Adventures In Space

+A Star System Far Away
The Galaxy is a huge place, and everything interesting happens somewhere else. Most Psi-Wars adventures will require the heroes to travel from their present location to some other location. This will either be space travel or planetary travel.

The commentary in “Travel” on page 7-8 of GURPS Action 2 remains relevant and useful in Psi-Wars.

Interstellar Travel

There and Back Again: Getting around the Psi-Wars Galaxy

The Psi-Wars Galaxy is absolutely massive and the atlas barely covers a fraction of it. This is partially true of how the actual Galaxy tends to see itself: the stars that concern galactic citizens the most are those stars easily reached via hyperspace, which is but a fraction of all the stars in the galaxy. Enterprising individuals willing to brave the more difficult parts of the galaxy can easily come across unoccupied star systems or, more commonly, a den of pirates or smugglers lurking in a tiny outpost on some asteroid circling a lonely, uncharted star. Galactic civilization is really constructed on a skeleton of easily navigable stars that stretch across the galaxy, with those on the edges of those trade networks comprising the fringes of galactic civilization and those beyond falling beyond the ken of most people. But it also reflects the fact that much of the vibrant and living galaxy is left undiscussed by the atlas, a galactica incognita for a GM to fill in. These undescribed regions aren't necessarily unimportant; they may well be major hubs of trade and profoundly important to the Empire or other galactic polities; their absence reflects only the fact that the Atlas has limited space to discuss systems and constellations, and hits some highlights and exemplars of the sorts of systems one might encounter as one travels.

The most energy expensive part of a hyperspatial journey is the shunt from real-space to hyperspace. Once there, the ship can remain in hyperspace for as long as their power remains (literally decades in the case of capital ships with fusion reactors). The difficulty that navigators face is that they must "fly blind" through hyperspace, unable to see the hyperspatial storms that lash at them, or the gravity wells that might interrupt their journey, nor their destination and its strange, hyperdimensional relationship with the 4-dimensional points in hyperspace. Thus hyperspatial navigation generally happens in real-space, as the navigator uses charts, sensor outputs and logs to determine the best possible route and then shunts into hyperspace and then flies. This creates enormous difficulties if travelling extremely long routes, as they compound the difficulty of charting the course, and the longer one is in hyperspace, the more the dynamic medium of hyperspace has changed. Thus most navigators move in "jumps" of about 30 parsecs, or about 100 light years. More skilled navigators can go farther and faster, but these become increasingly treacherous and dangerous unless one is heroically skilled at navigation, or has a secret chart that allows him to navigate past difficult regions of hyperspace.

The galaxy's trade networks are built upon this concept of 30-parsec jumps; certain systems are far easier to navigate to than others, and some of there sport features such as gas giants or planets rich in hyperium. Refueling outposts and shipyards tend to spring up in such locations, and the cheapest, simplest long-haulers might have enough fuel for one shunt (most will have enough fuel for at least two shunts, in case something goes wrong), and jump from one refueling outpost to the next. Once there, he spends a few hours in the local dive, checks his mail, plays some Stratagem, buys and sells some cargo, pays for the fuel, and then charts the next course. Some other ships, especially ships built by Redjack Shipyards, have the fuel necessary to make 5 to 7 shunts; this allows them to go from system to system without refueling, which allows them to bypass common checkpoints imposed by the Empire or other political powers; paired with a skilled navigator, and such a ship can vanish for weeks in relatively uncharted parts of space and re-appear later in a completely unexpected area.

These constraints shape the wars of the Psi-Wars galaxy. An imperial fleet cannot just chart a course from Sovereign to Atrium, shunt, and then play cards for a few weeks while their ships race to their destination, unseen and unimpeded in 4D space. Instead, they too must crawl across the galaxy in little hops along fairly predictable routes. This means they face chokepoints, such as the heavily fortified system of Caliban, or the war-torn world of Shinograd. When the actual battle occurs, it may well range over a set of nearby stars, as ships retreat to the nearest, easily reachable system they can to lick their wounds, or mount an unexpected flank attack on a target, and so on (the Alliance greatly favors this sort of "ranging" battles, as its fighters tend to be equipped with hyperdrives while Imperial fighters tend not to be, so a carrier can launch its fighters in one system, let them navigate to the target in hyperspace, while the carrier moves to a second, rondesvous system to which the fighters will jump to after the battle has completed, and rejoin their carrier; this sort of maneuver is risky, but often works well for protecting precious Alliance carriers)

The travel times described in the Atlas assume these little hops and a fair bit of ambiguity. If your players just want to go from Persephone to Atrium, in principle, they proceed in a series of hops into non-descript systems, visit hotels, enjoy a particularly lush beach, hold their noses in a rather run down refueling outpost, spend a day relaxing, and then finally reach their destination. The GM could stop at any point and detail a part of a journey in great depth, if he wishes, but the abstract travel times assume that he wishes to simply state "You arrive in Atrium and it takes X amount of time." Similarly, these rules assume that constellations are some "average" distance from one another. In reality, constellations tend to be adjacent to one another, and a well-detailed system in one constellation might be directly adjacent to another well-detailed system in another constellation; it's just that most constellations and their systems aren't described in the atlas. If the GM wishes to map out a specific region of space, he is free to do so, and if a campaign takes place in a constrained region, this may well be a good idea. If you don't want to map out the whole region, fret not; constelations and star systems are as close, or as far, as you need them to be.

The primary means of interstellar travel in Psi-Wars is the hyperdrive. This allows ships to travel at phenomenal speeds at the cost of expensive fuel and careful, time-consuming navigation. Hyperspace itself is not a true vacuum, but a hyperdynamic medium which the ship must “push” through. Some regions have complex or “rough” regions of hyperdynamic medium that make navigation difficult, while other regions have simple or “smooth” regions of hyperdynamic medium, making travel very straight forward. The simplest tend to be called “hyperlanes” or “hyperstraits” if they travel through a normally complex region. The character of hyperspace can change overtime, sometimes very quickly, in a form of “weather,” and the worst of these events are called “Hyperstorms.”

Navigating Hyperspace: Before shunting into hyperspace, the character needs to chart a course, as hyperspace has very few navigational details once one is inside it. Navigating hyperspace requires a Nagivation (Hyperspace) roll, 15 minutes, starcharts, and either a sufficiently large computer, or a robot capable of hyperspace calculations. Most worlds have their own modifier to reach: “nexus” worlds easy to reach are at +4, the average world on a well-traveled part of space is +0, backwater worlds may be at -1 or -2, and remote, “Lost” worlds have between -4 and -10.This value can change overtime, and a sudden hyperstorm inflicts an additional -4. Remote or lost worlds might also have hard-to-locate starcharts; having one of these might as much as halve the penalty to reach it! Navigators may apply "time modifiers" the navigation roll; the minimum amount of time is 80% requiring 3 minutes of navigation (or three Action Vehicular Combat turns); the GM may waive this for fairly standard, common courses, and the maximum bonus navigators may claim from time modifiers is a +2. Hyperspatial navigation benefits from popping back into normal space to get your bearings. Extremely long trips apply additional complexities: for every 30 parsecs after the first 30, apply a -1 to the Navigation roll; this only applies to a single “shunt,” and characters can avoid it by dropping out of hyperspace at an intermediary point; in practice, most navigators think in terms of 30-100 parsec "jumps" and most navigators aim for systems where they know they can refuel. Characters may use Area Knowledge (Constellation) as a complementary roll.

Getting into Hyperspace: Shunting into hyperspace requires the drive charging for 5 minutes, though it can be charged faster with a Mechanic (Hyperdrive) roll with a time modifier applied. Shunting also requires a mass expenditure of energy, either in the form of hyperium fuel, or energy banks. Energy banks require 24 hours to recharge, while fuel-based drives can jump again immediately, provided they still have fuel. Once in hyperspace, travelling is not particularly expensive and all hyperspace capable ships have more than sufficient energy from their reactors to power themselves throughout their journey. Returning to real-space costs no extra energy.

Travel times: A rating 1 hyperdrive travels at 10 parsecs per hour. Rating 2 hyperdrives double this (20 parsecs/hour), while rating 3 hyperdrives quadruples it (40 parsecs/hour). The largest single energy expenditure is in the shunt to hyperspace, thus once a ship has entered hyperspace, it stays there as long as possible. A successful navigation roll brings the ship to the target world in the noted amount of time, and the ship will drop out of hyperspace one planetary radius from the world (or about 4,000 miles for most worlds that characters will visit). Shortening this distance requires a -1 per -10% (or every 400 miles). Increasing the distance may be done for free.

A failed navigation roll results in some calamity once the ship goes into hyperspace. It may drop out again immediately, it may arrive an entirely the wrong star system, it may arrive especially late, or it may arrive with a disabled hyperdrive that requires several days to repair. Some ships also become “lost,” which likely means they emerged too close to a star or some other calamity destroyed it (though such a fate is unlikely to befall player characters!).

Interplanetary Travel

If traveling between planets in the same solar system, simply assume the ship arrives after a short amount of time. If time matters, assume that after the ship has traveled beyond one planetary radius (about 4,000 miles from the surface of the planet) that it moves at the speed of light.

The Fine Art of Smuggling

Often, a character will want to get to a planet without detection or, at least, without too much scrutiny. By the same token, most planetary governments will want to prevent this. As a general rule, planets are big, orbits are bigger, and not even the Empire has enough ships to cover every single entry point. Most planets will have a few ships located at strategic points hovering over the planet near where most ships tend to exit hyperspace. The standard policy is to scan for ships; when one arrives, hail the vessel, inform them that you know of their presence and ask them to submit a travel plan and manifest; scan them to verify that everything matches up and, if they seem clean, let them go on their journey, and if not, move to intercept. To successfully bypass this protection, a smuggler needs to try one of a few different strategies.

Sneaking In

Ships tend to enter or exit hyperspace at about one planetary radius from the planet’s surface, or 4000 miles. Shunting into or dropping out of hyperspace has a large energy signature during that momentary merging of hyperdimensional space with normal space. Thus, patrol ships are designed with sensor arrays that can pick up a ship at about 3,000 to 4,000 miles, giving them plenty of reaction time. Assume ships that drop from hyperspace at 4,000 miles are automatically detected by patrols (or, at least, the patrols have a +4 to detect them).

A common smuggler trick is to either know a sensor blind-spot, or to arrive much farther way than 4,000 miles and then quietly come into the sensor ranges of the patrol ships. Aiming for an unusual entrance point for a planet’s gravity well is generally worth -1 or -2 (or BAD) to a Navigation roll and may require Area Knowledge (Planet) to even know such a blindspot exists, but if successful, treat it as a complementary bonus (+1 for an unusual entrance or +2 for a blindspot) to the subsequent rolls to evade detection.

Ships equipped with a distortion jammer can attempt to spoof detection with an Electronics Operations (EW) roll with a bonus equal to the distortion jammer’s ECM rating and a penalty equal to the BAD; ships with Ulstrascanner Stealth can roll Smuggling or the lower of their Piloting and Stealth, both with a bonus equal to their ship’s Ulstrascanner Stealth rating and a penalty equal to BAD; ships with both can apply both a distortion jammer and Ultrascanner stealth add the ECM values of both to their roll and roll the better of Electronics Operation (EW), Smuggling or (the lower of their Piloting and Stealth). If successful, the ship is able to escape notice and land on the planet. If failed, the ship is detected, and the worse the roll, the more guilty the characters look, and thus the patrol ship may decide to go straight for interception and boarding.

“Everything’s Fine Here”

Ships that have been detected may seek to avoid closer inspection.

“Don’t you know who I am?” Characters with high status or high rank in an organization that can legitimately bypass inspection in the local area may attempt a Pulling Rank request to avoid close inspection. Characters who are part of a diplomatic organization may add Law (Diplomatic) as a complementary roll. Characters with Diplomatic Immunity may roll Law (Diplomatic) directly to avoid inspection. Characters might try talking their way out of an inspection: high status characters might try Savoir-Faire, characters on heavily armed ships might try Intimidation, characters posing as someone else might roll Acting or Fast-Talk and hope their credentials (acquired via Forgery) pan out, and any character can try Diplomacy to beg off from an inspection, but all of these are only allowed if the GM thinks a patrol could reasonably be talked out of an inspection (such as corrupt or overworked patrols).

Friends in High Places: Rather than rely on their own prestige, they may rely on the prestige of someone else. If they’re part of the right organization that has pull that might help them avoid an inspection (such as a criminal organization) this might be a Pulling Rank request. More often, the character calls on Contacts or an old Favor. Roll against the contact’s skill; success means the inspection is called off.

“Nothing to Report!” Naturally, the characters can simply submit a false manifest to the patrol and allow themselves to be scanned. Characters can prevent the scanning ship from discovering contraband with a Smuggling roll (if the ship is equipped with a Distortion Mesh or shielded cargo bays, add their ECM bonus to the Smuggling roll) or with an Electronic Operation (EW) roll (if their ship is equipped with a Distortion Jammer). Ships equipped with both may combine the modifiers and roll the better of the two skills, applying BAD as usual. If the roll is successful, the patrol ship is fooled into believing that the manifest is correct.

“Punch it!”

If the smuggler fails to avoid detection and is either proven to be carrying contraband via a scan or raises suspicions with strange activity (such as showing up in a blindspot and trying to slip past scanners undetected), the patrol ship will likely move in to intercept the smuggler and issue orders to stand down and prepare to be boarded or it will escort it to a station where local authority can tractor the smuggler in, land the ship, and then bring security agents aboard.

If the smuggler chooses not to surrender, he can make a run for it. Treat this as a chase scene (see Action Vehicular Combat). Note that patrol ships will generally give the description of the fleeing ship to authorities, so even if the smuggler escapes and makes it planetside, local security will be alerted to look for them.

Blockade Running: Some smugglers with especially quick ships skip all of the above antics and just run straight for the planet. A common tactic is to attempt to come out closer to the planet, thus reducing the reaction time the local authorities have to catch the smuggler. Whatever penalty the character took to arrive at a location closer to the planet (for example, -5 for arriving at 50% the distance from the surface of the planet to the usual distance, or about 2000 miles), add this as a bonus to their first chase roll (in this example, they would get a +5) representing their “head start.”

Hitchhiking Across the Galaxy

Characters without starships will have to find some means of transportation. If the characters belong to an organization and that organization ordered them to the location, assume the organization provides transportation if possible. Otherwise, characters who belong to an organization that is capable of providing transportation may attempt to Pull Rank to get passage. If this fails, characters can always purchase commercial passage, which typically goes for about $100 per 30 parsecs, if it matters. Many worlds simply won’t have ships going to it, and going to backwater worlds, or avoiding any Imperial entanglements, may cost as much as ×10 as much.

Characters can also stowaway on ships, if necessary. If the GM is willing to allow it, roll Stealth to slip aboard or escape at your destination and Smuggling to remain unnoticed. If successful, the characters reach their destination. If caught, this could be the beginning of an interesting new adventure: the characters may be arrested (and need to break out of prison), marooned on some planet, or invited to join the crew (especially if they have useful skills, solid influence skills, and a good Reaction roll).

The Perils of Space

Radiation Sickness

Psi-Wars pays more attention to the realism of space than a lot of Space Opera does, and this inevitably raises questions about one of the most ubiquitous issues in space: radiation. Radiation is a pretty bleak topic and it's also fairly specialized: most places in Psi-Wars won't bother with it, but if it comes up, rather than dig out the radiation rules from GURPS, use the following rules instead.

Treat Radiation like a Sickness (Resistance to Sickness will protect against it; Resistance to Radiation is a Rare condition with a base cost of 5 points). Roll against HT with a penalty based on the severity of the radiation dose. Failure means you have Radiation Sickness. Treat this as result C from Effects of Radiation on Living Things except that it occurs immediately. Within an hour you lose 1d HP and FP (which you cannot regain until you recover from the sickness) and acquire the Hemophilia disadvantage for the duration of the sickness; each day, you roll HT; on a critical failure, you take 1d injury; on a failure you take 2 injury; on a success you take 1; on a critical success you take none and you have naturally overcome the radiation sickness and will begin to recover; once you have regained all HP that was lost to the sickness you can recover your FP and you lose the Hemophilia disadvantage. If you lose 2/3 of your HP to the radiation sickness, your hair falls out and you become visibly emaciated, pale and sickly looking (treat as a reduced level of appearance). The Psi-Wars Ultra-Tech medicine is very good at repairing radiation sickness. A doctor can replace your HT roll with his Physician roll at -5, but improves success level by one step (basic success counts as a critical success, failure counts as a basic success, and so on).

Typical modifiers (these only apply to the initial roll; recovery rolls have no penalty):

  • +0: a day in a radioactive wasteland, a day near a flare star, being near the point of impact for an isomeric torpedo on a ship.
  • -4: touching obviously "radioactive" substances such as glowing, green waste, or toying with an obviously radioactive item, such as a damaged reactor.
  • -10: enduring a WMD attack (See Action 2 page 29) that is radioactive in nature.

In addition to traveling through space, some adventures will be set in space itself. Rather than use the detailed use from GURPS Basic, use the following simplifications.

Gravity

Psi-Wars concerns itself with only two forms of gravity: microgravity (which includes free-fall environments) and Earth-normal gravity. Microgravity environments include very small moons, asteroids, and ships or spacestations with no artificial gravity. Ignore the rules for Free-Fall in GURPS Basic and instead apply a -4 to all DX rolls made in a microgravity environment unless the character has at least one point spent in Free-Fall or Spacer. Free-Fall may also replace any skill for moving around (Acrobatics, Running, Jumping, Climbing, etc) while in a microgravity environment. Psi-Wars vacc suits include microthrusters and mag-boots, allowing for extra-vehicular excursions. Characters may use their Vacc Suit skill in place of Running, Jumping and Climbing at -2 (rather than -4), provided they’re able to connect to a magnetic surface with their boots and they have fuel left in their microthrusters.

Characters with Psychokinesis can use their abilities to navigate micro-gravity environments. If the character has TK-Grab with ST equal to his own, he can “fly” through the environment, allowing him to navigate with his TK-Grab skill, or apply a +4 to any applicable traversal skill. Characters with TK-Jump or TK-Grab at less than their ST can’t “fly” through their environment, but can more carefully control what they do, and gain a +2 to all traversal skills.

Realistic Gravity?

Alternate Gravities: Realistically, different worlds should have different gravity levels. Psi-Wars ignores this because most of its source material does as well. However, if this bothers you, you can use the more detailed gravity rules from GURPS or, asan optional rule, apply a familiarity penalty to all DX, ST and HT rolls representing clumsiness, exhaustion from the additional force, mistakes made from having too much strength, etc. This familiarity penalty goes away with practice on a world. Characters can take a Gravity Familiarity perk to ignore this optional rule, which assumes they’re familiar with all gravity variants, and can ignore the -4 penalty for microgravity.

Orbit: Are ships in planetary orbit in a micro-gravity environment? The GM can answer this question in one of two ways, depending on what is more intuitive for the group.

The more “realistic” answer is that they’re not. Psi-Wars ships use hyperdynamics to “pin themselves against the sky,” similar to contragravity. This means that they’re not actually in orbit, but floating 100 miles or more up above the surface, where they’re still under the effects of the planet’s gravity. In this interpretation, nothing prevents a dreadnought from loitering in the same place, and if someone leaps out an airlock, they’ll begin to fall towards the planet, and they can stand on the “top” of the ship, but will fall off the “bottom” of the ship without mag boots. If artificial gravity is switched off, characters won’t notice a difference (and may not even bother to activate it while in the gravity well of a planet).

The more “cinematic” answer is that they are. In this model, ships in orbit follow normal orbital mechanics, which means they circle the planet rapidly and cannot “loiter” in one spot unless they’re in a high, “geo-stationary” orbit. If artificial gravity is switched off, characters in the ship will enter freefall, and terms like the “top” of the ship or the “bottom” are meaningless. This more accurately reflects how a real-world spaceship would operate above a planet, and ignores the interaction of contragravity with a gravity well.

Vacuum

Rather than use the more complex rules of GURPS basic, use the following simplifications: Sudden, explosive decompression (someone opening an airlock, a gaping hole being blown out of a ship) can suck everyone in the affected area off the ship. Characters can roll DX or Spacer+4 to grab a hold of something and prevent themselves from being sucked out into space.

Characters with access to a vacc suit generally have enough time to make a single Vacc Suit roll to get their vacc suit on at least enough to prevent the worst of vacuum exposure: the GM may assess 1d6 damage to both HP and FP on a successful roll and then declare them suited up. On a failed roll, or if the character is deliberately spaced, they’re dead (if they’re NPCs), while PCs should get a grace period of about five minutes during which they suffer the same effects as exposure to a WMD (see page 29 of GURPS Action 2); the -5 to success rolls stacks with the -4 from Zero-G! Beyond this, the character suffers a mortal wound and is comatose, unless the GM deems their exposure to space to be going on too long (generally over 15 minutes) in which case not even the advanced medicine of Psi-Wars can save them!

Characters with Pressure Support can ignore these rules, but must have some means to breath, and use the rules for Suffocation.

Cold

Realistic space isn’t “cold,” but the cinematic space of Psi-Wars definitely is! By default, treat space as an arctic environment. This only matters if the character is outside of a vacc suit (a character with Pressure Support and who Doesn’t Breath lost in space for hours) or life support has failed (their power supply on their vacc suit was damaged, or the ship is losing fuel). Roll HT or HT-Based Survival (Arctic) at -5, with an additional -5 if they have no winter clothing, or at +5 if they have heated suits designed for arctic environments; add any levels of Temperature Tolerance (Cold) that they have (see “Cold” DF 16 page 30! On a failure, reduce their maximum fatigue by the margin of failure until they get to a warmer environment. Make this roll no more than once per day and it does not accumulate (though if a character spends many days on a ship without life support, they likely face worse problems than the cold!).

Unique Space Environments

Space-based adventures offer unique hazards for moment-to-moment adventures. The following rules have been adapted from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures. Most of these environments assume isolation from a planet (that is, they matter when you’re in a space ship, or directly interacting with them), but they can be combined with planetary environments in truly exotic cases (e.g. a world orbiting a flare star).

All unique space environments assume the same dangers as hard vacuum unless noted elsewhere.

Asteroids

Asteroids vary in size from large rocks to floating mountains to small rock worlds. Most have rocky surfaces, riddled with caverns, razor ridged “mountains,” and craters. They often have a great deal of metal in them, and some even have pockets of hyperium.

Ignore the Cold as they tend to be at least temperate (but see comets for cold debris fields!). Asteroids are microgravity environments, but treat large, rocky moons or planetesimal asteroids as worlds with Earth-type gravity. All asteroids are assumed to be exposed to vacuum (though exotic asteroids exist); small rocky worlds might have an atmosphere sufficient to avoid the direct effects of vacuum, but characters will still suffocate in the atmosphere.

Asteroidal terrain tends to be disjointed and haphazard. The constant shifts in terrain apply a -2 to DX rolls (including attack rolls) and a -1 to defense unless the character has Sure-Footed (Uneven); this only applies on worlds with Earth-normal gravity or if the character is using their Vacc Suit skill to “walk” on the microgravity surface.

Characters can leap from one asteroid to another using thanks to the minimal gravity. Treat this as a Jumping, Free-Fall or Vacc Suit roll (with the usual microgravity penalties). Success means they hit their target and land safely. Treat a failure as an uncontrolled landing and handle it like a Slam with an unyielding surface.

Asteroids are dark when outside of the glare of the sun. Apply a -4 if in a general debris field (from the reflected light of the other asteroids), or -7 if you must operate by starlight.

Survival on an asteroid or rock-world is possible with Survival (Rock World). It involves finding pockets of air and other volatiles, knowing how to find ice and turn it into water, seeking space oddities like Thalline Mushrooms to eat and how to set up solar panels for maximum recharge. This defaults to other Survival skills at -4. Given the hostility of the environment, though, characters can’t expect to survive long without the proper tools.

Asteroid debris fields count as Rough Terrain in action vehicular combat for anything larger than a fighter, and especially dense fields count as Rough Terrain for all vehicles!

General Asteroid Conditions

  • Vacuum: Vacc Suit or pressure support required.
  • Microgravity: -4 to all DX rolls without Vacc Suit or Free-Fall skill.
  • Uneven: -2 DX and -1 to defense, x2 movement cost
  • Darkness: When not in the view of a star, apply a -4 (if in a debris field) or -7 (if alone with only starlight).
  • Survival (Rock World).
  • Debris Field: Rough Terrain for space combat.

Specific Asteroid Perils

Falling Rocks (DF 16 32): Meteors! These always come “from above” giving everyone a -2 to dodge, and come in fast enough that, at the GM’s discretion, damage can be doubled. These often come in showers over the course of an hour or more, requiring characters to take cover. If especially thick, apply an additional -1 to sight rolls to peer through the meteor storm.

Black Holes

The corpse of super-giant stars or stars destroyed by certain Eldothic super-weapons strike fear into the hearts of the astrographers and pilots of Psi-Wars, for their reach extends throughout the galaxy. They generally reorient the local hyperdynamic medium, making hyperspatial travel difficult and even interfering with hyperdynamic travel.

The churning influence of a Black Hole creates a permanent “hyperstorm” which applies a -4 to navigate away from the Black Hole. It also applies a similar penalty to nearby starsystems, and navigational failures within the same constellation as the black hole can result in a ship dropping out of shunt in the black hole’s system.

The gravitational waves around a black hole disrupt the hyperdynamic medium as well. Vehicles treat all space around a Black Hole as rough terrain, and this stacks with any additional rough terrain (ei, dogfighting among the disintegrating debris of a planet being devoured by a black hole).

Black Holes are also dark. Their accretion disk offers light equivalent to twilight (-2), and if the black hole is not in sight, its presence distorts startlight enough to reduce the brightness of a starlit sky to -8.

General Black Hole Conditions

  • Vacuum: Vacc Suit or pressure support required.
  • Microgravity: -4 to all DX rolls without Vacc Suit or Free-Fall skill.
  • Darkness: -2 (in view of the black hole); -8 (Out of the view of the black hole).
  • -4 to Hyperspace Travel
  • Rough Terrain

Comets

Treat comets like icy asteroids. They tend to be crazy, knife-edged worlds with great crystal structures the size of small mountains, great glaciers of ice, and riddled through with ice caverns. They tend to have few metals, but often have pockets of hyperium of other volatiles! This can also represent the rings of a gas giant deep in the outer regions of a solar system.

Comets are Cold (use the cold rules of the vacuum), microgravity environments (though large “ice worlds” are possible) and are in a vacuum (though a thin atmosphere is more reasonable with comets than with asteroids).

Characters can leap from one comet to another using thanks to the minimal gravity. Treat this as a Jumping, Free-Fall or Vacc Suit roll (with the usual microgravity penalties). Success means they hit their target and land safely. Treat a failure as an uncontrolled landing and handle it like a Slam with an unyielding surface.

Comets have uneven, icy terrain. Characters attempting to move across it must suffer a -2 to DX rolls and -1 to defense for all combat rolls and for traversal rolls (running, jumping, climbing, etc) unless they have Sure-Footed (Ice). The GM may also assess a similar penalty for uneven terrain, though this applies only to characters “walking” on the planet, such as those using the Vacc Suit skill, or ice-worlds with earth-normal gravity.

Comets are dark when outside of the glare of the sun. Apply a -5 if in a general debris field (from the reflected light of the other asteroids), or -7 if you must operate by starlight. Comets tend to be far from their parent star, so even when the sun is visible, they suffer a -1 to vision.

Survival on a comet or ice world is possible with Survival (Ice World). This defaults to other Survival skills at -4. Given the hostility of the environment, though, characters can’t expect to survive long without the proper tools.

Cometary debris fields count as Rough Terrain in action vehicular combat for anything larger than a fighter, and especially dense fields count as Rough Terrain for all vehicles!

General Cometary Conditions

  • Vacuum: Vacc Suit or pressure support required.
  • Microgravity: -4 to all DX rolls without Vacc Suit or Free-Fall skill.
  • Icy: -2 DX and -1 to defense, x2 movement cost
  • Darkness: -1 in full view of star, -5 if in a debris field or -7 with only starlight.
  • Survival (Ice World).
  • Debris Field: Rough Terrain for space combat.

Specific Comet Perils

Sink Hole (DF 16 33): Rather delicate ice tends to make up most asteroids, and even when a comet gets rocky, the material tends to be soft and easily broken, which means characters might suddenly lose their footing as the comet crumbles beneath them. In a microgravity environment, the character doesn’t “fall” so much as miscalculate their landing as they plow through the “ground.” into some cavern. This follows the same rules for spotting and avoiding the problem, and if they fail, treat this as a fall (it’s really a slam, but falls use the same rules).

Debris Field

When a major battle leaves numerous ruined dreadnoughts and wrecked space stations in orbit or free floating in space, they create a debris field. Scavengers love these, but many a Fighter Ace or Commando of the losing side finds himself lost in a debris field. The debris in the field can vary from everything from a small piece of scrap metal or shimmering speck of diamondoid to entire ruined dreadnoughts.

A debris field is always a microgravity environment in a full vacuum, though clever explorers can find pockets of breathable air in the depths of a ruined starship. Treat them as Cold unless they orbit a world.

Characters can leap from one piece of debris to another using thanks to the minimal gravity. Treat this as a Jumping, Free-Fall or Vacc Suit roll (with the usual microgravity penalties). Success means they hit their target and land safely. Treat a failure as an uncontrolled landing and handle it like a Slam with an unyielding surface.

Debris fields may or may not have uneven or weird terrain, but it was at least originally built for people to traverse, and is often easier than “natural” space terrain to maneuver around, thanks to fragments of ladders and handholds on ships and the prevalence of worked metal for characters to use their mag boots on.

A debris field outside of the light of the sun becomes dark. Apply a -3 for the reflected light of the debris field.

Survival in a debris field uses Urban Survival.

A debris fields count as Rough Terrain in action vehicular combat for anything larger than a fighter, and especially dense fields count as Rough Terrain for all vehicles!

General Debris Field Conditions

  • Vacuum: Vacc Suit or pressure support required.
  • Microgravity: -4 to all DX rolls without Vacc Suit or Free-Fall skill.
  • Darkness: -3 outside of the light of the star
  • Urban Survival.
  • Debris Field: Rough Terrain for space combat.

Specific Debris Perils

Falling Rocks (DF 16 32): Some debris operates like Kessler Syndrome, creating a wave of debris that races around a world and rakes across the rest of the debris field. This tends not to last, but it’s a real danger when a debris field is first formed. Treat all debris as falling from “above” (-2 to dodge) and given it’s very sharp nature, replaces the crushing damage with cutting damage, and allow up to double damage.

Fire (DF16 32): When the debris field is first formed, some of the ships in it may still be burning. Treat these fires as hot, dealing between 3d and 6d burning damage! Note that a ship that’s burning has atmosphere in it, so technically one can risk removing their vacuum gear (at the risk of being poisoned!)

Lightning Strike (DF16 33): ships with remnants of power may still have dangerous discharges until their reactors finally die. Treat these as 6d(5) burning damage, which reduce the DR of any non-composite or non-diamondoid rigid armor to DR 2.

Sink Hole (DF 16 33): Not all the metallic debris is in a proper state to support the landing of the explorer. Treat this as the same as the Sink Hole for the Comet, above.

Flare Star

Red super-giants and brilliant, violent blue stars tend to bathe their surrounding environments in intense heat which can suddenly elevate with devastating effect. Treat these environments as Hot even when they might not otherwise be (space near them is Hot, ships in orbit around them are Hot, a nearby asteroid belt is Hot, etc). Roll HT or HT-based Survival (Desert or Jungle) at -5 to endure the heat (once per hour, or once per minute in more extreme conditions). Add levels of Temperature Tolerance (Hot) to the roll. Failure reduces the maximum available Fatigue to the character until they have a chance to escape the heat (see “Heat” DF 16 page 30). Desert survival gear and vacc suits can reduce this, but even they suffer: roll at +5. Ships with full life support can keep relatively cool, but the increase in heat is noticeable even here (they won’t need to roll, but the GM might increase the fatigue cost of combat and such by 1 to reflect the additional heat).

Flare stares will brighten in intensity at irregular intervals. This can cause blindness unless someone has glare protection (which tends to be integral in most visors). Those without protect must roll HT or suffer blindness for a number of minutes equal to the margin of failure; those with protection must make the roll if the sun is in full view of them (they needn’t be looking directly at the sun, but facing it is enough), and characters without protection make the same roll at -10! Failure by 5 or more might make the blindness permanent at the GM’s discretion (this is generally true of NPCs, but often untrue of PCs). Even with protection during a flare, the brightness is so intense as to apply a -2 to all rolls to see.

Flares also disrupt electronics. Vulnerable devices might roll HT to resist the effect. Failure stuns them for a number of seconds equal to their margin of failure. Any vehicles with a lock or attempting to communicate must roll the appropriate specialization of Electronics Operations at -1 to -5 or lose their lock or communications.

A flare star is not “terrain” that someone can survive without some sort of nearby supporting environment (such as a debris field). It’s generally a modifier on existing space.

General Flare Star Conditions

  • Vacuum: Vacc Suit or pressure support required.
  • Microgravity: -4 to all DX rolls without Vacc Suit or Free-Fall skill.
  • Hot: Roll HT or lose fatigue.
  • Flares: During flare, electronics must roll HT or be stunned; roll Electronics Operations to maintain target lock or communication; roll HT or be blinded (-10 if directly facing the star). -2 to vision.

Specific Flare Star Perils

Fire (DF16 32): Intense pulses of heat can ignite fires on ships, or ignite a character on fire.

Nebula

The swirling dust of dead stars, or the cool mist of interstellar clouds of gases can obscure the stellar environment. This makes them extremely popular with pirates!
Treat these as unrealistic “space clouds” that hide things from view. Ships passing through them must actively roll Electronics Operations (Sensors) to gain target lock; furthermore, the nebula adds another -4 to -8 to detect ships or hit them with missiles. Communication through a nebula is also difficult, and requires an Electronics Operation (Comms) roll at -0 to -4.

Nebula are dark, which can prevent people from physically seeing other ships as well! Even the direct light of a star is muted in a nebula, applying a -3 in darkness penalties. In regions with only starlight, the darkness penalty rises to -9! Furthermore, the clouds themselves obscure vision, applying an additional -2 that will not benefit from night vision.
Ships may always attempt to hide in a nebula at no penalty.

General Nebula Conditions

  • Vacuum: Vacc Suit or pressure support required.
  • Microgravity: -4 to all DX rolls without Vacc Suit or Free-Fall skill.
  • Darkness: -3 in the light of a star, -9 otherise.
  • Obscured vision: -2.

Specific Nebula Perils

Ionic Lightning: Nebulae subject to hyperspatial storms often leak some of the energy of those storm with swirling gas and spears of “ionic” lightning. Against human-sized targets, you can treat this as lightning (6d(5) burn sur that ignores the DR of non-composite, non-diamondoid rigid armor). Against larger ships, these strikes deal as much damage as the GM likes (but typically roll 1d and take the result and roll that many dice as ×50(5) burn sur damage that ignores the DR of non-composite, non-diamondoid rigid armor). Targeted ships can attempt to dodge.

Ionic lightning also triggers a flare-like effect that doubles the penalties to communications, sensor locks and missiles during the minute that they strike.

Pulsars

The remnant of a star nearly massive enough, but not quite, to become a black hole, they manage to combine the worst of a flare star with a black hole.
Like a black hole, they churn the hyperspatial medium around them. This applies a -2 to all navigation rolls to escape them, and this often extends into the nearby constellation; a failed navigation roll often brings the ship to the Pulsar.

The churning gravity waves around a pulsar make the terrain count as Rough Terrain to vehicles. This stacks with other forms of rough terrain (such as debris fields).

Pulsars also flare. These flares are usually purely EMP in nature. They will not blind people, but they can destroy electronics. Vulnerable devices might roll HT-5 to resist the effect. Failure stuns them for a number of seconds equal to their margin of failure while failure by 5 knocks them unconscious for hours equal to the margin of failure. Any vehicles with a lock or attempting to communicate must roll the appropriate specialization of Electronics Operations at -5 to -10 or lose their lock or communications.

General Pulsar Conditions

  • Vacuum: Vacc Suit or pressure support required.
  • Microgravity: -4 to all DX rolls without Vacc Suit or Free-Fall skill.
  • -2 to Hyperspace Travel
  • Rough Terrain.
  • Flares: During flare, electronics must roll HT-5 or be stunned; roll Electronics Operations-5 to maintain target lock or communication.

Specific Pulsar Perils

Collapsar Lightning: During a pulsar flare, the twisted and fantastically powerful magentic fields might “snap,” especially if the “crust” of the pulsar is undergoing a “starquake.” This can unleash titanic energies, which can discharge as dramatic bolts of lightning striking nearby vessels. These deal as much damage as the GM likes (but typically roll 1d and take the result and roll that many dice as ×200(5) burn sur damage that ignores the DR of non-composite, non-diamondoid rigid armor). Targeted ships can attempt to dodge. These rarely strike human-sized targets, and instead tend to cripple dreadnoughts!

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