Spooky action at a distance

Advanced Shore Leave for Mothership

What do I do as the Warden during Shore Leave? This post will aim to answer the question, providing more depth to Shore Leave phases based on Mothership 1e mechanics. Using a downtime die and faction turns can create opportunities for new missions, and are generally helpful for worldbuilding. And as I say in every post, these rules are super modular. You can adjust them to your taste and the specifics of your campaign.

Downtime Die

While your characters rest in port, the world around them changes. The downtime die is a special kind of die that is rolled every Shore Leave phase. It is introduced to simulate the growth of various dangers and factions. Similar to the derelict die, it is meant as a guiding tool to help the warden flesh out the world. Feel free to customise the table below to your needs.

Before the crew declares their actions for the Shore Leave, roll a d20:

Roll Effect Description
1 Abyss Increase Ruin in this sector by 1. Create a new Abyss if none existed before.
2-4 Encounter Crew’s current location is visited by an NPC or a faction. Corporation spaceship docking for the month, or a caravan on a desert planet selling wares.
5-7 Threat A new threat becomes active, or an old one makes a move.
8-10 Shift A faction, NPC or location undergoes change. On a 10 there is also an Expiration (temporary complications and situations end).
11-13 Rise A new faction, NPC or location emerges. On 11-12 there is also an Expiration (temporary complications and situations end).
14-16 Clue Rumour of the crew’s next mission, or what the next Encounter, Threat, Shift or Rise may be.
17-19 Free No additional events this phase.
20 Benefit The crew receives an unexpected opportunity or gift. Meeting with a faction they are trying to infiltrate, or free accommodations at the new hotel.


Abyss represents long-term danger to a sector. They can be entities like Corporations, Pirates or Alien Gods—as well as more abstract concepts like a looming economic crisis or the eternal darkness of the void. Think of it as stress, but for the environment instead of a single character.

If you roll a downtime die lower then or equal to the Ruin in the current sector, an Incursion is triggered of the corresponding value. An Incursion table ranges from 1 to 10. 1 always being an increase in Ruin, and 2-10 being some kind of Abyss related event (hyperspace spectral incursion, working conditions worsening, colony outpost flooding etc.) arranged in ascending order of intensity.

Example: The Trigo Station’s Abyss is the asteroid mining boom. Its current Ruin sits at 6. Warden rolls a 5 on the downtime die. She knows that she will have to create a new threat and resolve the Breach, so she decides to combine the two (even though it’s not necessary). She tells the crew that SQR mining corp’s (an established threat) recent activity has left an asteroid drifting towards Trigo Station!

For each 2 Ruin the Abyss has, create a relevant Rift in the sector that represents the power of the Abyss spreading. If a Rift is dealt with, reduce the Ruin in the sector by 2.

If an Abyss accumulates 10 Ruin it becomes a Cataclysm. The status quo of the sector is completely altered. Abyss events are no longer triggered.

Setting d10 Abyss Starter Inspiration Table
C 1 Upload mania as a new perfect reality is created and people begin to jack in for days. It only gets better, and droves of people flock to it. Eventually the tipping point occurs and more people are in VR than out, and infrastructure collapses.¹
O 2 Technocult dreams of achieving the Perfect AI. Their robotic tech is getting out of control. Various stations try to ban high complexity tech, but it is too late. All tech becomes one with the Perfect AI.
R 3 Corporations conspire to make intentionally obsolete products. All new tech becomes extremely unreliable. Ancient technology becomes priceless. Entire fleets crumble from the inability to keep up with repairs.
E 4 Deep space expedition returns to port. Crew is acting strange. Interior of their ship is riddled with unreadable symbols. They speak of exposing the out there to the world. They start organising hellish rites on the station.
5 Gang of crystal infused raiders roam the outposts. Alien crystals give the raiders their signature blue-green glow. After the raids, they were seen planting crystals into the ground. The landscape mutates into an alien world.
O 6 Rogue battleship wants to establish control over the sector. Their defences are impenetrable. They are building a powerful laser powered by stars.
U 7 Asteroid hopping pirates have mastered mech technology. They are swift in attacking cargo ships and are completely undetectable. Trade and transportation are paralyzed. Bounty hunting becomes rampant. Pirates establish themselves as sole rulers of the void.
T 8 Thousands of 10 foot high obelisks appear in orbit. They have names on them. Those who find their name (not many) say they can see the future. People begin spending their entire lives searching for their name.¹
E 9 Alien derelict discovered near a far each colony. Visitors (those who survive the immense dangers of delving) gain various magical abilities. Some are healed, some gain a wish. What starts as a rumour and a few cases escalates into a race for the derelict. Society disintegrates as powers become ubiquitous.
R 10 Hyperspace deterioration threatens reality. At first it is only a couple of misjumps. Then objects become disappearing, and appearing in other places, warped. Objects that manage to return from hyperspace are infested with creatures from out there. Soon entire stations get lost.

¹Entries kindly provided by Ty of the Mindstorm blog (the dimension hopping faction is awesome).

Shift and Rise

Shift and Rise entries provide a changing environment for the players to explore. Usually they are connected to the crew’s previous actions, but you can also use this little table for inspiration:

d5 Shift Description
1 Clash One faction captures resources from another.
2 Rivals A rival crew or faction makes a move.
3 Control Another faction gains authority in this location.
4 Realm Weather or condition of the location changes.
5 Alliance Factions merge one or several of their resources.


Factions are the major forces of your campaign. Corporations, alien cults, rogue warships. Their conflicts and interactions help create a living world. Factions are defined by resources and goals.

  • Resources are the faction’s influence and power over the sector. Fleet of jumpships, black market connections, experimental tech.

  • Goals can range from short-term to ambitious. For example: you might set a corporation’s goals as dealing with a strike and setting up a new outpost on the periphery. They require 2-5 progress marks to be completed based on difficulty.

Every Shore Leave factions work towards their current goal. Roll a d10 and add +1 for each relevant resource. On a 6-9 mark one progress, on a 10+ mark two progress. If a goal is completed, a new resource is added to the faction. If a faction grows to 3 resources, squads become available to them. At 5 resources, they gain control of capital spaceships if possible.

The crew has a Reputation score with each faction. Reputation ranges from -3 (Hated) to +3 (Admired). The crew will usually start at 0 (neutral) Reputation with a faction. At 1, 2 and 3 Reputation, the crew gains access to the faction’s items, contractors and facilities respectively. The Reputation score is used as a modifier for Contact rolls with NPCs from that faction.

A sector can have d5+1 factions. Stations have varying faction presence depending on their class. S-Class ports have a single faction as the only authority, while X-Class ports will be places of interest for multiple factions. Roll on this little table to get a basic idea for your factions’ dynamics.

d100 00-40 50-90
0-4 A major faction enforces its will on smaller ones.² A major faction is in conflict with smaller rebellious forces.
5-9 Factions of equal size in a delicate balance.² Factions of equal strength are locked in conflict.

²Factions that appear peaceful could always be performing covert operations against their enemies.

Extra Activities

Some things you can do in addition to the classic options.

Lawyers are just pirates of a different sort.

To simulate factions and threats going after your crew in court, a Legal Save is introduced. The Legal Save depends on the amount of law and order present in port. The higher the class of a port, the harder it is to defend yourself in court.

Port X-Class C-Class B-Class A-Class S-Class
Legal Save 75 60 45 30 15
  • Success: you get away from prosecution, for now at least. On a crit you are compensated for your time and effort.
  • Failure: you are stuck in legal hell. You next Legal Save roll will be at -10. The case is inconclusive, so you have to find more evidence or lawyers to survive. On a crit fail, the case against your crew succeeds.

You can also modify your save by +1 for every 10kcr spent on lawyers.

In X-Class ports, reduce your save by -20 for every foe in the sector. A powerful nemesis may be impossible to defeat in court. Corrupt justice of X-Class ports will be swayed in favour of those with money and influence. In X-Class and C-Class ports, a court” could also mean the presence of any high standing figure (mafia leader for example), a sheriff or a bounty hunter.


Tinkering allows you to modify equipment to make it more specialised or useful. To tinker with equipment, make an Intellect check, if possible adding Jury-rigging, Mechanical repair or Engineering. You will always install a Mod, but your roll will determine your drawbacks.

Result Effect
Crit success No drawbacks.
Success A drawback chosen by player.
Failure A drawback chosen by the Warden.
Crit fail 2 drawbacks, each chooses one.


  • Light: can be carried and hidden easily.
  • Durable: resistant to breaking and errors.
  • Economical: reduced energy/ammo consumption.
  • Any special effect from firearms and industrial equipment.


  • Bulky: uses more item slots, becomes harder to hide.
  • Fragile: susceptible to breaking or glitching.
  • Demanding: consumes more energy/ammo.

This is an incomplete list of course. You and your players are encouraged to come up with more specific ways to modify your equipment.


Contacts are everyone with whom your crew has a relationship with.

If you make an effort to improve your relationship, roll a d10 and compare it to your current score. If you roll below, increase the score by 1. If you roll above, you must complete a task before you can change the relationship.

Score Relation Description
1-2 Nemesis Actively creates dangers, traps and terrors for the crew.
3-4 Foe Prevents the crew from achieving their goal when given the opportunity.
5-6 Stranger Most contacts start here.
7-8 Friend Will aid the crew when possible.
9-10 Ally Will perform major favours for the crew at cost. If they are a prominent figure in a faction, the crew gains +1 Reputation with them.


Choose how to spend your free time during Shore Leave. Different habits have different minor effects. Habits are not considered Shore Leave actions. They are chosen once per Shore Leave. Think of them more like taking stances in combat.

Study: gain skill if you roll d5 under current skill segments.

Exercise: +5 to your chosen stat until the next shore leave.

Socialise: gain advantage on Contact rolls.


During downtime, you may spend credits in order to buy furniture and increase how much stress is cleared. No, I’m not turning Mothership into a Sims game, I promise.

  • Small furniture (lamps, pillows) increases cleared stress by 1.
  • Large furniture (beds, shelves, tables) increases the cleared stress by 2.
  • Plants will clear your stress by d10, but require special attention. You must spend each Shore Leave habit tending to the plants, or else they become neglected. If they are not cared for after being neglected, they die. After they perish, your next comfort save is done at disadvantage.

Further Reading

  1. Permanent Cranial Damage - Downtime: philosophy behind downtime rules in Errant.
  2. Prismatic Wasteland - Your Tavern Needs Procedures: ideas if space cantinas are your thing.
  3. Dungeon of Signs - The Law in Denethix: more detailed rulings for legal hell.

Published on March 10, 2022.

Tagged: mechanics   mothership   downtime   space   osr   house rules  


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.