Skypirates: a zeppelin aircraft carrier construction ruleset

Every zeppelin which has played a major role in Skypirates to date (so far, only Inconstant and Arys, where parvusimperator’s characters are based) has been designed in accordance with a fixed set of rules. We appreciate the verisimilitude this lends proceedings, for one; for another, we just really like rules for designing things. Ask parvusimperator about tanks or IFVs sometime1.

But not now. We have zeppelin rules to cover. I believe parvusimperator, to whom I owe the credit for these, believes he originally stole them from some Germans2, which is apropos. They were designed for tabletop RPG rules system Savage Worlds, which I wholeheartedly recommend if you’re looking for something opposite GURPS on the fun-GURPS axis. In traditional RPG fashion, round in the least favorable manner unless otherwise stated.

These are primarily construction rules. They were borrowed for a Savage Worlds campaign that never happened, and so the portions of the rules pertaining to acquisition and combat were never really fleshed out. If you want to use them, you’ll have to do some innovation. (If you do, let us know! We’ll put them up here for the benefit of posterity.)


Length(m)    Width(m)    Hexes     Lifting/Payload (t)
300                50      6x1                 425/275
350                60      7x1                 670/435
400                65    8x1.5                1000/650
450                75    9x1.5                1425/925

The listed payload assumes helium as a lifting gas, military-spec internals (protected against enemy fire), and a single keel, and is 65% of the lifting capacity, rounded to the nearest 5t. For hydrogen lifting gas, add 5%. For civilian-spec internals (not protected against enemy fire), add 5%. For triple keels in the style of USS Akron and USS Macon, which permit internal engine mountings, subtract 5%. (That is to say, the maximum payload achievable is 75%, using hydrogen lifting gas and civilian internals, and the most durable build achievable is helium, milspec, and a triple keel.)

Take the product expressed in the Hexes column, and write it down as your hex-volume.

1 ton & 1 crew (slow diesel engine),
3 tons & 1 crew (normal diesel engine),
5 tons & 2 crew (fast diesel engine)

One engine pod is needed per every hex a zeppelin is long, rounded down to the nearest even number.

Gun Turrets
1/2 ton & 2 crew for cal. 30 MG
1 ton & 2 crew for cal. 40 and 50 MG
2 tons & 2 crew for cal. 60 and 70 MG
2 tons & 1 crew for flak cannon

Machine guns may be single or double turrets. Their requirements are the same, excepting acquisition costs. Turreted flak emplacements may only hold a single gun. Add a +3 modifier to shock rolls for the gunshield.

Bow/Stern Turrets
2 tons & 2 crew for cal. 60 and 70 MG
2 tons & 1 crew for flak cannon

The bow/stern mounts can hold one gun mount or one rocket mount or one aerial minelayer. Only one thing.

Broadside Guns
2 tons & 2 crew per gun

Each gun deck may mount up to six guns per side, and are retractable. Five rounds are stored at the mount; more are brought up from the holds. Broadside guns may be directed from the bridge for firing at zeppelins or ground targets within the guns’ effective range. The gun crews may fire under local control when attacking aircraft.

Broadside guns are typically flak guns, in similar calibers: usually between three and five inches (76 to 127 mm).

Bomb Rack
5 tons & 1 crew

Some military zeppelins mount bomb racks on the underside of the hull. It mounts eight hardpoints’ worth of bombs. It may not be used to fire rockets. Bombs must be accounted for in cargo. Bombs are released from the bridge.

Rocket Rack
10 tons & 2 crew

Rocket racks provide eight hardpoints for aerial rockets. Bombs may not be dropped from rocket racks. Rocket racks may be placed at the bow or stern, or to replace broadside guns. Ammunition must be accounted for in cargo. They are fired under local control.

Control Room
[Length of hexes of the zeppelin / 2] tons and [Length of hexes of the zeppelin] crew
The bridge includes a chart room and a radio room. Sometimes, military zeppelins place these rooms separately. Civilian zeppelins always place them in the control gondola.

1 ton & 1/4 crew

Crew are required only for passenger cabins. Accommodations aboard a military zep do not require crew.

For your one ton, you may have any one of the following: one luxury cabin (for one person, a first-class passenger or senior officer), one suite (each person requires one ton of accommodation; a suite for five people weighs five tons), one double cabin (aboard a passenger zeppelin, tourist class), one quadruple cabin (economy class), or one cell for up to eight prisoners.

Crew Rooms
2 tons & 1 crew

For your two tons and one crew, you may have any one of the following: one extra chart room, one extra radio room, one kitchen section (one section required for every ten cabins), one dining room section (one section required for every ten cabins), one lounge (suitable for ten tourist or economy class passengers, or two first-class passengers), a library (which may be expanded), an arboretum (which may be expanded), an observation deck, a briefing room or flight command center, or a science laboratory (which may be expanded).

We have a set of aircraft design rules which are not reproduced here. It suffices to say, for the remainder of this post, that zeppelin-borne aircraft come in airframe sizes ranging between 4t and 15t, and their weight in tons is their size for the purposes of these rules.

Internal Skyhooks
[3*size] tons & 5 crew

A traditional docking hook used to launch and recover planes: the skyhook drops planes out the bottom of the zeppelin, and extends into the air below the bottom of the zeppelin to recover them. Each skyhook may launch or recover one plane per round. The size specifies the largest plane that may be launched or recovered.

External Skyhooks
[2*size] tons & 1 crew

Skyhooks mounted outside the zeppelin’s hull, frequently used for emergency exits or as emergency landing spaces. Each may hold one plane, its maximum size specified by the skyhook’s size. The pilot gains entry to the zeppelin by means of a small ladder. Moving large cargo between an external skyhook and the zeppelin’s interior is impossible.

Launch Bay
[5*size] tons & 15 crew

Launch bays are used in the largest military zeppelins. Each may launch two planes per round, but may not be used to recover aircraft. The size specifies the largest plane that may be launched.

External Refueling Rig
[2.5*size] tons & 3 crew

Refueling rigs are external skyhooks with plumbing to refuel docked planes. Each plane may be refueled in one round. (It therefore takes a three-round cycle: recover in round one, refuel in round two, launch in round three.) Otherwise, they function as external skyhooks.

[ size of air wing ] tons & 1 crew/10 tons

The size of the air wing refers to the sum of its weights. The hangar is an internal space in the zeppelin with room for parking, access to the launching systems, and facilities for refueling and rearming planes, as well as stowage for aircraft stores. Any zeppelin with a launch bay or an internal skyhook must have a hangar.

Repair Bay
[2*size] tons & 5 crew

Repair bays contain tools and equipment for disassembling, maintaining, and repairing planes. A hangar and an internal skyhook are prerequisites. The size specifies the largest plane which may be serviced.

1/2 ton food/water/etc. per person per month.
1 ton per plane per combat sortie. (Includes fuel and ammunition, as required.)
1/2 ton per plane per non-combat sortie. (Includes fuel only.)
1 ton of ammunition per zeppelin gun of any type.

Engine Speed

Engine          Fuel/day (tons)  Speed (hexes)   Speed (mph full/economy)
Diesel, slow      Volumehex / 5              1                     50/10
Diesel, normal    Volumehex / 2              2                     65/15
Diesel, fast          Volumehex              3                     80/20

For travel, engines can be run at full speed, consuming the listed amount of fuel per day. They may also be run at economy speed, using the second number in the speed column and consuming half the listed amount of fuel per day.

Engines may be fueled by blaugas, gasoline, or diesel, which are identical for our purposes. (Zeppelins which run gasoline engines may share fuel with the air wing.)

Cargo Hold
[any size] + 2 tons

The two tons are for handling equipment, and do not count toward capacity.

External Cargo Platform
[any size] + 2 tons

Smaller freight zeppelins sometimes use an external platform mounted under the hull. These are much cheaper for a given capacity, and may also be used as an emergency hangar for small planes. The cargo capacity is 1.5 * size. The two tons are for handling equipment, and do not count toward capacity.

Cargo Winch
[2 tons + cargo weight] & 2 crew

A cargo winch lowers a section of the cargo hold floor beneath the zeppelin, which may be used to easily load cargo without the use of ramps or slings.

With modifications, the platform may be used as an emergency landing point. Add one ton to the mechanism. The winch’s rated capacity must be twice the size of the plane. A plane making an emergency landing on a cargo platform loses its engines.

Zeppelin Harpoons
[5 + length in hexes of largest zeppelin which can be towed] tons & 4 crew

Intended to tow disabled zeppelins for repair, pirates sometimes modify the towing mechanisms to serve as grappling harpoons.

1. Or just read his posts here.
2. As he said, “IIRC, ja.”

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