Fate Space Toolkit
Phased Space Combat, Scale and Battlestations
Phased Space Combat
If you need to further regulate space combat, you can break up each exchange into ordered phases, with each character taking a specific action during the appropriate phase. Characters may act in multiple phases, but a character who takes multiple actions during an exchange rolls for subsequent actions against +1 difficulty per previous action taken.
These rules make some assumptions about the nature of space weaponry, though you may wish to change these assumptions to reflect the armaments of your setting. Additionally, ships and characters may have stunts that affect their performance, as always.
If there is any question about who acts first within a phase, the character with the highest relevant skill has initiative and decides whether to go first or wait to see what happens when someone else acts.
Phase 1: Piloting Phase
During this phase, pilots control their ships and drone operators may pilot their drones.
A pilot may defend with Pilot against incoming attacks. A ship that doesn’t evade will have Mediocre (+0) defense against attacks, modified as necessary by range and speed, until the next piloting phase. Use the pilot’s evade result as the ship’s defense against beam and missile attacks as well as opposing maneuvers.
A pilot may use Pilot versus a defending pilot to change its range and bearing to the target, creating advantages or overcoming disadvantages as appropriate. A ship that doesn’t evade will have Mediocre (+0) defense against opposing maneuvers, modified as necessary by range and speed, until the next piloting phase.
Missiles, torpedoes, and drones that have been launched move toward their targets. Ordnance that reaches its target during this phase detonates; the target defends with its pilot’s evade result.
- Missiles are fast-moving, self-guided, single-use munitions.
- Torpedoes are slow-moving, self-guided, single-use munitions.
- Drones are remote-operated small craft that may be armed with short-range point-defense weaponry, equipped with an explosive payload to self-destruct, or maneuvered toward a target to relay close-range sensor data to the controlling ship. They are recoverable if not detonated or destroyed.
Phase 2: Gunnery Phase
Crew at weapons controls may take the following actions against detected targets.
Crew at beam weapons and gun controls may attack any detected targets in range, rolling Shoot (Gunnery) against the target’s evade result for this exchange. Beam and gun attacks are resolved immediately.
Crew at ordnance controls may launch missiles, torpedoes, and drones. This is usually a Shoot (Gunnery), Lore (Science or Astrogation), or Drive (Pilot) roll against Mediocre (+0) difficulty. Resolve the attack when the ordnance arrives at the target during ordnance movement in the piloting phase.
Phase 3: Encounter and Detection Phase
Crew at scanning controls may use Lore (Science), Notice, or Investigate to examine the ship’s sensor readings and interpret the data they provide, as well as to analyze the behavior of detected threats and to identify potential patterns or weaknesses. The difficulty of these overcome and create advantage actions can be set by the GM, depending on the nature of the potential threat, with larger, closer, and more radiant targets easier to spot and analyze than smaller, farther, and less radiant targets. Failure to detect opponents may create advantageous circumstances for the opposition, letting them act with relative impunity during the next exchange.
Crew with access to electronic countermeasures may use Lore (Science) or Crafts (Engineering) to spoof or jam a target’s sensors, creating advantages.
Crew at weapons controls may use Shoot to create advantages related to aiming or detecting patterns in enemy flight paths.
- Ships are either in range or out of range of each other’s weapons, and one overcome action versus an opposing Pilot roll is sufficient to break off an encounter.
- Ships may be at boarding range (which presumes matched velocities), beam range, missile range, or out of range. Under near-future conditions, boarding range is only possible when a target is incapable of maneuvering or willing to match velocities.
- Ships may use range zones to determine which weapons may be used.
Phase 4: Damage Control and Other Actions
Use Engineering to deal with problems caused by accumulated waste heat, mechanical and electronics failures, and related issues.
Use Science to treat injuries to personnel.
Resolve anything else a character attempts to accomplish during a space battle that isn’t covered by other actions.
Differences of Scale
Sometimes the difference in scale between two ships (or any two actors in a scene) is so great that common sense suggests they are just incompatible and cannot affect one another. At any time, the GM can indicate such incompatibility of scale: if players want to use a mosquito to take down an elephant, that needs to be the focus of the session or the campaign, not a single roll.
Two things may affect each other normally, or their relationship may be governed by a situation aspect (That’s No Moon) or scale rule that means, for example, that the snub fighter can’t target the dreadnaught as a whole, but it can attack its fighter bay or its laser turrets one by one as they return fire. Alternately, PCs can work to find ways to change this relationship: stolen plans from a moon-sized battlestation might reveal a vulnerable exhaust port...
The Fate System Toolkit (page 67) has useful rules for resolving differences in scale. In summary, give each ship a size rating on a scale from smallest to largest. For each step of difference in size, the larger ship gets +1 to its attack or defense or both, and gains a Weapon rating of 2, Armor rating of 2, or both. To reflect a smaller ship’s greater maneuverability compared with the larger, you may give it +1 per step of size difference to create advantage or overcome actions related to maneuvering against the larger ship.
Alternately, you can use the Bronze Rule from Fate Core (page 270) to send whole squadrons of fighters against capital ships, with the controlling player representing the squadron’s leader or the ship’s captain, whose fate is tied to that of their comrades. GMs, you can offer a compel to have the PC put his or her commanding character’s life on the line, or a character may have a stunt that allows them to take damage in place of their ship or squadron, reflecting the perils of leading the charge.
Another way to approach combat is not to focus on the ship, but on the characters each acting within the much larger conflict. In this option, each ship has a number of stations, each of which is a functional role occupied by a character, enabling that character to use particular ship-related skills to perform some action. It is treated as an extra with no cost requiring assignment to an existing station aboard the ship on which a character is serving.
Using battlestations is particularly helpful when the PCs are serving aboard a huge spaceship that might not be threatened as an entirety, but the GM wants to maintain some level of personal threat. It also works when PCs are on multiple small ships, such as a fighter squadron, with each operating on a local scale but contributing to a larger effort.
Mechanically, a station is an extra that allow for various specific actions, and which has one or more aspects relevant to it, one or more stunts, and some amount of battle stress, reflecting the damage the ship can withstand before the station can’t be used by anyone anymore until it’s fixed.
At the beginning of an exchange, a character can change stations freely within the bounds of the fiction, although the GM may require an overcome action to represent the time and effort needed to make the switch—for example, an Athletics or Spacehand action to race to the bridge to take over as captain, for example, or a Spacehand or Rank action to get into the ship’s armory to acquire space marine weaponry and armor. The precise skill and its difficulty will depend on the fiction and the character’s course of action.
Each ship or squadron in the fight gets one set of consequences. The ship or squadron remains in the fight so long as it hasn’t suffered a complete set of consequences. It also gets a number of stations, each of which serves as a target for the enemy as well as enabling a particular function such as maneuvering the ship, firing its weapons, and so forth.
Stations suffer harm from attacks and from the station’s occupant succeeding at a cost, both as normal. The station’s occupant can also suffer harm by succeeding at a cost, but since the point of using battlestations is to make space combat fast and fun, the occupant cannot take harm meant for the battlestation.
When it suffers harm, the station must take battle stress or permit the ship as a whole to suffer consequences. If the station loses all its battle stress, both it and its occupant are taken out. Alternately, instead of letting their station take battle stress or allowing the ship to suffer consequences, the player may concede and either allow their character to be taken out—this preserves the station and permits another character to take it up if desired—or abandon the station, allowing the station to be taken out but preserving the character.
When a station is taken out, it cannot be used further. A character who has abandoned a station may take up a different station—if one is available—the next time they can act freely. The GM may require the character to overcome dangers suggested by the station being taken out—explosive decompression is always a possibility! A character without a station may be In the Way or at best Supercargo. A redundant character of this sort can take personal actions but can’t substantively affect the space battle.
Change the skills listed for each station as appropriate to the setting.
In Command; On the Bridge
The Burden of Command: Because you are in charge and take your responsibilities very seriously, you may take battle stress inflicted on other stations as battle stress to you instead; additionally, you are able to use your fate points on behalf of any NPC manning another station on the ship.
Battle Stress 
At the Helm; On the Bridge
Damn the Torpedoes!: Because your ship is a sleek warfighting machine, you gain +2 to Drive to defend or overcome obstacles related to dealing with navigation hazards or battle damage in order to get to where you want your ship to be.
Battle Stress 
Tactical Data Mining: Because you can assess the opposition’s deployments and actions, you gain +2 to create advantage with Lore when analyzing enemy tactical patterns.
Battle Stress 
Espatier (Space Marine)
Armed and Dangerous
Armed to the Teeth: Because you are heavily armed, you gain +2 to attack using Fight in close quarters.
Armored: Because you are heavily armored, you gain +2 to Physique to defend against physical attacks.
Battle Stress 
Fast-Moving Fighter Craft
Strafing Run: Because you are in a space fighter, you gain +2 to Drive to attack enemy stations.
Battle Stress 
Fly Casual: Because your ship is small and obviously harmless, you gain +2 to Drive to defend against or overcome obstacles related to attempts to single out, notice, identify, or track a particular small space craft.
Battle Stress 
Tools in Hand
More Power to Shields: Because you can redistribute the technical resources of the ship, you may spend a fate point to redirect some or all enemy Fighter Pilot and Gun Crew attacks to yourself for the rest of the exchange and use Crafts to defend.
Damage Control: Because you can conduct field repairs, you may spend a fate point to redistribute combat-related battle stress dealt to another station among any number of other stations. To do so, you must overcome with Crafts against a difficulty equal to the shifts of harm being dealt to the station you wish to protect.
I Don’t Know How Long She’ll Hold: Because you can conduct field repairs, you may spend a fate point to allow you to use Crafts to attempt to restore a station that has been taken out, against a difficulty equal to twice the number of the station’s battle stress boxes. It comes online with one less battle stress box than it had before it was taken out.
Battle Stress 
Sick Bay / Medic
Overcome problems related to personnel injury.
Good as New: You can spend a fate point to take a recovery action versus consequences related to medical injuries during a scene in circumstances that would otherwise preclude such action.
Battle Stress 
Finger on the Trigger
Fire for Effect: Because you are using a high-powered space weapon, you gain +2 to Shoot to attack enemy stations.