full armor (weapons and other equipment shipped separately).
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, environmental systems, sensors, or weapons. If the attack is successful, the attacker then rolls 2d6 and consults the "Targeting starship systems" table. If the attacker's system targeting 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 the attack was successful, 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 rating to zero until the end of the attacker's next turn.
Targeting a specific system damages a system instead of causing damage to the ship's structural Endurance; the target's Endurance is unchanged.
|2||Bridge||Named crew members on the bridge are struck by exploding consoles or are pinned by falling debris, and incur a penalty die on all rolls until the end of the attacker's next turn; unnamed crew members are dead|
|3||Defenses||Defenses are offline (rating 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn|
|4||Engineering||Any systems currently offline remain offline an additional round|
|5||Computer||Computer and communications are offline (rating 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/other equipment||Cargo or supplies are destroyed; if the ship has unusual equipment, that equipment is offline (rating 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn|
|8||Gravity control||Characters without the Zero-G Combat gift incur a penalty die on all rolls until the end of the attacker's next turn|
|9||Sensors||Sensors are offline (Computer rating 0 for sensor rolls) until the end of the attacker's next turn|
|10||Engines||Engines are offline (rating 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn|
|11||Weapons||Weapons are offline (rating 0) until the end of the attacker's next turn|
|12||Environmental systems||Characters who need to breathe incur a penalty die on all rolls until the end of the attacker's next turn|
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 damage. Instead, an attacker must make a successful Science (Reason + Computer rating) roll each round before they can attack a ship with an active camouflage field, in a high-tech version of "hide and seek".
If the Computing (Reason + Computer rating) roll of the sensor operator equals or exceeds the Science (Reason + Computer rating) roll of the camouflage field operator, the seeking ship may attack the hiding ship during its turn; if not, then not. The hiding ship has full use of its other defenses while using its camouflage field (assuming that they have not been damaged), but it may not fire weapons during the same turn in which its camouflage field was active.
Emergency Self Destruct
Self destruct systems are present aboard most commercial and military starships. Initiating the self destruct on a spacecraft disengages its engine coolant system, quickly causing the vessel's power core to overload and explode, destroying the spacecraft after a set time period has elapsed (usually 10 minutes).
As a safety precaution, self destruct mechanisms are intentionally difficult to enable, and even more difficult to disable. Enabling the self destruct device requires a moderately difficult (DV 3) Engineering (Agility) roll. A self destruct device can be disabled during the first half of its countdown with a successful remarkably difficult (DV 6) Engineering (Agility) roll.
A ship which self destructs will explode with tremendous force, utterly destroying the spacecraft, and severely damaging any nearby spacecraft. Any vessel within short range (10 km) of the exploding starship will take an amount of Endurance damage equal to the Mass of the exploding starship.
Science vessels and scout ships often have enhanced sensors to assist with their missions. If a ship is equipped with enhanced sensors, the sensor operator gains a bonus die on any sensor-related skill rolls.
Integrity Enhancement Fields
Integrity enhancement fields are a special type of Engineering system which uses energy shields to reinforce the ship's structure. Normally, a ship incurs a penalty die on any offensive or defensive action when it has been reduced to 1 Endurance. A ship which has integrity enhancement fields does not incur a penalty die due to lost Endurance, as long as the ship's Engineering system is online.
The rating of a ship's medical bay is added to a medical staff member's Medicine (Reason) when treating a patient. A standard medical bay on a starship is equipped to treat a variety of minor injuries and ailments, and normally has a rating of 1. Massive civilian cruise ships often have an enhanced medical bay, with a rating of 2, while large military vessels usually have a fully equipped hospital facility, with a rating of 3.
In addition to the ship's other weapons, the ship has a single massive weapon around which the rest of the ship is built. This megaweapon can only be fired once every ten rounds (one minute) at a single target. When attacking with the megaweapon, the Mass rating of the attacking ship is added to its Weapons rating.
An overthruster is a colliding beam accelerator which creates intermediate vector bosons from the annihilation of electrons and positrons. If a ship is equipped with overthrusters, the pilot gains a bonus die on any pursuit-related or evasion-related Piloting rolls.
Point Defense Systems
Point defense systems offer an additional defense against fast attack craft (bombers, fighters, and interceptors). If a ship with a point defense system is being attacked by a fast attack craft, the defending ship gains a bonus die on its defense roll.
Tractor beams are gravitic weapons intended to prevent the target from moving. Using a tractor beam generally requires a Warfare (Reason) roll plus the rating of the tractor beam. The difficulty (DV) is based on the defending pilot's Warfare (Reason) and the defending ship's Defenses rating.
Tractor beams do not inflict Endurance damage to the target. Instead, on a successful roll, the Mass rating of the attacking ship is subtracted from the Engines rating of the defending ship for as long as the tractor beam is focused on the target. If the target's effective Engines rating is reduced to zero, the target ship is unable to move.
Escaping from a tractor beam can be accomplished one of three ways: the tractored ship can move beyond the effective range of the tractor beam (based on the rating of the tractor beam); the tractored ship (or another ship) can reduce the ship with the tractor beam to Endurance 0, causing the tractor beam to shut off; or the fleeing ship (or another ship) can break the tractor beam's hold by successfully targeting the "cargo/other equipment" system of the ship with the tractor beam.
Warship classification is a field that has changed over time, and is an area of considerable disagreement. The system described here is that currently in use by the Imperial Strategic Command. Size categories are approximate; a ship may be classified with smaller or larger ships, based on its intended role and specific configuration.
- Star Fortress
- Mobile space station, capable of defending against entire fleets, and housing vast numbers of fast attack craft and smaller warships; 10,000 meters and larger
- Computer 10, Engines 1, Defenses 14, Mass 11, Weapons 14
- Largest classification of capital ship, heavily armed and armored, and carrying numerous fast attack craft; 5,000 to 10,000 meters
- Computer 8, Engines 2, Defenses 12, Mass 10, Weapons 12
- Largest warship in general use, heavily armed and armored, and a platform for smaller fighter craft; 2,000 to 5,000 meters
- Computer 6, Engines 3, Defenses 10, Mass 9, Weapons 10
- Heavy ship with the armament of a battleship but the speed and defenses of a cruiser; 1,000 to 2,000 meters
- Computer 6, Engines 4, Defenses 8, Mass 8, Weapons 10
- Heavy cruiser
- Heavy, multi-use warship that can operate alone or as part of a formation; 600 to 1,000 meters
- Computer 6, Engines 4, Defenses 8, Mass 7, Weapons 8
- Light Cruiser
- Light, multi-use warship that can operate alone or as part of a formation; generally, the largest starship capable of physically landing on a planet; 400 to 700 meters
- Computer 6, Engines 4, Defenses 6, Mass 6, Weapons 8
- Fast, maneuverable, sturdy warship, usually intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet; designed to protect against small, faster attackers; 300 to 600 meters
- Computer 4, Engines 6, Defenses 6, Mass 5, Weapons 6
- Commonly used as a scout and patrol ship in dangerous areas; may participate in fleet actions, but does not usually stand in the line of battle with capital ships; 200 to 400 meters
- Computer 4, Engines 6, Defenses 6, Mass 4, Weapons 6
- Smallest warship capable of participating in fleet actions; generally used as a courier and patrol ship; 100 to 200 meters
- Computer 2, Engines 8, Defenses 4, Mass 3, Weapons 4
- Patrol Ship
- Small, lightly armed vessel which commonly operates independently; mainly used to patrol areas that are not considered dangerous; 50 to 150 meters
- Computer 2, Engines 6, Defenses 2, Mass 2, Weapons 2
- Fast attack craft (bombers, fighters, and interceptors)
- Small, short range craft which operate in groups; 15 to 50 meters
- Computer 2, Engines 10, Defenses 2, Mass 1, Weapons 2