I was quite happy to post in the Dungeon World Tavern that I was developing a campaign front about my crazy mishmash setting I've been playing in since I was a kid. You know, the Spelljammer + Centurion Legion + B/X + C from BECMI + 1e PHB + 1e Unearthed Arcana + Best of Dragon Vol V + 1e Oriental Adventures +2e Monstrous Compendium - 2e PHB - 2eDMG? Over the past couple of days, I hatched a way to handle the spacefaring fantasy ships. I'm open to feedback. I do not believe I have figured out the best way to play any game, much less Dungeon World, so constructive criticism is welcomed.
I still have a lot to learn about DW, though I really enjoy the group I play in. I sometimes still wait for my "turn" because I'm used to initiative. Otherwise, I enjoy the Barbarian and I doing all kinds of fun things. Nothing gets in the way of two crazy people and their fiction:
We appear on a ship being attacked by a sea monster. He rolls a 12 to rip the harpoon gun off its mooring and use it in an attack from point-blank range. When the sea monster died, he jumped in the water, swam underwater to the sea monster carcass and retrieved nine harpoons. I keep the gun and ammo in my bag of holding.
I'm a Cleric, and Cure Light Wounds is rote for me. You can see why we are friends.
Weren't You Going to Talk About Ships?
For some pirates, their ships became iconic. The Golden Hind went around the world with Drake. Queen Anne's Revenge is as famous as her captain. The Royal Fortune is a bit of an exception as she was whatever ship Bartholomew captured and renamed.
So in some ways, it seemed that a ship in my space fantasy would be like a magic item. It was magical enough in that it can fly, traverse interstellar space, be airtight, and everything else needed to make a ship from the Age of Sail travel among the stars. The issue with treating them like a magic item is that they were either all the same or I would be creating a lot of magic items.
So then I thought that a ship is a piece of equipment that is an extension of her captain and crew. This feels right for Dungeon World because the no one should get bogged down in the details of the ship while a good story is going on. Better to build an epic story of the characters chasing down the dread pirate windows through asteroids than to get all hung up on the equipment. It would be like playing a Fighter and talking about a sword all night.
Still, a ship should have Armor and Hit Points. Epic ship battles shouldn't end when the mizzenmast is lost to cannon bursting through it. There should be a way to measure how much punishment a ship can handle. It could be my lack of experience with Dungeon World, but I couldn't figure out a way to handle hit points or toughness by equipment tags. (And I tried a lot, let me tell you.)
I then made the mistake of thinking of a ship as a monster or character itself, complete with stats, moves, and class damage. I over-complicated the use of ships attempting to define a bunch of moves that I wanted in a space battle. Looking for inspiration, I went through notes for Microlite20's way of handling space combat and realized my error. I certainly didn't need to invent "moves" for a ship as anything that I wanted a ship to do could be done by the character piloting the ship. Evasive Maneuvers? Describe it or roll Defy Danger. Attack another ship? Volley. Ram and/or Board an enemy vessel? Hack and Slash.
So the answer is this. When a character pilots or captains a ship, any rolls that need to be made are based on the character's stats. The only exceptions to this rule are that a ship would have it's own damage die to roll instead of the character's class and it would have its own hit points. The ship can be further described by two pairs of tags of which three are already equipment tags:
Quick vs Clumsy (still -1 to all rolls)
Fast vs Slow
As for the ship's size, we'll use the tags from monsters: Huge, Large, Small, Tiny.
To set the Armor and Hit Points of the ship, there are four base types of ship (in order from smallest to largest): Corvette, Caravel, Man-O-War, and Carrack. A Corvette is similar to individual Tie-Fighters or X-Wings in Star Wars. A Man-O-War is a military ship akin to a Destroyer. It is usually heavily armored and has overwhelming firepower. A Carrack is a colossal ship used for hauling cargo. Without others to defend it, a Carrack is an easy target. The final type, the Caravel, is a jack-of-all-trades type of ship similar to the Millennium Falcon. It is larger than a small fighter. It can haul some cargo. It has more weapons that a small fighter, but cannot compete with the armor and weaponry of a Man-O-War. (I imagine that new merchants to space start with a Caravel.)
Starting with these four types of ships, you can modify the tags. For example, you may buy off the clumsy tag. You can add or remove armor if you like. You can also add or modify weapons. Adding a Cannon, for example, gives you a +1 piercing weapon. Adding a second ballista gives you weapons with a far tag.
TL;DR How Exactly Do You Do Flying Ships?
I haven't worked out the prices, yet, but here is what I have so far.
Corvette Class Ship; fast, quick, Armor 1, Hit Points 8, Damage d6
Caravel Class Ship; Armor 2, Hit Points 12, Damage d6
Man-O-War Class Ship; fast, Armor 4, Hit Points 16, Damage d10
Carrack Class Ship; clumsy, Armor 2, Hit Points 20, Damage d4
Ballista; far, reload
Cannon; near, +1 damage
Magic Missile Launcher; near, 2 piercing
Next post, I will have the coin costs and provide a few examples of creating ships.