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Expanded Sailing

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Expanded Sailing

Ship Options & Upgrades

Developing on the list of ships in the Dungeon Master's Handbook and drawing inspirition from other editions, this supplement provides simple rules for the inclusion of well-known sailing ship styles from the age of sail in your campaign. Want to give your pirate players a brig with a realistic crew and armament size? Sorted. Want your party to face off against the admiral of a fleet on his 100-gun 1st-rate ship-of-the-line? This has you covered.


  • Costs, stats, and historical information about a variety of sailing ships, from schooners and sloops up to galleons and 1st-rate ships-of-the-line
  • Simple actions and information to keep ship combat fluid and quick
  • Structural upgrades to enhance the survivability of your ship
  • A variety of room upgrades providing various mechanical bonuses when added to your ship
  • An expanded variety of fully statted cannon types
  • A list of thematically appropriate spells from official published material, as well as two new spells: improved mending and skeleton crew

Update v1.1 Added 4 new ship related spells intended to allow magic users to protect their ship from enemy fire: ship shield, lesser ship ward, steadfast ship ward, and superior ship ward. The assumption I made is that any spell attacking a ship will use a spell attack instead of a save, as a ship is unlikely to be able to dodge a fireball.

This supplement will be continually updated as new ideas present themselves

If you are interested in an example of these rules in practice, please check out The Boundless: A Sailing Ship, which includes ship plans and stats for an example frigate

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Discussions (8)
Customer avatar
Tony H September 17, 2018 2:51 am UTC
Any chance you can give an example of how combat should work using these rules? The only one I saw was in regard to broadside firing, which seems extremely lethal. Is broadside firing meant to have a specific range? As it stands, what's stopping a ship from turning port, broadside firing and destroying the ship in one go?

There's a mention of calculating without rolling by using size, but am I to assume if both ships are equal size every shot hits? By my math, a galleon can one shot another galleon off the bat. I may be confused here though.

Another issue I'm confused on is the amount of canons on different ship classes. A galleon can hold up to 366? Im assuming 188 per side and only a certain amount can be fired at once depending on crew size.
Customer avatar
September 19, 2018 6:12 pm UTC
Ooooh boy. You raise a very good point. The idea behind calculating hits based on size to simplify the maths involved was thought up assuming both ships are within standard broadside range, which in real history essentially boiled down to "as close as possible". Broadsides are and were extremely lethal, the winner in a fight was generally whichever ship could fire its cannons quickest. In fact, one of the main reasons the British navy suffered significantly fewer casualties than the French during the Age of Sail is because their crews could fire a broadside 2 or 3 times a minute, significantly faster than their opponents.

Regarding equal sized ships: yes, if the ships are the same size every cannon can be considered to hit in a broadside, again based on the assumption you are as close as possible. I believe common practice was no more than around 1,000 ft apart. If I understand your question regarding turning port and firing a broadside, you mean if the enemy ship is chasing/being chased?...See more
Customer avatar
Tony H September 20, 2018 5:04 pm UTC
Thank you so much for getting back to me! You practically nailed every question I had, and I very much appreciate it. Most of what I'll have to do is calling it based on context it seems. which isn't a problem at all. Honestly the only suggestions I can make for this, as it seems it expands and alters what's present in the DMG, is maybe in a future update dive more into combat as you did during this reply, just for clarifications sake. Maybe in addition to that break down what action economy should likely resemble within these rules and modifications?

I have a basic understanding and direction after your clarifications now, but some more guidance never hurts. If this was used on a grid, how would things change? How do turns and changes in direction function in regards to a ships handling/speed vs how quickly it turns -- is there any room for tactical reward based on movement and facing? Most of these can be figured out on the fly by the dm -- but maybe you have interesting ideas that are worth noting...See more
Customer avatar
September 23, 2018 11:38 am UTC
Honestly I'm just glad it all made sense to you! I definitely intend to clarify combat a bit more once I have some time to have a look at it; I've got a few other projects almost finished that I want to tie together first. Action economy is definitely something that I want to look at, but on the flip side I'll be honest and say that I would stay away from a grid with this system. My goal was to make a loose framework to remove most of the legwork when it comes to deciding what ship is what and how they function, rather than to make a comprehensive combat system. I've seen multiple systems that break down turning circles and acceleration of ships based on their size and such, and they all tend to get too complicated for my liking.
Customer avatar
Ulther T August 22, 2018 1:54 pm UTC
Firstly I would like to say you have made a great set of rules for ships and sailing, yours is the best I have found for 5e.

As my campaign is soon to be taking to the high seas I am looking forward to using this!

Finally, for my own campaign I have made a Ship 'Character Sheet' specifically for these rules. I have made this available on dmsguild for anyone else to use if they like the look of it. If you wish to link to it you will be able to find it by searching for 'Ulther'. I have put a link to your product in the description.

Anyway, thanks for the awesome addition to the game!
Customer avatar
Travis B August 12, 2018 5:10 pm UTC
First off, love the document. It's a great resource for anyone that enjoys sea travel in their games (or in real life and you want to bring that to your games). That said, couple of suggestions for future updates possibly:

Submersibles. You touch on that with the Moon Pool upgrade. Sure, people can homebrew it up like I'm doing, but having costs and whatnot scaled with what you've got for your ships in a one stop shop as it were would be nice.

Second, if not an outright listing for more ancient ships, list how a player would go about converting each of the listed types to something more fitting a more ancient style game.

I have no idea how difficult either of those things would be to do, but my personal opinion is those would take an already amazing document and push it into the "Every single GM everywhere MUST HAVE THIS DOCUMENT" type of thing.

Also, thank you in the first place for putting this out!
Customer avatar
August 12, 2018 8:40 pm UTC
Submersibles are definitely on my list. The main reason I haven’t made them is that they haven’t come up in my campaign yet. The majority of this document was just information I prepared for my players that I made pretty. Subs are also a bit more difficult because I can’t gauge cost and usage accurately based on real history as I could with tall ships due to when we started using them.

As far as ancient ships go.. are we talking triremes, quinqueremes and so on, or more esoteric sailing ships like fluyts and windjammers? If the first, they’re largely covered in the DMG with galleys and so forth and pricing would be awkward due to the historical age difference. If the latter, if I think of enough unique factors for them I’llgive them a go.
Customer avatar
Travis B August 13, 2018 8:30 pm UTC
The fact that you even know what a fluyt and windjammer are pleases me greatly! And aye, from a mechanical standpoint, without unique factors either/or can be reskinned versions of other ships of similar size and draft.

Just spitballing some things I weren't sure if you'd thought of. I'll keep an eye on this for updates, because seriously, if I've a D&D game going, this set of rules is in use!
Customer avatar
August 16, 2018 9:24 pm UTC
I promise there will be updates. I just can’t say when. You have made my day sir.
Customer avatar
Reed E August 05, 2018 7:47 pm UTC
What does the section on broadside firing mean by "up roll" and "down roll"? It says that on the up roll, most damage will be on the masts and whatnot, but on the down roll it's on the hull and crew. What does it mean by this?

Also, how much damage would the ship's magazine do if it blew up? And how do you have things like crew getting killed during broadside bombardments, ramming, or other ship-to-ship attacks?
Customer avatar
Travis B August 12, 2018 5:01 pm UTC
My guess with that is while you're at sea, the ship has a natural roll to the deck since the water is in constant flux. Uproll would be when the ship's weapons on whichever side you're firing are angled more upward because of the roll of the sea, whereas the downroll would be the opposite.

As to the rest, well, a magazine explosion is likely to cause significant structural damage to the vessel (if not outright destroy it), so at the very least, the ship would be crippled. On crew getting killed, I'd say that's GM's discretion.

Course, I'm not the author, that's just my take on how it all goes from my use of this document (and holy hells, do I use this document!)
Customer avatar
August 12, 2018 8:36 pm UTC
As Travis above guessed, uproll and downroll are terms used to describe the way a ship rolls with the swell of the sea. It’s a nautical term I came across in my research and I included it mostly for fluff reasons, and because I thought someone somewhere may find it useful.

Regarding a ship’s magazine, personally I would rule it based on the size of the magazine, which would likely vary a lot from ship to ship (page 249 in the DMG is particularly useful for getting an idea of damage estimates for things like this).

As far as crew deaths based on damage, you raise a very good point. That’s something that so far I’ve largely treated narratively, since usually damage caused in such a way only occurs before the party is toe-to-toe with the enemy. When I get time I’ll see if I can come up with an elegant solution. With all these rules I’ve tried to keep them as simple and easy as possible.

In other news, it’s great to hear people are getting use out of this.
Customer avatar
K. David L June 26, 2018 3:17 am UTC
Hi! Wonderful document and I love what you have done. Looking forward to any enhancements this document gets.

I would ask, although I know it would be repeating information, that the weapons from the DMG be included in the document in order to prevent the need to jump back and forth?

Also, when putting weapons on a ship, how many can be included? Is there a limit listed somewhere?
Customer avatar
July 01, 2018 2:52 pm UTC
Regarding weapons per ship, the flavour text about each ship (as in brig, frigate etc) mentions the common armament for a ship of that type (for instance a brig would usually have between 4 and 12 guns, and a frigate may have up to 30 or so). As for gun sizes, certain guns are too big for some ships, and as such have ships listed in their prerequisites.
Regarding weapons from the DMG, I assume you mean things like catapults and ballista? In which case, I don’t really see much use in copying their stat blocks over, as they are pertinent to anything else in the document, and currently it’s possible to reference both their relevant pages in the DMG as well as whichever page in this document you need. The full information would probably take up around half a page, which I’d rather reserve for more new stuff.
Customer avatar
Zachary G June 19, 2018 6:40 pm UTC
I saw that on the last page there is an increase of AC based on level on the 5th level ship ward. Was that voluntary or is it just from copy/pasting the formatting from the cantrip? All in all, I'm really loving this extra content! Thanks for putting this together!
Customer avatar
June 20, 2018 9:50 pm UTC
That's intentional, yeah. It's basically a ship version of a cantrip I created for my own players which allows casters to create a personal ward, much like those in Skyrim (among other IPs). The intention is that the cantrip is basic, but becomes useful, but then reaches a level of maximum utility at which point it may be worth considering the use of one of the more powerful wards.
Customer avatar
Ben B June 15, 2018 3:43 pm UTC
Would I be able to adapt this into flying ships? I'm doing a campaign in the Astral Plane and it would really help a lot. Thanks!
Customer avatar
June 19, 2018 11:23 am UTC
Of course, that would be awesome. I'd love to see what you come up with!
Customer avatar
Damien H March 21, 2018 7:46 pm UTC
In regards to room points for a ship, do I use upgrade points to calculate how many rooms a ship can have at expense of the available upgrades?
Customer avatar
March 24, 2018 10:26 pm UTC
Hi there. The idea was that if a ship has 3 upgrade points, it can have 3 room points of worth of rooms (which in most cases means 3 rooms). In hindsight I should have used the same term for both. I'll fix that.
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This title was added to our catalog on March 20, 2018.