Sunday, March 6, 2011

Anchors Aweigh!

Lately I've been pondering the most important facet of running a Hold of the Sea Princes campaign. That's right, sailing and ship rules. There are quite a few choices at hand and I've probably used every one of them, but I am still not sure which is the best system to use. First, while I am running a 3.5 game, I'm not totally sold on all their optional rules especially for something like sailing and ship combat. Second, since ships tend to be a game within the game of D&D it should be possible to mix/match systems. This post thus is a way for me to think out things and maybe get some input in case I missed something.

Expert Rules: I'd love to crack out this old book to run my seabased stuff. The rules for ships in the expert book (blue book) cover 11 types of ships, and compress movement and combat into 2 easy to references pages. No muss, no fuss.

1e DMG: This has a head-scratching 8 types of ships, and 4 pages of rules. Barely an upgrade from the expert rules, this book in true Gygaxian fashion has rules on how long it takes for a ship to burn and naval terminology. Coupled with the weather rules from the Greyhawk Glossography, this system has served well for many years.

Stormwrack (3.5e): It might be unavoidable that I use this book given all the seabased spells, feats and prestige classes my friends will pick over. The ship based rules themselves cover around 12 pages and have 21 varieties of ships. There are additional entries for new shipboard weapons and gear.

2e DMG: I really don't know what happened to this book but I really can't see it being any different/better than 1st edition. Of Ships and the Sea was this edition's sourcebook for sailing  but I've never owned it so I have no idea how good this system is.

Dragon Magazine #116: I have to mention this issue because it rocks.  It has an unparalleled article called High Seas written Margaret Foy (was she the wife of Sea Baron ruler Sencho Foy?!). I used to refer to this article once in a while for my Greyhawk games but of all the systems I've seen in D&D it is the most elaborate at 14 pages with a staggering 33 types of vessels. It's one of those articles that took Advanced D&D to a new level of simulation. Each ship entry has enough stats to literally fill out its own character sheet, such as measurements for decks, seam, draft, board, tonnage, number of masts, pumps and lifeboats. It even has a full breakdown of the crew. Combine this with the Greyhawk weather generation rules and you would have the most hyper-realistic sea campaign ever, but do I want to subject everyone to that?

That's all I have access to at the moment. I'd be happy to hear about any other ship rules out there. Having reviewed all these sources I think I'm leaning toward creating a hybrid of all of these systems since as the campaign evolves over time my needs might change. More on this later.


Grol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grol said...

I once DM'ed a campaign that ran for 2 years off the wild coast (mostly around the slaver's series) that spent an aweful lot of time in sea borne adventures, after the party took over a slaver galley, and hired the previous slaves as crew. I found the 1st edition rules to a great way to manage sea borne activities and adventures. But, I too recall a paucity of ship types. I guess to all depends upon your needs to have fun with it. Do you need 33 ship types to enjoy it? You might. After all, a vibrant sea going culture, like I would expect to find with the Sea Princes, seems likely to have a bit more variety that a bunch of coastal raiding ships used by slavers. But perhaps you could be just as easily served by the simpler rules of 1st Ed with just a few 'enhanced' ship types/descriptions. Make it our own dude, it should definately fit better that way

Valkaun_Dain said...

I'm not sure why you failed to include the Waves & Whales supplement by J.E.M. Games. That was the best sea based campaign evar.

mortellan said...

Valkaun: Yer a loon.

Anyhow, I found in the GH book Slavers, partial rules taken from the 2e sourcebook Of Ships and the Sea. I'm not sure I like those rules, but now I have all my options lined up.