SW Fan

(Must be approved by Shawn Gaston)

From the Space 1889 -Red Sands setting.

Minor tweaks will be made soon.


The following section fully defines and explains the game stats used to describe vehicles.

Acceleration (Acc): The vehicle’s acceleration in inches per turn, according to the tactical tabletop rules. “Kites”are wind-driven, relying on air flow and direction for their acceleration. All kites have Acceleration 4” with the windand 2” against the wind.

Cargo: The amount of cargo space measured in tons unless noted otherwise. All cargo is purchased in tons and broadly categorized as “perishables,” “manufactured goods,” and “raw materials,” though the classification is rarely important.The exact dimensions of cargo spaces are deliberately vague to minimize bookkeeping. As a rough conversion, a single ton may be interpreted as a 6-foot cube (1”x1”x1”) of space.

Climb Limit (CL): The vehicle’s maximum altitude with normal load, expressed as a height level. There are six height levels: Ground (landing and take off), Very Low, Low, Medium, High, and Very High. Changing levels requires a Trimsman skill roll. A level represents 72 feet (12”) for range and movement purposes. At Very High altitude, an airship can engage its ether propeller.

Cost: The vehicle’s price (in pounds); does not include the cost of ship armaments unless they are part of the ship design (war cruisers, for example).

Crew: The number of crewmembers required to operate the vehicle at full capacity. A “+#” following it indicates the maximum number of passengers or gunners. In addition, two extra passengers are possible for every ton of cargo space vacant. Having fewer crewmembers aboard than listed incurs –2 to the crew’s Driving skill rolls, and –4 when the complement is less than half.For a ship, this is the number of crewmembers needed for maneuvering. “B” indicates a boilerman (for steam engines), “C” represents a cranksman (for screw-powered ships), and “T” denotes a topman (for wind-powered kites). Having fewer crewmembers aboard than listed incurs –2 to the crew’s Boating skill rolls, and –4 when the complement is less than half. Moreover, an inadequate crew hinders the ship’s operation. A character must have Boating skill of at least d4 to count as crewmember. If over one-quarter of the operators have Boating d4, the crew is considered “green”and must subtract 1 from all rolls, in addition to all other modifiers.The next number is the quantity of gunners (“G”) needed to man the ship’s armaments effectively. Many vehicles with broadside-mounted weapons can get by with only those gunners needed to fire half of the arsenal at once.The final number is the amount of Marines (“M”) typically on board. These are soldiers trained to fight on ships. Passengers may be inserted into empty cargo space on a 1-for-1 ton ratio, if necessary, but the journey usually proves less than comfortable.

Cruising Range (CR): The average distance in miles a vehicle may travel per day under normal conditions. Interplanetary Travel Speed (ITS) is given only for ether fliers and used as a divisor into the travel time to see how much it is reduced.

Deck: The number of reserves available to replace injured or killed crewmen and gunners. These are the only men able to fight a fire on the initial round.

Endurance (End): Food supplies available on board to sustain a full crew measured in units equaling two pounds per person each day.

Fuel: The duration for which an engine-powered ship may operate given normal tonnage of fuel (number in parenthesis) without sacrificing cargo, measured in days.

Hull Size: 100x this number derives the amount of lift needed by this aerial ship to attain High altitude. At 80% or less of this value, it can reach Very High; at 101% to 120%, Medium; at 121% to 140%, Low; at 141% to 160%, Very Low. It cannot get off the ground at over 160%.

Officers: The number of bridge officers available for piloting (the helmsman), and raising or lowering the ship (the trimsman, using Knowledge: Trimsman skill). The captain can handle either duty, and on ships of less than 100 tons may do both (albeit with multi-action penalty). The signalman communicates with other ships by signals (Semaphore as a special language), though may substitute for any officers. All officers may replace any crewman and perform the appropriate duty. A second number indicates the number of Marine (“M”) officers normally on board.

Ship’s Class: Named after the first ship constructed of this type to designate all subsequent ships.

Top Speed (TS): The maximum number of inches a vehicle may move per turn on the tabletop. Wind direction determines a kite’s top speed: 14” with the wind, 8” against.

Toughness: The number in parentheses is the vehicle’s Armor, already added into the Toughness value. Although many vehicles are listed as having Heavy Armor, it is not always to denote they are particularly well-armored, but rather to reflect the inability of non-heavy weapons to damage them.

Weapons: Listing all armaments aboard and their arc of fire. “F” indicates the weapon can only fire toward the front arc (90°) of the vehicle. “A” indicates the weapon can only fire toward the aft arc (90°). “L” indicates the weapon fires toward the left side (90°), and “R” for the right side (90°). Combinations permit multi-directional firing; for example, “FRA” enables firing to the front, the right side and the aft of the vehicle, a full 270°. Some weapons have a 360° fire arc and are therefore able to fire in any direction.

Navigating the Skies

Traversing the skies is harder than it looks. A clear day allows one to follow distinct landmarks, such as rivers, canals, or roads, but in less-than-perfect conditions a navigator and pilot with more than a little skill are needed. Each day, a ship covers a distance matching its Cruising Range in miles (+50% for steam ships overloading the boilers; 200 miles for ships into headwind and 400 miles with tailwind). Presumably the craft is either landed or anchored during the night. Provided fair weather, a successful Navigation roll means the ship maintains course. It travels the full range with a successful Piloting roll (cooperative with your crew’s Boating skill), adding an additional 50 miles on a raise. The ship covers half the range on a failure, and one-quarter on snake eyes.

Melas , on the other hand, is lashed by almost constant storms. (Draw a card. The storm is mild on a number, severe on a face card, and just fog on an Ace or Joker.) Limited visibility and vast swamps greatly hamper navigation by landmarks. Add to that the atmosphere’s detrimental effect on liftwood, from the same elements that bedevil compasses and render them useless, and aerial travel is confined to zeppelins, and even then usually just in the mountains.

Apply the Piloting and Trimsman rules for navigating on Earth with the following changes: Navigating a course is possible only at Very High altitude and very challenging without an inertial compass (–2; –4 if relying solely on inertial compass at lower altitude; –6 without the compass and at lower altitude).

The rest of Vheld has extremely variable weather. Draw a card for each day of flight. The ship runs into a storm on a face draw; the storm is mild if Jack or Queen (–2 Piloting, Trimsman, and Navigation), and severe for King (–4 Piloting, Trimsman, and Navigation). Flying at night incurs the penalty for darkness. The trimsman must succeed on a Knowledge (Trimsman) roll to keep the craft airborne or risk crashing it. Success on a second roll with an additional –2 penalty allows the trimsman to recover, but failure crashes the ship.

To make headway, the pilot must succeed on a Piloting roll (with crew making their own Boating rolls to complement the pilot’s). The ship covers just half the range on a failure, and one-quarter on snake eyes. The navigator must succeed on a Navigation roll or the ship flies in a random direction for the distance traveled.

Crash landing

Sometimes it becomes necessary to bring a crippled airship to earth, a difficult and extremely perilous proposition.

Success on this maneuver depends upon the helmsman’s Piloting roll or the trimsman’s Knowledge (Trimsman) roll.

Either may assist the other in a cooperative roll, but only one can make the fateful primary roll.

If the ship weighs more than 500 tons, the roll is made at –2; if over 800 tons, –4. On snake eyes, the damage suffered by the ship and all Wild Cards onboard is 5d6. On an adjusted roll of 1 or less, the ship and Wild Cards suffer 4d6 damage. If the roll is merely failed, the ship and Wild Cards suffer 3d6 damage. Success limits the damage to 2d6, and just 1d6 with a raise.

In all cases, most crew and passengers onboard are either killed or badly wounded. Every Extra onboard an airship when it crash-lands is assumed to suffer a single Wound, requiring a Vigor roll to determine his or her fate (see Savage Worlds).

Cargo suffers catastrophic damage, with most buried deep under the (typically fiery) surface of the wreck. Volatile cargo might very well explode (at the GM’s discretion), dealing yet more wounds to the wreck. Other than what the characters are carrying, most equipment is lost or destroyed. A successful Repair roll salvages a specific, stated item weighing 10 pounds or less, and a raise uncovers two of them.

A ship that has crash landed might be salvaged or even made whole again. For each wound suffered by the ship in the crash landing, apply a –1 penalty to the Repair roll to salvage it. Each roll takes 4d6 days’ time. If a ship suffers 4 or more wounds during a crash landing, it cannot be salvaged.

Overloading Steam Engines

An engineer may overload a steam engine to obtain 50% additional speed, but must succeed on a Repair roll every hour to prevent the boiler from breaking down. A malfunctioning boiler must be shut down (a success on he boiler crew’s Boating roll) or it explodes, causing a wound to the craft and 4d6 damage to each crewman manning the boiler.


Repairing ships damaged by adverse weather or enemy fire requires 1d4 days per wound, plus a dock (found in most major cities) for critical results. Repairing each wound or critical result incurs £10 multiplied by Toughness (including Armor) in expense. Ships receiving four wounds are not reparable, but can be salvaged for 10% of their purchase price, providing 1 ton of cargo per £100 of salvage value recovered.

Fighting Belowdecks

The space beneath the railed deck of a typical ship (including ether flyers) is crowded at best, what with the bunks, compartments, low ceilings, and every inch of space packed with cargo. Heroes using weapons longer than a short sword suffer –2 Fighting belowdecks.

Hiring Crew

This is a popular activity in all major cities on Vheld. A prospective employer makes a Streetwise roll (others may aid) and spends 2d6 shillings each week to find a number of willing crewmembers equaling the Streetwise roll. One in every five crewmembers hired this way will be a specialist, such as a surgeon, captain, navigator, pilot, engineer, trimsman, or soldier. However, the specialty is random unless the employer spends £1 for advertisements in the local paper (or the equivalent).

Crew upkeep

Should the heroes secure their own aerial ship, they need to retain a good crew to keep it flying. The crew must be fed, paid, and once in a while given a chance to blow off steam.

Crew: Every ship needs officers—a captain, a helmsman (with the Piloting skill), and a trimsman (who has Knowledge: Trimsman). A ship needs a number of engineers (Repair and Knowledge: Mechanics) equal to half of the ship boiler’s Power Level (rounded down), or one for every crankshaft post on a screw galley, or one with Climbing skill for every 100 tons of a kite’s weight (rounded up).

Additionally, a ship requires deck crew equal to one person per 100 tons of the ship’s weight (rounded up), requisite gunners to man the weapons, and an additional officer for every 15 crewmembers. The first extra officer is always a signalman versed in semaphore.

Provisions: Necessities are purchased as units for easier recordkeeping. Each unit represents all the food and water necessary to sustain a crewman or passenger for one day. Each unit of provisions costs 1s and weighs 2 pounds. A ton of cargo space can store 1,000 units. In the absence of adequate provisions, crewmembers begin suffering Fatigue levels. Make a group Vigor roll for each day of half rations (–2 if less than half ). The crew suffers a Fatigue level for each failure. When they become Incapacitated, 10% of the crew perish each day from starvation. Most crews mutiny before getting to this point.

Pay: Standard wage is 10 marks per month (plus room and provisions) for a member of the regular crew. Officers and specialists demand 20 marks per month, minimum. All prizes captured, whether salvaged or as spoils of battle, are divided into shares with three shares going to the ship’s owner(s), the officers and specialists getting two shares, and the remaining crewmen getting a share each.

City Leave: This is a chance to the crew to relax, unwind, and release the pressures of working constantly in the air. Player characters on leave must succeed on a Smarts roll every night or indulge in alcohol and become inebriated (Agility, Smarts, and related skills are all at –1, but Toughness is +1) and squander 1d6 shillings. Every full week on leave gives player characters a +1 to Streetwise (maximum +2) in that location until departure.

Cabin fever occurs when anyone spends more than 30 days aboard the ship without leave. The affected crew become Fatigued. After gaining a level of Fatigue in this fashion, the ship must make its way toward a city for leave or risk mutiny. A single night out usually resets the clock on the “30 Day Rule.” Each week spent on leave negates one Fatigue level caused by cabin fever. Most interplanetary crews suffer this affliction on longer flights, and thus are always given leave upon arrival.


This section illustrates ship-to-ship aerial battles in Space 1889: Red Sands, with new details and rules added.


Ships with legitimate cargos steer clear of anyone they see. Escorts interpose themselves between any ship spotted and their charge, attempting to ascertain the approaching party’s intentions. Therefore, those with malicious intent normally set up ambushes either at a concealable position on land (in a valley or crevice, for instance), or drift just within the edge of a cloud in the sky, invisible and waiting for prey.

In a pursuit, the pilots of all ships involved make opposed Piloting rolls aided by their respective crews’ Boating skill rolls, plus the margin in acceleration between the ships.

(Because kites have a varying acceleration, determine the wind direction each attempt.) Each opposed roll equates to a 4-hour interval. If the pursuer wins with a raise, it puts both ships in close quarters; success gives the pursuer +2 on the next roll. The quarry gains +2 on the next roll on a success, and makes good the escape on a raise.

Close Quarters

Once the ships are in close quarters, apply the standard chase and combat rules. The Range Increment is 50 and each turn is one minute long. Roll a d6 to determine each ship’s present altitude:

1 = Landed or Crashed, 2 = Very Low, 3 = Low, 4 = Medium, 5 = High, 6 = Very High.

Ships may not fire on other ships if the difference in altitude level below the firing ship is greater than the quantity of Range Increments between the ships. Ships armed with drogue torpedoes or spike droppers can fire these weapons on those below them. Depending on the battery’s orientation, rockets can be fired above or below ship.

All weapons fire once per turn with their normal RoF.

All shipboard weapons have a restricted arc of fire, which must be taken into account—forward-firing weapons when pursuing and approaching, rear-firing when chased, sidefiring when the pilot performs a turning maneuver. The fact that all weapons usually fire aimed attacks negates the penalty for an unstable platform. RoF can be doubled if not aimed but will, of course, incur the unstable platform penalty of –2. Relative speeds affect the chances of hitting as described in Savage Worlds.

Aerial Maneuvers

The captain may order one or more Maneuvers or Stunts each turn, depending on the Range Increments to the target.

Broadside: With a successful Piloting roll, the pilot can bring one side of the ship to fire on the enemy.

Change Altitude: The trimsman is called upon to change the current altitude while the Pilot attempts to maintain the current distance. Success on a Knowledge (Trimsman) roll success enables a one-level altitude change, and two levels of altitude may be changed on a raise. (The altitude limit for the ship still applies.)

Close: A successful Piloting roll brings the ship one increment closer, and two on a raise. This is an opposed roll when the target is fleeing. Crews of both ships can make a Boating roll to aid. A Change Altitude order may be issued in conjunction and achieved if the trimsman makes a successful Knowledge (Trimsman) roll (only a one-level adjustment is possible).

Flee: A successful Piloting roll moves the ship one increment farther away, and two on a raise. This is an opposed roll when the target is attempting to close. Crews of both ships can make a Boating roll to aid. A Change Altitude order may be issued in conjunction and achieved if the trimsman makes a successful Knowledge (Trimsman) roll (only a one-level adjustment is possible).

Push: This maneuver is possible only with a screw galley or boiler-powered ship. With a screw galley, the crew must make a group Vigor roll to boost its speed by +1 on a success (+2 on a raise), but suffers 1 level of Fatigue on snake eyes. For a boiler-powered ship, the crew makes a group Boating roll to increase the ship’s speed by the same bonuses, with the steam engine suffering a blowout to drop the speed by –1 on a botch. For either type of ship, success adds +1 to a pilot’s next roll to perform a Close or Flee maneuver, and a raise gains an extra increment of distance on that maneuver.

Seek Cover: For battles in the mountains or near clouds (GM’s discretion), the pilot with the trimsman’s aid can try to use them for concealment. If they both succeed, or one scores a raise while the other fails, the ship obtains light concealment (–1 to enemy attacks). With one success and one raise, the ship receives medium concealment (–2), and on a raise by both, the ship is almost completely obscured (–4). The ship loses one level of concealment for each turn this order is not maintained (re-roll the skill checks), and loses it entirely against other ships within the same increment. Should both pilot and trimsman both fail their rolls, the ship spins out of control.


These actions can only be attempted within one Range Increment of the target.

Boarding: To board another ship, the boarder must first maneuver up close with a successful Parallel stunt (opposed Piloting roll). The boarder’s crew makes a group Throwing roll to establish grappling lines, opposed by a group Strength roll from the enemy crew, as they work furiously to sever the link. Success means the enemy ship has been grappled. A grappled ship no longer moves or suffers trim loss, unless both ships suffer the same loss or one ship drops two levels of altitude due to damage. In that case, the ship’s weight breaks the grappling lines as it plummets.

Only marines, deck crew, and petty officers are available to perform this action. The remainder of the crew, the pilot, and the trimsman are too busy firing weapons and guiding the ship.

Air Pirates simply fly across open space to board an enemy ship.

Ram: This requires an opposed Piloting roll. The ships must be within one height-level increment. If successful, the attacker inflicts 1d6 damage per 5 full inches of relative speed, but takes the same damage unless outfitted with a battering ram (reducing the damage by half, with AP equal to the attacking ship’s Armor value).


Out of Control: When a ship suffers damage matching or exceeding its Toughness, the pilot and trimsman must both make their respective skill rolls. If the pilot fails, treat any Roll Over or Flip results as a Rolling Deck instead, which forces all deck crew and gunners not in turrets to make an Agility roll or fall overboard (likely to their deaths).

Spins, Skids and Slips are treated normally. If the trimsman fails, the ship drops one altitude level and he must attempt to recover trim with another roll. The ship descends another level on a failure—the trimsman can keep rolling until he is successful, or the ship crashes.

Critical Hits

Damage against flying ships has the normal effects, but a few consequences have been added for Critical Hits.

Engine: A struck mast reduces a kite’s Acceleration by 1 and Top Speed by 2. A hit to the air screw or driving chains cuts the vehicle’s Acceleration by 1 and Top Speed by 2, but is reparable by the ship’s crew with Repair roll (–2) on the next turn. Success reduces the Top Speed penalty by 1. A raise reduces the penalty by 2 and completely restores the acceleration. The repair crew is too occupied to change the ship’s speed.

Locomotion: The lifting panels are jammed, so the ship cannot change altitude voluntarily until they are freed, and the problem incurs a –2 Piloting penalty until they are. To free the lifting panels takes a Repair roll at –2 (or Boating roll at –4 from deck crew or an officer) to rectify.

Controls: A stuck rudder restricts the pilot’s ability to move the ship either straight or turn to only one side (Roll a d6; 1-3 left, 4-6 right) until cleared, and the problem incurs a –2 Piloting penalty in the meantime. Unsticking the rudder takes a Repair roll at –2 (or Boating roll at –4 from deck crew or an officer) to rectify.

Chassis: This is a hull hit. Roll a d6, with a 6 indicating a fire has started as well. Roll 1d6 for each fire still burning at the beginning of a round: 1 or less = Fire burns out on its own; 2–3 = Fire continues to burn but no significant damage or spread; 4–5 = Fire causes one wound and continues to burn; 6+ = Blaze spreads and starts two more fires.

Kites incur +1 on this roll, while steel ships receive –1. Fighting a fire takes a number of men equaling at least one-half the ship’s Toughness or six, whichever is less. Each team of six may fight one fire. While the deck crew can fight a fire in the first round, all others take one round to assemble. Putting out a fire requires a successful group Boating roll at –2.

Crew: Inflicts 2d6 crew casualties randomly among the active deck crew and gunners first. They may roll to recover after the battle as normal. If doubles are rolled, a random player character is hit too, taking damage from the weapon separately but receiving the ship’s Toughness as Armor if not on deck.

Weapon: One random weapon is destroyed. The crew manning it also takes the full blunt of the blast, but less the ship’s Toughness for a weapon in a turret or belowdecks.

Wrecked: The hit ripped the liftwood panels away and the ship is about to crash. A trimsman can make a heroic attempt to control the plunge with a Knowledge (Trimsman) roll at –4. Success means half of the remaining crew is killed and player characters suffer half damage. Otherwise, all characters on board take 4d6 damage from the crash and all but 10% of the remaining crew are killed.

Climb Limit

The altitude a flyer can attain is limited by the percentage of a ship’s total tonnage that is in use, as shown on the following table.

Tonnage Used Altitude limit
80% or less Very High
1%–100% High
101%–120% Medium
121%–140% Low
141%–160% Very Low
over 160% Cannot lift off


Considering the many hazards that might be encountered, any hero would be well-advised to avail herself of the Piloting skill. Though only one can take the helm at any one time, steering in shifts in advised. Additionally, if the captain and first mate are injured, your hero can valiantly leap to the crew’s aid! Knowledge of Navigation and the Trimsman’s art are always useful, as one never knows when one is about to be hopelessly lost.

Storms: Storms are the primary threat to aerial travelers, and the rules for flying through them are covered on page 45. In practice, however, a captain will only need to run this sort of gauntlet when it is unavoidable. Usually aerial flyers take every opportunity to outrun or avoid storms, due to the extreme dangers they pose.

Light flyers are the most susceptible to meteorological disturbances, as turbulence has the distressing tendency to tip them over and cause it lose trim quite quickly. The penalties to a Pilot’s skill roll are not insurmountable, but when the stakes involve the entire craft “capsizing” in midair and plunging to smash upon the rocks, the wiser man avoids the risk altogether.

If it is impossible to avoid or outrun a storm, a captain usually orders his craft grounded so the crew can wait for clear skies. Zeppelins are especially at risk to stormy weather, since they cannot avoid foul weather by landing.

They must outrun or avoid storms, or pray their captain is up to the task.

Hostile Encounters: Sky pirates are found wherever aerial flyers ply the skies, which is now most of the Vori islands. On Irone, enemy sky navies, large flying creatures, or even stranger encounters may be considered all in a day’s work, so be ready, Explorers!

Power Level and Efficiency

Ether propellers and sails are rated by how much power they are able to output (the Power Level) and how efficient that power output is (the Efficiency rating).

A higher Power Level indicates greater output, and likewise a higher Efficiency represents a smaller amount of lost energy during operation. Interstellar Speed, representing the millions of miles per day a ship can travel, is calculated thusly—Power Level times Efficiency, divided by the tonnage of the ship (rounded up).