Ship Combat (Apath)

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Unofficial rules compendium

These are modifications to the Ship Combat rules from the Skull & Shackles Player's Guide.


Interception is run in 4 hour "watches". Make one roll on the initial sighting and one every 4 hours after that. Each turn, ships make opposed die rolls, using the highest available skill value for the relevant skill. Depending on the tactics used different skills or abilities are rolled. One of the sides has an advantage; the advantage begins with the prey. The disadvantaged side chooses the tactic employed, which decides what skills are rolled.

  • Bluff: Tactics like fake flags or other subterfuge. Once only per side. Disadvantaged side rolls Bluff vs. Sense Motive.
  • Cat & Mouse: Trying to use night, sun glare, mist or some such to hide. Can be used when prey has advantage (long range) or as dictated by the situation. Roll opposed Perception. If one side has a perception advantage the other lacks, such as lowlight vision at night or high-flying scouts in the day, it gains a +5 bonus.
  • Outmaneuver: Using terrain, wind, and waves against the opponent. Each side rolls Knowledge (geography) or Survival in an opposed check. Ships in home waters may use Knowledge (local). Suitable magics add spell level to the check, one spell per side.
  • Race: This is the default maneuver. Both sides roll Profession (sailor), with a +5 bonus per 30 ft. of maximum speed.
  • Other: As devised by the situation and ingenuity.

If the side with the advantage wins, it can either choose to lose its pursuer or enter ship combat.

Ship Combat Set Up

  • Orient the map by wind direction. One short map edge becomes the windward edge.
  • Place the prey at the middle of the windward edge of the map, facing downwind.
    • Then make a Profession (sailor) check for the captain of the prey and move it one square ahead per 5 points on the roll and then an additional 1d6 squares downwind or sideways.
  • Place the hunter at the middle of the windward edge, facing downwind.
    • If the hunt ended by surprise, was 4 hours or less, or some other reason to assume a more fluid situation exists, use an alternate setup of the hunter. Roll 1d6 to see what map edge the hunter comes from, facing towards the center of the map.
      1-2 Center of windward edge
      3 Center of edge to the right
      4 Center of the edge to the left
      5-6 Center of the map, any facing desired.


In the ship combat portion of the game, only ships and lone individuals away from ships can be targeted, not individual crew members on board ships. An attacker can choose to attack the target ship's hull, or a propulsion system (rigging, oars) in use.

Attacks must hit the ship in order to cause damage, and saving throws are allowed as normal.

Once a hit is scored or a saving throw made, subtract the Hardness of the target and then multiply by a factor depending on the type of attack used. Use the first category that applies

Attack Hull or Oars Rigging
Siege engine firing burning or chain shot x1
Siege engine x1
Slashing weapon x1 x1
Fire arrow or bolt
Other personal weapon x0
Fire or Acid energy damage x1 x2
Cold, enervation, dessication, positive or negative energy damage
Other energy damage x1 x1

All parts of a ship are vulnerable to area attacks. If an area attack has a radius of 15 ft. or more, is a cone of 30 ft. or more, or has a remaining length of line of 30 ft. or more once it reaches the ship, it causes double damage. This doubling is made last, after all other modifications.

Effects and spells that technically cannot affect objects (such as magic missile' and cloud kill can be used in shipboard combat. Apply their damage to the ship, despite that it really affects the crew. If the effect has no damage normally, assume it does 1d6 per caster level, with a damage cap depending on spell level as normal.

Sneak attack can be used against ships, regardless of range. The rogue aims at a vital component of the target ship and attacks using the lower of his attack bonus and his Disable Device skill. One attempt per round only, and normal range penalties apply.

Indirect fire weapons have a hard time hitting a moving target, such as a ship. There is no accumulation of attack bonus from round to round. A failed targeting roll when firing at a ship from the front has a 50% to hit the water. If the miss did not hit the water, or the attack was from the arft or stern, the shot scatters normally.


Fire attacks to a ship's hull can start fires. Each round's worth of fire arrows and each individual attack by a fire weapon requires the ship to pass a saving throw. The DC is equal to 10 + ½ the fire damage dealt. This is based on damage after Hardness but before multipliers.

A ship on fire takes 2d6 damage each round to the ship's hull, ignoring hardness.

A ship's crew can try and put out a fire, this needs a ship's officer and a fire-fighting party from the crew. A ship with several heroic officers (such as player characters) can make one attempt for each such person not otherwise engaged. This requires a Saving throw with a DC of 25, +1 for each round the ship has been burning. A ship that puts it entire crew on fire-fighting duties, taking no other actions, gains a +10 bonus on this check. These checks do not automatically succeed on a roll of 20, it is possible for a ship to be burning so badly that the fire cannot be put out.

A ship is either on fire or it is not - multiple fires are not tracked. Once fire on a ship is put out, the ship can be lit again normally, but the difficulty of putting out the fire is back to 25.

Wind Direction

Wind direction has marked effect on the movement of sailing ships.

In Irons: A sailing ship facing into the wind loses 30 ft. of speed each turn, and cannot accelerate. It is possible to be stuck at zero speed in this position.

Running Downwind: Normal rules apply when sailing in the direction of the wind. Normal maximum speed applies.

Reaching: A ship sailing sideways to the wind lose 30 ft. of speed after each time it moves, to no less than the basic 30 ft. of speed. A captain has to constantly focus on sailing to keep speed up.

Effects of Damage

Broken Condition

Ships—and their means of propulsion—are objects, and like any other object, when they take damage in excess of half their hit points, they gain the broken condition.

When a ship or its means of propulsion gains the broken condition, it takes a –2 penalty to AC, on sailing checks, saving throws, and on combat maneuver checks. The ship’s maximum speed is halved and the ship can no longer gain the upper hand until repaired. If the ship is in motion and traveling faster than its new maximum speed, it automatically decelerates to its new maximum speed.

If the hull is broken, half of all siege engines are inoperable (check separately for each). Only half of the ship's complement of missile troops may fire.

Immobilized Condition

A ship whose means of propulsion is reduced to 0 or fewer hit points is immobilized. It can no longer move or take maneuvers. Half its crew is incapacitated. The means of propulsion can be repaired, but to no more than half it's normal hit points and it retains the broken condition until the ship undergoes extensive repairs on shore.

Sinking Condition

A ship that is reduced to 0 or fewer hit points gains the sinking condition. A sinking ship cannot move or attack, and it sinks completely in 3d100 minutes after it gains the sinking condition. Each additional point of damage reduces the remaining time for it to sink by 1 minute. A sinking ship can still burn.

Generally, nonmagical repairs take too long to save a ship from sinking once it begins to go down, but it is not impossible if it sinks slow enough. Magic (such as make whole) can repair a sinking ship. If the ship’s hit points are raised above 0 before it sinks, the ship loses the sinking condition. A ship that has been sinking can be repaired to a maximum of half its hits points until repaired on shore, and the hull retains the broken condition.

A sinking ship will drift at 5 ft. per round and can be towed at 30 ft. speed, either to a port or onto a beach. During ship combat, it is considered immobile.

A sinking ship has half its cargo destroyed by water. As the hull is normally used to provide cover for incapacitated crew, the mortality rate among incapacitated crew increases dramatically as well, see Crew below.

Sunk Condition

A ship that sinks completely drops to the bottom of the body of water and is considered destroyed. A destroyed ship cannot be repaired—it is so significantly damaged it cannot even be used for scrap material. ¾ of its cargo is lost, as well as any crew still left on board.

Crew Casualties

For each damage condition a ship suffers, ¼ of its crew and passengers are incapacitated. A ship that has a section both broken and destroyed (sinking/immobilized) has taken 50% casualties. This has no immediate effect besides the effects of the damage itself. But it depletes the ships crew for future engagements.

How many of these actually die depend a lot on the medical abilities of the ship's officers. At the end of the battle, make a Heal skill check for each incapacitated crew member to save his life. A character capable of casting the stabilize spell can substitute a concentration check for the Heal check. Using healing spells or powers adds a +5 bonus; one spell or power use is required for each such roll, but the decision to use healing can be made after the roll.

The difficulty depends on the damage suffered, and on whether medical attention was provided during the battle or only after the engagement was over. To provide medical attention during ship combat, the healer can provide no other function in the turn after the ship gains a damage condition. Each time the ship suffers a damage condition and no healer does so, the DC increases. Checks are made at the end of the battle.

In general, officers, player characters, and important NPCs are not taken out by random damage like this; it is an attrition on the crew, not a way to kill plot-worthy characters. If no nameless crew members remain to suffer incapacitation or damage, the GM has to decide what happens based on the situation.

Circumstance DC
Base DC 10
Propulsion destroyed +5
Hull broken +5
Hull damage "sinking" +10
Ship Sunk +15
Each damage step not attended to immediately +5


The prey escapes if it reaches any map edge. This usually returns to the interception stage, the escaping ship starts with the advantage.

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