Airship
airships.jpg
Airships

An airship (also known as an aernava) is a type of vessel designed to fly on currents of air using rudders, sails or engines. Though many take their basic form and design from seagoing ships, airships are powered by internal engines that lift them from the earth and push them across the sky, rather than being slaves to the wind or to ocean currents. These engines also make an airship incredibly fast, easily outstripping virtually any other form of transportation (except, of course, for teleportation and similar magic), making it ideal for traders and military operations or adventurers who want to get from place to place quickly. Though, no airship can travel at more than 200 mph.

Most vessels cannot fly more than 500 feet above the ground due to the inherent weaknesses in the design of modern airship engines.

Airships are the first powered aircraft and are now becoming widely used. Airships are expensive, and short of stealing or being given one, only remarkably wealthy individuals can get their hands on them. Airships cost on average 150,000 gil.

History


Dirigible Ships

In 1190, the first dirigible ship was successfully flown publicly in Luendig Harbor. It was created from a sailing ship and a massive magically heated balloon.

Modern Airships

The father of the modern airship was Parinte Orasharu who, in 1309, flew the first airship (which he called the Puternic Vas) 20 miles.

In 1332, the Aernava-cladire Company first began flying airships for their own uses including message services and private transportation.

The Aernava-cladire Company and all its holdings were purchased by the Ilefain royalty and renamed the Lindblum Royal Airship Company in 1345.

Airship Construction


Building an airship is a difficult, time-consuming process. Simply crafting the hull can take months, and properly integrating the engines and arcane wheels with the rest of the ship is a process best left to the experts. Still, to a group with enough cash and a big enough thirst for adventure, building an airship might seem like an excellent idea.

Hull construction materials:

  • Adamantine
  • Bone
  • Ceramic
  • Copper
  • Crystalline
  • Diamond
  • Gems
  • Glass
  • Gold
  • Iron
  • Mithral
  • Platinum
  • Stone
  • Wood

Airship Engines

It takes a lot of power to keep airships aloft and to propel them through the air. There are several types of engines available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. There are three important factors to consider when selecting an engine: power factors, fuel source, and cost.

Because of the great precision and care needed to build an airship engine, the spellcasters who oversee their creation are paid very well, but are also held to an extremely high standard. Even having a single engine fail while in flight is enough to end the career of most who construct airship engines, and even those who are not professionally ruined often choose to retire rather than run the risk of such a tragedy ever occurring again as a result of their work. The reward for success is quite high, but the penalty for failure can leave even the most stalwart wizard wondering if he?s in the right line of work.

Airship engines are large, noisy, and powerful. Fueled by arcane or divine magic, they are able to propel large airships far from the ground at alarming speeds. However, there are certain limits to their capabilities that at this time seem nearly insurmountable.

Engine types:

  • Arcane
  • Divine
  • Elemental, Air
  • Elemental, Fire
  • Energy
  • Fiendish
  • Necrotic
  • Oil-burning
  • Vampiric
  • Wood-burning

The Rigging

Most airships, like sailing vessels, have sails. The sails not only help propel the airship before the wind, but also increase maneuverability. The sails, masts, and all other bits and pieces associated with the sails are collectively referred to by airmen as the ship?s rigging, and are a crucial component of any airship.

Any ship without rigging or that has its rigging destroyed loses all benefits listed under the rigging type. Ships without rigging can never benefit from wind speed.

Navigational Components

Piloting an airship requires good instincts and better reflexes, but navigating a ship is every bit as challenging, especially during poor weather when visibility is extremely limited. The proper navigational components can greatly ease the job of the navigator, allowing him to rely on accurate instruments rather than dead reckoning and the occasional landmark. At the speeds airships fly, even a small error in navigation can throw an airship far off course, making it that much more difficult to regain one?s bearings and start heading in the right direction.

Landing gear

Basic airships can only land on specially built airship platforms, making it difficult to travel long distances or to remote areas. Airships with the aquatic template have solved this problem and are able to set down in water, but other ships require landing gear. Landing gear is a set of metallic telescoping legs that protrudes from the bottom of the hull, giving the ship a spider-like appearance. Crew members activate the landing gear with cranks. It takes 1 minute for landing gear to be either stowed or extended.

Airship Construction Yards


You cannot build an airship in your basement. Ships up to the Small size category can be constructed without an airship construction yard, but any larger airship must be built in an appropriate facility. Construction yards are rated by the size of the airship they can build (limited by the size of their hull frames and lifting gear) and the number of airships they can build at any given time. Thus, an airship yard rated as Large (4) could have up to four Large ships under construction at any given time. An airship construction facility cannot cram two medium ships into the space of one large airship?each airship must be built on its own support frame, and the number listed in the airship yard?s rating indicates the number of available frames.

All airship yards have enough employees, including overseers, foremen, and engineers, to work a single shift every day on each of the vessels the yard is capable of constructing at a given time. All workers in an airship yard only work one shift in a given day and are assumed to be of ?average? expertise (see Labor, below). This basic labor is included in the rental price of the airship yard. The individual or company commissioning the airship must bring in any extra or highly-trained laborers needed and pay for their salaries as detailed below.

airship1.jpg
Airship in flight

Airship Travel


Overland Travel by Air

Airships are useful for making short runs between two cities, but they also find use in extremely long journeys that would be impractical for other modes of transportation. Many wizards? guilds, for example, make excellent money ferrying their peers from one distant area to another so that other wizards can fix the locations in their minds for use with teleport spells at a later date.

Merchants, too, have discovered the extreme value to be realized by carrying light cargoes over great distances?while the small load of teak wood you pick up in one location may be worthless where you get it, its value may be much higher a few thousand miles distant. Many daring merchants practice this sort of speculation, often starting their own trade routes as a result of their explorations.

Before you can make your fortune traveling thousands of miles from home, though, you have to be able to navigate and find your way from point to point without getting lost. This chapter presents some of the navigational hazards of such overland travel, everything from dangerous weather, to the threat of air pirates, to the very real possibility of simply becoming lost and running out of fuel. While talented navigators are certainly able to reduce all of these threats, there is no such thing as perfect safety when navigating the wild open spaces of the skies.

Geographical Navigation

Unlike sea sailors, airship crews have the advantage of being able to look down upon the geography of the areas through which they travel, allowing them to make extremely accurate maps. In the simplest form of navigation, the navigator simply compares visible geographical landmarks with the landmarks shown on his maps. Given an accurate group of maps and an observant navigator, it?s a relatively straightforward process for the navigator to guide a ship from its home port to its destination.

Another problem with navigating by landmarks is the risk of air pirates. Pirates are smart enough to figure out where the most commonly used routes are, and have little difficulty staking them out. The use of visible landmarks makes it as easy for the pirates to navigate as it is for you, and that leads to a very real threat of frequent pirate attacks. Similarly, aerial creatures know where the good pickings are and begin congregating in areas through which ships pass frequently, leading to a large increase in potentially hostile encounters.

Dead Reckoning—The Art of Overland Navigation

Airship sailors have learned a lot from the sailors of the seas and use some of the same techniques for navigation. Dead reckoning is the default method of navigation for airships, involving some basic math, a rope (with attached drag chute), a time piece, a lodestone, and a detailed ship?s log. The practice is not difficult, but without accurate bookkeeping and the proper knowledge, it can be very difficult to navigate long distances overland.

Ocean sailors use ropes, floats, and time pieces to determine the speed of their ships. The rope has knots along its length (usually separated by between four and six feet of rope) and is tied both to the boat and the float (usually a simple wooden log). The float is tossed off the side of the boat and, at the same time, the time piece (normally a small sand-measured minute glass) is started. When a minute has passed, the sailors count the number of knots the log has pulled from the spool of rope, from which they derive their actual speed (hence the term ?knots? for the speed of an oceangoing vessel).

The crew of an airship uses a similar process to determine the speed of their vessel?a parachute is attached to the end of the rope, rather than a log, and the air resistance pulls the rope off the spool. The faster the ship is traveling, the more rope is pulled off the spool, and the more knots the sailors count off to determine the speed of the airship. The crew takes regular readings of the airship?s speed, the results of which are reported to the navigator to keep him informed of the vessel?s progress.

Armed with information about the speed of his vessel, the navigator of an airship can then determine how far the airship moves in a given period of time. Combined with heading information (taken from a compass), this data allows the navigator to create a detailed log of his ship?s journey. While this seems like a very reliable method of navigation, there are some problems with dead reckoning that every navigator must consider.

Most notably, wind speed can greatly alter the apparent speed of the airship (see further on in this chapter for more information on weather), especially if the airship is running before the wind or running directly into the wind. This is because the parachute used for dead reckoning measures the ship?s speed in relation to the air, not to the ground. Dead reckoning requires a great deal more skill than geographical navigation, even under ideal conditions. Assuming the navigator has the proper tools for the job, dead reckoning requires hourly Profession (Airship Navigator) skill checks (DC 15) to accurately track the course of the ship. As long as no two of these skill checks are failed consecutively, the ship remains somewhat on course, though it does travel a bit out of its way. For each failed roll, the navigator steers the ship 2d10% off course (see Lost, below, for more information about getting off course).

Celestial Navigation

Aside from magic, celestial navigation is the most accurate form of navigation available to airship crews. By comparing the position of stars or other celestial bodies to the horizon, a skilled navigator is able to determine his rough position on the map. This method requires a great deal of skill, however, and is only used by those airships that make extremely long journeys across areas where there are no stable landmarks. In this situation, celestial navigation is far safer than dead reckoning, because the sun and stars don?t change position and a mistake during one day doesn?t automatically affect all future navigation.

During the day, celestial navigation relies on the use of the backstaff, a navigational aid consisting of a pair of jointed triangles. The larger of these triangles measured 60 degrees, while the smaller measured 30 degrees. By aligning the shadows cast by these triangles, the navigator is able to determine his relative latitude, using the sun as a reference point. Unlike sailors, who simply align the shadows with the horizon, aerial navigators must also account for differences in altitude, making the task a bit more challenging. One difficulty with celestial navigation is the inability to accurately determine longitude along with latitude. This makes it much simpler to chart a course along a north-south axis than it is to chart one along an east-west axis, which still requires dead reckoning and careful use of maps (as detailed above).

In game terms, celestial navigation can be used to keep a ship on course with much greater accuracy, as long as the airship is traveling along a north-south axis. This requires only two Profession (Airship Navigator) skill checks (DC 20) each day, only one of which must succeed to keep the airship on course. If one of the Profession (Airship Navigator) skill checks fails, the airship drifts 1d10% off course, as detailed in the Lost section, below.

Horizon Distance Based on Airship Height (Earth-sized world)
Airship Distance to Visible Area
Altitude (ft.) Horizon (miles) (sq. miles)
50 9 254
100 12 452
150 15 707
200 17 908
250 19 1,134
300 21 1,385
350 23 1,662
400 25 1,963
450 26 2,124
500 27 2,290
550 29 2,642
600 30 2,827
650 31 3,019
700 32 3,217
750 34 3,632
800 35 3,848
850 36 4,072
900 37 4,301
950 38 4,536
1000 39 4,778
Note: Since the world of the Forge is much smaller
than the Earth, ships from the Oathbound setting can see
only roughly half as far as normal. Also, the visible area
on the Forge is one-quarter of the area shown on this chart.

The Distance to the Horizon

One crucial application of flying technology is the creation of very detailed, very accurate maps. Some airship captains make a very good living doing nothing but ferrying cartographers from place to place, hovering while they make their maps. Using some fairly simple tools, cartographers are able to estimate the sizes of geographical features with a great deal of accuracy, resulting in maps the likes of which most medieval societies could only dream.

The impact of this type of precise mapping on the world cannot be underestimated?sailors, merchants, and travelers of all types benefit immensely from accurate maps. Given the speed of an airship, it is possible an entire continent could be mapped in a few years? time, even less if more than one ship was involved in the project.

Table 5.1 provides information about the types of visibility available at different heights?as you can see, an airship is able to spy out a great deal of the local terrain even at a height of just 500 feet. Assuming an earth-sized planet, the horizon is roughly 27 miles from the airship in every direction, or an area of approximately 2,290 square miles. In contrast, the horizon for a person standing at sea level is only about 3 miles, giving them a view of a slice of their world roughly 28 square miles in area. As you can see, the benefits of aerial flight are enormous and allow for a much clearer picture of the world.

The larger a planet is, the greater the distance to the horizon, as illustrated in Table 5.1. If a world is flat, the distance to the horizon increases dramatically, because there is no curvature at which point the line of sight meets the horizon. Given a telescope of significant magnification and no intervening obstacles (such as mountains), an explorer 500 feet off the ground should be able to see to the very edges of the earth, though the level of detail would be quite coarse and not make for the best maps. It is suggested that mapping activities be limited to the distances shown on Table 5.1, with flat worlds treated as if the airship were at an altitude of 1,000 feet, regardless of actual height. Note that obstacles taller than the airship block line of sight, and certain weather conditions (haze and storms, for example) greatly limit what the navigator of an airship is able to see.

Mapping From Altitude

Mapping is normally a time-intensive process, if only because the cartographer is unable to get a clear picture of the terrain he is mapping. When the cartographer is a few hundred feet off the ground, this problem is eliminated, allowing maps to be drawn much more quickly.

A cartographer on an airship can map out 200 sq. miles in an hour, provided he can see the entire area. This requires a successful Craft (Mapmaking) skill check (DC 15) and the proper materials. A cartographer needs a writing implement, paper or other suitable materials to draw on, and a scale (see below) in order to draw the area successfully. A failure does not indicate a botched map, but it does decrease the navigational bonus provided by the map.

All maps provide a base +5 competence bonus to all Profession (Airship Navigator) skill checks made by an airship navigator while using them. This assumes a map that details all the geographic features of the area and provides some small bits of information about local weather patterns. A map?s bonus can be eroded by the failures of the cartographer who makes it, as determined by the following method.

First, determine the total area covered by the map, in square miles. Divide this by 200 to determine the number of Craft (Mapmaking) skill checks needed to create the map. If less than 10% of the required skill checks were failures, the map provides its full bonus. While it may have a few errors here and there, the map as a whole provides a decent overview of the area it is meant to portray, and is a boon to navigators. For every full 10% of the required skill checks that were failed, however, deduct 1 from the map?s bonus. A mapmaker who fails 20% of his skill checks, for example, has created a map that provides only a +3 (5 - 2) competence bonus to Profession (Airship Navigator) skill checks. It is possible, if a cartographer is particularly sloppy or incompetent (if 60% or more of the Craft (Mapmaking) skill checks were failed), for a map to provide a penalty instead of a bonus.

A navigator who uses a bad map is allowed a Profession (Airship Navigator) skill check (DC 15 - the penalty of the map) to determine that the map is worthless for navigation. This check is allowed the second time the navigator makes a Profession (Airship Navigator) skill check while using the map?if the check succeeds, the navigator is aware of the problem and may stop using the map. If the check fails, however, the navigator continues to trust the map, but is allowed additional checks to detect the problems with it after each further Profession (Airship Navigator) skill check made using the map.

Crews

The airship is a complex machine that requires a skilled crew, able captain, steady pilot, and clever navigator to keep running. This chapter details the roles of the crew, the amount of time each role requires, and the skills necessary to fulfill the duties of the role. While not every crewman can be an effective captain, neither is every captain capable of handling all the duties needed on his ship.

Officers

The difference between officers and standard crewmen is one of authority and training. An airship officer has a very specific set of skills that he uses to perform his task, and has the authority to give orders to the crewmen in order to ensure the continued functioning of the airship as a whole. While not all officers are equal (the captain is certainly higher in rank than the pilot, for example), all officers are above the standard crewmen in ranking.

On most ships, the actual authority of officers varies quite a bit. A pilot, for example, normally has authority to order around anyone he needs to in order to keep the ship flying, but would find his ability to issue orders severely limited in other cases. Experience plays a large role here as well; a grizzled old crewman who has worked on the airship for twenty years is going to have more respect from his mates than the new pilot that just signed on.

These differences are best summed up with a sort of "ship's alignment." The more lawful the alignment of the airship's crew, in general, the more rigidly they adhere to the rankings and power structures listed below. The more chaotic the crew and officers of a ship, the more likely they are to deviate from these rankings, following the orders of whomever seems to be the most experienced or authoritative at the moment. On evil ships, the rankings are enforced by punishment and fear, while on good ships the power structure of the airship is based on merit and personal skill rather than any threat of force or pulling rank.

All officers aboard an airship receive a share of the airship?s profits, from whatever source those profits come. This is the real separating line between the officers and those below them?if the airship prospers, the officers do as well, but they also suffer when the airship isn?t bringing in any cash. Typically, the amount of profit sharing hovers around 2% for the pilot and navigator and 3% for the captain. Lieutenants, while receiving valuable training in how to run a ship and lead a crew, typically receive only a cut of 1% of the ship?s profits, and then only if they are amongst the highest ranking lieutenants aboard the airship. Normally the top three lieutenants share this small profit, and are happy to get it.

Apprentices always receive a small salary rather than a share of the airship?s profits, which is generally just enough to keep them in spending money for shore leave. Apprentices are expected to work for such low wages because of the opportunities afforded them by their position. Some day, the reasoning goes, the training turns into a high-paying, prestigious officer?s position aboard an airship and is worth the sacrifices the young men and women make.

The Crew

While officers and warrant officers normally occupy unique, or at least limited, positions aboard an airship, the crew is composed of the rank and file sailors. They do what they?re told, when they?re told to do it, and earn a decent wage for their efforts. Unlike ocean sailors, who often join up with the crews of ships to avoid punishment for crimes or to escape a former life, the crew of an airship is often intelligent, educated, and looking for adventure and excitement. Because the majority of airships do not make long-distance trips, the crew becomes quite well known in its ports of calls, giving each place an air of familiarity and welcome that crewmen cherish.

Crewmen are paid upon arrival at each port, shortly after the captain and bursar collect any payments the ship has earned and the cargo is unloaded. There are three basic types of crewmen, and each type is paid according to his skills and value to the airship.

Landsmen

When a man first takes a position on an airship, he is known as a landsman. He?ll remain a landsman until the boatswain is confident in his skills and ability to take on responsibility. Landsmen don?t do much of anything without a direct order and spend a lot of their time doing menial, unpleasant work such as mending sails or scrubbing the deck. In part, a landsman?s tenure is a test of his resolve and willingness to do what needs to be done in order to keep the ship up and running. Those who complain the loudest about their roles are rarely promoted to the next rank, and most leave within a few months of signing on.

Landsmen work in two shifts, each twelve hours long. The night crew is often given a slightly lighter workload than the day shift, but pays for it with less food and a disrupted sleep schedule.

Airmen

When a landsman has impressed the boatswain with his initiative, skills, and work ethic, he is promoted to a position as an airman. The airmen do most of the real work on an airship?they patrol the rigging, handle the cargo, and do whatever the officers ask of them. While their work is usually not as menial as that performed by landsmen, it is still very difficult and demanding. Like landsmen, airmen work twelve hours each day and have no days off, save for when the airship is at port.

The night crew airmen spend the majority of their time working with the pilot and the navigator, learning the rudiments of both those trades. While the day crew has an easier schedule, they do not have the time to spend with these experts and rarely advance, as a result. Most warrant officers, in fact, are taken from the ranks of the airmen, who have proved their dedication and learned some useful skills while toiling the nights away.

Ship Mage

Airships are magical creations, so it is only natural to find wizards aboard. The ship mage is a master at the art of magic, gifted with the ability to tailor her spells to better aid her allies and hinder her enemies. Though the ship mage gains no special benefits while earth-bound, she is a force to be feared in the skies where her spells take on a whole new dimension of lethality.

Most ship mages belong to merchant guilds and receive their training from other members of their guild. Because of this, merchant ships almost always have at least one ship mage aboard, and larger airships tend to have three or more, providing around-the-clock protection for the airship.

Ship mages are required to be more physically fit and active than their groundling counterparts. The uncertainty of the combat situations while airborne often places these spellcasters much closer to the action than a wizard or sorcerer would be comfortable with, and the likelihood of being struck by an indiscriminately fired weapon becomes much greater when shipboard weapons are hurling fire and darts into the air. Though this physical conditioning causes some decline in spellcasting ability, the ship mage is still a competent arcane spellcaster.

Operation


Ascending and Descending

An airship that is stationary, or traveling horizontally at 10 mph or less, may ascend up to 50 feet in a round. Airships traveling at 10 mph or less do not gain any horizontal movement while ascending, they remain in the same square while their altitude increases.

If a ship is moving horizontally at more than 10 mph, it may spend 150 feet of its forward movement to ascend up to 50 feet. Thus, a ship traveling at 200 feet per round (200 mph) may move forward 50 feet and ascend 50 feet (which costs it the additional 150 feet of its normal movement for the round). An airship traveling at 10 mph or less may descend up to 100 feet per round without danger.

An airship moving horizontally at more than 10 mph may descend up to 50 feet per 50 feet of horizontal distance covered during the round, at no additional movement cost. So, for example, an airship traveling at 250 ft. per round can descend 250 ft. during a given round without any horizontal movement cost.

Faster ascents and descents are possible, but require specialized equipment and engines as well as a trained crew and captain. Knowing the limits of a vessel is an important part of flying an airship, those who attempt to force their craft into extreme maneuvers often pay the ultimate price (see ?Pushing the Boundaries? below).

Note that an airship that descends during a round may not then later ascend during the same round. In addition, a full round must pass between the descent of an airship and its ascent. Airships that ascend may then descend in the same round, however, provided they have enough movement to do so.

Turning

Each airship has a maneuverability rating, which determines the number of 45-degree turns it can make during a given round. An airship must move at least 50 feet (1 square) between each of these turns, though more extreme maneuvers may be possible (see ?Pushing the Limits?, below) for particularly agile ships and skillful crews.

Due to the 50 foot minimum, ships with very high maneuverability ratings may not be able to take advantage of their accelerated turning rates when moving at slow speeds. A ship with a maneuverability rating of 5, for example, need to travel at least 30 mph (250 feet per round) if it wishes to take all of its turns. Again, tighter turns can be made, as detailed below under ?Pushing the Limits.?

Note that airships hovering at 0 mph may choose to take as many of their available turns as they wish in a single round, using the power of their engines to turn them in place rather than pushing them forward or lifting them up. An airship can turn and ascend or descend during the same round?though an airship still may not descend and then ascend in the same or following round.

Acceleration

The max rate in MPH in which a vessel can accelerate in one round is equal to the power factors of its engines, minus its total tonnage, plus any modifications from special equipment (such as sails). Note that dirigibles serve to reduce an airship?s effective tonnage, even down to 0.

Acceleration is announced at the beginning of any round in which the captain wishes to increase the speed of his vessel. The captain must announce the amount by which he intends to increase his ship?s speed, up to the total amount of acceleration available. The airship moves at its current speed for the remainder of the round, but is considered to be moving at its new speed at the end of the round (barring an accident or other problem).

Accelerating at more than 20 mph is a dangerous tactic and all crewmembers that are not secured must make a Balance check (DC 10 plus 1 for every 5 mph over 20) or be thrown to the deck. During combats this can be useful as an attempt to throw invaders off their feet, but it often has disastrous consequences.

Deceleration

A ship can decelerate a number of miles per hour equal to its current maneuverability times 10. Thus, a small ship with a maneuverability of 5 could decelerate 50 mph without any danger of losing control of the airship. If a pilot attempts a faster deceleration, he must immediately make a Piloting skill check (DC 17). If this check succeeds, the airship is able to decelerate by as much as 20 mph more than its maneuverability rating normally allows, but no more. If the check fails, the airship is immediately out of control (see below). Like with acceleration, deceleration of more than 20 mph per round requires the crew members to make balance checks.

Taking Off and Landing

When taking off from the ground, an airship must ascend at least 50 feet before it can begin any horizontal movement. At that point, it begins moving as per the rules stated above.

To land safely, a vessel must be moving at no more than 50 feet per round (5 mph) and cannot descend more than 50 feet during the round in which the landing occurs. More extreme conditions for landing cause damage to the vessel (and probably the crew, as well) and may cause the airship to ?skip? across the ground before finally coming to rest. A ship with a speed of zero can still move forward at a rate of 10 feet per round; such slow speeds are often used for docking maneuvers or other tricky flight operations that require a great deal of delicacy.

Flight Ceiling

It is very rare for any airship to fly more than 500 feet off the ground. This limit is a function not only of the vessel's weaknesses, but of the manner in which the airship engines operate. The further an airship is from the earth, the more difficult it is for the engine to provide thrust, thus reducing the speed of the airship.

For every 100 feet above 500 the airship travels, its maximum speed is reduced by 10 mph. If this air speed reduction ever reduces the airship?s maximum speed to zero, the airship begins to fall, just as if it had run out of fuel. The pilot of a falling airship may attempt to regain control of the vessel when it loses altitude. To regain control, he must make a Piloting skill check (DC 20 + 2 for every round the airship has fallen), if the check succeeds, the ship?s fall stops and it may begin normal flight on the next round.

airship_battle.jpg
Airships engaged
in battle

Airship Combat


Fighting in the air is much different than battling on land or even on the high seas. There is no cover, only the concealment of clouds protects you from the ballista bolts and catapult shots of your enemies, and engagements occur at a distance of hundreds of feet. While you are often secure on the deck of your airship, there is always the chance of a sudden shift in footing as the captain wheels the vessel around for better position during the fight. Even worse, you must contend with flying opponents above and below your ship, some of whom you can see, and others concealed by the blinding light of the sun or the deck of your own ship. Aerial combat is dangerous, but those who make their living plying the skylanes swear by it as the most exhilarating time of their life.

Boarding Attempts

Sometimes, it is much easier to deal with an enemy airship by simply pulling up alongside it and unloading some heavily armed adventurers onto its deck. Boarding maneuvers also have the added bonus of allowing the capture of prisoners as well as expensive airships.

To board an enemy ship, you must first draw alongside it and either put down boarding gangplanks or, more likely, tether the two ships together using grappling hooks and lines or magical methods (web spells work great in this regard,

Boarding From Above

A pilot may, if he chooses, decide to fly over the top of an enemy airship in order to put his drop line boarders into position. Matching speed and maneuvers of the enemy airship is crucial in this case, even more so than when attempting to board using grapples and gangplanks. Using drop lines requires the same attempts to match speed and course as for a normal boarding attempt, but the attacking pilot suffers a -5 circumstance penalty as he attempts to line his vessel up over an airship he cannot really see.

Flying Creatures and Characters

Once a flying creature leaves his airship, he moves at his own rate, and not at the speed of the ship. Given the scale at which airship combat normally occurs (50-foot squares being the norm), creatures and characters that are flying must move very quickly to have any meaningful place in the battle. Most flying creatures move significantly slower than flying ships. A creature with a fly speed of 90, for example only flies at 10 mph, and can ?run? up to a maximum of only 41 mph. Most flying creatures are not even this fast (calculate proportionally). At combat speeds, a flying creature can quickly be left behind.

If a creature flies less than 50 feet in a given round, it can?t even move out of its current square. In this case, the creature requires two rounds to move from one square to the next. Of course, the character can always spend a fullround action to run or make a double move. Regardless of its speed, a creature confined to a single square may close with any airship occupying the same square in a single round.

Hazards


Turbulence

Air patterns are unpredictable things. The currents in the upper atmosphere collide and roil like the bubbles in a cauldron of boiling water. From time to time, these bubbles coalesce into a phenomenon known as turbulence. Most turbulence cells are quite minor and do nothing more than shake up a crew and keep the pilot from dozing off at the wheel. Unpredictably, though, turbulence can reach dangerous levels that threaten to throw a ship onto its side or slam it down to earth?a phenomenon known as wind shear.

Generally speaking, it is impossible for a pilot to predict the location or severity of turbulence. If the GM chooses to have a ship encounter more than normal turbulence, the pilot must react quickly to keep his airship from losing altitude quickly and sometimes fatally.

Turbulence comes in three general categories: minor, noticeable, and dangerous.

Minor turbulence requires no action on the part of the airship pilot?it?s unpleasant to fly through because it causes the airship to buck and dip unpredictably, but it is no real cause for concern. If an airship is involved in combat, however, minor turbulence imposes a -1 circumstance penalty to all attack and damage rolls made by ranged weapons and to all Profession (Airship Pilot) skill checks.

Noticeable turbulence is a problem. There is a 10% chance each round of a sudden gain or drop in altitude that is large enough to cause some concern. When this happens, airship crewmen must make a Balance check (DC 12) to retain their feet. If an airship is in combat during a bout of noticeable turbulence, all attack and damage rolls made with ranged weapons suffer a -2 circumstance penalty, as do all Profession (Airship Pilot) skill checks.

Dangerous turbulence has the potential to wreck an airship. While flying in this type of weather, the pilot must make a Profession (Airship Pilot) skill check (DC 20) every minute. If this skill check fails, the airship is affected by wind shear and immediately loses 1d3 altitude bands. This sudden drop in height forces all aboard to make a Balance check (DC 15) to retain their feet?if the pilot loses his feet, the airship is immediately considered to be out of control.

Mountains

A long line of mountains can create very powerful up and down-drafts, ranging from the relatively benign ridge lift (discussed above), to the much more hazardous leeward shears, to stable and easy to ride wave lifts. Whenever moderate or stronger wind blows into a mountain, it always creates a ridge lift along the face of the mountains. This lift allows pilots to cruise along the edges of mountains, often staying aloft for hundreds of miles based on the strength of the lift alone.

Oceans and Seas

While seas are often traversed, airships almost never fly over an ocean. The difficulties inherent in keeping enough fuel aboard to keep the engines stoked is one issue, but a more significant difficulty lies in the severe weather that plagues the oceans of the world. Storms spring up without warning and the winds quickly rise to unmanageable levels. Even worse, unless a ship has the aquatic template there are no landing areas, and an airship forced into the ocean is certain to be in a great deal of trouble since they are rarely equipped for true naval operation.

It can be difficult to find airship crews who agree to regularly travel over large bodies of open water. Many airmen are superstitious enough about water that they even prefer to fly around large lakes.

Notable Airships


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License