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Sails Full of Stars

Ship Combat

Running the Conflict

Before combat begins, each ship’s navigator must roll Sail to create an aspect indicating its position relative to the other vessels. For example:

  • The Asteroid Is Between Us
  • We Have the Weather Gage
  • Closing to Gun Range

The navigator may be any PC or NPC crew member who is on or near the bridge of the ship at the beginning of the conflict. To determine the order that the ships create their aspects, compare the Notice ranks of the navigators, just as you would to determine turn order during a normal exchange. When declaring each aspect, state which ships it affects. Each of these ships can actively oppose this attempt by rolling Sail.

You may wish to use index cards to represent individual ships and positional aspects. For a positional aspect between two ships—such as In the Pirate’s Blind Spot—place a card between them, drawing arrows as desired to show motion or targeting. For one that affects multiple opponents—such as We’re Leaving Them Far Behind—place the card near the ship creating the aspect and note on the card which ships it affects.

Certain activities can only occur once per ship in each exchange: maneuvers, repairs, gunnery, and signaling. All four of these activities can occur simultaneously. The PCs can directly command any of these activities, one activity per PC, or the crew can execute any number of these activities on their own, as described in the “Crew Actions” section. When the crew performs an activity on their own, use their own Notice to determine their place in the turn order; when a PC takes command of an activity, use that PC’s Notice instead.

Maneuvers: To alter a position aspect, the ship’s navigator rolls overcome using Sail. Any ships affected by the altered aspect can actively oppose with Sail. Successfully changing the position aspect removes the prior aspect and grants one or two free invocations or a boost on the new aspect, as per the usual rules for creating an advantage.

You can attempt to create a position aspect between your ship and several other ships at once. In this case, each of those ships actively and independently opposes you. Assign the new aspect to each ship that fails to oppose your action.

Ramming a ship requires two exchanges. On the first exchange, your ship’s navigator rolls Sail to create a Bearing Down On the Enemy position aspect targeting an enemy ship, which can actively oppose with Sail. While this aspect exists, your ship’s navigator can attack with Sail to ram the targeted ship, which defends with Sail. If the attack is successful, determine damage as usual, and then roll Sail again to defend your own ship against your own ram attack. If you do not successfully defend, damage your own ship as normal. If your defense ties your attack, the resulting boost goes to the enemy ship you rammed; if you took out the ship you rammed, the boost goes to an enemy of the GM’s choice.

Repairs: The ship’s crew can roll Craft to attempt to remove damage-related aspects from the ship. During a conflict, the crew cannot attempt to recover damage-related consequences, but they can create aspects to represent temporary repairs, such as Held Together with Twine and Hope or We Didn’t Need That Gear Anyway. Any character on the ship can invoke a temporary repair aspect in response to an opponent invoking a consequence on the ship.

Gunnery: A ship can fire its guns at a single target per exchange. This can be represented as an attack action or create an advantage action, attempting to create an aspect on an enemy ship, such as Shredded Sails. The targeted vessel can defend or actively oppose, as appropriate, using Sail.

Signaling: Once per exchange, a ship can transmit a single message using its signaling lanterns. To judge whether a message can be sent during a single exchange, assume that signaling speed is roughly similar to that of Morse code—about forty words per minute. Normally, signaling does not require a roll, but it does use the signaling character’s action for the exchange.

Other Actions During Ship Combat

Characters who are not taking command of the four main ship activities listed in the prior section may take other actions during the conflict as desired and necessary. For instance, while a ship-to-ship battle is raging, the PCs might also need to defend themselves against a swarm of Uranian ice spiders loose on the ship, or they might need to negotiate with a saboteur who has barricaded herself in the ship’s magazine with a box of matches and the vessel’s store of prometheum.

You can divide up ship decks and compartments into zones to resolve conflicts occurring inside a ship, such as a munity or a boarding action. Zones within a ship have no bearing on ship-to-ship conflict, including taking command of the crew.

Ship Consequences and Conditions

When a ship takes shifts of damage, the defender may absorb them using ship consequences, crew conditions, or both.

Consequences represent battle damage, mechanical failures, and other persistent problems with the ship. Ships can take the usual three consequences—mild, moderate, and severe.

Conditions represent crew casualties or missing crew members. The Fate System Toolkit explains how to use conditions on page 18. The following conditions are available for a ship’s crew:

  • Bruised: 1 point
  • Battered: 1 point
  • Light Losses: 2 points
  • Light Losses: 2 points
  • Heavy Losses: 4 points
  • Heavy Losses: 4 points

The Bruised and Battered conditions are fleeting: remove them as soon as the crew has time to rest and dress their wounds. The Light Losses and Heavy Losses conditions are sticky: you can only remove them after you replace the lost crew members. Each Light Losses condition represents a loss of one-tenth the ship’s maximum crew, while each Heavy Losses condition represents a loss of one-quarter the maximum crew.

If you are deliberately sailing with less than a ship’s maximum crew—because you’ve sent some of the crew off on a raiding mission, for instance, or because you’ve captured a merchant ship and only sent a few crew members to sail it—you must take a combination of Light Losses and Heavy Losses conditions to cover the missing crew. If you can’t take enough conditions to cover the shortfall—that is, if you have less than three-tenths the ship’s full crew—you cannot mount a competent defense in battle. If you enter a combat situation, your ship is immediately taken out.

To begin recovering a consequence that represents damage to the ship, you must roll Repair against the consequence in question, as normal. This task requires several hours of in-game time, and must occur while the ship is not involved in combat.

On a successful Repair roll, rename the consequence to reflect the ongoing repairs. For example, Gaping Hole in the Hull might become Hastily Patched-Over Breach. After the appropriate amount of game time passes, remove the consequence.

GMs, you may wish to limit the number of consequences and conditions that an unimportant NPC ship can take, just as you would for a nameless or supporting NPC.