Ship Combat

Posted on July 3, 2012 by

1


When I began planning my current campaign, High Seas, it was important to me that ship-to-ship combat be a very real part of the game.  After all, what’s the point of fighting pirates if you don’t get to punch holes in their ship before boarding?  Why sail the seas at all if you ship (which should be a character in its own right) doesn’t get to involve itself in combat?

Now, because I’m running a game about ship combat, I went ahead and made a modular ship building kit.  Multiple ship templates, all sorts of obstacles, all held together with sticky-tack to create an infinite number of ships on the fly.  It’s proven to be one of the best time investments that I’ve ever made to a game, and I’ll talk more about that later, but this system for ship combat should work with nothing more than a handful of dungeon tiles and a little bit of imagination.

Each ship has two primary stats, Health and Speed.  Health determines the amount of abuse that your ship can take, while speed determines how much more maneuverable your craft is than your enemy, affecting your ability to hit the enemy ship and dodge their attacks, as well as allowing you to attack on your own terms.  Health is purchased on its own during ship creation, while speed is determined by a ship’s sails.  An average ship will cost 45 points, which can be spent on weapons, defenses, and better sails.

The Pass

At the beginning of combat, both ship captains make a speed check (1d20+Speed) to determine how the ships will attack each other.  The winner chooses which side of the enemy they attack, as well as whether it will be a:

Short Pass – The ships move past each other, taking three rounds to attack before breaking away from each other.

Long Pass – The ships move together, attacking each other indefinitely until one ship breaks away from the other.

A ship’s captain decides at the beginning of each round whether they want to:

Attack Offensively/Defensively – The captain chooses to give their ship up to +2 to all attack rolls or armor class, reducing the other stat by a similar amount.

Break Away – The captain makes a speed check, opposed by a check by the enemy ship.  If they succeed, the current run is broken at the end of the turn.

Whether a short run ends or one ship breaks away from the other, a speed check is made, and the winning captain gets to choose the next pass.

Combat

All attacks are made with a simple 1d20+Speed roll, there are no other bonuses to attack (unless the captain chooses to pilot offensively).  A ship’s armor class is simply 10+Speed.  This means that faster ships are harder to hit, and make attacks more accurately against slower ships.

Most ship weapons deal a single point of damage on a successful hit, although some deal more.  Most weapons require a full round to reload.  A ship’s ability to attack is limited only by its number of weapons and number of crew members.  Usually half of the crew will fire weapons while the rest help with reloading, allowing for an attack each round.

Attacks can be directed at the masts and sails at a -2 penalty, rendering them useless and lowering the speed of the enemy ship.

Here are some of the offensive options, remember that an average ship has only 45 points to spend.

Ballista (2 points) – Deals a single point of damage on a successful attack.

Dual Ballista (4 points) – Deals two points of damage on a successful attack.  Requires two rounds to reload.

Flaming Pitch Catapult (4 points) – Deals a single point of damage, but if not extinguished (requiring a saving throw by a crew member not using their turn to take other actions) it continues to burn for one point of damage each round.

Mage Gun (4 points) – Deals a single point of damage on a successful attack, does not need to be reloaded, but can only be fired by the ship’s mage.

Modifier, Rotating (+1 point) – This modifier can be applied to weapons, allowing them to fire at ships on either side of their vessel.  Otherwise a weapon may only shoot straight forward.

Defenses

A ship’s defenses are purchased at creation, or when upgrading the ship itself.  The most important of these is Health, which should only rarely dip below 7 points.  When a ship reaches zero health, it is considered to be dead in the water, and when boarded the attacking crew gets an extra round before combat to do as they like.  This super-surprise round is the real incentive to win in ship combat.  To actually sink a ship, it has to be reduced to negative hit points equal to its maximum value.

A ship’s mast has two hit points, and damage dealt to the masts is also applied to the ship itself.

Health (1 point) – This is as easy as it seems.

Treated Hull (8 points) – A laminated hull allows a ship to ignore the first point of damage each round.

Armored Hull (1 point) – Armor playing allows a ship to shrug off a single point of damage each round, but reduces the ship’s speed by 5.

Armored Mast (2 points) – An armored mast has three hit points instead of two.

Speed

Perhaps the most important aspect of a ship is its speed.  It determines accuracy, armor class, and maneuverability.  Every ship has a starting speed of 4, which is modified by the sails.  A small ship (just the right size for an adventuring party) can have two primary sails.  For each two points of damage taken, a ship’s speed decreases by 1.

Basic Sail (2 points) – Increases the ship’s speed by +1.

Full Sail (4 points) – Increases the ship’s speed by +2.

Grande Sail (8 points) – Increases the ship’s speed by +3.

Supplemental Sails (4 points) – Increases the ship’s speed by +1, these sails are usually placed on the side of the ship, and do not take up one of the sail slots.

Improved Rudder (2 points) – When making a decision to attack defensively or offensively, the ship’s captain can choose to increase the bonus and penalty of that maneuver by 1 (up to a +5/-5 with the benefit of Improved Steering).

Improved Steering (4 points) – When making a decision to attack defensively or offensively, the ship’s captain can choose to increase the bonus and penalty of that maneuver by 2.

Examples

Putting together a ship is a lot easier than it seems.  For the three basic areas that points can be spent (Combat, Defense, and Speed), just assign a primary, secondary, and tertiary order.

Primary (22 points)

Weapons – Rotating Flaming Pitch Catapult (5 points), Rotating Dual Ballista (5 points), 2x Dual Ballistas (8 points), 2x Ballistas (4 points)

Defense – 2x Armored Mast (4 points), Treated Hull (8 points), Armored Hull (1 point), 9x Health (9 points)

Speed – Grande Sail (8 points), Full Sail (4 points) 2x Supplemental Sails (4 points), Improved Rudder (2 points), Improved Steering (4 points)

Secondary (15 points)

Weapons – 2x Dual Ballistas (8 points), Rotating Ballista (3 points), 2x Ballistas (4 points)

Defense – Treated Hull (8 points), 7x Health (7 points)

Speed – 2x Full Sail (8 points), Improved Rudder (2 points), Improved Steering (4 points)

Tertiary (8 points)

Weapons – 4x Ballista (8 points)

Defense – 8x Health (8 points)

Speed – 2x Full Sail (8 points)

 The Dawn’s Arrow

As an example, the crew of my current campaign purchased the Dawn’s Arrow, a craft that prioritizes speed, with defenses as a secondary stat.  Although this means that the ship has weaker weapons, her incredible armor and speed keep her afloat.  Since then the crew has upgraded the craft with a Rotating Flaming Pitch Catapult (5 points) and a Rotating Mage Gun (5 points), making it a 55 point vessel.

Advertisements
Posted in: Gamecraft, High Seas