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Chapter 3: Subsystems / Vehicles

Vehicle Basics

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Ultimately, vehicles are objects. They have object immunities (Core Rulebook 273), and they can’t act. In addition to the statistics most objects have, vehicles have several additional statistics and abilities. Vehicles have a size like any object, but their spaces are more specifically defined. Vehicles also have specialized movement rules.

Size, Space, and Capacity

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Vehicles have size traits, but they don’t occupy the same spaces that most creatures use. Instead, each vehicle has specific dimensions provided in its stat block.

Most vehicles are Large or larger, and many vehicles are made for the purpose of carrying cargo. Unless stated otherwise, the amount of cargo a vehicle can carry depends on its size, terrain, and propulsion. A draft horse or similar creature can usually pull around 100 Bulk of goods consistently throughout the day, so pulled vehicles can typically hold 100 Bulk per Large creature pulling. Water vehicles, such as ships, have limits that are more based on volume than weight; a ship can hold upwards of 1,000 Bulk. Flying vehicles can typically hold only 1/10 the Bulk of a water vehicle and still remain airborne.

Movement and Heading

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
A vehicle’s movement type is determined by the vehicle itself, while its movement each round is based on the pilot’s actions. Vehicles trigger reactions when they move, just like a creature does, as do the actions of the pilot and any passengers.

Creatures can rotate and turn freely, so when you play a creature, you usually don’t need to keep track of which way it’s facing. However, vehicles can’t turn on a dime, so when controlling a vehicle, you need to keep track of which direction it’s facing. This is called the vehicle’s heading.

When a vehicle moves, it must move in the direction of its heading—it can’t move backwards or sideways, though it can turn gradually as it moves forward. Most vehicles can turn up to 90 degrees for every vehicle length they move forward. For example, a 10-foot-long carriage could turn left in only 10 feet. A 100-foot-long warship, however, would need 100 feet to make the same turn; given the warship’s 30-foot Speed, turning typically requires several actions’ worth of movement.

Some rules specify that a vehicle must move in a straight line. This line is measured from the center of the vehicle’s front edge, and it can skew up to 45 degrees from the vehicle’s current heading.

When using a vehicle in exploration mode, the vehicle’s Speed determines its travel speed just like a creature (for more information, see Table 9–2: Travel Speed on page 479 of the Core Rulebook). No Drive actions or piloting checks are necessary to pilot a vehicle at these speeds.

Propulsion

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Vehicles typically travel over land, on water, or through the air, and their Speeds indicate their terrain and movement types. But vehicles also have a form of propulsion—the way in which their movement is powered—and this propulsion often has additional considerations.

There are five main types of propulsion: alchemical, magical, pulled, rowed, and wind. A vehicle can have more than one means of propulsion, though it usually uses only one type of propulsion at a time. For instance, a galley has both the rowed and the wind propulsion traits, meaning it can sail when the winds are favorable, but the crew can also lower the sails and row the ship when necessary. The vehicle’s means of propulsion informs the skills a pilot can use for piloting checks (page 175), and some means of propulsion have additional rules.

Alchemical

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Powered by the reactions of alchemical reagents, controlled internal combustion, lighter-than-air gases, or steam, vehicles with alchemical propulsion tend to be powerful but have the potential to be wildly unpredictable. Alchemical vehicles can often be piloted using the Crafting skill.

Magical

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 174
Magically propelled vehicles are powered by spells, magic items, or an entirely magical engine. A magical propulsion system can be targeted with counteracting effects like dispel magic, using the vehicle’s level and a standard DC for that level for the counteract check. A creature can use Arcana, Nature, Occultism, or Religion (depending on the type of magic) for a magical vehicle’s piloting checks.

Pulled

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
This method of propulsion is perhaps the most common, wherein a wheeled conveyance (such as a carriage or wagon) is pulled by one or more creatures. The Speed of the vehicle can never exceed that of the slowest creature pulling the vehicle. The creatures pulling the vehicle don’t act on their own; they instead act as part of the vehicle’s actions, and their movement as part of those actions triggers reactions just as it does for the vehicle itself and its pilot.

When a pulled vehicle takes collision damage, so do the creatures pulling that vehicle (though they can typically attempt the basic Reflex saving throw to mitigate that damage). The death of one or more pulling creatures might damage or slow the vehicle, and it might cause the pilot to lose control.

For a vehicle pulled by an animal or similarly unintelligent creature, a pilot can use Nature for piloting checks; for sapient pulling creatures, the pilot can instead use Diplomacy or Intimidation for piloting checks.

Rowed

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
These vehicles are propelled by the power of creatures rowing the vehicle from within. The creatures rowing the vehicle act only as part of the vehicle’s actions, and their movement as part of those actions triggers reactions just as it does for the vehicle itself and its pilot (though rowers often have some degree of cover).

When a rowed vehicle takes collision damage, so do the creatures rowing that vehicle (though they can typically attempt the basic Reflex saving throw to mitigate that damage). The death of one or more creatures might cause the vehicle to go out of control or slow the vehicle, but usually doesn’t damage the vehicle.

A pilot on a vehicle rowed by other people can use Diplomacy or Intimidation for piloting checks.

Wind

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 175
Wind-propelled vehicles require some form of air movement to power them, and adverse wind conditions can cause them to stall or even go out of control. Wind vehicles that rely on cloth sails typically have weakness to fire. Pilots of wind-powered vehicles can use Nature for piloting checks.