Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Skyship Combat Mechanics XI

Previously Posted Sections

1. Introduction
2. Wind Direction & Strength
3. Maneuvering
  3.1. Movement Rates
    3.1.1. Sailing Skyships
    3.1.2. Other Skyships
    3.1.3. Ramming Speed!

    3.1.4. Monsters
    3.1.5. Powering Through

Click here for Part III
  3.2. Maneuverability
  3.3. Turning
    3.3.1. Basic Turning Capability

    3.3.2. Tight Turns
    3.3.3. Caught In Irons
    3.3.4. Slowing Down
    3.3.5. Emergency Maneuver
  3.4. Climbing & Diving
    3.4.1. Ascending
    3.4.2. Descending
    3.4.3. Effects of Altitude
    3.4.4. Gales & Storms
  3.5. Collisions & Boarding Maneuvers

4. Combat
  4.1. Deck Weaponry
    4.1.1. Weapon Types
    4.1.2. Armor Ratings

Click Here for Part VII
  4.2 Hitting a Target
    4.2.1. Skyships
    4.2.2. Monsters
    4.2.3. Combat Modifiers
    4.2.4. Fighting in the Great Vault

Click Here for Part VIII
  4.3 Damage
    4.3.1. Structure Rating (SR)
    4.3.2. Damage Location & Effects
    4.3.3. Boarding Attacks
    4.3.4. Area of Effect Attacks
    4.3.5. Fire Damage
    4.3.6. Swarm Attack
    4.3.7. Proportional Damage
    4.3.8. Defensive Checks (DC)
  4.4. Combat Sequence

  5.1. Crew Allocation
    5.1.1. Sailors
    5.1.2. Artillerists
    5.1.3. Marines
    5.1.4. Officers
    5.1.5. Rowers
  5.2. Unusual Vessels
    5.2.1. Dirigibles & Aeroliths

5.3. Cards & Tiles

A collection of cards, front and back, are posted here, at their normal resolution (click on an image to view an enlarged shot.)  Their statistics are tentative, and some have been revised since they were posted earlier.  They should be printed at a normal playing card size.  More will eventually be drafted to fill a deck, but there should be enough here to playtest movement and combat mechanics. Tiles will come at a later time.



©2017 Bruce A. Heard. All Rights Reserved.

Your feedback is helpful. If you enjoy this series of articles, plus them or share them. Thank you.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Skyship Combat Mechanics X

Previously Posted Sections

1. Introduction
2. Wind Direction & Strength
3. Maneuvering
  3.1. Movement Rates
    3.1.1. Sailing Skyships
    3.1.2. Other Skyships
    3.1.3. Ramming Speed!

    3.1.4. Monsters
    3.1.5. Powering Through

Click here for Part III
  3.2. Maneuverability
  3.3. Turning
    3.3.1. Basic Turning Capability

    3.3.2. Tight Turns
    3.3.3. Caught In Irons
    3.3.4. Slowing Down
    3.3.5. Emergency Maneuver
  3.4. Climbing & Diving
    3.4.1. Ascending
    3.4.2. Descending
    3.4.3. Effects of Altitude
    3.4.4. Gales & Storms
  3.5. Collisions & Boarding Maneuvers

4. Combat
  4.1. Deck Weaponry
    4.1.1. Weapon Types
    4.1.2. Armor Ratings

Click Here for Part VII
  4.2 Hitting a Target
    4.2.1. Skyships
    4.2.2. Monsters
    4.2.3. Combat Modifiers
    4.2.4. Fighting in the Great Vault

Click Here for Part VIII
  4.3 Damage
    4.3.1. Structure Rating (SR)
    4.3.2. Damage Location & Effects
    4.3.3. Boarding Attacks
    4.3.4. Area of Effect Attacks
    4.3.5. Fire Damage
    4.3.6. Swarm Attack
    4.3.7. Proportional Damage
    4.3.8. Defensive Checks (DC)

  4.4. Combat Sequence

Star Phoenix
A tri-masted galleon fitted with three sets of three masts.
5. Appendix

This chapter is a work in progress. Honestly, the Combat Sequence ought to have been numbered 5. (not 4.4.) So this section will eventually become 6. Just being a tad OCD. Sorry. Flying right along now.

All ships and monsters are listed separately on playing cards.  Each card displays a point of sail diagram appropriate to the ship or monster, its class rating, armament, natural attacks, special abilities, and other useful game statistics.  The front of the cards shows an illustration and, if appropriate, the location of deck weapons.  Until further notice tiles can be used to represent ships and monsters on the playing surface.  Cardboard counters should be used to show which piece has moved or made its attack.

The icon located in the upper left corner of the Points of Sail table shows what sort of skyship is depicted.  In the sample shown here, it is a tri-masted galleon with 3 sets of three masts, adding up to nine (three masts upright, three outrigger masts on starboard, and thur-ree more portside pretty please).  Later in this chapter, an assortment of cards, front and back, will be provided for the sake of playtest.

5.1. Crew Allocation

In the real world, the crew on sailing ships often numbered more than a hundred, if not several hundred.  In a fantasy game context, this isn’t practical or even desirable, especially with vessels featuring two to four times more masts and sails than seagoing ships.  Assumption must therefore be made here that a skyship’s rigging is at least partially enchanted or mechanically enhanced to warrant fewer sailors than it would otherwise demand.  Certainly, elven vessels, which can grow weapons right out of their ships’ decks qualify.  If you haven’t already, do engage disbelief-suspension mode and, with your tongue firmly planted in your starboard cheek, make full sail and embrace the following staffing guidelines.

5.1.1. Sailors:  Universally known as airmen in Calidar’s universe, they number anywhere from 3 to 20 topfolk per mast.  The low end corresponds to vessels with triangular sails whose rigging carries some enchantment or who are fitted with winches and other mechanical devices.  The high end includes tall masts holding multiple square sails.  Sailing skyships often use sails located well below deck merely as stabilizers rather than full wind-bearing surfaces, as they are harder to access.  These types of sails require no additional crew.  Alorean clippers need the fewest topfolk due to their semi-sentient skyships’ ability to respond to mind suggestions.  Thus, for a Calidaran tri-masted galleon with three sets of three masts, topfolk could number about 90.  Add another 20% for other deckhands and specialists, bringing the total to 108.  For a mechanically propelled vessel, such as a dwarven ironclad, count 4-9 stokers for every 50ft. of ship length (rounded up), plus 20% for deckhands and specialists.

5.1.2. Artillerists:  Deck weapon crew are listed in Table 8 (see 4.1).  On the Star Phoenix card, artillerists number 20 souls under the command of an officer (see 5.1.4.)

5.1.3. Marines:  If marines are present, assume an additional tenth of the vessel’s airmen (round up to the next 10).  The Star Phoenix would have 20 therefore.  Include rowers when calculating the number of marines (see 5.1.5).  Skyship military are referred to by various other terms in Calidar’s universe.  For example, the dwarves of Kragdûr don’t have seas, so they call on-board combatants empeers.  Elves of Alorea prefer aëreenes, a duty often entrusted to winged elves.  The Munaani dispatch men-at-skies on their vessels.  Draconic knights often refer to their shipborne mates as dragoons.  On Calidar, the correct term is airvaliants, though Belledor gnomes fancy the label skyship troopers.  On Lao-Kwei, they are known as wind swords, or fēng zhǔ, while on Kumoshima, they just call them sky troops, or in the vernacular, kūheitai.  As for Ghüleans, they are best described as skyraiders, sworn enemies of the Wayfarers’ himinnsverd.

5.1.4. Officers: Allow for at least one captain and a first officer.  If there are marines aboard, allow for one extra commander.  Other officers number one for each 50 crew.  In total for the Star Phoenix, this adds up to 148 crew plus 6 commissioned officers.  Petty officers and officers of the warrant are counted among specialists.

5.1.5. Rowers:  A lightweight galley could have 8 rowers for every 10ft in overall length, while a war galley could hold twice as many for the same space.  A typical Wayfarer longship counts as a light galley, except rowers and airmen are the himinnsverd—thus, a small twin-masted vessel about 60’ long (1 set of 2 masts) would have about 48 oarsmen plus 7 airmen who form the vessel’s complement of 55 himinnsverd, plus 2 leaders.  On giant, spacefaring Wayfarer longship, these numbers could easily be doubled.

5.2 Unusual Vessels

Self-Propelled Airship
5.2.1. Dirigibles & Aeroliths:  Flight may be achieved with minimal magic, using gas-filled balloons.  In the real world, these types of skycraft can’t lift a whole lot of payload unless the carrying envelope is truly huge, such as WWI Zeppelins—though one might expect just the thing from crafty gnomes.  For the sake of including aerostats lifting improbably heavy loads, there should be a precious gas than can be found in isolated regions throughout the Calidar universe (yes, it’s always gotta be someplace hard to reach and dangerous, otherwise, what’s the fun?)  Let’s call it mirthium for now, a name it earned from its effect on one’s voice when inhaled, provoking a jocular reaction among anyone else listening.

Mirthium, in its gaseous form, defies gravity quite effectively, making most fantasy dirigibles at least somewhat believable.  When it escapes from the soil where it is trapped, it eventually flies up to the Great Vault where it dissipates.  Thankfully, this property is temporarily lost when mirthium is compressed.  Such can be conveniently achieved by way of pumps and magical receptacles for the sake of transport, sale at a skyport, and stowage aboard aerostats.  Mirthium’s strange property also diminishes to a certain degree with altitude.  This limitation makes it difficult for dirigibles to reach the Great Vault.  It also explains the existence of aeroliths: anything from floating boulders to airborne islands. Depending on how impregnated with mirthium an aerolith is, it settles at a certain altitude and drifts among the clouds at the whim of the winds.

Twin-Masted Sailing Airship
In the Calidar universe, aerial navigators should beware of drifting rocks, especially in clouded conditions.  Most realms demand, by law, that they be reported at once so they may be towed away.  Some judicious realms fit them with air anchors and build lighthouses or fortifications upon them, both to warn oncoming traffic and (more likely) to keep an eye on who flies by.  The Kingdom of Meryath currently has open offers for good size derelicts, which authorities have been positioning above main cities.  Roaming rocks are popular with wizards of Caldwen and various military around Calidar’s universe.  Enterprising merchant princes of Osriel have also started new ventures, setting up shop (typically overpriced) intended for traveling skyships whose captains seek to avoid lengthy approach and docking procedures at congested skyports.  Discretion may also be another motivation.  The Araldûras Roaming Rocks Salvage Enterprise, often the butt of jokes among skyship crews, uses fetzgrim-powered, smoke-belching tugs to tow large aeroliths in the sky or in the Great Vault for handsome profits.  Competition can be fierce among such businesses, and sometimes lethal, as no one can ever be sure of what may be using a roaming rock as its lair.

Dirigibles and small aeroliths can be fitted with sails, in which case they follow movement rules for sailing skyships (treat as Class C).  These skycraft must have basic enchantment favoring movement along their centerline, otherwise navigation would not be possible.  Others rely on mechanical devices, such as engines and propellers—therefore with an innate MV rating (treat as Class B).  Self-propelled dirigibles and aeroliths do not require a centerline enchantment, but in this case they are subject to drifting in crosswinds, as shown in Table 13.  In order to travel through crosswinds, such vessels need to correct their courses on a regular basis.

One might wonder whether it would be wise to bring aerostats to a battle.  Many a landlubber unaccustomed to life in skies fears containers filled with mirthium are vulnerable in combat.  Gas bags are often made of giant spider silk.  It is resistant to blunt projectiles, usually those with a parabolic trajectory (see 4.1. Deck Weaponry), which will bounce off harmlessly.  Should they sustain piercing or slashing damage, mirthium balloons are woven in such a way to house independent cells, preventing sudden loss of contents.  Patches can be applied during flight (provided a tamed giant silk spider does not reside aboard for this purpose), and gas pumped in through hoses from stowage canisters.  Fire damage is no more likely to destroy a good quality silk weave than the rest of the skyship.  Of course, giant spider silk does not come cheap, but even with mirthium it is more affordable than permanently enchanting a skyship.  Nonetheless, aerostats aren’t battleships—they can survive a battle, but they remain somewhat more fragile than dedicated warships.  An aerostat’s SR corresponds to its nacelle rather than the size of its inflated casing.

©2017 Bruce A. Heard. All Rights Reserved.

Coming Up Next:
  5.3. Game Cards
    5.3.1. Whatever else I have time to write.


Your feedback is helpful.  If you enjoy this series of articles, plus them or share them.  Thank you.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Skyship Combat Mechanics IX

Previously Posted Sections

1. Introduction
2. Wind Direction & Strength
3. Maneuvering
  3.1. Movement Rates
    3.1.1. Sailing Skyships
    3.1.2. Other Skyships
    3.1.3. Ramming Speed!

    3.1.4. Monsters
    3.1.5. Powering Through

  3.2. Maneuverability
  3.3. Turning
    3.3.1. Basic Turning Capability

    3.3.2. Tight Turns
    3.3.3. Caught In Irons
    3.3.4. Slowing Down
    3.3.5. Emergency Maneuver

  3.4. Climbing & Diving
    3.4.1. Ascending
    3.4.2. Descending
    3.4.3. Effects of Altitude
    3.4.4. Gales & Storms
  3.5. Collisions & Boarding Maneuvers

4. Combat
  4.1. Deck Weaponry
    4.1.1. Weapon Types
    4.1.2. Armor Ratings

  4.2 Hitting a Target
    4.2.1. Skyships
    4.2.2. Monsters
    4.2.3. Combat Modifiers
    4.2.4. Fighting in the Great Vault 

  4.3 Damage
    4.3.1. Structure Rating (SR)
    4.3.2. Damage Location & Effects
    4.3.3. Boarding Attacks
    4.3.4. Area of Effect Attacks
    4.3.5. Fire Damage
    4.3.6. Swarm Attack
    4.3.7. Proportional Damag
    4.3.8. Defense Checks (DC)

The Vagabond is a steam-powered paddleboat fitted with five masts (5th vertical below the hull).
4.4. Combat Sequence

This section helps determine when things happen during a Battle Round.

A. Initiative
  • A1. Check for shifting winds (see Chapter 2).
  • A2. Sailing ships may lower, drop, hoist, or give sail in order of initial MV rates, highest declaring first (see 3.3.4. Slowing Down and 4.3.2. Decimated Crews).
  • A3. Check for damage when sailing in gale conditions or inside a storm cloud (see 3.4.4.).
  • A4. Roll 1d20 for each vessel, monster, or party of individual heroes, to determine who takes action first during the remainder of this Battle Round, low scores being quickest to react. If tied, vessels/monsters with the highest initial MV rates gain the initiative. Ships that performed an emergency maneuver during the previous Battle Round receive a +5 penalty to their rolls (see 3.3.5.) Apply modifiers for commanders’ skills and decimated crews (see 3.3.2. and 4.3.2.). Place a d20 with the relevant score up next to each vessel/monster.

B. Heroes Combat Actions 1 & 2
  • B1. Individual heroes take their first action, in order of their initiative scores. Use regular RPG mechanics.
  • B2. Individual heroes take their second action, as above.

C. First Battle Phase
  • C1. Roll for any ongoing boarding attacks (see 4.3.4.).
  • C2. Attempt to put out existing onboard fires; apply damage from persisting onboard fires (see 4.3.5.).
  • C3. Skyships and monsters may hold or perform their attacks, in order of initiative scores (see Phase A4). All damage takes effect immediately.

D. Movement Phase
  • D1. Skyships and monsters with the highest initial MV rates move first. Ties are resolved according to initiative, lowest score moving first. Ramming speed and powering through must be declared before moving (see 3.1.3. and 3.1.5.).
  • D2. Make exhaustion checks for rowers or monsters racing ahead, and engine checks for mechanically powered vessels (see 3.1.3. and 3.1.5.).

E. Heroes Combat Actions 3 & 4
  • E1. Individual heroes take their third action, in order of their initiative scores (see Phase A4).
  • E2. Individual heroes take their fourth action, as above.

F. Final Battle Phase
  • F1. Roll for any new or ongoing boarding attacks (see 4.3.4.).
  • F2. Attempt to put out existing onboard fires; apply damage from persisting onboard fires (see 4.3.5.).
  • F3. Skyships and monsters that have not performed their attacks during the First Battle Phase may perform them now, in order of initiative scores (see Phase A4). All damage takes effect immediately. Remove d20s from the playing surface.

Individual heroes are assumed to be on a skyship. If not on a skyship, heroes can move during Phase D according to the spells, devices, or creatures they ride. Moving in this manner does not prevent heroes from taking their four individual combat actions during Phases B and E.

©2017 Bruce A. Heard. All Rights Reserved.

Coming Up Next:
5. Appendix
  5.1. Crew Allocation
    5.1.1. Sailors
    5.1.2. Artillerists
    5.1.3. Marines
    5.1.4. Officers
    5.1.5. Rowers
  5.2. Unusual Vessels
    5.2.1. Dirigibles & Aeroliths


Your feedback is helpful.  If you enjoy this series of articles, plus them or share them.  Thank you.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Skyship Combat Mechanics VIII

Previously Posted Sections

1. Introduction
2. Wind Direction & Strength
3. Maneuvering
  3.1. Movement Rates
    3.1.1. Sailing Skyships
    3.1.2. Other Skyships
    3.1.3. Ramming Speed!

    3.1.4. Monsters
    3.1.5. Powering Through

  3.2. Maneuverability
  3.3. Turning
    3.3.1. Basic Turning Capability

    3.3.2. Tight Turns
    3.3.3. Caught In Irons
    3.3.4. Slowing Down
    3.3.5. Emergency Maneuver

  3.4. Climbing & Diving
    3.4.1. Ascending
    3.4.2. Descending
    3.4.3. Effects of Altitude
    3.4.4. Gales & Storms
  3.5. Collisions & Boarding Maneuvers

4. Combat
  4.1. Deck Weaponry
    4.1.1. Weapon Types
    4.1.2. Armor Ratings

  4.2 Hitting a Target
    4.2.1. Skyships
    4.2.2. Monsters
    4.2.3. Combat Modifiers
    4.2.4. Fighting in the Great Vault 

Odin's Eye is the "Space Vikings'" answer to Starfolk meddling in Calidar
4.3. Damage

4.3.1. Structural Rating (SR):  Most role-playing games use statistics to measure how much damage a target can sustain.  In the mechanics devised here, skyships have a structural rating.  This number indicates how much damage a skyship can withstand before its enchantments fails catastrophically.  Damage from siege weapons is subtracted directly from this number.  Table 8 gives damage ratings for each of the weapons.  At 100%, the ship is a wreck; its enchantments fail, and the vessel plummets uncontrollably to its doom. The same mechanics apply to a monster’s “life points.”

A ship like the Star Phoenix, a tri-masted galleon, has 120 SR, or approximately 1 SR per foot of length (rounded up to the next ten). Subtract 20% for an elven-style clipper.  Add 20% for a skyship designed primarily for war rather than speed (such as draconic vessels).  Double the rating for a dwarven ironclad.  Cards are provided which suggest SR ratings for both ships and monsters.

Monsters:  Conversion will be required to introduce your own creatures.  Most role-playing games give a life point rating to creatures.  The best method is to establish an appropriate range of life points in the chosen RPG (one single range including at the low end the weakest monster in the book with minimum life points, and at the top end the toughest one with maximum life points).  Use common sense when establishing a base range for creatures (see CC1 pg. 8 for more details on establishing a practical range).  Give them maximum life points, and convert their individual ratings to a range 1-100, which is what is used here.

For example:  If a monster had 80 life points, and the chosen RPG range of life points were 1-160, the monster’s SR would therefore be 50 (80 DIVIDED BY 160 MULTIPLIED BY 100 EQUALS 50).  If the RPG range were 1-300, the monster SR would be 26 (or 30, rounding up to the next 10).

4.3.2. Damage Location & Effects:  Combat damage applies directly to a target’s SR. Monsters' SR are listed on their individual cards in the event conversion of their original RPG’s statistics is unwanted.  Damage is rated as follows: VL (VERY LOW) such as a dagger, Lo (LOW) like a short sword, M (MEDIUM) a long sword, Hi (HIGH) a two-handed sword, and VH (VERY HIGH) an oversized weapon.  2M means double M damage, M+2 means M damage +2, etc.  As described in CC1“Beyond the Skies,” each “+” can be interpreted as a +10% bonus depending on the chosen RPG's combat mechanics.

Damage Location: For skyships in particular, locating damage may be of interest—if not for a specific effect, at least for the sake of storytelling.  Flying vessels are divided into three approximately relevant areas (roll 1d6): 1-2. Fore, 3-4. Midship, and 5-6. Aft.  In the cases when the only visible part of a skyship is its prow or its stern, then damage always applies fore or aft, as appropriate, especially with line-of-sight weapons.  If the entire length of the vessel is visible, then any of the three areas may be hit.

Once a damage area has been determined, a more specific effect is in order.  Table 9 helps pinpoint damage location within the appropriate section.  If the target is an aerostat (see 5.2.1. Dirigibles & Aeroliths), roll on the first column.  If the target isn’t a dirigible and has masts, roll on the second column, otherwise, roll on the third.  Projectiles on a line-of-sight trajectory only affect the side from which they were shot.  Unless a swooping vessel crashes through another’s masts, a ship’s ram only inflicts hull damage.  Use common sense.

(*) For example:  A trebuchet’s “+” modifier is +12, vs. +4 for a scorpion.  For gnomish battle-rods, add their +2 modifier as many times as shots were fired (see Table 8).

Damaged Masts & Sails:  If half of more of a vessel’s masts are damaged or destroyed, halve its initial MV.  If all masts in a single row are destroyed, that vessel is crippled and cannot maneuver.  If only one row of masts is left standing, the vessel becomes unstable enough that its deck weapons cannot be aimed, and it is immediately at risk of rolling over, possibly dumping overboard unsecured crew and weapons until remaining sails are dropped; loose cargo could also inflict another 3M+3 internal damage to the ship’s remaining SR.

Decimated Crew:  Skyships can function with minimal crew, but this comes with limitations.  If a quarter or more of a crew is killed or disabled, deck weapons sustain a –10% penalty to hit, –20% if half, or –30% if three quarters, because ranks are depleted enough that weapons are operated with fewer crew or untrained sailors.  If half or more of the crew is missing (killed or disabled), hoisting sails takes a full Battle Round (see 3.3.4. Slowing Down).  If a quarter or more of a crew is missing, the vessel incurs a +2 penalty to initiative during the upcoming Phase A4 (see 4.4. Combat Sequence), +4 if half, or +6 if three quarters.  Assume that 2/3 of casualties include disabled airmen (as opposed to killed outright), who are therefore out of action for the remainder of the battle.

Hull Damage:  At about 70% SR loss, a skyship is hard to maneuver—either change the ship to a less forgiving Class or assess a large penalty to piloting skills.  Furthermore, if not in the Great Vault, this skyship loses 1 altitude level per Battle Round; it cannot climb, but it can increase its descent rate to 2 levels.  At 100%, a ship is wrecked; its enchantments fail, and the vessel plummets uncontrollably to its doom.  A critical hit (as appropriate to one’s RPG of choice) typically wreaks double damage; as an option when scored against a hull or engine location, internal damage may occur instead, resulting either in a fire or damage inflicted to an internal engine (if any—roll on Table 4 with a +4 modifier; see 3.1.3. Ramming Speed).

Pinpoint Shots:  If an attack roll exceeds its attack score by 15 or more, the attacker can pick which area is actually hit (fore, midship, or aft, when visible), rather than rolling randomly.  If the attack roll exceeds its attack score by 30 or more, the attacker selects exactly what is hit (which mast, which deck weapon, what part of the hull may be breached, or whether crew is targeted—the commander cannot be deliberately selected).  Pinpointing targets with salvaged starfolk weapons isn’t possible because of the users’ inexperience with alien technology.  Monsters performing physical attacks on a skyship can pinpoint damage at will and without penalty.

4.3.3. Boarding Attacks:  The crew on one ship leaps aboard another (see 3.5. Collisions & Boarding Maneuvers). Tally the two crews, establish a combat ratio of one versus the other, and look up the result on Table 10.  The alternative to this process is to run the battle using the chosen role-playing game’s combat mechanics; this may be needed if individual heroes are involved.  When calculating combat ratios, fractions are rounded in favor of the defender.  Boarding attacks may take multiple Battle Rounds to resolve.  Casualties are not assessed until one side retreats or the other surrenders.  The attacker, however, always has the option of breaking off and retreating at the beginning of a Battle Phase (see 4.4. Combat Sequence).

Locked:  Roll again with the same odds during the next Battle Phase (see 4.4. Combat Sequence).
=>:  Roll again immediately, shifting one column to the right.
<=:  Roll again immediately, shifting one column to the left
B:  Boarding Party              D: Defending Crew
L: Light Casualties (10%)   M: Medium Casualties (20%)
                                        H: Heavy Casualties (40%)
R: Retreats                        S: Surrenders

Retreats:  The boarding party retreats to their ship; defenders may counter-attack.  The defending side must announce right away whether a counter-attack takes place.  If it does, the two sides are locked in melee until the next Battle Phase (see 4.4. Combat Sequence).  The defenders become the new boarding party, and vice-versa.  Check for commander casualties before resuming the fight (see later in this section).  It takes a full Battle Round to separate ships involved in a boarding maneuver.

Crew Experience: Subtract defending crew’s experience from boarding party’s, where 10% increments = +/–2 point modifiers to the die roll (see 4.2.3. Combat Modifiers).

Leadership Quality:  Charismatic commanders on either side are components of victory or defeat (see 4.2.3. Combat Modifiers, Commander Skills).  An “excellent” commander allows a +2 bonus to the die roll on Table 10, +1 if “good,” a –1 penalty if “mediocre,” and a –2 penalty if “poor.”  Add this modifier to the die roll for the boarding party’s commander; subtract the defending commander’s modifier.  The presence of an epic hero aboard adds another +1 bonus (or –1 if defending).  The presence of one or more adventurers (player characters) adds another +1 bonus (or –1 if defending).  Though player characters ought to be handled with traditional RPG mechanics, the rest of the battle can be run using the rules suggested here.

Example: An elite crew of 50 boards another vessel with a crew of 75.  The combat ratio is 2-3 in favor of the defending crew.  On the other hand, die rolls receive a +4 modifier due to the difference in crew experience.  First roll is a 2, resulting in a locked melee.  The boarding attack continue to the next Battle Phase (see 4.4. Combat Sequence).  The next roll is a 6, resulting in an immediate reroll, using the adjacent column to left.  The final roll is a 7: BLDMS.  The attackers sustain light casualties (5 killed or disabled) vs. the defenders who surrender after suffering medium losses (15 killed or disabled).

Commander Casualties:  The number of casualties on either side is the percent chance a ship’s commander is killed or disabled (up to a maximum of 95%)  In the previous example, the odds are 5% for the boarding party’s officer, vs. 15% for the defending captain.

Monstrous Crews:  If one or both crews are monsters with different life points, substitute the total life points of crew to the number of people.  For example, 100 crew with 10 life points each facing a boarding party of 60 with 25 life points each would result in a combat ratio 3-2 in the boarding party’s favor.  Casualties are assessed on this basis as well.

4.3.4. Area of Effect Attacks:  Some monsters and certain skyships fitted with special weapons can perform attacks that affect an area rather than a specific location.  The easiest approach is to apply the effects as described in the chosen RPG mechanics.  Scale issues will came into play as spells and other magical effects aren’t likely to affect a whole hex (100ft. scale) or even an entire skyship.  Use you best judgement to adjudicate mechanics.

4.3.5. Fire Damage:  After a fire-based attack succeeds, fire has a chance to keep burning.  Roll 1d6: on a roll of 1-2, the fire catches and starts spreading.  The crew may attempt to put out the fire during Battle Phases C2 and F2 (see 4.4. Combat Sequence).  It succeeds with a roll of 1-2 on a d6.  A crew locked in a melee (see 4.3.3. Boarding Attacks) cannot put out fires.  Deck weapons cannot be used while the crew is busy fighting fires.  If an existing fire is not put out, it causes the same amount of damage at end of Phases C2 and F2 as was inflicted initially.

4.3.6. Swarm Attacks:  Large monsters (Class C and D) have a chance of defeating a warship on their own.  Smaller, isolated monsters (Class A and B) realistically do not, however, unless they have access to relevant magic.  It may be best to have smaller monsters attack as a single swarm.  This type of attack takes place in the target’s hex.  For each monster in a swarm, add a +3% bonus to hit (see 4.2. Hitting a Target) and +1 extra damage per attack (see 4.3.2. Damage Location & Effects).  For example, a pack of 10 griffons would fight as a single griffon but with a +30% bonus to hit and +10 extra damage per attack.  Not all monsters in a swarm attack at once; many are flying around, dodging projectiles, or missing their own attacks entirely, thus the single attack roll with modifiers.  Use the monster’s AR for the swarm as a whole (see 4.1.2 Armor Rating).  Add up all their life points (see 4.3.1. Monsters)—this is becomes the swarm’s SR.  A swarm sustaining 50% or more damage typically flees, or it loses half its modifiers.

When swarmed, the crew on an open-deck vessel is considered locked in melee (see 4.3.3. Boarding Attacks).  It is possible for a skyship within range of a swarmed vessel to shoot at these monsters, deliberately taking the risk of hitting their quarry instead.  Any missed attack roll must be rerolled and checked against the swarmed vessel’s AR.

4.3.7. Proportional Damage:  This refers to the ability of a target to reduce damage based on how tough its armor is vs. how effective an attack is.  Guidelines provided here are entirely optional.  Any time a modified attack roll exceeds the target’s hit score by 25 or more, full damage applies (other effects described in Table 9 always apply without alteration).  If the attack succeeds by less than 25, apply only half the damage, rounded up.  Using a scale of 1-20 for hit scores, this 25 point margin equals +5.  For example: if a hit score of 12 is needed, rolling a 17 would qualify for full damage.  As another option, critical hits (unmodified attack rolls of 95 or higher) inflict double damage, although proportional damage mechanics can still apply, as appropriate.

If a more detailed approach is wanted, ignore the simple guidelines given above, and use instead Table 11.  Cross reference the target’s armor rating with the column showing by how much the attack roll exceeded the hit score.  All other effects described in Table 9 still apply without alteration.

For example:  A light catapult attack needed a hit score of 70 to succeed against a dragon.  The attack roll was 83 (less than 20 over).  Cross reference the +11-20 column with the target’s AR of 35.  The catapult’s damage of M+8 should be reduced 1/3 when rolled.  However, the result for deck weapons with M-rated damage should be shifted one row up, yielding instead a –¼ result.  Damage is then rolled, and the total reduced by a quarter.  If the weapon had been a trebuchet, its VH-rating would shift 3 rows up, yielding instead a full damage result.

These mechanics favor heavier weapons vs. lighter ones, while reflecting attack rolls vs. armor ratings more accurately.  On the other hand, a ballista can shoot twice per Battle Round, compared with a light catapult shooting once per round, or a heavy catapult only once every 2 rounds.  Table 11 gives heavier weapons a better chance of delivering full damage.

Design Note:  If these mechanics are popular, current damage ratings of deck weapons will need to be revised (especially the ballista and the scorpion, down to M+6 and Lo+4 respectively).  This certainly improves the survivability of a lone monster against broadsides and player characters acting together during its approach.  On the other hand, this will slow down a game and make life much harder for math-challenged players.  So, Dear Readers, time has come once again for you to chime in!  Your opinions are wanted on this matter. 


4.3.8. Defense Checks (DC):  Defense checks emulate a routine common to role-playing games, which allows a die roll to prevent or reduce damage from an attack, especially magical.  Either use the appropriate RPG mechanics whenever possible, or assume a basic 50% chance for a skyship or a monster to succeed a DC.  A number of factors can help/hamper success, such as the target vessel’s commander skill (see 4.2.3.) and what was targeted.  Table 12 suggests percentile scores to match or exceed for specific targeted materials.

Materials:  Ordinary canvas is thick, non-magical fabric.  Enchanted sails are those used to catch ethereal winds in the Great Vault; this fabric receives various protective dweomers making it more resistant to wear and tear as well as various types of damage.  Giant spider silk typically receives some magical refinements; it is much stronger than ordinary canvas or hemp.  Unprotected wood refers to hull construction material mostly; though it carries the necessary enchantment providing lift, it does not often include other protective magic.  Metal sheathing is a thin layer of metal, usually copper, covering certain skyships’ hulls.  Metal armor is commonly used on dwarven ironclads and alien vessels.  Dragon scales may protect a wooden hull (especially on vessels of the Draconic knights) against a specific type of damage, and slightly increase AR (+5).  Dragons always succeed their DC against attacks of the same type as their breaths, so do their scales when affixed to skyships.  However, skyships aren’t dragons and are, therefore, remain subject to critical failures, thus the DC 5 listed in Table 12.

Types of Attack:  Acid attacks include corrosive gases.  Dragon breaths are the stuff of fantasy and magic, and therefore function all the same on a planet and in the Great Vault’s airless void.  Some skyships may be fitted with these sorts of attacks.  Cold, electrical, fire, and rust attacks are self-explanatory.  Entropy is a form or attack ranging from rot to ageing; it and rust are most prevalent with undead creatures and possibly with sustained exposure to netherworld conditions as well.  Anything else, especially alien weapons, can fit under “other” if no outlandish effects are described.

©2017 Bruce A. Heard. All Rights Reserved.

  4.4. Combat Sequence

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