Debt Rules for Mothership 1E

2 February 2022 ☼ Mothership

Given that the Mothership 1st Edition Kickstarter wrapped up exactly two months ago, I figured it was about time for me to dig back into my old Debt rules and make sure that they are 1E compatible. If you’re just here for the updated resource, here you go!

Debt Rules v3.1

If you want a little more talking, well, let’s go over the major changes.

As with the older versions of these rules, the main design goal was to try to get a lot of the economic bookkeeping out of the way, while preserving the core motivational loop of doing dangerous work because your characters don’t have many other options. Please feel empowered to use pick and choose the rules here that suit your table best. Feel like your players want more concrete trade rules? Bolt some on!

And if you’re still reading, here are some bonus rules that didn’t fit on the one-pager: how to run a crew of Outlaws, rather than one that’s in Debt.


Instead of starting with Debt, a crew can instead choose to begin with an amount of Outlaw, representing how vigorously various authorities are pursuing them for past crimes.

This Outlaw could represent the liberties taken to obtain their ship, or some other litany of transgressions. In any case, it should begin between 5 and 15, and cannot exceed 20.


Outlaw crews gain additional Outlaw any time they are present for a crime or similar transgression in a way that could be conceivably traced back to them. This is typically only a single point of Outlaw, but particularly egregious crimes may be worth even more. This includes resisting arrest or similar misunderstandings that might occur after an Outlaw Check.

Beyond that, a crew can voluntarily take on 1 point of Outlaw for a couple of benefits.

Crews otherwise have difficulty making legal purchases or otherwise interacting with the powers that be.


An Outlaw Check determines whether a crew’s past has finally caught up with them. The crew makes an Outlaw Check any time they have an official interaction with an authority figure that would plausibly result in their records being checked.

To make an Outlaw Check, roll the Panic Die (1d20) and attempt to roll greater than your current Outlaw. If you fail, look up the relevant result on the Outlaw Table.

If a crew would exceed 20 Outlaw, they instead make an immediate Outlaw Check and the authorities are alerted to their location.


1-5 FINE. The crew is issued a 1d10 * 500c ticket for a minor infraction. This can be paid now, or later at an appropriate office. Reduce Outlaw by 1 when it’s paid, but note that going to a secure location to pay a fine would definitely cause another Outlaw Check.
6-10 BRIBE. There is a warrant for the crew’s arrest, but the official is happy to let them off with a 1d10 * 500c bribe. Otherwise, they will attempt to detain them as below.
11-15 IMPRISONMENT. There is a warrant for the crew’s arrest. The authority figure will call for backup and attempt to detain them, but will not use deadly force. A stay in a prison colony awaits.
16-19 EXECUTION. The crew is wanted for a particularly grave crime. The authority figure will call for backup and detain them, using deadly force if they attempt to escape. The crew will eventually be killed if taken into custody.
20 TERMINATION. The crew is on the equivalent of a Most Wanted” list. The authority figure will call for backup and immediately open fire on the crew, shooting to kill.


Working outside the law means being disqualified from most legitimate Company contracts that pay in legal currency. A number of potential employers are aware of this, however, and are happy to instead offer Outlaw crews rewards of an illicit or illegitimate nature based on how much a job would normally reduce a crew’s Debt.

Any job that would normally be worth 1 Debt could potentially be rewarded with the opportunity to lie low. This is the equivalent of a Shore Leave somewhere away from prying eyes, with the added bonus of reducing Outlaw by 2.

An employer can offer a number of other incentives scaling alongside the Debt value of a particular job. A few examples:

Outlaw employers may also be convinced to cover a crew’s travel expenses, or to offer Moonlighting rates up front or Payday rates on completion. Outlaw employers tend to hold all the leverage in a negotiation, however, so it may be unwise for a greedy crew to push too hard for this.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: these rules owe a significant debt (lol) to D. G. Chapman’s Bell Peppers and Beef Financial Abstraction Mechanic, though they perhaps have more of a mind of their own now. ^_^

As always, if you end up giving these rules a try, please let me know what you think! You can also track me down over on the Mothership Discord, if you’re so inclined. It’s a great resource if you’re not already a member!