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dragsvart
2015-12-15, 06:38 PM
I've recently started building a new adventure for a campaign I'm running later this year and want to set it on a chain of islands with the PCs going form place to place on a ship. I'm planning on avoiding ship to ship combat as much as possible (ship combat will just be bad guys jump onto PC's ship and start normal combat) and most of the adventure will be on the islands (most of which will be fairly small).

Has anyone run/created seafaring based adventures that can give me some tips on how to make this concept work without boring my players (or me) or driving me (or my players) crazy with complexity?

BRC
2015-12-15, 06:46 PM
Why are the PC's going from Island to Island? That's the real crux of the campaign. Everything else will depend on that answer.

Also, establish some general trends that you can do for the entire campaign. Is there an Empire invading the Islands? Were the Islands once home to a powerful, lost civilzation? Are there lots of Pirates here?

dragsvart
2015-12-15, 06:49 PM
Right now all I have is "there will be islands and boats". I'm working on building the world right now and will figure out the story after I've started that. I'm just hoping to get a few things to avoid/inspirations to use.

Broken Crown
2015-12-15, 07:44 PM
Will the PCs have their own ship, or will they be passengers on a ship run by someone else? If the latter, travel by ship is easy to run, as you can just tell the players, "It takes four days to sail from Port A to B Harbour. On the second day, you encounter an X."

If the PCs have their own ship, it becomes more complicated. They can now sail wherever they want, whenever they want (which is great for a sandbox game). They (and you) will also need to know something about ships. Unfortunately, nearly all D&D material on the subject is terrible. (Stormwrack is good in places, but not consistently. Everything in the DMG is worthless.)

If you haven't already, I strongly recommend reading the Hornblower novels by C. S. Forester and the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian. They are entertaining reading, and have lots of excellent and historically accurate technical detail. Both series are set primarily on Royal Navy warships during the Napoleonic Wars, towards the end of the age of sail, but the overall technology of ships didn't change much over the preceding centuries, so most of the information about living, working, and fighting on sailing ships should be applicable to your campaign (unless you're using an entirely different technological paradigm, such as Viking, or Classical Mediterranean, or Imperial Chinese, in which case you'll need to look elsewhere for details).

As with any setting, if you have a good general overview of how it works, you can fill in the details yourself as needed, without having to make things complicated. It's useful to know that ships need to be pumped out, for example, but you shouldn't have to keep track of how much pumping is needed unless you want to build an encounter around it. (It could be suspenseful: Can you make it to port for repairs before your crew collapses from exhaustion, or will you have to abandon your leaky ship and make the dangerous and uncertain voyage by lifeboat?)

BootStrapTommy
2015-12-16, 07:45 PM
I'm planning on avoiding ship to ship combat as much as possible (ship combat will just be bad guys jump onto PC's ship and start normal combat) and most of the adventure will be on the islands (most of which will be fairly small).

Has anyone run/created seafaring based adventures that can give me some tips on how to make this concept work without boring my players (or me) or driving me (or my players) crazy with complexity?
I hate to break it to you, but complexity is the name of the swashbuckler's game.

Ship combat is only interesting if it is ship combat. You don't need cannons for it to work though. Just be prepared, because ship combat is 3dimensional. My suggestion? Make the battlefield both ships (bonus points if the ships are unique, not carbon copies). Include multiply decks (I just do two), it allows for some tactical combat. Remember 3D, the masts exist. They may seem complicated, but they are anything but boring, and your player probably expect to be able to climb them. Give them the option.

As for islands? Think Monster Hunter. A band of monster hunters cruising island to island in search of game is always a great adventure tale. Plus, it's a great excuse for ample sea monster's.

Lord Torath
2015-12-17, 08:47 AM
Unless you get player buy-in, they're almost certainly going to want to engage in ship-to-ship battles. At some point (when they're feeling rich), they will want to build/commission their own ship, complete with all sorts of magical doohickeys to make them the scariest thing on the sea. Just giving you a heads-up. Spelljammer (2nd Ed AD&D) has rules for ship-to-ship combat; you may be able to adapt those to your setting (although you'll need to do a lot of tweaking to the weapon ranges and ship movement). The 2nd Ed sourcebook Ships of the Sea is also probably worth a look.

One thing to keep in mind is that it's very hard for sailing ships to sail in opposite directions. When Inego asks, "I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using," the answer is "Yes!"(The final battle in Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is pretty terrible in this respect). It's generally a faster ship overtaking a slower ship. Tacking (zigzagging) into the wind is certainly possible, but if you turn directly into the wind, you will fairly quickly lose momentum and stall (which makes you lose steerage as well). Unless you start using magical effects like Gust of Wind and Weather Control. And please expect your players to want to use those to give them an edge.

Milodiah
2015-12-17, 03:19 PM
An important thing to remember about this situation is that every time a ship is seized rather than sunk, it's...well, still sitting there. And the players, if they are aware of the average ship price, will no doubt want to sell their prize. It's happened a lot to me in games of Traveller, where players get a huge influx of wealth from selling an entire ship off. And in Traveller I mean huge, given that in that game most expensive equipment runs in the five or six digit price range while a ship runs in the eight or nine.

By no means should you prevent them from doing so. It would utterly ruin my immersion as a player if the GM kept making up excuses as to why this incredibly valuable and completely under-control ship couldn't be exchanged for at least some money. Just realize that every time you design a situation in which they could gain control of an enemy ship, there is a chance they could make tons of money off of it.


Also, setting/system would really help here.

MintyNinja
2015-12-17, 05:09 PM
Also having no idea what system you're using I'll chime in with this: Storms and Shipwrecks.

If you have any stormy PCs they'll surely want to have some weather control or at least harnessing, so keep that in mind for your NPCs. And if at any point you feel the story's getting out of hand and more than you can manage, prep a shipwreck scene that strands the players on a previously uncharted island. IF it's one of those systems, allow some dinosaurs and tribal lizardfolks. Just remember that they're going to need a way to get out eventually, so maybe hide a wizard's tower in a mountain peak or something.

Mutazoia
2015-12-18, 04:28 AM
So....

As other's have mentioned you need a few things hammered out:

1. Plot. You are going to have to know what your campaign is about before you go much further.
2. System. I'm going to assume some version of D&D and recommend you check out "Of ships and the sea (2nd edition), Stormwrack (3.5) and the Al-Quadim supplement "Golden Voyages" (2nd Edition).
3. Remember, a seafaring campaign doesn't just take place on the ship and the islands...there is an entire world beneath the waves to explore as well...you'll want to plan for some underwater hijinks now and then.

Watch a few seafaring movies and shows and crib some ideas. The old Sinbad movies, the newer animated one, any old Erol Flynn pirate movie, Pirates of Darkwater, Onepiece, etc.

Hell...watch Star Trek...just imagine each planet as an island with weird natives and the enterprise is a windjammer instead of a starship.....

nedz
2015-12-19, 03:09 PM
Ship-to-Ship combat will happen, the players will initiate it if no one else does, and so you need to be prepared for it.

The most important thing in Ship-to-Ship combat is range, this takes the place of initiative. As the two ships close from a distance the one who can attack first will have a huge advantage. They can also hold off - attacking from range without letting the other ship close.

Fire is also important. Fire is the great ship killer, however it starts, so you need to be able to combat it. Your ships need to be able to extinguish fire - or be fire proof, but this can wreck verisimilitude.

The only counters to Ship-to-Ship combat happening are: lack of visibility (e.g. fog) or a surprise attack (normally involving a ruse).

BootStrapTommy
2015-12-19, 10:00 PM
Another option is to not provide the players with ranged weapons for ships...

Thrawn4
2015-12-21, 11:10 AM
Another option is to not provide the players with ranged weapons for ships...
Like bows and magic? That might be difficult.


I think it might be worthwhile to brush up your naval vocabulary.

But I don't see why there might be a particular problem... there are so many reasons to go to different islands. Anything that bothers you?

Mutazoia
2015-12-22, 03:02 AM
Like bows and magic? That might be difficult.


I think it might be worthwhile to brush up your naval vocabulary.

But I don't see why there might be a particular problem... there are so many reasons to go to different islands. Anything that bothers you?

It's kind of hard to sink a ship with a bow. Once you get high enough level that you have a bow capable of sinking a ship, you probably have other options for travel besides schlepping around in a giant coffin with sails.

Besides, most players I've run with usually want to capture the other ship intact...either for re-sale or to start their own fleet.

hifidelity2
2015-12-22, 04:45 AM
It's kind of hard to sink a ship with a bow. Once you get high enough level that you have a bow capable of sinking a ship, you probably have other options for travel besides schlepping around in a giant coffin with sails.

Besides, most players I've run with usually want to capture the other ship intact...either for re-sale or to start their own fleet.

Err Fire Arrows - Old fashioned boat are VERY Flammable (its all the wood, tar and sail cloth)

Mutazoia
2015-12-22, 05:30 AM
Err Fire Arrows - Old fashioned boat are VERY Flammable (its all the wood, tar and sail cloth)

Contrary to popular belief....you would need A LOT of arrows to sink a ship with fire arrows....more than a lower level party could reasonably carry. Even if you assume that the players ship is loaded with them, the other ship would have to be a viking era craft or older to go up like a bunch of tinder...anything like a Galleon or sloop...basically anything that's not a viking long boat, or greco-roman galley won't be that heavily coated in tar. And it's not like the crew of the other ship doesn't have an unlimited supply of water to throw on any fires, and that's not counting any magical means of fire control.

hifidelity2
2015-12-22, 07:31 AM
Contrary to popular belief....you would need A LOT of arrows to sink a ship with fire arrows....more than a lower level party could reasonably carry. Even if you assume that the players ship is loaded with them, the other ship would have to be a viking era craft or older to go up like a bunch of tinder...anything like a Galleon or sloop...basically anything that's not a viking long boat, or greco-roman galley won't be that heavily coated in tar. And it's not like the crew of the other ship doesn't have an unlimited supply of water to throw on any fires, and that's not counting any magical means of fire control.

Iím afraid I disagree.

Wooden ships used a lot of tar and similar Ė its what helped make them waterproof (the caulking between the planks) and on ropes to delay them from rotting to quickly. Donít forget that everything is natural (no artificial fabrics) so needs to be treated to stop it rotting

While this is ďlots of water) itís a long way away on any type of galleon ( a bit less on Greek / Roman eras) and has to be hauled up in buckets Ė so its slow and laborious and of course you are trying to do it in battle (there are no fire hoses)

Yes there are magic mean s but if they have that then the opponents probably have fireball

p.s. Yes I do sail
p.p.s and yes I have sailed tall ships

Mutazoia
2015-12-22, 01:05 PM
Iím afraid I disagree.

Wooden ships used a lot of tar and similar Ė its what helped make them waterproof (the caulking between the planks) and on ropes to delay them from rotting to quickly. Donít forget that everything is natural (no artificial fabrics) so needs to be treated to stop it rotting

Depending on the hull construction method, to whit clinker vs. Carvel style hull. In the clinker hulls, the hull planks overlapped, much like the shingles on a roof, and thus needed much more tar (or pitch) as, for example, the viking long boats having been stitched together, rather than nailed.

Typically, a tall ship wouldn't be slathered in tar....the tar technically being needed below, and just above the water line to the load lines (and slightly above that) and even that tar wasn't exposed. It wouldn't be very handy to load your cargo only to have it covered in tar when you unloaded it.

If a tall ship was as flammable as you claim, the golden age of piracy would have been over before it even started, as a ship would burst into flames the moment one hot cannon ball bounced across a deck, or the moment a single cannon was fired.


While this is ďlots of water) itís a long way away on any type of galleon ( a bit less on Greek / Roman eras) and has to be hauled up in buckets Ė so its slow and laborious and of course you are trying to do it in battle (there are no fire hoses)

Yes. Also keep in mind that, traditionally, most of a ships rigging was was dismantled before a battle, leaving only what was necessary for maneuvering, and that was typically doused with water. With the hard wood decking covered in sand (to prevent slipping in water and/or blood), you would have to have a pretty major fire source burning for more than a few minutes to actually catch a ship on fire. Tall ships typically used Teak for planking, as Teak is not prone to splintering when hit with a cannon ball, and hardwood is notoriously hard to set fire to with the amount of flame you would get from a normal flame arrow, unless it was allowed to burn for several minutes unminded, and even then it would burn slowly until a large-ish portion caught fire. There was no tar/pitch sealing the deck planks for various reasons, such as the fire hazard, and nobody wants to walk barefoot on a deck that is oozing tar.

If you are interested, check out a book called "Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron" by Ronald D. Utt (https://books.google.com/books?id=8PpC3ZcmfjkC&pg=PA84&lpg=PA84&dq=dousing+a+ship%27s+rigging+before+battle&source=bl&ots=StjnXwYl19&sig=RpztbX9Fz6DSai6qnS570XmnE50&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjl_M6Gg_DJAhUJKiYKHSVcA7EQ6AEIMTAF#v=on epage&q=dousing%20a%20ship's%20rigging%20before%20battle&f=false). It's a pretty detailed book about naval warfare during the war of 1812.



p.s. Yes I do sail
p.p.s and yes I have sailed tall ships

p.s. Yes I do sail as well (well did....haven't in years)
p.p.s. haven't sailed a tall ship yet, but have (assisted in) building a caravel and (part of) a viking long ship (honestly....if you've never tried stitching rough hewn planks together with hemp rope...don't...it's a pain in the {CENSORED}).

BootStrapTommy
2015-12-22, 02:09 PM
Like bows and magic? That might be difficult. Key word was "for".

Canons, ballista, catapults, etc. Ship-to-ship weapons are what make ship-to-ship battles a pain. Otherwise, it's just a normal encounter with ship shaped battlefields.