Dungeon Master Assistance

Where anyone over 18 can share thoughts and ideas on RPGs.

D&D 3.5 – Ship to Ship Combat

Optional rules for D&D v3.5

I was not happy with the ship combat rules in D&D v3.5 so I came up with a system that allows multiple ships to combat each other and, at the same time, allow for each PC to contribute in his own way each round. I simply (or not so simply as it turns out) extended the D&D combat rules to work with ships as well. What I came up with is in a PDF file you can download here: Ship to Ship Combat

There is also a fast start version here: Ship to Ship Combat (fast start rules)

You can use this to keep track of your ships: Ship Record Sheet

I would really appreciate any comments, especially if you use them in play (they have not yet been play-tested).

6 responses to “D&D 3.5 – Ship to Ship Combat

  1. Pingback: Plans for 2015 | Dungeon Master Assistance

  2. Pingback: D&D 5E – Nautical Adventures | Dungeon Master Assistance

  3. Oronir January 3, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Hello Ronny, I have been playing dnd since 1997 and switched to 3.5 some 5 years ago. Was playing 2nd before that. I will, in the future run a nautical/pirate campaign and prepping it now so I have only the story to worry about.
    I came across the stormwrack, your 5E and 3.5 rules (there were others but these remained) and I liked the roles options from tribality. There are some things I missed in your 5E such as attracting crew or plunder but that might be stuff for another book πŸ˜‰ I will remain playing 3.5 but seem to like your 5E rules here.
    My question Ronny is : “What is the main advantage of the 5e to your 3.5 nautical?”
    Were the rules with ship handling and seaworthiness to cumbersome? Complement is gone in your 5e and I see wind and weather is also mostly gone in your 5E.
    kind regards


    • Ronny January 3, 2018 at 9:00 am

      I know that some people are remaining with 3.5, but I highly recommend switching to 5th edition. When 5th edition came out, I fell in love with it. I thought 3.5 was the best version ever when it first came out. Like you, I played 2nd edition before that. 5th edition cleaned up and simplified the game. When I re-wrote my ship-to-ship combat rules to work with the new rules it never occurred to me that they might be used in a 3.5 game.

      To answer your question, when I was working on the re-write I decided it should be more focused on the PCs. My 3.5 rules are good for moving your ship around on a hex grid and conducting ship to ship combat, but . . . from the point of view of a typical player D&D is about “What does my character do?” So I needed to come up with a way to describe ship-to-ship combat in terms of “What is MY character doing?”. Many of the navel rules, including mine, were mainly concerned with what the ships are doing – where they are in relation to each other, which direction are they facing, how fast can they move and maneuver, which direction is the wind blowing, are the ship weapons in position to fire, etc. The problem with most of these rules is that it often becomes one player controlling the ship and the other players just watching. Of course, you can give them each a ship, or some other task, but it becomes a navel combat game and not D&D.
      My 5th edition rules try to give each player something to do each round. It describes ship to ship combat in terms of what the PC can see and what he can do. Everything is necessarily more abstract. We don’t care where, exactly, each ship is located. But only where it is in relation or our ship, and mainly “Is it close enough that I can cast a spell or fire a range weapon that will effect it?”
      The description shouldn’t be “your ship is in this hex, and it is facing this direction – the ship that is attacking yours is in this hex facing this direction and the wind is blowing in this direction.” Instead it should be “You see the pirate ship approaching off your port side.” At least that is what I tried to accomplish with my 5th edition rules.
      Attracting crew and plunder may be something needed in a nautical adventure, but I think that the DM should be able to handle those things without special rules.


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