This section explains how starships work, how to do battle with starships (including fleet combat), starship equipment, and examples of ships.
Starships can be as small as a car or as massive as a planet, and so in order to gauge what their capabilities are against each other, they are broken up into ten sizes. These sizes are as follows:
- Size 1 - Unmanned Probe: Requires no crew.
- Size 2 - Single-Occupant Vessel: Between 1-2 crew.
- Size 3 - Multi-Occupant Vessel: Requires between 2 to 4 crew.
- Size 4 - Star Corvette: Requires between 3 to 8 crew.
- Size 5 - Light Cruiser: Requires between 4 to 10 crew.
- Size 6 - Medium Cruiser: Requires between 6 to 50 crew.
- Size 7 - Heavy Cruiser: Requires between 10 to 100 crew.
- Size 8 - Space Station: Requires between 25 to 1000 crew.
- Size 9 - Super Station: Requires between 50 to 5000 crew.
- Size 10 - Planetary Station: Requires between 1000 to 50,000 crew.
During an engagement, ships of various sizes may be pitted against each other. Due to size difference, it is easier for a small ship to target a larger one, and more difficult for a larger ship to target a smaller one. However, a small ship will do less damage to a larger ship, and a large ship will do considerably more damage to a smaller ship.
For every rank larger, all targeting goes up one rank, but all damage goes down one rank. For every rank smaller, all targeting goes down one rank, but all damage goes up one rank.
Ship’s systems are generally four sizes smaller than the ship itself, so the shield generator of a Medium Cruiser will be ranked 2, about the size of a single-occupant vessel. Ship’s systems on an unmanned space probe will be -3, and thus will be nearly impossible to target for almost any ship.
Every ship has a minimum crew required to operate it. For a single-occupant ship such as a fighter, this one person controls the entire operations of the ship, from piloting to gunning, and all engineering is done between flights. On a ship of this size, there may be a second gunner, but there is definitely no room to sleep or live. However, the larger a ship gets, the more purposed it is to traveling long distances, and therefore contains rooms or barracks for its crew and more living arrangements.
A basic ship needs someone to steer it, and everyone else is just helpful. On a smaller ship, a pilot is all that is necessary, although medium-sized ships may have a navigator and even bigger ones may have a navigator, an astrogator for plotting hyperspace jumps, a tactical pilot for combat maneuvers, and a technician who plots course corrections in case of obstacles. After this, the crew compliment is up to the players. They may want someone in each of the following positions:
- Captain: The captain’s job is less technical and more concerned with making sure everyone is on the same page. In some ships, especially smaller ones, the captain may pilot and navigate the ship. The ship and everyone on board is the captain’s responsibility.
- First Officer: The first officer is the person who enforces the captain’s will among the crew, and may be in charge of training and disciplining the crew. On smaller or medium-sized ships, he may be the navigator or pilot.
- Helmsman: The helmsman actually flies the ship, and inputs the destination waypoints the navigator plots. On many ships, these two positions are operated by the same person.
- Navigator: The Navigator plots local waypoints for the ship to fly to, and on smaller ships he may be the pilot and/or astrogator as well.
- Astrogator: The Astrogator’s job is to plot hyperspace jumps, and on smaller or medium-sized ships this may also be the navigator. The Astrogator must be well-versed in hyperspace technology, which is why many navigators can’t be astrogators.
- Communications: On some ships, one person is in charge of operating and monitoring communications systems.
- Tactical: Tac-ops is the position in charge of combat. In some cases, the tactical officer is in charge of manual maneuvers during combat, and will also be in charge of the security team on the ship. The Tactical officer is also usually considered the captain’s personal bodyguard.
- Chief Medical Officer: Many ships need a ship’s doctor, and many ships have an entire crew of medical practitioners. If this is the case, there still needs to be one person to administrate over them all.
- Chief Science Officer: There should be someone on board who can help the crew figure out logistics of missions, to read the scanners and other ship’s equipment, and to help out in general with all the sciencey things you tend to discover in uncharted space. Sometimes there’s an entire crew of them, sometimes only one.
- Armorer: The Armorer’s job is to make sure the rest of the crew has the equipment they need for a mission, and to operate the equipment that not everyone else knows how.
- Gunners: Not all ships have guns that point straight forward or fire automatically, and for these, each weapon needs its own gunner. Gunners will also tend to watch over the ship’s payload of ammunition and warheads, and will be personally responsible for equipping and re-arming them between missions.
- Engineer: Finally, but most importantly, someone needs to know how to fix the ship and operate the ship’s systems. Larger ships tend to have a whole crew of them, but even on the largest ship you will find one senior engineer who knows the ship like the back of his own hand.
When traveling between interstellar distances, the size of these spaces are important. Units of space are referred to differently in order to easily discuss the distances, considering the differences between these distances is exponential. The following list shows what these distances are and the comparisons between them.
- Unit: Individual units of space, such as would be used in combat.
- Parsec: Distances within a star system. Equal to one hundred units.
- System: The overall measure of a star's area of influence, including all the planets within its gravitational pull. Most systems are roughly 100 by 100 parsecs square at the center, and there is a distance of about 1000 parsecs between each system.
- Sector: An area of space that includes a number of systems. Most sectors are about ten by ten systems.
- Quadrant: All the sectors that make up one quarter of a whole galaxy. Quadrants are usually 100 by 100 sectors.
- Galaxy: Four quadrants, two square.
- Universe: All of the galaxies put together. The overall size of this area is unknown.
Energy and Fuel 
Energy Allocation: A ship must have enough energy to operate. While energy is a renewable resource as long as the ship has fuel, the generators need to be kicking out enough energy to power all of its systems. Each system has a set amount of energy which it requires to operate. This means the ship needs enough energy sources to power all of the systems it needs to power at once.
It is possible to allocate energy to or from nonessential systems. For example, let’s say your ship’s generator puts out ten units of energy. You have an engine, two guns, a shield generator, life support, gravity, atmosphere systems, a matter replicator, a hyperdrive, and four maneuvering thrusters. Let’s say that each of these systems requires one unit of energy each. This is enough energy to power the entire ship.
Generator Damage: Let’s now say that the generator is damaged, and the GM decides that due to this damage the ship can only output five units of energy. Obviously, five of these systems will not be able to function. The crew needs oxygen, atmosphere, and gravity right off the bat, which means they can only have two other operational systems. While traveling, they may allocate energy to the engines. When in combat, the crew may decide to allocate one unit of power to the maneuvering thrusters and one to engines so they can escape, or one to shields and one to weapons so they can stand stationary and fight.
They may still power all the ship’s systems, but each system would operate at half power.
Over/Under Allocation: Ship’s systems do not need full power to function, and they can accept additional power to boost them. For example, if an engine that normally only requires one unit of power to travel 10 units of space per round, the crew may give it two units of power in order to make it go 20 units per round, or may only allocate half a point of energy to it in order to move a maximum of 5 units. This is possible for any ship’s system, at the GM’s discretion.
Boosting Systems: In addition to energy allocation, a character may “finagle” with a ship’s system in order to add to its efficiency. An engineer, for example, may roll on his Engineering skill in order to coax more power out of the engines. The result of this may be up to the GM’s discretion and based on his roll result. The efficiency and length of time this lasts is entirely up to the GM.
Overloading Systems: Whether by increasing energy allocation to a ship’s system or boosting it by using skills, the GM may decide that the system is running hot and begins to take damage. At his discretion, the system may begin to take one rank of damage every so often until it explodes or ceases to operate at all. This is entirely up to the GM, and should only be used as a cinematic tool or to dissuade the crew from running their equipment too hard.
Fuel Consumption: The creation of a new ship requires adding up how much fuel each engine requires when traveling. If, for example, an engine takes 3 units of fuel for every parsec it travels, and there are three engines on the ship, it will require nine units of fuel to travel one parsec.
Ship combat could be considered to be fairly similar to regular terrestrial combat. The main difference is that everyone throws all of their skills into the operation of the ship, which acts on its own as everyone’s weapon, and everyone’s shield.
The combat system of Star Captain is more cinematic than it is technical. When running a starship engagement, the GM should run it more like something you might see in a movie or on a TV show rather than as a system of rules defining every minute detail of movement, attack, and damage. The purpose of combat is excitement, storytelling, and to add a bit of danger to your campaign.
Initiating Combat: Rather than choosing to engage in a battle just for arbitrary purposes (ie., “Several enemy ships appear out of hyperspace”), a good GM should have reasons for every battle. Have the players entered pirate space? Are they themselves pirates and have entered military-controlled space? Is there a ship that has been following them and observing them for some purpose? Is there an ancient defense system trying to keep them away from something?
It is important to know why the combat is occurring, because we need to know how the engagement begins. Many combat engagements should begin with roleplaying. Is there communication first? Do the characters know their attacker? Did the characters notice a seemingly innocent ship charging up their shields and weapons? Can they escape?
Either way, once we know the precursors to the battle, we know how we can proceed, and in what order. If the characters notice that the enemy ship is taking an aggressive stance, forever, they may make the roleplaying choice to raise their own shields and weapons, thus initiating combat. Combat would then continue on from that point as though the characters took their first turn, then the rest of the enemies go in an order chosen by the GM, then the turn ends and the characters take their turns again.
Thus, rather than having a system of initiative for combat, the first turn of combat should be based on the choices made by combatants. Did a group of fighters just uncloak and begin immediately firing on the characters? The GM may choose to allow them a Reflexes roll to see if they have time to react, but in general it will be the fighter’s turn to go first. All of them would go first, because it is clear based on the circumstances that that’s the order it would happen in.
Crew Activity: The crew of each ship should have the opportunity to act in whatever order they choose when it is the turn of their ship. In most cases, the captain of the ship would order each crewmember to perform however many actions they are capable of that he feels are necessary to win and survive the engagement. As long as they are able, the characters can take whatever actions they want, including disobeying the orders of their captain to do their own thing.
The order of the characters, when it comes to their turn, is entirely up to them. They may just choose to start with the captain (or whichever character is in a leadership position) and go clockwise around the table.
Turn Actions: Every crew member of each ship sitting at a console that has the appropriate capabilities may perform up to four main actions on their turn. These actions are as follows:
- Movement: Normally, only one crew member has access to the movement of the ship. If their station controls the movement of the ship, they may decide the movement of the ship for the current turn. If this character is injured or incapacitated, another character will have to physically get up from their station and take over in order for the ship to move any more. The ship is limited to the number of movements and turns based on its equipment.
- Attack / Operate: Each crewmember with access to a battlestation may fire the weapons they have access to on their turn, or may operate aparticular piece of ship equipment, such as raising or lowering shields or activating mining equipment. The number of attacks they may make in one turn is based on the limitations of the weapon they are using.
- Read: If the crewmember's station has readouts, they may check them and call out the information they see to their shipmates.
- Adjust: Each crewmember may alter the setting of the systems they are sitting at, at a rate of one for every ten Reflexes points they have per turn.
Movement: A ship’s engines can be set to operate at a certain speed. The ship can continue to move at this speed, or the person controlling it may change that speed during their Adjustment phase. Every round, the person piloting the ship must move it at the speed it is set to. This movement will be limited to the equipment the ship has loaded on it.
Attack: Anyone sitting at a battlestation may fire the weapons attached to that station. During their Adjustment phase, the tactical operators may turn on or off certain weapons. On their turn, they may fire all the weapons that are A) on, B) connected to their systems, C) are fully charged, and D) are finished warming up between shots.
Operate: If a person has both weapons and operatable equipment at their station, they must choose between firing weapons or operating that equipment. See the individual equipment listings for more on how each piece of equipment works.
Read: Each crewmember may read their monitors to see if any operating factors have changed during combat. For example, they may want to check to see if their shields are holding, or if the enemy weapons are fully recharged. Only one thing may be checked per character per round.
Adjust: Each crewmember may adjust the settings of the systems they are working on, and may do so as many times on their turn based on the following calculation: for every ten Reflexes points they have, rounded down to the nearest ten, they may make one adjustment. Thus, if they have 65 Reflexes, they may make up to 6 adjustments to the systems they are working on. Note that the adjustments made will not take effect until the end of the character’s turn. Thus, they may set the ship’s speed 6 times, but the actual speed of the ship will be the final choice they made before their turn ended.
Attacking: A character attacking using their ship’s weapons may fire all currently active weapons available through their battlestations. Thus, if the tactical officer on board the ship has three laser cannons and two missile arrays, they may fire all of them at once, even choosing different targets if the weaponry allows, considering all of those weapons are online and ready to be fired. The attacker must roll the appropriate skill once per weapon bank. Thus, if the three lasers are all connected to the same bank of weapons by weapon couplings, and the two missile arrays are individual,the attacker would roll once for the lasers and once for each missile array, making a total of three rolls.
Targeting Systems: The attacker may choose to fire directly at a system on the enemy ship. This doesn’t incur a standard penalty like making a called shot on a body part normally does. The difficulty comes from the size difference of the ship’s systems, which are normally four sizes smaller than the ship. Just like firing on different ships, the attacker may fire on different systems, even on different ships if he so wishes.
Defense: A ship traveling faster than 5 units per turn may attempt to evade attack. Every time the ship is attacked, the person piloting the ship may attempt evasive maneuvers. They must have the ship under manual control in order to accomplish this. Their Piloting skill is used as a defense roll, compared against the attack roll of the enemy ship.
If the ship is hit, the GM must decide based on the current situation if the result is going to be geared toward accuracy or damage. If the attack roll is Fair and the damage the weapon used does is Fair, for instance, the GM may decide that the accuracy is not as good and the damage is more (in which case, the accuracy is Poor but the damage is Good), that the damage is not as good as the accuracy (in which case the damage is Poor and the accuracy is Good), or that the attack result is outright (in which case both remain at Fair).
The ship may itself have some defenses to bring to bear even if the attack is successful. For example, Fair-ranked shielding will reduce the damage by two ranks.
Hull Damage: Hull damage is the way to describe how badly damaged a ship has become. Each side of a ship (top, bottom, and sides of each major segment of the ship) has a specified Hull Damage Rating. When the ship takes damage, the GM decides based on the positioning of the ships to each other what side of the ship has been struck by the attack. That part’s HDR is reduced by the damage the weapon does.
For instance, if you have a weapon that does 20 damage, and the left flank of the ship has 150 HDR, after attack of that weapon, the left flank of the ship will have 130 HDR. The hull damage done by a weapon is not changed based on the rank of that attack.
When a part of the hull reaches zero HDR, that section is breached. A hull breach means that any equipment in that section of the ship receives Excellent damage, and anyone on the ship between the breach and the next segment of the ship is sucked out into space.
System Damage: Equipment on the ship that can be targeted and damaged does not have a numerical rating like HDR. Much like body parts, ship’s systems can be damaged and reduced in quality until repaired. The result of an attack against a ship’s system can be Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, or one of the higher ranks. For each rank of damage, that piece of equipment is reduced in rank whenever it is used. Thus, a weapon with Fair damage receives a -2 penalty when attacking.
When a piece of equipment goes beyond Excellent damage, it is too damaged to function anymore, and the ship loses its benefits until it is repaired. If it is entirely on the outside of the ship, it may (at the GM’s discretion) separate from the ship and float away. It will need to be recovered or replaced.
Ramming: Ramming is a difficult thing to track properly, since a ship could conceivably hit any part of a ship using any part of itself. Damage done by ramming should be cinematic, especially based on how daring the act of the ram is. The GM could even allow a ship to ram right through to the inside of a much larger ship and invade it from the inside (even though in most cases this would result in the smaller ship blowing up and causing absolutely no damage to the bigger ship).
A good rule in general for standard ramming attacks is to use the pilot’s Piloting skill for the attack, and then to alter damage based on the size difference between the two ships. A ship ramming a ship of the same size will most likely take the same amount of damage it deals out, and will take one rank more than a ship one size larger than it (while the other ship would take one rank less). This does not always have to be the case, and again, cinematic ramming rules should be in place.
A ship may ram parts of another ship, like weapons for example, and in this case will take much less damage itself, if any at all.
Starship Destruction: If one quarter of a ship’s hull segments are breached, the ship will explode. Also, there are certain pieces of equipment which, if they surpass Excellent damage, will explode and take the ship with it (in these cases, there may be time for the crew to eject that system and escape the blast). Ship explosions will destroy the ship and kill every person on board.
The GM may decide to reward the crew at the end of combat by allowing damaged ship’s systems from a destroyed ship to be found, captured, salvaged, and added to the character’s own ship.
Large-Scale Ship Battles
Much like large-scale terrestrial battles, large-scale space battles are based on how well each side does during their turn. The GM decides which side did better by adding up the success ranks of each team (Poor=1 rank, Fair=2 ranks, Good=3 ranks, etc.), and figuring the difference between them, then consulting the following table. The GM may choose any one of the rewards below based on this difference.
If a team has 1 more rank of success than the other, there is no change either way.
If a team has 2 more ranks of success than the other, then 1 enemy fighter is destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 20 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 5 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or 1 capitol ship takes Poor damage to a random system.
If a team has 3 more ranks of success than the other, then 5 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 30 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 10 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or one capitol ship takes Fair damage to a random system.
If a team has 4 more ranks of success than the other, then 10 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 40 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 15 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or one capitol ship takes Good damage to a random system.
If a team has 5 more ranks of success than the other, then 25 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 50 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 20 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or one capitol ship takes Excellent damage to a random system.
If a team has 6 more ranks of success than the other, then 50 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 60 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 25 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or one capitol ship completely loses a random system.
If a team has 7 more ranks of success than the other, then 75 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 70 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 30 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or distribute 40 hull damage between two capitol ships.
If a team has 8 more ranks of success than the other, then 100 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 80 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 35 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or distribute 50 hull damage between two capitol ships.
If a team has 9 more ranks of success than the other, then 150 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 90 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 40 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or distribute 60 hull damage between two capitol ships.
If a team has 10 more ranks of success than the other, then 200 enemy fighters are destroyed, 1 midsized ship takes 100 hull damage, 1 capitol ship takes 45 hull damage to the side facing the winning team, or distribute 50 hull damage between two capitol ships.