Pirate based campaigns and rules for ship to ship combat.

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So i was thinking up a campaign involving pirates for my players. I have ideas for characters and stuff but i was just wondering if anyone has any examples of any other campaigns just so i can have a look at the way people have done the ship to ship combat not only the cannons but also boarding actions etc. Also where could i get sme maps that have large sections of sea and islands etc.
I don't know about the maps, but I'd personally run ship-to-ship combat as a skill challenge.  If you're determined to make it a combat encounter, try blending the two.  You can use skills for the actions, but still roll damage for effects.

You could, say, use Thievery to load a cannon as a standard action (rather than as several rounds of standards), and then Athletics the next round to manhandle the cannon into the best position to hit the enemy ship.  On a success, roll damage for the cannonball.  Someone in the crow's nest can use Perception and Insight to watch the guys on the other ship and predict their attacks, granting your ship a bonus to defenses.  Boarding would be Athletics and/or Acrobatics, depending on how you do it.  History as the knowledge check to recognize the enemy ship, Nature/Perception to navigate (combine with Bluff to lure the enemy ship onto a reef), Endurance if it's a particularly long fight, et cetera.  And your wizard can just blast the ship with magic while your ranger picks off pirates with his bow.
Cheers some great ideas, what do you use to represent the ships? have you made some large ship models or do you not use anything and instead just use you imagination.
Chris Perkins has a blog about this, I shall return once I find it!
Closest thing for 4e that I can find for you are some variant ship combat rules used in the Iomandra campaign setting (yknow, the one that gets mentioned all the time in that DM Experience column). Link! That would probably suffice for your needs.

There are a couple of different rulesets for naval combat in third edition, too: Arms and Equipment Guide has ships treated more or less like really big mounts with different sections that impose penalties if they get destroyed. Stormwrack presents a different 'narrative' naval combat system. Despite being somewhat complex, it actually looks quite adaptable to 4e.

As for maps... If I wanted to make this thing visualize-able and I was playing tabletop (I'm an online DM these days), I'd take a giant blank grid and some sheets of paper. Draw the ships on the pieces of paper (I'm lazy, so I wouldn't bother coloring them in, but you could probably dye the ships brown for something fast and cheap) and then you can put your minis on the ships if you want. Draw random islands on more pieces of paper for additional terrain. Note, though, that naval combat has the potential to move over more space than a static map has room for.

~The Chilli God Has Spoken.

Hey man, this is from one of Chris Perkin's blogs. 


I run a 4E campaign for two different groups of players on Monday and Wednesday nights, and both groups have just graduated from paragon tier to epic tier. In the Wednesday night game, naval combat has become a key feature of the campaign. I recently ran a battle between two fleets of ships: the heroes' fleet (each player was given a ship to command) and an enemy fleet. The battle played out smoothly, and everyone had a lot of fun.

Here are the rules I used to run the battle:


This ship-to-ship combat system is not a simulation. There's no "facing," for example. It's also simpler than the character combat system because there are no opportunity attacks. That said, I will probably add a bit more complexity to the system over time (rules for combat advantage, for example).

I have a blue-tinted wet-erase battle map that I use to represent the water, and I have card stock ship tokens from the old Spelljammer® boxed set that I use to represent the various ships on the grid. I designed a "character sheet" for each ship so that players could keep track of their ships' hit points and crew. I've attached a sample below. In the meantime, if you're interested in running D&D ship-to-ship battles, I suggest you give these simple rules a test drive and let me know what you think.


Cheers some great ideas, what do you use to represent the ships? have you made some large ship models or do you not use anything and instead just use you imagination.

I actually use multiple maps.  I make one for each participating ship, and those are set to regular scale.  For complicated combats with more than just the typical two ships, I use another one to show the ocean on a much larger scale, where an average-sized ship takes up a 2x2 area (like a large creature).  As for the figures, I just use tokens.
Have a look at the Nautical Compendium
and at this thread