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Old 01-22-2015, 05:20 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

In a world very different from our own, with supernatural powers, widespread magic, supers on every side in warfare and so on, warfare follows a very different path. Hence, warfare in Dungeon Fantasy or, indeed, any Fantasy world with reliable and reproducable supernatural phenomena useful in warfare never develops along lines familiar to our non-magical Earth.

One thing that is prominent is the heavy emphasis on special operations*, with espionage, covert operations and surgical behind-enemy-lines strikes against the sources of their magical powers often deciding the outcome of battles.

In my TL 1+2, TL1+3, TL 2+1, TL 2+2, TL 3+1, TL 3+2, and TL4 campaign, the PCs are prosecuting a war where control of the oceans and the immense logistical advantage conferred by maritime resupply is key to the strategy of both sides. Accordingly, they want to move past merely raiding the enemy ports to destroy shipping and actually capture the ports that the other side is using to supply their three great field armies that are moving against the last bastions of the side that the PCs are supporting. Thus, hopefully, stranding tens of thousands of enemy soldiers in a hostile land without adequate resupply.

At real world TL 4-5, ships' boats were quite sufficient for amphibious operations. The PCs have the equivalent of TL 4 ships, with a few early TL 5 ships, so they have longboats, cutters and captains' gigs aplenty, manned with doughty Jack Tars and marines armed with smokepowder weapons.

They've had some two months to construct more boats to aid in their amphibious operations, however, and it would probably be effective to construct boats longer and heavier than those routinely carried on sailing ships. They only need to sail a distance of 25 miles, after all, and can be dragged behind sailing ships or galleys if needed.

I was wondering what might be reasonable designs for landing crafts for the proposed amphibious attacks on the two port cities. I considered some designs more efficient** than ships' cutters or longboats, such as chalanas, barges, chasse-marées, feluccas, war canoes or catamarans.

Various local people are partial to galleys, feluccas and catamarans.***

What would be a reasonable design for the PCs to order for their amphibious assaults? What would be the GURPS stats for something that was bigger than a ships' boat, but smaller than an average Age of Sail ship, which could be used as a landing craft in TL4 warfare?

*I. e. stuff PCs do in Mass Combat situations.
**In terms of both man-hours needed to construct it and crew needed to work it, compared to the amount of men and materiel that it could land in a given period of time.
***Local pirates who build extremely fast sailing and rowing boats of that design, with whom the PCs recently allied.
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Old 01-22-2015, 08:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

Unless you need to roll vehicles off the ship, any boat capable of landing will do the job. Unless you need greater speed and/or stealth, barges are the easiest.
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Old 01-22-2015, 09:54 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

Most ships, certainly most purpose built warships were capable of being beached. Perhaps not a giant roman bread vessel, or one of those monster warships of the Macedonian Succession Wars that they were so ridiculously fascinated with and did little good to anyone but Archeologists. But a typical Venetian galley or Norse longship, or a Macdonald Berlinn(Scotch galley) could do so and would routinely on various missions. No Ancient or Medieval power needed specialized landing craft as such very much.

What was needed was something that could carry the horses and heavy impedimenta of a first class army. But back country polities like the Norse and the Macdonalds wouldn't have such amenities, and powers like Venice that were chiefly maritime would place lower priority on them.
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Old 01-23-2015, 03:01 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

I seem to recall several accounts of crusaders using ships fitted with ramps via which horsemen could ride directly onto the shore - probably the medieval version of an LST.

In the C19, I also seem to recall accounts of shallow draft, square bowed boats being used to land troops - probably modified lighters and mainly used to land horses, guns and/or stores as troops can be landed in regular boats.
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Old 01-23-2015, 08:27 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

Here's an interesting horse transport from the Gallipoli operation, might be inspirational: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:V_..._Gallipoli.jpg
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Old 01-23-2015, 09:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

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Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
I seem to recall several accounts of crusaders using ships fitted with ramps via which horsemen could ride directly onto the shore - probably the medieval version of an LST.

In the C19, I also seem to recall accounts of shallow draft, square bowed boats being used to land troops - probably modified lighters and mainly used to land horses, guns and/or stores as troops can be landed in regular boats.
They had such things on the Med and plenty of experience transporting horses but neither were as common in the Atlantic. David Howarth believed that if Harold Godwinsson had returned Williams army would have been immobilized by seasick horses. Seasick men too but that is another story.

Unless there was a prolonged inland campaign in mind most amphibious operations had no cavalry involved. A simple island-snatch would have been an infantry op. Even the Great Heathen Army stole most of it's horses from the Saxons on arrival rather then bringing them along.
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Old 01-23-2015, 09:47 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
They've had some two months to construct more boats to aid in their amphibious operations
Here is the key to your answer...
Build as many of whatever type the construction crews are already familiar with and have timbers seasoning for. Don't try changing the design with a 60 day build window.
If it is only towed barges then so be it, but if you try to get fancy and introduce the 'newest greatest thing' as a last ditch defense against an invader who has got you on the ropes you are taking unnecessary risks, not least of which is construction delays while they figure out that bit that doesn't QUITE work.
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Old 01-23-2015, 12:38 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
Unless you need to roll vehicles off the ship, any boat capable of landing will do the job.
This is true. On the other hand, the PCs need the capability to quickly land more troops than will fit into their existing ships' boats. Hence, the need for building more. And as these are being built for a single purpose, i.e. amphibious landing, it makes sense to adopt a design optimised for that role and not, for example, a design that needs to be small and light enough for it to be hauled in by larger ships.

Quote:
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Unless you need greater speed and/or stealth, barges are the easiest.
Both speed and stealth are extremely desirable, as the PCs must figure on the possibility that deception and covert strikes by supernatural special forces will not be enough to prevent the opposition from defending their fortified docks with priests, mages, archers, slingers and mechanical artillery launching magical projectiles.
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Old 01-23-2015, 01:43 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
... actually capture the ports that the other side is using to supply their three great field armies
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
the PCs need the capability to quickly land more troops than will fit into their existing ships' boats. Hence, the need for building more. And as these are being built for a single purpose, i.e. amphibious landing, it makes sense to adopt a design optimised for that role and not, for example, a design that needs to be small and light enough for it to be hauled in by larger ships.

Both speed and stealth are extremely desirable...
OK, things are becoming a bit clearer now, but there's an open question. Are these craft specialised for landing troops in a port, or on a beach? Or do they need to be able to do both? The latter makes it harder.

For landing on a beach, you want something like a Thames sailing barge. At 25x6 metres, they should be able to carry at least 200 men for several hours, and they're reasonably easy to beach and refloat, providedyou know how the tide behaves off the enemy coast. The TL4 version may not have the leeboard (retractable keel) which will limit their ability to sail fast, and against the wind. If this seems too advanced, something based on a Norfolk wherry will certainly be possible - they existed at the historical TL4.

Note that while these craft will do fine for narrow seas - the English Chanel and North Sea were their habitats - sailing them across large oceans in bad weather is not a good idea. I presume this is happening in summer, before the summer storm season? When dealing with sailing ships, weather is always the primary unpredictable factor. Do the PCs have weather magic? If so, they need to be planning around that.

If you want to sail into a port and capture it, the requirements on the ship are less severe, provided you know how deep the port is and what the tides are doing. You can use larger ships with proper keels, which are much safer in bad weather. You need to provide some defence for the troops on deck, and you need to be able to land them rapidly, and you can combine these requirements by mounting timber movable bridges along the sides of your ships, using them for the troops to hide behind on the way in, and then swinging them out to the shore or wharf for the troops to run down. Of course, you need to know what wharfs are where and how high they are: there are reasons why professional navies collect this kind of information.
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Old 01-23-2015, 02:07 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Low-Tech] Landing Craft at TL2 to TL4

Quote:
Originally Posted by benz72 View Post
Here is the key to your answer...
Build as many of whatever type the construction crews are already familiar with and have timbers seasoning for. Don't try changing the design with a 60 day build window.
If it is only towed barges then so be it, but if you try to get fancy and introduce the 'newest greatest thing' as a last ditch defense against an invader who has got you on the ropes you are taking unnecessary risks, not least of which is construction delays while they figure out that bit that doesn't QUITE work.
The PCs are from another realm, far to the west over the local analogue of the Mediterranean, and arrived with a flotilla of ships. They have complete command of the ocean between their homeland and the realm being invaded. They also have significant mercantile contacts in some five or six large cities along the sailing route from their homeland to where the war is.

The invaders no longer have the country for which the PCs are fighting on the ropes, really. They still control 80% of the land area of the country they are trying to take over, but their logistics are falling to pieces, their fleets have gone down in sea battle after sea battle and one of their three field armies just suffered a catastrophic and shattering defeat after the dragonic vassals of a neighbouring power entered the war on the side of the PCs.*

If the PCs manage to take the two cities they propose to seize by seaborne assault, then the majority of the invading troops will be trapped without any way of resupply from the mother country except by a torturous overland route. Which effectively means that they will be unable to hold any part of the country north of those ports they still control. And they'll probably lose thousands, if not tens of thousands, during the retreat.

If the PCs fail to take these cities, it means that the war stalls for both sides. Unless the invaders can win some sea battles in the near future, however, they are not likely to make any more advances and are, in fact, likely to lose some of the territory they now hold, even if the amphibious landings fail.

The sixty day window is because the PCs are impatient to deliver a knock-out blow to the northern armies of the invaders. They want to claim credit for victories even more glittering than that recently achieved by the Wyrm Princess Shudu-Ab, Breath of the Red Ravager, High Priestess of Tiamat, and her dragonic allies.

The PCs could have bought boats abroad and transported them to the theatre of war, but for security reasons, they prefer to have local tribes prone to pirantical ventures construct them on an island where pirates congregate. They'll be used to building small, swift galleys used to raid coastal settlements and the local pirate specialty, a catamaran raiding galley design.

An ideal vessel would be capable of moving something like 50-70 men fairly swiftly, using perhaps 30 rowers, for a total capacity of 80-100 men. Move 3 would be very desirable, with higher Move even better.

*Well, their own side, really, but at the moment, they and the PCs have a joint interest in defeating the invaders before they come to blows over power in whatever post-war polity succeeds the ineffectual and anarchic patchwork of resistance figures.
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