- Space Combat
- 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||5||$2M||Personal shuttle or fighter.|
|Scout||8||+1||1800 MPH||25 (6)||1+5||10||$5M||Scout ship, large shuttle or bomber.|
|Corvette||10||+1||1500 MPH||30 (7)||4+20||15||$20M||Freighter or exploration vessel.|
|Cruiser||12||0||1200 MPH||35 (8)||10+40||25||$50M||Medium battleship or bulk freighter.|
|Battlecruiser||14||0||900 MPH||40 (9)||50+1000||35||$200M||Heavy battleship or strike carrier.|
|Titan||16||-1||600 MPH||50 (12)||100+2000||50||$1B||Flagship or attack carrier.|
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 some modifications may also draw power. A ship that completely runs out of energy can get by on its backup batteries - including travel at tactical speeds - for a number of days equal to its Size rating. After that, it’s dead in the water; even critical systems like life support and communications will fail.
|Antigrav Grapple||Lets you board enemy ships, using Electronics instead of Piloting.||$200K|
|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.||$20K x Size|
|Cutting Laser||Cuts through 10 points of Armor per round. Not a weapon.||$25K|
|Fuel Pods||Increases energy capacity by 5. Reduces cargo space by 1.||$10K 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|
|Jamming System||Allows you to jam communications at engagement range, with an opposed Electronics roll.||$50K|
|Passenger Quarters||Increases passenger capacity by 50%. Reduces cargo space by 1.||$5K 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.||$1M|
|Speed||Increases Top Speed by 150 MPH.||$100K x Size|
|Stealth System||Vents heat into metaspace, imposing a -4 penalty to detection rolls. Consumes 1 energy per hour.||$200K x Size|
|Superstructure||Adds a massive extension for passengers, cargo, vehicles or similar. Corvette-class and above only; regional travel costs twice as much.||$5M|
|Targeting System||Negates up to 4 points of Shooting penalties.||$10K/weapon|
|Workshop||Space for a medical bay, science lab, or similar. Reduces cargo space by 1.||$5K x Size|
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. Weapons on a starship can be operated individually or can be Linked using the rules on page 82, as desired.
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.
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 be used for point defense or to target exposed equipment). Laser weaponry costs 3x the listed price, as usual. Laser weapons don’t need ammunition, but can’t be used if the ship is out of energy.
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.
Most of the weaponry fitted to passenger and commercial ships, or available to pirates and adventuring types, falls into the “self defense” category as far as space warfare goes. Heavy duty weapons are restricted to military gunships throughout the Firmament, and are not generally available to the general public. A civilian vessel mounted with military hardware is going to have a lot of explaining to do if they ever encounter the system’s navy.
Nuclear Missiles aren’t particularly effective in space; the blast and thermal effects disappear completely without an atmosphere to attenuate them. This renders them about as effective as an ordinary heavy missile. However, they are weapons of massive destruction when detonated inside an atmosphere.
Torpedoes are huge, high-powered missiles which require special launchers called “torpedo tubes” to fire. A single torpedo tube costs $50K to fit, and can hold 2 torpedoes at a time. Like missiles, torpedoes use the rules on page 79 of the SWADE rulebook.
Railguns are bulky kinetic weapons that can accelerate projectiles to very high speeds; at close ranges, they rival torpedoes in terms of destructive power. As the payload is unpowered, however, their range is inferior to a torpedo. Railguns do not function if the ship is out of energy.
Starships have a tactical speed that represents how fast they move in atmosphere, or when close enough to obstacles that high-speed maneuvering isn’t safe. In space, you can multiply this speed by 100. However, to keep things simple we assume that the effective range of most weapons is multiplied by the same factor in space. You can use all the original numbers in the rulebook while keeping in mind the fact that 1” is 600 feet in space.
Starship combat is handled with the Chase rules on page 113 of the SWADE rulebook. Whether you’re in atmosphere or space, the range increment is 100”. There are some special rules that come into effect when you’re in space:
- The combat penalties for Unstable Platform and Speed are ignored in space combat, though they still apply in atmosphere.
- Ordinary kinetic weapons, like machine guns, don’t have their range multiplied in space. This means they’re only useful as point-defense systems or at boarding range.
- Boarding a moving vessel is generally impossible without an antigrav grapple. You can still use the Board action to fly your ship close enough to use weapons like machine guns or cutting lasers that require point-blank range. However, there is nothing stopping your target from pulling away with the Change Position action.
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||8 hours|
|Scout||2 hours||10 hours|
|Corvette||3 hours||12 hours|
|Cruiser||4 hours||16 hours|
|Battlecruiser||5 hours||24 hours|
|Titan||6 hours||48 hours|
Local travel is travel within a region of the star system. Examples include going from a planet’s surface to one of its moons, or to a space station in orbit. Local travel is generally free, unless you do a lot of it in a short period of time.
Regional travel is travel between two regions. For example, going from one planet to another; or from a planet to the edge of the system. Regional travel consumes 1 point of energy.
Accelerating to sublight speeds requires a long, 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.
Pilots who are in a hurry can “trim the course”, burning hard and taking advantage of orbital mechanics to speed up their journey. This 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.
Interstellar travel is only possible with a spike drive. 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 the spike drive so that they don’t lose years of life on a single voyage.
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. There are two types of spike drive available:
- Standard drives are the ordinary variant found throughout the Firmament, and are worth $1M credits. They can cover a parsec in 3 days.
- Llewellyn drives are cutting-edge technology usually found on Foundation gunships, and cost $30M credits. They can cover a parsec in 1 day.
Spike drive travel consumes 1 point of energy for each parsec travelled, regardless of which type you use.
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, any systems that consume energy become inoperable and the ship is treated as though it has run out of fuel.
- Spike Drive: If the ship’s spike drive is damaged, interstellar travel is not possible until it is repaired.
- Life Support: Damage to the life support systems of a ship will compromise its ability to recycle air and water. A fully crewed ship will exhaust its oxygen reserves in 3 days; ships with less personnel will last longer.
- 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, as the G-forces would kill everyone on board.
- 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 need to make an Athletics roll at -2 to get out before it is sealed, or a Strength roll at -2 to hold onto something.
- 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. Other ships may assume they are hostile.
- 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. For example, if your cargo is Size 0, that means you can stow about about 6 cubic feet of cargo.
|Corvette||6||Small aircraft or fighter|
|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 - to a minimum of 0.