Saturday, July 7, 2007

Age of Sail House Rules For Savage Worlds

Here are some Fast, Furious, and Fun house rules for ship combat in the Age of Sail. These are additions and corrections to the rules presented in Savage Worlds: Pirates of the Spanish Main .

Ship Stats

This must have been a misprint or they were taking their lead from the CSG because I have a hard time believing that of the forty odd people listed as writers, editors, and play-testers that every last one of them new LESS about the Age of Sail than me (and I don’t know all that damn much…!). Big Ships go faster than small ships?! Nonsense! What were you thinking?! More sails=faster?!

Also ships don’t have brakes and have a lot of momentum so I don’t think they should be able to slow down as fast as other vehicles (i.e. 2x acceleration), instead ships should decelerate at the same rate they accelerate. The “hard brake” maneuver can still be used but it will only slow a ship up to twice its acceleration/deceleration rate.

So we are using the following top speeds, acceleration/deceleration.

One Mast Top Speed: 5, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
-Sloop - Top Speed: 6, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
- Skiff - Top Speed: 5, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
Two Masts - Top Speed: 6, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
- Galley - Top Speed: 6, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
- Hoy Top - Speed: 6, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
Three Masts - Top Speed: 5, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
- Crumster - Top Speed: 5, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
- Schooner - Top Speed: 4, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
Four Masts - Top Speed: 4, Acceleration/Deceleration: 3
- Frigate - Top Speed: 4, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
- Galleon - Top Speed: 4, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
Five Masts Top Speed: 3, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2
- Man o’ War Top Speed: 3, Acceleration/Deceleration: 2

Movement, Captains, and Going on Hold

A captain may go on hold. If he does so and remains so at the end of the turn the ship he is commanding will travel forward at the same speed and on the same heading it had in the previous turn. Just because a captain goes on hold doesn’t mean a ship stops dead in the water… This might seem obvious, but I couldn’t find it mentioned anywhere in the rules…


It’s the Age of Sail.. not the Age of Motor Boats…fer pete’s sake! I imagine wind was dispensed with in the favour of being “Fast, Furious, and Fun” or they were again taking a cue from the CSG. Both reasons seem silly to me. The CSG is a Collectible SRATEGY game; Savage Worlds is a tactical game – two totally different scales of action, in my mind, deserving (requiring!) totally different treatment. I also think the game can still be Fast, Furious and Fun (and CHALLENGING!) with rules for wind. If keeping track of how many shots you ship has in the hold isn’t too damn much book-keeping (we thought it was and dispensed with it! Ha!) I can hardly see how anyone at PEG/GWG could have thought wind too much for all the Savages out there to keep track of …

So this is a very simple (remember: FAST, FURIOUS, and FUN!) set of rules for wind.

Pick a wind direction or roll randomly (we find it easiest to have it coming directly from one table edge). Refer to wind diagram below to see which way you can go and how fast.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Hopefully when you click on this it gives you a picture of a high enough resolution that you can print it off and use it for yourselves!

So, obviously, ships can’t travel directly into the wind, or on any course within 45 degrees, on either side, of directly into the wind.

Ships traveling on a course that is between perpendicular to the wind and up an angle of 45 degrees into the wind it can do so at a speed of up to half it’s top speed. Likewise, a ships acceleration value will also be reduced by half, but not it’s deceleration value.

Ships traveling perpendicular to the direction of the wind or at any angle more than 45degrees away from the wind may do so at up to their regular top speed (with the following exception…).

Ships traveling directly with the wind (or within about 5 degrees of directly with the wind) will have their top speed will be reduced by one.

If a ship turns onto a new course that takes it to within a zone in which it should be traveling at a lower top speed it will instantly decelerate by its deceleration value, and will continue to do so each turn until it drops to half speed (so it is conceivable that a ship could travel at more than half it’s top speed on the first turn that it has turned into the wind…). If the drop in speed will drop it to or below the distance the ship has already traveled it cannot make the turn. For example if a sloop was traveling at it’s top speed (6”/turn) on a course perpendicular to the wind and wanted to turn 45 degrees into the wind the ship can make the turn only if it has traveled 4” or less (6”-2” deceleration = 4”). If the ship traveled less than 4” it may carry on into the wind up to a total of 4”, on the following turn it will have to further decrease it’s speed to 3”.

Performing a tight turn maneuver should also reduce a ships speed. A ship performing a tight turn maneuver will also decelerate equal to it’s deceleration value. This is in addition to any deceleration caused by turning into the wind.


Ships sitting still will drift ½” each turn (in the direction the wind is going!).

New Maneuvers

I’m not sure about using the chase rules – as I’ve never really quite understood them – but in the table top rules if one vehicle is chasing another vehicle with the same (or higher) top speed has no hope in hell of ever catching it unless the faster vehicle crashes or runs out of gas or something. To add a little randomness and give slower vehicles a hope in hell I’ve created a new maneuver:

Push the Envelope (-)

A vehicle that is going in a straight line at it’s top speed throughout at turn may attempt to Push the Envelope a little. This requires a boating skill (or piloting, or driving if using this in another environment). With a success, and for each raise, the vehicle may travel one extra inch (for this turn only!) up to a maximum equal to the vehicles acceleration.

Damage to Ships

Here’s where I’m going to take a lead from the CSG. Boats are big and tough and made out of wood… and wood floats… I think it’s a touch easy to sink a ship so Instead of a ship sinking when it takes wounds equal to it’s Wounds rating it is dead in the water and may not move or fire – the crew is too busy trying to repair things (it will drift – see above!). If the ship takes a further wound it will begin to sink (Finishing move – naval style!)

I think maybe there should be a table similar to the knockout blow table… I’ll work on that..

Another thing I’m going to work on for a further house rules post is a naval Fortune and Calamity table – as most of the gaming we do are skirmished and Fortune and Calamity is always fun. This will include a change in wind direction (or possibly speed..?!). with a F&S table there will be a need for a Freak Event table (maybe that’s where change in wind speed will come into play – can you say HURRICANE!!! BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!).
If any of you have ideas for Nautical Freak Events please do feel free to post them in the comments section below! Thanks!

Gosh I hope this all makes sense. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them as comments below. Also if you’ve been thinking along the same lines but have better ideas – I’d love to hear them; post a comment (or a link to where we can find your own thoughts and/or house rules) below.

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

Meet the Crew of the Red Snapper…. Ya-HAAAARRRRRrrrrrrrr!


  1. Heh - I think you're giving gamers too much credit if you think they they worry that much about matching gaming stats with historical accuracy! ;-)

    Good house rules! If I get around to doing a naval-based SW game, I'll definitely incorporate them.

  2. Thanks "r:tag"!

    Yeah, it's not so much "historical accuracy" that I'm shooting for here as something that approaches some semblance of "physical reality"....?

    If you do get around to trying them out, let me know how it works out for you.

  3. Two quick comments:

    "Big Ships go faster than small ships?! Nonsense!"

    In fact, big ships COULD go faster than small ships, and vice versa, depending on the weather. In light airs, smaller vessels usually were faster, but in heavy weather, larger ships were.

    "Also ships don’t have brakes and have a lot of momentum so I don’t think they should be able to slow down as fast as other vehicles (i.e. 2x acceleration), instead ships should decelerate at the same rate they accelerate."

    You've ignored one of the fundamental factors at sea - water is dense. Pushing a ship's hull through the water requires a lot of force. I seem to recall from my days in college studying ship design that you need something like twice the horsepower to produce a 10 percent increase in speed. Similarly, water slows a ship down faster than, say, air and friction slow a car. So, in a game like this, it makes sense to rule that ships decelerate faster than they accelerate.

    Hope that's helpful.

  4. Big ships going faster than small ships....

    I can live with everything evening out for travel distance, because, as you point out, in strong winds smaller ships will spend a lot of time correcting their course because they will get tossed around a lot more. I completely ignore travel distance in my game. it's more of a narative campaign - we ignore money travelling, food and all that and skip right to the combat!

    My changes refer to tactical speed in relatively "light airs" as you put it. Who wants to fight in a tropical storm?!

    The slowing down thing.

    Yes I understand that water will slow a boat down faster than air will slow a car down - not that this is considered in ANY game I've ever seen (let a lone Savage Worlds...). Not that wind is the only thing that would cause a car to slow down; there is friction between the wheels and the road surface, and the internal friction of the gears and engine, etc...

    My point was that a car will stop faster than a boat because it has BRAKES! Boats don't stop on a dime like the rules, as written, alow them to.

    Thanks for your comments!

  5. Tim,

    I posed a response to your thread on TMP.

    Larger ships go faster because of the length of their hull...

    Truth is stranger than fiction, so it would seem!

    - Nick

  6. Uh… thanks…

    Wow… You people will grasp at any straw to hold onto your Bigger Ships = Faster delusion…. (wiz-kids sez it’s so therefore it must be!?)

    Sure a longer ship will go faster…. If that’s the ONLY variable – the problem with the ships we’re talking about is the bigger they are, the WIDER they are as well – and, as Mr. Anonymous already pointed out, water offers a great deal of resistance! Wider = More Surface Area for forces of friction to work against.

    Having a brief look at the wikipedia entry it seems to refer to only “small boats”.

    They’re only house rules fellas… you don’t have to use them. I like them. Everyone I play with likes them and thinks they give a more accurate feel to the games. Of the half dozen or so naval sailing games I own Savage Worlds/Pirates or the Spanish Main is the ONLY one that seems to think that ships of the line go faster than frigates and sloops…!?

    Thanks for your input but please stop trying to convince me that big ships are faster.

    These House Rules have been further amended here:

    MORE Age of Sail House Rules