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Check Out Our Naval Combat Guide

Batten Down the Hatches!

NAVAL COMBATAre you looking to run exciting, fast paced naval encounters where all your players have something to do each turn? Do you want to run cinematic sea battles between ships and terrify your players with sea monster attacks?

I wrote this guide after running a weekly seafaring campaign for Fifth Edition for over a year. NAVAL ENCOUNTERS provides GMs with rules, ideas and examples for running combat and other scenarios at sea for your Fifth Edition game. Whether you are looking for rules to run an encounter between ships, naval combat roles to give to each of your players, or ideas on how to handle a sea monster attack, this guide is the answer.

Product Information
This guide provides GMs with rules and ideas to run exciting, fast paced naval combat encounters. In this guide you will find:

  • Rules for running lightweight naval encounters
  • Example combat encounters
  • Shipboard roles for your Captain, Master Gunner, Ship’s Surgeon and other officers
  • Stats for guns, cannons and ships

These materials were designed to be used with Fifth Edition rules.

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Sea battles can be long and drawn out, but a chase can be an exciting way to cover the distance from when a ship is first spotted and the eventual combat. Chases between ships are a staple of pirate movies, like in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

If your encounter turns into a chase, avoid having the encounter becoming long and  drawn out. Determine how many rounds it will take to close in on the quarry and fast forward to the excitement. Convert rounds to minutes or multiple travel distances by 10 until you need to zoom in on the action. A chase on the water is just a chase between ships (or a ship and sea monster). The chase rules on page 253 of the DMG can be used and work well. Try introducing complications to sea chases, such as those found in the Sea Chase Complications below, which provide complications for a ship’s pilot.

d20 Complication
1 Your ship finds itself in the path of a small whirlpool. Make a DC 15 Wisdom (Vehicles – Water) check to navigate the hazard. On a failed check you momentarily lose control of the ship. The ship’s speed is reduced to 0 ft. and the ship rotates 90° (odd = clockwise, even = counter-clockwise).
2 Your ship is hit hard by currents in all directions as the sea suddenly swells around you. Make a DC 10 Wisdom (Vehicles – Water) check to navigate through the swollen sea. On a failed save, your ship’s speed slows by half.
3 Your ship finds itself traveling through thick seaweed. Make a DC 10 Wisdom (Nature) check. On a failed check, you are unable to find a clear path through the seaweed and your ship’s speed slows by 30 ft.
4 A sea monster joins the chase. Roll a random encounter (see page 118 of the DMG) or pick your own monster.
5 A coral reef blocks your path. Make a DC 10 Wisdom (Nature) check to find an alternate route. On a failed check, your ship’s speed slows by 30 ft., and your ship takes 4d10 slashing damage.
6 Jagged rocks block the path of the ship. Make a DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check to find an alternate route. On failed check, you ship’s speed slows by 30 ft., and your ship takes 4d10 piercing damage.
7 A large swell or wave is headed your way. Make a DC 10 Intelligence (Vehicles – Water) check to successfully navigate the wave. On failed check, your ship’s speed slows by 30 ft. and your ship takes 4d10 bludgeoning damage.
8 A sudden, massive gust of wind blows against the ship, regardless of the current wind direction. Make a DC 15 Wisdom (Vehicles – Water) check to maintain control of the ship. On a failed check, you momentarily lose control of the ship. The ship’s speed is reduced to 0 ft., and the ship rotates 90° (odd = clockwise, even = counter-clockwise). The wind direction quickly returns to normal.
9 The wind suddenly drops off, your speed is reduced by half, and you find yourself entering a dead calm. Make a DC 15 Wisdom (Survival) check to find the wind. On a failed check, your ship’s speed is reduced to 0 ft.
10 Patches of fog rise up out of the sea all around you. Make a DC 15 Wisdom (Survival) check to find a clear spot. On a failed check, your visibility is reduced to 200 ft.
11-20 No complication.


Let us know in the comments below what you think of this complication table. If you have better complication ideas, let us know.