- Space Travel
- Sensors & Stealth
- Damage & Repairs
The first thing any would-be spacefarer needs is a ship to get them off the ground. The starships below are taken from the Sci-Fi Companion, then updated to the SWADE rules using the Last Parsec conversion guide. Note that anything with a Size above 16 has been omitted; structures larger than this, such as space stations and colony ships, shouldn’t be handled with vehicle rules at all.
|Fighter||6||+2||2100 MPH||20 (5)||1+1||25||$2M||Personal shuttle or fighter.|
|Scout||8||+1||1800 MPH||25 (6)||1+5||100||$5M||Scout ship, large shuttle or bomber.|
|Corvette||10||+1||1500 MPH||30 (7)||4+20||300||$20M||Freighter or exploration vessel.|
|Cruiser||12||0||1200 MPH||35 (8)||10+40||500||$50M||Medium battleship or bulk freighter.|
|Battlecruiser||14||0||900 MPH||40 (9)||150+850||1000||$200M||Heavy battleship or strike carrier.|
|Titan||16||-1||600 MPH||50 (12)||300+2200||2000||$1B||Flagship or attack carrier.|
The tactical speed of a ship is how fast it moves in atmosphere, or when close enough to obstacles that high-speed maneuvering isn’t safe. In space, you can multiply it by 100. To keep things simple, we assume that the effective range of your weapons is multiplied by the same factor. Only relative speed matters for the Chase rules, so in practice starship combat is the same regardless of where you’re fighting.
A starship’s onboard reactors and power sources are generally more than powerful enough to indefinitely sustain critical systems such as life support, lighting and communications. More intensive tasks will drain the ship’s internal reserves, however. Refueling services are generally available at landing pads, spaceports and space stations. Refueling a ship costs $100 x the ship’s Size for each unit of energy to be restored.
Travel is the most common energy drain for most spacefaring vessels, though weapons and other modifications may also draw power. A ship that runs out of power is dead in the water; they can travel at tactical speeds for 24 hours, but can’t reach interplanetary speeds or engage the spike drive. Other non-essential systems, like artificial gravity, may also be disabled when a ship runs out of power.
You can outfit your starships with a variety of weapons, mostly taken from the vehicle and gear rules in the SWADE rulebook. It’s up the GM how many weapons a given ship can reasonably field.
Kinetic Weapons: Kinetic weapons like machine guns and flamethrowers can only be used in atmosphere or at “point-blank” range, such as when being boarded. However, vessels that frequently fight in atmosphere may still use them. They can also be used as “point defense” systems to shoot down missiles. They are listed on page 80 of the SWADE rulebook.
If truly desperate, you can use the Board action during a space battle to get close enough to fire kinetic weapons. On a success, you can fly within medium range; on a raise, you can fly within short range. However, the target is not grappled and can pull away on their next action.
Laser Weapons: Spacecraft can be fitted with a Gatling Laser or Heavy Laser, listed on page 80 of the SWADE rulebook. Note that Gatling Lasers are not Heavy Weapons, and cannot penetrate a starship’s hull (though they could target an incoming missile, a gun or other piece of exposed equipment). Firing a Heavy Laser consumes 1 point of energy. Laser weaponry costs 3x the listed price, as usual.
Antigrav Grapple: A special kind of weapon that costs $200K and only functions in space. Allows you to board an enemy ship, using Electronics instead of Piloting. Once you have grappled them, the other ship receives the -4 “restraint” penalty to their attempts to escape. Without a grapple, boarding is generally impossible unless the target is disabled.
Missiles: It costs $50K to fit a missile launcher to a ship, which can fire up to 2 missiles at once using the rules on page 79 of the SWADE rulebook. The missile launcher can hold up to 6 missiles; any additional munitions will take up cargo space. Note that the range of a missile is its effective range; outside of this range, it is trivial to avoid, confuse or destroy. Missiles are always Heavy Weapons.
*If an EMP missile meets or exceeds the target’s Toughness, they shut down one of the ship’s systems instead of dealing damage. It remains down until restored with an action and a Repair roll at -2. With a raise on the damage roll, the Repair roll is made at -4.
|Armor||Increases ship’s Armor rating by 2.||-||$10K x Size|
|Autonomous System||Buys one skill at d4. Double price for every step above d4.||-||$5K/skill|
|Atmospheric||The ship can enter planetary atmospheres and has VTOL capability.||-||$50K x Size|
|Cutting Laser||Cuts through 10 points of Armor per round. Not a weapon.||1/round||$25K|
|Fuel Pods||Increases energy capacity by 50%. Reduces cargo space by 1.||-||$100K x Size|
|Hangar||Upgrades cargo bay with doors for ships or vehicles.||-||$200K|
|Hidden Compartments||Secret places to hide things, used by smugglers.||-||$5K|
|Hypersleep Bay||Allows the ship’s maximum crew to be placed into suspended animation. Reduces cargo space by 1.||-||$10K x Size|
|Passenger Quarters||Increases passenger capacity by 50%. Reduces cargo space by 1.||-||$10K x Size|
|Sensor Suite, Planetary||+2 to Electronics rolls to scan for objects, life forms, and similar; allows detailed information to be obtained. Range of 10K miles.||-||$50K|
|Sensor Suite, Galactic||Allows detailed scanning at a distance of up to 1 parsec. Also functions as a planetary sensor suite within 10K miles.||1/use||$1M|
|Speed||Increases Top Speed by 150 MPH.||-||$100K x Size|
|Stealth System||Vents heat into metaspace, imposing a -4 penalty to detection rolls.||1/minute||$100K x Size|
|Superstructure||Adds a massive extension for passengers, cargo, vehicles or similar. Corvette-class and above only.||Special*||$5M|
|Targeting System||Negates up to 4 points of Shooting penalties.||-||$10K x Size|
|Workshop||Space for a medical bay, science lab, or similar. Reduces cargo space by 1.||-||$5K x Size|
*Superstructures don’t consume energy, but a ship with a superstructure uses twice as much energy when travelling.
When travelling from one planet to another along a pre-calculated trajectory, ships can push their sub-light engines to the limit and achieve a significant percentage of the speed of light. Very little maneuvering is possible when travelling at sublight speeds; if you want to change course, you’ll need to slow down and calculate a new route. You can refer to the table below for approximate travel times:
|Vehicle||Local Travel||Regional Travel|
|Fighter||1 hour||18 hours|
|Scout||2 hours||24 hours|
|Corvette||3 hours||30 hours|
|Cruiser||4 hours||36 hours|
|Battlecruiser||5 hours||42 hours|
|Titan||6 hours||48 hours|
Local travel is defined as travel within a region of the star system, such as from a planet’s surface to one of its moons. Regional travel is between two regions, such as from one planet to another, or from a planet to the edge of the star system. Local travel is generally free, while regional travel usually costs 1 point of energy.
Pilots who are in a hurry can “trim the course”, burning hard and taking advantage of orbital mechanics to speed up their journey. This costs twice as much energy, and requires a Piloting roll at -2. Success means you fly as if your ship was one class smaller (or in half the time for fighter-class ships). Failure means the journey takes twice as long.
Accelerating to sublight speeds takes about 10 minutes of uninterrupted burn on a precalculated trajectory, so it’s not generally possible to simply accelerate away from enemies without escaping combat first. However, once a ship is moving at full speed it is almost impossible to safely intercept. The best you can do is follow it to its destination and engage when it slows down.
Interstellar travel is only possible with a spike drive. They’re rated by type - the lower, the better. A Type-VI drive can cover a parsec in 6 days. A Type-I can cover a parsec in 1 day. Even though faster-than-light transportation has made it possible for mankind to colonise the galaxy, interstellar journeys can still take a very long time, especially in the outer limits where colonies can be many parsecs apart. As a result, long-haul voyages often use hypersleep in conjunction with spike drive so that they don’t lose years of life on a single voyage.
|Drive Class||Cost||Days per Parsec|
Most starships aren’t outfitted with a spike drive - they’re expensive, and the majority of “puddle jumpers” never leave the system. Of course, spike drives can’t function in the gravity well of a star or other celestial body, so even spike-capable ships need to rely on their sub-light engines when they reach their destination.
Spike drive travel consumes energy equal to the ship’s Size for each parsec travelled.
The calculations required to actually travel from one star to another are far too numerous and complex for a human to ever perform. Even shipboard computers would take months to perform the necessary math. No captain actually pilots their ship between two stars; they simply plug their destination into the astrogation terminal, engage the spike drive, and wait.
However, this hassle-free process relies on the captain having a navkey - a precalculated set of vectors and formulae for a destination. This is what the ship’s computer uses to figure out how navigate there through metadimensional space. Calculating a navkey requires immense computing power, but then they can be copied and distributed to whoever needs them. Though they can be stored on a dataslab, these keys are made up of enormous quantities of information. Sending them via radio would take weeks, so they generally need to be distributed in person.
How difficult it is to get your hands on a navkey depends entirely on where you’re trying to go. For most of the stars in the Firmament, any space station probably has the navkey ready to print on demand for a couple hundred credits. Navkeys to “uncharted” systems, on the other hand, are rare and valuable commodities. When access to a system is restricted, confiscating navkeys is usually the first thing the local government does.
Of course, it is possible to travel without a navkey. As long as you know the target’s approximate location, you can simply plug it into your ship’s computer and tell it to calculate a route. This is known as “jumping blind”, but it’s a slow and sometimes dangerous approach. The ship has to make a series of short hops, correcting any errors in its course and coming closer and closer to the intended destination. Each hop only takes a few seconds, but that’s more than enough time for something to go wrong.
Jumping blind takes twice as long as the journey normally would with your spike drive. While hopping from jump to jump, an encounter card is drawn each day. If an encounter is indicated, it means that the ship has encountered a mishap:
- Clubs: Turbulence throws you off-course and out of metaspace. Add 1 day to the travel time.
- Diamonds: Unexpected gravity well. Maybe it’s a planet that wasn’t supposed to be there, a ship graveyard, or even just an anomalous gravitic field.
- Hearts: Spike failure. The spike drive hits some turbulence and overloads, shutting down. It needs 1d4 days before it can be operated again.
- Spades: Power surge. One of the ship’s systems is damaged, as if they had suffered a Critical Hit.
- Joker: Favourable metadimensional currents. You travel twice as fast for the day.
Having a trained astrogator on board makes exploratory jumping a lot safer - they can check the computer’s work for errors and try to correct the course away from potentially dangerous areas. With a successful Science roll, an encounter card is drawn every 2 days. With a raise, encounters are drawn every 3 days.
Sensors & Stealth
Although most ships have viewports and windows, these are not useful for much more than a pretty view of an approaching planet or the fleet of warships coming for you. The eyes and ears of a ship is its sensor array - a variety of optical, thermal and radio sensors that allow the ship to be aware of its surroundings. Every ship has one, since they’re a necessity to navigate space safely.
A ship’s sensors are operated using the Electronics skill. Scanning for large objects, like planets or asteroid fields, requires no skill roll - any ship in a system will be aware of its general layout. The same goes for very noisy objects like space stations, which are making no attempts to conceal themselves.
The type of information produced by a basic sensor array is fairly general. For example, if you identify a planet you might learn:
- The size of the planet, its orbit in the system and any moons it has.
- Whether there are significant heat or radio signatures that indicate civilisation.
- Based on extrapolation of its orbit, heat signature and size, an estimate of the likely conditions on the planet’s surface.
- If the planet is in the ship’s database, more detailed information about it may be displayed.
A basic sensor suite can usually only pick up useful information from the local star system - anything further out is too small or weak to be picked up. However, advanced sensor suites can improve this range.
The Electronics skill is used to detect things smaller than a celestial body, the starship equivalent of a Notice check. You automatically notice anything that comes within engagement range of your ship, but you might need to make an Electronics roll to get advance warning of an approaching ship before they get that close. You can also use Electronics actively to scan an area, such as scanning a planet for population centers. Exactly how much detail you get depends on whether you have an advanced sensor suite installed.
The TN of the Electronics roll to detect an object is usually 4. Objects with sensors are generally aware they’ve been “buzzed” unless you succeed with a raise. Once an object is identified, it can usually be tracked without any further rolls unless it is obstructed or goes out of range.
You can also use Electronics to determine whether two spacecraft detect each other. Make an opposed Electronics roll; the winner sees the other side first and has sufficient time to prepare. For example, let’s say a trader has entered a region where pirates are hiding:
- If the trader wins, they’ll notice the pirates before they’re at engagement range. The pirates have been buzzed, but the trader can attempt to flee.
- If the trader wins with a raise, they notice the pirates without alerting them. They can flee without being pursued.
- If the pirates win, they notice the trader and can probably get within engagement range before they are detected.
- If the pirates win with a raise, they are able to get within a few Chase Cards before engaging. By space standards, it’s practically an ambush.
A ship that wants to conceal itself has two options: it can “go dark”, or it can try to hide. Going dark means disabling every non-critical system in the hopes of reducing the ship’s energy signature. A ship that has gone dark imposes a -2 penalty to the Electronics roll to notice it.
The other option is to hide - on a planet, in the midst of an asteroid field, in a wreck, and so on. This requires you to actually have something to hide in or behind - if you’re in open space, it’s not an option. Next, it requires the captain to make a Stealth roll, opposed by their pursuer’s Electronics. If the plan involves maneuvering in tight spaces, it might also require a Piloting roll.
Ships that need to be stealthy will sometimes install a stealth module, as detailed in the starship modifications section. These advanced (and expensive) devices are variants of spike drive technology; they work by modifying the ship’s radiators to dump heat into metadimensional space, instead of the ship’s surroundings. However, these modules consume energy, so they can’t be used indefinitely. While they’re running, though, they impose a -4 penalty to the Electronics roll to detect you.
All sensors and radio communications are limited by the speed of light. If you’re orbiting a planet, this is a delay of less than a second. However, if you’re trying to scan something on the other end of the star system, you might find that your information is minutes or even hours out of date.
This also applies to radio communications. Any ship in close proximity to a planet, space station or other ship is usually able to directly communicate in real time and to connect to any local networks available. Once you get more than a light minute away, communication becomes significantly delayed and real time conversations are no longer feasible.
This applies to messages sent over internets or other networks as well. Planets and stations in the same star system are generally connected by delay-tolerant radio networks, but a message sent from Earth will still take 5 hours to reach Pluto, for example. Communication between different star systems is usually achieved using “spike relays” - small probes outfitted with spike drives that periodically make the jump between two systems and carry messages back and forth. As one might imagine, this is only feasible for neighbouring systems - and even then, messages can take days or weeks to get from one system to the other.
Damage & Repairs
Starhips are pretty sturdy, but there’s still a lot of different ways they can go wrong. Under the Chase rules for Savage Worlds, a vehicle that takes a Critical Hit can suffer various types of damage that are more permanent than simple Wounds. Most of the results are self-explanatory, but the “System” result is much more open-ended. Starships have a lot of different critical systems that could cause headaches for the crew if they are shut down.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of systems that could potentially be damaged by a Critical Hit, sabotage or malfunction:
- Generators: A ship’s onboard generators are responsible for sustaining most systems indefinitely. If they are damaged, the ship consumes 1 energy each day just to keep running.
- Spike Drive: If the ship’s spike drive is damaged, interstellar travel is not possible until it is repaired.
- Life Support: Starships always have auxiliary life support, which can run for up to a week before it is exhausted. After that, oxygen and temperature levels will quickly drop.
- Gravity: If a ship’s artificial gravity is knocked out, everyone on board will need to deal with the effects of operating in a zero-g environment until it can be repaired. This also makes sublight travel impossible.
- Radiation Shielding: Even if it doesn’t depressurize the ship, damage to the hull can compromise the ship’s protection against cosmic radiation. Everyone onboard is exposed to low radiation while in space, until it is repaired.
- Depressurization: Ships are heavily compartmentalized; onboard systems are designed to seal off sections which suffer a hull breach. This can lead to areas of the ship being inaccessible until repairs can be performed. Crew in a depressurized area may need to make an Athletics or Strength check to get out.
- Sensors: Damage to the ship’s optical, thermal and radio sensors impose a -4 penalty to all Electronics rolls made to detect or scan for objects until repaired.
- Communications: Damage to communications equipment may make it impossible to hail other ships, request docking, or connect to local networks.
- Cargo: If you’re hauling cargo or vehicles, then they might be damaged by a hit, especially if they’re fragile or difficult to secure. Vehicles suffer a Wound and a Critical Hit, while other types of cargo suffer damage as determined by the GM.
- Modifications: If a ship is outfitted with advanced modifications - such as stealth or a targeting system - these could be rendered inoperable.
Repairing a Starship
As per the Savage Worlds rulebook, basic Wounds that have been inflicted on a ship are usually fairly trivial to fix:
- “Field work” at a -2 penalty just requires access to a toolbox and spare parts. Parts can be purchased for $100/attempt at any spacefaring settlement. Note that field repairs in space usually accrue an additional -2 penalty for zero-gravity.
- A “standard garage” to negate the penalty for field work can be rented in most spaceports and stations, usually for $50/hour.
- A “dedicated facility” (+2 bonus) may be available to those with connections, or for a higher price, depending on the location.
More serious repairs to one of your ship’s systems costs $1000 x the Ship’s Size. Repairing damaged modifications costs 10% of that original value of the mod. Either way, the repair attempt takes 1 day and a Repair roll at -2, in addition to the usual bonus/penalty. If the roll is failed, the mechanic must start over. Failing the Repair roll makes it take longer, but doesn’t make it cost more.
Note that salvage can sometimes be an alternative for obtaining spare parts or even replacements for damaged components of your ship.
If you want to keep a vehicle in your ship or be a rogue trader - or simply load up on scavenged parts or stolen goods - you’ll need to know how much space your ship has. You can refer to the following table to find out your cargo space in Size points; weight is usually less important than bulk for starships. If you’re hauling something fantastically heavy, like a full hold of gold ingots, the GM may decide to reduce your ship’s Handling until you offload them.
|Corvette||6||Small aircraft or fighter|
|Battlecruiser||10||Semi-truck and some crates|
|Titan||12||7-story office block|
Remember that size scales exponentially. Two Size 6 objects do not equal Size 12; they’d be closer to Size 9 together. To find the size of your cargo, you should estimate how much space it takes up and compare it to the Size table in the Savage Worlds rulebook. Some modifications, like fuel pods, might reduce your available cargo space.