You can do a lot with a supers setting featuring aliens, as described in the last article, but the real inspiration for these series was an episode of Supergirl from this season
(MILD SUPERGIRL SEASON 2 SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD)
where Cadmus attempts to round up most of the Earthbound aliens, cram them on an old spaceship, and send them so far away that they’ll have a hard time getting back to Earth. I watched the episode kind of hoping they’d succeed, because watching our heroes try to shepherd a bunch of aliens through the galaxy while they searched for a way home seemed like a good time.
So this post describes a ship-based campaign organization for something in the vein of Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate: Atlantis, and such. A bunch of disparate aliens have been forcibly placed on a ship that’s designed less as a means of travel and more as a means of getting rid of them, jumped to an unfamiliar side of the galaxy, and left with as much difficulty as possible to get home. There’s a diverse set of competencies in the ship, if you can balance the social issues, traumas, and politics and get people to work together. Rather than just drop people off at the first inhabitable world, you could try to get everyone to stick together, accrue resources by space exploration, slowly repair the ship, and figure out what you actually want to do rather than being unwanted refugees forever.
And the central campaign organization mechanic is making sure that the ship you’re on has a lot of potential, but needs a lot of work and customization to become a home instead of a prison. There are a lot of granular and obvious steps that can be made to improve it, so adventures can often hang on getting the resources to perform a particular upgrade.
This is based on the starship rules from the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion, though I’ve made a few changes in assumptions (primarily in how the engines and life support work; I’m also not 100% sure the math is perfect for the starship rules, but it’s close).
Initially, the ship is a Huge cargo cruiser that was somehow salvaged and retrofitted by [the Conspiracy]. It has (cramped) quarters and life support for approximately 1,000 individuals. It can maintain basic life support and in-system travel more or less indefinitely, but expends fuel for travel between systems using the FTL/jump drive (and begins the campaign mostly depleted after jaunting across the galaxy). As part of life support, it includes a hydroponics and recycling system that can maintain minimal rations needs for an extended period, but which will be gradually depleted if not supplemented with additional resources (and which are not the most attractive foodstuffs). Rightly afraid of the ship being controlled by alien computers that the outcasts might understand better than [the Conspiracy]’s programmers, as much as possible of its original systems were ripped out and replaced with kitbashed Earth computers and control systems that are heavily locked down and provide the minimum inputs necessary to pilot the ship. The ship has no weapons, and a very small number of short-range landing shuttles
- Cramped quarters for 1,000 individuals (~60 of them required to act as crew; the rest are part of a passenger superstructure designed for maximum residence and lacking the typical passenger structure amenities)
- Survivalist furnishings (cots, hammocks, surplus sleeping bags and pillows, suitcases)
Current furnishings and arrangements provide -# morale. Allocating more space and providing better furnishings can provide a morale bonus to individuals with enhanced accommodations.
- Much of the ship’s non-quarter space is empty cargo area and completely unfurnished smaller bays
- [The Conspiracy] clearly intended to build these out to fit even more exiles, but did not finish the construction (and balked at crowding in refugees; these areas are not currently fitted to be safe during FTL)
Vital capabilities could be installed as rooms in these spaces, or it could be easily fitted to haul cargo. It is a mild difficulty to fit it for safe quarter space, either increasing the maximum crew capacity or increasing morale by giving residents more personal space. The ship can take ~40 mods worth of improvements, per the Science Fiction Companion.
- Basic air and water recycling; most areas of the ship smell bad, and the water retains faint bad tastes
- The system is currently at 90% efficiency, and has a 100 day reserve for 1000 residents (essentially 1 day of reserve are lost for every 10 days); damage to the ship could threaten these reserves
- Basic artificial gravity provides a relatively stable 0.8g
Current life support provides a -# morale. Improving the filtering systems can provide a general morale bonus. Taking on more reserve water and air can provide insurance against leakage and catastrophe. Storing more than 100 days of reserve would require additional tanks to be installed.
- The ship has an extremely basic galley (capable of heating food and boiling water) suitable to serve the residents with some difficulty
- The ship’s recycling and hydroponics systems generate 500 hominid-days of basic organic foodstuffs per day (mostly reclaimed nutrients processed by bacteria and algae into cardboard-tasting food pellets); with current number of residents, it can maintain indefinitely on half rations
- The galley is stocked with 100,000 hominid-days of cheap canned goods and MREs; with current number of residents, supplemented by the recycling, this is enough for 200 total days on full rations
Current food options provide a -# morale. Improving the galley’s cooking capabilities (including by identifying skilled chefs), upgrading the recycling/hydroponics systems to provide tastier output, and taking on better nourishment can improve morale. Taking on more nourishment may be required to extend the mission without going on reduced rations.
- The ship has no alcohol, drugs, snacks, or other ingested comforts beyond what was smuggled in luggage
- The ship has no comfortable furnishings
- The ship has no entertainment options beyond what was smuggled in luggage
Current comfort options provide a -# morale. Improving these options can raise morale.
- The ship currently has basic fusion propulsion that is largely self-sustaining (with solar power when deep inside a solar system and magnetic ramscoop assist when traveling)
- The ship has essentially no maneuverability for a crisis; depending on current relative velocity, it needs seconds or even minutes to evade dangers
- The ship’s acceleration is limited to 1g (both due to output and the life support’s artificial gravity compensation)
Current engines could be improved to make the ship much better at reacting to danger quickly. The engines and artificial gravity would have to be improved to increase travel speed within a system (going any faster without improving the artificial gravity would result in an increasing sensation of the floor being slanted in the direction of travel).
You can use this website to calculate non-FTL travel times, or the formula that Total Time in Days = 4 × √(midpoint distance in AU/acceleration in gs).
- The ship currently has FTL engines capable of extremely long-range jumps
- The engines must be given extremely complicated and specific data to plot a jump
- The engines require a massive amount of high-energy exotic fuel (and start with enough for # light years of additional jumps)
Improving the navigation computer systems could make FTL travel somewhat more efficient and much less finicky. Improving the engine guts could improve fuel efficiency. The engines could be switched to a hybrid or full-electric system by replacing the fuel tanks with batteries and capacitors; this would drastically lower the jump capabilities at one time, and require the system to slowly recharge off of the in-system engines, but would lower the fuel costs.
- The ship currently has legacy consoles for in-system maneuvering, with much of their digital assistance stripped
- The ship’s FTL engines are currently plotted by kitbashed Earth computer systems
Improving the consoles and reattaching digital assistance systems would improve piloting checks and require fewer units of manpower to be on the bridge to drive the ship. Improving the computer systems would decrease time to plot an FTL jump and jump targeting precision.
- The ship currently has non-VI Earth computers patched into most control systems
- Most systems have their native controllers at the various interface points (Earth systems handle coordination, but the technicians left any systems in place that they were confident would not retain data on Earth’s location)
- There are no entertainment systems
- All computer interfaces are *nix command line or extremely rough GUI; no voice control
- There are limited voice alerts and other alarms
Improving the computers would make it far easier to command ship systems and get useful feedback and warnings. Installing a competent virtual intelligence (VI) would reduce crew requirements for many tasks. Increased terminals and entertainment software would raise morale.
- The ship has extremely short-range radar, cameras, and radio transmission
- Slow software rendering data from passive radio telescopes can build a basic map of the nearby system over time (but cannot resolve small or fast-moving threats until they are very close)
Improving the ship’s sensor suite (including integrated computers) would make it much faster to get an accurate map of the current system and identify threats and opportunities at a much greater range. It could also improve range and quality of communications.
- The ship currently has no weaponry
- Unallocated space could be used to mount weapons
Adding weapons would make it possible to fight in the ship, or at least repel attackers. Computer systems supporting the weapons would be necessary as well.
- The ship has a large hull standard to a cargo ship of its size
- It has extremely basic magnetic shielding (mostly designed to deflect micrometeorites and other space detritus)
Adding additional physical or energy defenses would provide enhanced protection from attackers and other dangers.
- The ship has three basic six-hominid shuttles that are able to reach a planet from low orbit; they have no armaments or defenses, and are not particularly fast to re-achieve orbit, especially under load, but they do recharge off of the ship’s engines
- There is an extremely minimal repair bay with only the most basic of emergency tools and materials to handle a hull breach or other catastrophe
- There are only a dozen EVA suits which are aging NASA castoffs
The ship has space for additional and/or better shuttles or other vehicles. Improving the repair bay would make the ship much safer and quicker to respond to damage. More and better EVA suits would be extremely helpful in a vacuum.
Savage Worlds Stat Block
Huge Starship: Size 16, Acc/TS 35/400, Climb 0, Toughness 44 (10), Crew 60, Cost $88M, Remaining Mods 38
Notes: Crew Reduction x4, FTL Drive, Superstructure (Passenger)