With the use of the airships story seed the story will focus on lighter than air craft as an important element. In this story, airships ply the skies like seagoing ships fill the seas.

An airship is a lighter than air gas filled, ridged framed vehicle that uses rudders, propellers and other kinds of propulsion to move. In a more fanciful setting, airships may use some kind of lift material such as an exotic mineral or gas more efficient than natural materials. Traditionally the lift mechanism is unpowered and simply offsets the weight of the other materials used in the vehicle.

In history, airships enjoyed popularity from the year 1900 through the first world war. Helium was rare so most airships outside of America used flammable hydrogen as their lift gas. In the story world the GM may decide that helium as a lift gas is more common than it was historically. However it was not until the invention of incendiary bullets that hydrogen gas was considered a major liability. The greatest danger to airships was the collapse of their airframe from flight stress.

One of the common misconceptions about an airship is that if there was a single puncture in it’s gas envelope, it would crash like a burst balloon. This is not true for two reasons. The first is that the pressure in the envelopes is so low and the volume of gas so great that even when punctured they leak very slowly. A punctured airship will eventually have to land but not for many hours. Second, airships carried their gas in multiple bags so that if one was punctured the others could remain intact. Even with the catastrophic failure of a bag, decent would not be a free fall.

Another common misconception is that airships are slow. This belief may come from existing videos of airships mooring or possibly the lack of motion in existing commercial blimps that are used for advertisement and stationary camera platforms. The Hindenburg was capable of traveling at 135 km/h (85 mph). In comparison, WWI biplanes flew at between 160 km/h (100 mph) and 210 km/h (130 mph).

In most steampunk settings, airships carry a larger payload than they did in real life in relation to the size of their gas envelope. This is a style issue that the GM and the players can discuss but normally unless the players wanted a very realistic game the exact appearance does not have to follow real life airships. Depending on the desired situation, airships abilities may not even follow what would normally be considered common sense. For example, players may want a world where there are ironclad airships. This may be especially true if the players also pick the story seed “Antigravity Mineral”.

Example Airships


The examples here are for fairly realistic airships. The SP given for each airship is based on NPC stats. If a PC is a crew member or a passenger, add in their SP to the vehicle’s Story

Personal Craft
Crew 4 to 6
Cargo 8,000 kg or 5-7 passengers
Story 4-13 (dependent on passengers)
Gun Multiplier 0 (not usually armed)
Methods
Flight – Agility +3
Maneuverable – Agility +3

Length: 75 m (246 ft)
Diameter: 25 m (82 ft)

Small Freight Carrier
Crew 12 to 18
Cargo 24,000 kg or 15-20 passengers
Story 12-60 (dependent on passengers)
Gun Multiplier 0 (not usually armed)
Methods
Flight – Agility +3

Length: 150 m (492 ft 1 in)
Diameter: 30 m (98 ft 5 in)

Large Freight Carrier
Crew 40 to 60
Cargo 80,000 kg or 50-70 passengers
Story 40-130 (dependent on passengers)
Gun Multiplier 2
Methods
Flight – Agility +1

Length: 240 m (787 ft 4 in)
Diameter: 40 m (131 ft 2 in)

Air Destroyer
Crew 30
Story 30
Gun Multiplier 10
Methods
Flight – Agility +3

Length: 150 m (492 ft 1 in)
Diameter: 30 m (98 ft 5 in)

Air Battleship
Crew 90
Story 90
Gun Multiplier 30 for cannon, 50 for bombs
Methods
Flight – Agility +1

Length: 240 m (787 ft 4 in)
Diameter: 40 m (131 ft 2 in)

Air Carrier
Crew 90
Story 90
Gun Multiplier 7
Methods
Flight – Agility +1

Length: 240 m (787 ft 4 in)
Diameter: 40 m (131 ft 2 in)

Carries up to five Biplanes
Crew 2
Story 2 (4 for ace NPCs)
Gun Multiplier 1 for machine gun 3 for bombs
Methods
Flight – Agility +5

Spider Silk Airships


Steampunkfitters is not limited to only realistic or historical settings. One more possibility for armoring an aircraft is to make the gas envelopes out of a very strong fabric. While materials like Kevlar would seem inauthentic in a steampunk setting, suspension of disbelief might be maintained if some scientist had found a way to milk spiders for their silk. This could be used to make a fabric potentially bullet proof and also resistant to cannon fire. Curtains of the material could be hung from the ship as protection. This would give the vehicle a trick similar to the Iron Hide trick or possibly a SP multiplier.

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