Thursday, September 10, 2009

Airships and Athanor in the Airport.

Waiting at the airport, I am stuck thinking about airships in Athanor. I wrote them in as a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels, though the flying ship has a long gaming tradition, from the "Voyage of the Princess Ark" articles in the Dragon, to Eberron, and including things like Final Fantasy games and World of Warcraft in between. I also credit an early childhood exposure to Captain Harlock and a teenage exposure to Epic Comics' Swords of the Swashbucklers may have inspired some of my desire to have flying ships battling in the skies above Athanor.

But my concept of airships remains vague, partially influenced by Burroughs and his very vague descriptions of airships in Barsoom. We know they have some sort of tanks holding a "ray" that keeps them aloft (how that works, I don't know) and are moved along by a screw that acts like a propeller.

I have two different ideas for airships in Barsoom:
  1. I see airships as having sails, rigging, and big ol' tanks of devices that provide anti-gravitational force help the ships stay airborne. These "lift engines" are rare, expensive, and only maintained by a powerful guild that knows the secrets of Ancient technology involved in lift engines. These airships are more maneuverable, are faster, and tend to be controlled by military or governmental organizations.
  2. I also see airships as essentially blimps or dirigibles with sails, with ship's hulls hanging below as gondolas. These will be more common, use an orichalcum gas to gain lift, but they lack the maneuverability and speed of true airships. They also need to be lighter, so are harder to make into armored battle ships like lift engines allow.
I can actually see both forms of airships in the skies of Barsoom as well as pteranodon-riders. I like open decks not because they make particular sense (because they don't), but because I like the idea of airship fights across the decks of airships.

All that said, airships are still only used by the wealthy and the priveleged. Airship travel is expensive and rare, and trade and travel still depends heavily on dangerous caravan trips overland.