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Chapter 2: Starship Combat / Additional Starship Options

Starship Damage and Repair

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 50
The following are optional rules you can use to make starship combat more exciting and emphasize the role of engineers. Not every combat needs to employ power core breaches or explosive decompression, but including them occasionally in a tough fight can keep starship combat engaging and fresh for your players.

Hull Ruptures

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 50
Hull ruptures occur when enemy fire or breaching weapons break through a section of hull, exposing the interior of a ship to the void of space. In game terms, this could occur anytime a starship takes critical damage to its life support system. A hull could also rupture as a result of an environmental hazard (page 134) that damages the ship enough to trigger a critical threshold.
To determine where the hull breach occurs, roll randomly among the rooms that border the side of the ship that was hit. The hull is breached in that room, with its space-facing side exposed to a vacuum. If characters are in the room, they suffer the effect of atmospheric decompression (see below). If no characters are in the room, roll randomly for potential loss of cargo or anything that isn’t bolted down.

Atmospheric Decompression

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 50
The first effects of a ruptured hull are dropping room pressure and massive winds that buffet the characters. All characters in a room with a ruptured hull, regardless of whether they have personal environmental protections, immediately take 3d6 bludgeoning damage as the air in the room pours into the void of space. Next, each creature must prevent itself from being swept out into space. They must attempt a DC 15 Reflex save to either engage the magnetic locks on their armor’s boots or grab on to a bolted piece of furniture. Jump jets, jet packs, flight, or anything else that enables characters to maneuver in zero gravity provide a +1 circumstance bonus to this save.
The dropping room pressure causes immediate exposure to the environmental hazards of being in a vacuum (Starfinder Core Rulebook 394). Characters with armor, void adaptation, or any other ability that enables them to survive in a vacuum are unaffected. Instances of crew being trapped unarmored during a hull breach are relatively rare. Proximity alarms warn of incoming ships, asteroids, and other environmental hazards, so most crew get the opportunity to engage armor seals long before hull ruptures happen.
A bigger problem for some characters is dealing with their ship’s safety protocols that trap them in harm’s way. Automated systems on many starships immediately seal off rooms that have a hull breach in order to protect the environment of the rest of the ship. Seals can usually be overridden with a successful DC 10 Computers or Engineering check at the doors or from the bridge, but this often requires first sealing off rooms deeper within the ship to create a makeshift airlock into which the trapped crew members can escape.

Repairing Hull Ruptures

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 50
Some ships have automated repair drones that can repair bulkheads or other systems. Repairing or reallocating shields in a quadrant that has suffered a hull breach stops the loss of cabin pressure and exposure to vacuum long enough for repair drones to provide a temporary fix.

Loss of Cargo

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 50
Most ship crews stow the majority of their items and cargo securely, and furnishings tend to be bolted or built into the ship. Still, anything that causes a hull rupture can also cause those precautions to be undone. To see if cargo or items are lost, roll on the following table. If items are lost to decompression, a starship’s crew can perform a normal scan to find them again so long as the ship stays near where the breach occurred. The DC for such a check is 15, though it may be higher or lower at the GM’s discretion to account for mitigating factors or complications. If the ship moved after the breach, scans to find lost items take a –5 penalty; if the pilot performed stunts like a barrel roll or a flip and burn, the penalty increases to –10. Most recovered cargo is still safe in its container. GMs can rule that certain types of cargo (fragile items, live plants, and the like) are irreparably damaged.

Table 2–6: Cargo Loss Table

D% Extent of Cargo Loss
1–25 No effect
26–50 1d4 items of an item level lower than 5 are broken.
51–75 One item of item level 5 or higher is broken.
76–100 Complete loss of one container of cargo.

Power Core Breaches

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 51
Power core breaches occur when a catastrophic failure of one key system causes numerous cascading failures elsewhere. The exact nature of the failure can vary, depending on the power core. Reactors can overheat, antimatter can leak, and mystical elements can escape containment and start wreaking havoc elsewhere in the ship. The cascading reactions caused by the key system failure can range from deadly levels of radiation being released into the ship to an explosion of energy that might utterly destroy the vessel.
Because of the safety features built into most ships, breached power cores are rare. Simply reaching the wrecked condition in starship combat does not generally cause a power core to be breached. The most common cause for core breaches is sabotage. Saboteurs might infiltrate a spaceport crew and undermine a ship undergoing repairs or upgrades. Spies might stow away on a large ship, destabilize the core, and flee in one of the ship’s shuttles. Or sometimes, a ship runs afoul of gremlins or other malefactors intent on destruction. The second-most common cause for breach stems from self-destruct systems (Core Rulebook 300), some of which trigger catastrophic reactions in a ship’s power core in order to completely destroy the vessel.
It is also possible that the crew of a ship without a self-destruct system might attempt to destroy their own vessel in order to eradicate a monster or contagion that has invaded their ship. Such actions usually require an entire bridge crew to simultaneously and successfully perform intricate procedures in order to disable safety features and destroy their own vessel.

Aborting the Sequence

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 51
Fixing a power core breach in progress and interrupting cascading failures is never an easy task, and it’s not a situation that can be fixed with a single skill check. But once the power breach is detected, the bridge crew can work together to prevent a complete meltdown of their core.
Minor Meltdowns: For a minor meltdown, where the core breach is a side note to a larger story, the efforts to contain the breach should take 3 rounds, starting when the breach is first detected by the crew. Emphasize that the clock is ticking and that PCs can each attempt only three skill checks to save the system. If they are successful, the crew prevents the core breach from going critical and has time to fully repair it. If they fail, the crew has just enough time to eject the power core and save the ship. The crew is then stuck in that location on minimal life support until rescued.
The DC of each skill check is equal to 15 + 1-1/12 × the ship’s tier. Set the number of successes that the party needs to stop the meltdown at 2 × the number of party members. Relevant skills can include any or all of the following, as well as related Profession skills.
  • A character using Computers or Mysticism can scan for failing systems.
  • A character using Engineering can fix failing systems or prevent a system failure in one location from cascading into the next.
  • A character using Athletics or Acrobatics can reach systems by exceptional means, such as those outlined in the chief mate role (Character Operations Manual 146).
Crew members can aid each other or roll their own checks, and the Captain can encourage as normal with Diplomacy or Intimidate. Class abilities like quick patch can allow a character to achieve two successes with a single check. In addition, any character who casts a spell of 1st level or higher that repairs tech, such as make whole, automatically earns one success.
Major Meltdowns: In cases where the core breach is the main plot point, you might require a more involved team effort to save the ship. One way to do this is to add enemies (such as enemy boarders) who are trying to prevent the party from succeeding in saving their ship. For a group that loves combat, you can have the party fight off waves of enemies between each successive skill check, building the tension as the clock ticks down. You might instead require one or two additional successful skill checks to represent the increased danger.