Ships and Sailing


There are three types of sailing ship: sloops (small, fast, but comparatively fragile one-masted vessels), brigs (fast and manoeuvrable two-masted vessels), and ships (larger vessels with at least three masts, whether warships or cargo vessels).

Weapons are handled abstractly; ship-mounted weapons are not accurate, and large numbers of shots have to be fired to have a chance to hit an enemy ship.  Thus, a ship’s weapons are rated abstractly as a single percentage chance to hit an enemy vessel in combat; almost certainly many weapons are fired for each “hit roll”.  A hit generally does 1D8 damage, subtracted from the other ship’s structure points.

Every 10% in weapons reduces cargo capacity by 2 tons and means two extra crew are needed.  The weapons level cannot go above 100%.

Even beyond weapons carried, not all ships are identical; any ship will have one of the following special features.  It might have more than one such feature; in this case, add +50% of the original cost to the total cost per feature added.

Armoured: AP 2 against any attacks.

Fast: Add +1 knot to speed.

Heavy Weapons: Hits from weapons do D12 rather than D8 damage.

High Capacity: Increase cargo size by +50%.

Manoeuvrable: Add +20% to sailing tests (see below).

Marines: The ship can carry (and provide board and lodging for) marines equal to the size of its crew.

Ram: The ship can ram other vessels in combat without suffering damage.

Skeleton Crew: The crew size needed to run the ship (as indicated in the above table) at half strength.

Types of Ship

Type of Ship Crew Cost (SP) Maneuverability Speed Structure Points Cargo
One-masted 10 5000 +20% 6 Knots 20 8 Tons
Two-masted 20 15000 5 Knots 40 15 Tons
Three-masted 30 50000 -20% 4 Knots 60 30 Tons

Sailing Tests

Most potential manoeuvres a vessel can make use the captain’s Sailing skill, modified by the manoeuvrability of the vessel.  A further modifier is the average Sailing skill level of the crew. In this case these two modifiers do add together.

Sailing Modifiers

The average Sailing skill of the crew Modifier
20% or less (no idea) -20% penalty
26%-50% (competent)  No modifier
51%-75% (veteran) +20% bonus
76% or more (expert) +50% bonus


In normal sailing conditions, a sailing vessel can move 20 miles per day per knot of speed.  Speeds given are averages.   Very favourable conditions – for example, a good strong wind in the desired direction of travel (possibly magically arranged) – can double these speeds. As can a rowing crew who critical their Sailing skill test.

On the other hand, if a ship is becalmed, with no wind at all, it cannot move.

Every day out of sight of land, there is a 5% chance of a storm.  Storms do 2D6 structure points of damage to a ship; a ship reduced to zero structure points begins to sink (and will sink almost instantly if its structure points fall to the negative of the original amount).  Further, sailors on deck must make Dodge tests to stay on board; a sailor swept overboard and not immediately rescued must make an Athletics test to survive.

Fortunately, the captain can make a Sailing test (modified by manoeuvrability) to halve damage from a storm.  Better yet, it is possible to plot a course to avoid an incoming storm if it is detected in time (perhaps using magic or skills such as Natural Lore).

Naval Combat

We consider two ranges of distance between ships. Contact or Combat Range.


The vessels can see each other.  If both vessels wish to close to combat range or leave the contact, this action is, of course, automatic, and takes about an hour. If the vessels want different things, roll opposed Sailing tests, as above.

Combat Range

Combat between ships is similar to normal combat.  Initiative is decided for each ship, rather than between individuals, Use the Captain’s Sailing Skill, modified by the manoeuvrability of the vessel, to determine initiative for the ship.

Roll a single skill test to fire a ship’s weapons with no defence roll allowed.  If desired, a character can be appointed weapons officer; they oversee the firing of a ship’s weapons.  That character should make a Ranged Combat skill test; if the test succeeds, the ship’s weapons test has a +20% bonus.

Hand-held weapons are too small to have any effect on an opposing ship. Against those on the decks they’re another matter.  Fire is the exception to this rule, being used to set flammable objects, such as decks and sails, on fire.

The following special manoeuvres can be made by a ship in combat range.  One manoeuvre is allowed per round.  Each manoeuvre needs a Sailing skill test by the captain, as indicated above.

Broadside. If the skill test succeeds, two attacks with a ship’s weapons can be made instead of one.

Evade. If the Sailing test succeeds, the opponent cannot use the broadside, ram, or boarding manoeuvres.  Further, the vessel can escape combat range (out to contact range) if the other vessel allows it or the Sailing test succeeds as an opposed roll.

Ram. The other vessel is rammed if an opposed Sailing test succeeds.  A ramming attack does D6 points of damage per mast.  If the ship performing this manoeuvre lacks a battering ram, it also takes half the damage inflicted.

Boarding. Boarding is possible if an opposed Sailing test succeeds.  In this case, the vessels are roped together, and boarding can commence.  A free Sailing test for boarding is allowed immediately after a successful ramming manoeuvre if desired. If both vessels want to board the other, this is automatic.