My players have an airship and one of them, a Wright, is a designated mechanic. I found that the ship's weekly depletion roll is not quite...adequate. Let's try to hack the rules!


The first problem I have is that in the whole first season, of which the ship was present for the half of it, weekly depletion roll came up only once. Yeah, it was an action-packed season.

Second thing, as I have a Wright and a Delve at the table, I am using Destiny rules. In Destiny, Depleted state counts as a Major Object Damage (page 123), which is a whopping 50% of time and difficulty of original crafting requirement and requires the highest level iotum replacement.

So it happens rarely but when it does, it’s crushing. I would like to change that, but what do I want to achieve exactly?

Design Goals
First I would like to recreate situations from SW, Firefly or Cowboy Bebop, where characters have to do constant maintenance on their rust buckets, which in turn creates interesting situations and decisions they need to make.

I would also like a more gradual degradation system so I can have classic tropes from when a car won’t start at the worst possible time, all the way to scenes where it just stops dead in the middle of nowhere.

I would like to have ongoing maintenance cost that, if not paid, will influence the type of damage ship might take due to negligence. This should be an interesting resource management type of play, in the same sense players already have with stat pools.

In the end, I am hoping this will give the ship a certain character, or charm, similarly how Millennium Falcon has one.

What I don’t want is to complicate rules too much, but stay in line with Cypher System design philosophy.

What can we play with
Let’s check the rules and see what can we play with. I already mentioned object damage states. These are Disabled, Minor, Major and Destroyed. Depleted is same as Major. These look granular enough, so I want to use them as they are.

Next thing that is important is a depletion roll itself. I used “Flyer” plan specification (p. 174) for my airship, which states a Depletion Roll of 1 in d20 once a week.

What are the other depletion ranges though? I found those listed on page 113 : 1 in d100, 1 in d20, 1 in d10 and 1 in d6, not counting automatic depletion and no depletion options.

When we look at these from a probability perspective they actually have a nice range: 1%, 5%, 10% and 17% chance of depletion.

Putting it all together
So if my Flyer starts with 1-d20 (5%), a properly maintained state, on a depletion roll I can assign Disabled state and degrade the depletion dice to 1-d10 (10%). 1-d10 depletion would trigger Minor Damage and degrade the dice further to 1-d6(17%). 1-d6 depletion would finally cause Major Damage. I don’t want depletion to destroy the vehicle so we don’t use that state.

Repairing the damage caused by depletion will not upgrade the dice unless maintenance cost is factored into the repair.

I degrade dice on purpose here, as these depletion rolls are already in the game so I don’t have to worry about the statistical impact (much). The Second benefit is that I can use one set of dice with a distinct color to represent maintenance status, so no need to keep track of depletion ranges if I were to use only one dice and just increase depletion range.

The Hard part is figuring out the time interval. I noted that weekly roll did not work in the first season, but I don’t actually know if the second one will be action-packed as the first one. This is something that I will need to playtest. For start, I will set it to daily roll and see how it goes.

Maintenance task
I read somewhere that luxury yachts upkeep is about 10% of the total cost, so that looks like a good base for the maintenance cost in iotum.

Maintenance task is a craft task. It takes one or more hours to finish. Difficulty is the level of the vehicle. Required iotum is 10% of total vehicle plan iotum. Which for a Flyer would be:

  • io (1d6) - I will leave this as a roll
  • Responsive Synth - 1 unit
  • Synth Steel - 1 unit
  • Parts - 6 units

For now, this looks good as a rule of thumb, but will need some playtesting to get right.

This task can be done when the ship is landed and charging. Once the task is done the dice is upgraded to next better size. I will also use charging time to roll depletion die, so that way I have only one daily thing to track. Die is rolled after any maintenance task is done.

Problem here is what to do with a maintenance when the die is d20? We can assume that players will want to have the ship in a tip top shape. Does that mean that d20 can’t be degraded, and how often should they do the task in order to keep it tip top?

I will start with this: If maintenance is done daily when die is d20, on a depletion roll there is no degradation to d10.

On a fail roll or if there is not enough iotum, die is not upgraded, and in case of d20 it can degrade on 1.

Depletion Damage
One other complication I have is that the ship has various subsystems that are artifacts on their own. Think med-bay, ship core, sensors, weapons and other upgrades to the ship that players install.

For now I plan to roll randomly to see which subsystem is affected once the depletion number comes up, which means they come into play only if a damage status is applied and use repair rules stated in that table.

To Playtest
It feels a bit clunky at the moment, maybe to complicated but I think there is a good system hiding in there somewhere. A list of things to playtest:

  • Depletion timing - daily, weekly, on usage?
  • Maintenance cost - 10% might be too cheap or to expensive, maybe some better system comes up to determine the cost
  • Is this engaging to players? Is this a meaningful choice or just a ship tax?
  • Should I just use d20 and increase the depletion range?
  • Should I scale the maintenance cost in iotum depending on the ship depletion die?

Let me know what you think about this little hack. Once I playtest it, I will update the post with further thoughts and ideas.

Look at your car now. Oh no, the engine light is on! //hands out 2XP