The Guardians

A group of ex-adventures who have taken on the task of protecting their home land, a series of floating "islands" (each with individual air envelopes) from pirate attacks, and an ever increasing number of hit and run raids by goblinoid forces.

The core of the Guardians is a group of 5 high level retired adventures, originaly known as the Knights of Valor due to one of the members having successfully collected all the pieces of the artifact the Arm of Valor from Myth Dranor on Toril. More amazing than the fact that the group managed to collect the pices of the arm, was the fact that they managed to keep it for almost 6 months after word got out that they had it. After this period the group decided to move to a location where they were a little less notorious. (Getting invloved in a magical battle over an artifact in the middle of a city tends to make you rather unwelcome in cities from then on.) This lead to them taking up spelljamming, lots of adventure, and eventually retiring to a small group of floating islands.

In my campain these islands are what is left of the Forgotten Realms after a magical disaster of cataclysmic proportions, causing a reduction in population of over 80% in some areasa Most of this lose was people killed as the cities they lived in collapsed around them. The islands float in a torus shapped region around the sun that conforms to the old orbit of Toril. The torus while not having enough air to be classed an air world (there's not enough air to allow breathing), does prevent spelljamming speeds being achived inside it.

The Guardians can easily be placed in any war torn area where some disaster, governmental collapse or even uncontolled colonisation has resulted in isolated groups of groundlings vunerable to attack by pirates and goblinoid forces.

Over the 15 years that the Guardians have been operational, their numbers and resources have expanded to the point that they now field 5 squadrons of Stinger fighters, along with their support ships. Each squadron is made of of 5 flights, with a flight being a leader and wingman pair. Which makes 50 Stingers currently active, with 6 more held as reserve to replace combat losses. Only one of the squadrons is composed completly of Force Helm equiped Stingers, the other squadrons have at least 1 Officer variant assigned to the squadron leader, and as many Ace variants as its members have earned. When a crew earns ace statis, a new ace varient Stinger is commisioned, and their old ship is added to the reserve list. A crew is awarded ace statis when they are responcible for ten kills, or the helsman achieves 10th level. With a kill being rendering a ship helpless without the need for a boarding action, or fire from the support ships. This is rare enough that the extra cost of producing the ace variant does not cause any real problems with the groups finances.

In fact the biggest problem slowing down production of Stingers, is the need to find mages or clerics of sufficient level to pilot them. Of the current Stinger pilots, 32 are clerics, with the majority of them being worshipers of Tempus as they seem to relish the sensation of hurtling through the void, spitting ballista bolts at ships more heavily armed and armoured than them. The use of missile weapons in ship to ship combat is considered by the tempites to be perfectly acceptable, unlike missile combat in ground based combet. The wand used in ace class Stingers piloted by clerics are special version attuned to that particluar cleric, allowing them to use it as if they where a mage.

Of the 5 squadrons, 1 is always stationed at the Guradians home base, along with 2 battle ready squid ships. 2 sqaudrons are broken up into flights, and sent on patrols of the surounding area. Each of the patroling Stingers has a magical communication device allowing them to sound an alarm, this alarm gives the duty mage at the Guardian's base enough information to locate them using one of the two crystal balls (with comunication ability) permanently installed at the duty station. The remaining 2 squadrons are on reserve unless a special mission is taking place. The five squadrons are rotated between each job on a weekly basis, on the following schedule, 1 week patroling, 1 week on base guard duty, another week of patroling, and then two weeks on reserve. The reserve time is taken up with equipment maintenance, the occasional special mission, and leave time, at least one of the 2 squadrons will be on the base at all times.

Other ships in the Guardians forces include:

  • A squid ship used as a postal ship, landing at each inhabited islands within the Guardian's sphere of influence an overage once a week. The ship carries mail, supplies, and passengers between the islands, helping to reduce the isolation felt by the populus. This ship is powered by a major tacticle helm,and carries a complement of 10 marines to repel attacks. One of the patrol flights acts as an escort. The helmsmen of the squid and singers are always at least 8th level, and usualy higher.

  • 3 Hammer ships used as support ships for the Stingers when responding to major threats. All three have been modified for combat by adding 2 medium ballistas in protected turrets amidship. These ships carry squads of soldiers to act as boarding parties.

  • 1 Stinger Carrier (capacity 20 stingers). The plans for which will be available later. A second carrier is under construction in the construction yard/dry dock at the Guardians base, and at the current rate will take another 4 months to complete. (1 month if the construction crew was brought up tp full strength.)

  • Various other ships that for one reason or another were not sold off, most of which rest in a ship junkyard to be used for spare parts, including 3 Scorpion ships, one of which has been restored by scavenging from the other two. The Scorpion was restored secretly to allow it to be used as an infiltration vessel if needed.

The Guardians support structure includes a groundling dwarven clan who had their ore shipments raided by by pirates and gobiloid forces one to many times. The dwarves ships use non-magic engines, and are used to transport ores mined from rock islands, back to their home island for processing. In return for selling refined metals to the Guardians at a discount rate, the guardians provide them with Stinger escorts for their shipping, and regular patrols over the islands in the region where the dwarves are active.

A number of the local comunities on small islands provid support to the Guardians in the form of food supplies. Larger communities on some of the bigger land masses provided support in terms of groups of hichly trained soldiers which when used in boarding actions entitle the comunity from which they came, first option to buy the captured ship at well below maket value (assuming it is not wanted by the Guardians to replace a destroyed ship). This practice has lead to a number of the larger communities having one or two spelljamming vessels of their own. Though the Guardians make sure that the leaders of these communities know that any use of these ships against other communities will invoke the displeasure of the Guardians. At this stage, that seems to be more than enough to keep them in line, with the ships being dedicated to defence of the city/island. Having some of the communities being able to defend themselves to a limited degree, and the gradual increase in their ships numbers has allowed the Guardians expand the area in which they operate to emcompas 15 inhabited islands within a 140 mile radius of their home base. This number only includes islands where civilian populations exist, not military outposts, mining operations, or the numerous islands which have been stocked with game species to produce extra food.

The Guradians on occasion will provide escort vessels for short periods of time, if the money offered is high enough (25,000gp for even a minimal escort), and the people and ships being escorted meet the Guradians standards. (Good alignment, mission will be benificial to the local communities, etc.)

Stinger

Tonnage: 3 volumetric tons
Hull Points: 5 (From heavy armour and good design)
Crew: 1/3
Manouver Class: A
Landing: Land Only
Armour Rating: 2 (0 if taking evasive manouvers)
Saves As: Hard Metal (+1)
Power Type: Fighter Helm or Force Helm
Ships Rating: As Helsman / Special
Standard Armaments:
2 Fixed Ballistae (Forward Facing); Crew: 1 each
1 Modular Weapon (Rear Facing); Crew: special
2 Weapon Mounts on the belly.
Cargo: 0 (personal items only)
Keel Length: 20'
Beam Length: 20' (30' with fins)
Height: 5' (9' with fins)

The Stinger is the main combat spelljammer of a group of ex-adventures who call themselves the Guardians, that have taken on the task of protecting their home land (a series of floating "islands" in an air world) from pirate attacks, and an ever increasing number of hit and run raids by goblinoid forces.

The Stinger was designed to allow the groups limited amount of man power to cover a wider area of the planet. And as the primary function of the Stinger is to act as a planetary defence fighter, it was designed to operate as well in the soup, and in space. Shortly after the Guardians began active operations, a large influx of volunteers occured, along with donations of money, and even some magic items. This has lead to the group expanding to such an extent that the Guardians are now classed as a small navy.

Physicaly the Stinger appears similar to a discuss fitted with two triangular tail fins protuding from the top surface at the rear of the craft, and two traiagluar wings projecting from the outside edges of the disc. Both the tail fins and the wings are made of the same high quality steel alloy as the hull of the Stinger, and have sharpend leading edges to allow shearing attacks. The only other external features are a glassee'd viewport at the front of the vessel, on either side of which are the exit ports for the ballistas; an entry hatch at the center of the upper hull; and a pair of doors on the trailing edge of the disc, which when opened reveal the rear weapon bay.

The increase in the Stingers number of hull points from 3 to 5 is due to the high quality material used in it construction, and the fact that the carfts armour is not plates of metal layed over a wooden or metal frame, but is in fact one solid piece of metal ranging from 2 to 6 inches thick. The wings and indeed all other permanent features have been magicly bonded to the hull. Evasive maneuvers are when the helmsman is activly attempting to avoid enemy fire by continuously making slight changes to the crafts trajectory and speed. This makes no overall change to the crafts movement for the round, but precludes any other actions by the crew except holding on, even with the restraint system in the helms. (described below).

The Stinger comes in three different varieties, standard as listed above, which is limited to tactical speeds, the second variation being an officer's, or ace's fighter which has an IMS unit (Intergrated Magic System, described below), and a helm capable of spelljamming speeds. The third variant has two IMS units and has had its hull enchanted to +4 equivelent, giving it a -2 AR, and 4 extra hull points. Only two of the third varient are known to exist at this time, due to the massive increase in cost, triple that of the standard Stinger.

Stingers are not available on the open market. The Guardians feelings about others having Stingers are pretty much the same as the elven attitude about non-elves having armada's. To ensure that a crippled Stinger can't be captured, a self destruct has been built into the force helms that will vaporise anything inside the Stinger 5 rounds after its activation.

As an added precaution all members of the Guardians have their knowledge of the workings of the force helms and weapon systems protected by magical mind blocks that will only allow discussion of such matters with others also under the effect of the block. These mind blocks also allow the Guardians members to reconise each other on sight, making insertion of spies into their openeration almost impossible. Successful attempts to remove the mind block, will also remove the guarded knowledge.

The cost to produce the basic Stinger is around 17,000gp, including materials and workmanship, sale price if they where available would be at least 25,000gp.

The Force Helm

Force helms come in two variaties, a tactical speed only version, commonly called a Fighter Helm, to distinguish it from the other version that is capable of spelljamming speed, which is just refered to as a Force Helm. Appart from this difference, both versions have the same functionality.

Force helms can only be used by helmsmen that have been attuned to them. The spells nessasary to do this are a closely guarded secret. The use of a force helm is not automatic uppon touching it, the helmsman must will the helm to activate. A non attunded mage or priest attempting to utilise a force helm will recieve a shock (1d6) a second attempt by a non attuned spell caster within 10 rounds will activate the self destruct mechanism. If the spell caster makes a succesful wisdom check they will gain an intense desire to get out of the Stinger in a hurry. Any attempt to remove a force helm without an attuned mage or priest to disarm the helm, will also activate the self destruct mechaism.

The physical appearence of the helm is 3 linked couches on which the helsman (primary helm) and two optional weapons crew (secondary helms) lie face down on. The couches are shaped such that such that the people lying on them are positioned as if they where lying on a flat surface, supporting their upper body off the ground on their forarms. ie the couch narrows at the shoulders to the width of the torso, allowing the arms to hang down, resting on a lower surface, and ends shortly after in a U shaped section on which the person's collor bones rest. This allows the helmsman to easily reach the weapon release controls, and the two weapon crew to acces the mechanism to reload the ballistas. Once the users of the helms are lying down, an upper section of the helm lowers down, rendering the body below the waist imobile, and reducing movement of the upper body to that needed to opperate the controls. This prevents the crew from being thrown about when performing combat maneuvers within the atmosphere of a planet. The temperature inside these coccoon like helms is maintained at a level the user finds comfortable. As long as the users don't attempt to wear armour while using the helms, they are so comfortable that the only thing stopping these craft from performing extended patrols, is the need for food beyond the small amount provided in overhead lockers, and the need to dispose of bodily wastes. The interior cushoning of the helms needs to be custom fitted individualy.

The magic of the force helms is a combination of standard helm technology, the illithid series helm and the lifejammer helm.

If both of the secondary helms are manned, the helmsman can activate the the secondary helms. If either of the users of the secondary helms resists the activation, the activation fails.

When activated the helms drain 1d4 hit points per round, and uses this energy to increase the SR of the craft. Each secondary helm raises the SR by 10% per level, to a maximum of 50%. So if two 5th level fighters where in the secondary helms, the SR of the carft would be doubled!

The force helm will not drain a persion below 0 HP, and does not require a saving throw verses death. The HP drained by the force helm heal naturaly at the normal rate, but can't be regained by magic of lower than a heal or limited wish, (though a regen ring will work as normal).

Use of the secondary helms does not effect a mages spell casting ability, except that when activated the mage can't cast due to the damage being taken.

It is not uncommon for a Stinger with a high level helmsman, and two high level fighters in the secondary helms to make attack runs, at an SR of 10 or higher! Though the use for which the system was designed was to allow escape in a hurry from an enemy to tough to handle.

The other additional ability of the force helm is that it allows the users of the secondary helms the same visual conection with the ship as the helmsman. Utilitising this fact allows three sets of eyes to watch for danger, usually distribulted so that the helmsman watchs a 60 degree arc of space centered on the front of the ship, while the other two take a 60 degree arc of space on their respective sides. This makes an opperational Stinger almost impossible to supprise.

The maximum ship size moveable by the helm under normal conditions is 5 tons. Though up to an additional 5 tons can be towed, but the SR of the craft will be a maximum of 1, and it will be unable to attain spelljamming speeds. Appart from the weight limit, and for the fighter helm variant the lack of spelljamming speed, all other factors such as SR progression are that of a major helm.

Production of the force helms requires at least 1 mage to cast the helm creation magic, and four priests combining there effeorts to create the underlying enchantment, and provided the environmental control of the helms.

Material and construction costs for the two helms are in the region of 30,000gp for the Fighter Helm, and 50,000gp for the force helm. Again the helms are not available for sale, but would exceed 120,000gp and 200,000gp respectivly.

The Fixed Balistae

The two ballistas are relitivly standard light ballista that have been designed to fit into the cramped conditions of the Stinger, and have been automated to the extent that reloading is a simple matter of turning a crank and shoving a new bolt in. The bolts for these weapons are smaller than normal, but are made of dwarven steel so they still do the same amout of damage as a normal light ballista bolt. Additionaly these bolts are capable of doing hull damage if the damge rolls yeild 10 or more HP.

The THAC0 of these ballistas is that of the helmsman, who gains the standard fixed weapon bonus of +2 against targets directly in front of the Stinger. Once the helmsman has achieved crack status, he is considered to be a weapon specialist in the use of the ballistas and thus gains a +1 to hit.

On occastion when going up against a vastly superior foe (if known in advance) officers and aces are provided with one or two enchanted ballista bolts that provide +2 to hit, and carry a spell effect that "goes off" when the bolt hits. Standard spells used on these bolts include fireball, disintergrate, web, cloudkill, and ice storm. The type used depends on the goals of the mission.

These weapons cost 500gp to produce, which is 100gp more than a normal light ballista`s sale price. The bolts used are custom designed and cost 1gp each.

The Modular Wepons System (MWS)

The modular weapon system is a set of weapons designed to fit into a special bay (5' long, 5' wide and 3' high), behind the heavely reinforced door in the rear of the Stinger.

All the weapon packs for the MWS consist of single shot weapons, once they are fired they can't be reloaded until the Stinger has landed at a resupply base. Some such as the jetisons need specilised machinery to reloaded the weapon pack, and as such reloading in the feild, is actually a replacement of the weapon pack. The greek fire and smoke powder weapons are considered to dangerous to carry more than a single load for those to be so equiped, as such no reload is possible unless at a land base. Reloading or replacing a weapon pack is a complex task and takes a team of 4 skilled technicians 5-10 rounds.

All the weapon packs have safety devices which prevent the weapon fireing unless the bay doors are open. In fact the fireing controls themselves can't be accessed until the bay is opened. This causes an inititive penalty of 1 when fireing these weapons. For the greek fire and smoke powder weapons additional safety devices must be disengaged resulting in an initative penalty of 2 for these weapons.

Existing weapon packs include:

- Twin single shot light jetisons. (Most common)

This weapon pack is basicly two spring loaded tubes which when used fire their contents out the back of the ship as per a light jettison. As noted above this weapon can not be reloaded while the craft is in space.

Production cost of this weapon pack is 400gp, and uses the standard jetison shot.

One of the favoured tactics for the jetisons is to attack in a similar style to a Stuka (sp?) dive bomber. ie fly at the expossed deck of the enemy to within 3 hexes, spin 180 degress without changing the direction or speed of travel, and then fire one or both jetisons. This imparts the ships momentum to the jetison shot. In the following round the course of the craft is diverted to one side to miss the enemy ship.

This tacktic tends to be successful only if the helmsman of the enemy ship has not seen the move before, or is otherwise prevented from rotating his ship to interpose the hull. You also should make sure that the enemy ship it not capable of turning quickly enough to ram you.

- Greek Fire Bomb. (Uncommon)

Using a reduced power version of the jetison outlined above as a launch medium to project the bomb beyond the gravity feild of the launch craft. The bomb is a caramic casing filled with greek fire, and contains triggering devices similar to the anti-shipping mines used during WWII. ie its covered in spines that when they impact create a spark which lights the greek fire, just as it is being splashed over everything in a 5 foot radius, doing the same dammage as a greek fire projector (3d10 HP save for half, 1d3 hull points + fire). Each bomb contains half a greek fire projector charge. If the craft recieves a Large Weapon Damaged critical to the MWS, while a bomb is in the bay, the is triggered, and the craft takes 1 point of hull damage

Production cost for the weapon pack is 600gp; each greek fire bomb costs 150gp.

- Smoke Powder Bomb. (Very Uncommon)

Using a reduced power version of the jetison outlined above as a launch medium to project the bomb beyond the gravity feild of the launch craft. The bomb is a cast-iron casing (fragments really well) filled with smoke powder, and contains the same triggering devices as the greek fire bomb. The bomb contains 10 charges of smoke powder (a bombard charge, 3000gp), and as such will do 10d2 hit points of damage to those within a 5' radius from the explosion and shrapnel. If the bomb is used on a ship, it will take 1 hull point of damage per 10 hit points damage caused (1-2), and wll automaticly recieve a fire critical hit.

As per the bombard rule, any critical hit while a smoke power bomb is on board has a 10% chance of ignighting the smoke powder. A Large Weapon Damaged Critical on the rear wepaon bay will automatically cause the bomb to explode. The weapon pack has been designed to channel the damage of an exploding bomb outwards through the bay doors, and thus protecting the crew from harm, but the ship will still take damage from the blast.

Production cost for the weapon pack is 600gp; each smoke powder bomb costs 3200gp.

- Additional storage/waste disposal equipment.

This pack is not a weapon, it contains food and water supplies, and a means of disposing of bodily wastes for extended missions. The pack holds enough supplies for 3 weeks.

Production of this pack costs, 100gp, cost of the food and water will depend of local conditions.

The Integrated Magic System (IMS)

A IMS unit allows a wand or rod with a distance effect to be used from within the safety of the craft.

The IMS unit consists of a small rod at the end of which is mounted a metal ball, the other end of the rod isatached to the outer hull, just below the view port. If a single unit is instaled it is placed centraly, if two are installed they are placed one foot on either side of the center line. Internally each unit has a pair of clamps into which the wand or rod is placed. The helmsman can utilise any distance effects of the item as normal, with the effect being projected from the section of the IMS unit mounted on the hull.

Replacing one wand or rod with another takes 2 rounds, during which the helmsman can't change either speed or direction.

The most common wand used is a wand of magic missiles (at 9th level) which is used to attack the weapon crews. The magic missile wand is provided, and recharged as part of the standard equipment of an IMS equiped ship. Though heavy use of the wands is discouraged as the cost of recharging items is high.

The IMS will most often be used against ballistas and turret mounted catapults as these present the most threat to the Stingers.

Any other wands or rods that are used are the personal property of the helmsman, the most common being wands of fire, lightning, and disintergration.

The material cost of an IMS unit is 5,000gp.

The Belly Weapon Mounts

The hard points on the belly of the Stinger are designed to allow for special purpose equipment to be mounted on the craft for specific missions. Any equipment mounted on the hard points will increase the tonnage of the craft by one, and the first hit to the bottom of the craft doing hull damage will destroy the mounted equipment. Some equipment will decease the MC of the craft to B, which will often cause a scroll with 2 Increase Manouverability spells on it, to be included in the crafts equipment if combat is expected.

- Landing Struts.

For when the craft needs to land on uneaven surfaces. The extreme weight of the Stinger means that these struts have to be very stong, with large pads at the end, which causes a drop in MC to B while in a planet of other ships atmosphere. A magical version of the landing struts has been desinged that allows the struts to fold flat against the hull when not in use, eliminating the MC loss.

- Cargo Pods.

Capable of holding 1 ton of cargo. Incurs the loss of MC.

- Search and rescue equipment.

Consists of a frame that extends around the front of the Stinger, and coveres the leading edges of the wings and fins, creating hand holds that crew members of destroyed ships can hold onto. Often an extra crew member with clerical abilities is taken on when the equipment is installed so that injured people can be treated, and still leave both of the weapon crew at there stations in case utilitisation of the lifeforce drain is needed for a quick get away.

- Advanced Weapon Systems.

A number of advanced weapon designes have been made to mount automated heavy weapons, but have not been implemented as the high cost of these systems, and loss of MC is considered to to high a price for the added firepower.

Deckplans

Stinger Deckplans