StarPilot: A Story Engine for Space Fighter Combat

StarPilot is a story engine for one-on-one space combat in small fighter craft. It is designed to be "played" by two persons in an online conference or "chat" area. No supervisor is needed unless the players desire a rules interpreter.

StarPilot postulates an ongoing series of small skirmishes between four distinct sides--the Cyfeillgar Alliance, Emboros Cartel, Granica Federation, and Ithrott League. Players assume pilot personas of one or more sides. Success means improved skills, promotion, and better equipment. Failure often means an early grave.

Part One: The Naval Academy

Each StarPilot player may have up to eight pilot personas ("pilots") active at one time, four each for RTC and BB play. However, they must fly for different sides in the ongoing struggles of Alliance, Cartel, Federation, and League.

To create your pilot, divide 36 points among three aptitudes, with a maximum of 16 points allowed in any one aptitude.

Table of Aptitudes well you shoot ship weapons. well you fly your fighter. well you read your instrument packages.

Name this pilot, and select a side. Your new pilot will start at Rank One, with a choice of one of two Light Fighters. (Each of the four sides has its own names for the ranks and the ship types; consult Appendix A for details.)

All ships have six stats: Beams, Missiles, Maneuver, Speed, Shields, and Electronics. These stats for starting fighters are also found in Appendix A. Appendix C provides this information for all 24 ship types used in StarPilot.

Your skills are all computed by multiplying one of your aptitudes by one of your ship's stats. Calculate your skill percentages for each of the ten commands:

Fire     = Beams X Weapons         Open    = Speed X Piloting
Launch   = Missiles X Weapons      Protect = Shields X Sensors
Dogfight = Maneuver X Piloting     ECM     = Electronics X Sensors
Jink     = Maneuver X Piloting     Scan    = Electronics X Sensors
Close    = Speed X Piloting        Target  = Electronics X Sensors

Congratulations. You are ready for play.

Part Two: Engage the Enemy!

To start a round of StarPilot, two pilots must play. Pilots from the same side never fight each other; pilots controlled by the same player never fight each other.

Two key concepts allow StarPilot to reflect the realities of jockeying for position without using maps or graphic displays. These are Range and Advantage.


There are three ranges in a StarPilot battle: Near, Far, and Extreme. A battle always begins at Far range. Open and Close commands change the range when they succeed.

Near range favors Firing beam weapons, while Far range favors Launching missiles. No shooting may take place at Extreme range.

When a pilot begins a turn at Extreme range, that pilot may declare an Escape or take a normal turn. (Escaping ends the fight.) If both pilots on consecutive turns have a chance to Escape and neither does so, restart the battle as in the beginning with ship damage and any successful Scans remaining in effect.


A StarPilot battle begins in a Neutral status, with no pilot having a positional edge. Successful Dogfight turns can give one pilot or the other the Advantage. (To cancel opposing Advantage, either Dogfight successfully or change the Range.)

If you have the Advantage, you can Fire or Launch freely. Your foe cannot Fire or Launch at all.

If the battle is Neutral, both sides are allowed to Launch or Fire only on the turn after their Target command succeeds and is not cancelled. No Target, no shot.

If the opponent has the Advantage, you cannot Fire or Launch, but your opponent can.

Part Three: The Command System

Opposing StarPilots alternate turns in a regular cycle. A pilot announces one of the ten available commands, and then rolls dice to see if the effort succeeded. (Either pilot may go first; this may be decided by mutual agreement, though the commonest method of determining initiative is for both pilots to roll dice with the low roll starting.)

There are ten commands in StarPilot. Each has a percentage chance to succeed based on multiplying one of a pilot's aptitudes by one of the ship's base stats. When it's time to roll dice, a one-hundred-sided die (d100) is rolled. If the roll is less than or equal to the computed skill, the command succeeds. Otherwise, it fails.

When beginning play, a pilot may not use any command except Scan until the opponent is found by 1) succeeding with a Scan roll; or 2) taking damage from an opposing shot!

The StarPilot commands are:

CLOSE -- Roll: Speed X Piloting

Close is an attempt to move closer to the other ship. If Close succeeds the range will instantly change from Far to Near, or from Extreme to Far. (Close from Near range has no effect.) A change of range will also cancel any Advantage now in existence.

DOGFIGHT -- Roll: Maneuver X Piloting

Dogfight is used to maneuver for the positional Advantage. If Dogfight succeeds, you gain the Advantage (from Neutral) or cancel your opponent's existing Advantage (returning to Neutral).

ECM -- Roll: Electronics X Sensors

ECM stands for electronic counter-measures. It can be used to try to stop a missile attack, or to try to cancel an opponent's Target against your ship. If ECM succeeds the Launch/Target is cancelled.

FIRE -- Roll: Beams X Weapons

Fire uses your ship's beam weapons to damage the opponent. If you use Fire at Far range, you will do less damage if you hit. A successful Fire can be cancelled by a successful Jink or Protect.

NOTE: You may not Fire if the opponent has the Advantage. You may only Fire from Neutral status if your last turn was a successful Target which your opponent did not cancel.

JINK -- Roll: Maneuver X Piloting

Jink is fighter-talk for fancy dodging. It can be used to try to stop a beam (Fire) attack, or to try to cancel an opponent's Target against your ship. If Jink succeeds the Fire/Target is cancelled.

LAUNCH -- Roll: Missiles X Weapons

Launch sends your ship's missiles to damage the opponent. If you use Launch at Near range, you will do less damage if you hit. A successful Launch can be cancelled by a successful ECM or Protect. A ship carries an unlimited supply of missiles.

NOTE: You may not Launch if the opponent has the Advantage. You may only Launch from Neutral status if your last turn was a successful Target which your opponent did not cancel.

OPEN -- Roll: Speed X Piloting

Open is an attempt to move away from the other ship. If Open succeeds the range will change from Near to Far, or from Far to Extreme. (Open from Extreme range has no effect.) A change of range will also cancel any Advantage now in existence.

PROTECT -- Roll: Shields X Sensors

Protect activates shields to try to stop any attack, either beam or missile. If Protect succeeds the Fire or Launch is cancelled.

SCAN -- Roll: Electronics X Sensors

At the start of play, Scan is used to find the other fighter. A pilot may not use any command other than Scan until a Scan roll succeeds or their ship takes damage from the opponent.

TARGET -- Roll: Electronics X Sensors

Target may be used to improve aim. A successful Target adds 30% to either Fire or Launch skill for the pilot's next turn only. A successful Target may be cancelled by a successful ECM or Jink roll.

Part Four: The Hazards of Battle

If a pilot succeeds with a Fire or Launch attack, and the opponent fails to stop it with ECM, Jink, or Protect as appropriate, 100-sided dice are rolled and the Damage Table below is consulted.

The number of hits depends on the weapon used and range:

Range Table
Fire at Near:    Hits = undamaged Beams rating of ship
Fire at Far:     One hit
Launch at Near:  One hit
Launch at Far:   Hits = undamaged Missiles rating of ship
Launch at Far,
hit at Extreme:  One hit

Damage Table
01-10  Beams
11-20  Missiles
21-30  Maneuver
31-40  Speed
41-50  Shields
51-60  Electronics
61-00  Structure

The rolled stat is reduced in value by the listed amount. If a stat is reduced to zero all skills related to that stat are useless. When a stat is reduced to -1 it cannot go down any further (hits there are now ignored), but if two stats are reduced to -1 the ship is destroyed. Further, if Structure is reduced to -1 the ship is destroyed regardless of other damage.

Damage to a ship does not affect computed skills unless and until the stat affected hits zero, making a skill or skills useless. A ship may take damage on any stat, including one starting at zero.

Surrender: A pilot may Surrender in lieu of a turn. This ends the fight with the foe victorious. On the following day the losing pilot returns in a prisoner exchange, and will be issued a new fighter, identical to the one lost. The defeated pilot also loses up to 0.2 unspent Hero Points (as available).

Early Ejection: A pilot may attempt Early Ejection in lieu of an attempt to Protect, Jink, or ECM. Ejection chances are 25 plus 15 times the pilot's rank: 40% at Rank One, 55% at Rank Two, 70% at Rank Three, and 85% at Rank Four. If the attempt is successful, the ship is destroyed and the defeated pilot loses up to 0.2 unspent Hero Points (as available). A new ship, as above, is issued immediately, and the pilot may continue flying.

Death: If a ship is destroyed the pilot gets one last chance to cheat death, with a standard ejection (the same percentages as above). If the roll is too high the loser was killed when the ship was destroyed. In either case, the opposing pilot still gets the full 1 HP for the kill. (HP are explained below.)

Part Five: A Hero's Reward

Successful pilots get Hero Points (HP) from their fighting experiences.

Hero Point Table
  1 HP for destroying an enemy ship, whether its pilot succeeds
       or fails in either early or standard ejection
  1 HP for accepting surrender of an enemy ship.
0.7 HP if your opponent escapes.
0.3 HP if you escape your opponent.
  1 HP for fighting in a major battle promoted as such online.

Heroes eventually are rewarded if they live long enough. A pilot with accumulated HP may expend 1-5 of them (no fractions) for a roll on the Reward Table. However, once points are spent a pilot must fight again on another day before spending to consult the Reward Table again.

If it is not possible to use the reward you rolled, too bad. You do not get a reroll or a substitution.

Note: Promotion to Rank Two is automatic on completion of four combat missions.

Reward Table

Spend 1-5 HP. Add your current Rank to this number. Multiply the sum by a d10 roll

2-15   Add the HP you just spent to your choice of aptitudes.  You
       may not raise any aptitude higher than 18.  If you have
       spent more than one HP, they may be applied to a single
       aptitude, or split.
16-26  Upgrade your ship by adding one point to any one of its
       stats.  Limits:  No weapon increases for Light
       fighters.  No increases to Structure.  No stat may be upped
       more than once.  If your fighter is already improved to the
       limit you receive nothing.
27-39  You are promoted; add one to your Rank.  (If this makes you
       Rank Five, a Commander, congratulations!  Your pilot is
       now retired from fighting, and you have "won".)  See also
       the note above.
40+    You get a new ship of the next higher class; from Light
       Fighter to standard Improved Fighter, or from Improved Fighter
       to standard Heavy Fighter.  If you already fly a Heavy Fighter
       you get nothing.  Your ship is dependent on nationality; you
       may pick one of the two appropriate types.

Certified as a true and complete copy of StarPilot Regulations:

Marguerite L.K. Caladan             James Y. April
Grand Admiral, Cartel Navy          Admiral-In-Chief, Alliance Patrol
25 November AC 28                   37 Afm 3136

M.I. Randall                        Laura Bryant Akers
Star Admiral, Federation Forces     Pegasus Admiral, League Spacefleet
19.12.23                            25 Blotmath 6422 SR

Special Acknowledgements: David Dean, for Appendix B; Steve Osmanski, for major contributions in dogfighting and damage mechanics; Randall Stukey, for loopholing above and beyond the call of duty.

Testers: Cathy Bowden, Megan Brutman, David Dean, Mike Henigan, Marilyn Morey, Steve Osmanski, Paul Stallings, Randall Stukey.

Appendix A--National Differences:

       Cyfeillgar      Emboros         Granica        Ithrott
       Alliance        Cartel          Federation     League
       ========        ======          ==========     ======
One    Flight Sergeant Officer         Star Lance     Merlin Pilot
Two    Senior Sergeant Ensign          Star Legate    Hawk Pilot
Three  Lieutenant      Lieutenant      Star Centurion Falcon Leader
Four   Captain         Squadron Leader Star Major     Eagle Leader
Five   Force Commander Wing Commander  Star Commander Gryphon Commander

Light  Rus 133-A       Angela 313A     Clipus XIII-M  Wright 1903L
       Rus 133-B       Angela 313B     Clipus XIII-B  Wright 1903S
Imp.   Lakota 174-A    Brandy 417A     Parma XVII-M   Gagarin 1961L
       Lakota 174-B    Brandy 417B     Parma XVII-B   Gagarin 1961S
Heavy  Cymru 215-A     Catherine 521A  Scutum XXI-M   Armstrong 1969L
       Cymru 215-B     Catherine 521B  Scutum XXI-B   Armstrong 1969S

Starting Fighter Stats
               Beams   Misle   Manvr   Speed   Shlds   Elect   Struc
Rus 133-A        0       3       2       3       2       3   -   3
Rus 133-B        3       0       2       3       2       3   -   3
Angela 313A      0       3       3       2       2       3   -   3
Angela 313B      3       0       3       2       2       3   -   3
Clipus XIII-B    3       0       2       3       3       2   -   3
Clipus XIII-M    0       3       2       3       3       2   -   3
Wright 1903L     0       3       3       2       3       2   -   3
Wright 1903S     3       0       3       2       3       2   -   3

Alliance vessels tend to be fast with good electronics.
Cartel ships are highly maneuverable, and buy the best sensor systems.
Federation ships feature advanced shields and high top speeds.
League fighters are solid defensively, with agility and good shielding.
Weapon technology is fairly equal throughout the region.

Appendix B--Persona Sheet (original by David Dean):

                        StarPilot Persona Sheet

        Pilot: ______________________________________ Rank _________

        Piloting _____  Sensors _____  Weapons _____  HP ___________

        Ship: ______________________________________________________

                                                      Dmg   X

        ___ Beams       X Weapons  ____ Fire         01-10  0 OOO O O

        ___ Missiles    X Weapons  ____ Launch       11-20  0 OOO O O

        ___ Maneuver    X Piloting ____ Dogft/Jink   21-30  0 OOO O O

        ___ Speed       X Piloting ____ Open/Close   31-40  0 OOO O O

        ___ Shields     X Sensors  ____ Protect      41-50  0 OOO O O

        ___ Electronics X Sensors  ____ Scan/Tgt/ECM 51-60  0 OOO O O

        ___ Structure                                61-00  0 OOO O O

Fill in the ship's ratings on the left, the calculated percentage in the middle, and scratch off the unneeded circles on the side. During play, if damaged slash through the circles with a pencil, and if you're at -1 you mark out the 0 too. Reminders: Missiles at Far score rating in hits Missiles at Near score one hit Missiles hitting at Extreme score one hit Beams at Far score one hit Beams at Near score rating in hits Two areas at -1 means Boom Structure at -1 also means Boom.

Appendix C--Comprehensive Ship Table

               Beams   Misle   Manvr   Speed   Shlds   Elect   Struc
Angela 313A      0       3       3       2       2       3   -   3
Angela 313B      3       0       3       2       2       3   -   3
Armstrong 1969L  3       4       4       3       3       4   -   5
Armstrong 1969S  4       3       4       3       3       4   -   5
Brandy 417A      2       3       4       2       2       4   -   4
Brandy 417B      3       2       4       2       2       4   -   4
Catherine 521A   3       4       4       3       2       5   -   5
Catherine 521B   4       3       4       3       2       5   -   5
Clipus XIII-B    3       0       2       3       3       2   -   3
Clipus XIII-M    0       3       2       3       3       2   -   3
Cymru 215-A      3       4       3       4       2       5   -   5
Cymru 215-B      4       3       3       4       2       5   -   5
Gagarin 1961L    2       3       4       2       3       3   -   4
Gagarin 1961S    3       2       4       2       3       3   -   4
Lakota 174-A     2       3       2       4       2       4   -   4
Lakota 174-B     3       2       2       4       2       4   -   4
Parma XVII-B     3       2       2       4       3       3   -   4
Parma XVII-M     2       3       2       4       3       3   -   4
Rus 133-A        0       3       2       3       2       3   -   3
Rus 133-B        3       0       2       3       2       3   -   3
Scutum XXI-B     4       3       3       4       3       4   -   5
Scutum XXI-M     3       4       3       4       3       4   -   5
Wright 1903L     0       3       3       2       3       2   -   3
Wright 1903S     3       0       3       2       3       2   -   3

Light Fighters are Structure 3, Improved 4, Heavy 5.

Mark Numbers

The basic version of a fighter has no Mark Number. Fighters with improved equipment bear a Mark Number according to which areas have been improved. The Mark Number is computed by adding these factors:

  • Add 32 for increased Beams (not possible for Light Fighters)
  • Add 16 for increased Missiles (not possible for Light Fighters)
  • Add 8 for increased Maneuver
  • Add 4 for increased Speed
  • Add 2 for increased Shields
  • Add 1 for increased Electronics

This results in Mark Numbers from 1 to 63. Structure can never be increased, and no stat can be improved more than once.

(Note that from the original stats of the craft, excluding Structure, one can add the binary form of the Mark Number to get current stats.)

Appendix D--Background for the StarPilot Story Engine

The information below is compiled as a guide for people who want to breathe more life into their StarPilots. It will be added to over time and will be of special interest to potential authors in this piece o the Terran Empire.

Time Frame

The approximate time period of StarPilot is 2325-2330, two centuries after the founding of the Empire.


Sovereign: Her Imperial Majesty Brandy Lansky.
Duke of Fornax: His Grace Helmuth von Wien.
Earl of Avalon: The Most Honorable Melisande du Columbier (2296-2394; ruler from 2317 on).

More About Avalon

The Avalon Subsector comprises 106 systems, of which 36 contain inhabited worlds. (There are 53 inhabited worlds in the subsector, as several systems boast more than one such world.)

Arms of Avalon: On a yellow field, a purple Y-fork with four heraldic fountains upon it. (NB: I can see the Imperial heralds retaining fountain for conciseness, as opposed to "circle with six blue and white wavy stripes".)

Seat of Avalon Government: Ehcolem II, by far the most populated world of the subsector, was first colonized in 2157.

Guide to the Squabbling Factions

Cyfeillgar Alliance (12 worlds): The Alliance is a mutual defense pact, similar to NATO in the 20th century except that the member worlds voluntarily underwrite an Alliance Patrol independent of the worlds themselves. The Alliance was formed explicitly to counter perceived Federation expansionism and Cartel "anti-piracy" operations that looked suspiciously like warfare. Alliance headquarters is at Cyfeillgar, where the treaty was signed. The current commander of the Patrol is Admiral-in-Chief James Y. April.

Emboros Cartel (6 worlds): This umbrella body is a group of 14 corporations based on Khrimata or having major operations there. The Cartel economically dominates the area worlds, and is more powerful than their respective nominal governments. Cartel ships tend to be corporate business vessels first and fighters second, but a handful of fighting ships have proved useful in opening up trade opportunities and closing down pirates. Grand Admiral Marguerite L.K. Caladan is also the largest stockholder in Shicho Industries; despite her patronage appointment she is a capable naval strategist.

Granica Federation (8 worlds): On the surface this is an alliance similar to but older than Cyfeillgar's. In reality it serves as a power base for the ambitions of the powerful Granica family, which has ruled the planet of that name for almost 200 years since it was colonized. Star Admiral M.I. Randall heads the naval element of the unified Federation Forces.

Ithrott League (3 worlds): This small cluster of worlds (Domstoll, Hagi, Kynlig) was developed by colonists of Scandinavian heritage. League worlds tend to be insular and not interested in interstellar politics. However, they're squarely in the astrographic middle of the other factions, and recently put together a small League Spacefleet under Pegasus Admiral Laura Bryant Akers to preserve their mutual interests.

Note that 24 of the 53 inhabited worlds of Avalon, including the Earl's seat at Ehcolem II, are not involved in the skirmishing that makes the StarPilots famous.

Appendix E--Multiplayer StarPilot

StarPilot can be played by more than one pilot on a team without a lot of modification. Two-on-two is ideal for adding teamwork to play without too much complexity. Rules changes are as follows:

  1. All pilots on one team take a turn, then all pilots on the other team take a turn. A team may take its individual pilot turns in any order desired; this order may change from turn to turn!
  2. The following commands affect a pilot's relationship to all opponents at once: Close, ECM, Jink, Open, Protect, Scan.
  3. The following commands affect a pilot's relationship to only one opponent at a your "target" when declaring these options: Dogfight, Fire, Launch, Target.
  4. When one Scan succeeds for a team, all pilots on that team have detected all pilots on the other team. (Radios are wonderful.) Detection by taking damage only spots the firing ship, and not its teammates.
  5. A pilot may only Escape when beginning a turn at Extreme range to all active pilots on the other team.
  6. Standard one-on-one rules are restored when each team is down to one ship, should this occur.
  7. Hero Points are awarded a little differently in a multigame...
    Kill = 1 HP for the pilot firing the killing shot, and 0.4 HP to
           each teammate active when the kill happened.
    Capture = 1 HP for the pilot to whom an opponent surrenders, and
              0.4 HP to each teammate active at that time.
    Drive Off = 0.7 HP for each team member still active when an
                opponent escapes.
    Escape = 0.3 HP, as usual.
    Surrender is not penalized in a multigame.

Appendix F--Awards and Decorations

Each of the four warring StarPilot bodies rewards its loyal troops with a variety of awards for service and achievement. These awards are wound badges, achievement awards, and heroism medals.

Wound Badges

Any time a pilot's ship is hit, and the damage roll was 90 or greater, that pilot is wounded. Should the pilot survive the battle a wound badge (like the modern US Purple Heart) will be awarded. These badges are named as follows:

Alliance: Warrior's Star [WS]
Cartel: Khrimata Commendation [KC]
Federation: Order of the Red Cross [ORC]
League: The Rainbow Bridge [RB]

Achievement Awards

Ace Medal [AM] (Alliance): Awarded to Alliance pilots for each five kills or prizes, in any combination. Derived from the "ace" designation used in ancient atmospheric fighter combat on 20th century Terra. Multiple awards become the "Double Ace Medal [2AM]", "Triple Ace Medal [3AM]", etc.

Cartel Master of Prizes [CMP] (Cartel): Awarded to a Cartel pilot who takes seven or more prizes in battle. Kills do not count. A pilot taking 20 or more prizes becomes a Cartel Grand Master of Prizes [CGMP].

Legion of Honour [LoH] (Federation): This goes to any Federation pilot reaching 10 or more total Hero Points. A total of 25 or more HP creates the pilot as a Knight of the Legion of Honour [KLH].

Bronze Starburst of Ithrott [BSI] (League): Awarded for completion of 12 missions in League service; the Silver Starburst [SSI] marks 30 missions. Kills and prizes taken do not get added credit.

Heroism Medals

Sometimes pilots do heroic things in the emptiness of space. If a player or observer of any StarPilot game observes particularly heroic performance on the part of another person's pilot, they may post a description of the heroic actions in the Terran Empire StarPilot newsgroup on SFF Net. If two other active StarPilot players besides the recommender and the player of the affected pilot post public endorsements of the heroic act as worthy, the heroism medal of the appropriate group will be awarded.

A second or later award of the heroism medal to the same pilot requires one additional endorser per extra award...three endorsements for a second medal, four for a third, etc.

The four heroism medals are:

Alliance: Star of Valor [SV]
Cartel: Circle of Fourteen [C14]
Federation: Hero of Granica [HG]
League: Gold Starburst of Ithrott [GSI]

Appendix G--Designers' Notes

The original designer has adapted StarPilot for use with the Terran Empire universe, now supported online through the Terran Empire area of SFF Net. This adaptation was done with permission of the Terran Empire's creator, Ann Wilson. These rules by be freely distributed online so long as they are not sold.

These rules are dedicated to Cathy Bowden and April Masters, without whose encouragement it would not have come to be.

StarPilot is Copyright © 1993, 1994 by Glenn E. Overby II.
Copyright © 1995 by Glenn E. Overby II and Ann Wilson. All rights reserved.
Story Engine is a trademark owned by Randall Stukey and used with permission.
This is Version 3.1 of StarPilot.