Fate Space Toolkit

Example of Space Combat

Example of Space Combat

This example of combat is set in the Pax Galactica universe and uses battlestations and vector diagrams. The group has set the plausibilometer to medium.

As the scene begins, three PCs are trying to figure out the workings of a derelict starship they’ve found in an uninhabited system in the galaxy’s Norma Arm, a region of space that was long ago the site of a centuries-long war for dominance between two alien empires. The ambitious and possibly piratical NPC who helped them find it, Lord Captain Mufese, has offered to “escort” them back to civilization, but they have demurred, and Mufese aboard his ship the Orinocco is seemingly departing in good grace. The PCs turn their attention back to the alien starship, whose name they have translated to mean Homecoming.

  • Brad is playing Lark, a Grizzled Old Space Hand.
  • Chris is playing Sergeant Childe, the Hard-Bitten Vet of a Hundred Little Wars.
  • Amy is playing Lady Tabitha, an Adventurous Aristocrat from the Outer Rim.

GM: The Orinocco spirals out in its orbit and soon disappears behind the gas giant. Lord Captain Mufese broadcasts general farewell and wishes you good luck.

Brad (Lark): Okay. In the meantime, I want to break down our capabilities. I’m going to check out the hyperdrive. The ship has an engineering section?

GM: That’s right. You’re in the ship’s engine room, in the narrow confines toward the rear of the teardrop-shaped hull. Use Technoscience to overcome an obstacle. Call it Mediocre (+0), but it’s alien technology, not from the Principate, which means you face a +2 increase to the difficulty to try to understand it.

Brad: My Technoscience is Good (+3), and the roll is... (Rolls ++--.) That’s a +3.

GM: That beats the modified difficulty of Fair (+2), so it’s still a success.

Brad: I’m out of fate points. What does a basic success get me?

GM: No, that’s plenty. You see a hyperdrive—sealed in a clear spherical vacuum case like the ones you’re familiar with—but its navigation coupling doesn’t lead to the normal psionic circuitry you’d expect. Instead it connects to another sealed sphere with an object inside that looks like a branching coral made of translucent crystal. There’s a dim glow coming from inside the crystal. Childe, what are you doing?

Chris (Sergeant Childe): Sergeant Childe is checking out the bridge.

GM: Good. There are four three-dimensional screens arranged in kind of a circle around the perimeter of the bridge. Currently only one of them is on, and it shows a holographic representation of the satellite system around the gas giant. There are no chairs, but there do appear to be four sets of clips on flexible cords latched to the floor in front of each station.

Brad: Does this ship not have inertial dampers? We have artificial gravity, after all.

GM: The aliens were probably worried about acceleration bleed through the dampers, you think.

Brad: Uh, yeah, okay. I would probably think that.

Chris: Do our suits have harnesses that would fit those clips?

GM: They do. Are you in your suit?

Chris: Yes?

Amy (Lady Tabitha): We’re all in our suits, ready to seal if something happens.

GM: Well, that’s good, because something happens. A klaxon sounds, a high whistle chirping between two notes. Tell me what each of you is doing.

Amy: I’m on the bridge, getting a feel for the thruster controls.

GM: Here’s your Helm battlestation. (The GM gives Amy a card with the Helm’s battlestation details on it.)

Brad: I’m in the engine room, trying to get full power going. (Brad gets the Engineer battlestation card.)

Chris: The sergeant is on the bridge. He’s checking out the sensor display. (The GM gives Chris the Scanner battlestation, and puts three other station cards on the table—the Captain, Gun Crew, and Helm)

GM: Okay, the holodisplay shows you in your orbit around the gas giant, but there’s a fast-moving object coming toward you rapidly from over the horizon. (The GM sketches out the situation, with the Homecoming in orbit around a gas giant with a radiation belt around it and a rocky moon some distance away as well as an incoming bogey.)

Brad: How long until we can activate the hyperdrive? I want to get out of here.

GM: Roll Technoscience. Remember that you’re still trying to figure out how things work on an alien ship. If you succeed with style, you can fire it up immediately. If you succeed, it’ll take a few minutes. Succeeding at a cost or failing means it’ll take longer, one shift more time for each shift short of a success you get.

Brad: What’s the difficulty? Zero?

GM: Right, so call it Fair (+2) due to the penalty for alien technology.

Brad: I’m peering at the alien controls in the engine room, tentatively pressing buttons and turning dials. (Rolls +--0.) I’m at zero—success at a minor cost. That just means a little more time, right? Several minutes? (See “How Much Time Is a Shift Worth?” in Fate Core on page 197.)

GM: Sure, but you know that you’re Getting Too Old for this Sh**, right? (The GM holds up a fate point to indicate that he is compelling the character’s aspect.)

Brad: Damn straight. (He takes the fate point.)

GM: It’s going to take you a solid hour to warm up the hyperdrive, at the rate things are going.

Amy: I don’t know why you’re worrying about the hyperdrive. Without a psionic link, how am I going to navigate us anywhere? Sergeant Childe, what’s that thing coming toward us?

Chris: I don’t know. Can I identify it?

GM: Roll Technoscience to do so.

Chris: Okay. I’m Average (+1). (He rolls 0+-0.) And that’s an Average (+1) result. But I’m Cool Under Pressure, so I succeed. (He spends a fate point. The GM labels the bogey Orinocco.)

GM: He’s coming up fast, on an intercept course.

Amy: Mufese! You scalawag! What are you up to?

GM: Are you broadcasting to him?

Amy: No, I won’t give him the satisfaction. I’m going to break out of orbit and head for that moon. What do I use? Spacehand? (The GM says yes.) Okay. I’m Good (+3) at that. I roll... (Rolls +++0.) Yes! A Fantastic (+6) effort!

GM: Mufese’s roll to pursue is Great (+4), but you’re using alien technology, so his roll gets a +2 relative to yours, making it a tie; you succeed at a minor cost. You punch the thrusters and tear out of orbit, but you all feel the acceleration bleed as a kind of vibration in your bodies, and you can tell that the ship’s Systems Are All a Little Scrambled as a minor consequence. (The GM redraws the Homecoming’s vector as a long arrow pointing halfway toward the rocky moon.)

Chris: Is this ship armed?

GM: Maybe. While you’re looking for weapons controls, the communicator chimes. Incoming message.

Brad: Is the klaxon still blaring? That would be annoying.

GM: I’m glad you mentioned that. (He writes down Annoying Klaxon on a card as a situation aspect.)

Amy: Don’t answer the comms! Let him eat static!

GM: Childe, you see the Orinocco launch a missile at your ship!

Chris: Boss lady, we’re in trouble!

Amy: Evasive action! (Rolls -0--.) Oh no! That’s Terrible (-2)! But I’m At the Helm with a cool eye and steady hand. (She spends a fate point.)

GM: Yes, but that Annoying Klaxon is getting on your nerves. (He spends a fate point from his pool.)

Amy: Somebody shut off that gosh-darn klaxon!

GM: The missile gets in a Fair (+2) strike on the thrusters from Mufese’s Good (+3) Shoot and a Poor (-1) roll. He’s targeting Helm. But your Systems Are All a Little Scrambled, so the ultimate effect is a Great (+4) hit on the ship. Amy, what happens?

Amy: Oh, man. Marking a stress box won’t quite do it, and I don’t want to lose another ship’s consequence. I’ll abandon the station.

GM: What does that look like?

Amy: The whole bridge shudders with the missile impact. The screen in front of me goes haywire, lots of alien sigils forming and melting. The thruster controls lock up. I pull on them uselessly and shout, “He got us! We’re a sitting duck unless you get those thrusters back online, Lark!”

Brad: I’m on it, boss lady!

GM: All right, that’s the exchange. The Helm station is out of action, so where is everyone?

Amy: I’ll take the captain’s chair. Uh, harness.

Brad: I’m good in the engine room.

Chris: And I’ll switch to guns. This thing does have weapons, right?

The action continues...