Useful Starships - Giving your starships some ground utility!


Homebrew


The current state of starships leaves a lot to be desired. They basically only exist whenever the party is travelling, which makes managing a starship somewhat awkward.

This homebrew aims to provide starships with out-of-space uses, making them feel more personalized and useful, and helping players with abilities, skills, etc they may bad at. This is done by giving all starships a few base abilities, which can be expanded further by investing into them, plus other abilities players can invest in.

Link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1SGPBHpKxoqlkeyWBlM9FkL1K8UhRsfoAZDz -pqSjDk8/edit?usp=sharing

I'm also looking for more suggestions. The abilities should be something that anyone can use regardless of build or party composition, or something that helps with covering a missing role.

Wayfinders

I like it a lot. Suggestions:
1. An automated med lab
2. battery/equipment recharging
3. Anti-personnel turret


1: Already exists (Expansion Bay)
2: Most ships already allow this, although having a clear "This ship can/can't" would be nice
3: I've been thinking about something like this, the main problem is credits. Starships and vehicles are a party money sink...

Thanks for the suggestions though!


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I mean, a lot of the stuff you list is essentially things that already can and should be possible, they just don't have explicit rules. Still, yes, its nice to emphasize that a starship is a useful thing even if you aren't allowed to just one-shot enemy encounters with orbital fire support.

Another possible support usage for your ship could be "Electronic Warfare". Want to shut down enemy communications, or jam some troublesome enemy sensors? Have your ship do so with a naval-grade ECM suite. Sure, its not *subtle*, but you don't necessarily care about subtle, you just don't want the pirate outpost broadcasting an SOS, or the cult compounds perimeter sensors saying exactly where your team is inserting.

Also, you might want to include some mention of how the rolls work when a PC or NPC *is* on the ship, and you aren't relying just on the ship's AI ( or where the ship's AI *is* an NPC ). Presumably this would mean using the character's actual skill code for these tasks, and being much more effective.

Acquisitives

I see where it comes from, but I don't know if this is the right way.
The biggest problem is the that this would mix two different economy systems (credits & BP).
The second is that you want to give the ship more credit then it deserve. Take a look at any SciFi Movie/Show - the ship is only the home/transport of the characters.
Instead of giving the ship abilities I would create actions the player can take with help of their ship outside of combat.

Take for example your "Reconaissance"- Feature:
Let the players make a roll (Computer, Physical Science, Life Science) to get additional information about an area. The level of the ship sensors give a bonus (same as in combat) and define the area they can scan with one roll.
You an even take a system similar to the "Scan" ShipCombat action to determinate what information the player get. If you like you can even create special categories which can only be scanned with Life/Physical science (eg CR of creature compared to APL).

"Gather Information" - just take the "Recall Knowledge" rules and give the player the benefit of "a means of researching, such as access to an information network or downloaded data set", maybe with a bonus equal to the ships computer bonus.

(I already use these in my round and it works fine)

The "Supply Drop" on the other hand, I would make it into an item the player can buy with credits (since it's a direct benefit for the character, similar to a bag of holding but with a larger capacity, call only and a delay).

If you do it this way you don't have to introduce new systems, but work with the one which are already in place.

"Keep it simple, keep it clean" :D

One "new" system I introduced to my group is a "ship avatar" similar to "Android" from Dark Matter or Romi from Andromeda. The Avatar has some skills and is allowed one action during ship combat. It is also bound to the ship and can't move further away then 500 ft. per ships tier from the ship. It also has a permanent connection to all ship systems.

I mainly added this because my group only consists of three players.
I'm currently working on a way to tie it's skills to the ships tier/APL without it outshine the players.
This feature also cost no BP, to not mess up with the BP/Level balance (and I allowed my players to transfer it from one ship to another if they change their ship).


The idea of giving abilities to the ship is to help cover holes in the party. As soon as you have to start rolling your dice, then this idea is failing. Just think about MOBAs or other games where someone's forced to do the "healer" role or similar.

And I disgress about keeping the ship as a "home/transport" because that's what most sci-fi shows do. That just leads to stagnation, and that's where starships are right now - powerful but useless outside of space-related stuff.

Acquisitives

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I'm not a fan of the "you can only play the game with a well rounded party". Having a gap in some areas only means the players (and the DM) have to get creative, and that is where the fun starts.

No Hacker? You have to capture a NPC and force him to access the PC for you (seduction, intimidation etc.) - or you have to find the password hidden in a secret stash (perception).
No Healer? You have to rely more on healing potions as well as play a little more careful.

Also Starfinder is so flexible regarding the skills & equipment, that there are no fixed class roles anymore. In my current group our soldier also doubles as a mechanic and our mystic is also our hacker. Sure they aren't min-maxed-optimized for this role, but they can take their rolls and succeed. And if not that makes for even better moments (and creative solutions). ;)

And as I mentioned you don't have to restrict starship to space-combat, but if you want to do this (what is what I also do in my groups), I would use the rules and mechanics which are already there.
If you add new modules/systems for the ship which are not space related and cost BP the players get behind when it comes to the "space stuff" if they spent their BP for it.

I don't know what you mean with "stagnation" regarding to the ships? The ship improves over time, it get better stats, weapons and even some nice gimmicks if you like.
And of course the ships focus is on "space-related stuff" since it's a spaceship.
It's like complaining in Shadowrun that the Riggers car isn't of good use once you are inside a building.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of making the ship to a "fifth character" of the group, but I just advise to be careful, since if you make the "ship-NPC" to strong, you don't embrace the "play what you want" but exactly the opposite of it "What role can the ship NOT fill, that is what we have to cover".


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I too agree against the "have a well rounded party".

By stagnation I mean the "most scifi shows use their starship in space, so we'll do that aswell". Just because everywhere else their ships are very restricted, it doesnt mean that our ships have to be restricted aswell.
It's like if all FPS games became corridor shooters because CoD. Experimentation is necessary.

Either way, you're right with the last lines - Wanting the ship to be both a hole filler but also something that doesn't immediately break the system is the biggest challenge of this. In the end, I want it to be an extension to the players, rather than its own separate entity.


So here's the thing, this sounds like a challenge for DMs and adventure writers more than anything. Several of the pre-written games I've played in have had uses for a ship outside of a mobile base. Things like scanning planetoids with science officer checks, carrying the party to a remote location that would have otherwise required a risky climb, and intercepting transmissions. Conceptually, there are options, it's just that there are no codified rules beyond a level appropriate skill check.

Acquisitives

Total agree the "Master Han" here. It's more an issue of demanding creativity from the DM and players.
The players have to come up with ideas they want to use their starship systems for and the DM has to come up with ad-hoc rules for it.
And from my experience it's best to keep it simple in such cases and simply use the numbers which are already there instead of adding new ones.

I also wouldn't see the ship as extension of the players, but instead just as a very flexible (and big) part of equipment which can do a lot of things (which aren't written down in the book).

I think this also a general tone to SF, despite it's PF heritage it's much less RAW simply because the technology includes our own, player have much more out-of-rule options.


Its a bit hard to find uses for starships as long Starfinder remains so dungeon crawl focused while ignoring everything else. Something like a secondary transponder to change identities is thus extremly niche with most players never even considering it. And because the silly wealth curve and the wealth by level guidelines something like asteroid mining is pure flufwith no effect.

Still some ideas I came up with with:
- Drone bay (provides storage and repair facilities for a drone which can accompany you (might step on the toe of the mechanic)
- Lifeform Scanner (Can scan a 2 square kilometer area and list the found life forms. Higher BP versions can scan deeper underground and give a rough estimate how many life forms are there)
- Teleportation beacon (when triggered activates for 10-30 seconds and allows teleportation to the ship)


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My group uses their ship for all sorts of things.

I have a 6 player group. Most of the time in outdoors adventures 2 players stay with the ship and perform as a mission control platform providing surveillance, intel and communications support.

The ship can be used for fire support if need be (yes I am aware that you cannot target an individual or a small group), taking out building, turrets, vehicles or just causing the enemies to scatter as the ground erupts with fire from above.

The player's ship also contains a medical lad, general science lab and machine shop.

Nothing ingratiates the players to the locals more than healing people, finding the scientific answer to the local's problem or building / repairing something important for the locals.

My players regularly use the ship for all sorts of things on the ground.

If their cleverness is reasonable, I am inclined to allow it.


Peg'giz wrote:
The players have to come up with ideas they want to use their starship systems for and the DM has to come up with ad-hoc rules for it.

While true, I've played with a lot of GMs who don't really like being put in that kinda spot and would rather just say no to something that doesn't exist than try to wing it.

Content regarding how to upgrade and utilize your ship outside the obvious on the other hand provides a good baseline for people, while still letting people who want to wing it do that.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Squiggit wrote:
Peg'giz wrote:
The players have to come up with ideas they want to use their starship systems for and the DM has to come up with ad-hoc rules for it.

While true, I've played with a lot of GMs who don't really like being put in that kinda spot and would rather just say no to something that doesn't exist than try to wing it.

Content regarding how to upgrade and utilize your ship outside the obvious on the other hand provides a good baseline for people, while still letting people who want to wing it do that.

Honestly, I would tend to say that is mostly a sign of poor GM practice. It is *technically* possible to GM a game without ever having to make an actual judgement call, but the GM is *not* supposed to be a computer, mechanically adjudicating prearranged key words and mathematical formulae.

Anyway, this reminds me of the one thing that the Starfinder system doesn't really support currently: transport shuttlepods. In order to go from Ship A to Ship B, or Ship A to Planet C, or Ship A to Station D, you have to land or dock the ship. This becomes awkward depending on how big your ship is. In most science fiction settings, this is where small, short range shuttles come into play, except that Starfinder doesn't really *have* any such thing. Even the tiniest space capable vessel in the game is a full space ship able to fly from one end of a solar system to the other, or even to other star systems if it mounts a drift drive ( which it can ). Which means that hangars for smaller craft are very big and very expensive, and thus impractical for general utility.

I am currently kitbashing a solution by introducing just such a shuttlepod, as a type of vehicle that uses *vehicle*, rather than starship, rules. Capable of flying into or down from orbit, or short distances in space, but having insufficient speed or range to travel from one stellar body to another. Also, any armament or defenses it mounts are vehicle scale, not starship scale. Thus, allowing ( much smaller and cheaper ) hangars for such shuttlepods don't break starship combat balance ( and you specifically don't want to be attacked by starships while riding a shuttlepod, unless you massively outlevel them, they will blow you away ).


Metaphysician wrote:
I am currently kitbashing a solution by introducing just such a shuttlepod, as a type of vehicle that uses *vehicle*, rather than starship, rules. Capable of flying into or down from orbit, or short distances in space, but having insufficient speed or range to travel from one stellar body to another. Also, any armament or defenses it mounts are vehicle scale, not starship scale. Thus, allowing ( much...

This is pretty much what I was going to suggest. Pretty much just a space buggy with life support, a sealed interior, and enough thrust to exit a gravity well.

I really wouldn't be surprised if we get something like this when Paizo gets around to expanding on 'terrestrial' vehicle rules.

Acquisitives

It’s nice to read that there are other people out there who are re-thinking the spaceship part of the rules.

For my group I came up with a few houserules, to make ship-building/using more interesting/open:
The drone-bay & life scanners Ixal mentioned are nothing my players have to buy, it’s basic functionality of a cargo bay/ tech bay and the ship basic scanners.

For the shuttle Pod I designed a MPUV Bay (based on the MPUV from Star citizen). It costs 10 PCU/5 BP/ 1 Expansion Bay and comes with a small shuttlepod (1/4 ships tier), which got a unique frame, can’t carry any spaceship weapons, has space for eight persons or 5t cargo (different modules which can be exchanged with 15 min of work).

I also changed the expansion bay requirements of some modules to give my players more freedom in building their ship: Launchtubes only need one expansion bay, Escape Pods, Smuggler Compartment, Self-Destruct Systems don’t need expansion bays at all.
Anti-Personal Weapons are changed to become “weapon mounts” (2 BP for Longarm / 4 BP for Heavy) and weapons for it have to be bought separate with credits (or more often got looted - I thought this was a nice usage of all the looted weapons no player character needs).
Computer System upgrades are also bought with credits instead of BP (ships computer level = ½ ships tier).


Metaphysician wrote:
I am currently kitbashing a solution by introducing just such a shuttlepod, as a type of vehicle that uses *vehicle*, rather than starship, rules. Capable of flying into or down from orbit, or short distances in space, but having insufficient speed or range to travel from one stellar body to another. Also, any armament or defenses it mounts are vehicle scale, not starship scale. Thus, allowing ( much...

Attack of the swarm #6 has bare bones rules for dropships and space capable vehicles.

Essentially they can't travel at the speeds necessary for interplanetary flight, and are 'stationary' in starship combat, but they can go planet>spaceship or spaceship>spaceship.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Garretmander wrote:
Metaphysician wrote:
I am currently kitbashing a solution by introducing just such a shuttlepod, as a type of vehicle that uses *vehicle*, rather than starship, rules. Capable of flying into or down from orbit, or short distances in space, but having insufficient speed or range to travel from one stellar body to another. Also, any armament or defenses it mounts are vehicle scale, not starship scale. Thus, allowing ( much...

Attack of the swarm #6 has bare bones rules for dropships and space capable vehicles.

Essentially they can't travel at the speeds necessary for interplanetary flight, and are 'stationary' in starship combat, but they can go planet>spaceship or spaceship>spaceship.

Cool, that suggests dropships and such will appear in the Starship Manual later this year.

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