Unorthodox Enchantments for Moving a Ship


My group is currently running a saga set in and around Norway. The covenant operates across an enormous expanse of water, and now feels like it really ought to have a suitably impressive magic ship. We've exhumed the burial ship of an ancient Norwegian king (after putting his unquiet shade to rest) and devised various quality of life and defensive enchantments, but we weren't able to settle on the best way to make it move. To that end, we've decided to sponsor a contest [approximate in-character text of the challenge reproduced below].

As the storyguide, I suppose it's my job to come up with some of the submissions. I've got a few ideas, but I thought I might as well try to crowdsource some, too! So, basically, I'm looking for ideas for enchanted items to move or otherwise impressify (not a real word) a ship. They do not need to be especially practical - we're definitely looking for style first and usefulness second.

Notice to all Worthy Enchanters of the Order of Hermes

We, the magi of the uttermost north, being well-supplied in both vis and daring, seek the finest enchantments of nautical locomotion to speed our famous and intrepid ship. We therefore propose a contest after the manner of the cunning House, open to any magus of good repute. Two years being elapsed, whosoever presents the swiftest and most wondrous such enchantment, as assessed by their peers, shall receive full compensation for the cost of their enchantment, three rooks' vis as honorarium, and lifelong right of first refusal on the enchantment contracts of the north.

Eos ex Jerbiton Filia Melanthii for the covenant of Borealis

Have a look at Thomae's Flight Disk (Legends of Hermes p.123): simple, impressive and quick to make - if you can provide a lab the size of the ship.

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Thank you for the reference! I of course will have to include at least one flight proposal, and a variant of the Flight Disk would work well enough [presumably with a few tweaks, because a ship sitting on a giant stone disk is just silly.]

To our Respected sodales Eos ex Jerbiton,

We the mages of Ultima Thule, on the island of Saaremaa, have encountered a similar need for rapid transportation. We have improved our snekke with two enchantements:

The first are the Bellows of Blessed Breeze, an enchanted bellow which will create wind enough to drive the longship at good speed constantly for an entire day.This item is of my devising, and I have a spare ready for sale right away. Do not be worried by the keening sound made by the wind, it is merely a side effect of the faerie vis that I used in its construction.

The second item is a Raven head shaped ship prow, which we call As The Crow Flies, this item was devised by my sodales and Covenant-mate, Ravna ex Bjornaer. It will levitate a wooden longship into the air, though at a slow pace, hence the need for the bellows to impel the ship forwards.

We find your purchasing price acceptable and agreeable and will await your answer in the coming months,

Galerus "Hoedekin" ex Merenita
Covenant of Utlima Thule
Kaali crater, island of Saaremaa

Our nearest Mercere House is in Riga, run by Appolinarius ex Mercere

Bellows of Blessed Breeze
Base 2 (Create a natural phenomena (wind) , +2 Voice, + I Conc . + I unnatural) (level 10)
Spell: 10
Item holds concentration +5
Lab total:15
Expires after 70 years
As The Crow Flies
Lifts any wooden item off the ground (normally a boat). By itself this can move at the speed of smoke in any direction.*
Spell: 20
Item holds concentration +5
Lab total:25
Expires after 70 years

*: I do not have the full write up from this item, it was made by another player...

Thank you very much [I appreciate the IC, too :slight_smile:]. I imagine that something along the lines of your first item would be pretty much the standard hermetic approach to sailing, along with Push of the Gentle Wave variations, so I would be surprised if we didn't get something like it - though I suppose most magi probably wouldn't use ever-keening faerie vis!

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We had a rudder of push of the gentle wave as a stop gap, but once we took to the air, we no longer needed it.

Working with keening faerie vis (harvested from evil teutonic knight monster faeries) is the Privilege of being a Merinita.

I never done it, but an oar, or a set of oars, working as one item, that can propel the ship, using ReHe, could be a nice idea. Especially if you need to go against the wind.

I like the idea, but I think that it ends up expensive:

2 items, voice range, group (or group +1) target, ReHe all the targeted oars to have the same motion as the master oar. So each of your two rowers could be rowing like 10 men.

(Edited to fix spelling and grammar errors)

If you want to keep it as an actual boat (meaning not fly through the air), then there is a whole host of things that you can do. Many of them can be combined, resulting in a greater overall effect. Some are not directly locomotion, but would improve the efficiency of such.

For wind power lots of people will instantly think of CrAu, but totally miss out on the value of ReAu effects like Wind at the Back. Designing a spell based on this with a Base of 3 would direct all wind to come in from behind the ship, causing it to always be "running with the wind". Gather the Wind, which pulls all available wind into it, is another way to increase the efficiency of sails. These can be combined with CrAu effects nicely as a Re(Cr)Au effect (the Re effects have a higher base by 1) or two separate effects.

Adding Push of the Gentle Wave type effects in combination with wind ones is nice, especially if you do something like tie it to the direction of the rudder/steering oar. This would be far better at turning the ship, allowing it to have a tighter radius or even turn in place. Another effect of the same Arts that would be extremely useful is Break the Oncoming Wave, placed on the ships figurehead.

Magical Ballast (HP, p 68) is a very useful effect to add to any ship with a large cargo capacity. If you have ever done any load management for a ship or airplane you will know how critical this is. Another useful effect from that book is Man the Sails (p 70) which is only a level 20 effect if you do not need the Linked Triggers.

A MuHe version Rock of Viscid Clay is very useful for improving the hull of the ship. If you reduce the duration to diameter and give it unlimited uses a day in an enchanted item, it is level 20. With this you can mold all the individual boards and beams of the ship into one unit, making it smoother and way stronger. Effects that allow you to plate the exterior can improve this even further. If you are looking for a spell to give you an idea, Ink of Noblest Metal is the one we used. My group uses both of these effects in our enchanted shipyard, which allows the ships produced to perform much like modern fiberglass and metal hulled sailing ships. Our go to is a brass belly and quartz for the remainder of the exterior, though our flagship uses obsidian rather than quartz (coatings are a couple layers paint/about 1 mm). The hulls are one piece, far stronger, completely water proof, require no chalking/taring, and far less likely to develop hanger-ons (barnacles).

My groups flagship makes use of most of the effects listed above. Enchanted into a series of stones arranged in the ships helm are the ones required for directly controlling the ship. The include the Water Stone (Push of the Gentle Wave effect that stays inline with the ships rudder), the Wind Stone (CrAu effect that creates a wind), the Rigging Stone (ReHe effect that controls the ships rigging and canvas), the Anchor Stone (ReHe(Aq,Au) effect in which the ship resist all movement until the sails are raised or ships oars dipped into the water), and the Aegis Stone (ReHe(Te) effect that blocks 1 ship class weapon attack per round).

In addition to the above effects, its sails are also made from one piece (a variation of that MuHe version Rock of Viscid Clay) of laminated cloth, primarily a silked cotton with linen ribbing and hemp edging. They are enchanted with a ReAu effect to direct the wind into coming into them from the rear of the ship (combined Wind at Back and Gather the Wind effects). There is also a wave breaker effect on the ships figurehead which allows it to sail into rough seas with far less chance of damage or swamping.

There are of course lots of effects that have nothing to do with the ships movement that are very helpful to have. Producing fresh water, effects to produce light and warmth, ways to cook without actual fire, Eyes of the Eagle effects for lookouts, mapping effects, navigation aids, the list goes on and on.

If you could find a mage who could pull off the enchantment, having a ship capable of entering and navigating the magic realm would be awesome, and fit a Viking burial ship-ship to the afterlife theme...

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Hmmm... I didn't even consider magically coppering the hull, but that's probably something we want to do regardless.

I'm a bit curious about how your Anchor Stone enchantment functions, if you're willing to give details (off the top of my head, I don't see an obvious reason for the requisites).

I did not design that one so I don't know all the details but the effect does more than just hold the ship in place, which would be ReHe. I know that part is "While in effect the ship is held in place as if anchored fore and aft, even in water too deep to use an anchor"

The requisites provide protection from the effects of extremely strong forces of water and wind against the ship. Waves are smoothed and lowered, not washing over the ship. Wind gust are slowed. So if used in the middle of a storm, the ship would not be swamped or rolled.

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At the "rather weird" end of the spectrum, how about a MuHe(An) enchantment to give the ship a tail to propel itself through the water?

MuHe(An) >30
(Base 10 + 1 Touch + 1 Conc + 1 Part + X Size; +5 item maintains concentration + X uses per day)

As a step-up from that, there's the "give your boat wings" option.

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Would just giving the boat a tail work, or [as I assume is the case] would you need some kind of additional effect to give the boat the ability to productively use said tail?

(I quite like this idea, though)

Actual dragon boat...

My noteworthy Sodales, Eos ex Jerbiton,
My filius and myself were planning on sailing against the Northen giant-worshippers, in vengeance for the death of my parens. Miserably and regrettably, during the later stages, my filius met an untimely end during a laboratory experiment. The fruits of our research I will offer to you, in hopes you will continue our cleansing of the vile northmen. I am now too old to continue this crusade in person, but would revel in the chance to hand my torch of vengeance to you.
I will continue my aims of arming the warship beyond the two years you have stated, but it will be some time before I finish the shipbreaker ram, and the wind-breaking sails.
Your ally,
Frustro ex Flambeau filius Venaticus

The Drowned Ship That Defies the Land
This is a large viking raiding ship is opened (using the rules in Hermetic Projects, p66) for 12 vis (x6 instead of x5 for the size of the ship.) All the space for enchantment was used.

Harness the Ocean's Crash
While holding the tiller/steering oar of the ship, the pilot can direct the water underneath to flow in a rapid ocean-current to ease travel.
(Base 4, +1 Touch, +1 concentration, +1 part; +5 item concentrats, unlimited +10)

Salty Caress of the Sea
InAq 9
This enchantment just senses if the hull has seawater beneath it.
(Base 2, +2 sun, +1 Touch; +3 environmental, +1 uses)

Heaving Bosom of the Ocean
CrAq 28
Utilizing Salty Caress of the Sea, this enchantment will create water beneath the ship if there isn't any. Should the ship run aground (after a brief impact agains earth), a churning mass of seawater will crash about the ship's hull and buoy it up, allowing the ship to, effectively, sail its way onto the land. A skilled navigator and sailor could likely do this with minimal harm to the ship(Profession Sailor ease factor 9). The conjured seawater is unnatural, holding it's shape after the conjuring, though it does fade away after a round.
Since this is seawater, it will leave freshwater lakes and rivers rather brakish after passing. In fact, since this can trigger if air is beneath the hull, it is theoretically possible to sail over the air with this effect, though it is very difficult (ease factor 18, and a result below 9 will cause a capsize).
(base 4, +2 unnatural, +1 touch; +3 linked trigger, +10 unlimited)

Eternal Service of the Drowned
CrIm 39
This enchantment actually just creates the spectral illusion of two dozen ghostly Danish rowers propelling the ship along its way. It also creates a ghastly drummer to keep them in time. Travel in style! This enchantment affects sight, sound and touch - the ghostly rowers and their spectral oars are chilly and clammy to the touch, like sea mist. The rowers seem to match the appropriate speed of the ship.
(Base 3, +2 group, +2 touch, +2 Sun, +1 changing images, +1 complexity of movements; +3 environmental trigger, +1 uses)


I wish I had more time to elaborate, but sadly I don't.

So as a quick summary, the two first things that came to my mind were:

  • Chariot of Neptune: a huge bridle with a ReAn effect with some serious magnitudes spent in penetration and size, so it can control a group of huge sea creatures to pull from the ship. Huge optopuses, giant tortoises, killer whales or a kraken if you can get you one can make impressive pullers.
  • A variant of the above which trades the penetration and size modifiers with group and increased group size, to use with thousands of smaller fishes. If you can get enough Salmons, you can sail rivers up.
  • Elemental Surfer: a ReVi effect to catch a big water elemental and make it your own, private, tamed huge wave just below your ship.

And if I had a ship I'd also try to get an InVi spell to detect magical auras and a Re(In)Au(Vi) spell to make the winds pull to the direction where the Aura increases, to try to avoid the Northern Seas' lack of aura problem.

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I think the Animal requisite could come with enough sentience for the boat to be able to use it to swim with it.

Steering it is left as an exercise for the purchaser.

How about a MuHe(Me) effect in line with Stir the Slumbering Tree (ArM5 p.137) to make the vessel conscious? For added effect, this should be made as an enchanted figurehead with additional enchantments to allow it to speak. :mermaid:

That would be really difficult effect for something the size of a ship. The +1 for the processed nature of the ship is less of an issue than the required size modifier. You are looking at Size +6 for the smallest and Size +8 for the largest ships. A boat (which is smaller than the OP would want) might be Size +5.

So the Stir the Slumbering Tree effect would be Base 4, +1 Touch, +2 Sun, +1 Treated or Finished, +6~8 Size; +1 2/day, +3 E. Trigger. Level 24 + (size * 5) for a final level of 54 to 64. You could shave the range from Touch to Personal if you had a lab large enough to enchant the ship directly, though having a shipyard lab is a major project itself.

The base awakening would only allow it very slow movement ability, so other enchantments would be required. If you really want to get wild with it, use the ReHe Base 10. Make it D: Conc, item maintains Conc, and specify that the awakened mind controls it. Base 10, +1 Touch, +1 Conc, +2 Complexity, +6~8 Size; +5 item maintains con, +10 unlimited/day. Level 45 + (size * 5) for a final level of 75 to 85. Once again you could shave range from Touch to Personal if the whole ship is enchanted.

So yea, not that easy an effect. This combination is something I have spent a great deal of time doing in game, though never on something beyond Size +2. If you could pull it off, it would effectively make the ship into a character. It would have Int or Cun, personality traits, etc.

EDIT: For anyone wondering, the +2 Complexity on the ReHe Base 10 effect is to give it roughly the same range of capability as The Tireless Servant enchantment from Covenants. That would give it about the same total articulation, though spread over a ship so things like adjusting the sails would be like a person moving their arm and wiggling their fingers.