Great Bombard underpowered

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Dalillama
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Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Wed May 09, 2018 9:41 am

The Great Bombard is three times larger than the Ottoman Basilica, the largest black powder cannon ever built. That gun threw 3/4 ton, 25" marble balls a distance of several miles, using a ~375 lb charge. A bit of rough math indicates that the Great Bombard has a bore ~6ft across, meaning it throws a ball of ~18000 lbs, using ~4500 lbs of powder.
A standard bombard is a 10-pounder, using 2.5 lbs powder per shot, at a cost of 300 gp.
Enough powder to fire a a Great Bombard would cost 540000 gp, but a hit ought to be enough to reduce any ship flying to splinters.

ETA: looking at it, I can't see how it's supposed to get loaded outside drydock either

ETA 2: checking my Concordance, I find that I misremembered: it takes 10 charges and 3000 gp for a normal bombard shot. So a GB might reasonably cost 5.5 million gp worth of powder using my figures.
Last edited by Dalillama on Wed May 09, 2018 3:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Big Mac » Wed May 09, 2018 12:09 pm

I think we need to cast the Summon Jaid spell.

FYI: Dalillama once debated the entire Spelljammer community about the damage, chance to hit and rates of fire of all the various ship weapons.

I don't remember if he mentioned the Great Bombard, but he certainly understands the maths involved.

Ships in the SJ universe seem to have substantually less weapons than real-world ships, but Jaid can probably work out if the Great Bombard is in proportion with other ship designs.
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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Wed May 09, 2018 1:51 pm

Ship designs, yes. Weapon designs, no. The listed charge for the GB is 20 charges, 4 times what a regular bombard uses. But the GB is ~20 times the size of a 10-pounder cannon, making that figure blatantly ridiculous.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Wed May 09, 2018 4:08 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 12:09 pm


Ships in the SJ universe seem to have substantually less weapons than real-world ships, but Jaid can probably work out if the Great Bombard is in proportion with other ship designs.
Compared to RL ships armed with torsion weapons they're quite heavily armed, but in that era (and well into the gunpowder era) ramming and/or boarding (or Greek fire until the recipe was lost) won naval battles. Artillery was to cause crew casualties, foul rigging, set fires, and otherwise interfere with the enemy's ability to resist boarders or avoid/perform a ramming run. Spelljammer has early modern shipbuilding technology, combined with late medieval weapons; ramming and boarding are the king and queen of ship to ship battle as much as in the days when dromonds clashed in the Middle Sea

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Jaid » Wed May 09, 2018 5:00 pm

i'd say the only way to make sense of the great bombard is to presume that it is merely designed to look extremely large, and that the actual barrel is quite small.

because i have to agree, a gun that large really should pretty much one-shot everything.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by AuldDragon » Wed May 09, 2018 7:53 pm

The damage from the Great Bombard is enough to force a large number of ships to suffer an automatic critical hit (on top of the normal chance for a critical hit) for suffering 50% of hull points in damage, as the most common results are right around 19-20 damage. The charts also include three chances for additional damage. Assuming the Great Bombard itself is extremely thick seems reasonable, as there is apparently no chance for a misfire and explosion. The gun barrel probably doubles as the main support structure of the ship, rather than being truly added on.

The use of stone shot is going to reduce the effectiveness of the Great Bombard, since the stone absorbs more of the energy than metal shot would. In addition, ship-mounted cannons "destroyed" enemies by capsizing (otherwise their intent was to disable), which doesn't apply in space. A spelljammer vessel can continue to fly when a sailing vessel in the ocean would sink.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by night_druid » Wed May 09, 2018 10:07 pm

Given the nature of the giff, I'd say that the Great Bombard is an *extremely* rare ship; I'd say six is probably the maximum number ever built, and maybe only half that number exist at any given time. After all, giff are not naturally a spelljamming race in their own right, nor do they have many (or even any) spellcasters. So they must either hire non-giff spellcasters or rely on furnace helms.

To me, the Great Bombard is way too clumsy a ship to use in ship-to-ship action; maybe the largest of fleet battles, perhaps, but I don't see those being particularly common. The Great Bombard is a siege weapon, used against space castles and the like. Some warlord hires the giff to knock down an asteroid castle, and the Great Bombard is the weapon they use. It'll be escorted by other, more maneuverable and better armed ships. The only time it engages other ships is when they are either intercepted or the besieged navy sallies forth to destroy the Great Bombard before it knocks down the gates, as it were. And in those situations, it performs rather poorly, relying on its escorts for defense rather than being a battleship in its own right.
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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by AuldDragon » Wed May 09, 2018 10:29 pm

Canonically, there are two dozen Great Bombards, according to The Legend of Spelljammer boxed set.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Thu May 10, 2018 2:49 am

Jaid wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 5:00 pm
i'd say the only way to make sense of the great bombard is to presume that it is merely designed to look extremely large, and that the actual barrel is quite small.

because i have to agree, a gun that large really should pretty much one-shot everything.
Tha just make another problem worse, though: The price of the Great Bombard itself is too low. The Basilica gun was a project that was outside the financial reach of the Byzantine Empire, and it was cast of bronze and a third the dimensions. We're looking at around 850 tons of iron, or 1/12 of all the iron produced in Great Britain in 1700. Then we have to cast it in one piece. I honestly don't know if we could do something like that today. We're talking smelting an entire asteroid and somehow (Walls of Force maybe?) casting it in place.
night_druid wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 10:07 pm
Given the nature of the giff, I'd say that the Great Bombard is an *extremely* rare ship; I'd say six is probably the maximum number ever built, and maybe only half that number exist at any given time. After all, giff are not naturally a spelljamming race in their own right, nor do they have many (or even any) spellcasters. So they must either hire non-giff spellcasters or rely on furnace helms.
My version of the setting solves that in two ways; the HDF (Now a major Giff naval force) isn't a purely Giff force anymore. A lot of ogres and Ogre Magi have joined up, being big and tough enough to use Giff weapons and tactics. (Ironspine was previously dominated by a human empire in which ogres were second-class citizens. The tables are rather turned now.) Also, some Giff are Powder Mages (cos I really like that concept (From the Powder Mage and sequel trilogies, I recommend them), and they can operate properly tuned helms.
night_druid wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 10:07 pm
To me, the Great Bombard is way too clumsy a ship to use in ship-to-ship action; maybe the largest of fleet battles, perhaps, but I don't see those being particularly common. The Great Bombard is a siege weapon, used against space castles and the like. Some warlord hires the giff to knock down an asteroid castle, and the Great Bombard is the weapon they use. It'll be escorted by other, more maneuverable and better armed ships. The only time it engages other ships is when they are either intercepted or the besieged navy sallies forth to destroy the Great Bombard before it knocks down the gates, as it were. And in those situations, it performs rather poorly, relying on its escorts for defense rather than being a battleship in its own right.
Probably reasonable. Although that brings up the question of why the hull is so puny; build it into something like a Whaleship, you'd have enough room for plenty of defensive armaments. Still would want escorts, but it would be less of a glass cannon (har)
AuldDragon wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 7:53 pm
The damage from the Great Bombard is enough to force a large number of ships to suffer an automatic critical hit (on top of the normal chance for a critical hit) for suffering 50% of hull points in damage, as the most common results are right around 19-20 damage. The charts also include three chances for additional damage. Assuming the Great Bombard itself is extremely thick seems reasonable, as there is apparently no chance for a misfire and explosion.
My figures assume two foot thick walls, leaving aside the steel band reinforcements.
AuldDragon wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 7:53 pm
The gun barrel probably doubles as the main support structure of the ship, rather than being truly added on.
Well, yes; it says the ship is built around the gun.

AuldDragon wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 7:53 pm
The use of stone shot is going to reduce the effectiveness of the Great Bombard, since the stone absorbs more of the energy than metal shot would. In addition, ship-mounted cannons "destroyed" enemies by capsizing (otherwise their intent was to disable), which doesn't apply in space. A spelljammer vessel can continue to fly when a sailing vessel in the ocean would sink.

Jeff
Depends heavily on what era we're talking about. Sometimes it was done by holing them sufficiently near/at the waterline, or by hitting the magazine. Most often, though, it wasn't done at all. A ship is a major capital investment, and everyone would rather capture one than waste it on the ocean bottom.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by AuldDragon » Thu May 10, 2018 4:48 am

Dalillama wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 2:49 am
Jaid wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 5:00 pm
i'd say the only way to make sense of the great bombard is to presume that it is merely designed to look extremely large, and that the actual barrel is quite small.

because i have to agree, a gun that large really should pretty much one-shot everything.
Tha just make another problem worse, though: The price of the Great Bombard itself is too low. The Basilica gun was a project that was outside the financial reach of the Byzantine Empire, and it was cast of bronze and a third the dimensions. We're looking at around 850 tons of iron, or 1/12 of all the iron produced in Great Britain in 1700. Then we have to cast it in one piece. I honestly don't know if we could do something like that today. We're talking smelting an entire asteroid and somehow (Walls of Force maybe?) casting it in place.
At that time, the Byzantine Empire was small, having lost a tremendous amount of land to the Ottomans and other forces. Spelljammer is also a setting where dwarves, for just one example, *have* to make things in order to move, so they could be making them for reasonable. The Arcane have some unknown, but incredible manufacturing ability, so they could be doing it. And, all things considered, Spelljammer is a very high-wealth setting.

Dalillama wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 2:49 am
AuldDragon wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 7:53 pm
The use of stone shot is going to reduce the effectiveness of the Great Bombard, since the stone absorbs more of the energy than metal shot would. In addition, ship-mounted cannons "destroyed" enemies by capsizing (otherwise their intent was to disable), which doesn't apply in space. A spelljammer vessel can continue to fly when a sailing vessel in the ocean would sink.
Depends heavily on what era we're talking about. Sometimes it was done by holing them sufficiently near/at the waterline, or by hitting the magazine. Most often, though, it wasn't done at all. A ship is a major capital investment, and everyone would rather capture one than waste it on the ocean bottom.
I'm just talking about the situations where a ship is sunk from a cannon attack in the age of sail. My point is that the idea of "one-shotting" doesn't really apply to warships, and the method that caused most age of sail ships to sink in combat doesn't apply to Spelljammer.

The damage is reasonably high enough to destroy most small ships and put many others into critical range, and the cost is too high for most players to consider it. Generally, those are pretty good balancing factors IMO. :)

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Thu May 10, 2018 5:17 am

My point is that the idea of "one-shotting" doesn't really apply to warships, and the method that caused most age of sail ships to sink in combat doesn't apply to Spelljammer.
My point is that ship's artillery the size of a railcar isn't a thing that existed in the age of black powder warfare, and its effects are likely to be extreme; the Dardanelles Gun (a slightly smaller cousin of Basilica) was used to one-shot British warships in 1804.( from land)

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by AuldDragon » Thu May 10, 2018 5:56 am

Dalillama wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 5:17 am
My point is that ship's artillery the size of a railcar isn't a thing that existed in the age of black powder warfare, and its effects are likely to be extreme; the Dardanelles Gun (a slightly smaller cousin of Basilica) was used to one-shot British warships in 1804.( from land)
Did the vessel actually break up, or was the hull holed, causing it to sink? How big was the ship? A sailing ship can sink with substantially less damage than would stop a Spelljamming vessel. A spelljamming ship needs to actually break up to be destroyed, which is not really what even large cannons are designed to do with one shot. A Spelljamming galleon that suffers 36 hull points of damage would probably sink on the ocean, but it can still operate essentially fine in space. That's where the difference lies.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Thu May 10, 2018 7:14 am

AuldDragon wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 5:56 am

Did the vessel actually break up, or was the hull holed, causing it to sink? How big was the ship? A sailing ship can sink with substantially less damage than would stop a Spelljamming vessel.
Probably just badly holed, true.
A spelljamming ship needs to actually break up to be destroyed, which is not really what even large cannons are designed to do with one shot. A Spelljamming galleon that suffers 36 hull points of damage would probably sink on the ocean, but it can still operate essentially fine in space. That's where the difference lies.

Jeff
Which just reinforces the idea that the GB isn't an antiship weapon; It's made to wreck drydocks and crack asteroid forts. (Although loading one with 'grapeshot' made of 20 lb balls would do awful things ti any ships in their bow quadrant)

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Jaid » Thu May 10, 2018 9:38 am

the entire cannon doesn't necessarily have to be made of iron, though. or any metal, for that matter. it could be an iron lining, then a bunch of stone or ceramic (for example), then make a change that makes it look like iron (plating it in iron, special paints, whatever). plus, iron production can be a lot higher in D&D than pre-industrial earth because of magic and exceptional creatures. byzantium couldn't summon a bunch of earth elementals, or have a monster dig out a stable tunnel hundreds of feet long in a few minutes.

heck, at that size, you might even be able to make the entire cannon out of stone and have it withstand the forces.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Thu May 10, 2018 12:11 pm

Jaid wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 9:38 am
the entire cannon doesn't necessarily have to be made of iron, though.
It is stated to be made of iron and bound with steel bands
or any metal, for that matter.
It absolutely has to be made entirely of metal. Otherwise it is a large bomb, not a cannon.
it could be an iron lining, then a bunch of stone or ceramic (for example), then make a change that makes it look like iron (plating it in iron, special paints, whatever)
...
heck, at that size, you might even be able to make the entire cannon out of stone and have it withstand the forces.
Not if it's going to be fired within a few dozen miles of anything or anyone you care about.
plus, iron production can be a lot higher in D&D than pre-industrial earth because of magic and exceptional creatures. byzantium couldn't summon a bunch of earth elementals, or have a monster dig out a stable tunnel hundreds of feet long in a few minutes.
Valid point. Such a cannon probably wouldn't cost more than a small castle, and those are probably cheaper for the same reasons.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by GMWestermeyer » Thu May 10, 2018 2:35 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 12:09 pm
Ships in the SJ universe seem to have substantually less weapons than real-world ships, but Jaid can probably work out if the Great Bombard is in proportion with other ship designs.
No, they don't. They have comparable armaments for Renaissance era vessels.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by GMWestermeyer » Thu May 10, 2018 2:38 pm

Look, the simple fact is, the Great Bombard is a fantasy weapon. Spelljammer doesn't use blackpowder, it uses 'smokepowder', the fantasy equivalent.

This is pretty much a 'wizard did it' situation. As for loading, it's designed to be crewed by Giff, Strength 19 creatures.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by GMWestermeyer » Thu May 10, 2018 3:01 pm

Dalillama wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 9:41 am
A standard bombard is a 10-pounder,
What made you come to this conclusion? SJ is late medieval or renaissance-era technology, your terminology is inaccurate.

Remember the Great Bombard is as much a giff religious icon as it is a working weapon. Also, their are very few of them. IIRC only 6 in all of wildspace and the Flow. They should not be found commonly or randomly but encountered as part of a Giff fleet.

You can check out the Armaments section of Hackjammer (page 36) for a more nuanced look at smokepowder weapons in fantasy space.
Last edited by GMWestermeyer on Fri May 11, 2018 1:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Thu May 10, 2018 9:36 pm

GMWestermeyer wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 3:01 pm
Dalillama wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 9:41 am
A standard bombard is a 10-pounder,
What made you come to this conclusion? SJ is late medieval or renaissance-era technology, yourminology is inaccurate.
Concordance of Arcane Space says it throws a 10 lb ball, hence, it is a 10-pounder.
remember the Great Bombard is as much a giff religious icon as it is a working weapon. Also, their are very few of thm. IIRC only 6 in all of wildspace and the Flow. They should not be found commonly opr randomly but encountered as part of a Giff fleet.
My PCs are working with a Giff fleet
You can check out the Armaments section of Hackjammer (page 36) for a more nuanced look at smokepowder weapons in fantasy space.
As a matter of fact I cannot, as I don't own and can't acquire a copy.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by GMWestermeyer » Fri May 11, 2018 1:38 pm

Dalillama wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 9:36 pm
GMWestermeyer wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 3:01 pm
Dalillama wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 9:41 am
A standard bombard is a 10-pounder,
What made you come to this conclusion? SJ is late medieval or renaissance-era technology, yourminology is inaccurate.
Concordance of Arcane Space says it throws a 10 lb ball, hence, it is a 10-pounder.
That's not how the system works, really. A bombard is a bombard, a 10-pounder would be from a later period, and it would have different firing characteristics.
remember the Great Bombard is as much a giff religious icon as it is a working weapon. Also, their are very few of thm. IIRC only 6 in all of wildspace and the Flow. They should not be found commonly opr randomly but encountered as part of a Giff fleet.
My PCs are working with a Giff fleet
Well, it's your campaign, but I would make the Great Bombard the flagship of the Giff fleet, the other vessels would focus on protecting it, and the giff would consider firing it an act of extreme importance, never at a flitter or wasp, only at the most powerful enemy vessel. And the giff would never permit not giff to fire it, nor would they allow it to be used as just another asset. IMO, of course. And if you feel its underpowered, for your game absolutely boost its damage.

To give your giff more flavor, I'd consider using this resource:
HR4 A Might Fortress ( http://tsr.bothgunsblazing.com/dd1/hr4.htm ).

Lots of additional firearms in there.
You can check out the Armaments section of Hackjammer (page 36) for a more nuanced look at smokepowder weapons in fantasy space.
As a matter of fact I cannot, as I don't own and can't acquire a copy.
Maybe someone can help you out there. I only have one copy myself. :(

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Fri May 11, 2018 3:07 pm

GMWestermeyer wrote:
That's not how the system works, really. A bombard is a bombard, a 10-pounder would be from a later period, and it would have different firing characteristics.
It uses 10 charges of powder to throw a 10 lb ball. Therefore, 20 charges of powder can throw a ~20 lb ball. Therefore, the canonical load of a Great Bombard cannot be enough.
Well, it's your campaign, but I would make the Great Bombard the flagship of the Giff fleet, the other vessels would focus on protecting it, and the giff would consider firing it an act of extreme importance, never at a flitter or wasp, only at the most powerful enemy vessel. And the giff would never permit not giff to fire it, nor would they allow it to be used as just another asset. IMO, of course. And if you feel its underpowered, for your game absolutely boost its damage.
Where I came across the issue of scaling is in working out a Thundering Manticore variant, being drilled out as an organ gin with18 smaller (~1' bore) barrels, slightly splayed, fireable in sequence or volley; good for flensing an enemy fleet before ramming and boarding. But I'm hamstrung trying to stat it by the anemic performance of its one-shot sibling.

Also, thematically, I feel like the biggest gun in the universe oughta be something you can use to hunt murderoids and pick fights with Witchlight Maurauders.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by GMWestermeyer » Fri May 11, 2018 3:59 pm

Dalillama wrote:
Fri May 11, 2018 3:07 pm
GMWestermeyer wrote:
That's not how the system works, really. A bombard is a bombard, a 10-pounder would be from a later period, and it would have different firing characteristics.
It uses 10 charges of powder to throw a 10 lb ball. Therefore, 20 charges of powder can throw a ~20 lb ball. Therefore, the canonical load of a Great Bombard cannot be enough.
That's not correct, it's a bad assumption to make, and again, when you describe a weapon as a 'pounder' you are refering to a specific type of artillery, essentially 18th century on (the system developed in the 16th century).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caliber#P ... annon_bore
Well, it's your campaign, but I would make the Great Bombard the flagship of the Giff fleet, the other vessels would focus on protecting it, and the giff would consider firing it an act of extreme importance, never at a flitter or wasp, only at the most powerful enemy vessel. And the giff would never permit not giff to fire it, nor would they allow it to be used as just another asset. IMO, of course. And if you feel its underpowered, for your game absolutely boost its damage.
Where I came across the issue of scaling is in working out a Thundering Manticore variant, being drilled out as an organ gin with18 smaller (~1' bore) barrels, slightly splayed, fireable in sequence or volley; good for flensing an enemy fleet before ramming and boarding. But I'm hamstrung trying to stat it by the anemic performance of its one-shot sibling.

Also, thematically, I feel like the biggest gun in the universe oughta be something you can use to hunt murderoids and pick fights with Witchlight Maurauders.
I think that makes sense. because great bombards are nigh unique (only six in existence according to canon, IIRC) you should feel free to change their stats.

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Dalillama » Sun May 13, 2018 4:03 am

I figure something like:
Firing a Great Bombard takes 200 charges of Smokepowder. Every time it is fired, the ship suffers a Ship Shaken effect. The crew generally have enough warning to brace themselves. The gun must cool for at least 3 hours after firing before it can be reloaded.
The Great Bombard cannot be deliberately aimed at any ship less than 5 tons or any creature less than Gargantuan size. Any ship struck by a shot from a Great Bombard takes 12d6 Hull Points (A high roll implies that it e.g. hit on the stern and just went straight up the keel wrecking up structural members on the way) and suffers a Hull Holed and a Ship Shaken critical hit. Any living creature of Large size or less who is struck by a Great Bombard shot (by a Crew Casualty critical or by other means) is dead. A Wish spell should be able to recover enough of their body to try Resurrecting. Larger creatures take 18d20 damage.

(This level of damage is calibrated to have a reasonable chance of killing the biggest creatures in space. I figure a higher than usual multiplier is appropriate because meat reacts a lot worse having huge holes torn in it than wood.)

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Re: Great Bombard underpowered

Post by Big Mac » Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:33 am

GMWestermeyer wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 3:01 pm
Dalillama wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 9:41 am
A standard bombard is a 10-pounder,
What made you come to this conclusion? SJ is late medieval or renaissance-era technology, your terminology is inaccurate.

Remember the Great Bombard is as much a giff religious icon as it is a working weapon. Also, their are very few of them. IIRC only 6 in all of wildspace and the Flow. They should not be found commonly or randomly but encountered as part of a Giff fleet.
AuldDragon said he checked The Legend of Spelljammer boxed set and it says two dozen Great Bombards.
GMWestermeyer wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 3:01 pm
They should not be found commonly or randomly but encountered as part of a Giff fleet.
The Spelljammer simulator ride video shows a Great Bombard working as an escort ship.
GMWestermeyer wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 3:01 pm
You can check out the Armaments section of Hackjammer (page 36) for a more nuanced look at smokepowder weapons in fantasy space.
As much as I like Hackjammer, it was written for a different rules system and wasn't published by Wizards of the Coast or TSR. :)
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