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Chapter 9: Starships

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, defensive countermeasures (see page 298), and armor, 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 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
4115HP increase
8205HP increase
12350HP increase
16600HP increase
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.2–40 tons+2
Small60–120 ft.30–250 tons+1
Medium120–300 ft.50–2,500 tons+0
Large300–800 ft.2,000–50,000 tons–1
Huge800–2,000 ft.40,000–640,000 tons–2
Gargantuan2,000–15,000 ft.600,000 tons to 250 megatons–4
ColossalOver 15,000 ft.200–2,000 megatons–8