Thursday, March 6, 2008

MORE Age of Sail House Rules For Savage Worlds

I ran a little naval encounter two Saturdays before the Wargames Weekend as a sort of play-test for one of the games I ran. It was a good game – loads of fun - but showed a few more glaring weak spots in the system which I will hopefully correct with a couple more house rules.

The game on the Wargames Weekend went over exceptionally well – a number of individuals expressed a genuine interest in playing this again. I felt, as did the couple locals savages present that had helped out with the earlier play-test, the tweaks made things work considerable better. It wasn’t quite as recklessly fast, but fast enough, and it was definitely still furious and a WHLOE LOT of FUN!!! Based on feed back from the weekend I have made a few more minor tweaks to the rules presented below.

The posted previously Age of Sail House Rules all still apply though I am going to further tweak the ship stats. If you haven’t read them before I suggest giving them a read through first so you know where I’m coming from.


All one, two and three mast ships will have Acceleration and Deceleration Value of 2, four and five mast ships will have an Acceleration and Deceleration Value of 1! The posted previously changes to the maximum speeds remain the same.


One of the problems with the system is it is meant to be used from everything from skateboards to rocketpacks, Honda civics to tiger tanks, biplanes to stealth bombers, log rafts to starcruisers. While it works well enough for small to medium sized vehicles – cars, trucks, tanks, helicopters – it seems to break down at the extremes; very small and very, very large vehicles (Skateboards have 3 wounds just like a Star Destoryer!? HUH!?) This is especially so at the larger end of the spectrum. Though the basic Savage Worlds rules have been modified for Pirates of the Spanish Main to allow for different numbers of “wounds” (rather than the standard three that every vehicle in the regular rules has) it still doesn’t seem quite…. right.

The big problem is that with a lucky shot you can completely destroy a vehicle with a rather smallish weapon – in this case sink a man-o-war with a single shot from a 4lb bow chaser – without even causing any damage to crew, guns, cargo, etc. This is possible because shots that get very lucky on the damage roll can cause many multiple wounds – and this damage is only applied to the superstructure of the ship. For each wound you do roll for a critical hit which can cause fires and crew and weapon and cargo damage – but the most common roll (6-8 on a 2d6 roll) is “hull damage” no appreciable damage to anything within – check for fire…. We had a couple of instances where three mast ships were sunk with lucky single shots from 4lb cannon that holed and sunk the ship.

While I appreciate the “fast, furious, fun” aspect of the game – for a game that keeps track of shot and provisions for the crew and such – it seems just a bit too damn easy to sink a ship.

So I propose the following amendments (or rather I am instituting the following house rule in my games – you can take it or leave it as you see fit…). WHEN ROLLING FOR SHOOTING DAMAGE AGAINST A SHIP; EQUALING THE SHIPS TOUGHNESS WILL CAUSE A BOATING ROLL, A SINGLE RAISE WILL CAUSE ONE WOUND AND A CRITICAL HIT, EACH RAISE THEREAFTER WILL ONLY CAUSE ADDITIONAL CRITICAL HITS! (This does not apply to damage caused by collisions!)

So you can still wreck a one-mast sloop with a single shot – but you will have to hit a four mast ship-of-the-line multiple times to make here go down (unless you roll 12 on the critical hit chart and the magazine goes up!).


To streamline the results of crew critical hits – rather than having to keep track of exactly how many crew you have and what effect this might have on manning guns and maintaining the minimum crew to sail the vessel… - for each crew hit result the ship, for the rest of the engagement, will suffer -1 to either shooting or boating (choice of the captain of the damaged ship – as he decides where crew are to be deployed or re-deployed)


We had some really wacky results to failed boating rolls. Ships being hit by cannon, which caused them to fly sideways a couple hundred feet, spin around 180 degrees and crash into another ship!! That happened at least twice. Other ships were trying to turn around, tried to make a hard turn and actually turned FURTHER than they would have been allowed – thus failing a boating roll as often as not turned out to be more beneficial than passing!? So I came up with a new Out of Control table:

Out of Control Table
1 Carry on in same direction and reduce speed by one.
2 Carry on in same direction and reduce speed by two.
3 Turn 45 deg. Away from the attacking ship or in the direction of the attempted maneuver (or downwind if neither of the previous options make sense) and continue on at your current speed.
4 Turn 45 deg. Away from the attacking ship or in the direction of the attempted maneuver (or downwind if neither of the previous options make sense) and and reduce speed by one.
5 Turn 45 deg. Away from the attacking ship or in the direction of the attempted maneuver (or downwind if neither of the previous options make sense) and reduce speed by two.
6 Turn 45 deg. Away from the attacking ship or in the direction of the attempted maneuver (or downwind if neither of the previous options make sense) and increase speed by one!

Instead of taking place INSTANTLY, as happens in the regular rules, the results on the above table should be treated as a compulsory move during the ships next action. The next time the ships action card comes up they must carry out the move dictated by the roll on the chart immediately. They may not go on hold! If the ship was on hold when it failed it’s boating roll it comes off hold immediately and carries out the movement.

Ships that are Out of Control and carrying gout a compulsory maneuver are at -2 to their shooting during that turn.

You may only go Out of Control once in a turn. If you are already required to make a compulsory move on your next action all further boating/out of control rolls may be ignored.


During our latest game we had a number of ships burn and sink just a little too fast. While I imagine a fire can quickly damage sails, spars and rigging and leave a ship crippled and dead in the water it would take some time for a ship to burn right up and sink or at least become untenable or uninhabitable. So, for result #5 if a ship isn’t dead in the water/crippled it causes a wound as per normal. However, once it is dead in the water/crippled each result of 5 on the fire chart (page 135 of Savage Worlds: Pirates of the Spanish Main ) results in the ship taking 4d6 damage – for EACH result (i.e. if there are four fires burning and two roll a 5 on the fire table the ship takes 8d6 damage – yes add them together!). If the result is a raise above the ships toughness it takes it’s final wound and must be abandoned by any surviving crew and will eventually sink. It will take d6 x (# number of masts) turns for the ship to sink and in that time any ship passing downwind within 2” must roll to see if they catch fire (6 of a d6). Any ships that collide with the burning ship catch fire on a 4+.


Occasionally as a result of a compulsory move (from being out of control), one ship will, quite unintentionally, attempt to sail through an area occupied by another ship! To avoid a collision in such a case both captains must make a boating roll – if EITHER fail there is a collision. If there is no collision (both pass their respective boating rolls), the ships must roll on the out of control to see what happens as a result of their evasive maneuvers – unless the ship got a raise on it’s original boating roll to avoid the collision, in which case it may carry on as normal!


(Keep in mind these are assuming you are using my Rules for Wind!)

2 Freak Event – roll on the Naval Freak Event Table

3 Twist of Fate – Take a benny from another player/ship’s captain. If they have none to give…. Uh…? Or maybe this should be another Weather Change result…?

4 Quick and the Dead – Swap one of you opponent’s action cards with one of your own.

5 Repair – One of your sides damaged ships affects some miraculous mid-sea repairs and recovers one wound (thought they still suffer from the effects of any critical hits sustained as a result of that wound!)

6-7 This ship gains one benny! It can only be used for this ship!

9 Close Call – pick any one enemy ship. Their crew becomes confused and disrupted and suffers -2 to all rolls for the rest of this turn.

10 Teamwork – Pick any one ship within 12” of this one Discard it’s action card, instead it will act on the joker and benefit from the +2 bonus as well.

11 Weather Change – Roll on the Weather Change table.

12 Freak Event – roll on the Naval Freak Event Table


2 Severe Storm – the battle ends as a severe storm rolls in. See page 229 of Savage Worlds: Pirates of the Spanish Main for the effect on ships.

3 Gale!

4 Strong Winds – When traveling with the winds (i.e. facing 90deg or more away from the direction the wind is coming from) Acceleration (but not deceleration) is increased by one, top speed is increased by two. Turning into a tacking course (between 90deg and 45 deg into the wind) will immediately slow the ship to a rate of 1”/turn – this is the maximum speed any ship can sail on this course. Turning directly into the wind (or 45 deg on either side of directly into the wind) will bring the ship to an immediate halt!

5 Rain! The clouds burst and rain starts to pour down. Visibility is reduced to 12” Rain does not cancel Strong Winds, Light Winds, or Gales, but any other Weather Change result will mean the rain has stopped.

6-8 Change in Wind Direction – The wind shifts and is now blowing from a new (randomly determined) direction.

9 Rain! The clouds burst and rain starts to pour down. Visibility is reduced to 12” Rain does not cancel Strong Winds, Light Winds, or Gales, but any other Weather Change result will mean the rain has stopped.

10 – 11 Light Winds. Top Speed and Acceleration (but not deceleration) are halved. Tacking into the wind can only be done at a rate of 1”/turn.

12 Dead Calm – the winds stop blowing altogether. Ships with oars may continue at their rowing speed. Other ships may deploy their jolly boats and tug their ships at a rate of 1”/turn (in ANY direction – there’s no wind!) It takes one full action to deploy or bring in the jolly boats. These may be targeted separately from the ship. They are -2 to hit as they are small. Any hit causing 12 damage or more smashes one jolly boat. One mast ships are dead in the water if their single jolly boat is sunk, others will be dead in the water if two are sunk.


1 Fire! A fire breaks out on a randomly determined ship (everyone roll or draw a card – lowest roll or card has one fire)

2 Back From the Dead! One of your ships that’s crippled, or has just begun to sink or be consumed by flames (during the previous turn) affects some miraculous mid-sea repairs, recovers one wound and may rejoin the battle!

3 Battle Tested! Ond of your ships crews improves wither their shooting or boating by one die type.

4 Ran Aground! A random determined ship potentially runs aground on some uncharted obstacle. Roll d6, on a 1-3 it’s a reef, on a 4 or 5 it’s a sandbar, and on a 6 it’s a Sargasso. See page 133 of Savage Worlds: Pirates of the Spanish Main for the effects of each. Be sure to mark the location, as any other ships passing within 2” of the same spot will suffer the same fate!

5 Fog! A dense fog rolls in over the battle. Three large burst template sized fog banks enter from a randomly determined corner of center of table edge. They will move about the table each turn first moving d6” in a random direction, then drifting 2” with the wind. The fog is treated as light fog, unless two fog banks happen to be in overlapping each other (even partially) – then the entire area is considered dense fog. See page 133 of Savage Worlds: Pirates of the Spanish Main for the effects of each.

6 Reinforcements – Another ship arrives of average size for your fleet/squadron to aid in the battle. It arrives on the same table edge that your side originally deployed on or a randomly determined table edge or corner if you deployed elsewhere.

7 Out of Ammo – a randomly determined ship on your opponents side runs out of ammo or it’s powder is soaked and may not fire for the rest of this engagement1

8 Treachery! A randomly determined ship switches sides! Everyone rolls or draw a card – lowest roll or card was either bribed before the game or experiences an abrupt mutiny or something…. The owning player should hand over the ships card to his opponent – it is now under their control!

9 Death of a Hero! The next time one of your ships sinks, the crews noble sacrifice triggers new resolve in the crews of their companions vessels – or bone-chilling dread! Roll a die. If the result is ODD the rest of your force is inspired by the ship’s legacy and adds +1 to all their rolls until another of your ships sink. If the result is EVEN, your force is filed with dread. They subtract -1 from all their rolls for the rest of the game or until and enemy ship is sunk!

10 Weather Change! Roll on the Weather Change table.

If anyone has any further (or BETTER) ideas for Naval Freak Events please feel free to post them here!

None of these are set in stone – they’re just house rules I’m going to try out a few more times. If anyone has any suggestions please feel free to post them below.

I think I’m going to have to build some islands with shore batteries next!

1 comment:

  1. This pretty darned cool. Your house rules make a lot of sense to me... can't wait to give them a try!