Players own a ship, and with an investment of money they obtained, put it to work in shipping

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I have no idea what to do with this now. I loved the idea that the players came up with and I'm often really flexible so I let them do it. Now, my only problem is, what kind of profits are they going to be looking at on a weekly basis? Monthly? In-game, of course.

They have a ship captain and crew and general item cost for the one ship. And they plan to add more ships to their business when they have the opprotunity. Of course, they specified that they wanted only the best of the best crew, so that would run them a pretty gold piece. But I don't know what kinda profits they'd be making off one ship.

And I feel like I should roll a d100 to determine things that might happen on the ship. Attacked by pirates, not attacked by pirates, if they are attacked - the pirates win and lose the ship or lose their profits, or they lose and the group gets another ship, the ship gets wrecked and they get a cut in their profits due to repairs (or they have to pay the funds outright with the gold they get from adventuring), and etc etc..

Any help and ideas with this sort of thing. 
Man, just relax and let the ship go off once in a while, don't worry too much about it.

Fit the Ship's income as monthly, maybe, and give your players a treasure parcen when the ship comes back every month; be kinda generous as they at least made quite the investment on it. You can start off giving them small gold parcels each month, and roll 1d20 after the month ends. If the result is -10, they had a so-so month, if it's above 10, they had a good month with it. A reslt of 1 should be like a critical failure and this means they get no profit or something happened to the ship and a result of 20 would mean things went better than expected.

Now, think of it as their business. If they start having customers (take the d20 result as a base for their business success) think making their earnings higher, and encourage them to get another ship to gain even more money with it. You can make this interesting and fun for them and for you too  
What kind of profits can be had from the ship is irrellivant.
Because anything the ship makes?  It could just as easily lose+ on a future voyage through any # of means.

The true question is how many different adventure ideas can you come up with involving a boat?
Pirates,
Mutinies,
Passengers,
Sea monsters,
Atlantis & other such places,
Transporting rare/exotic/extra valuable items,
Sailing into the unkown
Serving as a taxi to get the PCs from one adventure to the next. 
What kind of profits can be had from the ship is irrellivant.
Because anything the ship makes?  It could just as easily lose+ on a future voyage through any # of means.

The true question is how many different adventure ideas can you come up with involving a boat?
Pirates,
Mutinies,
Passengers,
Sea monsters,
Atlantis & other such places,
Transporting rare/exotic/extra valuable items,
Sailing into the unkown
Serving as a taxi to get the PCs from one adventure to the next. 



But I think he means that his players didn't got the ship for themselves: They want to start an a-la-Titanic sea travel enterprise it seems. He's just wondering how to explain whay to do with this business and what could hapen to the passenger crew.

 
Well, a party of five could hire the ship for a three-hour cruise...
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks
Who would be so foolish as to go on a three hour tour though?

That aside, I wouldn't do a treasure parcel.  That's a large gain for a single ship.  If money was that easy, peasants would be swimming in gold.

It sounds like the players just like the ownership of something.  They want to be more a part of your world.  This means you are doing something right.  You could give them seasonal profit of a d20/level in gold and leave it at that.  If it's a 20, double it.  If it's a 1, make it a loss in the same amount that rolling a 20 would bring in.  For any bigger losses, you could make a module out of it.  Like a raid of pirates or spoiled cargo or something.
You're about 8 types of wrong on that. International trade is high-return, high-entry-barrier, and high-risk.


You're about 8 types of wrong with that.
We are talking about a single boat on a single small trip.  Making 10,000 gold?  Please reread the op's post.  He never said a single thing about investing enough for that kind of capitol.  He never mentioned merchants at all.  Just a boat crew and a boat.  And a transport ship isn't going to make that much either.
1. Buy a ship and arm it to the teeth, then hired soldiers and crew.
2. Go to an enemy nation habour and capture some ships.
3. Return to your nation and sell the captured ship, it's captives, and cargo.
4. ???
5. Profit

 
I have a simple solution for this: beer money.
That's how our gaming group deals with the hundreds of weapons, shields, trinkets, and mundane items we gather: it is where we get the money that our characters live on between adventures.

What kind of profit should they get?
What kind of expenses?
Well, if they want to retire and spend all their time as merchants, that's fine.
If all they want is coin and profit, that would depend on their risks.
Sounds like a basic question of are they adventurers or are they merchant sailors.

One ship-wreck can end their investment.

I still like the old Spelljammer system.
To me, really, ferrying cargo from one place to another is just a vehicle for the adventures--pays for the expenses of travel and maintenance of the ship, as well as the crew.
Do they need something else?
10-100gp per level of character per month (that's month of game time).
Or enough that they can buy a lvl16 item they want instead of the just the lvl15 item--floating discretionary fund.

OK, it's late, and I'm less than coherent. I think I've suggested 3 or 4 ways to handle this.
I would give them a range of things:

A - You haul wheat/corn/potatoes/salted pork/etc. Zero risk of attacks. You gain your level x 5 in gold a week/player
B - You haul cotton/spice/rum/etc. 20% risk of attack. Players make saving throws (rp them as actions of the crew to evade being sunk). If you get to 3 fails before you get 5 successes, the ship sinks. Level x 10 in gold.
C - You haul iron/coal/weapons/money/etc. 50% risk of attack. Players make saving throws, 5 successes before 3 fails. Level x 20 in gold.


I would allow them to buy 'upgrades' that basically resulted in lowering the risk of attack and/or raising the likelihood of making the saving throw.

Places you could *upgrade: lookout/crow's nest, navigation, hull design, rudder, sail size, crew ability, captain's ability, etc.

Every session, at the start of the session I would make a roll to see if the ship got attacked. If all works out, players get the extra gold.

And finally, I might give the captain some *magical means of transporting your heroes to the ship. Should the attack be particularly brutal the captain can summon them to help repel boarders, etc. Then the rest of the session is spent on a water voyage getting the ship back to a safe harbor.

*These should all cost significant bank.
3.5's Arms and Equipment guide had stuff for boats/vehicles, as well as mercenaries and other hirelings. It's a little extra bit on top of 4e's stuff, if you're interested.
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Money on the level of a shipping business is really just a McGuffin in adventure stories, or really in any story. The issue should be whether they can keep their ship, keep their freedom, and keep their business.

Other than that, I recommend picking up some Traveller books, which have a good system for determining trade, including mark-ups and price fluctuations. It's a sci-fi game, but is itself based on the Age of Sail. In general, don't make it about the trade, though. Describe that, and the trappings of it, enough to keep things interesting, but don't get bogged down in any details.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

How long time in-game should it take to get return on investment? How long are the voyages? How hard is it to sell the things they ship? If they do short voyages with easy-to-sell goods and you as a DM want them to get return on investment in two years in-game, then give them a monthly (in-game) income of 1/24 of the value of the ship. Are they doing long voyages with stuff that is hard to sell? Give them half the ship's value per voyage, but do it one year in-game apart.

For 4e I think that the article about strongholds in Dragon Magazine 395 and I think I have seen an article (possibly around Dragon 405) about having ships in the adventure. It included a number of items you could add to the ship (such as an alchemy lab). Since you have DDI: look for the "Mariner" theme and find the source. That should have a lot of inspiration for you I think.

Lastly I think Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium has a table of the values of different goods and the rules for hirelings from Dragon 397. The table from the emporium might be available in the Compendium as well.

This won't help with the kind of things that might happen to the ship, the hooks or the risk. But it might give some inspiration as to how you want to reason about getting the money back from the ship. 
The profit they make, after upkeep, could just be normal treasure parcels.

They could come away with a major haul, in story, and then the next "episode" finds them down on their luck again, with nothing more than their expected wealth for their level.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Its always fun to build your own merchant empire or kingdowm.  Transportation isn't a high return business.  It generally requires a large investment for the ship and crew with people hiring shippers at the lowest possible cost.  They will turn over a lot of money but profit margins are very slim.  Owners are typically emplying themselves to work at a regular job.  Unless they are doing some really exotic jobs or hunting down pirates they are likely struggling to keep there heads above water.  I would just say that any profits are taken up by losses and expenses that come along. or there is relatively modest return.  Considering how lucrative adventuring tends to be they likely won't be making a killing

Now if the ship was a stepping off point for adventures they encounter along the way thats probably where there money is going to come from 
They have a ship captain and crew and general item cost for the one ship. And they plan to add more ships to their business when they have the opprotunity. Of course, they specified that they wanted only the best of the best crew, so that would run them a pretty gold piece. But I don't know what kinda profits they'd be making off one ship.

How about one plot hook per week?

I guess the way I would handle it would be to have an agreement with the players that the money they earn shipping will all be put into increasing their fleet into an empire. Make it a completely self-contained venture that doesn't bleed over into their own treasure allocations. The only direct benefits the PCs would get would be power, influence, and increasingly profitable adventure hooks.

Basically, this is D&D, not Frigate Tycoon. That doesn't mean they can't make some money, but more importantly it should make adventure. Full disclosure - I'm the kind of guy who leaves the dragons to ravage Skyrim while I'm off picking flowers and mushrooms to level my alchemy to 100. So I understand the fun of mostly-unrelated sidequest kind of stuff, but I also know how it can distract from the reason I'm playing the game in the first place.
The profit they make, after upkeep, could just be normal treasure parcels.

They could come away with a major haul, in story, and then the next "episode" finds them down on their luck again, with nothing more than their expected wealth for their level.




This - It turns out that monsters don't carry a lot of coin on them, but while the adventurers were taking care of that orc problem, their ship made a profitable trade for some +1 armor and a pair of rushing cleats.