Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Discussion on the Earthdawn game line, errata, and feedback not related to playing or GMing.
Post Reply
Posts: 227
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:16 am

Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Telarus » Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:13 pm

Hey everybody!!!

I'm excited to say that I've 100% completed the internal "beta" draft of my new ship-to-ship and mass-combat rules and we will be working hard this month to fit them into the Companion.

I have OK'd with Mataxes some brief previews, to give you all an idea of how the new rules will work and to get some early feedback. Please keep in mind that none of the text previewed here is necessarily how the final version will look, and there may be some updated previews in the Friday blogs in a few weeks.

My system has changed significantly over a few iterations. Having said that, I'm going to focus this first post of the new thread on the basics that drive the current system, in bullet point form, and then preview the new ship-weapon that I (and my 1st edition ED gamemaster) brainstormed up.
  • Ship-to-ship and mass-combat/boarding-battle turns are 1-minute in length. Each ship (or company) in the scene gets one major action (called a Maneuver) per turn, and may respond to other Maneuvers with a limited set of "reactions" (called Officer Maneuvers, limited to 1 for every 4 ranks in the Captain's ship-ability, with some opportunities to activate one for free). The rank for each ship-specific ability is called that character's Rating, and the total step for the ability is called the rating step (used in various tests). There are 4 core Maneuvers: Assault, Board, Break Off, and Ram. There are also 10 Officer Maneuvers available, but some of these must be used at the start of a turn during the Declare phase, or end of a turn during the Damage Control phase.
  • Maneuvers are chosen "in the open" at the start of the turn, as found in the previous system. Then, the captains all roll their Maneuver Tests (usually a ship's Speed or Maneuverability plus their Rating step). Maneuvers are then resolved in descending order of these Tests results, by comparing the acting captain's Maneuver result against a difficulty (usually the target's Physical defense, which is Maneuverability +5). If the Maneuver is a success, the captain nominates an officer to roll a bonus Maneuver test (same pool as the Maneuver tests, but with that officer's Rating step) in order to add successes to the maneuver. Each success in a Manuever like Assault or Board allows the captain to activate a unit (a ship-weapon battery, or a boarding party unit). Officer Maneuvers allow the acting captain or the target a chance to return fire (or hit with a full broadside), perform evasive maneuvers, counter-attack during a boarding maneuver, fire at ships attempting to ram yours, get first-aid to casualties, etc, etc.
  • When a unit is activated in ship-to-ship or mass-combat, it does not roll attack tests. Instead, an Attack Rating is calculated by adding the base unit member (or commander)'s Melee/Missile/Unarmed step, plus the Unit's Size (3-20), plus their Challenge Rating. This result is modified for the situation and compared to the target's Physical Defense (incorporating Cover or reactive skills like Avoid Blow), and a "hit" is scored for each success generated. Each "hit" activates a squad (in mass-combat units), or a ship weapon (in a battery unit) to roll for Damage. This cuts out a lot of "rolling to hit", but keeps individual ship-weapon Damage rolls (& aligns mass-combat damage to the same scale). So, we get to the really interesting part: how much Damage did we do/how many Casualties did they suffer.
  • All Adepts, and GMCs/Creatures of 9th+ Circle/Challenge Rating, are considered "individual units" in mass combat, although they can be attached to a unit as a commander. Adepts with the Leadership ability can lead up to 5 other Adepts as an "elite team" that can be activated as a single unit. During each mass-combat turn, all of these type of characters may take "one rounds worth of actions, rolling tests as normal, and may add their Circle/Challenge Rating to one Action test and one Effect test to represent multiple rounds of action or simply being in the right place at the right time". Spellcasters can trade one or both of these bonuses for an additional round or two of threadweaving.
  • Finally, there are 2 methods to "zoom in" while playing at the 1-minute turn scale. Player Characters can take a "Decisive Moment", taking 2 rounds worth of actions to handle a hazard or current combat scene, but may take fallout damage or be attacked directly by nearby enemies (this usually requires a Maneuver or Officer Maneuver). On the other hand, you can zoom in to regular 6-second combat rounds. In this case, ship Maneuvers (& reaction Officer Maneuvers) happen every other combat round and are used for the action that is outside the influence of the Player Characters. There are rules to break Units into Squads that are run as a "single character" but are limited to 1-5 individuals. Instead of the Unit's Size and Challenge rating bonuses, Squads receive a Squad Step bonus to one Action and one Effect test each combat round. The Squad Step starts at 0 for a single individual, and adds +2 for each individual after the first. This simplifies running masses of crew in boarding battles when you zoom in by rolling for initiative, but it is still aligned to the same Damage scale, so you don't have to worry about your player's turning their Fire Cannon against the incoming boarding party. It's already set up for that (interesting note, the Dragon's Breath weapon now does the same Damage step as a Drake's Dragon's Breath, etc, etc).
That seems like a good overview for now, and may generate questions or asks for more details about a specific aspect. Feel free to ask away. As a final teaser, I'm going to give you the rules text for the new ship-type weapon, the Arcane Focus. Mataxes has read this, but not in the context of the rest of the rules, so bear in mind this may not be a final version. I'm really proud of it, though, as it opens up so many possibilities for exciting ship-combat with Adepts on-board. (It should be noted that most other ship weapons out-range this by hundreds of yards, but this allows casters to affect the action when ships maneuver about 100 yards range of each other.)

Arcane Focus
Crew: 2 (see text)
Damage step: Spell Effect Test + Adept’s Circle
Short Range: Spell Range x2
Long Range: N/A
Base Cost: 5,000 Silver
Weight: 150 pounds / 2 per duari
Created by a mysterious windling Wizard in the days after the fall of Sky Point and Vivane, the arcane focus is a rare ship weapon. The major powers of Barsaive (such as Throal, Blood Wood, the major cities, or the t’skrang houses) only possess a handful of these devices each. An arcane focus resembles the tip of a thunderbolt thrower mounted on a gear driven ballista-swivel, with a “sighting tube” above the mass of crystal and orichalcum wire. Runic enchantments are inscribed on every wooden surface and the device hums audibly when a spellcasting adept approaches it. The unstable mana means these weapons may not be placed near each other and each arcane focus counts as a battery when activating ship-weapon units. The arcane focus requires one assistant, and allows the spellcaster operating it to attune one of their matrix talents to the device by making a Patterncraft test against the spell in the matrix’s reattunement difficulty. The attunement will last a number of minutes equal to the number of successes scored. Once attuned, the device may be used once per minute (10 combat rounds) to aid the caster in creating the astral arc to the target sighted. The chosen spell may then be cast at a single target (including ships or units) up to double the normal spell range with a bonus to the Spellcasting test equal to the adept’s Circle. When activated the spellcaster may take up to 4 rounds worth of actions to weave all required threads before spellcasting, and may add a bonus to the Effect test equal to their Circle. These rules replace the normal bonuses Adepts receive in mass combat. Called shots may not be made with an arcane focus.

User avatar
Posts: 714
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 11:04 pm
Location: Berlin, Massachusetts

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by etherial » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:55 am

Telarus wrote:
Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:13 pm
There are 4 core Maneuvers: Assault, Board, Break Off, and Ram. There are also 10 Officer Maneuvers available, but some of these must be used at the start of a turn during the Declare phase, or end of a turn during the Damage Control phase.
A lot of RPG ship encounters involve one or more ships with a non-combat goal like "escape" or "reach the city walls" or "not crash into the mountain". Are there evasive maneuvers or ways to maximize speed?

Posts: 227
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:16 am

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Telarus » Fri Jun 02, 2017 5:25 pm

Hi etherial,

Yes, absolutely. That is the intended design of the Officer Maneuvers, which can be activated freely outside of combat. Here is a brief list of the Officer Maneuvers and when they can be activated in combat. Not going to list the rules-block for each one yet. Oh-yeah, ship-less companies can only choose between "Press the Attack" and "Retreat/Fighting Withdrawal" as Maneuvers, and Clear the Field/Counter-Attack, Medic!/Recover Casualties, and Superior Positioning as Officer Maneuvers. The design allows you to just narrate ship combat abstractly by using the maneuvers as moments of tension, or you can play it out on a map or tabletop, as there is advice for that included.

Declare Phase:
  • Bosun's Shanty (synchronizes crew efforts)
  • Look Alive! (used to roll additional Rating ability successes if your crew is too small)
  • Push Speed/Maneuverability (the Crew Chief on duty, usually the Engineer, Sailing Master, or Drummer/Slaver can push speed, the Pilot on duty, usually the Navigator, can push maneuverability)
Along-side or in response to a ship Maneuver:
  • Clear the Decks / Counter-Attack
  • Broadside / Return Fire
  • Evasive Maneuvers / Acrobatics
End of Turn:
  • Damage Control / Fire Control Teams
  • Medic! / Recover Casualties
  • Spot Weakness
  • Superior Positioning

Posts: 227
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:16 am

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Telarus » Fri Jun 09, 2017 9:44 pm

So I would like to continue the discussion, but would like to ask you all what scale you would like to tackle first.

Would you like to hear about the overview of Ship-to-ship combat, Maneuvers, and how the players tie into that scale?

Or, would you like to hear about how the system can be used to run Squads of un-named characters or creatures in regular combat rounds, and how that relates to the Mass-combat and Ship-to-ship maneuver scales?

Posts: 690
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 11:44 pm

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Slimcreeper » Sat Jun 10, 2017 12:06 pm

I say companies, ships, player characters. That seems like a logical progression to me, plus a little delayed gratification, because I'm really interested in the ship v ship with concurrent player action.

User avatar
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 2:30 am

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by RazanMG » Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:26 pm

Second that.

Posts: 227
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:16 am

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Telarus » Mon Jun 12, 2017 7:33 pm

Hi guys. OK, cool!

When I was designing this new system, I had a few primary goals: update the system with respect to some key points that Mataxes and I went over (keeping player characters central, a few other points), keeping any new rules tied back into the existing Earthdawn Step System (the old ship rules were really an orphan in the previous editions), and be willing to keep revising it until it "felt Earthdawn" (that key rules-setting synergy that we all appreciate in the game).

So, a Company is simply defined as any group under the command of a single Leader. This group may be made up of individuals, or it may be organized into a set of Units (3-20 individuals of similar stats), each with an optional Commander that can be attached to the unit. This is limited by the leader's rank in the Leadership ability (rank x20 followers), and this format is also the basis of ship Crews where captains are assumed to have a Leadership rank equal to their ship ability rank. Company leaders or unit commanders without the Leadership ability are limited to leading up to twice their Charisma step in other individuals. A unit without a commander is limited in size to twice the Charisma step of the base member.

Companies that do not have a ship will only have 3 statistics: Speed, Maneuverability, and Roster. These are calculated from the lowest movement rate (lookup on the Speed Step Table), and the lowest Dexterity of everyone in the Roster. There are modifiers, such as a company that uses all it's standard actions to move may adjust their Speed Step to double their movement rate on the Speed Step Table. Or, companies moving at half-speed or less may use the highest Dexterity step of everyone in the Roster as their Maneuverability (this ties into reaction/surprise, see Travel and Avoiding Attention, Gamemaster’s Guide, p.128).

A Captain/Leader can activate one unit for each success they generate on that turn's Maneuver tests (a successful maneuver allows the leader to nominate another officer to make a bonus test, and some Officer Maneuvers allow activating units). Company leaders or officers rolling maneuver tests use Leadership plus a company stat (Speed/Maneuverability) instead of a ship ability plus ship stat.

Adepts are each considered a “single-character unit” when not attached to another unit of troops, and due to their individualized training and tactics they may not be used as the base of a unit’s statistics. However, adepts with the Leadership ability may lead other adepts as a elite “team” which is considered a single unit for mass combat. An adept team’s size is limited to it’s commander’s rank in Leadership or 5 other adepts, whichever is smaller.

Rosters for a Company or Ship's Crew can be written very simply, as a set of Officers and a list of other crew or troops (noting details like Challenge Rating and units attached to in parenthesis). My examples can be quickly customized by choosing the Discipline for adept characters. For example, the men-at-arms on a fully loaded Theran Military Vedette can be written as:

Men-at-Arms (59 + 5 griffins, 80 duari):
Theran Master-at-Arms (Journeyman Adept, Circle 5, Leader)
Troll Sergeant (Journeyman Adept, Circle 4, ☆ Veteran Troll Marines unit)
Marine Commander (Journeyman Adept, Circle 4, ☆ Veteran Marines unit)
Archer Adept (Novice Adept, Circle 4, ☆ Veteran Bowman unit)
Cavalry Sergeant + Griffin (Novice Adept, Circle 4, ☆ Veteran Griffin Cavalry unit)
Veteran Troll Marines x10 (Challenge Rating 3)
Veteran Marines x20 (Challenge Rating 3)
Veteran Bowmen x20 (Challenge Rating 3)
Veteran Griffin Cavalry x4 (Challenge Rating 3)

... Yeah, don't mess with the Therans, 'cause that's about 1/8th the power of a full Theran Cohort (and doesn't even take into account the vedette's crew and ship weapon batteries).

Next up, Ships!
Last edited by Telarus on Thu Jun 15, 2017 2:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

Posts: 227
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:16 am

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Telarus » Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:16 pm

Airships, Riverboats, and Other Vehicles: Ship statistics have been completely recalculated and reorganized a bit. I have most of the previous ships all done up with new stats, except for a few of the really rare ones. I'm not sure how many of them will show up in the Companion, as we still need to take page count into consideration (so again, all preview text is not final).

Here is the basic statblock for an airship, as represented by the Scout Vedette (an airship type that is so often shown in Earthdawn art, but which has never actually been stated up until now). Here is an image of this class of scout vedette from the 1e material: Click Here

The core attributes are now listed as: Speed, Maneuverability, Armor Rating, Wound Threshold, Derelict Rating, Destroyed Rating, Captain Rating, Crew Rating, Cargo Rating, Weapons, and Crew Roster. Forgive some of the layout hacks. :) As you can see, the Armor Rating, Wound Threshold, Derelict, and Destroyed Ratings have been adjusted, and are now in line with PC damage output as well as the Barriers and Structures section in the GM's Guide. These have been calculated with similar math to an Adepts health ratings, incorporating a "Durability rating" for each ship type and some behind the scenes formulas based on the "Toughness score" (not shown, but calculated based on Wound Threshold). As a contrast example, the "Scout Drakkar" type ship has Armor Rating: 11, Wound Threshold: 15, Derelict Rating: 134, and Destroyed Rating: 169. As you can see, the stone scout ships have a bit more armor so will take Wounds a bit less often, and can take about 30 more points of damage before becoming Derelict or Destroyed.

Scout Vedette
Speed: 7 . . . . . . . . Wound Threshold: 15 . . . . Captain Rating: 3
Maneuverability: 8 . . Derelict Rating: 164 . . . . Crew Rating: 2
Armor Rating: 13 . . . Destroyed Rating: 199 . . . Cargo (duari): 32/50

The smallest of the Theran stone ships, up to 12 yards long and 4 yards wide, resemble flying insect-like towers turned on their side and are used for scouting and to deliver messages throughout the Empire. It is crewed primarily by slaves, overseen by a few Theran air sailors and a slavemaster along with the ship's captain and first mate. A vedette's slavemaster may use their Charisma step plus their Rating plus the largest slave unit’s size when attempting to increase the ship’s Speed.

Minimum Crew: 6 (Air Sailing) Total Crew: 14
( ) Derelict [< 6, adrift] ( ) Skeleton Crew [>= 6, ½ Speed, -4 mod] (X) Competent Crew [>= 12]
( ) Crack Crew [>= 18, allows certain maneuvers] ( ) Legendary Crew [>= 24, +2 mod]

Ram +10
Weapon Batteries (10 duari):
Bow (1): Fire Cannon x1 (Step 25*)
Starboard Bow (1): none
Starboard Stern (1): none
Stern (1): Ballista x1 (Step 17, arcs 3/4/5)
Port Stern (1): none
Port Bow (1):none
Ammunition: 10 True fire, 10 True air, 10 spears
Notes: Crew Rations (2 weeks): 2 duari of rations, 6 duari of water.

Crew Roster (15 duari)
Officers (3, 3 duari):
Air Sailor Captain (Journeyman Adept, Rating 4)
First Mate (Novice Adept, Rating 4, Navigator/Gunner)
Slave-Master (Rating 4, Engineer)
Deck Crew (12, 12 duari):
Theran air-sailors x4 (Rating 2)
Slave rowers x8 (Rating 1)

Posts: 227
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:16 am

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Telarus » Thu Jun 22, 2017 6:59 pm

I hope everyone is digging this preview so far. I plan to post a writeup of a few playtest scenarios to show the system in action. Ship and PCs VS a company of wild animals, VS the environment, and VS another ship. As collecting those notes (or re-running a scenario) may take a bit, I wanted to write about some of the new concepts I have included in these rules. This will allow you all to have a better context for the action happening in the playtest descriptions. So, today I will talk about Scale of Play and Decisive Moments. These concepts add a bit of formal rules and advice to allow tracking time and resolving play at scales above "individual combat".

These concepts go all the way back to the birth of the hobby, with the oD&D booklets. Although the terminology back then was a bit confusing, the player group always got "1 move, 1 action" (and NPCs could respond in the same timing). This could be in mass combat, dungeon exploration, or "hexcrawl" wilderness exploration. The Decisive Moments concept gives some structure to the _very_ common interruption of these larger-scale turns with a player or set of players wanting to jump in to affect the situation. In other games, this is either a very informal resolution of each player's intention or else the gamemaster has everyone roll initiative and it is handled as a combat would be. While "Roll for Initiative!" should always be the first option when important combat happens, it may not be the best for other situations such as fires on board your ship, etc.
Scale of Play
Any reference to “individual combat” or “rounds” refers to the default scale of 6-second combat rounds. In order to represent the action at larger scales, a new unit of game-time called the “turn” will be used. A turn is an abstract length of time in which the player characters’ party and each group (ship or company) of gamemaster characters may take a coordinated action. The exact length of each turn will vary according to the current action of the game. The player group may move and take one major coordinated action each turn, similar to the combat round, except movement generally occurs throughout the turn.

At the beginning of each turn, the gamemaster will summarize the current situation or conflict. The players should then briefly discuss their intentions for this turn, decide on their group’s movement or action, and communicate this to the gamemaster. The gamemaster will then decide on any gamemaster character group movements or actions before narrating the scene, calling for tests, or asking for individual player actions. When resolving large-scale turns, it is often best to not ask individual players’ intentions until the scene has been set and the player character group’s action has been chosen. Individual players may always declare a Decisive Moment to directly respond to the action (see next section).

Some examples situations and recommended turn lengths are given here. Short range chases, called engagements, and ship-to-ship combat (including boarding battles or mass combat) occur in 1-minute turns. Exploration of adventure-sites (dungeons, kaers, or ruins) or pursuits through these sites occur in 10-minute turns. Long-distance pursuit or outdoor exploration may occur in 1-hour turns. Travel in possibly hostile territory occurs in 4-hour turns (called a "watch"). Travel may also occur in turns lasting 1 day or 1 week each, as the needs of the campaign require.

Because the length of a turn may change during a game session, it is essential for the gamemaster to communicate these moments to the players. For example, “Last turn the boarding maneuver was successful, placing your team of adepts along with a unit of air-sailors aboard the enemy vessel, and causing 3 initial casualties and 2 deaths among their ranks. The enemy succeeds on their Morale test and refuse to back down — so we are zooming in to combat rounds. Roll your Initiative!” or “After another hour of trailing the pirate vessel through hazardous fog, you succeed in cutting their line and closing to engagement range. A chase begins as they try to speed out of range of your cannons. Turns are now 1-minute long, roll to engage the enemy!”

Decisive Moments
Players will often want to respond to the current situation directly when the scale of play is larger than the 6-second combat round. These individuals may leap into action during times of hazard, including ship combat, often performing feats of such daring and perfect timing that they alter events that would otherwise be catastrophic. A crewman may save a comrade from serious injury or death at the last moment, pulling them from collapsing rigging, putting out fires, clearing tangled lines and tackle before they wreak havoc on the deck, noticing dangerous terrain features, or responding to other hazards.

Characters may use this option once per turn to take two 6-second combat rounds worth of actions in order to respond to the hazard, and players taking Decisive Moments at the same time may work together. For hazards other than combat, each acting character suffers a Hazard Damage test (step 6 plus the current Severity, see Hazards below) to represent the risk and consequences of leaping into a dangerous situation. When taking a decisive moment in combat, allow any gamemaster characters that are nearby 2 combat rounds of actions to respond to the characters. Use the Initiative step of all characters as their Initative result unless an ability requiring a test is used (Air Dance, etc).

It is recommended that gamemasters limit the number of Decisive Moments that gamemaster characters take per turn, to half the number of players present at the game session or less. Normally, only important gamemaster characters will take Decisive Moments, as this places the spotlight firmly on the player characters to influence events.

If the players are really invested in the outcome of a situation, it is best to shift scales to 6-second combat rounds and play out the scene in that mode. The gamemaster can then use the ship and mass-combat rules to track events outside the player’s direct influence (see Using Combat Rounds with Mass Combat in the Advanced Mass Combat Rules).

Posts: 690
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 11:44 pm

Re: Airships, Riverboats, & Companies

Post by Slimcreeper » Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:58 pm

I think this all looks awesome. It'll take some playing to fully processes it, but I like the way it looks.

Post Reply