Drones: for Starships



I played EVE Online for so long I've decided to leverage all those years of wasted spreadsheets in space for the benefit of my Starfinder setting.

First up, starships could use some 'automated' assistance; Drones.

This is my first blush at converting the four classes of drones into a Starfinder setting.

I understand this would be one more thing to track in space combat but it could be an equalizer for smaller ships and it could create another Ship Role: Drone Control

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bOmw3hh_yOYQzpGeyUiV0fFTRaoebDKQjoApVi0 eoI4/edit?usp=sharing

I like the general idea of drones combined with the optional role of Drone Controller.

Maybe we can even take more from EVE and tie the amount of drones you can control to your pilot skill or similar.

The link doesn't seem to work?

While I have never played EVE, I remember FTL: Faster than Light had Drones. So having Drone Upgrades for the Ship (repairs, medical, security, weapons) actually sounds like a cool idea.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The main issue with ship drones as a concept is "What, exactly, are they doing?" If all the repair drone is doing is repairing stuff as directed by the engineer. . . well, that's not really some distinct system, that's just a special effect for a suitable engineer action. Likewise, a drone shooting at enemy ships as directed by the gunner is just an unusual type of weapon mount.

If the idea is that a drone does something *without* needing a character action directing it, that is when things get dicier. Essentially they would be "do this action without needing to spend an action", and that is potentially highly unbalancing. Consider how much it would cost to hire an NPC with a skill code equivalent to a PC, because that is an awful lot like what a drone is supposed to do.

I guess it's a matter of how heavy you plan to get into starship operations in a game. The Role Playing should be front and center as it is an RPG but having some sort of meat to the starship systems would be nice if you're planning a night of serious space pew pew.

As for drones replacing a PC's role, i'd disagree. It's an added role for whomever is the engineer, gunner or sensor operations through the drone control unit. They have limited range and very limited autonomy alot like robots.

The idea is that you'll have to have a Drone Control Unit (Computer Upgrade) and a Drone Bay (Expansion Bay) to operate one or more drones.

A player would control one or more drones by sending commands to them in the case of combat or exploration. If it's just repair drones then maybe a fire and forget with an enhancement in active ship repairs during combat kind of like hull, armor or shield regeneration scores. Combat drones would require target calling from the ship's sensors unless they can detect hostility toward their carrier ship.
Drone Bay

A Drone Bay is an expansion bay much like a Shuttle Bay or Hangar but specifically suited to drone storage, maintenance and repair.

A drone bay’s power consumption and cost in BP is relative to the number and size of the drones it will serve.

A drone’s Tier indicates how much space and energy it requires. The Standard Drone Bay requires 1 PCU and BP equal to the Cost listed on each drone. Drones can be docked internally or externally but the Bay must provide power couplings to properly recharge the drone power cells.
Drone Control Unit

This is essentially a slave CPU dedicated to processing commands that are broadcast on a narrow-band, burst transmission to the controlled drones. This is the actual ‘brain’ of a drone. Without it a drone is just space debris.

This Computer Upgrade allows a starship to interface with and control drones launched from the associated bay. Each of these upgrades control a single drone per Node. The number of installed and active Control Units is limited by the number of Nodes in a starship’s primary computer system.

If the controlling ship is destroyed or the DCU is disabled the drones cease all activity until communication can be re-established. The drone bodies can be scooped up and synced to another ship’s DCU.
Drone (light)
These are the smallest class of drone typically used for their speed and maneuverability over their potential firepower. In large enough number these tiny vessels can be quite effective.

Tier ¼ (25 BP)
Size: Tiny
Maneuverability: Perfect (+2 piloting, turn 0)
Hull Points: 15 (increment 2)
Damage Threshold: 0
Critical Threshold: 5
Mounts: 1 Small
Expansion Bays: 1
Minimum Crew: 0
Maximum Crew: 0
Cost: 5
Drone (medium)
These are the most typical drones encountered in defense deployment around a station or outpost. Still very maneuverable and capable of packing quite a punch.

Tier ⅓ (30 BP)
Size: Tiny
Maneuverability: Perfect (+2 piloting, turn 0)
Hull Points: 20 (increment 5)
Damage Threshold: 0
Critical Threshold: 7
Mounts: 2 Small
Expansion Bays: 2
Minimum Crew: 0
Maximum Crew: 0
Cost: 10
Drone (heavy)
Slower than the light or medium class drones this class makes up for it with a significant arsenal. These drones are typically deployed in a battle group to augment point defenses solutions.

Tier ½ (40 BP)
Size: Small
Maneuverability: Perfect (+2 piloting, turn 0)
Hull Points: 25 (increment 8)
Damage Threshold: 0
Critical Threshold: 10
Mounts: 3 Small
Expansion Bays: 3
Minimum Crew: 0
Maximum Crew: 0
Cost: 15
Drone (sentry)
Sentries are an unusual drone because they are stationary. This makes them an effective place and forget defense grid solution in large enough deployments. The lack of power being consumed by an engine allows these drones to power larger starship class weaponry. Their targeting and tracking systems are ideal for engaging medium or larger targets.

Tier 1
Size: Small
Maneuverability: None
Hull Points: 35 (increment 10)
Damage Threshold: 0
Critical Threshold: 15
Mounts: 1 Large
Expansion Bays: 4
Minimum Crew: 0
Maximum Crew: 0
Cost: 25

In Star trek it's called a probe.
They have used probes to do all those things.

At the very least drones should be available to perform ship rules with just a certain level of skill modifier and perhaps enable extra actions of certain types to be performed.

For example, I think you can have multiple engineers. And they can patch multiple systems at once. I think the only restriction is that you can have two engineers performing the same action on the same system.

Now, we do have to be careful with it since it provides a boost to action economy, which unless enemy vessels are given similar boosts to action economy it will become incredibly one sided.

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Actually AP7 - Reach of the Empire has a Drone Tube -expansion for ships that can launch autonomous tiny racer ships that can do a single pilot and gunnery action each round. So basically another ship with no need for a controller.

It basically requires you to have a hangar bay and then install 1-2 drone tubes in there, giving you 5 or 10 drones to launch (2 each round).

Current Starfinder Drones are full remote control.
On the other end of that spectrum are my suggestions for advanced Battle Bots. One signal for go destroy, another for come back and power down.

In a ship to ship situation, a drone that falls back on programming when it loses the control signal, is probably best. Such smart probes might come back from the anomaly with "Hoomans Go Home" spray painted on its side.

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