Sailing the High Skies —
Airships over Almeri

January 31, 2020 at 6:19 pm

“Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.”

– Oscar Wilde


Between the Shards that sustain nearly all the life we know of is a band of smaller fragments, glittering dust motes, and glowing orbs that we call the Scintillance. A few hardy souls call the Stream home, and sail the skies between worlds.

The Scintillance may seem empty but it is far from a void. The atmosphere thins as a ship rises, but there is breath even in its deepest darkness. A terrestrial creature must make a 3/ST test each day or takes a point of Fatigue. This damage cannot be recovered while in the Scintillance, but can be healed at 1ST/hour when they return to full atmosphere.

The ships that ply this celestial sea are a hybrid of magic and ingenuity. They are built off a structure of dragon skeletons reinforced with light hartwood, canvas, and glass. The size of a ship is restricted by the size of the skeleton, and only 7 hexes (1MH) of airship can be lifted per hex of the dragon skeleton used. This fact is not lost on dragonkind, who do not look kindly on the skyships and can wreak bloody revenge for the loss of their kindred.

Next up in the ‘Aerie: Airship battles!
Check it out here
Skyships are detailed by the scale (Size), durability (ST), Speed (MA), Defenses (AD) and handling (H). Size is determined by the number of megahexes of deck space of the vessel. This is very limiting for skyships, whereas as waterborne ships can be much larger. In tactical combat, enemies gain +1 to target a ship for each Size category above 1. For every two MH of main deck, a ship can have 1 MH of lower deck or cargo space.

Skyships carry sails and rigging equal to its size in MH. These are not counted in its Size, but can be attacked. Each sail hex has 10ST and 0AD without modification. A vessel will lose a percentage of its speed equal to the percent of sails lost, so that ship of 4 megahexes and an MA of 4 will lose 1 MA for each section of sails lost.

Durability (ST) represents how much damage the hull and decking of a ship can take and maintain integrity. This is largely a function of the size of the vessel, but can be improved with magic or investment. In general, a ship has 3ST for each hex of deck space, including lower and cargo decks. A skyship that takes more damage than its ST will collapse into pieces, lose momentum, and float away into the stream. If this happens close to the surface of a shard, the ship will crash to the ground.

Speed (MA) is how fast a ship can travel. Larger ships can raise more sail and move more swiftly through the Scintillance. Unfortunately their bulk drags them in the opposite direction, so larger is not always faster. This is the number of relative hexes a ship travels in a tactical round. This is equivalent to 10 normal rounds and 10 normal hexes, so that a 1-hex dragon has a tactical speed of 1 (MA10) and a 7-hex dragon’s is 2 (MA20).

Defense (AD) is partially a measure of bulk, and partially design. Each size category adds 4AD to the base defense of a ship. Armor plating, magic, and other measures can add to this.

Handling (H) is a matter of how agile a ship is and how deftly her crew can manage her. A ship can make one maneuver per point of handling per tactical round. Once up to speed, a ship maintains its speed without spending a maneuver. Increasing or decreasing that speed does require a maneuver.

A ship may also use maneuvers to improve their chances in a fight. Each round, a ship may use one maneuver for each point of Handling it has. A successful Seamanship check is required per maneuver, but if they forgo using all their maneuvers, the crew gains +2 adjIQ for each unused maneuver. If pressed, the crew can attempt more with a +1d on the test per maneuver. Normally these checks are made by the captain, but larger ships may have a mate that directly commands the crew.

Maneuver options are listed below:

Accelerate — This maneuver can increase the vessel’s speed by one for each maneuver spent, up to the base speed of the vessel.

Climb — An attempt to gain the higher ground (+12 to attacks) on the enemy lower a ship’s movement by one for the next round.

Come about — This is changing the facing a of a ship to bring different weapons to bear. One maneuver can turn a ship 90 degrees, so two would be required to fire side-facing weapons on either side of a vessel.

Dive — A ship can drop toward the nearest gravitational mass, increasing its speed by one for the turn. However, a dive exposes vulnerable assets and doubles the risk of striking sails, weapons, or crew.

Evade — A ship can take evasive action to avoid fire from enemy vessels. Enemy attacks would be at -1 for each maneuver spent.

Heave to — This is an attempt to slow an airship or come to a complete stop, in order to dock or avoid ramming another ship. A ship can decrease its speed by one each round. Slowing faster can be done with a piloting test with one additional die for each MA beyond the first.

Position — a captain can improve its tactical position with maneuvers, adding +1 to their competitive check for each maneuver spent.

Ram— Ships in point-blank range are capable of ramming one another. The captain with advantage can close beyond contact and slam into its opponent. The ramming ship does 10d for each point of movement it has in excess of reaching engagement. If the ships are different sizes, there is +1 (or -1) per die for each level of size difference. The attacking ship takes half this damage. For example, if a Size 3 ship rams Size 2 ship with one hex of excess movement, it would do 10d+10 damage to the enemy and half that to itself. All ramming damage is done to a ship’s hull.

Roll — A ship can turn its hull to enemy attacks, adding 5AD to each hit it takes. A ship using the Rolll maneuver cannot fire its own weapons that turn.


Voyaging in the Void

Skyships perch on high towers or atop great hartwood trees when at anchor on a Shard, kept aloft by the lighter gravity and the magic of their draconic skeletons. Once the lines are freed, the captain would Accelerate and Climb until the surface gravity is cleared. Then they are free to maneuver at will.

Sailing between shards is fairly straightforward aside from shard-storms, pirates, and vengeance-seeking dragons. The captain or navigator must make a successful navigation (Practical Astronomy, below) check each day to stay on course. A failed check adds +1d to the next day’s check. If a ship gets terminally lost, they can try to set a new course to the nearest Shard. Typical voyages last between two to eight weeks.

New IQ13 Talent: Practical Astronomy (2) This is the applied knowledge of the locations of objects in the Scintilliance and their relationships to one another. Useful for plotting a skyship course and to avoid getting lost. The talent requires a number of calculations, and only costs 1 if the figure already has the Mathematician skill.


Down to Earth

While this system was designed for airships, it could easily be applied to sailing terrestrial seas. The maneuvers list would be shortened, and ships can be much larger. Fire presents a much larger danger on the surface, and would be applied to hull AD cumulatively. The risk of sinking adds additional danger, and if a ship loses more than 1/3 of its ST the hull is breached, and it will take additional hull damage at 1d per size category. More than 2/3 damage and it will sink in a number of rounds equal to its Size category.


Ships of the Line

The skyships of the Cidrian shards are vastly expensive to obtain, and only the rare cargoes and even more mysterious passengers can make them profitable. A skyship costs twice as much as a terrestrial vessel of similar size (examples can be found here), and that does not include the dragon skeleton. These artifacts must be acquired separately, often at great risk and expense.


Size1 / ST21 / MA1 / AD1 / H1
A lightweight transport designed to carry a single figure, used mostly for boarding actions and ship-to-ship travel. Ornithopters can often be fabricated for $10,000 in the right environments.


Size2 / ST63 / MA3 / AD8 / H2
A small 2 megahex vessel for up to 4 crew. A cramped stern cabin provides some comfort and there is minimal cargo space. The small deck only has space for one hex of mounted weaponry.


Size4 / ST126 / MA4 / AD16 / H3
The swiftest and most common of the skyships usually carries of crew of 12 (4 needed per watch) and up to 12 marines in war duty. It can handle four hexes of weaponry, but often mounts much less, as they interfere with cargo carrying.


Size7 / ST219 / MA4 / AD28 / H2
Frigates are large fighting vessels rarely seen out of the Scintillance. It can carry 4 hexes of side-firing weapons on the lower deck and 4 more above. It requires a crew of 8 per watch and can travel with as many as 40. These vessels often carry ornithopters on board.

Man O War

Size14 / ST441 / MA3 / AD56 / H2
The fearsome fighting ships are too large to dock on any but the smallest low-gravity shards, so are only seen patrolling the ways between. It takes 16 crewman to handle the ship, with another 24 manning its weaponry. They can carry up to 100 passengers and crew.


Customizing Vessels

No two skyships are alike, but some alterations are more drastic than others. Here are a few of the more common changes made by shipbuilders.

Additional Sails. This enhancement expands the sails aboard to increase the ship’s speed. A vessel can improve its MA by 1 for 25% of its original cost. These ships have 50% more sail hexes.

Armor Plate. A ship can increase is AD by 25% for 10% of its original cost. This can be done more than once, but each level of armor beyond the first reduces the ship’s handling by 1.

Concealed Weapons. The ship’s below-deck weapons are hidden from casual view. Each weapon concealed requires an additional hex of space.

Expanded Crew Quarters. Each additional crew space takes one hex of cargo or deck space, and a passenger requires two. A skyship needs one full megahex of deck space to fly, and one full megahex of deck equal to half its size. For example, a Galley (Size 4) needs two full megahexes of working deck space.

Extended Rudders. A ship can improve its Handling by 1 with extended rudders for 10% of its original cost. Using the added maneuver requires a successful 3d Captain test. This can only bey added once.

Ram. A heavy, reinforced prow of the skyship used to strike enemies. A ship with a ram does +1d per Size category damage in an attack, and takes one less damage itself. The bulk of the ram lowers a ships’ handling by 1.

Sturdy Hull. A ship can improve its ST by 10% for 10% of its base cost. This customization can be added more than once, but each additional hull reinforcement beyond they first lowers its Handling by 1.