Survey/Science Ship

I’m thinking of homebrewing a new freighter-class ship design for crews focused on exploration, discovery, and treasure hunting. The template seems to be either 3 points of ship quality with 2 gambits and 5-6 upgrade boxes, or 4 points of ship quality with 1 gambit.

I feel like the XP trigger should be something like “you collecting valuable data or. . .” but I’m not sure what the second prong should be. Discovered new routes/locations? Tested or deployed new technology?

I think that at minimum to make this ship work, we need

Engine 1 (Jump Drive)
Comms 1 (Long-Range Scanner)
Science Bay
Training: Insight

Which means we can add 1-2 points of system quality (2 if we go down to 1 gambit like Cerberus) and 1-2 upgrades or modules. One idea is to add Weapons 1 and Mining Drill. None of the existing ships start with that weapon, and I think it would also have non-combat uses for legitimate drilling and sampling. Another option would be to go Hull 1 and/or Comms 2, maybe including a cargo hold or Nexus Link. If we have room for one more miscellaneous box, I could see anything from suvival gear to land transports to a recon drone or AI core being relevant to their mission.

So here’s a couple templates as examples:

Freighter, 2 Gambits.
Engine 1 (Jump Drive)
Comms 1 (Long-Range Scanner)
Weapons 1 (Mining Drill)
Science Bay, AI Core, Training: Insight

Freighter, 1 Gambit
Engine 1 (Jump Drive)
Comms 2 (Long-Range Scanner)
Hull 1 (Landing Bay)
Science Bay, Land Rover, Survival Gear

Does this idea grab anyone? What could make it more exciting?

1 Like

Now to brainstorm some upgrades and abilities. . .


Crisis Protocols (+1 Gambit, 2 boxes)
Dangerous Vision (+1 Stress, 3 boxes)
–Some kind of environment suits with sensors?
–Some kind of portable lab/chemistry kit?
–Some special vehicle?
–Maybe a patron who can offer funding or legal cover? Maybe this makes more sense as an ability.

Investigators: Each PC may add +1 to either Doctor, Study, or Attune. (Maybe Doctor/Study/Scramble?)

Guild-Sponsored: Mostly a source of jobs and social permissions, not sure if it needs any crunch text.

Well-Equipped: Your crew gets +1 load, and each PC gains access to a fine version of one of the following items: med kit, communicator, repair tools, hacking tools, or space suit.

Field Samples: Gain 1 CRED after exploring an uninhabited location on a job (includes wilderness on planets and asteroids, etc. in space). Gain potency when gathering info about flora and fauna or environmental conditions.

Advanced Prototyping: Gain potency the first time you deploy new or newly upgraded systems, gear, or compounds.

Way-Farers: +1d to engagement rolls for mystic plans, and transport or infiltration plans passing through way-touched areas. +1d to resist artifact glitches and consequences from anomalies.

(Placeholder for 7th ability)

I like the idea, and I like both the ships. But I don’t think the ships are the first issue here. A survey / science ship is probably possible, but it may require either a shift in definition (i.e., independent Indiana Jones-style treasure hunters) or some fairly deep rewriting of the game. I mean, a science ship isn’t usually independent, right? It’s usually backed by a government, or at least a university or a powerful patron.
That’s more Star Trek than Firefly, and it messes with things like vices and the Heat mechanic and, really, the whole look and feel of the game.

Again, it’s probably possible. But tweaking the starting ship design probably isn’t among the top five issues.

I think the Procyon sector actually has plenty of opportunities for an independent crew with black market contacts to profit off scientific exploration. You could go down to Aketi and capture jungle beasts, or collect samples of unknown plants, or chart routes through unexplored regions of jungle. You could then sell those plant compounds to a drug syndicate, or the animals to a breeder or fighting pit, or the charts to a smuggling ring or a noble house that was interested in developing the area. You could retrieve artifacts from derelict Progenitor ruins, hunt for unknown hyperspace lanes or discover new ways to interface with gates, etc.

I would definitely include some upgrades and/or abilities that would allow the crew to have some degree of backing from a Hegemonic Guild or Cult, most likely as a deniable asset comissioned poach technology from other Hegemonic institutions, but I’d leave the independent option open as well, in the same way that Cerberus can be license or unlicensed bounty hunters.

And if we back up a level from actually doing science, there’s plenty of generic crimes that a survey ship would be useful for. Basically we’re looking at a mostly-unarmed vehicle that will probably get built up with advanced engines and comms, a lot like the Stardancer except without the ability to move large cargoes around. You’d be well-positioned to infiltrate or extract small groups of people, to carry messages, do espionage, and any kind of problem-solving that involves delivering small quantities of high-tech devices or chemicals rather than holds full of bulk cargo.