Skull & Shackles
Fast-Play Ship Combat
When ships themselves become a part of a combat, things get more unusual. The following rules are not meant to accurately simulate all of the complexities of ship-to-ship combat, only to provide you with a quick and easy set of rules to resolve such situations when they inevitably arise in a nautical adventure, whether it be a battle between two ships or between a ship and a sea monster.
Preparation: Decide what type of ships are involved in the combat. Use a large, blank battle mat to represent the waters on which the battle occurs. A single square corresponds to 30 feet of distance. Represent each ship by placing markers that take up the appropriate number of squares.
Starting Combat: When combat begins, allow the PCs (and important NPC allies) to roll initiative as normal—the ship itself moves and attacks on the captain’s (or pilot’s) initiative result. If any of the ships in the battle rely on sails to move, randomly determine what direction the wind is blowing by rolling 1d8 and following the guidelines for missed splash weapons.
Movement: On the captain’s (or pilot’s) initiative count, the ship can move its current speed in a single round as a move-equivalent action for the captain (or double its speed as a full-round action), as long as it has its minimum crew complement. The ship can increase or decrease its speed by 30 feet each round, up to its maximum speed. Alternatively, the captain (or pilot) can change direction (up to one side of a square at a time) as a standard action. A ship can only change direction at the start of a turn.
Attacks: Crewmembers in excess of the ship’s minimum crew requirement can be allocated to man siege engines. Siege engines attack on the captain’s/master gunner’s initiative count.
A ship can also attempt to ram a target if it has its minimum crew. To ram a target, the ship must move at least 30 feet and end with its bow in a square adjacent to the target. The ship’s captain (or pilot) then makes a Profession (sailor) check—if this check equals or exceeds the target’s AC, the ship hits its target, inflicting damage as indicated on the ship statistics table to the target, as well as minimum damage to the ramming ship. A ship outfitted with an actual ram siege engine inflicts an additional 3d6 points of damage to the target (the ramming vessel suffers no additional damage).