Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ad Astra spaceships

Starships are at the heart of most space opera games. The ability to travel from planet to planet, and the need to engage in ship to ship combat defines, in many ways, the genre. Without spaceships, your space opera game will feel significantly less like space opera.

Spaceships in AD ASTRA don't have a price.  GMs should keep in mind that making characters skimp and save to get a ship isn't really the swashbuckling space opera way—when they need one, they have access to one. Whether or not the ship lasts the entire campaign or needs to be replaced at some point is, of course, up to you. Keep in mind that Luke Skywalker told Han Solo, "Ten thousand? We could almost buy our own ship for that!" I take this to mean that small, used, and possibly in poor condition ships can be had for about 15,000. Newer models of the same can go for 20,000. Any ship worth having other than a small fighter is going to be up from there. Something similar to the Millennium Falcon should go for no less than 50,000—and keep in mind that although somewhat hot-rodded, it was still a piece of junk. Characters will rarely be buying anything that large unless you run a game that's more about commerce and stuff things instead of action. But if you need some rough guidelines as to ship prices, that should be close enough.

As with Armor (see Equipment) spaceships start with a "chassis" and then you add extra equipment to them as needed. For the most part, the GM should build these up into various models—it's rare that a character would have the chance to make "a lot of special modifications" yourself unless you've had the ship for a long time, and have the cash to acquire some nifty goods.

Ship to ship combat is important in space opera. Ships usually have, as characters do, a move action, and then another action for every full "slot" that they have. A ship can make a "full run" action, in which eliminates the use of a slot action (such as firing a weapon.) Slots are areas in which equipment can be placed—like guns or torpedo launchers, or something like that. Dogfights are operated more like chases than combats (see Combat for details). Slots with weapons in them can be fired if someone is available to operate the weapons. The pilot can usually operate one weapon in addition to piloting. If he wants to operate equipment in any additional slots per action, then there needs to be a co-pilot, or gunner, or someone else around to do it. Robots, even some that are integrated permanently into the ship can count for this total.

To use a ship, you often make checks against the ship's stats, not the characters', due to the limitations of the equipment on the ship. Ship stats are similarly compressed and simplified; ships have a Hit Points stat, an Agility stat, a Sensor stat, an Armor class (AC) stat, and slots for additional "special modifications." The AC stat is derived from 10 + the Agility stat plus any shields or armor added to the ship (if any—in many cases there won't be any.) The maximum amount of armor that can be added to a ship is equal to half of the Hit Point score. Here is a small list of typical actions you can take in a ship, and how to resolve them:

Action Resolution
Perform a tricky maneuver in a dogfight Pilot's DEX + Ship's Agility
Shoot Gunner's DEX + Weapon bonus
Outrun an enemy Pilot's DEX + Ship's Agility
Scan for ships hiding in an asteroid field User's MND + Ship's Sensor

The following are the basic chassis that can be used to make ships.  They are generalized rather than specific, to reflect the vast diversity of spaceships operating in known space.

Ship Size Hit Points Agility Sensors Slots Comments
Small 16 +7 +1 5 1-man light fighter
Medium 24 +5 +2 10 Heavy fighter or bomber
Large 32 +4 +3 20 Corvette or small private freighter
Huge 40 +3 +4 30 Frigate or commercial freighter
Gargantuan 48 +2 +5 60 Cruiser, battleship or massive freighter
Colossal 55+ +1 22+ 100+ Gigantic carriers or mobile space stations

The following list of equipment can be used in slots.  Ships don't have to fill all of their slots.

Name Slots Used Modifiers Damage Range
Armor 1 +2 AC
Shields 1 Damage Reduction/2*
Engines 1 +1 Agility
Engines (large ship) 2 +1 Agility
Engines (Huge) 5 +1 Agility
Engines (Gargantuan) 7 +1 Agility
Engines (Colossal) 10 +1 Agility
Bulk Drive 5 Allows bulk jumps
Laser cannon 1 +1 1d6 medium
Twin lasers 2 +2 2d6 medium
Quad lasers 3 +2 4d6 medium
EMP cannon 4 +3 special medium
Torpedoes 1 -5 4d8 short
Missiles 3 -3 3d8 long
Heat seeking missiles 3 +5 3d8 short
Radium cannon 3 +1 2d10 long
Heavy radium cannon 4 +1 3d10 long
Twin radium cannons 5 +1 4d10 long
Heavy EMP cannon 6 +1 special long
Gravitic beam 5 +1 special short
Sensors 1 +1 Sensors
Passenger berth 1 5 seats
Passenger berth 3 20 seats
Cargo berth 1 5 tons
Cargo berth 2 20 tons
Cargo berth 3 50 tons

Special: EMP cannons disable one of the target's systems for 1d6+10 rounds; heavy EMP cannons target up to 3 systems. While extremely dangerous, they are also bulky and rare, and don't do any direct damage. Gravitic beams allow the ship to make a grab on another ship. To pull a ship into your docking bay against the will of its pilot, make a successful hit with a gravitic beam, then make an opposed check of the two ship's Hit Points + Agility. As you'll see, the larger the ship, the more difficult it is to escape its gravitic beam, especially for smaller targets. The gravitic on a massive space station is practically inescapable by a normal ship, even a large one.

The Damage reduction of shields is the amount of damage that is ignored from most types of attacks. For example, if you have taken shields in 3 slots for your ship, and have DR/6, then for every attack, you ignore 6 points of damage. If the attack rolls up 10 points of damage, you only take 4. If it rolls up 5 points of damage, you don't take any at all; your shields protect you entirely.

Range is not strictly defined. Use GM judgment to determine what is short, medium or long range.

Smaller vehicles, like grav-racers, grav-bikes, tanks, or whatnot can also be approximated using these same rules. Make them smaller—a standard speeder will have 10 hit points, +7 agility, +0 sensors (which is why having robot cohort can be handy) and 1-3 slots. Small fliers and speeders will have 5 hit points, +8-9 agility, no sensors at all, and only 1 slot. While, naturally, such vehicles can't travel through space, the chase and vehicular combat rules are generic enough that you can still apply them just fine without modification.

Bulk Jumps:  Travel into the bulk, or Outer Darkness, is the method by which spaceships can arrive at destinations that are too far away to be reachable without traveling faster than the speed of light.  GM's are encouraged to map out the immediate stellar neighborhood in brief on a hexagonal graph.  A bulk jump allows a spaceship to leave one hex with its associated star system and arrive in another one.  The maximum distance that can be traveled via bulk jumps is 5 hexes.  To travel farther than that, ships need to jump more than once, refueling in between jumps (bulk drives can only hold enough fuel for a single jump at a time; an extra slot can store enough fuel for one more jump.)  Fuel is usually refined and purified hydrogen, and the energy used is accessed via small fusion reactors.

Farther jumps start to become risky.  Travel through the Outer Darkness is fraught with uncertainty.  For smaller jumps of one to three hexes, the risk is slight enough that nothing need to rolled except the amount of time travel takes (1d6 + 4 days.)  For jumps of 4 hexes, there is a 10% chance that the ship will become "lost" in Outer Darkness and take an additional 3d6 days, and a separate 10% chance that it will end up in a hex not of the pilot's choosing (use the image below to move the ships arrival into normal space one hex off from where it targeted.)  For jumps of 5 hexes, the chances increase to 20%, the amount of days "lost" increases to 6d6 additional days, and the displacement is two hexes rather than one from the target.

Keep in mind that without proper preparation, this risk can be a risk of death for all involved.  If the ship does not have enough food on board for an extra month, but that's how long it takes to arrive out of Outer Darkness, then the crew could starve before arriving again in normal space.  If the ship is displaced into an empty hex and doesn't have enough fuel to make another jump they will drift until the crew starves or otherwise dies, unable to make another jump.

Space is littered with drifting ships that misjumped and their crews perished.  Given the scale of space, most of these will never be found again, barring very unusual circumstances, or another ship jumping to such an empty hex itself and having powerful enough sensors to detect the floating wreckage across the vastness of space.

Refueling with refined hydrogen usually costs about 200 credits per size slot (i.e. 200 credits for a small ship, 400 for a medium, 600 for a large, etc.)  Ships can use unrefined hydrogen by skimming the surface of a gas giant, or other source of hydrogen, but the impurities in the fuel increase the chance that the bulk drives will function improperly and cause a misjump.  Unrefined fuel has a 5% chance of adding 1d6 extra days and a separate 5% chance of missing your hex (as above.)  If also attempting to jump 4 or 5 hexes, this misjump chance is cumulative; i.e. 15% each for a 4 hex jump, 25% for a 5 hex jump.

The presence of a nearby gravity well also causes havoc with bulk jumps. Starships must fly out into space for a number of hours before they can safely make a jump. Rather than force you to do actual physics calculations, assume simply that for every hour that a ship flies away from a planet before jumping, it reduces the chance of a catastrophic misjump by 20%, starting at 100%. It therefore takes five hours to reduce the chance to 0%. That may seem a very long time for a ship under pursuit, but the consequences of a misjump while in a gravity well are much worse than a normal misjump.  To represent this, you must use the scatter template three times instead of just once and instead of scattering only one hex, each time scatter 1d4 times (if you scatter off the edge of the map, just roll the scatter again.) Not only do you have to worry about this big scatter, there is a 60% chance that your bulk drive will be ruined (20% can be repaired, 80% must be completely replaced) and an additional 25% chance that another system on the ship (GM's discretion which) will be fried. If it's life support and you're stranded in an empty hex with a dead bulk drive, chances are that you're in very serious trouble.

GM's are encouraged to create regional star maps that give players sufficient room to move around a bit, and to pack their sectors sufficiently that they can usually find risk averse paths to travel without having to make 4 or 5 hex jumps except very infrequently.  Although this is a completely different setting than AD ASTRA, use the map linked here as a sample of what it should look like.  You can zoom in to get more detail on the map.

Suggestions for mapping AD ASTRA space will be included in an Appendix.

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