Spelljamming - Ship Movement
Traveling in Wildspace
Traveling in a straight line, spelljamming ships can attain high velocity relatively quickly, spanning the great emptiness between the planets in a short time. The operative phrase, however, is “straight line”. Upon making a turn, or coming into an empyrean bubble of celestial object or body of equal to or greater then huge size (which includes most spelljamming ships, planets, stars, and other worthwhile celestial bodies), the spelljammer helm automatically decelerates to a more manageable speed described under Combat. This is a function of all spelljamming, regardless of the type of helm or owning race of the ship.
A ship can travel 100 million miles per day regardless of its TS rating. This is the speed of all spelljamming ships over long distances, regardless of the size of the ship or the helm. As long as a ship has a functioning spelljamming device of any type, and an individual who can use it, a ship can move 100 million miles in a single standard day (about four million miles per hour).
At 100 million miles per day a spelljamming ship can travel from Earth to the Sun in a single day. However, space is incredibly large, and that same ship would take 36 days to reach Pluto. Given that the crystal shell is as far from the primary star, a trip from the Sun to the crystal shell girding Earth’s system would take 72 days.
Therefore, movement between the planets is time-consuming when dealing with the outer bodies, and relatively rapid among the inner spheres. Again, using the Earth/Sol system as an example, a ship from Earth with a spelljamming device could reach as far as the orbit of Saturn in a single week. (Of course, the planet may not cooperate by being there, but that is another matter. See Celestial Mechanics for information on planetary placement).
What slows movement among the more crowded inner planets is the presence of multiple, occasionally overlapping gravity wells. Once a ship moves within the gravity well of a huge sized body, it immediately drops to “normal” flight speed. It can descend to the planet’s surface, or move around in the planet’s outer atmosphere, or leave the area again, after 1d8 rounds of warming up the spelljammer helm.
The drop from spelljamming speed to tactical movement does not affect anyone riding on the ships. The effortless deceleration prevents spelljamming ships from colliding with other ships, meteors, asteroids, and planetary bodies creating the primarily safety measure from such catastrophes. In reality, this often means that a ship in route from one point to another in a (relatively) more crowded section of space may have more encounters than a ship moving through an emptier area (out near the shell, for example) so the ship has to continually slow down between locations.
Calculating Travel Times in Space
This is dealt with in more detail in the chapter on Celestial Mechanics, which adds the movement of the spheres themselves. But in general, the time between two planetary bodies can be figured as:
& Time to take off (in rounds)
& Time to escape the atmosphere and empyrean bubble (in hours or minutes)
& Time to cover the distance to the next planet (in rounds, minutes, hours, or days, as appropriate)
& Time to land (in hours or minutes, reverse of time to reach edge of empyrean bubble and travel thru the atmosphere)
As an example, a trip from Earth to Mars, assuming that they were as near as possible (about 50 million miles), would take: 1d4 rounds for warm-up on Earth + 1 hour and 2½ minutes at 80 feet flight movement to reach edge of a class E world and its empyrean bubble + Travel time = 50 million miles/100 million miles per day = ½ standard day or 12 hours + another 1 hour and 2½ minutes to reach surface of mars.
So, total travel time is about 14 hours, 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Not bad for wooden ships. Earth and Mars are rarely close to each other, however. If they were as far apart as possible, the travel time between them would be 2.3 days. This number crunching is for players who are interested. An easier method is provided in the Celestial Mechanics chapter.
Very Close Bodies If the time it would take to travel between two bodies is less than the time it would take to move out of one gravity well and into another, then the length of the trip is equal to the sum of both times, with no time between.
All of this assumes that the celestial bodies remain at the same relative distance during the course of the trip. In many systems, including the “real” one, this is not the case. How does the spelljamming DM figure travel times without going crazy?
Method 1: The Short Way All planets are considered to be close to each other when figuring travel times: Figure out the distance from the Primary, subtract the two, and divide by 100 million. This gives the number days it will take. Round all fractions up to the nearest day.
Method 2: The Long Way All planets are considered to be at the furthest distance apart. Add the two distances from the primary and divide by 100 million. For each .04 of the remainder add an hour to the final time.
Method 3: The Average Way All planets are assumed to be at their average separation. Determine the distances using method 1, and method 2 and use their average. Round fractions up to the nearest day.
Method 4: The Starcharter’s Way Check out the Celestial Mechanics section and use the Celestial Display for movement of the bodies.
Method 1 is the fastest method, and lets the characters move about the system very quickly. Method 2 slows them down a little, in particular when they are moving around the outer planets. Method 3 is the most accurate, but takes slightly more time. Method 4 is recommended for long-term campaigns where the movement of the planets becomes an important factor (such as when an invasion is planned for the next time two planets are close to each other).
Tactical movement occurs when a ship encounters another large body, usually another ship. Such tactical encounters can occur either in the Flow or in wildspace, and both are handled similarly.
One of the maps in this product shows a hex grid against a star background, suitable for marking ship locations in ship-to-ship combat. Each hex is 40 feet across. Each round of combat in space is the same 6 second round that characters engage in normally for combat.
Movement and combat are handled in a two-dimensional format despite the fact that space (even fantasy space) is three-dimensional. This is purely for the sake of simplicity. Three-dimensional rules are very slow and add little or nothing to the flavor of the game.
Players and referees will do well to remember that this product is intended for use as a role-playing aid. The SPELLJAMMER supplement is not a board game of ship-to-ship combat. It provides a framework for playing the AD&D game in space. The game will be far less interesting if played without the personal involvement of player characters aboard ship.
Ship-to-ship combat flows along the same lines as standard AD&D combat. The spelljamming pilot’s initiative determines when his ship moves and each combatant in turn also has an initiative.
Also, ship-to-ship combat poses danger to the characters involved of losing their ship and being stranded in space. Many (but not all) enemy ships will rescue survivors (as slaves if nothing else), but some, particularly during war, will leave the survivors to fend for themselves.
Each ship has a facing. The front of the ship points the forward direction the ship heading (unless it is moving in reverse). Most ships will be 1 hex wide and about one to nine hexes long. A ship can change its facing as part of its movement. How often it can do this depends on its maneuverability rating.
Each ship has maneuverability, from perfect to clumsy, as shown on Table: Spelljammer Maneuverability. A ship can execute moves, turns, and other maneuvers as appropriate for its maneuverability with no difficulty (though some maneuvers require the expenditure of speed, which is subtracted from the ship’s total movement that round). It should be noted that ships powered by spelljamming helms do not have a minimum forward speed and all spelljamming ships equipped with spelljamming helms are able to hover.
To accomplish a maneuver appropriate to a higher maneuverability, the pilot must make a Pilot check. The DC is 20 for one category higher, 30 for two categories higher, 40 for three categories higher, and 50 for four categories higher. Making a Pilot check to accomplish a maneuver is a move-equivalent action.
Table: Spelljammer Maneuverability
|Fly Backward||Yes||Yes/-40 feet||No||No||No|
|Turn||Any/0 feet.||120°/40 feet.||60°/40 feet.||60°/40 feet.||60°/80 feet.|
|Turn in Place||Any/0 feet.||120°/-40 feet.||60°/-40 feet.||No||No|
|Between Down and Up||0 feet||0 feet||40 feet||80 feet||120 feet|
Fly Backward: A “Yes” entry indicates the ship can fly backward at its normal speed. A ship with perfect maneuverability can reverse direction of flight without any loss of speed. A ship with good maneuverability loses 40 feet of its movement to fly backward.
Turn: This entry indicates how much the ship can turn after covering the stated distance. If the ship doesn’t have sufficient speed to make such a turn with a single action, it can’t make such a turn.
Turn in Place: A ship with good or average maneuverability can spend some of its speed to turn in place. If the ship doesn’t have sufficient speed to make such a turn with a single action, it can’t make such a turn. A ship with perfect maneuverability can turn in place at no cost of speed.
Maximum Turn: This indicates how much the ship can turn in any one space.
Up Angle: The angle at which the ship can climb away from the pull of gravity.
Down Angle: The angle at which the ship can descend toward the pull of gravity.
Up Speed: How fast the ship can climb against the pull of gravity (only applies if the source of natural gravity is at least four times the ship’s; see Natural Gravity above).
Down Speed: A Spelljammer can fly “down” toward a source of natural gravity at twice its normal speed (only applies if the source natural gravity is at least four times the ship’s; see Natural Gravity, above).
Between Down & Up: A Spelljammer with average, poor, or clumsy maneuverability must fly level for a minimum distance after descending and before climbing. Any ship can begin descending after a climb without an intervening distance.
These maneuvers only apply when the ship is influenced when in a planetary atmosphere or another vessel three size classes larger then it.
ship’s tactical speed is dependent on its helms and possibly its helmsman’s number of spell levels he can cast per day. This flight speed is measured in 40 feet increments. Ships can accelerate/decelerate up to its maximum movement rate in just one round.
There are two general types of combat in space: boarding (ships latch onto one another and battle royal begins) and ship-to-ship (in this type of battle the ships weapons are used and long ranged spells are likely to be used).
Combat sequence generally runs as outlined in the Core Rulebook with the following modifications:
& Initiative of when the ship moves is determined by the Helmsman, which is modified by the crew experience.
& Each weapon crew has its own initiative that is separate of the helmsman’s initiative. These siege weapon crew can delay weapon fire. Weapon crews that have initiative can fire even before the ship moves (ships and weapon crew are separate entities), as the ship moves or after the ship moves in a round (ships unless at a dead stop are considered always in motion).
& Many large weapons take more than one round to reload between shot.
Siege weapons (catapults, bombards, ballistae, projectors, and jettisons) may be aimed at either ship or crew. It should be noted that catapults cannot attack ships, crew or creatures within 100 feet. When using siege weapons against crew of another ship use the following system.
& Any weapon attacking the crew (hit point attacks) may attack any character on deck or partially exposed. A player may not simply specify, “I’m attacking the captain,” however. If he wants to attack the captain, he must tell the DM how he will identify the captain. If the attacker has no clear idea of what the captain looks like, the DM should assign the shot randomly among the potential targets;
& Sometime a captain will give a crew the order to shot a volley of arrows onto another ships deck in hopes to strike down many crew of that ship, without specifically aiming at a specific opposing crew member. When doing so a minimum of 10 crew must fire range weapons into each 5 feet by 5 feet area, each bolt has a 50% chance of striking the target, even then the target is allowed a Reflex save DC 14 for half damage.
Example: 10 archers aim for one 5 feet by 5 feet square and let loose with a volley of arrows. DM determines that 6 arrows will hit after rolling 50% miss chance for each. The enemy crew member will take 6d6 points of damage if he fails his Reflex save (DC 14), and take half damage if he makes his save.
& A crewmember gets a two-point cover bonus to his armor class for the turn if that character’s ship has the initiative that turn (presumably, the helmsman or captain will maneuver the vessel so that its bulk provides some protection against enemy fire);
& A large weapon (catapult, ballista, etc.) that misses a human target may still inflict damage on the ship. It the attack roll is sufficent to hit the ship roll 20% miss chance as the shot could have over shot the ship altogether.
A ship’s has hit points much like monsters/PCs. If a ship is reduced to 0 hit points, its internal structure is destroyed and it begins to fall apart. Roll a six-sided die this is the number of large (atmosphere-retaining) pieces of the ship that are left.
Some victors will sift through such debris looking for prisoners. Others will abandon them. It is possible for survivors to lash up some sort of vessel from the junk to save him or herself with a temporary helm or spelljamming mage.
Small weapons can inflict hit points of damage as well to ships, but the hardness of the material that the ship is made of will make this a very slow method of destroying a ship. Some sections of a ship, such as the door to the captain’s quarter do not contribute to the ship’s internal structure. A character chopping at the hull with an axe, however, could inflict hit points of damage to ship and with a lot of hard work and time chop a ship in two (most crews are not going to let some crazed axe man cleave their ship in two) .
When a ship’s hit point damage exceeds half of its hit points, the ship immediately suffers 1d3 collateral damage.
Collateral damage varies from ship-threatening results of combat to less dangerous situations, which impair the functioning of the ship. Only siege weapons (or weapons on par with siege weapons) can inflict collateral damage outright, but sufficient application of small weapons (the dwarf chopping at the hull with a battle axe) could weaken a ship sufficiently to push it past the 50% damage point and thereby causing 1d3 collateral damage results.
Siege weapons on a natural to hit roll of 20 (1920 for cannons) can possibly achieve a Collateral Hit. To confirm that collateral damage has be done another attack roll must be made and if that second attack roll hits the ships armor class then the ship has suffered some collateral damage.
When collateral damage occurs, roll on the table below for each collateral damage result. Apply each result to the ship as applicable. If the result is inapplicable (“Hah! You can’t destroy the spelljammer helm! You blew it up last turn, shift up to the next higher entry on the list).
|1||Loss of 5d10 Hit Points|
|2||Deck Crew Casualty|
|3||Interior Crew Casualty|
|5||Siege Weapon Damage|
|6||Deck Crew Casualty|
|9||Loss of 10d10 Hit Points|
|12||Loss of Speed|
|13||Deck Crew Casualty|
|14||Siege Weapon Damage|
|18||Loss of 10d10 Hit Points|
|19||Loss of Speed|
Definition of Effects
Loss of 5d10 or 10d10 Hit Points: This loss is in addition to the initial damage. In some cases it may cause the ship to break up or force another critical hit check. This additional damage is NOT applied to against the ship’s hardness rating.
Deck Crew Casualty: One exposed crewmember is struck and suffers the same as the ship. Choose the target randomly from exposed crew. All characters within 5 feet of that individual must make Reflex save DC 15 or take damage from shrapnel from the shattered deck or catapult shot. Damage from this shrapnel is 1d12 hit points of damage.
Interior Crew Casualty: Same as Deck Casualty, but everyone aboard is a potential target, including prisoners, the captain, and spelljamming mages. This reflects not so much the effect of the missile itself, but shattered parts of the ship’s interior bouncing around during combat.
Ship Shaken: Ship rings from the blow of the attack. All characters not sitting or otherwise firmly tied down (the spelljamming mage is considered secure) have a chance to fall to the deck, disallowing any attacks or spell use that round. All on deck NPCs and PCs have to make a Reflex save DC 20 to maintain their balance.
Siege Weapon Damaged: One siege weapon (chosen randomly) is inoperable until repaired (see Repairs). Its crew is unharmed.
Hull Holed: The attack punches a hole in the ship where there was none before. The DM chooses which part of the ship is holed (either by random roll, according to the situation between the ships, or whatever would make things more interesting at that point).
Fire: A fire starts somewhere in the ship, as determined by the DM! The effects of fire aboard ship are described below. In cases where it is physically impossible for a fire to start (all the lights are magical, there is nothing flammable onboard, and everyone is wearing cloths made of rock), go to the next entry. A fire onboard as a result of this collateral hit (as opposed to greek fire or magic) inflicts no damage the first round, but may spread.
Loss of Speed: The speed of the ship is reduced by 40 feet movement for 1d10 rounds while the helmsman readjusts his balance and senses to the new damage level. Additional losses are cumulative, to a minimum of 40 feet of movement. If a ship with a movement rate of only 40 feet receives this result, go to the next entry.
Maneuverability Loss: The ship drops one MC for 1d10 turns. A ship with perfect maneuverability drops to good MC rating, a good MC rating becomes average, and so on. A ship with maneuverability rating of clumsy cannot lose any more maneuverability so the next entry is taken instead.
Spelljammer Shock: The spelljamming mage must make fortitude save DC 20 or fall immediately into a coma, which lasts 1d4 days. In cases of serial helms, all creatures linked up must save. In cases of foundries, artifurnaces, furnaces, and “unknown drives” (such as the neogi’s), the drive itself is rendered nonfunctional 1d4 days (no saving throw allowed). If no replacement is available and the mage fails his saving throw, the ship immediately reduces speed to 0 feet and drifts.
Effects of Crew Losses on Ship Performance
The less manpower a ship has, the less capable it is of fighting and sailing effectively. A ship may still handle itself in “reduced” circumstances, but not with the effect of a full crew.
Large weapons require a minimum crew to fire properly. For each member missing out of a large weapon crew, the weapon takes one round longer to reload and fire. A weapon crewed by three men with a reload rate 3 rounds will take three rounds for three men to reload and fire, four rounds for two men to reload and fire, and five rounds for one man to reload and fire. Men that are lost during the reloading are considered as if lost at the start of the reloading—that is, three men start reloading the above weapon, then one man is lost as a causality, then the remaining men will need four full rounds (including those that have already passed) to reload and fire.
Large weapons can be reloaded and fired as long as one man remains available to do so. A large weapon without a crew cannot be fired. If a weapon is partially loaded, then the crew is slain and a new crew arrives, the loading must begin again.
Loss of crew affects the maneuverability of a ship as well. The minimum number listed for the crew indicates the number required for operating the ship at its listed maneuverability class and does not include weapon crews. If less than that number is available to operate the ship, set the sails, mans the oars, etc., then the ship is downgraded in its maneuverability class. This loss may be from casualties, or may be because handling crew has been reassigned to weapon crews, preparing for boarding, or fleeing the ship.
If the crew is ever drops below minimum, it is treated as if it had no sails. Ships that are topped out have crew less then minimum but more than half that number; lose benefits of being topped out.
A ship will operate at 3 classes below its original class as long as there is at least one crewman left to handle the rigging and someone at the helm. The maneuverability class of a ship may not be downgraded beyond clumsy.
When figuring out how many crewmembers are available, PCs and officers are excluded, though they may be pressed into service to handle things during a battle emergency. Normally, however, their activities prevent them from taking an active role in the more mundane aspects of handling the ship, even in the heat of battle.
Ships that break up stop moving. The hex or hexes it occupies and all hexes surrounding it are filled with debris. Surviving characters are scattered among the debris.
Debris is a common consequence of battle, but in addition there are often small asteroids, comets, and other space flotsam that can interfere with the movement of and combat between ships. Debris of sufficient mass will cause a ship moving at high velocity to slip into normal movement.
Debris can be as dangerous as a head on collision with an asteroid to much smaller rocks and pebbles that will subject crew the effects of large jettison attack. DM determines the severity of such attacks, but a lookout often is able to determine the severity of each hex entered into long before a ship steers into such perilous areas.
Whether as a result of collateral damage, a device such as the alchemist fire projector, or spells such as fireball, fires sometimes get started on ships. Keep in mind that fire is an energy attack and the damage is halved before it is applied against the ships hardness.
Fires inflict their initial damage the round they start. On each subsequent round, the fire inflicts the same damage as on the round before, plus one hit point.
Putting out a fire requires one person for every point of damage the fire will cause that round. For example, if a fire will inflict three hit points of damage to the hull of the ship this round, then three people working with proper tools (assumed to be present) can extinguish the blaze. If not enough people are available to put out a blaze, they can reduce its severity by their actions. If two people fought our three-point fire, then the fire would be reduced to a one-point fire at the end of the round (and the increase to a two-point fire at the beginning of the next round).
The greatest danger from fire is its potential to poison the air envelope. For each 1 hit point of the ship that burns 10 man days of air is consumed. Given enough fire damage a ship air envelope will quickly become fouled or deadly.
A ship reduced to 0 hull points by fire, breaks up normally to form a field of debris. The surviving debris (if on fire) will continue to burn and break up until the disintegrating chunks are completely consumed. Ships entering the debris field while it is still burning will suffer the effects of the fire critical hit.
Fields of Fire (Optional Rule)
While the portrayal of combat here is two-dimensional, in reality, a ship could be tilted in any direction without affecting the occupants. As a result, almost any weapon can be brought to bear against an attack from any direction. The limitations on this are for weapons that fire to the bow and stern, including forward-facing catapults and rear-mounted jettisons.
Non-movable weapons designed to fire toward the front and rear of the ship may only fire at targets that are within the lines set up by the three frontal (or rear) hexes. They in addition receive a +2 circumstance bonus to hit targets directly in front (for front-mounted weapons). This is due to the “stability” of the shooting platform (as much anything whirling through space can be considered “stable”).
Intermediate Range Combat
Intermediate range combat occurs generally within 1,200 feet of two ships. The 1,200 feet also generally represents the maximum range of many missile weapons and long-range spells of very high spellcasters (400 feet plus 40 feet per level of caster).
The closer the ships become, the more variety of spells and weapons the crew can unleash against one another. Each captain best knows what range of combat his ship is most capable. Captains that know they not strong at intermediate range combat will either shoot siege weapons at very long ranges, flee or try to board other ship so his marines superior hand to hand combat can come into play.
Ramming is a common tactic in space for damaging or breaking up an enemy ship. Ramming is best performed against other ships that are of roughly the same tonnage or smaller.
A ship must announce its intention to ram before initiative is determined. The process of ramming (steering to hit the opponent’s ship, plus battening down all the loose gear for the impact) requires time, and is not something that can be done on the spur of the moment.
A ship cannot ram another ship that is in the same hex at the start of the turn, unless it leaves the hex and reenters it later. A ship cannot ram another ship that is grappled with it.
A ship may only attempt to ram once in its turn. It cannot attempt to ram a vessel once, miss it, then ram another vessel in the same or an adjoining hex.
When ramming use the helmsman’s Base Attack Bonus modified by size of the ship he spelljamming plus intelligence modifier and then makes an attack roll against the other ship’s AC to determine if the ramming is successful. In this case it is often better to have a priest at the helm than a wizard because of their better chance to hit. If a ship has no one individual at the helm (such as the dwarven foundries), then the ship rams with Base Attack Bonus of its navigator 4, modified by size of the ship he spelljamming plus intelligence modifier of navigator. For example: Ashra Whitestaff (10th level wizard, 18 intelligence) is at the helm of a squid ship (Colossal sized) and has a modified BAB of +1, she is trying to ram a Nautiloid (also Colossal sized) with is AC 9. Ashra only needs to roll 13 or higher on a D20 to ram the other ship.
Rams inflict damage according to their type, size of ship, speed it is traveling at, and angle of attack. Before figuring ram results, the attacking player determines the adjusted speed of the attacking ship. The damage done by the ship due to speed it is traveling at is 1d4-hit points of damage per 40 feet of movement at time of ramming.
& Head On: The adjusted speed is the target’s movement rate added to the attacker’s movement rate. The attacker receives half the ram damage inflicted on the defender.
& Forward Angle: The adjusted speed is half the target’s movement added to the attacker’s movement. The attacker receives one-fourth the damage inflicted on the target.
& Aft Angle: The adjusted speed is half the target’s movement subtracted from the attacker’s movement. If this less equates to less then 40 feet of movement for purpose of the ram, the ships just ‘bump’ into each other without causing damage.
& Aft On: The adjusted speed is the target’s full movement subtracted from the attacker’s movement rate. If this is less than 40 feet of movement for purpose of the ram, the ships just ‘bump’ into each other without causing damage.
A target with a rear ram can attempt a counter-ram if the attack fails (a hit means the attacker impaled himself on the target’s ram). Use the difference in speed and the size of ram and ‘hauling strength’ to determine the damage the attacker’s ship will cause, less hardness to defending ship.
Table: Ram Damage by Type and Size of Vehicle
|Size of Ship||Blunt||Piercing||Claws||Grapple|
In addition to any collateral damage that the ship succeeds on delivering for rolling a high attack roll, ship’s struck by a piercing ram automatically suffers the Hull Holed and Ship Shaken collateral hits. There is a chance that two ships will become locked together when this happens (helmsman of either ship or both ships may make pilot check DC 10 + damage rolled less hardness to pull ships apart from each other).
In addition to any collateral damage that the ship succeeds on delivering for rolling a high attack roll, ship’s struck by a blunt ram automatically suffers the Ship Shaken collateral hit plus one other collateral hit.
Grappling Rams can inflict damage on a grapple, but are designed to cause little or no damage. If a ship with a grappling ram strikes another ship, the two ships are considered grappled (see below).
Movement After Ramming
If the ramming ship misses its target or reduces the opposing ship to 0 hull points (so that the opposing ship begins to break up), the ramming ship may continue its movement up to its regular limits. If the ship hits its target without destroying it or is locked or grappled with the target, its movement stops.
Ship crews may grapple in the same round as a ram, if so desired.
Size and Ramming
Ramming works best against ships that are the same size as or smaller than the ramming ship. In certain cases, an opposing ship may be too large or small to be rammed by a particular ship.
A ship cannot ram another ship or creature that is 3 size class smaller then its size. For example, a Whale ship (125-ton) is a Awesome sized ship cannot ram a Huge sized boat (½ ton). If such a ram is attempted, the boat must check for a crash (see below).
A ship may not ram another ship or creature that is more than three size category larger then it self. If it attempts such a move, it must consider the attack a crash (see Crashes).
Even grappling ram abide by this rule as it either its grappling ram is either too small or too large to be effective against the too large or too small of a ship.
Ramming and Ship Positions
In general, a ship ramming another ship will maintain its positional relationship after the collision. That is, a ram from the bow will strike the opposing ship on its bow; a ram from the flank will strike the opposing ship in the flank, etc. Let the situation dictate the relative positioning of the ships.
Head-On Ramming is a special case. Head on ramming is a dangerous situation, as it exposes the ramming ship to the ram of the opposing ship, should one be carried. If the attacking ship hits its target, the ram is handled normally. If the ramming ship misses its target, the opposing ship has the opportunity to ram its attacker immediately. This is the only time a ship is allowed to ram without having the initiative. In this situation, the original target ship uses its speed from the previous turn when determining damage.
In general, creatures could be rammed just like ships, except that if too small they are considered ‘falling/crashing’ into the ship. The critical threat range of a ram is 20, except for piercing rams which are 1920.
When two ships occupy the same hex, there are four possibilities:
& They can crash into each other
& They can ram each other
& One ship can land on the other
& The two ships can align courses or simply pass each other.
This section deals with crashes.
Occasionally a ship will make a sudden, unplanned landing (called impact) against a larger object. This impact usually has disastrous results for the ship making the crash and the ship that is being crashed into.
The helmsman makes a Reflex save with the DC determined by the ship maneuverability class to avoid a crash and if successful can either fly off (in his part of the turn) or land normally on the other ship or object. A vessel with no one controlling simply crashes.
If there is a crash, the smaller ship is always assumed to be crashing into the larger ship, regardless of the overall tactical situation. The crashing ship takes damage as if it had been hit by a blunt ram of a ship of equal size and speed that it is currently traveling at. If the hull points of the ship are reduced to 0, the ship breaks up (usually all over the gravity plane of the other ship). All on board the crashing ship take the 1d4-hit points of damage per 40 feet of movement that the crashing ship was traveling at, this damage is treated as falling damage and magical effects or spells that help prevent damage from falling prevent damage form crashing. Also a crash will send debris careening over the deck causing all on board the crashing ship to take damage as if hit by heavy jettison attack (4d4 points of damage, half damage if a Reflex save DC 10 + damage done is made). The spell protection form arrows will protect individuals from debris.
The larger ship also takes the same amount of damage as the smaller ship that crashed. Individuals on the ship being hit suffer the Ship Shaken critical result.
Crashing is not a situation that many captains look forward to, but in combat there is often a need for “fireships” and other suicidal tactics where sacrificing a ship may help turn the tide of battle. The crew of such a ship usually abandons it before the crash, hoping to survive a “fall” to the surface of the other ship rather than die in the crash.
A shearing attack is a close pass against an opposing ship with the intention of dragging rigging, steering equipment, and other devices overboard to cripple the ship’s maneuverability.
Similar to ramming, the attacking helmsman’s BAB plus intelligence modifier plus/minus size modifier for attacking ship is used to determine whether the shear is successful. For ships without a spelljamming helm, the navigator performs the attack at his BAB 4 plus intelligence modifier plus/minus size modifier for attacking ship.
A shearing attack does the same damage as ramming a ship except that the damage is applied only against the ships sails. A ship has one ton of sails for every ten tons the ship is. Each tonnage of sails has 25 hit points, if enough damage is done to sails the ship loses any maneuverability it would have gained form having sails. Ships that are topped have 50 hit points per two tonnage of sails. Topped out ships drop one maneuverability after losing half its sails.
Shearing attacks inflict no points of damage to the target ship’s hull, but if a natural 20 is rolled for the attack, a collateral threat result occurs.
Grappling and Boarding
Often it is desirable to take over an opponent’s ship without inflicting major damage. In cases like this, a side with enough manpower can overwhelm the other side by grappling and boarding. Certain types of ramming may also result in a grappling situation.
Either side can grapple, but the moving ship has the first opportunity. The purpose of grappling is to bring the two ships together to allow either towing or boarding.
The most common method for grappling is a large hook at the end of a long rope or chain. There are also ballista bolts, which are similarly equipped and can be fired into the opponent’s hull. In either case, once the hooks have caught hold, the two ships can be hauled together.
A grappling hook requires about 5 feet of space from side to side to be thrown at another ship in the same or adjoining hex. The number of hooks that can be thrown depends on the length of the ship making the attack and how many hooks it can bring to bear.
Each grappling line is considered able to grapple 3½ tons of ship. Thus to grapple a hammer ship (22 tons) requires six lines. If there are fewer lines than this connecting the two ships, either ship can break them all simply by moving out of the hex. (This is a good way to pick up some free grappling hooks).
A grappling attack inflicts no damage but links the two ships together. Both ships are immobilized once they are connected by sufficient grappling lines (unless one ship tries to tow the other; see Towing).
Cutting Grapples. A crewman must make a normal attack roll to hit AC 5, then roll his damage to cut a grappling line. A line has 5 hit points. Grappling chain is AC 15 and has 20 hit points. Grapples may be cut at anytime in the defender’s turn, but often the ship has been boarded by then.
A ship may be boarded in the round after it is grappled. Any characters standing by and ready at the gunwale (typically the removable section of the vessel’s side below the deck level) at the beginning of the round can swarm aboard the enemy ship.
A crew (either side) will fight until defeated or it fails morale Will save (see optional rule: morale); then it surrenders. Player Characters and important NPCs (as determined by the DM) may fight as long and as hard as they wish, even to the death.
The DM may in a very dangerous situations have a morale Will save be made to see if the crew will board in the first place (attacking a ship full of mind flayers is a risky proposition even under the best of conditions). Such a morale check would be made after the orders are given out, but before they are carried out.
In case of a failure of morale, the crew will retreat back to its native ship, it will surrender (unless it is checking morale to determine whether it will board, in which case the crew just refuses to attack). In certain cases (such as dealing with villainous neogi, who are merciless), they will fight to the death.
Rapid Resolution of Small-Scale Combat
There will be situations, such as a crew all stocked by PC’s, where the actions of every character are important Similarly, there area situations where a long, large-scale combat between conflicting sides of NPCs will just waste the players’ time. The following is a system can be used to resolve combat between large numbers of essentially featureless NPCs.
It is strongly recommended that player characters not be factored into this procedure for two reasons. First, PC’s should be directly under their player’s control. They should not simply be part of a mathematical process. Second, if the PC’s are very much superior to their crewmembers, they will tip the scale toward the high end and throw off the results. This system works best with crewmembers that are all pretty similar. If the crew contains widely disparate members (minotaurs and hobgoblins, for instance), it is best to treat them as two separate groups and determine their attacks and casualties separately.
Compare the CR ratings of 2 opposing groups; if the two groups are equal CR then they mutually eliminate each other. In such a situation 25% of the each opposing group will survive, as their wounds will stabilize.
With groups with differing CR ratings, the group will with the higher CR will win out, the result is determined as follows: Those with CR being 4 higher then the opposing group will likely only lose 20% of their hit points/resources, those with CR being 3 higher lose 35% of their hit points/resources, and those of CR being 2 higher lose 50% of their hit points/resources, and finally those with only being 1 CR higher lose 75% of their hit points/resources. Those creatures/groups that are 5 or more levels higher will lose only 1d12 % of their hit points or none at all (DM’s call).
This system while really fast does not take account the amount of necessary time to resolve combat, as a quick and dirty calculation. Assume that most battles will take 1d4 rounds plus 1 round per CR of the weaker group of creatures. This is only for the purpose if the DM plans on the PCs engaging a group a few rounds or minutes latter.
A ship that has been grappled may also be towed. Both ships are considered to be part of the same larger ship; their tonnage is added together to determine if a spelljamming helm or other device can move the whole mass.
Only the stronger of the two spelljamming devices will function when the ships are linked, so that the weaker item will be inhibited until all the lines are cut. “Strength” is determined by the ship with the greatest movement rate that is able to move the combined tonnage of both ships. The ship with the lesser movement may suddenly find itself being dragged through debris fields by a smaller ship with a more faster movement rate. If the movement rates are equal, then neither ship may move as long as both helms remain in working order.
Encounters, Evasion, and Running Away
Given the nature of space movement, an opposing craft may appear suddenly in the distance, and then slow to combat speed immediately. Since it is the nature of the spelljamming helm to stop when its empyrean bubble intersects another ships empyrean bubble, many encounters will occur without the desire of either side.
The opposing ship(s) will appear 25 minus 2d10 hexes away in a random direction determined by rolling 1d6.
- Directly Ahead
- Ahead & Right (Starboard)
- Behind & Right
- Directly Behind
- Behind & Left (Port)
- Ahead and Left
After the initial placement of the ships, there is no surprise roll. Some ships (such as pirates) which travel with loaded ballistas may have a tactical advantage against opponents.
The DM determines the initial reaction of the other ship. For players here is a good rule of thumb to determine intentions of other ship:
& Hostile: All large weapons loaded, crew packed to the gunwales and armed to the teeth, shouting for blood.
& Unfriendly: All large weapons loaded.
& Indifferent: One of the large weapons loaded, but crew unarmed.
& Friendly: Large weapons unloaded, crew not carrying personal weapons.
It is possible to make a situation appear less threatening than it is through the use of illusions, concealed weapons or crew, etc. The DM is encouraged to be as devious as necessary. Players may also try to influence an enemy, when doing so consult page 72 of the PHB 3.5 (page 149 of DMG 3.0).
Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, and he who fights and runs away lives to run another day. Unfortunately, when one is close to another large body (such as a ship or planet), the spelljammer helm will not permit the ships to reach sufficient speeds to make high-speed travel worthwhile.
The times listed under Takeoffs and Landings reflect the amount of time it takes to clear a planetary surface in order to attain high speeds. For smaller bodies (such as errant asteroids and pirate ships), the “capture” distance is 25 hexes on the map, counted at the start of the ship’s movement. That is, if there is nothing within 25 hexes of the ship (including debris).
Because so much of the glossy and important work of a spelljamming ship rests with the captain and helmsman, the place of the normal is crew is often glossed over. However the careful captain who trains his men well and treats them as more than dragon fodder will be rewarded with a ship that can handle itself well in tactical situations. While the helmsman determines the gross motive power of the ship, the men who man the rigging and the oars control its heeling, tacking, and spinning. The quality of crew determines how successful the helmsman is at his pilot check.
Crews are divided into four classifications: green, average, trained and crack. Their costs per man are below:
|Green||4||2||2 gp per standard month||0 to 2 ranks in Profession (spacehand)|
|Average||2||+0||4 gp per standard month||3 to 4 ranks in Profession (spacehand)|
|Trained||+0||+2||6 gp per standard month||5 to 6 ranks in Profession (spacehand)|
|Crack||+2||+4||10 gp per standard month||7 or more ranks in Profession (spacehand)|
Payment is usually in advance for the first two months, with any extra money accrued payable on landfall. In addition, crews that are going into hazardous situations (such as when hiring privateers or adventures) may in addition demand a crew’s cut of plunder a share equal to that of the leaders, to be distributed among the surviving crew. Such a crew’s cut will not improve their sailing ability but will affect their morale in combat situations.
Green sailors are those that can be picked up anywhere everyone from groundlings eager to get into space to ex-mercenaries drowning their troubles in bars. They barely know the difference between a hawser and a ballista. They are the warm bodies to fill the ranks, but little more.
Average sailors are usually found around space citadels, asteroids, and other pockets of civilization. They have had sailing experience before in space, and are competent to run a ship fairly well. In any city of respectable size (such as the Rock) they can be found in sufficient numbers to crew a vessel.
Trained sailors are the veterans of many voyages, often on a number of ships. They are numerous, but that does not mean they are easy to find. In any large city area in space, about 3d10 sailors can be found for hire. Of course, arrivals of new ships, ship crew mutinying or abandoning people may change that number.
Crack sailors are not so much rare as very specialized. They are the best at hat they do for a particular captain and aboard a particular ship. Taking a crack crew from a nautiloid and putting it on a squid ship reduces it to trained status. The crack crew designation gives greater benefits than a trained crew.
Determining Crew Status
Initially a crew has the rating of the majority of its members. When determining this add together all the crews ranks in ‘Profession (spacehand)’ then divided that by the number of the men to find the average of rank. This is then used to determine the crew status. As a crew gains levels they too increase in Profession (spacehand) and thus increasing the the crew status.
Any crewman or character can operate a large weapon such as catapult, ballista, or jettison. There are specialists who have been trained in their use, however, and they tend to be more valuable in combat. If player characters wish to invest, they may be able to get special hirelings for these shipboard positions.
Any good-sized city will have a few large-weapon specialist available for hire. One to 10 will be available in any standard month, and their hiring rates are usually 6 gold (or more) per month per specialist. These specialist will have feats that will allow them to hit more often with a siege weapon and possibly decrease the siege weapons reload time (see feats).