Making NPC Starships

In the new Star Trek Adventures game from Modiphius Entertainment, your crew will probably be spending as much time on away missions as they will onboard their starship. Previously, I went through the process of making your very own spaceframe and last week I laid out guidelines for making new adversaries. Today those two missions come together with guidelines for making new NPC ships to challenge your players.

I might say “crash together” because the numbers for NPC starships are much, much more chaotic than those for new species, spaceframes, or NPCs. I put everything together in a spreadsheet and tried to pull apart all the knots but there turned out to be much more extra bits this time. I think I have a system that works for creating balanced and effective NPC ships but just know up front that this is going to take more artistry than my previous articles.

Also, following up on my practice run making a Breen H’ren as a new adversary, I’ll make a Breen warship as an example here of how things come together. There’s no class name given for these ships in the series but the Fires of Armageddon sourcebook for Decipher’s Star Trek RPG calls them Chel Grett warships (a name that Star Trek Online also uses). In the absence of other names, I’ll use that one.

Picking Scale

Like the type of adversary you’re designing, an NPC ship’s Scale is the most important decision as it decides most everything else you’ll be figuring out here. There’s a great guide to Scale on page 215 of the Star Trek Adventures rulebook but in a nutshell there are Scale 1-2 shuttles/fighters, Scale 3-6 capital ships, and then Borg ships that are super big and break all the rules.

Example: In Deep Space Nine, the Breen warships looks bigger than the Galor-class Cardassian ships but not as big as the Jem’Hadar battle cruisers. I think Scale 5 sounds just right for this ship, since it can probably hold its own against a Vor’cha attack cruiser.

Star Trek - Enterprise NXT
Image © Paramount Pictures

Systems and Departments

This is where things get very messy. I gathered all the data into a spreadsheet and found a trendline that stands up reasonably well so even though it’s complicated you can use this equation get pretty close: Systems Total = 34 + (4 x Scale). This give you the following results, with the averages of published ships at that scale to the right.

Scale

Calculated Total

Average of Actual Ships

1

38

38

3

46

47

4

50

48

5

54

54

6

58

59

Likewise, you can use this equation to get the total for your Departments, or at least pretty close. Departments Total = 8 + Scale. This gives the following results but they don’t work for shuttles and fighters of Scales 1 and 2 (more on them later).

Scale

Calculated Total

Average of Actual Ships

3

11

12

4

12

12

5

13

13

6

14

14

To test out these equations, let’s try them for the Borg vessels which clearly break the mold in terms of calculating stats. These are a test of sorts because they aren’t included in calculating the equations so they can tell us how well the system holds together in new situations.

Ship

Scale

Calc. Systems

Actual Systems

Calc. Dept.

Actual Dept.

Borg Sphere

7

62

65

15

18

Borg Cube

13

86

70

21

18

So… It could be better, I guess. We’ve got neat numbers above and I recommend using them to get you in the ballpark but remember that even with a nice trendline this is far more art than science. I will say, though, that all the non-Borg ships fit within ±1 of the calculated Departments total for each Scale and within ±3 of the calculated Systems total for each Scale, so I don’t think I’m totally off here.

Example: My Chel Grett warship should have about 54 points in Systems and about 13 points in Departments. I’ll give it Comms 9, Computers 8, Engines 9, Sensors 8, Structure 10, and Weapons 10 for Systems and I’ll give it Command 3, Conn 2, Security 4, Engineering 2, Science 1, and Medicine 1 for Departments.

Crew

Crews come in three different experience levels from what we’ve seen: Proficient, Talented, and Exceptional. These correspond to the chart found on page 225 of the Star Trek Adventures rulebook, a chart which also includes a Basic crew level. No ships in the published material have a Basic crew and only the Vor’cha Attack Cruiser and the Borg have Exceptional, so use both of those levels sparingly. I guess you could have a Hopeless crew (Attribute 7, Discipline 0) but going lower than that begs the question of how that ship left drydock in the first place. You probably don’t want to go above Exceptional either, unless you think your crew is more integrated and responsive than a Borg hive mind…

Example: I want my Breen warship to have a really top-notch crew since they are supposed to be a very formidable enemy. They’ll have an Exceptional crew like the Vor’cha Attack Cruiser.

Star Trek - Space Station K-7
Image © Paramount Pictures

Bits and Pieces

Next there are three items that fall neatly into place from the decisions made above. After all the chaos of the steps above I really expected this to be a mess too but they pretty much follow the rules for calculating these items that are provided for PC ships.

  • Power: Always equal to Engines
  • Shields: Structure + Security (almost always)
  • Resistance: Always equal to Scale.
  • Tractor Beam: Strength always equal to Scale minus 1.

You’ll also want to give it a Trait as well, which is usually just the species name and the type of ship. When in doubt, use broad strokes.

Example: The Chel Grett warship has Power 9, Shields 14, Resistance 5, and Tractor Beam Strength 4. Its Trait will be Breen Warship.

Weapons

NPC Ships have two weapons, or three if they’re particularly belligerent (or Ferengi, I guess). Just like adversaries, having more weapons just means there are more choices and you want things flowing quickly as a GM. Check your background information about what sorts of armaments the ship might have and then use the information on pages 253-255 of the Star Trek Adventures rulebook for the stats of each weapon.

Example: The Breen ship will have good old disruptor banks and plasma torpedoes.

Talents

Whoo boy, we’re back to chaos. I’ll just cut to the chase with these: pick 0-2 Talents for the ship and call it a day.

Talents are all over the board and don’t seem tied to Scale or even to function. The Scale 5 Vor’cha-class Attack Cruiser, for instance, has two Talents while the Scale 6 D’deridex-class Warbird has none. And before you think maybe it’s an age thing (newer ships have more Talents) the old school B’rel-class Bird-of-Prey has a Talent and the new, shiny Jem’Hadar Attack Ships have none. So, just pick what you think works but know that two Talents is a lot.

Example: I’d like the Breen ship to be a big threat because it can cripple enemy ships and slice through defenses. This is what we see them doing during the Dominion War after all so I’ll reflect it here with the Fast Targeting Systems Talent.

Special Rules

It also doesn’t seem that the design process weighs Talents against Special Rules at all since there are ships ships like the Jem’Hadar Battle Cruiser with three special rules and one Talent alongside ships like the Galor-class Cruiser with not a Talent or Special Rule to its name. Aside from cloaking devices, though, Special Rules are much rarer for NPC ships than for NPC themselves so don’t feel like you have to come up with any either.

Example: There are maybe special cold weapons used by the Breen and they might have unique weapons systems according to some novels but there’s nothing I’ve seen that necessitates a special rule. Of course, if you’re using the Breen during the Dominion War then it’s definitely appropriate to give them the Dominion’s Anti-Cloak Sensors and Jamming Systems… but that’s for future me to worry about.

Star Trek - Breen Warship
Image © Paramount Pictures

Conclusion

And there you have it! A Breen starship ready to go. Feel free to use the collected stats below in your campaign and tell me if you have any improvements!

Breen Chel Grett-class Warship

Trait: Breen Warship

Systems: Comms 9, Computers 8, Engines 9, Sensors 8, Structure 10, Weapons 10

Departments: Command 3, Conn 2, Security 4, Engineering 2, Science 1, Medicine 1

Power: 9 | Scale: 5 | Shields: 14 | Resistance: 5

Crew: Exceptional (Attribute 11, Discipline 4)

Weapons

  • Disruptor Banks (Energy, Range Medium, 10d Vicious 1)
  • Plasma Torpedoes (Torpedo, Range Long, 6d Persistent 8, Calibration)
  • Tractor Beam (Strength 4)
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3 thoughts on “Making NPC Starships

  1. I thought STA was trying to be more narrative…this comes off being almost Traveller-like in it system-engineering approach. Doesn’t seem very useful for on-the-fly creation…meaning more prep time?

    Like

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