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The Starfarer* Player's Guide

Version 0.2OL: Online version
(Artwork by Kedamono, provided courtesy of the artist)
The following material, the Starfarer system, is Copyright 1997,1998 by Alan D. Koher.

*Formerly SAGE, Space Adventure Gaming Engine

STARFARER:
Space Adventure Gaming Engine
 

Chapter 1: Character Generation

1.1 Basics
 

Starfarer is a set of gaming mechanics made for use with science fiction settings based in a universe in a fictional future of the Earth. Characters in Starfarer are described in terms of several statistics, falling into smaller categories of attributes, skills, abilities, perks, and drawbacks.

Attributes are traits that every living, sapient being has to some extent; they describe the physical and mental makeup of the character. For example, strength, charisma, and willpower are all attributes.

Skills are abilities of a character that reflect some knowlege or training the character has received, such as piloting, martial arts, or nuclear physics.

Attributes and skills are collectively known as traits, and are generally described by numbers. These numbers are on an approximate scale of 1 to 10, with 5 being considered average. For more on how attributes and skills work, see chapter 2.

Advantages describe special characteristics or aptitudes the individual may have that are not shared by all beings, and may not be easily learned or attainable. Advantages are divides into 3 major categories: Abilities, Perks, and Psionics.

Abilities are special enhancements or gifts the character may have that sets apart from other members of their species. If the PC is a non-human race, abilities may further encompass traits characteristic of the race that lend them some advantage over humankind; such abilities are further called xeno-abilities. Other abilities might be granted a member of a race via genetic engineering; these are called geno-abilities. A given ability might fall into any or all of these categories. Examples of abilities are acute hearing, large frame, and absolute direction.

Perks are a consequence of the character's financial, social, or political position, and could include cyberware, physical possessions (such as, perhaps, a starship), military rank, noble title, social connections and acquaintances, or simply cash in the bank.

Psionics are a special sort of skill that only certain characters have. They allow a character to perform uncanny feats that defy conventional science, such as communicating telepathically, predicting the future, viewing objects at a distance, or manipulating matter.

Finally, a character may have flaws. Flaws are negative characteristics that provide additional challenges to the character during the course of the game. Typical flaws include enemies, physical handicaps, unusual behaviors, or reputations.
 

1.2 Character points
 

A basic mechanic required for character creation is Character Points, or CPs. These are the "cash" with which players "buy" the attributes, skills, and abilities that their character has. More character points may be acquired to the beginning character by assigning them Flaws.

The GM must first make a determination about what general caliber of character he wants the characters to begin with. This is done by selecting a "proficiency level" (PL) of character, from 5 for wet-behind-the-ears youngsters, to 15 for seasoned veterans of their trade. The recommended (and assumed) starting proficiency level is 10, which is adequate for characters who are fairly young, but have some experience and training.

Once a level is determined, character points are assigned to 3 different categories, termed primary, secondary, and tertiary areas. The primary area receives ten (10) times the PL; the secondary area receives eight (8) times the PL; tertiary receives six (6) times the PL. The following table enumerates the CP for all PLs from 5 to 20. Note that the "Tertiary Area" points are also the maximum amount of points that can be derived from flaws.

The "Age modifier" is used when determining the characters' starting age.

 
 

Prof. Level (PL)
Primary Area
CPs
Secondary Area
CPs
Tertiary Area and
Maximum Flaw CPs
Age
Modifier
5
6
7
50
60
70
40
48
56
30
36
42
2d5
2d5
3d5
8
9
10
80
90
100
64
72
80
48
54
60
3d5
4d5
4d5
11
12
13
110
120
130
88
96
104
66
72
78
5d5
5d5
6d5
14
15
16
140
150
160
112
120
128
84
90
96
6d5
7d5
7d5
17
18
19
170
180
190
136
144
152
102
108
114
8d5
8d5
9d5
20 200 160 120 9d5

After the character points are determined, the player must assign one point total (primary, secondary, or tertiary) to attributes, one to skills, and one to advantages. The GM may require or restrict certain assignment scheme.

The conventions for buying attributes and skill levels are similar. Each level of skill costs the number of the new level of skill, assuming the character already has the preceding level of skill. As you don't always buy one level at a time when creating a character, the following table should be of some use when determining the costs of buying more than one skill at once:

Attributes use a similar mechanism, but a new level of attribute costs DOUBLE what a new level of skill would, i.e., 2x the number of the new level, or 2x the listed cost in table 2. Characters start with 4 in all attributes for free; this is taken into account in table 2 on trait costs.

Table 2 can also be used when buying specializations or psionics. Specializations cost 2x the cost listed for skills. Psionic primary skills also cost 2x the cost listed for skills. Psionic specializations cost 3x the cost listed for skills, plus a surcharge equal to the minimum level of the psionic skill it is based on. See section 1.4.3 for details on specialization and section 1.5.3 for details on psionics.
 

Table 2: Basic Trait Cost
 
Trait
Level:
Trait Cost (CPs):
Skills Attributes
1
2
3
1
3
6
-18
-14
-8
4
5
6
10
15
21
0
10
22
7
8
9
28
36
45
36
52
70
10 55 90

Table 3: Trait Improvement Cost
 
New Level
Current Level:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 1 3 6 10 15 21 28 36 45 55
1 - 2 5 9 14 20 27 35 44 54
2 - - 3 7 12 18 25 33 42 52
3 - - - 4 9 15 22 30 39 49
4 - - - - 5 11 18 26 35 45
5 - - - - - 6 13 21 30 40
6 - - - - - - 7 15 24 34
7 - - - - - - - 8 17 27
8 - - - - - - - - 9 19
9 - - - - - - - - - 10
Skills use the shown cost.

Attributes, skill specializations, and primary psionic skills are double the listed cost.

Psionic specializations are triple the listed cost, plus an initial surcharge equal to the minimum psionic skill level for the specialization.

When "selling back" attributes, switch the "current" and "new" level columns; the result is the points of flaws.
 

1.3 Attributes

Attributes are character traits that most sapient beings share to some extent. There are 9 attributes in Starfarer, which are:
 
Strength (STR)
Endurance (END)
Agility (AGL)
Dexterity (DEX)
Reason (RES)
Willpower (WIL)
Perception (PER)
Charm (CHM)
Essence (ESS)

Each of these attributes start out at a base of 4 with no cost. Using the cost scheme described in section 1.2, the player may raise any of these attributes, or may lower them to get a rebate. A summary of the cost (or rebate, if negative) is shown on the basic trait cost table (table 2).

With the GMs permission (ONLY), characters may buy attributes above 10. However, such attribute points cost 2x the normal cost for attributes (thus, raising the level of your strength from 10 to 11 would cost 2 x 2 x 11 points, or 44 points. Thus, if you wanted a starting character to start out with an 11 strength, that would cost you a total of 144 points - which is beyond the means of all but the most impressive starting characters.)

When a character "sells back" attribute points for a "rebate", those points are counted against the characters maximum flaw total.
 
1.4 Skills
 
Skills represent the character's training and experience. A skill can include such diverse things as a characters ability to pilot a space vessel, fire an energy cannon, or treat a wound.

Just as in the case of attributes, skills are represented by a number. However, while attributes are assumed to start out at a base of 5, the same cannot be said of skills - a 5 skill is considered to be a very competant level of skill for a character who would use that skill to earn their livelihood.
 
1.4.1 Default skills
 
All characters are assumed to have undergone some rudimentary form of secondary education at the least, in addition to having picked up a number of skills that are standard for a citizen in an interstellar society at no cost in CPs. These skills are:
 
Native Language: 5
Vehicle (either wheeled or GE): 3
Area knowledge - home planet : 3 (specialization - home region: 2)
Computer Operation: 3

Note that you may choose to "sell back" some of these skills and get extra character points, as listed on table 2, or spend points to increase these skills, also on table 2.
 
1.4.2 Selecting skills
 
Skills may be selected from the skill list. When doing so, the player must choose the level of skill he would like to have for each skill selected. When doing so, the table 2 is used to determine the cost in CPs for that level of skill.

Some skills are defined as being "categorical". These are listed in bold on the skill list. When selecting such a skill, the player must choose one of the categories (n.b. NOT specializations, which are different, see section 1.4.3). For example, a character buying pilot could select "wheeled", "GE", etc. Skill using one such type of vehicle may or may not imply ability with other categories, but usually does not - see the section on tasks.
 
1.4.3 Specialization
 
If a character already has a skill, they may select a "specialization" within that skill. What specializations are available are listed in the skill descriptions, but the GM may create more at his whim, or possibly at the request of a player...

Specializations have 2 restrictions. First, specializations may not exceed one half (round up) of the skill they are based on. Second, specializations cost double the amount of CPs that standard skills cost.

However there are two advantages to specializations. The first is that when a task being attempted falls into the specialization, the character gets to add the specialization skill level to the level of the skill it is based on. Although the cost of a specialization is higher than that of a regular skill, the cost of buying a skill level plus a specialization is usually less than buying a standard skill of the level of the total of the two.

The second advantage of specialization is that some types of equipment or tasks suffer a penalty if you do not have the appropriate specialization. Having the specialization offsets the penalty.
 
Example: Dan wishes for his PC, Desiree Leetah, to be skilled in martial arts and the MLA pistol. Martial Arts normally falls under "unarmed combat", MLA pistol normally falls under "Weapon - Pistol - Projectile". He decides to buy level 5 in Unarmed Combat (costing 15 points), plus a level 2 specialization in a martial arts style - Judo (costing 2 x 3, or 6 points). He also buys her level 4 projectile pistol (10 CPs) and level 2 specialization in MLA pistol (2 x 3 = 6 CPs).
 
When Desiree fires her MLA pistol, it will be as if her skill level was 6 (4 basic level in projectile pistol, plus 2 for her specialization).
 
When Desiree engages in unarmed combat, it will be under her basic level of 5 unless she attempts a judo maneuver. If attempting a judo maneuver, she will do so at level 7, and the fact that she has Judo specialization will offset any negative modifier for non-proficiency.
 
1.4.4 Limiting traits
 
All skills have limiting traits listed. For example any physicist is going to have to know some math; an professional gymnast must have a good agility trait. However, the detailed knowledge of a given skill tends to become more specialized at higher levels, so is less applicable to other fields, so only a portion of the limiting trait is required.

The skills list includes the limiting trait for each skill. If a skill has an attribute as a limiting trait, the character cannot have more CPs in the dependant skill than CPs that are devoted to the attribute. If the limiting trait is a skill, the character cannot have more than double (2x) the amount of CPs in the dependant skill.
 
1.2.1 Spending Limitations (Optional)
 
The GM may find that even with a relatively meager starting level, beginning characters can buy a singular very high skill level. While this may be theoretically possible in some societies, it's not too realistic in most societies. Accordingly, the GM may wish to limit the character's expenditure on any single skill to one-half that character's starting CPs in the skill area, not counting any points applied from disadvantages.
 
1.5 Advantages
 
As described earlier, advantages are characteristics that truly set the character apart from the norm, or (in some cases) are a consequence of being a member of an alien race or genetically engineered subspecies. Advantages are divided into the subcategories of abilities, perks, and psionics.
 
1.5.1 Abilities
 
Abilities describe special enhancements that the character may have that cannot be simply attributed to training in most cases. Usually these represent inborn traits or special talents, such as being born large, with acute hearing, or unusual toughness. A human will usually only allocate tertiary level points to abilities, unless they have massive genetic enhancements or psionic abilities. Other races may find themselves needing to buy abilities associated with their race.

Purchasing abilities is usually much easier than purchasing skills. The skill level chart is not used; rather the character simply selects an advantage - an possibly, there may be different levels of the same advantage - and pays the listed amount of CPs.

However, there are some restrictions. Standard abilities can be purchased by most characters at this point. Xeno-abilities can usually only be bought as part of an alien race template; Geno-abilities can usually be bought as part of a genetic subspecies template. Many abilities in the abilities list fit more than one of these categories; such abilities may be bought as part of the appropriate template, or normally during the character creation process. See section 1.9 on templates for more information
 
1.5.2 Perks
 
Perks are special benefits that the character enjoys, and includes such things as contacts, wealth, material possessions, military rank, noble titles, and cybergear.

Perks are much like abilities in that they are easy to purchase. Simply choose a perk from the list of perks, and pay the associated cost in CPs. Cyberwear also required a negative essence modification that must be noted as well.
 
1.5.3 Psionics
 
Note: Psionic abilities are not universally embraced by the SF community. Many SF writers and fans (the author included) feel that psionic abilities are apocryphal at best. However, psionics play a major part in many SF settings (e.g., Frank Herbert's DUNE) and I would be remiss in excluding them in an RPG that hopes to emulate a variety of science fiction settings. Accordingly, the following rules should be used (or altered) at the GM's discretion.
 
Psionics are special aptitudes and skills in those aptitudes, allowing the user to perform seemingly inexplicable feats by merely concentrating. Psionic abilities are treated similar to skills, with a few exceptions.

There are only a few psionic skills, being telepathy, extrasensory, psychokinesis, psychometabolism, and antipsionics. These are called primary psionics. These skills are bought in the same manner as normal skills, at double the cost.

Primary psionics are almost useless by themselves. The psionic character must also buy one or more psionic specializations in order to utilize their psionic skills. These psionic specializations are listed in the appendix. Unlike normal specializations, psionic specializations cannot normally be attempted if the character does not have the attendant specialization. In addition, psionic specializations have a minimum level in the related primary psionic required to take that specialization. Purchasing a psionic specialization costs 3x the cost of a normal skill, plus a number of CPs equal to the minimum level required in the primary psionic.
 
Example: John wish for his character, Drexel, to have the psionic specialization weapon bond. This is a specialization under the primary psionic skill psychometabolics. The minimum level in psychometabolics for the weapon bond specialization is 4. John must buy at least 4 levels of psychometabolics; John chooses to buy 5. It cost 15 points to buy a level 5 skill normally, so it costs 30 points to buy the level 5 psychometabolics. Now, he wants at least 3 levels in the weapon bond skill (the maximum he can buy with level 5 in the skill it is based on.) The normal cost for a level 3 skill is 6 points. It costs 3 times this, plus the minimum level (4) for the specialization, for a total of 22 points.
 
The total cost for these skills is 52 points--30 points for the level 5 psychometabolics, plus 22 points for level 3 in weapon bond.
 

1.6 Flaws
 
You will frequently find yourself wanting a few more points to bump a skill or attribute up or afford an expensive ability or perk. The solution to this situation is to voluntarily take one of more flaws. But points aren't the only reason to select flaws - player frequently find it more interesting to play a character that has a few flaws.

Flaws can include such things as physical aberrations, psychological conditions or hangups, enemies, and poverty. Selecting flaws is somewhat similar to selecting abilities and perks, but instead of PAYING the listed CPs, each flaw has a CP value that the character can spend on any of their other categories.

There is only one limitation on spending CPs from flaws--the character cannot spend more points on their secondary area than their primary area or attributes, nor can a character have more points in their tertiary are than their secondary area.
 

1.7 Leftover points and karma
 
If you have a few points left over, you have 2 options for how to dispose of them:

First, you may bank them on skills. You may transfer up to 5 points from any category to your skill category, and distribute those between any skills you have. While having an intermediate number of CPs from those listed on table 2 will not immediately raise a skill level, you may use experience during the game to raise a skill, and already having invested a few points will make it easier to advance the skill during the game.

The other option is that you may add leftover points in your Karma pool. All characters have a Karma Limit of 2x their modified Essence attribute. All characters start out with Karma points equal to their Karma Limit cross referenced on table 2. Any leftover CPs may also be added to the Karma total, but the Karma pool may never be greater than the Karma Limit.
 
Example: Dan has finished his character, Desiree Leehtah, and has 5 points leftover. Desiree's Essence is a base of 5, but due to cyberware penalties, Desiree's Essence has a -3 modifier, giving Desiree a modified essence of 2. Desiree's Karma Limit is only 4 (2x Desiree's modified Essence). On table 2, having a 4 Karma Limit only gives Desiree only 2 points in her Karma pool, so Dan can only put 2 CPs into the Karma pool, for a total of 4. The remaining 3 points must be put in skills. he devotes these CPs to Desiree's projectile pistol skill, which already has 10 points (level 5) in it. Now it has 13 CPs in it, and as soon as he can put 2 more points in it (for a total of 15), his skill will raise to a level of 5 - but that will take a few adventures...
 

1.8 Figured attributes
 
After you are done buying everything, there are a few attributes that are used for various mechanics during the game that must be figured.
 
1.8.1 The Simple Stuff

Can you add a few numbers together? If so, then you're almost done! The remaining derived attributes are just a sum of existing attributes. Where division occurs, (U) means round any fractions up to the nearest whole number, (D) means drop any fractions, and (N) means round normally (i.e., round up if the fraction is .5 or greater, otherwise round down.):
 
Mass: Size Mod + 6 (thus most humans are mass 6).
Karma Limit: 2x Essence (discussed in section 1.7).
Resilience: Mass + (Mstr+End)/3 (U).
Initiative: (Dex+Agl+Per)/2 (U).
Stun Limit: (End + Wil)/2 (U).
Shock Potential, Basic: (Mass+MStr+Wil+End)/3 (Retain Fractions)
x2, x3, x4, x5, x6: Multiply basic shock by the given number (N).
Move bonus: End + Agl + Move Skill, on cost chart.
Walking: ½ Mass + ½ x Move Bonus.
Running: ½ Mass + 4 x Move Bonus.
Sprinting: ½ Mass + 7 x Move Bonus.
Encumbrance: 2 x Mass + UStr
Starting Age: 13+Age modifier+age mod from multiple templates. See table (This may be different if you take the "Age" disadvantage or "prodigy" advantage).

1.8.2 Damage Tracks

Each character has a number of damage tracks, one for each body region (for human, these are head, chest, abdomen, right and left arm, and right and left leg.) Each track is divided into different wound levels: graze, light, medium, heavy, severe, and mortal/maim. The last category is called mortal if the area is a vital area (i.e., head, chest, and abdomen on humans) or maimed if not a vital area (limbs on a human).

Each damage span has a number of points in it equal to ½ of the character's mass characteristic. Thus, the high end of each span is figured as follows:

graze: mass / 2 (D).
light: mass
medium: mass x 1.5 (D)
heavy: mass x 2
severe: mass x 2.5 (D)
maimed: mass x 3

There is no upper limit to the mortal category. The lower limit to each category is the upper level of the previous category plus one. Mortal and maimed have the same lower limit, being that of the severe wound category plus one.

Most characters in Starfarer have between a -2 and a +4 size modifier (and thus a mass between 4 and 10.) Table 5 gives the spans for each wound level in this range, which should be sufficient for most PCs. Note that for some aliens, the spans will not be the same for all body parts, but for humans, they are.

Table 5: Damage Track Spans
 
Character's Mass. Damage span for given wound category
Graze Light Medium Heavy Severe Maimed Mortal
4 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 9-10 11-12 11+
5 1-3 4-5 6-8 9-10 11-13 14-16 14+
6 (Normal) 1-3 4-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16-18 16+
7 1-4 4-7 8-11 12-14 15-18 19-21 19+
8 1-4 5-8 9-12 13-16 17-20 21-24 21+
9 1-5 6-9 10-14 15-18 19-23 24-27 24+
10 1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21-25 26-30 26+
 

1.9 Templates (Optional)
 
At the GM's option, characters may be allowed to (or even required to) use number of templates (or even make up his own, suitable to the game he is running). These offer packages of skills, attributes, advantages and flaws that are consistent with a given character archetype, as well as describing special abilities unique to certain alien races. The GM may use such templates to either enforce some guidelines on skills the characters have (for example, if the adventure is a military expedition by the Coalition, the characters might all be required to take the "Coalition Marine" template) or simply to give the characters some direction.

A player selecting a template for their PC should write down all attributes, skills, advantages, and flaws listed in the template down along with the cost for each category. Then, there is a template bonus. This bonus is treated as a flaw (basically, you get a kickback for abiding by the strictures of the template). Note these "bonus" points DO count against your maximum number of points from flaws.

Note that in the case of attributes and skills, these traits are given in terms of CPs; this is because those who take multiple templates (such as in the case of aliens) must abide by the balooning cost scheme. For example, if you take a template that gives you 3 CPs in energy pistol, that would give you a skill level of 2 in energy pistol. If you take a second template with 3 CPs in energy pistol, that gives you a total of 6 CPs (i.e. level 3) in energy pistol, NOT level 4 in energy pistol.

Templates are divided into race (including xeno- or geno- ) templates and archetype templates. You may normally only take one race template (or, rarely, one xeno- and one geno-template), but may normally accompany this with an Archetype template. You may take more than one archetype template if the GM (and the number of points you have) allows, but there may be an age requirement. For the first archetype template, if the template "age modifier" is higher than the starting PL, use the age modifier number instead of PL when determining starting age (see section 1.8.3.)

If a second, or "supplemental"archetype template is taken, add the bonus to your starting age. Also, note that you don't get points for the "Age" flaw for this - that's part of the price you pay for getting the template bonus.
 

1.9.1 Designing new templates
 
The GM (or, at the GMs option, a player) may design new templates. If a player is allowed to design a template, it should not be considered a normal part of the character generation sequence, and the template should be usable for more than just that one character. And, of course, the GM has final say on the validity of any template.

The first step is to choose a number of attribute improvements, skills, advantages and flaws appropriate to the kit concept. Some of the traits may be chosen from a short list included in the template description (usually having 5 or less items). The costs for all selected characteristics is shown, and added up in each category - this makes it easy to apply the template to a character.

Then, the template bonus must be determined. Add up all categories except flaws. Cross reference the total against the "0" row of table 3; the result is the age modifier. If the template has no flaws, this number is also the template bonus and at this point you are done.

If the template does have flaws, add together all the flaw CPs (not including the template bonus, of course.) Cross reference this number with row 0 of table 2; the result is added to the age modifier to find the actual template bonus.
 

1.10 A note on character generation
 

Starfarer is a role-playing game, not a study course for budding accountants. While a fair amount of accounting goes on during generation, most of this goes away during the role-playing game.

What does this mean to you, the gamer? When you receive CPs during the game, they are part of "experience points". While you may use this to gradually improve your character, you do not balance CPs during the game whenver some bit of information about your character changes. For example, if you get your arm chopped off or earn the ire of a corporate exec, you dont spontaneously get CPs for "physical limitation" or "enemy". But on the bright side, if you finagle your way into something good, like winning the smugging ship "Centurian Eagle" in a game of trichip, or arange the downfall of your powerful corp exec enemy, then you don't have to cough up the CPs at that time.

Character generation rules are for GENERATING characters; there are some slightly different rules for experience. 'Nuff said.