As long as the Hammership, but much taller, with a large number of enclosed decks and a heavy, armoured, blunt ram in the front, the whale looks like the sea mammal it is named after, a huge sperm whale. It is not known for being graceful, only big. It is a perfect hauler of large bulk freight and passengers. Its lack of maneuverability and weaponry generally makes it ineffective as a combat craft, but Whales have been used in that capacity in the past. Their greatest advantage is that all of their considerable tonnage is enclosed.
In addition to the helmsman and captain, the crew of a Whale consists of oarsmen who man the ship's flippers. Those Whales used as passenger ships usually have these crewmen serving double duty as pursers, cooks, and servants to those on board. It is rare for the crew of a Whale to number more than 20-25, since this allows a large number of passengers to be carried. Even Whales being used as pure cargo haulers will not usually carry more than this minimal crew. Standard liners will usually be equipped to carry 60-80 passengers, while Whales used as troop transports will be outfitted to carry 100-400 troops.
Passenger Liner: The Whale was designed as a large hauler, and it performs extremely well when the cargo that it is hauling is passengers. The quality of these liners is usually fairly high, since it is an expensive ship to begin with, so most owners tend not to scrimp too much on amenities. Most Whales used as liners are roughly equivalent in comfort to an above-average inn, but some have become famous for their shear opulence. The most luxurious of these liners tend to carry only 20-40 passengers, but charge 10-20 times what most luxury services would charge. Those few Whale liners which do not pay much attention to comfort tend to be cut-rate vessels which cram as many passengers aboard as possible. There are a number of different firms using Whales as liners throughout the known spheres, ranging from one-ship operations to massive lines. One of the most successful is the Pandros Line out of Theiaspace, which is run by a female halfling named Calia Thornbow. Others include Brilliant Night Tours, Fraldathiagn Haulers, and Meer, Dostrol, Hampstad, and Klatchkapper, Ltd.
Bulk Hauler: Almost as frequently as they are used as passenger liners, Whales can be found serving as bulk cargo haulers. These large ships are one of the few economical ways of transporting quantities of low-value goods, such as grain, cloth, or timber, and those with powerful enough helms will frequently tow one or more cargo barges for further economy. Most Whales used as bulk haulers will have regular shipping runs, often supplying asteroid bases and cities with needed goods on a contract. A Whale being used as a speculative free trader is virtually unheard of. A Whale bulk hauler will frequently carry passengers for a minimal fee, but unlike their liner brethren, they tend to offer no amenities for the passengers beyond a berth. Often such passengers will be expected to supply their own food and drink.
Military Support: A significant number of military organizations use Whales as heavy support craft, typically hauling large numbers of troops and supplies simultaneously. These ships are spartan and utilitarian, and are most commonly seen in invasion fleets. Since a Whale used in this role will typically be carrying 2-4 times as many men as its air envelope can safely support, magical means of refreshing the air envelope are highly recommended for all but the shortest of voyages (Fog Cloud spells are the most commonly-used method). Even when used as a military vessel, a Whale usually stays out of combat, since it carries little weaponry. Sometimes, however, a Whale will be used to break up enemy formations by simply ramming the largest enemy craft, allowing allied combat ships to mop up the other enemy ships. Since a Whale is able to simply plow through most small and medium ships, as well as cause massive damage to larger ships, this can be an effective tactic.
Illithid Crew: In areas in which standard mind flayer ships tend to be attacked on sight, the Whale has become a popular ship for the illithids. The enclosed vessel appeals to illithid sensibilities, although its lack of weaponry tends to limit it to peaceful applications. Such ships will be powered by a pool helm, and will typically operate in such a manner that passers-by will never realize that the Whale is not manned by humans.
Killer Whale: In this version of the Whale, large portions of the observation deck are cut away to transform it into a weapons deck. While this section of the ship then becomes vulnerable to attack (reduce AR to 6), this allows as many as a dozen large weapons to be mounted, typically a mix of medium and heavy ballistas and catapults. The cargo space of a Killer Whale is reduced depending on what weapons are carried. As yet the Killer Whale is an uncommon, but deadly warship. There are rumours that a pirate Killer Whale exists, operated by a mixed crew of humans and illusionist gnomes. This ship uses illusions of solid walls to make it appear as a standard Whale until it attacks its unsuspecting victims. The crew of this ship seems to have a great hatred for tinker gnomes, and attacks them in preference to other targets.
Glass Whale: This variant on the Whale is simply an opulent liner in which the heavily armoured bow has been made clear using Glassteel spells to provide a "window on wildspace" for the passengers. The Arnazdo Operation (Milo Arnazdo, proprietor) uses Glass Whales as the symbol of their passenger service, and backs up the fragile-looking (but actually very sturdy) ships by stationing powerful wizards on board.
- Spelljammer reference: 1065XXX1903
- TSR reference: TSR 1065
- ISBN: 1-56076-134-2