At the Heart of the Abyss
Ships are integral to the Mass Effect galaxy. They have even created a new level of social class stratification. There’s a divide between those who rarely or never set foot on a starship, and those who travel in them as a matter of course. Those who can’t get off-world have to wait for the galaxy to come to them. Those with ships can experience what they want, when they want it.
Ships are extremely expensive, but often are one of the best investments a person can make. While it’s true that Spectres usually are given or acquire a suitable ship through the militaries or other organizations that trained them, many choose to pick up a small second ship for emergencies or undercover work. Or perhaps they wish to add a personal fighter to the cargo bay of their official ship, giving them enhanced mobility and the ability to take out vehicles while down planetside.
Ships have different stats than characters do. Their stats are also on a completely different scale. A hand weapon is simply not going to do meaningful damage to a starship, especially one rated for combat. Ships routinely encounter small meteorites moving every bit as fast as a gun can accelerate its rounds.Hull Rating: This is the ship’s equivilent to Health. Larger ships and better armored ships have a higher hull rating. Ship combat is more simplified, so armor doesn’t reduce damage, just increases the overall punishment the ship can take. Hull rating is given as two numbers, the total hull rating, followed by the ‘breach’ number. Each time the ship takes damage that adds up to a multiplier of the breach, something bad has happened. Hull breach in a crew area, important subsystem hit, etc. The more damage the ship has taken, the worse those breaches get.
- The smaller a percentage of the total hull that the breach number is, the better armored the ship is. Ships like that take a few minor hits and a couple of fixable problems but come out of the combat fine. Ships with a breach that’s a high percentage of their total hull are in a bad way if they get damaged. When something goes wrong, it’s always something big.
- As an example: A sample ship has a Hull Rating of 100, and a breach rating of 20. As the damage piles upon the ship, the ship takes a dangerous breach at every multiple of 20. At 20 total damage, the breach isn’t so bad. Hull punctured in a storage area like the hold. At 40 it’s worse, crew compartment punctured, or shield generators down. Breaches at 60 would be really important systems like Life Support or the E-Zero core. At 80, pieces of the ship are getting sawed right off.
Shield Rating: Ships of course have shields. Even crappy little freighters can throw in a generator and some cheap projectors for minimal shields. The higher the shield rating, the better protected the ship is. Ship shields generally protect the entire ship until they are dropped by damage or a powerful enough mass effect field. They fail across the entire ship rather than in one area. Beam weapons deal half their damage to ship shields and half to the hull, as most of the beam can’t be stopped by a purely kinetic barrier. Luckily, beam weapons are extremely rare, being restricted to Prothean and Reaper technology.
Sensors: Sensors are easy to build, at least on the receptor end. Simply taking in information is something that technology long-ago mastered. The problem of what to do with that data is what separates good sensors from mediocre ones. Sensor systems are rated on the ability of their embedded VI system that sorts and presents the data to the operator. The better the VI, the more useful and well presented the data will be, allowing the operator to make better decisions faster. In game terms, the ship’s sensor rating is directly added to all rolls to determine what information the ship can get.
Maneuverability: The higher a ships maneuverability, the more successful a pilot can be when dodging projectiles, navigational hazards, or anything else the ship might run into. When performing a combat dodge, the pilot may never add more points to his roll than the ship has maneuverability. Enormous Dreadnoughts simply do not dodge. This also means that the best pilots are often put in fighters or at least frigates, as they are wasted on slow and clunky craft.Range: Range has two attributes, fuel and charge. Fuel is measured by the distance the ship can travel before needing more, in parsecs. A typical star-cluster within range of a Mass Relay is somewhere between 100 and 500 parsecs across. Most ships carry enough fuel for a FTL jump of 150-200 parsecs, making clusters of those size the norm in citadel space.
- Charge measures how far a ship can go before needing to discharge its drive core. The larger the ship, the more charge can be allowed to build up. Many underdeveloped systems with lackluster planets stay active simply because smaller ships must stop by to discharge their core as they cross the cluster. Core charge is easiest to drop if the ship can land on the surface of a planet, but it can also be discharged in the atmospheres of planets and gas giants.
- Getting rid of charge leaves a vessel vulnerable, with GARDIAN systems disabled and sensors powered down. It’s prudent to check for pirates before discharging in an uninhabited or lawless system.
- Damage is fairly straightforward, the stronger the laser the more it damages fighters and the faster it detonates incoming missiles. Against torpedo swarms, the system can generally kill 1 torpedo for every point of damage it outputs. Fighters take damage normally.
- Because the system is composed of many small lasers, damage can be spread out however the person programming the system desires. Most GARDIAN systems are set up to destroy all incoming torpedos first, and then apply any remaining damage to fighters in range.
- Heat tolerance is a two-number attribute. The first number indicates the weapon’s threshold for malfunction due to heat. The second number indicates how much heat builds up in a single round of firing the system.
- Each time a multiple of the first number is reached, the GARDIAN system gets a -2 to damage. If the heat builds up to five times the total threshold, the system fails and must be repaired before it will function again. Allowing the system to cool off for one round reduces the total heat by 1 point’s worth, unless a special cooling system has been installed.
- Example: A typical Turian GARDIAN system (the council space standard) deals 10 damage and has a heat tolerance of 10/3. Each time the system is fired at incoming fighters or missiles, it builds up 3 heat. On the 4th round of continuous use, the system begins to suffer heat degradation, reducing it’s damage to 8, making it less effective against missiles and fighters. If fired for 7 continuous rounds, the system would degrade further, reducing damage to 6. If the system were used constantly for 17 rounds without any breaks, it would shut down completely, and need to be repaired.
- Damage is of course the raw damage the gun is capable of. This damage is in ship-scale, anyone on the ground or in a light vehicle that gets hit by a ship’s main gun is dead, and probably atomized.
- Rate indicates how many rounds must pass between the gun being fired. A rate of 0 would mean the gun could be fired every round. A rate of 1 means every other round, and so on.
- Damage is of course the raw damage of the torpedo. This damage is ship scale, a torpedo on a ground vehicle or individual is lethal. Multiple torpedo impacts hit for their full combined damage. However, multiple impacts are rare, given the efficiency of most GARDIAN systems.
- Speed measures how fast the torpedo can be delivered to a target. For Fighters at point blank or short range, this usually doesn’t matter, a speed of 1 is sufficient. Torpedoes fired from ships need to move faster to be useful. Every point of speed is one point of distance that can be crossed in a single round. See below for how many spaces ship fight ranges take to cross.
- Point Blank: 1 – Short: 1 – Medium: 3 – Long: 5 – Extreme: 10
- Each range takes the full listed distance to cross. So firing a torpedo at a medium range target requires the torpedo to cross Point Blank, Short, and Medium ranges for a full 5 distance. Torpedoes are rarely if ever used at long range for obvious reasons.
- ECM is rarely used on fighter torpedoes but becomes a good investment when firing them from a frigate. Each point of ECM acts like ‘armor’, forcing the GARDIAN systems of ships to spend extra damage to kill the torpedo. A torpedo with an ECM of 1 requires 2 points of GARDIAN damage to kill. Because it makes sense to spend as little as possible on electronics for something designed to explode, torpedoes with an ECM of greater than 2 are extraordinarily rare.
Drones: Some ships are equipped with combat drones. The basic combat drone acts essentially like an unmanned fighter craft, usually armed with a small gun or laser. Combat drones are generally poorly armed and armored, and are more useful against poorly equipped ships like pirate craft than fully primed military vessels. Some races, notably the Asari, use ship-drones to supplement their GARDIAN systems.