Skyships are flying – more correctly ‘floating’ – vessels patterned after sea-going ships of the Age Of Sail. The primary lift is provided by a Franklin Engine and Rittenhouse Lifter system commensurate with the vessel’s size, then the motive force and steering is provided by means of up to three sets of vectored sails.

These flying vessels have begun to revolutionise both travel and warfare in 1780. Being able to sail above land as easily as above water, up to an effective ceiling of around 20,000 feet (the altitude at which humans find it almost impossible to breathe and begin to black out from lack of oxygen) has meant that communications and freight hauling have been made much easier, at a time when steam engines are not advanced enough to provide effective haulage. A skyship can be hovered, or landed in any body of water large enough to fit it’s hull and the masts for its vectored sails. They can even tow barges outfitted with identical lifting devices, forming what is effectively a ‘sky-train’. In warfare, they can drop simple bombs or slide in low to attack with their cannons.

Only available for about 15 years, the numbers of Skyships available are still comparatively small but growing. Best-practise designs are still being worked out. The most advanced artificers are working on streamlining and motive systems which would make their vessels far faster through the air.

Design Notes

Skyships also use Sails (Pyramid 3/64, p30) using the “Realistic” Air Sails design switch (Pyramid 3/64, p32). Note that realistic air sails cost three times the price listed under Sails. Air Movement is the same as water movement as noted under the entry in Pyramid 3/64 and uses the Sailing Against the Wind rules from GURPS Low-Tech, p. 141.

Skyships are built of wood – use Wooden Armor (Spaceships 7, p5). Note that due to structural limitations, wood cannot be used for vessels larger than SM+11.

Many Skyships use sub-system Gasbags (Spaceships 7, p10) – compartmentalized, rubberized, fabric bags filled with helium obtained from natural gas deposits – in addition to their Rittenhouse Lifter systems. This is used to increase their rate of acceleration, ascent and descent – add 10% to all per gasbag system as the entire vessel is lighter – especially useful in warships.

All Skyships use the Design Switches: Hidden Batteries, Lacks Automation, Nautical Lines, Top Deck (Spaceships 7, pages 19 to 22) and the Design Features: No Computer, Pre-Radio (Spaceships 7, p24).


Arcanum 1780: A New World Cernig