Heya. New user here who enjoys the system a lot. This makes my first post. I was originally going to reply to a different post with this, but I went in depth to the point that I decided to make a new forum post for it.
Ever since I’ve started conceptualizing a One Piece-inspired setting, I’ve been rather curious about how detailed vehicle rules would work. Admittedly though, there’s not much covered in the books for detailed rules concerning conflicts between two different vehicles, like ships and boats (And chariots too, of you’re a landlubber.)
At this point, I’ve come up with a few homebrewed mechanics and tweaks. I want to see what other’s think of some of these tweaks (Note that I don’t have Anthology or some of the older editions of BW if they’re addressed there). Some of these may go beyond simple vehicle rules, but I felt they would be fun for some people to try. Apologies if the format feels like it’s out of order. I may organize this again in the future.
Range and Cover Between Vehicles
-R&C maneuvers with any vehicle generally call for different tests depending on said vehicle, with the exception of Hold and maybe Retreat. Ships test Piloting, chariots test Driving, horseback tests Riding, etc. Some manually operated vehicles would require more stat tests (The Rower trait grants +1D to Power when rowing a boat, so rowing a boat in R&C would be a Power test. Give niche traits some love).
-Bigger vehicles like a ship could allow for extra help without Skirmish Tactics (A sailor helping with Rigging or Seafaring, for example), but helping characters can’t use any actions during the volley.
-Give vehicles a base stride. Note that ships powered by sails do not have stride influenced by wind, but could get some rough obstacle penalties in heavy weather. Granted, if the wind is that bad, the sea is likely violent enough to flip a rowboat, but it’s also a chance for some difficult or challenging Power and Forte tests! Keeping a tiny boat afloat and fighting the ocean with your biceps and some planks of wood is pretty badass.
Other than that, as much as I love Gold, it doesn’t have much on how to handle damaging objects besides Knocking Down Doors, which is a bit frustrating if your setting has cannons or destructive magic. I assume the rules about breaches and all that were removed (I have the Monster Burner which mentions it, but not the older editions that explain it), but I still think that fun rules for sinking a ship while desperately keeping yours afloat would be an element to Range and Cover we all would find entertaining, so here’s a whack at it.
We’ve Been Hit!
One way to address this is treating vehicles like a creature with PTGS coordinates and a Mortal Wound. I haven’t really worked out the specifics of tolerances to keep people from sinking a ship with a bunch of arrows from a hunting bow, but the general idea is that a ship would take “injuries” that apply penalties like wounds do. If a ship is incapacitated, it’s too damaged to operate and is adrift. This makes you an ideal target for pirates!
She’s Takin’ Water!
Ship wounds also bleed. If your ship’s hull takes a severe wound from something like a cannon or collision with a rock, it starts to take water. If it’s not addressed, it eventually becomes traumatic; the water floods the ship, hindering function further and bringing it and the crew closer to Davy Jones’ locker. These damages must be repaired like a wound is treated. Staunching the Flow is also applicable.
Land vehicles can “bleed” too. The damage hinders function and causes even more damage. The breached chassis begins to cave in on itself, the damaged wheel loosens and pops off, or maybe your horse got stabbed. The stakes are probably lower for the actual destruction, but losing your mode of transportation while you’re short on time or in a dangerous place can be very bad.
She’s Goin’ Under!
On the other hand, if a ship takes a mortal wound, it’s time to head for the lifeboats. The ship is doomed to a watery grave, and so is everyone on board if they don’t abandon ship! If you cheaped out on lifeboats, your options are to cram people past the passenger limit, fight each other for a seat, hope you can survive the cold sea on a piece of driftwood, or accept your impending demise.
As a rule, passengers are evacuated by the crew before they follow suit. “Women and Children first”, though a common sentiment, has no basis in maritime law. Depending on culture, you may be obligated to abide by it, but it also may be every man, woman, and child for themselves. Little Timmy’s sacrifice will not be in vain.
The Captain Goes Down with the Ship.
This phrase is a bit of an exaggeration, but still very important to recognize. The captain is not required to die should a ship sink, but they are obligated to ensure all others are safely off the ship before leaving. The ship and those on board are the captain’s responsibility, and they must ensure the safety of all on board their ship or die trying. This means they will be be at much greater risk of death due to not bailing immediately, but when crisis strikes, a captain that fights tooth and nail to save everyone they can, along with the brave remainder of the crew that stays to help, is worthy of respect.
Alternatively, if the captain is caught abandoning ship before every other living passenger is safely off the ship and someone else survives to shore to spread the word, their reputation and integrity take a crippling blow. Take the captain’s biggest reputation involving his career and replace it with an equally significant infamous reputation. The more famous they are, the greater the disgrace!
Rank also suffers from the captain’s cowardice. Reduce each affiliations which acknowledges the captain as a sailor of rank by 1D. They are demoted, disrespected, and disgraced.
Stranded at Sea
So your hull is barely patched with shoddy boards, your lower deck is filled waist-deep with saltwater, the sails are shredded and a mast is snapped. Whether the ship is afloat but dysfunctional or underwater with the crew crowded in lifeboats, you’re stranded at sea! This is a dire situation where you’re at the GM’s mercy. Still, it would be anticlimactic if gang simply starved to death then and there, so here are some less dismal yet still potentially dangerous means to continue the journey. This rule only applies to ship vessels. Land vehicles breaking down usually means traversing on foot.
It’s not all bad, however. Though dangerously vulnerable and unable to travel, you’re not going to sink as long as there’s no leaks. If you’re lucky enough to be close to a port, you may eventually reach civilization with enough supplies, and can even make repairs to the ship.
If you’re not so lucky, you may reach an uncharted, spooky island. This is a great way for the GM to introduce an entirely new adventure. Depending on the campaign, the group could find themselves on a desolate isle where they fight starvation, a beautiful hidden civilization where they can reenact The Road to El Dorado. If that’s too lighthearted for your campaign, you can instead populate the land with a highly hostile Aztec-inspired civilization of giant spiders. You get the idea.
Alternatively, to finding land, or perhaps after being stranded on an island for a while, a vessel may just come by to rescue you. This is most likely if you’re stranded on a trade route where ships are likely to pass. A successful Conspicuous or Signaling test may be needed to get the ship’s attention.
Maritime law and most codes of honor demand that seafarers rescue others stranded at sea. A life at sea is one of constant risk, and any sailor with a shred of empathy knows all too well that it could just as easily be them in your position. If the GM is merciful, you just might make some new friends!
Not all rescuers are selfless, though, and this ain’t a charity. Even the most generous crews may need you to pull your weight. This could simply be working on the trip as an extra hand for a crew that suffered casualties before encountering you, but they may also demand a favor or even your recently obtained treasure. Even pirate ships may “rescue” you, but in return will coerce you to join their crew and give up your treasure. A Duel of Wits is a great way to determine your end of the bargain. Stakes can be very high here, as the only place to Walk Away in this situation is back to your stranded ship. Negotiate or be left behind (Or attacked, if they’re pirates that lack manners).
This option is a great time to call for a Circles test. If they fail, you should absolutely invoke Enmity Clause. Make them strike a deal with some insufferable and spoiled son of a rich merchant, an irredeemably cruel slave galley captain, or even the legendary pirate that’s the main antagonist of the campaign if you want to spice it up. If the players have to think about whether they’d prefer being stranded at sea than working with their rescuers, congratulations. You did good. You could also attempt to murder them and take over their ship if you hate them enough to be willing to risk a fight against a force that very likely outnumbers you.
Also, do keep in mind that the ship’s destination may not be on the way to yours. They’re already doing you a favor by saving your ass, so no complaining.
Depending on the vehicle and what’s damaged, skills for repairs can vary. Carpentry and Mending are generally the most versatile for this job, but Shipwright, Boatwright, Cartwright, Sewing, and Blacksmith can also be used if they fit the situation.
Vehicles do not recover on their own. A successful test for repairing a vehicle reduces the penalty by 1 (I’ve yet to decide how wound penalty actually applies, but I’m leaning toward obstacle penalties to the driver, since the vehicle itself does not test. Additional successes further reduce the penalty. The rest is structural damage beyond repair. If you have time to stall and don’t want your ship to fall into disrepair, you might want to wait until you reach a port where a carpenter can work patiently and get help from dockworkers. Eventually though, the scars will render it unfit for sea. The only solution is for the crew to buckle down and get a new ride.
If players are particularly attached to a vehicle beyond repair to the point where it feels like a character of its own, feel free to let them hold a funeral for it and send her off with dignity. Take her for a final trip before saying goodbye. This means the vehicle cannot be taken apart for scrap and converted into cash. It was lit up in a fiery blaze of glory, memorialized in a museum or monument, or otherwise is unavailable to be used in the future.
Characters contributing to this funeral should usually gain at least one Fate and one Persona point from this scene if they were attached to the vehicle. I recommend being generous to the carpenter and giving them an extra point if they meet artha criteria.
What looks good so far? Some of the things I mentioned are rather unfinished and more vague than others, I admit. I may upload different homebrew systems and hacks in the future for feedback and use.