Coriolis Ship Generation

2020-09-16

(approx. 4000 words)

Coriolis, a science fiction RPG from Fria Ligan / Free League Publishing, has rules for building a ship. Typically a group of players would build a ship, and in any case the pre-built ships in the book cover most of the bases. Still, I wanted to try my hand, and I think I came up with a niche not previously addressed. Maybe not one that needs to be addressed …

Type and Class

Coriolis ships fit into five basic classes:

The ships designed for player characters are mostly Class III, with a Class IV model for salvage and asteroid mining.2 The rules also give examples of generic fighters and shuttles, plus corsairs (Class III) and destroyers (Class IV) as enemies in space battles.

Originally I toyed with ideas for yet another Class III or Class IV, maybe a ship for spies or assassins that just looks like a busted freighter. Then I thought about the title character’s dinky ship in The Mandalorian, or the almost TARDIS-like Presger ship from Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy. The world of Coriolis is very different from either of those – in the rules only Class I ships are built with a crew of one in mind – but maybe if somebody wanted a really small ship …

Ship Stats

In Coriolis’s spaceship rules, ships of all classes have the following stats:

Ships also have Modules, representing compartments or subsystems, and Features which affect the whole ship (and its cost).

A Class II ship starts with the following:

EP HP Maneuver Signature Armor Speed Modules
4 4 +1 -1 4 4 6

Six modules isn’t a lot to work with, especially since all ships are required to have a Bridge, Reactor, and Engines. However, one Feature is “Bonus Modules”, so we’ll need to get that.

Shipyard

In the setting, all new ships come from only six shipyards3:

Since it’s an unusual and possibly impractical civilian design, with probably not a lot of room for weapons, it makes sense to chose either Chelebs or Harima. (Antimatter torpedoes and rockets are only available at Karrmerruk, so refueling and restocking will be a problem.) The book already has a few ships built at Chelebs, so let’s assume some Zenithian blueblood had this thing built and go with Harima.

The choice of shipyard tweaks the stats and cost, which we’ll handle later.

Modules

Next we consider modules.

Rather than walk through all the options, I’ll list my choices here.

We’ll look at each below.

Cabins

Cabins are where the crew and passengers sleep, or lounge during their non-working hours. “Coffin” cabin modules are literally bunks or chambers the size of a coffin, generally in groups of five, with a shared “hygeine unit”. “Standard” cabin modules are 2m x 3m and include a “hygeine unit”; imagine a cheap cabin on a ship, or the cabins on the eponymous ship in Firefly.

The size of each module depends on the class of ship. Generally, each larger class increases capacity by four or five. On a Class II ship, each “standard” module is one cabin. Each “coffin” module is one rack of five.

Our hypothetical rich guy needs a standard cabin, just because.

The space combat rules mention that Class II ships are built to be run buy a crew of 2 to 4 … and that’s only during combat. Under normal circumstances, then, the ship will need a pilot, with maybe seats for a co-pilot (or gunner) and navigator (or sensor operator / engineer). The image I get is not of a spaceship “bridge” but of a WWII or cold war bomber cockpit. All these people will need somewhere to sleep.

The Coffin Cabin module costs 15,000 birr, and the Standard Cabin module costs 25,000 birr.

Cargo Hold

The owner wants to bring stuff on his trips, and he doesn’t want to stuff it in his cabin. The Cargo Hold on a Class II is comparatively small, so we’ll put one of these in too.

Chapel

Religion plays a huge role in the Third Horizon. Part of the reason is that prayer makes portal jumps go more smoothly. We’ll put one in.

Docking Station

This is basically an airlock with a tube that extends to fit onto the airlock of a space station or another ship. Also, maybe our rich guy doesn’t want to depend on finding a hangar. Maybe he wants to attach to the outside of a ship, or land on an airless moon.

So far we’ve nearly used all 6 of our alottment of modules. Up to now we’ve created a variation on a standard shuttle, but nothing worth spending an entire post on. We’ll fix this under Features below.

Escape Pods

Our hypothetical rich guy wants to save his hide at all costs, so we’ll assume he’d put in at least one escape pod. Each Escape Pod module in a Class II ship includes exacty one pod.4 Maybe we’ll include two, in case the rich guy brings guests or servants … or simply doesn’t want to share with the crew.

Stasis Pods

Stasis Pods put the inhabitants in suspended animation. They’re used for two things:

Each module on a Class II ship only has 5 stasis beds. We’ll put in two pods to have some extras, but our escape pods only have room for 4 apiece, so at full capacity someone will get left behind.

Weapon Systems

The Third Horizon is a dangerous place, especially for an undersized ship. We have well over a dozen choices of weapons, but for a small civilian or pseudo-civilian ship I’ll stick with two:

I could have picked others: a Data Pulse that damages EP instead of HP, an Ion Cannon that does damage and knocks out systems, an assortment of torpedoes and mines that have to be bought individually (but can share the same module, if I’m reading the rules right). But the strategies for this ship are deterrence and escape. A Data Pulse might make sense for a spy ship, maybe with an excellent Sensor operator who can direct it properly, but for now I’ll go with standard options

Features

Now we’ll consider features that affect the entire ship.

Advanced Countermeasures

A single cannon probably won’t scare off a corsair, especially if the pirates know this is a rich dude’s ship. So he’ll want the best countermeasures he can buy.

Atmospheric Entry

Our hypothetical rich dude wants to land on planets. Remember, he wants to go anywhere without waiting for shuttles or hangars or space traffic control clearance. This feature lets him go from deep space to a planet’s surface in the same ship.

Bonus Modules

Since we have 5 more modules than the default Class II model allows, we have to take this feature. We could take it twice, but I think we’re good for now.

ED Fields

If the owner is concerned enough to have escape pods, he probably also wants to avoid explosive decompression if someone hits the ship. “ED Fields” create force fields to plug any hull breaches. Since there won’t be spare crew to plug breaches, it’s probably a good investment.

Heavy Armor

In space combat, this ship will probably run, but it has to survive long enough to escape. Armor in this system isn’t foolproof – a player or GM rolls one die per point of Armor and subtracts a point of damage for every six rolled – but it might keep the first volley from blowing this ship apart.

Precise Thrusters

The owner wants this ship to dock with a ship or land on a planet with as little hassle as possible. He also wants to get the hell out when the shooting starts. So he’ll spring for some thruster tweaks that make the ship more nimble.

Tuned Accelerator

See Precise Thrusters, above. The owner wants to trick this puppy out. (And like other rich guys, he’d rather pay for tricked-out equipment than a better pilot.)

Turbo Projector

See Precise Thrusters, above. It compensates for the Maneuverability hit from the extra Armor. Also, this enhancement increases the ship’s long-distance speed, which gets him where he’s going faster.

Grand Totals

Summing up what we have so far:

Modules Item / Module Description Cost (birr)
Class II ship hull and standard modules 200,000
1 Standard Cabin 1 cabin 25,000
1 Coffin Cabin 5 bunks 15,000
1 Cargo Hold 5 tons 5,000
1 Chapel 10,000
1 Docking Station 15,000
2 Escape Pods 2 pods (8 people) 40,000
2 Stasis Holds 10 pods 50,000
1 Accelerator Cannon 25,000
1 Countermeasure Dispenser 5,000
11 TOTAL 390,000

To this we add the following features:

Feature Description Cost Increase
Harima Shipyards +1 EP, -1 HP +5%
Atmospheric Entry land on and take off from planets +10%
Advanced Countermeasures +1 to using countermeasures +10%
Bonus Modules x1 5 more modules +20%
ED fields protects against explosive decompression +20%
Heavy Armor Armor +1, Maneuverability -1 +10%
Precise Thrusters +2 to docking, landing, evasion +10%
Tuned Accelerator +2 to advance/retreat in combat +10%
Turbo Projector +1 to Maneuverability and Speed +20%
TOTAL - +115%

Applying this to the base cost above, the total cost of this toy is 838,500 birr

These features also alter the statistics:

EP HP Maneuver Signature Armor Speed Modules
5 3 +1 -1 5 5 11

Cargo Variant

So far we’ve imagined this ship transporting 1 V.I.P. (or more if they’re very close) with a skeleton crew of up to four pilots and/or valets, plus a few more in stasis.

We could, however, replace the standard cabin, one escape pod, and half the stasis pods with cargo space, for valuable cargo that has to get to its destination twice as fast.

Modules Item / Module Description Cost (birr)
Class II ship hull and standard modules 200,000
1 Coffin Cabin 5 bunks 15,000
4 Cargo Hold 20 tons 20,000
1 Chapel 10,000
1 Docking Station 15,000
1 Escape Pods 1 pod (4 people) 20,000
1 Stasis Hold 5 pods 25,000
1 Accelerator Cannon 25,000
1 Countermeasure Dispenser 5,000
11 TOTAL 335,000

Applying this to the base cost above, the total cost of the cargo version is 720,250 birr

Black Ops Variant

Or we could replace the standard cabin and both escape pods with extra Stasis Pod modules, two Cargo Holds for their stuff, and a Data Pulse generator. This version would be more suitable for a black ops insertion team and the pilots to get them there, for a maximum crew of twenty, or 25 if the ship avoids portal jumps.

Modules Item / Module Description Cost (birr)
Class II ship hull and standard modules 200,000
1 Coffin Cabin 5 bunks 15,000
2 Cargo Hold 10 tons 10,000
1 Docking Station 15,000
4 Stasis Holds 20 pods 100,000
1 Accelerator Cannon 25,000
1 Countermeasure Dispenser 5,000
1 Data Pulse 50,000
11 TOTAL 420,000

Since we’re throwing out safety features, a black ops team might want to replace the ED Fields with Stealth Technology, which has the same cost increase. (Stealth Technology is Advanced technology, but since we’re building this ship in the heart of Zenithian civilization, maybe for one of their special strike teams, we can probably swing it.) Stealth Technology decreases the Signature and allows a savvy sensor operator to disappear from enemy sensors.

The total cost for this version would be 903,000 birr. It’s still cheaper than most starting Class III ships, but it’s not exactly a comfortable ride.

Other Variants

Players or GMs could customize the base model in other ways. Some suggestions:

The Ship’s Problem

(The rules put this up front, but I’m going to consider it last.)

Player characters’ ships usually have a “problem”, a quirk that acts up when the Game Master activates it with a Darkness Point.

It’s usually unique to either a particular model or a particular ship. We want a Problem that’s annoying, but not potentially crippling. As I see it, a ship like this has a few uses:

For now, let’s keep these in mind:

A Curse would be bad for a long-range transport, a Slow Accelerator might make a combat-oriented ship into a flying coffin, and Obvious Signature would end a spy mission pretty quickly.

Others not listed, like Faulty Thrusters6, Worn-Out Ship Computer7, or Unreliable Sensors8 seem less appropriate for a brand new, high end ship. Arguably they could reflect an experimental, buggy, “overclocked” design, but I like the idea of high performance engines needing extra power.

Palanquin Personal Transport

The Harima shipyards created the prototype Palanquin for an unnamed but presumably incredibly wealthy client, who wanted a small, fast personal transport with interplanetary range.

The Palanquin is a marvel of compact design, just barely able to fit in the hangars of Class IV spaceships. Its cramped two-person cockpit leads into a hall with access to sleeping alcoves for up to five crew members; attendants for the V.I.P. in the standard cabin aft sometimes bunk there. A ladder in the fore sction leads to a gunner’s nest, although the pilot can also control guns from his console.9

Harima also found room for ten stasis pods, a docking station, cargo space, a chapel, and two escape pods. Its hallways and access corridors are notoriously narrow and awkward. Crew and especially passengers are advised to hold regular drills, lest they fall all over each other in an emergency.

Variations on the Palanquin replace the standard cabin and one escape pod with cargo space, to transport small amounts of presumably exhorbitantly valuable cargo. Smugglers are leery of this version, not only because there’s little recourse if they’re boarded, but because the modifications sometimes throw off the delicately tuned accelerator, thruster, and projector assembly.

Another rumored version dispenses with luxury and safety for extra stasis pods and cargo space; it also incorporates Stealth Technology to travel not only quickly but quietly. Reportedly it’s seldom used as a long haul carrier, for some reason.

Class: II

Shipyard: Harima

Crew: 2-3

Length: 17m

Personal Transport Cargo Transport Stealth Transport
Energy Points: 5 Energy Points: 5 Energy Points: 5
Hull Points: 3 Hull Points: 3 Hull Points: 3
Maneuverability: +1 Maneuverability: +1 Maneuverability: +1
Signature: -1 Signature: -1 Signature: -2
Armor: 5 Armor: 5 Armor: 5
Speed: 5 Speed: 5 Speed: 5
Modules: Cabins - Coffin, Cabin - Standard, Cargo Hold, Chapel, Docking Station, Escape Pod x 2, Stasis Hold x 2, Accelerator Cannon, Countermeasure Dispenser Modules: Cabins - Coffin, Cargo Hold x 4, Chapel, Docking Station, Escape Pod, Stasis Hold, Accelerator Cannon, Countermeasure Dispenser Modules: Cabins - Coffin, Cargo Hold x 2, Docking Station, Stasis Hold x 4, Accelerator Cannon, Countermeasure Dispenser, Data Pulse
Features: Atmospheric Entry, Advanced Countermeasures, Bonus Modules, ED fields, Heavy Armor, Precise Thrusters, Tuned Accelerator, Turbo Projector Features: Atmospheric Entry, Advanced Countermeasures, Bonus Modules, ED fields, Heavy Armor, Precise Thrusters, Tuned Accelerator, Turbo Projector Features: Atmospheric Entry, Advanced Countermeasures, Bonus Modules, Heavy Armor, Precise Thrusters, Stealth Technology, Tuned Accelerator, Turbo Projector
Extra Gear: None. Extra Gear: None. Extra Gear: None.
Problem: Obvious Signature Problem: Slow Accelerator Problem: Cursed
Cost: 838,500 birr Cost: 720,250 birr Cost: 903,000 birr

But What About Those Other Ships?

This article led with two sort-of models for a Class II ship:

Let’s do a quick(?) pass at each.

Unnamed Presger Transport

The description in the book almost sounds like a Class I, i.e. fighter and “space scooter” class.

Modules Item / Module Description Cost (birr)
Class I ship hull and standard modules 100,000
1 Stasis Pods 1 pod 25,000
1 Docking Station 15,000
6 Cargo Hold 6 tons 30,000
8 TOTAL 170,000

In the book, the ship had only one occupant, the Translator, and an extraordinary amount of cargo space.

To this we add the following features:

Feature Description Cost Increase
Presger(?) Shipyards (treat like Karrmerruk) +0%
Bonus Modules 5 more modules +20%
Robust Hull +1 HP +10%
Ship System (engineer) replaces crew member +20%
Ship System (pilot) replaces crew member +20%
Ship System (sensors) replaces crew member +20%
Stealth Technology -1 to Signature, invisibility +20%
Super Sensors function at Extreme range +20%
TOTAL - +130%

We need Bonus Modules for the Stasis Pod, and a more Robust Hull is just a good idea.

The Translator didn’t seem too technical (to put it mildly), so the entire ship is automated. (There are no weapons that we know of, and so no need for a gunner.) The Translator (or his superiors) simply has to tell it where to go.

In the book, the Presger have an uncanny ability to fool sensors. Here I’ve limited it to known technology, but ideally the transport would be completely invisible to sensors. (The Translator and some Presger technology had the same property.)

Class EP HP Maneuver Signature Armor Speed Crew
I 3 3 +2 -3 3 4 0(1)

Problem: The “captain” is not quite human and possibly deranged …

Cost: 391,000 birr

The Razor Crest

Din Djarin’s Razor Crest looks bigger than a TIE fighter or X-Wing, so Class II seems about right.

Modules Item / Module Description Cost (birr)
Class II ship hull and standard modules 200,000
3 Cargo Hold 15 tons 15,000
1 Stasis Pods 5 pods 25,000
1 Cabins, Coffin 5 bunks 15,000
1 Ion Cannon does hull and system damage 40,000
6 TOTAL 295,000

The Star Wars universe has hyperdrives instead of interstellar portals, so I’ll add some stasis pods. (Which might be a safer place to put bounties.)

Also, the Razor Crest has just a cargo/exit hatch, so it needs a hangar or planetary surface if the pilot wants to get out.

To this we add the following features:

Feature Description Cost Increase
Darkos Shipyards +1 HP, -2 Armor +5%
Atmospheric Entry land on and take off from planets +10%
Blessed Ship +1 to portal jumps +5%
Precise Thrusters +2 to docking, landing, evasion +10%
Ship System (engineer) replaces crew member +20%
Ship System (sensors) replaces crew member +20%
TOTAL - +70%

I’ve given the ship automated systems for an Engineer and Sensors, since our bounty hunter never seems to deal with those directly. The combat rules as written allow him to handle piloting and weapons by himself. The thin armor and Precise Thrusters are a guess based on a few first season episodes.

Class EP HP Maneuver Signature Armor Speed Crew
II 4 5 +1 -1 2 4 1

Problem: Unreliable Sensors (-1 to sensor rolls when activated)

Cost: 501,500 birr


  1. A not fully explained term; presumably small, short-range craft loaded with weapons to defend a station or capital ship. ↩︎

  2. Plus a version retrofitted to carry a “flying circus” of entertainers. ↩︎

  3. The Third Horizon fell into a Dark Age in which only a few rich people or fanatics traveled between worlds. Presumably some centuries-old ships remain, but player characters are more likely to get their hands on newer models, maybe a few decades old, which have flooded the market. ↩︎

  4. Escape Pods aren’t available in Class I ships, e.g. fighters and “space scooters”; if the ship doesn’t include ejection seats for the “bridge” crew, they just go down with the ship. ↩︎

  5. Electromagnetic transmissons can’t pass through a Portal, so even the major information networks must load their programs onto physical media and carry them from station to station in each star system. ↩︎

  6. -1 Maneuverability during combat, docking, or other stressful operations. ↩︎

  7. -1 to Pilot rolls in combat or other stressful situations. ↩︎

  8. -1 to sensor rolls in combat or other stressful situations. ↩︎

  9. I think the rules for Class II ships allow this. ↩︎