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Rules > Starship > Combat COM
Starship combat is common throughout the galaxy, and while few adventurers spend the bulk of their time specializing in its intricacies, most know it’s important to be able to contribute once the plasma torpedoes begin to fly. The rules in this section provide new ways for characters to dive into the action during starship combat: two new starship roles, a new category of actions that can be attempted by a character in any role, and new minor actions.
The Character Operations Manual presents two brand-new starship
combat roles: chief mate and magic officer, both of which are detailed below.
These roles expand the options available in the Starfinder Core Rulebook
and are meant to help create a more robust experience during the game’s starship
Not every ship normally has crew filling these roles, but any ship can benefit from them, and the options provide more flexibility for characters whose concepts or mechanical builds don’t perfectly fit into one of the existing starship combat roles. Where a nimble and scrappy character might previously have felt obligated to take ranks in Piloting, now such a character might use their skill in Acrobatics or Athletics to better perform the chief mate’s trickier tasks related to ship maneuverability and mechanical ingenuity. Similarly, a character who is a sage spellcaster focused on eldritch magic now need not be pushed to learning about computers merely to fill a science officer role, for example—the magic officer role is a far better conceptual and mechanical fit.
As with all starship combat roles, you must still determine at the start of each round which role you want to fill for that round, whether it’s a role from the Core Rulebook or one of the following new roles. The roles below otherwise follow the normal rules for starship combat roles found on page 316 of the Core Rulebook.
Despite the advanced technology that is ubiquitous on most starships, there’s
always a use on board for someone who knows the ship’s various systems well
enough to manually push them to achieve levels of performance their manufacturers
never intended. A starship’s chief mate knows every circuit and conduit within
their starship’s mechanical and electronic systems, and is bold enough to take
risks with these levers, valves, and other intricacies that can help their crew
escape from or win dire combat scenarios.
Being a chief mate is hardly easy, however, and the role is not for the faint of heart. Accomplishing the off-the-books feats that are so valuable in starship combat often requires a strong and hardy individual to physically haul around equipment, force levers past their built-in safety points, or reconnect systems in ways they weren’t designed for—or else requires someone nimble enough to accomplish the same tasks via finesse without resorting to brute force, as the chief mate slides finicky controls into nonstandard positions or temporarily bypasses a system’s physical safety valves.
The chief mate assists characters in all other roles on the ship, making the other characters’ jobs easier and allowing them to accomplish more in their primary duties since they no longer need to focus on physically manipulating machinery or equipment. A chief mate acts during the same phase as the crew member she wishes to assist that round. Despite the role’s name, a ship can have any number of chief mates (though on a military ship, only one is generally referred to as the chief mate, and all others are considered deck officers).
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.
Even starships that are not explicitly powered by magic or hybrid technology
have enough mystical components and are exposed to enough ambient magic that
they can be influenced by those rare few who command a deep understanding of
the intersections between magic and the vastness of space. If nothing else,
simply accessing the Drift requires both technology and magic, and the underlying
magic of the universe is prevalent even in the void, so the usefulness of arcane
expertise cannot be overemphasized, especially in a starship combat environment
in which even the smallest advantage can mean the different between life and
death. The magic officer deeply understands this truth and provides both mystical
knowledge and resources that can push the starship’s interaction with the inherent
magic around it to new heights.
While not every ship has a magic officer, it’s often useful to have someone who understands digital portents, the flows and eddies of raw magic through the void of space, and how the inherently eldritch forces unleashed by powerful engines can impact starship operations. A magic officer acts during the engineering phase during starship combat. A ship can have any number of magic officers.
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.
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, as indicated in the description for each minor action. A minor crew action can be performed only once per round, and it doesn’t count as your action.
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.
1. Basic Information: Size, speed, and maneuverability.
2. Defenses: Total Hull Points, total Shield Points, and power core PCU value.
3. Weapon: Information about one weapon, including its firing arc and the damage it deals, selected at random. Repeat this entry until all the starship’s weapons are revealed.
You can take this action only if no science officer actions have been taken during the helm phase (including visual identification and quick rescan).