|Jason Nelson RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games|
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The ship to ship combat rules in the Skull & Shackles Player's Guide have come under some criticism in these threads. It seems a number of groups are more or less skipping this rules subset and just going straight to boarding. To me it just isn't a Pirate campaign without yelling "Hard to Starboard!" and such once in a while. But I have some problems with the ruleset too. Namely these:
#1 - It gives almost all the control to a single player. The pilot has a lot to do, but the other players just get to sit and wait for boarding to begin. Ideally, I want a system that gives every player something to do every round, so you don't have to just rush past the ship stuff in order to keep people awake.
#2 - Siege Weapons are just not satisfying. They do pitiful damage, easily surpassed by a level 4-5 caster and require a ton of feats to be useable.
#3 - There's no accounting for crew. I'd like crew quality and involvement to be a factor, but without being overly complicated. Especially because...
#4 - It takes too long. I want a system that is fast-paced enough to feel like an action sequence in a move. Something that resolves in 5ish rounds and where people don't have to deliberate overlong on actions.
To address these complaints I've divided Naval Combat into 4 roles to be filled by party members, each with a few possible actions. Each role gets 1 action per round. Every action is a Full Round action. I recognize these may not be super historical or accurate from a simulationist perspective. It's meant to be a fun and fast minigame involving everyone.
Without further ado...
Tack or Jibe (Wearing Ship) The pilot turns the ship or moves diagonally forward on the battlemat. Make a Profession (sailor) check DC10 with the following difficulty modifiers:
For example a pilot on a ship moving twice it's acceleration trying to execute a 90degree turn to Port would need to succeed on a DC20 Profession (sailor) check. This will be the action pilots will need to take every round they want to do anything but move the ship straight forward. When the ship is just moving straight forward the pilot may do these other actions.
Evasive Maneuvers The pilot makes an opposed Profession (Sailor) check against the other pilots in the combat. A success grants the ship a +4 to its AC and saves for the next round, but a -8 to the Master at Arms for any siege weapon attacks. For each 5 that the pilot beats her opponents she may increase this bonus by +2.
Make Way The pilot makes an opposed Profession (sailor) check against the other pilots in the combats. Success allows them one of the following effects:
Enemy Pilot is -4 on Profession (Sailor) checks for a round
Full Ahead/Heave To the Captain is in charge of determining the speed of the vessel by ordering the crew to lay on more sail or draw the sails in. This changes the ship's speed by its acceleration up or down a step not exceeding maximum speed.
Look Alive the Captain drives the crew to pay close attention to their jobs making the ship sail smoothly and well. With a successful DC10 Profession (sailor) check you grant the Pilot a +2 on Profession (sailor) checks to pilot the ship. This is basically an Aid Another, a good default for when the other actions don't apply.
Take Cover the Captain orders the crew protect themselves from incoming siege weapon fire, magical attacks, or to brace for the impact of a ram etc... the Pilot receives a -4 penalty to Profession (sailor) checks to pilot the ship, and the Master at Arms receives -4 to attacks with siege weapons, but the crew gets +8 cover bonus to AC and +4 to reflex saves (replacing their normal cover bonuses as occupants of a ship).
Fix It the Captain uses this command whenever there is a mishap or problem on the ship either due to siege weapon damage or any other reason: a spar breaks, a sail flies loose, something catches fire, a siege engine misfires etc... This gives the Pilot and Master at Arms the same penalties as "Take Cover", but with a successful Craft (ships) check (DC set by GM depending on severity of damage) the problem can be jury-rigged sufficiently to remove any penalties or prevent further damage.
Grapple the Captain calls for the grapple when the time comes. This gives the Pilot and the Master at Arms the same penalties as "Take Cover", and then the Captain makes a combat maneuver check using the base CMB of the ship plus the Captain's Profession (sailor) modifier as the total CMB of the grappling maneuver against the CMD of the target ship. This command can also be used to break a grapple in the same way, but with a -4 penalty.
Boost Morale the Shantyman makes a Diplomacy or Perform check DC 15 + 2x(current Morale +1). See how to calculate Morale in Boarding Rules below. A success raises the Morale of the crew by 1 for the remainder of the encounter. Alternately Intimidate can be used in place of Diplomacy or Perform, but after the encounter the crew's Morale drops by an additional 1.
Mock Enemies the Shantyman can make an Intimidate of Perform check DC 15 + 2x(enemy's current morale) to lower the Morale of an enemy crew by 1 for the remainder of the encounter. Alternately Diplomacy can be used if the Shantyman offers bribes (which must be given in the event of victory).
Sea Chanty the Shantyman can sing songs which aid timing and cooperation among the crew resulting in +2 to all other roles in any of their skill checks.
Bloodthirsty Ballad the Shantyman can get the crew riled up for battle with a successful Perform check DC 15 + 2x(enemy's current morale), providing a +1 bonus to their attack and defense stats.
Master at Arms
Load/Aim/Fire the basic job of the Master at Arms is to decide where and when to fire all the weapons on the ship, and at what. For the most part this just involves following the rules of Siege Engines as in the Skull & Shackles Guide and below. How many crew are on each engine? How many rounds does it take to load, to aim etc...? The Master at Arms can coach all the weapon crews simultaneously assuming there are enough crew to man each weapon. The Master at Arms then rolls a Profession (siege engineer) check DC10 to give each weapon crew a +2 bonus on their attack (as Aid Another). Calculate a basic crew's attack with the following modifiers:
Base Attack = +2
Steady...Steady The Master at Arms may spend an extra round coaching her weapon crews on their aim. With a successful Profession (siege engineer) check DC20 the Master at Arms may have each siege weapon that fires in that round deal Triple damage against structures on its next attack, if it hits, instead of double.
Make Her Bleed if the Master at Arms has his crews target a part of the ship that they previously damaged she may make a Profession (siege engineer) check DC20 to have each siege weapon that fires in that round deal Triple damage against structures on its next attack, if it hits, instead of double. This stacks with "Steady...Steady" so it is possible to deal up to quadruple damage against structures with an extra round of aiming and two DC20 Profession (siege engineer) checks against a previously damaged part of an enemy ship.
A few additional little rule systems I tweaked are Siege Engines and the way Crew functions during boarding, including some Crew upgrades the party can purchase.
Siege Engine Rules:
The first rule change I made is to declare that all damage against structures and vehicles by Siege Engines and Special Ammunition for Siege Engines is doubled. Their base damage is simply way too low to be any threat. I also gave the Master at Arms several ways to increase the damage as you've seen above.
Second:, Ships of Gargantuan or larger size have 4 hull areas: Bow, Stern, Port, Starboard and their hit points are evenly divided among these areas. Any single area below half receives the broken condition giving a -2 penalty to Profession (sailor) checks to pilot the ship. Any area reduced to 0 is taking on water and the ship's maximum speed is halved. Any two areas reduced to 0 means the ship is sinking.
A ship has 4 arcs of fire that correspond to the 4 Hull areas. A siege weapon may only hit targets within the arc of fire of that part of the ship. When attacking a ship with a siege engine you may choose Sails or one section of Hull you have line of sight to. Indirect fire weapons like catapults may target any section of a ship within its arc of fire.
Everything else is the same as in the basic rules.
Boarding Action Rules:
I wanted a way for the crew to simulate the crew's part in boarding actions that was quick and dirty, but offered SOME way to determine how well your crew performed and also ways for players to influence it. The ultimate victory/defeat is still based on whether the players win their fight against the officers, but this offers a way to simulate what else went on during that time.
I based these rules heavily on the Fleet Rules in the Price of Infamy so that the transition will be easy. Hopefully.
A crew has three stats: Attack, Defense & Morale.
Attack is equal to the captain's Profession (sailor) skill.
Defense is equal to the captain's Profession (sailor) skill + 10.
The following modifiers apply to both Attack and Defense:
Morale a crew's starting Morale score is equal to their side's Infamy score divided by 10(round down), with a minimum Morale score of 1 and a maximum score of 10. Morale can be modified by the Shantyman prior to boarding, or by purchasing the "Well Paid" upgrade below, or by circumstantial bonuses or penalties the GM applies.
Once starting Morale has been determined the attacking crew rolls a D20 + Attack and compares it with the defending crew's Defense stat. Whichever side is higher deals 1 point of Morale damage to the other side. The victor of that round has a +2 in the next round (cumulative). Keep track of the total amount of Morale Damage each side receives during the Boarding Action. This continues till one crew reaches 0 Morale.
A crew that reaches 0 Morale stops fighting and either surrenders or retreats to their own ship or tries to escape. This ends the Boarding Action. The victorious side receives an immediate +1 to their Morale.
Roll 1d4 per point of Morale Damage each side received during the Boarding Action. This represents the number of fatalities that side suffered. For example if a crew started with 4 Morale and was defeated, then roll 4d4 to determine the number of deaths they suffered. If a crew started with 4 Morale and was victorious ending with 2 Morale, they still suffered 2d4 fatalities during the Boarding Action. Casualties (serious non-fatal injuries) are always double the number of fatalities.
Disregard any obviously ridiculous results such as a crew suffering more fatalities and casualties than they have members of their crew.
With this system it is possible for the PC's to win the battle, but for their crew to have been routed (or vice versa). In this case, have the losing crew come storming back when they see the success of their officers. The battle is won, but with a heavy cost.
Got Your Back this upgrade represents a crew that looks out for each other in combat (or a skilled surgeon), resulting in 1d4 fewer casualties per combat. 2,500gp
Landlubbers Need Not Apply this upgrade represents a crew of more highly skilled sailors than normal providing a +1 on any of the Pilot's or Captain's skill checks. 1,000gp
Masterwork Arms this upgrade grants +1 to the crew's Attack & Defense stats. 10,000gp
Siege Weapon Training this upgrade removes the -4 penalty crew normally has for operating siege weapons. 1,000gp per weapon type
Vicious Fighters this upgrade represents a crew that fights in a particularly bloodthirsty manner dealing 1 extra damage to their enemy's morale per successful round in a Boarding Action. 10,000gp
Well Paid this upgrade gives a +1 to the crew's Morale stat. 10,000gp
I'm grateful a number of you are running this before I start running. I appreciate the AP's take on rules to completely uncrunch crew dynamics in order to save time. That said, me and a number of my players like crunch, especially for this pirate campaign any attention given to having a point to having a crew and tending to its quality. Thanks, Sabedoriaclark, for sharing your rules with us and saving me time trying to come up with something similar. +1ed :-)
Fnatastic thanks and using but...
seige weapon damage, it seems absolutley devastating if firing broadsides (not sure if you are using this though).
eg if using 8 cannons then the damage can be upto the following (using cannons as a for instance here)
fire as normal 6d6 damage (max rolled 36 x2 due to structure dam 72hp damage, then multiply by 8 for number of cannons for a grand total of 576hp damage)
If using steady steady steady then max damage rolled is 108hp x 8 cannons grand total 864hp.
Then using make her bleed next shot then max damage rolled is 144hp x 8 for a grand total of 1'152hp damage.
If you manage to get a crit then the damage is x4: 2'304 damage max, 3'456 damage max, 4'608hp damage max
A saling ship has 1'620hp total one crit broadside and its blown out of the water...
I think im right??!
You're right that it can get devastating with cannons (which I'm not using except for on the Hurricane King's ship as written) and a broadside and a crit... but then shouldn't that be devastating? If that situation arises in my game I definitely want the PC's to have a bit of the fear of God put into them. :D
As I wrote the rules above you can't sink a ship in a single shot, though. Because to get a ship to "sinking" you have to lower two sections of hull to 0 and you could only target one section of hull with a broadside. But, yes, if you blasted the stern of a ship with a cannon broadside and then came around in a couple rounds and blasted the starboard... you could do it in two blasts.
Now take into account that there are ways to increase the hit points of your hull (armor plating, magically treated etc...) and it would then take 3-4 hits to sink a ship. To me that sounds about right. The Hurricane King can sink another Free Captain's ship in 3-4 good broadsides.
These are great! I already had plans to use a form of crew combat, but this is much cleaner and I'm stealing it. I love the alteration to the ship combat as well. I'm stealing all of it with some modification as I'm also using Dudemeister's ship combat conversion to simple opposed rolls.
I also added in Unrest and a Consumption for the crew so the PCs have to be concerned about the possibility of mutiny.
used it last night and I must see it went rather well, thanks for this.
Ship to ship combat didn't happen though. As usual my PC's were very inventive. they had the women on deck wearing dresses and the ships crew hiding, weapons covered disgusing themselves as a floating brothal. Took the other ship by surprise as they drew within grapple range.
Boarding maneuvors were formed bt the Druid and Wizard decided to cast stone call to even out the numbers...
The Druid rolled max dam 12, I was using the salior stats from mans promise in book 1 if the pcs engaged the crew..so every salior had 11hp apart from the 2 marines and the captain. Spell range 40ft radius (80ft).
I think I did what the capatin was doing on the ship, jaw drop..every sailor on the ship dead. Needless to say the captian laid down his sword without a fight. No damage to the ship at all and the party took the ship (they now have 2 ships).
I really like these ideas. I certainly want more opportunity for the players to get involved. My concern is not with your additions because from looking at them I can see them helping the enjoyment of the players and creating a very dynamic ship to ship situation. I am still I must say intimidated by the ship to ship rules. Once I finish reading through the last of the AP I think I need to run a number of simulations so I can get the feel of them.
I think with all the things that need to be remembered and kept track of I will need to come up with at spread sheet or something to keep track of all the plunder, infamy, morale and crew.
My group thinks out the box a lot and a couple of things have come up.
Siege engines and parts of the the ship to hit:
The normal rules state overall hp so no way of figuring it out form that and these rules only give the 4 units.
I was tempted to say it was the equivilent of the sails but that dosnt work either I was slightly stumped on this one.
Any ideas how many HP I should assign each mast if this comes up again.
They also wanted to attack the deck to injure the crew and smash up the deck with thier catapult, again no real idea how to do this. I ended up just rolling a d3 and saying roll to hit, using the AC of the ship, rolling a d3 and saying thats how many sailors were hit, roll dam to see it they were dead, if it missed use the scatter rules to see where the rock landed, same rules applied.
They also have a tendancy to use stonecall once in range which if the damage is rolled well it kills most of the crew outright. Ingenious but also frustrating from GM point of view, especially when they use it again and again lol.
I have six players so I am trying to figure out a role for the Ship's Surgeon/Carpenter and Ship's Navigator to do in combat.
Not sure what you could do with the ships surgeon during combat but maybe take Fix It out of the Captains roll and give that to him as the carpenters role and do something similar for any injuries on board?
As for the Navigator not sure of that role in you're game but the piolt is the navigator in ours so i would imagine the 2 jobs are combined somehow, if the course is layed out and plotted then his job is knid of redundant in combat unless there are obsatcles in the way I guess. One action that is not on any list is ram, I added this for the captain to realy the order and the piolt to roll for it so maybe give him that roll too.
Are either of them weapons trained, spell casters or ranged weapon users? Maybe have them jsut do that instead. Kind of lame but at least its something.
Dotting. More action for the party is most appreciated.
OT, I'm about to enter this portion of the AP, and plan to use some ships from Pirates of the Spanish Main (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/10653/pirates-of-the-spanish-main) as "minis" for the chase and ship-to-ship combat sans boarding action. Some of the islands that you get with the game, I think, will be useful on that scale as islets and navigational hazards.
Well a caster can find plenty to do from quite a distance in ship-to-ship so you could let the 5th player just be Ship's wizard or something and have them cast buffs and attack the enemy ship.
Another possible role could be ship's carpenter/surgeon. Give them the "fix it" command from the Captain for when the ship takes damage. Also come up with a simplified way to track crew injuries and allow the surgeon to patch those up. Maybe administer liquid courage (rum) etc...
Great rules, sabedoriaclark, thanks!
My group used them in our last session and I think it went down fairly well. Everyone was engaged and had something to do.
I have made small changes to the system to accommodate my group (including 6 payers and my homebrew crew combat system based off Kingmaker's mass combat) which I've put on my Obsidian Portal wiki here if anyone is interested, feel free to use and abuse.
I wish I had found this when I started running S&S back in September. As it is, my group just started mass naval combat and will likely never see individual ship combat again--unless they take a bit too long in the last encounter.
If I ever run it again, I'll definitely try these options, since most of my party was bored with the listed rules.
I have six players so I am trying to figure out a role for the Ship's Surgeon/Carpenter and Ship's Navigator to do in combat.
For the Navigator, they should be able to either aid the pilot's roll (Find a Current) or reduce the opponent's ability to maneuver (Force Them on the Shoals). A carpenter should be able to Fix the Ship, and once artillery shooting starts, they can get wounded sailors Back In The Fight.
In my opinion, assigning positions, tasks and modifiers to player characters for use in ship v ship combat is only part the equation.
After several rounds of testing the provided rules in the AP, it was obvious that I needed to find something else to save my campaign. A ship board campaign with beer & pretzel rules was not gonna cut it.
I tested several other systems (from Trafalgar to Pirates of the Spanish Main) and none fit my needs without considerable modification work. Along comes the resurrection (kickstarter) of Razor Coast and with it an absolute gem of a rule book called Fire as She Bears by Lou Agresta and John Ling. If you look at Feros' 5 star review, he breaks it down chapter by chapter. This is the 'drop-in' system I'd been searching for.
Thank you Lou for in depth conversations/sounding board sessions while you were in development.
If you are running or playing the Skull & Shackles AP, adding this to your game is the best $10/$20 you could spend!
I picked up the Fire As She Bears PDF today, and although I've only gotten through the first three chapters (has anyone else had a problem with the pages taking a long time to scroll?) it looks very useful.
The only major disconnect I've seen so far is in the ship construction system. The ship construction "spaces" FASB uses are 20' wide whereas most PF/S&S sailing ships (like the Wormwood and Man's Promise) are 30' wide, but that's a handwave as is the difference between the 20' FASB tactical movement square and the PF/S&S 30' one.
Other than that it looks like a solid product. It appears the authors have done a good job of balancing real-world sailing mechanics with simplified RPG gameplay while still maintaining a good nautical "feel" to the game. The various rules for more fully integrating all the PCs into the operation of the ship are great, and there are some fun spells and magic items lurking towards the back of the book. (Immediate Anchor and Krakenshot Cannonball are just plain mean! ;D )
This will definitely be finding its way into my campaign.
It's not too difficult to convert the ships over. All you need is length and width. Sail ship I did as 100ft by 40ft instead. I gave them 3 masts too as well as a poop/stern castle and bow castle. Seems to work ok I think. Mostly it's a case of round up or round down really. Speed is different though, it works out about twice as fast dependent on wind, sail ship with a base speed of 9 can move 18 squares if with the wind. You may need to use either a bigger table if using inch squares or change to cm squares for ship combat. Also Daily ship speed is about twice too. I decided to keep the pf rules for daily speed otherwise traveling from one side of the shackles to the other would take around 3 days. Other than that I think it's a great rule set for s&s