Archives of Nethys

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Chapter 3: Starships / Reading Starship Stat Blocks

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.