Magical Strategies in Naval Combat


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I couldn't find a thread discussing different methods to utilize magic in Ship-to-Ship combat, so I thought I'd start one. The Advanced Naval Combat rules address more conventional techniques, so here's a forum where people can submit (and shoot down each other's) ideas.

Here are a few I'd like to run by you all:

i) A Paladin be placed in charge of a Siege Weapon team, and use their Divine Bond to enhance the weapon's damage;

ii) One could Summon a Water Elemental onto a ship and order it to "Quench" any fires that start on board;

iii) One could Summon a Giant with the "Rock Catching" ability to intercept indirect fire from enemy catapults.

I look forward to hearing from everyone,

:Byronus


Summon monsters on the enemies boat.

Scarab Sages

At higher level, Wall of Force in front of the enemy's ship. It may not damage them if they have a ram, but it'll bring them to a dead stop instantly.

If they don't have a ram, all the better.


Charm person on the enemy captain, then tell him to stop the ship.
Alter wind and make the ship tilt.
Antipathy on your ship, so nobody can approach.


Years ago in 2e I cast a wall of fire from a scroll right in front of an enemy ship so it couldn't get out of the way. It caught fire and went up in flames. Needless to say this surprised the dm and threw a huge wrench in his plot as the ship was supposed to get away.

Edit don't forget the utlity of grease to make people slip into the water or fall off ropes. Magic missile the enemy navigator or his wheel so it jacks up their maneuvering


Simply drop a wall of fire onto the opposing ships deck.

Illusions can send ships crashing into rocks.

Control Winds is an absolute monster of a spell and can certainly capsize a ship.

A druid in water elemental form can do enormous damage with a simple wood shape, warp wood or repel wood spell. Transmute metal to wood can pretty much doom any ships as you turn all of the nails and brackets holding large sections of it together to wood which are then extremely likely to fail.

Charm or dominate animal can set large underwater creatures onto local shipping. Having your vessels rammed by blue whales is a bad thing.

Wall of Stone or Stone Shape can create hidden underwater protrusions designed to tear the hull open for unsuspecting vessels.


MattR1986 wrote:
Edit don't forget the utlity of grease to make people slip into the water or fall off ropes. Magic missile the enemy navigator or his wheel so it jacks up their maneuvering

You could Grease the Rudder/Steering Wheel too, or the Corvus to cripple boarding actions.


Fantasy warfare looks like medieval warfare, but it really is more like modern warfare. Realistic old-timey wooden sailing ships are very fragile against wizards with their Fireballs, Webs, and Stinking Clouds.

It seems that what is really needed is defensive tactics. You spoke of a Water Elemental to attack the ship, how about an air elemental to fill the sails. In one adventure, I had a magic item that turned out to be the most useful magic item of the game. I had a Lyre of Building, and I single handedly saved the ship like a dozen times. The ship was lost because of one day I didn't show up and wasn't there to save it.

How about a Cleric with a wand of Make Whole or something? What about alternative materials for making ships?


Byronus wrote:

I couldn't find a thread discussing different methods to utilize magic in Ship-to-Ship combat, so I thought I'd start one. The Advanced Naval Combat rules address more conventional techniques, so here's a forum where people can submit (and shoot down each other's) ideas.

Here are a few I'd like to run by you all:

i) A Paladin be placed in charge of a Siege Weapon team, and use their Divine Bond to enhance the weapon's damage;

ii) One could Summon a Water Elemental onto a ship and order it to "Quench" any fires that start on board;

iii) One could Summon a Giant with the "Rock Catching" ability to intercept indirect fire from enemy catapults.

I look forward to hearing from everyone,

:Byronus

Cool but short term. (Actually I don't know about Divine Bond, but I don't think the damage boost is that much.)

IMO, you're better off using Planar Ally or Planar Binding and having those creatures around in the long term. I figure it might be difficult to use frogmen against a ship guarded by a water elemental.

On the offense side: frogmen (either aquatic creatures, or wildshaping druids, or using Water Breathing and Freedom of Movement, pity the latter spell has such a short duration). On the defensive side, you could summon sharks or water elementals in the short term. Any sort of wide AoE fire spell (to burn sails, crew, etc). Dimension Door a bunch of throw-away troops, such as ghouls.


sounds like the naval world is ready for the fearsome mithral-clad destroyer.


Wood really isn't terribly flammable. It takes something like Greek Fire to burn wood wet wood. The problems are canvas, cordage, and gunpowder. Without cannon you don't need to worry about gunpowder, which leaves canvas and cordage.

D&D warships really need an alternate propulsion method. Oars have their own problems and are really not practical for long distance travel. For smaller craft I'd look at the decanter of endless water to create hydrojets or bound water elementals.

As long as sails are in use at all every merchanter has to surrender to any dinghy that threatens it. It might have a wizard or magus or druid onboard and one fireball would kill any sailing ship.

Unless magitech provides a solution someone is just going to have to invent the steam engine to get trade.


A single fireball is not likely sufficient to destroy or seriously degrade a large sailing vessel. The crew likely has the resources to control any fires in the masts and rigging well before they destroy the vessel unless the ship is subjected to a continuing sustained attack that prevents them from doing so.

Doubly so with magical firefighting methods, which enter the scene at cantrip level.

The most dangerous locations for a fire aboard ship are below decks, but rowboat bombardment may have trouble starting a fire there.


I think a Fireball might do a lot of damage, because its minimum 5d6 damage (average 17) and the typical sailor is probably a low-level expert or warrior without many hit points.

In fact, the threat of being roasted might create a style of warship that provides most of the crew with 90% cover (and therefore resistance to being roasted, lightning bolted, etc). A wizard that can cast Fireball is only a few levels from being able to cast Cloudkill and similar spells. *Shudder*


I think there needs to be more thought put into defenses. In Golarion, sticking spellcasters on naval vessels is probably nothing new and equally creative, magical self-defense measures have most likely been created.

The OP also said Naval Combat and not specifically ship to ship combat. You could have a team of frogmen with access to Air Bubble that swim under ships and either A) leave nasty surprises, or B) do crucial repairs.


Resist fire, iron wood, wind wall, and wall of force can make a ship virtually immune to most offensive magic and physical attacks. Bound elementals to attack and defend/put out fires are a good idea. Even something like minor image can make targeting impossible with line of site.

Control wind is the ultimate in sea combat but call lightning can be great in a storm or with nearby air elementals.


Realistic wooden ships are expensive in addition to being fragile, Mike's defensive strategies really underline the ecology that a big ship in a fantasy world really would have a high level staff that would be proportional with the value of the ship.

Also, remember that a Fireball has a 20' radius, think about what that does to sailors Before the Mast, x-level Exerts, and to rigging and sails. The Santa Maria was only 65' long. The USS Constitution was 304' long. A 20' radius is huge.

Scarab Sages

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Forget Fireball. Blade Barrier at the waterline right in front of the ship.

Scarab Sages

Watch the PoTC trilogy ;)

Scarab Sages

Verteidiger wrote:

I think there needs to be more thought put into defenses. In Golarion, sticking spellcasters on naval vessels is probably nothing new and equally creative, magical self-defense measures have most likely been created.

The OP also said Naval Combat and not specifically ship to ship combat. You could have a team of frogmen with access to Air Bubble that swim under ships and either A) leave nasty surprises, or B) do crucial repairs.

I'd think that hiring spellcaster would be REALLY expensive...


.

Shadow Lodge

I second the idea of using Wall of Force. It's great for repelling ranged attacks and/or boarders.

Control Water is absolutely brutal against enemy ships.
Black Tentacles can have a similar effect.

Wall of Thorns is a great way to soften up an enemy crew before a boarding action.

Summon a Fire Elemental and have them climb the enemy rigging and burn their sails.

Gunslinger with a musket shoots the enemy pilot.

Haste + Touch of the Sea on the party Barbarian; 'catch' the enemy ship and destroy the rudder/oars.

The Skull & Shackles player's guide has details on how different spells affect ships. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there.

In our S&S campaign, Fog Cloud has worked wonders so far. Cast it on the enemy ship to either split up attackers ("we'll deal with them later") or screen your own party boarders from ranged attacks. Enemy ships can have a lot of crew members with crossbows or other ranged weapons with readied actions.

Another effective tactic is to ram the enemy ship (reduces speed to zero if done well) and then hit it with Warp Wood. That makes it harder for them to escape if they can break away.


AntediluvianXIII wrote:
Verteidiger wrote:

I think there needs to be more thought put into defenses. In Golarion, sticking spellcasters on naval vessels is probably nothing new and equally creative, magical self-defense measures have most likely been created.

The OP also said Naval Combat and not specifically ship to ship combat. You could have a team of frogmen with access to Air Bubble that swim under ships and either A) leave nasty surprises, or B) do crucial repairs.

I'd think that hiring spellcaster would be REALLY expensive...

Governments should have the budget and resources to accomplish that.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The various non-anchored wall spells are extremely useful, both offensively and defensively (just imagine what a prismatic wall does to a vessel that runs into it), any AoE that damages or obscures vision, summoned water elementals and air elementals are good. Anything that freezes water, or makes keeping your balance harder, is going to have potentially devastating effect, and one scroll of reverse gravity could be really nasty.


If possible, pirates prefer not to risk damaging the ships they raid. They want to plunder the ship before it sinks, or better yet, keep the ship instead of sinking it. Boarding, disabling the rudder, killing the helmsman -- these are great ways to carry out a raid. Targeted spells like magic missile or charm person work well for that, and fog cloud as a smokescreen for boarders is a great idea.

But slinging fireballs around or using wall spells to rip hulls apart is likely to cripple or destroy your prize: like cannons in historical ship-to-ship encounters, these are often saved as last resorts.


Some of the ideas were military and/or defense, some pirate. I doubt the military would hesitate to roast an enemy or pirate ship, unless the cargo are slaves you want to rescue.

I like to think the military puts greed behind the mission, but in some periods of history/campaign settings, the distinctions between navy, privateer and pirate is pretty thin.

Scarab Sages

Magic also makes salvage possible after a ship has been sunk. It may be easier to sink a ship, and then bring up anything of value after the fact. Water Breathing + Floating Disk makes it easy to bring up very heavy things, or have a druid wildshape into a giant octopus to bring any valuables up.

Scarab Sages

Claxon wrote:
.

Ya, I see that dot, Mr. Player-of-mine.


I wonder what it'd be like to plop a cleric with the Construct domain onto a ship. I bet it'd be awesome.


Choon wrote:
Claxon wrote:
.
Ya, I see that dot, Mr. Player-of-mine.

If I'm being honest, I personally wouldn't allow many of the ideas suggested here to work, but that is more of balance issue and you know how I am about that.

But I was interested in seeing what ideas people would come up with.


I forgot Arcane Cannon. Is perfectly suited here.

Grand Lodge

Wands, potions and other disposable magic items are easy buy or create and don't require any or very little training to use. A small troop of low-level shock troops with wands and maxed UMD could wreak havoc on enemies or save you from certain defeat.

I'm more interested in siege weapons that could take the place of cannons in campaigns that don't have gunpowder and firearms. Magical, mechanical or alchemical siege engines that could be crafted without a spellcaster would ft the bill.

SM


Imbicatus wrote:
Magic also makes salvage possible after a ship has been sunk. It may be easier to sink a ship, and then bring up anything of value after the fact. Water Breathing + Floating Disk makes it easy to bring up very heavy things, or have a druid wildshape into a giant octopus to bring any valuables up.

Perhaps someone could cast "Make Whole" to repair a sunken vessel, and magically make it buoyant to get it to the surface?

:Byronus


AntediluvianXIII wrote:
Verteidiger wrote:

I think there needs to be more thought put into defenses. In Golarion, sticking spellcasters on naval vessels is probably nothing new and equally creative, magical self-defense measures have most likely been created.

The OP also said Naval Combat and not specifically ship to ship combat. You could have a team of frogmen with access to Air Bubble that swim under ships and either A) leave nasty surprises, or B) do crucial repairs.

I'd think that hiring spellcaster would be REALLY expensive...

Not expensive compared with the value of a ship with a cargo hold filled with whatever, I think.


Dotting.


I'll expand on my last post. A Sailing Ship lists at 10,000gp without the cannons or crew. It can hold 150 tons of cargo. 150tons X 2000#/ton = 300,000 pounds of cargo. Let's say our ship, the HMS Hypothetical, is hauling a cargo of flour, a low value commodity, 2 cp/#. there are 100cp/gp. The market value this cargo is 300,000# X 2cp/# X 1gp/100cp = 6,000 gp/load.

I think it would be worthwhile for a shipping company to offer a significant portion of his cargo's value to hire some sort of a spellcaster, and I think there are spellcasters out in the Golorian market who would be willing to work regularly for that. In addition, there is a fantasy rpg convention of mercenary adventurers being paid in plunder taken off the ships' repulsed would-be predators: pirates and monsters. Add free passage so the many intrepid adventurers can find their ways to forgotten diamond mines and ruined cities, I think you'd have a supply of skilled, magically-enhanced guards. And when it comes to Cure Light Wounds and Make Whole spells, a little goes a long way, especially if the Ship's Doctor gets equipped with wands from the Ship's Bursar.


Silly mundanes.

Ships for wearing. Constructs beat up barges, deliver goods.


Animate the ship and give it a fly speed. Paint the bottom blue. Profit.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Since I have a druid in Skull and Shackles, I have been looking up tricks for naval combat. Here is what I have come up with so far.

Control Water - easy to outmaneuver a stationary ship
Repel Wood - fun spell to disrupt an enemy ship's positioning
Woodshape/Warp Wood - good for destroying rudders, opening holes in the keel, etc
Mad Monkeys - a lot of objects on the ship for them to destroy
Moonstruck - target the biggest guy on the enemy crew, give him claws, rage and confusion, and sail away to let the other crew deal with him
Old Salt's Curse - debilitate a single person by making them sickened when on the water. Good for eliminating a rival captain.
Epidemic - biological warfare at its finest. Infect the crew with bubonic plague and sail away to let the disease take its toll on the crew.
Fire Seeds - sneak aboard the enemy ship (made easy with Woodshape/Wild Shape), find their powder room (or just the hold if they have flammable things), and plant a bunch of Holly Berry Bombs. GTFO and detonate their powder hold.
Creeping Doom - hard for the enemy crew to continue sailing the ship when they are dealing with centipede swarms
Transmute Metal to Wood - all the metal components are now wooden. Of somewhat limited use depending on ship design.
Blood Mist- enrage the entire enemy crew and let them tear each other apart


Dimension Door + Anchor Feather Token.


Byronus wrote:
MattR1986 wrote:
Edit don't forget the utlity of grease to make people slip into the water or fall off ropes. Magic missile the enemy navigator or his wheel so it jacks up their maneuvering
You could Grease the Rudder/Steering Wheel too, or the Corvus to cripple boarding actions.

OK I just got the mental image of somebody trying to hold onto a greased steering wheel and cussing up a storm. LOL


I think fog spells and the big illusion spells would be popular on defense because you can remove line of effect.

Also it would be expensive, but a couple scrolls of antimagic field would go a long way to defeating everything in this thread.

Somebody cast a wall in front of you? go stand in the front of the ship.

Fire elemental? go stand next to it.

frogmen trying to attack the bottom of the boat with water breathing? go below decks and lol.

Shadow Lodge

Byronus wrote:


Perhaps someone could cast "Make Whole" to repair a sunken vessel, and magically make it buoyant to get it to the surface?
:Byronus

This is a good idea, but there is an existing spell for that.

Salvage
Sadly, it's 9th level. Ships are big and water is heavy.

Shadow Lodge

Scaevola77 wrote:

Since I have a druid in Skull and Shackles, I have been looking up tricks for naval combat. Here is what I have come up with so far.

<ideas>

Awesome ideas.

I also have a Druid (Storm) in Skull & Shackles; level 4 so far.

My solution to the pursuit/maneuvering issue is more practical. I took Skilled Driver, Expert Driver, Skill Focus: Profession Sailor, Heart of the Sea, Besmara's Blessing, and other minor things to boost sailing checks.
I'm the pilot. A salty old sea captain.

He's only really very good at one thing, but wow, he is ever good at that one thing.


A 5th level fighter archer can easily have a +11 to hit. If he has far shot and rapid shot he can fire two arrows at +0 every round at 10 range increments. They may not do much against guards but crew has a fairly low AC.

true strike plus cannon equals long range accuracy.

Fly over ship and drop 100 alchemist fires.

flaming sphere

wall of fire in front of the ship


Use Animate Objects on the ship's rigging (specifically the cordage). Could be used defensively or offensively.

Though, would that be counted as several objects, or one big whole?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tomos wrote:


My solution to the pursuit/maneuvering issue is more practical. I took Skilled Driver, Expert Driver, Skill Focus: Profession Sailor, Heart of the Sea, Besmara's Blessing, and other minor things to boost sailing checks.
I'm the pilot. A salty old sea captain.

He's only really very good at one thing, but wow, he is ever good at that one thing.

Slight derail . . . That was my original plan for my druid. Still plan to take Skill Focus (at some point), and I already have Besmara's Blessing. However, my party kind of needed me to be more combat heavy after our cavalier dropped, and since I am the Captain (and the only PC possessing both Int and Wis), spending a feat for Wild Speech is kind of required. Also, I am level 8 with a +20 Prof: Sailor with no extra bonuses and the last time we did a Prof: Sailor challenge, my DM told me I was able to pass the check with all potential penalties with a 3 on the die.


Was planning on using this little gem in a mythic seafaring game I have coming up.

Imbue with flight

Use this to sail into the wild blue or tag an enemy ship and have it do a barrel roll! Fun stuff:)


Verteidiger wrote:

Use Animate Objects on the ship's rigging (specifically the cordage). Could be used defensively or offensively.

Though, would that be counted as several objects, or one big whole?

Animate Rope should be all you need. Also, which rope to pull? That's what Profession(Sailor) is for.


Sounds like naval warfare in a magical universe would resemble modern submarine warfare. The emphasis is on stealth above all, because once they detect you, they can kill you with frightening speed.

Then again, nations would just use Teleportation Circles for transport and Scry & Fry for power projection.


Athaleon wrote:

Sounds like naval warfare in a magical universe would resemble modern submarine warfare. The emphasis is on stealth above all, because once they detect you, they can kill you with frightening speed.

Then again, nations would just use Teleportation Circles for transport and Scry & Fry for power projection.

I think a lot of nations would mostly employ magical items and give certain sailors proper training (UMD) in their use. Having actual casters on board would probably be reserved for high value escorts and assault/specialized war ships.

If they were trained as sailors, I'd have casters on small, highly manueverable vessels instead of the big warships. Well, offensive casters on the small, speedy vessels, and casters like artificers or transmuters on bigger ships.

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