Like travel and trade, ship combat is a fact of life for
the crystal raiders and others who fly airships in Barsaive.
Airships must be prepared to do battle with raiders,
pirates, Theran slavers and similar menaces. The following
rules expand on the Ship Combat rules in the Earthdawn
Companion (p. 129), putting more emphasis on the specific
concerns raised by airship combat. SpeCifically, these rules
add the element of range, including horizontal and vertical
ranges. For those familiar with the Ship Combat rules in
the Earthdawn Companion, range rules require the incorporation
of standard range modifiers (p. 196, ED) when
using ship weapons, and also impose restrictions on certain
ship maneuvers. These changes add some complexity
to ship combat, and so gamemasters should review the
Ship Combat section of the Earthdawn Companion before
running airship battles using these rules. Alternatively,
gamemasters may feel free to ignore these changes and use
the original Ship Combat rules.
All types of ship-to-ship combat can be conducted
according to a standard, three-step procedure: Declaration,
Initiative and Resolve Actions. Various maneuvers that can
be used during the combat sequence appear below.
1. Declaration: The captain of each ship declares
which specific maneuver his or her ship will follow.
2. Initiative: The captain of each ship makes an
Initiative Test using the ship’s Maneuverability step.
3. Resolve Actions: In descending order of Initiative,
each captain resolves the maneuver chosen in the
Declaration Phase. As soon as a ship succeeds at its
declared maneuver, no other ship may complete a maneuver
against it that turn (nor can it hold over an uncompleted
maneuver until the next turn-the captain must declare
a new maneuver).
In keeping with this abstract combat style, time is
made abstract as well. Instead of Combat Rounds, captains
maneuver their ships in turns of unspecified length. If a
gamemaster finds it necessary to put a time limit on ship
maneuvers, we recommend that a turn be equal to one
minute. Remember that once the action moves back to the
scale of the characters, time once again becomes divided
into Combat Rounds.
Unless otherwise decided by the gamemaster, ships
engaging each other in combat are considered to be at a
distance of 500 yards. This is the maximum possible range
for ship combat using these rules.
When two or more ships meet in the skies over
Barsaive, one or more may try to engage another in battle.
If one (or some) of the ships wish to avoid combat while
another (or others) wishes to engage in combat, the ships
desiring combat must begin pursuit.
Pursuit consists of a series of Speed Tests made by
each side in the combat. Every turn, each ship that is either
pursuing or being pursued makes a Speed Test, rolling its
Speed step against a Difficulty Number equal to the opponent’s
Speed step. Apply any Pursuit Modifiers from the
Hazard Table. If there is more than one ship on each side,
the Difficulty Number for the pursuer is the lowest Speed
step among the ships he is pursuing, while the Difficulty
Number for the fleeing side is the highest Speed step
among the pursuing vessels. The first side to make three
successful Speed Tests wins the pursuit; the victorious pur~
suing ship initiates combat or the fleeing ship evades combat.
If the two sides achieve three successes in the same
turn, the first ship to score one more success than its opponent
wins the pursuit. When there is more than one ship on
each side, the gamemaster may apply the results of the
pursuit to all ships. Once an airship successfully engages
another, it is considered to be roughly 500 yards away
from its opponent-the maximum distance at which airships
can engage in combat.
If the fleeing ships evade their opponent, the pursuer
can make another Speed Test after an hour has passed. If this
test succeeds, the pursuer may begin pursuit once again
using the rules above. If the test fails, the quarry has escaped.
Airships can use six different maneuvers in combat,
each described below. When the captain of a ship performs
one of these maneuvers, he makes a Maneuver Test. Note
that this is not the same thing as a Maneuverability Test.
Each maneuver also has a Failure Modifier, which is a
number of steps that all opposing captains and ships add
to their Maneuver Tests made against a ship that failed its
declared maneuver in a given turn.
This maneuver allows the airship to close or extend
the distance between it and an opposing ship. The captain
makes a Speed Test for the ship against the Speed step of
the opposing ship. Each level of success allows the captain
to alter the vertical or horizontal distance between the two
ships by 50 yards. This distance can be split in increments
of 50 yards between the vertical and the horizontal as
desired. This maneuver is only needed against opposing
airships that are also maneuvering in combat. Closing
range with stationary targets does not require an Alter
Failure Modifier: +2
A successful boarding maneuver brings a ship up
alongside another, so the crews of the ships may battle
directly. In order to board and storm an opposing ship, the
attacker makes a Maneuverability Test against a Difficulty
Number equal to the defender’s Maneuverability step. If
successful, this maneuver allows the attacking crew to
engage the enemy crew in hand-to-hand combat in the
next turn. This maneuver can only be attempted against
ships within 100 yards of the attacking vessel.
Boarding actions can be accomplished in two ways. In
the first, the boarding crew grapples their ship to the one
they are boarding. Because they are grappled together,
both ships suffer -4 to their Maneuverability and Speed
steps. The second method of boarding involves sending a
wave of attackers over, using Great Leap and similar talents
in conjunction with the initial boarding maneuver.
Both ships remain free to maneuver without the grappling
penalty while their crews slug it out. However, in order for
the attacking ship to get its boarding parties back onboard,
it must at some point make another boarding maneuver, at
which point its crew returns to their ship.
In a boarding battle, each side makes an Attack Test
using its Crew Rating to physically harm the opposing
crew. The Difficulty Number for these tests is the opposing
Crew Rating. If an Attack Test is successful, that crew
makes a Damage Test using its Crew Rating. To resist
damage from a boarding attack, a crew uses the Armor and
Critical Threshold of its ship. If the damage from a single
attack exceeds a ship’s Critical Threshold, the crew is
Wounded and its rating is reduced by one step. The
Wound also means that five percent of the crew has
received deadly injuries and will not survive without medical
assistance. If a crew takes damage equal to or higher
than its Morale Rating, it may surrender to the enemy.
A crew can fully recover its Morale after three turns
providing it does not take any additional damage in those
attacking multiple ships, the ship suffers a Failure Modifier
of + 1 for each attack that fails to hit the target.
The effect of the weapon attack (usually damage) is
equal to the ship’s full Firepower Effect step, minus one
step for each target after the first. For example, Captain
Gro’tan has Firepower 18/18 on his ship. He could choose
to split his Firepower into three attacks of Step 6 each. Each
attack that hit would do Step 16 damage (18 minus 2
Called Shots may be made against a specific ship
Attribute-targeting the mast to reduce a ship’s Speed, for
example. Such an attack is made at a -3 step penalty, and
damage is applied normally. However, if any damage gets
past the armor, the specified Attribute suffers a Wound
(which does not affect any other Attributes). If an armordefeating
hit occurs, only a single Wound is inflicted on the
entire ship (the targeted Attribute does not take two
Failure Modifier: +0 if attacking only 1 ship / + 1 for each
additional ship attacked
three turns and it did not surrender. A crew can only
recover from Wounds by recruiting more crew members or
allowing the wounded among the crew to heal completely.
This most often takes at least one week.
Player characters who wish to enter boarding engagements
should be able to affect the outcome of the combat.
A turn of ship combat represents about one minute. If
player characters enter the boarding combat, the gamemaster
should run the combat in Combat Rounds as normal,
using the sample sky raider and air sailor statistics on pp.
131-33 for the opposing crew. The gamemaster should
reduce the enemy crew’s Morale by 1 point for each combatant
the player characters incapacitate, and simultaneously
raise the Morale of the player characters’ crew by 1.
The boarding battle described above represents the
bigger picture of the combat; the crew Attack Tests should
be made in the first round of combat, and then every sixth
round thereafter. The gamemaster should warn the player
characters when their own crew’s morale is about to break,
because once their allies surrender, it is usually fruitless for
the characters’ small party to fight on against the sudden
shift in the odds.
Failure Modifier: +4
In a ground assault, the captain attempts to bring his
ship’s weapons to bear on a target on the ground. The idea
is to swoop in for a swift pass over the target, then veer off
sharply to prevent retribution. To use this maneuver, the
captain makes a Maneuverability Test against a Difficulty
Number 8. If successful, this maneuver entitles the ship to
fire its weapons as described under the Fire maneuver, but
at ground targets. If the test fails, the ship is unable to
achieve the correct angle for an attack and cannot fire effectively.
This maneuver can only be attempted against targets
within 100 yards of the attacking vessel.
Failure Modifier: +4
A ship that wishes to break off combat must make a
Speed Test against a Difficulty Number equal to the highest
Maneuverability among the ships in the opposing fleet.
The fleeing ship must succeed at this test in three consecutive
turns before it may break off the combat and run, at
which point the opposing ship will likely pursue it. This
means that each time a pursuer manages to catch up with
his quarry, he has at least three chances to damage that
ship before it gets away once more.
In order to break off from an enemy that has successfully
boarded and grappled, a ship must achieve an
Excellent or better success on a single Speed Test for the
break-off maneuver. (Remember that both ships will suffer
a -4 step penalty to their Speed and Maneuverability
because they are grappled.) If this happens, the enemy
crew is assumed to have returned to its own ship.
Failure Modifier: +2
A ship that wishes to ram its opponent must make a
Speed Test against a Difficulty Number equal to the target
ship’s Maneuverability. If the test is successful, the attacker
has struck the enemy ship, and makes a Damage Test using
its Ramming step. This damage is reduced by the target’s
Armor as normal. This maneuver can only be attempted
against targets within 100 yards of the attacking vessel.
Failure Modifier: +6
The Fire maneuver is used when a ship attacks an
enemy ship with its weapons. The captain of the attacking
ship can split the Firepower among his weapons to attack
any number of opponents, provided that the sum of
Firepower for all his attacks adds up to his ship’s
Firepower Attack step. Each attack requires a separate test
using the designated Attack step against each separate target’s
Maneuverability step. The captain may only make
one Attack Test against each target. If a ship attacks a single
target, the Failure Modifier does not apply. However, if