ZeroSpace 4e EN:Starships

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(NOTE: This is a work in progress.)

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

Regrettably, it's still pretty complicated.

Overview

Starships allow player characters to go from place to place in the galaxy, seeing people, places, and things which are too far away or too dangerous to visit without one. Starships also serve as a mobile base for the player characters, providing a place to store their stuff and recuperate between adventures.

Parts Of A Starship

Bridge

The bridge is where the pilot controls the starship's movement. It typically has stations for the captain of the starship and a number of staff officers. On medium-size warships, the bridge may also include combat information center functions; on larger warships, the combat information center is a separate location.

Engine Room

The engine room provides more precise control of the power core and the warp engines, and may allow direct observation of them (behind appropriate safety shielding, of course). Larger starships may have several engine rooms, and the largest starships might have dozens.

Fabricators

Most starships of Class 3 or higher have fabricators. The fabricators on smaller starships are adequate for day to day needs, such as meals and simple shipboard items. Larger starships may have specialized fabricators for the med bay, a more complete meal library, and engineering fabricators for most replacement parts. The largest starships have a complete suite of industrial fabricators, and are capable of creating parts to build entire starships. If a starship also has an Exotic Particle Synthesizer Console, it can even construct power cores and warp engines.

Grav Plates

The perception of gravity on starships is provided by grav plates. Grav plates operate on the same electrogravitic principles as the thrusters used when a starship is near a planetary surface. Grav plates are mechanically simple and generally quite reliable: if a starship's grav plates have failed, something has gone terribly wrong.

Hangar

Starships of Class 4 or higher typically have a hanger. This hangar can accommodate either a single starship two Classes smaller (typically a squadron -- see Squadrons, below).

Hold

All starships have at least one hold. The dimensions of the hold may vary considerably, from the size of a lunchbox to that of a small moon. The hold might have gravity plating and a breathable atmosphere, depending on its intended use, but it is not designed for habitation.

Med Bay

Every starship has a medical facility, although the size and sophistication of the facility varies a great deal. On smaller starships, a medical pod or "autodoc" can heal most injuries, or keep the patient alive until more advanced treatment may be found. Larger starships may have multiple, specialized medical pods, along with more advanced diagnostic and treatment equipment. The largest starships have full hospital facilities, although it is still called the "med bay".

Passageways

On Restoration Era starships, passageways are usually considered wasted space, and are made no larger than necessary: rarely wider than three meters.

On Panglossian Era starships, particularly Old Commonwealth starships, passageways were much larger. Class 3 Old Commonwealth starships had passageways two meters wide, while Class 5 and larger starships had passageways at least six meters wide and four meters tall.

Starships also have smaller access corridors used for maintenance. Such corridors are typically just wide enough to crawl through on Restoration Era starships, but are large enough for two engineers to work comfortably on Panglossian Era starships.

Power Core

Starships generally use hybrid fusion-singularity reactors. The fusion furnace, the singularity containment system, and all associated components are referred to as the starship's "power core".

Power cores are "fired up" or "brought online" to make them ready for use, and "shut down" or "taken offline" to render them inert. Bringing a power core online typically takes 6 hours, or 2 hours if the power core has been in use within the last 24 hours. Taking a power core offline takes less than a second, but there are numerous safety checks which follow, taking around an hour.

Screens

"Screen" is a catch-all term for the ubiquitous audiovisual displays aboard a starship. Holograms can be "brought up" or "shut down" with a gesture, or higher-resolution images can be displayed on physical monitors. The display is often augmented to provide additional data: sounds may be added to represent the activity of an object on the screen, such as the firing of weapons or the explosion of an engine; weapons such as particle beams, which are invisible to the naked eye, are spectrum-shifted to be visible; and so on.

Sensors

XXX short range is weapons range medium range is sensor range long range is beyond most sensor's range

Thrusters

A starship's conventional engines, used for moving the starship through relatively normal space, are referred to as "thrusters". Electrogravitic thrusters are typically used when within a kilometer of a planetary surface or other inhabited area, with fusion thrusters engaged once the starship leaves this safety region. A typical starship can lift off from a planet and clear the atmosphere in a few minutes.

Warp Engine

Warp engines create a microscopically-thin Lorentzian manifold of spacetime around a starship -- typically called a "warp bubble". This allows the starship to remain relatively motionless while also achieving velocities which are relatively relativistic.

Warp engines are "fired up" or "brought online" to make them ready for use, and "shut down" or "taken offline" to render them inert. Bringing a starship's warp engines online typically takes 3 hours, or 1 hour if the warp engines have been in use within the last 24 hours. Taking the warp engines offline takes less than a second, but there are numerous safety checks which follow, taking around an hour.

Before the warp engines are engaged, a destination is selected and the anticipated arrival time is calculated. Engaging the warp engines activates the Lorentzian manifold generator and moves the starship toward the pre-set destination. The warp engines are typically disengaged at a pre-set arrival time, which nearly always puts the starship where the navigator expected. However, the warp engines may be disengaged manually, placing the starship into relatively normal space somewhere between the starship's origin and its pre-set destination.

While the warp engines are engaged, the starship is unable to communicate with or interact with the universe outside of the warp bubble.

Windows

What a crew member sees in a window may be augmented with distinct sounds or overlaid visuals, such as a target's range or mineral composition. Sophistication of the display and any audio accompaniment varies by starship and manufacturer. Some starships have a "privacy" mode, which looks the same from the inside, but looks like a glowing white haze from the outside. And of course, a starship's windows automatically compensate for the luminosity of what is outside the window.

Starship Attributes

As with characters, a starship's attributes are ranked from 1 (the smallest starships) to 10 (the largest starships), and can't be reduced below zero or above 10. A starship has one core attribute, its Class, and five secondary attributes, its Consoles, Engines, Hull, Shields, and Weapons. A starship's Class determines the starting value of its other attributes, the size of its crew, and so on.

Table: Starship Classes, New Commonwealth (Restoration Era)
Attribute Starting Value Description
Consoles Class The number of consoles a starship may have equipped.
Engines Class Determines the starship's travel time.
Hull Class Determines how many points of damage the starship may take.
Shields Class Reduces the points of damage the starship takes from a successful attack.
Weapons Class Determines how many points of damage the starship may deal.
Armor 1/2 Hull (minimum 1) Reduces the points of damage the starship takes from a successful attack.


Each attribute can be modified in a number of ways, from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 10. Here are some examples of modifying a starship's Consoles (there will be a full list further down):

  • The Experimental subclass (X) increases Consoles by 1.
  • The Escort starship type reduces Consoles by 1.
  • A Bha'atar-manufactured starship reduces Consoles by 1.
  • A Zniss-manufactured starship increases Consoles by 1.

Consoles

Consoles are a form of starship equipment. As with personal equipment, a console's equipment bonus replaces or adds to a player's skill roll (see Skills.

Some consoles provide additional capabilities to the starship (see Starship Consoles, below).

Engines

The Engines attribute reflects the capacity of a starship's power core and the maximum strength of its electrogravitic thrusters, fusion thrusters, and warp engines.

Hull

The hull of a starship is one of its toughest parts. Only portions of the power core are more durable. A starship which is large or densely constructed will have a higher Hull than one which is smaller or less dense.

Shields

Energy shields on a starship serve two purposes. The primary reason for shields is to protect the starship from hazards such as micrometeorites, ambient high-energy particles, and other interstellar debris while traveling in realspace. No roll is required for this, as it's an automated and highly redundant function, much like life support.

The secondary purpose of shields is to protect the starship against hazards such as exploding stars and attacks from other starships. The starship receives an Armor bonus equal to the level of its Shields.

Energy shields lose effectiveness as they withstand attacks. The shields grant their full DR bonus against the first successful attack in a scene. The second attack in a scene, the shields grant one less than their full DR bonus. This continues until the DR bonus granted by the shields is reduced to zero. The shields will be restored to full effectiveness after the fight is over, when the shield coils have had a chance to recharge.

The starship's engineering team may also attempt to restore the shields during combat (see Repairing The Starship, below).

Weapons

The number of attacks a starship may make per round is equal to its Weapons. The starship may be able to make additional attacks provided by its consoles, but those are handled separately (see [ZeroSpace_4e_EN:Starships#Starship_Consoles|Starship Consoles]], below).

Note that the starship's Weapons attribute is not the physical number of its weapons. A starship with Weapons 5 might have only two physically distinct weapons, or it might have twenty, depending on the design, size, and placement of the weapons themselves. A starship's weapons may be described however the GM likes, but this is merely flavour, and makes no actual difference in combat. Here are some examples, but you are not restricted to these options.

Table: Typical starship weapons
Ship Class Typical weapons
1-2 Rail cannon, turbolaser beam, neutron missile
3-4 Particle cannon, pulsar beam, fusion missile
5-6 Plasma cannon, disruptor beam, antimatter missile
7-8 Meson cannon, hellbore beam, singularity missile
9-10 Nemesis cannon, planetary defense beam array, warp missile


Armor

Armor reduces the points of damage the starship takes from a successful attack. The starting value for a starship's Armor is one-half its Hull (round down, even if the fraction is more than one-half, to a minimum of 1). The starship's Armor is subtracted from the points of damage dealt by a successful attack.

Starship Class

The categorization and nomenclature of starships is a field rife with inconsistency. The Old Commonwealth had hundreds of starship classes, and the New Commonwealth is on its way to matching that achievement. In contrast, the Bha'atar have only two main classes of starship: warships ("starhawks", in Bha'atar parlance) and support ships ("rousters", in Bha'atar parlance).

This is not a system of nomenclature that lends itself easily to direct comparisons, so the game system will refer to the starship classifications below. Any resemblance between this system and that used by any interstellar fleet is purely coincidental.

Table: Starship classes, New Commonwealth (Restoration Era)
Starship Class Typical Crew Length (m)
Min Full From To
9 Star Fortress 100,000 350,000 140,000 160,000
8 Leviathan 10,000 35,000 3,000 5,000
7 Titan 1,000 3,500 300 500
6 Battlecruiser 128 448 180 400
6 Battle Escort (Battleship) 64 224 120 270
5 Heavy Cruiser 96 336 150 300
5 Heavy Escort (Destroyer) 48 168 100 200
4 Light Cruiser 32 112 120 200
4 Light Escort (Frigate) 16 56 80 140
3 Corvette (Courier, Patrol Ship, Scout) 8 28 30 120
2 Littoral Vessel (Customs, Police, System Defense) 2 7 20 90
1 Small Craft (Bomber, Fighter, Interceptor) 2 7 15 50


Subclass X: Experimental

An experimental starship (indicated with an "X" after its Class) may have one more console than its Class would indicate. For example, a Class 3X corvette could have four consoles installed.

Starship Class And Crew

On very small starships, a single crew member may be responsible for some or all of the starship's systems. In a fighter, for example, the pilot, the navigator, and the engineer could all be the same person. On larger starships, these responsibilities are usually distributed among specialists: the starship may have several pilots, navigators, and engineers, as well as dedicated scientists, sensor operators, and medical professionals.

"Minimum crew" refers to the absolute minimum number of crew required to operate a Restoration Era starship at full effectiveness for one shift. "Full crew" can vary considerably. The number of full crew given above is for a New Commonwealth (Restoration Era) starship, where the crew complement is generally three and a half times the minimum crew: sufficient for three shifts and an occasional off-duty day for each crew member. Bha'atar starships have the same number of minimum crew, but operate two shifts continuously without any off-duty days. A typical Bha'atar destroyer has 96 crew members (double the minimum crew for a destroyer). However, Bha'atar tours of duty are typically shorter than those in the New Commonwealth.

Old Commonwealth Crew Sizes

Old Commonwealth (Panglossian Era) starships could operate with less than one-quarter the crew of a comparable New Commonwealth starship, thanks to extensive automation and the starship's AI, or "geist". Old Commonwealth starships Class 4 and larger normally carried six times the minimum amount of crew; Old Commonwealth crews worked fewer, shorter shifts than New Commonwealth crews are expected to work. A typical Old Commonwealth heavy cruiser had a minimum crew of 24 and a full crew complement of 144, compared to 96 and 336 for a New Commonwealth heavy cruiser. Despite the smaller crews, Old Commonwealth starships were as large if not larger than equivalent New Commonwealth starships, and their interiors were cavernous by comparison.

Starship Types

Some common starship types modify a starship's attributes.

Carrier
Has a number of hangars equal to its Class.
-2 Shields
-2 Weapons
Courier
Sacrifices durability for speed.
-1 Consoles
+2 Engines
-1 Hull
-1 Weapons
Escort
Sacrifices flexibility for efficiency.
-1 Consoles
2/3 typical length of Class
1/2 typical crew of Class
Freighter
Sacrifices everything for cargo capacity.
-2 Consoles
-1 Engines
+2 Hull (cargo capacity)
-1 Shields
-2 Weapons
Minimum crew equal to Class
Hospital Ship
Sacrifices speed and firepower for medical treatment options.
+2 Consoles (medical only)
-1 Engines
0 Weapons
Squadron
Has no warp engines. Must remain in vicinity of carrier.
0 Consoles
+2 Hull (multiple small starships)
+1 Weapons

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.

Fun fact! A standard cargo module holds one Divine Legion in cryostasis -- 1000 genetically modified, fanatically loyal soldiers of the Infinite Dominion in full armor (weapons and other equipment shipped separately).

Starship Subtypes

Some common subtypes further modify a starship's attributes.

Flight Deck
Has two hangars.
-1 Shields
Intel
Optimized for delicate operations.
+1 Consoles
-1 Shields
Missile
Optimized for missile racks.
-1 Shields
+1 Weapons
Science
Optimized for science consoles.
+2 Consoles (scientific only)
-1 Weapons

Other Starship Variations

The method of manufacture may also modify a starship's attributes.

Bha'atar
-1 Consoles
+1 Weapons
Commonwealth
+1 Hull
Dominion
-1 Engines
+1 Hull
Siobhan
+1 Engines
Zniss
+1 Consoles

Starship Combat

Sometimes, people in other starships will shoot at the players' starship, leaving the player characters no choice but to return fire. Here is how that works.

Initiating Conflict

As with normal combat, conflict begins when one side decides to stop talking and start shooting. If a character wishes to initiate a conflict, the captain of each starship makes a Presence + Survival roll. If one or more starships get the drop on their opponents (an ambush, for example), the captain of a starship with a situational advantage gains a +3 bonus to their Presence + Survival roll. Actions proceed each round from the crew whose captain rolled highest to the crew whose captain rolled lowest, with the characters on each starship taking their turns in whatever order they would like. A starship, like any piloted vehicle, moves when its pilot takes their turn. When every character has had the opportunity to take a turn, the starship with highest initiative goes again, and so on until the conflict has ended.

While the player characters are handling the important tasks, the starship's other crew (if there are any) are firing weapons, performing scans, dealing with the wounded, and making repairs, but it all goes more or less as planned and has no impact on the outcome of the conflict.

The environment goes last in a round. The status of asteroids or other uncontrolled objects are determined after after all of the characters have had the opportunity to take their turn.

Rolling Dice

2d6 + [attribute] + [skill bonus or equipment bonus]

In game terms, starships operate much like characters' personal equipment. Each crew member may use a standard action to make a skill roll, as usual. The player rolls their dice, counts the dots, adds the character's relevant attribute, and adds their skill bonus or their equipment bonus. If a character has an appropriate skill and the appropriate equipment, use whichever bonus is larger, and add +1.

There are three main tasks a crew member can undertake during starship combat: piloting the starship, firing the weapons, and repairing the starship.

Squadrons are a special case. Rather than a single starship, a squadron is an arbitrary number of small starships. If a squadron is controlled by the player characters, the characters may assume the roles of pilot, gunner, or engineer however they like, and their rolls affect the squadron as a whole. The squadron loses ships as it takes damage, but it's assumed the player characters are in craft that survive the battle.

Piloting The Starship

Piloting Maneuvers

At the beginning of their turn, the pilot may declare that they are using one of the following maneuvers. Choosing a maneuver is optional, and does not require an action or a roll.

Damn The Torpedoes: If the pilot declares "Damn The Torpedoes", they incur a +3 DV penalty on their Piloting rolls and defense, but the crew on the same starship gains a +3 bonus on any Ranged Combat rolls against other starships. These bonuses and penalties last until the beginning of the pilot's next turn.

Evasive Maneuvers: If the pilot declares "Evasive Maneuvers", they gain a +3 bonus to their Piloting rolls and defense, but the crew on the same starship incurs a +3 DV penalty on any Ranged Combat rolls against other starships. These bonuses and penalties last until the beginning of the pilot's next turn.

Piloting Tasks

Each round, the pilot of each starship may attempt an Agility + Piloting roll to direct the starship's movement.

Table: Typical starship Piloting tasks
Task Roll Difficulty
Tactical Maneuvering Agility + Piloting vs. 12
Flee Pursuit Agility + Piloting vs. 8 + the pursuing pilot's Agility + Piloting
Avoid Obstacles Agility + Piloting vs. 12
Set Destination Reason + Piloting vs. 12/15

'Tactical Maneuvering: If the pilot succeeds at this roll, the crew on the same starship gains a +1 bonus on any Ranged Combat rolls against other starships. This bonus lasts until the beginning of the pilot's next turn.

'Flee Pursuit: Fleeing pursuit is treated as an extended task. If one pilot wants to leave the conflict but the other pilot doesn't, the fleeing pilot uses a standard action on their turn to attempt an Agility + Piloting roll vs. 8 + the pursuing pilot's Agility + Piloting. If the fleeing pilot achieves three successes and their starship has at least 1 Hull point remaining, the fleeing pilot eludes the pursuing pilot, and their starship leaves the conflict.

'Avoid Obstacles: If the pilot succeeds at this roll, their starship is safe from collisions with unguided objects until the beginning of the pilot's next turn.

'Set Destination: The difficulty of this roll is typically 12, or 15 if the starship is engaged in combat. If the pilot succeeds at this roll, they set their starship's course and engage the warp engines, secure in the knowledge that everything will go as planned and the engines will disengage at the proper time, returning the starship to relatively normal space near the intended destination. If something goes wrong, there is an alarm, but navigation errors are rarely fatal.

Firing The Weapons

The number of attacks a starship may make per round is equal to its Weapons. The starship may be able to make additional attacks provided by its consoles, but those are handled separately (see [ZeroSpace_4e_EN:Starships#Starship_Consoles|Starship Consoles]], below).

To make an attack with one of the starship's weapons, a crew member must use a standard action to attempt an Agility + Ranged Combat roll.

Attacker (AV) vs. Target (DV)
2d6 + Agility + Ranged Combat 8 + Agility + Piloting


If the attacker's Action Value meets or exceeds the target pilot's Defense Value, the attack succeeds.

Hull Damage

If the attacker's roll succeeds, the player rolls 1d6 and adds the starship's Weapons. The target starship's Shields and Armor are deducted from this amount, and the remaining points of damage are subtracted the target's starship's Hull.


Damage minus Protection
1d6 + Weapons Shields + Armor


When a starship takes points of damage, the points are temporarily subtracted from its Hull. A starship which has been reduced to zero Hull is disabled: it is out of the fight, and it will probably require extensive repairs. Hull may not be reduced below zero.

Starship weaponry is much more powerful than the weapons mounted on vehicles or carried by individuals. If a starship weapon is brought to bear against a vehicle, the damage roll is increased by 3. If a starship weapon is brought to bear against an individual, the damage roll is increased by 6. Conversely, if a vehicle weapon is brought to bear against a starship, the damage roll is decreased by 3 (minimum 0). If an individual weapon is brought to bear against a starship, the damage roll is decreased by 6 (minimum 0).

Repairing The Starship

Normally, the crew of a damaged starship may repair half of the starship's lost Hull (rounded down, minimum 1) by working on it for about a day. Barring some extraordinary event, a starship's Hull will be completely repaired after a week in a stardock.

Engineering Maneuvers

At the beginning of their turn, the chief engineer may declare that they are using one of the following maneuvers. Choosing a maneuver is optional, and does not require an action or a roll.

Auxiliary Power To Engines: If the chief engineer declares "Auxiliary Power To Engines", the starship gains a +1 bonus to its Engines (maximum of 10), but it incurs a -1 penalty on its Shields and Weapons (minimum of 1). These bonuses and penalties last until the beginning of the chief engineer's next turn.

Auxiliary Power To Shields: If the chief engineer declares "Auxiliary Power To Shields", the starship gains a +1 bonus to its Shields (maximum of 10), but it incurs a -1 penalty on its Engines and Weapons (minimum of 1). These bonuses and penalties last until the beginning of the chief engineer's next turn.

Auxiliary Power To Weapons: If the chief engineer declares "Auxiliary Power To Weapons", the starship gains a +1 bonus to its Weapons (maximum of 10), but it incurs a -1 penalty on its Engines and Shields (minimum of 1). These bonuses and penalties last until the beginning of the chief engineer's next turn.

Engineering Tasks

Each round, each engineer on a starship may attempt a Reason + Engineering roll to repair the starship and restore disabled systems.

Table: Typical starship Engineering tasks
Task Roll Difficulty
Jury Rig Reason + Engineering vs. 8 + Hull + points of damage
Restore Shields Reason + Engineering vs. 8 + Shields + lost Shields
Break Free Reason + Engineering vs. 8 + Class + Console Mk

Jury Rig: To restore a single lost point of damage during combat, an engineer must use a standard action to attempt a Reason + Engineering roll against 8 + Hull + points of damage their starship has taken. For example, if the starship normally has Hull 3, and has taken 2 points of damage, the DV of the roll is 8 + 3 + 2 = 13. If the engineer's roll is successful, one point of Hull is restored to the starship. However, the starship should visit a starbase for proper repairs as soon as possible.

Restore Shields: To restore a single lost point of Shields during combat, an engineer must use a standard action to attempt a Reason + Engineering roll against 8 + Shields + lost Shields of their starship. For example, if the starship normally has Shields 3, and has lost 2 points of Shields from successful attacks, the DV of the roll is 8 + 3 + 2 = 13. If the engineer's roll is successful, one point of Shields is restored to the starship.

Break Free: To break the starship out of an attack with an ongoing effect, such as a Tractor Beam Console, an engineer must use a standard action to attempt a Reason + Engineering roll against 8 + Class + Console Mk of the attacker. If the engineer's roll is successful, the starship breaks free from the ongoing effect.

Starship Consoles

Consoles are a form of starship equipment. As with personal equipment, a starship console's bonus replaces or adds to a player's skill roll.

Panglossian Era Consoles

Panglossian Era starships had two additional consoles, both at the same quality as the starship's Class, up to mark V (for example, on a Class 3 starship, these two consoles would be mark III; on a Class 7 starship, these two consoles would be mark V). First, each Panglossian Era starship had a Geist Management Console permitting the starship's AI, or "geist" (a crew position), to manage the starship's myriad automated systems (this console was not removable, although it could be upgraded). Panglossian Era starships also had a Wormhole Network Interface Console , which granted the starship the ability to use the wormhole network. These consoles were in addition to the consoles a starship would be permitted due to its Class. For example, a Class 3X Panglossian Era corvette could have six consoles installed: these two, three more due to its Class, and an additional console due to the "Class X" rating.

Restoration Era Consoles

Tractor Beams

Tractor beams are gravitic weapons intended to prevent the target from moving.

Tractor beams do not deal points of damage to the target. Instead, on a successful roll, the Engines of each starship is subtracted from the Engines of the other starship for as long as the tractor beam is focused on the target. If either ship's Engines is reduced to zero, the starship is unable to move.

Both ship's Engines are restored to normal once the tractor beam is deactivated.

Other Equipment

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 an Agility + Engineering roll vs. 12. A self destruct device can be disabled during the first half of its countdown with a successful Agility + Engineering roll vs. 15.

A starship which self destructs will explode with tremendous force, utterly destroying the starship and severely damaging any nearby starships. Any vessel within short range of the exploding starship will take points of damage equal to the Engines of the exploding starship, bypassing the target's defenses.