Grand List of Shipboard Actions

What can individual characters do aboard ship? What are some of the abilities good for?

Some of these assume a ship that’s generally low-tech, with a lot of manual or analog operations. This seems appropriate for a smuggler - the more high-tech or computerized stuff you put in, the more electronic signatures, telltales, software backdoors, etc. you expose yourself to. On the other hand, it often means ships that are chronically short-handed.


Doctor: bolster the crew with anti-radiation treatments or acceleration resistance drugs. If someone does a risky thing, knowing they’ll get injured in the process, be ready to get them back on their feet (an assist). Use your surgical or medical expertise in other ways e.g. disarming devices or sealing hull breaches (“it’s just a big bandage!”). Since Doctor also covers science, apply your scientific knowledge (“I reversed the polarity of the neutron flow”).

Hack: electronic warfare! Do EW overwatch, sensor jamming, or just keep an eye on our firewall. Mess with our sensor signature. Introduce randomizations into our course correction software to keep us from being predictable.

Rig: exceed the parameters of a ship’s system, such as propulsion. Remove safety features for performance reasons. Do crazy shit with the FTL drive. I mean the sky’s the limit here.

“All right, Hen, now we’ll try out your roulette-wheel director-by-chance,” Kinnison said, then went on, in answer to Thorndyke’s questioning glance: “A bouncing ball on an oscillating table. Every time the ball carroms off a pin it shifts the course through a fairly large, but unpredictable angle. Pure chance–we thought it might cross them up a little.”

Hairline beams were connected from panels to pins, and soon four interested spectators looked on while, with no human guidance, the Brittania lurched and leaped even more erratically than she had done under Henderson’s direction. Now, however, the ever-changing vectors of her course were as unexpected and surprising to her passengers as to any possible external observer. – Galactic Patrol

Study: analyze enemy attacks and use them to devise a defense, or counter-attack. Use local conditions to your advantage.

Helm: pretty obvious.

Scrap: the ship has loading arms or waldos for cargo, so hit stuff with them! Some kind of telepresence or tele-operation rig can let the arms match the PC’s motions. Alternately, tele-operate a drone or remote robot of some kind - imagine firing a torpedo at another ship that contains a droid instead of an explosive (for any number of reasons).

Scramble: quickly move from station to station. Stay on your feet during high-G maneuvers to operate a control you have to operate. Get into and out of the airlock quickly to get to a panel that (for some reason) is only available in there - or risk being stuck. Deal with sudden changes in “down” due to gravity. Or do other crazy stuff that requires physical effort.

Skulk: apply your knowledge of stealth & shadowing to ship scale, help the ship blend in with other ships in a busy area. Ensure that important cargo is hidden, either via smuggling compartments, or out in the open Purloined Letter style.

Attune: sense hostile intent, warn the pilot (or take over the controls) when something’s imminent. The ship has Ur components (like an Urbot), so interact mystically with them. Plot an incalculable hyperspace “skip” that keeps the ship from taking a critical attack.

Command: Outwit or intimidate someone through ship maneuvers or tactics. Anticipate the other guy’s response to your tactics. “The hard part of playing chicken is knowing when to flinch”.

Consort: Use your social network passively, to find a safe port of call, or a place to buy, sell, or obtain something.

Sway: Lie to an enemy captain about what’s really going on. Use deceptive communications. Ask for help from friendlies nearby, or persuade neutral parties to take your side.

Characters and Playbooks

Muscle: there’s a pressure door, pipe carrying coolant, or some other heavy ship’s system that needs to be moved, fixed, or messed with. Regular humans can’t both move it and be precise about it, but you can.

Operate ship’s guns (if we ever get any). Set explosive charges around some expendable part of the ship beforehand, sending debris fragmenting into a pursuing craft.

Stitch: we build biomimetic systems today. What if a starship has systems - coolant distribution, electrical system, sensor webs - that resemble human systems - blood circulation, the nervous system? One might take the pulse of a ship, pinpoint leaks or breakdowns, or diagnose it in other ways.

Others? Anyone else want some suggestions?

Making other abilities relevant in play:

On a 5 or 6 outcome, describe a complication (or on a 1-3, describe a failure) that leads logically to another PC using a key ability. For example, Drifter rolls a 4 on Helm. We say “you make progress on your escape, but the G-force causes structural supports to buckle. If they collapse, the ship’s engine will be damaged”. This can lead to, for example, Monster moving to deal with the problem.

Establish background details that let you jump in with an ability. For example, does the ship actually have docking arms? Is it partially built with Ur components, that can be Attuned to? Downtime narration or advancements can give us opportunities to use such skills during jobs. So think about what abilities you have (or plan to have), and do world-building that contributes to using those abilities.