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Starscape II Docs - Ship Design

Posted by Rache , in Starscape II Apr 09 2013 · 714 views

This document gives a pretty good overview of the principles of shipbuilding.
Spaceships vary wildly in their designs, based on their intended function, however, they can generally be classified according to their size and intended function. However, there are no standard ship classes; if you like, a good general principle is to build your ships along real-world Navy ship designs. However, your species’ biology and culture will influence this, and you’re free to design your ships however you like.   

Ship classes in this format

FTL Drive:
Defensive Systems
Detection Systems:

You fill out every detail except the Cost, and send it to me in a PM; I’ll look it over, and if it looks good, fill out the cost.


You are not expected to know everything about a spaceship’s design. You’re not an engineer, after all. However, you should understand these basics of what spaceships are like, and how to build them.

Power and Thrust

The first step in designing your ship’s power system is picking its Reactor. Much like real world Naval ships, a spaceship needs a massive reactor. However, in space, a reactor is far more important, because it is usually also your main Propulsion system. The following are a list of a few basic Reactor types; feel free to pick from these, or choose your own system.

Nuclear Fusion Reactor

Your basic Fusion Reactor uses either lasers or magnetic pinches to force atomic nuclei to fuse, which produces a massive amount of energy and heat. Reaction mass(Hydrogen, Water, Deuterium, and Helium-3 are all common choices) is fed into the fusion reaction slowly enough that it is self-sustaining. This energy can be captured, the heat this reaction gives off used to produce power with temperature differentials. To produce thrust with one of these reactors, the reactor is simply opened to space; White hot streams of post-fusion gas race out into the night, propelling the ship forward. This reactor requires light elements to be fed into it as reaction mass, and thus increases the CHON cost of maintaining the ship.


A Ramjet is a Fusion Reactor, with the addition of enormous, kilometers-wide magnetic “sails” which, as a ship travels, capture free-floating hydrogen in space, and force it down into the ship’s reactor for use as Reaction Mass. Originally, Ramjets were designed as the best design for a slower-than-light ship, and were probably used if your species launched any. The advantage of a Ramjet is that its reactions get more and more efficient the faster a ship is going, and, more importantly, it does not require fuel to be carried with it. However, they are expensive to build and maintain, increasing the Money cost of ships they’re used in.

Gravity-Trail Propulsion: An option only available to species who have Artificial Gravity, Gravity-Trail Propulsion is an excellent option for propelling a ship; a gravity field is generated in front of the ship, strong enough that the ship “falls” directly forward. Gravity-Trail Propulsion is useful because the gravity waves it produces are difficult to detect, and the ship itself produces no bright Fusion Flares or other telltale signs of existence, making this one of the few options for a Stealthy ship.

Laser-Reaction Drive: Essentially, this drive is a fusion drive which emits its Fusion Flare in the form of a laser. There are two advantages to this type of drive; one, its drive can be used as a long range signaling device. Two, it can be used as a close range weapon, as this laser is incredibly powerful. These drives are more expensive to build than Fusion drives.

ORION Drive: Explode nuclear warheads behind an extremely thick shell built into your ship. Propel yourself with nukes. What more do you want from life? An ORION drive can be made far more useful by coating the shell in a Stasis Field, increasing the efficiency to nearly 100%.

Ballistic Sling: A Ballistic Sling isn’t a power production method, or a drive, per-se, but a means of getting from place to place. Using conventional rocket fuels to give an initial boost, or other low-intensity drive methods, a ship travels a long, slow, leisurely curve through a solar system, ending at its destination. These systems are useless for going anywhere but the place you actually planned on ending up, as there’s no steering and no power. However, these systems are also essentially free. For this reason, they’re popular when launching colony ships from one planet to another planet in the same system. This is the method that most Real-World deep-space spacecraft use.


Every spaceship needs armor, even if it’s just there to hold in the atmosphere. The most basic spaceships use metal layers, often Steel or Aluminum. Some spaceships, especially those preferred by races with more advanced material science, prefer Aerogel or Foam Aluminum armor, but armor is all essentially the same; a solid material designed to take impacts and energy, to keep the structure intact.

Interceptors are a critical system for defending your ship from missiles, because missiles, while slow, have insanely high damage if they do score a hit. Interceptors can come in the form of tiny kinetic-interceptor counter-missiles, bullets, or laser beams. All are about equally valuable. The effectiveness of these interceptors depends on how far away the missiles are launched.

Energy shields are, in the time of Starscape, mostly science fiction. The closest thing available is a large Magnetic Field, probably made with the same projectors the ship uses in a Ramjet. This Magnetic Field serves to deflect incoming plasma and particle beams. If dust and iron filings can be held in the field, it will actually serve as an effective shield against laser beams, relativistic-velocity kinetics, and missiles.

The above idea of a magnetic shield can be combined with a Flak Barrier, essentially a set of cannons that set up a spherical shell of explosions around the ship. This, filled with iron filings held in place by a field, provide a good, if temporary, shield against nearly everything.

Detection Systems: See the “Scanners” section of the Technologies post. Most ships will have all of those.

Other Considerations

Venting Heat: Spaceships build up heat while in space, and have to lose it somehow. Without an atmosphere, you can’t just vent heat to the air, so a ship must use Radiators. These aren’t the big, orange glowing things on the Venture Star in that one James Cameron film, but rather, a Radiator in use on a spaceship is a big sheet of aluminum, painted white, and run through with tubes of water or some other liquid. The tubes carry heat to the radiators, and the radiators bleed off their heat as light. However, these radiators are fragile. Pieces of shrapnel from missiles and destroyed spaceships could ruin them. Thus, in a fight, these radiators must be retracted to keep from being ruined. As all ship’s operations produce heat, a ship’s endurance is mostly determined by the heat tolerance of the crew, more than its ammunition supplies and reactor.

Atmospheric Entry: A ship’s gravity and pressure tolerances will determine what sort of planet it can land on. The Discovery from 2001: Space Odyssey might be able to handle the pressure on Earth, but its long, tube shaped structure would snap in half under the gravity. By contrast, the NASA Space Shuttles could fly on Venus’ low gravity without a problem, but would be crushed like little origami frogs by the pressure on Venus’ ground level. As a general rule, a smaller ship can handle less gravity, and a better armored ship can handle more pressure.

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