Last time we talked about ways a ship can be used as a dungeon. Let’s expand the topic and talk ship purposes, ship related plots, and ship quirks. Enjoy!
Six Ship Purposes
First, consider why the vessel was commissioned or built. That decision raises a few question to help you add more detail and flavor.
- Entertainment: What features make it viable for that? Does it have an entertainment deck complete with a stage for performers? A swimming pool? A gambling area? A shuffleboard deck? A video lounge?
- War: Is it built for spying on the enemy, for making quick strafing attacks, or is it the fleet’s core, heavily armored with large cannons but slow moving?
- Prison: What is being locked away and why is it so dangerous it can’t be let out?
- Harvester: If it exists to gather needed materials what is it gathering and why? Why is a ship an ideal method of transport?
- Transport: What type of material support is it carrying? Food? Rebuilding teams for aid? Medicine to stop the plague?
- Exploration: What is it exploring and why? Is it trying to get treasure from exotic locales? Discover more of the world, galaxy, or universe for the sake of knowledge?
Twenty Ship Plot Seeds
Ships don’t always have to be waiting at the dock. Put them in dynamic situations.
- The Pretorian, drilling for oil far beneath the ocean floor, has somehow opened up an intra-dimensional rift. Cthulhu-esque creatures are spilling out, attacking the rig and endangering the lives of those aboard. It’s up to the crew to figure out how to close the rift and get back to the business of drilling for oil.
- A working-dog-driven paddleboat, appropriately named the Dog Paddle, is going up and down the river to promote awareness of the abuse of working animals. While dogs power the boat, they are well treated, cared for, and loved as pets.
- The fear-powered spaceship, the Terror, has appeared in the skies over Earth. Its yellow-ringed Sinestro Corps crew are hoping for a glut of power as they frighten earth’s populace. They will then spread that despair throughout the universe.
- The gnomish clockwork steam engine dirigible, the Kelpos, is exploring new areas of the world. The crew is a mix of races with a variety of skills, headed up by Jefan Grazbel, the ship’s main engineer. Unbeknownst to them, the ship’s arrival has upset delicate negotiations between neighboring barbarian tribes of difference races, each thinking the other has summoned outside help in the form of the airship. If the crew doesn’t straighten out the inhabitants, the fragile peace will dissolve into complete war.
- The Kanamits’ energy-powered flying saucer the Servitor sails through the vast emptiness of space. It is an exploration and food gathering vessel come to Earth to harvest…humanity. Will mankind fight back against the aliens who ended many of Earth’s greatest woes and take up their technology? Or will they become another entrée for the Kanamits?
- A space faring race made up of various catlike peoples has landed in an area similar to ancient Egypt to mine cats eye stones to fuel their pyramid-shaped spaceships. To do this they set themselves up as gods and enslave the natives to do their bidding. Unfortunately, after many years of oppression, a slave uprising is in the works.
- The interconnected mass of sailing ships of the People of the Dust on the Silt Sea drift aimlessly, seeking treasure from ships whose crews have died and risen as undead. Their victims are none too happy their ships are ransacked and their rest disturbed by trespassers.
- The Baleck, a D’deridex-class Imperial Romulan Warbird powered by an artificial quantum singularity reactor, is patrolling in the Neutral Zone during a relatively peaceful time when it receives a distress call from the Imperial Klingon Ship the Ch’Tongu. The crew needs to decide whether or not the distress signal is a trap to cause an intergalactic incident or genuine request for aid.
- A mysterious 14th century galley ship is piloted by the original crew, cursed by the sea witch Marian the Soul-Taker never to die. Her crew seeks to find a way to end their curse without spreading their ailment to those who cross their path.
- The nuclear-powered submarine, the Destiny’s Manifest, is exploring the Marianas Trench when its crew discovers a new species of fish. As they go deeper and deeper they are pushing the marine craft past its safety limits.
- Galactus’ cosmic energy-powered Worldship, the Taa II, is approaching earth with The Devourer of Worlds on it. What can our heroes do to dissuade him from sating his hunger using the planet Earth as a snack?
- The dilithium crystal-powered USS Firedrake, NCC-787543, has received word of a medical plague in the Dagnius System which they happen to have ability to replicate the cure for. Unfortunately, to reach the system in time to put their replicators to use they’ll have to violate the Federation’s directive and exceed warp 5.
- A group of space pirates called the Dark Force pillages worlds from their ship the Penumbra, capturing other races to be made into slaves. Their real purpose is much more sinister…to take the life force of their slaves and sell it to the highest bidders for crom, the universal currency.
- China developed an experimental cold fusion ship that can travel at sub-light speeds as a high orbit vehicle, move three times faster on water than any other ship and twice as fast when submerged. It can descend to depths of 100,000 fathoms without pressure damage or decompression problems. It’s also undetectable through radar. American spies have stolen the ship and are attempting to get it into American waters where they’ll be protected and this new technology can be analyzed.
- The sentient wood-powered elven airship the Laurëa Mallorn sails atop the trees of their homeland with feathery extensions that grasp the treetops gently, gliding it forward. Its crew is having an enjoyable day when in the distance the see smoke. They must reach the source before the whole forest burns down, destroying their homeland.
- The long-dead crew of the Viking longship, the Protector, return to life when someone desecrates and robs their burial grounds. They seek out the transgressors and punish them for their audacity.
- The volcano-powered dwarven flying mountain fortress the Incorruptible patrols their lands for trouble and acts as a strategic meeting point for all of the generals of their land-based fortresses. An enemy has gotten aboard and the crew must defend it from being taken over.
- An interstellar traveling city-ship called the Kutox carries the remnants of the Frenis as they flee the evil life form called Droggs, whose eons-long war has driven all but a few of the ancient magical race to extinction.
- The air elemental-powered military airship, the Turbine, overlooks the city-state of Quaymire and carries its ruler. The populace isn’t happy with the dictatorship and is planning ways to bring it down.
- An intergalactic spaceship containing a race of peacekeepers, the Treaty, has come to Earth to try to get man to listen to the cause of peace. Will their efforts fall on deaf ears during times of war?
Thirty Ship Quirks
Make each ship a little different by adding a small quality.
- Alive: it thinks but only has unintelligent (plantlike) or animalistic instincts, and the ship’s crew often serves more as handlers than as pilots.
- Sentient: can think and communicate talk intelligently.
- Healing: the ship can heal itself through means technological, organic, or magical.
- Slow weapons: it takes a long time to charge weapons for firing
- Fragile: the ship is easily damaged.
- Fast: this ship is speedy because of fuel type, special engine, or construction.
- Intermittent: ship only functions when it wants to.
- Old: outdated technology, peeling paint, leaks, prone to breakdowns.
- Constant maintenance: works well when properly maintained, but this takes up much of the crew’s time.
- Unusual controls: untrained pilots will have a difficult (or impossible) time piloting the ship.
- Odd odor: when inside the ship, it has an unusual odor that you can’t quite place.
- Signature presence: the ship is always known by some telltale sign – exhaust, leakage, something that causes others to know it has been there.
- Heavily armored: the ship has more armor than others of the same type.
- Adaptable: the ship is designed to handle the roughest of conditions.
- Slow: the ship slogs along steadily, but makes up for it in passenger, storage, or weapons capacity.
- Cramped quarters: the ship’s other features take priority over crew comfort.
- Weird fuel source: the ship can’t simply go to the corner gas station and get a fill up. You need something special or even dangerous to make it work.
- Standard design: anyone with a schematic of the ship can hack into it and cause it to do things the crew doesn’t want it to do.
- Cloaking: The ship can disguise itself as another type of ship or become invisible.
- Military Carrier: carries military vessels that can launch from it while in transit.
- Drifting: the ship has no real means of propulsion, relying on the environment to move it.
- Juking: the ship is harder to target accurately because it doesn’t stay put.
- Transformer: the ship can change to another form such as a giant robot or an animal, possibly combining with others to create a larger form.
- Experimental: the ship has new, untested technology.
- Unidentified: it has no name or registration.
- Unusual construction: ship is made from non-standard material such as ice, fire, special polymers, or cloth.
- Difficult to fix: if damaged the ship takes many hours of repair or special materials to fix properly.
- Unusual propulsion: the ship is powered by animals, clockwork, solar power, chemical reactions, or energy directly obtained through life forms drive it.
- Magical: there’s magical protection or other attribute built into the ship itself.
- Sturdy: hard to bring down or immobilize due to its multiple backup systems, engines, or weapons, and it might need to be destroyed in combat a section at a time.
Using these ideas can help you to use ships as a dungeon more effectively.
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