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Old 03-26-2019, 07:25 AM   #1
FireHorse
 
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Default Scorpion (Ballista)

So I am designing a certain kind of maritime encounter (coming soon to a theater near you), and it requires some elements that In The Labyrinth does not cover.

In the absence of reliable gunpowder weapons, naval battles begin with a hail of arrows and bolts. Well… more likely, it begins with some really long-range Magic. But setting Magic aside, the best non-magical, non-gunpowder, long-range weapons that I can imagine being carried on a sailing vessel (since they were, in the Real World) are Scorpions.

The principle can be scaled to any size… IMAGE ONE …from small javelin-chuckers made for picking off single targets, all the way up to crew-served siege weapons that shoot bolts bigger than lances.

But on the decks of a sailing ship, I imagine you'd want something closer to the bottom end of that spectrum. Something like one of these… IMAGE TWO …small enough to be operated by just one person (although two might speed up reload time), while still shooting a big enough bolt, at long enough range, to justify assigning crew to the Scorpion instead of just handing them another bow.

So what sort of stats might such a Scorpion have?
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Old 03-26-2019, 07:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

ITL 115: small ballista 5d damage. Blow through is 3d for human size, 2d for small, 4d/hex for larger. 450 pounds, $2000 (Reload time is 24 turns divided by crew size (max two)) Roll 3/ST for each minute cranking or lose one fatigue.

It is both braced and on a ship, so these cancel out in calm waters.

Treat bolts as Javelins that weigh five pounds and cost $50 each.

Ships have 2 * sqrt(empty weight in pounds) hit points. Wooden planks have a blow through of 2d and armor that stops 2 hits. Apply this to each bulkhead along the flight path.
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Last edited by hcobb; 03-26-2019 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 03-26-2019, 07:55 AM   #3
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

Ah — Danke!

I had checked the index, but it does not list "ballista" at all, and the only references for "scorpion" are not the right kind. (And I stupidly didn't think to just use "Find" and search the PDF.)

That reload rate absolutely sucks (and sounds to me like it may be a bit too long), but even so, that's some pretty nasty damage. That could not only kill you in one shot, but splatter you all across the deck.

I wonder what it would do to sails and rigging… or if you could use "torch" bolts to give your opponents something else to worry about…
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Old 03-26-2019, 08:42 AM   #4
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

Yes, this is fortunately one house rule we can find tucked away in the main text! In any event, carry on with integrating them into play - they are cool devices. If you've gone through the LE boxed set, we even have some markers suitable for 4-5d size scorpions.
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Old 03-26-2019, 12:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

Just as an aside, I might recommend getting a copy of Ramspeed (the old Metagaming microgame on "Bronze Age" naval combat) and looking it over. If memory serves you can still get pristine copies for a reasonable price from Excalibre Games (yes, that's the actual spelling).

In addition to providing some useful "macro" rules for naval combat, the way the author handled units of marines, archers, and individual siege weapons seems like it might be transferable to a large-scale "grand tactical" battle simulator for TFT in general. I sincerely hope the author of the game (Colin Keizer) someday gets HIS copyright back and then gets together with Steve Jackson Games -- I could see a very cool synergy there...
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Old 03-26-2019, 01:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

Quote:
Originally Posted by JLV View Post
Just as an aside, I might recommend getting a copy of Ramspeed
Thanks very much for the tip! I have many of those old Metagaming titles, but not that one — yet. I shall correct that immediately…
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Old 03-26-2019, 02:32 PM   #7
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

This is one of several topics we might discuss where the end conclusion is there needs to be a skirmish-to-mass-combat mini-game that naturally connects to TFT. Not as high a priority as some other things, and perhaps not something SJG would ever do, but it would really open up the system in new ways.
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Old 03-26-2019, 03:17 PM   #8
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

Quote:
Originally Posted by larsdangly View Post
… there needs to be a skirmish-to-mass-combat mini-game that naturally connects to TFT. …
I give that an emphatic: Yes!

While I'm not at all confident that my solutions will be perfect, the scenario I am designing involves two small ships (one occupied by the Players, the other by Pirates), and I didn't want to just skip straight to the boarding action — so there will be some maneuvering and long-range missile / magic combat, before it gets to the really bloody stuff.

And in my head, I have even been thinking of that first part as "the Sailing Minigame", played out on its own special map (at "Village" hex scale).
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Old 03-26-2019, 04:58 PM   #9
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

I too recommend Ramspeed - and especially the Interplay article with designer's notes and extra rules that did not fit in the game. I have used Ramspeed for naval combat in my TFT campaign (though not as a two-scale crossover to TFT combat) and liked it a lot. It has not only scorpions but catapults, onagers, ramming hulls and ramming oars. It is all about rowed galleys rather than sails, and most damage is done by ramming and boarding.

I've also used Wooden Ship & Iron Men (sometimes combined with Ramspeed), which covers sailing maneuvers.

The first issue of Hexagram also has an article about ships in TFT.

Supposedly an old issue of The Space Gamer does too, which I'd love to see.
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Old 03-26-2019, 05:25 PM   #10
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Default Re: Scorpion (Ballista)

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I too recommend Ramspeed … It is all about rowed galleys rather than sails, and most damage is done by ramming and boarding.
Excellent. Then I won't have to start from scratch — because the best possible way to explain my pirate ship catching up to my merchant ship is that they're cheating the wind with a bunch of oarsmen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skarg View Post
I've also used Wooden Ship & Iron Men (sometimes combined with Ramspeed), which covers sailing maneuvers.
I have Wooden Ships too! I haven't played it in many years though, and I don't remember whether it covered the really old, late-medieval style ships. (My memories of it feel very much later, like 16th-18th century.)

But I'm glad you reminded me of it anyway, because I'm sure it can contribute some ideas to model the sailing and maneuvering. And I don't need much anyway, since it's only a mini-game within the larger scenario.
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