Seafaring Suggestions

  1. Like Seafaring, the Navigation proficiency should allow multiple investments for improved throws. A 6 in 20 chance of being lost seems like a very risky proposition, and one imagines a market for reducing that risk.
  2. I found it helpful, when organizing lists of ship types, to eliminate Troop Transport as an independent item, and instead offer ‘kits’ for the large and small sailing ships: Transport (more space, slower), War (less space, weapon mounts, more hp), Courser (less space, faster). Have them all increase cost by a set amount. This also lets you price launches (for coastal raiding or whaling) as “war lifeboats”.
  1. People will want to put a ballista on their boat. Embrace it.
  1. When I’ve run ocean adventures, there’s something jarring about daily random wind direction. I’m trying to think if there’s a way to denote the change as a relative one- maybe the wind direction chart is:
    1: +60 degrees from prevailing wind
    2: -60 degrees from p.w
    3: +45 degrees from p.w
    4: -45 degrees from p.w.
    5: +30 degrees from p.w.
    6: -30 degrees from p.w.
    7: +15 degrees from p.w.
    8: -15 degrees from p.w.
    9-12: with p.w.

4b. I’ve personally fallen back to using two reaction rolls for weather and wind, and inferring direction and conditions from that. It’s faster.
3b. Oh, I see ballistae are statted out on pg. 110. Can you substitute them wherever you see the phrase “light catapult” in the equipment listing? Can you put a ballista on a small sailing ship?

  1. Can you clarify the rate at which I am supposed to roll for random wilderness encounters? Surely it’s not every two turns… on the other hand, if it’s only once per day, it’s exceedingly difficult to make the ocean your dungeon.
  1. Copy editing: The dry dock charge (pg 254) is missing the phrase “hull points”, I think. Also, there’s some shifting between “hull point” and “structural hit point”.
  1. I like that a Master Mariner as captain increases their ship’s evade chances, but it seems strange that the converse isn’t true. This is related to my other post about roll-off evasion, but I’d consider complicating this rule. Maybe saying that the Evasion roll is modified by 3 x (evading captain’s seafaring proficiencies - pursuing captain’s seafaring proficiencies)?
    Also, might a ship’s ram attack throw be dependent on the seafaring proficiency of the captain (Master Mariner yields a +1)?
  1. Two areas of rule concern I’m missing: Putting out fires on a ship, and turning (like steering, not undead) the ship. But I’ll keep looking, I might have just missed them.

Charlatan, you should totally write a naval supplement for ACKS.

I posted this elsewhere, but it's relevant to this topic very specifically.


You can't have a game involving Hellenistic cultures without consideration of ships, they were vital for trade and warfare. I'm looking at the Expert set which I'm presuming ACKS hews fairly close to in terms of stats and such.

There's some obvious, easy mapping of types (discussed with Alex elsewhere):

  • Small Galley - bireme, hemiola, pentekonter
  • Large Galley - trireme
  • War Galley - quadrireme/tetrere, quinquireme/pentere

To which I need to add a new category of Medium Galley, covering trihemiolas. These were smaller, fast vessels, favoured by Rhodes in particular as pirate-hunters. Length 90'-120', Beam 10'-15', Draft 2'-3'. Standard crew is 120 rowers, 15 sailors, 10-20 marines, 1 captain. Capacity 30,000cn plus crew. May have a ram (1/3 extra cost). Movement rate: Miles/day: 18/72, Feet/round: 90/135. Hull points 90-105.

Some alterations to the stats there (at least as far as what I can see in the Expert booklet):

  • All ships: artillery are not installed as standard. Ballistae (actually torsion engines) might be installed on warships, in place of light catapults.
  • Small Galley: Crew: 5-10 marines.
  • Large Galley (trireme): Crew: 10-30 marines - smaller complement was more usual for a trireme. Always has a ram.
  • War Galley (quadrireme): Use the lower end of size/hull points estimates. Movement rate: Miles/day: 15/72, Feet/round: 75/120 - fours were notably fast and maneuverable for their size. Crew: 230 rowers, 20 sailors, 50-75 marines. Capacity: 70,000cn (whatever the conversion is to stones in ACKS).
  • War Galley (quinquireme): Use upper end of size/hull points estimates. Crew: 20-30 sailors, 70-120 marines - fives could carry bigger marine complements than fours.

Essentially we're splitting the War Galley into two classes. There were, of course, even bigger ships (the Ptolemies and Antigonids liked their "sixes" and "sevens"), but they'll be dealt with individually, as special cases because I don't think there was any kind of consistency when it came to those monsters.

What I'd also like to discuss is more customisation of vessels; if my PCs get hold of a ship or two, I'm expecting they might want to spend their loot to make their trick ride even spiffier. I remember AD&D2e's setting Spelljammer had stuff about modifying ships, which might have been based on some stuff from the AD&D2e PHB/DMG.

Broadly there's two dimensions upon which to apply customisation: crew and ship. Changes to crew are a tricky balance, more people means more weight (people and provisions), which means slower travel. But it might also mean more fighting capacity (if you add marines), fresher crews (if you can rotate rowers and sailors). It would be nice to be able to consider the condition of rowers too; their fitness, skill, fatigue and morale. There should be a difference between one ship with a crew of well-motivated and experienced free men at the oars, an another with some beaten-down slaves chained to their benches. Similarly a well-oiled crew used to working under their trierarch should be snappier than one comprised of new hires under a novice captain.

As far as ship goes, again more weight generally means slower travel. There's a wealth of things you can do here. Decking is one; having it means it's easy to get around on top and the uppermost deck of rowers are protected from missiles and the elements (though they're also much hotter). Not having it means you save on some weight and the rowers get better ventilation. Towers for artillery or platforms (or baskets in the rigging) for archers. Thickening or thinning the hull. Topping out the rigging, or stripping it away. For certain variations you could remove the masts entirely or change the internal arrangements for transport.

“When the characters in the wilderness, the Judge should make an encounter throw once per day if they are stationary or in settled terrain. Otherwise, the Judge should make an encounter throw each time the adventurers enter a new 6-mile hex.” - page 244