Playstorming a “Stars without Number” Space Combat

Playstorming a “Stars without Number” Space Combat is a game session report for Stars without Number: Revised Edition. We played at my desk on .

Aaron Lee’s “Starship Intro”, from the Stars without Number Art Pack

For those interested in following along, I’m using the Ship Combat from CurateND. You may also be interested in my , in particular . While not a “reading of Stars without Number”, I am adding this blog post to that series.

update: I have added . By the rules, to get a +3 skill bonus, your character must be at least 6th level. The crew of the Waukeen are skilled and competent.

Last night I sat down to try out the ship combat. I wanted to get a sense for the rules in action. I also wanted to see if I could see what others saw and reported in a thread on reddit.com/r/swn.

I chose a simple scenario. A Free Merchant vs. a Patrol Boat. I treated the Free Merchant as Player Characters (PCs 📖) and the Patrol Boat as Non-Player Characters (NPCs 📖). Below is my action by action play through and some fiction to connect the mechanics.

The Cast

Table 143: Free Merchant - Waukeen
Free Merchant
HP20Power10/0 free
AC14Mass15/0 free
Armor2Crew1/6
Speed3Hull ClassFrigate
Skill+3Command Points0*
Weapons:Multifocal Laser (+5 1d4+1, Armor Penetration (AP 📖) 20), Sandthrower (+5 2d4+1, Flak)
Defenses:None
Fittings:Spike Drive-1, 160 tons of cargo space, Atmospheric Configuration, Fuel Scoops, Fuel Bunker
‡ - Normally this is +2, but I chose to use +3 for all the PCs.
* - As this is the PCs ship, they start with 0 Command Points

Patrol Boat Roscoe detected, pursued, and engaged the Waukeen.

Table 144: Patrol Boat - Roscoe
Patrol Boat
HP25Power15/1 free
AC14Mass10/0 free
Armor5Crew5/20
Speed4Hull ClassFrigate
Skill+2Command Points5
WeaponsPlasma Beam (+4/3d6, AP 10)
DefensesNone
FittingsAtmospheric Configuration, Boarding Tubes, Armory, Ship's Locker, Survey Sensors

The Engagement

At the start of the engagement, the captain of the Waukeen wants to try to escape. The captain of the Roscoe intends to board the Waukeen. I believe at the start of space combat, it is essential to clarify each sides goals. One aspect of Diaspora’s space combat that I like is the ship that wins the detection phase (similar to initiative) chooses to allow positioning or to hop directly to electronic warfare. This supports the initial intention of the engagement. I also like the space combat vector as it accounts for ships acting in concert.

Both sides rolled for initiative, and the Waukeen won out.

The Waukeen Gambles on an Escape

Table 145: Free Merchant - Waukeen’s First Round
Start Command Points (CP 📖)StationActionResultEnd CP
0GunneryAbove & BeyondFail-1
-1EngineeringAbove & BeyondSuccess3
3CommsAbove & BeyondSuccess7
7CaptainInto the FireSuccess11
11CaptainSupport: BridgeSuccess11
11BridgeEscape Combat+1 Escape9
9BridgeEscape CombatFailure5
5BridgeEvasive ManeuversSuccess: +3 Armor Class (AC 📖)3

With a call from the captain, Gunnery laid down suppressive fire, creating an opening for the Bridge. Likewise, Engineering stabilized power, ensuring quick system responses. Communications broadcast static, hoping the Bridge could punch through. The captain, urging the Bridge forward, endangered the gunner. And the Bridge floated the Waukeen, gaining distance from its pursuer.

The end result: The Waukeen had +3 AC until the next turn. They added 1 Escape to the Roscoe. But a looming lost crew crisis in the Gunnery station needed addressing.

The Roscoe Responds

Table 146: Patrol Boat - Roscoe’s First Round
Start CPStationActionResultEnd CP
5BridgePursue TargetFail2
2CommsCrash SystemSuccess: -2 CP for opposition0
‡ - As an Non-Player Character (NPC 📖) ship, the Roscoe started with 5 command points, and no way to earn more.

Seeing the Waukeen’s game, the captain of the Roscoe orders pursuit. But the Bridge can’t get a suitable approach vector to close the gap. The captain, not yet ready to open fire, orders the Comm station to crash the Waukeen’s system.

End Result: The Waukeen begins with a -2 CP deficit.

The Waukeen Presses to Break Free

Table 147: Free Merchant - Waukeen’s Second Round
Start CPStationActionResultEnd CP
-2GunneryDeal with a CrisisSuccess, resolved crew crisis-2
-2CommsAbove & BeyondSuccess2
2EngineeringBoost EnginesSuccess0
0CaptainInto the FireSuccess4
4CaptainSupport: BridgeSuccess4
4BridgeEscape+1 Escape2
2BridgeEvasive ManeuversSuccess: +3 AC0

The gunner catches their breath, resolving the lost crew crisis. The comm department, again seeing a good thing scattered static. Knowing that the Roscoe has an advantage on speed, the captain urges Engineering to divert power to the engines. The captain again throws them all into the fire by ordering dangerous maneuvers in support of the Bridge. All the while, the Bridge again maneuvers erratically, separating further from the Roscoe.

End Result: The Waukeen had +3 AC until the next turn. They added 1 more Escape to the Roscoe (for a total of 2). But yet again, a looming lost crew crisis in the Gunnery station needed addressing.

The Roscoe Seeks to Disable

Table 148: Patrol Boat - Roscoe’s Second Round
Start CPStationActionResultEnd CP
5GunneryTarget SystemsSuccess4
4GunneryFire one WeaponHit, targeting Spike Drive2
2CommsCrash SystemSuccess: -2 CP for opposition0
‡ - The Waukeen accepts a Crisis instead. They get a Fuel Bleed

Switching tactics, the captain of the Roscoe orders Gunnery to take out the Waukeen’s spike drive. With luck on their side, Gunnery strikes an improbable hit. The captain of the Waukeen opts for a random crisis instead. They get Fuel Bleed. The Roscoe’s captain, again orders Comms to crash the system.

End Result: The Waukeen begins with a -2 CP deficit.

By the Skin of their Teeth

With two active crises, the Waukeen will need some luck.

Table 149: Free Merchant - Waukeen’s Third Round
Start CPStationActionResultEnd CP
-2GunneryDeal with a CrisisFail: Crew Crisis remains-2
-2CommsAbove & BeyondSuccess2
2EngineeringDeal with a CrisisFail: Fuel Bleed2
2CaptainSupport: BridgeSuccess2
2CaptainInto the FireCrew Crisis6
6BridgeEscapeSuccess4

The captain, sensing a window closing, orders the gunner to deal with the crew crisis it. But things deteriorate as the gunner fails to deal with the problem. The comms officer buys a bit of luck by ricocheting a single to distract the Roscoe. The captain, with a bit of wiggle, orders Engineering to deal with the fuel bleed, but they too fail to get it under control.

Seeing their ship crumble, the captain orders one last maneuver, throwing more of their crew into crisis. All to give the Bridge two shots at escape. With klaxons roaring, the Bridge manages to escape the Roscoe. By the book, when an engagement ends, ships resolve all crises. As I reflect on the actions of the captain, I like thinking about the captain’s decision to select “Into the Fire”, which causes a crew life crisis, jeopardizing the well being of the crew in order to eek out more capacity. Excellent grist for the story mill.

Denouement

Eager to evade the Roscoe, the captain of the Waukeen managed to bruise and batter the crew. However, they all made it out with minor complications.

Observations

The crew of the Waukeen consistently rolled at least 2 pips higher than the Roscoe. That difference meant the Waukeen had enough luck to escape the Roscoe.

I also chose to give the Waukeen crew a universal +3 at all of their skills. That seems to be an early-stage career for dedicated spacers.

I have played Diaspora’s ship combat a few times, most memorably in the . For solo play, I found Stars without Number’s ship combat engaging.

I found myself wanting the linear map from Diaspora, and began thinking about projecting the Stars without Number: Revised Edition (SWN 📖) ship combat onto a vector.