There are many varieties of starships you can build or otherwise acquire.
Battleships hold the line of battle for major operations. They typically employ powerful main weapons and secondary weapons and are armored to the maximum available. They range from 100,000-200,000 tons.
- Dreadnoughts are the heaviest battleships, they mount similar main weaponry but have a larger capacity for secondary armament and are built to survive damage.
- Fast Battleships sacrifice some of the armor for speed/agility in combat.
- Strike Battleships sacrifice armor and weaponry for high jump range.
- Light Battleships sacrifice secondary weaponry for lower cost/size.
Cruisers are also considered capital ships. They are capable of standing in combat against anything but a battleship. In theory multiple cruisers can overcome a lone battleship, but that situation is not ideal. Usually cruisers have the same or greater range than battleships of the same tech level. They range from 25,000-75,000 tons. Light Battleships, Heavy Cruisers and Battlecruisers all tend to blur together in size and mission.
- Battlecruisers mount the best weaponry available but without the same (or sometimes any) armor protection. They are intended to destroy battleships but do not have high survivability against them.
- Heavy Cruisers are the top end of the cruiser size usually well armored and with the best primary weapons for their tech level.
- Fast Cruisers sacrifice armor and weaponry for speed/agility.
- Strike Cruisers have very high jump range but sacrifice everything else to make that.
- Light Cruisers are cheaper, smaller versions of cruisers.
Carriers are ships designed to carry other ships, usually fighters.
Typically they cannot land or skim fuel and depend on their carried ships or tankers to refuel them. They can fight a little but typically require escorts for defense as they typically remain behind the main battle lines as they launch and recover fighters. They range from 50,000-200,000 tons.
- Tenders are very large ships that carry multiple battle riders from 10,000 – 50,000 tons. Battleriders do not carry jump drives and are more effective in combat than similar sized jump-capable craft. This design works better at higher tech levels.
- Fleet Carriers mount a significant main gun and sort of operate like an unarmored cruiser in support of their fighter brood.
Armored Carriers have improved survivability but shorter range, they carry fewer fighters and launch them more slowly.
- Fast Carriers carry fewer fighters and less armament but have improved speed and agility.
- Light Carriers carry smaller numbers of fighters at minimal expense.
- Strike Carriers have a high jump range but sacrifice defenses for this.
Escorts include Destroyers, Frigates, Corvettes and Light Escorts.
These represent ships under 25,000 tons. They are not usually effective against capital ships but they provide basic defense against ships of their own size and fighters.
- Frigates are at the top end of the size scale, being slightly smaller than cruisers, and undergunned by comparison, but faster. Some frigates are more cruiser than escort and there is some overlap there.
- Destroyers are the next largest in size, they get up to about 20,000 tons. Typically they have a large main weapon which makes them worthwhile in capital ship combat. There are also armored destroyers which are slower but with better survivability.
- Destroyer Escorts are smaller destroyers that lack the main spinal weapon and are kept to fill out the battle line and defend against fighter attack.
- Gunship Escorts are useful as anti-fighter craft.
- Corvettes are good for customs inspections, piracy suppression and patrol. They are larger, faster versions of light escorts.
- Fast escorts are smaller ships used as protection for Civilian Ships and sometimes tasked with hunting down SDBs for a larger fleet. They are often coopted as privateering vessels, commerce raiders or the like.
Auxiliaries are other types of military or quasi-military craft
- Couriers handle messages to and from the fleet.
- Tankers carry fuel for other ships so they don’t have to refuel at a hostile gas giant or enemy world.
- Military Transports carry troops to either reinforce or attack.
- Scouts are small ships that scan systems for information and evidence of activity from other powers.
- Scout Tenders handle and deploy scout ships.
- Hospital Ships treat wounded after a battle.
System Defense Boats (SDBs) are combat ships that are not jump-capable. They reside in a system and defend it against attackers. Often they are pre-hidden in the system in places where they may not be detected.
- Monitors are system-bound heavy warships that are similar to cruisers in size but capable of trading fire with battleships. They
often have planetoid hulls. The difference between a Monitor and a Battlerider is often a matter of designation.
- SDBs are smallish ships that tend to have one decent attack and rely on surprise.
- Heavy SDBs are larger escort-sized vessels that are more survivable but also rely on surprise.
Small Craft by definition are under 100 tons. These vessels are either carried by other ships or used within a planetary system. These come in various types, only the most important are below.
- Shuttles move things from a ship to a world surface or vice versa. They are usually carried on ships that are unstreamlined for this purpose. These come in a variety of types, the larger ones are just called shuttles, smaller ones are called launches, gigs, ships boats, etc. and there are slight differences between each type.
- Ortillery Torpedoes are ten to twenty-ton nuclear missiles designed for precision aiming and destruction. These can be launched from somewhere else within the system and aimed at the enemy’s main-world. They are also effective against ships but are somewhat easy to shoot down. Using these weapons to bombard a world is banned by treaty, but building them is not,
- Fighters come in a wide variety of types. In combat they are used to screen allied ships while providing too many targets for the
enemy to engage all at once. They have an advantage in that a capital ship’s primary weapon can only hit one of them at a time. They are most useful grouped in squadrons of ten.
Civilian ships are nonmilitary craft, typically trading vessels. Some are modestly armed because there are pirates in a few places in the sector. Your fleets are likely to encounter these in their travels and unless they are provoked or have orders to the contrary they will ignore them. You can acquire used models of these for about half the cost of a new one, or you can build your own for whatever purpose you desire.
The Consortium Catalog gives various stats for each type of vessel.
Size: This is the hull size given in displacement tons (metric tons of hydrogen displaced by the ship). Hull size determines the number of weapons the ship can carry as well as the amount of power needed to move the vessel.
Configuration: This determines the vessel’s streamlining or lack thereof. Configurations 1, 2 and 6 can skim fuel and land and refuel from oceans. Configurations 3, 4, and 5 can skim fuel only. Configurations 7, 8 and 9 cannot enter an atmosphere at all. Both 8 and 9 are planetoid hulls.
Jump: This is the ship’s jump number 1-6. (See the sidebar, page 2.)
Maneuver: Ships have a Maneuver Drive that is rated 1-6. This indicates the number of “Gs” of acceleration the ship can perform. This doesn’t really matter in combat unless the drive is destroyed, then the ship is dead in space. The Maneuver factor of the ship is also the maximum limit of her agility. (See the sidebar, page 13.)
Power/Agility: At TL 9 or more the ship has a fusion powerplant. The ship’s power capacity is rated relative to the drives. This level is at least the same as the jump or maneuver capacity and is usually more.
Excess power goes to boost agility.
Agility: This represents leftover power in the ship design that allows the ship to undertake maneuvers relative to other ships. The maximum obtainable agility is 6.
High tech warships represent a tradeoff between weapons that drain power and maximized agility. Missiles and sandcasters take no
power, so a ship armed with missiles and sandcasters is by and large more agile than one armed with something else.
If a ship is fleeing combat or pursuing another vessel it can deactivate its power-using weapons to boost agility to equal the maneuver rating.
Computer: All ships have a computer except for some civilian small craft that have minimal operating capabilities. Computer models are numbered on a relative scale from 1 to 9. The quality of a ship’s computer is directly related to its offensive and defensive performance in combat.
Most military computers have a fiber-optic backup (with the suffix “fib”) to allow the computer to ignore radiation damage. Most starships have at least one backup computer and most military ships have two.
Weapons: Spacecraft have several types of weapons, both offensive and defensive. The weapons are arranged into batteries and the quality of those batteries is expressed by a factor 1-9. The higher the factor, the more effective the weapon is at achieving hits and penetrating defenses. Spinal mount factors exceed 9 and go all the way through 27 (using letters from A-T excluding I and O). A factor T gun is better than factor S, etc.
Most warships will have a spinal mount as the primary armament and a series of bays containing some kind of secondary weapon at the
highest factor available. The remaining weapons will be contained in small turrets and are considered tertiary weapons. The turrets are organized into batteries of many weapons that are numbered with factors relative to other weapon types.
- Missiles come in two types, high explosive and nuclear. Nobody is likely to use high explosive missiles in this campaign except for civilians you may encounter. Nuclear missiles do both surface and radiation damage to ships they hit. Big starships can fire some very damaging missiles, so many different systems are designed to deflect or neutralize them. They operate at both short and long range.
- Lasers come in two types, beam and pulse. These fire at any range and do only surface damage. After Tech Level 13, they are typically more useful as defensive weapons for shooting down incoming missiles but fighters with lasers are effective at hurting other fighters. Beam lasers have a slightly higher factor, but pulse lasers do slightly more damage.
- Energy weapons come in two types, plasma and fusion. These fire a stream of superheated gas at a target. There is really no practical difference between these and lasers except they penetrate sand slightly more often and only work at close and short range, though again they are often used to shoot down missiles.
- Particle Accelerators fire proton streams at targets. These do surface and radiation damage and can fire at any range. There is no defense against particle accelerator fire. Large ships can mount heavy spinal particle accelerators that are very formidable in combat. Smaller particle accelerators are very effective at killing crew members, however heavy armor can defeat them entirely.
- Meson Guns accelerate packets of subatomic mesons that explode within a target causing an internal explosion and radiation damage. Notably they pass through any kind of armor or physical material so they are very difficult to defend against. They are often built into powerful spinal mounts. Overall they are more powerful than particle accelerators but they can be defended against
with meson screens. At every tech level the availability of meson guns is in a relative arms race with the quality of the meson screens. Ships with dispersed structure unstreamlined designs are somewhat better at avoiding damage from meson guns.
- Sandcasters are purely defensive turret mounted weapons that fire canisters of reflective and ablative material that blocks laser and energy fire and obscures the ship against missiles.
- Repulsors are gravitic beams that deflect and destroy incoming missiles. At close range, Repulsors can find some use as offensive weapons against smaller ships like fighters.
Screens: Two types of forcefields surround and protect most warships. These are pretty important to defense and many ships carry backup screens.
- Meson screens are described in the Meson Gun section above.
- Nuclear dampers protect the ship against nuclear explosions by neutralizing missiles that get past the lasers and sand. These do not help against high explosive missiles.
Armor: Ships with armor take less damage than ships without armor. It also gets cheaper and lighter at higher tech levels. The advantage an armored vessel has over an unarmored vessel cannot be overstated, but armor is very expensive and takes up a lot of space. As mentioned above, armor is not effective against meson guns. Planetoid hull ships have additional armor from the excess rock.
Crew: Ships carry crew members relative to the size of their components. Crew are obtained for free at your world’s naval base.
Certain commanders may positively or negatively enhance the performance of the crew on their own ship.
The crew can be hit and damaged in combat like any other ship system. This represents dead, wounded or ineffective crew members.
A ship with a damaged crew is worse at everything. A frozen watch, if the ship has one, can be revived to “repair” crew damage.
Frozen Watch: A Frozen Watch consists of reserve crew members kept in suspended animation to assist with specific tasks at
specific times or as replacements for crew casualties sustained during combat. Typically only capital ships maintain these. A ship may have multiple frozen watches which means it is equipped to replace its crew multiple times.
Troops: Military ships usually carry troops. These come in three flavors, Marines, Troops and Security crew.
- Marines are elite naval soldiers armed with energy weapons and power armor and trained for boarding actions. They cost one million credits each. In combat, Marines always attack first, but they also die first (Oorah!)
- Troops are soldiers from the world’s army. They are armed with military grade weapons and armored. They are free because the army’s budget pays for them, but the ship needs to have accommodations for them. Troops attack second and die second.
- Security Crew are naval personnel that provide security aboard ships. They are armed with various small arms and wearing vacc suits. They are also free but have to be accommodated on a ship. They are the last to attack and die in boarding actions.
In a boarding action a ship can dispatch any marines, troops or security crew and they will likewise defend against boarding actions on their own ship. Regular non-security crew will also fight to repel boarding actions but many of them aren’t armed so don’t expect much. Only disabled ships can be boarded so this doesn’t happen all that often.
Flight Deck: Starships usually carry other ships for various reasons. A vessel that mentions it has a flight deck shows what is typically carried but these have to be purchased separately. Optionally, a ship maybe fitted out with different craft that will take up the same amount of space. A deck that holds 10 20-ton fighters could instead hold 4 50-ton fighters or 4 50-ton cutters.
Fuel: Ships use liquid hydrogen for fuel to supply their fusion powerplants. Most of the fuel is required for jump but starships need to also be able to fuel their powerplant for 30 day. If the design has Fuel Scoops it can draw fuel from a gas giant. If it is also streamlined it can refuel from an ocean. Ships that are low on fuel can go into low power consumption mode, meaning they reduce their powerplant to 1, enough to keep the heat and lights on and keep people sticking to the deck and
Passengers: Ships that can carry passengers usually are civilian models. Passengers usually get a pretty decent sized stateroom. A military ship that has passenger space uses that for something specific. As a rule, a passenger’s stateroom can be occupied by two troops if a civilian craft is pushed into military service.
Cargo: This could become important if something needs to be moved. Notably cargo space cannot be used to transport fuel without permanent conversion and usually cannot be used to transport other ships (unless specified in the comments). It can be used for troops on a very temporary basis (not for a week in jumpspace) at a rate of four troops per ton.
- See also Naval Doctrine
- See also Civilian Ships
- See also Maneuver Drives
- See also Space Combat
- See also Frozen Watch