Thursday, February 14, 2019

Into The Void: Starships for Into The Odd

Starships are characters. Anyone who enjoys a lot of sci-fi can tell you every good starship has its own feel. Unfortunately, most RPG rulesets make ship-building, well, ship building. This is fine when you're playing a game like Traveller where there is a certain degree of realism as a design goal, but for most OSR games, the idea of building a character is anathema. And if ships are characters, ship building should be anathema too.

Now, the reason games tend to let PCs build their ships is because a ship is, after all, an object and not a person. With the exception of transhuman settings, a PC born with 3D6 in every stat very plausibly has no ability to change them except through leveling up, and maybe not even then. A ship, on the other hand, is built to exacting specifications. It's realistic that PCs have random stats – but it's also realistic that ships have chosen stats.

But is buying a ship really so common in sci-fi? And are bought ships really bought to specific taste? The first time the Millenium Falcon shows up in Star Wars, it's meant to be underwhelming. The Rocinante from The Expanse is a top-of-the-line Martian stealth ship, but not only is it stolen, it's stolen thanks to a combination of luck and desperation. Its crew didn't choose it.

Does this really look like anyone's first choice of starship?

When ships aren't beat-up, they tend to be the military cruisers of Star Trek or (again) Star Wars, or the realistic science ships of Interstellar or 2001. These are not the kind of ships that plucky adventurers acquire. Furthermore, bought ships are often bought on the cheap, from second-hand or unscrupulous dealers.

So. When the PCs get their hands on a ship, there is a good chance they will not get to decide what is and isn't on it. They're not in much of a position to argue. But a ship is still easily upgraded once you've got one – after all, it is a machine. I think this is why most games will let the players design their ships. But why not randomize their creation, and let them upgrade it as they see fit afterwards?

Into The Void
This assumes you've read Into The Odd by Chris McDowell before. It's a quick read with good ideas. If you haven't/won't/don't have the time here's the rundown: three stats, roll equal or under to pass tests, attacks automatically deal damage (but don't automatically "hit" per se – this goes into more detail), there are no classes or races, and magic is handled through magic items rather than learned spells. Personally, I think this fits sci-fi a lot more than it fits fantasy.

Bastionland, the in-development setting book for Into The Odd, starts every game off by having the PCs in monumental debt, and they start adventuring to pay it off. This fits sci-fi games well. A ship costs 100G to purchase, but the PCs start with one anyway, but they owe 1G per month to their debtholders until the debt is paid off. Running away to the rimworlds or beyond is a totally valid strategy, but bountyhunting is a common profession, and debtholders will double the price of the debt owed if you willingly dodge paying.

Starships have four stats, rolled 3D6 in order. When you roll for Shields, write down the results of the individual D6s - they'll be used later to generate ship quirks.

Hull (HUL) is their structural integrity, resiliency, redundancy, and general stability. You test Hull to crash safely, smash through things, and resist Critical Damage.

Engines (ENG) is their speed, mobility, agility, acceleration, and general movement. You test Engines to outrun enemies, dodge obstacles, and perform tricky maneuvers.

Systems (SYS) is their hardware and software systems, sensors, and general intelligence. You test Systems to scan things, resist hacking attempts, and run computer programs.

Shields serve as a ship's HP. They're never tested but they're used to resist damage, and recharge if the ship is given time to do so.

Default ships have 4 Max Fuel capacity and start with a full tank. Fuel costs 1G and can only be purchased from well-equipped starbases and fuel refineries.

Things like moving between planets, dogfighting, maneuvering past obstacles, etc, don't cost any Fuel. The same "gravdrive" which provides a ship's artificial gravity is also used to move the ship through space, applying gravitational force to it and dragging it from location to location. Making course corrections requires a pilot.

Interstellar travel costs 1 Fuel per week of travel, and it takes a week to go from one hex to another (which in most games will be the equivalent of 1 light year). The ship's "hyperdrive" pushes the ship out of our dimension - Realspace - and into a higher dimension - Hyperspace - where the distances between locations are smaller and ships can travel faster. A ship can only enter Hyperspace safely if it is outside the gravity well of a planet.

Taking off from a planet takes an amount of Fuel based on the planet's gravity. Standard gravity worlds require 1 Fuel, while high gravity ones require 2 and low gravity ones don't require any. It doesn't cost any Fuel to land on a planet safely.

A ship can support a number of people equal to its SYS + 2 indefinitely. Food, air, and water are all recycled although eventually the crew will be eating nutrient paste. This can last a ship for months, years if carefully rationed, and a ship's stores can be replenished easily on any habitable world. Standard life support systems have backup generators that allow them to run even if the ship's reactor is disabled or destroyed.

If Life Support is damaged or the crew reroutes the backup power to other systems, they have supplies left for one week per person the ship would normally be able to support. Ships with crews smaller than their capacity can go longer without life support being online.

Hydroponics by Eddie Mendoza

Ships start with standard weaponry (D6 Damage) and no armour (0 Armour).

In combat, attacks land automatically, but the damage is reduced by a ship's Armour. A ship's Shields absorb damage until they run out and damage starts being dealt to the ship's HUL instead. Shields recharge to full if the ship goes for ten minutes with its power running but without doing anything of note – remember that objects maintain their momentum in space, so you can keep it moving while doing so. Firing a ship's weapons requires a gunner.

Each time a ship takes HUL damage, they have to make a HUL test with their new HUL. If they fail this roll, the ship isn't taken out of combat, but instead the party must roll a D12 on the table below. The system listed is disabled and the consequences are listed beside it.

1 Jumpdrive: The ship cannot travel through Hyperspace and therefore between stars.
2 Gravdrive: The ship loses gravity and the ability to move at more than a snail's pace.
3 Targeting: All weapon attacks are Impaired and require manual aiming.
4 Fuel Pods: The ship loses half its Max Fuel, and any Fuel over the new maximum.
5 Sensors: Aside from what you can see out of the windows, you're flying blind.
6 Life Support: The ship has one week of supplies left for each point of SYS, plus two.
7 Shields: The ship's shields are reduced to 0 and will no longer recharge.
8 Bridge: Everyone in the bridge must test STR or suffer Critical Damage.
9 Cargo: Everything in the cargo bay is shunted out into space.
10 Quarters: Everyone in their quarters must test STR or suffer Critical Damage.
11 Computer: Everything in the ship must be done manually. The PA system is offline.
12 Reactor: Everything except for life support is deactivated.

If a ship hits 0 HUL, it is only a matter of time before it is destroyed. Roll a D6. In that many rounds, the ship's core will go nova, exploding the ship, killing everyone still on board, and rendering it little more than scrap metal. As long as the ship's computers aren't disabled, the time left will be loudly declared at the start of each round. Moving from one section to the ship to another, getting into and launching a lifepod, putting on a vaccsuit, and exiting the ship via an airlock all take one round each.

Repairing a ship's HUL requires a week of repairs in a starbase and 1G per HUL repaired. Repairing a subsystem also requires 1G. You can perform repairs outside of a starbase, but this will also take a week and will require cannibalizing parts from other systems, ships, or even the ship's maximum HUL score.

Remember when I told you to write down the individual D6 rolls for Shields? This is why. The result from each D6 gives the ship a quirk, with higher numbers having worse results. The higher your Shields are, the more negative quirks the ship will have, but the lower they are, the more positive ones they'll have. This fits in nicely with Into The Odd's system of giving PCs with low stats better starting gear.

6 Absent Weapons: This ship starts with no weaponry installed.
5 Flickering Shields: If an attack against this ship deals max damage, it bypasses Shields and directly damages HUL.
4 Cracked Hull: -1 Max HUL. There's a huge gash in the side of the ship.
3 Thick Hull: +1 Max HUL, -1 Max ENG. The ship has a much thicker hull than normal.
2 Armour Plating: The ship's Armour is increased to 1.
1 Reinforced Bulkheads: +2 Max HUL. The ship's internal walls are made of a strong alloy and the doors are difficult to force open. Boarding it is a tactical nightmare.

6 Faulty Jumpdrive: After exiting hyperspace, the ship's reactor is disabled for D6 times ten minutes. This leaves only life support and door controls online.
5 Missing Fuel Pods: -2 Max Fuel.
4 Laggy Gravdrive: -1 Max ENG. The ship moves a few moments after it's told to.
3 Huge Drives: +1 Max ENG, -1 Max SYS. The jump- and gravdrives are oversized.
2 Antigravity Plating: It costs 1 less Fuel to take off from a planet's gravity well.
1 Cloaking Device: The ship has a cloaking device onboard, which can be activated to turn all systems offline, but make the ship undetectable to all but the strongest scans.

6 Adware Beacon: The ship constantly and loudly broadcasts advertisements.
5 Eccentric Systems: The cost of all upgrades on this ship are increased by 10%.
4 Computer Glitches: -1 Max SYS. Computers are always messing up slightly.
3 Redundant Systems: +1 Max SYS, -1 Max HUL. There's two of every subsystem.
2 Intelligent Ship: The ship has an agreeable AI controlling it. They have 9 + D6 CHA, no STR or DEX, and can perform one task a PC would normally have to do per round.
1 Payment Error: The ship's total debt or cost is reduced by 25G, once. If stealing or salvaging a ship this quirk is meaningless.

It costs 10G and a week of work to remove a negative quirk. For the ones with positive and negatives, only the negative part is removed.

The rules above should do a good job at generating patchwork ships to start off the party. Buying better ships once the PCs hit it rich is beyond the scope of these rules. However, by the time a party can afford it, cost shouldn't be a problem unless they want a ship to have 18 in every stat and tons of upgrades. Either their wealth can buy it easily or their demands are so high it's beyond their reach and should be acquired through an adventure, if at all.

But what about upgrading a ship? Fixing the problems of a ship are, in a way, just another kind of upgrade. It's not too hard to extrapolate fixing the fuel pods into adding more.

Ship Repairs by Mark Zhang

There are two kinds of upgrades: stat upgrades and subsystem upgrades. Stat upgrades simply raise one of the ship's four stats by one to a maximum of 18. The first time a stat is upgraded it costs 10G, the second time 20G, the third 30G, and so on until it reaches a cost of 100G at which point it doesn't increase any more.

Subsystem upgrades instead add a new subsystem to the ship, giving it more potential or increasing the efficiency of existing systems. A ship can have as many upgrades installed as it has points of SYS. A list of example upgrades is given below. Upgrades with asterisks next to them can be taken more than once, up to a number of extra times equal to the asterisks there (so two asterisks mean an upgrade can be taken three times).

These should all cost 10G, but they are by no means the only upgrades out there, nor is 10G the set cost in every system. There may be better subsystems available for steeper prices, or which can only be acquired through salvaging alien/ancient/ancient alien technology. And of course, not every starbase will be able to sell you every upgrade.

Advanced Weapons**: Increase the ship's damage die one step. D6 > D8 > D10 > D12.

Armour*: Increases the ship's armour by 1. 0 > 1 > 2.

Fuel Pods*: Increases the ship's Max Fuel by 2. 4 > 6 > 8.

Hydroponics: A large room sized garden. Doubles the ship's life support capacity.

Smuggler's Hold: The ship has a small, hidden cargo hold that can hide a few crates or few people from most inspections. You can use this space to found an Enterprise aboard your ship, but it only gains both income and losses while in systems that buy contraband.

Cargo Bay: The ship's cargo bay is expanded and can hold lots of material including a few vehicles. You can use this space to found an Enterprise aboard your ship, but it only gains both income and losses while in systems that buy bulk supplies.

Rec Room: A comfortable room with a nice TV, gaming systems, VR equipment, bar, kitchen, and other assorted luxuries. Lets you restore CHA after a day of relaxing.

Medical Bay: A sterile room with comfortable beds, an autodoc chamber, and all the gear you need to perform surgeries, diagnostics, autopsies, and more. Lets you safely treat Critical Damage and restore STR and DEX after a day of treatment.

Fuel Scoop: If you spend a week in a gas giant's atmosphere, you can harvest 1 Fuel at the cost of D6 HUL. This HUL damage does not cause Critical Damage or reduce a ship below 1 HUL, but if the damage would have reduced it to below 0 HUL, the ship doesn't gain any Fuel. (If it kept scooping Fuel up, it would be reduced to 0 HUL and destroyed.)

Shuttle Bay: Stores a small shuttle that can carry a small cargo or six passengers or mixture of the two, as well as a pilot and copilot either way. The shuttle is slower than any ship but can easily leave a planet's surface for its orbit in half an hour and for no Fuel cost.

Advanced Jumpdrive*: Upgrade the ship's Jumpdrive so that interstellar travel is either cheaper or faster. When setting out into Hyperspace, decide between using half as much Fuel, rounded up, or taking half as many days, rounded up. Taking this upgrade twice lets you do both.

Lifepods*: One person pods that can be deployed to escape a ship in one round. Comes with as many lifepods as the ship has SYS + 2. When taken twice it both doubles the effective amount and lets you have them be located at two locations on the ship.

Laboratory: Used to perform research, analysis, and other similar studies.

Sensor Suite: Greatly upgrades both the range and information granted by your sensors.

Cloak: Allows the ship to "go dark", unable to do anything but undetectable while doing so.

Tractor Beam: Allows the ship to move shuttle-sized and smaller objects that are within weapon range. Ships may make a test with the lower of STR and ENG to break free.

Workshop: Used to perform modifications, repairs, and upgrades on vehicles and robots.

Probe Bay: Stores up to four probes which can operate autonomously or by manual controls and transmit and receive information on the other side of a system. Replacing a drone costs 1G. Each drone is twice the size of a man and has a panoply of sensors, manipulating limbs, and moves via artificial gravity. They can reach orbit in a few hours.

These probes are the ones from Star Wars, more or less. Art by Slayerlane

Shrine: By virtue of divine blessing or being in the right place to get in the way of damage (crews can never agree on which), this system allows the ship to reroll a disabled system roll and take the new result even if it is less desirable or the same result.

Cryopods*: Allows you to store SYS + 2 people in cryostasis. They don't age, die from injuries, or suffer harm from poisons or diseases, but they still count against the ship's life support. Most starship passengers prefer to be in cryosleep on the trip.

Vault: A secure location deep inside the ship but designed to easily detach. Contains a small, self-contained life support system with an airlock. A vault can survive most attacks and even a ship going nova, keeping up to twenty people or a moderate amount of cargo safe temporarily, or five people alive for months.

Intelligent Ship: An artificial intelligence installed on the ship's databanks and capable of running one system as well as a trained human would at a time. The AI always starts loyal and has 9 + D6 CHA, but no STR or DEX. You can download them into a robot body to turn them into a PC, but if you do so, they will not be able to be turned back into a ship.

Shipskin Projector: A translucent pink wall of a rubber-like organic substance, one side inside the ship, the other exposed to the void of space. Passing out of the ship through the projector coats organic creatures in the "shipskin", which serves as a comfortable and self-healing vaccsuit with a few hours of oxygen.

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