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Chapter 9: Starships

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 288

Space Travel

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 290
No one knows which Pact World first achieved spaceflight, but by the beginning of the modern era, nearly every world had some form of interplanetary travel. For some, this was purely magical: powerful spells or artifacts, or quick jaunts through other planes of existence allowed travelers access to their intended world. Yet for others, the airless void of space was just another sea to be crossed, which they did in a variety of craft, from magical to mechanical and from biological to divine.

As technology improved, travel time between worlds dropped from months and years to days, and the optimal routes between planets became crowded with spacecraft. Yet even in this new age of space flight, voyages beyond the solar system remained rare; traveling to even the nearest star at conventional speeds would take generations. While a few starships had drives capable of circumventing this obstacle, all relied on extremely expensive magical technology, often controlled by churches or other organizations. From Asmodean Helldrives to Kuthite shadow engines to the prayer-fueled cores of Iomedaean cathedralships, most of these technologies not only took the ship through other planes but also operated with direct divine assistance, and thus always came with a hefty price. While other drives had been theorized—drives that could fold space, create stable wormholes, or otherwise bend the rules of physics— the Pact Worlds had never managed to build them.

Then, 3 years after the end of the Gap, the Signal went out. Some worlds received it as a broadcast. It came to others in the dreams of inventors or lunatics, or etched into floors by malfunctioning assembly robots. Still others dug it from the innards of crashed space probes, found it carved on monoliths in city centers, or heard it blared from the sky by entities within wheels of flame. Regardless of the mechanism, at the same instant, thousands of cultures across the Material Plane received the same information: blueprints for a new type of starship drive— one capable of cheaply and efficiently shortening the distance between stars.

Though some scholars argue that every mortal culture received this information, many recipients were never aware of it or able to capitalize on it. In some cases, cultures weren’t technologically advanced enough to interpret the information— explorers have even uncovered these designs painted on cave walls by an uncomprehending paleolithic culture. In other cases, the information was lost due to simple accident, as when an inventor blessed with the information fell out a window before he could share it.

Immediately following the Signal, the new god Triune (see page 490) revealed itself to the Pact Worlds, claiming to have granted the knowledge as a blessing to its new mortal children. Formerly three minor gods of machines and robotics, now networked together into a single entity, the divine collective claimed to have peered through the substrata of reality and discovered a previously unknown plane of existence. Called the Drift, this plane could be reached only via technology—not magic— and would allow mortals to cheaply and easily travel between points anywhere in the galaxy. In granting this discovery to the world, Triune became one of the most powerful entities in the multiverse overnight: the new god of interstellar travel.

Like earlier interstellar drives, Drift engines operate by jumping to another plane of existence and then back to a different point on the Material Plane, thus never actually running up against the hard limit presented by the speed of light. In the past, that had meant using powerful magic and traveling to places like Heaven, Hell, the Maelstrom, or the First World—places inhabited by creatures and gods with sometimes inconvenient attitudes and appetites. The Drift, on the other hand, is a different type of dimension: a void of swirling color without substance, a mostly empty place of mutable laws, thought by some to be the quantum foam underlying all creation. While magic still functions inside the Drift, only technology can pierce the membrane between it and the rest of reality, which, combined with Triune’s role as gatekeeper, keeps any other deities or organizations from monopolizing the place.

While even most skeptics and members of other religions are forced to admit that Triune has appeared to make good on its egalitarian offer to maintain cheap and easy interstellar travel for everyone, use of the Drift does come with a catch. Every time a Drift engine is used, a tiny portion of a random plane is torn from its home and added to the Drift, set to float there for eternity. The farther the jump, the larger the chunk of material, which sometimes appears near the jumping ship, adding an element of risk: you never know when a long jump might tear away a chunk of Hell and leave you flying through a cloud of furious devils. Even those making safely measured jumps might encounter strange beasts trapped there by previous travels. Why the technology involves this side effect is unknown, though some conspiracy theorists believe that the ever-increasing size of the Drift—and the corresponding shrinking of the other planes of existence—is part of an inscrutable power play by Triune itself.

Standard Navigation and Astrogation

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 290
Whether they’re patrol craft or battlecruisers, all starships are propelled through space by thrusters. The exact workings of these engines vary from starship to starship—some are technological, while others are a blend of magic and machine. See the navigate task of the Piloting skill (page 145) for information about using that skill to plot a correct course. Determine the approximate distance you wish to travel and roll using the travel times below to see how long it takes you to reach your destination, but note that the Game Master is the final arbiter of travel times and may shorten or lengthen them as she desires for the needs of the campaign.
  • Start Thrusters (1 Minute per Size Category): Though this is rarely an issue, a starship’s thrusters need a short amount of time to warm up before they are ready to be used. Most hangars and space docks require that a starship’s thrusters be deactivated after it lands or docks. However, a starship in orbit always has its thrusters active. A starship also needs to deactivate its thrusters to use its Drift engine (see below)— this requires no time.
  • Travel Point-to-Point on a Planet (1d4 Hours): Large and smaller starships can operate in a planet or planetoid’s atmosphere, and can travel between two areas on the same planet within reason (a starship isn’t generally equipped to be submerged underwater, for instance). The travel time depends on the distance between the two points. This amount of time can also be used to represent traveling between two vessels in different orbits around the same planet.
  • Go into Orbit or Land (1d2 Hours): It takes only a short amount of time for a Large or smaller starship to lift off from a planet’s or planetoid’s surface and enter orbit, or to make a controlled landing from orbit. Huge and larger starships can be placed in orbit around only a planet or planetoid, and the crew requires a shuttle or other conveyance to reach the surface.
  • Reach Satellite (1d8 Hours): From planetary orbit, it takes slightly longer for a starship to reach one of that planet’s satellite bodies (or vice versa) than it would take to land. This travel time depends partly on the size of the planet and the satellite’s orbit.
  • Travel In-System (1d6+2 Days): Traveling between two planets in the same star system fluctuates based on those planets’ relative positions at the time of travel.
  • Travel Between Systems: Traveling between two star systems via conventional thrusters is a daunting affair, taking decades at the very least. Only large colony starships or vessels with crews in suspended animation attempt such a journey.

Drift Navigation

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 291
Using Drift technology differs from ordinary astrogation in that the distances between worlds are less important than the difficulty of correctly targeting the jump. Within a given solar system, jumps are relatively quick and easy, though this method is only moderately faster than flying between worlds using conventional thrusters. Outside of a given system, Drift tech divides the galaxy into two sectors: Near Space and the Vast. While Near Space worlds tend to be closer to the galactic center (and, incidentally, to the Pact Worlds) and the systems of the Vast tend to be farther out, the true difference between the regions lies in the density of so-called “Drift beacons.” These mysterious objects, sometimes spontaneously generated and sometimes placed by priests of Triune, help navigation systems orient ships in the Drift. While placing a single Drift beacon on a world isn’t enough to convert a Vast world to Near Space status, placing many in that general region of space can cause the shift, and thus it’s possible to find pockets of Near Space worlds all the way out to the galactic rim, as well as uncharted zones considered part of the Vast near the galaxy’s core.

When traveling to a world through the Drift, determine whether the destination is in the same system, Near Space, or the Vast. The distance between the start and end of your journey doesn’t matter, nor which category of space you’re starting from: traveling from the Vast to a Near Space world is no more difficult than between two Near Space worlds. Roll using the travel times below, then divide the result by your starship’s Drift engine rating to determine how long it takes you to reach your destination. For example, a starship with a Drift engine rating of 2 traveling to a world in the Vast would roll 5d6 and divide the result by 2. If you rolled 15, then the trip would take 7-1/2 days. Note that you never round down with Drift travel rolls, since these partial days can be extremely important when multiple spacecraft are racing each other to a destination. Additionally, since the Drift is a plane that you’re traveling through, it is possible to pause midjump, and even to land on one of the floating chunks of terrain or engage in starship combat. Time spent stopped in this manner does not bring you closer to your destination, and thus does not count toward your required travel time. Days spent in the Drift are no different for the crew than days spent in normal space, and thus they can craft items, heal, and take other actions as normal.

The one exception to the rules above is Absalom Station: for unknown reasons, the Starstone at its core acts as an extremely powerful Drift beacon, allowing ships from anywhere in the galaxy to jump to Absalom Station in 1d6 days.

While traveling through the Drift, a starship uses its conventional thrusters. For a starship to engage its Drift engines to either enter or exit the Drift, it must remain stationary with its conventional thrusters turned off for 1 minute.
  • Travel In-System (1d6 Days): Jumping between two points in the same solar system is moderately faster than moving between them in real space, and is so short as to carry only a 1% chance of random encounters in the Drift.
  • Travel to Absalom Station (1d6 Days): Jumping to Absalom Station always takes only 1d6 days, thanks to the Starstone.
  • Travel to Near Space (3d6 Days): Near Space contains the Pact Worlds system and most of the worlds colonized and contacted so far by their explorers, but there are still thousands of Near Space worlds yet to be investigated. Jumps to Near Space worlds rarely carry more than a 10% chance of a random encounter while in the Drift.
  • Travel to the Vast (5d6 Days): Largely unexplored, the millions of Vast worlds are significantly more difficult to get to than Near Space, and the risk of a random encounter in the Drift can be anywhere from 25% to as high as 50%.
  • Travel beyond the Rim: While other galaxies are known to exist, the distances between them and the galaxy of the Pact Worlds are so incredibly large that there have yet to be any confirmed instances of intergalactic travel using Drift technology. Whether this is due to the extreme travel times involved, limits to the reach of the Drift itself, or dangers encountered in the Drift during such attempts remains unknown.

Building Starships

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 292
From the smallest transport shuttles to the largest, battleready dreadnoughts, starships are an important part of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. They defend orbital stations from raids by space pirates, engage enemy fleets during massive interstellar conflicts, and explore the deepest reaches of space. But at their simplest, they allow the characters to travel the stars in search of adventure. The following chapter outlines the process of building a starship from scratch and customizing it to perfectly fit your needs.

Understanding Starships

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 292
Starships and their base frames are described using stat blocks that include information about how they move, the size of their crews, and more. When you’re reading a starship or base frame stat block, the statistics and definitions below define its capabilities. A starship sheet is provided at the end of this book.
  • Name and Tier: This is the designation of the starship and its power level. Starships of different tiers vary to a greater degree in terms of power and abilities than monsters whose Challenge Rating (CR) differs by a similar amount.
  • Size Category and Frame: This describes the overall size of the vessel (see Starship Scale on page 294). A starship’s size provides a modifier to its Armor Class and Target Lock (see below). This entry also notes the base frame of the starship (see page 294).
  • Speed: This is the number of hexes the starship can move using most pilot actions.
  • Maneuverability: A starship’s maneuverability is rated clumsy, poor, average, good, or perfect. This is generally tied to the mass and size of the starship, and it both indicates how agile the starship is in space and determines the minimum number of hexes the starship must move before it can turn (see page 319).
  • Drift: This is a starship’s Drift engine rating. When determining how long it takes a starship to travel to a location through the Drift, divide the die roll by this number (see page 291). If this entry is absent, the starship can’t travel into the Drift.
  • Armor Class (AC): This value is used when determining whether direct-fire weapons (see Type on page 303) hit a starship. AC is calculated based on the ship’s size, maneuverability, and physical armor, as well as the pilot’s number of ranks in the Piloting skill. See page 320 for details on calculating AC.
  • Target Lock (TL): This value is used when determining whether tracking weapons (see Type on page 303) hit a starship. TL is calculated based on the starship’s size, maneuverability, and defensive countermeasures (see page 298), plus the pilot’s number of ranks in the Piloting skill. See page 320 for details.
  • Hull Points (HP): This is the total amount of damage a starship can take before it becomes inoperative. A starship with 0 Hull Points isn’t destroyed, though many of its systems are no longer functioning and it is no longer a threat to its enemies. In a base frame stat block, the Hull Points entry also lists the HP increment, which is the number of Hull Points a starship with that frame automatically gains when its tier increases to 4 (and every 4 tiers thereafter; see page 294).
  • Damage Threshold (DT): If an attack deals less damage less than this value, that damage isn’t counted against the ship’s total Hull Points. Only Huge or larger ships have a Damage Threshold, and it matters only when such a starship’s shields are depleted (see page 320).
  • Critical Threshold (CT): Whenever the total amount of damage that has been dealt to a starship’s Hull Points reaches a multiple of this value, one of its systems takes critical damage (see page 321). This value is always one-fifth of the starship’s maximum number of Hull Points.
  • Shields: In a starship stat block, this lists the ship’s shield system and the Shield Points (SP), which represent the damage shields can take before they’re depleted. Shield Points are assigned to particular quadrants (forward, port, starboard, or aft). These quadrants correspond in orientation to the firing arcs shown in the diagram on page 318.
  • Attacks: A starship has four firing arcs: forward, port, starboard, and aft (see the diagram on page 318). Most nonturret weapons can fire only in the firing arc where they’re mounted; turret weapons can be fired in any arc. The attack entries list the various weapons mounted on the ship that can fire in each of the arcs. Each weapon also lists its damage, range, and other special properties.
  • Mounts: In a base frame stat block, this entry lists the class of weapon that can be mounted on the starship (see page 303).
  • Power Core: This lists a starship’s power core or cores (see page 296) and the power core units (PCU) it produces.
  • Drift Engine: The starship’s Drift engine, if any, is listed here.
  • Systems: This entry lists a starship’s major systems, such as armor, defensive countermeasures, sensors, and weapons (see page 297).
  • Expansion Bays: This entry lists any expansion bays—cargo spaces that can be used for special purposes (see page 298).
  • Modifiers: This entry lists the bonuses (or penalties) to certain skill checks during starship combat gained from a starship’s speed and maneuverability, as well as from some starship systems.
  • Minimum and Maximum Crew: In a base frame stat block, these entries note the minimum and maximum number of characters who can take actions on that vessel during starship combat. Larger starships use teams that report to a higher officer who performs an assigned role in starship combat (see Large and Small Crews on page 316 for more about large crews). A starship without its minimum crew can’t be operated.
  • Complement: In a starship stat block, this section lists the total size of the crew aboard that ship.
  • Crew: In a starship stat block, this section lists those filling various roles in combat (see page 316), as well as their bonuses to skills used during starship combat and number of ranks in those skills—see page 316 for more on determining these. Any modifiers listed earlier in the stat block are accounted for here. If a starship has teams supporting officers who fill roles, this entry also lists the number and size of teams. This section is listed only for ships under the GM’s control—PCs can perform their own actions aboard starships they control; for more on these actions, see Starship Combat on page 316.
  • Special Abilities: Any unique actions or qualities a starship has due to its crew or its equipment are listed here.
  • Cost: In a base frame stat block, this lists the frame’s Build Point cost. Build Points (BP) are an abstract resource used for creating and upgrading starships.

Shooting Starships

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 292
Starship weapons and regular PC-level weapons work on different scales and aren’t meant to interact with each other. If characters choose to shoot at a starship with their laser rifles (or cast a spell on it) while it is on the ground, the GM should treat the starship as an object (a particularly massive one, at that). At the GM’s discretion, if starship weapons are ever brought to bear against buildings or people, they deal Hit Point damage equal to 10 × their listed amount of damage. However, starship weapons are never precise enough to target a single individual (or even small group) and can, if the GM decides, be simulated as deadly hazards instead of weapon attacks.

Building a Starship

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 293
Regardless of starships’ size and purpose, they’re all created using the same process. GMs and players alike can use the following steps to create an incredibly diverse array of vessels, from sleek science ships and nimble skirmishers to heavily armored combat frigates. Alternatively, you can use the prebuilt sample starships detailed later in this chapter (see page 305).

While it’s possible to run a Starfinder game that doesn’t involve starships at all, the Starfinder RPG assumes that PCs have access to a starship. Whether it was built from scrap, received from a generous benefactor, or purchased with an exorbitant loan, the PCs’ starship serves as a mobile base of operations, a means of reaching distant stars, and a defense against hostile alien vessels. Often, the PCs’ first starship is designed by the GM and can be upgraded or even replaced as the characters gain experience. However, some GMs might allow the PCs free reign over their starship’s creation, letting them feel a sense of true ownership over the starship that will accompany them throughout the campaign. Either way, a starship’s power level is based on the PCs’ Average Party Level (APL)—the characters’ average character level. See Refitting and Upgrading Starships on page 305 for information on how to adjust a starship’s capabilities when the characters’ APL changes.

When creating a starship, follow these steps.
  • Step 1: Conceptualize. Start by deciding what type of starship you are designing, with a general idea of its purpose and required crew size. If you are creating a starship to be used by PCs, make sure that all the PCs can fit within the vessel! Some of the choices you make later might depend on your overall concept.
  • Step 2: Determine tier and Build Points. If you are creating a PC starship, determine the characters’ APL by adding together the characters’ levels and dividing by the number of characters. That number is their ship’s tier. If designing enemy starships, decide the difficulty of the encounter (see Designing Starship Encounters on page 326) and choose the enemy ship’s tier. Once you know the tier of the ship, consult Table 9–1: Starship Base Statistics to determine the number of Build Points you can spend to create the starship. Note that a starship receives a boost to its Hull Points equal to its HP increment at tiers 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20.
  • Step 3: Select a frame. Each starship is built upon one of a variety of frames that determines its size, maneuverability, crew complement, weapon mounts, and other basic statistics. Each frame costs a certain number of Build Points; see Base Frame below for more information.
  • Step 4: Select a power core. A starship’s power core determines its overall power available (listed in power core units, or PCU), so you should spend Build Points on it first (see page 296). This amount of power can be used as a kind of budget when installing other systems, such as thrusters and weapons—see Power Budget on page 296 for more suggestions.
  • Step 5: Select thrusters. A starship without a means of propulsion is nothing more than a floating target (or an inert hunk of metal on a planet’s surface), so spending Build Points on the starship’s thrusters should be your next priority. On page 296, thrusters are listed by starship size and speed (in hexes) during combat.
  • Step 6: Select other systems. Next, spend your remaining Build Points on all the other systems you wish to have on your starship. To be effective in combat, a starship needs armor, defensive countermeasures, shields, and weapons. If you wish to travel to locations outside of your home star system, it also needs a Drift engine. Other, more optional purchases include upgrades to the starship’s computers, expansion bays, security, and sensors. (See Other Systems on page 297.)
  • Step 7: Add details. Finally, once all these choices have been made, you should give your starship a name, determine its relevant statistics (such as its AC and TL), and add any other details (such as quirks, physical description, and so on).
TierStarship Build PointsSpecial
1/425
1/330
1/240
155
275
395
4115HP increase
5135
6155
7180
8205HP increase
9230
10270
11310
12350HP increase
13400
14450
15500
16600HP increase
17700
18800
19900
201,000HP increase

Starship Scale

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 293
Though the size categories of starships have the same names as the size categories of creatures, they operate on completely different scales. Even within a size category, a starship’s exact measurements might differ between base frames and manufacturers. The size of a starship also modifies its Armor Class and Target Lock as indicated.
SizeLengthWeightAC and TL Modifier
Tiny20–60 ft.3–20 tons+2
Small60–120 ft.20–40 tons+1
Medium120–300 ft.40–150 tons+0
Large300–800 ft.150–420 tons–1
Huge800–2,000 ft.420–1,200 tons–2
Gargantuan2,000–15,000 ft.1,200–8,000 tons–4
ColossalOver 15,000 ft.Over 8,000 tons–8

Armor

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 297
Armor protects a ship from direct-fire weapons (see Type on page 303), deflecting their energy and preventing damage to critical ship systems. It grants an armor bonus to a ship’s AC. Armor’s cost depends on the bonus it grants and the ship’s size category (for the purpose of this calculation, Tiny = 1, Small = 2, Medium = 3, Large = 4, etc.). Armor is a passive system and does not require any PCU to remain functional. It provides protection primarily through mass, which can affect a ship’s maneuverability (making it harder to turn) and make it easier for opponents using tracking weapons to lock on to the ship— these effects are listed in the Special column of the table below.

Related Rules

Ablative Armor (Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 20)

Shields

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 302
While almost every ship has simple navigational shielding to prevent damage from tiny bits of debris, this protection does little to stop a starship from being damaged by lasers, missiles, and larger impacts. To defend against such threats, a ship has energy shields. Projectors mounted around the ship create a barrier that absorbs damage from attacks. Each attack reduces the number of Shield Points (SP) in a given arc until that arc’s shields are depleted, after which point all further damage in that arc reduces the ship’s Hull Points. See Damage on page 304 for more information. Shield Points regenerate over time and can eventually be used again, but this regeneration occurs only when the ship is not in combat or otherwise taking damage. Shields must be attached to a functional power core in order to regenerate; the rate of regeneration is listed in the table below.

The value listed under Total SP in the table below is the total number of Shield Points provided to the ship. At the start of combat, when the starship’s crew takes up battle stations and the shields are activated, the Shield Points must be divided up between the four quadrants of the ship. No quadrant can be assigned less than 10% of the total number of Shield Points available at the start of combat, or available at the time the shields are balanced again using the balance science officer action (see page 324).

The table also lists rate of regeneration, PCU needed, and cost.

Related Rules

Deflector Shields (Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 20)

Weapons

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 303
Whether the PCs are in the Vast or near a Pact Worlds planet, space is a dangerous place, plagued with hostile aliens, raiders, and worse. As a result, most ships protect themselves with a variety of weapons, ranging from laser cannons to solar torpedoes.

Weapons must be installed on special mounts on a ship, specified in the ship’s base frame (see page 294). These mounts are designed for optimal firing and are placed so that they can be easily tied into the ship’s power and control systems. They also prevent the weapon from affecting the course or speed of a ship when fired.

Weapons are classified using the following key statistics.

Name

This is the name of the weapon.

Class

Weapons belong to one of three classifications. Light weapons can be mounted on any ship but are most typically found on smaller fighters and bombers. While dangerous, light weapons do not have the firepower necessary to damage very large starships. Heavy weapons are a serious threat to any vessel but can be mounted only on Medium or larger starships. Capital weapons can be mounted only on Huge or larger starships. Capital weapons can’t be brought to bear against Tiny or Small targets and are typically used only against other large vessels.

Type

Starship weapons are one of two types. Direct-fire weapons fire projectiles or beams at amazing speed, targeting the opposing vessel’s AC. Tracking weapons’ projectiles are slower and must home in using a target’s TL. A tracking weapon’s projectile has a listed speed; once fired, it moves that number of hexes toward its target. Each subsequent round during the gunnery phase, it must succeed at a gunnery check against the target’s TL to continue to move its speed toward its target. On a failure, the projectile is lost. If the projectile reaches the target’s hex, it deals the listed damage.

Range

Weapons have one of three ranges: short range (5 hexes), medium range (10 hexes), or long range (20 hexes). As with characterscale ranged attacks, an attack with a starship weapon takes a cumulative –2 penalty for each range increment (or fraction thereof, beyond the first) between it and the target. A gunner firing a tracking weapon takes a range penalty only on her first gunnery check, when the target is first acquired. A starship weapon can fire at a target up to 10 range increments away.

Speed

This is the distance in hexes a tracking weapon moves toward its target each round during the gunnery phase. Projectiles from a tracking weapon have perfect maneuverability, and as such, they have a minimum turn distance of 0 (see page 319).

Damage

This is the amount of damage (in Hull Points) the weapon deals when it successfully hits a target. See Shooting Starships on page 292 for guidelines on how starship weapons can affect characters.

PCU

This is the amount of PCU consumed by the weapon. It uses this amount continuously whenever the weapon is powered up and ready to fire.

Cost

This is the cost of the weapon in Build Points.

Special Properties

Some weapons have special properties, as noted on this page.

Linking Weapons

If you install two of the same direct-fire weapon in the same firing arc, you can link them together so they fire as one. This costs a number of Build Points equal to half the cost of one of the weapons (rounded down) and consumes a negligible amount of PCU.

Related Rules

Starship Weapon Types (Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 12)

Refitting and Upgrading Starships

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 305
As the PCs go on adventures and gain experience, they need an increasingly powerful starship to face tougher challenges. When the characters’ Average Party Level increases, so does the tier of their starship (see Table 9–1: Starship Base Statistics on page 294). The PCs receive a number of Build Points equal to the Build Points listed for their starship’s new tier – those listed for its previous tier, which they can use to upgrade their starship. For example, a group whose APL increases from 2 to 3 receives 20 BP that the PCs can use to upgrade their starship. This could represent salvage gathered during their exploits, an arrangement with a spacedock, or called-in favors from a wealthy patron. Some GMs might require PCs to visit a safe, inhabited world before they can spend these Build Points, but this shouldn’t be allowed to impact the campaign too much.

Also remember that at tier 4 and every 4 tiers thereafter, the starship gains an increase in Hull Points equal to the HP increment listed for its base frame.

Refitting Systems

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 305
If the PCs want to alter their starship before receiving additional Build Points (for instance, replacing a weapon with one that costs fewer Build Points or consumes less PCU), they can do so at a friendly spaceport (or safe landing zone) given enough time. If they replace a system or option with one that costs fewer Build Points, they can immediately spend the excess Build Points. Refitting a single system or starship weapon usually takes 1d4 days.

Upgrading Systems

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 305
PCs with Build Points to spare can replace a system or weapon with one that costs more Build Points by paying only the difference in cost between the two systems. If the cost is the same, the system can be upgraded for free, but the crew should keep the amount of PCU the starship’s power core produces in mind so they don’t exceed their power budget. When upgrading a weapon, remember that the starship’s frame starts with a certain number and type of weapon mounts (but see New Weapon Mounts below). Installing a single upgrade usually takes 1d4 days.

PCs can’t upgrade the base frame of their starship. They can rebuild their starship with a new base frame if they so desire (within the limits of their budget of Build Points, of course), but that new starship will have a different look (and should probably have a different name). PCs can purchase Huge and larger base frames only at the GM’s discretion, as these usually require large crews and thus are normally reserved for NPC starships.

Buying a whole new starship is a process that can take between 1d4 days and 1d4 months, depending on whether the PCs are purchasing a used starship from a spacedock or having a custom vessel built from scratch.

New Weapon Mounts

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 305
Greater dangers means the PCs will require more powerful weapons in order to survive and triumph. Unless they begin flying around with an escort of armed battlecruisers, the weapons they start with will eventually become inadequate. Bigger weapons require the correct weapon mounts, however.

By spending 4 BP, the crew can upgrade a light weapon mount in any of the aft, forward, port, or starboard arcs to a heavy weapon mount. By spending 6 BP, the crew can upgrade a light weapon mount on a turret to a heavy weapon mount. By spending 5 Build Points, the crew can upgrade a heavy weapon mount in any of the aft, forward, port, or starboard arcs to a capital weapon mount. Heavy weapons can be mounted on only Medium or larger starships. Capital weapons can be mounted on only Huge or larger starships and can’t be mounted on turrets.

By spending 3 BP, the crew can fit a new light weapon mount in any of the aft, forward, port, or starboard arcs with enough free space. By spending 5 BP, the crew can fit a new light weapon mount on a turret that has enough free space. Tiny and Small starships can have only two weapon mounts per arc (and per turret). Medium and Large starships can have only three weapon mounts per arc (and per turret). Huge and larger starships can have only four weapon mounts per arc (and per turret).

Starship Combat

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 316
The fathomless depths of space are dangerous to even the most experienced crews, but they can be deadly to those who wander the stars unprepared. Planet-crushing black holes, invisible radiation belts, and chaotic meteor storms are found in any system. But of all the hazards that you might encounter between the stars, hostile vessels are by far the most common. The following rules govern combat between starships—or in rare cases, between immense spacefaring creatures.

Roles

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 316
The actions crew members on a starship can take depend upon their roles. For most roles, multiple people can perform actions each round, but for other roles, only one person can fill that role and only one action for that role can be performed each round. Your role also determines when you act in combat. Starship combat uses the five roles below. You should declare your role when you board a ship (if you declare yourself a passenger, however, you take no special actions in combat unless you assume a role), though you can change your role in the heat of combat (see page 322). See Building Starships on page 292 for information on starship terminology, systems, and stat blocks.

Captain

Your role in combat is about encouraging the crew while taunting enemies into making critical mistakes. A starship can have only one captain, and a character can assume that role only if it is currently vacant. The captain alone can act in any phase of combat. The actions a captain can take are described starting on page 322.

Engineer

You work with your starship’s power core and engines to achieve maximum efficiency, grant extra power in times of need, and divert power to vital systems as necessary. You can also repair damaged systems. A starship can have any number of engineers. An engineer acts during the engineering phase (see page 317). The actions an engineer can take are described starting on page 323.

Gunner

You operate your starship’s various weapon systems, using them to neutralize or destroy enemy vessels. A starship can have at most one gunner (or gunner team) per weapon mount. A gunner acts during the gunnery phase (see page 317). The actions a gunner can take are described on page 324.

Pilot

You plot the course of the ship. Each starship has speed and maneuverability ratings, but you can push your starship beyond these boundaries with enough skill. A starship can have only one pilot, and a character can assume that role only if it is vacant. The pilot acts during the helm phase of combat (see page 317). The actions a pilot can take are described on page 324.

Science Officer

You use the starship’s computers, scanners, and other systems to identify threats, target foes, and navigate hazards. A starship can have any number of science officers. A science officer acts during the helm phase of combat (see page 317). The actions a science officer can take are described starting on page 324.

Large and Small Crews

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 316
A starship’s base frame determines the minimum and maximum number of crew members needed to operate that vessel. A starship without its minimum complement can’t be flown. However, when a large NPC starship with its full complement enters starship combat, each individual crew member doesn’t take a regular action—it would take hours to resolve a single round! In such cases, usually on Large or larger starships, most roles simulate entire teams of personnel. The number of crew members required to assist a single officer who wants to attempt a check in that role is listed after the role’s name in a starship stat block. This number varies between starships, and some vessels might have a crew large enough to allow multiple checks for a single role—for instance, a dreadnought might have several teams of engineers or gunners.

Preparing for Starship Combat

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 316
Starship combat is played on a grid of hexes with figures representing the starship combatants. Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield and the starship pawns in Starfinder Core Rulebook Pawn Collection make perfect accessories for this portion of the game.

The hexes don’t represent a specific distance, as Starfinder’s portrayal of movement and combat in three-dimensional space is more fluid and narrative than realistic. Unless otherwise specified, each ship occupies 1 hex, regardless of its size.

Beginning Starship Combat

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 316
When the crew of a starship has hostile intentions toward another vessel, they go to their battle stations and activate their starship’s targeting systems. This is clearly obvious to all other starships in the vicinity with working sensors, though there could still be a chance a hostile vessel can be talked down, if the GM allows it.

In general, the GM decides when starship combat begins, where the combatants are, and which way their starships are facing. This might mean that both sides are facing each other from opposite sides of the grid. However, their relative positions and facing can also be established randomly. Roll 3d6+5 to determine how many hexes separate the opposing sides. If either side consists of more than one starship, this result is the distance between the highest-tier starship on one side of the battle and its counterpart on the other. Other starships should be placed within 3 hexes of an allied starship. Then, roll 1d6 for each group of starships to determine the facing of the starships in that group, with a 1 meaning the starships are facing the top edge of the grid, and with 2 through 6 proceeding clockwise around the hex.

Rounds and Phases

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 317
Like combat between characters, starship combat occurs over a number of rounds until one side flees, surrenders, or is otherwise defeated. Unlike rounds in combat between characters, a round of starship combat doesn’t correlate to a specific amount of time. Each round of starship combat is divided up into three phases, resolved in order. Each character aboard a starship typically acts in only one of these phases, depending on her role on the starship.

1. Engineering

The engineers on all ships (if present) each take an action to repair the starships’ systems or give them a boost. These actions occur simultaneously, so they can be resolved in any order.

2. Helm

Each starship’s pilot attempts a Piloting check. The pilot with the lowest result must move his starship first, followed by the next lowest, until all starships have moved. This check is repeated each round during the helm phase, so the order of movement can change from round to round. If a starship has no one in the pilot role, that starship acts as if its pilot had rolled a 0. If there is a tie, the pilot with fewer ranks in the Piloting skill must move his starship first. If there is still a tie, the two pilots in question should each roll another Piloting check and compare the results; the pilot with the lowest result moves first.

As they move their starships, pilots can attempt additional skill checks to perform dangerous maneuvers or push their vessels beyond their specifications.

Also during this phase, any character taking on the role of science officer can use the starship’s systems to scan vessels or target foes. Science officers must act immediately before or after their starship’s pilot, but they can jointly decide the order they act.

3. Gunnery

During the gunnery phase, gunners fire their starships’ weapons. Starships fire in the same order in which their pilots acted during that round’s helm phase, but the effects of damage are not taken into account until the end of the phase, meaning that all starships can fire, even if they take enough damage to be disabled or destroyed during this phase.

Once all of the phases have been resolved, if there are still combatants engaged in the fight, the next round begins, starting with a new engineering phase.

Moving

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 317
The pilot of a starship has a variety of actions (see page 324) that allow her to guide her starship through the cold vastness of space. Unlike in battles between characters, starships face a specific direction, and this determines their firing arcs and shield quadrants, as well as their direction of movement.

Speed

A starship’s speed is the number of hexes it typically moves in a round. It can instead move fewer hexes than this amount, as determined by the pilot. This movement is in a straight line in the direction the starship is facing, though a starship’s facing can be altered while it moves by making turns (see below). A starship’s maximum speed modifies Piloting checks for that starship.

SpeedPiloting Check Modifier
4 or less+2
6+1
8–10
12–1
14 or more–2

Turns

While moving, a starship can make turns, altering its forward movement direction, firing arcs, and shield quadrants. One turn changes a starship’s forward facing by 60 degrees, or one side of a hex. Every round in which a starship turns, it must move a certain number of hexes before each turn, determined by its maneuverability (see the table below). For example, a ship with average maneuverability making two turns in a round must move at least 2 hexes before its first turn, and at least 2 more hexes before its second turn. If a starship has perfect maneuverability (the distance between turns is 0), the ship can make two turns for each hex that it moves (allowing it to turn around a single point).

The number of turns per round a starship can take is limited only by its speed and maneuverability. Turns don’t count against a starship’s movement speed. If a ship with average maneuverability has a speed of 8, it can usually turn a total of four times during a single round.

A ship’s maneuverability also modifies Piloting checks for it.

ManeuverabilityDistance Between TurnsPiloting Check Modifier
Clumsy4–2
Poor3–1
Average20
Good1+1
Perfect0 (see above) +2

Moving Through Other Starships

Since the hexes in starship combat aren’t representative of three-dimensional distance, starships can move through hexes containing other starships, but they can’t end their movement there. If a starship moves through a hex containing an enemy starship, the enemy starship can fire any one of its direct-fire weapons from any arc at the moving starship, targeting its aft quadrant. This free attack doesn’t benefit from any bonuses or additional abilities from other actions taken aboard the enemy starship, such as divert or lock on. Any character currently in a gunner role can make this attack. If no one is designated as a gunner (often the case in starships with only one crew member), the enemy starship can’t make a free attack. A weapon used for this free attack can still be used as normal later in the round.

Stunts

Instead of ordinary movement, pilots can attempt stunts with their starships (see Stunt on page 324), pushing them beyond their design specifications to enact daring moves. Several stunts affect your starship’s Armor Class (AC) and Target Lock (TL).

Back Off

The starship moves up to half its speed in the direction of the aft edge without changing facing. It can’t take any turns during this movement. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier). On a failed check, your starship moves backward only 1 hex. If you fail this check by 5 or more, your starship does not move at all and takes a –4 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round.

Barrel Roll

The starship moves up to half its speed and flips along its central axis. For the next gunnery phase, the starship’s port shields and weapons function as if they were in the starboard firing arc and vice versa. The starship reverts to normal at the beginning of the next round. To perform this stunt, your starship must be Large or smaller and you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier). On a failed check, the starship moves half its speed but doesn’t roll. If you fail by 5 or more, your starship moves half its speed, doesn’t roll, and takes a –4 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round.

Evade

The ship moves up to its speed and can turn as normal, but it gains a +2 circumstance bonus to its AC and TL until the start of the next round. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier). If you fail, the starship moves as normal. If you fail the check by 5 or more, the starship moves as normal, but it also takes a –2 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round.

Flip And Burn

The ship moves forward up to half its speed (without turning) and rotates 180 degrees to face the aft edge at the end of the movement. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times your ship’s tier). If you fail this check, your starship moves forward half its speed but doesn’t rotate.

Flyby

The ship moves as normal, but it can move through 1 hex occupied by an enemy starship without provoking a free attack (as described in Moving through Other Starships). During the following gunnery phase, you can select one arc of your starship’s weapons to fire at the enemy vessel as if the vessel were in close range (treat the range as 1 hex), against any quadrant of the enemy starship. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times the tier of the enemy starship). If you fail this check, your starship still moves as described above, but you follow the normal rules for attacking (based on your starship’s final position and distance), and the movement provokes a free attack from that starship as normal.

Slide

The starship moves up to its speed in the direction of either the forward-port or forward-starboard edge without changing its facing. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 times your ship’s tier). If you fail this check, the ship moves forward up to half its speed and can’t make any turns.

Turn In Place

The ship does not move but instead can turn to face any direction. If the ship has a maneuverability of clumsy, it takes a –4 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round. If it has a maneuverability of poor, it instead takes a –2 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round. Ships with a maneuverability of average or better do not take a penalty. This stunt doesn’t require a skill check.

Attacking

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 320
Whenever one starship fires a weapon at another starship, that action is resolved with a gunnery check. Attacks are made during the gunnery phase of combat, in the order determined during the helm phase, but the damage and critical damage effects (see page 321) are applied after all of the attacks have been made (meaning every starship gets to attack, even if it would be destroyed or crippled by an attack that happened during the same gunnery phase). With only very rare exceptions, each of a starship’s weapons can be fired only once per round. You make an attack using the following procedure.

Range And Arc

First, determine the range between the two starships (counted in hexes) and the arc of attack. For every range increment beyond the first, the gunnery check takes a cumulative –2 penalty. The attacking starship can fire a weapon against only ships in the same arc as that weapon; see the diagram on page 318. If the targeted starship is in a hex that lies in two arcs (the shaded hexes in the diagram), the gunner decides which arc’s weapons target it; it can’t be targeted by weapons in two arcs.

Gunnery Check

Attempt a gunnery check for each weapon fired against a target (except for linked weapons, which are resolved using one action and a single gunnery check; see the sidebar on page 301).

Gunnery Check = 1d20 + the gunner’s base attack bonus or the gunner’s ranks in the Piloting skill + the gunner’s Dexterity modifier + bonuses from computer systems + bonuses from the captain and science officers + range penalty

Determining The Outcome

Compare the result of the gunnery check to the target’s Armor Class (AC) or Target Lock (TL), depending on the weapon used. If you attack with a direct-fire weapon (see page 303) and the result of the gunnery check equals or exceeds the target’s AC, you hit the target and damage is determined as normal (see Damage below). A target’s AC is determined using the following formula.

AC = 10 + the pilot’s ranks in the Piloting skill + the ship’s armor bonus + modifier based on the ship’s size + bonuses and penalties from successful or failed stunts and actions

If the attack is made with a tracking weapon such as a missile launcher (see page 303) and the result of the gunnery check equals or exceeds the target’s TL, the tracking weapon’s projectile moves its speed toward the target, making turns during this movement as needed (a projectile from a tracking weapon has perfect maneuverability). If it intercepts the target before it reaches the end of its movement, it explodes and deals damage as normal (see Damage below). If not, attempt a new gunnery check at the start of the next gunnery phase to determine whether the projectile continues to move toward the target; you don’t receive any bonuses from computer systems or actions by your fellow crew members from previous rounds or the current round, but you can take penalties, such as from an enemy science officer’s improve countermeasures action (see page 325). If the result of a gunnery check for a tracking weapon is ever less than the target’s TL, the weapon’s projectile is destroyed and removed from play. A target’s TL is determined using the following formula.

TL = 10 + the pilot’s ranks in the Piloting skill + the ship’s bonus from defensive countermeasures + modifier based on the ship’s size + bonuses and penalties from successful or failed stunts and actions

Damage

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 320
Combat in space can be highly dangerous to the vessel and its crew. Once a starship has been damaged, critical systems might malfunction or shut down altogether, leaving its passengers without electricity, gravity, or even air. Such damage might also cause a starship to lose its sensors, propulsion, or weapons systems, which could spell defeat during an active engagement.

When a gunner hits with an attack, she rolls the damage dealt by the weapon she is using and determines which quadrant of the targeted starship she hits. A starship’s shield quadrants are the same as its firing arcs (see the diagram on page 318). Damage is first applied to any shields the target starship has in the quadrant hit by the attack, depleting a number of Shield Points equal to the amount of damage dealt. If that quadrant’s Shield Points reach 0, that shield is entirely depleted and any excess damage is applied to the target starship’s Hull Points. If the ship doesn’t have shields or if its shields in that quadrant have already been depleted, apply all damage directly to the target’s Hull Points.

If a starship has a Damage Threshold (see page 292), any attack that would deal damage to its Hull Points equal to or less than this Damage Threshold fails to damage the ship’s Hull Points. If the damage is greater than the Damage Threshold, the full amount of damage is dealt to the ship’s Hull Points.

If a ship is reduced to 0 or fewer Hull Points, it is disabled and it floats in its current direction of travel at a rate of half its speed until it is repaired, rescued, or destroyed. Crew members aboard such ships are not in immediate danger unless their life-support system is wrecked, but they might eventually die from starvation and thirst if they have no way to repair the ship.

If a ship ever takes damage that exceeds twice its Hull Points, it is destroyed and can’t be repaired. All systems stop functioning, and the hull is compromised. The crew might initially survive, but without protection, they won’t live very long.

Critical Damage

Starship systems can take critical damage, causing them to become less functional and eventually stop working altogether.

Critical damage is scored whenever a gunnery check results in a natural 20 on the die and damage is dealt to the target ship’s hull. The critical range is expanded to a natural 19 or 20 on the die if the target starship was the subject of a successful target system science officer action (see page 325).

Critical damage is also scored whenever the target starship’s hull takes damage that causes its total amount of damage to exceed its Critical Threshold (see page 292) or a multiple of that threshold. For example, a starship with 100 Hull Points and a Critical Threshold of 20 takes critical damage each time its total amount of Hull Point damage exceeds 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 points (and so on). An individual attack does not need to deal more than 20 damage to score critical damage against this starship; it just needs to be the attack that pushes the starship’s total damage above a multiple of its Critical Threshold.

A starship can take critical damage even when its total Hull Points are below 0.

Shields

A starship takes critical damage from an attack only if that attack deals damage to the ship’s Hull Points, even if the result of the gunnery check is a natural 20. If the attack’s damage only reduces a starship’s Shield Points, no critical damage occurs.

Critical Damage Effect

When critical damage is scored, the attacking PC should roll on the table below to randomly determine which of the target starship’s key systems is hit; that system gains a critical damage condition (see below), with the effect listed on the table. If the system isn’t currently critically damaged, it gains the glitching condition. If it is critically damaged again, its critical condition changes by one step of severity (glitching becomes malfunctioning; malfunctioning becomes wrecked). These conditions and their effects on crew actions are explained in Critical Damage Conditions.

To determine which system is affected, roll d% and consult the table below. If a system already has the wrecked condition (or in the case of the weapons array, if all weapon arcs have the wrecked condition), apply its critical damage to the next system down on the chart. If you reach the bottom of the chart, instead deal damage to one of the crew (as described below).

D%SystemEffect
1–10Life supportCondition applies to all captain actions
11–30SensorsCondition applies to all science officer actions
31–60Weapons arrayRandomly determine one arc containing weapons; condition applies to all gunner actions using weapons in that arc (a turret counts as being in all arcs)
61–80EnginesCondition applies to all pilot actions
81–100Power coreCondition applies to all engineer actions except hold it together and patch; a malfunctioning or wrecked power core affects other crew members’ actions (see Critical Damage Conditions below)

Crew Damage

If the starship’s core has the wrecked condition and further critical damage is dealt to the core, no critical damage conditions are applied to the ship. Instead, one of the crew (determined randomly) is injured, taking an amount of Hit Point damage equal to the Hull Point damage dealt by the attack (without the increase for starship weapons against humanoid targets; see Shooting Starships on page 292). That crew member can attempt a DC 20 Reflex save to take only half damage.

Critical Damage Conditions

The following are the critical damage conditions and their effects, ordered by severity. These effects apply primarily to starship combat and rarely impact noncombat play (wrecked engines can still be used to get a starship to a safe place to repair, for example— though the GM might rule that it takes longer than normal).

Glitching

A glitching system isn’t operating at peak performance. Crew actions involving the system (except the hold it together and patch engineer actions; see page 323) take a –2 penalty.

Malfunctioning

A malfunctioning system is difficult to control. Crew actions involving the system (except the hold it together and patch engineer actions) take a –4 penalty. Also, crew members can’t take push actions (see page 322) using that system. If the power core is malfunctioning, all actions aboard the starship not involving the power core take a –2 penalty; this penalty stacks with penalties from critical damage conditions affecting other systems.

Wrecked

A wrecked system is minimally functional. Crew actions involving the system (except the hold it together and patch engineer actions and minor crew actions; see page 326) automatically fail. If the power core is wrecked, all crew actions aboard the starship not involving the power core take a –4 penalty; this penalty stacks with penalties from critical damage conditions affecting other systems.

Restoring Shields And Repairing Damage

When a starship combat encounter is over, the crew members can repair damage done to their starship, provided it hasn’t been destroyed and they haven’t been captured! Shields regenerate Shield Points at a set rate (depending on the type of shield; see page 302) as long as the starship’s power core isn’t wrecked. You can double this recharge rate for 10 minutes by taking 1 minute and succeeding at an Engineering check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times the starship’s tier). Any penalties from critical damage conditions apply to this check.

You can remove the critical damage condition from a system by taking 10 minutes and succeeding at an Engineering check. The DC depends on the severity of the condition (DC 15 for glitching, DC 20 for malfunctioning, and DC 25 for wrecked). The system is no longer critically damaged (it has no critical damage conditions) and can function as normal.

Repairing damage to the hull (restoring lost Hull Points) is more difficult. You must first stop the starship completely, usually at a safe location (for instance, a world with a nonhostile atmosphere or a dock on a space station), and the repairing character or characters must have access to the outside of the hull. On most of the Pact Worlds, the crew can pay mechanics to repair the starship; the cost and time needed are up to the GM. If the crew is on its own in uncharted territory, it can still repair the starship’s hull. Doing so costs 10 UPBs (see page 233) per point of damage to be repaired and requires 5 hours of work regardless of the number of points repaired. A character who succeeds at an Engineering check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times the starship’s tier) can cut either the cost or the time in half. For every 10 points by which she exceeds the DC, she can reduce one of these factors by half (or by half again), to a minimum of 1 UPB per point of damage and 1 hour. Any number of allies can use the aid another action (see page 133) to assist with this Engineering check. Failing the check to reduce the time or cost instead increases the cost by 5 UPBs per point of damage.

Other Actions in Starship Combat

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 322
While your role determines what actions you can take during a starship combat encounter, on occasion you might want to perform some other kind of action, such as casting a spell or using a class feature. The GM has the final say on what kind of regular actions you can take, but generally, you can take only a move or standard action in a single round, and you can take only a minor crew action (see page 326) during that round. You aren’t assumed to be adjacent to any of your allies during starship combat, so the GM might also decide that you need to take an additional round to get close enough to an ally to affect him with an ability or spell. Any such action is resolved at the beginning of the round, before the engineering phase.

Teleporting Between Starships

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 326
Starships in combat are constantly in motion, so it is impossible for a PC to cast a spell with the teleportation descriptor to travel between vessels. Even if a spellcaster has seen the inside of the target starship, the relative speeds between two moving vessels mean that the destination has changed before casting the spell is complete. PCs can teleport only between stationary starships.

Designing Starship Encounters

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 326
From a simple skirmish against pirates to a massive fleet engagement, designing a fun and challenging space combat requires thoughtful planning and careful design on the part of the GM. A crew of PCs can’t simply spend their hard-earned credits to upgrade their starship between encounters as they could with ordinary gear. In addition, often due to the circumstances of the story, the characters might find themselves in a ship that is significantly more or less powerful than their Average Party Level might indicate. The GM needs to take these factors into account when deciding what sort of enemies the PCs will face.

Challenge

Combat between starships of equal tiers is more evenly matched than a fight between PCs and opponents of an equal CR. Usually, there is only one PC ship in the fight, containing the entire party. This means that if the battle is lost, the PCs might be taken captive or perish. As a result, starship combats where the PCs face off against a ship of equal tier and capability are very difficult. Most encounters should be against ships of a lower tier. Use the following table as a guideline.

DifficultyEnemy Starship Tier
EasyPC starship tier – 3
AveragePC starship tier – 2
ChallengingPC starship tier – 1
HardPC starship tier
EpicPC starship tier + 1

Multiple Ships

If the PCs have more than one starship, use the highest-tier ship’s tier as a base and add 1 to this value for each additional starship within at least 2 tiers of that starship. If none are within 2 tiers, add up the tiers of all the additional starships and add 1 to the base value if the total is equals or exceeds the base starship’s tier. Use this modified value when determining the encounter’s difficulty.

If there are multiple enemy starships, treat every pair of enemy starships of the same tier as a single starship of the pair’s tier + 2 (and every trio as a single starship of the trio’s tier + 3). If there are a number of ships of different tiers, use the formula for multiple PC ships to determine the final difficulty. For example, if the enemy consists of three tier 1 starships, a tier 4 starship, and a tier 7 starship, the final result would be a tier 8 challenge.

Crew Level

Most starship combat encounters are between characters of roughly equal level and skill, regardless of the tier of the starships they are aboard. If there is a large level discrepancy between the combatants, adjust the difficulty of the encounter up or down a tier to compensate. In any case, combats between crews that are more than 4 levels apart should be avoided.

In general, the skill ranks of an NPC crew member are equal to the CR of the NPC or the tier of the enemy starship (minimum 1). To determine the skill modifiers of an NPC crew member, first decide whether the NPC has mastered the skill or is simply good at the skill. Usually, one crew member will be a master at one skill; the rest of the crew will have good skills. The skill modifier for a master skill is equal to 9 + 1-1/2 × the NPC’s ranks in the skill. The skill modifier for a good skill is equal to 4 + 1-1/2 × the NPC’s ranks in the skill. Alternatively, you can determine NPC skill ranks and modifiers using the master and good skill modifiers for the combatant array from the monster building rules in the Starfinder Alien Archive. Of course, if you have full stat blocks for the NPC crew members, you should use their actual skill ranks and modifiers.

Experience For Starship Combat

PCs should earn experience points (XP) for defeating enemy ships. To award XP, compare the difficulty of the encounter (see Challenge above) to Table 11–1: Encounter Difficulty on page 390 to find the Challenge Rating equivalent of the encounter. Look up the value of that CR on Table 11–3: Experience Point Awards (also on page 390) to find the party’s XP award for the encounter.

For example, suppose the PCs have an Average Party Level (APL) of 10 and are flying a tier 10 starship. They encounter and defeat a tier 9 enemy starship. As the enemy starship’s tier equals the PCs’ starship’s tier – 1, this was a challenging encounter. Looking at Table 11–1: Encounter Difficulty, a challenging encounter has a CR equivalent of APL + 1, making it a CR 11 encounter. The PCs should earn 12,800 XP total for the encounter.

Starship Combat - Crew Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 322
As starship combat progresses, the various crew members aboard each vessel can take the actions their roles allow.

Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 322
You can take one action (usually defined by your role) per round of starship combat. Certain actions require a minimum character level or number of ranks in a certain skill. NPC crew members are assumed to have a number of ranks in the appropriate skill equal to the starship’s tier. Class features and items affect crew actions only if specifically noted in the class feature or item. If a starship’s tier is less than 1, treat it as 1 for this purpose.

Push

Push actions (indicated in an action’s heading) are difficult to perform but can yield greater results. You can’t perform a push action if the necessary system is malfunctioning or wrecked (as noted in Critical Damage Conditions on page 321).

Changing Roles

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 322
You can switch between roles (or assume a role if you don’t already have one), but this change must occur at the start of a round before the engineering phase. You can switch to the captain or pilot role only if that role would otherwise be vacant (or if the character in that role is unable to take actions).

Starship Combat Resolve

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 322
As your combat expertise grows, you gain extra resolve that can help with high-level crew actions. At 8th level and again at 16th level, you gain 1 Resolve Point at the start of any starship combat encounter. These points can exceed your normal pool of Resolve Points; unspent points gained this way are lost at the end of the encounter.

Captain Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 322
As a captain, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your character level, during any phase of combat.

Demand (Any Phase)

You can make a demand of a crew member to try to improve his performance. You grant a +4 bonus to one specific check by succeeding at an Intimidate check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier). You must use this action before the associated check is rolled, and you can grant this bonus to an individual character only once per combat. Demand might result in negative consequences if used on NPCs, and you can’t make demands of yourself.

Encourage (Any Phase)

You can encourage another member of the crew to give her a bonus to her action. This works like aid another (see page 133), granting a +2 bonus to the check required by a crew action if you succeed at a DC 10 check using the same skill. Alternatively, you can grant this same bonus by succeeding at a DC 15 Diplomacy check. You can’t encourage yourself.

Taunt (Any Phase, Push)

You can use the communications system to broadcast a taunting message to the enemy vessel. You select an enemy vessel and a phase of combat (engineering, helm, or gunnery), and then attempt a Bluff or Intimidate check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times the enemy starship’s tier). If you are successful, each enemy character acting during the selected phase takes a –2 penalty to all checks for 1d4 rounds; the penalty increases to –4 if the enemy’s check is made as part of a push action. Once used against an enemy starship, regardless of the outcome, taunt can’t be used against that starship again during the same combat.

Orders (Any Phase, Push)

At 6th level, you can grant an additional action to one member of the crew by spending 1 Resolve Point and succeeding at a difficult skill check at the beginning of the phase in which the crew member would normally act. The type of check depends on the role of the crew member targeted: a Computers check for a science officer, an Engineering check for an engineer, a gunnery check (see page 320) for a gunner, and a Piloting check for a pilot. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier. If the check succeeds, the crew member can take two actions in her role this round (both when she would normally act), but she can’t take the same action twice. You can’t give yourself orders.

Moving Speech (Any Phase)

At 12th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and use your action to give a moving speech to the crew during one phase of combat with a successful Diplomacy check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier). For the remainder of that phase, your allies can roll twice and take the better result when performing crew actions.

Engineer Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 323
As an engineer, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your ranks in the Engineering skill. These actions can be taken only during the engineering phase. Unless otherwise noted, each action can be performed only once per round, no matter how many engineers are on a starship.

Divert (Engineering Phase)

You can divert auxiliary power into one of your starship’s systems, giving it a boost. This requires a successful Engineering check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier), and the results depend on where you decide to send this extra power. If you send it to the engines, your starship’s speed increases by 2 this round. If you send it to the science equipment, all science officers receive a +2 bonus to their crew actions this round. If you send it to the starship’s weapons, treat each damage die that rolls a 1 this round as having rolled a 2 instead. If you send it to the shields, restore an amount of Shield Points equal to 5% of the PCU rating of the starship’s power core (see page 296), up to the shields’ maximum value. You can distribute the restored Shield Points across the shields' four quadrants as you see fit.

Hold It Together (Engineering Phase)

You can hold one system together by constantly patching and modifying it. If you succeed at an Engineering check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier), you can select one system; that system is treated as if its critical damage condition were two steps less severe for the rest of the round (wrecked becomes glitching, and a malfunctioning or glitching system functions as if it had taken no critical damage). This check isn’t modified by penalties from critical damage to the power core.

Patch (Engineering Phase)

You can patch a system to reduce the effects of a critical damage condition. The number of actions and the DC of the Engineering check required to patch a system depend on how badly the system is damaged, as indicated on the table on page 324. Multiple engineers can pool their actions in a single round to effect repairs more quickly, but each engineer must succeed at her Engineering check to contribute her action to the patch. The number of actions required can be reduced by 1 (to a minimum of 1 action) by increasing the DC by 5. If you succeed at this check, the severity of the critical damage is unchanged, but it is treated as one step less severe for the remainder of the combat, until 1 hour has passed, or until the system takes critical damage again (which removes the patch and applies the new severity). This action can be taken more than once per round, and this check is not modified by any critical damage to the core.

Critical Damage ConditionActions to PatchDC
Glitching110 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier
Malfunctioning215 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier
Wrecked320 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier

Overpower (Engineering Phase, Push)

If you have at least 6 ranks in Engineering, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt an Engineering check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) to squeeze more out of your ship’s systems. If you’re successful, this functions as the divert action, but you can send extra power to any three systems listed in that action. This action and the divert action can’t be taken in the same round.

Quick Fix (Engineering Phase)

If you have at least 12 ranks in Engineering, you can try to repair a system quickly by spending 1 Resolve Point and attempting an Engineering check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 times you starship’s tier). If successful, you remove the critical damage condition from one system for 1 hour (allowing it to function as if it had taken no critical damage), after which time it must be repaired as normal.

Gunner Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 324
As a gunner, you can take any of the actions below, depending on your character level. These actions can be taken only during the gunnery phase. Though each of a starship’s weapons can be fired only once per round, multiple gunners can take actions to fire different weapons in a single round. Actions that allow you to fire starship weapons use the rules for attacking on page 320.

Fire At Will (Gunnery Phase, Push)

You can fire any two starship weapons, regardless of their arc. Each attack is made at a –4 penalty.

Shoot (Gunnery Phase)

You can fire one of your starship’s weapons. If you use a turret weapon, you can target a ship in any arc.

Broadside (Gunnery Phase, Push)

At 6th level, you can expend 1 Resolve Point to fire all of the starship weapons mounted in one arc (including turret-mounted weapons). Each weapon can target any vessel in that arc. All of these attacks are made with a –2 penalty.

Precise Targeting (Gunnery Phase)

At 12th level, you can perform a very precise strike by spending 1 Resolve Point and firing one starship weapon at a single target. If the attack hits and the enemy ship’s shields on that quadrant are depleted before your attack, you deal critical damage to a random system. If the attack would normally cause critical damage, the normal critical damage applies as well (meaning your attack could potentially deal critical damage multiple times; determine which system is damaged as normal each time).

Pilot Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 324
As a pilot, you can take the following actions, depending on your ranks in the Piloting skill. These actions can be taken only during the helm phase.

Fly (Helm Phase)

You move your starship up to its speed and can make any turns allowed by its maneuverability. This doesn’t require a skill check.

Maneuver (Helm Phase)

You move your starship up to its speed. You can also attempt a Piloting check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) to reduce your starship’s distance between turns by 1 (to a minimum of 0).

Stunt (Helm Phase, Push)

You can attempt any one of the stunts described on page 319. The DCs of the Piloting checks required and the results of success and failure are described in each stunt’s description.

Full Power (Helm Phase, Push)

If you have at least 6 ranks in Piloting, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to move your starship up to 1-1/2 times its speed. You can make turns during this movement, but you add 2 to your starship’s distance between turns.

Audacious Gambit (Helm Phase)

If you have at least 12 ranks in Piloting, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt a Piloting check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) to pull off complex maneuvers. You can move your starship up to its speed, treating its distance between turns as if it were 2 lower (minimum 0). You can also fly through hexes occupied by enemy vessels without provoking free attacks. At the end of your starship’s movement, you can rotate your starship to face in any direction. If you fail the check, you instead move as if you had taken the fly action (but still lose the Resolve Point).

Science Officer Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 324
As a science officer, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your ranks in the Computers skill. These actions can be taken only during the helm phase.

Balance (Helm Phase)

You can balance the shields, redirecting power from one quadrant to protect another. With a successful Computers check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 times your starship’s tier), you can shift Shield Points (SP) from the shield in one quadrant to the shield in another quadrant, including to depleted shields (after rebalancing, every shield must have at least 10% of the total current SP). Alternatively, you can add up the SP from all the remaining shields and evenly distribute them to all four quadrants, putting any excess SP in the forward quadrant.

Scan (Helm Phase)

You can scan a starship with your sensors to learn information about it. This action requires your starship to have sensors (see page 300). You must attempt a Computers check, applying any modifiers from the starship’s sensors. You can attempt this check untrained. The DC for this check is equal to 5 + 1-1/2 times the tier of the starship being scanned + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you succeed at this check, you learn the first unknown piece of information on the following list. For every 5 by which you exceed the check, you learn another unknown piece of information. Subsequent checks reveal new pieces of information, continuing down this list.

1. Basic Information: Living crew complement and ship classification, size, speed, and maneuverability.
2. Defenses: AC, TL, total and current Hull Points, total and current Shield Points in each quadrant, and core PCU value.
3. Weapon: Information about one weapon, including its firing arc and the damage it deals, starting with the weapon that uses the most PCU. Repeat this entry until all the starship’s weapons are revealed.
4. Load: Information about how the starship’s expansion bays are allocated and any cargo the starship might be carrying.
5. Other: Any remaining ship statistics.

Target System (Helm Phase, Push)

You can use your starship’s sensors to target a specific system on an enemy starship. This action requires your starship to have sensors. You must attempt a Computers check, applying any modifiers from the starship’s sensors. The DC equals 5 + 1-1/2 the tier of the enemy starship + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you succeed, choose one system (core, engines, life support, sensors, or weapons). The next attack made by your starship that hits the enemy ship scores a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20. If that attack deals critical damage, it affects the chosen system. For any further critical damage resulting from the attack, determine which system is affected randomly as normal. Your starship’s sensors can target only one system on a specific enemy starship at a time, though this action can be used to concurrently target systems on multiple starships.

Lock On (Helm Phase, Push)

If you have at least 6 ranks in Computers, you can lock your starship’s targeting system on to one enemy vessel. You must spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt a Computers check. The DC equals 5 + 1-1/2 times the tier of the target starship + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you succeed, your starship’s gunners gain a +2 bonus to gunnery checks against the target for the rest of the round. This action can be taken only once per round.

Improve Countermeasures (Helm Phase)

If you have at least 12 ranks in Computers, you can try to foil enemy targeting arrays and incoming projectiles by spending 1 Resolve Point and attempting a Computers check. The DC equals 5 + 1-1/2 times the tier of the target starship + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you’re successful, gunners aboard the target starship roll twice and take the worse result for gunnery checks during this round (including checks for tracking weapons).

Minor Crew Actions

Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 326
Minor crew actions are computer-aided actions that allow a starship limited functionality if it doesn’t have the necessary crew to fill all the roles (for instance, the lone crew member aboard a Tiny starship might always be the pilot but may need to fire one of the vessel’s weapons in an emergency). You can take a minor crew action regardless of your current role, but only if no other action was performed this round for the role associated with that minor crew action. A minor crew action can be performed only once per round and doesn’t count as your action.

Glide (Helm Phase, Minor)

You move the starship at half its normal speed. The starship can take turns during this movement, but the starship’s distance between turns increases by 2. You can add your ranks in the Piloting skill to the starship’s AC and TL for this round. You can only take this action if no other pilot actions have been taken during the helm phase (including glide).

Snap Shot (Gunnery Phase, Minor)

You can fire one of your starship’s weapons with a –2 penalty to the gunnery check. You can take this action only if no other gunner actions have been taken during the gunnery phase (including snap shot).