View Full Version : [3.5]Can the experienced DMs here please give me advice on how to run a sea campaign?

2009-04-04, 04:46 PM

I have been designing my homebrewed material world/sphere for close to a year now, and have even made progress with mapping it out on Fractal Mapper. I was inspired to make it mostly a sea and island filled world with only two moderate to large sized "continents" (although they are joined by a land bridge, so I guess it is really only one big one). The issue is that I have only DMed one adventure/campaign, which only lasted about six months on-and-off, and I do not know much at all about nautical adventures/campaigns/games.

I have never even played in another DM's game where my character was on a ship. Even less experience with with naval battles (can you get less than nothing?).

Can the experienced DMs here please share your wisdom on this subject? I believe I need to learn everything from the ground up, from the basic "feel" of such a game/setting (do you know what I mean by this?), to how it differs for both players and the DM from a standard campaign, to what adjustments in both mechanics and thinking a DM needs to make to run such a game, to what system/mechanics to use, to what kind of NPCs and BBEGs/monsters to use, to Sardior knows what else I have overlooked.

I am also working quite a bit to make this a sandbox style world, and am always trying to add new locations and NPCs scattered across the world's map and my organization binders.

As always, thank you in advance for any help!

p.s. I have read the ship and vehicle combat rules in my beloved copy of the Arms & Equipment Guide, though it's been a good while so I need to reread it. I have a copy of Stormwreck, but I have only barely been able to skim it. The systems seem to conflict, and I believe the Stormwreck rules even state that "Players always prefer the simpler ship boarding battle rules presented here to the ship vs. ship ones mentioned in the Arms & Equipment Guide.", (though this is a stance I highly disagree with!).

However, as much as I prefer the slightly more complicated ship vs. ship rules, I understand some/most players prefer the old fashion hack and slash rules. Because of this I want to know if there is a way to combine both rules sets, or use them hand-and-hand, in a way that works well and allows both types if fun for those of us who prefer the military ship vs. ship combat and those of us that prefer simply boarding the enemy ship and hack/slashing. It would be even better if this would allow the PCs (and possibly the NPCs) the option to use either method/strategy based on their judgments, their personal likes, and/or the necessity of the given situation.

2009-04-04, 04:53 PM
Interesting. Stormwrack rules have their pros and cons.

for larger scale battles- Miniatures Handbook has rules- fielding fighting Units rather than single individuals.

2009-04-04, 08:56 PM
I've used all three. Stormwrack works best when engaging one on one such as a pirate attack. I've seen those go back and forth. Two or three ship engagements work well with the Arms & Equipment Rules, but for larger scale engagements I use modified versions of the Miniature's Handbook, treating each ship as a single unit.

It's even more complicated using airships, but that's not particularly important.

Most engagements can be either up or down scaled. Upscaling for small engagments from a 5' space to a 50' or 100' works well for close ship to ship engagements. Depending on the armaments, you might need more to account for long range weapons, or less for spells and arrows. If they collide and begin fighting, then you can zoom back to 5' spaces.

2009-04-05, 05:15 PM
I've been running a piratical game for quite a long time now.

The Stormwrack rules need a little adaptation to handle more than two ships, but they can just about hold together for three or four combatant vessels - essentially, you use the advantage check like an initiative.

In games where there are no cannon, your PCs are going to win or lose the battles - the ships are just mobile landscape to fight on, and they spend most of their time chasing each other around the map, rather than actually scoring hits with those ballistas and catapults. PCs however, can fly, or dimension door, or similar - and can take on whole crews of low level sailors, even at low level. One of the silliest things that happened in my game (which I'll admit, though I've done my best to research and maintain a little naval realism, is generally light-hearted) was two fighters and a wizard being fired by catapult at an enemy ship, to Feather Fall onto the deck and take the ship over. Ship to ship combat always gets decided in a boarding action, unless one ship is faster than the other, in which case, it'll be an escape - and Feather Token Fans are cheap, so not even the wind is a factor.

Even in large scale battles, the PCs are the deadliest things on the water (or their NPC or monstrous equivalents). Cast Control Water to take a whole ship out of the battle. Cast Blade Barrier vertically in front of a moving vessel to slaughter the entire crew. You get the picture?

Just a few ideas to bear in mind. It's a great genre to play with. Have fun.