Sailing (Orizon Supplement)
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There are numerous skylands in the air of Orizon, and very few of them can be crossed by walking. The lifeblood of modern society on Orizon are the airships, a means of travel that allows the people of Orizon to take to the skies and sail across the world.
The presence of skylands both large and small, and of their various formations in the world means that there are numerous navigational dangers for people sailing through the skies. Reefs, thick curtains formed of smaller floating stones drifting close together can batter hulls and shred sails. Skylands float at different altitudes, and a proper sailor needs to know how far up to travel as well as how far forwards. Weather can spring up, pushing ships off course, smashing them into skylands or pushing them into a monster’s territory.
Despite the dangers, the people of Orizon have become skilled at sailing the skies. Merchant ships travel between smaller skylands and the ground, picking up people and cargo and taking them through their routes, air navies conduct elaborate maneuvers in the sky, firing ballistae and cannon back and forth between their hulls.
Without airships life as the people of Orizon know it would not be possible, they would be left on the ground. The airship has opened up the broken horizon.
The magical properties of floatwood only enable the material to resist the effects of gravity, if it is weighted down or pushed floatwood will begin to sink. To counteract this and fully take advantage of the air, engineers have developed three different means of aiding the floatwood in its suspension. Most airships are divided between these three categories.
The first type of airship maintains its elevation through the use of a series of inflated gasbags that have been connected to the main hull through a series of wires and ropes. The gasbags are inflated and deflated to match the weight of cargo and crew, or to make adjustments to the ship’s altitude. Ships of this type are slower, but much more reliable, and can carry a significantly larger amount of cargo or arms.
The second type of ship contains a measure of skywhale blubber within its hull to act as a counter-ballast and relies on broad sails to manage changes in altitude and speed. These types of ships are significantly faster, but cannot carry much in the way of crew or cargo. In addition, these ships often require a well-trained crew to manage the ship’s operation and its numerous sails. In addition, since these ships aren’t designed with the counter-ballast to support a great deal of cargo, they have to remain in motion to maintain altitude.
Most airships on Orizon have come to incorporate a mix between these two styles, featuring smaller balloons strapped to a hull with broad sails, one maintaining lift, the other responsible for propulsion. These feature streamlined hulls and blimps and there is a constant race between engineers to develop better hybrid ships, getting the most out of each disparate component. Some ships have incorporated gasbags in the inside of the hull, making the above mounted blimps unnecessary. These are popular designs but can be difficult to repair, but they are much quicker and more maneuverable than other airships.
The third major type of airship are called “crystalcraft,” through the use of a crystal similar to an angreal, magic is woven through the ship’s hull and sails, this magic takes on the entirety of the responsibility for maintaining the ship’s altitude while the sails maintain the ship’s speed. These ships are arguably the finest craft that one can obtain, they are faster, more reliable and they are much more responsive, changing altitude with the finest touch. Unfortunately, these ships are expensive to produce, requiring an investment of time and resources from both shipwrights and mages, and once built they require an influx of magical energy to stay aloft.
There are numerous different designs for airships but most emulate the designs of “traditional” sailing ships, as the sleek lines of a ship’s hull seem to serve well cutting through the air and the sea. The design of an oceanic ship also serves to accommodate a common touch in the construction of airships, a carved and infused enchantment that, only at the instant of contact, infuse some of the traits of liquid water to the air striking the keel. This creates a visible “splash” of air around the keel, but it also creates drag, enough to allow the ship to make sharper turns than might otherwise be possible with just tacking sails. However, there are more experimental designs that have been put into practice on some airships and most airship designers agree that there is no one “right” way to construct an airship.
Parts of an Airship
The most basic understanding of an airship is similar to an understanding of a nautical sailing ship. The “fore” of the ship is the front and the “aft” of the ship is the back. The fore part of the “hull”, the frame or body of the ship, is the bow. The aft part of the hull is the “stern”. The “back” is the top of the ship and the “belly” is the bottom. “Port” is to the left while facing the bow and “starboard” is to the right. Running along the bottom of the hull is the “keel,” a long beam that is used as the base upon which the rest of the hull is built. The “top” is the furthest point of the rigging from the center of the ship, so airships have four tops, a back top, a belly top, a portwing top and a starboardwing top. Airships have numerous “masts” on the deck, keel and fore of the ship as well as at least two “wingmasts” that extend off the port and starboard sides of the hull. Each mast has at least one “boom” a large beam that holds a sail in position.
On an airship “rope” is cargo, if it’s used it’s a “line.” Mast lines are called “shrouds,” sail lines are “sheets,” lines used for docking are “warps,” and the names depend on what the warp is connected to so a harpoon line is a “harpoon warp.” Anchors and balloons are connected by “chains” (regardless of what the line is made of, metal or rope). “Nets” are used for fishing or rescue.
The ship’s “rigging” is the whole of many different parts, the whole system of masts and lines. The rudder is a broad device positioned at the rear of the ship that is used for steering. The “rudder” can either be part of the keel or simply mounted alongside of it.
Inside of the hull, walls are called “bulkheads,” ceilings are “overheads,” and floors are “decks.” Individual rooms are “cabins,” and all stairs are called “ladders.” The kitchen of the ship is the “galley,” the toilet is “head.” Storerooms are called the “(whatever is inside) locker.” The room where medical procedures are performed is the “sickbay.” The jail is the “brig,” and the room where gunpowder and ammunition is stored is the “magazine.” Officers each have their own private “quarters” and share a “wardroom” that they eat in. The crew shares a “bunkroom” and eat in the community “mess.” The captain has a private quarter of his own that serves as a bedroom, office and dining hall.
Inside of the ship space is put aside for the “cargo hold.” Direct access to the cargo hold through the bottom of the hull is provided through “bomb-bay doors.” So named because pirates and navies use the doors to drop bombs out of the hold onto their targets.
Inside of the hull is a mechanism that holds the internal rigging, the lines, spars and sails that control the ship’s propulsion, and lines. This mechanism, “the works” or “linebox” connects to the cockpit above and can be used to control the wingsails and keelsails. “Windlasses,” and “capstans,” are winches and pulleys used to lift and move cargo and manipulate the ship’s lines.
The “bilge” is at the very bottom of the hull, it fills with water during rain, or if the ship lands on water. The “bilge water” is emptied with a “bilge pump.”
Usually positioned at the stern of the ship is the “cockpit,” where the pilot steers the ship with “rudder-wheel,” which turns the rudder, the “wing-wheels,” which adjusts the tilt of the wings to change altitude and the “gas lever” that adjusts the level of the gas in the balloon above. There are a series of instruments in the cockpit that the pilot and captain use to monitor the ship’s position and plan the ship’s route. Instruments like a “spyglass,” “altimeter,” “compass,” “chronometer,” and “wind gauge.”
“Cannon” and its attached “gearing” is positioned in the “blister,” if this cannon sticks out of the hull it is considered a “turret.” Cannon on the keel or the figurehead is a “spinel gun.” Cannon mounted directly to the fore or the aft of the ship are “chasers.”
Airships use numerous different means to signal and communicate. “Signal flags” are run up a line or flares are shot out into the sky. “Signal balloons” are sent up on a chain out behind the ship and “semaphore flags” are used by individuals onboard to send more complex messages at a distance. Flags displayed to indicate nationality, home port, or organizational affiliation are the “colors.”
Airships are often equipped with smaller ships that are used to make short excursions from the main ship. “Longboats” are the largest of these ships, “cutters” are mid-sized, and “jolly boats” are the smallest of these support craft.
Some ships are also equipped with smaller “gasbags”, designed to produce emergency lift if necessary. Or gliders that allow people to travel at a distance without needing the gas for a gasbag or balloon.
Extending the sails along the masts of an airship fills the sail’s canvas with air and pushes it forwards, propelling the airship forwards. Within the cockpit, the pilot follows the captain’s orders, charting the ship’s path through the landscape of the sky and plotting the navigational route that the ship takes.
An airship flies above the ground thanks to the floatwood construction of its hull and the addition of either lighter-than-air gasbags or magical levitation. The ship moves forwards thanks to air filling the canvas of its sails which use manipulations of the mast and rigging to catch the wind in just the right way to propel the ship in a certain direction, both vertically and horizontally.
An enchantment, as central to the construction of airships as floatwood, woven into the keel alters the properties of the sky the ship flies through, changing the water vapor briefly into liquid water for only as long as the ship passes across it. This enchantment provides drag against the hull and this drag combines with the propulsion to allow the ship better control in its movements.
To move vertically an airship adjusts the ballast or counter-ballast, tilts the wingsails and adjusts the ailerons, putting all these separate factors to move vertically much more smoothly than using just one of these tools alone. An airship will also turn itself into the wind if it wants an even smoother rise or fall. Sailors are expected to take their time while transitioning altitude to give the crew time to adjust their bodies to the shifts in atmospheric pressure, usually only traveling between one and three thousand feet vertically a day. Above the Altus, a smart pilot never travels further than 500 to 1,000 feet vertically per day.
A skilled pilot is expected to be able to navigate their way through the numerous dangers of the sky, making numerous adjustments to their ship’s heading as they travel. Cartographers guilds make a brisk business keeping maps updated and warning those who consult them for possible dangers that could be encountered on the route. Most pilots try to make adjustments miles ahead of these risks so they’ll be better prepared for dangers that might spring up. A smart pilot tries their hardest to avoid sudden shifts in direction or altitude as that has the very real risk of sending crew overboard. In addition, sudden changes in altitude can have severe health detriments if the shift is far enough. However, if the ship is threatened or if the aerial terrain is especially complex, a pilot may make a series of quick maneuvers with their airship, usually with lighter and more nimble designs.
A good pilot and a good captain also keeps an eye on their instruments, frequently consulting them and comparing their observations with the information recorded on their charts, a discrepancy can spell disaster. In addition, a pilot needs to frequently check their altimeter, since an altimeter uses atmospheric pressure to provide an accurate measure of the ship’s altitude oncoming storms and cold fronts can alter that reading, sometimes by hundreds of feet.
Most maneuvers performed while sailing an airship are relatively staid procedures, the open deck and amount of space between bulkheads means that daring, acrobatic, stunts like figure-eights, barrel rolls, or loops only ever serve to simply fling the crew off of the deck. Smaller ships with a minimal crew can perform these maneuvers with enough warning to allow its crew to strap themselves down, but the more crew on the ship the more dangerous these maneuvers are to perform. Small one-man ships do frequently perform these stunts, taking advantage of their small size and ability of a skilled pilot to predict the shifts as gravity takes over in a fall. Additionally, single man craft don’t need to worry about a potential loss of crew, and can react more quickly than a ship with a great deal of crew that needs direction.
There are a few common terms for aeronautical maneuvers that skysailors and pilots perform and the position of the ship’s angle and its relationship to the wind. Most of these terms are rooted in terminology from oceanic sailing, but there are additions to account for the need to travel vertically as well as horizontally. For example, when a ship is “arching,” it’s bow is rising above the stern, usually in order to ascend, when a ship is “stooping,” the stern is rising above the bow, usually in order to descend.
A ship “heads to wind” when it points directly into the wind and is “beating” or “tacking” when it sails as close as possible towards the wind in a zig-zag course in order to sail in an upwind direction. A ship is “running” when it sails with the wind coming from behind it, filling the sails, a ship is at a “dead run” when the wind is coming from directly astern. A ship “luffs up” when it points itself directly into the wind, this is usually performed in anticipation of ascending or descending.
A ship “makes more sail,” or “makes sail,” when lets out more canvas to better catch the wind, and it “reefs” the sails when it takes those sails in.
Sailing the skies of Orizon brings numerous risks to those that attempt it, reefs or small skylands that may drift can carve a chunk out of a floatwood hull or pierce a gasbag. Storms can whip up winds and blast a ship with lightning or blow a ship off course. On top of those dangers, monsters can travel between skylands, deciding to establish their territory on these floating islands. Most of these monsters are unaware of humanoid use of these skies, and those that are aware either don’t care, or see that use as an opportunity to plunder ships and amass a hoard.
Reefs and skylands are mostly stationary features, so long as a ship’s charts and instruments are accurate, and the sailing is smooth, few pilots ever face the risk of running into one. However, if the navigator is inexperienced, or if the sailing conditions become too troubled, then there is a very real danger of getting wrapped up in a reef. Some pirates or monsters have hit on a strategy of harassing a ship and forcing it to sail into a reef, then picking off whatever they can grab from the tangled hulk.
Monsters are one of the best known dangers to sailors, the line “here there be monsters,” is a classic description of uncharted territories and a particularly dangerous monster may have its territory laid out on aeronautical charts to provide sailors with enough warning.
The final “common” dangers are storms. Not only can the winds, the rains, and the ice damage the hull and the rigging, they can also force a ship off course, obscuring the crew’s vision enough that they may not realize how far they’ve traveled until it’s too late. Pilots keep an eye on their instruments, the altimeter can be fouled by changes in atmospheric pressure, and a change in wind or in the horizon can signal an approaching storm.
Trade routes are regions of the skies that are the primary route sailors, especially merchant vessels, take to travel between major skylands and ground cities. At their most simple, these are routes that offer the strongest winds, the clearest skies and the most stops to load and unload cargo and passengers.
Small farming villages are best places on these trade routes, taking advantage of the travel of merchant vessels to move their crops and goods, and to travel themselves, hitching a ride on a merchant vessel and sailing to the nearest major skyland. These merchant vessels are the lifeblood of their communities, using their large stowage space to haul cargo, passengers, and messengers throughout their routes. They often fly accompanied by at least a pair of support vehicles that serve as scouts and combat support.
These routes are patrolled both by military vessels and by mercenaries hired by major trade guilds. But this coverage isn’t complete, and things can slip through. Monsters can “camp” near trade routes and fly into them, making it difficult to find the place that the monster has established as a lair. The war bands can also take advantage of trade routes, they frequently develop hot air balloons that can be deployed quickly and used to strike at islands, and they have been known to seize
Outside of these trade routes things are left “fallow,” left to grow wild. These spaces are used to harvest floatwood stands, or to allow space for griffons and other potential flying mounts to set up nests. These spaces at a distance from normal trade routes can also be occupied be people hoping to live apart from the world at large, like secluded high-elf cities or druidic circles.
Ports of Call
Every island that receives airship traffic has a port, some are small, only able to accommodate one or two ships at a time, some are so small that they are barely more than a sturdy tree for a ship to moor themselves to The largest ports can accommodate dozens of ships, often incorporating quays built on smaller nearby skylands to hold overflow.
Upon docking, a ship is approached by a customs agent, a representative of the local harbor master, who collects information on the ship; the ship’s name, it’s home port and nationality, its cargo manifest, and the names of it’s captain and its crew. Some harbor masters don’t need all of this information, but most of it is taken down or at least summarized. The customs agent also collects import taxes and harborage fees from the ship’s purser. In smaller ports these responsibilities may be handled by the harbor master alone. These duties are only really carried out on the larger islands that act as hubs for trading ships, or on “sailor’s islands,” smaller islands designed exclusively as way stations for traveling sailors.
Once a ship is moored to a pier, they can unload their cargo and any other things stored away in stowage using either their own equipment or the dock’s cranes and hooks, operated by local stevedores, although most often it’s a combination of both. This cargo is then inspected to look for any contraband or potential dangers and once they can be assured of its safety, transferred to local warehouses, guild offices, or taken straight to the local marketplace. This is also the opportunity for anyone on the ship that paid for passage to leave, walking off the gangplank and making their way into the harbor and the city beyond.
At the dock the ship’s purser looks to spend the funds they’ve earned at the local ship’s chandlers to restock supplies for the ship. And the cook makes their way to local provisioner’s to restock the ship’s food to maintain supplies for however long the ship will remain at port, and arranging another delivery for when the ship is scheduled to leave so it can be fully stocked for the duration of its coming voyage.
While in port, the pilot or navigator has to take time to recalibrate their instruments and ensure their accuracy, especially their altimeter. Since different altitudes have different pressures the pilot must check the precise altitude information recorded in the harbor master’s officer against the information displayed on their own altimeter.
Once all of the work is done and the ship is considered ship-shape, the captain announces the watch schedule, then the captain and purser distribute the crew’s wages and declares the crew “at liberty,” a freedom the crew gets to take advantage of.
There are numerous small ports placed along trade routes to operate as way-stations for sailors, especially on difficult on long trade routes. Skylands like this are These are built up both to give sailors an opportunity to rest and resupply as well as give crews an opportunity to acclimatize to their new air pressure after having to change altitude numerous times.
Airmen, Sailors and Officers
Most navies divide their officers into two distinct categories, officers, and enlisted and these broad categories are then further divided. Officers are separated into flag officers, senior officers, and junior officers. Flag officers are officers in a position to declare their command, representing it with a flag on the ship they command and from which they command other ships. An admiral and a commodore are both considered flag officers. Senior officers are expected to serve in the command of a ship, these are captains and commanders. Junior officers serve underneath those in command of a ship, and may be given command of their own, but their responsibilities typically consist of overseeing a ship’s crew or other specific duties on a ship. These are lieutenants, ensigns, and midshipmen.
Beneath officers are the enlisted men, warrant officers, petty officers, and airmen. These men may serve specific roles onboard the ship, especially warrant officers and petty officers. These roles give them a specific title in addition to their rank and further responsibility.
The Ship’s Captain is a position occupied by a senior officer, they are in ultimate command of a vessel and are ultimately responsible for its operation and safety.
The First Mate is the second in command on the ship and often act as the officer in command of the crew. During combat they may be responsible for coordinating the crew and damage control.
The Second and Third Mates serve as officers under the captain and first mate.
The Navigator is responsible for determining the ship’s course.
The Helmsman is the man at the wheel and is responsible for maintaining the navigator's course.
The Master of Arms acts in command of melee combat, a responsibility that comes up during boarding parties or disembarking from the ship and attacking.
The Master of Guns directs the gunners and the gun crews during naval combat.
The Boatswain, also called the “Bosun” is responsible for the sails, ropes, rigging and boats on a ship, and issues “piped” whistled commands to seamen.
The Cabin Boy attends on passengers and crew, the people in this role are often young, often the youngest onboard.
The Carpenter is responsible for the woodwork on the vessel. They build and maintain woodwork like the masts, hull, parts of the rigging, and small lifeboats.
The ship’s Cook is responsible for food and supplies on the boat.
The ship’s Doctor is responsible for the health of the crew, and for performing medical procedures on any crewmen who should need it.
The Gearmaster is responsible for the metalwork on ship, maintaining the mechanisms for the rigging and the gasbag.
A ship’s Gunner is responsible for managing the crews at the cannon.
A ship’s Lookout is not so much a dedicated position as it is one that’s assigned, men are sent to the crow’s nests to survey the horizon and keep an eye out for potential dangers and the ship’s destination.
A Powder Monkey runs gunpowder from the ship’s magazine to the cannoneers.
The Purser is the person on the ship who buys, stores and sells all stores on board ships, including food, rum and tobacco.
The Sheetman is responsible for the care and maintenance of the ship’s sails.
A Wingman is a man trained in the use of wingsuits to glide between ships.
Aeronautical Terms and Expressions
Abeam - On the beam, a relative bearing at right angles to the centerline of the ship’s keel.
Aboard - On or in a vessel. Synonymous with “on board.”
Able Airman - Able-bodied airman. An airman qualified to perform all routine duties, or a junior rank in some navies.
Adrift - Afloat and unattached in any way to the shore or seabed, but not under way. When referring to a vessel, it implies that the vessel is not under control and therefore goes where the wind takes her
Aground - Resting on or touching the ground (usually involuntarily).
All Hands - Entire ship’s company, both officers and enlisted personnel.
Aloft - In the rigging of a sailing ship. Above the ship’s uppermost solid structure; overhead or high above.
Alongside - By the side of a ship or pier.
Anchorage - A suitable place to moor the ship, usually in a port or harbor.
Avast - Stop, cease or desist from whatever is being done.
Aye, Aye - Reply to an order or command to indicate that it, firstly, is heard; and, secondly, is understood and will be carried out.
Baggywrinkle - A soft covering for cables (or any other obstructions) that prevents sail chafing from occurring.
Ballast - A term referring to all the weight on the ship that is weighing it down and bringing it to the ground.
Bareboat - A ship without crew or provisions.
Beaching - Deliberately running aground, usually to make repairs or offload cargo.
Belay - To make fast a line around a fitting, usually a cleat or belaying pin. - To secure a climbing person in a similar manner. - An order to halt a current activity or countermand an order prior to execution.
Broadside - The simultaneous firing of all the guns on one side of a warship.
Capsize - A ship rolling over or flipping.
Captain’s Daughter - A cat o’ nine tails, punishment used only under the captain’s orders.
Cat’s Paws - Soft, gentle, winds.
Chafing - Wear on line or sail caused by constant rubbing against another surface.
Class - A group of ships of the same or similar design or a standard of construction for vessels. A ship meeting the standard is in class, one not meeting them is out of class
Come About - To maneuver the bow of a sailing vessel across the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the vessel to the other.
Commission - To formally place a ship into active military service.
Complement - The number of people in a ship’s crew.
Conn - Directing a ship from a position of command and responsibility. While performing this duty, an officer is said to “have the conn.”
Corsair - A privateer or pirate, or the ship they sail.
Counter-ballast - The gasbag or other lift that acts in opposition to the ballast, crew, and cargo to keep the ship in the air.
Cut and Run - When wanting to make a quick escape, a ship might cut lashings to sails or cables for anchors, causing damage to the rigging, or losing an anchor, but shortening the time needed to make ready by bypassing the proper procedures.
Doldrums - A long period of foul weather or dull winds
Drogue - A device to slow a ship down so that it does not speed excessively. It is generally constructed of heavy flexible material in the shape of a cone.
Flotsam & Jetsam - Debris after a shipwreck, floatwood parts drift through the air, others crash to the ground.
Foul - Having freedom of motion interfered with by collision or entanglement; the opposite of clear. A rope is foul when it does not run straight or smoothly, and an anchor is foul when it is caught on an obstruction.
Grog - Watered-down rum.
Hardtack - A hard and long-lasting dry biscuit, used as food on long journeys.
Heading - The direction the ship is pointing.
Hulk - An abandoned wreck or shell of a ship.
Icing - A serious hazard where cold temperatures and winds result in water vapor freezing against the hull and rigging.
In Irons - When a ship has lost its forward momentum from heading into the wind and can no longer steer.
Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter - Bending over a cannon’s barrel to receive punishment.
Knot - A unit of speed, about 1 mile per hour.
League - A unit of distance equal to about three miles
Leg - A segment of a voyage between two way points.
Lightering - Transferring cargo from one ship to another to lighten the load.
Luffing - Flapping sails, typically from being too loose.
Masthead - A construction on the masthead or the peak of the gasbag where a lookout can be stationed, also known as a “crow’s nest.”
Narrows - A tight passage in a navigable route.
Overbear - Sailing directly downwind from another ship, stealing the wind from its sails.
Points of Sail - The course of a vessel in relation to the direction of the wind, divided into six points: in irons (pointed directly into the wind), close hauled (sailing as close into the direction of the wind as possible), close reach (between close hauled and beam reach), beam reach (perpendicular to the wind), broad reach (wind behind the vessel at an angle), and running downwind or running before the wind (the wind is behind the vessel).
Quay - A stone or concrete structure used for loading and unloading, synonymous with “wharf.”
Ship’s Bell - Striking the ship’s bell is the traditional method of marking time and regulating the crew’s watches. Each bell (from one to eight) represents a 30-minute period since the beginning of a four-hour watch.
Stow - To store or put away gear, cargo, and personal effects.
Stowage - The amount of room available to store materials on board a ship.
Stowaway - A trespasser on a ship.
Swinging the Lamp - Telling stories
Tell-tale - Sometimes “tell tail,” a small piece of string that is hung up to indicate wind speed and direction
Turtling - A condition of capsizing where the ship has rolled all the way over so the keel is pointing straight up and the masts are pointing downwards
Wake - The air turbulence left behind as an airship flies.
Infantry Military actions are made difficult by the distances between skylands, and apart from the ground territories warfare doesn’t typically occur without navies getting involved. Most infantry military forces are positioned as defensive troops, waiting in anticipation to rebuff an attack.
Most of the conflicts between major nations happens in the skies between navies. Sometimes these are skirmishes between only a handful of ships, others are battles between entire armadas. Flotillas blockade and bombard ports, raiders make hit-and-run attacks on cargo and supply ships. And individual ships frequently engage each other in cat-and mouse chases through the skies, each trying to outmaneuver the other to hit them with cannon or get close enough to board.
Larger conflicts involve flying mounts. These mounts are faster and more maneuverable than airships, but cannot travel as far as a ship, in a planned battle ships will carry flying mounts on their decks. In addition, crewmembers keep ranged weapons accessible to shoot down any flying mounts that fly within range (or any aggressive monsters).
Ships in nautical combat work to maneuver around each other to get off a broadside against each other while avoiding the same, or firing off the more mobile cannon. Smaller, nimble, ships dart around the field of combat, harassing the larger ships. Some ships maneuver close to other airships to send out a boarding party.
Onboard the ships, mages act as magical artillery or healers, and stay positioned to cast the mending spell, or shoot out a fireball, or employ fog to obscure the battlefield.
When battles take place on the ground, against enemies like the monstrous warbands, or opposing nations that try to occupy their territory, the navy often flies above the battlefield, firing cannon on the enemies below. Ground combatants prepare for this by either hiding under cover, engaging ships of their own (or monsters) in a dogfight, or preparing ballista or cannon ready to fire up into the air to try and shoot these ships down.
Piracy and Privateering
One of the scourges of the skies, pirates take up arms and strike out against vulnerable targets, plundering ships and villages alike. They use devious tactics, swift vessels and biting cannon to attack their victims, melting away into the clouds when their work is done.
Some pirates hide behind the viney reefs, staying obscured until their lookout spots a ship moving past, the pirates put on all sails and get ready to strike, moving quickly to board their prey. Another tactic is to fly a “false flag,” running up the sail of an allied vessel and then sailing close enough to get alongside of their target. The important thing about the tactics sky pirates employ is that it gives them time to survey their targets and ensure that they are not military vessels that might be prepared for a fight. Sometimes pirate ships act in tandem, one moves to distract any escort ships, while the other captures the true prize.
While so-called “sailor’s islands” are located along trade routes, “pirate islands” are hidden away and difficult to spot and access. These pirate islands are havens for pirates, mercenaries, and criminals. It’s possible to find just about anything in the black markets of a pirate’s island, and it’s where people go to disappear. To prevent raids, may pirate islands only make the charts to locate them available to select individuals, often proven pirates.
Privateers are pirates with letters of marque from a government that essentially grants pirates permission to conduct piracy, so long as it’s against that government’s enemies, and to sell their spoils on that government’s soil without reprisal.