Dungeon Master Assistance

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

D&D 5E – Nautical Adventures


Rules for conducting a seafaring campaign in D&D. Including rules for Ship-to-Ship Combat.

You can download a free copy here: 5E_Nautical_Adventures.pdf

This is a complete re-write of the Ship to Ship Combat rules I published before (3.5 version here).

In keeping with the spirit of 5e, this  is  not  about  conducting  massive  sea battles, moving small model ships around on a hex battle map exploring tactics and the intricacies of wind and sail. Rather this is about what the PCs can do with ships. Ship-to-ship  battles  do  take  up  the  majority  of  the  pages here, but the battles are from the point of view of the player  characters  on  board  their  ship.  Care  has  been taken to assure each payer has something to contribute each round of ship-to-ship combat. Each player controls one of their ship’s officers. That officer can be his or her PC  or  it  may  be  an  NPC  and  he  has  several  actions available to him that are specific to that officer.

I copied liberally from Wizards of the Coast’s 1997 publication “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons of Ships and the Sea”. I also got a lot of good ideas from Pathfinder’s “Skull and Shackles”  (their “Wormwood Mutiny” adventure path will work with these rules for those of you who want a good Pirates campaign.)
I also found a lot of good information in Kenzer and Company’s “Salt and Sea Dogs”.

A special thanks to Shawn at http://tribality.com/ for his series on Naval Combat for D&D 5th edition. He got me to thinking seriously about how to keep all of the players involved in naval combat.


24 responses to “D&D 5E – Nautical Adventures

  1. Keith March 20, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Awesome work!


  2. Keith March 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    I based my own homebrew ship document heavily from your book here Ronny. I skipped over most of the ship to ship combat stuff (for now but will revisit as my campaign progresses). I loved the feel of this document overall and its ease of play. Simply the best RPG naval companion I have ever read! BRAVO!

    2 thumbs way up and a critical hit to be sure!


    • Ronny March 21, 2016 at 11:14 am

      Wow! Thanks again, and tell all of your friends.
      Mine was in turn based in part on several different other peoples previous attempts. I tried hard to make it fit in well with fifth edition’s feel and ease of play. Keep me informed as your campaign progresses. Especially if you fell some of the rules need adjusting – I would be up to a release 2 of this if some things don’t work well.


  3. Michael Felton March 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    I just found this after starting a naval-based campaign using Shawn’s rules. This is a huge help. Excellent work. It’s the best full 5e homebrew supplement of any kind I’ve seen so far.


  4. Luke July 10, 2017 at 4:21 am

    Thanks Ronny for your work after asking your permission I worked on the Italian version of this homebrew. I kept most of your rules intact, with some little adjustment here and there. Anyway as you asked, there is alink to the original version here, and credits to you.

    Thank you again.



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  6. Tailgrimm November 28, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    This reeks of 3.5 with modifiers everywhere.


    • Ronny November 29, 2017 at 7:52 am

      I have to agree. I originally wrote it for 3.5 and later modified it for fifth edition. I can see now that it could use an update. It defiantly has a 3.5 “feel” to it.
      Do you have any specific suggestions on what changes I should make?

      Liked by 2 people

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  8. Mel Riffe January 6, 2018 at 8:39 am

    Hi Ronny! *waves*

    First, thank you for this rule set and the updated rule set for sky ships (5e skyships a1). I will be using them in a campaign I’m writing for my son and his friends, though it may be some time before the actual sessions occur; I’m in the planning phase now.

    Second, this will be my first time running, or even playing, a naval-themed adventure. I’m both anxious and excited. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

    Third, I’m still processing the all the rules, and I don’t have any questions yet. Save one: Is there a way to get a form-fillable PDF version of the Ship Record Sheets? I would like to try my hand at creating them. Would that be all right if you’re not in a position to do so? I’m finding _everyone’s_ penmanship to be atrocious in this computer-age. 🙂 I’m even using form-fillable character sheets. 🙂

    Fourth, please keep producing awesome content. I really appreciate all the hard work you do.



    • Ronny January 6, 2018 at 9:13 am

      Hi Mel

      Thanks for the compliment..

      I am glad that you think you might find this useful in your upcoming game. Please let us all know how it goes. Don’t forget that in the end it will be “your” game, so feel free to make adjustments to the rules as necessary for your campaign.

      As for a form-fillable PDF ship Record Sheet, that is a great idea, but I don’t have making one on my schedule right now. I would love it if you could make one, and please share.

      You can find my personal email address in the “Legal” tab at the top of this page. You could email me with questions regarding it, and send me a copy as an email attachment. I will be glad to help with comments and suggestions. I will post the final version for everyone to use and of course give you all of the credit.

      Stay in touch,


      • Mel Riffe January 21, 2018 at 2:20 pm

        Hi Ronny,

        Quick questions for you. First, I haven’t made the form-fillable PDF yet, but please consider it on my TODO List. 😉

        Now for my questions: I’m trying to determine the Skyship Speed, in air. This is pg. 11 of the PDF ‘5e Skyships a1’. And I’m using the Caravel, with a sailing speed of 2 mph, from the PDF, for my example.

        #1) “Add one quarter of the pilot’s level (rounded up) to the ship’s sailing speed when the helm is active.” Does this mean the sailing speed will be 3 mph for a 4th level pilot, when the help is active?

        #2) Does this mean the ship can fly through the air at 75 mph?



    • Ronny January 21, 2018 at 11:06 pm

      That is correct. The Caravel has a speed of 2 mph. You add one quarter of the pilot’s level to that. If the pilot is level 4, then one quarter of his level is 1. Add 2+1 to get 3 mph sailing speed. The ship can move 5 times as fast in the water when using its helm, 5 times 3 mph is 15 mph. You multiply the ships sailing speed by 25 to get its speed in air, so 3 times 25 is 75.
      Flying ships are fast!
      Note that when the helms of two skyships come within 600 feet of each other their ships speeds will reduce to just two times their sailing speeds. This happens if they are in space, in the air, or on the water.


  9. Matt January 15, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Hi Ronny, I have a question about crew size, if we use the caravel as it example, it states you it has room for a crew of 20 and 20 pasangers, now it also said you can have twice as much crew as listed without them tripping over each other. So would that me I could have 40 crew and 20 pasangers? If I wanted to sail 24 hours a day I would need 60 crew, so would that mean I could do that with no pasangers and not having an over packed ship? You also mention, that officers don’t count as crew, so would that mean on the caravel I could have the 60 I mentioned and 12 officers, or do that take up slots as well? I’ve been playing a campagne for 2 years an finally have the funds to buy a fully tricked out crewed caravel, but I want to figure out how to staff if for month long sea journeys sailing 24/7. I really appreciate all the work you put into this, thank you!


    • Ronny January 15, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      You could have 60 crew and 12 officers. There would not be room for passengers. The officer’s quarters will be in the fore and aft castles. With a crew of 60, 40 crewmen at a time would normally stay below deck while not on duty. Or you could have 40 crew and 20 passengers. The ship will be crowded, but it will work.
      Also there are no “slots” per say. You can always squeeze in another couple of people if you have to.


  10. Jim Moniz August 14, 2018 at 9:46 am

    How would you implement the Mending cantrip into repairing ships? Something similar to carpenter, being able to heal twice their spellcasting modifier. Have you had any experience with it?


    • Ronny August 14, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      I have not had any experience with a PC character having assess to the Mending Cantrip and using it to mend the ship.
      By itself, Mending couldn’t mend any major damage in that it is limited to repairs that are less than one foot long. However, if the ship’s Carpenter had the mending cantrip I might consider reducing the amount of time required to do normal ship repairs. I think that many typical ship maintenance repairs are minor.
      Be careful though. Don’t let a PC make major repairs just because it is a cantrip and he can cast it once every 6 seconds. The first casting can NOT mend the first foot of damage. It is an all or nothing kind of thing. Ether the cantrip can fix it because the damage isn’t very sever, or the damage its too extensive and it can’t mend it at all. If there are several small rips in the sail, each casting could mend one rip. If a rope has been cut, one casting can put it back together. However if the sail has a large hole in it, or a rip that is over one foot long, or a length of rope has been burned, the cantrip won’t help.
      I would even rule that if a rope was cut into several pieces, the PC would have to take the time to match the correct ends together before the mending spell would work – it can only return it to its uncut state and can not be used to attach two ends of two ropes that were never previously connected.
      I could do a whole post on the Mending spell. Many players want to use it in ways that it was never intended. Read it carefully and pay special attention to the examples. I had a player last week that wanted to use it to add handles to a box. This spell can not do that.


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  12. Branden Reed December 24, 2020 at 2:21 am

    I have a question. If the ship is say haunted can one just simply take the helm off and put it on another ship? I’m in a campaign where the ship is called the lost galleon. Every time u go below deck u get lost. The helm is a wheel on the deck & it runs by teleportation. Also I’m not sure what to make of this but I placed a 50ft rope from the ship in my backpack & now it’s like a handy’s Haversack. I was thinking of using the rope to lace hide or leather armor & hopefully it will become even like a blink spell I’d be happy.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks, Taz

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ronny December 24, 2020 at 8:35 am

      Hi Taz,
      Because you are asking this on the “Nautical Adventures” page, I must assume you are a player in a game where the DM is using these “Nautical Adventures” rules. However, because you are specifically asking about moving the “helm” from one ship to another it sounds like you may be asking about the skyship helm that is in my “Skyships” rules.

      To answer your questions:
      Regardless of the rules here, it is up to your DM to decide how a magical helm works in his or her game and whether or not it can be moved to another ship.
      I have the same answer to all of rest of your questions. Your DM can have things work in the game any way he or she wants them to work. Ask the DM. Or, just try whatever you want your character to try. The DM will let you know if it works or not. Perhaps the DM will allow you to make “arcana” checks to see what your character thinks about your ideas.

      Remember, it doesn’t matter what the rule book says, it is always up to the DM. Your DM has some strange and interesting things going on. Many of them, as you have described them, may not be strictly by the book. But that is okay. So I can’t tell you how the things you suggest will work in your campaign, I wouldn’t even if I could. My best suggestion is to have your character do what your character would think is best and have fun with it.


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