Thursday, October 23, 2014

Orcs in Space!

In a previous post I wrote up a crew of orc whale hunters. This post provides ideas for incorporating them in a space fantasy campaign.


Orc Whaling Ship

The Discovery
(a.k.a. Orcs in Space!)

Captain!” The voice carried down to the sterncastle of the ship Abattoir from the crow's nest on the foremast. “Two points to starboard!”

Pulling out his spyglass, Captain Cyrus scanned the surface of the water in the direction mentioned. 
For a moment he couldn't make out a telltale. “Is it a spume?”

“No, Captain—seabirds. It could still be lucrative, though.”

“That is true.” Cyrus nodded, returning the spyglass to it case. “That is true. Alter course, two points to starboard. All hands on deck, and prepare for retrieval.”

There was a flurry of activity as boots pounded along the deck; a mass of orcs appeared from below, retrieving grappling hooks as they did so. They filled the ship's forecastle and head and then stopped, watchful and waiting.

Waves beat against the vessel's hull while the Abattoir closed on its target. As it did so, the crew members began to realize the size of the thing they'd encountered.

“By the gods,” the first mate declared. “It's huge!”

It was. The closer they drew to the mass that floated on the water, the higher it loomed before them. Gulls and other seabirds circled in the air above, but Cyrus had the impression that they were just as confused by it as he was. The dead thing looked like a whale, but it was larger than any he'd seen, dead or alive. Instead of a distinct dorsal fin, it had a ridge running much of its back. What was more, no eyes were visible on it.

“What in the hells is it?” someone asked.

“I don't know,” Cyrus declared, “but it could still be valuable. Lads, pull it alongside us.” He was answered by the sound of grappling hooks being spun and then thrown, followed by the meaty slapping of prongs biting into decaying flesh. Then, with an effort, the orcs of the Abattoir began hauling on their ropes, drawing the carcass alongside their ship. Only then, as the corpse shifted in the water, did Cyrus notice the timbers and shreds of canvas that were sticking out of its mouth.

“Hold there!” he shouted. “Lower the longboats; let's have a closer look at this thing!”

The Crew
Captain Cyrus and his orcs soon learned that the carcass they'd found was not of their world. What was more, he recruited a wizard to confirm what he suspected—that the wreckage belonged to a ship capable of traveling beyond his world's atmosphere. It took a good deal of time and money for them to repair that vessel, and then to master handling it. Once they'd done so, however, unbelievable new vistas opened for them.

The orcs of the Abattoir can be used in a space fantasy campaign in many different ways; here are a few possibilities:
  • They perhaps function best as rivals for the PC's—not necessarily enemies, but NPC's who compete against them for valuable opportunities such as claiming salvage rights and the like.
  • Characters in a difficult spot might be forced to take passage aboard the Abattoir, making for a voyage with plenty of opportunities for roleplaying and conflict.
  • When the orcs' unimpeded predations upset a nearby space druid and she lashes out against them, the PC's might find themselves in a position to mediate between the two sides.
  • In the event that the orcs did turn pirate, they would be formidable foes indeed.

“Aetherspace is a living system, just like those to be found on the many worlds that float through it.
It has its predators and its prey. Of course, only time will tell how the introduction of predators from those worlds will affect its balance.”

-Kestrel, halfling druid

The Abattoir
This vessel is a modified merchantman, set up for hunting whales. It has two notable modifications. The first is the addition of grappling ballistas, ones with barbed projectiles that tear into the flesh of prey and affix ropes to it. The second is a pair of large boiling kettles used for cooking down the valuable blubber taken from its victims. The fact that this process takes place inside a limited pocket of air means that she ship has a permanent stink of smoke and grease.

Hunting Space Creatures
Given the lack of, well, everything in space, hunting creatures in the aether is notably different from hunting them in the water. In this case, the attackers must hit with a harpoon, and then succeed at a Profession: pilot check opposed to the prey's CMD. Each successive hit provides a +2 circumstance bonus to that check. The prey, meanwhile, can attempt to break the grapple with combat maneuver checks opposed to the captain's Profession: pilot effort. Successive efforts by the attacker can reduce the prey to a “pinned” state, at which point it can be brought alongside the aethership and attacked normally.

Ballistic Harpoons
These function just like normal ballista bolts, except that they also have the Grappling quality and are connected by ropes to the aethership. They cost the same amount as grappling ammunition.

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