Nightcrawlers of Wildspace: Orc Scorpionships

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Scorpionship by Deryn Naythas. Copyright (c) 2014. Used by permission.

~ From “Goblin Gear” by Adam “Night Druid” Miller

Though hardly the first of the so-called goblin-kin races to enter wildspace, orcs quickly became one of the most influential.  Larger and stronger than goblins and nearly as numerous, the orcs aggressively expanded their sphere of influence.  Before the Unhuman Wars, the orc scorpionship was an all-too common menace.  The elves destroyed nearly half of the orc fleets, and drove the remaining ships from the Known Spheres.

Orcs traveled in small fleets known as wolf packs, although a lone ship was not unheard of.  A wolf pack ranged from two to twelve ships and quite often was lead by the largest and craftiest orc in the fleet.  Loyalty came through fear and intimidation.  Orcs were notorious for going rogue due to infighting.

Scorpionships

Compact and lethal, the orc scorpionship is a dreaded warship from an earlier time.  Typically only eighty feet from the tip of the jaws to the base of the tail, a scorpionship is deceptively small.  It can withstand a great deal of damage and retaliate with two ship weapons and a pair of ram claws.  Aboard is a crew of the toughest orcs that can be found, readied for battle.  Backed up by shaman and witch doctors, the orcs sought out wealth and glory.

The first scorpionships began in the sweeping badlands of some forgotten world where colossal scorpions dwelled.  The orcs discovered that the iron-hard exoskeletons of dead scorpions could be fitted with decking, and used the husks to build their distinctive spelljammers.  As the orcs refined their shipbuilding craft, they learned to build new scorpionships without need of a dead scorpion’s husk.

A scorpionship is built from a hull of iron-sheen chitin husk or a frame of thick wood.  Decks of duskwood, ironwood, or oak divide the top, main, and cargo decks.  The workmanship is shoddy and the ship is often in ill repair; orcs care little for the condition of their ship.  Many patches identify a veteran ship.  Rust, rot, and shoddy repairs plague many ships; more than one scorpionship collapsed unexpectedly.

Space is limited aboard a scorpionship.  There is room enough for a ballista on the deck and a heavy catapult stop the tail.  A set of deadly claw rams completes the ship’s armament.  Rare larger scorpionships carried more weapons; a rumored ninety-ton ship was said to have carried six heavy weapons and had ram claws that could rend ships into flotsam.

A scorpionship requires only a small crew.  Triangular sails are strung between the tail and the legs.  Four orcs are needed to man the sails, while the captain shouts orders to coordinate their efforts.  A sixth orc, a shaman or witch doctor, is needed to operate the helm.  In addition to providing maneuverability, the sails serve a double purpose in blocking out hateful sunlight.  The orcs keep the sails situated to block as much sunlight as possible.  The remainder of the crew, usually about thirty orcs, mans the ship weapons or waits for an attempt to board other ships.  A scorpionship can carry as many as eighty or ninety orcs, but conditions are abhorrent.

Below the top decks is the main deck, with a small bridge, the controls for the claw rams, and quarters for the crew.  The eyes are made of crude, opaque glass and are often tinted red.  Small incense burners hang from the ceiling, filling the bridge with arcane smoke.  Star charts hang from the wall, usually on animal skins.  The shaman or witch doctor watches over the lifejammer, constantly chanting to make the magic work.  Behind him, a pair of burly orcs operates a series of levers and turnstiles that make the ram claws move.  The orcs practice operating the weapons, and are quite good at it.  The room doubles as a galley, with a cauldron in the center of the room where orcs prepare their meals.  The orc kitchen is quite crude, with only the bare necessities.  Meals consist of a watery stew, jerky, and an orc deviation of hardtack.  Heading aft from the galley/claw control room is the crew quarters.  Dozens of bunks are built into walls, stacked four high.  Bunks are a right of the strongest warriors; an orc must earn his bunk through combat.  Those orcs without a bunk sleep on the deck or the cargo hold.  The captain’s quarters are located at the base of the tail, the only private quarters aboard the ship.  The best trophies will be located in his room.

Below the main deck and opposite of the gravity plane is the cargo deck.  This area is roughly oval shaped, about twenty-five feet long.  Sometimes this space is subdivided into other rooms, such as an armory and brig for prisoners.  The hold is filled with all manner of wares that the orcs might need or otherwise find interesting.  A hatch offer access to the cargo deck.

Blood Altars: Orc Lifejammers

Being a cruel and savage race, it is little surprise that orcs would use helms that involve inflicting pain and suffering to fly their ships.  The secrets of the lifejammer are a gift from evil deities.  Yurtrus, the orc god of death, is considered the most likely inventor of the lifejammer, although he may have stolen the secrets from another.

A lifejammer takes the form of a pitch black stone altar about three feet long, two feet wide, and a little over two feet high.  Grooves on the upper surface draws blood spilled upon it into a basin at the center of the top.  The blood then flows through a tiny drain at the bottom of the basin, emptying into tiny channels run throughout the entire ships, just as veins in a human.  When blood is freshly spilled, the veins glow with a hellish crimson light.  The light dims over the course of the day, until it vanishes completely after twenty-four hours, when a fresh batch of blood must be sacrificed.

Each lifejammer is linked to a ceremonial dagger, carried by the ship’s witch doctor or shaman.  If lost or destroyed, a new dagger must be crafted (see below).  The dagger is made from bone, gold, and gemstones.  The edge is very sharp, and black from dried blood.

The lifejammer is a terrible device.  To make it operate, blood must be spilled upon it altar, which is used to fly the scorpionship.  The damage must be inflicted by the ceremonial dagger, which causes a minimum of 1d8 points of damage as it draws life from a victim, who must make a saving throw or perish due to the necromantic energies (3e: Fortitude save, DC 15; 2e: Save vs. Death, no penalty).  The damage cannot be magically healed or regenerated; it can only be healed naturally.  Healing skills and proficiencies will have not affect on the rate of healing.  The bloodletting is part of an elaborate ritual that involves chanting in tongues and making precise cuts.  The whole ritual takes 1 minute for every 1d8 points sacrificed.

At the option of the shaman (or witch doctor), more damage can be inflicted on a victim to increase the speed of the ship.  For every 1d8 points of damage inflicted, the ship gains 1 ship’s rating, to a maximum of ship’s rating 5.  Thus, if the shaman were to cause 3d8 points of damage to a victim, the blood gives the ship a ship’s rating of 3.  Every additional ship’s rating increases the chances of death (3e: +2 to DC per point; 2e: -1 penalty to save).

After the blood is collected, the victim is no longer needed and can be tossed back in a cell, tossed overboard, or returned to duties (depending on the circumstances).  In exchange for this blood sacrifice, the scorpion can be flown without tying up a spellcaster or forcing the helmsman to sacrifice his spellcasting abilities for a day.  To run the ship, the helmsman merely needs to be in possession of the dagger (in a sheaf, for example, it needs not be held in hand).  This gives the helmsman control over the speed of the ship, but not its direction.  In the advent of a “Spelljammer Shock” critical hit, the helm merely shuts down until another sacrifice can be made.  The helmsman himself is immune to the effects of a “Spelljammer Shock” critical hit.

Crafting a lifejammer is a fairly simple task, so long as the proper materials are gathered.  The stone must come from the cold, dead heart of an extinct volcano.  Tools of cold iron are used to carve fiendish runes into the stone.  The runes must be carved during nights of a new moon, when darkness is strongest.  Ritualistic chanting and the sacrifice of a living being (preferably an elf, human, or dwarf) completes the altar piece of the lifejammer.  A rib bone is torn from the victim’s carcass and used to craft the ceremonial dagger.  The dagger takes 3 days to complete.  Making the altar takes a month to construct.

Once complete, the lifejammer can be installed.  If the ship is a scorpionship made from the exoskeleton of a dead scorpion, no further work needs to be done; blood will flow through veins already existing in the exoskeleton.  For all other ships, tiny grooves must be carved into the sides of the ship to allow blood to flow to every part of the ship.  This is a labor-intensive process that takes about a week for every ten tons of ship.

Scorpionship Spells

The orcs have devised a number of vicious spells for use in conjunction with a scorpionship.  It is unknown if any of the spells presented below will operate with other ship; all copies were destroyed by the elves during the Unhuman Wars.  Undoubtedly the Elven Fleet has copies of their own hidden away in a library in Lionheart.  The scro might have their own versions, keyed to their own ship designs.

Hellfire Claws

Level: 3

Range: 0

Components: V, S, M

Duration: 1 round/level

Casting Time: 9

Area of Effect: Special

Saving Throw: None

 

This spell places an enchantment on metal claws, such as those found on a scorpionship.  The claws will glow red-hot, with small bursts of flames dancing across the surface of the claws.  Due to the great heat, any creature struck by the claw suffers and additional 3-12 points of heat damage.  Against ships, the ship must make a saving throw vs. fire or suffer an additional hull point of damage due to the burning heat.  The claws can set fire to sails and rigging, tearing them away with great ease.

The material components of this spell are a billows, sulfur dust, and coal.  The billows are used to stoke the coals and spread sulfur over the claws.

 

Sting of the Star Scorpion

Level: 2

Range: 0

Components: V, S, M

Duration: 2 rounds/level

Casting Time: 4

Area of Effect: Special

Saving Throw: None

 

The Sting of the Star Scorpion is a simple enchantment that is cast on the tail of a scorpionship.  The orc spellcaster can then cast certain, so-called “venom” spells through the tail, using the inherent magic of spelljammers to increase the power of these spells.  The spells siphons power from the helm such that for every round in which a spell is cast through the tail in this manner decreases the ship’s speed by one point for one round.  Each tail can handle only one spell per round besides the initial Sting of the Star Scorpion spell.

The component of this spell is a scorpionship with an active helm aboard it.

 

Animate Sting

Level: 4

Range: 0

Components: V, S, M

Duration: 2 rounds/level

Casting Time: 1 round

Area of Effect: Special

Saving Throw: None

This powerful spell imbues the tail of a scorpionship with a life of its own.  The spellcaster can direct the tail by concentrating.  If the spellcaster can direct the tail to repeat a command (usually striking at a ship) until he gives it a new order.   Any weapon on the tail can no longer be used, but the tail gains melee attacks.  The tail can strike once per round, causing 1-2 hull points against ships or 3-24 hit points against creatures.  The tail attacks as with the same THAC0/BAB as the caster who cast the spell.  Animated Stinger siphons power from an active spelljammer helm, draining 1 point of SR while the spell is active.

The material component of this spell is a scorpionship with an active helm aboard it.

 

Scorpion Tailblade

Level: 2

Range: 0

Components: V, S, M

Duration: 1 round/level

Casting Time: 3

Area of Effect: Special

Saving Throw: None

The Tailblade spell causes a vicious metal blade to grow out of the tip of the tail of a scorpionship.  The blade can be used in conjunction with the Animated Stinger spell, increasing the damage done by the tail to 2-3 hull points versus ships and 4-32 points of damage versus creatures.

 

Woodvenom

Level: 2

Range: 0

Components: V, S, M

Duration: Special

Casting Time: 5

Area of Effect: Special

Saving Throw: Nil

This spell is used in conjunction with the animate sting spell.  When cast on the animated tail of a scorpionship, it creates a tiny reservoir of specialized venom that causes rot in wooden targets.  Each strike causes 1-3 points of wood rot damage.  The reservoir has enough venom for 1 strike for every 5 levels of the caster.  The venom can remain unused for up to 1 day; after that time, the venom loses its potency.  Woodvenom does not affect any creature other than plant creatures such as treants.  Against plant creatures like treants, a strike causes 3-18 points of damage.

The material component of this spell is a piece of wood infected with wood rot.

 

Airvenom

Level: 1

Range: 4 hexes

Components: V, S, M

Duration: Instantaneous

Casting Time: 4

Area of Effect: Special

Saving Throw: None

The airvenom spell creates a sphere of poisonous gas that is launched from the tail of the scorpionship.  It makes a single attack roll as if made by the caster of the spell with a +2 bonus to hit (it merely needs to hit the air envelope of the other ship).  If the sphere hits, the poison gas mixes into the air envelope.  The poison degrades the air envelope of the ship at the rate of 1d12 man-days per level of the caster.  Thus, a 7th level orc spellcaster that uses this spell against an enemy ship can destroy 7d12 man-days of air if it hits.  If the sphere misses, it dissipates harmlessly.

The material component of this spell is a rotten egg.

 

Cometvenom

Level: 3

Range: 5 hexes

Components: V, S, M

Duration: Instantaneous

Casting Time: 3

Area of Effect: 15’ radius

Saving Throw: ½

The cometvenom spell creates an icy sphere that is launched from the tail of the scorpionship.  It makes a single attack roll as if made by the caster of the spell.  If the sphere hits, it bursts into a sphere of unbelievable cold.  Anyone caught in the area of effect must make a saving throw vs. spell (3e: reflex save) or suffer 3-30 points of cold damage.  The spell can damage large weapons, which also must make saving throws vs. cold or be rendered inoperable.  The spell also causes 1-2 hull points of damage.  If the sphere misses, it dissipates harmlessly.

The material component of this spell is an iceball made from the ice of a comet.

 

Meteorvenom

Level: 3

Range: 5 hexes

Components: V, S, M

Duration: Instantaneous

Casting Time: 3

Area of Effect: 15’ radius

Saving Throw: ½

The meteorvenom spell creates a fiery sphere that is launched from the tail of the scorpionship.  It makes a single attack roll as if made by the caster of the spell.  If the sphere hits, it explodes into a fireball.  Anyone caught in the area of effect must make a saving throw vs. spell (3e: reflex save) or suffer 3-30 points of fire and debris damage.  The spell can damage large weapons, which also must make saving throws vs. fire or be destroyed.  The spell also causes 1-2 hull points of damage and can start fires.  If the sphere misses, it dissipates harmlessly.

The material component of this spell is a rock taken from a meteor that has passed through the atmosphere of a world of at least size D.

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