Saturday, January 25, 2014

Alternate Ship Combat Rules for Starships and Spacemen (1st Draft)

Someone recommended I use Starships and Spacemen for War on the Final Frontier. I initially scoffed at this, since I didn't think I wanted a level based system, but after some thought I'm warming up to it. However, I don't really like ship combat. "Balance of Terror" is my favorite TOS episode, and it basically defines how I want space combat to work in anything. The computer game FTL is also a good model. With those things in mind, I designed this. I hope to playtest it tomorrow with my home group.

I'll be adding a link to the google doc in the documents section. When I update this system, I'll be updating the doc, not this page.

This system is designed to give more players something to do during space combat, as well as to replicate the sorts of space battles one sees in the Star Trek films and in games like Star Fleet Battles and Federation commander.

Engagements still begin at 300,000 miles away from each other and have the option of moving 30,000 miles per turn.

At the beginning of each round, the Captain - the Command officer on board with the highest rank - of each ship rolls 1d6 and adds their intelligence bonus.  The highest ship moves first.  All action on a ship is considered to happen simultaneously.

Each player takes control of one console on the starship.  These consoles are Weapons (Combat), Science (Science), Engineering (Technical), Comms (Contact), and Helm (not associated with any skill, but best suited for Navigators).  Each turn, the player may perform one action at his or her station.  To perform the action, simply roll the skill check associated with it.  

Characters that possess a primary skill in one of the functions of the station but not the skill required for the station level itself are considered 3 levels lower than their actual level.  If this means their level is less than 1, they cannot perform any actions at the console.

Consoles manned by NPCs cannot employ functions beyond the original combat rules; NPCs can fire the ships weapons or move the ship, but do little else.  An exception is made for this below.

The player at Weapons console selects which weapons will be fired this round and at what targets.  The player must select either the phaser banks or the photon torpedos, and the ship may only fire a number of photon torpedos at a time based on its class.  Otherwise firing functions as in the original rules.  Ship skill is only used if the console is manned by an NPC, otherwise the player uses their combat skill.  Fire Control characters still have a +2 bonus to using these weapons.

The weapons console may also be used to fire a tractor beam.  This does no damage but holds a ship in place, which is particularly useful against ships that are trying to flee.  To do this spend 5 energy and make a Science test.  If the test is successful, the target is caught in a tractor beam.  Every round thereafter the tractored ship may attempt to break out by bidding a number of EUs.  For each EU they bid, the tractoring ship must match their

The player at the Science console may either attempt to use their phaser frequency to bypass the enemies shields, dealing damage directly to the ship, or target specific systems if the shields are down.

To bypass the enemies shields, make a Technical skill test.  If the roll is successful, all phaser damage this round is dealt directly to the ship.

To target specific systems, make a Science skill test.  This may only be attempted when the enemies shields are offline.  A successful test, when coupled with a successful hit, will neutralize an enemy console until it is repaired by damage control.

Characters at the Engineering console may willingly sacrifice EUs in order to power other systems, boost the shields, or perform damage control.

To boost power to other systems, make a Technical skill test.  If successful the player may spend 5 EUs to add another die of damage to the phaser banks (including all phaser shots that connect), or to double the distance moved by the helm.  

To boost power to the shields make a Science skill test.  If successful the player may spend 5 EUs to completely restore them; however, if they are offline the cost is 10 EUs.

To perform damage control make a Technical skill test.  If successful, restore 1d6 EUs to the ship or restore a disabled system.

The player at the Comms console may jam enemy communications, attempt to contact the enemy, or to attempt to contact starfleet or other allies.

To jam the enemy communications make a Science test.  If successful, the enemy ship cannot use any Comms station functions and cannot perform damage control.

To attempt to contact the enemy make a Contact test.  If successful the player may talk to the enemy captain.  This can be used to taunt enemies and draw them away from ships which you may be protecting.

To attempt to contact an allie make a Contact test.  If successful the player is able to get a subspace message to the nearest allied ship, though their is no guarantee they will be within range to do anything about it.

The player at the Helm console chooses whether will move this round, perform evasive maneuvers, or attempt a ram.

Moving does not require any kind of skill check.  Simply state whether your moving towards or away from the enemy.

Evasive maneuvers require a Combat skill test.  If successful the next attack made against the ship has a -2 penalty.

Ramming may only be done when within Torpedo range of an enemy ship.  To attempt a ram roll a Combat skill test.  If successful both ships are typically destroyed, though this may not be true for certain “space monsters.”

The captain is not technically a console but functions much like one.  This position is always held by the highest ranking Command officer on the ship.  The captain may attempt to aid a player at a console or to command an NPC at one.

To aid a player, make a skill test for the same skill that they are using this round.  If successful the player gains a +2 bonus to their skill.

To command an NPC, simply choose the console you wish to use this round and run it as though you were the player at that console.

Remember that player at each console and the captain may only take one of these actions in a round.

Enemy ships are typically treated as though they had a player captain (the Star Master) and the rest of the consoles controlled by NPCs.  Exceptions will be made for certain ships, particularly those the Star Master wishes to serve as a “rival crew.”

This alternate system uses shields instead of screens.  Unlike beam vs phaser weapons or photon vs ionic torpedos, this is more than a semantic difference.  Shields are essentially a set of temporary armor that exists on top of a ships EUs.  Thus a ship must have its shields go down due to damage before it can take direct EU damage.

For the purpose of conversion, and just as a general rule, most ships have a shield rating equal to 1/4 their EUs (rounded up).

Disrupters are special weapons found on Klingon ships.  They may be fired at Fireball range and deal 1d10 x 5 damage.

If an enemy’s shields are down, the captain may choose to send over a boarding party, but must lower his or her ship’s shields in order to do so.  These can only be brought back up with a successful Technical skill check made at the engineering console.  This check does not count as the Engineer’s action.  The rest of these rules are abstract and presume a team of NPC enlisted men rather than a PC boarding party.  PC boarding parties may make for an interesting adventure, but running them simultaneously with space combat is a headache I would wish on no Star Master.

Marnies typically are sent to disable certain systems.  For every 3 people a ship is capable of transporting, you may target one system.  To see if their mission is successful, roll on the table below for each team.

Marine Raid Table

If the marines disable the system, that console can no longer be used until it is repaired with damage control.

Marines could hypothetically attempt to gain control of a ship.  The simplest way of doing this is to target the Bridge instead of a system.  Roll on the table above, but add 1 to the die roll for each difference in size between the defending ship and the attacking ship.

New Ships
These ships are designed to more closely resemble the ships of the Star Fleet Universe. PC crews will be assigned to one type at the beginning of the campaign, and unless special circumstances arise they are unlikely to switch.  Command ranks are given for determining the level of an NPC Captain.

Smaller ships used for small missions or as escorts.

Crew Complement: 150
Command Rank: Ensign
Nacelle Power Base: 100 EUs (two half nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 25
Teleporter Capacity: 3 at a time
Phaser Banks: 1
Photon Torpedos: 6 Total; 1 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 1
Sick Bay Capacity: 20

War Destroyer
Crew Complement: 200
Command Rank: Lieutenant
Nacelle Power Base: 150 EUs (three half nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 40
Teleporter Capacity: 4 at a time
Phaser Banks: 2
Photon Torpedos: 9; 1 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 2
Sick Bay Capacity: 40

New Light Cruiser
Crew Complement: 250
Command Rank: Commander
Nacelle Power Base: 200 EUs (two nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 50
Teleporter Capacity: 6 at a time
Phaser Banks: 3
Photon Torpedos: 10; 2 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 3
Sick Bay Capacity: 50

New Heavy Cruiser
Crew Complement: 300
Command Rank: Captain
Nacelle Power Base: 300 EUs (three nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 75
Teleporter Capacity: 7 at a time
Phaser Banks: 4
Photon Torpedos: 12; 2 at a time
Shuttlecraft: 4
Sick Bay Capacity: 75

Battle Cruiser
Crew Complement: 400
Command Rank: Commodore
Nacelle Power Base: 400 EUs (two double nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 100
Teleporter Capacity: 9 at a time
Phaser Banks: 5
Photon Torpedos: 18; 3 at a time (For Kirov Battle Cruisers); 12; 2 at a time Fireballs (for Bismark Battle Cruisers)
Shuttlecraft: 5
Sick Bay Capacity: 100.

Crew Complement: 450
Command Rank: Admiral
Nacelle Power Base: 600 (Three Double Nacelles)
Shield Capacity: 150
Teleporter Capacity: 12 at a time
Phaser Banks: 6
Photon Torpedos: 24; 3 at a time or 18; 3 at a time Fireballs
Shuttlecraft: 6
Sick Bay Capacity: 150

The stats above are for Federation ships.  For Klingon ships, substitute Disruptors for Photon Torpedos and ignore the total number.  For Romulan ships, add a cloaking device and change photon torpedos to fireballs.


  1. Neat! I wistfully scroll through S&S wishing for a group into scifi enough to want to run it :)

    FTL's a good game. By chance, have you seen Artemis Bridge Simulator?

    It's a cute Star Trek style of game where up to 6 people on 6 computers can be at various bridge stations. There's a free demo. It's more or less the computer version of what you've posted.

  2. Why do you have to chose between Phasers and Photon Torpedoes? The Phaser banks could be fired simultaneously with the Photons, after all, the Phasers are also controlled from the Phaser Control Room (see TOS: Balance Of Terror)and the Photon Torpedoes from the Torpedo bay (See TOS MOVIE: ST II, ST VI). The Weapons Officer (or Tactical Officer) only needs to control one. And no skill rolls for the shields (to boost)? You have a good ship combat game, but there are a few questions I have. Not trying to hurt your feelings, though.

    1. I will note that it does say "1st draft" in the title. Most of the things you note are there for attempts to make it compatible with Starships and Spacemen.

      If I were to write it today there would be a number of differences, but I am unlikely to in the immediate future because my current thoughts are on Nightwick Abbey.