View Full Version : Original System STaRS in Spaaaace: Expanded Rules for Spaceships

2019-04-29, 10:33 AM
I'm going to be running a space opera campaign using my homebrew system STaRS pretty soon, and I want to be able to run fun battles in spaceships-- ones that feel like frantic dogfights, not just "normal combat encounters on a largely featureless plane." So I dug through a copy of Warbirds, looked back at some of my old Honor Harrington novels, rewatched a couple Star Wars space scenes, and took a stab at writing something fun. For the most part, my thematic touchstone is Star Wars.

(For the most part, you shouldn't need to know the base system to make sense of these rules-- it's a basic d10-roll-under-your-stat thing, with extra successes/failures for degrees of success, and should be pretty self-explanatory. I've copied a longer summary below if you feel the need.

The majority of this book will be filled with rules. We’ll take time to explain things carefully, go over our reasoning, and give examples. But before we get to that, we’d like to do a quick run-through of things. If your friends already know how to play, this is probably all you need to get started.

The Core Mechanics
Characters are primarily defined by their ten Abilities—Agility, Awareness, Dexterity, Intellect, Manipulation, Physique, Presence, Speed, Will, and Wits. Abilities are ranked between 3 and 8, with higher numbers being better. Whenever a character attempts to do something with a chance of failure, make a Check by rolling a ten-sided die. If your roll is equal to or lower than your Ability score, you succeed.

The Difficulty of these Checks can change, based on circumstances. At any point, the Director can assign a Modifier, making a task easier or harder. Modifiers can also be gained through Traits and actions (see the Conflict/Challenge rules). A Modifier provides either a +2 bonus or a -2 penalty to your Ability rank, depending on if it’s positive or negative.

Characters can occasionally have adrenaline surges, where they attempt otherwise-impossible tasks. At any point, you may take a -6 penalty to your Check; if you still succeed, you accomplish something that's just beyond the normal limits of what a human can manage.

The Conflict rules exist to turn a single Check into a prolonged scene with back-and-forth action. The most common type of Conflict is a fight, but everything from arguments to attempts to escape a burning building can be a Conflict.

In a Conflict, it often matters exactly how well you did. For every two points by which the result of your Check is less than your Ability, you score an extra success. For every two points your roll exceeds your Ability, you're saddled with an extra failure .

If timing is critical, everyone makes Speed checks. Those who succeed act before the enemies, while those who fail act afterwards. On your turn, you can take one Major Action (usually attacking), one Minor Action (usually moving), and infinite Free Actions (usually talking).

Once a conflict has begun, there are four main actions you can take:

Move (varies)—Move a short distance as a Minor Action, or a much larger distance as a Major Action.
Overcome (Major)—To directly overcome the challenge (or a specific foe), make an appropriate Check and deal one damage per success. In a direct confrontation this is probably Physical or Mental damage to a single foe, but it could also represent your lead in a race, leads gathered through research, progress made towards repairs, or similar such measures.
Complicate (Major)—To hinder an enemy in specific tasks, make an appropriate Check to impose a Complication on another character, giving you a Bonus on relevant Checks against them for one turn per success.
Aid (Major)—To help an ally with a specific tasks, make an appropriate Check make give an ally a Bonus for a limited time—one Check per success. You can sometimes Aid yourself, depending on what you’re trying to do.

When it’s not your turn, you need to make checks to defend yourself.

Against Attacks—When attacked, roll an appropriate Ability check and take one damage per failure.
Against Complications—When an enemy attempts a Complicate action against you, make an appropriate Ability check. If you fail, you’re affected by a Complication, imposing a Penalty on relevant checks for one turn per failure. You or an ally can attempt to remove Complications early with a relevant Ability Check.

You have a set amount of Mental and Physical Grace, equal to the relevant Ability score. (Will for Mental and Physique for Physical). Grace represents your plot armor, in a sense—how many blows narrowly miss you or clang off your shield, how many insults you can swallow, how many bruises you can take before something really hurts. Damage is subtracted from your Grace. If you’d be reduced to zero or less Grace, you’re Taken Out, and the attacker can choose your fate. Alternately, you may choose to suffer an Injury, a sort of long-term Complication which makes relevant Checks harder until it heals. If you suffer an Injury, your Grace is instantly refilled. However, you may only ever have three Injuries at a time.

All Grace is recovered after a minute or so of calm. Injuries require appropriate treatment. After they’re treated, you may recover from one Injury every time the group reaches a Minor Milestone. (see below).

Character Creation
In addition to their Abilities, characters are defined by their Traits—special skills, powers, equipment, and so on. Characters begin with a score of 5 in each Ability. They then receive 6 Experience Points (XP), 3 of which must be spent on Abilities and 3 of which must be spent on Traits. When spending XP on Abilities, XP and ability ranks essentially interchangeable—you can spend an XP to raise an Ability by one, or lower an Ability to gain one XP. Different Traits have different XP costs.

Armor reduces the damage of a specific type you take by 2, and cost 1 XP per rank.
Companions give you the services of a non-sentient vehicle (for 1 XP) or a sentient ally (for 3 XP). Both have half as many XP as you, and you can spend more on their behalf.
Powers add completely new abilities to your character. A Minor Power gives you a single narrow feature for 1 XP, a Moderate Power offers a versatile or broadly-applicable ability for 3 XP, and a Major Power grants an exceptionally far-reaching power for 6 XP.
Quirks cost 1 XP and let you use one Ability in place of another for certain Checks.
Skills make one type of Check easier, and cost 1 XP
Weapons let you deal an extra 2 damage of a given type, and cost 1 XP per rank.

Additionally, your Traits themselves may have flaws, known as Discounts, which reduce their effectiveness by about half. Each Discount reduces the Trait’s cost by one XP, to a minimum of one. You'll want to add up the total cost of the Trait before applying the Discount.

Character Advancement
Character improvement is tied to Milestones. You hit a Minor Milestone at the end of each session, letting you recover from an Injury and re-assign a Trait Point. Major Milestones come every few sessions, after achieving a major goal, and grant you a new XP Point.

Because Stars roll all the dice, the characters they interact with don't require their own stats. They have Grace, Powers, Armor, and Weapons, as normal (though you don't need to worry about XP costs), but instead of Abilities and Skills they impose Modifiers on any actions a Star attempts against them. This can be either a blanket "all actions against them take a Penalty" rule, or you can break things down into Challenge Groups with different Modifiers than the rest, such as an ogre who imposes a Penalty on attempts to out-muscle it but grants a Bonus on attempts to outwit it.


Expanding the Rules: Stars in Spaaaaaace!

Space combat is not a static thing. Warships don’t drift side-by-side, firing cannons until one is destroyed. Instead, a battle is a frantic, writhing thing, with all participants desperately trying to bring their most powerful weapons to bear while avoiding those of their foes. Everything from the nimblest fighter to the most powerful battleship follows the same basic tenants.

The Abilities of a Ship
Spaceships are vehicles, not living creatures—they lack most of the Abilities a normal character possesses. In fact, a ship only has four stats to keep track of:

Agility, representing the ship’s general maneuverability and responsiveness.
Awareness, representing the range capabilities of the ship’s sensors.
Physique, representing how much raw energy the ship can generate to power its weapons, engines, tractor beams, and so on.
Speed, representing the ship’s top speed and acceleration.

That said, the skill of the one driving the ship matters too. Once per round, a Star may use one of Abilities in place of one of their ship’s. The pilot’s Dexterity may be used for snap maneuvers or weapons fire; most other matters are a matter of Intellect to coax the maximum performance out of the ship’s systems. This is known as Stunting.

Attacking in a ship usually involves a check of your ship’s Agility (for a fighter) or the gunner’s Intellect (for a capital ship). Defending in a ship is an Agility or Speed check regardless of the size of your craft.

Combat Advantage
In a normal conflict, speed is everything when determining who acts in what order. When it comes to a dogfight, though, the key is position—who’s in a good position to fire on who. That’s not tremendously difficult to keep track of when there are just two ships, but the more participants, the more chaotic the dogfight gets. You might have a good angle to fire at some ships, but be vulnerable to others. Thus, we’ll replace Initiative with a new construct called Combat Advantage.

At the beginning of every Round, the Stars make an Advantage Check--an Agility Check to determine if they have Combat Advantage, a measure of how well positioned they are in the swirling melee. Characters with Advantage are in position to attack their foes; those with don’t manage to secure Advantage are in no position to do anything but dodge and weave.

The Dogfight
If you succeed in gaining Advantage, you’ve lined up your guns with your foe and are ready to attack. With Advantage, you may attempt Aid, Overcome, and Complicate actions, picking your targets normally.
If you fail to gain Advantage, you may choose from one of three defensive strategies when you're attacked.

Hold: You keep a level head and a steady course, rolling all checks normally.
Break: You dodge frantically, sacrificing position for safety. You gain a bonus to defense checks, but a penalty on your next Advantage Check.
Gamble: You turns into the teeth of your fire, risking it all for a better shot. You take a penalty to your defense check, but gain a bonus on your next Advantage Check.

If you’re lucky, your allies will outnumber your attackers, and there might not be enough ships to pursue everyone. If you’re not attacked, you gain a bonus on your next Advantage Check.

If you’re not lucky, you find yourself having to run. You can’t attempt to leave a dogfight without Advantage—otherwise you’ll be riddled with bullets in an instant. If you manage to achieve that Advantage, you can flee with a successful Speed check.

Capital ships—those vessels big enough and fast enough to travel between worlds—are big. By definition, they’re big. So big, in fact, that we don’t use the usual rules for vehicles. Instead, we divide capital ships into pieces. A capital ship is made of one or more Hulls, each divided into ten Bays—separate compartments that can be sealed in case of a hull breach. The Hulls and Bays can be arranged however you want, plotted out on a 2-D blueprint.

Space is at a premium in a ship, no matter how large, and so those bays are full. Each Bay contains a Feature, or a part of a Feature—some are large enough to take up two or more Bays. “Features” can be anything from the fusion generator that powers the ship to a pool used by the crew, but it’s important—and fun—to know what lies where. Characters may move between adjacent Bays freely, at least provided no-one’s playing tricks with the locks.

The Crew
Capital ships are too big for a single person to manage alone. Even the smallest gunship requires several crewmen to operate at peak efficiency, and larger battleships might demand dozens or hundreds. If you don’t have enough friends, or if damage starts to accumulate, you might find yourself sprinting from station to station. Movement works normally on a ship—you can cross two Bays as a Minor Action, or a number equal to your Speed as a Major Action.

There are three major jobs for Stars on a capital ship during a fight—piloting the ship, repairing damage, and firing weapons.

The Helmsman
Arguably the most import job is that of the helmsman. Capital Ships in the Illuminated Worlds are no slow behemoths—even the largest maneuver rapidly for position, following the usual Dogfighting rules. The Helmsman flies according to the normal Dogfighting rules, with a Penalty on checks to gain Combat Advantage if their ship is the largest on the battlefield. They don’t make any attacks if they win Advantage—that’s the gunner’s job—but they do have an extra option for how to react if they’re under attack:

Stay the Course: You choose to ignore the oncoming fire and keep a steady course. You suffer a penalty to your defense check, but your gunners don’t take a penalty for not having Advantage.

The Gunners
You can’t win a fight without shooting back. As a major action, a Star can make an attack using any number of weapons, as long as they can control them from their current position. Each extra Bay you use in your attack increases the damage by one, but each bay can only fire once per turn, regardless of who’s shooting.

If you ship doesn’t have Combat Advantage, Gunners can still shoot, but they’re hampered by the poor position. Attacks when your ship doesn’t have Advantage suffer a penalty.

The Engineers
Damage control during a battle is a constant struggle. As the hits keep coming, more and more Bays will be Damaged. As a Major Action, a Star can make an Intellect check to Jury-Rig a damaged Bay that they’re in. What does that mean? Well…

Damaging Capital Ships
Capital ships are too big for the normal rules about health, and even targeting. Instead, attackers pick a specific Hull to target when attacking a capital ship, but weapons large enough to damage such a big vessel aren’t precise. For every point of damage suffered by the Hull, cross off a random Bay as damaged. Whatever Feature was in there is damaged to the point of dysfunction.

Damaged Features don’t work until someone manages to fix it with an Intellect check, a process known as Jury-Rigging. Jury-Rigging only takes a Major Action, but it’s just a slap-dash fix. To fully repair you ship, you need a bit more time. Jury-Rigged Bays may be fully repaired during a Minor Milestone.

You’ll want to be sure you take the time to do that, too--If a damaged or Jury-Rigged Bay is hit again, it’s destroyed. Not only is the Feature damaged, it’s damaged beyond your ability to repair in the field. Destroyed bays can only be repaired in a shipyard, a process taking about one day per bay.

We admit it. When it comes to battle damage, there’s a lot to keep track of. You should have a map of your ship, with the divisions between Hulls clearly marked and Features placed in the appropriate Bays. It also helps to number the Bays in each hull 1-10. That way, when you take damage, you can quickly roll a d10 to see which was hit. To keep track of the state of each Bay, we recommend a notation something like this.

Damaged: Draw a vertical line through the Bay.
Jury-Rigged: Add a cross to the top of the “Damaged” line and a hook to the bottom, to turn the line into a capital “J.”
Destroyed: Draw an X over the Bay.

Damaging Stars
Just because you’re on board a large ship doesn’t mean you’re safe. If the Bay you’re in gets damaged, you must make a Speed check to take cover, taking one damage per failure. Boarding parties can also attack enemies in the same Bay, using the standard Conflict rules.

Obligatory Features
Certain Features are required for a ship to function-- You won’t be doing much flying without engines, for instance. If too many obligatory Features are lost or damaged, significant problems result. The bigger the ship, the more are required to keep it flying. A spaceship needs:

Bridge: A ship needs one Bay dedicated to controlling the ship. From the bridge, a Star can control any Feature on the ship. That’s a particularly nasty problem for driving the ship. If there’s no bridge, each engine needs to be manually controlled—those without crew to work them count as disabled. The ship also suffers a penalty on checks to gain Advantage and dodge attacks, as the pilot has no good way to see what’s going on from an engine room.
Engines: A ship needs one Bay of engines for every Hull. If it falls below this minimum, it takes a penalty on any check that involves moving—including defense checks. If all engines are disabled, the ship is totally immobilized, and enemy attacks automatically hit.
Environmental Plants: A ship needs one Bay of environmental support for every four Hulls. If it falls below this minimum, Stars inside take a penalty on all actions unless they’re in spacesuits as the air thins out and gravity fluctuates. If all plants are disabled, the ship is incapable of maintaining any sort of heat, atmosphere, or gravity.
Fusion plants: A ship needs one Bay of power generators for every two Hulls. If it falls below this minimum, all actions it takes—maneuvering, making weapon attacks, and so on—take a penalty. If all fusion plants are disabled, the ship cannot function at all.
Sensors: A ship needs one Bay of sensors to see, regardless of its size. If all sensors are disabled, the ship is blind. Windows still function, giving those inside some idea of what’s going on, but they’re painfully insufficient, imposing a penalty on all actions that involve interacting with things outside the ship, and a double penalty on all combat actions.


Advanced Tech
A bay of Advanced Tech must be placed next to another Feature, such as an engine or cloaking module. The ship, or a Star using that Feature, gains a bonus to one type of check made involving it, such as an Intelligence check to spot cloaked targets or an Agility check to avoid enemy fire. (Use the rules for Skills as a guideline)

AI Core
An AI core must be placed next to a bridge. As long as that bridge is functional, your ship is capable of performing routine tasks at your command—landing, launching fighters, flying to your location, docking with stations, and so on.

From a bridge, a Star can control any Feature in the ship. Extra bridges grant redundancy—large warships usually have two or three, with full crews in each.

A set of highly secure holding cells.

Cargo Hold
Each bay dedicated solely to storage gives the ship enough space for another 5,000 cubic feet of cargo. Adjacent holds may be merged, allowing them to be treated as a single space for the purposes of movement and loading… and also for the purpose of damage, as a hit to any bay will disable the entire hold.

Cloaking Module
A complex suite of energy sinks and stealth fields, a ship with a bay of Cloaking tech can attempt to hide even in deep space. Hiding—or finding a hidden target—requires a Star to make a successful Intelligence check.

Electronic Warfare Bay
A bay full of powerful signal jammers and broadcasters, a ship equipped for EW can impose a wide range of Complications on their foes. Each extra Bay used on the same attack increases the duration of a successful Complication by one round. Unlike conventional weapon bays, EW does not suffer a penalty for not having Combat Advantage.

Each engine beyond the minimum necessary to fly grants the ship a +1 bonus to its Speed score, to the normal maximum of eight. Beyond that, extra engines just add redundancy.

Environmental Plant
“Environmental Plant” is a catch-all term for the ship’s life support systems—air filters, heating systems, artificial gravity generators, and so on.

Fusion Plant
Each extra plant beyond the minimum grants the ship a +1 bonus to its Physique score, to the normal maximum of eight. Beyond that, extra plants just add redundancy.

Each hanger allows the ship to launch, recover, and maintain a single fighter craft.

An upgraded version of the Infirmary, allowing characters to recover from two injuries during a Minor Checkpoint if they spend time in the sickbay.

A bay of medical equipment, allowing characters to begin recovering from physical injuries.

Interior Armor
Adding interior armor around a bay allows it to take two hits before being damaged, instead of one.

A bay of scientific equipment allows Stars to do science-type stuff, and grants them a bonus when doing so.

Living Quarters
Each bay dedicated to living quarters provides about enough space for four comfortably sized cabins, or for enough bunk space for twenty crewmen—or fifty if you make them hot bunk.

Long Range Comms
Normal shipboard communications are ineffective beyond a few hundred thousand kilometers. A bay full of higher power equipment allows the ship to send and receive messages from anywhere in the solar system.

Maneuvering Thruster
Each Maneuvering Thruster grants the ship a +1 bonus to its Agility score, to the normal maximum of eight. Beyond that, extra thrusters just add redundancy.

Point Defense Mount
Each bay of dedicated point defense imposes a penalty on fighter pilots attempting to Strafe your ship.

In addition, Point Defense bays may be used to attack fighters without suffering the usual penalty to attack a smaller craft—though they also don’t do bonus damage on a hit.

Rec Area
A catch-all term for bays dedicated to crew comfort—mess halls, holodecks, gyms, and so on.

Sensor Array
Each extra sensor array beyond the minimum grants the ship a +1 bonus to its Awareness score, to the normal maximum of eight. Beyond that, extra sensors just add redundancy.

Shield Generator
A bay full of electromagnetic field generators provides the ship with Armor 1 against attacks in the same section of Hull. Multiple generators in the same Hull stack.

Weapon Bay
An installment of high-power bolters, plasma cannons, or other instruments of mayhem, a ship with Weapon Bays can make physical attacks against foes. Each extra Bay used on the same attack lets you deal one additional point of damage on a success.

A bay of tools and prototyping equipment allows Stars to do mechanical engineering type stuff, and grants them a bonus when doing so.

Advanced Maneuvers
Fighters are the most nimble craft in the skies. When they’re getting shot at in close combat, they have a pair of special maneuvers only they can pull off:

Spin-and-Pray: The pilot shuts down their main thrusters for an instant and spins their ship on its axis, winding up head-to-head with their attacker. You make both an attack and a defense check, with the actions resolving simultaneously as both combatants blaze away at point-blank range. After doing so, it’s harder to regain Advantage—you gain a bonus if your foe used this maneuver, and suffer a penalty if you did.
The Scissors: The pilot zigzags wildly, forcing their foe to fly right into their gunsights. If you use this maneuver, you suffer a penalty on your defense check, but gain a bonus on attacks next round—if you win Advantage. The opposite holds true if a Co-Star tries this stunt on you—you gain a bonus on your attack but suffer a penalty on defense checks next round.

Attacking a Capital Ship
Fighters aren’t important for their ability to fight each other. The reason they’re still a major part of warfare is that they can Strafe, flying dangerously close to ground targets or larger warships to unleash ordinance from point-blank range.

You still need Combat Advantage to Strafe, like with any attack, but if you pull off your attack, you hit your target very accurately—unlike capital ships, strafing Fighters can pick the exact bays they want to hit, going a long way towards making up for their smaller weapons.

Attacking such a large armed target is dangerous, though. Capital ships generally mount a number of light, rapid-firing weapons for the sole purpose of shooting down incoming fighters. Before you can attack, you must make a defense check to avoid point defense. If you fail, you must either break off your attack or take one damage per failure.

The maneuverability of a fighter comes with a price—the pilot is really, really vulnerable. If your ship is damaged, you may use your action to eject and reach the comparative safety of space. If all goes well, it’s easy enough for another ship to pick you up when the fighting is done. If it goes wrong… well, it’s going to be a long and lonely death. If you’re still in your fighter when it’s totally destroyed, you may attempt a Speed check to eject in time, using your own Speed and not your ship’s. If you fail…at least it was fast.

XP Cost

Advanced Sensor Package
Upgraded sensors grant a bonus on attempts to detect other craft.

Upgraded engines grant a bonus on checks involving raw Speed.

Cargo Hold
Allows the fighter to carry 50 cubic feet of cargo—or one passenger—per point of Physique.

Cloaking Module
Emissions sinks let you attempt to hide in deep space.

A second seat allows the fighter to carry a co-pilot, who can use their action to control secondary systems like sensors and jamming gear.

EW Package
Jamming gear allows the fighter to impose a wide range of Complications on their foes

Interceptor Software
Advanced tracking programs grant a bonus when attacking other fighters.

Low-Altitude Thrusters
Specialized maneuvering jets grant a bonus when defending against point defense.

Penetrating Scanners
Upgraded sensors grant a bonus on attempts to scan another craft’s interior.

Plasma Cannon
Upgraded weaponry increases your damage by 2.

Positron Torpedoes
Short-range missiles increase your damage by 4, but can only be used against capital ships, and can only target Hulls—not individual Bays like most attacks by fighters

Remote AI
Autopilot software allows the fighter to perform routine non-combat tasks at your command—landing, following you from the air, returning to a capital ship, and so on.

Shield Generator
Electromagnetic fields decrease damage received by 2.

Rotating weapon mountings give you a new option when being shot at: Return Fire. You suffer a penalty on your defense check, but can make an attack (with a penalty) against your pursuer.

Special: If your ship also has a Co-Pilot, they may operate the turret. If they do, you may ignore one of the two penalties when Returning Fire.

2019-04-29, 07:40 PM
Looks awesome!
I always love seeing original systems