Naval Combat Rules for D&D 5th Edition – Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Ahoy lubbers! Part 1 of this series covered basic naval combat and Part 2 looked at some more advanced options. For part 3 of my series on naval combat, I wanted to really dig in with more ideas on how to run a sea battle. In part 4, I will provide a final battle demo using most of the content below.

Pathfinder’s Skull & Shackles is an excellent system for adding realistic naval combat to a d20 game and it can be run pretty much as is for D&D 5th edition (if you want cannons, you’ll need to convert heavy siege engines). For my game, Skull & Shackles is not the right fit. My current campaign has a heroic/swashbuckling feel with gunpowder. My naval combat preference is for something focusing on the heroic actions of my players, versus a realistic simulation. As always, pick and choose what works to create the feel you desire, from a tactical sea battle to a narrative challenge that happens to be on a boat.

The Bard Class, Part One

For my introductory post here at Tribality, I’d like to talk about the history of the bard class, from its origins in The Strategic Review (Vol 2, Number 1), down to its 5th Edition incarnation. Buckle in, folks, it’s going to take me a few posts. As with many classes, it has maintained some of the outer trappings over that time while reconfiguring almost every other part of its function.

Naval Combat Rules for D&D 5th Edition – Part 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

For my homebrew seafaring campaign setting (called Vodari), I needed to create a way to run naval battles for the 5th edition rules of D&D. I wanted something that fit into the elegant simplicity of 5th edition, versus adding a bunch of complicated math to run sea battles. Part 1 of this series covered basic naval combat. This article continues the series and digs deeper, providing more naval combat rules ideas and examples. Pick and choose what works and add your own rules. Create the type of naval combat your want to run, whether its a tactical grid  battle or more of a narrative challenge where your PCs determine the outcome of the battle.

Naval Combat Rules for D&D 5th Edition – Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

I just started running a new campaign set in Vodari, a homebrew world where an entire continent sunk nearly 1000 years ago. Today, my players find themselves in a world where civilization has risen again on the scattered islands that remain. Adventurers in Vodari need to travel by sea and sometimes they run into other ships or monsters.

I needed to create a  way to run these battles for the 5th edition rules of D&D. For ideas I looked at Pathfinder’s Skull & Shackles, D&D’s 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms: Pirates of the Fallen Stars, D&D’s excellent Stormwrack book, Furry Pirates and other sources. If you are looking for really detailed ship to ship combat rules, converting Pathfinder’s rules to 5th edition would be a good fix, but if you just want to slip in the odd sea battle, then these rules might work well.

Converting High CR Monsters into PC Races

I’ve done a few conversions now of Monster Manual creatures into PC races, both here and at and the vast majority of feedback has been great. There have been a few conversations about various abilities or choices I’ve made that have been very insightful, so I wanted to take a moment to talk about the challenges and viewpoints of designing high CR creatures for PC races.

There is one major challenge with designing MM monsters as races; often the reason they aren’t core races. They are far more powerful than normal PC races.

Keeping that in mind, you can approach developing them from two viewpoints:

D&D 5e Combat – Initiative House Rule Option #1

I wrote an article about initiative, strategy and team play.  Recently after reading some more, and playing, I am ready to just throw Initiative out the window.  I am more in favor of what Robert Schwalb has going with in his new game “Shadow of the Demon Lord.”  He uses an Action Economy system and a simplified system that let’s the players go in what ever order they want. I really like that system, but want to use it for D&D 5th edition. So let’s first look at how initiative works in D&D. The players all roll a d20 and perform a Dexterity Check to determine initiative order

High Power Races: Thri-Kreen

Along with the aarakocra, the thri-kreen are one of my favorite non-standard races to play. Unique and alien, thri-kreen provide for unusual roleplaying opportunities and unusual flavor at the table. The challenge? Thri-kreen are a powerful PC race (see Behind the Development below). Converting them to a standard PC race while maintaining their flavor and popular, race-specific powers was a challenge and even with this conversion DMs should consider before allowing them in their campaigns. If used, DMs and players should play up the thri-kreen’s social disadvantages as much as possible, including limited communication and insight into humanoid motivations and feelings. Though I follow Monte Cook’s design rule that “fluff does not balance crunch”, if you have decided that thri-kreen are usable in your campaign, you can use these disadvantages to build interesting stories and social interactions while balancing some of their physical benefits. Remember that 5th edition emphasizes combat, exploration, and social interactions in equal balance.


Thri-kreen are nomadic, insectoid humanoids typically found in deserts and savannah. They communicate with a species-specific combination of clicks, body movements, and antennae waves, though it is suspected that pheromonal communication allows for more subtlety than most humanoids can decipher. Though non-thri-kreen can learn to understand the basics of thri-kreen communication, it’s impossible to speak. Most thri-kreen understand Common with the same level of understanding. Unless a thri-kreen has spent significant time with non-insectoid humanoids, they make all Insight and Persuasion checks at disadvantage. The same is true of mammalian humanoids when dealing with thri-kreen.