Monday, November 1, 2010

Relic Hunters: Airships

Cantankerous engines salvaged from the floating cities and vehicles of the first age bear these ships aloft, where everything from muscle power to sails to burning coal propels them on their way. Faster than a caravan, airships are the lifeblood of long-distance commerce and travel.

Airships have long held a special place in the heart of gamers and steampunk fans, so naturally they worked their way into Relic Hunters.

I throw around the word "steampunk" with reference to Relic Hunters, but "post-apocalyptic" is equally important. Much of the magical technology left over from the Golden Age is poorly understood and irreproducible—thus creating the niche for the Relic Hunters to fit in.  As far as the setting goes, airships are a perfect symbol of how far things have fallen since the Golden Age: the thaumaturgical engines that allow most of them to fly are mysterious and poorly understood, crudely reused and repurposed.  I picture the airships as being these strange patchworks of sails, propellers, gasbags, and mysterious magical devices.  The gleaming brass and polished wood aesthetic of steampunk may have been what these ships looked like back in the old days, but now even the newest ships are patched, repaired, dusty.  Paint and decorations have been scoured away by obsidian-shard sandstorms.  Every one of them should be as unique (and as temperamental) as the Millennium Falcon—especially if they are owned by a PC.

Character Concept: Airship Captain
Courier, merchant, explorer, air pirate: simply owning an airship (by whatever means) makes you an ally to be desired or an enemy to be feared.  Since a ship's captain has a built-in band of followers, focusing on Spirit and taking Leadership edges can help reinforce your niche.  Pilot is almost a must-have skill, as is Shooting.  Streetwise might help you get good cargos—or dangerous jobs.  Someone on the crew ought to have enough Repair to get you to a place with an artificer when the inevitable happens.

Common Knowledge for an airship captain would include things like map-reading, trade routes and general conditions in the area, and which bars and back alleys you're likely to find your crew in.

Edge: Airship Captain
You own a small airship and employ an appropriate crew of Extras.  Take the base airship below and add up to 2 Edges and an equal number of Hindrances.

Base Airship: Acceleration 10, Top Speed 60, Climb 5, Travel Speed 500 miles/day, Handling +1, Crew 3+6, Cargo Space 4, Toughness 13 (2)

Edges: Armed (with guns, or maybe even a relic weapon), Disciplined Crew (the crew collectively gets a Benny each session that may only be spent on rolls directly affecting the ship), Extra Cargo Space (+50%), Extra Passengers (+50%), Fast (+1 Travel Speed), Maneuverable (+1 Handling), Reliable Engines (+10 Top Speed), Tough Hull (+1 Armor), Well Built (+2 Toughness), Windrunner (+5 Acceleration)

Hindrances: Clumsy (-1 Handling), Cramped Quarters (-50% passengers), Inadequate Engines (-10 Top Speed), Poor Crew (crew rolls a d4 wild die for group rolls), Sluggish (-5 Acceleration), Small Hold (-50% cargo), Thin Hull (-2 Armor), Weak Frame (-2 Toughness)

When you're choosing the looks, pick one or two of the following to be Golden Age magitech and then consider how the rest has been kitbashed together in later eras: hull, lift, propulsion, steering. Do you have a galley levitated by glowing crystals but propelled and maneuvered by sails - or sky-oars?  Or does a coal-fueled autogyro rotor lift a paper-thin but nearly indestructible airframe into the sky?

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