Firefight Example: Starship Battles


In order to familiarize myself with Firefight, and becuase it’s an example that sorely needs to be done, I’m planning on playing out a Firefight in space. I’ve got two characters (an Urfan Void Lord and his Vaylen Usurper nemesis) and their respective ships (a Hammer Cruiser and a modfied Mercator). I’m going to post the charcters and then the vehicles. If there are any glaring problems, let me know. The characters a little flat becuase they were optimized for this example fight, but if I’ve dropped a major calculation, please call me on it.

After giving the characters and ships a chance to be heckled, I’ll set up the battle space and start kicking through the example. Hopefully, I’ll have everything written up and posted out in a few days.

So without further ado, our two antagonists:

Name: Garret Cross – Questing Void Lord


The Key to saving Humanity is out in the Void and I will find it!
We must unite against the vaylen, I aid all those who fight them.
Scheming nobles are no better than Vaylen and should be treated as such.


Everyone and everything coming onto the ship gets scanned.
Always arrive at the edge of a system to scan for trouble.
If crew members do something well, praise them within earshot of another.


Age: 41

Paths: Void Lord, Hammer Lord, Lord-Pilot Hammer, Armiger, Born to Rule


Wi: 4 Pe: 5 Ag: 4 Sp: 3 Po: 3 Fo: 4

Resources: 8
Circles: 2
Steel: 5
Hesitation: 5

Su: 3 In: 5 Ma: 7 MW: 9


Command 5
Tactics 5
Pilot 4
Strategy 4
Close Combat 3
Sensors 3
Lost Secrets-wise 3
Hammer-wise 3
Vaylen-wise 3
Void-Wise 3
Assault Weapons 2
Zero-G 1


Human, Redoubtable, Personal Experience with Vaylen, Bitter, Hammer Lord, Corvus and Crucis, Anvil Trained, Mark of Privilege, Seen it All, Thirsty for Answers


Hammer Cruiser "El Diablo"


Mr. Franklin (2nd in command on ship), Markus Victor


Nobility 1D, Crew 1D


Effective Leader 2D

Name: Markus Victor – Ambitious Vaylen


I will create a Vaylen Kingdom in the Western Void and be hailed as a Clan Founder!
Innovation is the hallmark of greatness, I get the most out of what I’m given.
Not every Human will be hulled, those who earn my respect will simply be broken utterly.


If possible, send in a redshirt first.
In space combat, Advance to get clear of gravity wells.
Sunglasses make you look cool, always wear them.


Age: 47

Paths: Captain, Spacer, Child, Shudra, Amedhyen Naiven


Wi: 5 Pe: 4 Ag: 5 Sp: 4 Po: 4 Fo: 4

Resources: 4
Circles: 2
Steel: 7
Hesitation: 5


Su: 3 In: 5 Ma: 8 MW: 10


Strategy 5
Command 5
Pilot 4
Smuggling 4
Sensors 4
Anvil-wise 3
Hammer-wise 3
Manipulation-wise 3
Child-wise 2
Close-Combat 2
Crew 2
Repair 2


Alien Control, Encoder, Psycho-Endoparasite, Worm, Amedhyen Clan, Bizzare, Quiet, Usurper (Hammer Lord), Illegal Crucis, Ambitious, “I know this ship like my own hands.”


Modified Mercator “Fertile Crescent”


#16 (Second in Command), Garret Cross


Crew of Ship 1D


Clan Founder 2D



…and here are the ships:

Garret Cross’s Ship: El Dorado

Hammer Cruiser

Cap: 16 crew, passengers, cargo

Profile: 2
Integrity: 9
Control: +2 Ob
Signals: Auto 5
Sensors: Auto 4
Ordnance: Artillery(4)
Vehicular Speed: Space 9
Security: Auto 4

ST: Surface V3, Breach V8, Damaged S12, Destroyed S15

Markus Victor’s Ship: Fertile Crescent

Modified Mercator

Capacity: 4 Crew, 72 Passengers, cargo

Profile: 4
Integiry: 7
Control: +1 Ob
Signals: Auto 3
Sensors: Auto 3 (upgraded from Tools)
Ordnance: Artillery (2) (upgraded from none)
Vehicular Speed: Space 6
Security: Manned

ST: Surface V7, Breach V13, Damaged S5, Destoryed S10

This ship also carries a wing of four attack fighters that clip onto fast-launch hardpoints attached to the ship. I used the Anvil Attack Sled stats and just gave them a Space Speed rating:

Attack Fighter

Profile: 1
Integrity: 5
Control: 1D
Signals: Auto 3
Sensors: Auto 3
Ordnance: Vehicular
Vehicular Speed: Space 9
Security: None

ST: Surface, H5, Breach H10, Damaged V5, Destoryed V11


I’m not quite sure how to handle the fighters. I want to just abstract them as a unit, but I’m not sure if I should roll them in with the Mercator, or count them as a separate unit that acts on their own. Ideas?


I would imagain that you could do either, but they usggest balancing the unit numbers so 1:1 or 2:2

They can also be the recipients of Individual Actions like Shot Oppertunity of they are part of the same Unit as the Mercator.


Khelek’s right. You can go either way – two units on one or just part of the Mercator’s unit. I recommend, for the purposes of this example, you keep them as one unit. They’ll benefit the Mercator by giving the unit a Speed exponent equal to the Cruiser.

I love the modified Mercator, btw. Very cool.


hmm… also wanted to say that if you had Two characters on the Mercator’s side you might do two Units, but as it is one player verse the other you should stick with one unit aside. The fighters also already give the bonus for outnumbering the larger ship.

Personally havoing one player script two units verse one player scripting for one unit would turn one sided rather quickly also…



OK, so let’s prep for this fight:

Setting the Scene:

Garret Cross has been poking around the Void, looking for lost technologies that might help humanity beat back the Vaylen. Markus Victor is a Vaylen hoping to stitch together a mini-empire on the Western fringes of human space in order to be recognized as a Clan Founder when the Vaylen finally munch their way this far north.

Cross and the El Dorado have just found a derlict shipyard in a trailing orbit behind a near-airless rock of a planet. Raw materials were mined up off of it and sent to the shipyard for processing and fabrication. It’s long since fallen into disrepair but Cross hopes to find some exciting new secrets onboard the station.

Into the system jumps Markus Victor in the Fertile Crescent. Victor also found out about the shipyard and hopes to take it over and get it active again. Having a facility to make new starships would be a major boost to his plans.

STEP 1: Breaking down into units

We’ll just stick with one unit per side so:

Humans: Cross and the El Diablo
Vaylen: Victor and the Fertile Crescent (plus the wing of fighters)

STEP 2: Describe the Battle Space

As mentioned above, there’s a derelict shipyard and the resource world it trails behind. There’s obviously a star in the system and probably a couple of gas giants, but there’s not much in the near vicinity of the station itself.

STEP 3: Unit Objectives

In this case, both sides want to secure the shipyard for themselves. Although the Vaylen probably have more people available to storm the shipyard, they have to drive off Cross or he’ll destroy the Crescent and leave them stranded.

RULES QUESTION – For this example I’m assuming that neither Cross, nor Victor will decide to nuke the shipyard if things are going against them, but is there any provision for allowing a Unit to change its Objective during the Firefight?

STEP 4: Contact

Cross: Signals test. Ship’s Signal Systems 5D + 1D Sensors FoRK = 6D Total

Victor: Sensors test. Ship’s Sensor Systems 3D + 1D Sensors help = 5D Total

Cross rolls 6D and gets 2 successes
Victor rolls 5D and gets 3 successes

Victor was pretty sure that Cross was going to be here and he was even more certain that his old enemy didn’t know Victor was on his trail…

Victor wins Contact and opts for the straight Contact advantage.

STEP 5: Determine Disposition

Cross: Command Test at 5D

Victor: Command Test at 5D

Cross rolls 5D and gets 3 successes
Victor rolls 5D and gets 3 successes

Cross adds: Superior Communication +1, Superior Training +1, Superior Weaponry +1, Superior Chasis +1

Victor adds: Contact +2, Outnumber +1

Starting Dispositions:
Cross: 7
Victor: 6

STEP 6: Set up Positions and Cover

The problem with space is that it’s very big and very empty. There’s not much to hide behind. However, there’s definitely one position that all good space/atmosphereic fights should have: Tailing. Units in this posiiton are tailing their opponents and should get a bonus to their disposition. Victor dumps his 2 Position points into the Tailing Position making it worth 3P.

Cross gets to add in another 1P position. Although he can’t use the shipyard as a position (it’s the Objective), he decides that there’s a cargo yard off to one side with stacks of cargo containers floating in space. It’s a minor position and only offers 1P. The GM decides that although the mining planet is some ways off, if you can hide behind a planet, you’re pretty much invincible, he sets it to a 5P position.

Now we add cover. The Tailing position doesn’t actually offer any cover, although most ships concentrate their firepower along their front and not their rear, so it offers 1c. The Cargo Yard position offers some physical cover and if you can worm your ship into the cluster of containers you can use them to soak up a lot of fire so it’s 2c. As mentioned earlier, the Planet position is 3c (at least) and could quickly turn the fight into a chase where one side tries to orbit the planet fast enough to get a shot at their lower-orbit opponent.

So the final position/cover ratings are:

Tailing: 3p/1c
Cargo Yard: 1p/2c
Planet: 5p/3c

We are now ready to begin the actual fight. Exchange 1 will be coming up shortly.


RULES QUESTION – For this example I’m assuming that neither Cross, nor Victor will decide to nuke the shipyard if things are going against them, but is there any provision for allowing a Unit to change its Objective during the Firefight?

No, you cannot change your objective midstream. This effect is handled by keeping Firefights short and sharp and utilizing compromises. It can also be handled by using the surrender rules and then reengaging in a retributive Firefight (if your side has the scenes to do it).


Hey, do you want to arena-ify this? I’d be happy to take one side or act as judge (though if someone with more rules experience wanted to be judge, that’d be even better).

It’s really hard to script against yourself, is why I ask.

Thanks, but I’m really doing this mostly to try out the Firefight rules (and the Character/Tech burner on the side). It is hard to script against myself, but I have a pretty good idea of how both sides like to fight so even if there’s some bias, they both act effectively enough that it’s good enough for example purposes. Plus, this way I can chalk up my bad mistakes to subconscious bias. :slight_smile:


Heh. Well, I’ll be following the results. Hope you have fun.


OK, let’s do the first exchange.

At the top of the Exchange we have the following dispositions:

Cross: 7
Victor: 6

For this Exchange, Cross decides that at the end of the Exchange he wants to get into the Tailing Position and get set up to make a Direct Fire action next Exchange. Victor wants to get his fighters launched off the Fertile Crescent and into action so he can Flank with them next Exchange.

They Script as such:

Cross: Advance, Advance, Observe
Victor: Take Cover, Take Cover, Observe


Unit Action:

Cross: Advance
Victor: Take Cover

These are Independent Actions


Tailing Position is Ob4 (Ob1 + 3P).
Unit Skill: Command 5D + 1D from Pilot = 6D total

Cross rolls 6D and gets 4 Successes – this is sufficent to achieve the Tailing Position. Cross will now get a temporary 3P boost to his disposition and 1 Cover.


Take Cover is Ob1
Unit Skill: Command 5D + 1D from Pilot = 6D total

Victor rolls 6D and gets 4 Successes, 1 Success is used to launch the fighters and the other 3 points improve his cover to 3

So Victor sends the Fertile Crescent into a diving roll, with the fighters spinning off of him as he goes while Cross punches the engines and takes a wide loop to come in behind the wildly pitching Crescent.


RULES QUESTION – Cross is rather surprised at his own awesome-ness. Considering the difficulty, he’d allocated 2 Advances to reach the position he arrived at in one. Cross wants to keep this position and I assume he can’t Advance into his own position to use the successes to knock off enemy disposition, so he’s just going to abandon his action this Volley and do nothing. I assume that’s OK?

Victor is in a similiar situation. He really wanted to get those fighters out there so he pulled two Take Covers just in case Cross started off with a strong Observe. Now his fighters are good to go, but he’s not ready to take advantage of them. Still, he can always use the cover until he’s ready to go on the offensive so he takes his action.

Unit Action:

Cross: Does Nothing
Victor: Takes Cover

These are Independent Actions


Does nothing.


Take Cover is Ob1
Unit Skill: Command 5D + 1D from Pilot = 6D total

Victor rolls 6D and gets 3 Successes, all 3 of which go into his Cover pushing him to a monstrous 6 Cover.

Cross holds steady on Victor’s tail as the Crescent and its fighters go hurtling across the viewscreen. “Maybe they like motion sickness”, he muses.


Both sides are where they want to be. Now they need to pin down the other side to open up on them.

Unit Acton:

Cross: Observe
Victor: Observe

These are Independent Actions


Observe is Ob 2
Unit Skill: Cross is using Ship’s Sensors 4D + Sensor Skill 1D = 5D

Cross rolls 5D and gets 4 Successes


Observe is Ob2
Unit Skill: Victor is using Ship’s Sensors 3D + Sensor Skill 1D = 5D

Victor rolls 5D and gets 1 Success

The tactical holotank before Cross’s command chair starts pulling up detailed target profiles of the Crescent and her escorts, plotting a wide range of probable trajectories and firing solutions. Meanwhile, Victor is smacking the side of his black market sensor suite hoping to unjostle whatever got messed up during his evasive maneuvers. The only thing it’s telling him is that there’s some ship out there with a serious radar lock on him.


Neither side took an action requiring an Ammo Check.

Current Dispositions:

Cross: 7 + 3 (Trailing Position) = 10
Victor: 6


An interesting first Exchange. Round 2 should be a little more…explosive.

I realize that I could’ve used successes from the second Take Cover to get a Sensor Sweep for Victor to help on the Observe but who needs an extra die on a Ob2 test with 5D? Oops.


Ok, I know I’m a fairly new…and still working page by page through the Sci-fi lexicon that is Burning Empires… But Tailing…brilliant!!! Good call Tom, I would not have thought of such a dynamic position!!..unless it’s in one of Luke’s examples…in which case…Brilliant to Luke, good show to Tom!

Hi Tom,

I was vaguely aware that I didn’t put the forfeit rules in FF. That should probably go in ye olde BE errata. You did the right thing.

And maybe it’s not clear in the rules, but you can only ever increase your cover by +1. Period. Ever. No matter how many times you Take Cover.

As for your extra successes: You could have committed Signals Warfare, as well. Which can be very useful. Sensor Sweep is also useful – because I’ve failed 5D on Ob 2, my friend. I’ve failed that roll more than once!


In retrospect it makes sense, but at the time it was a little unclear. It seems like most “things” you can buy with extra successes, you can buy more than once, and you can certainly buy them on subsequent uses of that action. A small footnote or tweak to the Firefight cheat sheet would probably clear that right up.



OK, let’s do Exchange 2.


1.) As mentioned above, Take Cover can only provide a +1 bonus to cover at most no matter how many Take Covers are used. Thus, Victor only has a cover of 1.

2.) Except for large, set-piece battles, Strategy isn’t a skill you can use for Unit tests during Firefight. Since this make Flank unavailable as an option for Victor, and since that’s what his ship is based around – I’m changing his Strategy 5 to a Tactics 5 so he’s more viable for this fight. Chalk it up to my piecemeal reading of the rules.

At the top of the round:


Cross: 7 + 3 for Tailing Position = 10/1 Cover
Victor: 6/1 Cover

For this Exchange, Cross simply wants to start shooting down enemy ships. Victor would like to Flank, but he still has to successfully Observe Cross, so he’s going to try and use superior guns to drive Cross off.

Cross: Direct Fire, Direct Fire, Direct Fire
Victor: Supressive Fire, Observe, Flank


Unit Actions:

Cross: Direct Fire
Victor: Suppressive Fire

These are versus actions

Cross: Command 5D + 1D from Tactics and 1D from Vaylen-Wise = 7D
Victor: Tactics 5D + 1D from Command and 1D from Hammer-Wise = 7D

Cross rolls 7D and gets 2 successes
Victor rolls 7D and gets 3 successes

Victor wins with 1 Success. He spends that success on a Sensor Sweep.

Victor: Sensors 4D + 1D from Ship’s Sensors + 2D for Profile = 7D
Cross: Ship’s Signals 5D + 1D for Sensors = 6D

Victor rolls 7D and gets 1 successes
Cross rolls 6D and gets 4 successes

Victor fails in the sensor sweep and gets no helper dice.

The Fertile Crescents fighters launch a blistering barrage of fusion fire back towards the El Diablo. Cross jinks just in time to avoid the fire, but his own cannons are thrown off. Meanwhile, Victor continues to hammer on his sensor suite trying to coax some information out of it.


Unit Actions:

Cross: Direct Fire
Victor: Observe

These are Independent Actions

Unit Tests:


Direct Fire is Ob2
Cross: Command 5D + 1D from Tactics and 1D from Vaylen-Wise = 7D

Cross rolls 7D and gets 0 Successes
No Shots


Observe is Ob2
Unit Skill: Victor is using Ship’s Sensors 3D + Sensor Skill 1D + Hammer-wise 1D = 5D

Victor rolls 5D and gets 4 Success

Cross swears as his shots go wide of the rolling Crescent. Victor finally hits just the right spot on the sensor suite and finally gets a lock on his foe.


Unit Actions:

Cross: Direct Fire
Victor: Flank

These are Independent Actions

Unit Tests:


Direct Fire is Ob2
Cross: Command 5D + 1D from Tactics and 1D from Vaylen-Wise = 7D

Cross rolls 7D and gets 3 Successes
2 Shot Opportunities are allowed.


Flank vs. Direct Fire is Ob 2
Victor: Tactics 5D + 1D from Pilot and 1D from Hammer-wise = 7D

Victor rolls 7D and gets 3 Successes
Victor is successful and spends the extra 1s on a +1D advantage for the next DF Action

Individual Actions:

Cross has two shots and has his gunners take them. Each NPC is assumed to have 4d in their relevant skill.

Direct Fire is Ob2
Gunners: Artillery 4D + 1D Combat-wise = 5D

Gunner1 rolls 5D and gets 3 Successes
Gunner2 rolls 5D and gets 4 Successes

Both gunners hit. Victor chooses the fighters to get hit.

Gunner 1 rolls DoF with +1 to the roll and gets a 5 total – a Superb Hit.
This does S12 damage and destroys a fighter.
Artillery is a Blast weapon and hits another target at V8. Victor chooses a second fighter which is now Damaged and has an Integrity of 2.

Gunner 2 rolls DoF with a _2 to the roll and gets a 4 total – a Mark Hit.
This does S8 Damage and destroys another fighter.
Artillery is a Blast weapon and hits another target at V4. Victor chooses the previously damaged fighter which takes a Breach hit and has its Integrity reduced to 1.

The loss of two fighters knocks Victor’s disposition down by 2. It now stands at 4.

Victor sends his fighters off in a wide looping arc to flank Cross, but as soon as he spots it, Cross has his guns fire on the flight. In a barrage of explosions half the flight is destroyed and a third fighter is badly mauled. Victor grits his teeth, but the surviving fighters are in position as he prepares to bring the Crescent about…


Both sides need to make an ammo check:


Ammo Test is Ob1 + Ob3 for Direct Fire actions = Ob4
Cross has Artillery 4D + 1D Command + 1D Hammer-wise = 6D

Cross has 6D and rolls 1 success
Cross is out of ammo and must reload


Ammo Test is Ob1 + Ob2 for Suppressing Fire action = Ob3
Victor has Artillery 4D + 1D Command + 1D Hammer-wise = 6D

RULES QUESTION – Victor fired with his artillery and his vehicle weapons this turn, which do we test? Whichever skill is higher? The Superior weapon?

Victor has 6D and rolls 3 Successes
Victor still has ammo to burn

Final Dispositions:

Cross: 7 + 3 for Tailing = 10
Victor: 4


It’s going to be an interesting 3rd round and it will probably be the last. If Victor can’t seriously even up the score next turn he’ll either be pasted by Cross or be forced to retreat (once his fighter cover is gone, so is he).

For this session, I’m assuming that the ships are all close enough that vehicular weaponry is effective, but what happens if they engaged dozens of kilometers apart? The fighters wouldn’t really be able to add to Suppressive Fire. And would the Flank cover them getting close enough to be effecitve in future Fire actions?

Any serious procedural mistakes this time around?



Looks good. Wild rolls!

As for the ammo check for multiple weapon systems, you might as well tally the Obs for both systems and test for each. Wouldn’t take but a moment at the table and it could add some nice flavor.

In space, “dozens of kilometers” is right next door! I’d be concerned if the situation demanded tens of thousands of kilometers. Otherwise, I’d leave it be. The fighters are fast enough to close and discharge their shorter ranged (but still relatively long range) weapons.


In the second volley, Cross’ Direct Fire obstacle should have been 3, since Victor had cover. Didn’t matter though as Cross didn’t succeed anyway.

Now that Victor has used the Flank maneuver, he no longer has cover, and is assumed to be in No Man’s Land until he successfully Advances to a Position.

From earlier exchange

For this session, I’m assuming that the ships are all close enough that vehicular weaponry is effective, but what happens if they engaged dozens of kilometers apart? The fighters wouldn’t really be able to add to Suppressive Fire. And would the Flank cover them getting close enough to be effecitve in future Fire actions?

You know your postions are a Planet, and a storage yard and what not…

It is not like these are Tie Fighters! these ships have ungodly ranges… It was my mpression that space battles could take part over whole sections of the galaxy if that was what made for a great story… and that an exchange could be hours in length with short bursts of violence…

also don’t forget to populate space with the detrius of a 1000+ year old space culture… derilicts, floating piles of junk, moons, comets, astaroids, moons, satlite systems… even gas clouds.

I feel like that’s only sorta true. I definately feel like the fighters should be like Tie Fighters. They’re just little one-man attack fighters that can’t even jump in-system.

Given the description of FTL speeds in-system and inter-sytem (light hours or light years respectively), any fight where people aren’t going to take hours or months to reach an objective are going to have to e played fairly close-in.

In this case, if either side dances out to the edge of the system for maneuvers and such, the other side will be able to seize the shipyard. So they have to stay fairly close.

Also, while the ships can move pretty quickly, I feel like you can’t occupy an outer-planet position and then do a direct-fire action from there. There has to be some limitation on the ranges for these things.
Likewise, given the vastness of space, it’s certainly possible to have an extreme range where only the “Big Guns” can fire and the fighters will have to rush the guns to get into range.

Now, I could see where you’re in charge of a large fleet and you and the other guy draw up a map of local star systems to fight over. In this case, you can just say that individual moves take weeks/months and play it out however you want. I’d still say that you can’t DF or SF a position – rather, you have to jump into the target system and use “Close Combat” to play out those fights.