Friday, December 2, 2022

The Long Slow Black Road to the Stars: Interplanetary Travel for Mothership


Ailantd Sikowsky
The transhumanist TTRPG Ghost Ship has the most elegant and intuitive rules for interplanetary travel I've ever seen. The game sadly seems to be vaporware (the draft documents, untouched since 2017, are available for free), but I took the liberty to steal these mechanics and customize them for Mothership 1e, with a no-FTL, full interplanetary sandbox campaign in mind.

Transfer Ratings

Own work, based on Ghost Ship. Click here if Blogspot ate the image quality.

Each transfer from orbit to orbit has a Transfer Rating, ranging from 1 to 5. Trace your finger along the route you want to take, from your starting point to your destination. The single highest Transfer Rating on this route is the total Transfer Rating for your entire trip. During your trip, you will have to expend an amount of Fuel equal to this Transfer Rating, for orbital injection burns and deep-space maneuvers. You will spend the rest of your time coasting through space.

Special Maneuvers

The above method assumes a trajectory that tries to balance travel time and fuel expenditure reasonably. All interplanetary-capable ships have an astrogation computer able to compute this route without any roll or risk involved. When you're short on either time or fuel, special maneuvers come into play.

If you want to get somewhere and you really, really can't spare the time, you can strap yourself in and execute a Hard Burn. You expend 1 Fuel to bruteforce your ship into a less fuel-efficient, shorter trajectory. Your Transfer Rating decreases by 1 (to a minimum of 1) and everyone on the ship gains 1 Stress. You can do this only once every trip.

If you can't spare the fuel needed for your trip, you can take a more circuitous route. Timing your trajectory so that you encounter bypassing celestial bodies, you can exploit their gravity wells for a Slingshot Maneuver. Your Transfer Rating increases by 1 (to a maximum of 5) and your fuel expense decreases by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Likewise, you can only do this once on a single trip.


Spaceflight takes time, most of it uneventful coasting. Depending on your Transfer Rating, everyone on board will have a certain number of Downtime Actions at their disposal. These work in the exact same way as Shore Leave Actions (i.e. they can be used to train Skills, get medical care, work on a project etc.) with one exception: they cannot be used to relieve Stress.

If you want to spend your downtime on something that requires access to outside information, you may run into the problem of interplanetary bandwith limits. Response might be slow, the trickle of data across the radio even slower. If your Transfer Rating is higher than 3, requesting files from the outside becomes a separate Downtime Action.


Space travel is slow, monotonous and claustrophobic. Every day the same two or three capsules where elbow room is at a premium, every day the same five or so other people, every day the same big fucking black nothing outside the windows. Even for the shortest trips, it's not a pleasant time.

Most interplanetary ships are equipped with a cryobay where the crew can while away the months or years. You can decide to spend a Downtime Action in cryosleep - you won't be able to do anything else for this action. However, every Downtime Action not spent in cryosleep incurs 1 Stress. At the end of your trip, you can make a Sanity save to halve the amount of Stress you gained on your trip, rounded up.

An Example

While on shore leave on the Moon, the crew of the Cacomistle accept a job to stake out a claim on a mineral-rich asteroid in the Belt. They consult the system chart and trace out the route: Moon-Earth-Mars-Belt. The highest Transfer Rating on this route is 4, so the Warden decides the trip will take a year and four months. Since the mission is time-sensitive (gotta claim the asteroid before anyone else gets to it) the crew decides to execute a Hard Burn, decreasing the Transfer Rating to 3. The Cacomistle arrives to the asteroid after 8 months of travel, having expended 5 Fuel.

The Hyacinth Disaster

Saturday, November 12, 2022

3 Classes for Mothership

Below are 3 custom Mothership classes I've had marinating in my brain for a good while, finally written out in a form I'm satisfied with. Two fulfill what are, in my opinion, much-needed niches in Mothership (criminals and a white-collar version of the Teamster). The third is simply an idea I think is fun.

The loadouts were written collaboratively with the folks of the Mothership Discord server. The classes are written for 1e, but can be converted for 0e with relatively little elbow grease.


Pirates, smugglers, convicts and other assorted dregs of the galaxy. Brutal, pragmatic and usually self-serving.
STATS: Combat +5, Speed +10, Wounds +1
SAVES: Sanity -5, Fear +10
STRESS: You roll Panic Checks with disadvantage.
SKILLS: Rimwise, Zero-G. Bonus: 1 Expert Skill or 2 Trained Skills.

  1. Prisoner's uniform, jailbroken shock collar, shiv, pornographic poster
  2. Prisoner's uniform, pain pills x10, meat cleaver, chef hat
  3. Custom vaccsuit (AP 3), cable-cutter knife (as vibechete), locator, revolver (clips x1)
  4. Business suit (AP 1), nail gun (clips x1), pack of zip ties x10, stimpaks x2
  5. Patch-covered jean jacket (AP 1), switchblade (as scalpel), torch lighter, crumpled pack of cigarettes 
  6. Duster with steel plate inserts (AP 3, [-] Speed checks), sawed off shotgun (as combat shotgun, clips x2), bandana, sunglasses
  7. Surplus fatigues (AP 2), SMG, keys to an all-terrain truck, mirrored aviators, briefcase full of cocaine
  8. Brightly colored street wear (AP 1), tickets to a local night club, nunchucks (as crowbar but critical failures are alway humiliating), cybernetic arm
  9. Vaccsuit (AP 3), compressed gas knife (3d10, [+] on wound rolls), slap charges x2, personal reentry aeroshell, MMU, military grade encrypted radio
  10. Underwear, crippling hangover, obnoxious tie, aerosol amphetamines x5


The ubiquitous worker drones of the great corporations, always in danger of being replaced by more efficient automatic solutions. Underpaid, overworked and interchangeable.
STATS: Combat -10, Speed+5, Intellect +10
SAVES: Sanity +10, Fear -5
STRESS: Once per session when you recover Stress, recover double the amount.
SKILLS: Computers, Corpwise (Trained). Bonus: 2 Trained Skills AND 1 Expert Skill.

  1. Office attire, ring binder (accounts), cup of synthetic coffee, cigarettes x10
  2. Office attire, stress ball, microtape player (pro-corp mantras), ballpoint pen
  3. Business suit (AP 1), stimpak, SMG (clips x2)
  4. Office attire, pain pills x10, letterknife (as scalpel), manager's keycard (stolen)
  5. Office attire, self-heating cup noodles (as MRE x1), handheld computer (as in Hacker's Handbook), extension cord (50m)
  6. Security uniform (AP 1), body cam, stun baton, short-range comms
  7. Hawaiian shirt, hip flask (empty), wrist computer (as in Hacker's Handbook), cable ties
  8. Office attire, high-viz vest ("evacuation coordinator"), clipboard with a list of colleagues' names, fire extinguisher, first aid kit
  9. Humiliating service industry uniform (AP 2), (1d5: kitchen knife/frying pan/tire iron/handheld sign/broomstick), stimpaks x2
  10. Band t-shirt, password cracker, fake corporate ID, chewing gum


Some colonies were forgotten about. The Atavism is a newcomer in the society of the sky-people, their barbaric ways derided and their intelligence questioned.
STATS: +10 Strength, +5 Combat, +1 Wound
SAVES: -10 Sanity, +10 Fear, +10 Body
STRESS: Whenever someone fails a check for operating space age technology, gain 1 Stress.
SKILLS: Athletics, Art, Botany. Bonus: 2 Trained or 1 Expert Skill.

  1. Standard Crew Attire (AP 1), combat shotgun (clips x1), flint knife (as scalpel), stone Venus idol ([+] to relieve Stress in port)
  2. Vaccsuit adorned with holy protective symbols (AP 3), revolver (clips x2), MREs x7, radiation pills x10
  3. Antique battle dress (AP 6), camping gear (as MoHab Unit), hunting dog, bear trap, rifle (2d10, 3 shots, clips x3)
  4. Wool tunic (AP 2), two-handed hammer (2d10, [+] on crit), drinking horn
  5. Standard Crew Attire (AP 1), short blade (as vibechete), electronic tool set, face paint, pouch of psychoactive herbs, wrist computer running a centuries-old fork of Wikipedia
  6. Traveling clothes (AP 2), dictionary, camera with very bright flash, pocket pistol (1D10 3 shots, clips x3)
  7. Woolen tunic (AP 1), bow (1d10, does not break armor, arrows x10), smart lemur, collapsible glider
  8. Brigandine (AP 2), musket (2d10, [-] to combat, 1 round reload), horn of powder and shot (x12 reloads), jump liner ticket
  9. Peasant clothes, hand cart, ploughing drone, 1d5 family members
  10. Peasant clothes, ancient rifle (1d10 [-], clips x2), short-range comms, skinny goat

The Troubleshooter Corps

A common assumption of Mothership games is that the PCs are bystanders. Whatever horrid shit happens to them, it's not because they spec...