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Heroes of the High Seas open project


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It may also be that my primary experience is with Star Wars, and ship battles are occasionally part of the adventure. We know that one person is usually piloting, there are a few gunners, and we know how on board batteries interact with enemy range and hull. Basic maneuvers were included in the starship battle section of the books, as were the stats for a number of different ships. Though removing the real-world tactical elements from the high-seas adventure books it should still be reasonable to look at a few basic ship designs and have some statistical representation. For example, the high castle caravels are harder to board from a schooner than would be one carrack to another.


Oh I wasn't saying stats for ships would be wrong, I just don't think we need to get into detail of whether you have 18 pounders or 20 pounders. Leave that for games where that's a feature like GURPS or HERO.

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Does that make sense?


It does, but I think it would be better if we tried to make things a bit more abstract and rules-light. For instance, every ship could have a Maneuverability die code (much like Star Wars D6) to reflect its speed, weight, etc. This Maneuverability code would affect chases, positioning maneuvers, and also the ship's attack rolls.


In order to decide who does what and what would be the rolls, we have to know what are the positions in a ship that would affect naval battles. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking a helmsman/pilot for maneuvering the ship (so Dodging, affecting Move, probably attack rolls as well), a master gunner for the cannons (damage rolls), and the captain and first mate for Command rolls to give bonuses to the helmsman and the master gunner.

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Would the helmsman need to make a piloting skill roll, or would he/she just need to roll the maneuverability of the ship? On the one hand it would make sense for the two to stack in a dogfight, but it seems to me that even the best helmsman in the world wouldn't be able to affect the maneuverability of the ship to any great degree.

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it depends. if you want to emphasize the role of helmsman, then you need to make the skill useful for piloting a ship, therefore it should stack. this could be justified by it not only being about how fast the ship is, but knowing where to go based on the terrain (where reefs are, shallows, or any other underwater hazards) based on the current rig, and based on the current winds. all of that can be abstracted into a simple roll of pilot + ship maneuverability. on the other hand, if you want to deemphasize the role of helmsman, just leave it at the ships maneuverability, anyone can make the roll, and they get to focus theirskills on other things.

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I figured I should post my criteria for rules when I design them. They don't have to be the criteria for this project, but they'll give you some insight into what I look at before I say "this is a good rule." The criteria are listed in order with the most important first. The only ones that are required to be met are the first two, but the more it can meet, the better it is.


For these criteria, "subsystem" can be inserted any place I use the word "rule"


1. Does it add to the fun of the game or take away from it?


I prefer games to be fast and simple, so to me that's what defines "fun", getting bogged down in details slows down the game and is, therefore, not fun.


2. Does it support the genre of the game?


The genre of the game is more important than anything else save fun. Criteria for supporting genre is would the rule make it easier to replicate scenes and actions in movies or books of the genre. Actually, fun and genre are equal, but that's harder to express in a list.


3. Can the rule be expressed as an alternate version of another rule?


This is important because the more you can combine and reduce the rules, the less needs to be remembered.


4. Is it realistic?


Realism is important because we expect things to work as they do in our world. If a rule is not realistic, an attempt will be made to make it realistic without sacrificing any of the previous criteria, but if that's impossible, reality gets thrown on the heap.


I've never really sat down and formalized my principles, so I may have missed something, and probably did, but that's the gist of my principles.

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  • 2 months later...

*This post is in response to a post made on another thread...a non-directed question/comment that was made.*


I wanted to take just a moment to mention something:


When this project was first presented, I was mildly interested. I've been following the thread as it's evolved, and it looks like things are moving along, but sadly it appears the direction of the project is generally away from the direction I was hoping. So while I'm not partaking in the brainstorming or idea department, I am still following this and I hope you guys have success in getting this idea together and put out for other people to use.

Edited by Grimace
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Something with more detail for the ships and ship combat (a necessity for pirates, IMO)


Heard! Ships and ship combat would be the biggest draw for me. Something where I can take a small catalog of ships and sprinkle a few varieties into a seafaring campaign would be great. I've got a good setting going already, but I've always felt relatively landlocked.


And yeah, about as it is in the Star Wars D6 would suffice. Unlike the space combat which is purely fictional/theoretical the naval engagement could draw on a touch of researched realism and that would really have my attention. So, perhaps it may have a few more details than the Star Wars system would. Of course, there's only so much detail and fine tuning that the D6 system is designed to handle. But Star Wars isn't a bad place to start looking. They at least took into account gun batteries, fire arcs, fire rate, and the like.


I'll tell ya, spending an afternoon on the gun deck of the USS Constitution got my gears turning as to the possibilities here. Unfortunately I'm too tied to a couple of other professional projects to really invest the time. But if there's any possibility Heroes of the High Seas had naval elements I could plug in without too much fuss, you'd definitely have me as a customer.

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How much detail are we talking about? I was thinking of something along the lines of Star Wars D6, perhaps a bit less. Were you thinking of something more detailed?


Well, more detail than what had been discussed in this thread. It was sounding like ship combat and ships in general were going to largely be glossed over as just a "common vehicle"...designed as nothing more than just a vehicle to get you from A to B. And ship combat was being described as a couple simple die rolls to resolve what would've been a pretty important thing of the time.


As cheshire suggested, having options to pick and choose from in terms of ships and what you can put on them would certainly be nice.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...

I'm gearing up to do a strange pirates game along the lines of this thread and thought I'd share a few of the thoughts I've had.


In keeping with the low-fantasy idea, magic is really not showy, there are no measurable effects of magic (i.e you don't see magic users hurling lightning and fireballs at their opponents). Instead magic is, for the most part, charms, curses, and maybe a mystical item or two (ala Jack Sparrow's compass). Mechanically the effects of magic are buffs/debuffs.


Many mythical creatures (werewolves and vampires, I'm looking at you) have found it easier to integrate in pirate crews because the pirates don't particularly care if you've made a pact with the devil, and appreciate the prowess of these creatures, and because most of mainland Europe has organizations specifically for hunting and killing said creatures. Magic users also count among this group.


The Pope has granted the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition special fleets that are tasked with hunting down these heretics in the New World.


Also, I've updated the map I made last year.



I am still of the opinion that ship battles are mostly uninteresting to multiple players (due to the limited mechanical interaction available) and intend to have them be chases where the cannon fire/maneuvering/damage control merely makes it easier for your ship to close in and board or escape your opponent, depending on what your goal is.

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  • 5 years later...

Okay, so since no one has replied, I'm going to assume the project is dead, and I'll muse my notes here for cooking up ship stats.  I'm sure @Grimace will have some useful suggestions, since he always seems to. ;)

So, being a total dummy when it comes to stuff from Age of Sails, I'm going to start simple and then increase the complexity as research and suggestions roll in. 

I'm thinking about doing 5 Basic types of ships: Gunboat, Schooner, Brig, Frigate, Warship.

Stats at this point will include: Crew, Cargo, Speed, Maneuverability, Cannons, Hull, & Scale.

If there are any other suggestions that anyone has at this point, please let me know!


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  • 1 month later...

You intending to keep this very generic?

If so, the 5 basic types you mention will work.

If you want more emphasis on types, you have Sloops, Schooners, Corvettes, Snows, Frigates, and Ships of the Line.  

The Sloop Category has Sloops and (if you want to borrow from the old Pirates computer game) Pinnace.  Typical of 6 to 10 guns, but could be up to 12 or 14 guns on a sloop-of-war

Schooner Category can have Schooners and Xebecs.  Typically 8 guns on up to 12-14.

Corvettes Category is a bit of misnomer, as a Corvette is military.  But there are Brigantines, Brigs and Barques.  They run about 10-12 guns, but could be up to 14.

Snow Category covers Snows and Merchantmen.  They can have anywhere from 8 to 16 guns.

Frigate Category is when you start getting into larger ships, warships.  The initial Frigates were not the elegant, strong ships of the Americas, but slower and up-gunned.  You would be looking at 24 up to 40 guns on a Frigate.  These might be known at 5th or 6th Rate ships of the line.

Ships of the Line Category is the big ships that belong to nations navies.  You see Galleons, 4th Rates, 3rd Rates, 2nd Rates or Man-O-War 1st Rate ships.  These are all three masted ships and mount 40-60 guns at the low end up to 100+ guns for the Man-O-Wars!  


For your stats, you have Crew, Cargo, Speed, Maneuverability, Cannons, Hull, & Scale.

I use the following stats:  Masts, Scale, Hull, Maneuver, Seaworthiness, Crew, Weapons, Cargo and Speed (which Masts have a direct bearing on)

Just as a word of caution, don't mess with scale all that much.  There's not much difference in the scale of wooden sailing ships.  They're just larger and small versions of them, which Hull will account for.  Scale would be more reflective as to the material they are made out of, or the building techniques used to make them.  During the Age of Piracy, the format for ship building was fairly well standardized.  But a Sloop of the 1700s would be a higher scale than the Clinker-built nature of Viking Longboats or boats that Columbus sailed over on (Carracks).  And Pirate ships would have a smaller scale of ships in the 1800s, say American Civil War time period, because the methods of ship construction changed again and in addition to thicker woods, they added armor plating to make ironclads which basically ruled the day over all wood-only ships. So the Scale of ships in the Age of Piracy was nearly always the same.

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Masts have a bearing on speed based on the amount of sails on them.  You can have a single masted ship with a lanteen sail on it and it can move along nicely.  You can have a two-masted ship with square sails on it that can go faster, but handle worse when traveling close-reach or trying to go close-hauled.  A ship with 3 masts can have a mix of square sails for speed and some lanteen sails for maneuverability.  The problem with each is that the bigger ship you get to handle more masts, the heavier that ship becomes and the more sails are needed to make it move.  

So, depending on how you want to work movement, what distances you want to be traversed in however long a time span, I would give a boost to square sails over lanteen, but reduce maneuvering for square sails.  Then you can get into "suping up" your sailing ship by adding spritsails, topsails, jib sails, top gallant sails, sky sails, and such.  

The main thing you have to consider is ALL speed is determined more on wind speed, but you get better movement from that wind based on sail type and total sail coverage.  That's why square sails (with more fabric coverage to catch the wind) help ships go faster when the wind is right.  Lanteen sails (the tri-point sails you see on modern sailboats) can catch the wind, but they don't have quite the coverage so they can't go as fast.  But what they lack in speed they gain in maneuvering, as a the Lanteen sails can catch the wind at wider angles compared to a square sail.  So while a ship with only square sails might only be able to turn to Close-Reach (about 90 degrees to the direction the wind is blowing), a lanteen sail can go all the way to Close-Hauled about 135 degrees to the direction of the wind and can still move (although not very fast).

Typical directions for sailing are:

Running Reach - typically facing the direction the wind is blowing TO, or within 15 degrees from that direction

Broad Reach - typically out to about 45 degrees to either side in the direction the wind is blowing towards

Beam Reach - typically up to 90 degrees to either side in the direction the wind is blowing towards

Close Reach - is up to about 125 degrees to either side, basically heading back towards the direction the wind is blowing from, about the best square sails can hope to do.

Close Hauled - is about 150 degrees or so in the direction the wind is blowing from.  Many ships cannot do this, as it takes lanteen sails and good strong wind to make any movement

In Irons - directly facing into the wind.... you ain't moving forward, and may even be moving backwards if you have square sails.

Here's a link to an image of the wind directions:  News-2019-02-11-Points-of-Sail-768x819.j



I'll also provide the stats I made up about 8 years back for a sailing ship:


Masts:  single mast - fore and aft rigged

Scale:  Large (2)

Hull:  3D+1

Maneuver: 1D+2

Seaworthiness:  -5


Crew:  6 men minimum, 75 men maximum

Weapons: 6 guns (3 starboard, 3 port) - upgradable to 10 guns

Cargo: Small capacity



Running Reach = +2 Knots (maximum 12 Knots)

Broad Reach = +1 Knot (maximum 12 Knots)

Beam Reach = +1 Knot (maximum 10 Knots)

Close Reach = no modifier (maximum 6 Knots)

Close Hauled = -2 Knots (minimum 1 Knot)

In Irons - no movement


Starting weapons:

2 - "3 Pounder" cannons

Scale:  Large (2)

Style:  Ballistic

Crew:  4 men

Reload:  10 rounds

Ammunition:  iron shot, grape shot

Range:  1-40 / 180 / 600

Damage:  4D - iron shot, 3D+2 over 3 meter area - grape shot

Penetration:  1D


4 - "4 Pounder" cannons

Scale:  Large (2)

Style:  Ballistic

Crew:  5 men

Reload:  12 rounds

Ammunition:  iron shot, grape shot

Range:  1-50 / 200 / 680

Damage:  4D+2 - iron shot, 4D over 3 meter area - grape shot

Penetration:  1D

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  • 1 month later...
  • 9 months later...

D6 fantasy would seem to lend itself easier to a pirates of the carribean game than arthurian, less work I mean. But I would demand as a player some variant of the dueling blades chart, I have my own which I'm considering revising, but the original can be found with google and was dreamed up by a former west end guy called peter schweighoffer or something similar, griffin publishing i think.


eta; presently testing a variant wild die mechanic where all dice explode and ones do not get counted at all and are temporarily removed from the dice pool. flattens the bell curve a little so far, not sure i like it.

Edited by slipshot762
brain not working
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