View Full Version : HELP for Ship to Ship fighting

Vhan the great
01-11-2010, 12:24 AM
OK well i am running a D&D 4E Forgotten Realms Pirate campaign. but i need some help on how to draw up a battle play for the ship to ship fighting. the ships have bilistas and catapults on them. we tried to figure out how to do the fighting but kinda failed.

P.S i am a newbie DM for D&D so i am still really new at this the help would be be much appreciated

01-11-2010, 03:51 PM
Welcome to the DM's seat. I wish you well on your campaign. Since I am not familiar with the 4E rules & mechanics, I will let those that have used them to guide you through this.

01-11-2010, 06:53 PM
Use the rules in Adventurers Vault in using Vehicles. It contains the mechanics piloting a ship.

For the catapults and the ballista you need to assign damage potential. A Ballista is like a big crossbow so the player just uses his to hit to the target and inflicts a damage you consider feasible (like 2d6). The Crossbows then need a standard action to reload (the advantage of having it 2 manned).

The catapult is very inaccurate but does the most damage. It should garner anywhere from a -10 or 20 to hit vs Reflex. Guaranteed to hit a ship but less likely to hit a humanoid target. The damage should be pretty high area depending on level (3d10). The reload should take 2 standard actions, again shortened by having more men at the weapon.

Players can also use their own powers to target the ship or other targets. They can use movement powers with athletics or acrobatics to board ships.

Vhan the great
01-11-2010, 10:17 PM
well thank you all very much and thanks for the help. this should improve my game a lot. and thanks you for the welcoming to the DM seat Cplmac thank you lol and thanks wizarddog for the advice

01-12-2010, 12:46 AM
Just tossing out some thoughts, no specific mechanics.

As for the catapult you might want to change things up depending on the type of ammunition. You could allow for solid shot, which damages the ship. Alchemical type loads, such as dragon tar which target the ship and crew. You might want to add further effects for specific targets, such as sails, as it was common practice for pirates to disable vessels instead of sinking them. After all treasure is easier to recover if it is not at the bottom of the ocean. Most ship-to-ship combat is aimed at killing the crew or destroying the rigging and sails to make the ship stop and reduce maneuverability. You could reduce the ships speed after it takes a certain amount of damage etc.

Ballista might be deployed for much the same purpose. Specialized grappling hooks shot into an enemy ships sails that are then winched back, causing damage to the rigging and sails. Also these could be used to secure the ships together ensuring that one ship cannot flee. As such, a certain number of hits would indicate the ships have become entangled and that boarding is in everyone's immediate future. This could be handled as regular combat or even as skill challenges.

01-12-2010, 12:17 PM
When the players are on a ship, he ship is likely to be hit right? this would mean that the ship would swing back and forth, so i sugest that your players gets +speed when the ship is tilting their way and - when they have to run up the ship. This way the players and ypurself can be amused. Same goes for potential enemies and NPC's of course. Good gaming!

Vhan the great
01-12-2010, 10:17 PM
well thank you all very much

01-14-2010, 12:02 AM
Flats of the ships are handy as well. Marks on the battle mat don't move very well. Simple cardboard cutout will do. Or you can get more elaborate.


01-14-2010, 02:11 PM
While I admit that I would be too, you are really proud of that thing, aren't you, tes? Do you have multiples for instances where the combat isn't left to a single ship and the melee crosses multiple ships, or has that never occurred before in your game?

01-14-2010, 02:40 PM
That's two days work, no plans. I need to finish it.

My own game sees very little ship to ship and we don't use minis. that was done for another game. I have two more hull frames I should finish.

01-21-2010, 01:23 PM
Use a hex map for the Ship to Ship stuff in one scale.

When they close in switch to the other 5' = 1" scale for pc combat.

One DM I had pulled out an old board game in which your ship could take so many hits before it was disabled. Essentially leaving D&D rules behind for a simplified combat (none of us were high level mages at the time).

Spelljammer had some decent ship to ship combat rules as well.

01-21-2010, 02:43 PM
i highly endorse having at least paper cutouts of the ship forms. you can even write elevations on them if your ship has multi-level decks. we had a ship to ship fight a short while ago. it was fun, but we had to start with the ranged spells, which was interesting... suddenly having the range actually mean something beyond close or far. until the ships grapple, the ship forms are an easy way to track relative speed and thus range from each other.

01-21-2010, 02:53 PM
Use a hex map for the Ship to Ship stuff in one scale.

When they close in switch to the other 5' = 1" scale for pc combat.

This us usually how I handle it as well. I pull out my Pirates of the Spanish Main ships for the ships and use a modification of the Spelljammer rules for the ship to ship.

01-21-2010, 07:39 PM
Oooh! I got to do this sort of encounter just a week ago! It was hilariously fun for me as the DM. Sure, I made it much harder than it had to be, but I thought it was worth it!

Balistas were a good idea. I'd suggest giving the ships some manner of HP. If it gets hit too much, it starts to sink. Maybe the crew members can do dungeoneering (or some check that makes sense) checks to some minute repairs to stop it from sinking (rather like making a stabilizing heal check). It would give the players another problem to worry about, thus creating some extra tension to the encounter.

If the seas are particularly rough, you could add an extra element of movement. For example, at the beginning of each round everyone slides 1 towards or away the prow because of the tilt of the ship.

01-21-2010, 09:53 PM
Craft carpentry. Make them regret not having any ranks in real skills.

I use hit points and a critical chart from the old Spelljammer supplement.

01-22-2010, 06:54 PM
Adventure's Vault, as I mentioned, does have the stats for ship hit points, Defenses, and such and their attributes.

If you you want to use a more complex system then the other suggestions in others posts would be a good start.

01-25-2010, 02:39 PM
Craft carpentry. Make them regret not having any ranks in real skills.

I use hit points and a critical chart from the old Spelljammer supplement.

The only real problem with that is that certain editions of D&D, namely 4th, which I know you don't play, doesn't have a method to handle things like that. There are no trade/craft skills, and I would not be surprised to find other systems that have a similar failing. But if the system you use has such skills, by all means! In my game, since we do use 4th edition, I might add a subset of the trade type skills to the game, and give each class a set number to use in their choice of trade skills every level, or might do something like the trained in <craft> is a +5 in that, and you get +1 to it every two levels. I'll have to think about that. But I have a player whose character is a ship captain, so he'll probably have a few ranks in each, with a huge bonus to navigation, or command crew, or some such thing...

01-25-2010, 06:34 PM
The lack of anything in terms of skills not useful in bashing monsters is one of the reasons I DON'T use Forry.

01-26-2010, 12:44 PM
4e takes those skills (ship building, sailing, etc.) as part of your background.

If your background is you worked around ships, then you know how to mend or sail a ship. Anything else can be regulated to the other skills (for instance, Athletics to climb the rigging during a storm, Nature to navigate from the stars, etc.).

Requiring skills that are not used most of the time and having to have points spent on them is just extra book keeping.

01-26-2010, 03:50 PM
Yes, just like I don't have any skills I'm not currently using that I spend time in learning. That would be far too wasteful of my time and resources. And that class at summer camp on "camp craft" leaves me totally equipped to survive in the wilderness, identify plants and animals and navigate by the stars.

08-17-2011, 10:26 PM
Sorry for resurecting an older thread, but I just joined several days ago and this one realy caught my eye. I love ship board adventures and went as far as getting some of the expensive wooden ship models of the proper scale to build for minis. As far as rules for D&D are concerned,( I play mostly 1st and 2nd Ed.) Margaret Foy wrote "High Seas; Ships, Fore and aft, in fantasy gaming" in Dragon Magazine #116. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best sets of rules for ship to ship combat I've seen to this day. If your looking for something a bit more basic then "Of Ships and the Sea" works well to. All you would really have to do is convert the to hit and damage portions to 3rd or 4th ed. All else is for the most part self contained rule wise. Though the cool thing about the High Seas article in The Dragon is that if you can find the .pdf version of it, you can print out an entire armada of paper model ships that figures will fit on.