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 half of it, the weekly depletion roll came up only once. Yeah, it was an action-packed season.

Secondly, as I have a Wright and a Delve at the table, I am using Destiny rules. In Destiny, a depleted state counts as Major Object Damage (page 123), which requires a whopping 50% of the time and difficulty of the original crafting task and requires the highest level iotum be replaced.

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 Star Wars, 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 like when a car won’t start at the worst possible time, or scenes where it just stops dead in the middle of nowhere.

I would like to have an ongoing maintenance cost that, if not paid, will influence the type of damage the 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, similar to how the Millennium Falcon has one.

What I don’t want is to complicate the 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 we can play with. I already mentioned object damage states. These are Disabled, Minor, Major and Destroyed. Depleted is considered the same as Major. These look granular enough, so I want to use them as they are.

Next important thing is the depletion roll itself. I used the “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.

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 the Disabled state and degrade the depletion die to 1-d10 (10%). A 1-d10 depletion would trigger Minor Damage and degrade the die further to 1-d6(17%). A 1-d6 depletion would finally cause Major Damage. I don’t want depletion to ever destroy the vehicle so we don’t use that state.

Repairing the damage caused by depletion will not upgrade the die unless the 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. No need to keep track of depletion ranges if I were to use only one die and just change out the die to indicate a change in range.

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

Maintenance task

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

A maintenance task is a crafting task. It takes one or more hours to finish. Difficulty is the level of the vehicle. Required iotum is 10% of the 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 die is upgraded to the next size up. I will also use charging time to roll the depletion die, so that I have only one daily thing to track. The die is rolled only after all maintenance tasks are done.

The problem here is what to do with a maintenance roll when the depletion die is a d20? We can assume that players will want to have the ship in tip top shape. Does that mean that the d20 can’t be degraded? How often should they need to perform maintenance in order to keep it tip top?

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

On a failed roll or if there is not enough iotum, the die is not upgraded, and in the case of a d20 it can degrade on a 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 then use the regular repair rules stated in that table.

To Playtest

It feels a bit clunky at the moment, maybe too 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 a d20 and increase the depletion range?
  • Should I scale the maintenance cost in iotum depending on the ship’s 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.

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