The Starship Game — Rules
The setting and ideas of the Starship Game are system-independent, and can likely be adapted to most TTRPG systems. As I’m personally a fan of Fate Accelerated, my thoughts on how the game might be played in that system are presented here.
The rules for Fate Accelerated can be found at fate-srd.com and are freely available.
Reference: Who Do You Want To Be?, Fate Accelerated SRD
The basic process of defining a character through aspects and approaches is largely unchanged. There is, however, some additional information to be tracked.
Culture of Origin
The culture that built your Starship is important. In many ways, it defines what “species” of Starship you are playing. An overview of the Commonwealth’s five members can be found in previous posts, but to summarise:
- Corack: You’re basically a flying town, and it’s assumed your actions reflect the consensus of your inhabitants. Accordingly, being uncrewed is not an option.
- Iomi: You chose what you wanted to do with your life and your hull was built around you accordingly. You were raised to take time to come to the correct decision in all things and stick to it once you do.
- Kuto: You’re not an AI, just a Kuto whose brain happens to be plugged into a starship body right now.
- Querral: You’re a patchwork of technologies from all the other Commonwealth cultures, and more likely than not have a crew to match.
- Terran: The classical Starship AI, a computer programmed to be alive.
This choice will affect both how you see the universe and how the universe sees you, so make a special note of it on your character sheet.
Playing the Earth Empire
I designed the Empire to be the primary antagonists, so they’re not really the focus of this post, but there’s really nothing stopping you playing as them if that’s the direction your group wants to go in. Empire ships don’t have a controlling intelligence, so if you find yourself playing one, your primary character will be the ship’s human captain, and the “captain” discussed elsewhere in this post will be your executive officer.
Remember that your people liberated themselves from a despotic AI overseer a few generations ago, so the Commonwealth’s AI-driven society – a society they would like to impose on you – is a truly existential threat to your culture.
It’s assumed, unless otherwise stated, that you’ll have a crew aboard to help you. Their capabilities and training are further assumed to be matched to yours, so they share your Aspects and Approaches. If you have specialised crew with unusual abilities, this is best represented as a Stunt, though certain members or groups within it may have their own character sheets at the GM’s discretion.
Your Captain, the leader and manager of your crew, is likely someone you’re going to be dealing with a lot, so take a quick note of their name and basic personality traits for your own reference. Where appropriate, they will usually be played by the GM.
Use of Drones
Space is (for the most part) a quiet, empty place, and hyperspace is doubly so. This means that there will rarely be situational Aspects for you to take advantage of. What you do have is the ability to make special-purpose drones to help you, so you are strongly encouraged to make use of the Create Advantage action to represent their use.
Operating without drone aspects in play means you are considered to be using only the equipment you have in your main hull. This means being limited to, for example, only seeing what your onboard sensors can pick up, only being able to interact with objects you can physically close with, and only using simple kinetic missiles and point defence lasers in combat.
As always when using situational aspects, remember that you can spend a Fate point to invoke an aspect at any time it would help you, or use a Create Advantage action to get free invocations on one. By taking the time to properly set up your drones, you can stack up some substantial situational bonuses to your action rolls. Just don’t let the situation roll on by without you while you’re doing it.
A big part of the point of having a crew is having them operate your drones for you. As powerful as your intellect is, your can still only focus your primary mentality in one place at a time, so if you don’t have a crew, your drones will not operate as well in complex situations.
If you do not have a crew aboard, whether because you simply never had one in the first place or that they are currently elsewhere, you are considered to have the Uncrewed aspect. This can be invoked to perform acts that would normally be impossible with people inside you, and it can be compelled to represent the limitations this places on your drones – usually as a penalty when trying to Create an Advantage with them.
In most situations, this will hinder more than it helps, and the GM should play it accordingly, but the extra Fate points from the compels could make it worth your while.
Special Crew and Equipment
Reference: Stunts, Fate Accelerated SRD
While your drones create situational aspects, your onboard equipment is more appropriately represented by Stunts. As always, you get three free Stunts before they start to impact your Refresh. Specially trained crew, particularly those with talents that you do not have, are represented this way too. Stunts can be swapped out during Milestones as normal, though the GM may rule that you’ll have trouble reconstituting a specialist team that you broke up to free up their stunt slot earlier.
Drones With Hats
If you or your crew have adopted and customised a particularly helpful drone, can take a Drone With Hat stunt to automatically get a +2 to all rolls involving that particular drone. You lose this stunt if the drone is lost for any reason.
There is also Equipment. A special piece of equipment counts as a stunt for Refresh purposes, but has effects and limitations beyond what might normally be expected of a stunt.
Unless otherwise noted, you can add a piece of Equipment without any external help by spending six hours and making a +4 Careful roll, and can remove a piece of equipment for free at any time. With the help of a Shipyard, this time is cut in half and the roll automatically succeeds.
Some examples follow. This list of equipment you might have is not exhaustive, but should give you a good idea of what sort of thing is available.
You have been configured as a mobile shipyard, with a large contingent of engineers, designers, and other specialists aboard. Any other ship which can dock within your special expandable hull may add or replace a piece of Equipment without rolling, in half the time this would normally take. You also gain this benefit yourself.
This bulky, specialised equipment does place an extra strain on your engines when moving around. You take a -2 penalty to Quick rolls as long as it is present.
While equipped with a Shipyard, you cannot voluntarily become Uncrewed. If something happens to your crew, your Shipyard stops functioning until they can be placed. A Shipyard cannot be added or removed without the assistance of another Shipyard.
Your drone bay has been expanded to house a multipurpose shuttle. It lacks an intelligence core and cannot fully enter hyperspace, but is capable of moving a large amount of cargo, drones, or crew without you needing to be present. This provides no direct bonuses to action rolls but makes many more actions possible at a distance from your main hull without having to deploy specialist drones ahead of time.
Your marines have some ideas about the form some of these actions can take. They’ve always wanted to try a hostile boarding.
While nuclear fusion is usually the preferred means of generating power and propulsion, when you need a bit of extra oomph there really is no substitute for antimatter. Laboriously created in a particle accelerator and stored in specialised containment pods, this allows you to build antimatter-powered drones. Use of these drones allows a +2 to any Flashy, Forceful, or Quick Advantage rolls involving them.
Unfortunately, when antimatter-powered equipment is damaged, it has a way of going boom. If you take a Consequence as a result of physical damage, your antimatter pods are ejected to avoid containment loss while they’re still in your hull, and you lose this Equipment. Trust me, it’s better this way — it’s easier to make new pods than a new you.
Additionally, using these drones isn’t exactly the safest thing in the world. If an Advantage roll for an antimatter drone fails, a roll on which the drone’s aspect is invoked ties or fails, or if the drone is subject to damage by any other means, an antimatter explosion occurs. An antimatter explosion will destroy all other nearby drones (for this purpose, all of your drone aspects that could be used together with this one) are also destroyed, and any Starship nearby must make a defence against a 2-shift attack.
Do you like to gamble?
A Final Note
Look, I’m not a game designer. There are probably all sorts of amateur mistakes here and it may not work fantastically in play. As you play, always remember: if a rule isn’t fun or if the GM disagrees with it, the rule is wrong.
More than that, I’d like to come back to this and add more Equipment and things, this is just thoughts from a couple of hours of writing.