Waterborne Adventures

General Classes of Vessels
Hull Values
Repairing Damage
Length and Width
Wind Direction and Force
Burn Damage of Controlled Fires
Ship's Burning Time of Uncontrolled Fires
Grappling and Boarding
Sinking a Ship
Ship's Capture
General Naval Terminology
<Waterborne Encounters>
The Adventure

In due course your players will evince a desire to travel by water.
Rivers, lakes and the seas have always provided mankind with a means of transportation and livelihood as well.
From the first raft and reed boat, ambatche and catamaran, the waters have beckoned men to come and explore. <provide links to images or wikipedia pages>
This form of adventure certainly awaits the participants of an AD&D campaign - with a vengeance!
Encounters are dealt with in APPENDIX C: RANDOM MONSTER ENCOUNTERS, WATERBORNE ENCOUNTERS,  <make link> <revise to MM2: Aquatic Random Encounter Tables>
this being subdivided into fresh and salt water encounters.
Information regarding ships, their armament and crews, is detailed here. <Info>
The rules are general in nature to allow playing at any scale or upon any
playing surface desired (hex or square grid, floor, etc.).

General Classes of Vessels:
- - <Dimensions> - - <Speed> - - - - -
Ship Cost Length Width Start Normal Sail Maximum Sail * Normal Oar Maximum Oar ** <HP.M> BT(turns)
Rowboat 75 gp 8'-20' 2'-4' - 2 mph 3 mph 1 mph 2 mph W1-4 1 turns
Barge, small 50 gp 15'-20' 8'-12' 2 rounds 2 mph 3 mph 1 mph 1 mph W1-6 1-2 turns
Barge, large ? 25'-45' 12'-20' 5 rounds 1 mph 2 mph 1/2 mph 1 mph W2-8 1-4 turns
Galley, small 10,000 gp 30'-60' 8'-15' 3 rounds 6 mph 9 mph 5 mph 8 mph W2-12 1-3 turns
Galley, large 25,000 gp 120'-160' 20'-30' 6 rounds 4 mph 7 mph 4 mph 8 mph W4-16 1-6 turns
Merchant, small 5,000 gp 25'-40' 10'-15' 5 rounds 5 mph 7 mph 1/2 mph 1 mph W6-36 2-8 turns
Merchant, large 15,000 gp 50'-80' 15'-25' 1 turn 3 mph 5 mph 1/4 mph 1/2 mph W12-48 <12d4> 3-12  turns
Warship 20,000 gp 70'-100' 15'-25' 1 turn 4 mph 6 mph 1/2 mph 1 mph W7-42 3-12 turns

* Based on the wind force of Strong Breeze.

** For short periods of 10-20 minutes.

Rowboat: Small boats, with or without a sail, which are rowed by oars or paddled, fall into this category. <^Stats^>
A ship's longboats, dugout canoes, skiffs and punts are likewise considered rowboats.
A normal crew for a rowboat can be from <1> to <10> or more men depending on its size.
Rowboats do not come equipped with armament and don't function well in breezes
above 19 miles per hour.


These are long, somewhat rectangular craft designed primarily for river transportation. <^Stats^>
A few larger and sturdier types are used for lake and coastal duties.
Barges generally have a shallow draft, as do rafts -- the former having a bow and side freeboard, with the latter having neither.
The Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut's obelisk barge is a prime example of a working barge.
Crafts constructed of faggots bound together, or made of stretched hides, such as the umiak, <mnemonic touch: 'womansymbolboat' (?) could be used instead of umiak'>
are considered barges in most cases.
The same is true of sampans and jangadas.
Normal crew for a barge varies between 20 and 100 or more men, depending an the size of
the ship and its purpose. If the barge is a working vessel, such as Queen
Hatshepsut's, it is conceivable that it could require as many as 100 men, if
not more, to man such a mammoth barge. Sampans and jangadas, on the
other hand, do not require a great crew to man them. Sampans need only
three to ten men while jangadas require as few as one. Barges and rafts
don't usually come with armament, but can be so equipped if desired.
These types of vessels do not function well in winds above moderate

<try using the image of a raft from one of the covers of Hiero's Journey, by Sterling A. Lanier>


These are long, slim oared ships. <^Stats^>
Some of the earlier types of galleys are the Greek && Roman biremes, triremes and quadriremes.
These galleys have 2, 3, ond 4 banks of oars.
The type most commonly used in AD&D is the drakkar, the Viking Dragon Ship.
This is a square-sailed, oared ship having a single mast that can be unstepped.
She is the easiest to maneuver in choppy waters because the planks are overlapped and riveted together (clinker built).
This gives her the ability to move with the waves instead of forcing her hull through them.
Crew for galleys depend on their size.
Some can have as few as 30 men manning the oars while others have been known to have 200 or more.
Most galleys, because of the need of space for the men at the oars, do not venture far from land.
The general construction is such that even though she is seaworthy it is more comfortable to be near land or sail the rivers and make camp on the shore.
Armament on galleys ranges from a ram to ballistae.
Some of the larger ones may even sport a catapult.

COST: 10,000 gp
LENGTH: 30'-60'
WIDTH: 8'-15'
START: 3 rounds
    NORMAL SAIL: 6 mph
        MAXIMUM SAIL: 9 mph
    NORMAL OAR: 5 mph
        MAXIMUM OAR: 8 mph
MHP: W2-12
BT: 1-3 turns

Merchant Ships:

This type of ship is most commonly a small wide-hulled vessel having a single mast and a lateen sail. <^Stats^>
She is not only favored by merchants, but pirates as well. <make notes for both at MM>
She can be moved by sweeps at rowboat speed.
carracks, <minis: the carrack seems to have an underdeck, and 2 climbable riggings>
and caravels of the 13th and 14th centuries are considered to be excellent merchant ships because of their sturdiness and the few sailors required to man them.
Most ships of this type can feasibly carry a hundred or more men,
but because of on-board conditions and money,
ships are manned by a minimal crew of at least 10 men,
including the officers.
Pirates are the exception when manning ships. <make note at MM>
They will fill the ship with men,
sailing up and down the coast for about a week,
plunder if they can,
and then put into port.
Typical armament for this kind of ship includes ballistae and perhaps a catapult.  <links for siege weapons>
    <guess: cog = small merchant ship, caravel & carrack = large merchant ship>
    <i would list in this order: cog, caravel, carrack. see D116 for the reason.>
    <"A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable, two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship, created by the Portuguese and used also by them and by the Spanish for long voyages of exploration from the 15th century.">
    <"A carrack or nau was a three- or four-masted sailing ship developed in the Atlantic Ocean in the 15th century by the Portuguese.">
    <ie. it seems that there were no carracks and caravels of the 13th and 14th centuries. no ocean-going vessels before the 15th century? hmm Kontiki>

Cog (Small Merchant Ship) <check this>

COST: 5000 gp
LENGTH: 25'-40'
WIDTH: 10'-15'
START: 5 rounds
    NORMAL SAIL: 5 mph
        MAXIMUM SAIL: 7 mph
    NORMAL OAR: 1/2 mph
        MAXIMUM OAR: 1 mph
MHP: W6-36
BT: 2-8 turns

Carrack (Large Merchant Ship) <check this>

Warships: These vessels tend to be fast, but at most times not very seaworthy, particularly the earlier ones. <^Stats^> <+10% chance for mishap on the storm table?>
The ultimate warship for the purpose of AD&D is the nao.
She is <> squaresailed <> like the cog, but features <2> two or more masts and is of caravel construction.
She also has a distinctive overhanging forecastle and a rounded stern.
The crew of a warship generally consists of 2 or 3 men to work each ballista,
3 or 4 men to handle the catapult <(default: light catapult)> and the rest to man the sails.
It is possible to have 100 or more men on board,
but because of the shortage of space for food and fresh water,
the number is usually considerably less.
    <a nao (also spelled nau) is another word for a carrack>

<this is just an example of the 'ship statblock' that should be done for each ship

Warship Q | 16 | 5 | 80 area = 35 HP
COST: 20,000 gp
LENGTH: 78-82'
WIDTH: 18-22'
START: 1 turn
MOVE, OAR: lake 10, river 10, sea 20
MOVE, SAIL: lake 40-50, river 40, sea 50
    NORMAL SAIL: 4 mph (12")
        MAXIMUM SAIL: 6 mph (18")
    NORMAL OAR: 1/2 mph (2")
        MAXIMUM OAR:  1 mph (3")
MHP.w: 35
BT: : 3-12 turns
    5 Mates
    35 Sailors (10 on siege weapon duty)
    10 Marines
    2 ballistae (6 sailors, 3 on each)
    1 light catapult (4 sailors)

* D116 notes 3" being equal to 1 MPH

        MAXIMUM OAR:


Hull Values:
The hull value or the defensive point value is how much damage the ship can sustain before sinking
(any time that damage reaches one-third or more of this value, repairs must be made).
For damage <megadamage.wood> done to a ship by various attack forms,
see Siege Attack under CONSTRUCTION AND SIEGES.
To determine the number of points each ship can have, see the table below and roll accordingly.
Type of Vessel <HP.M>
Rowboat W1-4
Barge, small W1-6
Barge, large W2-8
Galley, small W2-12
Galley, large W4-16
Merchant, small W6-36
Merchant, large W12-48
Warship W7-42

<* HP.M = MEGA Hit Points, aka MEGA HP : formerly, HV : Hull Values.>
    <link to main HP.M explanation>

Repairing Damage:
Any time damage reaches one third <(1/3)> to one half <(1/2)> of a ship's hull value,
    repairs can be made at sea.
If the damage is more than one half <(1/2)>,
    the ship must put into port for repairs.
The amount of time and repairs needed as well as the cost involved will be at the DM's option.

<UA.theory: at this level of dmg, GUIDED TOUR back to the nearest port>

Length and Width:
The average length and width of most ships is given below.
It will be up to the DM or the players buying or constructing them to determine exactly how long and wide any ship will be.
Ship Length Width
Rowboat 8'-20' 2'-4'
Barge, small 15'-20' 8'-12'
Barge, large 25'-45' 12'-20'
Galley, small 30'-60' 8'-15'
Galley, large 120'-160' 20'-30'
Merchant, small 25'-40' 10'-15'
Merchant, large 50'-80' 15'-25'
Warship 70'-100' 15'-25'

<perhaps this could be moved to the bottom, considering that the numbers have been added to the main table, and will be added to the individual ship statblocks>

See Ship Master and Ship Crew under EXPERT HIRELINGS.

<theory: to keep it simple, the crew does not include any captains, or people in the chain of command.
in other words, any ship masters do not count towards the total # of ship crew.
I'm not sure if this is the same principle that is applied to leader-types for humanoids, but I hope so
if you go with this, note this at both ship master & ship crew.>

Wind Direction and Force:

Wind direction and its force are important in determining if sails, oars, both, or neither can best be used in propelling the ship.
Currents of course will aid or hinder the ship, but it will be up to the DM to decide what currents, if any, will be in the oceans.
Wind force will need to be determined for movement abilities and damage if the force is above Strong Gale.
Direction (d8) 1 = North 2 = South 3 = East 4 = West 5 = Northwest 6 = Northeast 7 = Southwest 8 = Southeast
(3d6) Force Miles Per Hour
3 Calm 0-1
4-5 Light Breeze 2-7
9-12 Moderate Breeze 8-18
13-15 Strong Breeze 19-31
16 Strong Gale * 32-54
17 Storm * 55-72
18 Hurricane * 73-136

    * Any wind of strong gale force or better will have a percentage chance to do damage to the ship
        There is also a chance for men to be blown overboard.
        The amount of damage and how many men may be blown overboard will be determined by the DM.
        Checks are made every 6 hours, or until winds subside.

<isn't the above redundant? just link to the storm table?>
<* & indentation added for clarity>
<color links for clarity>

Note: at ship master, it says :
Sailing any vessel will be progressively more hazardous without master or captain, lieutenants, and mates.
with a reference !
Couldn't find anything yet,
as a rule of thumb, I would use :
a) the GUIDED TOUR principle from Unlimited Adventures, if you have the currents mapped out. this is playable, and is good for the pacing of the adventure
b) According to REF2, Navigator (secondary skill) is based on a Wisdom check. Perhaps, just use the worst of both rolls if the ship master is out of her waters. Keep it simple.
c) A successful WIS check will allow for the best of 2 rolls on the storm table


- Strong Gale Storm Hurricane
A. Capsizing? 1% 20% 40%
B. Broken mast? 5% 25% 45%
C. Broken beams? 10% 35% 50%
D. Torn sail and/or fouled rigging? 20% 45% 65%
E. Man overboard? 10% 50% 70%

<On deck, the storm is wearying for a landlubber.
Characters must roll a saving throw <save> vs. breath weapon, including Constitution bonus, to avoid seasickness.
Seasick characters are at one-half Constitution for 1-6 hours after the storm subsides.">
<where's this from? pretty sure it's a 1E source, but the source needs to be noted>

Exhaustion will occur after the crew has rowed at their normal speed for 8-10 hours or at maximum speed for 30 minutes.
This applies only to galleys or any other oared vessel.

Any oared ship can move forward from a complete standstill in one <1> round.
Galleys are able to do a pivot only if they are dead still in the water.
This action requires a certain amount of skill or else the oars may be damaged.
Any ship wanting to turn must let her momentum carry her twice her length before such a procedure may begin.

    Movement From a Standstill Position to Normal Speed

Barge, small
2 rounds
Barge, large
5 rounds
Galley, small
3 rounds
Galley, large
6 rounds
Merchant, small
5 rounds
Merchant, large
1 turn
1 turn

The table below indicates how fast ships can sail or be oared at normal and maximum speed.
Ship Type Normal Sail Maximum Sail * Normal Oar Maximum Oar **
Rowboat 2 mph 3 mph 1 mph 2 mph
Barge, small 2 mph 3 mph 1 mph 1 mph
Barge, large 1 mph 2 mph 1/2 mph 1 mph
Galley, small 6 mph 9 mph 5 mph 8 mph
Galley, large 4 mph 7 mph 4 mph 8 mph
Merchant, small 5 mph 7 mph 1/2 mph 1 mph
Merchant, large 3 mph 5 mph 1/4 mph 1/2 mph
Warship 4 mph 6 mph 1/2 mph 1 mph

* Based on the wind force of Strong Breeze.

** For short periods of 10-20 minutes.

<perhaps this could be moved to the bottom, considering that the numbers have been added to the main table, and will be added to the individual ship statblocks>

Burn Damage of Controlled Fires:
For every 10 flaming arrows,
every flaming catapult missile,
and every 5-dice fireball and up (i.e., a 10-dice fireball requires a double check) that hits,
burn damage will have to be determined.

Lightning bolts will have to be checked for burn damage at increments of 8-dice.
Anything below that only does structural damage
<(theory) : does damage in MEGA Hit Points>
When a lightning bolt does burn damage,
subtract 3 from the roll for the kind of damage that is done
(for example, a 15 is rolled, 15 - 3 = 12; twelve is the number on the table to determine damage).
(3d6) Fire Damage Hull Damage Equivalent
3-7 Light damage 1 point of hull damage
8-10 Light to moderate damage 2-4 points of hull damage
11-13 Moderate damage 3-6 points of hull damage
14-15 Moderate to heavy damage 4-8 points of hull damage
16-18 Heavy damage 5-10 points of hull damage


Light damage: Almost no damage.
Requires no immediate attention.
When a ship has sustained more than 3 light damages, consider it to be light to moderate damage.

Light to moderate damage: Minor damage done.
No immediate repairs needed.
When a ship has sustained 2 light damages and 1 light to moderate damage or 2 light to moderate damages,
consider it to be moderate damage.

Moderate damage: A few minor repairs needed before the ship can get underway.
When a ship has sustained 2 moderate damages, consider it to be moderate to heavy damage.

Moderate to heavy damage: Many minor repairs needed or several major ones needed before the ship may sail.
When a ship has sustained 2 moderate to heavy damages, consider it to be heavy damage.

Heavy damage: Extensive repairs needed to ship's sails and mast.
Rigging burned badly.

The DM will have to decide what part of the ship took damage.
The amount will be determined by what did the damage to the ship.
This will have to be subtracted from the ship's hull value.

Ships' Burning Time of Uncontrolled Fires:

Damage done to a ship by fire that equals or surpasses the hull value is considered a fire that is no longer under control by the men aboard.
Also, any fires magically fed and not countered have a 75% chance of spreading out of control due to the time,
lack of men or capable magic-user, or other circumstances.
Ship Type Burning Time
Rowboat 1 turn
Barge, small 1-2 turns
Barge, large 1-4 turns
Galley, small 1-3 turns
Galley, large 1-6 turns
Merchant, small 2-8 turns
Merchant, large 3-12 turns
Warship 3-12 turns

Before any battle in which ramming is intended,
the mast must be unstepped and secured on deck.
Ramming (which can only be done by galleys) must be done head-on at full speed,
with the galley striking the target ship at a 60-90° angle.
After striking, the ramming ship must backwater immediately or risk sinking with the ship it rammed or being boarded by her crew if the hole is above the water line.

Grappling and Boarding:
Grappling is done when the men of one ship,
by means of a grapnel and rope,
attempt to secure their craft to another ship (or something else, should it be desired).
There is a 25% chance that the men aboard the
grappled ship will be able to successfully sever the line or remove the
grapnel. If the attempt to remove the grapnel fails, the ship may find herself
boarded by the men of the other ship. If both ships are of the same
type, i.e., two galleys, then there are no bonuses for melee. However, if it
is the crew of a galley trying to board a merchant ship or warship, the
latter will attack with a + 1 while the former with a -1. The reason is that
the men aboard the merchant or warship have the advantage of height,
and are fighting down at the men on the galley. When this happens, the
men in the galley usually outnumber the men on the higher ship, by as
much as three to one in some cases. This applies to all ships that are built
with two or more decks.

Human-like vs. human-like: On-board combat will be as normal melee
combat in a dungeon. Sahuagin, lacedon (ghouls), kopoacinth (gargoyles).
koalinth (hobgoblins) and men (buccaneers and pirates) will attempt
to board the ship. Other human-like creatures such as nixies, aquatic
elves, tritons, sea hags and mermen cannot or will not try to board.

Human-like vs. non-human: The men on a ship will be at a disadvantage fighting monsters in the water.
A squid will try to encircle the ship with its tentacles and sink it.
Other sea monsters may be just as dangerous.

See the MONSTER MANUAL for specifics of each monster.

Sinking a Ship:

There are several ways to sink a ship.
One is to ram her, damaging her hull and thus forcing her to take on water (see Ramming).
Depending on the size of the ship and the location and size of the hole,
it may take from 1-12 turns before she sinks below the surface of the water
(rowboats and small rafts are the only vessels that will sink in less than 1 turn).
Burning is another way to sink a ship.
She will burn to her waterline and everything beneath that will sink (see Burn Damage of Controlled Fires).
A rowboat hit directly with a boulder will sink immediately.
It will take several direct hits with a boulder before enough damage is done to cause a merchant ship or warship to sink
(see Hull Values and Siege Engines).
The weather is also a factor that can cause a ship to capsize and eventually sink (see Wind Direction and Force).
Some monsters, such as a Sea Snake or a Dragon Turtle,
will also attempt to capsize a ship if they should choose to attack it.

Ship's Capture:
The capturing of a ship occurs when all the crew aboard one ship have died, surrendered, or are rendered helpless and unable to fight (trapped in the hold, far example).
To determine if surrender will take place,
compare the crews of both sides. If one side is greater by 3 to 1, surrender
is inevitable by the side that is outnumbered. The captain of the losing side
may refuse to surrender and order his men to continue fighting (a roll of 1
on a d6 indicates that his men will obey). Surrender does not apply to
player characters. They decide whether or not they want to surrender.

Swimming will be impossible in any type of metal armor with the exception of magic armor.
Any character wearing magic armor will be encumbered and the only stroke possible will be the dog paddle.
It is possible to swim in leather and padded armor, but it is awkward and there is a 5% chance of drowning per hour.
All heavy possessions must be discarded or the chance of drowning increases by 2% for every 5 pounds on the character's person other than his or her leather or padded armor.
This includes weapons, purses filled with gold and/or gems, backpacks and hard boots.
One unsheathed dagger may be carried by the adventurer between his or her teeth.
Swimming during winds above 35 miles per hour will be almost impossible, and there is a 75% chance of drowning.

General Naval Terminology:
Aft -- the rear part of a ship.
Corvice -- a bridge with a long spike in its end used by the Romans for grappling and boarding.
Devil -- the longest seam on the bottom of a wooden ship.
Devil to pay - chalking the seam of the same name.
    When this job is assigned, it is given to the ship's goof-off and thus comes the expression "You will have the devil to pay".
Fore -- the forward part of a ship.
Fore Castle -- a fortified wooden enclosure resembling a castle in the fore of a ship.
Hoist Sails -- to raise the sails.
Lower the sails -- to let the sails down.
Port -- the left side of a ship; also a city or town where ships may take refuge or load and unload cargo.
Shearing off oars - accidentally or intentionally breaking oars of one or more ships
    when attempting to board or cripple the ship if it did not retract its oars.
Starboard -- the right side of a ship.
Step -- to put the mast up.
Stern -- a section of the aft of a ship.
Stern Castle -- the same as a fore castle except that it is in the stern of the ship.
Stroke -- the drummer and the beat he sets for the oarsmen on a galley.
Top Castle -- a fortified structure on the mast.
Unstep -- to take down the mast.
Weigh Anchor -- means the anchor is clear of the bottom.

<A section that links to / summarizes info from other sections could be added here>

Originally Posted by Delta
Gary, I'm wondering what real-life era you think most closely corresponds to the AD&D worldview (esp., technology-wise).

For example, in the 1E DMG you mention that full plate armor is "a late development and is not considered (c. 1500)", although you did include it in Unearthed Arcana.

In the Waterborne Adventures section, you wrote that "Cogs, carracks, and caravels of the 13th and 14th centuries are considered to be excellent merchant ships". However, my reading of history is that carracks & caravels weren't invented until the mid-1400's, i.e., the 15th century.

I guess I'm most interested in the ships aspect. In your AD&D campaign, were carracks, caravels & naos (a) the majority of sailing ships (as in 1500's), (b) an elite minority (as in 1400's), or (c) only an exotic hypothetical prospect (as in 1300's or earlier)?

The short answer to all that is: You are the DM, suit technology in the campaign to what you plan to do therein.

Full plate armor was a development of the 15th century, and when I was writing the pieces that comprised the bulk of the UA book my concept of developing technology in a fantasy milieu had altered. It then seemed illogical to to me to have the level of advancement stuck in the early middle ages. Thus I had fragatas and sambuks and prahus and galleasses and galleons on the seas as well as junks, cogs, caravels, and carracks.


Originally Posted by Steverooo
So with the 1400s-or-so tech., why no compasses in D&D?

What is an Arrow of Direction if not a compass?

With so many armored folks about a normal one is likely to function properly only on a ship 

As the DM of your campaign world setting you can put as many in as you like, of course.


    <maybe list as rowboat (boat, small)>
    <boat, long should be added. maybe list as keelboat (boat, long) to avoid confusion><add note & link in descrip to disambiguate>

    <* D116 notes 3" being equal to 1 MPH>
    <Move, or speed? Monsters and characters have a Movement Rate, or Move><In play, it would be "Sail Move", "Oar Move". Our boat has a  "Sail Move" of ....>

   <color the BT link>

    <merchant, large: length = (2d4-1 x 5) + 45?><merchant, large: width = d3: 1=15, 2=20, 3=25?>

    <at 50' length and 10' width, that would be 30 5 foot squares. divide the number of 5 foot squares by 2 to determine the crew?>
        <note that pirate ships are an exception. they fill their ship to the max>

    <ensure an image ('UA' size is nice), for all of the following>