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Reviews - Ships of War
 
by Matthew Pook


Ships of War cover Title: Ships of War
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Written by Alejandro Melchor
Illustrated by Brent Chumley, Anthea Dilly, Danilo Moretti, Eric Lofgren, Nathan Webb
Price: $9.95
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 opposing ship.

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.


 

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