are built around an elemental crystal, which are discussed on the website. The
entire skyship is built around this, and linked to it via arcane means, so that
when an elemental is bound into the crystal it's power reaches the entire
vessel. Usually, a skyship is made of wood, inscribed with arcane runes and
sigils to channel the elemental power throughout the ship. The ship becomes
lighter than air, as if subject to a levitate spell. Those crystals which house
Earth elementals can travel from shard to shard via a form of elemental
attraction/repulsion; they reach top speed only when traveling between two large
shards, and are difficult to maneuver when they veer from these 'ley lines' that
(it is theorized by elemental sages) keep the Shards in spatial harmony with one
For true maneuverability and speed, an air elemental should be bound. Such vessels ride the winds of Ilifinsata, and can be made to call upon their celestial mother to guide them through the air, filling their sails with elemental winds.
Fire and water elementals can be bound into a crystal, but they make for poorer vessels. Fire elementals, especially, are avoided due to the dangers they would present if the binding crystal were damaged. (See below) Sails are used to supplement the meager motive power of water and fire crystals.
Dwarves build theirs slightly differently. Rather than projecting the elemental force throughout the vessel, dwarves make use of fulminar, the rare 'flight-metal', also called 'skysteel'. Fulminar, when properly treated, refuses to sit upon the ground. It has a natural levitation-like property. Ships are made of fulminar, and them fitted with an elemental crystal that serves only to turn mechanical airscrews or rotors. This is the most many shardfolk see of the mechanical prowess of the dwarves, most often used in their dwarfholds to create hidden mechanisms to open stone doors and in mines to transport ore and assist in mining. Though not exceptionally fast, dwarven tugs are durable and can travel wherever they wish.
Skyships are very expensive, and their creation is limited to magically advanced nations. Xauphinelle and Ozaan (and favored Pentatra-aligned nations) have the greatest experience making skyships, and the greatest capacity to do so (though Xauphinelle's current resource-poor condition hinders them greatly). The Pentatra in particular uses their control of skyship production to assist them in political negotiations and gain leverage in the affairs of nations all over the Shards.
The Necromancers of Döss are known to have their own skyships, though they are few, and no one knows what methods they use to power them. Still, those who require transport, have a great deal of money, and do not wish to deal with the Pentatra sometimes hire them.
Design: As mentioned, dwarven skyships are mostly made of metal. Some have an emergency sail in case their airscrews are damaged.
Imperial Aelven vessels are fast, beautiful, and often feature a sliding sectional carapace that can be used to close off the upper deck of the skyship. Large hardened glass observation bubbles can be found dotting the hull above and below the ship, giving aelven vessels excellent field of vision.
Free Cities skyships are unique in that they are built to land in water, if need be. They can sail from city to city via the Circle Sea, and then lift up and away to visit far off ports. The often look very much like water vessels, though with under-masts that can be swung out into place when they take to the air. The Free Cities also possess skyships from other nations, including one aelven vessel won from an aelven noble that overestimated his card-playing ability in Mezzona.
Fioran Skyships exist, but are made by those wyrrdinmen sorcerers who find themselves able to master the art of elemental binding. Because of their mercurial magic, wyrrdinmen ships sometimes have strange properties. One leaves a trail of bright smoke as it passes, another sings as it travels - with the volume depending on the wind's speed, while the Phantom of Clan Iceheart is partially invisible and hard to see - but food in its holds rots quickly. Some of the nobles of Fioré would like to deal with the Pentatra to gain more reliable skyships, but the High King's mandates prevent this.
Aerial Combat: Aerial combat is something that few ship captains wish to directly engage in. Were their elemental crystal to be damaged, or worse yet shattered, the bound elemental would be explosively released from its captivity and run rampant; the skyship would begin to fall with an enraged elemental on board, doing its best to escape while causing as much death and destruction as possible.
In times of war, wizards often target the elemental crystals of enemy skyships. An invisible, flying wizard, or similar spellcaster, can often destroy a ship from afar with a well-placed evocation. Skyships often have a wizard in their crew to counter such possibilities.
When two skyships meet during times of war, they generally keep their distance, keeping out of spell range. Flying wizards or other mobile combatants are dispatched to destroy the enemy vessel - often aerial cavalry, if the skyship is big enough to house them. Griffins, pegasi, lesser drakes and so forth are often ridden into battle to destroy or drive off an enemy vessel. Hippogriffs or pegasi seem to deal best with being cooped up onboard a ship, so they are preferred, and thus more expensive, mounts.
Failing this, ballistae are used to attack a skyship.
A battle between large skyships is generally fought over a large area, with aerial cavalry clashing in the air between the two foes. Wizards on the skyship's decks attempt to lend spell-support, and destroy attackers who break through the aerial combat to attack the ship itself.
Rarely do skyships close, if they can help it. It does occasionally happen, though. Pirates, hoping to take over a ship and steal its cargo, often send forth a party of boarders to drop or land on a skyship. Merren are especially adept at this, due to their natural 'feather fall' ability. When the skyship finally realizes a boarding party is onboard, the pirate vessel attempts to use the confusion to leave concealment and close the distance towards the beleaguered skyship. For this reason, skysailors dislike traveling through or near clouds, traveling through clusters of small shards, or over the surfaces of shards where common bandits with access to spider-eaters or other lesser flying mounts can attempt to bring a skyship to ground.
Skyships are very expensive, and captains prefer not to risk them if at all possible. In war they are more useful as troop transports than vessels of war, though against a defenseless city a volley of ballista or catapult fire can certainly be impressive and destructive.
All right. I hope that answers some questions. I'll try and post some rules crunchy stuff later, though it will mainly be cost and hardness of hulls and crystals, as well as ship speeds.