Rules > Starship > Combat
The fathomless depths of space are dangerous to even the most experienced crews, but they can be deadly to those who wander the stars unprepared. Planet-crushing black holes, invisible radiation belts, and chaotic meteor storms are found in any system. But of all the hazards that you might encounter between the stars, hostile vessels are by far the most common. The following rules govern combat between starships—or in rare cases, between immense spacefaring creatures.
A starship’s base frame determines the minimum and maximum number of crew members needed to operate that vessel. A starship without its minimum complement can’t be flown. However, when a large NPC starship with its full complement enters starship combat, each individual crew member doesn’t take a regular action—it would take hours to resolve a single round! In such cases, usually on Large or larger starships, most roles simulate entire teams of personnel. The number of crew members required to assist a single officer who wants to attempt a check in that role is listed after the role’s name in a starship stat block. This number varies between starships, and some vessels might have a crew large enough to allow multiple checks for a single role—for instance, a dreadnought might have several teams of engineers or gunners.
The actions crew members on a starship can take depend upon their roles. For most roles, multiple people can perform actions each round, but for other roles, only one person can fill that role and only one action for that role can be performed each round. Your role also determines when you act in combat. Starship combat uses the five roles below. You should declare your role when you board a ship (if you declare yourself a passenger, however, you take no special actions in combat unless you assume a role), though you can change your role in the heat of combat (see page 322). See Building Starships on page 292 for information on starship terminology, systems, and stat blocks.
Your role in combat is about encouraging the crew while taunting enemies into making critical mistakes. A starship can have only one captain, and a character can assume that role only if it is currently vacant. The captain alone can act in any phase of combat. The actions a captain can take are described starting on page 322.
You work with your starship’s power core and engines to achieve maximum efficiency, grant extra power in times of need, and divert power to vital systems as necessary. You can also repair damaged systems. A starship can have any number of engineers. An engineer acts during the engineering phase (see page 317). The actions an engineer can take are described starting on page 323.
You operate your starship’s various weapon systems, using them to neutralize or destroy enemy vessels. A starship can have at most one gunner (or gunner team) per weapon mount. A gunner acts during the gunnery phase (see page 317). The actions a gunner can take are described on page 324.
You plot the course of the ship. Each starship has speed and maneuverability ratings, but you can push your starship beyond these boundaries with enough skill. A starship can have only one pilot, and a character can assume that role only if it is vacant. The pilot acts during the helm phase of combat (see page 317). The actions a pilot can take are described on page 324.
You use the starship’s computers, scanners, and other systems to identify threats, target foes, and navigate hazards. A starship can have any number of science officers. A science officer acts during the helm phase of combat (see page 317). The actions a science officer can take are described starting on page 324.
Starship combat is played on a grid of hexes with figures
representing the starship combatants. Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic
Starfield and the starship pawns in Starfinder Core Rulebook Pawn
Collection make perfect accessories for this portion of the game.
The hexes don’t represent a specific distance, as Starfinder’s portrayal of movement and combat in three-dimensional space is more fluid and narrative than realistic. Unless otherwise specified, each ship occupies 1 hex, regardless of its size.
When the crew of a starship has hostile intentions toward another
vessel, they go to their battle stations and activate their starship’s
targeting systems. This is clearly obvious to all other starships in
the vicinity with working sensors, though there could still be a
chance a hostile vessel can be talked down, if the GM allows it.
In general, the GM decides when starship combat begins, where the combatants are, and which way their starships are facing. This might mean that both sides are facing each other from opposite sides of the grid. However, their relative positions and facing can also be established randomly. Roll 3d6+5 to determine how many hexes separate the opposing sides. If either side consists of more than one starship, this result is the distance between the highest-tier starship on one side of the battle and its counterpart on the other. Other starships should be placed within 3 hexes of an allied starship. Then, roll 1d6 for each group of starships to determine the facing of the starships in that group, with a 1 meaning the starships are facing the top edge of the grid, and with 2 through 6 proceeding clockwise around the hex.
Like combat between characters, starship combat occurs over a number of rounds until one side flees, surrenders, or is otherwise defeated. Unlike rounds in combat between characters, a round of starship combat doesn’t correlate to a specific amount of time. Each round of starship combat is divided up into three phases, resolved in order. Each character aboard a starship typically acts in only one of these phases, depending on her role on the starship.
The engineers on all ships (if present) each take an action to repair the starships’ systems or give them a boost. These actions occur simultaneously, so they can be resolved in any order.
Each starship’s pilot attempts a Piloting check. The pilot with
the lowest result must move his starship first, followed by
the next lowest, until all starships have moved. This check is
repeated each round during the helm phase, so the order of
movement can change from round to round. If a starship has no
one in the pilot role, that starship acts as if its pilot had rolled a
0. If there is a tie, the pilot with fewer ranks in the Piloting skill
must move his starship first. If there is still a tie, the two pilots
in question should each roll another Piloting check and compare
the results; the pilot with the lowest result moves first.
As they move their starships, pilots can attempt additional skill checks to perform dangerous maneuvers or push their vessels beyond their specifications.
Also during this phase, any character taking on the role of science officer can use the starship’s systems to scan vessels or target foes. Science officers must act immediately before or after their starship’s pilot, but they can jointly decide the order they act.
During the gunnery phase, gunners fire their starships’
weapons. Starships fire in the same order in which their pilots
acted during that round’s helm phase, but the effects of damage
are not taken into account until the end of the phase, meaning
that all starships can fire, even if they take enough damage to
be disabled or destroyed during this phase.
Once all of the phases have been resolved, if there are still combatants engaged in the fight, the next round begins, starting with a new engineering phase.
The pilot of a starship has a variety of actions (see page 324) that allow her to guide her starship through the cold vastness of space. Unlike in battles between characters, starships face a specific direction, and this determines their firing arcs and shield quadrants, as well as their direction of movement.
A starship’s speed is the number of hexes it typically moves in a round. It can instead move fewer hexes than this amount, as determined by the pilot. This movement is in a straight line in the direction the starship is facing, though a starship’s facing can be altered while it moves by making turns (see below). A starship’s maximum speed modifies Piloting checks for that starship.
|SPEED||PILOTING CHECK MODIFIER|
|4 or less||+2|
|14 or more||–2|
While moving, a starship can make turns, altering its forward
movement direction, firing arcs, and shield quadrants. One turn
changes a starship’s forward facing by 60 degrees, or one side
of a hex. Every round in which a starship turns, it must move
a certain number of hexes before each turn, determined by its
maneuverability (see the table below). For example, a ship with
average maneuverability making two turns in a round must move
at least 2 hexes before its first turn, and at least 2 more hexes
before its second turn. If a starship has perfect maneuverability
(the distance between turns is 0), the ship can make two turns for
each hex that it moves (allowing it to turn around a single point).
The number of turns per round a starship can take is limited only by its speed and maneuverability. Turns don’t count against a starship’s movement speed. If a ship with average maneuverability has a speed of 8, it can usually turn a total of four times during a single round.
A ship’s maneuverability also modifies Piloting checks for it.
|MANEUVERABILITY||DISTANCE BETWEEN TURNS||PILOTING CHECK MODIFIER|
|Perfect||0 (see above)||+2|
Since the hexes in starship combat aren’t representative of three-dimensional distance, starships can move through hexes containing other starships, but they can’t end their movement there. If a starship moves through a hex containing an enemy starship, the enemy starship can fire any one of its direct-fire weapons from any arc at the moving starship, targeting its aft quadrant. This free attack doesn’t benefit from any bonuses or additional abilities from other actions taken aboard the enemy starship, such as divert or lock on. Any character currently in a gunner role can make this attack. If no one is designated as a gunner (often the case in starships with only one crew member), the enemy starship can’t make a free attack. A weapon used for this free attack can still be used as normal later in the round.
Instead of ordinary movement, pilots can attempt stunts with their starships (see Stunt on page 324), pushing them beyond their design specifications to enact daring moves. Several stunts affect your starship’s Armor Class (AC) and Target Lock (TL).
The starship moves up to half its speed in the direction of the aft edge without changing facing. It can’t take any turns during this movement. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). On a failed check, your starship moves backward only 1 hex. If you fail this check by 5 or more, your starship does not move at all and takes a –4 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round.
The starship moves up to half its speed and flips along its central axis. For the next gunnery phase, the starship’s port shields and weapons function as if they were in the starboard firing arc and vice versa. The starship reverts to normal at the beginning of the next round. To perform this stunt, your starship must be Large or smaller and you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). On a failed check, the starship moves half its speed but doesn’t roll. If you fail by 5 or more, your starship moves half its speed, doesn’t roll, and takes a –4 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round.
The ship moves up to its speed and can turn as normal, but it gains a +2 circumstance bonus to its AC and TL until the start of the next round. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). If you fail, the starship moves as normal. If you fail the check by 5 or more, the starship moves as normal, but it also takes a –2 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round.
The ship moves forward up to half its speed (without turning) and rotates 180 degrees to face the aft edge at the end of the movement. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × your ship’s tier). If you fail this check, your starship moves forward half its speed but doesn’t rotate.
The ship moves as normal, but it can move through 1 hex occupied by an enemy starship without provoking a free attack (as described in Moving through Other Starships). During the following gunnery phase, you can select one arc of your starship’s weapons to fire at the enemy vessel as if the vessel were in close range (treat the range as 1 hex), against any quadrant of the enemy starship. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 × the tier of the enemy starship). If you fail this check, your starship still moves as described above, but you follow the normal rules for attacking (based on your starship’s final position and distance), and the movement provokes a free attack from that starship as normal.
The starship moves up to its speed in the direction of either the forward-port or forward-starboard edge without changing its facing. To perform this stunt, you must succeed at a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your ship’s tier). If you fail this check, the ship moves forward up to half its speed and can’t make any turns.
The ship does not move but instead can turn to face any direction. If the ship has a maneuverability of clumsy, it takes a –4 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round. If it has a maneuverability of poor, it instead takes a –2 penalty to its AC and TL until the start of the next round. Ships with a maneuverability of average or better do not take a penalty. This stunt doesn’t require a skill check.
Whenever one starship fires a weapon at another starship, that action is resolved with a gunnery check. Attacks are made during the gunnery phase of combat, in the order determined during the helm phase, but the damage and critical damage effects (see page 321) are applied after all of the attacks have been made (meaning every starship gets to attack, even if it would be destroyed or crippled by an attack that happened during the same gunnery phase). With only very rare exceptions, each of a starship’s weapons can be fired only once per round. You make an attack using the following procedure.
First, determine the range between the two starships (counted in hexes) and the arc of attack. For every range increment beyond the first, the gunnery check takes a cumulative –2 penalty. The attacking starship can fire a weapon against only ships in the same arc as that weapon; see the diagram on page 318. If the targeted starship is in a hex that lies in two arcs (the shaded hexes in the diagram), the gunner decides which arc’s weapons target it; it can’t be targeted by weapons in two arcs.
Attempt a gunnery check for each weapon fired against a target (except for linked weapons, which are resolved using one action and a single gunnery check; see the sidebar on page 301).
|Gunnery Check = 1d20 + the gunner’s base attack bonus or the gunner’s ranks in the Piloting skill + the gunner’s Dexterity modifier + bonuses from computer systems + bonuses from the captain and science officers + range penalty|
Compare the result of the gunnery check to the target’s Armor Class (AC) or Target Lock (TL), depending on the weapon used. If you attack with a direct-fire weapon (see page 303) and the result of the gunnery check equals or exceeds the target’s AC, you hit the target and damage is determined as normal (see Damage below). A target’s AC is determined using the following formula.
|AC = 10 + the pilot’s ranks in the Piloting skill + the ship’s armor bonus + modifier based on the ship’s size + bonuses and penalties from successful or failed stunts and actions|
If the attack is made with a tracking weapon such as a missile launcher (see page 303) and the result of the gunnery check equals or exceeds the target’s TL, the tracking weapon’s projectile moves its speed toward the target, making turns during this movement as needed (a projectile from a tracking weapon has perfect maneuverability). If it intercepts the target before it reaches the end of its movement, it explodes and deals damage as normal (see Damage below). If not, attempt a new gunnery check at the start of the next gunnery phase to determine whether the projectile continues to move toward the target; you don’t receive any bonuses from computer systems or actions by your fellow crew members from previous rounds or the current round, but you can take penalties, such as from an enemy science officer’s improve countermeasures action (see page 325). If the result of a gunnery check for a tracking weapon is ever less than the target’s TL, the weapon’s projectile is destroyed and removed from play. A target’s TL is determined using the following formula.
|TL = 10 + the pilot’s ranks in the Piloting skill + the ship’s bonus from defensive countermeasures + modifier based on the ship’s size + bonuses and penalties from successful or failed stunts and actions|
Combat in space can be highly dangerous to the vessel and its
crew. Once a starship has been damaged, critical systems might
malfunction or shut down altogether, leaving its passengers
without electricity, gravity, or even air. Such damage might
also cause a starship to lose its sensors, propulsion, or weapons
systems, which could spell defeat during an active engagement.
When a gunner hits with an attack, she rolls the damage dealt by the weapon she is using and determines which quadrant of the targeted starship she hits. A starship’s shield quadrants are the same as its firing arcs (see the diagram on page 318). Damage is first applied to any shields the target starship has in the quadrant hit by the attack, depleting a number of Shield Points equal to the amount of damage dealt. If that quadrant’s Shield Points reach 0, that shield is entirely depleted and any excess damage is applied to the target starship’s Hull Points. If the ship doesn’t have shields or if its shields in that quadrant have already been depleted, apply all damage directly to the target’s Hull Points.
If a starship has a Damage Threshold (see page 292), any attack that would deal damage to its Hull Points equal to or less than this Damage Threshold fails to damage the ship’s Hull Points. If the damage is greater than the Damage Threshold, the full amount of damage is dealt to the ship’s Hull Points.
If a ship is reduced to 0 or fewer Hull Points, it is disabled and it floats in its current direction of travel at a rate of half its speed until it is repaired, rescued, or destroyed. Crew members aboard such ships are not in immediate danger unless their lifesupport system is wrecked, but they might eventually die from starvation and thirst if they have no way to repair the ship.
If a ship ever takes damage that exceeds twice its Hull Points, it is destroyed and can’t be repaired. All systems stop functioning, and the hull is compromised. The crew might initially survive, but without protection, they won’t live very long.
Starship systems can take critical damage, causing them to
become less functional and eventually stop working altogether.
Critical damage is scored whenever a gunnery check results in a natural 20 on the die and damage is dealt to the target ship’s hull. The critical range is expanded to a natural 19 or 20 on the die if the target starship was the subject of a successful target system science officer action (see page 325).
Critical damage is also scored whenever the target starship’s hull takes damage that causes its total amount of damage to exceed its Critical Threshold (see page 292) or a multiple of that threshold. For example, a starship with 100 Hull Points and a Critical Threshold of 20 takes critical damage each time its total amount of Hull Point damage exceeds 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 points (and so on). An individual attack does not need to deal more than 20 damage to score critical damage against this starship; it just needs to be the attack that pushes the starship’s total damage above a multiple of its Critical Threshold.
A starship can take critical damage even when its total Hull Points are below 0.
A starship takes critical damage from an attack only if that attack deals damage to the ship’s Hull Points, even if the result of the gunnery check is a natural 20. If the attack’s damage only reduces a starship’s Shield Points, no critical damage occurs.
How do you resolve critical damage to a power core if the starship has multiple power cores?
The power core critical effect affects the ship as normal. Taking a power core critical damage effect means the whole power system of the ship is damaged in some fashion. Basically, multiple power cores are pretty much "wired together" to power the ship.
When critical damage is scored, the attacking PC should roll on the
table below to randomly determine which of the target starship’s
key systems is hit; that system gains a critical damage condition
(see below), with the effect listed on the table. If the system isn’t
currently critically damaged, it gains the glitching condition. If it is
critically damaged again, its critical condition changes by one step
of severity (glitching becomes malfunctioning; malfunctioning
becomes wrecked). These conditions and their effects on crew
actions are explained in Critical Damage Conditions.
To determine which system is affected, roll d% and consult the table below. If a system already has the wrecked condition (or in the case of the weapons array, if all weapon arcs have the wrecked condition), apply its critical damage to the next system down on the chart. If you reach the bottom of the chart, instead deal damage to one of the crew (as described below).
|1–10||Life support||Condition applies to all captain actions|
|11–30||Sensors||Condition applies to all science officer actions|
|31–60||Weapons array||Randomly determine one arc containing weapons; condition applies to all gunner actions using weapons in that arc (a turret counts as being in all arcs)|
|61–80||Engines||Condition applies to all pilot actions|
|81–100||Power core||Condition applies to all engineer actions except hold it together and patch; a malfunctioning or wrecked power core affects other crew members’ actions (see Critical Damage Conditions below)|
If the starship’s core has the wrecked condition and further critical damage is dealt to the core, no critical damage conditions are applied to the ship. Instead, one of the crew (determined randomly) is injured, taking an amount of Hit Point damage equal to the Hull Point damage dealt by the attack (without the increase for starship weapons against humanoid targets; see Shooting Starships on page 292). That crew member can attempt a DC 20 Reflex save to take only half damage.
The following are the critical damage conditions and their effects, ordered by severity. These effects apply primarily to starship combat and rarely impact noncombat play (wrecked engines can still be used to get a starship to a safe place to repair, for example— though the GM might rule that it takes longer than normal).
A glitching system isn’t operating at peak performance. Crew actions involving the system (except the hold it together and patch engineer actions; see page 323) take a –2 penalty.
A malfunctioning system is difficult to control. Crew actions involving the system (except the hold it together and patch engineer actions) take a –4 penalty. Also, crew members can’t take push actions (see page 322) using that system. If the power core is malfunctioning, all actions aboard the starship not involving the power core take a –2 penalty; this penalty stacks with penalties from critical damage conditions affecting other systems.
A wrecked system is minimally functional. Crew actions involving the system (except the hold it together and patch engineer actions and minor crew actions; see page 326) automatically fail. If the power core is wrecked, all crew actions aboard the starship not involving the power core take a –4 penalty; this penalty stacks with penalties from critical damage conditions affecting other systems.
When a starship combat encounter is over, the crew members
can repair damage done to their starship, provided it hasn’t
been destroyed and they haven’t been captured! Shields
regenerate Shield Points at a set rate (depending on the type
of shield; see page 302) as long as the starship’s power core
isn’t wrecked. You can double this recharge rate for 10 minutes
by taking 1 minute and succeeding at an Engineering check
(DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × the starship’s tier). Any penalties from critical
damage conditions apply to this check.
You can remove the critical damage condition from a system by taking 10 minutes and succeeding at an Engineering check. The DC depends on the severity of the condition (DC 15 for glitching, DC 20 for malfunctioning, and DC 25 for wrecked). The system is no longer critically damaged (it has no critical damage conditions) and can function as normal.
Repairing damage to the hull (restoring lost Hull Points) is more difficult. You must first stop the starship completely, usually at a safe location (for instance, a world with a nonhostile atmosphere or a dock on a space station), and the repairing character or characters must have access to the outside of the hull. On most of the Pact Worlds, the crew can pay mechanics to repair the starship; the cost and time needed are up to the GM. If the crew is on its own in uncharted territory, it can still repair the starship’s hull. Doing so costs 10 UPBs (see page 233) per point of damage to be repaired and requires 5 hours of work regardless of the number of points repaired. A character who succeeds at an Engineering check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × the starship’s tier) can cut either the cost or the time in half. For every 10 points by which she exceeds the DC, she can reduce one of these factors by half (or by half again), to a minimum of 1 UPB per point of damage and 1 hour. Any number of allies can use the aid another action (see page 133) to assist with this Engineering check. Failing the check to reduce the time or cost instead increases the cost by 5 UPBs per point of damage.
While your role determines what actions you can take during a starship combat encounter, on occasion you might want to perform some other kind of action, such as casting a spell or using a class feature. The GM has the final say on what kind of regular actions you can take, but generally, you can take only a move or standard action in a single round, and you can take only a minor crew action (see page 326) during that round. You aren’t assumed to be adjacent to any of your allies during starship combat, so the GM might also decide that you need to take an additional round to get close enough to an ally to affect him with an ability or spell. Any such action is resolved at the beginning of the round, before the engineering phase.
As starship combat progresses, the various crew members aboard each vessel can take the actions their roles allow.
Under "Actions" it is stated "Class features and items affect crew actions only if specifically noted in the class feature or action." Does this mean I can't benefit from the skill bonus of operative's edge or an envoy's skill expertise in starship combat?
No. When actions taken in starship combat call for a skill check, any class feature that grants bonuses to or allows rerolls with the relevant skill applies when using that skill as part of starship combat. This is an exception to the rule.
You can take one action (usually defined by your role) per round of starship combat. Certain actions require a minimum character level or number of ranks in a certain skill. NPC crew members are assumed to have a number of ranks in the appropriate skill equal to the starship’s tier. Class features and items affect crew actions only if specifically noted in the class feature or item. If a starship’s tier is less than 1, treat it as 1 for this purpose.
Push actions (indicated in an action’s heading) are difficult to perform but can yield greater results. You can’t perform a push action if the necessary system is malfunctioning or wrecked (as noted in Critical Damage Conditions on page 321).
You can switch between roles (or assume a role if you don’t already have one), but this change must occur at the start of a round before the engineering phase. You can switch to the captain or pilot role only if that role would otherwise be vacant (or if the character in that role is unable to take actions).
As your combat expertise grows, you gain extra resolve that can help with high-level crew actions. At 8th level and again at 16th level, you gain 1 Resolve Point at the start of any starship combat encounter. These points can exceed your normal pool of Resolve Points; unspent points gained this way are lost at the end of the encounter.
As a captain, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your character level, during any phase of combat.
You can make a demand of a crew member to try to improve his performance. You grant a +4 bonus to one specific check by succeeding at an Intimidate check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). You must use this action before the associated check is rolled, and you can grant this bonus to an individual character only once per combat. Demand might result in negative consequences if used on NPCs, and you can’t make demands of yourself.
You can encourage another member of the crew to give her a bonus to her action. This works like aid another (see page 133), granting a +2 bonus to the check required by a crew action if you succeed at a DC 10 check using the same skill. Alternatively, you can grant this same bonus by succeeding at a Diplomacy check (DC = 15 + your starship’s tier). You can’t encourage yourself.
You can use the communications system to broadcast a taunting message to the enemy vessel. You select an enemy vessel and a phase of combat (engineering, helm, or gunnery), and then attempt a Bluff or Intimidate check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × the enemy starship’s tier). If you are successful, each enemy character acting during the selected phase takes a –2 penalty to all checks for 1d4 rounds; the penalty increases to –4 if the enemy’s check is made as part of a push action. Once used against an enemy starship, regardless of the outcome, taunt can’t be used against that starship again during the same combat.
At 6th level, you can grant an additional action to one member of the crew by spending 1 Resolve Point and succeeding at a difficult skill check at the beginning of the phase in which the crew member would normally act. The type of check depends on the role of the crew member targeted: a Computers check for a science officer, an Engineering check for an engineer, a gunnery check (see page 320) for a gunner, and a Piloting check for a pilot. The DC of this check is equal to 15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier. If the check succeeds, the crew member can take two actions in her role this round (both when she would normally act), but she can’t take the same action twice. You can’t give yourself orders.
At 12th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and use your action to give a moving speech to the crew during one phase of combat with a successful Diplomacy check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). For the remainder of that phase, your allies can roll twice and take the better result when performing crew actions.
As a chief mate, you can take any of the following actions, some depending on your number of ranks in the Acrobatics or Athletics skill, whichever you favor. (Note that the Targeting Aid and Maximize Speed actions both require a minimum number of ranks in Acrobatics or Athletics to perform.) Each of these actions can be taken only during a particular phase, as noted in parentheses next to the action’s name. You must decide at the start of each round which phase you will act in, usually by deciding which other role you’re supporting that round. Unless otherwise noted, each action can be performed only once per round, no matter how many chief mates are on a starship.
You manually adjust additional thrusters and bypass safety systems, shouting for your fellow crew members to brace themselves for a stomach-turning tactical maneuver. This bit of risky co-piloting might overtax the starship’s turn radius, but it can also help the pilot get significantly more maneuverability out of the vessel when the crew finds itself in a lurch. Attempt an Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). If you succeed, the pilot can make one turn during the round as though the maneuverability of the starship were improved by one step. This has no effect on a ship with perfect maneuverability. If you fail your check by 10 or more, you overheat and temporarily degrade the effectiveness of the starship’s maneuvering thrusters, causing the ship’s maneuverability to worsen by one step for the rest of this round.
You start ripping open access panels, turning secured valves,
and manually bypassing safety systems to help the engineer
get more out of their systems when they take the divert or
overpower action. Attempt an Acrobatics or Athletics check
(DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). If you succeed and
the engineer also succeeds at their check to divert, they
can provide the normal benefit from divert to two different
systems instead of only one. If the engineer instead succeeds
at their check for the overpower action, they can choose four
different systems to divert power to instead of three. In either
case, no system can benefit twice from the same action. For
more about the divert and overpower actions, see page 323
of the Core Rulebook.
If you fail your check by 10 or more, you overtax the ship’s systems without adding any useful capacity, and all engineer actions performed this turn take a –2 penalty.
Manual realignment of the ship’s sensors to better focus on an opposing starship can help the science officer get better results when using the ship’s sensors to glean information about the other vessel. Attempt an Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). If you succeed and the science officer also succeeds at their check to perform the scan action, they receive one additional piece of information, as though their result were 5 higher. If you fail the check by 10 or more, you knock the sensors out of alignment altogether, and no check to scan can be attempted this round as the system recalibrate.
If you have at least 6 ranks in Acrobatics or Athletics, you can assist one specific gunner making an attack by inputting secondary sensor information, bypassing safety protocols, and even monitoring and adjusting power fluctuations in a ship’s weapon system to make the ship’s physical weapons more accurate. You must spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt either an Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). One gunner can then take the fire at will or broadside action without the associated penalty to gunnery checks (normally –4 for fire at will and –2 for broadside; see page 324 of the Core Rulebook for more information). If you fail the check by 10 or more, that gunner instead takes a –2 penalty to attack rolls they make this round. This action can be taken more than once per round, but only once per gunner acting in that round.
If you have at least 12 ranks in Acrobatics or Athletics, you can help the pilot get the most speed possible out of your ship, pushing the engines to their limit. This requires spending 1 Resolve Point and succeeding at an Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC = 25 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier), at which point the speed of your starship increases by 2 for this round. This increase is cumulative with other increases to speed, such as from the engineer diverting power to the engines.
As an engineer, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your ranks in the Engineering skill. These actions can be taken only during the engineering phase. Unless otherwise noted, each action can be performed only once per round, no matter how many engineers are on a starship.
Can you give an example of how the divert engineer action works with regards to restoring shields?
Assume your ship has a Pulse Gray power core (100 PCU) and Basic 20 shields. After some starship combat, your Shield Points are down to forward 0, port 5. starboard 3, and aft 1. The engineer succeeds at the divert action and restores a total of 5 SP. As some examples, the engineer could place them all into the forward quadrant and bring up the forward shields to 5, split the shields up between two section so that they are now forward 3, port 5, starboard 3, and aft 3, or even spread around the points so they're forward 2, port 6, starboard 4, and aft 2.
You can divert auxiliary power into one of your starship’s systems, giving it a boost. This requires a successful Engineering check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier), and the results depend on where you decide to send this extra power. If you send it to the engines, your starship’s speed increases by 2 this round. If you send it to the science equipment, all science officers receive a +2 bonus to their crew actions this round. If you send it to the starship’s weapons, treat each damage die that rolls a 1 this round as having rolled a 2 instead. If you send it to the shields, restore an amount of Shield Points equal to 5% of the PCU rating of the starship’s power core (see page 296), up to the shields’ maximum value. You can distribute the restored Shield Points across the shields' four quadrants as you see fit.
You can hold one system together by constantly patching and modifying it. If you succeed at an Engineering check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier), you can select one system; that system is treated as if its critical damage condition were two steps less severe for the rest of the round (wrecked becomes glitching, and a malfunctioning or glitching system functions as if it had taken no critical damage). This check isn’t modified by penalties from critical damage to the power core.
You can patch a system to reduce the effects of a critical damage condition. The number of actions and the DC of the Engineering check required to patch a system depend on how badly the system is damaged, as indicated on the table on page 324. Multiple engineers can pool their actions in a single round to effect repairs more quickly, but each engineer must succeed at her Engineering check to contribute her action to the patch. The number of actions required can be reduced by 1 (to a minimum of 1 action) by increasing the DC by 5. If you succeed at this check, the severity of the critical damage is unchanged, but it is treated as one step less severe for the remainder of the combat, until 1 hour has passed, or until the system takes critical damage again (which removes the patch and applies the new severity). This action can be taken more than once per round, and this check is not modified by any critical damage to the core.
|CRITICAL DAMAGE CONDITION||ACTIONS TO PATCH||DC|
|Glitching||1||10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier|
|Malfunctioning||2||15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier|
|Wrecked||3||20 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier|
If you have at least 6 ranks in Engineering, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt an Engineering check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) to squeeze more out of your ship’s systems. If you’re successful, this functions as the divert action, but you can send extra power to any three systems listed in that action. This action and the divert action can’t be taken in the same round.
If you have at least 12 ranks in Engineering, you can try to repair a system quickly by spending 1 Resolve Point and attempting an Engineering check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 × you starship’s tier). If successful, you remove the critical damage condition from one system for 1 hour (allowing it to function as if it had taken no critical damage), after which time it must be repaired as normal.
As a gunner, you can take any of the actions below, depending on your character level. These actions can be taken only during the gunnery phase. Though each of a starship’s weapons can be fired only once per round, multiple gunners can take actions to fire different weapons in a single round. Actions that allow you to fire starship weapons use the rules for attacking on page 320.
You can fire any two starship weapons, regardless of their arc. Each attack is made at a –4 penalty.
You can fire one of your starship’s weapons. If you use a turret weapon, you can target a ship in any arc.
At 6th level, you can expend 1 Resolve Point to fire all of the starship weapons mounted in one arc (including turret-mounted weapons). Each weapon can target any vessel in that arc. All of these attacks are made with a –2 penalty.
At 12th level, you can perform a very precise strike by spending 1 Resolve Point and firing one starship weapon at a single target. If the attack hits and the enemy ship’s shields on that quadrant are depleted before your attack, you deal critical damage to a random system. If the attack would normally cause critical damage, the normal critical damage applies as well (meaning your attack could potentially deal critical damage multiple times; determine which system is damaged as normal each time).
As a magic officer, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your ranks in the Mysticism skill. (Note that the Mystic Haze and Psychic Currents actions both require a minimum number of ranks in Mysticism to perform.) These actions can be taken only during the engineering phase. If your starship has an arcane laboratory, you gain a +2 bonus to Mysticism checks to perform any of these actions. Unless otherwise noted, each action can be performed only once per round, no matter how many magic officers are on a starship.
You augment a starship weapon with a burst of your personal magic in much the same way that weapon fusions augment personal-scale weapons. Such an effort is considerable, and the magic lasts for only a single attack before it fizzles and the starship weapon returns to its normal functionality. Choose one weapon on your starship to augment and attempt a Mysticism check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). If you succeed, the gunner treats the range of that weapon as 5 hexes longer than normal. This does not work for weapons with the point special property.
You use your supernatural senses and a spark of divination magic to see opponents’ motion before it happens, giving you just a split second to shout a warning to your ship’s pilot. Attempt a Mysticism check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier). On a success, you grant the pilot a +2 circumstance bonus to their Piloting check at the beginning of the helm phase to determine piloting order.
You employ a substantial form of divination, such as dealing from a digital harrow deck, reading the future by interpreting the splatter of leaking coolant on your ship, or visually scanning the readouts of your starship’s myriad screens to pull deeper and predictive meaning from the lights and sounds around you. This functions as the scan science officer action, but you attempt a Mysticism check instead of a Computers check. For information about the effects of a successful scan action, see page 325 of the Core Rulebook.
If you have at least 6 ranks in Mysticism, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt a Mysticism check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier); if you succeed, you call forth a magical burst of static to block your enemy’s view. This obscuring field garbles your opponent’s sensors and hinders their ability to gain information about your ship’s defenses and positioning, providing your starship a +1 enhancement bonus to AC until the end of the next round. In addition, the increased interference means all science officers on the opposing starship taking the scan or lock on actions before the end of the next round must roll twice for their checks and use the worse result.
If you have at least 12 ranks in Mysticism, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt a Mysticism check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) to manipulate mysterious, invisible forces in the void of space, expanding and contracting the basic physics around your own vessel and altering how your starship can negotiate the confines of physical space-time. On a successful check, reduce your starship’s minimum distance between turns by 1 (to a minimum of 0) for that round.
As a pilot, you can take the following actions, depending on your ranks in the Piloting skill. These actions can be taken only during the helm phase.
You move your starship up to its speed and can make any turns allowed by its maneuverability. This doesn’t require a skill check.
You move your starship up to its speed. You can also attempt a Piloting check (DC = 15 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) to reduce your starship’s distance between turns by 1 (to a minimum of 0).
You can attempt any one of the stunts described on page 319. The DCs of the Piloting checks required and the results of success and failure are described in each stunt’s description.
If you have at least 6 ranks in Piloting, you can spend 1 Resolve Point to move your starship up to 1-1/2 times its speed. You can make turns during this movement, but you add 2 to your starship’s distance between turns.
If you have at least 12 ranks in Piloting, you can spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt a Piloting check (DC = 20 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) to pull off complex maneuvers. You can move your starship up to its speed, treating its distance between turns as if it were 2 lower (minimum 0). You can also fly through hexes occupied by enemy vessels without provoking free attacks. At the end of your starship’s movement, you can rotate your starship to face in any direction. If you fail the check, you instead move as if you had taken the fly action (but still lose the Resolve Point).
As a science officer, you can take any of the following actions, depending on your ranks in the Computers skill. These actions can be taken only during the helm phase.
You can balance the shields, redirecting power from one quadrant to protect another. With a successful Computers check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier), you can shift Shield Points (SP) from the shield in one quadrant to the shield in another quadrant, including to depleted shields (after rebalancing, every shield must have at least 10% of the total current SP). Alternatively, you can add up the SP from all the remaining shields and evenly distribute them to all four quadrants, putting any excess SP in the forward quadrant.
You can scan a starship with your sensors to learn information about it. This action requires your starship to have sensors (see page 300). You must attempt a Computers check, applying any modifiers from the starship’s sensors. You can attempt this check untrained. The DC for this check is equal to 5 + 1-1/2 × the tier of the starship being scanned + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you succeed at this check, you learn the first unknown piece of information on the following list. For every 5 by which you exceed the check, you learn another unknown piece of information. Subsequent checks reveal new pieces of information, continuing down this list.
You can use your starship’s sensors to target a specific system on an enemy starship. This action requires your starship to have sensors. You must attempt a Computers check, applying any modifiers from the starship’s sensors. The DC equals 5 + 1-1/2 × the tier of the enemy starship + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you succeed, choose one system (core, engines, life support, sensors, or weapons). The next attack made by your starship that hits the enemy ship scores a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20. If that attack deals critical damage, it affects the chosen system. For any further critical damage resulting from the attack, determine which system is affected randomly as normal. Your starship’s sensors can target only one system on a specific enemy starship at a time, though this action can be used to concurrently target systems on multiple starships.
If you have at least 6 ranks in Computers, you can lock your starship’s targeting system on to one enemy vessel. You must spend 1 Resolve Point and attempt a Computers check. The DC equals 5 + 1-1/2 × the tier of the target starship + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you succeed, your starship’s gunners gain a +2 bonus to gunnery checks against the target for the rest of the round. This action can be taken only once per round.
If you have at least 12 ranks in Computers, you can try to foil enemy targeting arrays and incoming projectiles by spending 1 Resolve Point and attempting a Computers check. The DC equals 5 + 1-1/2 × the tier of the target starship + its bonus from defensive countermeasures (see page 298). If you’re successful, gunners aboard the target starship roll twice and take the worse result for gunnery checks during this round (including checks for tracking weapons).
Open crew actions are generally less specialized tasks than a
typical crew action, and they can be performed regardless of
a character’s role. Many open crew actions do not require any
specific skill or skill check to perform and can be undertaken
by anyone with at least 1 rank in Computers, Engineering,
Physical Science, or Piloting. Taking an open crew action
counts as your action during a starship combat encounter.
Open crew actions occur at the beginning of the engineering phase, before any other actions occur. All open crew actions occur simultaneously and can be resolved in any order the GM sees fit. Each open crew action can be performed only once per round.
You trigger minor maneuvering thrusters, probe launchers, ballast vents, and other secondary systems at random to cause your starship to make small, unexpected jukes in its trajectory. This does not affect the starship’s facing or movement, but it grants a +1 circumstance bonus to your starship’s AC and TL against any opponent that performs the flyby stunt this round.
As a ploy, you can activate fake distress calls, set off false internal alarms, artificially blow outer doors of airlocks, dump trash and other debris from your ship’s jettison tubes, and intentionally leak panicked-sounding internal communications over public communication channels to convince your opponents that your ship has suffered a catastrophic failure and may imminently explode or otherwise cease functioning in a violent, spectacular manner. Each enemy vessel’s captain (or the science officer with the highest Computers skill bonus, if the ship has no captain) must attempt a Computers check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × your starship’s tier) immediately after you take this action; this doesn’t take them an action. On a successful check, the enemy ship’s crew sees through your ruse and this action has no effect, but on a failed check, their crews automatically take steps to ensure that their own ship’s sensors are not blinded by the energy released by your ship’s theoretical imminent destruction. These emergency procedures impose a –2 penalty on their checks for scan and lock on actions taken against your ship, as well as on Piloting checks attempted while within 1 hex of your starship. Once used, regardless of the outcome, feign disaster can’t be used again during the same combat encounter, even against different opponents or newcomers to the battlefield.
You use a command terminal to temporarily suspend background computer tasks running noncritical systems throughout the ship, prioritizing the combat calculations made at one specific crew station. One crew member attempting a check this round and using a bonus from the ship’s computer can increase that bonus by 1.
You use any one of a number of your ship’s systems to identify the range to a specific target or spatial feature, and you relay that information to another crew member so that they are free to focus on other aspects of the task they’re attempting this round. Select one crew member filling the gunner, pilot, or science officer role. They gain +1 bonus to one attack roll or skill check of their choice related to starship combat that’s attempted before the end of this turn.
You carefully perform comprehensive pre-firing preparations for one weapon, reading each minute detail of its systems and giving the ship’s computers time to calculate the peak moment to fire the weapon so it can deal the maximum amount of damage to your opponents’ ship. While normally no one has the time or capacity to perform these tasks in the heat of battle, you know they can be invaluable when focused on properly. Select one weapon system when you perform this task. If that weapon is not fired this round but is fired on the next round after you have readied it, it deals +1 damage on a successful attack (+2 damage for starships of tier 6 and greater).
Minor crew actions are computer-aided actions that allow a starship limited functionality if it doesn’t have the necessary crew to fill all the roles (for instance, the lone crew member aboard a Tiny starship might always be the pilot but may need to fire one of the vessel’s weapons in an emergency). You can take a minor crew action regardless of your current role, but only if no other action was performed this round for the role associated with that minor crew action. A minor crew action can be performed only once per round and doesn’t count as your action.
You move the starship at half its normal speed. The starship can take turns during this movement, but the starship’s distance between turns increases by 2. You can add your ranks in the Piloting skill to the starship’s AC and TL for this round. You can only take this action if no other pilot actions have been taken during the helm phase (including glide).
You can fire one of your starship’s weapons with a –2 penalty to the gunnery check. You can take this action only if no other gunner actions have been taken during the gunnery phase (including snap shot).
You quickly check the sensors to see minor changes and updates that your starship has made available since the last time your crew scanned the your opponent’s starship. A science officer must have used the scan action in a previous round to determine information about the other starship you are looking for updates on. If you succeed at a Computers check (DC = 5 + 1-1/2 × the tier of the starship being scanned + its bonus from defensive countermeasures), you receive one piece of information, such as the ship’s current Hull Points or its current distribution of Shield Points. You can take this action only if no science officer actions have been taken during the helm phase (including visual identification and quick rescan).
You use your ship’s visual sensors to get a much closer look at an opponent’s starship and see if you recognize the technology used to make the ship or if you remember some specific technical details of its make and model. Attempt a Computers, Engineering, or Perception check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × the tier of the starship being examined). If you succeed, you learn the first unknown piece of information on the list below (all basic information, all defenses, or information about one weapon). Information already obtained from a science officer’s scan action or a quick rescan minor action is not unknown. You learn only one unknown piece of information, regardless of your total check result. Subsequent successful checks reveal new pieces of information, continuing down the list below.
You can take this action only if no science officer actions have been taken during the helm phase (including visual identification and quick rescan).
Starships in combat are constantly in motion, so it is impossible for a PC to cast a spell with the teleportation descriptor to travel between vessels. Even if a spellcaster has seen the inside of the target starship, the relative speeds between two moving vessels mean that the destination has changed before casting the spell is complete. PCs can teleport only between stationary starships.
From a simple skirmish against pirates to a massive fleet engagement, designing a fun and challenging space combat requires thoughtful planning and careful design on the part of the GM. A crew of PCs can’t simply spend their hard-earned credits to upgrade their starship between encounters as they could with ordinary gear. In addition, often due to the circumstances of the story, the characters might find themselves in a ship that is significantly more or less powerful than their Average Party Level might indicate. The GM needs to take these factors into account when deciding what sort of enemies the PCs will face.
Combat between starships of equal tiers is more evenly matched than a fight between PCs and opponents of an equal CR. Usually, there is only one PC ship in the fight, containing the entire party. This means that if the battle is lost, the PCs might be taken captive or perish. As a result, starship combats where the PCs face off against a ship of equal tier and capability are very difficult. Most encounters should be against ships of a lower tier. Use the following table as a guideline.
|DIFFICULTY||ENEMY STARSHIP TIER|
|Easy||PC starship tier – 3|
|Average||PC starship tier – 2|
|Challenging||PC starship tier – 1|
|Hard||PC starship tier|
|Epic||PC starship tier + 1|
If the PCs have more than one starship, use the highest-tier ship’s
tier as a base and add 1 to this value for each additional starship
within at least 2 tiers of that starship. If none are within 2 tiers,
add up the tiers of all the additional starships and add 1 to the base
value if the total is equals or exceeds the base starship’s tier. Use
this modified value when determining the encounter’s difficulty.
If there are multiple enemy starships, treat every pair of enemy starships of the same tier as a single starship of the pair’s tier + 2 (and every trio as a single starship of the trio’s tier + 3). If there are a number of ships of different tiers, use the formula for multiple PC ships to determine the final difficulty. For example, if the enemy consists of three tier 1 starships, a tier 4 starship, and a tier 7 starship, the final result would be a tier 8 challenge.
Most starship combat encounters are between characters of
roughly equal level and skill, regardless of the tier of the starships
they are aboard. If there is a large level discrepancy between the
combatants, adjust the difficulty of the encounter up or down a
tier to compensate. In any case, combats between crews that are
more than 4 levels apart should be avoided.
In general, the skill ranks of an NPC crew member are equal to the CR of the NPC or the tier of the enemy starship (minimum 1). To determine the skill modifiers of an NPC crew member, first decide whether the NPC has mastered the skill or is simply good at the skill. Usually, one crew member will be a master at one skill; the rest of the crew will have good skills. The skill modifier for a master skill is equal to 9 + 1-1/2 × the NPC’s ranks in the skill. The skill modifier for a good skill is equal to 4 + 1-1/2 × the NPC’s ranks in the skill. Alternatively, you can determine NPC skill ranks and modifiers using the master and good skill modifiers for the combatant array from the monster building rules in the Starfinder Alien Archive. Of course, if you have full stat blocks for the NPC crew members, you should use their actual skill ranks and modifiers.
PCs should earn experience points (XP) for defeating enemy
ships. To award XP, compare the difficulty of the encounter (see
Challenge above) to Table 11–1: Encounter Difficulty on page 390
to find the Challenge Rating equivalent of the encounter. Look
up the value of that CR on Table 11–3: Experience Point Awards
(also on page 390) to find the party’s XP award for the encounter.
For example, suppose the PCs have an Average Party Level (APL) of 10 and are flying a tier 10 starship. They encounter and defeat a tier 9 enemy starship. As the enemy starship’s tier equals the PCs’ starship’s tier – 1, this was a challenging encounter. Looking at Table 11–1: Encounter Difficulty, a challenging encounter has a CR equivalent of APL + 1, making it a CR 11 encounter. The PCs should earn 12,800 XP total for the encounter.