Capital ships function on most of the same general rules as vehicles and characters, though they are at an even larger spatial scale. Capital ships for the most part behave almost exactly like vehicles, so there are really only a few additional rules regarding capital ships and their behavior that needs to be discussed.
Using Capital Ships
The operation of a capital ship isn’t as straightforward as that of a vehicle. No one person can operate a capital ship all by themselves; capital ships require crews of people performing specific tasks in order to operate at their maximum potential. That being said, each individual task is fairly straightforward and requires only a few Skills to perform properly. For game-play purposes, the most important crewmen aboard a capital ship are its Commanding Officer (needed to give orders and to lead), its Chief Science Officer (primarily responsible for scanning), the Chief Flight Officer (who pilots the ship), its Chief Engineering Officer (who is responsible for organizing repairs and maintaining the ship), its Chief Communications Officer (who handles contact with other spacecraft), the Chief Tactical Officer (who operates the ship’s weaponry), and the Chief Medical Officer (who is responsible for treating any injuries among the crew). Any character can fill out any of these roles or can serve in a function that supports their duties. Each role alludes to one or more Disciplines; a player who knows what role their character will play aboard a capital ship will do well to maximize as many of the Skills in the related Disciplines as possible.
All of the Discipline Skills in the game can be important for the proper operation of a capital ship given certain circumstances, but as there are a few key Skills to which a character group would be well advised to pay attention. The primary Skill needed to pilot a capital ship is Starship Piloting. Starship Piloting is used to fly from point-to-point in space and functions just like the Vehicle Piloting Skill as outlined in Chapter 8.2. The only real difference between piloting a vehicle and piloting a capital ship is the types of "terrains" a capital ship may encounter as it travels; space terrains are discussed in Chapter 8.3. Starship Piloting is also necessary to perform capital ship maneuvers, which are discussed in Chapter 9.4. Astrogation is an essential Navigation Skill; along with the Faster-Than-Light Mechanics Engineering Skill, it is used for plotting courses between star systems. Details on FTL flight are discussed in Chapter 8.4. As with vehicles, there are numerous Science Skills that may be used to operate a ship's sensors, though a few of them (namely Technology and Planetology) will be used more often than the others. The scanners on a capital ship work just like those on any other vehicle; for details, see Chapter 6.1.
All capital ships have software that allows crewmen to keep personal journals and logs. This includes a general capital ship log, which is a place the captain and crew may write down thoughts, ideas and important pieces of information. Any crewmember can check the ship’s log at any time as a free action. In the meta-game, players should be encouraged to keep their own notes as their character would in a logbook, in order to help with immersion in an adventure (and to help the continuity of a campaign). Keeping such notes may help the players remember events that have happened to their characters in the past, mission goals, places they need to investigate and so forth.
Scales of Action and Capital Ships
Capital ships operate on the largest scale used in WCRPG. No capital ship is less than 22,500 cubic meters in bounding box volume; some are more than 60 trillion cubic meters overall. Capital ships use the same set of Size Class categories that vehicles do; like vehicles, a capital ship is said to be of a certain Size Class so long as its bounding box volume is at least as large as its minimum required volume.
Like vehicles, capital ships have four HP counts, reflecting their SHP and AHP levels forward, aft, port and starboard. The scale of damage for capital ships is the same as that of vehicles. Any character- or vehicle-scale weapon that inflicts a sufficient amount of damage is capable of damaging a capital ship.
Capital ships can operate on very large scales of movement; they have to be able to move quickly in order to reach their destinations within an average sentient being’s lifespan. Capital ships have two main drive systems: Impulse engines and FTL drive. An Impulse engine moves capital ships between the planets in a solar system. While they are capable of driving a capital ship to great speeds, they are reliant on a ramscoop system to provide the craft with a sufficient amount of interstellar hydrogen fuel. To keep a craft adequately fueled, it is necessary to "keep the scoops open" most of the time, which causes drag and limits the top speed of most capital craft. While relatively slow, this is generally acceptable in most cases. With scoops retracted, capital ships are capable of reaching speeds in the neighborhood of 25% of the speed of light on their Impulse engines. FTL drive systems (usually a Morvan Drive, Akwende Drive or both) allow capital ships to cover great distances at speeds much greater than that of light, generally allowing instantaneous travel between star systems. For full details about capital ship movement, see Chapter 8.3 and Chapter 8.4.
Certain capital ships may operate in a planet's atmosphere; while in atmo, a capital ship is treated as an air vehicle just like any other type of space vehicle. A capital ship may not enter planetary atmosphere if it is Size Class Twenty or higher. Capital ships are assumed to have a maximum speed of 10,000 kph regardless of Engine Class while in atmosphere. Finally, all capital ships provide full cover for all characters and vehicles aboard; it would be a tad bit difficult to operate it if it didn’t (what with all the air leaking out and lethal doses of cosmic radiation leaking in). See Chapter 9.2 for details regarding cover.
Acquiring and Maintaining Capital Ships
Capital ships are incredibly expensive machines, generally available only to the super-rich. Even the smallest, least expensive bare-bones Corvette would run the equivalent of something like 21 million United States Dollars, or roughly the price of two top-model Learjets. The vast majority of starting PCs will not be able to purchase their own capital ship, not even with a maximum Wealth Trait. This can be problematic for non-military characters that need to find a way to get to their interstellar destinations. Fortunately, there are several ways around this problem: characters can book passage on domestic passenger ships, shuttles or transports, they can try to charter a flight, they can borrow a ship or even attempt to steal one.
Booking passage is the cheapest way for most characters to go between worlds; they simply travel with other domestic traffic. The cost for traveling this way is the same amount for normal Transportation as listed amongst the Services in Chapter 5.4; characters get the same benefits as they would with normal transport. Booking passage between worlds can cost as little as ¤70 a head, with the price steadily increasing as the distance increases. Note that this base rate assumes the source and destination worlds are frequented by normal passenger traffic; GMs may up the price if either world is a backwater with little interstellar passenger or commercial traffic.
Sometimes booking passage to a particular system will not be possible simply because no one ever visits it, normal traffic doesn’t go to it or it is outside the government’s territory. In that case, the next best option for most characters is charter travel. Chartering a ship is not cheap; depending on cargo, number of passengers and level of personal danger to a charter ship’s crew, the cost can get very high very fast. A good starting price for simple charter transport is ¤1,750 and it only goes up from there. Charter transport gives the same benefits as High Quality Transportation as listed in Chapter 5.4; it also general ensures the confidentiality of whatever cargo the characters may be hauling and total privacy. The cost is something that characters may attempt to negotiate with the charter ship's master in good faith, provided the master is someone who is willing to negotiate in good faith of course...
Sometimes booking passage or charter travel is not an option for a character group. In this case, they have a number of additional options they may try. These can involve a bit of story work and lead to multiple plots.
It may be that the characters are in the employ of a corporation or a crime syndicate. These groups will either loan the characters the cash they need to buy their own ship (usually at high interest rates and/or with the understanding that the characters are in the group's employ until they can remit the loan in full) or they may very well give the characters their own ship. If the characters are given a ship, it may be something sub-standard, in which case keeping it in top repair will be a challenge; this can easily lend itself to adventures). There should always be some serious strings attached if the characters get a ship that's in decent shape. In general, the quality of capital ship or loan offered will be proportional to the amount of influence and reputation a character group has with the group from which they wish to acquire a ship.
If trying to acquire a ship from a corporation or crime group doesn't sound like a great idea to a character group, they might try their luck with the government's merchant marine (provided one exists). The government may elect to grant the characters the use of a ship and subsidize its cost, with the understanding that the government owns the ship and expects it to be used to haul cargo between certain worlds. The government will also take half of the ship's gross receipts. Purchasing a ship from the government requires a down payment made to the government; this is usually about 20% of the total cost of the ship. The characters will then be assigned a cargo route and schedule (usually between 2-12 planets). After 40 years of government service, ownership of the ship transfers over to the ship's nominal master. Note that a government subsidized ship can be called up to serve as an auxiliary (a transport craft) in a time of crisis, sometimes even after transfer of ownership. Missing a payment to the government has much the same effects as missing a payment to any financier; see Chapter 6.1 for details.
Characters can also attempt to get a ship financed through a bank; this is much like trying to get a ship financed through the government, though banks tend to be more hard-nosed about to whom they will grant a loan. Banks will usually want the character group to pay at least 20% of the total cost of the ship up front along with a detailed financial plan of the ship's activities in order to ensure that monthly payments will be paid on time. The bank takes ownership of the ship as soon as it is purchased. The characters must pay back 1/480 the total loan for a period of no more than 480 months (40 years); arrangements can be made to shorten the buy-back period though this does drive up the cost of the monthly payments. As soon as the loan is paid back in full, ownership transfers to the nominal ship's master with no strings attached. Missing a monthly payment to a bank has the same effects as missing a payment to any financier; see Chapter 6.1 for details.
There are also illegal ways of acquiring ships. Stealing a ship is not really recommended as it will put the characters on the wrong side of the law (assuming there is law and order in the local area of space, of course). If characters don’t mind being on the wrong side of the law, this won’t be as big of a problem for them. At the very least, it isn't recommended that characters steal a ship in the same area as the one in which they want to operate; it's likely the ship's former owners will want it back and probably wouldn't hesitate to use deadly force in order to do so. Prize vessels (ones that are captured in combat; TCS Gwenhyvar in Secret Missions is a good example) are treated similarly, though the capture and use of a prize is seen as legal by most starfaring governments.
If push comes to shove and a character simply doesn’t want to exercise any of these options, there is always the option of travelling through space in vehicles such as Capsules, Shuttles and Transports. Indeed, these options are a lot more affordable for most characters. They just might wind up in a whole heap of trouble should a hostile capital challenge them...
Of course, characters may always be "given" a capital ship to operate by a military force with the understanding that they part of that force. Players of "purist" Wing Commander campaigns will probably take this route; their characters will find themselves in the employ of the Confederation Navy, the Confederation Marine Corps, the Confederation Space Forces or their Kilrathi equivalents. In this case, the characters have been assigned to a ship and need not worry about ownership. The only real problem with this arrangement is that the characters will have to go where they are ordered to go; the ship is still a means of conveyance to various destination (and adventures) but they are not necessarily ones of the characters' choosing. The Navy/Empire pays for all maintenance on the ship as well as for basic provisions and supplies for the ship's crew. The crew never gets to own the ship and personnel can be assigned or recalled to its crew without notice. This may be the fastest and cheapest way for a military-based character group to get into space and their early adventures can be used to bulk up their experience rapidly (or kill them off quickly depending on how things go).
No matter how characters acquire a hold of a ship, they will have to be able to maintain it if they want to have any hope of using it just like any other vehicle. This includes generating enough money for docking fees, monthly payments, fuel, provisions, crew salaries and routine maintenance; to get a rough estimate of how much will be required for maintenance on a monthly basis, take the ship's Size Class and multiply it times ¤1,500. If the amount for monthly maintenance cannot be paid, the ship will automatically acquire one Flaw (see Chapter 7.2).