Monday, November 7, 2022

More on Skills: Naval Architect

Presenting possibly the least useful skill introduced in the Advanced Character Creation books!

Definition, from Book 6 Scouts

The individual has been trained in the design of starships and small craft. Knowledge of the requirements for accurate, usable ship design plans and of the details of ship design are part of this skill. The character is capable of acting as a naval architect, subject to the level of skill attained.

Naval Architect-1 is sufficient to occasionally design ships, especially for personal or group use, but generally requiring three or four times the time called for by a professional (about 16 weeks). Naval Architect-2 allows design of a ship in 10-12 weeks. Naval Architect-3 indicates a level of skill approaching professional. Naval Architect-4+ allows the individual to function as a professional naval architect.

This skill operates in conjunction with the established starship design and construction rules, and does not allow the invention of new devices or equipment.

First of all, Naval Architect skill (hereafter NA) is found in the Technical School skill table, roll 5. This is the only instance of the skill in the skill tables. So it is rare for a Scout character to get it at all, let alone to have it at skill level above 1.

Once acquired, it does exactly one thing: draw plans for ships. No throws are suggested, the skilled PC has only to take the time and produces the results. There is, as far as I can imagine, exactly one instance where this skill would come into play. That is, a group of PCs want to build their own ship, or pay to have it built. NA skill will save them some money up front, but that’s all.

I would like to learn the rationale for including a skill with this narrow of an application. In contrast, Book 1 skills are widely applicable. Compare NA with Mechanical for an example. With this skill, a PC can attempt to build or repair or destroy any number of manufactured devices. Mechanical works on starship airlocks or factory machinery or ATVs. NA can produce blueprints, a narrow application.

To the end of making NA more useful, let’s see if we can broaden out NA skill.
How might it be more useful? To draw plans, the PC must know/understand the theory and general application of ship design. That is, understand why components are placed where they are. Consider space and other requirements to fit everything in. Knowledge of materials science tells what building components do and don't work.
The skilled PC should recognize orthodox and unorthodox designs. He should know the history of ship design, from materials to technologies. She can tell the difference between efficient design and sloppy/wasteful design.

The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea defines naval architecture this way. “the science of designing ships, submarines, floating docks, yachts, oil rigs for the offshore oil and gas industry, and any craft for use on water.”
What does that translate to in a game featuring spacecraft? NA skill confers familiarity with starports and construction facilities; both on the ground and in space. This includes space habitats or space stations. Part of this knowledge is an understanding of the interior layout of such constructs. If it is built in space, or interacts with spacecraft in some fashion, NA skill has information about it.

That’s starting to sound more useful, isn’t it?

Proposed: a PC with NA Skill can, subject to skill throws -

  • Correctly identify the (Tech level/tonnage/computer model/drive specs/armament/design purpose) of any ship see directly or detected by sensors. 
  • tell where a ship was manufactured - by polity or the specific shipyard!
  • Increase the probability of the Select program directing fire to a desired component. Predicting where a ship’s ‘weak spots’ are.
  • Guess the interior layout of a ship or space station without direct observation. Creating ‘best guess’ interior maps of ships or stations.
  • Reduce the interior space requirements of drive components, to free up space inside the ship for other uses.
  • Discover secret or hidden compartments in a ship.
  • Note the presence of retrofits to a ship, and guess their nature.
  • Identify battle damage.
  • Reduce the cost of repairs by 1D x skill level %
  • Provide a +DM to some repair throws in ship combat.
  • Substitute for Engineering at NA-x level.
  • Identify access points besides the airlocks.
  • Know where best to cut through bulkheads, and do it faster.

What else might make this skill useful? Have you ever played or played alongside a PC who had the NA skill? Discuss in the comments.


Image Credit: Pixabay


  1. I'm interested to see that the skill description explicitly calls out level 4 as "professional" level. In the original game, any skill above 0 at all was enough to hold down a job performing the skill. I seem to recall that Citizens of the Imperium might be the first instance of skill-4 being particularly notable, with the Doctor career and Medical skill.

  2. I think I had a couple characters that ended up with that skill and wondered the same thing! I like most of your suggestions, some I may end up using of them if I get a player or character that has that skill!

    1. Craig, please share if and when the NA skill gets used in game!