Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Sea Chases & Complications

Are 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 sea monster attacks? 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 Intelligence (Navigation) check. On a failed check you lose control of the ship as your speed is reduced to 0’ 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 Intelligence (Navigation) check. On a failed check your speed slows by half.
3 Your ship finds itself travelling through thick seaweed, Make a DC 10 Intelligence (Navigation) check. On a failed check, your speed slows by 30’.
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 Intelligence (Navigation) check. On a failure your speed slows by 30’ and your ship takes 4d10 slashing damage.
6 Jagged rocks block the path of the ship. Make a DC 10 Intelligence (Navigation) check. On failed check your speed slows by 30’ and your ship takes 4d10 piercing damage.
7 A large swell or wave is headed your way. Make a DC 10 Intelligence (Navigation) check.  On failed check your speed slows by 30’ and your ship takes 4d10 bludgeoning damage.
8 A sudden, massive gust of wind blows against you, regardless of the current wind direction. Make a DC 15 Intelligence (Navigation) check. On failed check your speed slows by half. The wind direction returns to normal.
9 The wind suddenly drops off and your speed is reduced by half, and you find yourself entering a dead calm. Make a DC 15 Intelligence (Navigation) check. On a failed check your speed slows by half.
10 Patches of fog rise up out of the sea all around you. Make a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. On a failed check, your visibility is reduced to 200’.
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.

Shares
  • Hmmm…. I wonder if we’re working on something to do with pirates, naval combat, etc?

  • Colin McLaughlin

    As flawed as it is, Waterworld has incredible chase sequences. The way it portrays the characters fully integrated into the operation is a solid reference point.

    • Waterworld is like Mad Max on water. It will never happen, but it would be great to see the recent Mad Max team do a reboot or whatever they are called now.

  • There are several things you missed
    1) Fire breaks out in one of the the ships that obscures its exact location.
    2) There’s an iceberg that damages the ship (Titanic anyone?)
    3) A wizard on one of the ships alters the course of the other by casting some weather event (Gust of Wind, Ice Storm, etc)
    4) One of the ships is so damaged that it starts to sink
    5) A *playful* chase begins (think whales, dolphins)
    6) The members of a ship that is chasing aren’t what they seem (i,e, undead, of another country, are friendly, but undercover for some reason)

    • Much appreciated!
      My list was geared more towards sub-tropical and tropical waters. An iceberg would be an interesting obstacle.

Shares