Sailing and Underwater Combat?

I’m a first time GM setting up a game with two players that’ll take place in Stone Age Micronesia with aquatic dwarves and angry spirits. Obviously, the characters are going to have to travel over water to get from island to island and atoll to atoll, but I’m not sure what rules to use to figure out how fast the characters get there, whether they capsize in strong winds etc. They’ll be getting around in Polynesian canoes (like the one below) made for only a few people, so full-on Rigging, Knots and Piloting don’t seem to quite fit.

Also, it’s probable that some watery foe will try to drag them to their deaths at some point. What should I do in such a situation? Disadvantages if you fail a Swim test maybe, and require that you surface to breathe every so often depending on your Forte?

In the case of fights between people on different boats, I guess I’d just use the Range and Cover rules and require tests to move the boats around.

You may need to rework sailing skills. Actually, in this case you may need to rethink the Seafaring setting, because this is a world in which a whole lot of people are seafaring but in boats, not ships. You may just want a single Sailing skill, or a handful of them.

How fast they arrive and what tragedies befall the characters en route is no different from riding from city to city. You can Say Yes (as presumably there’s a lot of travel that goes routinely), you can make it a single test with a single interesting consequence, or you can make an adventure out of it with several tests and twists until the destination is reached or not–again, only if not results in interesting story.

Combat is very different in water. You could use Bloody Versus with a bunch of Obs, maybe with linked Swimming. During Fight you could have Swimming at the beginning of every exchange. In fact, it might even become the skill used for positioning tests to take advantage or disadvantage. As for getting pulled in and drowned, that’s just getting Locked. Get Locked enough and you’re dragged into the depths and likely to drown without rescue.

Thanks! That’s really useful. I think I’ll just roll everything into one Sailing skill, but keep Navigation separate. And yeah, I’m coming up with all-new lifepaths to reflect the culture, which is very different from medieval Europe. It’s quite a small society, so I’m putting it all in one setting - I figure that you just do whatever’s necessary for your village/island, never mind who your parents are or how you started out in life.

I can see that working, but it takes part of the fun out of lifepaths. And even in a small society there is usually some degree of separation and specialization.

But post what you have when you have it!

Trying to copy into the forum was to much bother, so here’s my current lifepath set as a google document.

From a cursory look, it looks pretty good. Very general with the mental and physical points, maybe. And I take it back; no reason to have settings or subsettings if they’ll have just two or three LPs in them.

Can I clarify what you mean by ‘very general’? And also I’ve assumed that Swim can just be opened with the general points - most islanders are gonna learn to swim at some point. Maybe make it compulsory in the ‘Born Islander’ lifepath?

A note on background - dwarves were once land-dwellers like men, but in their lust for the treasures of the deep (especially pearls and shells) they started binding water spirits to themselves so they could breathe for longer and longer underwater, until they were permanently fused with the spirit of the ocean and so compelled to live beneath its waves. They are extremely jealous of Men for their use of fire - an art they never learned before becoming the sea-folk. Fire-bearers are those tasked with keeping the sacred knowledge of fire-building. Bead Makers bind minor fire spirits to their beads (when they succeed on the Enchanting test), causing them to glow with a faint reflection of Man’s fire. Dwarves lust after these fire-beads immensely, and will trade many treasures for them - including the extraordinary Dwarvern armour (whale skin with shells and teeth and enchantments sown in to make it very tough).

I have on idea what I was trying to say, but I meant that the LPs give out more points than they should, maybe. On the one hand, hunter-gatherer societies may emphasize wits and strength more than city living. (There’s an interesting book that discusses it. By Jared Diamond, maybe?) On the other hand, BW tends to avoid anything for free.