The first dracon ship designed specifically for spelljamming, the Herdship is a recent development which seems to herald a new wave of dracon exploration and colonization. Dracons are relative newcomers to spelljamming, first appearing within the known spheres only within the last few decades, and were first encountered using groundling ships of their own design (effectively these ships can be considered to be Galleons). In the years since the first encounters, dracons have shown a preference for using human ship designs such as the Hammership. It seems that during this initial period of spelljamming using groundling ships and the ships of other races, the dracons were designing vessels which would suit their own needs. The Herdship is the first example of the results of this effort.
The Herdship is very clearly designed by builders who are more familiar with groundling ships than spelljammers, however the ship has several very important differences from groundling ships which allow it to perform effectively in space. Primarily this includes rigging which, while more extensive and complex than most rigging designed for spelljamming, is essentially well planned for maneuvering in space. This maneuvering is aided by a specially designed rudder and a wooden fin running underneath the vessel. The stylized bird head prow of the Herdship is solid wood shod with copper, and serves as a blunt ram. The remainder of the weaponry of the Herdship consists of a pair of heavy catapults mounted in elevated turrets on deck, and four medium ballistas arranged with a pair on the foredeck, and a pair on the aftdeck.
In many ways, the most important feature of the Herdship is its shear size. Dracons are herd animals, and do not feel comfortable when separated from their family unit or herd. For this reason, small vessels are never used by dracons, except for very short journeys. In fact, a dracon ship on a long (more than a few days) journey will never be smaller than a Tradesman except in dire circumstances, since a smaller ship cannot support an adequately-sized dracon herd. To the dracon mentality, the bigger the ship, the better. In fact, most dracon-operated vessels operate with a crew which is of sufficient size, yet significantly reduced in size from the herds that would be seen on the dracon homeworld. The Herdship, however, is large enough that it can comfortably carry a full moderately-sized herd.
The crew of a Herdship, more properly referred to as the ship's herd, will generally consist of a full 50 dracons, the maximum number of these large creatures that the air envelope can safely support, allowing a full four months of travel before air quality begins to suffer. As the larger dracons are also able to perform more work than human-sized creatures, a herd of 50 is more than adequate to operate the ship as well as fully man all of the weapons. The ship's herd will be led by a kaba (a fighter of at least 7th level), who is advised by 2-3 shallas (clerics of levels 3-12) who serve as the craft's spelljammers. The remainder of the herd will typically be standard dracons.
Ship Uses Edit
Explorer: Herdships are primarily intended to explore the crystal spheres, expanding the knowledge of the dracons, as well as discovering opportunities for profitable trade, and searching for colony sites. In this capacity, Herdships usually carry a number of smaller vessels which are used as short-range scouts. Depending on the strength of the major helm powering the Herdship, these scouts may be towed vessels (Marlins and Falcons are preferred), or simple Launches. If these short-range scouts are powered by full spelljamming helms, then the crew of the Herdship will usually include additional shallas to operate them.
Colony Ship: In the short time in which they have been in operation, Herdships have already been instrumental in establishing several dracon colonies, and indeed this seems to be one of the primary purposes of the design.
Warship: Herdships were not designed as warships, however they were designed to be powerful enough to discourage attack. Additionally, since the Herdship represents the most powerful vessel dracons are likely to operate, in some cases they have operated as warships. In one notable case, a Herdship successfully destroyed a neogi Deathspider which had been preying on dracon ships.
Other Configurations Edit
The Herdship is too new and rare for any other configurations to have appeared.