Ship Modification

Serenity Ship Modification

Modifying ships can be done with points or money/labor or both. Doing the work yourself can reduce the cost by 25% to 50% but you have to have the right tools. Free parts (stolen or salvaged) can reduce the cost by 25 to 40%. You always have to spend some money, at least 10%. You can use skills and roleplay to get parts cheaper (“Roll your Willpower + Barter skill versus the salesman’s”) and salvaged parts that are free may lack reliability or come with their own complications. These rules work for vehicles as well.

Speed Class
Increasing Speed Class is very difficult, as it is the heart of the ship’s systems and power. Divide the cost (new) of a ship by its speed class and that’s your base cost, multiply by .75 then add 20%. For example, an Osprey costs 50,400 credits and has a Speed Class of 4. Raising its speed class 1 point would cost 11,340 Cr and be a major dockyard job. You would need to recalculate the ship’s systems tonnage and subtract that from available cargo.

Strength, Vitality and Willpower
These Attributes are also very difficult to increase. Strength generally cannot be raised at all because it is a measure of the ship’s size. Vitality and Willpower increases would involve structural modifications, redundant and back up systems installation and need major dockyard time and expenses as well. These would cost five to ten times the normal improvement cost (see below).

Agility, Intelligence and Alertness.
These are much easier to improve and could be done by a skilled crew with only a little outside assistance. They would be minor dockyard jobs at most. Increasing Agility involves adding more powerful or precise maneuvering thrusters. Intelligence is a better onboard computer, which will give the ship capacity for more skills. Alertness is better sensors.

Adding armor is also very difficult, at least double or triple the cost of the armor if it had been installed when the ship was built. Armor retrofitted to a ship would be a minor dockyard job and would probably have chinks and gaps. It may interfere with maneuvering and Agility. One point would not be so bad, but three layers added externally to the hull will definitely have an effect. Retrofit armor for an Osprey would cost at least 2,000 Cr per point.

Some things just can’t be changed
There are some things you can’t add to the ship later as improvements. Nimble(Atmo) cannot be added because it involves major changes to the ship’s fuselage. Same for Nautical. Strength is a measure of the ship’s size/tonnage and can’t really be changed. If a ship is close to the rating, you might be able to add or remove some hull sections to change the size by maybe 20%, but the results would not be pretty. For an example, think of Reaver ships. Imagine an Osprey with her belly cut away, removing the cargo deck completely…That kind of hack job will definitely have complications. And speaking of…

Balancing improvements and new Assets with Complications.
When doing a character or designing a new ship, Assets and Complications can be used to balance things at no extra cost. But improving an existing ship will ALWAYS involve some monetary cost. Taking a new minor Complication to balance a new minor Asset will reduce the cost up to 50% at the GM’s discretion.

Costs of improvements or “Put that in Captain dummy talk”

Divide the ship’s new cost by her Complexity. This is the amount per point of Attribute or Asset improvement. For example, an Osprey’s Complexity is 30, dividing that into her cost gives 1,680 Cr per point. Raising her Alertness one step or buying a minor Asset would be two points or 3,360 Cr. A major Asset would be 6,720 Cr. Doing the work yourselves cuts the cost in half. Free or salvaged parts reduce it at least 25%. Failed rolls can result in extra cost. Botches can result in losing all money spent and starting over.
Okay, what if you want a Complication to balance an Asset? They should be related. For example;
if you are upgrading a ship with Fast Throttle advantage, you could take Gas Guzzler as a balancing disadvantage and the monetary cost would be reduced by up to half. Or possibly the Memorable or Ugly as Sin complication could be used because the ship’s engines are uniquely abnormal to anyone who looks at it. Adding armor could result in Memorable and/or Ugly as Sin (“Looks like the poor ship has a fungus!”). No matter what combination (taking a Complication to balance, doing the work yourselves, free parts) you do, minimum cost is ten percent.
You can also buy off complications. A ship with Seen Better Days, like the Serenity, could be taken in for a major overhaul for new parts and remove the complication. Basically, it’s like refurbishing a classic car.
Bear in mind that improving a ship raises her Complexity and therefore her monthly maintenance costs and possibly her crew requirements.

Other ways to earn Assets and Complications
For example, the Serenity has the Loved asset. You don’t buy that in a shop, how do you get it? The crew has to spend their own character points. At least half the regular crew/residents (like long term passengers) have to spend their character points to buy it. So to use the Firefly show as an example, Mal, Kaylee, Inara and Book spent their points to buy it for the ship. If crew leave, the ship can lose that advantage. Like at the beginning of the movie, Inara and Book are gone. Serenity has lost the Loved Asset and she’s suffering mechanically (“Did the primary buffer panel just fall off my gorram ship for no apparent reason?”). To buy Loved would be a minor asset and would cost each player who donates to the Asset 10 advancement points each (two points for minor Asset, times five for in play modifications).
Non-physical Assets and Complications can be earned by roleplay. If the ship and her crew participate in a daring rescue of a disabled cruise liner and rescue the crew and passengers at great risk to their own lives and the media reports it all over the ‘Verse, the ship could earn Good Name without having to spend money or crew advancement points. Painting the ship a particular unique red, yellow and white paint scheme could earn the Memorable complication.
Physical Complications can also be earned in play. Suppose the ship takes two points of combat damage and the crew can’t afford full repairs. Instead, the crew spends half the money to repair the ship or doesn’t fix all of the damage. The ship either loses a minor Asset or gains a new minor Complication until the full repairs are completed. For example, an Osprey might lose the Nimble (Atmo) Asset until fully repaired reflecting the fact that while she’s spaceworthy again, her precision maneuvering wings have not been fixed properly. Or a ship could be a Gas Guzzler because damaged engine parts were replaced with substandard ones. Maybe she’s just Ugly as Sin from bad patchwork and plasma burns. Every two points of improperly repaired damage earns a minor Complication, four points could earn two minor or a major Complication, single points left over could result in intermittent Complications or other problems at the GM’s discretion.

Damage to Loved ships
If the crew deliberately does not spend the money for full repairs when they have the money, a Loved ship loses the Loved Asset and gains the Complication from improper repairs. Even after full repairs and the new Complication has been removed, you have to buy the Loved asset again for full price. A Loved ship which is not properly repaired because the crew can’t afford it does not lose the benefits of being Loved, but the crew must complete the repairs as soon as they can afford it.
Going back later and redoing a partial repair job costs the other 50% +10% extra because you have to undo the bad work and do it fresh. This does not apply to temporary jury rigs, they come apart easily.

Damage Repair Costs
Damage repair costs are based on new ship cost. Divide the ship’s cost by double its Life Points to get the base repair cost per point of damage. This is the cost per point up to full damage. An Osprey costs 50,400 Cr and has 10 Life Points. Each point of damage costs 2,520 Cr to repair (50,400 divided by 20, 10 LP times 2). Doing the work yourself and reduced cost for parts can reduce this as listed above. Ten percent is always the minimum.
Side note, a ship that takes its full Life Points in damage is not destroyed, it is disabled and incapable of any action other than launching lifepods (maybe). To completely destroy a ship (blow it up, reduce to confetti) takes double its Life Points. An Osprey that takes 19 points of damage could still be repaired. Damage over half needs minor dockyard work, over 75% is major dockyard time.

Other Assets and Complications
Besides the ship specific ones, other Assets and Complications could be added to a ship. A Loved ship’s crew could buy Things go Smooth with their personal advancement points allowing a result for the ship to be re-rolled. A damaged ship could have Things don’t go Smooth. A ship could earn its own plot points to be spent on ship rolls.

New Assets & Complications

Some of these are mine or adapted by me from Big Damn Heroes, some from Six Shooters & Spaceships, the rest are from an online article; “Sailing the Black”

New Assets
Nimble (m): Pick space or atmo, the ship as a two step bonus to Agility in that environment. Cannot be retrofitted (6S&SS).

Overgunned (m) Ship’s strength is treated as one step higher for purposes of the number of energy weapons it can mount. Major dockyard job (6S&SS).

Fast Thruster (m/M): The ship has oversized reaction thrusters. In normal flight, the base Speed Class is one point higher for minor, two points higher for major. Fuel consumption is increased. Pulse drive speeds and fuel use are unchanged. (JGM)

Ain’t got Time to Bleed (M) Ship only has a one step penalty to actions after it takes more than half its Life Points in damage. Cannot be retrofitted. (BDH)

Nautical (m): Thanks to light-weight materials, plenty of internal atmosphere, and just a touch of screening the ship can float. It can make a water landing or, with only negligible power expenditure, it can stay afloat on water or liquids of greater density. Additionally (while burning fuel at the normal rate) it can fully submerge up to 50', moving at up to 20 miles per hour underwater. Cannot be retrofitted, but empty cargo ships will generally float naturally. But perhaps not well…(StB)

Submersible (M): an improvement on Nautical (m), the ship can function better under water (6S&SS)

Heavy Lifter (m/M): The boat is equipped with heavy duty gravity fields and a more rugged design to allow the transportation of dense cargos that can't be hauled by lesser boats. Instead of the normal lift of 1 ton of mass per tonnage of cargo, the boat may haul 5 tons (although the volume limit still applies normally). As a major asset, the boat may haul 20 tons. Cannot be retrofitted. (StB)

Covert (m/M): The boat has a reduced radiation emission and signal reflection, has been stripped of transponders and registration numbers, and has a plethora of active jammers, enabling it to avoid detection or analysis by other vessels. All attempts to detect or scan the ship receive a -2 step penalty; as a major asset, the penalty increases to -4 steps. Any vessels outside the Alliance military found to have such modifications are likely to be impounded, and their captains or owners bound by law. (StB)

Newfangled (m/M): The ship is a modern design incorporating newtech innovations, with fancy miniaturized gadgetry everywhere. The ship's subsystems take up 5% less space, but the contraptions are complicated to repair, imparting a -2 step penalty to maintenance rolls. As a major asset, the boat is truly high fallutin', most likely a prototype of a new model. Subsystems take up 10% less space, but the maintenance penalty rises to -4 steps. Cannot be retrofitted as a whole, but individually retrofitted systems might have advantages like this. (StB)

Smuggler's Hold (m): By chance or design, the boat's labyrinthine subsystems include countless inconspicuous hiding places to secret away cargo (or crew). Items totaling up to 1% of the boat's tonnage may be stashed (counting towards the total cargo capacity) and any attempt to search the boat for such objects suffers a -2 step penalty. I don’t know about retrofitting it, but smaller compartments are possible. (StB)

Another Mouth to Feed (m/M): Ship is meant to carry lots of people, with extra life support, etc. Minor for a passenger ship, major for a troop transport. (JGM)

New Complications
Born to the Black (M): The ship may not enter atmo (6S&SS).

Poor Flier (m): Pick vacuum or atmo. In that environment, the ship is not as nimble and suffers a -2 step penalty to Agility. (6S&SS)

Jury-Rigged System (m): Some minor system was jury-rigged in the past, instead of proper repairs being made. Now, the system shorts out occasionally. This complication may be taken more than once to represent multiple systems. Once per session, the GM can request the ship make a Hard Resistance roll (Vitality+Vitality). If the roll fails, the system must be rerigged. A botch means it cannot be jury-rigged again. (6S&SS, modified) This is a good Complication for a not fully repaired ship.

Slow Thruster (m/M): the ship has undersized reaction thrusters. In normal flight, the base Speed Class is one point lower for minor, two points lower for major. Fuel consumption is decreased. Pulse drive speeds and fuel use are unchanged. (JGM)

Undergunned (m) Ship’s strength die is treated as one step lower for purposes of the number of energy weapons it can mount. Cannot be retrofitted, but could occur from battle damage (JGM).

Glass Jaw (m/M): The ship has structural problems making it vulnerable to damage. Subtract two Life Points for minor, four for major. (BDH)

Blood in the Water (m/M): Because of unrepaired damage, age or poor design, the ship is noisy as hell. It can be detected one and a half times further away than normal and the ship has a totally unique sensor signature that cannot be disguised. If a major Complication, the ship can be detected twice as far and is visually obvious as well: engine flares, smoke trails in atmo, etc. Common for Reaver ships. This should not be used in conjunction with Newfangled unless it is a result of battle damage (JGM).

Shaky Flier (m): Whether due to asymmetrical form, interference with the screening field, or simply lots of loose bolts, this ship rather misbehaves when maneuvering in atmosphere; in such situations, it suffers a -2 penalty to agility rolls. This cannot be taken in conjunction with Born to the Black or Nimble (Atmo). Common for Reaver ships. Duplicates Poor Flier: Atmo. In theory, they could both be taken. (StB)

Malfunctioning (m): Due to poor design or inept renovations, several subsystems interfere with one another. Once per session, at the GM's discretion, there is a temporary malfunction aboard the ship resulting in loss of gravity (or too much, or in an improper direction), sudden lack of power, false alarms, lockdowns, sudden bursts of hard burn, septic spills or other nuisances. The problem can be repaired with an average Intelligence/Maintenance roll and about five minutes worth of work. This is a good Complication for a not fully repaired ship. (StB)

Sensitive Controls (m): Overly sensitive controls make this ship a deathtrap in the hands of a careless pilot. Any failed roll is treated as a botch, unless the pilot or captain expends a plot point to prevent it. (StB)

Nuthin' Fancy (m/M): The boat is based on older technology, or simple, robust parts. The subsystems take up 5% more tonnage than normal, but the simplicity and ruggedness grant a +2 step bonus to maintenance rolls. As a major complication, the boat is truly an antique: the subsytems take up 10% more space, but grant a +4 step bonus to maintenance rolls. Cannot be retrofitted as a whole, but individually retrofitted systems might have issues like this. (StB)

Memories of Blood (M): Some great horror occurred aboard the ship: murders, slave trading, a Reaver attack, or some such. The boat has never shaken off those memories, and has become an unsettling place. Nightmares haunt the night, discord the day. The boat has also gained a thirst for vengeance. All attack actions aboard the ship are at +2 steps (whether aimed at crew or foe), and all social actions are at -2 steps. Characters with the Reader, Nose for Trouble or Superstitious will quickly realize the nature of the vessel. Cannot be bought as a retrofit, but could occur in play. (StB)

Other Improvements
Weapons and such can easily be mounted for 10 to 50 credits per ton of the weapon system.
Basic smuggling compartments can be added with Average Alertness/Mechanical to find suitable locations and Hard Intelligence/Mechanical to install them. Sensor blocking compartments will be much more involved, needing Mechanical and Technical rolls and parts.

There are lots of things that can be added: external fuel drop tanks, “Crybaby”, Decoy or other countermeasure launchers, external and internal security cameras, etc.