We're playing Stars Without Number. It's story telling heavy; not simulationist.

The starship pilot doesn't get to go on away missions, and the player is feeling left out. I'm currently using A/V feeds from away team to the pilot, so he makes a few perception checks, but he feels left out. I'm trying to incorporate some decision making branches.

I guess in general he feels a little bored. Roll for navigation here, Space/Pilot roll there. How can I ensure the pilot's player gets engaging game time too?


3 Answers 3


This is a difficult one, as we don't know the reason that the pilot isn't going on the "away missions".

Answering the main question:

Pirates/local big bad/aliens/space whales/asteroids attacking

If you don't mind it being a bit dangerous, have the pilot fight off or defend against lots of small enemies whilst the party are planetside.


I'm assuming the reason that the pilot isn't going on missions is because he's particularly fragile. Have him get a drone or robot body to go down in instead. Either something along the lines of a mobile robot body similar to Mass Effect's EDE (using pre-scream tech) or something similar to 40K's Tau mobile gun drones. This allows your pilot to be "Safe" in space whilst his robot body gets shot at. Just don't make it too heavy so it can be recovered if it gets particularly shot up!

Similarly, encourage the pilot to come along on the away missions. If he's worried about fragility, as a pilot he should have some exo suit training — have one of these at the appropriate level turn up for sale or as loot. Should he need to be shipside for story reasons, have it break down unexpectedly, or have some weird atmospheric/localised special disturbance/[insert thingy here] effects.

Side Intrigue

Assuming your pilot isn't going on the missions to look after the ship(s) have him decoding signals or asking questions in ports etc. He can be on standby in a pub next to the terminal If needed.

Deep Space

Have the players go into deep space, boarding ships, derelicts and installations. The pilot can do much more here, defending the derelict from space junk/fighters/unicorns whilst the rest of the party do their thing. This is potentially a good stop-gap whilst you discuss the next part of this answer with the player.

Ask the bigger question of "Why isn't the player staying with the group":

Player Barriers

If the player isn't happy to go on away missions — why is this? Speak to him one on one to find out if he's after more of a space-based game, and offer this up for discussion with the rest of the party.

Has he painted himself into a corner with his character build? Give him some gear to help him do more planetside (telepresence, exo suit, exoskeleton). Heck, you could even have him involved in an accident (with his permission of course) where as part of it he gets some free prosthetics. Make sure to clear this with the party too!

Does the party need a shipside presence? - get them an AI!.

GM Barriers

Do you want the player shipside instead of on the missions?


If so, examine it with the player. If they don't want the character on away missions as well, explore the options in the other answers and any others other users come up with. If he does and you don't, try and see it their way and go with what the players want. There are always ways of convincing the party to split when needed, but (IMO) its better to have the party acting as one big group.


In the game of SWN that I played in for a year or two, the main ship (huge, largely derelict - I think it was based off a bulk freighter) that was our base of operations was constantly under threat from a variety of situations.

Away teams would find that bands of scavengers, lifepod stealing aliens and strange star-wandering creatures would slip on board while they were off exploring.

When the party got into a fight in a trading station, alarms were set off and automated (and manned) turrets locked onto our ship.

Inconveniently timed asteroid showers would occasionally coincide with delicate docking or mining work.

If every challenge that the pilot faces just takes fancy flying to get out of, a Space/Pilot roll is going to resolve everything. But there are plenty of challenges to throw at the ship that can involve nuance, tactics and diplomacy.

Now I'm not sure how much of this came from the book, and how much our GM was making up as he went along - he never was much of a by-the-book GM. But we definitely felt that the challenges were varied and interesting.

An alternative house rule is to let him pilot the ship remotely and go on the away missions with the rest of the party - possibly drop in some negative modifiers for fancy flying while operating remotely, so that it doesn't quite fully replace the pilot's chair. Having to pilot the ship around while in the middle of a firefight might inject in some excitement for him.


First off, if you stay on the ship where the action is, it WILL get boring. Which is a good reason to either rotate that duty watch around the group, or to put in some spice which you are asking for.

Some suggestions:

  • Minor ship malfunction: Something minor malfunctions, like a loose seal on the air lock, or the heating unit breaks which means he needs to diagnose and/or fix while the others are exploring.
  • Contact: Another ship passes by or hails them. Maybe they need help, maybe they are offering help to the PC's ship since it's just in orbit and may be in distress. Some tense roleplaying can be done here, especially if they realize the ship is now skeleton-crewed and should be easy to steal. Warning, however this will maybe work once or twice before people cry foul and run. Even the first time, they will cry foul.
  • Autopilot failure: Now he can't just "do nothing" while on watch because he's now doing all he can maintain proper orbit
  • Communications breakdown: While exploring, the radios die. Now they need to coordinate things using some other means.

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