Tuesday Tweak: Fantasy Airships

This set of rules is intended for an interesting and sufficiently complex game of fighting on airborne vessels. The primary goal of these rules is to make airship combat interesting for every player, giving everyone a task to do.

This post does not include ship statistics, which you can create yourself or simply wait for them to appear on gamingmage next week! Assume that airborne vessels function pretty much the same way seagoing vessels do, with the following additions and tweaks. These are a bit quick and dirty, without going into great detail. Feel free to ask for additions or clarifications in the comments!

Assume that these vessels carry a highly buoyant gas in a somewhat well-defended balloon above the deck, and some vessels are equipped with magical lightning engines in addition to sails. Most ships can only turn 45 degrees in a round, and have a speed equal to 20 x the wind multiplier (set by the GM, usually x1 or x2). They can usually rise a maximum of 10 feet in a round, or fall up to 20 feet without injuring anyone.

There are a number of positions which must be filled on any airship. Different positions need to make skill checks, ability checks, or use other options both to make the ship function or to perform special combat actions. On long journeys, you can assume that all members of the crew are taking 10, which allows the ship to function normally. In a long storm, you must make one check for the winds and rain (DC determined by the severity of the storm–usually 20 to stay afloat, or 25 to take advantage and move faster), plus one additional check to avoid additional dangers, such as lightning.

A player may fill a position, in which case they use their own bonus on the check as they direct and supervise the crew. Otherwise, use the default crew bonus for each position unfilled by a player. The crew bonus is equal to the number of expert ABAs (able-bodied airmen) among the crew, regardless of the actual position of each expert ABA. All checks are made on the respective player’s turn, though the effects of that check are often only felt on the ship’s turn.

Pilot: often the captain or quartermaster, the pilot takes up a position at the ship’s wheel on the aft deck. The ship moves on the pilot’s initiative roll and moves at his or her direction. Special: Profession (aerosailor): the pilot must make checks to avoid airborne hazards or to keep the ship on course in high winds. Additionally, the pilot may make a DC 20 check to adjust the ship briefly to gain combat advantage, granting all ranged weapons aboard gain a +1 bonus on attack rolls against enemy ships.

Paddle-sailer: The airships maneuver by banking or directing the wind in their paddle-sails, which are moved by ropes and pulleys. Though the ship is directed by the will of the pilot, the paddle-sailers are the ones who make sure the ship functions properly. Special: Profession (aerosailor) or Dexterity check: the paddle-sailers must make a DC 10 check to keep the sail paddles from tangling when the pilot avoids a hazard. Failure means that the ship cannot make turns until the damage has been repaired by a carpenter. Additionally, the paddle-sailer can make a DC 20 check to allow the ship to turn up to one greater degree than normal (most large ships have a maximum turn of 45 degrees).

Ratline Runner: These numerous but crucial members of a crew manage the sails on the ship, which make the ship run on the back of the wind. Special: Profession (aerosailor) or Strength check: Letting out or taking in sails requires a great deal of strength, and hauling away on the sails requires a DC 10 check to allow the ship to move at its maximum speed each turn. Failure by 4 or less means that the ship cannot move at its maximum speed, while failure by 5 or more means that the ship can only move at half speed. Additionally, the ratline runners may make a DC 25 check to let out additional sail, and give the ship a 10 foot speed boost for a turn.

Balloon Master: Managing the gas in the ship’s balloon can be quite a lot of work, what with temperature, weight, volume, pressure, and a hundred other concerns to worry about, which only gets worse once the ballista bolts start flying! Special: Profession (aerosailor) or Intelligence check: When the balloon is punctured by enemies, the balloon masters must make a DC 10 check for every attack that successfully punctured the balloon. Success indicates that the hole was patched or compensated for, and the ship suffers no ill effects until after the battle. Failure by 4 or less means the ship loses 5 feet of height on its turn, while failure by 5 or more indicates that the ship loses 10 feet of height on its turn. Note that most ships can only withstand up to 10 punctures before they being falling! Additionally, the balloon masters can make a DC 20 check to mix a special infusion of gas to allow the ship to suddenly gain 5 feet of height on its turn, or 10 feet with a DC25 check.

Lightning Engineer: Some special ships are equipped with lightning engines to supplement their wind power. These ships can fly into the teeth of the wind if they so choose, usually at a speed of 15. Engines otherwise add 10 to a ship’s speed when active. The engineers keep these in good working order and keep them from exploding and zapping everyone aboard. Special: Profession: Engineer or Wisdom check: Operating the engines with the correct amount of “juice” requires a DC 10 check. Failure by 4 or less indicates that the ship only gains a 5 ft. bonus speed, while failure by 5 or more indicates that lightning arcs out dangerously, dealing 1d6 points of damage to the engineers on a failed DC 15 reflex save, and 3d6 damage to the aft section of the ship! Additionally, the engineer can expend double the normal amount of fuel with a successful DC 25 check, granting the ship an extra 10 feet of bonus speed on its turn.

Additionally, many ships mount heavy or light ballistae, which players can use with the normal rules for siege weapons!

Enjoy the awesome aerial combat that awaits you!

Also, be aware that with yet still MORE high holy days coming up on the jewish calendar, the gaming mage will miss thursday and friday updates.

Max Porter-Zasada

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2 responses to “Tuesday Tweak: Fantasy Airships

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