Naval Rules

Command Score. A measure of a character’s ability to captain a ship. A character’s Command score is equal to half his level plus his highest mental ability modifier. So a 6th level character with an 18 Intelligence would have a +7 Command score.

Ship Saving Throw. Sometimes during naval combat, a ship will be required to roll a saving throw. Roll d20+(Captain’s CHA mod) vs DC 10.

Naval Combat


Each turn, the captains of each ship make decisions to try to gain positioning advantages against the enemy ship(s), then make attacks if able. Most of this requires the PC captain to roll a Command check with a DC based on the enemy captain’s Command Score.

Attacking a ship damages its components, rather than reducing a pool of hit points. Damaged rigging and such can impair the ship’s ability to operate (as well as make for interesting terrain if boarding should occur). Consecutive strikes to Hull Integrity will sink a ship outright.

At the end of a naval turn, if the ships are at short range, things transition to normal tactical combat. Characters might still spend their turns to direct the crew instead of acting on their own, and could possibly even deploy shipboard weapons as devastating area attacks.


A single ship cannot have more than six officers at once, and only one of each role (except gunner, which is one per firing arc, and engineer, which is one per area of the ship needing tweaking). However, Attackers do not count as officers; a PC merely acts as attacker in lieu of selecting an officer role.

Officer Bonus Many officers will add one of their ability modifiers to relevant checks, possibly with an additional +1 bonus if they have training in a certain skill. An Officer bonus can never be below +2 if the PC in question is trained in the associated skill.

  • Captain. Final authority, and makes the ship’s Command checks. Must be on the main deck at all times. Best with CHA, but can use WIS or INT instead.
  • Bosun. Directs crew. Location varies by task. Uses CHA. Skill: Diplomacy or Intimidate.
  • Engineer. Repairs damage, or adjusts ship components to improve performance. Location varies by task. Uses INT.
  • Gunner. Aims shipboard weapons. Usually on gunnery deck, but varies based on ship’s armaments. Uses DEX or INT. Skill: Perception.
  • Look-Out. Helps avoid hazards and tricks. Must be in rigging or on main deck. Uses WIS. Skill: Perception (sometimes just rolls this skill organically).
  • Navigator. Plots tricky courses. Must be on main deck. Uses DEX, INT, or WIS. Skill: Nature.
  • Attacker. Uses personal weapons or spells. Makes only one tactical round’s worth of attacks since they need to wait for an opportune moment.


The GM should have maps of all ships, stats for the vessel, and details of the crew. The GM should describe the environment and starting location, then list any notable locations the encounter might move to.

Naval Turns

There is no initiative; all actions are resolved more or less simultaneously. Each round lasts between one and five minutes.

Officer Phase. Each PC chooses their role.

Maneuver Phase (optional). Choose either Attack/Defense or Bearing/Location. Gain a +2 to one side of the chosen pair, and a -5 to the other.

Location Phase. Make a Command check, adding the ship’s Speed. The winning ship takes one option below, then the losing Captain may choose one, if applicable. Options in red may only be taken if your Command check won by 5 or more.

  • Close to Short Range. You close to short range with a ship in your current stage. If the enemy ship moves, you may move with it. Tactical combat begins at the end of this naval round.
  • Drive Enemy. Force an enemy ship in your stage into another stage (and you follow). The enemy captain can instead choose to hold position, but it takes a -5 to the Bearing check this round.
  • Pursue Ship. Choose a ship in an adjacent stage. You join the ship in that stage. If it moves this turn, you may follow it.
  • Change Location. Move to an adjacent stage.
  • Hold Position. Your ship stays put.
  • Block Enemy. Choose an enemy no more than one stage away whose Command check you beat this phase. If that ship tries to enter or leave your stage, you can opt to prevent its movement this round.

Terrain Phase. Roll a Command check, adding the ship’s Maneuverability to avoid terrain hazards, if any. Results vary by scenario.

Bearing Phase. Roll a Command check, adding the ship’s Maneuverability to determine how the two ships are oriented relative to each other.

  • Critical Success (win by 10+) Any bearing.
  • Success (win by 5 to 9) Your bow or stern to any side of the enemy ship. Or your broadside at their bow. Or any option below.
  • Partial Success (win by 1 to 4). Your stern to any side of the enemy ship. Or your bow to their broadside. Or any option below.
  • Tie: Either bow to bow or broadside to broadside. The captain with the highest Command+Maneuverability chooses, but in the event of tied broadsides, each ship may choose to show the enemy either their starboard or port side.

Prepare for Ramming! If you win the Bearing check and point your ship’s bow toward your enemy while at Short range, you may Ram after attacks this round. Ships that tie may end up ramming each other.

Attack Phase. If they have not already, PCs must decide what location of the ship they are standing in before attacks are rolled.

A ship can make one attack for each of its four firing arcs. Roll d20+the ship’s attack bonus and compare it to the enemy ship’s Defense. Attacks targeting adjacent stages take a -10 penalty, if they’re possible at all. Attacks at short range gain +5.

Success: One strike is scored on the opposing ship, plus an additional strike for every 5 points the attack roll exceeds the target’s Defense. For each strike, roll on the table below to determine the location being damaged:

1d10 … Location
1-2 … Hull
3-4 … Rigging or Engine
5-6 … Armaments
7-10 … Misc (crew quarters, special ship components, etc)

A hit scored on a target that doesn’t exist on the side you’ve struck, or which has already been destroyed, scores Hull damage instead.

Ramming Phase (conditional; see above). Roll a special attack: 1d20+(your ship’s defense minus 5)+(effective speed divided by five). Effective speed is equal to your ship’s Speed, but you subtract the Speed of the enemy’s ship when ramming their stern (minimum zero), or add the Speeds together when ramming their bow. If the enemy is ramming you back, they make the same roll, modified by their own ship’s stats. If not, they still get the roll, but with an additional -5.

Strikes inflicted by Ramming cannot damage Rigging.

End Phase. If the ships are at Short range, begin normal tactical combat. Place the ships on the battle map in an orientation determined during the Bearing stage. The ship that won the Bearing phase determines the starting distance—putting 0 to 5 squares between the two ships.

Ship Terrain

Many spaces on a ship will be difficult terrain, crowded with spare lines, barrels of supplies, and the various tools used to keep ships in working order. Players are encouraged to use these in improvised attacks.

Rigging can be entered from any space adjacent to the edge of the ship, or adjacent to any of its masts. Most rigging can be climbed with an Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC 10). For ease of play, assume that creatures can occupy any space above the ship, up to the maximum of the rigging’s height.

Falling overboard is a great risk, so most ships have railings along their edges. If forced movement would take a creature through the railing and off the ship, that creature gets a +5 bonus to its saving throw to avoid being thrown overboard.

Naval Rules

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