This week we will discuss various topics of a nautical nature. We will start off with a collection of really boring encounters at sea. Now you might be thinking, "why would I want a collection of really boring encounters?" There are numerous reasons that you might want to use these encounters; listed below are three good motives to do so.
First, it is unlikely that all of the characters in your group already have sailing experience. In fact, it is more likely that you will have some characters who NEVER wanted to get on a ship at all. (I'm looking at you, heavily-armored dwarf warriors.) As such, having encounters at sea that are NOT deadly allows the party training time to pick up sailing skills on their own without having to put themselves or the ship at risk while learning them.
Second, sailing should be an adventure all by itself. It is a different environment with its own unique sights and sounds, smells and feelings. The old saying "It's not the destination, but the journey" truly fits when you are creating a nautical adventure. These encounters provide you with background activity while your PC's sail to their destination, even if they aren't involved with the sailing of the ship, itself. Keep in mind that a well-balanced adventure has slow times, as well as fast-paced action.
Third, perhaps the best reason to use these encounters (or some sort of bland filler) is story pacing. A good story ebbs and flows like the incoming tide; there are both high points and low points, but they are all building towards something. Adventures that only move from action point to action point can be fast-paced and exciting in the short term, but grow tiring over a long period. You can get more bang out of your big encounters by using basically bland or null scenes that contain little to no action, but provide a tidbit of information about the world, to entice, intrigue or enrage your PC's. These types of scenes, when presented well, create the anticipation and excitement to drive the adventure on.
If you are still reading this, then I guess that you are interested in these encounters, if for no other reason than to have something else to say besides "Sailing . . . Day 3 passes without encounter." Without further delay, here are 20 Days of Sailing on the Ocean Blue. Happy Gaming!
Light to moderate winds out of the East-Northeast. A short shower in the morning, followed by clear skies the rest of the day. In the afternoon, the lookout spots a huge school of fish just off the port bow.
Gale force winds out of the Southwest make sailing a challenge. Light wispy clouds run across the sky throughout the day. Near sunset, the winds die down a bit as heavy cloud cover moves in threatening rain.
Strong winds out of the North-Northeast drive the ship forward. Heavy clouds hang dark in the sky, while terrible thunder echoes over the waves. Yet no rain ever falls. In the evening a fight erupts below deck between crew members over a missing personal item.
A strong, steady wind blows from the West, while light fluffy clouds dance across the sky. It is perfect sailing weather. The day ends on an ill-omen, when an albatross falls from the sky dead and lands on the main deck. The crew whispers superstitions to one another.
A moderate to strong wind out of the South makes for good sailing. Thin gray clouds appear just after dawn and provide a gentle rain on and off throughout the day. About four in the afternoon, a sail is spotted for a short time, but it disappears headed away from you.
Light winds out of the North make sailing a challenge in the morning, but by noon thick, dark clouds gather and provide both strong winds and lashing rain for the rest of the day and into the night. An hour after dark, the ship will become becalmed for almost 2 hours before light winds resume.
In the morning, the breezes are light and variable. The sails luff badly trying to catch the wind, but there's just not enough and it's not steady enough. The lookout spots two ships battling on the horizon in the morning. In the late afternoon, the wind picks up and you are able to find wreckage from one of the ships floating in the water. Is that a survivor?
The day begins clear and breezy, but by noon heavy rains lash the deck from a multi-directional gale. Sailing today does not mean making progress; it means holding on and trying NOT to be thrown into the sea. Around 6 PM the storm will break up. By nightfall, all will be calm on the water. Maybe you can make progress tomorrow.
Moderate winds from the South-Southeast make for a fast, fun morning under full sail. Just after noon, the ship will smash through an unknown coral reef. A slight amount of hull damage will cause a brief, but torrential, leak. Water damages or destroys some non-essential pieces of equipment or supplies that were NOT well-packed.
A moderate to strong wind from the South-Southwest provides good sailing weather for the whole day. Around 10 AM, the lookout spots a ship with no sails up, anchored in the water and flying a yellow banner. There is no movement above decks that the lookout can see. No one among the crew is anxious to help out a plague ship, but it's what's right.
Strong winds out of the West-Southwest combined with choppy seas make for tough sailing, even for bold mariners, through most of the day. Just after noon, a giant eel is spotted about 120 yards from the ship. It paces the ship, just beyond range, throughout the day, slipping beneath the waves just before sundown. It's too windy to sail through the night; you'll have to anchor here and wait out the brewing storm.
Light to moderate winds out of the Northwest accompany a light rain that lasts throughout the day and into the night. Just after sundown the lookout spots a small spit of an island. It has one palm tree and one desiccated skeleton. The only items on the skeleton are an empty water bottle and an empty pistol. After finding the island, the wind dies and the ship sits becalmed until morning.
Moderate winds from the East and calm seas make sailing a dream throughout the day. The sky is clear and the sun is bright. Just before noon the lookout will spot a large patch of sargasso. Although it will cost you time, the best plan is to sail around it. It seems to stretch off equally far in either direction. Which way do you choose to sail around it?
A moderate wind out of the North-Northwest carries dark and threatening clouds. The seas are rough and sailing is hard, but still manageable until late afternoon when the lookout spots a waterspout off the port bow and headed toward the ship. It dies out seconds before reaching the ship and leaves everything in a ghostly calm for two hours.
A heavy wind out of the West blows the ship into a heavy fogbank despite the best efforts of the crew to avoid this. Visibility is less than 5 feet in the fog and you are forced to decide if making time sailing is worth risking the ship for. It would be safest to wait, but with good charts you could probably sail on.
A steady rain and a moderate wind out of the North make for a bitter day in the rigging. The weather breaks in the early afternoon and the sun comes out bright. In the late afternoon, the lookout spots a frenzy of sharks feeding off a dead whale carcass floating just off the starboard bow. The stink of it stays with you into the night and few want mess because of it.
Light and variable winds with a moderate rain and choppy water make for difficult sailing. Just after noon the weather breaks and a huge double rainbow appears over the water in the distance. The lookout swears that he saw a golden ship sail out of the upper rainbow and then touch down on the water, but no one else saw such a sight.
Strong winds out of the East blow across mirror calm water that reflects the clear blue sky and the bright yellow sun. Around sunset, clouds begin to roll in threatening a massive storm throughout the night. The crew strips the ship to bare poles and deploys the sea anchors. It's going to be a rough night.
A strange calm overtakes the ship just after sunrise. There is no wind, no birds, no fish and no sound at all except the creak and groan of the ship. Even the sun seems to have no warmth and the men begin to whisper of a curse. Tensions grow high, but the calm breaks about 2 hours past midnight.
A moderate breeze from the Southwest with clear skies make for good sailing weather all day long. Just before noon the lookout spots something strange just off to starboard. Taking a short detour, you discover a 75' long by 30' wide section of the sea that air bubbles steadily up from. You mark it on the charts for later investigation.