by Matthew Pook
Title: Ships of War
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Written by Alejandro Melchor
Illustrated by Brent Chumley, Anthea Dilly, Danilo Moretti, Eric Lofgren, Nathan Webb
32-page saddle stitched book
Ships of War is the latest release in the Traveller's Tales series
of D20 System sourcebooks published by Mongoose Publishing. To date this
series has focused upon all things nautical, beginning with Seas of Blood, before
following up with Ships of the Elves and Ships of the Goblinoids. Given its
aquatic emphasis, Mongoose's Slayer's Guide to Sahuagin, should be considered
a corollary supplement to the Traveller's Tales line.
Ships of War looks at warfare on the high seas, from the perspective of
the various core races found in the d20 System -- the Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes,
Orcs and Goblinoids, and of course, Humanity. It plays pretty much along the
expected racial stereotypes, but handles their clichéd nature rather well.
Thus the Elves build fast, gracefully efficient ships and prefer to strike at a
distance, yet they have scant resources and few ships in number. In contrast, the
goblinoid races build crude ships in bulk, to match with their swarming tactics.
The dwarves construct huge stone fortresses that defy obvious logic by floating!
Humans have the advantage that they can evolve and adapt their designs to respond
to a threat with amazing speed, at least in the eyes of the longer lived races.
Then there's the Gnomes, the most entertaining designers, who build submersibles drawn by friendly dolphins and
armed with upward thrusting drills and hammers to damage hulls from below.
Several new types of ship's crew are given to specifically aboard war vessels and
to supplement those given in Seas of Blood. These include the artillerist, the
boarding trooper and the seasoned veteran. Additionally, two warship captains are
fully stated out: the Expert Strategist, an aristocrat/rogue; and the Legendary
Admiral, a wizard/wizard-navigator.
No little thought has gone into the new weaponry, which includes the hull hammer
to smash the hulls of other ships, the trailing snare anchor for entrapping other
ships, and the Sun Mirror, which concentrates the Sun's energies to set ships
alight. There is new catapult ammunition for delivering the equivalent of
grapeshot and for taking down ship's masts. The ballista corrosive and screw
bolts are designed to damage ship's hulls, while the deafening bolt stuns its
crew. The most interesting magical item is the Plank of Boarding, which allows a
boarding party to be whisked 900 feet across open water on to the deck of an
The remainder of the book consists of some nineteen new ship designs accompanied
by fourteen deck plans. Each of the new designs is illustrated in profile and
described in enough detail to make their use more than friendly. This includes
all of the peculiarities of each design, such as the Devil Hornet Galley's
detachable ram and the Skyhunter Galleon's tilt ballista, designed to strike at
the giant eagles flown by the Elves. Most interesting are the Elven Sea Friend ships, or
Ëar'mellon, whaleships created through arcane means, which carries the crew in a
giant air bubble on a whale's back. The Gnomes build Hullreavers, a dolphin-drawn
submersible designed to breach hulls from below. Similarly, the Dwarves have the
Razorback, an oared submarine with an iron dorsal ridge, meant for ramming.
Ships of War maintains Mongoose's high standards of production. The book is clearly
laid out and nicely written. Brent Chumley's cover is decent enough, though the
full-color illustration of the Ëar'mellon, by Anthea Dilly, which graces the inside front
cover is rather stunning and perhaps would have made the book even more eye
catching had it been on the front cover.
For DMs looking to add to the Traveller's Tales series, or need a book with which
to take their campaign to sea warfare, Ships of Blood is the place to start.