Thursday, October 3, 2019

Of Spacewrecks & Starnacles: More Full Thrust House Rules, Astrofauna, and a Little Fiction

Today's post adds some more suggested house rules for Full Thrust, and ties back in to my older post on using Space Wrecks in the game:
Remains of the superdreadnought Valiant

"Go ahead, Scan."
"I have a contact.  It...I think it's the Valiant."
"You think?"
"Her emissions aren't...sir, I think she's dead.  Visual's coming in from the remote now."
"My gods."
"She's been battered into scrap.  One of the most powerful ships in the fleet, utterly wrecked.  What happened to her, sir?"
"We'll find out soon enough.  Bring us alongside at once, Helm.  Tac, order the crew to prepare for boarding and rescue ops.  We'll search for survivors and pull the black Boxes for Fleet Intel."
"We've completed the S&R sweep, sir.  No survivors.  Only recovered a few bodies, and all of them were drifting outside the wreck in suits.  Looks like they bailed, then died when their tanks ran dry."
"That doesn't make sense.  There are still evac pods in a few berths.  Why would anyone jump using a suit, or not go back afterward to grab a pod?"
"All the pods have been damaged, mostly from within.  My teams report all sorts of weird internal damage.  There are large areas that look like they were partially dissolved, some of them nowhere near the surface damage."
"Dissolved?  Tac, have they been checked for gray goo nano?"
"Yes sir, they're clean.  The exterior structural damage and some of the internal stuff looks like kinetic weapon hits.  The odd interior best guess is some kind of exotic energy weapon, or maybe a hyper-corrosive chemical agent with some kind of projectile delivery system."
"Xeno tech?"
"Not an exact match for anything on record.  Some of it looks close to those "leech pod" bioweapons the Spiders use sometime, but it's got different molecular disruption signatures."    

"You've pulled the Black Boxes?"
"The ones that survived.  Only three out of twelve look viable, and some are just missing.  We dumped what was left of the computer cores too.  Should be able to review whatever logs are left shortly, but the AI's fragged beyond recovery."
"All right, Tac.  Scan, the Valiant had an escort group.  Cruisers Warder and Bulwark, at least one FTL courier skip.  Let's see if we can find them.  Helm, move us away on a search corkscrew.  Tac, your people rigged scuttling charges?"
"Yes, sir."
"We'll blow them after we clear the area.  I'll have the chaplain say a few words for the Valiant and her crew.  Whatever they ran into, we're not going to leave her hulk to be salvaged by the enemy."

"Sir?  Hard contact, IFF says it's the Warder.  No live commo.  No emissions beyond the transponder and a "ship stricken" signal."
"All stations, red alert.  Tac, screens to full and weapons hot but hold fire till my order.  Helm, take us in on an oblique, be ready for evasive maneuvering at your discretion.  Scan, update?"
"Relaying her drift to Helm, sir.  There's something odd about her signature reflection..."
"Hull damage?  The Valiant was torn up by kinetics in part, a smaller ship might be missing whole sections."
"No, sir.  It's...shaped wrong.  Like something was added.  Getting remote visuals now."
"What the blazes?  What are those things?  And...damn!"
"Remote's been killed.  Kinetics, I think.  Incoming projectiles on our vector!"
"Tac!  Weapons free!" 

Infested hulk of the Warder

Location:  UNSC Luna-One HQ, Xeno Sciences Wing, Briefing Room 1017
"All right people, settle down and let's get this started.  We have the initial analysis of the Black Box data from the Valiant and the after action reports from the Bold.  XenoSci says we have a new breed of astrofauna to deal with."
"Astrofauna?  Rumor mill said the Bold was shot up by the Spiders."
"Not according to the experts.  If they are some kind of xeno weapon, they've gone rogue anyway.  We have new reports of them attacking a Spider squadron that got involved in a fight with the Kraks and Euros off Proxima.  Seem to be hostile to everyone."
"All right, so what are we dealing with?"
"XeonSci's calling them starnacles.  They..."
"STARnacles?  Like, star barnacles?"
"That's...really dumb."
"Funny you should say that, the egghead who named them thought it sounded better than sparnacle."
"...Space barnacle?  Did this guy grow up reading pre-spaceflight scifi or something?"
"I don't even ask anymore.  Whatever you call the damn things, they appear to like feeding off starship wrecks.  They've shown up on planetoids and comets as well, but usually solo.  Wrecks must taste better or something, you get whole clusters of them, especially on bigger hulks.  Also been spotted in free flight, best guess is them migrating between meals."
"They can fly?"
"Some kind of biological gravitic drive, we think.  They're territorial, and attack anything that gets anywhere near them with something that works a bit like the Spiders' leech pod weaponry.  Some kind of bioweapon, sticks to your hull and starts eating into it until you clear them off with boarding countermeasures.  The specialists think they're some kind of modified seed form of the adults.  Pretty inaccurate at long range, but they're hard to get firing solutions on unless you're close, about the range of a class one graser."
"So we have to get close enough to get shot to shoot them?"
"If you want to kill them fast, yes.  You can just shoot whatever they're anchored to, but the wreckage gives them some cover and if you break it up completely they scatter and flee, shooting the whole way.  They're even harder to spot and hit in free flight than when they're feeding, so it may be easier to kill them when they're still stationary."
"Wonderful.  What about attack craft?"
"Bad idea unless you hate your pilots.  The, ah, starnacles' weapons have some kind of scattershot defensive mode that eats up light craft.  Rough on missiles too, if they can even get a lock on them."
"So close range guns it is."
"Yep, especially if you want the wreck for salvage.  Which, as I am obliged to remind you, is still a second-tier standing mission objective for all operations.  Re-use and recycle, we're very green here at the UNSC."

"Starnacles" are a recently-encountered type of astrofauna, or possibly astroflora - experts are divided on proper classification owing to most specimens having been at least partially disintegrated by ship's weapon fire.  They may have been carried to human space by alien craft, possibly as some kind of deliberate biological warfare.  Despite some similarities to Sa'Vasku biotechnology they are definitely not under their control, and actually appear to target Sa'Vasku and Phalon biotech ships preferentially.

To use them in a random scenario involving space wrecks, change the chart in the original article here
so that result 7 is now reads
Starnacle Infestation:  The wreck is infested with dangerous astrofauna.  2d3+1 starnacles "wake up" when this result is rolled and begin attacking.  This wreck is destroyed if it takes 30 points of damage, at which point any surviving starnacles scatter and attempt to flee the table using the rules below.
If you're playing a very low-point game (500-ish or so) you should reduce that to 1d3+1 starnacles and 15 points of damage on the wreck, ie use an average destroyer wreck rather than a cruiser.
Alternately, you can declare that all the wrecks in this game are infested, using as many or as few as you like. 
In this case, you should decide how many points of damage it takes to totally break up each wreck based on their size, setting it to half their original Mass to a max of 60 damage points.  For simplicity (or if your wrecks aren't based off existing designs with established Mass) a destroyer-sized hull should take 15 points, a cruiser 30, and a capital ship should be 60.  Each wreck will have 1 starnacle, plus 1d3 more for each full 15 damage points the wreck has. 
For ex, the cruiser sized hulk in the photos here would have 2d3+1 starnacles attached and 30-ish damage points - making the five it actually has a very average roll.

"Anchored" starnacles do not move (although if their hulk is drifting they stay with it) and attack at the very end of the firing phase after all player ships have fired.  They each shoot a weapon that works identically to the Sa'Vasku leech pod except that it has a 360 arc of fire and doesn't require biomass as ammo or energy - it just shoots once per turn.
The starnacles attached to a single wreck fire at the closest X targets, where X = the number of starnacles, starting with the nearest ship and working outward.  If there are more starnacles than ship targets they'll start to double up (and triple up, and so on) until they've all fired.  Resolve the fire of each wreck's starnacles one at a time, then proceed to the next wreck's lot.  "Closest target" may change from wreck to wreck, and as ships die.
Realistically, if you're so outnumberd by the starnacles that you're taking dozens of shots each turn you should probably flee while you can.  They'll kill your ship, and their seeds will grow in your wreckage and off the bodies of your crew.

Starnacles can be fired at as though they were unscreened ships, and each takes six points of damage to kill and aren't affected by damage otherwise (no thresh checks or the like).  They are somewhat hard to get a good target lock on though.  When anchored, they can only be fired at from 18MU range or less, and even at shorter ranges half the damage (round fractions down) that would be assigned to them will instead hit whatever they're anchored to.  Their anchor can be fired at normally at any range, however.  If the wreck they're attached to breaks up (either due to deliberately shooting it or by transferred damage from shooting at the starnacles), any surviving starnacles will attempt to flee.
Fleeing starnacles roll a random direction using a scatter tool (the pointy end of a d10 fact works dandy, as does a boardgame spinner) and move along that vector until they leave the table, firing as they go.  The first turn they flee they move 4Mu, next turn 8MU, then 12MU, etc.  Effectively this is  a thrust 4 acceleration with no turns.  Starnacles in free flight are even harder to lock on to, and can only be fired at from within 12MU, but at least all your damage hits them since they don't have an anchor to give cover.

Starnacles can also be found attached to large asteroids (the ones that kill you if you fly into them, not the little ones that act like a cloud of debris) but they apparently "taste" worse than shipwrecks do, so only one critter will ever be attached to a given rock.  They follow the usual rules for anchored starnacles, but their anchor has effectively infinite damage pints and will never break up.

You can also use "migration flights" in scenarios, using between 1d6 to 3d6 starnacles per 1000 points of ships each player has.  The more you use the more impact they'll have, and I'd suggest some kind of victory bonus for killing starnacles if you're using a lot.  An "extermination mission" where bagging the most starnacles is the whole point can work fine. 
The starnacles start in free flight evenly scattered along a random table edge and move at a stately 8MU per turn in a straight line toward the opposite edge.  They don't accelerate or turn, but shoot as described above.  Since they're in free flight they can only be shot at from within 12MU, take full damage and are killed by the six damage points.
You could vary things by having several waves of the things showing up on the same table edge, maybe 1-2d6 of them every third turn or so.

When using missiles, fighters, plasma bolts, and other things affected by point defense, then any starnacle under attack by such a weapon gets a free shot during the point defense allocation phase.  This works exactly like a Sa'Vasku interceptor pod (are we sure these aren't Sa'Vasku bioweapons?) defending the firing starnacle.  They'll kill 1d6 attacking fighters or salvo missiles from a single flight/spread, or automatically kill a single heavy missile, or roll a normal PDS die against the nearest  plasma bolt.  The only time starnacles will defend each other is when several are caught in the same plasma bolt or antimatter torp, and even then it'll only happen if the same bolt is "closest" to several.  This defensive shot does not prevent the starnacle from firing normally in the ship fire phase, assuming it survives.  


  1. What kind of gribblies have you used for these? Great concept, good fun these!

  2. These are some excellent - and highly flavorful - custom rules, among the first I've seen for a species or threat in a while. Do you have any plans to handle the Crusties, or have ideas for how they'd be represented? I love their ship designs, but I haven't seen any recent rules for them except on the Star Ranger site.

    1. That's actually one of the few GZG fleets I haven't tackled at some point, although I think the rocket cannons on Star Ranger's site were the result of an old, old conversation we had on his forums about wanting a weapon that cared more about target thrust. Keep an eye on the blog though, I have an idea for a weapon system that might suit the Crusties better that should be going up in a few days.

  3. Great stuff mate,
    Both the conversions & the write up.
    Keep it up.

  4. This is great! I really like the idea of migration swarms. I've been playing FT since it was published and I love that all these years later it's still inspiring scenario ideas like this!