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Pathfinder 1E How would you defend an airship?

Lord Pendragon

First Post
Our party has recently refurbished an airship, and I'm concerned that--given that we have rich and powerful organizations among our enemies--it's only a matter of time before we encounter enemy airships and have to deal with them.

I know there won't be much in the way of actual airship defenses in the core rules, what I'm looking for are spells or ideas that could be adapted, perhaps with spell research, rituals or the like, to work in an airship's defense.

Currently these are the ideas that I've come up with or gotten from others so far:

Hallow on the airship, with Protection from Energy as the rider. Would need to clarify how a permanent Protection from Energy might function.

Getting Ironwood cast on the outer hull of the ship, making it fire-resistant, and also much tougher versus cannonfire.

Contingent spells such as strategically placed Symbols of Sealing. These would be cost prohibitive unless they could be made permanent, perhaps with uses per day.

All ideas welcome.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Depends on the design of the airship. If you're talking the "dirigible with a ship-like gondola hanging from it", the best defense is to not get in the darned thing!

Look, you're being held aloft by a big balloon. That balloon gets punctured, you're goin' down. If the game has magics such that you can make silk cloth put up with, oh, the equivalent of chain shot from a cannon (or ballista bolt, or whatever)... well, then in your game world nobody should ever be harmed by any weapon, and you have some 'splainin to do to justify it all.
 

Lord Pendragon

First Post
Actually our airship is held aloft by magic and steered by propellers. Apparently most airships in Eberron (our game is an Eberron/homebrew hybrid) are powered by bound elementals, though ours won't be since my magus objected to using an enslaved sentient being as a living engine.

Still, basically a wooden boat that flies by magic, with propellers. :p
 

ob250

First Post
I feel like having a lot of repair spells on it could help, maybe somehow put entropic shield on it? have it have an advanced form of obscuring mist to hid it. a speed boost to run away, a teleport? an aura of dispel magic or spell resistance, control weather or repulsion. quench, wind wall, repel wood, repel stone and metal. I mean so many ways u can do it if u think about it
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Our party has recently refurbished an airship, and I'm concerned that--given that we have rich and powerful organizations among our enemies--it's only a matter of time before we encounter enemy airships and have to deal with them.

Part of the Dan Simmons short story The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz in the Songs of the Dying Earth anthology takes place on an airship. The methods of defense aren't too surprising [sblock]a giant balista and a high level mage iirc[/sblock] but it was a great read that might be inspirational in a world with lots of airships.
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
I would stock at least one willing Warforged Artificer since they never need to sleep or eat... plus they could be fun to talk to while you're bored, or can fix the ship while everyone sleeps.

Lightning or Acid Cannon. I don't know the game stats of such, but elemental (damage) cannons seem awesome.

You may want to crib vehicle enhancements from d20 modern's Urban Arcana ruleset for some ideas.
 

Lord Pendragon

First Post
I would stock at least one willing Warforged Artificer since they never need to sleep or eat... plus they could be fun to talk to while you're bored, or can fix the ship while everyone sleeps.

Our group has two engineers, me (magus) and the artificer, who has a sentient toolbox. It may be that the artificer's toolbox could fill the role of sleepless tinkerer, I don't know if it gets access to the artificer's skills.

Even so...I love your idea. Our group is likely going to have a lot of followers/minions as time goes on, so this is something I now definitely plan to look into. Said warforged could also be very effective as damage control in the midst of ship-to-ship combat.

Lightning or Acid Cannon. I don't know the game stats of such, but elemental (damage) cannons seem awesome.

Yeah, it'll be a way for our airship to stand out from every other airship. The lightning net/cannon idea is particularly fitting since we recently rechristened the ship, naming her The Storm Petrel. :)

You may want to crib vehicle enhancements from d20 modern's Urban Arcana ruleset for some ideas.
I don't have those rules, but one of my friends may. I'll see if I can check it out!
 

Dioltach

Legend
I once created an Ogre Mage society (on Atlantis) that made extensive use of airships. They were fitted with cannon that could be set to fire Fireball, Web or Silence. Some form of Dispel Magic would also be useful, I reckon.
 

N'raac

First Post
Triggered Elemental summons could help. Air elementals would be great aerial defenders and water elementals make fine firefighters.
 


Derren

Hero
Protecting an airship is tricky. At first you should define what is the biggest threat you want to defend against as not every strategy defends against every enemy.

Against boarders and smaller flying monsters a closed airship instead of one with an open deck would fare well. Just don't forget several hatches to get people out when needed and observation cupolas both on the top and bottom of the ship. The downside of such a setup is that it will limit your weapon arcs extremely.
The propellers are an obvious weak spot and sadly you can't put much armor on them. Increase their hardness through magic as good as you can.

Against other airships such a closed design is a bit of a hindrance as it limits the weapons you can bring to bear unless you are positioned very well. Especially your upper weapon arcs suffer compared to an open deck. Running away (or ramming) also does not seem to be an option as bound elementals are likely much faster than your propeller design, especially when you put a lot of armor on it. Thats why I would also forgo an iron hull.

Misdirection is probably the best solution with invisibility and fog spells.
 

Lord Pendragon

First Post
Protecting an airship is tricky. At first you should define what is the biggest threat you want to defend against as not every strategy defends against every enemy.

I'd say our biggest threat is enemy airship artillery, both mundane (cannons) and magical (enemy spellcasters). We need to be able to withstand bombardment as we close to engage, or while exchanging fire if the enemy airship chooses to try and maintain distance or run.

Against boarders and smaller flying monsters a closed airship instead of one with an open deck would fare well. Just don't forget several hatches to get people out when needed and observation cupolas both on the top and bottom of the ship. The downside of such a setup is that it will limit your weapon arcs extremely.

I think we are fairly solid versus boarders. We have some strong melee combatants, so repulsing enemy boarders would be one of our strengths, along with boarding the enemy airship in turn.

The propellers are an obvious weak spot and sadly you can't put much armor on them. Increase their hardness through magic as good as you can.
This is a good point, I'll have to start looking into how we can protect them.

Running away (or ramming) also does not seem to be an option as bound elementals are likely much faster than your propeller design,

This is not necessarily a given. Our airship will not fly solely via propellers. In fact it was originally built to house a bound elemental as is standard in Eberron. However, we've been looking into alternatives to the bound-elemental design and recently heard of an engineer working on a similar project in Sharn. We ended our last session headed in that direction.

Once we meet with said engineer it's our hope that between him, myself, and the alchemist, we can perfect the design and build a prototype for our airship. I think it's entirely likely that the new engine will still be highly magical, perhaps running on dragonshards or some combination of shards and captured lightning.

That said, we won't know how it stacks up against traditional airships in regards to speed, etc. until we have the prototype fully operational.

Misdirection is probably the best solution with invisibility and fog spells.

We are definitely going to pursue this line of defense as well, but since I doubt we'll be able to avoid combat every time, I don't want to depend on it entirely. We've already taken the first step in that direction. When we started repairing the airship, we made a conscious decision to try and maintain its rundown, beat-up appearance, while repairing and upgrading the interior to the best of our ability. So while it's fully functional and seaworthy, the ship looks rather dilapidated upon first glance.

I definitely want to pursue the cloaking device/invisibility as another attempt to avoid conflict.

Beyond that though, a solid offense/defense is still a good idea I think. :)
 

Lord Pendragon

First Post
Hrm. Considering that we have two maxed out engineers, I wonder if it'd be possible to rebuild the propellers so that they can be folded in against the hull during combat. That could make them easier to protect...
 

Derren

Hero
Hrm. Considering that we have two maxed out engineers, I wonder if it'd be possible to rebuild the propellers so that they can be folded in against the hull during combat. That could make them easier to protect...

But will also make you a sitting duck. Without speed and maneuverability you already lost the combat as ship to ship engagements are always about better positioning. Unless you find a good way to retain speed and maneuverability without the propellers a monitor design, a big, long range weapon on a turret might be preferable to the normal short range weapons or airships.
Wind Wall might block some smaller attacks but most weapons used by airships would likely fall into the siege weapon category not affected by WW. At high levels you can use Wall of Force to block attacks.
Problem is, so can the enemy, making a monitor design rather useless at range (except for very big guns) when the WoF is anchored to the ship (Skull&Shackles apparently has rules for that). Ballista Bolts of Disintegration seems like a good investment for offense.

Even as a monitor, you still need some close range weapons. Defense against enemies above you it a problem as most mundane weapons of non modern technology level do not have enough force behind them to travel very far upwards, while bombs fall down rather easily.

If you find a way to maintain good speeds despite heavy mass, a iron outer hull is the way to go. That should block most mundane weapons. Using Ironwood instead would be preferable, but you probably need to add individual armor pieces onto a normal hull as turning the entire ship into ironwood would require an insanely high caster level. And dont forget the Hardening spell if you can afford it.

Btw, about what size of a ship are we talking?
 
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Storminator

First Post
Get some way to quickly cross the distance to the enemy ship - far faster than flying there. Your best defense against enemy airships is to send PCs onto their decks. Perhaps develop a method of quickly freeing the enemy ship's bound elemental. Then you can both knock them out of the sky and further your ethos of freeing the elemental slaves.

PS
 

LostSoul

Adventurer
Get some way to quickly cross the distance to the enemy ship - far faster than flying there. Your best defense against enemy airships is to send PCs onto their decks. Perhaps develop a method of quickly freeing the enemy ship's bound elemental. Then you can both knock them out of the sky and further your ethos of freeing the elemental slaves.

Dimension Door has a long range. You could even make a "transporter" on your ship: it's expensive and only one-way, but if you can take them out and fly back you're good.

I think the most important things to protect yourself from are scrying and teleportation. That means Private Sanctum/Screen/False Vision and Dimensional Lock. Mind Blank would be nice, otherwise your enemies will always know (via Divination and Commune) where you are and where you are going to be, but very expensive.

Oh yeah, and Spell Immunity to Disintegrate. Otherwise your ship will have big holes in it in short order.
 

Lord Pendragon

First Post
But will also make you a sitting duck. Without speed and maneuverability you already lost the combat as ship to ship engagements are always about better positioning.

Good point. A lot is going to depend on how well our prototype engine performs methinks. I should know more about that when we get to Sharn and I get a chance to talk with the engineer.

Unless you find a good way to retain speed and maneuverability without the propellers a monitor design, a big, long range weapon on a turret might be preferable to the normal short range weapons or airships.

That may please the alchemist. He was talking about a giant "main gun" last session. :p

At high levels you can use Wall of Force to block attacks.

I am definitely thinking of Wall of Force possibly via a modified Symbol of Sealing spell scribed on the outer hull of the ship. I like the idea of having several runes flare into life on either side of the ship as it enters into combat.

Problem is, so can the enemy, making a monitor design rather useless at range (except for very big guns) when the WoF is anchored to the ship (Skull&Shackles apparently has rules for that). Ballista Bolts of Disintegration seems like a good investment for offense.
Indeed. We also have both a monk and magus in the party, so by mid levels we should be able to Dimension Door to an enemy ship through Walls of Force to wreak havoc. Then again, they could very well have similar individuals. Of course, it just wouldn't be fun if nobody was mixing it up in hand-to-hand. :D

Even as a monitor, you still need some close range weapons. Defense against enemies above you it a problem as most mundane weapons of non modern technology level do not have enough force behind them to travel very far upwards, while bombs fall down rather easily.

*nod* On the plus side, seeing as we have an alchemist, we could also use the bomb strategy ourselves potentially.

Btw, about what size of a ship are we talking?

I've been told our ship is on the small side, as far as airships in the world go. I'd have to measure it next session for an exact size.
 


RUMBLETiGER

Adventurer
The best defense is a good offense.
Weapons, many, many weapons.
See that everybody carries a Bag of Boulders.
Train Rust Monster Mounts and teach them to operate under Fly or Overland Flight. At-will Disintegrate against anything metal is spiffy.
See that your crew knows how to make the most of Dimension Door for group raiding parties.
...and then there are tons of offensive spells.

You don't need to use these weapons, simply be trained to know how, and let others know you're capable if provoked.
 

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