Echoes In Space
Ships are rated by Class and Quality. Class determines the size of the vessel (useful for scaling rules, written later in this post), which also influences the number of crew it needs to run optimally, the number of stations it has, and its total cost. Quality is similar to the skillcap on characters: the higher the quality, the better and more skills, stunts, and aspects a ship potentially has.
I gave ships a series of unique Skills (also below). Normally, ship AI can handle an action per exchange in a Conflict/Contest/etc., and otherwise, it depends on the players to act.
I wanted to reward players for their own skills without making ships themselves entirely irrelevant to the conflicts, so I adopted a dual system.
If you just hop onto a ship/tank/whatever, and you have a Character Skill applicable to the Ship Skill in question, you give the vessel a teamwork bonus (e.g., if someone with Pilot +4 flies a ship with Maneuverability +2, the Maneuver roll will be at +3 total).
However, if you’re a bonafide crewmember and have taken time to really familiarize yourself with a ship and its capabilities, you can choose to use your Player Skill in place of the Ship Skill, if it’s higher (in the above example, the +4 Pilot character is just so great at flying that he Maneuvers in his moderately clunky +2 ship at a +4 anyway).
The Captain can use her Skills in place of the ship’s for any roll, but is still restricted to one action per exchange. If you want to do well, you’ll have to rely on your crew!
Most Player Skills tie to one or more Ship Skills. You can use Rapport via Communications, Engineering in place of Repair, Deceive in place of Stealth, etc. Heck, even Investigate for Sensors, Notice for Mining, or Resources for Capacity! Thus, almost any character can do something useful on a ship at any given time.
Stunts & Aspects
Ship Stunts are similar to Player Stunts; they just modify Ship Skills instead. For example, you might have Blast Doors 2 to Defend with Hull against explosive attacks; or maybe Multi-Process AI – During a Conflict or Contest, a character may spend a Fate Point to let the ship take a second action on its own during that exchange.
By default, all ships have at least a High Concept; as you move up in quality, you gain additional Aspect slots (first a Trouble, then more generic Aspects). These can be invoked by players and compelled by the GM just like any other Aspects. At this time, I don’t give ships their own pool of Fate Points, however.
The number of each is tied to the Quality of the ship. You get one Stunt “included free” per point of Quality, while Aspects scale a little slower (a cheapo Fair (2) ship only gets two Stunts and two Aspects, while a next-to-impossible-to-acquire Legendary (8) ship gets 8 stunts and 6 Aspects).
Stress and Consequences
The ships have three Stress Tracks: Hull, Shields, and Systems. All three are tied to similarly named Skills and improve like Mental/Physical Stress Tracks do with improvements to Will/Physique.
By default, ships also get three consequence slots, which can also be improved with high Skills. Since these can sometimes be filled with bungled upgrades, players will want to keep an eye on them. I’ve considered letting players take a “consequence hit” for a ship, Star Trek-style (e.g., exploding panels in Engineering hurt the players in there rather than giving the ship a Consequence), but fear that A) that might draw out starship combat too much and B) would probably give a major advantage to larger ships with more crew to “sacrifice.”
Consequences can be cleared with relevant Skills at appropriate milestones: Engineering for Hull, Hacking for Systems, etc.
Ships can be upgraded with successful Resource rolls or by expending relevant plot Aspects at Milestones. Increasing a skill requires a Resources roll against its new level (e.g., bringing Beam Weapons from 3 to 4 requires a 4 Resources roll); adding Stunts or Aspects is tied to the total number of each (e.g., 5th stunt requires a 5 Resources roll). Failing can result in a negative Aspect (failure)/Consequence (tie), like “Unreliable Energy-Mass Converter Matrix” (bad Systems improvement) or “Glitchy Universal Translator” (bad attempt to add a translation-focused Stunt to the Communications Skill).
Sometimes, players get new tech on a mission, and can “spend” the Aspect (e.g., “Ancient Ones Anti-Matter Cannon in the Cargo Bay” can be retrofitted to improve Beam Weapons).
Like Players, these improvements must be made at the appropriate time. Stunts can be swapped around easily during a Minor Milestone, or minor changes to Aspects can be made. During Significant Milestones, a single Skill can be improved. During Major Milestones, the ships can gain a new Stunt and/or Aspect.
My goal with scale is the Death Star scene in Star Wars (and it’s still a work in progress), but the idea is common in Fate games: the bigger you are (relatively), the easier you are to hit, but the harder you are to hurt.
A Normal (0) scale Drone-Class ship has its “to-hit” Attack and Create an Advantage rolls increased against a Large (1) Fighter-Class ship by their difference in scale (1), but the damage it deals is reduced by the same amount (-1). These bonuses/penalties are reversed if you’re going down the ladder (e.g., a Gargantuan (4) Cruiser-Class ship gets its to-hit rolls reduced by 3 when attacking a Large (1) Fighter, but its damage is increased by the same!).
Since smaller ships easily make Create Advantage rolls against much larger ones (e.g., a Large (1) Fighter has a 5 bonus on CaA rolls against a Titanic (6) Dreadnaught), given enough time and ships, you can stack Advantages and free Invokes on until finally, one tiny ship can get off an absolutely monstrous attack that, even when reduced by penalties, still hurts or destroys the big ship. Then again, when the big guy’s weapons connect, they’re virtually guaranteed to destroy the smaller ship.
|Skill Name||Attack||Defend||Create Advantage||Overcome||Player Skill|
|Artificial Intelligence||✓||✓||✓||✓||Varies (usually Empathy, Provoke, or Rapport)|
|Armor (Hull)||✓||✓||✓||Engineering, Resources|
|Capacity||✓||✓||Infiltrate, Deceive, Resources|
|Communications||✓||✓||Empathy, Provoke, Rapport|
|Warp||✓||✓||Academics, Engineering, Pilot|
|Shields (Shields)||✓||✓||✓||Engineering, Will|
|Systems (Systems)||✓||✓||✓||Academics, Engineering, Hacking|
|Weapons Systems||✓||✓||✓||✓||Ranged Combat|
Items in (Parentheses) are the Stress Tracks improved by the given Ship Skill. Player Skills are the ones that grant Teamwork Bonuses to a Ship Skill (or can be used in place of them entirely, for crew).
You’ll note that Engineering shows up in almost every case in the last column, this is a jokey nod to just how OP Scotty, LaForge, etc. always are in their respective shows.
Maneuverability takes the place of Notice for determining turn order; in the case of a tie, Speed, then Sensors, are compared.
Direct Weapons are basically in the realm of robotic arms, battering rams, enormous ripsaws, etc. Stolen shamelessly from the incredibly awesome anime, Outlaw Star. They make attacks against Hull, like Projectile Weapons, and are defended against with Maneuverability or Direct Weapons.
Each member of the crew has a role in the crew. Each member may choose one skill and use his own skill instead of the ship’s skill where appropriate.
|Departments||0||1||4 / 6||6||8||8 / 8||10 / 12|
|Team Size||0||1||1||10||15||20 / 30||45 / 80|
|Total Crew||0||1||4 / 6||60||120||160 / 240||450 / 960|
|Scale||Normal (0)||Large (1)||Huge (2)||Giant (3)||Gargantuan (4)||Colossal (5)||Titanic (6)|
|Minimum Quality||Average||Average||Average / Fair||Fair||Fair||Good / Good||Good / Great|
|Resources Modifier||-1||0||1 / 2||3||4||5 / 6||7 / 8|
Departments are basically separate Crewmember slots. A Frigate has “space” for 6 full-time crew (that is, 6 characters who can be providing major bonuses to Skill rolls), while a Starbase has room for 12! In larger ships, these represent whole teams working together. In Combat, these departments each take a turn on their ship’s turn; a speedy, large ship can be a VERY dangerous foe indeed!
Scale should be self-explanatory. Minimum quality means that even the jankiest Starbase is still pretty expensive. Resources modifier applies to rolls to acquire or upgrade ships of this Class—adding new lasers to a Starbase is more expensive than doing the same to a Drone!
|Quality/Base Cost||Average (1)||Fair (2)||Good (3)||Great (4)||Superb (5)||Fantastic (6)||Epic (7)||Legendary (8)|
|Legendary (8) Skills||1|
|Epic (7) Skills||1||1|
|Fantastic (6) Skills||1||1||2|
|Superb (5) Skills||1||1||2||2|
|Great (4) Skills||1||2||2||2||2|
|Good (3) Skills||1||1||2||3||3||2|
|Fair (2) Skills||1||2||3||3||4||3||3|
|Average (1) Skills||2||3||3||4||4||5||4||3|
Pretty self-explanatory. Ships get very spindly Skill Pyramids at high quality ratings due to the low number of Ship Skills (16 total).