What Does Capsize Actually Do?


Rules Questions


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

So I'm playing in a naval campaign and we got sea serpented.
The GM upsized the Sea Serpent to colossal so it could actually affect our Galley ship with its capsize ability but after it made its charge attack and there were dice rolled, we spent the next 20 minutes trying to figure out exactly what Capsizing does.

I know that the word capsize means to overturn the ship, but the question is what happens then, mechanically?

Is the ship just flipped? Are there ways to un-capsize in the middle of the ocean? Is the ship just kaput? Are there mechanics anywhere for any of this?

I've seen recommendations that the ship get the Sinking condition, but the sinking condition explicitly states that when the ship goes above 0 hp that it's no longer sinking, meaning that the ship isn't sinking, or at most needs to heal a hit point before is no longer sinking.

Basically the options seem to be "Going off of what the word capsize means, Colossal Sea Serpent can essentially one-shot any given ship" or "Capsize is largely meaningless" without a whole lot of in between.

Is this actually clarified somewhere?

Shadow Lodge

Hyoseph wrote:

So I'm playing in a naval campaign and we got sea serpented.

The GM upsized the Sea Serpent to colossal so it could actually affect our Galley ship with its capsize ability but after it made its charge attack and there were dice rolled, we spent the next 20 minutes trying to figure out exactly what Capsizing does.

You know, your GM really should have figured this out BEFORE running the encounter...

Given the general idea of capsizing, it seems like your galley should still be afloat but inverted and completely adrift:

  • Anything on deck but not firmly secured is probably lost to the depths
  • Anything fragile below decks is likely broken (even secured cargo probably isn't secured well enough for this type of event).
  • 'Upper' decks (main deck level and above) are probably completely flooded, with a chance their contents have been lost to the depths (depending on how close they were to the outside).
  • Likewise, any deck with portholes or firing ports is also mostly or completely flooded.
  • The 'lowest decks' (those originally below the waterline) are probably only slightly or not flooded
Actually righting such a ship in the open sea is probably impossible without a lot of help: A small army of water elementals could probably get it done (or perhaps another colossal sea serpent under your control).


Taja the Barbarian wrote:


...
Actually righting such a ship in the open sea is probably impossible without a lot of help: A small army of water elementals could probably get it done (or perhaps another colossal sea serpent under your control).

Now i got an idea of a navy 'triple A' agency who specialize in helping stuck\capsized ships out at sea...

high level spellcasters, teleport in, team up a few to teleport\telekinesis the ship (in whole or in parts) or summon something that can move\drag it etc


I believe that a capsized ship is technically tilted to such a degree that it doesn't right itself. For a canoe or kayak or something, it's probably upside down, but a ship with a mast and sails is probably on its side. So while it could be inverted, like the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean [whatever], it's most likely sideways.

The ship probably would still be floating, but its speed would likely be minimal if anything (likely only rowing, since the sails would be parallel to the water or laying in it) and most likely would only actually be moving with a current or waves. There are ways to right a ship, but usually the bigger the ship, the harder it is, and it sounds like yours is one of the bigger ones.

Obviously magic is probably the way to go. Water elementals were mentioned, but any suitably large (or numerous) sea creatures could assist; whales, merfolk, etc. A suitably strong control water (lower water) used inside might reduce the amount of water ballast within (down to inches within the area inside) enough to give the ship more buoyancy to make it easier, or possibly, depending on the GM, casting it in the water around it will create a whirlpool. This might create a situation where a good pilot or crew could get it right while it's swirling in the vortex, but... as a GM I would say that would be risky as the condition of the boat would likely have me assigning penalties for maneuverability.

Otherwise it might be done with a lot of work and muscle and coordination, and probably a really high Profession check... and likely a very fortunate wave and equally very fortunate wind direction and strength (assuming you had sails).

Liberty's Edge

I doubt that a galley will be able to recover from capsizing without a lot of external help. I only know what I have seen in tutorials and documentaries, but several kinds of small boats can recover with only the work of the crew. Large boats are another matter, especially if they have some cargo on board that can shift and make the maneuver even more difficult.

A galley probably will not sink unless it is heavily loaded. Most wood has positive buoyancy, so some parts of the ship will stay above the water surface even after capsizing. The ship will be practically useless, but it will work somewhat as an unguided raft at the mercy of the sea currents.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Taja the Barbarian wrote:

You know, your GM really should have figured this out BEFORE running the encounter...

They sort of did :) The first pass at this, and the thing that caused the confusion, was the application of the Sinking condition upon capsizing.

What that actually looked like and how to fix it was where we got into the weeds.

It went something like this:

"So point of clarification, our ship has this many hit points, yes?"
"Yes"
"And this sea serpent hit us for less than that damage, but inflicted the sinking condition because capsize."
"Yes"
"So we're capsized, flipped over, but if we can get our ship above 0 HP, then we're no longer sinking. Does that fix the capsized? Does the fact that we're above 0 HP now impact that at all? My character can cast Make Whole if they need to."

And away we went.

Now the impression that I seem to be getting from the responses is that a galley capsized per the ability is basically fubar without some phenomenally strong party or parties coming along to physically right the ship. Given how massive naval maps tend to be and how few and far between actual ships are, this seems to me like sea serpents, dragon turtles, etc. are basically game over for any ship they come across if the people on said ship can't end them in a round or two.

Is that written down anywhere?

Liberty's Edge

Hyoseph wrote:


Now the impression that I seem to be getting from the responses is that a galley capsized per the ability is basically fubar without some phenomenally strong party or parties coming along to physically right the ship. Given how massive naval maps tend to be and how few and far between actual ships are, this seems to me like sea serpents, dragon turtles, etc. are basically game over for any ship they come across if the people on said ship can't end them in a round or two.

Is that written down anywhere?

You are asking if there is a piece of the rules that say:

"If your ship is capsized it is essentially lost at sea"?

It seems one of those pieces of information that don't need further clarification. Your ship has capsized. Unless you correct that your ship doesn't work as a ship, it works as a piece of floating wood.
With a galley probably most of your rowers drowned, too.
It is essentially a condition, and you need to remove it to make the ship seaworthy again.

I have found the rule for capsizing for 3.5 D&D:

Quote:
A top-heavy ship (for example, a sailing ship whose sails have become waterlogged) or one that receives a sudden blow from below can capsize (see page 24). A capsizing ship turns upside down and is completely disabled. While air trapped in the inverted ship can keep it afloat for days or even weeks, it is almost impossible to restore the ship to its proper orientation. Any surviving crew are typically forced to huddle on the exposed hull, without supplies, and hope for rescue. Capsizing is a favorite attack strategy for some aquatic creatures, such as plesiosaurs and dragon turtles.

Shadow Lodge

Personally, I'm not seeing anything beyond the Capsize (Monster Rules) entry on this subject, which isn't particularly helpful: Maybe 3.5 had relevant rules they neglected to bring into this edition?

Just to put a capsized ship into context:

  • Imagine a 15' x 15' room (fairly small by fantasy game combat standards)
  • Now fill it with 9 feet of water.
  • That 75 cubic yards of water weighs 75 tons.
Given that your flooded galley probably has more than 75 cubic yards of water in it, that should give you a rough idea of just how much weight you are trying to shift without any solid footing or heavy equipment.

Liberty's Edge

Taja the Barbarian wrote:

Maybe 3.5 had relevant rules they neglected to bring into this edition?

They were in one of the splatbooks, so, not open content.

I don't see how someone could have argued that defining "capsized" is a violation of a copyright, but I suppose prudence prevailed.


Hyoseph wrote:

"So we're capsized, flipped over, but if we can get our ship above 0 HP, then we're no longer sinking. Does that fix the capsized? Does the fact that we're above 0 HP now impact that at all? My character can cast Make Whole if they need to."

I think the implication is that getting a 'sinking' ship above 0 will stop it from sinking, but not necessarily reverse any sinking that it's done. For instance, when does a 'sinking' ship stop sinking and is just 'sunk'? When it hits the bottom? Is it still 'sinking'? It technically still has the sinking condition. Making it whole or completely undamaged isn't just going to bob it to the surface like a cork or flush all the water inside out into the surrounding water and cork it up while it ascends at some speed to the surface again.

Similarly, completely repairing a damaged boat that's sinking or capsized, whether due to being damaged or just hit with a capsize attack that automatically gave the condition, shouldn't automatically right the vessel. Just like being dropped below 0 hit points and being healed won't necessarily put a character back on their feet from the prone condition or put any items they dropped while unconscious back into their hands.


Pizza Lord wrote:

I think the implication is that getting a 'sinking' ship above 0 will stop it from sinking, but not necessarily reverse any sinking that it's done. For instance, when does a 'sinking' ship stop sinking and is just 'sunk'? When it hits the bottom? Is it still 'sinking'? It technically still has the sinking condition. Making it whole or completely undamaged isn't just going to bob it to the surface like a cork or flush all the water inside out into the surrounding water and cork it up while it ascends at some speed to the surface again.

Getting it above 0 removes the 'sinking' condition, leaving it at 'broken' until it's above half, at least in the Skull and Shackles Player's Guide. A sinking ship can't move or attack, and sinks in 10 rounds, and every 25 hp it takes takes away a round. If it sinks to the bottom, it's considered 'destroyed' and can't be salvaged or repaired. You can save it with 'make whole' or similar.

Skull and Shackles Player's Guide wrote:

Magic (such as make whole) can repair a sinking ship if the ship’s hit points are raised above 0, at which point the ship loses the sinking condition.

Not sure if that's reprinted anywhere or is superceded by something else, but it's a free download on Paizo's site. Sadly, no mentions of capsizing anywhere that I could find, but maybe there's something in the AP itself (which I don't have, or I would check)?


Im the gm, and ran it with the idea of 3.5 capsize in mind where a boat would flip over, but stay that way for a while, giving the players plenty of time to find a way to flip it over and/or heal it.
If someone can find where Pazio defined capsizing, I would appreciate it.
Also, just a heads up, but I dont run this encounter as a boat killer...
Ive always allowed players to just heal the boat a bit, do some engineering rp, and flip it back over.
Id 100% like to know the RAW, because the players deserve to know it, but honestly, I like the idea of it being able to be righted with some ingenuity.
Thanks for the responses.

Liberty's Edge

There are a few rules in Ultimate combat, but they are more appropriate for land vehicles.

The Skull & Shackles Player companion (a free download) has a bit more rules, but nothing about capsizing.
The only applicable stuff from Paizo that I have found is righting a "prone" vehicle (i.e. one overturned after a collision):

Quote:

It takes at least 5 full-round actions and a DC 25 Strength check from creatures adjacent to the vehicle to push a Large land or water vehicle up from being prone.

For every size category that the vehicle is larger than size Large, increase the number of full-round actions by three and the Strength check DC by 5.

You can try to get the Stormwrack PDF, it is the 3.5 sourcebook for water adventures and it has way more material.

The Exchange

Yeah, it's pretty much going to require magic, some extraordinary ability, or a lengthy and coordinated effort involving other boats.

Land rules aren't really applicable:
I have had practice in righting capsized craft as part of various water survival courses. Small ones like kayaks, canoes, or rowboats. Without something to brace yourself on, it is REALLY hard to get anything bigger than a canoe turned upright. It's not a matter of strength, it's a matter of newtonian physics. When you push up on something it pushes back down on you. On land that force is transferred into the earth. When you're treading water it just pushes you down and the boat doesn't rise much.

Even for canoes the easiest thing by far is to call your buddy over and use his canoe as a brace for draining and righting yours.

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