Are space stations "vehicles" for ace pilot theme knowledge?


Starfinder Society

Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/55/55/55/5 **** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Southern

I had a player ask me this before making a Culture check to recall knowledge recently in a game I ran, and I was honestly torn on whether to say yes or no. I tabled my decision until after the dice were thrown, and fortunately the roll was high enough that the issue wouldn't have made a difference. But, since I was thinking about it, I was curious to see what others thought about the topic.

For reference:

Ace Pilot Theme wrote:
You are obsessed with starships and vehicles, and have committed to memory almost every related tidbit of knowledge you’ve ever come across. Reduce the DC of Culture checks to recall knowledge about starship and vehicle models and parts as well as famous hotshot pilots by 5.

Different dictionaries (online, at least) primarily define space stations as: artificial/manned satellites, structures, and sometimes also vehicles. My sense is that this is going to be a case of "expect table variation" and "YMMV" from GM to GM, but I'm curious enough to "ask the audience" as it were!

I'm leaning towards yes, mainly because I'm not sure any of the other themes out of the Core really cover this. An argument could be made for Spacefarer or maybe a Scholar who focused on metallurgy or electrical engineering, though. A Roboticist from Pact Worlds would fit as well, should that theme become SFS-legal.

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Probably not unless the station had double duty as a ship (like the ksatha world ship). A pilot is obsessed with things that go fast turn hard and get your adrenaline pumping. If your space station is doing any of that you probably messed up big time....

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I would say so , since ship captains these days know alot about ports if not the city the port is in.

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

A station should have position-keeping arrives, right?

So slow but not immobile?

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

*peers at above after the window elapsed*

WT* Autocorrect? Arrives?

Should be position-keeping *drives*

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

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I arrive agree with Wei Ji on this one. Space stations are not immobile structures, they're constantly in motion orbiting stars, planets or moons. Unlike an oil rig, a space station has to have its own propulsion just to stay in relative place.

They have characteristics typical of spaceships (propulsion, life support, shields, weapons, available interior space). A big spaceship that's not traveling anywhere for a time could essentially function as a space station and a space station might even have a drift drive of its own so that it can travel to its site of deployment.

A space station is more like an aircraft carrier than an oil rig.

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They can use tugboats, so built-in engines are not required. Even if they have engines, they may not be able to dodge like a combat spacecraft, and hotshot pilots probably mock anyone who says that maintaining orbit counts as piloting.

Quote:
They have characteristics typical of spaceships (propulsion, life support, shields, weapons, available interior space).

I'd let you have the bonus if the culture check was about those things. Looking at "The Commencement", getting the bonus for that first culture check looks reasonable, especially the (15+) part to know about the armada.

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Lau, how much do you know about orbital mechanics? I'm guessing from your statement that it is 'almost nothing'. Space stations in an orbit do not need propulsion to keep moving, any more than the Earth needs engines to keep going around the sun.


Brian Adams wrote:
Lau, how much do you know about orbital mechanics? I'm guessing from your statement that it is 'almost nothing'. Space stations in an orbit do not need propulsion to keep moving, any more than the Earth needs engines to keep going around the sun.

Well, over a sufficiently long time horizon at a sufficiently low orbital height their orbit would degrade due to tiny amounts of atmospheric drag and require some adjustments to avoid falling in deeper and accelerating the drag problem. So it depends.

But certainly Lau's overall statement is way too strong.

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm not *huge* on orbital mechanics, but beyond the LaGrange points, it does require some work to keep 'in proper orbit', right?

And this is best and most easily provided using station-keeping drives, no?

Or are all stations assumed to automagically be at geosynch?

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Typically, a vehicle is used to transport something from one point to another. I'm not certain a space station fits that definition. And I doubt an ace pilot's obsessive knowledge would extend to space stations.

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'In proper orbit' is not the same as geosynchronous. If the station being over a single point is your goal, then it WOULD be placed at geosynchronous orbit. Otherwise, it moves relative to the planet surface at a rate dictated by its orbital height. As long as you aren't putting it within the significant part of the planet's atmosphere (where Xenocrat's atmospheric drag would come into play), the station keeping would be handled by fairly infrequent bursts from the equivalent of maneuvering thrusters. To a pilot, calling those 'drives' would be about the same as calling a go-kart a sports car.

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Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.

Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

This is the Captain of A Ksatha Warship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

This is Dreadnought Armageddon, the second largest ship in the Kasatha fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that's one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.

This is a space station. Your call.

Shadow Lodge 5/5 5/55/5 *** Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

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While the term Space Station does imply Stationary, I'd certainly include them on the Ace Pilot theme. Let's not forget that some of the most iconic space stations, the Death Stars, still move around a bit, and even Deep Space 9 moved in its first episode. Mass Effect gives us the Nexus as a giant space station that they flew out across galaxies (the slow way...)

Even most 'stationary' stations were probably not built where they are encountered, as most remote outposts would lack the infrastructure for construction. So even if they're not moving now, they presumably did fly out there under their own power (though I suppose you could tow it out there)

Admitted Counterargument: Han Solo certainly didn't get his -5 to ID the Death Star. Or really botched the roll.

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Anderson wrote:


Admitted Counterargument: Han Solo certainly didn't get his -5 to ID the Death Star. Or really botched the roll.

CounterCounterArgument: The 'DEATH STAR' was a black-book superweapon project with a probable DC to identify somewhere in the 40-50 range *for people in the 'know'*.

Rebel Intelligence knew *something* existed but not *what*, and the Maw Installation was churning out superweapons faster than some academies were producing TIE pilots... :>

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Remote outposts would most likely be constructed on site from modular components by dedicated construction/transport vessels.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo) 2/5

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Hee!
Now obviously Starfinder has little to do with real world physics, but I cannot help meself... The real life International Space Station is a space station, yes?

But because there's drag in low Earth orbit, as noted by several above (Xenocrat in particular), the ISS has to boost its height regularly. This can be done when there's a Progress docked, or via the engines on the Zvezda DOS-8 Service Module. You can Google info on the ISS mean orbital height for an idea of how fast its orbit decays (it's not near as bad as it was in Space Shuttle days).

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

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Then again you have things like the Idari which now behave like space stations but are basically parked spaceships.

Given that an ace pilot is probably going to spend a lot of time on both ships and stations, and that the differences between ships and stations are rather gradual, I feel comfortable letting the theme knowledge apply.

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsebo) 2/5

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Lau Bannenberg wrote:

Then again you have things like the Idari which now behave like space stations but are basically parked spaceships.

Given that an ace pilot is probably going to spend a lot of time on both ships and stations, and that the differences between ships and stations are rather gradual, I feel comfortable letting the theme knowledge apply.

When GMing I'd do the same for things a pilot would be likely to know (docking restrictions, weapons carry restrictions in starport, unusual environment), and for areas that a pilot were likely to go. I'd even include things like knowing a starport's shops and concourses if it's one of the Pact Worlds.

Potential plot hook -
"[T]he curious incident of the dog in the night-time"
(apologies to Sir Arthur's "Silver Blaze"):

A pilot and crew (the players) lands in a starport he or she knows reasonably well, and notices a longtime chain of related businesses missing (e.g., maybe an import/export business, gift shop, and travel bureau). When the pilot casually asks about the missing businesses, locals look terrified and refuse to speak further. Hilarity ensues...

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