by Karl Brown
This article requires the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion (SFC) and Savage Worlds Deluxe (SWD) by Pinnacle Entertainment Group.
This article is intended to provide more defined methods of dealing with starships. Where possible I have done the math for you. Additionally, these rules offer more hooks to build stories on.
The SFC does not give a system for starship ownership beyond recommending a Medium size ship with $2M of Mods and an FTL drive (total $23M) or a light freighter ($23.53M). No discussion of who actually owns the ship the degree on control the PCs have etc. I suspect this is because the answer to these questions varies greatly between settings and table preferences. In some settings your employer might provide a ship or the PCs might own a ship by referee fiat.
For a Star Wars, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Traveller style setting where an individual or small group can just afford a ship try the following new Edges. These Edges provide ‘shares’ with a $ value to be spent on a ship. All these edges can be taken multiple times and even shares from different Edges and characters combined into one or more vessels. A character that spends two Edges can just barely afford a Small FTL ship of their own by taking the loan shark or stolen option.
Ship Share Outright
You have a $2.5M share in the ownership of a ship no strings attached.
Ship Share, Stolen
You have a $7.5M to ‘spend’ on a ship however this represents a stolen ship or one where you stopped making loan repayments to one of your creditors well before the game begins. You don’t make repayments on this share. However, you have a Major Enemy Hindrance. Decide whether this is a powerful interstellar bank or criminal organization. See Legal loan and Loan Shark below for descriptions of these enemies.
Ship Share, Legal Loan
You have a $5M share in a ship but this is a loan. Your financial institution will only loan money if there is a method of repayment, for this reason at least 1/6 (round down) of a ship’s mods must be ‘empty’ at the time of purchase to be used as cargo space or the ship must have a superstructure (any kind).
For simplicity we will assume that interest, depreciation, taxes etc all add another 8% or so. Your minimum repayments are $15000 per month for 40 years (Total $5.4M). Payments can be made at any major world, or electronically if the setting has an interstellar internet. Failure to make payments usually results in penalty fines but this rapidly escalates. After a few months of no payment you earn a Major Enemy Hindrance, an interstellar bank able to exert its influence through most if not all of known space. The bank wont do anything illegal in the setting but depending on the setting consequences may include: seizing your assets, smashing your credit rating, attempts to capture and repossess the ship, debtor’s prison, and even execution. Worse still as well as its own agents the bank is able to mobilize law enforcement agencies and bounty hunters.
Ship share, Loan-shark
You have a $7.5M to spend on a ship but this is a loan from a criminal organization. The organization places no restrictions on ship design.
Your minimum repayments are $25000 per month for forty years (total $9M). Payments can be made at any world where the organization has a presence, depending on the setting, this might be most high population worlds or worlds within a region within known space such as ‘the Galactic Core Frontier worlds’ or whatever. If the setting has an interstellar internet payments can be made anywhere. Failure to make minimum payments immediately results in you gaining a Minor Enemy hindrance as the organization begins to marshal resources against you. At this stage visiting worlds where the organization has a presence might result in attempts to repossess the ship or a good beating, other criminals might shun you, corrupt officials will be bribed into inconveniencing you, and you will receive threats. When a second monthly payment is missed the organization is upgraded to a Major Enemy who wants to kill you and recoup their losses. They will send thugs and assassins. A large bounty is probably put on your head that attracts crims and scum.
Once you have a starship you need to keep it running. Some groups simply do not worry about the cost of running a ship, if that’s you use the shares above but just assume loan repayments. Other groups will use the SFC rules for trade, salvage, fuel, provisions and wages to try play a game where the players model the success or failure of their ship as a business. While this might sound a bit like ‘Accounting the RPG’ I have designed these rules to be (fairly) quick and easy to use. The nessesity of paying the bills will also moderate starship design. Ensure players are aware they have to pay the bills and they will consider adding cargo space instead of building a pure death machine. Even so, a typical light freighter (SFC49) will loose about $5000/month, if you use this rule the players will become motivated to find more money leading to risks, shady deals, smuggling, mercenary work, and other adventures.
The system takes a little to set up but once in place you simply have one number to keep track of each month, either a loss to overcome or a profit. To use this system the first steps are to figure out your monthly outgoings and base income. By subtracting base income from outgoings you can determine the loss or profit each month.
This system assumes several things about the setting and the story:
Starship prices relative to average incomes are about as expensive as real estate in the late 20th century.
The ship will spend about half of its time in inhabited star systems where the crew can conduct trade and/or take on paying passengers.
Everyone wants a profit but a loss is more likely, PCs must make extra effort to overcome losses, i.e. adventures.
a. Total up all loan repayments.
b. Crew salary: two wages rates are given $5000 and $10000 per month representing low and high skill employees. Add up all the wages.
PCs are frequently business partners, investors or whatever and simply each take a cut of any profits. Frequently, PCs with shares in the ship take one share of the profits for each share and an extra ‘ship’s share’ being saved, or be responsible for the same proportion of debt. Other PCs take a wage.
For example there are three PCs and a hired security guard NPC, Smig. Babor has two Ship Shares and Yori has a single ship share. The third PC, Nark the Astrogator has none. In this example profits/losses are divided four ways; Babor gets two shares, Yori one, and a fourth goes to the ship’s account for emergency repairs and the like. Nark takes a wage of $10k per month and Smig the NPC only $5000 per month. Therefore the wage bill is $15k a month.
c. Energy/fuel: determine the cost as per SFC, $100xSizex30days.
d. Provisioning (life support) for a month is calculated as 10x(crew+passengers)x30.
a. The default income of a starship comes from one source, cargo. Cargo is measured in ‘spaces’ of 120 cubic feet (a 5’ cube). Every unused mod is a ‘space’. A bulk cargo superstructure provides 6667 spaces. For the sake of this simplicity we assume that the income from cargo is the average, $1300xspaces. If the players and PC’s do nothing special then the cargos shifted over the month are assumed to be this average.
b. Passengers: Each passenger birth in superstructure brings in $3000 per month. Each passenger pod is assumed to be occupied four times a month for a total of $800 each month total (note an individual seat is $20 for a typical orbital transfer or similar). Whether passengers are economy or first class has no effect.
3. Monthly Total: = total income – total outgoings. If negative the ship looses money by default every month!
Generally this Monthly Total does not change, instead adventures and the like will provide a credit that adds to this. These credits reduce the loss if any.
Getting extra credit
There are several non-sustainable ways of dealing with a loss.
Travel brokering: use the supply and demand table (SFC28) and apply the result to passenger superstructures and pods (individually). Unless a war or disaster is making people desperate then ‘Desperate’ is actually first class passengers and ‘Extreme’ are business class passengers.
Play the market: use the trade rules in the Science Fiction Companion. Replace the some or all of the default $1300 per space with spaces filled with specific goods.
Miss a loan repayment. Repayments for one or more shares are not be paid. The consequences of skipping payments are given in the Edges. You get a credit equal to the skipped payment but you will need to make this up later.
Power down: Usually fuel is purchased at the end of each month. Crews expecting a loss can power-down non-essential systems for the month. Energy costs can be halved by only running critical systems and drives SFC41. Handle this as a credit equal to halve the usual energy cost. This option is generally not available if the ship is carrying paying passengers, they will all demand a refund. Generally, after one month most hired NPC crew leave to find another job if possible
Energy reserves: You can decide not to top up fuel reserves at the end of the month. Divide the Energy in the Starship table (SFC41) by 30 and round down. This is the number of months you can run on fuel reserves before you are out. Each month powered down (see SFC41) counts as a half-month (you do not get the extra credit above). Each month on reserves credits the ship accounts with an amount equal to the usual monthly fuel bill. If fuel reserves reach zero you have 2d6 days before the ship dies, double this if ‘powered down’. The reserves don’t restock themselves captains are advised to buy more months of fuel back as soon as they can.
Life support reserves. A fully stocked ship can survive for a long while without restocking provisions. Partially, this is because the life support system include efficient recycling. While efficient the recycling is not perfect, eventually the food runs out and the air and water are too foul. Divide the Energy in the Starship table (SFC41) by 30 and round down. This is the number of months you can run on stores before you are out. Each month without resupply reduces this number. Without resupply any first class passengers will demand a refund. After a month without resupply business class passengers will demand a refund. Each month on reserves credits the ship accounts with an amount equal to the usual monthly provisioning bill. If reserves reach zero you have 2d6 days before the ship runs out of air, food, and water. Conditions become foul and food short. All passengers will demand their money back. The provisions don’t restock themselves captains are advised to buy more months of fuel back as soon as they can.
Reduce life support: an option for the truly desperate. Generally, you can’t do this on passenger ships and NPC crewmembers will also quit if you try this. This halves provisioning costs but the ship is cold, the water tastes funny, food is awful, washing is rationed, and the very air smells of unwashed bodies. Each month living in this hell grants one level of Fatigue that can only be regained by spending a week in good conditions. This Fatigue can kill. Every 2 months on reduced life support consumes 1 month of provisions if living off provisioning reserves as above.