Spooky action at a distance

Space Campaign Orbital Encounters

Continuing my Sojourner series, I was thinking about an ideal spaceship combat system. Ergo, one where not only the pilot and gunner get all the action. Inspired by Retired Adventurer’s rules, Classic Traveller Book 01 and my Spaceship Submarines I will flesh out the details of spaceships in Sojourner.

Warning. Capital ship exiting jumpspace. Metal hulls scraping against the void. The void screams back, all while it bleeds a midnight star’s blood. Warning. Capital ship exiting jumpspace. You are not prepared. You were not well paid for this either. But you just have to survive until the payday. Warning.

Interstellar Travel

Travel along interstellar routes can be done using star gates. After paying your travel fees to the Empire, you are allowed passage to the next system. Alternatively, vessels equipped with a jump drive may travel to any system within their drive’s range. Jumping between systems can lead to misjumps, but is free and can get you out quickly.

Travelling one parsec takes about a week. Make an encounter check when you arrive to a new system.


Roll 2d6 against the world’s population score. If you roll under, characters encounter a starship. Additionally, on a 6+ it is a cruiser class, on a 9+ it is a capital class ship, otherwise the crew encounters a courier class vessel. Choose or roll a local faction the vessel is aligned with. Determine whether it is hostile by the crew’s faction reputation, or by rolling.

Commercial Travel

You can travel between worlds if you find a liner going to your destination.

  • High and medium passage are the usual first and second class tickets.

  • Working passage allows travel in exchange for labour (if you have the skills). If taking the working passage for more than 3 jumps, the character is hired with standard pay.

  • Low passage is cheap and dangerous. The passenger spends the whole journey in suspended animation. Upon arrival they roll 2d6 over 4 to survive. It is common for passengers to bet on how many will survive the journey.

Sojourner Welfare Society is a private organisation which maintains facilities at high quality ports, which are available at a reasonable price to guests and members. Membership has a 1-in-6 chance to be gained after completing a lifepath, or can be purchased. Members are provided high passage tickets every two months.


The galaxy of Sojourner is home to many spaceship types. Here are some examples:

Class  Faction Navy Guild Frontier
Courier Troopship Passenger and express Scout
Cruiser Interceptor Luxury vessel Terraforming vessel
Capital Mothership Cargo freighter Colony arcship

Courier ships are the most frequent. Player characters will be likely to own such a ship during most of their campaign.

Cruiser ships have an increased number of hardpoints, making them an intimidating force.

Capital ships are the jewels of major factions. Their presence can decide the fate of a world.

Pirate and smuggler factions love to redesign and customise existing ships, attaching new modules onto them or reshaping their hulls.


Engines are how the ship moves between planets in a system.

Fuel can be either refined or unrefined. Starships are usually forced to use unrefined fuel if quality starports are unavailable. Unrefined fuel can also be obtained by skimming the clouds of a gas giant. After each jump using unrefined fuel, roll under 11 to avoid drive failure, modify the target number by -1 for the next jump.

Hardpoints are the guns and tools of a spaceship. Lasers, missiles, and scavenging equipment can be installed based on the crew’s needs. Courier ships starts out with 1-3 hardpoints, then 4-6 for cruisers, and finally 7-9 for capital ships.

The ship’s hull protects the crew from micrometeorites and laser blasts. Hull types range from 1 (light) to 6 (military grade).

Every starship bridge is equipped with a computer system. It allows the ship to make jumps, calculate trajectories, and perform other complex calculations. Computer calculations are limited by their capacity, the number of calculations which can be run simultaneously. Capacity ranges from 1 (standard) to 6 (legendary). Programs can be either purchased on technology supplying worlds, or be written by characters with a computer skill.

Trade goods are transported within a cargo hold. One hold can contain one type of good. Radioactive or hazardous items require specialised holds to be installed.

Crew and passengers spend their downtime in quarters. Officers and luxury passengers require a room to themselves. Standard crews share a room between two. Military vessel crews live with four per room.

If a ship is blessed by an Imperial jump drive, they can move between star systems without the aid of star gates. Jump drives range from 1 to 6, their number relating to how many parsecs they can travel in one jump. After a jump, roll 2d6 over the amount of parsecs travelled to avoid misjump. On a misjump, roll d6 for direction of jump and d6 for the jump distance.

Ships costs are unbearable for common crews, so they will have to rely on a patron for purchasing aid. Most commonly it is an Imperial bank, but it can be any major faction in the sector. The crew can be involved in the faction’s affairs at any moment.

Hostile Contact

Confrontation in space often leads to a chase. When there is a conflict between starship crews, establish a pursuer and a runner. Think of the environment around them. A starport approach? Icy rings of a gas giant?

Pursuer makes a demand: jettison cargo, give over a passenger, destroy contraband.

Runner establishes an escape: a functioning stargate, a planet’s surface, a valid jump point.

The idea behind chase rolls is to randomise damage and movement, so that the crew can focus on other interesting decisions.

Time is divided into rounds. Each round both sides make a chase roll with 2d6. If the pursuer rolls doubles, they reach the runner and achieve their demands. If the runner rolls doubles, they reach their escape point and flee the pursuer.

If any dice of pursuer and runner rolls match, they hit each other. Roll d6 and compare to the ship’s hull. If over, a random crew member is injured. If equal or under, reduce the hull by 1 and gain a ship condition. Conditions cause negative bonuses to calculations and actions taken by the crew.

If a side rolls a 7, each crew member can take an action or perform a calculation.

Actions Calculations
Restore system: roll + engineering to remove a ship condition. Jump-trajectory: after an amount of rounds equal to jump distance, the ship will jump at the end of the round.
Take aim: roll + gunnery to choose your opponent’s next gained condition. Laser-jamming: choose a number from 1 to 6, matching dice of which do not count as hits.
Fix leak: roll + repair to patch 1 hull. Predicting-path: once per round, reroll your opponent’s events or gain an extra die on your next chase roll
Contact: communicate with the other side or call for help. Defense-hack: you can always choose to either hit your opposing side’s hull or crew.
Manoeuvre: roll + helm to reroll a die on your next chase roll. Surrounding-scan: find alternative escape routes or gain a bonus to your helm and astrogation rolls.
First aid: roll + medical to heal a crew member. Overload-engines: once per round, reroll your chase roll and gain a ship condition.

If the runners decide to surrender to the pursuers, they can do that as a free action.

At the end of each round, the side with the lowest total makes a roll for an event.

d6 Event Description
1 Encounter New starship joins the chase based on its faction’s disposition.
2 Malfunction Fuel leak, meteorite shower or computer bug. Roll + engineering to avoid gaining a ship condition.
3 Interference Nebula, solar wind or cosmic radiation obfuscate your target. Roll + astrogation to detect the opposing side, else they remain hidden and the chase ends.
4 Evasion Unexpected space debris is in your flight path. Roll + helm to avoid collision, else the opponent can make a chase roll.
5 Dilemma The crew has to make a decision between two unfavourable options, such as having to overload engines or slingshot through a gas giant.
6 Opportunity A crew member must decide quickly in order to take an extra action.

Continue until a side escapes, achieves demands, surrenders, or has their crew incapacitated.

Stellar Mapping

With this post ends the Sojourner trilogy. If you want to kickstart your space campaign, I recommend checking out my post on generating worlds that will give you a solid sandbox environment for your adventures to unfold. If you play Sojourner, have feedback, or just want to chat about sci-fi, as always feel free to sh me on social media.

Published on June 20, 2022.

Tagged: mechanics   space   osr   sojourner  


Spooky action at a distance is a blog run by emmy verte, to muse on sci-fi, fantasy location exploration and short fiction. You can donate to support Ukraine here.