Every round, each starship gets to do something. The starships' initiative checks, from highest to lowest, determine the order in which they act.


At the start of a battle, each starship makes a single initiative check. An initiative check is a Dexterity check that uses the starship pilot's Dexterity modifier. (A ship without a pilot has an initiative check modifier of +0.) A pilot with the Improved Initiative feat gets a +4 bonus on the check.
The GM determines what order starships are acting in, counting down from highest initiative result to lowest, and each starship acts in turn. On all following rounds, the starships act in the same order (unless a starship takes an action that changes its initiative; see Special Initiative Actions). If two or more starships have the same initiative check result, the starships that are tied go in order of total initiative modifier (including Dexterity modifier and Improved Initiative feat bonus, if applicable). If there is still a tie, roll a die.
Flat-Footed Starships: At the start of a battle, before a starship has had a chance to act (specifically, before its first turn in the initiative order), it is flat-footed. It can't apply the pilot's Dexterity bonus to Defense while flat-footed.


If starships enter a battle after it has begun, they roll initiative at that time and act whenever their turn comes up in the existing order.


At the start of combat, a starship is surprised if it was not aware of its enemies and they were aware of it. Likewise, a starship can surprise its enemies if it knows about them before they're aware of it.
The GM determines which starships are aware of which others at the start of any battle. The GM may call for Computer Use checks to operate shipboard sensors (see the expanded Computer Use skill description), Spot checks, or other checks to determine whether one ship detects another.
A starship makes only one roll or check against surprise, regardless of its crew complement.
If some but not all of the starships are aware of their enemies, a surprise round happens before regular rounds begin. Starships that are aware of their enemies can act in the surprise round, so they roll for initiative. In initiative order (highest to lowest), starships that started the battle aware of their opponents each take either an attack action or move action during the surprise round (see Action Types, below). If no starship or all starships are surprised, a surprise round does not occur.
Starships that are unaware at the start of battle do not get to act in the surprise round. Unaware combatants are flat-footed because they have not acted yet. A flat-footed starship loses its pilot's Dexterity bonus to Defense.