Building Your Ship: shipbooks

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Building Your Ship: shipbooks
« on: June 27, 2011, 12:57:36 AM »
It's an old cliche, but it's true: in a traveling space opera, the ship really is one of the characters, just as important as the people with faces and voices. When I started designing this hack, I tried to model ship design on Apocalypse World's existing model for creating important things for characters; holdings and gangs and the like. Something about it didn't quite ring true. It works really well in Apocalypse World, but it wasn't quite enough for what I wanted from ship design.

I moved on to a model more like the Rogue Trader RPG, where players would pick hulls, complications, components, weapons, all from a variety of different lists, building the ship out of fictional Lego. It seemed to work alright, but it didn't quite convey character in the way that I wanted it to.

Then, I realised AW already has a model for designing things as important as the ship: character creation through playbooks. This is the model I'm currently running off, where players collaboratively choose a shipbook and design their vessel from the options within.

Example shipbook:

Wrested from the hands of Orks. Salvaged from

To create your salvaged hulk, select name, class, history, looks, persona, components, and weapons.

Choose 1:

Thunderstar, Winterlash, Lightkeeper, Nametaker, Callowblade, Shadowlion, Whiteknife, Swordbreaker, Moonwatcher, Windbearer

Last Whisper of Autumn, Final Moment of Peace, Sword of Fading Light, Eternal Hand of the Emperor, Guardian of Dying Stars, Shadow of Lost Regret


Conquest-class star galleon
1-shield large 3-cargo
Profile -2 Speed =0 Power +1 Augury +1 Warp -1

Jericho-class pilgrim ship
1-shield medium 3-cargo
Profile -1 Speed =0 Power +1 Augury +1 Warp +1

Devastation-class cruiser
2-shield large 1-cargo
Profile -2 Speed +1 Power +1 Augury =0 Warp -1


Age: Great Crusade, Horus Heresy, Post-Heresy, Age of Reclamation, Age of Apostasy, Black Crusde, 38th Millenium

Commanded by: Lord Admiral, Rogue Trader, Chartist Captain, Legendary Pirate, or Inquisitor Lord

Lost in: Glorious battle, tragic battle, terrible accident, planetfall, warp incident, or mysterious circumstances

Found by: Pirates, orks, tyranids, scavengers, xenos, or explorators


Bulky form, scrappy form, crooked form, damaged form, or worldworn form

Worn prow, broken prow, jagged prow or rounded prow

Shattered spires, alien spires, ruined spires, or restored spires

Dynastic colour scheme, naval colour scheme, pirate colour scheme, alien colour scheme, or faded colour scheme

Choose 1:

Impluse: to evade, to retreat
Benefit: When you want to get the hell out of there, roll +Speed. On a 10+, you’re gone. On a 7-9, you can stay or go, but if you go choose 1:
You suffer 3-damage as the engine coils rupture.
You must abandon something precious.
You’re easily tracked by your foes.

Impluse: to break down, to be demanding
Benefit: The ship gets +1 Power and +1 Speed when it’s not broken down.

Impluse: to become more alien
Benefit: The ship gets one xenotech component; see xenotech component list.

Impluse: to conceal secrets, to reveal tragedy
Benefit: The ship gets +1 Profile.

Choose 2:

Ancient Chapel-Barracks
This ancient ship was once blessed to carry a company of Space Marines. Start with +1 Influence with a Space Marine chapter of your choice. When you walk within its walls and offer a prayer to the Primarchs, take +1 forward on a boarding action or planetary assault.

Blessed Teleportarium
When you activate the teleportarium, roll +Warp. On a 10+, you arrive on target. On a 7-9, you arrive, but choose 1:
Your passage through the immaterium seems like an eternity of torture, suffer 2-terror.
The teleportarium matrix scrambles your internal organs, suffer 2-harm ap.
You arrive disorientated and sickened, take -1 ongoing until you can rest.
Your beacon malfunctions, leaving you dangerously off-target.

On a miss, you’ve seen Star Trek. Anything could happen here.

Dorian-pattern Shield Matrix
When you brace for impact, add +1 shield on top of the move’s normal effects.

Ellison-pattern Cognition Circuit
Your ship is equipped with an ancient and heretical Ellison-pattern cognition circuit, allowing its Machine Spirit true sapience. It may converse with a few select members of the command crew, but if it is discovered by an Inquisitor, it will earn you immediate sanction.

The interior of the ship is laid out according to schematics and plans that evade comprehension, creating a maze-like tangle of facilities and passageways that will entrap the unwary. Take +1 to resist boarding actions, and auguries cannot accurately penetrate the interior of your vessel.

Choose 2:

Sunhammer Lance
2-damage close/far lance

Ryza-pattern Plasma Battery
4-damage close battery

Pharos-pattern Las Battery
3-damage close/far battery

Movidus-pattern Missile Battery
4-damage close/far reload battery

Tolling Bell-pattern Bombardment Cannon
3-damage close battery bombardment

Torpedo Tubes
2-damage penetrating ordnance torpedoes

Discover a weapon system
Discover a salvaged hulk component
Discover a salvaged hulk component
Install a component from another shipbook
Install a component from another shipbook
Clean out a cargo hold (+1cargo)

Example ship from play.
+++THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Ambition knows no bounds.+++

Rogue Trader: Apocalypse

Re: Building Your Ship: shipbooks
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2016, 09:05:33 AM »
Do you have more of these stored away, or did this idea end up to the cutting room floor? My regular gaming group might be interested to run Rogue Trader Apocalypse, and at least one of them thought the shipbooks were needed. I think they might also bring a bit more character and focus to the party's ship.

Also, if you don't have any of these, mind if I make some? I've probably played too much Battlefleet Gothic Armada for my own good lately.