Razor Coast—Fire as She Bears! (PFRPG) PDF

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Design your own ships from the hull out and fight Age of Sail combats like you’ve never fought before!

Hoist the staysails, catch the weather gauge, you have the helm sir! All cannon, the enemy is in sight. FIRE AS SHE BEARS!

Building on the winning entries of a contest to create new rules, authors Lou Agresta and John Ling, with contributions from James MacKenzie, wrote a book to empower players and GMs to fight cinematic “Master and Commander” style ship battles in Pathfinder or Swords & Wizardry that stay true to the spirit of history and Age of Sail realities.

This complete 96 page subsystem of ship-to-ship combat, includes over 35 new magic items for characters and ships, new feats, new uses for familiar skills, new weapons and equipment, new spells, and best of all? Roll up and equip an Age of Sail warship just like you’d design a new character—in as little as 30 minutes.

Isn't it time every player at the table had a hand, every round, in sinking the enemy ship?

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Required Reading For Skull & Shackles

5/5

This book introduces 3 concepts that are rather void in the Paizo releases. 1. Ship Combat 2. Ship Building 3. Ship's Crew and Loyalty. The mechanics here are wonderful and really help turn my Skull & Shackles game into something slightly closer to King Maker.

Having the players worry about their ships during SS II and using the much more fun ship combat rules provided here really changed the dynamic is a positive way. I only found out about this book as we were working our way through SS I. However, I would recommend introducing this book when you start the campaign so players have time to read it and be ready to use it for Part II.

Also, Frog God made it clear, Bards are the best Captains. No doubt!


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This system for naval combat is 98 pages long, 1 page front cover, 4 pages of advertisement, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 88 pages of content.

So here we are - by now the third naval combat system for Pathfinder - after Paizo's system fell flat of my expectations and after EN Publishing's book thoroughly disappointed me, let's see whether this supplement can do the trick!

We kick off this sourcebook, as is only prudent, with an explanation of the terminology used as well as a handy diagram that explains how a ship is positioned in relation to the wind. In order to have a ship, one requires ship construction-rules - these are very concisely-presented here: Essentially, each vessel has locations, which could be thought of as 20-foot cubes that can be individually targeted by hostiles. How you place your locations is mostly up to you, though you have to adhere to certain conventions regarding length and breadth and height, allowing you to also add additional decks by stacking multiple locations atop one another. It should be noted, that one hull location could contain one or several decks, though! Each location-cube belongs to one of two classes - hull or rigging. Both types have different stats, costs etc. and their relationship has crucial consequences regarding the ship's attributes.

Attributes? Yes, ships have a str-score of 30+no. of hull locations + build modifiers and they also have a dexterity of 10+rigging locations-hull locations + build modifiers. (The latter, in case you're wondering, offer the choice between sleek and broad hulls. Ship armor-class is calculated just like with a regular character, though rigging is slightly harder to hit. It should also be noted that the rules depict not only touch AC (should you ever require it), but also the susceptibility of a ship from below the waves in a rather interesting manner and that they aren't silent on this matter either regarding AC. Carrying capacity, hit points - all of that is very intuitive and makes creating ships and grasping the system exceedingly easy.

Now where things get slightly more complex would be with movement - your ship has 3 movement rates, or speed values. Each point of speed roughly corresponds to 20 feet of movement - but why not simply go with the movement? The answer's simple, really - you actually could do that. But speed is also a resource AS WELL AS a restriction. Ships have no brakes in the traditional sense and thus you *HAVE* to move the value of your speed rating each round - furthermore, naval maneuvers like turns etc. have an associated speed cost. You thus have to actually plan movement rather carefully, adding a VERY cool tactical dimension to the combats that is easy to learn while offering opportunities aplenty for strategies and finesse - after all, sailing against and with the wind modifies your available speed. Putting essentially resource and restriction into one value is, in my humble opinion, a stroke of genius. Of course, ships also have a maneuverability and your ship's load influence how agile your vessel turns out to be - again, the rules here are very much n line with how characters work.

Now if you're like me, then you tend towards a relative preference toward simulationalist approaches - I tend to have my PCs track rations etc. For people who prefer this additional spike of realism we get advanced rules herein - the first of which would be the impact of wind speed on a vessel's speed rating. More complex, yes, but rather easy to grasp. And if you don't think that can be utilized for maximum awesomeness, I once ran an adventure based on the absence of wind - essentially stranding the players on the equivalent of the Méduse's grisly tale - no combats, just slow psychological descent into madness as the veneer of civilization started to crumble. Glorious. Of course, the more obvious use would be to handle ships sailing before a storm, as the sidebar "Riders on the Storm" suggests. Now beyond sails, engines (both steam-powered and alchemical, in varying efficiency-classes) and oars are also handled, and once again parallel to characters, ships get their own CMBs and CMDs and saves.

Saves? Yep. Though as objects, ships are immune to will-saves, ref and fort-saves, while hard to do, can be rationalized - which the pdf btw. also guides a DM through, explaining how to narrate a successful save. As you could glean from me spilling the beans about alternate means of propulsion, there are a lot of customization options here - 8 sizes of cannons, rams, crow's nests - it's easy and essentially just like equipping your character - locations having a certain amount of space, i.e. slots. There you go - elegant and intuitive. Where there are cannons, there better be grape shots, chain shots and the like and yes, for everyone who despises gunpowder in their games, reskinning is always an option here. Speaking of options - while cannonballs of a uniform size are the default simplification for fun's sake, there are rules to explain how to handle different cannonball-sizes, if you want that level of realism. the same holds btw. true if you'd prefer realistic load times - these have been, due to the presence of magic and to keep cannons cool, significantly shortened to between 1 and 3 full-round actions. For once, that's a simplification I will keep in my game.

Now I've mentioned grape shots. I shuddered upon reading this, for while the mechanics of the grape shot are solid, they don't take individual ACs into account. Well...UNLESS you take a look at yet another alternate rule that lets you take these into the equation as well! Even before ship armor, miscellaneous equipment like fire pumps, specific locations and the like come into the equation, we a thoroughly customizable base system of rules that is concisely presented and easy to learn, while providing just the level of realism you choose for your group.

Specific locations? Yeah, from smuggling compartments to brigs, captain's quarters etc., we have quite a few customization options here.

But a ship is only an object - we also need a crew. Recruiting a crew is done via relatively simple rules...but what about morale? We are introduced to a new loyalty-score, which is modified by the captain's level, his/her cha-mod and the mods of navigators, chaplains etc. - oh, and lost battles, pay, time at sea, charms and dominates - all of these are taken in. Additionally, charismatic captains may actually inspire their crews! Now we all have seen this: A basic issue in most naval combat systems would be that they degenerate into a one-on-one between DM and the captain's player.6 officer roles, all with benefits and vacancy penalties and special actions in combat does an excellent job in engaging the WHOLE PARTY, even beyond the capabilities of the respective classes that fill the roles. Now how does that work? Essentially, your players roll initiative twice - once for the level of their characters and a second, naval initiative wherein they may make the respective naval actions, ensuring that they don't have to spend actions to encourage the crew when they'd rather be flinging fireballs or swashbuckle through the riggings. It seems counterintuitive at first, but in play it works wonders - also due to each role using certain attribute-modifiers for their respective naval initiative. Food, crew placement, crew advancement, officer and enlisted roles - there isa neat level of detail going on here.

Now how does naval combat work? First, the most upwind ship may claim the weather gauge, which nets some bonuses (tough e.g. the +2 speed bonus may not fit in all strategies...once again, careful deliberation...) - but only until another ship manages to steal the weather gauge via skill or luck: Again, we have a neat dynamic herein that expands the tactical possibilities of naval combat. After that, the combat (with the exception of naval initiative) works much like a regular combat - but there also are 13 special naval actions introduced alongside 5 special attacks (including crossing the boards). We also get a handy table for spotting ships, some new skill uses (Can you disguise a ship? Yes, you can!) and an abstract, but relatively elegant way to determine losses among the crew (and prevent them, if you're a ship's surgeon. Of course, there is also the final resort of self-destructing engines, if available - and yes, the consequences are dire and the situation narrative gold.

Of course, as you're probably noted by now, specialists could have a field day here and yes, if you're so inclined, then a total of 9 feats allows you to improve your capabilities in that specific field - which is awesome, for while the system does not require such an investment, it rewards those that do. Now magic and naval combat is where a certain other naval supplement came totally apart - so how does FaSB deal with it? In one word: Perfectly. Instead of spamming us with useless over-specialized variants of spells, we get new uses for spells: Chill/Heat Metal+ cannon = useless cannon for duration of the spell. Zombie-crew? Possible. Control Winds vs. Control Weather? Covered. Fabricate? Repairs ship-location. Prestidigitation can btw. be uses to flavor gruel if food is scarce, thus offsetting the loyalty-penalty for eating gruel all day. We also get 9 spells, one of which temporarily transforms a part of the sea into GLASS., potentially trapping ships... Oh, and yes, there also is a ghostly crew for the wholesome necromancer captains among us.

Not content with all of that? Why not build levitating ships? Ships made from bone, coral or locations perpetually engulfed in flames? Masts that prevent casualties by means of feather fall? Enchanted bowsprits? Sails that steal souls? On the character level, what about enchanted rum? Magical hammocks? Tiny mechanical monkey with an extradimensional holding space? Harnesses that conjure forth ghostly whales to draw the ship? Yes. All here.

Now so far, we've limited ourselves to combat, ship-building and crew - but what about pursuits? Fully covered. Terrain obstacles for naval pursuits? Easy creation guidelines, various samples provided.

Don't want to stat a lot of crew? We get quite a bunch of sample statblocks (though it should be noted that they use Razor Coast's simplified gunpowder-rules), but thus no gunslingers. The book mentions "Brace of Pistols" as a great supplement and I concur, though I consider the absence of gunslingers still a huge pity. Now while there are a lot f relatively generic statblocks, the occasional weird one is in here to spice all up and sample characters galore accompany this chapter.

Beyond a pirate's song to sing and animated cannons, we also get full-color ship record sheets, 5 sample ships and finally, a 1-page appendix of sample ship names.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is still very good, though a couple of minor typo-level glitches could be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard. Artwork is mostly thematically fitting stock art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The hardcover of the book has solid production-values, though the paper feels slightly thinner than in other FGG-releases. The cover-illustration is a bit blurry in both the pdf and hardcover and was probably not intended as such.

*Ähem* In case you haven't noticed...look what's absent from this review: Yes. Serious complaints. This system is hilariously easy to grasp, working with established design-tenets and expanding them in a smart way that borders on being brilliant. Neither in 3.X, nor PFRPG have I ever seen such a concise, well-presented naval combat supplement - creating ships is exceedingly easy and fast, naval combat proved to be engaging for the whole group instead of for just one player and this supplement, unlike some books I've recently reviewed, does a splendid job at NOT creating logic bugs in-game. At working with the system and producing something that transcends and mops the floor with each and every naval combat system I've seen so far, offering a surprising amount of easy customization options and actually rewarding tactical combat decisions. Strategy, fun, easily implemented and presented in a truly concise manner, Lou Agresta & John Ling's "Fire as She Bears" is THE system for naval combat: Whether it's "Skull & Shackles", "Razor Coast" or something completely different - this supplement is a, let me emphasize that, MUST HAVE.

Seriously. Naval combat has never worked so smoothly, so seamlessly, so elegant. Heck, if I ever run En Publishing's Zeitgeist-AP, I'll ignore "Admiral o' the High Seas" and stat the ships with this. In spite of the work, the result will make it worthwhile. This is the perfect blend of options, solid rules, toolkit and makes for an extremely tight supplement, one I can't praise enough. I wouldn't be Endzeitgeist if I had no complaints, though - the lack of sample gunslinger-characters is a very minor detriment and honestly - I wished this had been a massive 200+page book with even more options, items, naval actions, magic items and sample ships.

...Yeah. That's about all the negativity I can muster against this superb book. This is non-optional. I want sequels...plural. Enchanted viking-ships, perhaps? After all, the Northlands Saga is impending...

This belongs into the library of each and every DM who only contemplates running naval adventures, a superb offering if there ever was one and the system that banished Mongoose's 3.0 "Seas of Blood" and Paizo's own system into oblivion. It's that good. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval, in spite of minor flaws here and there as well as this being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2013. From here on out, this will be the only naval system that sees any use at my table. Congratulations to the authors for a superb job!

Endzeitgeist out.


Essential for Skull and Shackles

5/5

This review is not based on play yet so I’m not sure how it works on the table although I do plan to use it.

I am GM’ing Skull and Shackles and midway through book2 with at least 6 sea ship battles under my belt. Using the rules in the players guide although pretty decent they do tend to be very much a one PC against
the GM. The other players are left twiddling thumbs most of the time. The boards offer a few alternatives in which actions are shared amongst the crew which do work rather well indeed. This book however trumps these ideas in spades.

The combat here is pretty simple, ship movement is better, grapple, ramming and broadsides are more streamlined. I particularly like the Crossing the Boards action (bow spits together, crews jump across for boarding actions). Ship speed is faster then Skull and Shackles though, twice as fast I think and uses 20ft instead of 30ft squares. Ships have a number of hull and rigging locations based on size and height each a 20ft cube, this makes ship combat so much easier as you now have areas to hit, it is also easier (I think) to sink a ship.

In order to use these rules for S&S will mean some conversion work as you will need to re-build the ships to this new system. This is an area that also shines. It’s dead easy, all you need is an idea how the ship will look, the length, width, in feet and whether it has bow or stern castles, how many masts it has and how high and you can build ANY ship in minutes.

Crew are given a good few pages, offering you an alternative to the 1 point of plunder share (each crew member has an allotted daily amount of sp or gp). There is also a loyalty score that helps to avoid a mutiny or a crew routing.

I can’t recommend this book more if you are running any kind of nautical game and is REALLY useful for Skull and Shackles. Every time I read it more ideas just pop in my head.

A stunning piece of work. My only problem is I wish it had been released earlier.


Finally! Ship to Ship Combat that Can Work!

5/5

For an explanation of how I use the five star review method, see my entry on So What's the Riddle Like Anyway? HERE.

Aside from a riddle oriented review and my first review (that of Gygax Magazine #1) people may be noticing a piratical theme to the products I am reviewing. Since I am preparing to do a Skull & Shackles/Razor Coast/Freeport mash-up for my next campaign, I am looking at A LOT of pirate oriented material right now, so as I start reviewing this is the stuff that is at the forefront of my thinking and putting down my thoughts helps me organize those ideas. Fire as She Bears! is a supplement that I was really hoping would be funded as I felt somewhat let down by the ship combat rules presented by Skull & Shackles.

In the Introduction, the goal of this supplement is explained as bringing age of sail sea battles to the Pathfinder game system while engaging all players sitting at the table rather than just the "captain" and the GM. The introduction explains some different terms that are going to be used, from Point of Sail to Weather Gauge, but does not go into too much detail. It is just to get the concepts out there before we get into the specifics of the rules.

Chapter 1 explains how to build a ship ready for use with the new combat rules. Every ship has a character sheet, just like a PC. It details the number of hit locations on the ship, the number of hit points each section has and the AC of each of those sections based on the size of the ship and the design you use. Hull locations and rigging locations are assembled like blocks for ease of initial calculations and making unique ship design relatively simple. That said, calculating the various attributes and other numbers can get a little long; much like generating a moderate level character from scratch. When it is all done, you have a fully statted out ship with overall cost, attributes, carrying capacity, movement , and movement type (sail, oars, etc.) Rules for movement—both tactical and long distance (called Overland Movement in a terrible misnomer)—are also described here in detail. But it is a ship without gear, so...

Chapter 2 covers equipping your new vessel. Whether you are going for a basic "it floats, that's good enough," or fully loaded with all the cool gear, this chapter covers it all from armor and weapons to hold pumps and brigs. It gives the cost and the weight of each item, changing up the carrying capacity. It is a very simple and straight forward. It also helps give a limit on the number and size of siege weapons that can be mounted on the ship based on the number of hull locations dedicated to guns. An aside explains that realism has been dumped a bit in order to feel more like the fun you would expect in a place with fireballs and black tentacles. So reload times and cannon ball sizes have been altered accordingly. I think this is a good choice as realism isn't what I'm looking for in RPGs. I want a cool story, and this helps with that. Onto the crew!

Chapter 3 is all about the crew compliment. Not just the extras who run around following orders in the background of scenes, but the roles of officers and the naval actions they can take in those roles. These are for the PCs to give them something to do in the middle of ship-to-ship combat. Information about the benefits and penalties of having officers fill these roles or having them be empty is also spelled out, as is the importance of crew loyalty and the advantages of having a few experienced crew members.

Chapter 4 is what we have been waiting for: Combat! And yet here we run into the first confusing part. Back in the introduction the concept of Ship Initiative was put forward and explained as the ship's Captain rolling a d20 and everyone modifying their initiative for naval actions off that number based on what type of role they are playing in the crew and which attribute that allows them to use. But here in the combat order the instructions are that every character must roll initiative twice to determine when they perform their normal round actions and when they perform their naval actions. This method is what is described in detail in this section, so I'm going to assume that it is correct and that the intro is in error. Since this could lead to confusion, it is an important bit of errata to fix.

Combat order goes from determining who has the weather gauge (tactical advantage based on wind direction and position), initiative, perform actions in order, determine ship damage and effects from naval actions taken, count casualties, move crewmen, recheck who has the weather gauge, and then keep repeating steps three through seven until battle is complete. By giving each character a leadership role onboard the ship, they will be able to give orders to up to 20 crew and still act as normal in a melee round. This is a unique approach that makes a lot of sense: talking has always been a free action—even out of turn—so giving orders doesn't conflict with the core rules of the game at all. This allows each character to go twice each round—once as normal and once with a naval action. So the whole thing works more like it would in a battle in a pirate movie rather than bored players watching one of their number playing a weird version of chess with the GM.

There are a number of standard naval actions that you can take under combat that are listed here, as well as special actions—such as ramming—to give the PCs a lot to use. There are some great suggestions for how to deal with casualties among a large crew and mass hand-to-hand combat on a ship deck. The whole is left open and easily understood, making it simple for a GM to create cinematic battles with massive ships and hundreds of crew!

Chapter 5 gives us new uses for Pathfinder skills and spells, new feats, an explanation of how far one can see from a crow's nest, and new spells for use onboard ship. I rather like the new feat Bellow—which allows you to command 40 crew instead of just 20—just for the imagery alone. The spells are not overpowered destroyer type spells, so they shouldn't affect game balance at all. In fact, most of the spells are movement or defensive in nature.

Chapter 6 gives us new magic items for use at sea. There are a lot of cool items here, but my favorites have to be Blatcher’s Rum (which gives you a bonus to Strength and fearlessness at the expense of Dexterity, Intelligence, and being sick later) and Featherfall Mast (everyone in the rigging is automatically protected by a featherfall spell) for wildly different reasons.

Chapter 7 has some advice about constructing and running naval battle encounters. This includes a really great section on pursuits, with the PCs being either the pursuer or the pursued. Obstacles and weather terrain features can be set up to make it more challenging and dramatic. The rest of the chapter gives sample captain stats and colorful NPCs that are fully detailed, essentially a bonus NPC codex for pirates and naval types. It also includes the lyrics to a rather great pirate drinking song, "That Blatcher's Rum," which I would love to hear the melody for (although I can come up with a pretty good one myself and which maybe a point in its favour). There is also a self-loading cannon construct that any ship's Captain with give his good eye for.

The Appendices include a blank Ship Record Sheet, some sample ships from Razor Coast, and one hundred ship names for use with whatever encounters you may need.

Final Thoughts: Aside from the minor confusion over Ship Initiative, the rules in Fire as She Bears! are internally consistant and are ultimately just an extension of the familiar Pathfinder combat rules. Yet they manage to convey the differences that fighting with large ships filled with crew at the same time. Simplicity and accomplishing the goals of narrative without loss of speed is difficult and having worked on many ship-to-ship combat systems over the years to try and get this feel myself, I am impressed. I will definitely be using these rules in my upcoming campaign and I recommend this supplement for anyone who is running a nautical based adventure or campaign. Five out of Five stars.

EDIT: I orignally gave this only 4 stars out of 5 because of the length of time to convert ships to the system and a little confusion over initiative. On further reflection, this is really a must have item for nautical adventures and I would up it to 4.5 stars if I could, but will give it all 5 instead.


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Now available for preorder!


Are all the other downloaded.included in the big 90 dollar download?

Webstore Gninja Minion

proftobe wrote:
Are all the other downloaded.included in the big 90 dollar download?

No—the Razor Coast PDF Bundle is just for the hardcover and the PDF of the hardcover, not any of the supplemental material (like this book).


Ok thanks

The Exchange

Is there a listed release date for this suppliment?


Jacob Blackmon wrote:
Is there a listed release date for this suppliment?

August for the printed books, according to the Frog God page.

The PDF is available now.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

goldomark wrote:
Jacob Blackmon wrote:
Is there a listed release date for this suppliment?

August for the printed books, according to the Frog God page.

The PDF is available now.

While clearly designed for the Razor Coast setting, would this also enhance a "Skull & Shackles" campaign?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

How much room is there for the player characters to influence the ship battle in these rules? Are they primarily all about the ships, or do fireballs and bardic music play a role?


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I'm going to be doing a review of this book over the weekend in which I will bring more detail to bear, but the short answers to these two questions (from my perspective) are:

Lord Fyre: Yes, absolutely.

Kolokotroni: The player characters act twice each round—once as per normal and once to affect the crew, the guns, the ships movement, basically whatever your PC was assigned as a ship officer. So fireballs and commands all work together in the same sequence.


I watched Demiplane of Gaming video cast with Lou Agresta as a guest and he talked about this product, definitely saying this is about exciting sea battles - everything from stating up/creating your own ship, ship feats, a battle system using 20' cubes as target areas with AC, saving throws, etc. Rules that all members of the party are active during sea combat, not just the guy firing the cannon/ballista.

It looks pretty good! I'm picking it up! It definitely works for Skull and Shackles.


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I read that as "Firing She-Bears." I could see lobbing angry mamma bears onto the decks of enemy ships as a valid, if gonzo, tactic.

Ready the druids! Summon Nature's Ally on line! Summon at will!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Shadowborn wrote:

I read that as "Firing She-Bears." I could see lobbing angry mamma bears onto the decks of enemy ships as a valid, if gonzo, tactic.

Ready the druids! Summon Nature's Ally on line! Summon at will!

Huh. My impression was that to get the most out of these rules you needed to use female werebear characters. Oh well. My bad. ;-)

Sovereign Court Contributor

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Hey there, yes and yes to the previous questions and thanks to all you folks who answered for me. Spot on. You could buy this book and just fight naval combats if you wanted, but at every step of the way our design goal was to seamlessly blend Pathfinder combat with "Master and Commander" style ship battles. Fireballs. Bardic sea-chanties. I think we hit it (fingers crossed pending Feros' review)...

And while integrated into the RC setting, it's absolutely intended to bring ship-to-ship combat to any game.

Feros and Game-Printer got it exactly right.

Now Shadowborn? You're an ill human. Clearly, very ill. And I LOVE you for those visuals. Thank you!


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Louis Agresta wrote:

Now Shadowborn? You're an ill human. Clearly, very ill. And I LOVE you for those visuals. Thank you!

Quite welcome. I like to think that on my best day I might give Pett and Logue a run for their money. One of these days I'll put that to the test.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Feros - thank you for the thorough and marvelous review. You are correct in that rolling initiative 2x is the correct approach. Gah. I thought I got that artifact from an earlier draft. Thank you again. Please let me know when you sink your first ship and how it went!


I look at the rules & think, "Finally, I can convert all of those Spelljammer ships to Pathfinder!!!"


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I looked at the rules and thought...gulp!

My group has enough trouble grasping the skull and shackles naval combat rules let alone this lol.

I however like this book and will one day try and use it.

Sovereign Court Contributor

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Aw, Ferrinwulf, once you make a ship the rest is straightforward!


Quick question. How do you work out where the below the waterline part of the ship is?

The ship in designing has 1 base deck of 5 locations by 2 locations, a poopdeck and a bow castle giving me 14 hull locations. It has 2 floors in the base deck each 10 feet tall, crew and galley in 1 and cargo below that. Do I assume the 20ft high base deck, the bottom say 5ft is below the waterline or is it something else that im missing?

And yes it is straightforward and it looks like it works incredibly well. I'm playing around with it now to refine it for my s&s game.

Great job :)

Contributor

Hi Ferrin. Great question.

There is no real answer to it, because - much like, say, cannons - it was intended as a complete abstraction. Most of the time, what actually is or isn't below the waterline shouldn't matter. The below the waterline has its own hit points and potentially receives a cover bonus to AC (at least, from attacks above the water's surface), but exactly how much of the Hull Location lies beneath the waves is hand-waved for simplicity.

If it does matter for some reason, I'd say 5 feet for a light load, 10 ft. for a medium load, and 15 feet for a heavy load is probably a good off-the-cuff number.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Right - the notion is there will come a time when PCs or monsters say, explicitly, "I'm aiming my attack below the waterline" or they launch a torpedo like weapon of some sort... then start counting it against the below the waterline location.


Thanks guys, makes sense now :) If it comes up I think I'll go with Zherog's suggestion.

Sovereign Court Contributor

Cool! Let us know how your first ship to ship battle goes? I love play reports!

Sovereign Court Contributor

Thanks for the latest review!

Contributor

Indeed. Thank you, Simon, for the kind words. I'm glad you're enjoying the book, and especially glad to hear you found ship building easy.


Hey Louis (or anybody that knows), I may have missed it, but the standard seems to assume all ships are colossal size? Is there anything special recommended for smaller vessels? I mentioned that I will be using this in a Spelljammer campaign & there are some smaller vessels used in the setting.

Sovereign Court Contributor

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Hmm... That's a good question. Let me get back to you, but, I'd assume the smallest ship in FasB is 20' cubed. Let me talk to John and get back. We could maybe list all the formulas that include the size modifier and how they change for smaller ships...

Contributor

Howdy, Xorial.

You're right - the smallest ship these rules allow for is 20x20x20, which is Colossal in size in the game.

You could certainly use a single Hull Location, and simply describe it as being less than 20x20x20. That wouldn't have any affect on the rules and would allow - for example - for something that was 15 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 10 feet high.

How small were you thinking?


Actually, looking at the charts, I would think a single Hull Location would be Gargantuan. Maybe even just Huge.

Table: Space

I have seen ships statted out in other supplements for Naval Combat that had ships that would fit in a single cube as Huge. Some that would fit in 2 cubes as Gargantuan. Not until you get to 3 Hull Locations are they consistently statted as Colossal.

No matter what the ruling, I guess, from not giving a size penalty fro AC, that this would explain why some vehicle rules supplements in 3e actually had Vehicle Size categories. To eliminate some of the sill ACs. I would just assume that Gargantuan & Huge would be the Vehicle equivalent to Small & Diminutive.


I'm looking into using these rules for my Skulls and Shackles game. I think they're the best out there for naval combat, but there are a few things I'd like some clarification on if possible. Anyone who could give any insight is greatly appreciated.

1.) Are naval combat rounds considered to the normal six seconds in length?

Long version:
I can't find anything that states the length of a round that includes naval combat actions, so I assume its just the normal six seconds. However I can see the sense in making the rounds longer. A character gets a normal set of actions and then a naval set of actions; maybe the normal set of actions are the six seconds where he can squeeze in some actions of his own while the rest of the time he's occupied with barking orders. Also, since it uses 20' squares in ship-to-ship combat, a ship with a speed 6 moves 120 feet in a round. If a round is only six seconds, that ship is moving much faster than its assumed miles per hour. Specifically: A ship with 4 Rigging Locations is Speed 6 and moves at 3.5 mph. In six seconds, a ship moving 3.5 mph only goes about 30-40 feet.

I understand that in tactical combat sometimes you shouldn't pay too close attention to the exact numbers. Really, I just want to make sure I'm not missing something. Are rounds that include naval combat assumed to be the normal length of six seconds?

2.) Is a ship's speed ever reduced by how large it is?

Long version:
In the beginning of Chapter One, under Step One, it says "The ratio between Rigging and Hull determines the speed of your ship." I may be reading too much into the sentence, which granted is in the area abstractly summarizing the chapter, but it seems that the number of Hull Locations on your ship has no relationship to your ships speed, except for the maximum number of Rigging Locations allowed.

A ship with 50 Hull Locations and 4 Rigging Locations moves the same speed as a ship with 5 Hull Locations and 4 Rigging Locations.

I also feel like ships near that bigger end of Hull Location numbers have some pretty ridiculous Speed values, if they use the max number of Rigging Locations allowed. My friend used the rules to build a ship based on a 200ft long, 50ft wide, 180 ft tall, 1st rate ship-of-the-line and it ended up with a speed close to 30.

Increasing the size of a ship also increases its max speed because you are allowed more Rigging Locations but I also feel like it should also slow the ship down slightly. It makes sense to me that a big ship would need a bit more rigging to go as fast as a smaller ship.

3.) A few times throughout the book, it mentions that it takes 2 rounds to deploy a sail and a Mate can make a Profession (sailor) check to reduce the time to one round.

I might be missing something but I can't see a reason for needing to simulate the deploying of sails. It seems like when the Navigator uses the Sudden Slow or Sudden Acceleration actions, its assumed that he is directing the crew to raise or lower the appropriate sail(s).

For Example:
Let's say the PC's ship is caught unawares, at night, and needs to escape. None of their sails are deployed and their speed is 0. Do they have to deploy their sails before they are able to use the Sudden Acceleration action? Is this the only time that deploying sails will matter; when the ship isn't moving at all? Or is it necessary, for each Rigging Location, to note whether it is currently deployed? I suppose it makes sense, if you don't want to be going full speed, to not have all your sails deployed. But if that's the case, what if you want to slow down even more? How long does it take to "un-deploy" your sails?

4.) This last thing isn't anything serious, but I was wondering what the reasoning was behind why oars can't provide extra speed but engines can. In every other naval combat rules system I've looked at, oars and sails stack their speeds. This made longships and galleys some of the fastest ships, at least in tactical combat. When you think about it, what are oars if not manual engines?

Also, in my Skulls and Shackles campaign, gunpowder is extremely rare so no one has cannons except for the pirate king. Has anyone had any direct experience using these rules with medieval siege weapons like ballista/catapults? The fact that these rules gel so well with the Pathfinder core rules means substitution won't be a problem since there are listed damages for all sorts of siege weapons in the Pathfinder core, but I worry about the combats possibly taking too long, and/or ships being too hard to damage. Does anyone have any insight into this?

Thanks in advance and apologies for the long post!

Contributor

Awesome questions, Dragonriderje. Here's some answers that I hope will help.

Dragonriderje wrote:
1.) Are naval combat rounds considered to the normal six seconds in length?

Naval combat rounds are the standard six seconds. PCs get two actions - they're own "normal" turn in the initiative and their naval turn.

Quote:
2.) Is a ship's speed ever reduced by how large it is?

I think you've probably raised a fair point here. The answer is no (other than encumbrance, but capacity goes up with Hull Locations so extra Hulls likely doesn't encumber the ship.

I'd like to say this was done intentionally just to be another place where it was a simplified abstraction. Truth is, we just didn't expect anybody would want to build a ship that had 50 Hull Locations and 4 Rigging Locations.

Quote:

3.) A few times throughout the book, it mentions that it takes 2 rounds to deploy a sail and a Mate can make a Profession (sailor) check to reduce the time to one round.

I might be missing something but I can't see a reason for needing to simulate the deploying of sails. It seems like when the Navigator uses the Sudden Slow or Sudden Acceleration actions, its assumed that he is directing the crew to raise or lower the appropriate sail(s).

This is mostly a remnant from one of the first drafts, when we got really complicated and had rules for different sail patterns and sail types. However, that said you do nail exactly when it would matter - if you don't have your max sails deployed for whatever reason (drifting at night, sails lowered because of a storm, sails were recently damaged in combat and new ones need to deployed, etc) then it requires a check to get them up.

Quote:
How long does it take to "un-deploy" your sails?

D'oh! I can't believe, in all our passes through the book, we never thought to address that! I'd say the same - two rounds, with a check to make it one round.

Quote:
4.) This last thing isn't anything serious, but I was wondering what the reasoning was behind why oars can't provide extra speed but engines can. In every other naval combat rules system I've looked at, oars and sails stack their speeds. This made longships and galleys some of the fastest ships, at least in tactical combat. When you think about it, what are oars if not manual engines?

This was one of the very few things Lou and I didn't agree on (though it didn't take long to settle it, either). It's also one of the very few things where we had realism trump ease-of-play. A ship under sail can't have oarmen - Lou can explain it more, but the gist is you'll end up with dead oarmen. There's historical precedent for it, and Lou can explain it much more, since this is actually a field of expertise for him - one of the few things he actually knows something about. ;)

Quote:
Also, in my Skulls and Shackles campaign, gunpowder is extremely rare so no one has cannons except for the pirate king. Has anyone had any direct experience using these rules with medieval siege weapons like ballista/catapults? The fact that these rules gel so well with the Pathfinder core rules means substitution won't be a problem since there are listed damages for all sorts of siege weapons in the Pathfinder core, but I worry about the combats possibly taking too long, and/or ships being too hard to damage. Does anyone have any insight into this?

We actually took this into account; there's a sidebar somewhere in the Equipment chapter about that. Basically, we call everything a cannon, but my all means we expect some people to make them catapults or ballista or alchemical-charged weapons or whatever. Stick with the same rules, and call the weapon whatever you like and it should all work out.

Quote:
Thanks in advance and apologies for the long post!

No worries at all. I'm happy to help out, and these were great questions! Hope my answers helped.


S nobody can tell me how a 20' cube is a colossal size? I have seen plenty of supplements for vehicles that would disagree with that. The chart I saw at d20pfsrd indicates that it would not be colossal.

Contributor

There's no real answer to the question. It's Colossal because that's the decision we made. That decision was made very early on and never examined again.

If you wanted smaller, you could certainly treat 15x15 similar to "small" sized creatures, and give a +1 to AC and attack, and a -1 to CMB and CMD. Then you'd treat 10x10 as Tiny and give it +2/-2.

Sovereign Court Contributor

On the oars and sails rule: the drag from a ship under sail -- even slowly -- is phenomenal. If you've ever timed an oar wrong on a rowboat and almost had it pulled out of your hands, you'll know what I mean.

It'd take an impossible level of coordination for a line of men to always dip an oar exactly right and never once make a mistake. Let alone a whole bank of oars.

The drag would grab the oar, snap the arm through an arc, crush and kill the men inside the belly of the ship.

It's basically a recipe for rowing crew frappe.

Sovereign Court Contributor

On the question of deploying and un-deploying sails, one of the reasons is speed. If I recall correctly, you can make tighter turns and place your ship more precisely when going at a reduced speed.

Sorry about the IIRC but I went through 500k words on the project and some of it, even the best beloved bits, starts to blur.

That said a common real-world tactic was to hang less sail so that you appeared to be a less potent ship through a spy-glass, allow an enemy to catch up at a bad angle to the wind (for them), then abruptly hoist the rest of the sails and have at them. Avoided a long chase and led to tactical advantage if handled well.

The sail rules allow you to emulate this kind of real-world (or at least cinematic world) tactic.


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Louis Agresta wrote:

On the oars and sails rule: the drag from a ship under sail -- even slowly -- is phenomenal. If you've ever timed an oar wrong on a rowboat and almost had it pulled out of your hands, you'll know what I mean.

It'd take an impossible level of coordination for a line of men to always dip an oar exactly right and never once make a mistake. Let alone a whole bank of oars.

The drag would grab the oar, snap the arm through an arc, crush and kill the men inside the belly of the ship.

It's basically a recipe for rowing crew frappe.

Mental note: How to stop an enemy galley from getting away...


Zherog wrote:

There's no real answer to the question. It's Colossal because that's the decision we made. That decision was made very early on and never examined again.

If you wanted smaller, you could certainly treat 15x15 similar to "small" sized creatures, and give a +1 to AC and attack, and a -1 to CMB and CMD. Then you'd treat 10x10 as Tiny and give it +2/-2.

The heart of the question to me is that by the chart, 20x20x20 is NOT colossal. You take a dragon that fits into that same space, and he is huge, maybe gargantuan. It isn't a snark on your design, but something that reflects the heart of the rules. Other than that, I really like the rules a lot. To me, anything below one hull location can be statted like a construct. I was just addressing the area that states that 'one hull location' is colossal, when according to core rules it isn't. AC concerns aren't my problem with this, because if it was, it would be simple to use the regular rules to adjust AC for the times a wizard makes a spell attack against a ship.


I'm very curious about this book - I'm still on a bit of a quest to find the "best" (i.e. best for me and my group's needs/preferences) naval combat rules for 3e (after using 2e's Of Ships & the Sea for years), and I'm mulling over whether I should use/adapt the ones in Skull & Shackles or now this one (these two are probably my short-list).

The one thing I'm most curious about is the "every character can do something" aspect - this really intrigues me.

I read the two reviews (great reviews, BTW!), but I'd really like to know a bit more about how that works. (I obviously am not expecting a copied-from-the-book description, but a little bit more detail (or examples?) on how that fascinating aspect works.) I see that there's something about 'commanding groups of 20' and the like... but what is that?

Needless to say - sounds very interesting so far.

Contributor

Hi Arnwyn.

To answer your question... each PC takes on a "leadership" role aboard the ship - captain, navigator, master of arms, engineer, etc. Each leadership role has tasks that he/she can perform during the character's "ship" initiative - load and fire cannons, extinguish fires, make repairs, change course, run a boarding crew, etc. Alternately, a PC can single-handedly replace multiple "minion" crew members. For example, a PC can load and fire a cannon on their own, even though that task usually requires several crew members to perform.

The design goal was simple - we wanted to avoid the captain being the only PC with something to do during a naval engagement. So we designed as many "officer" roles as possible, and even provided some guidelines for adding in your own.


Zherog wrote:
and even provided some guidelines for adding in your own.

Okay, that's even cooler.

Thanks for the answer!


Quick question: Will this also be available as a Swords & Wizardry book, or does this version make the need for a S&W specific one unnecessary?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

There is a S&W coming but it is delayed as it needs a lot more playtesting, IIRC. Conversion was not as easy as hoped.


My gaming group purchased this, and we'll be using it in our Skulls and Schackles campaign soon. However, having read through the rules, I failed to see any mention of the consequences of having less than 20 crew to command. The surgeon specificly mentions saving more wounded crew by having more men under his command, and for the 'firing cannons' and reloading actions, crew directly affects how many cannons a mate can operate.

But what about other mates actions, or other roles? There no mention how having less than 20 crew affects a mate's Fire fighting naval action, or a navigators possibilities of taking naval tactics.

Did I miss anything, or are there no rules for being below 20 crewmen pr. officer?


Whilst I think the book does a pretty good job of striking a balance between simplicity and 'realism' there is one gap in naval combat that I would like to have seen addressed, namely underwater races.
What can a ship do to protect itself against those sahuagin who sit under the hull and make holes? The idea that comes to my mind in a world with gunpowder is depth charges, after all gunpowder doesn't need air to burn (nor do slow matches). Anybody any thoughts on how that might work?


BzAli wrote:

I failed to see any mention of the consequences of having less than 20 crew to command.

There no mention how having less than 20 crew affects a mate's Fire fighting naval action, or a navigators possibilities of taking naval tactics.

Did I miss anything, or are there no rules for being below 20 crewmen pr. officer?

There are no rules for less than 20 crew I think. The crew needed for the ship to operate is different to the S&S rules. Each 20ft unit of the ship needs 3 crew for it to be able to contribute to the ship. If it has less than this the location does not offer its speed to the rigging or its strength to the ship score (see page 6 select and place locations). This would mean if you have a ship that has 14 hull locations and 6 rigging locations it would require a minimum crew of 60 for it to function properly, less than this and the ships speed would start to drop and the ship becomes weaker.

At least I think that's correct.

If like me you are using the rules for s&s and adapting these to fit then I am just going with the s&s 20 crew rules for now.


ferrinwulf wrote:
BzAli wrote:

I failed to see any mention of the consequences of having less than 20 crew to command.

There no mention how having less than 20 crew affects a mate's Fire fighting naval action, or a navigators possibilities of taking naval tactics.

Did I miss anything, or are there no rules for being below 20 crewmen pr. officer?

There are no rules for less than 20 crew I think. The crew needed for the ship to operate is different to the S&S rules. Each 20ft unit of the ship needs 3 crew for it to be able to contribute to the ship. If it has less than this the location does not offer its speed to the rigging or its strength to the ship score (see page 6 select and place locations). This would mean if you have a ship that has 14 hull locations and 6 rigging locations it would require a minimum crew of 60 for it to function properly, less than this and the ships speed would start to drop and the ship becomes weaker.

At least I think that's correct.

If like me you are using the rules for s&s and adapting these to fit then I am just going with the s&s 20 crew rules for now.

I read that as well. I was thinking about the Naval Actions taken by officers in combat. For instance, firing cannon and reloading cannons state that you need crew, and elsewhere it is stated that a mate can command 20 crew (without the feat Bellow). Likewise, the surgeons actions gives a bonus for having crew aiding the officer.

But now compare with the Extinquish fire Mate action, or Water bailing. Or even the Navigators Naval Tactics. In these, it seems assumed that the officer in question has crew to carry out the task, but there is no mention of what happens if the officer in question does not have 20 crew under his command.
Is the DC's higher? Does the task take longer time? Is it less effective?

Outside of combat, the rules for less than full crew are perfectly clear. But in combat, even though it is stated that crew management is among a captains dilemmas, there's very little mention of the effect of being undercrewed.


I don't think you are penalized for having less than 20 crew to command. I think it just means he can command up to 20 crew and no more he dos'nt need 20 crew to do the job. The only time the ship is at a negative for crew is if they lose the 3 per location.

Looking at the ship actions the gunners mate, captains and surgeons all make sense as they just relate to how many weapons can be fired, how many crew healed etc dependent on the crew they command eg the surgeon only needs 2 crew under his command but he can have up to 20 to be effective.

I see what you mean by the extinquish fire and water bailing though. I would just rule it and say maybe the same as the surgeon, every 2 crew they command gives the fire or repair mate a +1 to their roll. The navigator though I would think is on his own as hes driving the ship I would'nt think he could control any crew as he's conentrating too much.

Maybe someone else can clarify this though.


Arquestan wrote:


What can a ship do to protect itself against those sahuagin who sit under the hull and make holes?

Weigh anchor and set sail. Most ships have a speed equivalent to a sahuagin's swim speed. If a ship makes a double move as a full round action, then any sahuagin keeping pace with the ship won't be able to attack, as they'll have to make a double move to do so.

Depth charges would be expensive. I'd just use lightning bolt and target the water around the ship. Bzzzzt!!!


Shadowborn wrote wrote:

Weigh anchor and set sail. Most ships have a speed equivalent to a sahuagin's swim speed. If a ship makes a double move as a full round action, then any sahuagin keeping pace with the ship won't be able to attack, as they'll have to make a double move to do so.

Depth charges would be expensive. I'd just use lightning bolt and target the water around the ship. Bzzzzt!!!

Good point on the speed Shadowborn, it's easy to forget (for me at least, clearly :)) that 3 or 4 knots may be slow by modern standards but is still a steady walking pace, and all that most underwater humanoids can easily muster. That certainly reduces the treat to ambush attacks in straights or harbour mouths. On the other hand the bottoms of ships are notoriously weed infested so if you can get a position ahead of the ship, a 60' move then a standard action to grab hold is all that's needed.

I'm also not sure on the cost analysis for the lightning bolts - works fine for most PC's, but your merchant trader needs to employ a medium level caster full time, versus the cost of the powder he only pays when actually attacked. A fireballing mage also outguns a cannon and deals with a more common threat.

But, back to the broader point, I think some more discussion of underwater fantasy threats would have been nice.


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I just bought this book/pdf to go along with my recent purchase of Razor Coast. RC is stunning. I'm confident that this product will be another excellent resource for the toolbox. I intend to run RC as a PBP game once I actually get the printed books in my hands.

You get a lot of bang for the bucks with FGG products. Keep up the excellent work.

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