Mark S. Cookman
13 Ships to Encounter on the High Seas
When running a nautically-based game, one thing that you can never have too many of is NPC ships. Ships can be complicated encounters to do well "off the cuff". Unlike many wandering monsters, each ship has several elements that define it, including its name, size, armament, crew, captain, cargo, passengers and the reason it's sailing where it is. For those who are unaware, the Wizards of the Coast released some new playtest content for ships in 5e in November of last year. Click here to check it out. All of the ships listed below have the aforementioned elements defined. It is my sincere hope that you can use them in your own games, either directly or as inspiration. As always, I thank you for your time and happy gaming!
The Pride of Adford is a large merchant ship. Captain Gysby is a skilled officer of the shipping guild and the ship has a full crew of sailors in good morale despite having just weathered a storm in the last day. The ship has damage to both her sails and her weapons, but the crew is making what repairs they can. The hold is 3/4 full of cargo (25 tons each of high grade lumber, mid-grade textiles in rolls, and barrels of high quality wine). There is only one passenger aboard, a half-elven sorceror named Chevrax, who mostly keeps to herself, but walks the decks late at night.
The Sarte is a greatly damaged warship. The ship has been damaged in a fight with some sort of sea creature. It has damaged sails (1/3 speed), damaged armaments, and a damaged hull (75/200 hp). The ship is taking on water and will likely sink sometime in the next few days. Captain Hansa is a skilled officer in the King's Navy, but she is unpopular with the crew. The crew is at half strength (20 sailors) and there are only 12 marines onboard. The holds of the ship are full (200 tons) of exotic artifacts, jewelry, silver, and gold.
The Diederbach is a large merchant ship. Captain Ahar is young and inexperienced officer, but lucky and well-liked by his crew. The ship has recently escaped from pirate raiders and is slightly damaged. There are 22 crew members alive and unwounded. There is only one passenger, a dwarven fire wizard named Hildalgo. The ship is nearly empty, carrying only 20 tons of raw gemstones.
A no-named voyageur canoe is heavily damaged and will sink in the next few hours. No one on board is alive, but there are 700 lbs of exotic furs in bundles on the large trade canoe.
The Pausa is a net-fishing boat, Captain Vardo and his loyal crew of five are highly-skilled at what they do. There are no passengers on the vessel, but there are about 300 lbs of fish. The Pausa is undamaged.
The Atalaga is a whaler and aboleth hunter. Captain Sable is both highly-skilled and well-liked by her crew. The full crew of 40 are still alive, but 6 are below decks recovering from wounds. There are no passengers on board, but the hold has 300 barrels of whale oil and 50 barrels of aboleth oil. The hull has been damaged by some sort of sea creature (45/100 hp) and the ship is slowly sinking. The crew is working hard to save their ship.
The Ice Dragon is a barbarian longship. It is undamaged and under full sail with the wind. There are only 2 living men on board and no passengers. The two thieves left alive have poisoned the ale to kill their captain and crewmates over the 5 tons of gold, gems, jewelry, and magic from a dragon's hoard that the ship is carrying. The two murderers will do everything they can to avoid being caught by anyone.
The Maiden's Hope is a small private yacht. The ship is in good condition. Captain Tain and his crew of three are in good spirits. They are carrying Lord and Lady Kelford on a somber mission to bury Lady Kelford's father in his homeland. The small ship has no cargo other than the coffin and the vampire lord within it. Captain Tain will avoid encounters if he is able.
An un-named small voyageur canoe is being well-handled by 3 natives. The boat is in good condition. A native sea druid is the only passenger on the canoe. They are carrying herbs and plants used to make healing salves and potions back to their island home.
The Hen's Teeth is a small merchant ship that is currently under attack by sahaugin. By the time the PC's can get aboard, the captain and crew will be dead. Three guild masters (Butcher, Baker, and Chandler) have locked themselves below decks and are hiding amongst the three cargos in the hold: Mules, Pigs, and Grain.
The Nereid is a small Halfling merchant ship in excellent condition (150/150 hp). Captain Frim is well-liked by his full crew of 15 halflings. The Nereid has one passenger, a halfling bard named Bree. She is excited to be sailing and is nearly always on deck. The holds are full with 10 tons of mid-grade lumber in stacks, 10 tons of salted fish in barrels, 15 tons of iron ore in crates, and 5 tons of pipe weed in bales.
An un-named row boat burns brightly and can be seen from some distance away. It has no crew and no passengers. Its only cargo are the three barrels of oil that have been lit to burn like large, smoky candles. Who did this and why?
The Dolphin is a large yacht that has experienced an explosion below decks. The captain and most of the crew are dead. Only two sailors and three passengers (Grandfather, Mother, and Daughter) are still alive. The Dolphin is badly damaged (20/100 hp), on fire, and sinking. However, she was carrying nearly 500 lbs of various alchemical supplies.
I hope you enjoyed this pirate's dozen of ships. Next week is my 21st wedding anniversary and so there will be no blog. The following week I hope to bring you more treasures from the sea. If you do enjoy these blog entries, please check out my page at DriveThruRPG by clicking here . I thank you for your time and support.