Ocean journeys are a dangerous business, especially in a fantasy world. Sea
serpents, incredible maelstroms, and other imaginary horrors that filled the maps
of medieval navigators really can lurk in the deeps of the AD&D game's oceans.
Not that they are really necessary—pirates, storms, hidden shoals, and
primitive navigational techniques leave the typical sea captain with more than enough
danger to cope with.
Deep-sea sailing is pretty much unknown in the AD&D game world. The majority
of captains prefer to stay close to known coasts. Without navigation equipment
only a few ships venture into open water beyond the sight of land. Ship-building
skills are not fully up to the needs of deep-sea sailing. Most ships are
easily swamped by the stormy waters of major oceans, while their small size prevents
crews from carrying adequate supplies for long voyages. Even the skills of
sail-handling are in their rudimentary stages.
However, these limitations are not serious in a fantasy world. Those with
wealth can cross oceans by other, more practical, means: flying mounts, undersea
dwellers, and teleportation are all available, at least to the rich and powerful.
(The vast majority of the population does not have access to these forms of
travel.) Also, magical transport is impractical for moving large cargoes. The
need to move goods and the scarcity of magical transport make sailing a valuable
and necessary art.
Table 77 lists ships that could commonly be found in a medieval world. The table lists
basic game information about each ship: base speed, emergency speed, and
seaworthiness. More information about each ship is given in the chapter on Money and Equipment in the Player's Handbook.
Base move per hour is the average speed of the vessel under good conditions. Where two numbers
are separated by a slash, the first is the speed under sail and the second is the
To determine the movement of a ship per round (in rare occasions where this is
necessary), multiply the current speed times 30. This is the yards traveled
Emergency move is the top speed of the vessel in emergency or combat situations. For sailing
ships, emergency speed is gained by putting on every yard of sail possible.
Galleys and other oared ships rely on the strength of their rowers. This speed can
only be maintained for short periods of time. Too long and rowers will
collapse; masts, yards, and sails will break.
Seaworthiness rates the vessel's ability to remain afloat in dangerous situations, notably
storms, hidden shoals, extended voyages, huge monster attacks, and rams. Any
time the DM rules that there is a chance of sinking, he rolls percentile dice. If
the roll is equal to or less than the seaworthiness rating of the ship, it
remains afloat, though bailing or repairs may be necessary. If the roll is higher
than the seaworthiness rating, the ship sinks.
Ports and anchorages give a seaworthiness bonus of +50%. Thus, vessels at
anchor are in little or no danger from a normal storm.
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