Here is some plot points and thoughts I took away from running this adapted plot in Greyhawk:
1. The Provincial Navy makes a great villain or power group. Naturally, given the plot my main antagonist was a rear admiral based on Buford T. Justice. he is a variant paladin of Hextor whose evil brand of maritime law is perfect for chasing offenders way out of his jurisdiction. There is many seafaring nations on the Azure and the South Province is arguably the most tyrannical of the lot, yet they are still a stable, lawful nation so I built them up as an economic force in addition to a military might by blockading Irongate from exporting beer to Keoland. Their fleets' presence on the sea is a threat to pirates and merchants alike. However, Hextorians aren't known for sea based warfare, so I played them as terribly inept compared to an experienced Sea Princes crew. The sight of a yellow flag with a crowned boar's head is now forever ingrained in my players mind as a bad guy. They will appear again.
2. True Strike plus siege weapons is bad news. When it comes to ship to ship combat, I tend to keep it vague and cinematic, I don't like to get bogged down in ship stats and would rather get on to a boarding action or evade a pursuer entirely. However players will throw you curves and the first level True Strike is one of those 3.5/Pathfinder era spells that just needs to go away. True Strike when applied to a siege weapon I think is OP and I'm sure I'll find out later that it doesn't work on these devices, but for now it's cutting into my thrill of ship combat.
3. Always try to say yes to players' actions. When running a swashbuckling adventure, players tend to try things and take risks that they normally wouldn't in a static dungeon setting. I used to be a hard-nosed DM who tried to keep things grounded, but on the open sea with that much rope hanging around why not let the players do some crazy acrobatic things.
|Curses! I didn't crit anyone. Arr!|
5. Maps are essential, especially if you're going to run a sea-based campaign. This may seem like a no-brainer, but its easy to forget that visual aids help in player immersion. I could have easily led the players on a rail-road journey from Irongate to Gradsul without use of one, but knowing that they needed to get there in 13 days; being able to see their progress charted out in front of them kept them on edge to the very last day of the mission. For DMs it's also a quick way to teach the setting to new players. I learned Greyhawk by Darlene's map and exploring it with my eyes before I ever played in it.
6. Communication at sea is helpful in moving the story. In the real world there is ways to communicate at sea; signal flags, lights at night or even yelling. In a world of magic there is even more possibilities like the spells Whispering Wind, Sending and so on. For this campaign certain ships were equipped with magic figureheads that could cast Sending to any other figurehead once a day. What this simulated was the CB communications from Smokey and the Bandit. Not every ship had these, but I made sure the main ships did.
That's all for now!