Archive for June, 2011

Sailing the Seas of Dread

By the end of the Isle of Dread Adventure, the characters had relieved a pirate crew of their ship, and this was the means by which the party chose to leave the isle – to sail across the sea towards civilization. Thus was born the need for rules for sea travel. These rough draft rules provide support for a hex crawl based sea adventure.

The Isle of Dread lies some 40 days good sailing due south of the city of Shalazar, jewel of the Jade and Azure Seas. In the middle of the Emerald Sea. Each hex is approximately 40 leagues or 1 average day’s sailing. (in MY world a league is like a mile, but BIGGER.) A good party will need to divide their roles amongst the special “mariner classes” listed below:

Ship’s Officers:
Captain - Uses Diplomacy and Intimidate to control deck hands, a success will avoid an injury (or worse) on deck. Injured 1d6 days, 6+ killed.
Navigator - Uses nature to determine wind speed, direction, weather, and currents, success avoids a shift to the left (even roll) or right (odds.)
Helmsman - Uses athletics and acrobatics to steer the ship, success avoids a shift to the left (even roll) or right (odds.)
Bosun - Controls Ship repair, work crews, uses dungeoneering (or arcana for special) success will prevent ship damage, travel delays
Look Out – Uses Perception and Insight to predict and spot the next hex result, success allows a chance to avoid or outrun
Ships Cook/row master – Controls below deck activities with intimidate, including meals using Endurance. Failure results in sea sickness, or bad rowing

There are plenty of other possible roles on deck, but these top six will work for the average size party. Ships mage, meteorologist, first mate, marine commander, chief engineer, steward, and second mate are some other possible roles for bigger ships and bigger parties. After a successful skill challenge during a heavy storm (or any other especially harrowing event that requires skill at sea) anyone who participated in the victory gains a “level” in their class. This levels can be added as bonus points to any skill check involving that class. For example a level 2 navigator can roll an extra +2 on her nature skill check for navigation. The maximum level for a mariner class is 10.

Additionally, all crews start out at one of the bottom tiers. Two weeks training will raise any crew to the level of step 2. After any event where the officer corps raises a level, the ships crew will also raise one step in quality as long as they participated in the event. Any time new crew are added to a roster, the crew quality will go down one step, or two if over half the crew is replaced. The quality of the crew follows this track:

1 – Lowest level, land lubbers, common criminals, and fools
2 – Low quality sailors
3 – Average quality sailors (save)
4 – High quality Sailors (save +1)
5 – Master crew (save +2)

For the Navigator:
At the beginning of each day, at dawn, or at the start of “First Watch” begins that day’s skill challenge. During this time each of the ships officers will do their part to oversee the days sailing. First the navigator will begin by rolling on the wind and weather charts.

Navigator Table 1 – Three Seas Weather Chart

1 – cold, precipitation
2 – cold, clear
3 – sweltering, precipitation
4-5 – mild, precipitation
6-7 – warm, precipitation
8-10 – hot, precipitation
11-12 – mild, clear
13-14 – warm, clear
15-19 – searing, clear
20 – sweltering, clear

Navigator Table 2 – Random Wind Strength
1 – Hurricane
2-3 – Gale Force
4-7 – Calm
8-13 – Light Breeze
14- 17 – Stiff Breeze
18-20 – High Winds

If the two rolls above equal precipitation plus high winds or above, that means a storm. In a storm each member must roll a skill check to perform their duties (even the ships cook must provide filling cold sandwiches to stave off the effects of fatigue and seasickness.) For a high winds storm, all skill checks are 2 DC higher. For Gale Force storms, all DC are 5 higher, and for a Hurricane, all DCs are 10 higher.

Before going on, there are two more steps for the navigator to roll:

Navigator Table 3 – Wind Direction
1-12 – Prevailing
13 – North
14 – Northeast
15 – East
16 – Southeast
17 – South
18 – Southwest
19 – West
20 – Northwest

And with those three rolls, the navigator has one thing left to do, the daily skill check. The last roll of the navigator is to roll a navigation (nature check) remembering to add any levels in navigation to the die roll. The DC is 10 +level, plus any additional DC due to the severity of storm. A success means the navigators work is done for the day, a failure means that the boat has travelled off course 1 hex to the right (if the skill check was even) or one hex to the left (if it was odd.)

It is important to note that the days weather, wind and direction do not change throughout the day no matter how many hexes the ship travels through. Normally a ship travels 1 hex during the day, whether sailing or rowing. There are times when the wind and clear skies can lead to an extra hex of movement, at the DMs discretion. During Hurricane winds, the ship must move in the direction of the wind, or not at all.

For the Helmsman
Guiding the ship is no easy task, and one of the things the helmsman has to take into account are the prevailing currents, which can adversely affect the shuips speed, maneuvering, and course. At the beginning of the day, the helmsman first rolls on the Current Currents chart below:

Helmsman Table – Current Currents
1-9 – No current
10-12 – Prevailing
13 – North
14 – Northeast
15 – East
16 – Southeast
17 – South
18 – Southwest
19 – West
20 – Northwest

Once the current has been determined, the Helms man will go on to roll a skill check – Acrobatics during a storm, athletics at other times + Helmsman level against a DC of 10 + level, plus any additional DC due to severity of storm) with a success meaning no adverse reactions, but a failure will result in the ship moving one hex in the direction of the current – instead of the planned direction.

For the Look Out
Next up is the Look Out. The first thing the look out does is to roll a D20 to determine what, if anything, lies in the hex the ship is sailing into. A roll of 1-16 indicates that the hex being explored is empty sea. A roll of 17-18 indicates that the look out should roll on Look Out Table 1. A roll of 19-20 means a roll on Look Out table 1 AND the Dm rolls on the Sea Encounter Table. The DM will also roll on the “Special feature” table if needed.

Look Out Table

1-2 – Atoll
3-4 – Sea Cave
5-6 – Volcano
7-8 – Wreckage
9-10 – Ruins
11-12 – Dead Calm
13-14 – Reef
15-16 – Shallows
17-18 – Narrows
19-20 – Special feature

Once the look out rolls are done, the look out makes a skill check (perception + look out level) against a DC of 10 + level, plus any additional DC due to severity of storm. A success indicates the features are spotted in time to make maneuvers in preparation, a failure means that the encounter is spotted too late to maneuver or prepare. Note that this doesn’t mean the ship crashes into the feature of the hex, just that they come within a league or so.

For the Bosun
The bosun has no rolls to make other than the daily skill check, using arcana or dungeoneering. A success means that the ship has sustained no damage. A failure means the ship has suffered a setback. If the roll was failed by 4 or less, it is minor and means the crew must spend the day (or night) working on repairs, but failing by 5 of more means a roll on the ship damage table.

For the Cook
The cook doubles as the surgeon, steward, rowmaster, and all around below-decks officer. During a sailing-day skill challenge, his endurance roll counts as a secondary for every other roll. On a success, any sick or injured sailors are returned to duty healthy. On a failed roll, everyone on board has a -2 to skill checks for the day (weevils in the bread, salt in the water.)

For the Captain
Depending on the mood and temperament of the captian, the daily skill check can be made with diplomacy or intimidate. (A crew will rebel against mixed signals, at the DMs discretion.) A failure within 4 of the target DC results in an injury on board, and a failure of 5 or more means a death of a sailor. During a storm, the injury and death rate become 1d4.

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