Author Topic: DM/GM 101: Punking up an Airship  (Read 883 times)


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DM/GM 101: Punking up an Airship
« on: May 16, 2013, 08:43:04 PM »
For a fair amount of time I ran a sea-faring game set at the turn of the century, essentially a steampunk-ish game set on the Battleship Rampage.  The question arose, what might a combat airship look like from this era, with the standard assumption that airplanes are not generally included in a steampunk setting.  This is a basic rundown of what I came up with.  There are some very generic deckplans below, one of these days if I have the time I'll tweak them to show everything in all of its glory.

A Guide to New Crewmen to the AS Empress
Compiled by Commander Oren Voorse, Ship's Engineer

The Airship Empress is 804 feet in length and 135' in diameter at its largest point, containing in excess of 7,200,000 cubic feet of lifting gas (helium.)  Since 1,000 cubic feet of helium can raise 60 pounds of weight, the gas aboard can lift 432,000 lbs.  This is only 95% of total gas capacity; the remainder is kept as an allowance for expansion due to temperature and altitude.

The airship is powered by three boilers, one to provide steam for the aft lift and thrust engines, one for the forward lift and thrust engines and one to power the pumps and generators, any of these three engines can be slaves to provide steam to replace either other boiler is out of service.

Engines are shaft drive steam turbines, a high efficiency system that reduces wasted steam and produce 1,200 horsepower to drive each prop assembly or various pumps and generators.  The boilers and drive engines are between station 92 and 107 for the aft drive, and 140 and 156.5 for the forward.  These details are not included in technical specifications and many other items are omitted for secrecy.

The Prop drives are a gearbox assembly that increases shaft speed and horsepower to drive 4-bladed props up to high rates, the power output can be increased by changing the pitch of the propeller blades to more efficient angles, reducing fuel consumption over earlier models.  The engines can drive the Empress at a maximum speed of 120 knots, with 90 knots being standard cruising speed.  The drive props are located at station 92 and 140, the lift props at station 107 and 156.5.

Fuel is a derivative of coal gas easily procured nearly anywhere in the world for gas lighting, if is delivered under pressure to a burner jet assembly that heats water to steam then superheats steam for maximum power output.  The Empress carries over 26,000 'gallons' of fuel and averages 2 gallons per mile, a vast improvement in efficiency over cola plants and since the gas weighs the same as air there are no ballast troubles as the fuel is depleted.  The boilers can be modified for coal, wood or kerosene but with a decrease in overall efficiency and payload.

The structural members of the Empress are a tough but light Duraluminum alloy, as are defensive plates found throughout the ship.  Additional structural support comes from steel cables of various diameters.  The gas bags are treated silk and the outer envelope is treated canvass.

Weight is always a carefully considered factor which leads to many considerations that aren't always appreciated by the crew.  Showers must be limited to prevent consumption of water, grey water must be maintained for ballast until clean fresh or salt water replaces washing water.  Grey water can be recycled to a degree, being pumped back through a filter but this causes wash water to be used only for that purpose as it cannot easily me made potable.  With a crew of 100 and a requirement of four pints of water a day (400 pounds of water daily for drinking alone) this calls for 48,000 pounds of water bunkered for a maximum ship's endurance.  Shipboard shower baths are restricted to 3 gallons per crewmember, which allows for a 2 minute shower (wet down, water off, lather up, rinse off) A shower day costs the ship 300 gallons of water (the same as 5 10-minute landsman's showers) or 2,400 pounds of water.

With weight in mind many things taken for granted on surface ships are curtailed on the Empress.  We have a single wringing washing machine and air dryer.  Only 11 support personnel are included in the ship's compliment: The ship carries one steward for the captain (who is also the captain's clerk, secretary and valet;)  4 cooks, 4 medical personnel (2 hospitalman and barbers and 2 dental hospitalmen) and finally 3 wireless operators.  Tailoring is performed by the ships riggers, armorer is part of the gunroom duties, kitchen help is provided by the crew at large and all on board are expected to maintain a competency at basic ships repairs and emergency procedures.

The airship's nine officers consist of: The Captain, commanding officer of the ship who's duties are largely supervisory over the operation of the entire airship and crew, the captain has no set watch.  The First Officer attends to day-to-day operational matters involving navigation and insuring that all on board is in proper operating condition.  The Second and Third Officers stand watches sequentially after the first officer and maintain continuity of command.  The Second Officer's station in combat is the auxiliary control gondola located in the aft fin.  In combat the Third Officer damage control officer.  The Fourth officer is the Ship's Engineer (not to be confused with the chief engineer) who directs the ship's engineering department.  The Ship's fifth Officer is the Ship's Gunner, who likewise oversees the gunnery department.  The Seventh officer is the Ship's Wireless Officer who in addition to directing the 2 wireless operators, maintains the ships wireless transmitters and receiver, telephone system and echo altimeter and plays musical recordings through a special circuit throughout the ship.  The final officer is the Ship's Surgeon, who has no command function aboard the ship.

Crew: 100 (20 gunners, 20 engineers, 30 riggers, 10 marines, 9 officers, 11 support.)
There are four Chief's in the ship's compliment, Chief of the Airship (or Master-at-Arms,) the Chief Engineer, Chief Gunner and Chief Rigger, they are the Chief Petty Officers of the Ship.

The Master Chief is also the Master-at-Arms and is in charge of the marine compliment and oversees all discipline on the ship and directly serves the captain to insure that duties aboard ship are carried out in a proper and efficient manner, this position was promoted over the others to end 'turf' wars between the departments.  As an interesting side note, the Master Chief is also in charge of the ships movies and alcohol.  The nine marines under his charge supplement the gunner department in combat and are highly trained to carry out combat off ship.  A Marine is always on guard at the captain's door.

The Chief Engineer (ChEng) oversees 20 engineers, a mixed compliment to maintain and operate boilers, engines, propeller drives, electrical and hydraulic systems over three shifts.

The Chief Gunner (Guns) oversees 20 gunners that operate and maintain the cannons and guns as well as the bombs and racks, and aiming systems for all of these, plus personal weapons maintained on ship.

The Chief Rigger (Rigger) oversees 30 riggers that maintain the frame, miles of cables, air bags, valves and envelopes.

A huge reduction in weight that allowed for armoring of key sections of the ship involved modifying the weapons carried on the airship.  Originally we carried 12 .50 caliber Gatling Guns, each weighing 450 lbs with additional requirements for hydraulics, we replaced these with standard model .50 water cooled machine guns, this decreased our rate of fire to approximately 420 rounds per minute from 600, but 7 rounds per second isn't an appreciable difference from 10.  Each of these guns weighs in at 90 lbs and so we managed to reduce weight from 5,400 lbs to 1,080 lbs or a savings of 4,320 lbs or over two tons.  The Empress carries 3 grades of ammunition, standard ball, incendiary and armor piercing rounds, each weighs approximately 35 lbs per 100, and with a load out of 2,000 rounds per gun we carry 8,400 lbs of .50 ammunition.

Further reductions came with the replacement of fore and aft mounted 6"


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