Thursday, May 26, 2022

Stargrave: Ship Upgrades Overview & Homebrew Additions

Ship upgrades are an important part of Stargrave campaign play, offering players a place to spend money for some truly permanent improvements to their crews.  New soldiers, weapons, and gear can all be lost in action, but ship upgrades are currently immune to loss no matter how badly your last battle went.  This post will take a look at each of them, as well as adding a couple of suggestions for new upgrades.

But first, a word about a very important new soldier type added to the game in Last Prospector.  The engineer is an expensive specialist with very lackluster gear and stats, but he's not there for his on-table abilities.  Instead, he grants a large discount on the cost of all ship upgrades (and repairs, but those aren't a thing in the game - yet).  His hiring cost (while high) is still low enough that he pays for himself several times over with just one of the more expensive upgrades, and all but the cheapest of them will still be at least a break-even case.  In short, if you have the credits saved up to buy one or more upgrades, consider hiring an engineer to gain his discount.  You'll save a lot of money in most cases, and you can then fire him and buy a different specialist with more on-table utility for your next game.

Ship upgrades that first appeared in Last Prospector are marked as (LP) below.  Quarantine 37 didn't have any new upgrades.  

Independent Starship Vehement Denial of Oblivion in flight.

Advanced Medical Bay - Middling cost but requires the crew include a Medic to use, this is a good one for reducing soldier (but not officer) casualties and can wind up saving you quite a lot of credits over time.  If you have one of these you should always test for any Medics who were knocked out of action first, since if they survive they can use the upgrade on another soldier.  It's risky to use this on a Badly Wounded result since you have to take the second result and may wind up killing the patient, but living through a game at half health is tricky anyway.

Note that this upgrade works on Robots, but it probably shouldn't.

Armament Workshop - Middling cost, requires an officer with the Armory power to use.  Greatest benefit probably goes to crews with combat armor suits to maintain, but it's still useful without.  If used with combat armor it will pay for itself after ten games.

Communications Array - Cheap but very narrow in application, affecting only the Bribery power.  The very high target number to activate that power makes the bonus from this upgrade meaningful, but it's still paying a lot for a 10% increase to use a once-per-game power.  

I recommend letting the upgrade also apply a +1 bonus to activate the Contacts and Info Broker powers (which were added in Quarantine 37 and Last Prospector), but only one power can receive a bonus this way between each game.  That might be too good for some players, especially since an aristo captain can start with this for free, but cheap as this is it's pretty terrible without something more going for it than the base rules.

Drone Charging Bay (LP) - Incredibly expensive, allows you to field a drone (pg. 144, with the Robot trait added per the errata) in your starting crew that doesn't count against your soldier limit, letting you put eleven models on the table in normal games.  This drone can't carry gear or Physical Loot but can carry Data Loot.  If reduced to zero health and it fails its survival roll you can replace it for an exorbitant price.  You can't use this with similar upgrades to get more than eleven models on the table at the start of the game.  

External Cargo Pods - Cheap, generates significant bonus money for any trade goods you find.  If you have this, you'll want to focus on grabbing Physical Loot, since trade goods don't appear as Data Loot.  Physical Loot is obviously harder to get off the table, so that's a small drawback to keep in mind.

Extra Quarters - Very expensive but lets you take an extra specialist soldier, which is a big benefit.  Saving up for getting this as soon as possible is worth considering, but remember that you also need to pay to hire that extra elite soldier.

Do you actually need a miniature for your crew's ship?  Hell, no.  But since when did needing a mini matter more than wanting a mini?

Hacker Suite (LP) - Very expensive, lets you reroll one roll on the Data Loot table after a game where you carried at least one Data Loot off the table.  This is very helpful for improving the odds of getting Secrets or Info, but you're paying a lot for the privilege.  Probably not worth it unless you have the Info Broker (LP) power on one or both officers. 

Meditation Chamber - Inexpensive, although unlike other upgrades it can be taken twice top let both your officers benefit from its bonus to the the Mystic Trance power.  You can do a lot of nasty tricks with Trance, but it requires you to activate itself and a second power pre-game without exertion, which can be a big ask.  The bonus from the upgrade helps quite a bit without using precious experience advances to improve Trance's activation number.

Repairbot Charging Bay (LP) - Expensive, allows you to field a repairbot (pg. 148, without the Unaggressive trait since it's player controlled) in your starting crew that doesn't count against your soldier limit, letting you put eleven models on the table in normal games.  Repairbots are even worse fighters than recruits and runners, but it is an extra body for loot hauling, outnumbering foes in melee, etc.  On the plus side, replacing the thing is free if it fails a survival roll.  You can't use this with similar upgrades to get more than eleven models on the table at the start of the game.

Robotics Workshop - Expensive and grants a small bonus to activate one of three powers out-of-game, two of which start at a base 14 TN.  It's just plain not very good as written.  I would suggest improving it by either increasing the bonus or allowing it to benefit all three powers instead of just one.

I'd also suggest that you change Advanced Medical Bay so that it only works on non-Robot soldiers, but let the Robotics Workshop perform the same function it has on Robot soldiers in addition to its activation bonus.  Treating an out-of-action Robot in this way wouldn't require a Medic soldier in the crew, but still stands a chance of rerolling a Badly Wounded ("Incompletely Repaired" in this case) into a Dead ("Scrapped For Parts") result.

Science Lab (LP) - Expensive, gives you a single dose of your choice of three drugs from the core book's Advanced Technology tables after each game.  Pretty good value over time, although you may want to use your officer gear slots for carrying more potent stuff.  Selling the output of your lab could also make some spare credits, more than enough to (say) pay upkeep on a suit of combat armor.   

Shengrylla Cages (LP) - Incredibly expensive, allows you to field a shengrylla (pg. 151) in your starting crew that doesn't count against your soldier limit, letting you put eleven models on the table in normal games.  By far the most combat-capable of the three "extra model" upgrade options, but still weaker than most basic crew and useless for loot interactions due to having the Animal trait.  It's also unduly expensive to buy a new pet if the current one fails a survival roll, which is pretty much the sunk cost fallacy in action.  You can't use this with similar upgrades to get more than eleven models on the table at the start of the game.  

Weapon Locker - Middling cost, grants a simple combat bonus to one basic weapon each game.  Not vital but versatile, there's almost never going to be a game where you can't get some benefit from this.  

The ISS Vehement is an informally decommissioned (read: stolen) interface-capable rapid deployment craft of the Noble Vanguard class, formerly in service to the collapsed Oligarchy of Quun.  Originally designed for insertion and support of platoon-level special forces groups, she serves well as a small crew's transport between the stars.   

Observant players will have noticed that many of the upgrades provide bonuses to activate Out-of-Game powers.  Almost every such power has an associated upgrade, and it's a good thing since spending XP to improve them is generally a terrible idea.  Improving a power you can use once before a game is a much worse choice than one that can be used many times during a game despite the action economy involved.  One small set of powers has been left out of the party though, all associated with the biomorph background.  This seems like a needless omission to me, and I suggest you add the following option to the Ship Upgrades chart:

Genetic Resequencing Tanks (homebrew) - 500 Credits - Grants +1 to the Activation Roll for any one of the following powers when used Out of Game:  Armor Plates, Restructure Body, Toxic Secretion.  Only a single crew member may gain this benefit each game, but this upgrade may be purchased twice and thus be used by two different crew members.

Despite her fairly heavy armaments, sturdy hull and good maneuverability, this is the profile her crew prefers to show to the universe.  ISS Vehement, exiting the scene post haste.  There are far too many dangers out there (and far too few repair facilities) to get into casual dogfights, and no matter how many pirates you kill there are always more.  A lot more.

There's also obvious room to add more upgrades in general, so I'll offer one more that touches on an aspect of the game not currently being played around with.  I strongly suspect we'll eventually see a new power that does something similar, but messing around with such is something I'll leave to the supplements.

Augmented Recon Gear (homebrew) - 450 Credits - When rolling to select table edges at the start of a game, this ship's crew gains a +2 bonus.  If a tie is rolled (after the modifier is applied) the re-rolls to break the tie do not receive this bonus.

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