Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gygaxian Democracy #9: On A Boat

More Gygaxian Democracy.

You have failed your sailing roll during a storm/in rough seas/in shallow water, etc. and something bad has happened to your boat. It is damaged in some way which, hopefully, will make future encounters during the rest of this wavecrawl more exotic and interesting. Roll below:

(Assume the ship is 3 masted and laid out approximately like the one in the picture.)
(Remember, these are results from a failed control roll, not just random things that could happen. They need to be things that could result from handling a ship poorly or at least unluckily.)

1-Something caught in the rudder--someone needs to climb down there and get it.

2-You hit a whale carcass or something--the ship trails blood and there will be a corona of sharks surrounding the boat for the next 3 days.

3-Minor sail torn due to high wind or sudden beam swing--replace it or make future checks at -2/-10%.

4-Stray wave has smacked you sidewise and flung a volley of stinging jellyfish onto the deck, roll dex or reflex save for everybody up there to avoid having a random body part swollen beyond usefulness for d4 days--1 mouth, 2 eyes, 3 right hand, 4 left hand, 5 right foot, 6 left foot.

5--(your turn)

P.S. The girls are on a boat as of last night so this table will get used next session.


  1. 5 -- A freak wave has heeled the ship over, narrowly avoiding turning it turtle but shifting the ballast/cargo so that you now have a permanent list to (1-3) port or (4-6) starboard. Navigation and maneuverability is therefore badly compromised.

  2. Some miscellaneous marine leviathan has crashed into the hull in its sleep, starting planks all along one side before plunging down into the depths in its startlement. The ship is leaking badly, gaining on the pumps by 2d6 inches per hour, and will eventually founder unless something is done to alleviate the situation.

  3. Run aground on the back of the dreaded aspidochelone. Perhaps its back is littered with the wreckage and treasure of other vessels, enticing a foolhardy crew to make a dangerous exploration. Perhaps it carries the ship off their route and toward stranger things. Perhaps it is aspidochelone mating season.

    Or maybe it just eats them.

  4. Seawater has got into the hold, ruining some cargo. Roll 1d6:

    1-2: 1d6 days' ration are spoiled.
    3-4: 1d6x100gp worth of cargo is lost or ruined
    5: 1d6 lower-deck crew are drowned or lost.
    6: That mysterious crate you picked up in the last port has been smashed open. GM rolls on wandering monster chart of choice to see what is now stalking the ship.

  5. 5-You have been caught in a storm and are lost at sea. It will take you d20- sailing roll days to re-plot a course. In addition there have been rumors of strange creatures in the area. Roll d4 times a day on the ocean encounters table of the DM's choice.

    6-You have hit another vessel. At the DM's discretion it is one of those from The Tower.

  6. Your erratic steering just so happens to match the mating dance of the female dragon turtle. Oops.

  7. Against all the odds, the ship and crew are unharmed. So unlikely is this given the circumstances that the superstitious crew now regard you with suspicion, thinking that you may have used sorcery or called in favours with unholy denizens of the sea.

  8. One of the crew was carrying a harpy egg, which smashed in the storm last night. Roll on the "Harpy Egg Disaster Table" to determine what happens.

  9. Dammit, I had the dragon turtle idea too.. but Kelvin's is far more amusing.

    So we'll go with this:

    Damn, you just had to kill the albatross, didn't you? Better pray for their beauty not doom, have a bless spell handy for them, and God's creatures too, otherwise the ship is stuck, day after day, no breath nor motion like a painted ship on a painted ocean, a terrible thirsting curse striking all aboard. And then... the visit by the Dark Ship, crewed by Death and She-Life-In-Death. Dice are cast for the fate of the crew...

  10. Minor damage to the ship itself, but the captain is incapacitated by injury, precipitating a power struggle as the more ambitious and disloyal crew members attempt to take over.

  11. The players have encountered a(n):

    --1. Giant, talking, amphibious squid.
    --2. Troupe of Tailless Mermaids.
    --3. Sentient Water Elemental.
    --4. Sea Naga.
    --5. Abboleth city.
    --6. Kuo-Toa enclave.
    --7. Flock of Harpies nesting on a protrusion. They will drop eggs on the ship if threatened, but are otherwise engaged unless attacked (It's mating season).
    --8. Group of aquatic Drow.

  12. X: The ship collides with a rocky outcrop just below the surface. The damage is not severe, but until the damage is repaired, at least one person must be on pump duty at all times, or the ship will take on too much water.


    X+1: As above, but the rocky outcrop was the temple of some aquatic -- and now religiously offended -- species.

  13. @kelvingreen:

    Would this be the same outcrop the harpies are nesting on?

  14. C'nor, if you want, but I was imagining that the outcrop would be submerged and thus unsuitable for harpy nesting.

  15. Ah, that makes sense. Perhaps it's the temple of the aquatic drow?

  16. The ship suffers some minor hull damage. While conducting repairs, a body is discovered stuffed into the bilges. It is the captain. So who -- or what -- is that up on deck, giving the orders?

  17. If the ship is armed, seawater has got into the powder stores, rendering all of the vessel's cannons useless. Or the ship's weaponry has broken free and been lost to the depths. That sort of thing.

    If the ship is not armed, roll again.

  18. Or the kuo-toa enclave. Or none of those. It's your underwater rock.

  19. After the horrible storm last night 18 crewmen (6 on each, rather than all of them from one) were found dead, hanging by their ankles. All of them have a strange symbol branded into their forehead.

  20. *That should read "hanging by their ankles from the masts."

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  22. The hull suffers minor damage. While helping with repairs to a relatively secluded section of the vessel, a player-character is approached by a crew member who reveals that he and his mates are not paid volunteers, but rather slaves, and that they want the player-characters to free them.


    C'nor, again, if you like. I'd prefer to have more options on a table, even if they are a bit similar, rather than folding them into one entry. But that's just me; others may have different desires.


    ChicagoWiz, thanks, it's appreciated.

  23. 5 - You have sailed into an Infernal Storm. The Lightning Devil is dancing on your main master, wielding the Eye of the Storm in his claws.

  24. Perfect constraints for the table. How about:

    -Hole in the hull, must throw some (10%? x pounds?) cargo overboard to lift it above the waterline and sail light until it's repaired.

    -Important crew member lost overboard to the briny deep(cook? navigator? surgeon? translator?).

    I really like Fitz' listing idea: battles on a crazily sloped deck might be exciting.

  25. The ship's maps and navigational charts are lost or damaged to the point of uselessness. The ship's navigator must attempt to guide the vessel to port based on memory of their last position: roll once per day against whatever skill or attribute is deemed appropriate, at a relevant penalty. Every failure adds a day to the journey, with the attendant chance of a random ocean encounter.

    (And I'll stop at ten for now.)

  26. - fire in the galley! someone neglected their duties and left hot coals in the stone stove. during the storm they fell out and started a fire in the front part of the ship. The party has to declare their actions in 1d8 simple sentences, otherwise:

    1 - the fire damages the foremast, if another storm occurs, the mast will break
    2 - the fire spreads to the cannon deck, chance of expolsion
    3 - the fire damages the outer hull and the ship starts taking water
    4 - the fire burns through the planks of the galley floor, damages the stem and cut water. the ship starts taking water and can only travel at 50% of it's speed

  27. The players have sailed too close to the Kejenar Islands. Their magical defenses have trapped the ship in an gigantic Bag of Holding. There is no telling what they may encounter within.

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  29. Lightning or somesuch has struck the a mast (roll to see which). Everybody needs to dodge out of the way to avoid getting hit and/or knocked overboard AAAAAnd if major repairs are not made, future control rolls are at minus 5

  30. Rogue wave snaps the rudder control line. The ship's wheel is now useless. Until repaired (significant difficulty, especially in high seas) the ship can only run before the wind. Roll randomly for direction.

  31. Someone fails to make a line double-tight. On a large swell, the largest weapon on deck (cannon, trebuchet, ballista, etc) breaks free and is now rolling loose across the deck. Odds are, it will smash through the railing and go overboard; Dex checks for everyone in the vicinity, to avoid going with it... or under it... (worst case: the weapon rolls through an open hatch, crashing through the hull... but what are the odds *that* could happen, right?...)

  32. - The ship has become ensnared in a patch of dreaded Catch-Wrack. If not removed, it will attempt to send its tendrils wriggling through cracks and holes in the ship in order to prise it open.

    - A large wave sweeps the deck, washing any objects that aren't tied down into the sea.

  33. Hit an unseen underwater obstacle (nature TBD - anything from a really large submerged log to the top of a drowned tower slowly rising from the depths, that's a plot thing outside what was asked for.) Minor damage from sprung boards below the waterline to starboard, an easy 10 minute fix to patch. Such a quick patch won't hold up to a serious storm or further damage, a permanent fix will require 2 hours work for a skilled carpenter or boatwright with at least one helper, with some time needed outside the boat submerged. Additional stress without the permanent fix will cause the boat to rapidly take on water and list to the side: -5 to future control rolls.

  34. Fun ship difficulties (some from literature):

    * You ship has been holed below the wateline. Unfortunately you don't notice until it's too late because that massive cargo of rice you're carrying has been soaking it up.

    * Remeber when you refitted your ship last time? Remember when you argued with the man in charge of the yard, calling him a usurious cross-eyed theiving bastard? Um, yeah, he took that personally, which is why these bolts don't actually go all the way through.

    * Great bargain on that cattle at the last port of call, captain! Except for the anthrax part.

    * Yeah, too bad that passenger's a succubus, huh?

    * I suppose you'll never transport prisoners again, what with the plague and all.

  35. 33. You've failed to notice up until now that the "water" is a painted tarp stretched out. The sky and horizons are part of a massive globe set over said tarp. Getting off the ship, you realize it's suspended on a piston, extending through a hole in the tarp, pumping the ship up and down in wave-like motions. Cutting through the tarp, you discover....

    89. Thunnnnnnkkk!!! You've sailed straight into a giant green pipe sticking out of the ocean. It's wide enough for a man to jump down. It leads to a dark chamber with 1d20 gold coins and an ancient bronze chest with a strange glyph inlaid on one face in gold. Inside is: 1) The tanned flesh of a giant frog. Wearing it allows one to breath water and improves swim roles. 2) Dried red flower petals. Eating them allows one to cast a level 1 fireball. 3) A gold pentagram. Allows the bearer to kill one creature with a touch attack. 4) The desiccated hide of a raccoon-like demon with an enormous scrotum. Wearing the hide allows one to turn to stone at will. 5) A large metal box with strange glyphs. Dropping it will cause an earthquake, leading to a tsunami if done on the ocean. 6) A shriveled mushroom. Eating it doubles one's size. The effect ends when one's hit points are reduced by half the increased total.

    893844. The ship is overtaken by a man flying a cloud, hurtling spiked balls at the ship and rending the sails. If he can be killed the cloud can be claimed - it is quite solid and responds to the rider's thoughts. Otherwise he will attempt to land and claim the wheel - at which point the ship will take flight.

    4. Who knew gelatinous cubes could float. Or get that big. Or that they mated. Or that you could sail a ship between them.

  36. A sudden change in the wind causes the ship to be carried off course for 1d4 days or until the wind can be made to subside (Wind/Air Based Magic, Speaking with Elementals or the Wind itself, etc.)

    The ship is lost in a storm for several hours and accidentally disrupts the morning mass of the Sea Bishop and his Monk Fish. Players must retrieve a holy artifact lost in the commotion.

    A sand bar not too far off the coast is just large enough to run her (the ship) aground. There is nothing supernatural about the bar itself but maps do not make note of the hazard. It was likely caused by:

    1-2 An undersea earthquake. More are coming
    3-4 The movement of Leviathan or the Midgard Serpent
    5-6 Giants playing a water polo like game of hurling.

    My guys are at sea a lot.

  37. Just in case your players like to smoke... (and whose don't...) When stubbing out a butt or tapping out a pipe, chances are that there's something flammable nearby (tar, powder, canvas, etc). But hey, at least there's plenty of water nearby, right?...

  38. The ship's journey is interrupted by a rare sight: a school of flying fish, leaping from the water and sailing onto and over the deck. Squeals of surpise, wonder, and delight from everyone. Then they notice the red eyes. And the long, translucent fangs. And the bat wings. Roll for initiative, please... and *what's* your poison save, again?...

  39. The 33 Islands of Ironic Justice.

  40. Remember folks, this is for failed handling rolls, not for random stuff that happens at sea.

    * One of the sails was left hoisted too long in the storm (/ come up with other excuse). That mast has now snapped, and the ship suffers a 1/3rd reduction in speed. Maybe you can jury-rig a jury-righ, in which case only 1/4 reduction. Or a 1/2 reduction if you do poorly enough.

    * One of the PCs fell asleep while on lookout duty. Surprise seamonster attack, and that PC will suffer -4 to Charisma checks the rest of the time on the boat or until (s)he pulls off something particularly heroic.

    * Your terrible handling has caused the sounder to lose his cord. Ship is at -2 to handling until a new one is fashioned, at at a much higher chance of running aground.

    * You're caught in a whirlpool. Haha, you're fucked! You have 1d4 in-game hours to get yourself out. Possible routes to escape include calling a friendly seacreature to pull the ship to safety, fighting your way to a landing boat to escape on by rowing (only possible in the first 1/4th of time available, and then you're stuck at sea), keeping calm on deck and pulling out the oars, plugging the hole causing the whirlpool, etc..

    In case of failure, either TPK or the party wakes up in an underground sea clinging to driftwood and must fashion a raft, get to a safe shore, and climb up the nearest dungeon to the shore; GM's discretion.

    * You've lost your flag! And the next ship you spot just happens to be one of the largest and most bad-ass from your own country. You can either fight them (good luck winning, they're far more bad-ass than you are) or let them board and explain the problem -- just hope you've gotten rid of anything illegal onboard. And given how most ships work, that contraband pipeweed is going to be the least of your troubles.

    * "You said go south, so I just followed the South Star."
    "You idiot, there is no polestar in the south!"

    Spend 1d4 days replotting course. You are 2d4 days off course at the end of that. You are no longer allowed to navigate, and must pay a 50% increase in your toll for sailing for the lost time.

  41. The Cursed Diomedea

    A very large brown albatross is disturbed by the ship's passage. She flies up and roosts on one of the crosstrees. The albatross is cursed and has terrible dreams that prevent it (...and any other creatures nearby...) from having a fitful sleep and causes it to call out loudly in terror every 1d6 times/ round. (Perhaps attracting larger predators. Roll for on appropriate random monster encounter table, discarding smaller-sized creatures.)

    If offered food or water, it will befriend the party.
    If cured, or otherwise healed, it will remain loyal to whomever healed it, but will not enter any buildings or dungeons, preferring to perch outside or circle above.

    If angered or otherwise disturbed, it will befoul the sails and deck with its acidic and infectious wastes.

    This acid will eat through sail cloth at the rate of 1-2 feet/round or wood at 1-6 inches every TWO rounds.

    The acid can be diluted/neutralized by seawater.

    If the diseased waste remains on the deck to dry for 1-2 days without being removed, it will become infectious when disturbed. (Infected on a 1 or 3 on a d6)

    Signs and symptoms appear within 3-12 (3d4) days after exposure. These may include:

    Coughing, chest pain
    Loss of appetite
    Weakness or fatigue
    Nausea, vomiting

    The diseased wastes can be removed by seawater.
    The disease by the appropriate healing spell.

    Added: If the albatross is killed, go with ChicagoWiz's scenario...

  42. Nest of Spiders

    There is a nest of spiders in a crate of bananas in the cargo. Failing a check will result in the crate falling to the deck and releasing the spiders.

    They will come out onto deck in search of food and will increase in number every round (#Appearing: 1d4, 1d8, 2d20, 2d00, 4d00, and finally 8d00) looking for any warm blooded creatures to feed on.

    They will bite once (At a one quarter (1/4) of a hit point of damage!) and then drop off to scuttle away.

    If those that fed were not killed, 50% of them will lay eggs that will hatch in 3-5 days (1d4+2).

    When these eggs hatch, repeat this encounter with 3x (Three times!) the number of spiders appearing. Repeat until exterminated or another food source for the spiders is available.

    *A calculator is recommended for running this encounter.

  43. Fouled Rudder

    The rudder has become stuck.

    Ship will only sail to Port (left) or Starboard (Right) and will continue in that direction for d8 rounds or until the debris is cut away from around it.

    Add an hour's delay to voyage for every round spent sailing this way.

  44. Congratulations! You have found the coast!
    Unfortunately the tide rushing in prevents you from avoiding smashing on the rocks, except by entering the fjord/narrows of Peril.
    On one side lurks a swarm of mating Hydrae, on the other the living vortex known as Sekolah's Maw.

  45. Due to a slight mis-reading of charts and doing of the navigational maths the boat is now lost at sea. Which is the perfect place to find the Sinking Isle of Woe (Codex optional) that has risen up around you, placing the ship in the middle of a land-locked sea/lake until the Island sinks (or more likely is MADE to sink) into the briny deeps again.

  46. Something VERY bad has happened on the Poop Deck. Make a CON check or vomiting makes you weak (-4 STR and DEX) for 6-12 turns.

  47. That's no normal storm... the ship is running on the front of a terrible storm, complete with evil purple-hued clouds, red lightning, and cacophonic screams. The only way to avoid it is to put on full sail and keep ahead of it till it dies out.

    For a bonus, there's another ship caught in the same situation, and they just happen to represent a nation bitterly at war with your own.

  48. Horrendous brain fart results in you leaving topsails deployed on mainmast/foremast and/or mizzenmast (assuming ship has such). Wind has now snapped the masts, laving the sails, booms and top parts of the mast tangled in the ratlines and rigging.
    60 man-hours (in good conditions) to carefully clean-up the mess, 6 if you don't mind the details/consequences (like cutting everything and shoving it into the sea). If a storm is still raging around you, double this.
    Navigation, propulsion, and even crossing the main decks become much more hazardous with swaying netting and giant-sized clubs swinging about in the wind.

  49. a) You are so busy mismanaging the ship that you fail to notice the large iceberg you're about to run into. Ship takes 1d8 in hull damage per 10,000 gp weight of cargo (or equivalent for whatever system), half if a saving throw to pilot the ship again is successful.

    b) You vigorously steer the ship this way and that to maintain control... a bit too vigorously. The pilot wheel breaks, ship can adjust speed but not heading until repaired.

    c) Amid the ship's tossing and confusion on deck, someone slips over the rails. Man overboard! Determine who it is randomly.

    d) You ordered the ship's cook on deck to help, but forget to tell him to put out his fire. Below decks is aflame, causing hull damage every round. It requires 1d8 man-rounds to extinguish the fire, but you have to decide how many people to send before you roll. It takes sailors on deck one round to get below decks and another to get back to their stations, so you will be short-handed for at least 3 rounds. The fire does hull damage per round if it's not dealt with: 1, d4, d6, 2d4, 2d6, 3d4, 3d6, +1d6 per round thereafter.

    e) You panic and lose control of the ship. Whoever is the highest level (or next-highest, if the person losing control was the highest), with a 1-point bonus for each point of Charisma over 15, has the strongest personality and is now issuing orders. The crew will follow the new leader over the old for the remainder of the voyage, so you had better be prepared to bribe him or her once you get out of this mess.

    f) As immediately above but the crew mutinies and afterwards either dumps you and your companions in the longboat or maroons you on an island.

    g) You tell someone to do the exact opposite of what you wanted them to do, and as a result the next time you have a die roll for hull damage, losses, distance blown off course, etc, instead of rolling you simply take the worst possible result.

    h) You have seriously annoyed the enormously large giant wearing your ship for a hat. He shakes the ship upside down, causing you to lose percentages of people and cargo equal to 1d6*10 and 1d4*20 percent of your total, respectively.

  50. You encounter a shipwrecked human. She is actually a retired succubus, and has taken up a new line of work. There is a 75% chance that she is an adventuring class, and will try to join the party. if not she will be a merchant, and provide them a discount for rescuing her.

  51. I'd just like to say thanks for the ship diagram. That could be a very useful reference when I'm dealing with concept artists, or having to map out such vessels.

  52. i) Carelessness has caused someone to get tangled in the riggings. The person must make an appropriate saving throw every round while caught or die; any round they succeed they can try to make a dex save on 2d12 to escape. Otherwise someone can cut them down, with a -1/-5% on future sailing rolls until repaired. If the person dies while stuck, all NPC crew will be at -1 for morale-type rolls for the remainder of the voyage.

    j) A sailor, bewildered and struggling, drops a tool from the rigging, a random person on deck takes 1d8 damage.

    k) The ship has gone off-course, and you find yourself a little too close to the edge of the world. The ship is now 2d6 rounds of travel's worth of distance from the edge, and each round when the ship is 12 or fewer rounds of travel's worth away, you must make a sailing roll or drift 1 round closer. If you avoiding drifting towards the edge you can make a sail roll to move another round away, but cannot make any evasive or tactical movement relative to any other ship if it does so.

    l) In spite of everyone's best efforts, the ship founders. d6+/-morale modifiers: 1-4 Every man for himself: the crew abandon ship. You probably should too. 5+ Be British: the sailors lead a chorus of "Nearer, My Cthulhu, To Thee" and go down with the ship. Characters who do likewise become revered in song and legend for valor befitting a true sea dog.

  53. You've done it now; you've sailed the ship into a sargasso-- a vast mat of sea weed & dead winds. You're doomed, trapped off any shipping route, unable to free yourself. Unless, of course, you are able to find something that might help in the flotsam & jetsam of the sea weed...but beware of any predators that might have made this place their lair.

  54. You took a large wave broadside instead of sailing into it. 1d6 crew are washed or thrown overboard, including anyone in the crow's nest. Hurry if you want to save them - they can't swim.