Military Ship Comparison


General Discussion


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Oh man, do I love space ships!!! Starfinder had me at, “you can fly spaceships” but looking at the stats on military ships had me wondering, and it seems that others have also found the information to be not correct. But a question is how off are Starfinder’s numbers, to tell let’s look at the military ships other fictional universes?

Destroyer= 300-800 ft or 150-420 tons and crew 6-20

Cruiser= 800-2,000 ft or 420-1,200 tons and crew 20-100

Carrier/battleship= 2,000-15,000 ft or 1,200-8,000 tons and crew 75/100-200/300 (for carrier/battleship)

Dreadnought= over 15,000 ft or over 8,000 tons and crew 125-500

In the Star Trek universe the original Enterprise (NCC-171) i.e. the Kirk ship is called a Heavy Cruiser, in its refit it is listed as 1,000 ft long, mass of 1,000,000 tons, and a crew of 300.
The Enterprise D i.e. Picard ship is 2,108 ft long, mass of 4,960,400 tons, and a crew of 1,012.

Next the Honerverse a long running series of books about naval officer Honor Harrington by David Weber. This series is hard military science fiction so there are lots of ships, and the sizes increase as the series went along so I will be trying to give ships from early in the series. Ship class in this series is defined by tonnage so:
Destroyers=72-88 thousand tons(Ktons)
Light cruiser= 99-165 ktons; Heavy cruiser=176-386 ktons
Battleship= 2,205-4,409 ktons
Dreadnoughts= 5,512-7,165 ktons; Super Dreadnoughts= 7,716-9,921 ktons.

For information on exact length, mass and crew size I chose some ships that best reprecetn the class.
The RMN (Royal Manticoran Navy) Falcon class destroyer was 1,164.7 ft, mass of 77,713 tons, and a crew of 300.
The RMN Apollo class light cruiser was 1,437 ft, mass of 138,891 tons, and a crew of 493.
The RMN Star Knight class heavy cruiser was 1,716 ft, mass of 336,480 tons, and a crew of 925.
The Peoples Republic of Haves Navy (PNS) Triumphant class battleship was 3,832 ft, mass of 4,952,960 tons, and a crew of 3,876. [yes I know the mass is in excess of the listed mass tonnage but it’s the only one I could find data for so, ehh work with what I got]
The RMN Majestic class dreadnaught was 4,192 ft, mass of 7,441,153 tons, and a crew of 3,561.
The RMN Gryphon class Super Dreadnought was 4,498 ft, mass of 9,192,174 and a crew about 4,527.

US navy ships modern day
Arleigh Burke class destroyer is 509 ft, mass of 9,200 tons, and crew of 276
Ticonderoga class cruiser is 567 ft, mass of 9,800 tons, and a crew of 330
Iowa class battleship is 887 ft, mass of 59,000 tons, and a crew of about 1,921
Largest modern ship in the US Navy is the Super Carrier Ford CVN-78 is 1,106 ft, mass of 112,436 tons, and a crew of about 2,600.

What does all this tell us…besides I am a huge nerd for STARSHIPS!!!!
From these examples I would say that the length of the ships in Starfinder look very right!

Crew size is pretty much impossible to get a good handle on due to an unknown level of automation. The Ford class carriers will have a crew size 25% of the previous Nimitz class but they are nearly the same exact size. What is a major problem with the mass of the military ship classes.

Just looking at Destroyer, Cruisers, Battleships/Carriers and Dreadnoughts I would make a quick fix by saying the mass listed are in thousand tons. For example cruisers would then range 420,000-1,200,000 tons This would make the original Enterprise a perfect fit for a cruiser and Enterprise D a perfect fit for a battleship. Honorverse masses become in the same ball park and given a little jiggering works out well too. A side note Dreadnoughts in Starfinder by the size charts and especially compared to things like Absalom Station at 26,400 ft, should be the extremely, extremely, rare far outclassing the largest Federation ships in Star Trek. The largest Super Dreadnoughts in the Honorverse in terms of mass just barely get into it but are way too short.
Fire power is a whole other kettle of fish which I ain’t getting into.

Compared to modern Navy vessels destroyers are about the same but after that well as you would expect for something that exists in space they comparisons just go out the window.

Fans of other universes how do your favorites compare or where did I go wrong?

Here is another look at the same problem
And another, seeing so many scifi nerds warms my mostly machine heart!

Info from
memory-alpha.wikia.com for the Star Trek
honorverse.wikia.com for Honorverse
wikipedia.org for the US Navy
*Note I can’t find what kind of tons Starfinder is using so given the publisher uses feet for length I will use US tons. So I converted metric tons to US tons for Star Trek. I also assumed that Honorverse uses metric tons and converted aswell.


I think either the lengths or weights should be ignored, as they don't seem to scale properly. I'm more likely to ignore weight, but that's just me (also and HH fan, but when Weber talks tonnage I sort of half tune it out). Actually, come to think of it, I think either way the sizes are off. Granted, this isn't quite as bad as the scales used in D20 Future, but they're still off...

Someone observed on another discussion thread that the crew numbers are not total crew, just the maximum that can roll for any given thing. So rather than total crew, they're more like the officers or NCOs doing a thing, not all the people under them doing work. To reference HH, weapon firing is handled by the tac officer, and the weapon mount captains (if things are going wrong), but not the ATO, JTO, the CIC crew, or the other members of the on-mount crews. Plus, not everyone would be on-duty at a given time, and that doesn't even count support, maintenance, engineering, and so on. So crew numbers can be anywhere from 3 to 10 or more what's listed.

So all that being said, I don't know. I guess it seems to work, in the abstract, but I haven't had a chance to see it in action, yet.


Another thing to mention about real life. Those crew numbers are usually to cover 3 shifts. During combat, those extra numbers deal with damage control/medical aid.


something to point out; not that it matters, but the star trek federation ships are mostly exploration cruisers....


Traveller's Happy Fun Ball (the Tigress-class superdreadnought of the Imperial Navy) is pretty much a sphere with a short engineering block on the back. Total length is somewhere around 250m, but it's also about 230m wide and high. It's got a weight of around 6,000,000 tonnes without the subcraft it carries, which add at least another 500,000 tonnes.

Here is a graphic showing it in comparison to some other ships.


You know what really bothers me more than anything...

talking about the size of things in weight.

Especially things that will primarily be in space. Or on other planets with different gravity.

Talk about things in volumetric capacity. We don't really care about weight, it's space. We already have rules for what ships can and can't land on a planet, so the weight doesn't really matter.


Don't talk about weight talk about mass. Mass very much matters in space.


Elegos wrote:
Don't talk about weight talk about mass. Mass very much matters in space.

You're not wrong, but it still largely meaningless to players. The problem being that density of materials varies wildly compared to what we're used to. Imagine if all the spaceships were made of out Aerogel, but that the aerogel was stronger than steel. You end up with an incredibly low mass, that doesn't really convey anything.

Size is what people inherently understand the best IMO.


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StarCitizen ship matrix

The only good thing I can say about StarCitizen is that its ship matrix has a lot of cool ideas for Starfinder ships.


They have the same problem david weber hit with the great resizing in the honor herrington books. I think all the data is probably fine but the masses need to be redone they are just WAY to light for the size. I would probably not dwell on them to much the lengths are enough to convey the size of the ship and after a certain point massive is massive and the numbers of tons don't really do much to help players understanding of size after a point.


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Claxon wrote:


Talk about things in volumetric capacity. We don't really care about weight, it's space. We already have rules for what ships can and can't land on a planet, so the weight doesn't really matter.

Going off the "25 tons" metric, I'm guesstimating that a cargo bay is somewhere around 2000 cubic feet. Which absolutely works for shuttles and light freighters, but once you get to bigger ships you have to wonder why ships 100 times their size can only haul 6 times the freight.

I will never stop being amused at the cargo capacity of "bulk" freighters that couldn't fill up a Costco.


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I think that one thing which has been lost in some of these discussions is that part of the problem is not just that Starfinder's ship masses are low, and increasingly disconnected from ship size as they grow larger. It's a more fundamental problem than that; the ship scaling is not just dubious, but inconsistent. There is no clear reasoning there to me beyond each size category having larger numbers than the last. And given that Starfinder is borrowing from the conventions set by Pathfinder and D&D 3.x before it, and taking the names of creature size categories for its ship sizes, I find that incredibly disappointing. It's throwing out an elegant approach in favor of... this.

Within a creature size category, the largest possible creature would be twice the height or length of the smallest one. In accordance with the square-cube law, its mass - and thus weight, as it was presented - would in turn increase by a factor of 8, sometimes rounded off a bit for convenience; rather than have the base 16 tons of a gargantuan creature multiply to 128 tons, for instance, it's rounded off to 125. But even with quirks like that, creature scale follows a fairly elegant progression in Pathfinder and D&D 3.x.

Starfinder's ship scaling, by contrast, follows no apparent pattern beyond each category having a larger number than the previous one. Tiny starships have a length range that ends at triple the start, small doubles, medium is two and a half, and it never really settles anywhere. Mass also increases inconsistently, disregarding both the ranges of previous categories and the actual lengths of the ships with which the masses are associated. There is no method or pattern apparent in ship scales. They simply are, with no concern for any sort of consistency.

Personally, I find this to be one of the greatest disappointments of the system. It is less significant for normal play than the starship DC scaling, which was thankfully acknowledged as a problem. But I think the sizes are no less broken than the starship combat DCs, and in some ways is the worse problem of the two to me. The lack of cohesion apparent there ripples across the rest of the chapter, resulting in the bizarrely low cargo and creature capacities of ships as they get larger, and ultimately creates a set of mechanics that I do not think can model a reasonable setting.


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We should definitely be using metric tons as a measurement of mass but since the Starfinder system uses pounds, a measurement of weight. That's why I changed all the tonnage into us tons for the different universes, it's not ideal but we can just assume that all measurement are taken on the ground of earth/golarion.

Overall I'm really happy, but I do think that the mass problem is a real issue. Mistakes like that do your erode at the verisimilitude of the game. That's why for the large size ships on up a switch to Ktons (1,000 tons) would mostly fix the issue.

It would also make a separation between expected player size ships to truly high level player ships. A normal group of 4-5 could not run a destroyer without help. Kind of like when a fighter gets the money for full plate in pathfinder. It would enhance the sense of growth and progression if your ship is so much bigger the literal unit had to be upgraded.


C_Trigger wrote:

That's why I changed all the tonnage into us tons for the different universes, it's not ideal but we can just assume that all measurement are taken on the ground of earth/golarion.

Except Golarion doesn't exist anymore, so it doesn't really make sense.

And while Earth does exist in the same universe it's not anywhere close to the same solar system, and I doubt there are drift beacons near it so you can't travel to it easily either.


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Claxon wrote:
C_Trigger wrote:

That's why I changed all the tonnage into us tons for the different universes, it's not ideal but we can just assume that all measurement are taken on the ground of earth/golarion.

Except Golarion doesn't exist anymore, so it doesn't really make sense.

And while Earth does exist in the same universe it's not anywhere close to the same solar system, and I doubt there are drift beacons near it so you can't travel to it easily either.

True but everything in the book is related to pounds, 1 bulk is about 5-10 pounds. So If the book is using pounds for everything, and the assumed gravitational pull that is used for the pounds found everywhere in the book is using 9.8 m/s^2 or Golarion's gravity. Also all the planets in the book are defined as a fraction (ow or high gravity) of standard gravity which again is Golarion's gravity. Also Absalom Station the heart of the setting due to the Star Stone ease of drift also uses Golarion's gravity.


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Hithesius wrote:

Within a creature size category, the largest possible creature would be twice the height or length of the smallest one. In accordance with the square-cube law, its mass - and thus weight, as it was presented - would in turn increase by a factor of 8, sometimes rounded off a bit for convenience; rather than have the base 16 tons of a gargantuan creature multiply to 128 tons, for instance, it's rounded off to 125. But even with quirks like that, creature scale follows a fairly elegant progression in Pathfinder and D&D 3.x.

Starfinder's ship scaling, by contrast, follows no apparent pattern beyond each category having a larger number than the previous one. Tiny starships have a length range that ends at triple the start, small doubles, medium is two and a half, and it never really settles anywhere. Mass also increases inconsistently, disregarding both the ranges of previous categories and the actual lengths of the ships with which the masses are associated. There is no method or pattern apparent in ship scales. They simply are, with no concern for any sort of consistency.

So ship size is truly not comparable to creature size. If you are correct that if you double the size of a creature its mass 4 times as large, but that system does not work for ships. The jump from a destroyer to cruisers to battleship is not about a doubling in length. Ships are the size they are due to what role they accomplish for the navy they are in. Destroyers are they are size they are because the job they perform requires a small fast ship. So a cruiser is not necessarily double the size of a destroyer and half the size of a battleship. So to have a neat equation for starship size and tonnage would not be realistic.


C_Trigger wrote:
Claxon wrote:
C_Trigger wrote:

That's why I changed all the tonnage into us tons for the different universes, it's not ideal but we can just assume that all measurement are taken on the ground of earth/golarion.

Except Golarion doesn't exist anymore, so it doesn't really make sense.

And while Earth does exist in the same universe it's not anywhere close to the same solar system, and I doubt there are drift beacons near it so you can't travel to it easily either.

True but everything in the book is related to pounds, 1 bulk is about 5-10 pounds. So If the book is using pounds for everything, and the assumed gravitational pull that is used for the pounds found everywhere in the book is using 9.8 m/s^2 or Golarion's gravity. Also all the planets in the book are defined as a fraction (ow or high gravity) of standard gravity which again is Golarion's gravity. Also Absalom Station the heart of the setting due to the Star Stone ease of drift also uses Golarion's gravity.

Honestly, the reason this happens is because Paizo is an American company and trying to use a system other than pounds would be confusing for a lot of people/customers.


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Claxon wrote:
Honestly, the reason this happens is because Paizo is an American company and trying to use a system other than pounds would be confusing for a lot of people/customers.

Yup just nature of the beast.


Explanation: it's magic (to make the ships lighter/heavier then the norm) and they have AIs (to supplement the lack of crew).


Anyone remember the first attempt at a Star Wars d20? When they had small fighters (TIEs) Tiny, all the way up to making a couple scales above Colossal for the Executor-class?

Then again, I sort o prefer how the really, really old SW d6 game did it, with "Fighter" and "Capital" scales, but that would require a bit of reworking of the system.


ghostunderasheet wrote:
Explanation: it's magic (to make the ships lighter/heavier then the norm) and they have AIs (to supplement the lack of crew).

While true, this would serve to miniaturize the ships, not enlarge and lighten them.

Similar to the Enterprise-D vs the Defiant. The latter has a much-reduced crew compliment with correspondingly smaller hull volume (and thus mass) in no small part due to advanced automation systems, yet it is on-par with the former in terms of firepower and shield strength.


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Using magic and wonder materials could allow a larger, lighter ship as well. If decks were 20' high and standard passageways 20' wide the ships would be mostly empty space.

I do agree that ship mass is way off, they progress linearly rather than cubed.

I'm sure a lot of oddities of ship design are artifacts of play balance.

A transport (med) has 5 expansion bays allowing for a lot of customization but still have to make tough choices.
A large freighter (large) is roughly double the size, 8x volume, but only 8 expansion bays.
A fighter (tiny Ship scale) is gargantuan character scale.
A single cargo bay can hold up to large (CS) size. Four will hold huge and 8 will hold gargantuan objects
Somehow a shuttle bay (2 expansion bays) will somehow hold one gargantuan or colossal (CS) fighter or shuttle. Hangar bays (4 expansion bays) can hold 8 fighters (gargantuan CS)
Shuttle and hangar bays can only be used on the huge. gargantuan ships. The number of fighters you can get on a carrier is about 1/6 a modern aircraft carrier half the length even though the fighters are about the same size as modern fighters.
Huge+ ships can only mount one more weapon per arc than a medium ship and two more than a tiny ship.

Now let's look at play balance.

If you scaled expansion bays with size class/ length a large ship would have up to 40 bays. Now players could transport dozens of people, several hundred tons of cargo and still have all the bonus mods.

I huge ship would have 320 expansion bays. If half of those were shuttle bays it could have a mix of 160 fighters, interceptors and shuttles/ heavy attack ships.

If you scaled weapon mounts with volume (based in large) a cruiser would have 24 mounts per arc.

Now imagine trying to run a combat with 160 fighters against a single ship. Even if the fighters needed 20's to hit they would average 8/ turn and all criticals.


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Speaking personally, I hope we eventually ARE able to have mass combats where 160 fighters from a dedicated carrier ship is allowed. They'd need rules to support that of course, so play doesn't bog down, but the envoy acting as admiral to the fleet, buying time against the antagonist armada while the rest of the party attacks a critical stronghold in the final adventure is pretty standard Sci-Fi fare.


AnimatedPaper wrote:
Speaking personally, I hope we eventually ARE able to have mass combats where 160 fighters from a dedicated carrier ship is allowed. They'd need rules to support that of course, so play doesn't bog down, but the envoy acting as admiral to the fleet, buying time against the antagonist armada while the rest of the party attacks a critical stronghold in the final adventure is pretty standard Sci-Fi fare.

Easiest way to handle that would be some type of squadron rule. Basically squadrons would buzz around like mini-ships that can do zany things like shoot down ordinance/other squadrons or do bombing runs before they need to cruise back to rearm and refuel.

As many warts as Rogue Trader had with its void combat, I personally loved how carriers worked there and wouldn't mind taking cues from that (Combat void patrol engage)

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