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Chapter 4: Running Starship Campaigns / Space Hazards / Stellar Phenomenon

Asteroids and Debris

Source Starship Operations Manual pg. 134
Though they’re one of the most mundane aspects of space, chunks of floating rock can nonetheless have a dramatic impact on starship operation and combat. Even clouds of small pebbles can jam engines, throw weapon systems out of alignment, and disrupt sensitive sensor equipment. Larger asteroids, especially with significant velocity, can obliterate smaller starships and cause significant damage to larger ones. The biggest asteroids blot out entire hexes of space, creating obstacles that starships must weave through but can use as cover during combat. Large, stationary asteroids also make good locations for orbital weapon platforms.

Asteroids generally take up 1 hex on the grid; larger asteroids can be represented by filling two or more adjacent hexes. Traveling through an asteroid’s space is generally possible, but a starship risks taking damage when it does so. A starship’s direct-fire weapons can’t pass through an asteroid’s space, but tracking weapons can move to avoid striking one.

When either a starship or an asteroid enters a hex occupied by the other, the pilot must attempt a Piloting check (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × the starship’s tier), with the ship taking 4d6 damage in a random quadrant and the ship’s facing changing by 1 turn in either direction (determined randomly) on a failure. Moving asteroids deal an additional 1d6 damage per 2 hexes they move on the round that they collide, and the DC of the Piloting check to avoid a collision with a moving asteroid increases by 5.

If a ship collides with an asteroid or hits it with a starship weapon attack (AC 5 and TL 5) that would deal at least 1 Hull Point of damage, that hex of the asteroid is destroyed and all adjacent hexes are sprayed with rock fragments, dealing 4d4 damage unless an affected starship’s pilot succeeds at a Piloting check to avoid the debris (DC = 10 + 1-1/2 × the starship’s tier).

Comet: This chunk of icy mass flies through space, leaving a trail of ice and gas behind. You can simulate a comet with a single large asteroid moving across the grid over the course of several rounds, trailed by a micrometeoroid cloud (see below) that represents the icy fragments making up the comet’s tail.

Fast-Moving Asteroids: These large groupings of asteroids travel together, usually caused by an explosion, a collision of larger asteroids, or a massive gravitational body pulling them out of orbit. At the beginning of combat, these asteroids start on one edge of the map and take up 1 hex each; place the asteroids farther apart than if you were using stationary asteroids. At the end of each helm phase, move each asteroid across the map in the same direction. Asteroids should always move in a straight line at a consistent speed, but they don’t all need to move at the same speed. For a sustained asteroid storm, randomly place new asteroids at the edge of the grid after moving the asteroids that are already on it.

Magma-Filled Asteroid: This asteroid forms when a globule of molten rock is exposed to the void of space, and its liquid magma core becomes encased in an obsidian shell. When a starship takes damage upon colliding with such an asteroid, the shell cracks, releasing roiling magma into all adjacent hexes. The colliding starship and all starships within 1 hex of the asteroid take 4d8 damage to a random quadrant. In addition, a starship can shoot at a magma-filled asteroid (AC 5 and TL 5); a hit with any weapon that would deal at least 1 Hull Point of damage punctures the obsidian shell and imparts the shot’s momentum, causing magma to hurl violently into space and deal 4d8 damage to starships in adjacent hexes (instead of the normal 4d4 damage). Exceptionally hot asteroids could deal even greater amounts of damage upon impact or when destroyed, whereas asteroids whose interiors have lost most of their heat over time typically deal less damage.

Massive Asteroid: A massive asteroid can be represented by 10 or more individual asteroids or by simply filling up an entire section of the combat grid with the asteroid. Asteroids of this size are impassible—starships can’t enter their space— so they’re useful as outer bounds to a battlefield. Space battles over the entrance to an asteroid mine, perhaps guarded by orbital weapon platforms, make a great backdrop to an epic starship confrontation.

Micrometeoroid Cloud: Tiny pieces of debris regularly strike a starship during space travel, bouncing off its shields and hull to no effect. However, traveling through a large cloud of such debris can overwhelm a starship’s conventional defenses and deal real damage. Mark hexes of micrometeoroid clouds on the grid; the hexes should be in groups of 4 to 7, with 2 to 3 hexes of space between them, and should take up no more than roughly a quarter of the total grid. If a starship flies through 1 or more of these hexes, it takes damage to its forward quadrant equal to 1d4 per micrometeoroid hex it flies through plus 1d4 for every 2 hexes the ship moved that round in total. Damage from micrometeoroid clouds has the ripper weapon special property. Moving clouds of micrometeoroids can be implemented in much the same way as fast-moving asteroids (page 134) and might even be a precursor to a larger asteroid event.

Other Debris: Other solid objects in space such as derelict ships, ice rings, and fields of debris from recent battles can pose similar threats to active starships. Use whatever rules are most analogous to your chosen phenomenon.