log in or register to remove this ad

 

General If you could put D&D into any other non middle ages genre, what would it be?

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Seriously, though, hardly any, you would need to add some sort of specialized combat system for ship battles, depending on how historical you want to get with them.
This is the one bit of design I've actually already done...well, sort of, anyway...ship-v-ship combat using mounted tween-decks ballistae to replace cannons.

Good point [MENTION=19675]Dannyalcatraz[/MENTION] regarding weather magic; that would have to be reined in (though not necessarily eliminated). In fact, most ranged spells become problematic sooner or later in this milieu - even a simple Hold Person on another ship's helmsman could ruin its whole day, along with that of the third ship it then crashes into.

Is the answer then to somehow make casting from shipboard very difficult - e.g. a very high chance of failure unless the spell targets only the caster or something the caster can reach out and touch?

The other aspect that really gets in the way here is non-standard PC means of travel - flight, teleport, dimension door, etc., particularly by device rather than spell.

If you just want to do a Pirate Movie kinda Age of Sail, though, the action will usually come down to boarding, anyway, and the kind of relatively small-scale combats already familiar in D&D.
Yes - things like ramming, boarding, and on-deck combat are already easy to handle. It's the ship-v-ship stuff, and somehow being able to break resolution out to that scale (which for one thing is much slower - each ship-v-ship combat "round" might well be several minutes long) while at the same time being able to account for PC actions.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Is the answer then to somehow make casting from shipboard very difficult - e.g. a very high chance of failure unless the spell targets only the caster or something the caster can reach out and touch?
That'd've been the 1e answer, as I recall, casting from the back of a moving mount or a pitching ship's deck was out of the question. A stately walk or a perfectly calm sea at best, /might've/ allowed casting.

Yes - things like ramming, boarding, and on-deck combat are already easy to handle. It's the ship-v-ship stuff, and somehow being able to break resolution out to that scale (which for one thing is much slower - each ship-v-ship combat "round" might well be several minutes long) while at the same time being able to account for PC actions.
Nod. I did run a long campaign that started with the PCs acquiring a pirate ship (actually I just got back to it, some of 'em just hit 26th level, the ship has wings now, and they're 'sailing' through the elemental chaos), but the ship-to-ship maneuvers and combats I handled as a skill challenge, each turn representing several minutes - enough time for a crew-served gun to complete it's full clear-load-fire cycle - with success either meaning escape (if that was the goal) or brining it to a boarding action, which would be handled as an ordinary combat.
The 'guns' were magical contrivances, and they attacked ships (or Gargantuan creatures) at off-the-map ranges, doing a lot of damage, and then making much-lesser secondary attacks on the crew.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Ship combat works as long as everyone, instead of using the tools available to him, only uses what is "age of sail" appropriate.
But when you pull out all stops ship combat needs to transform so much in order to function that it would be unrecognisable.

That includes the overabundance of fire which you can also target at range, the possibility of staying underwater and thus be completely immune to every weapon a ship has allowing you to destroy if from below, flight magic, etc.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Hold Person on another ship's helmsman could ruin its whole day, along with that of the third ship it then crashes into.

Would it really? I guess it depends on whether or not you care much about realism (and I admit I haven't read the Saltmarsh naval rules) but ships don't turn on a dime. It lasts at most for a minute, presumably someone would notice the helmsman wasn't doing their job and stop anything too dramatic from happening. Of course real world and D&D don't always mix so I guess it depends on the implementation of ships. You could always just make concentration checks saying that being in a naval battle is equivalent to the "storm tossed ship" mentioned in the PHB.

Spells would change combat so it depends on the genre you're trying to emulate and how closely. At a certain point if you're going for a feel of historical simulation you're going to have to pretty much get rid of magic altogether, but that has a lot of ripple effects.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Spells would change combat so it depends on the genre you're trying to emulate and how closely. At a certain point if you're going for a feel of historical simulation you're going to have to pretty much get rid of magic altogether, but that has a lot of ripple effects.
At a certain points flying wizards launching off the deck of a large vessel dedicated to caring and providing for said wizards and supported by a flotilla of smaller ships starts to make sense. Actually engaging in ship to ship combat is silly if you can just send some Fight Wizards to attack from above, plus it lets you strike in land with your FW-18 groups.

This can be achieved with either wizards able to cast the Fly spell, or by providing your attackers flying magic items. I can see a large flying carpet and a bag of holding full of alchemists fire being a problem/solution.
 
Last edited:

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Good point @Dannyalcatraz regarding weather magic; that would have to be reined in (though not necessarily eliminated). In fact, most ranged spells become problematic sooner or later in this milieu - even a simple Hold Person on another ship's helmsman could ruin its whole day, along with that of the third ship it then crashes into.

Is the answer then to somehow make casting from shipboard very difficult - e.g. a very high chance of failure unless the spell targets only the caster or something the caster can reach out and touch?
Not just weather magic- anything vaguely elemental...including summonings. I mean, a fireball is an obvious threat to a classical sailing vessel, even moreso if it has gunpowder. But so are spells like pyrotechnics or any summon spell that unleashes any creature of elemental fire on board.

Couple that Hold Person with a Gust of Wind?

Create a Wall of Ice in the course of a wooden hulled ship?

Warp Wood?

An Everflowing Bottle powering a paddlewheel? Or a steam engine that used a tiny portal to the elemental plane of fire for heat and a similar elemental portal for its water? (Steamjammers?) If you can make an airtight vessel, submarines become possible with a portal to Air.

Non elemental magic is equally problematic: Magic Missile, Web & Sleep wands deployed at the guys manning the rigging? Illusions making sailors see sea dragons or sahuagin...or sirens?

Honestly, if the people inhabiting a standard D&D campaign world were ACTUALLY like us, magic spells would almost preclude the existence of armed sailing vessels.
 
Last edited:


Saelorn

Hero
Honestly, if the people inhabiting a standard D&D campaign world were ACTUALLY like us, magic spells would almost preclude the existence of armed sailing vessels.
There's no consensus on what a "standard" D&D campaign world is.

If you start with the observation that armed sailing vessels exist within your campaign world, then you can use that to help derive expectations about how common high-level wizards must be. I mean, they have to be rare enough to not preclude armed sailing vessels, right?
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
There's no consensus on what a "standard" D&D campaign world is.

If you start with the observation that armed sailing vessels exist within your campaign world, then you can use that to help derive expectations about how common high-level wizards must be. I mean, they have to be rare enough to not preclude armed sailing vessels, right?
Or you end up with the wizard carrier RCS (Royal Cormyr Ship) Azoun IV, with its flotilla of support vessels, launching its flying characters/creatures who engage in dogfights (some of which involve with actual flying dogs).

We have armed ships now but if we're being honest about it they don't generally attack other armed ships of the same category. We don't have modern battleship standoffs because we don't need to, that ended once effective aircraft carriers became available during WWII. I might have been making a joke, but if your D&D setting has relatively easy and available flight treating ships to ship combat like an aircraft carrier and its fleet group isn't a bad way to go. Lone ships are still a thing, but just like today a lone frigate to destroyer isn't going challenge an aircraft carrier battle group it however is a real threat to smugglers and pirates.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
There's no consensus on what a "standard" D&D campaign world is.
I’m using that phrase in the sense of PHB/DMG magic is available at the bare minimum, with caster demographics in some range between what DMGs suggest and what is actually implied in official campaign settings, modules, adventure paths, etc.

Homebrews obviously differ. And an “Age of Sail” campaign would basically have to.

If you start with the observation that armed sailing vessels exist within your campaign world, then you can use that to help derive expectations about how common high-level wizards must be. I mean, they have to be rare enough to not preclude armed sailing vessels, right?
Depends on how you define “High level”, doesn’t it? As I pointed out, there’s a host of Lvl 1-3 spells that would be serious hazards to RW “Age of Sail” ships. A single well placed Fireball could destroy a ship equipped with blackpowder cannon. So could a Flaming Sphere.

Pyrotechnics could flood the gunnery deck with choking smoke, silencing its cannons. See also Sleep, Stinking Cloud, Web, etc.

How many properly targeted Magic Missiles would it take to seriously affect a ship’s ability to maneuver? I could easily see an expansive naval power teaching THAT spell to every sailor capable of learning it. Maybe a few others.

Imagine, then, Viking longships or even Roman Triremes with a contingent of sailors just literate enough to cast 1st level spells. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” indeed. Fast forward to the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese fleets of later centuries, learning well the naval tactics of their predecessors.

IOW, D&D magic as written essentially acts like a turbocharger for forces within society creating a world more like ours. Why? Because those spells were written by modern people looking back with at least a partial eye on recreating modern effects in an otherwise archaic world.
 
Last edited:

Saelorn

Hero
I’m using that phrase in the sense of PHB/DMG magic is available at the bare minimum, with caster demographics in some range between what DMGs suggest and what is actually implied in official campaign settings, modules, adventure paths, etc.
I was under the impression that 5E used The Forgotten Realms as its default placeholder, simply because it's well-known. That's a ludicrously high-magic setting, though. I certainly wouldn't consider it to be typical.
Depends on how you define “High level”, doesn’t it? As I pointed out, there’s a host of Lvl 1-3 spells that would be serious hazards to RW “Age of Sail” ships. A single well placed Fireball could destroy a ship equipped with blackpowder cannon. So could a Flaming Sphere.
I remember at least one book which described a level 6 wizard as "unthinkably high level." Obviously, if fire-throwing wizards are available in any town, then that's a far different world than one where most people never see a wizard. It's not hard to suggest that boats work as we remember they do, as long as the few wizards who might pose a disruption are capable of controlling themselves, so that the ship-building powers don't notice them.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Imagine, then, Viking longships or even Roman Triremes with a contingent of sailors just literate enough to cast 1st level spells. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” indeed. Fast forward to the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese fleets of later centuries, learning well the naval tactics of their predecessors.
Interesting thought. Did you know that when new fangled steam powered ironsided ships were being built there was a thought that old methods of ship battles wouldn't work, and that they would have to resort to ramming each other like the Greek and Romans did? Turns out ironsided ships were too slow and not maneuverable enough to ram and somebody just figured out how to put bigger guns on them.

The way around attacking easily from a distance is to figure out how hurt your enemy from farther away than he can hurt you. This is why we have aircraft carriers now, along with intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Romans didn't have effective ways of sinking a ship from a distance, sure they should shoot it full of arrows, or try to set it on fire, but the best way to do it was ramming. Fast forward 1700 years and we have cannons that can blow holes in ship to sink them, or set them on fire, or kill the crew, but you had to be able to see the ship visually. Fast forward 300 more years and now you don't need to see an enemy ship personally, your AWACs support aircraft has it on RADAR and is feeding your control system the location, a missile is launched and the enemy doesn't even see it before their ship is sinking.

You can apply the same logic to D&D games. Most modern ships don't have support AWACs to help them if something happens. Pirates certainly don't, even if pirates managed to get themselves a moderately sized ship they could mount proper artillery/naval guns too (where do they even get those?) they don't have the support system a modern military has available. In the same vein I'd suggest a D&D setting probably doesn't have enough wizards for every ship, even if I like the idea of flying blink dogs being your ship's aerial support just so we can have literal dog fights.

All that said, don't even bother with wizards. What if the pirate ship is captained by a beholder? That thing just disintegrates holes the hull.

I guess my point is don't over think D&D and ship combat too much. You'll end up in a weird place that doesn't necessarily make sense the way you want it to. Just roll with wizards working like particularly effective artillery and it works out in the end. This is especially true since the game revolves around the PCs being in the spot light, not the ship wizard of The Albatross (who is probably stat'd out as an NPC wizard/apprentice not a PC).
 
Last edited:

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I was under the impression that 5E used The Forgotten Realms as its default placeholder, simply because it's well-known. That's a ludicrously high-magic setting, though. I certainly wouldn't consider it to be typical.
I wasn’t even thinking in terms of 5Ed. My own DMing experiences cover AD&D to 3.5Ed.

I remember at least one book which described a level 6 wizard as "unthinkably high level." Obviously, if fire-throwing wizards are available in any town, then that's a far different world than one where most people never see a wizard. It's not hard to suggest that boats work as we remember they do, as long as the few wizards who might pose a disruption are capable of controlling themselves, so that the ship-building powers don't notice them.
It doesn’t have to be “every town”. Consider the draft or press gangs. Consider how the Romans filled their ranks. Consider how poverty and patriotism both get people to sign up. Consider Edward III of England's declaration of 1363 mandating for every Briton to learn the longbow.

Borrowing concepts from history and fiction, spellcasting might be as closely monitored as mutants in Marvel comics. Not to eradicate the threat, but to get them into the military. See also Babylon 5’s Psi Corps.

Between voluntary and (relatively) involuntary service, a nation state intent on ruling the high seas could field an impressive armada of spellcaster-equipped ships.

[video=youtube;nmGuy0jievs]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmGuy0jievs[/video]
 

Saelorn

Hero
Between voluntary and (relatively) involuntary service, a nation state intent on ruling the high seas could field an impressive armada of spellcaster-equipped ships.
There are a lot of setting assumptions involved, before it becomes remotely feasible to mandate that every adult in the nation be capable of casting Magic Missile. I'm not saying that you couldn't do it, if you really wanted to, but it would require an awfully broad-magic setting. That's like the idea behind Eberron, taken to an extreme.

As a rough guideline, I usually say that it takes seven years of study before you can cast a level one spell, and any given teacher can only work with 1-3 apprentices at a time. Maybe .02% of the population would ever have the opportunity to learn magic, and most of them have better things to do with their life.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
At a certain points flying wizards launching off the deck of a large vessel dedicated to caring and providing for said wizards and supported by a flotilla of smaller ships starts to make sense. Actually engaging in ship to ship combat is silly if you can just send some Fight Wizards to attack from above, plus it lets you strike in land with your FW-18 groups.

This can be achieved with either wizards able to cast the Fly spell, or by providing your attackers flying magic items. I can see a large flying carpet and a bag of holding full of alchemists fire being a problem/solution.
In my home campaign at higher levels flying in to battle seems to be pretty standard. The only requirement I have is that somebody start humming "Flight of the Valkarie" the first time it happens. :D

As far as magic and sail, a lot of it depends how many high level wizards there are in the world. Is it 10% of the population, 1% or .01%? How many of those wizards going to be living/working on a sailing ship? What countermeasures are there? Because I always assume that there is magic and magical countermeasures that are not listed in the PHB. That magic is not as flashy or quickly cast as that of a wizard but it is just as effective if not more so.

In other words, the sails may be warded against fire (at least fireballs), there are magical enhancements to sailing that don't totally transform ships but may enhance it's functionality.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Interesting thought. Did you know that when new fangled steam powered ironsided ships were being built there was a thought that old methods of ship battles wouldn't work, and that they would have to resort to ramming each other like the Greek and Romans did? Turns out ironsided ships were too slow and not maneuverable enough to ram and somebody just figured out how to put bigger guns on them.
Yes. I knew that. But so far, we’re still mostly discussing wooden sailing ships, not Ironsides ones.

That said, there’s plenty of spells in D&D that would make battle on an even an ironsided ship more difficult than in our world. The aforementioned Warp wood is one. Heat metal is another.

Shrink Item is probably a must-have for an arcane saboteur.

The way around attacking easily from a distance is to figure out how hurt your enemy from farther away than he can hurt you. This is why we have aircraft carriers now, along with intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Romans didn't have effective ways of sinking a ship from a distance, sure they should shoot it full of arrows, or try to set it on fire, but the best way to do it was ramming. Fast forward 1700 years and we have cannons that can blow holes in ship to sink them, or set them on fire, or kill the crew, but you had to be able to see the ship visually. Fast forward 300 more years and now you don't need to see an enemy ship personally, your AWACs support aircraft has it on RADAR and is feeding your control system the location, a missile is launched and the enemy doesn't even see it before their ship is sinking.
And some magic spells- including the aforementioned Fireball- have fairly long ranges. Not as long as cannon, but long enough. And with accuracy being less of an issue.

How many cannon shots does it take on average to sink a warship?

All a caster need do is get a single Fireball to explode within its AoE of the gunpowder. How many times does a caster mistarget a Fireball?

Now imagine the discussion about manning a ship that essentially will be a bomb if it gets too close.

“Don’t get close, then.”

If there’s an elementalist, Druid or weather wizard on board, you may not have as much to say about the range as you might like.

You can apply the same logic to D&D games. Most modern ships don't have support AWACs to help them if something happens. Pirates certainly don't, even if pirates managed to get themselves a moderately sized ship they could mount proper artillery/naval guns too (where do they even get those?) they don't have the support system a modern military has available. In the same vein I'd suggest a D&D setting probably doesn't have enough wizards for every ship, even if I like the idea of flying blink dogs being your ship's aerial support just so we can have literal dog fights.
You don’t need a 6th level caster for every ship. You don’t need AWACS.

An edict creating a cadre of well-compensated magical craftsmen under the seal of the crown could pump out a fair number of low powered wands and other dangerous magical items. And the UMD ability or ability to utter a command is going to be exponentially more common than actual casters.

And a smart ruler intent on ruling the seas would do exactly that.

All that said, don't even bother with wizards. What if the pirate ship is captained by a beholder? That thing just disintegrates holes the hull.
They’re not exactly sociable enough to want to command a crew. I mean, it could happen- I have a beholder who runs a Thieves’/Assassins guild- but that would be what...one ship out of tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

I guess my point is don't over think D&D and ship combat too much. You'll end up in a weird place that doesn't necessarily make sense the way you want it to. Just roll with wizards working like particularly effective artillery and it works out in the end. This is especially true since the game revolves around the PCs being in the spot light, not the ship wizard of The Albatross (who is probably stat'd out as an NPC wizard/apprentice not a PC).
It’s too late for me. I’ve been considering D&D magic and how it would reshape societies and warfare for decades. I don’t often change the worlds from the D&D defaults in that sense, but it’s always part of my thought process.

...just in case one of MY casters wants to be nasty.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
There are a lot of setting assumptions involved, before it becomes remotely feasible to mandate that every adult in the nation be capable of casting Magic Missile.
I didn’t say “every adult”. I am saying those capable of doing so might be required to do so- as per the King’s edict- and the probability of any soldier capable of learning it in the service of an expansionist power would be very high.

I'm not saying that you couldn't do it, if you really wanted to, but it would require an awfully broad-magic setting. That's like the idea behind Eberron, taken to an extreme.
The 2 main things required- going back to 1Ed- would be literacy and an intelligence of 9 or better.

As a rough guideline, I usually say that it takes seven years of study before you can cast a level one spell, and any given teacher can only work with 1-3 apprentices at a time. Maybe .02% of the population would ever have the opportunity to learn magic, and most of them have better things to do with their life.
The DMG has similar guidelines...but the published adventure materials toss those guidelines out of the window like a 4 day old chamber pot.

And everyone has better things to do than making war. But wars still happen, and people get pulled away from their better pursuits to go kill for king & country, kith & kin.

The time Englishmen put in on learning the bow took them away from other work, without doubt. OTOH, it not only helped defend the land- locally and nationally- it was useful in common life. It provided food. It eliminated predators and miscreants.

...and MM would work similarly, if not at so great a range.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
As far as magic and sail, a lot of it depends how many high level wizards there are in the world. Is it 10% of the population, 1% or .01%? How many of those wizards going to be living/working on a sailing ship? What countermeasures are there? Because I always assume that there is magic and magical countermeasures that are not listed in the PHB. That magic is not as flashy or quickly cast as that of a wizard but it is just as effective if not more so.

In other words, the sails may be warded against fire (at least fireballs), there are magical enhancements to sailing that don't totally transform ships but may enhance it's functionality.
Agreed on all points.

But what’s the countermeasure for protecting gunpowder from fire, mundane or magical? And how quickly can it be dropped in order to make it functional again?
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Agreed on all points.

But what’s the countermeasure for protecting gunpowder from fire, mundane or magical? And how quickly can it be dropped in order to make it functional again?
Just create a spell that wards barrels against fire. It's a hyper-specialized spell, so it can be fairly low level, and you don't have to remove the enchantment to use the gunpowder.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Part of this depends as well on whether you have low level NPC wizards. Think level 0 casters that can only cast cantrips but have control flames or fire bolt. Maybe they're only trained well enough to use wands. Controlling fire on a boat whether caused by a fireball or a clumsy sailor with a lamp would be incredibly beneficial.
 

Most Liked Threads

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top