Tractor Beam Effects on Spacewalkers?

Hi, all. GM in need of some lore/technical expertise. Y’all were really helpful last time I had issues. Our crew is about 2/3 of the way through a modified version of the STA Adventure “Border Dispute.” There’s a Nova-class ship with a Romulan warbird having disabled it in the Neutral Zone.

I won’t spoil the details in case anyone here is also a player, but my Romulan Commander saw fit to lock a tractor beam on the Nova. The problem is that there were three NPCs in EV suits working on something outside of the ship.

Would the tractor beam kill these redshirts? What if they’re on the fore tip of the saucer and the tractor beam is coming in squarely from port? Neither Memories Alpha or Beta had anything for this situation and I don’t know enough about gravitons to make a call on it.

Appreciate the help, folks!

From what I recall a normal tractor beam held the entire ship in place without stressing any individual part of it. That would suggest it is a field affecting all connected parts.

If the red shirts had been using magnetic boots to manuever on the hull I would say that they are locked in place by the tractor beam, but personally unharmed.
If they were using ‘flying’ EVA suits like Michael Burnham in the Discovery Pilot then they are a separate unit and unaffected.

The most important thing is what makes a good story for your game.
Does having a chance to rescue them sound good or is the drive from having deaths early in the encounter better?
Physics in ST is always secondary to the plot after all. :wink:


It’s Star Trek, so established precedents only matter if you want them to matter. If you decide they don’t apply, you don’t even have to explain why (unless you really want to). So, what do you want to have happen here?

Physics-wise, if the ship is moving at impulse power, the space walkers would have to be within the ship’s structural integrity or artificial gravity fields (they’d have to be In the same reference frame as the ship, otherwise they couldn’t remain outside it at all while it’s using any kind of thrust). In that case, they likely wouldn’t be harmed by the tractor beam any more than crew inside the ship would.

If the ship was at rest, though, and they were not within the ship’s fields (and in its reference frame), then they’re absolutely toast if the tractor beam causes any acceleration to the ship.

All this is really helpful, folks. We just had a “Trek does whatever serves the story best, so you can too” discussion last episode. Time to take my own advice. Thanks!


Good question. We had an engineer trying to fix a busted Sensor array (2 nat 20s on same roll) by going EV. He rolled another 2- natural 20s, so I had his suit break down and launch him out of control from the ship. The Captain ordered the tractor beam lock onto him. I never stopped to wonder if this would be detrimental to our engineer. 2-nat 20s shouldn’t kill him.

In that scenario, the bridge officer on the ship would presumably try to apply the tractor beam very precisely and at minimum power (a roll for whichever PC was at that station).

In the OP’s scenario, the Romulans would likely not be that considerate…


although why the captain didn’t just beam him back aboard…

Possibly with the nat 20s that’s too easy. Maybe in trying to fix the sensor away the officer accidentally knocked out a relay feeding the transporter. You gotta make them sweat!