Spaceships are cool and pretty much a mainstay in most sci fi genres that don't focus exclusively on planet-side adventures. There's just something awesome about zooming through space, smuggling stuff, fighting bad guys, and sleeping with green skinned alien octopi that just reeks of awesome. So it does kind of suck when you can't really get a space ship at level one without pooling everyone's cash together, which can be quite a burden. I wonder, is having a spaceship at level one so unbalancing?
|Frigate from Homeworld 2|
Thinking on it, spaceships can be a lot of things to the players. Obviously, it's a way to get from point A to point B. It's your base of operations that can fly around, which is cool. Occasionally, it's a set piece of an adventure, like if a monster sneaks on your ship, or pirates board you. And then there's the weapons and such for space combat. Which, at level one, a ship with enough weapons to protect them from some pirates seems reasonable. But really, there isn't anything that would greatly disrupt a campaign or give players a huge advantage over their enemies at level one. Certainly, there is something cool about earning your first spaceship after level one, but I also like the idea of just starting on one.
We can take some cues from modern cars on how to make it work. For cars, you generally won't pay off a new car in full. You pay it off in installments. This could actually be the source of adventure, especially if the players bought from a less-than-reputable ship dealer. Make enough money smuggling to pay off your ship and not have Jabba the Hut make you sleep with the space fishes seems like a great start to a campaign.
And then there are used ships. Rickety ships that are older models of contemporary ships are a perfect starter vehicle for players. For this, drop the price by 33% of a ship, but every so often, the GM rolls on the Minor Damage Effect in White Star Companion to see what goes wrong. Or, drop the price by 66% for a real clunker and roll on the Moderate Damage Effect every so often. The tables are reprinted below.
Minor Damage Effect
- -1 to Armor Class
- -1 to Movement
- -1 to targeting
- -1d6 to one on-board weapon's damage
- Shields don't regenerate for 1 round
- FTL Drive stalls for 1 round
Moderate Damage Effect
- -2 to AC
- -2 to Movement
- -2 to Targeting
- One on-board weapon is disabled
- Shields do not regenerate for 1d6+1 rounds
- FTL drive stalls for 2d6 rounds
I think combining both of these can open up some really options for players that want a starship at level one. And with the "character flaws" the ship will have, it makes things more interesting in the game and can lead to some more cool adventures.