Get Your Ship Together

Having been on quite the anime binge recently thanks to my new Crunchyroll subscription, I’ve recently come to realize that “mystic military girls” is one of what’s probably several new (sub-)genres that anime has pioneered. While the actual name for these type of shows is doubtlessly something else, “mystic military girls” is what I’ve come to call them.

In these shows, there’s a group of (usually young) girls that have special/magical/super-science powers. Unlike superhero-style shows, these powers aren’t highly individualistic, instead possessing only minor variations between the characters. Said characters will also be organized into a military or paramilitary unit(s) to face an enemy that presents a significant – if not existential – threat to humanity.

Success is Fleet-ing

Destroyer Fubuki

Meet the new face of naval warfare.

One such series in this genre is Kantai Collection (or just “KanColle” for short). In this case, the special abilities that the main cast members share are based around them all being “reincarnations of (historical) battleships.” Literally, these kanmusu (“fleet girls”) are battleships that have been reborn into human bodies. Working together in naval units, they fight against the “Abyssals”; monstrous humanoid-battleships of unknown origin and motivation that are intent on keeping humans out of the seas.

…Don’t worry that none of that makes any sense. It’s magic.

Having said that, the idea of a human with the power of a battleship is such an odd combination that I couldn’t help but wonder what that would look like under the d20 rules. Given that the characters’ abilities are inherent, rather than something that can be actively gained and developed, that and their uniformity would suggest that being a fleet girl is a template, rather than a collection of personal abilities.

As such, let’s chart what powers the kanmusu have and see if we can come up with d20 statistics for them. Of course, making something this outre will require a great deal of flexibility, and as such we’ll be using the class-less character-generation rules from Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

Kanmusu Destroyer Template (192 CP/+6 ECL)

Superior Firepower (93 CP)

  • Heavy Artillery: Inherent Spell with two uses of the Advanced modifier, all specialized for one-half cost/only as prerequisites (9 CP), plus the Advanced modifier (artillery barrage) (6 CP) and twelve instances of Bonus Uses (18 CP).
  • 20 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/only for Inherent Spells (60 CP).

Inherent Spells don’t require caster levels to be purchased, instead typically requiring that the character’s level be [(spell level x 2) -1]. Since this template is being applied to teenage girls who are unlikely to be higher than level 1, the use of caster levels in this template is to “pay” for that particular requirement (as well as the fact that this Inherent Spell is operating at a very high caster level anyway).

As for what this Inherent Spell actually is…that was tricky. There were extremely few d20 resources that dealt with the damage inflicted by battleships, and among the ones that did, most changed the sub-system used, since normal d20 combat is meant to deal with tactical skirmishes between small groups of individuals.

Ironically, the best resource I found in this regard was over on Thoth’s blog, which utilizes a sub-system alongside typical d20 combat mechanics, the latter including damage, to outline naval combat. Insofar as we’re concerned, the relevant mechanics are that WWII-era naval destroyers are “level three” ships (e.g. 10d6 base damage from their weapons) of “massive” size (e.g. a x4 multiplier to damage, representing the entire barrage of guns/torpedoes/other weapons fired).

So that means we need an inherent spell that can (at caster level 20) deal 40d6 damage. Such a spell would probably look something like so:

Artillery Barrage; School evocation; Level sorcerer/wizard 6; Components V, S; Range long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level); Target 1 creature; Duration instantaneous; Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance yes.

This spell conjures multiple instances of military ordinance, launching them at the target creature in a flurry of destructive power. You must make a ranged attack (not a ranged touch attack) to hit. A creature struck takes 2d6 points of damage per caster level (maximum 40d6).

Damage reduction and hardness apply against this damage. Because this damage is inflicted by multiple hits landing simultaneously, DR and hardness are applied at four times their normal value. This ordinance is treated as a magic weapon for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

This is essentially a disintegrate spell that has had its saving throw removed in exchange for changing it from a touch attack to a normal attack. Likewise, the application of four-fold DR/hardness, and the removal of the various special functions that disintegrate has (such as automatically disposing of the body of a creature it kills, defeating objects made of force, etc.) are exchanged for a longer range.

Will to Stay Afloat (263 CP)

  • Innate Enchantment (236 CP).
    • Immortal vigor IX; [(caster level 17 x spell level 9 x 2,000 gp) x 0.7 personal-only modifier] 214,200 gp.
    • Waterskate; [(caster level 5 x spell level 3 x 2,000 gp) x 0.7 personal-only modifier] 21,000 gp.
  • Damage Reduction 6 (15 CP).
  • Improved Defender x2 (12 CP).

Almost as tricky as figuring out the damage potential of battleships-turned-humans was figuring out how well they resist taking damage. The show depicts them agilely avoiding incoming shots, but we do see them taking damage and shrugging it off (though on at least one occasion a single hit is enough to sink – that is, kill – them).

Given that we do see the kanmusu taking so much damage on more than one instance, and since battleships are massive, heavily-armored floating fortresses, giving them a gratuitous amount of extra hit points, and a large degree of hardness, seemed to be the best way to go about it. They do have a boost to their AC as well – particularly since a shot that inflicts a large amount of damage (or even a critical hit) – can still kill them in one shot.

Of course, these extra hit points are woefully deficient in terms of placing these girls on par with actual battleships, but that can’t be helped. The magic that’s imbuing their bodies can only go so far, and trying to grant them the degree of resilience and physicality that actual battleships have is beyond what it can do. At the end of the day, kanmusu are still humans, albeit extremely tough ones.

The waterskate spell is a variant of water walk, save that it only functions on water (rather than any liquid) and does not cause a submerged character to be borne up towards the surface. In exchange for this, it adds a +30 feet enhancement bonus to the character’s movement when on water.

Battleship Senses (20 CP)

  • Improved Occult Sense/radar (12 CP).
  • Immunity to the distance barriers when communicating (very common/minor/major), specialized for one-half cost/utilizes radio frequencies, which are vulnerable to detection, disruption, etc. (6 CP).
  • Profession (fleet girl) 2 ranks (2 CP).

The fleet girls have the ability to communicate with each other, and sense their enemies, over long distances, at least when they’re using their equipment. Likewise, they seem to have an instinctive understanding of how other ships function, and can recognize similar types of kanmusu on sight, which seemed best represented by some inherent bonuses to Profession skill checks.

Altogether, this template costs 376 CP, which is a +11 ECL modifier. Ouch! However, the entire template is specialized for one-half cost (except for the Damage Reduction, which is specialized for double effect)/these abilities only function when a fleet girl is wearing her “rigging” (a set of mechanical accouterments which, when worn, do not allow her to wear armor), cannot have this template’s hit points restored except via expensive and time-consuming repairs (essentially bathing in a special restorative solution), and may not directly improve on this template’s abilities except via further template levels.

That brings the cost down to 195 CP. Finally, we’ll add in the Obligations disadvantage – fleet girls are part of their country’s navy (presumably via compulsory service) and must function as per military officers – which brings the cost down to 192 CP, or +6 ECL exactly.

Kanmusu Carrier Template (192 CP/+6 ECL)

Not all fleet girls are equipped with artillery weapons. Some are aircraft carriers, firing arrows that – after being shot – become a half-dozen or so miniature fighter planes (piloted by cutesy-looking dolls).

For a kanmusu girl that’s a carrier ship, rather than a destroyer, modify the Destroyer template as follows:

  • Heavy Artillery is replaced with Aero Arrows: Inherent Spell with five instances of Advanced, all specialized for one-half cost/only as prerequisites (24 CP), and one further instance of Advanced (aerial squadron) (18 CP) with plus eight Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • The Carrier template only uses 17 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/only for Inherent Spells (51 CP).
  • The Carrier template does not use grant Improved Defender (-12 CP). Aircraft carriers are meant to stay back from the front lines, launching their fighters into battle from a safe distance, counting on the destroyers to defend them if things get bad.

The aerial squadron spell is developed via the summoning spell template in The Practical Enchanter (p. 104). It summons 4d4 miniature planes – treat as CR 5 creatures – which sets the spell level as being 7. Increasing the duration to one hour per caster level raises the spell level by +3. Finally, the spell level is lowered by 1 due to it being unable to summon anything besides fighter planes.

Using a 9th-level spell to summon a small horde of CR 5 creatures might seem wasteful, but the kanmusu are 1st-level (or so) characters using a +6 ECL template. Keeping that in mind, a squadron of CR 5 creatures can prove to be a legitimate threat, even if they’re individually weaker.

Assigning Admiralty

The kanmusu templates grant a great deal of firepower and durability – and even a few utilitarian abilities – but pay for this with a huge ECL modifier. This is a feature rather than a bug, however, as it makes it unlikely that too many PCs would be interested in taking such a template (especially if the attendant disadvantage is played up properly).

This calls into question what practical uses these templates could be put towards. In fact, the answer is right there in the source material: fleet girls work best as part of an existing military hierarchy, which is to say, fleet girls function great as NPCs that answer the question of “how does local law enforcement/the military keep the peace in a world full of dangerous monsters and high-level characters?”

In this way, the kanmusu function as background characters that help to make the game world feel a little more internally consistent, much as antimages do. Even a small group of fleet girls can fend off quite a few overt threats through sheer firepower, without being so powerful that they can defend against less obvious threats or higher-level antagonists…which is where the PCs come in!


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2 Responses to “Get Your Ship Together”

  1. Thoth Says:

    I’ve got to admit that that isn’t one that ever occurred to me… Sure, I’ve had someone (briefly) playing a world war two ship, and some other real oddities – but I’ve never been inclined to personify vehicles to THAT extent (although I suppose that giving more thought to Strike WItches when that series was mentioned might have made it seem less exotic). About the closest I’ve come was Thomas Gelman ( ).

    You could probably could probably cut down on the cost of Will to Stay Afloat by using a lesser spell with boosts to constitution and some extra hit dice – but it would be a lot more complicated and (in a template that PC’s probably won’t want and shouldn’t take anyway) there’s no real need to worry about the cost anyway.

    Hrm. Now I’m thinking of some pest taking Leadership so as to have his own little harem-anime-fleet…

    • alzrius Says:

      You know, I was almost going to use Strike Witches for the subject of this post instead of Kantai Collection. What stopped me was that I haven’t seen all of the former anime, whereas I have of the latter, and I’m loathe to write about something of which I have only incomplete knowledge. That said, this will probably be the last “moe-fication” series I cover for a while, if for no other reason than further examples are even more difficult to stat up…such as computer operating systems or entire countries! Compared to that, having Nyarlathotep, servant of the Outer Gods, appear as a cute little girl seems tame!

      You’re exactly right that I went the route I did for granting extra hit points due to simplicity. While I was initially concerned over the costs, I came to realize that those weren’t really a problem – and indeed, became their own form of disincentive – given that this template wasn’t really meant for PCs.

      I’ll confess though that I had overlooked someone taking Leadership to get around that particular problem. That’s rather ironic, given that doing so essentially recreates the original Kantai Collection game (where the player is the admiral of the fleet, commanding the various kanmusu). That also reminds me that I want to sit down and read that translation of the Kantai Collection tabletop RPG that I found while writing this.

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