Tes3Mod:Tamriel Rebuilt/The Imperial Navy
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The Imperial Navy is a vital, but often neglected subject among the citizenry of the Empire. While the sailors and soldiers who serve honorably aboard seaworthy vessels are often some of the bravest men and women to be found in all of Tamriel, the lack of deep water channels within many areas gives rise to the opinion that an Imperial Navy cannot possibly be worth the expenditure it requires. As an aside, some also point to a general lack of trade among the various other provinces as a reason against maintaining a Navy -- with few trade ships to escort, it is contended, a Navy serves no purpose.
While such concerns may have varying degrees of validity, they do not take into account many other, greater concerns. Individuals do not typically look far outside their own borders, but the sight of the Emperor must reach farther. Indeed, Imperial authority does not encompass one province, but all! And so it is that one cannot consider merely the coast of High Rock or Elsweyr, but the whole, unbroken coastline of Tamriel. One can be assured that the shores of Tamriel stretch long into the horizon, to a distance that boggles the common mind. What the common mind does not often consider is that this vast span is often totally undefended from outside threats, making the Imperial Navy a key part of any advance warning of same, and the first line of defense. In addition to giving proof against foreign dangers, the Navy also plays an essential part in maintaining Imperial Law on the high seas.
In that cause, ships are often anchored along routes known to be used by smugglers and other criminals who seek to evade justice by fleeing to the water. For example, the north of Morrowind is heavily patrolled, effectively blocking a once-popular route around Skyrim once used to take stolen ebony and Dwemer artifacts to other Provinces. Such ignorant scavengers must now employ the more naturally shallow and treacherous Inner Sea between the isle of Vvardenfell and the mainland. In response, The Navy began to use smaller, lighter ships with flatter hulls in this area to chase down the smugglers and combat general lawlessness. As a second example, ships also patrol the waters south of Black Marsh, in a noble attempt to stop slavers. This effort, however, seems to have produced mixed results; the more smugglers that are slain or brought to justice, the more difficult it becomes to obtain slaves. By increasing the probability that slaves will be more difficult to obtain, the Navy has sadly increased the value of slaves on the black market, and so the lure of gold has drawn more to the trade. The Navy is also very active on the western coast of Tamriel, given the large number of familiar sea routes and the number of provinces that share a connection to the Eltheric Ocean.
The crew of an Imperial Naval vessel varies greatly. Each large ship generally has a complement of archers, a priest or a wizard (more often then not a spellsword mercenary), several officers and number of general sailors. The general sailors are often standard Imperial soldiers with either sailing skill, or who have expressed an interest in a post not bound by land. These 'soldiers of the sea' help to balance out the generally ranged capability of the remainder crew. Some ships have a mounted ballista, but these are usually found only on heavy ships and generally on the western coast of Tamriel. These can be used for a variety of purposes, the simplest of which being the piercing of an opponent's sail or the breeching of an opponent's hull. If there is but a small distance between combatant ships, they can be used, with the addition of rope, to board the other vessel.
In battle, the Imperial navy is incredibly effective. The tactics employed by the Navy offer many advantages. Unorganized groups can rarely counter them and therefore casualties among the Navy are few, and a battle usually yields the winner a new ship (although the condition of it can vary greatly). In common naval battles, archers generally rake the deck of the enemy with arrows, and once the ship is close enough to board, light infantry moves and engages the remaining enemy crew in melee combat. The spellcaster on board often can change the face of the worst battles. Casters skilled in the school of Alteration can bend the wind so that enemy arrows find themselves impeded, or for a fast escape should it be needed, or, more often, to prevent the retreat of the enemy. Some of the spellcasters deployed on board Navy ships are skilled in the school of Destruction, and therefore don't often leave much left to capture. A Cult priest skilled in the school of Restoration can also be helpful, as casualties (though usually minor) are often inflicted on the ship in the course of battle.
The idea behind capturing rather than destroying an enemy ship is often an economic one; once a ship is captured, its cargo can be returned to its original owners (generally with a nominal fee) and the ship can be sold, or used by the Imperial Navy. Even partially damaged ships can be cannibalized to repair other Imperial vessels. This provides the navy a constant supply of new ships and shipbuilding materials for a fraction of the cost a shipbuilder might charge, making the Navy very cheap and effective for the Empire.