The Stellar Alliance: Warp Ships

Posted: 2023-09-23
Last Modified: 2024-03-12
Word Count: 3017
Tags: cepheus rpg settings space

Table of Contents

Part of a series on the Stellar Alliance.

An Alcubierre Ring (a.k.a. “Warp Drive”) generates a bubble of space time (the “warp bubble”) which carries the ship along the interface between normal space and hyperspace at superluminal velocities.

Warp Travel

The realspace speed of a warp-powered starship depends on its Warp Factor (WF). WF 0 can attain speeds up to 20% the speed of light C; warp ships use this effect to replace conventional maneuver drives. WF 1 is light speed. Each WF above 1 multiplies speed by a factor of about 5.1

WF Speed (C) 1 LY 10 LY 100 LY 1000 LY Milky Way
0 0.20 5.04 y 50.4 y 504 y 5.04 ky 441 ky
1 1.00 1 y 10 y 100 y 1 ky 87.4 ky
2 5.04 72.4 d 1.98 y 19.8 y 198 y 17.3 ky
3 25.43 14.4 d 144 d 3.93 y 39.3 y 3.44 ky
4 128.25 2.85 d 28.5 d 285 d 7.8 y 681 y
5 646.78 13.6 hr 5.65 d 56.5 d 1.55 y 135 y
6 3261.69 2.69 hr 1.12 d 11.2 d 112 d 26.8 y
7 16448.67 32 min 5.33 hr 2.22 d 22.2 d 5.31 y
8 82950.56 6.34 min 1.06 hr 10.6 hr 4.4 d 1.05 y
9 418319.18 1.26 min 12.6 min 2.1 hr 21 hr 76.3 d
10 2109581.20 15 s 2.49 min 24.9 min 4.16 hr 15.1 d

Speeds above WF 5 are hard to maintain. An engineer must make a Difficult test of the appropriate skill to maintain Warp Factor 6 or above for each (11 - WF) hours. Failure requires the ship to slow back to Warp Factor 5.

Warp Combat

Warp Combat proceeds in rounds, with detailed tracking of the distance between all ships and missiles and the Warp Factor of each Warp Ship and Warp Missile.

In each round, the following happens, usually in this order:


A warp combat “combat round” is defined as approximately one minute. Space combat is slow, even at warp speeds.

Time dilation does not apply in a warp bubble, so the crew inside experiences time very nearly at the same rate as observers outside.


An Increment (Inc.) is a rough unit of distance defined as 10% of the distance light travels in a combat round. Each combat round a ship moves a maximum number of Inc. according to its Warp Factor.

Warp Factor Speed (C) Max Inc. per round
none << 1% 0
0 ≤ 20% 2
1 ≤ 100% 10
2+ > 100% off the map

Ten Increments is the limit of sensor range. If a ship ends a round ten or more Increments from all enemies, including missiles, it can escape if it wants to.

Warp Factor

Warp-capable ships can change warp factor from round to round. However, the change in speed only takes effect at the start of the turn after it is announced.

Exception: If a ship has its Warp Drive powered down, it can only activate it for Warp 0 by next round.

Movement in Warp Combat

Players and Referee can track the distance between ships using a line or two-dimensional board marked off in Increments.


On a one-dimensional line each ship has only four movement options:

  1. ADVANCE: Take up to half movement toward the enemy and perform evasive maneuvers.
  2. PURSUE: Take up to full movement toward a fleeing enemy.
  3. EVADE: Take up to half movement away from the enemy and perform evasive maneuvers.
  4. RETREAT: Take up to full movement away from the enemy.

In two (or three!) dimensions the options are basically the same, but ships can choose to advance on some enemies and retreat from others.

Evasive Maneuvers

A vessel may choose to confound enemy gunners or missiles by performing evasive maneuvers. Instead of a straight test against a Difficulty Number all gunners must make an opposed test against the pilot’s skill, modified by the Agility DM of the pilot’s ship. On a tie the gunner hits.

If a ship is performing evasive maneuvers its gunners take a -1 DM to hit their targets.


If a ship chooses to warp away from a battlefield and one or more ships or missiles pursue, one of the following will happen:

  1. The pursued ship has a lower Warp Factor than the pursuing vessels, and they quickly catch up. They may then attempt to enter its warp bubble;

  2. The pursued ship has a higher Warp Factor than the pursuing vessels, and quickly escapes them.

  3. Both vessels travel at the same maximum warp, in which case it’s a matter of who can sustain maximum warp longer.

Entering a Warp Bubble

Only a warp ship or warp missile can enter a warp bubble, even at Warp 0.

Entering an unwilling ship’s warp bubble requires the pursuing warp ship to be less than 1 Inc. from the target ship, e.g. in the same row, square, or hex on a tactical map, and for the pursuing ship to win opposed throws of piloting skill. A failure or tie means the bubbles remain separate; a success merges the two bubbles, and combatants may engage in normal combat.

Targets in the Same Warp Bubble

Combat within a warp bubble proceeds just like normal spaceship combat, except the bubble is too small for ships to jockey for Position. All parties may fire at will with no penalties, at point blank range.

Weapons In Warp

Because a warp ship exists in its own bubble of space time, conventional weapons cannot reach in or out of the bubble. Certain unconventional weapons can:

  1. Warp Missile: A small warp drive and unstable reactor propels a guided missile to penetrate a warp bubble and strike the ship within, usually with devastating effect.

  2. Exo-Beam: The signature, and so far proprietary, weapon of the Stellar Alliance, “exo-beams” generate non-local exotic particles near or in a target without crossing the space in between. For technical reasons, exo-beams only operate at less than WF 1 or within the same warp bubble.

  3. Another Warp Ship: Two warp ships can merge their warp bubbles, which leaves them both free to use Exo-Beams and conventional weapons against each other. One warp ship can also ram another, which usually destroys both ships.

  4. Sufficiently Large Masses: The gravitational field of an asteroid or planet in close proximity can pop the warp bubble, returning it to real space. The results are usually catatstrophic. For this reason most warp ships remain in orbit or else use gravitics to land on planets.


Despite the name, exo-beams are exotic non-local particle generators using optical and gravitic targeting systems. Exo-Beams will not work if the target or the source are moving at Warp 1 or faster.

A single Exo-Beam array can split into multiple “beams” to allow multiple gunners to attack multiple targets:

Arrays # of attacks Max Power
½ 1 1 x Light
½ 2 2 x Ultra-Light
1 1 1 x Heavy
1 2 2 x Light
1 3 1 x Light, 2 x Ultra-Light
1 4 4 x Ultra-Light
2 1 1 x Super-Heavy
2 2 2 x Heavy
2 3-8 etc.
N N x 100m² Stun (10+)

Area Stun will not penetrate an enclosed hull or a warp bubble. It also has a short range, far less than 1 Inc. It’s best used on an area on the surface of a planet to knock out hostiles in the open.

Unlike conventional weapons, Exo-Beams can strike ships at one Inc. away or more, but each added Increment is a -1 DM from the attack roll, due to difficulties in getting sensor locks at those ranges.

Warp Missiles

Missiles may have a Maximum Warp Factor (MWF), an Agility, an ECCM, and a Damage.

Missile MWF Agility ECCM Damage
Mine, non-warp - -1 -1 Heavy, roll twice
Missile, non-warp - +0 -1 Heavy, roll twice
Warp Decoy 1 -1 +0 special
Warp Drone 0 +2 +2 special
Warp Drone with bomb 0 +2 +2 Heavy
Warp Mine 1 -1 -1 Heavy, roll twice
Warp Torpedo, standard 10 +1 +0 Heavy, roll twice
Warp Torpedo, Draconian 10 +0 +1 Heavy, roll three times
Warp Decoy
When launched, the gunner throws against each active missile’s ECCM. If successful against a missile, it pursues and destroys the decoy. Otherwise it remains on target.
Warp Drone
This warp-capable robot has manipulator arms and a sensor suite that can do almost anything it’s instructed … including attach a bomb to the hull.
Warp Mine
When released, a Warp Mine will wait, dormant, until a Warp Ship comes near. It will then activate and pursue a ship. Warp mines may lay dormant for years, but they have a maximum active lifetime of 1D6 minutes.
Warp Torpedo
When released, a Warp Torpedo actively pursues its designated target. It has a maximum lifetime of 5 combat rounds after the round it’s launched.

Launching Missiles

When the Gunner launches a missile, the player or GM places a counter for the missile on the board. The missile will begin moving next turn.

Missile Depletion

Warp ships have a “missile depletion” (MD) value, stated as a number of dice. After every Warp Torpedo is fired, the Player or Referee rolls that many dice. If all dice come up 1, the ship has run out of warp missiles.

Grav Beams

A simple extension of gravitic technology, a Grav Beam can draw a ship closer or hold it at a fixed position. Ships attempting to break free of a grav beam may make a Difficult piloting check, modified by the ship’s Agility.

Grav beams have a short range; a ship to be grappled must be less than 1 Inc. from the grappling ship.

Damage to Warp Vessels

Extended Armor vs. Weapons

Armor / Power Ultra-Light Light Heavy Super-Heavy
Missile Destroyed Destroyed Destroyed Destroyed
Unarmored Minor Normal Critical Critical
Armored None Minor Normal Critical
Heavily Armored None None Minor Normal

Jump ships retrofitted with warp generators (or not) use the standard table, with a result of Minor indicating Normal damage on 4+ on 1D6.

Warp Ship Damage

Custom built warp ships use the table below. The first hit to a specific system disables it; the second hit destroys it. Exceptions: Hull Integrity can take four hits, Thrusters and Control Systems can take five hits.

2D6 Minor Normal Critical
2 Coffee Maker Zero Point Reactors Knocked Out
3 Fabricators Warp Generators Knocked Out
4 Comunications Aux. Life Support Knocked Out
5 Main Lights Main Life Support Knocked Out
6 Lifts Control Systems Crew
7 Thruster Hull Integrity Crew
8 roll for Normal Weapon (random) Crew
9 roll for Normal Missile Launchers Crew
10 roll for Normal Sensors Destroyed
11 roll for Normal Bridge Destroyed
12 roll for Normal roll for Critical Destroyed

Damage Effects

Aux. Life Support
No effect unless the Main Life Support system is also disabled. With both systems out, the crew will have 1D6 hours of air left.
Main control center disabled. All bridge crew take 3D6 damage. Survivors must work at auxiliary stations throughout the ship.
Coffee Maker
No fresh coffee.
Cannot communicate with outside world.
Control Systems
Computers and internal communications disrupted, giving a cumulative -1 DM to all throws to control the ship. After five hits to Control Systems the ship is effectively Knocked Out.
All passengers and crew take 3D6 damage.
Ship is scuttled. All personnel should head for the escape pods.
No palatable food and no way to make new parts.
Hull Integrity
At least one deck is exposed to vacuum. The ship can take up to four Hull Integrity hits before it is Destroyed.
Knocked Out
The ship cannot continue the fight due to catastrophic damage.
Personnel cannot move around the ship easily, hampering damage control. :: Main Life Support
If Aux. Life Support is intact, the crew has 3D6 hours of air left. With both systems out, the crew will have 1D6 hours of air left.
Main Lights
Auxiliary lights will cut in, but visibility is poor.
Missile Launcher
The missile launcher (or a random launcher if more than one) is blocked. If the ship has no missile launchers left, it cannot launch Warp Missiles.
Cannot get sensor locks or long-range data. No weapons can aim outside the ship’s current Increment, and the fog of war descends on ships outside visual range.
Cumulative -1 DM to Agility. After five hits to Thrusters the ship is effectively Knocked Out.
Warp Generators
The ship cannot generate a warp bubble; it must rely on thrusters alone.
Weapon (random)
A randomly selected weapon or an Exo-Beam array is disabled.
Zero Point Reactors
The reactors have shut down; the ship can continue to function for 1D6 more combat rounds on stored power until that, too, is depleted.


If a system is merely disabled, an engineer can jerry-rig a solution to get it back on line with a Very Difficult throw.

If a jerry-rigged system is hit again, it is destroyed.

Destroyed systems require replacement parts and days or weeks of work at a fully stocked repair facility.

End of Combat

Combat ends under one of the following conditions:

  1. One side is disabled or destroyed.
  2. All ships on one side end up 10 or more Increments from all their enemies.
  3. All ships on one side escape using FTL drives:
    • by activating a Jump Drive or Hyperdrive.
    • by reaching Warp 2+ without enemy Warp-capable units pursuing.

Optional Rule: Combat Phases

Normally in a combat involving two ships the two sides can keep all details straight. However in complex battles, or when players would otherwise have nothing to do, each available player may take a role on their ship – Captain, Pilot, Gunner(s), Engineer(s) – and handle that phase of the combat.

The phases of combat then become:

  1. Beginning of Round

    • The Referee updates players on ranges between them and enemy ships in the absence of a map visible to all.
    • Ships that changed Warp Factor last round assume their new Warp Factor.
  2. Captains’ Phase

    • Captains give orders to their crews.
    • Orders may be secret and simultaneous, following four basic strategies:
      • ATTACK! The pilot should ADVANCE or PURSUE; gunners should target enemy ships.
      • RETREAT! The pilot should RETREAT; gunners should take opportunity shots.
      • EVADE! The pilot should EVADE.
      • REPAIR! The pilot should RETREAT or EVADE; all other personnel should concentrate on fixing the ship.
  3. Pilots’ Phase

    • Each pilot chooses a movement rate and direction based on the Captain’s orders (usually).
    • Pilots test whether their evasive maneuvers succeeded.
    • Pilots move their ships at warp relative to each other at their current Warp Factor.
    • Pilots decide whether to increase or decrease their Warp Factor next round.
  4. Missiles’ Phase

    • All warp missiles move closer to their intended target at a Warp Factor equal to their target’s.
    • A missile that begins the turn less than one Increment from their target may enter their warp bubble.
    • A missile that begins more than ten Increments from its target loses its target lock and deactivates.
  5. Gunners’ Phase

  6. Engineers’ Phase

    • For each Hit to their ship, the Chief Engineers on each ship assesses weapon damage.
    • If a system is repairable, the Chief Engineer and other technicians begin repairs.
  7. End of Round

    • Update all bookkeeping.
    • If five rounds pass with no damage to either side, combat ends.
    • If a ship is ten or more Increments from all enemies, combat ends for that ship.
    • If a ship is Destroyed, all personnel rush to the lifepods and combat is effectively over for that ship.

Captains may attempt to open communications at any time. The opposing captain may or may not take the call.

The GM may abbreviate certain segments of his NPCs phase to save time (and his own sanity), especially if there are multiple NPC ships:

  1. Instead of rolling dice, just take the average.
  2. NPC ships avoid the “coffee maker broken” damage tables and just take direct structural or performance damage.
  3. NPC ships will break off if they take too much damage. Nobody in their right mind fights to the death against a superior foe.

  1. speed[C] = E ** (1.618 (WF-1)), where E ** x is Euler’s constant e to the power of x↩︎