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Ships and a sea battles

Hi everyone, recently I was thinking how to put ships and a sea battles system into the game. I want to share my ideas with you, mayby somebody will find it usefull. Of course, the whole thing is only my idea, and it is fully based on Dishonored Core Rulebook (which is absolutely great!). Before I start, I want to say that, in connection to the narrative nature of the game, my goal was to make the system simple and as much connected with the core rules as possible. And what is important, I have not played yet, so it is quite a theoretical concept.

Ships and skill tests
Every ship, which has a more serious role in the adventure, has its own mini character sheet. Ships are described with four traits (hull, drive, crew and armament), two tracks (stress track and, is needed, cargo track) and their own truths.

Ship’s traits:
Hull - feature that describes durability of ship, its basic condition and affecting the length of ship’s stress track.
Drive - trait that describes speed and maneuverability. Firstly, I named it “sails”, but, in the setting of Dishonored, it is clear that a big part of ships are powered by whale oil, no by the wind.
Crew - abilities of the ship’s crew
Armament - how deadly the ship’s guns are and how the crew is trained to operate them

Similar to the player’s basic skills, the base value of each trait is 4. Each time you want to present a maneuver or activity closely related to the ship, you perform a skill test. It works on the same rules as the regular ones with one difference - instead of skill and style, you combine one of the player’s skills with one of the ship’s trait. This allows you to present the entire spectrum of activities related to sailing. Examples: You want to fire at the enemy ship with the cannons? You combine fight skill with armament trait, sum them up and, in accordance with all the rules from the rulebook, try to pass a test of a specific difficulty. Do you want to board an enemy ship? Combine fight skill with crew trait. You want to try ramming an enemy ship? Combine fight skill with hull. You want to sail as fast as possible? Combine move skill with drive. You want to make repairs on the ship? Combine tinker skill with hull trait. You want to give a motivational speech to the crew? Combine talk skill with crew, etc. etc.

Some may say that it is illogical to use a character’s skills to a ship’s test - how the dexterity and speed of the player is connected with maneuverability and rate of the ship? I understand, but firstly, my goal was to connect player’s stats with ship’s skill test and secondly, I assumed that if you need mechanics for ships in your adventure, your players will not be passengers, but they will deal directly with marine activities. So for example, in a sea battle scene, I imagine that one of the players will be at the helm, another will repair damage below deck, when the rest of the players will fire the guns. In the skill tests, players can use their useful focuses, like engineering, firearms or ships. And If all players are involved in the activity (all players are fighting with pirates on the deck, or they are working with sails), use assistance rule (page 24 in rulebook), and chose one of them to be leader in skill test (one who leads the crew or one at the helm).

Naval Combat

Every ship has its own stress track, which is equal to three times the value of hull trait. Why exactly three times? In rulebook, on the page 259, we can find stats of the whale. Whales has its own attacks - Whale Bite (damage 10), Charge Attack (damage 5) and Breach (damage 8). It’s hard to imagine a player fighting a whale directly, so I related these values to the ship’s durability. So the smallest ship will have stress track length of 12. At the same time, the maximum length is 24 (when hull trait is 8), for the heavy ships of the warfleet.

The basic armament of the ship are cannons (damage 4, ranged [distant]). You may ask, how is it possible that the guns deal the same damage as pistols? It is simple - there will be no situations where players directly attack the ship with their own weapons, so this disproportion does not matter here. In order to injure the ship, you must fire the appropriate weapon - ship guns (or be a huge, wild whale).

Example: if you want to fire cannons to another ship, you combine fight skill with armament trait and try to pass a test (for example with difficulty of 2). If you pass, you will deal 4 damage on the enemy ship’s stress track.

If you, as GM want to act like the “NPC” ship, and for example fire at the players ship (or in the scene of sea chase, depict the speed of a rival ship), you will need skills to combine them with ships trait. I suggest using a table from page 233, for quick NPC, to describe how dangerous and capable is enemy capitan (from poor abilites - 4, to exceptional - 8).

Cargo track and ship improvement

If you need to describe trade or smuggling, use cargo track to show how many goods the ship can carry. Basic cargo track for most ships has a length of 4. If you have enough coins (500 coins for upgrade?) you can upgrade your ship. Upgrades are like talents for characters - they gives you special abilities or give you specific truth, which has influence on skill tests. List of upgrades:

  • Bigger hold - your cargo track is one step higher than normal. This talent may be selected up to four times.
  • Threaded cannons - when you use Fight + Armament, to fire at enemy, you can reroll one d20.
  • Explosive missiles - change the cannon damage to 5.
  • Repair equipment - ones per scenes you can try to pass the Tinker + Hull test (difficulty 2) to remove 3 stress points from ship’s stress track
  • Well-Trained Crew - the ship gains “Well-Trained Crew” truth - for example you can use it to lower difficulty of test during the naval boarding
  • Whaling - the ship gains “whaling equipment” truth which allows it to hunt these creatures
  • Ocean-going ship - the ship gains “ocean-going ship” truth which allows you to travel to far land of Pandyssia
  • Smuggling - - the ship gains “smugglers ship” truth which allows you hide same cargo

You can also pay 500 coins to increase the value of one of ship’s trait.

Ideas for adventures connected with this system:

  • sea battle with the pirates
  • a long sea voyage where players encounter a huge storm
  • whale hunting

Example of ships:

Pirate ship - small but fast and manoeuvrable ship
Hull 4, Drive 7, Crew 6, Armament 6
Stress track: 12
Cannons (damage 4, ranged [distant])
Capitan’s skills: 5 (basic)
Truths: cruel crew

Whaling ship - basic hunting ship, used to hunt whales
Hull 6, Drive 5, Crew 5, Armament 5
Stress track: 18
Cannons (damage 4, ranged [distant])
Capitan’s skills: 5 (basic)
Truths: whalers, distrustful of strangers

Warship - warship from the fleet
Hull 8, Drive 6, Crew 7, Armament 7
Stress track: 24
Cannons (damage 5, ranged [distant])
Capitan’s skills: 7 (talented)
Truths: warship, armed to the teeth, hunting pirates

And that is all. I hope this description will be useful to someone. What do you, guys think about it? Do you see any big flaws? I will be grateful for your opinion. Or do you have any own ideas for introducing ships to the game?

Looks great
I´ll see if I can work it into an adventure

1 Like

This is great. I’ve done some rules on airships myself.