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Chapter 3: Starships

Reading Starship Stat Blocks

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 78
Starships boast a wide array of functions: everything from speedily transporting adventurers to safely hauling cargo to packing the firepower demanded by such a dangerous galaxy. This section defines starships’ capabilities and how to understand the stat blocks on the following pages. In addition, this section provides useful guidelines for building your own starships to create well-balanced vehicles designed to provide a fun and fair experience.

Understanding Starships

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 78
Each starship is described using a basic stat block that includes information about how it moves, how many people it can support, its structural integrity, and more. When reading a starship stat block, use the key below to help understand its capabilities. Additionally, rules content from this book is marked in stat blocks with an asterisk (*).

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 their 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, which provides a modifier to its Armor Class and Target Lock (see below). This entry also notes the base frame of the starship (Core Rulebook 294).

Speed: This is the number of hexes the starship can move using most pilot actions.

Maneuverability: A starship’s maneuverability is rated as 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 it must move before it can turn (Core Rulebook 319).

Drift: This is the starship’s Drift engine rating. When determining how long it takes the starship to travel to a location through the Drift, divide the die roll by this number (Core Rulebook 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 (Core Rulebook 303) hit the starship. AC is calculated based on the ship’s size, maneuverability, and physical armor, as well as its pilot’s ranks in the Piloting skill.

Target Lock (TL): This value is used when determining whether tracking weapons (Core Rulebook 303) hit the starship. TL is calculated based on the starship’s size, maneuverability, and defensive countermeasures (Core Rulebook 298), as well as its pilot’s ranks in the Piloting skill.

Hull Points (HP): This is the total amount of damage the starship can take before it ceases operation. A starship with 0 HP isn’t destroyed, though many of its systems no longer function and it is no longer a threat to enemies.

Damage Threshold (DT): If an attack deals less damage 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 comes into play only when such a starship’s shields are depleted (Core Rulebook 320).

Critical Threshold (CT): Whenever the starship has lost a total number of Hull Points equal to a multiple of this value, one of its systems takes critical damage (Core Rulebook 321). This value is always one-fifth of the starship’s maximum HP.

Shields: This lists the ship’s shield system and Shield Points (SP), which represent the amount of damage the ship’s shields can take before they become depleted. SP are assigned to particular quadrants (forward, port, starboard, or aft). These quadrants correspond in orientation to the starship firing arcs (see Attacks below).

Attacks: A starship has four firing arcs: forward, port, starboard, and aft, illustrated on page 318 of the Core Rulebook. Most nonturret weapons can fire only in the firing arc where they’re mounted; turret weapons can be fired in any arc. A ship’s attack entries lists 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.

Power Core: This lists a starship’s power core or cores (Core Rulebook 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 (Core Rulebook 297).

Expansion Bays: This entry lists any expansion bays: cargo spaces that can be used for specialized functions (Core Rulebook 298).

Modifiers: This entry lists the bonuses (or penalties) to certain skill checks during starship combat resulting from a starship’s speed and maneuverability, as well as from some starship systems.

Complement: This section lists the total size of the crew that can fit aboard the ship.

Crew: This section lists those filling various roles in starship combat (Core Rulebook 316), as well as their modifiers to skills used during starship combat and number of ranks in those skills. Any modifiers listed earlier in the stat block are accounted for here. In general, NPC crew member levels and their number of skill ranks are equal to their starship’s tier (minimum 1). Typically, one crew member is exceptionally talented with one skill, for which their modifier is equal to 9 + 1-1/2 × their level. For all other crew skills, the officer NPCs’ modifiers are 4 + 1-1/2 × their level. The gunnery check modifier for an NPC starship of tier 9 or lower is equal to the starship’s tier plus the highest ability score modifier for an NPC of a CR equivalent to the starship’s tier (using the combatant array on page 129 of Alien Archive). For an NPC starship of tier 10 or higher, use the same calculation but substitute the second-highest ability score modifier instead. The table below provides these calculated values.

Table 3-1: Starship Crew Modifiers

STARSHIP TIERGUNNERYGOOD SKILLMASTER SKILL
1/3+3+4+9
1/2+3+4+9
1+5+5+10
2+6+7+12
3+7+8+13
4+9+10+15
5+10+11+16
6+11+13+18
7+12+14+19
8+14+16+21
9+15+17+22
10+15+19+24
11+16+20+25
12+17+22+27
13+19+23+28
14+20+25+30
15+22+26+31
16+23+28+33
17+25+29+34
18+26+31+36
19+28+32+37
20+29+34+39
21+31+35+40
22+32+37+42
23+34+38+43
24+35+40+45
25+37+41+46


If a starship has teams that support officers by filling roles, this entry also lists the number and size of these teams. This section is listed only for ships under the GM’s control—PCs can perform their own actions aboard starships they control.

Special Abilities: Any unique actions or qualities a starship has due to its crew or equipment are listed here.

Optional Rule: Design Budgets

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 79
The rules for building starships on pages 293–305 of the Core Rulebook provide extraordinary flexibility in designing exciting spacecraft. However, that flexibility allows a group to invest most of their Build Points (BP) in only a few systems, resulting in lopsided designs. Assigning half of the BP available to shields to create a nearly invulnerable ship or spending those points on a single turret-mounted superweapon might sound appealing, but these tactics encourage less-dynamic encounters and can even grind combats to a complete standstill.

Whether you are designing new NPC starships or beginning a starship campaign, you can encourage a more balanced experience by limiting the number of Build Points that the crew can spend on any particular upgrade (as measured by a percentage of the starship’s total available BP). In this optional system, many of a starship’s primary systems list a maximum percentage of the starship’s available BP that can be invested in that system. Each entry also describes some of the reasons you might impose this maximum percentage, as well as other voluntary restrictions that could present even greater challenges.

Frame Cost (25%): In addition to a plethora of deadly weapon mounts, expensive frames often provide a huge number of HP, making their starships nearly impossible for lower-tier starships to threaten. In addition, larger starships may require additional crew that the PCs lack, and spending too much on a frame leaves too few BP to equip the ship properly.

Armor and Defensive Countermeasures (25%): Especially for smaller starships, heavy investment in defenses can make a starship nearly invincible—often while leaving too few BP to purchase suitable weapons, making them extremely safe but boring combatants. Limiting armor to a modest amount incentivizes clever maneuvering.

Power Core (15%): A starship’s power core affects how quickly an engineer can restore Shield Points by using the divert action, and limiting the power core’s size gives enemy starships an opportunity to pierce the vessel’s shields before they can be fully repaired.

Weapons (35%): Careful optimization of a starship’s weapons can result in utterly devastating arsenals capable of completely destroying a potent enemy starship with a few good shots. Limiting a starship’s maximum firepower extends combat by a few rounds without severely impacting the ship’s lethality.

In addition, consider turrets’ extreme versatility: by moving most of a starship’s weapons to a turret, the ship’s facing becomes less relevant, and starship combat becomes more static. Consider allowing no more than 15% of a starship’s BP to be spent on turrets and turret-mounted weaponry in order to encourage movement and stunt use.

Shields (10%): Smaller starships in particular can inexpensively mount thick shields that are almost insurmountable by low-tier starships, dramatically multiplying their durability and turning most combats into lengthy slogs. By limiting a starship’s shield upgrades, a starship can still have solid defenses without completely eliminating any chance of sustaining real harm— particularly at tier 10 and lower.

Unrestricted: Many other systems—including computers, Drift engines, expansion bays, security, and thrusters—are unlikely to change the dynamics of starship combat if the crew invest in them heavily, and thus have no maximum BP budget. However, some security systems can dramatically skew in-person encounters if not reined in. To this end, consider limiting the maximum level of any antipersonnel weapon to the starship’s tier, and consider restricting the maximum rank of a shock grid countermeasure to one-third the starship’s tier, rounded down.