So a major portion of the main quest my players are in is trying to travel a fairly long distance to a larger city they’ve heard of that might have an order of paladins. They’ve finally gotten to a coastal city and I’m trying to come up with a good system to determine ship availability. So far I have two rough ideas and I would love some extra ideas because I honestly don’t know a whole lot about shipping.
Ok, so my first instinct is that two cities that are within each other’s range by water travel, such that they’ve altered their demand modifiers, must reasonably have ships traveling between each other constantly, and so it would take less than a week to get onto a ship. From there, if you call that “1” you might go up the market class availability by one step for every doubling of that market range.
To use an example: two class IV markets within 20 water hexes (120 miles) of each other have constant ships available. Any city within 40 water hexes has a 25% chance each month of a ship being available between the two, and a 10% chance of a ship traveling to a city up to 80 water hexes away.
My second idea is to instead base this on the price of passage using market availability. PAge 144 under “Passengers and Cargo Transport” says that chartering to a specific destination costs 1gp per 10 stone of cargo space per 500 miles by sea, with the possibility of a round trip fee for traveling to too small of a market. This would mean that buying passage from a sailing boat would cost 40gp, a small galley would cost 200gp, a large sailing ship would be 3,00gp, etc., with those numbers doubled for travel between 501-1000 miles. in a class IV market, there would be one sailing boat ready to hire per month, a 25% chance of an idle small galley, and a 10% chance of a large sailing ship. Chances are adventuring parties would be hard pressed to use up more cargo than the sailing boat unless they had a huge group of henchmen, horses, and unspent treasure. The only thing I’m not sure of on this one is how long commissioning should take.
So anyways, I would love some advice on other things I should consider or other ways I could do it, or if you think I’m on the right track but with a few tweaks (and of course, let me know what the tweaks are).
I agree with the sentiment that there will be ships almost constantly plying the sea-lanes. It’s very expensive to run a ship, just the crew costs alone are significant, and you don’t want to dismiss them for risk of the best ones signing on with someone else when you come calling to muster them again. Thus unless your ship is in need of repairs that can’t be done at sea/during stop-overs in port, it should be carrying loads.
My second idea is to instead base this on the price of passage using market availability. PAge 144 under “Passengers and Cargo Transport” says that chartering to a specific destination costs 1gp per 10 stone of cargo space per 500 miles by sea, with the possibility of a round trip fee for traveling to too small of a market.
APM: I think that method is likely to yield a more realistic result. Per Kiero’s comment, there should be an ample number of ships plying the sea lanes.
I should add, while ships will constantly be in motion and available, whether or not they stop at a particular port will depend on its Market Size and the distances involved. Galleys will generally have to stop every night (to take on food and water, and rest their rowers), so almost any safe harbour along the way will be visited. Sailing vessels, on the other hand, can afford to be more choosy about stopping, and thus may skip smaller settlements if they don’t see much value to putting in to them.
I fear I may have no designed an especially believable setting. I repurposed the “points of light” setting from 4th edition, in which the world lives in the shadows of fallen empires. Most of the cities, if they are described at all, tend to be just over one hundred miles from each other.
Every city should effectively be the capital/clearing house/main market for a larger region, underneath which are many smaller settlements dotted around the place, filling up the spaces between.
A city can’t survive without at least a wide belt of farmland in the immediate vicinity (and thus villages where farmers sell their produce/trade for things they need) to feed the populace and provide resources to trade on those sea-lanes.
To move to shipping, some of those satellite settlements will be fishing ports and the like on the coast, places that a ship could stop off at, using a natural harbour. Those will be especially prized by galley crews, who need to take on water and food every few days of travel. While they might be able to trade with people further inland when they beach, places with in-built markets and gatherings of people are better.
Now if there’s nowhere like that along your coastlines, that might militate against people using galleys and sticking to sailing ships.