Sturgeon Guide and FAQ

by Bill Balcerski

      1. What is sturgeon?
      2. How do I play?
        1. Hit me with the details
        2. What happens when I die
        3. Aww that sucks, are there any exceptions?
        4. How do I keep track of upgrades
      3. Sturgeon options
      4. I'm having trouble buying upgrades!
      5. What are special weapons, and how do I use them?
      6. Does rank matter in sturgeon?
      7. Other stuff, mostly specific to [previously:]
      8. Handy reference for important keys used in sturgeon
      9. What's the difference between a CA and a GA?
      10. This Page Change History

Donate Bitcoins

to help keep the server running



1. What is sturgeon?

Sturgeon is a variant on netrek, similar to netrek hockey. The main feature of sturgeon is ship upgrades, which are purchased with kills. Get kills and refit to the same ship you are in. This will bring up the upgrades menu. From here, you navigate the menus and submenus with the speed keys to purchase upgrades. If you have enough kills, you can buy all sorts of goodies for your ship.

2. How do I play?

Well, the rules are similar to bronco. The goal is to take all the enemy planets. But unlike bronco, you have individual goals to work towards. Upgrading your ship, as well as attaining rank, which actually means something.

2a. Hit me with the details!

Each upgrade has a base cost, and an adder cost, so that each sequential upgrade costs more and more kills. Below is a table with upgrade name, effect, base cost, and adder cost.

Upgrade name Effect Base cost Adder cost
Temporary shield boost +50 1 --
Permanent shield boost +10 1 0.2
Permanent hull boost +10 1.5 0.5
Fuel capacity +250 0.5 0.1
Fuel recharge rate +1 1 1.5
Maximum warp speed +1 2 1
Acceleration rate +10 0.5 1
Deceleration rate +10 0.5 1
Engine cool rate +1 1 0.5
Phaser damage +2 1 1.5
Torp speed +1 2 3
Torp fuse +1 0.5 0.5
Weapon cooling rate +1 1 1.5
Cloaking efficiency -- -- --
Tractor/pressor strength +100 1 0.5
Tractor/pressor range +.05 1 1.5
Damage repair rate +10 1 1


Special upgrades (cost 5 kills each): fire while cloaked, det own torps for damage. Fire while cloaked lets you shoot torps
while cloaked, but for double the fuel cost. Det own torps for damage makes your torps explode for 25% of normal damage to enemies if you self det them.

So how does this work? Say you have 5 kills. You go to homeworld, refit to the same ship type you are in, and this brings up the upgrade menu. You then navigate to purchase a permanent shield boost. You spend 1 kill, and your shields go up by 10. Then let's say you decide to buy another one. You spend 1.2 kills, and your shields go up another 10. Let's say you buy yet another, for 1.4 kills your shields go up another 10. Let's say you try and purchase another. Oops, you don't have enough kills left, it takes 1.6 kills for the next level of upgrade but you only have 1.4 kills left.

Some of the upgrades will make intuitive sense, like the shields, hull, warp speed, and fuel capacity. Others, like tractor/pressor stuff, or accel/decel, will not make intuitive sense from the table above. What does .05 tractor pressor range mean? What does +10 accel mean? The short answer is..try it out, buy some of these upgrades to get a "feel" for how they effect your ship. If you want raw numbers, you will have to do a little digging. Go look at the Vanilla source code for the file called getship.c. In it, it has values for all the variables that are modified by sturgeon upgrades. Let's do an example. The following line is straight from the source code:

shipvals[CRUISER].s_tractrng = 1.0;

Ok so cruisers have a base tractor range of 1.0. As mentioned in the table above, each upgrade to tractor range adds .05, so essentially 5% more tractor range per upgrade for a CRUISER. Now let's look at the scout.

shipvals[SCOUT].s_tractrng = .7;

Well, scouts have a shorter tractor range, but if have ever played netrek, you already knew that. However, each upgrade still adds .05, so it's more like 8% more tractor range per upgrade for a SCOUT.

Let's do another example, and look at the acceleration of 2 different ships.

shipvals[BATTLESHIP].s_accint = 80;
shipvals[CRUISER].s_accint = 150;

Yes, BBs really do accelerate slugishly. From the table above, each accel upgrade adds 10. So with 7 upgrades, a BB can accelerate just like a cruiser!

I could go on and on with examples, but in the interest of time, I won't. Just play and learn that way is my advice!

2b. What happens when I die?

When you die, you lose all your special weapons and upgrades, except for in the case of free rank upgrades, which is explained in the rank section below. All one time upgrades like shield overcharge, nukes, mines, plasmas and drones are lost upon death.

2c. Aww that sucks, are there any exceptions?

Why yes, there are. In the case of genocide/conquer, upgrades are not lost when you are sent to the team select screen. The idea is to not punish winning by taking upgrades away from the winner. Of course the losers keep them too but they probably need all the help they can get!

2d. How do I keep track of upgrades?

There are some special sturgeon features to the message system. Send yourself 'C' to see the menu options. You can check on your upgrades (send yourself or someone the letter 'u'), weapons (send 'i'), and available kills for upgrades (send 'k') at any time. You can lookup the same information on your teammates, and can also get limited information on your enemies' upgrades as well. The 'k' command does not work on enemies, and on enemies 'u' only returns a general list of upgrades not the exact type and amount. For teammates and yourself, 'k' works, and 'u' returns the entire list of upgrades, and how many are purchased. Sending yourself 'C' also lists what sturgeon options are on/off, and what the current limit is for kills you can spend on upgrades.


3. Sturgeon options

There are several options which can be set by the server administrator related to sturgeon.

STURGEON_MAXUPGRADES: Number of kills you can spend on upgrades, can range from 1 to infinite.
STURGEON_EXTRAKILLS: If this is on, the person killing you gets .15 kills credit per kill of upgrades you had. So if you have 10 kills worth of upgrades, carried 4 armies, and had 2 kills, you are worth 1 + 10*.15 + 4*.1 + 2*.1 = 3.1 kills!
STURGEON_PLANETUPGRADES: If this is on, as an incentive to reward and promote team play, your whole team gets a free upgrade every time you take an enemy planet that is not in your space.
STURGEON_LITE: If this is on, only your most expensive upgrade is lost on death. For example, if you have 6 torp speed upgrades and 2 maxwarp upgrades, on death you will keep 5 torp speed and 2 maxwarp upgrades. If you have sufficient rank, you will always retain a few upgrades. See the rank section below for more details. Sturgeon lite is an attempt to
balance the desire to keep kills and enjoy upgrades that some people like to do, as well as to satisify the people who like
to ogg upgrades off people.


4. I'm having trouble buying upgrades?

The upgrade menu, as you probably know by now, uses speed keys to navigate. Unfortunately, this feature does not work with enforced UDP, as this type of UDP sends speed packets twice. If you find yourself only able to purchase certain upgrades, and the upgrade menu "skipping" over the first menu and going right to the upgrade purchase, you probably have enforced UDP on. So please don't use enforced UDP. To fix this, go to your netrekrc and look for the option caleld "udpClientSend". Set it to 1 (simple UDP).

Futhermore, if you have your speed keys remapped or even unmapped, you will have trouble upgrading. If for example
you changed the '1' key to, say, a distress macro, and never remapped speed will run into problems. Most people
however do not (and really should not) remap the speed keys.


5. What are special weapons, and how do I use them?

There are several types of special weapons in sturgeon. First off, there are 6 kinds of plasma, named pseudoplasma, type 1 plasma, type 2 plasma, type 3 plasma, type 4 plasma, and type 5 plasma. Pseudoplasmas do no damage and the other types of plasma do increasing damage as the type increases. Type 1 does 50, type 2 does 75, type 3 does 100, type 4 does 125, and type 5 does 150 damage. If you purchase pseudoplasma, you get 12 of them per kill spent. Pseudoplasmas are perfect for ping pong plasma fun. If you purchase normal plasmas, you get less of each type to compensate for them being more powerful. It costs 2 kills to purchase normal plasma. Here's a chart showing how many you get:

Type Amount
1 12
2 6
3 4
4 3
5 2

You can always spend more kills to get more. For example, you can spend 2 kills to get 2 type 5 plasma, then spend another 2 kills to now have 4 type 5 plasma. You can also have multiple types at once, i.e. you can have pseudoplasma, type 2 plasma, and type 5 plasma concurrently. Note that GAs get unlimited pseudoplasma for free, and SBs get unlimited pseudoplasma and type 5 plasma (again, free, it's part of the ship design).

This is probably a good time to mention how to effectively use special weapons if you have more than one type of them. Use the coup key (in most clients it is C) to switch/toggle between special weapons.

The next type of special weapon is mines. Mines look like stationary torps that are rotating in place. Mines cost 1 kill to purchase 2 mines, though note the AS ship gets free unlimited mines as part of the ship design. Mines cost 250 fuel to use, do 200 damage, and last 1 minute before they expire. Though if you die, your mines will expire 5 seconds after you die. Mines can be detted. Mines are good for defending a planet, put a ring of mines around the planet to deter cloaked takers. However, each mine does take up a torp slot, so if you have 8 mines out, you can't fire torps until you either use "det own" to get rid of your mines, or wait until the mines expire/explode on some enemy.

The next type of special weapon is the suicide drone. This is a slow moving, homing torp. Drones cost 1 kill to purchase 3 drones, though note the SB ship gets free unlimited drones as part of the ship design. Drones cost 500 fuel to use, do 60 damage, and last 15 seconds before they expire. Though if you die, your drones will expire 5 seconds after you die. Drones can be detted. Drones are good for chasing enemies away due to their tracking ability. And they are very good for tracking cloaked ships.

The last type of special weapon is the nuke. This is the most game altering and complex of the special weapons. Nukes are used, simply, to destroy armies. You orbit an enemy planet, fire a nuke, and if things go right, enemy armies will die. With nukes, it is possible to neut a planet, so that a ship with a nuke and 1 army could conceivably take a planet at 4 armies, by first nuking, then dropping.

There are 4 types of nuke. The table below shows the different sizes of nukes, the kill cost to purchase, the number of army slots taken up by the nuke, nuke explosion damage, and the nuke's base army damage.

Size Cost Amry Slots Taken Explosion Damage Armies Killed
Small 1 1 20 2
Medium 2 2 50 5
Big 4 3 100 10
Huge 8 4 250 25

The explosion damage is how much damage the nuke does if you die with a nuke on board, or if the nuke explodes in the launch bay when you try to launch it (more on that in a bit). So, potentially, you could buy a huge nuke, ogg a base, and when you explode, your explosion does 350 damage. Or you could buy 2 huge nukes and do a staggering 600 damage when you explode. There are some limitations, however. Note the column that says "army slots taken". Just like each ship has a different max army capacity, so does each ship have a max nuke capacity. Small nukes take up 1 army slot, medium takes up 2, etc. So a scout, for example, can carry either 2 armies, 1 small nuke and 1 army, or a medium nuke and 0 armies. A galaxy ship could carry 2 small nukes and 3 armies, 2 medium nukes and 1 army, 1 small/1 medium/2 armies, etc etc.

Let's walk through an example. You are flying a CA, and you have 6 kills. This lets you carry 10 armies. However, now you go and buy some nukes. You spend 4 kills to buy 2 medium nukes. You now have 2 kills left, and 2 medium nukes on board. Your dashboard will tell you that you can carry up to 4 armies (since you have 2 kills). Now, you go earn 3 more kills, bringing your total to 5 kills. If you still have the nukes on board, your maximum army capacity will only be 6, even though you have 5 kills! Let's say you then go orbit an enemy planet and drop a nuke. Your army capacity will increase to 8 upon dropping the first nuke, and then back up to 10 if you drop the 2nd nuke. I hope this makes sense.

Ok now to the important part, how nukes damage armies. As the table shows, each nuke has a base value for armies killed. But there is a lot of randomness, and things can go better, or worse. For example, the nuke can be a dud, and just not do any damage. The nuke can explode in your bomb bay, damaging your hull and potentially killing you! The nuke can also land in lightly populated areas, doing 2 armies less damage then normal. On the other hand, you can get lucky, and do anywhere from +1 to +10 extra armies killed due to stuff like nuclear fireballs, radioactive fallout, beta rays and gamma rays. And if you are really lucky you can get double or even triple yield off a nuke.

You should know most of this already if you read the previous stuff, but here it is anyways. AS gets unlimited mines. SB gets unlimited pseudoplasma, type 5 plasma, and suicide drones. Galaxy gets unlimited pseudoplasma (best for plasma wars). ATT gets unlimited everything. ATTs are not enabled!


6. Does rank matter in sturgeon?

Yes, rank matters! You get free upgrade credit based on rank. So a Lieutenant gets 1 kill worth of free upgrades, with up to 8 free kills of upgrade credit at Admiral. These rank upgrades can only be spent on permanent upgrades, not temporary things like shield overcharges, nukes, plasmas, mines or drones. On the bright side, they stay with you when you die! If you want to redo them, refit to a different ship, and your upgrades will all be set back to zero, and you will gain back your maximum rank upgrade credit. If you die with more upgrades than your ship would normally have due to rank, you will lose some upgrades, until your total upgrade cost is less than or equal to your rank credit. The first upgrades stripped are shields, then engine stuff, then weapon stuff, then misc stuff, and last, the one time upgrades like fire while cloaked. If you die with an amount of upgrades less than or equal to your rank, you lose nothing.


7. Other stuff, mostly specific to [previously:]

There is a new rank above admiral called grand admiral. Requires 9.0 stats and 900 DI. Clients don't support showing Grand Adm. in player list window, but know that it's there :). And you do get the extra rank credit upgrade that comes with a higher rank, so 9.0 kills worth of free upgrades at grand admiral.

Some ships on have been changed. Note that these changes are independent of the sturgeon mod. Scouts can go warp 14 and don't lose fuel even at high warp. DDs have 8500 fuel. CA has 12000 fuel and old BB phaser. BB has the old SB phaser (quite powerful indeed!). AS given 300 hull, and torps last twice as long. GA had shields reduced from 140 to 120. SBs given unlimited etemp/wtemp. For completeness, here are the local ship mods from the sysdef configuration file at To make full sense of some of them, you will have to compare some values to getship.c in the Vanilla source.

Ship Parameter Value


8. Handy reference for important keys used in sturgeon

Coup key - toggle between special weapons
Plasma key - fire special weapons
Speed keys - navigate upgrade menu
'C' - send this letter to yourself to see what sturgeon options are on/off
'i', 'k', 'u' - send these letters to yourself or someone else to get special weapon inventory, kill capacity, or list of upgrades


9. What's the difference between a CA and a GA?

I get asked this a lot, so here you go! GA turns slightly better. GA decels better (equivalent of 4 decel upgrades). GA torp speed is 1 faster. CA torp fuse is .5 seconds longer (equivalent of 5 torp fuse upgrades). GA repair rate is just a tad higher (less than 1 upgrade worth). GA fuel recharge rate is 1 higher. CA can carry 10 armies, GA can carry only 5. GA has 120 shields/hull, CA has 100 shields/hull. And that's it! So, as you can see, cruiser is a bit worse overall, BUT it can carry twice as many armies/nukes.


Date Change By
9/4/06 First version BB
9/17/06 Updated with details on losing upgrades on death, and sturgeon lite BB
9/23/06 Rewrote a bunch of stuff on sturgeon settings, sturgeon lite, etc. BB
10/2/06 Updated with changed adder cost for fuel/decel, new functionality for sending yourself 'C' BB
11/11/08 Updated Formatting ZB