Airships I

So, there has been a bit of a break in posts. I think I wore myself a little thin. The posts were quite meaty and frequent, and it was a hard pace to keep up with. I think I am going to change to updating twice a week now. Probably Tuesday and Friday. Sound good? I think so to.

Airships have always fascinated me, from a fantasy perspective. It’s probably me growing up on Final Fantasy titles. To me airships have a very firm place in the realm of the fantastical, and I think they can add a very unique flavor to a role playing game. So, here I present to you a tentative early-phase rules modules about adding Airships to your game of Dungeons and Dragons Next. This, of course, goes hand in hand with the first Party Background listed on my last post. This will be a multi-part post. The first part will detail the rules. The following posts will detail the ships themselves, ship weapons, and other optional add ons. Enjoy!

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Rules Modules: Airships Part 1

Introduction

An airship is a vessel that, through means magical or mechanical, can travel in the air. They can come in many shapes and sizes, though many in some way superficially resemble elements from sailing ships for aesthetic purposes, though often more stylized in design.

Including these craft in your world changes the world in very extreme ways. For one, travel (for some) is no longer hugely hazardous, unless the world also includes many skyward enemies and hazards. Also, military might could be decided by air forces instead of land levies. These are simply some of the things you should think about before including them, though of course handwaving is well within your power as a Dungeon Master.

The following will talk how they work within the confines of the rules mechanically, and also detail different sorts of airships your characters might gain or battle. It will also detail some tweaks you will need to make, such as adding skills specifically for this module. Luckily, the current iteration of Proficiencies in the DnD Beta work very well to make this a simple addition.

How They Work

Ships have their own ‘stat block’, like a character or NPC. There are some notable differences. For one, instead of AC airships have Evasion, which tend to be lower than normal AC on creatures. Also, certain ships have Damage Resistance (DR) to most normal kinds of damage, which means that they take half damage when hit.

Ships, unlike normal creatures,  have locations with separate Hit Points. Depending on the location of the attack, certain things on the ship can be damaged. Each ship will have different locations, though most of them will have four side locations (aft, port and so on) and an engine location. For a ship to truly be taken out then the engine must be destroyed, though destroying other parts of the ship can cause it to become useless in battle and surrender becomes the only option.

A ship’s crew has an extra statistic to think about as well: Morale. This is a sliding number (starting at 0). For each hit that successfully hits the ship, the number goes down by 2. For each hit the ship gets against another target, this number increases by 1. Also, for each hit the ship successfully evades, the number increases by 1. If this value reaches 10, then every crewman gets advantage on his ship related checks. If it, however, falls to -10, then every crewmember gets disadvantage on all ship related checks. For NPC ships, this could be a sure signal to surrender.

As far as the crew is concerned, the ship can be manipulated in different ways depending on who is doing what. These can in general follow the crew position structure as detailed in the Party Background: Airship Crew, though anyone can take up the tasks of other crewmen if need be.

Combat

In ship to ship combat, the entire vessel has an initiative based on the proficiency of the pilot. When it is a ships turn, then each member of the crew may choose to do one of the following actions instead of perform their standard combat round. They can be done in any order, as the crew sees fit. Essentially when the ship goes, the crew on the ship decide who goes first and such.

If not doing a ship task, a character can perform a normal combat turn of actions. Firing a ships weapon is included in this; the character simply uses their standard action to fire the weapon (or weapons if they are in a battery). This will be talked about in a later section.

  • Command: The captain issues a command. He may use this command to try and inspire one crewmember. He rolls a Charisma check (persuasion or intimidation), the difficulty being 10 – the current morale on the ship. This would mean that negative numbers increase the check’s difficulty. If the crewmember becomes inspired, then he receives advantage on his next check. Also morale increases by 1. If this check is failed, then lower the morale by 1. The first mate may also issue a command, though his difficulty starts at 12 unless the captain is incapacitated, and then he is acting captain.
  • Maneuvering: The pilot can decide to do three types of maneuvering, the first two of which require  the pilot to make a dexterity (piloting) check, 10 – Morale difficulty. As well as these maneuvers, the pilot also can choose to move the ship, based on the Speed stat of the vessel.
        1. Evasive: On a successful check the pilot focuses on evasion. This gives any attacker this round disadvantage against the ship, but also gives any attacks coming from the ship disadvantage as well. It is also impossible to target anything at long range while doing an evasive maneuver.
        2. Steady: On a successful check the pilot tries to hold the ship as steady as possible to allow it’s weaponry an easier time to hit. Weapon attacks from the ship gain advantage (or lose disadvantage for long range shots). However, any weapon attack against the ship also gain advantage (or lose disadvantage for long range shots).
        3. Normal: This requires no check, and is simply the pilot moving the ship normally. No benefits or detriments are gained. If no one is piloting then this is the default maneuvering.
  • Maintenance: The acting engineer can use tools to fix or boost the ship.
        1. Repair: The engineer can attempt to either patch the hull, repairing 1d8 + Intelligence Modifier ship HP using an Intelligence (Repair Tools) check at a 10 – Morale difficulty, or to fix a weapon using an Intelligence (Repair Tools) check at a 10 – Morale difficulty, or repairing the engine using an Intelligence (Repair Tools) check at a 15 – Morale difficulty. Repairing the engine cures it of 1 “hit”. (Below you will see that most engines are destroyed after three hits.)
        2. Boost: The engineer can boost the engine or one weapon/battery. (On larger ships weapons are connected into batteries, that can be fired by one person.) Boosting the Engine requires a Intelligence (Repair Tools) check at a 10 – Morale difficulty, and if successful increases the evasion of the ship by 1 d8. However, it also causes the engine to take one “hit”. Boosting a weapon requires no check, and the next time it is fired it has advantage. (Note that you can boost a weapon and not fire it right away, saving it for another round.)
  • Fire a Ship Weapon: This can be done at any point during the ships turn. Note that the Weapon’s Officer has special abilities pertaining to this in the Airship Crew Party Background. Using a ship’s weapon is similar to attacking with any normal ranged weapon, though some will have special rules and effects contained in their entries on the next part. Weapons are generally fixed and can only be fired from the side of the ship of which they are located, though certain weapons might be on turrets.

After everyone on board has had a turn, it is the next ship’s turn, and so on. Note that this method of battle will be slower and more methodical, though this is intentional. Fighting with a sword is a much easier affair then engaging in battle in the air. Creatures that are not crew get their own initiative and combat turns.

A hit occurs when an attack roll is higher than the evasion of the target, just like how AC works. When a ship is hit, depending on the side of the ship you have hit, you may have to roll for a location. Quite often, however, ships will not have more one or two locations reachable from a side. These locations and other factors will be talked about with the ships themselves in the next post.

When a side is it, it takes damage, just like a character would. HP is subtracted from the total HP of the location hit. IF a critical hit occurs, or if the location has 25% or less HP left when hit, a weapon, ship modification, character, or the engine is also hit. Determine this randomly based on who or what are located in that location (except the engine, which never has a unique location and is thus hittable from any location with a critical or 25% or less HP) and rolling appropriate dice. If determined: a weapon or ship mod hit is taken out of commission (but can be repaired), a character takes half of the total damage the weapon did, and the engine suffers one hit (which can also be repaired).

If a location is hit with no HP left then it is automatically an engine hit.

To Be Continued…

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