|Used Primarily By||Humans|
|Crew (Min/Max)||20/40 (total weapon crew: 4)|
|Man-Days of Fresh Air||4,800|
|Landing - Land||No|
|Landing - Water||Yes|
|Saves As||Thick wood|
|Power Type||Major or minor helm|
|Ship's Rating||As per helmsman|
|Standard Armament||2 Medium Ballistas (crew: 2)|
|Source||Concordance of Arcane Space|
Most groundling nations give little thought to the empires that battle in space above their heads, if they are even aware of them. There is the occasional upstart nation or magocracy that turns its attention to the stars, but these efforts are usually short-lived since internal pressures do them in, or they find themselves unable to compete with other spacefaring nations. As a result, major efforts to reach space are usually only achieved by worlds with a single ruler. One of the exceptions to this general rule is the so-called "oriental" lands of the world of Toril, particularly the nations of Shou Lung and Wa. Based in an area with large populations, and long-lived ruling organizations with efficient bureaucracies, the eastern nations of Toril have dabbled with space travel.
Shou Lung's approach to space exploration is fairly typical of the oriental nations throughout known space. While "western" nations are unaware of space travel, dismiss it, or turn their attentions to more militaristic ends, the oriental nation pushes its experimentation with space forward. The Dragonship of Shou Lung is an example of such experimentation, and reflects the mindset of an organized groundling nation reaching into space.
The Dragonship is boatish, and has some disadvantages over ship designs used by other spacefarers, but it performs significantly better than converted groundling ships, and can be easily constructed by shipwrights who only have experience with building groundling ships (particularly if the shipwrights have experience with building Junks and similar vessels). The helm of this ship is located belowdecks in the rear, with overhead domes allowing a view of space. The large structure on deck is a shrine to the crew's venerated gods and ancestors, to the Path and the Way, and to the emperor, by whose hand the mission is set into effect.
Not one Shou native in 10,000 knows of the Dragonships, as their numbers and missions are for the ears of the emperor only. Dragonship captains all swear to come and go in secret. Despite this, some other nations have discovered the existence of Dragonships. These nations have either stolen ships, or created their own so that they can contest the Shou in the new arena of space. Conversely, some other oriental nations throughout the spheres have adopted the Dragonship design after encountering Shou vessels, since the ship suits their needs and temperament for the same reason that it suits the Shou.
A typical Shou Dragonship has both a captain and a helmsman, but arguably the most important post on a Shou ship belongs to the recorder. The recorder's task is to keep notes on all encounters, collect specimens and trophies, and to act as the official diplomat from Shou Lung. To that end, each recorder is given a number of blank scrolls of official greeting from the emperor. The recorder is empowered to fill in the name of the appropriate race or nation and present them. The crew chosen to man a Shou Dragonship are single men used to long voyages. They are armed with repeating crossbows, a groundling invention that has found great favour in space, making Shou crews both respected and feared.
Exploration: The chief mission of a Shou Dragonship is to seek out the unusual, the odd, and the new, and bring it back to the spiritual center of the universe (the emperor's palace in Shou Lung). Many wonders from the spheres have been brought back to Shou Lung in this manner. The presence of other spelljamming races intrigues the Shou, and they are particularly interested in accumulating more spelljammer helms. The ultimate goal - according to the bureaucrats on the missions - is to make the celestial bureaucracy truly celestial. There have been several waves of Shou Dragonships commissioned and set loose among the stars, as the "scholars of the stars" fall into and out of favour with the court. There is currently a lull in interest in the stars in Shou Lung, but with the return of new ships with rich treasures and the rising interest of other lords, it is only a matter of time before a new wave of Dragonships sails the spheres.
Colonization: When exploring Dragonships find locations that would make particularly profitable colonies, once they return home they are usually outfitted to return and set up just such a colony. A Dragonship on a colonization mission will have its cargo bay packed full of everything that the new colony will need to become self-sufficient as soon as possible, and will carry as many as 100 colonists in addition to its regular crew. The ship becomes incredibly cramped and uncomfortable, and the air envelope must usually be refreshed on a regular basis through spells such as Fog Cloud. Depending on the size of the colony to be created, additional colony ships may or may not be sent.
Free Adventuring: A large number of captains and recorders exposed to the marvels of arcane space suddenly wonder why they would throw in with some small-time emperor when there are whole worlds out there to be discovered, or even conquered. The result is a large number of dragonships no longer loyal to the emperor, cruising around the spheres, taking what they need. Such ships end up in the hands of adventurers, merchants, pirates, and other "free agents" of space. These ships reflect their owners' needs - added armour or increased maneuverability, more weapons (typically up to 3 more large weapons, but even more are not unheard of), and alternate power sources. Most Dragonships used by nations other than Shou Lung are the result of disloyal captains who have been paid by these other nations to allow them to examine and copy their ships (the rest are simply Dragonships that have been captured, or new Dragonships based on those that have been captured).
Flaming Dragons: The Shou who take to space in Dragonships (especially those who have turned freebooter) have a love for bombards and greek fire projectors matched only by that of the lizard men and giff. Such destructive weapons appeal greatly to these newcomers to space, and often all of the weapons on board are of this type, with a significant amount of cargo space taken up by shot and shell. As a result of this dangerous tendency, there are significantly fewer Dragonships in space than there might be if their captains favoured carrying safer weapons. Another result, however, is that Dragonships tend to be approached cautiously; if a Dragonship proves to be a Flaming Dragon it may be dangerous to itself, but it is also dangerous to any other ship that comes too close.
Battle Dragon: This version of the Dragonship was developed in response to the perceived threat of the Wa Tsunami (although it should be noted that the Battle Dragon is fairly poorly suited to defend itself from the tactics of the massive Tsunamis and their swarms of Locusts - luckily for the Shou the Tsunamis have had their attention largely focused on the Armadas of the elves). A Battle Dragon has the dragon-head prow rebuilt and strengthened to the point where it can be used as a piercing ram - the hull and keel of the ship require surprisingly little modification to allow the ship to hold up to the rigours of ramming. In addition, the hull is thickened and braced internally to provide better protection. The weaponry of the Battle Dragon has been significantly upgraded, with a greek fire projector mounted in a protected turret on the scout's deck, and a pair of turreted medium catapults on the drill deck. Often the medium ballistas at the fore of the temple deck will be replaced with bombards. The resulting craft has AR 4, but has a reduced cargo capacity of only 8 tons. The few Battle Dragons that have been built stay grounded in case they must be called upon to defend Shou Lung.
- Spelljammer reference: Concordance of Arcane Space