Way back in the day working on this my thoughts went towards being quite specific. In my early play of 5e I would have created each officer and “boy” as a PC and the crew would be NPCs from one of the books (Monster Manual and Volo’s Guide). My familiarity with the system is stronger now.
- Royal Steward
- Captain’s Boy
- Cabin Boy
- Officer’s Boy
- Bellows and Fuel (7 mul)
- Balloons (4 hobs)
- Ratchets (4 muls)
- Props (8 muls)
- Weapons (5 hobs)
- Lookouts (5 gobs)
- poultry (2 muls)
That’s a rather long list of characters for the airxip equivalent of a four-master from the Age of Sail. It’s overly complex and almost certainly a level of detail that is unnecessary within the 5e system.
Instead I would use the light NPC rules which I have adopted for play for the individuals. I would probably only do this for a few of the senior officers (and maybe a single generic “boy”).
For the various crew elements I would lean towards the Colville rules of Warfare starting at page 233 in the current PDF of Strongholds and Followers. Those are all small units, and could even be fused based on ancestry in some cases.
Ratchets, Bellows, Fuel, and Props could be a medium mulgob unit of greens with light equipment. Weapons and Balloons would exist as a small unit of seasoned vets with medium equipment and archery. The Lookouts are a small unit of goblin regulars with light equipment. The remaining crew and officers get represented as a small unit of green humans (default mixed ancestry) that exist as infantry.
The point being that 5e doesn’t need details. It needs broad strokes that a DM and their table can use to describe actions, many of which won’t need dice. As the version of D&D that leans most on role rather than roll a returning creator should respect that. Remove as many details as possible, because most of the details aren’t necessary at your table.