Naval Basics
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   Fleet Battles
  

Fleet Combat

Skull & Shackles Adventure Path
A fleet consists of multiple ships organized under a single admiral. Each individual ship in a fleet is crewed by a captain and her crew. Technically, it only takes two ships to constitute a fleet for the purposes of these rules, but the number of ships involved will always be quite a bit higher (if you're just doing a battle between a couple of ships, it's generally better to simply use the naval combat rules).

Fleets consist of a number of squadrons of ships. All of the ships in a squadron must be of the same type of ship (longship, junk, sailing ship, warship, etc.). Each squadron involved in a fleet battle is commanded by a single commodore. A squadron consists of at least one ship, and can consist of a maximum number of ships equal to 3 + the commodore's Charisma modifier. A character whose Charisma modifier is -3 or worse cannot serve as a commodore.

The fleet as a whole is commanded by a single admiral. An NPC fleet consists of a number of squadrons equal to 3 + the admiral's Charisma modifier. A PC fleet can have a number of squadrons equal to the party's Infamy score divided by 10 (round down)—this base number is then increased by the admiral's Charisma modifier. A character whose Charisma modifier is -3 or worse cannot serve as an admiral.

Creating a Fleet

When the PCs begin gathering allies for their fleet at the start of "The Price of Infamy," you should provide them with a blank copy of the fleet sheet. While they won't be able to fill in the information about their squadrons until they start recruiting commodores during the adventure itself, they can start filling in basic information about their fleet at the start. (The point of these rules is not to create multiple small fleets under PC control, but rather to create one single large fleet—as such, any one party can only ever control a single fleet at a time in a Skull & Shackles campaign.) The PCs should follow the following steps to build their fleet.

Step 1—Fleet Name, Home Port, and Flagship

The name the PCs choose for their fleet and the names of their home port and the fleet's flagship have no effect on the fleet's statistics— these are purely flavor elements.

Step 2—Select an Admiral

A fleet can have only one admiral. Whether this is a PC or an NPC ally is in large part irrelevant, but a fleet admiral should really have a high Charisma score and possess many ranks in Profession (sailor). Note that non-admiral PCs can still bolster a fleet by granting flagship boons (see Step 4). Record the admiral's name and his or her Profession (sailor) bonus on the sheet.

Step 3—Determine Maximum Squadrons

A single fleet can consist of a maximum number of squadrons equal to the party's Infamy score divided by 10 (rounded down)— this initial value is increased or decreased by the admiral's Charisma modifier. For NPC fleets, this maximum is 3 + the admiral's Charisma modifier.

Step 4—Assign Significant Characters

Each fleet possesses a number of significant characters—either PCs (in the case of a player-controlled fleet) or unique, named NPCs (in the case of a GM-controlled fleet). Record the names of the significant characters here, as well as their location in the fleet (either on the fleet's flagship, or in a squadron). If a significant character is an admiral, he must be located on the flagship—if a significant character is a commodore, she must be located in the squadron she commands. Finally, each significant character grants the fleet a boon—record that significant character's boon here. See "Flagship Boons" for more details.

Step 5—Begin Recruiting Squadrons

Without squadrons, a fleet is merely theoretical. A large portion of this adventure covers the steps necessary to recruit squadrons of vessels to a fleet. Each squadron recruited has its own statistics to go along with it, but if the PCs wish to build up their own squadrons from scratch, they can do that as well (although this is fantastically expensive—it's generally faster and easier to recruit existing squadrons).

Creating a Squadron

HITS PER SHIP
A ship possesses a number of hits equal to the number
of squares it takes up in the ship-to-ship combat rules.

1 Hit per Ship: Raft, rowboat, ship’s boat
2 Hits per Ship: Keelboat
3 Hits per Ship: Junk, longship, sailing ship
4 Hits per Ship: Galley, warship

A squadron consists of a number of individual ships, each commanded by a captain. The squadron (and its captains) are in turn commanded by a single commodore. A squadron can have no more ships than its commodore's Charisma modifier + 3.

Each squadron and its statistics is listed in its fleet's stat block under a separate subheading. On the fleet sheet, each squadron is recorded in its own squadron box. Follow the steps below to fill out a squadron box.

Step 1—Name the Squadron

Record the squadron's name at the top of the box—this name can be whatever you want.

Step 2—Determine the Configuration

Record the number of ships in the squadron, along with the type of ships in the squadron. Record how many hits each ship contributes to that squadron's total hits. Ship type determines how many hits each ship contributes. All of the ships in a squadron must be the same type of ship. The types of ships available for use in a fleet are listed here. The hits per ship for these ships are listed in the "Hits per Ship" sidebar .

Step 3—Select Commodore

List the name of the squadron's commodore, along with her Charisma modifier and Profession (sailor) skill modifier. An admiral can never serve as a commodore. If a commodore is also a significant character (either a PC or a significant named NPC), that squadron gains a +2 bonus on all attack rolls, damage rolls, and morale checks. (As a general rule, most NPC fleets should have 2-4 significant named NPCs serving as commodores.)

Step 4—Determine Hits

A squadron's hits equals the number of ships in the squadron multiplied by the number of hits each ship contributes. For example, a squadron of five rafts would have only 5 hits (since a raft is only a 1-hit ship), whereas a squadron of five warships would have 20 hits (since a warship is a 4-hit ship). This number is temporarily reduced by disabled ships and permanently reduced by sunken ships.

Step 5—Determine Morale

Morale for each squadron fluctuates during a battle. A newly consigned squadron's starting morale score is equal to the party's Infamy score divided by 10 (round down), with a minimum morale score of 1 and a maximum score of 10. An NPC fleet's squadron has a starting morale score of 3 points. If a squadron's morale score is ever reduced to 0, the squadron mutinies and is lost—it cannot be "repaired" in this case, and can only be replaced by a new squadron. A single squadron's morale score can never be higher than 10.

Step 6—Determine Defense Value

A squadron's Defense Value (DV) is equal to 10 + the commodore's Profession (sailor) skill check modifier, further increased by some flagship boons.

Step 7—Determine Attack Value

A squadron's Attack Value is equal to its commodore's Profession (sailor) check. This value can be increased by flagship boons or the presence of a significant commodore.

Step 8—Determine Damage

A squadron deals 1d6 points of damage to a fleet on a successful attack, plus an additional point of damage per ship in the squadron. This damage can be further modified by flagship boons and the presence of significant commodores.

Step 9—Determine Morale Check

A squadron's base morale check is equal to its commodore's Charisma modifier, further modified by flagship boons and the presence of significant commodores. Each time that squadron has a ship become disabled, add +1 to its loss count. Each time a squadron has a ship sink, add +1 to its loss count. Each time an entire squadron is destroyed or mutinies, add +1 to each surviving squadron's loss count. A squadron's total morale check is equal to its base check minus its loss count.

Flagships and Significant Characters

A flagship is the ship on which the fleet's admiral is located. A flagship moves around during a fleet battle, issuing orders and providing support as needed, but does not itself belong to a specific squadron. A flagship cannot be damaged or sunk during a fleet battle, and is generally regarded as a prize or trophy of any conflict. See the "Victory" section for more details on the fate of a flagship once a fleet battle is resolved.

A flagship's primary purpose in a fleet is to grant boons to the fleet. Boons are advantages granted by the fleet's significant characters. For a party-controlled fleet, each PC counts as a significant character. A GM-controlled fleet's significant characters are unique NPCs—a GM-controlled fleet generally has four significant characters.

A fleet gains one boon for each significant character who travels with the fleet. If the significant character associated with a particular boon is not present in the fleet (either because that character was elsewhere at the time of the battle or because that character's squadron was destroyed), the fleet does not gain that boon.

Flagship Boons

Flagship boons must be chosen when the fleet is created, and once chosen, they cannot generally be changed. Adding a new significant character to the group allows a new boon to be selected, but otherwise, you must decommission the current flagship and place a new flagship in command of the fleet in order to be able to pick different boons. Decommissioning a flagship in this way deals 1d4 points of damage to each squadron's morale score—which can result in the need to replace squadrons if mutinies result from this morale damage.

The available flagship boons are as follows. A boon cannot be taken more than once for a fleet unless otherwise noted.

Advanced Tactics

At the start of a battle phase, select a squadron. That squadron gains a +2 bonus to its Attack Value. Whenever that squadron deals damage during that battle phase, you can determine which enemy ships take the damage, rather than the damaged fleet doing so.
   Requirement: Significant character with at least 11 ranks each in at least 5 different skills.

Defensive Tactics

At the start of a battle phase, select a squadron. That squadron gains a +2 bonus to its Defense Value for that battle phase.
   Requirement: None.
   Special: This boon may be taken multiple times. Each time it is taken, you may add a +2 bonus to a different squadron at the start of the battle phase. (This bonus does not stack if it is placed on the same squadron.)

Divine Protection

At the start of a battle phase, select a squadron in the fleet. That squadron takes 1 fewer point of damage than it normally would when attacked by a squadron in the other fleet.
   Requirement: Significant character with the channel energy class feature.
   Special: This boon may be taken multiple times. Each time it is taken, it must be applied to a different squadron at the start of the battle phase. (This bonus does not stack if it is placed on the same squadron multiple times.)

Loyalty

Whenever you recruit a new squadron, all squadrons gain a +2 bonus on morale checks (this bonus does not stack if multiple squadrons are recruited).
   Requirement: Significant character with a Charisma score of 15 or higher.

Magical Artillery

All squadrons gain a +1 bonus on damage rolls and a +1 bonus on morale checks.
   Requirement: Significant character capable of casting at least one 6th-level spell.

Overwhelming

The fleet's maximum number of squadrons increases by 1. If this boon is lost, the squadron with the lowest morale (determined randomly if multiple squadrons have equally low morale) immediately mutinies.
   Requirement: Significant character with the Leadership feat.
   Special: This boon may be taken multiple times—its effects stack.

Reckless Maneuver

At the start of a battle phase, select a squadron in the fleet. That squadron gains a +4 to its Attack Value for that round, but these maneuvers leave it open to attacks. The selected squadron takes a -2 penalty to its Defense Value until it acts in the next battle phase.
   Requirement: None.
   Special: This boon may be taken multiple times. Each time it is taken, it must be applied to a different squadron at the start of the battle phase. (This bonus does not stack if it is placed on the same squadron multiple times.)

Remorseless Advance

At the start of a battle phase, select a squadron. That squadron gains a +2 bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls for the duration of that battle phase. Its morale increases by +1 at the start of the battle phase.
   Requirement: Significant character with a base attack bonus of +11 or higher.

Swift Repairs

At the end of a battle phase, roll 1d6. You may remove this amount of damage from any combination of non-sunken ships from any single squadron.
   Requirement: Significant character capable of casting at least one 4th-level spell.

Swift to Battle

The admiral gains a +4 bonus on all Profession (sailor) checks made to determine initiative.
   Requirement: None.
   Special: This boon may be taken multiple times—its effects stack.

Vengeance

The first time one of the fleet's ships sinks in a battle phase, all allied squadrons become overwhelmed with a need for vengeance and gain a +2 bonus on attack rolls and morale checks for the rest of that battle phase.
   Requirement: None.

Running Mass Naval Combat

A fleet battle begins as a result of two fleets encountering each other on the high seas. During a mass naval conflict, players do not draw upon their characters' abilities— instead, they use their fleet's squadrons to make attacks against the enemy, with their characters serving as commanders on the ships. A mass naval combat plays out over the course of multiple rounds, with each round consisting of a battle phase and a rout phase.

At the start of a combat, place each fleet's ships on the table as representations for the attack—this works best if you use photocopies or printouts of the ship counters from the Skull & Shackles Player's Guide. For each squadron, place a number of appropriately sized ship counters on the table so that they are adjacent to each other. Actual placement on the table is irrelevant; since these fleet battle rules are streamlined and simplified, the allocation of damage represents the ships maneuvering and shifting position during the battle.

Battle Phase

At the start of a battle phase, each fleet's admiral makes a Profession (sailor) check to determine initiative. The admiral whose result is higher gains the upper hand in that battle phase, which grants all of his squadrons a +1 bonus on attack rolls. This Profession (sailor) check is made at the start of each battle phase.

Each fleet then takes turns making attacks with their squadrons. The winner of the initiative roll gets to make the first attack, using any one of his squadrons. The other fleet then makes its first attack, using any one of its squadrons. Attacks with squadrons go back and forth during the battle phase until all squadrons able to attack have done so—a single squadron can only attack once per battle phase. If one fleet has more squadrons than the other, the additional squadrons attack at the end of the battle phase after the other fleet has used up all of its attacks for that round.

Attacking

When you attack with a squadron, pick one of the enemy fleet's squadrons as your target. Roll 1d20 and add that squadron's attack value. If the result equals or exceeds the enemy squadron's Defense Value, you deal damage as appropriate for your squadron. If you miss, you still deal 1d4-1 points of damage (damage from a miss can never be increased by any other effect). This damage h an abstract combination of siege weapons, ramming, spellcasting, missile fire, and even boarding actions against enemy crews.

Assigning Damage

The damaged fleet normally gets to assign its damage by marking (either by crossing out of by placing a marker such as a die, penny, or some other counter) the amount of damage on the targeted squadron. This damage doesn't all have to be on the same ship—you can spread it out in any way you wish among all of the non-sunken ships in your squadron.

Critical Hits and Fumbles

A natural 20 on an attack roll always hits and allows you to assign damage to the enemy as you wish, rather than allowing the defender to allocate it (you do not deal double damage with a critical hit, though). A natural 1 always misses entirely (and results in no damage at all to the enemy fleet). Every time a squadron scores a critical hit, its morale score increases by 1; each time it rolls a fumble, its morale score decreases by 1.

Effects of Damage

Each point of damage reduces a squadron's total hits. When a particular ship takes an amount of damage equal to its hits, it becomes disabled. A disabled ship does not count toward its squadron's damage rolls, and increases that squadron's loss count by +1. A ship that takes damage while it is disabled sinks and is removed entirely from the fleet, increasing that squadron's loss count by +1.

Losing a Squadron

Each time you lose an entire squadron (as a result of either damage or mutiny), increase the loss count for each surviving squadron by +1.

Abandoning Ship

For simplicity's sake, you can assume that a commodore's ship is the last to sink in any squadron. Note that not all characters on a sinking ship automatically perish. Typically, a ship sinks slowly enough that officers and crew can abandon ship, and there's usually ship's boats and other pieces of wreckage to grab onto. Once a battle is over, you can assume that any significant characters who were on a sinking ship survive, either by escaping in a boat, by clinging to flotsam, or by fleeing via magical means. The ultimate fate of a significant character on a sunken ship depends more on the results of the actual battle itself. If the imperiled character's fleet wins, she can be rescued after the battle, but if her fleet loses, the best she may be able to look forward to is capture by the enemy—more often, such victims are merely left to perish via the countless methods the sea presents for death.

Rout Phase

A rout phase occurs after each battle phase. At this point, each surviving squadron must succeed at a DC 10 morale check by rolling 1d20 and adding its morale check modifier. Failure indicates that the squadron takes 1d4 points of damage to its morale score. A squadron whose morale score is reduced to 0 immediately mutinies and is removed from play.

Fleeing a Battle

At the end of a rout phase, an admiral can attempt to flee the battle entirely. When he does so, the other fleet immediately gets one free attack using any one of its squadrons and can target any one of the fleeing fleet's squadrons. The fleeing admiral makes a Profession (sailor) check at a -4 penalty, opposed by the other admiral's Profession (sailor) check. If the fleeing admiral's check result is higher, his fleet escapes; otherwise, every squadron in the fleeing admiral's fleet takes 1 point of morale damage and the battle continues into a new round.

Victory

A fleet wins a battle once all of the enemy's ships are removed from play, either by disabling or sinking all the ships in play or by causing squadrons to mutiny. When victory is secured, the enemy fleet's flagship is rendered defenseless, allowing the victors to board the flagship at once.

PC Defeat

If the PCs are defeated, the repercussions of that defeat are described in the text of the adventure. In general, the enemy captures and/or executes the PCs, resulting in a loss as if the PCs had all been defeated in regular combat. A defeated fleet generally disbands. In the unusual case of a PC fleet managing to surrender or even escape before it is destroyed, every squadron takes 1d8 points of damage to its morale score.

PC Victory

If the PCs win the battle, they capture the enemy flagship. In most cases, the fleet's commanders refuse to go down without a fight. At this point, the PCs resolve the conflict by engaging in shipboard combat against the enemy, but because of their recent triumph, all PCs gain a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws made during this shipboard combat.

All surviving squadrons gain 1d4 points of morale with a fleet victory, minus 1 point for every ship in that squadron that was sunk during battle (minimum 0 morale gain).

After a battle, any damage to non-disabled ships are repaired at the rate of 1 hit per hour as the crew works to recover from the battle. Disabled ships must be towed back to a harbor, where repairs can be made at the normal cost. A disabled ship is reduced to 5% of its total hit points.

Sunken ships and ships that fled a battle after their squadron was reduced to 0 morale cannot be repaired—they must be replaced.

Experience point awards for defeating a fleet should be tailored to be a CR award roughly equal to the party's average party level at the time the battle took place. For particularly tough or easy battles, the GM can adjust this award upward or downward as she sees fit.

Reading a Fleet Stat Block

A fleet is represented in text as a stat block. Alternatively, you can record all of a fleet's relevant numbers on the fleet sheet. What follow are notes on how to read fleet stat blocks.

Name: This lists the fleet's name.

XP: This lists the number of experience points earned by the PCs for defeating the fleet. See rules below on determining a fleet's XP value.

Admiral: This lists the name of the fleet's admiral, followed by the admiral's Profession (sailor) skill modifier and the fleet's initiative modifier.

Flagship: This lists the name of the fleet's flagship.

Significant Characters and Boons: This lists the fleet's significant characters, their location in the fleet, and the boons they provide to the fleet.

Squadrons: The second half of a fleet stat block lists the fleet's individual squadrons. The entries below are repeated for each of the fleet's squadrons. Some fleets may have all unique squadrons (this is likely to be the case for the PCs' fleet) while others might simply have multiple essentially identical squadrons (as far as game statistics go).

Configuration: This lists the number and type of ships in the squadron.

Commodore: This lists the name of that squadron's commodore, the commodore's Charisma modifier, and her Profession (sailor) skill modifier.

Hits: The amount of damage a squadron can take before all of its ships sink.

Morale: This lists the squadron's morale score.

Defense Value: This lists the squadron's Defense Value (DV)—essentially, the DC of any attack against the squadron in order to cause significant damage. A squadron's Defense Value is equal to 10 + the commodore's Profession (sailor) modifier + any miscellaneous modifiers granted by flagship boons.

Attack Value: This lists the squadron's attack roll modifier.

Damage: This lists the damage the squadron deals on a successful hit.

Morale Check: This lists the squadron's morale check modifier.

Terminology

Listed below are key terms for describing fleet battles.

Admiral: Commander of a single fleet. An admiral influences a fleet's morale score and determines the fleet's maximum size.

Battle Phase: Period during which each squadron attacks the enemy fleet.

Captain: Commander of a single ship.

Commodore: Commander of a single squadron. A commodore primarily influences a squadron's Attack Value and Defense Value.

Disabled: A ship that has taken an amount of damage equal to its hits is disabled. A disabled ship does not count toward its squadron's damage rolls or the squadron's number of hits. A ship that takes further damage while it is disabled sinks.

Flagship: The ship in a fleet on which that fleet's admiral is located.

Fleet: A number of squadrons that are commanded by a single admiral.

Hits: Every ship in a squadron takes up a certain number of squares—this number represents the number of times the ship can be damaged during fleet combat before becoming disabled, and is referred to as its hits. As long as the amount of damage a ship has taken does not equal its number of hits, the damage is automatically repaired at the end of the fleet battle. A squadron has a number of hits equal to the sum of its ships' hits.

Morale: Every squadron has a morale score ranging from 1 to a maximum of 10. When a squadron's morale score drops to 0, that squadron mutinies and is lost.

Morale Check: This check is made during the rout phase of a fleet battle, and requires rolling a d20 and adding the squadron's morale check modifier. This check determines whether a squadron mutinies and is removed from play.

Round: A round consists of a battle phase and a rout phase. A single round of mass naval conflict generally accounts for 10 minutes of open warfare in game time.

Rout Phase: Period after a battle phase when each squadron must make a morale check to avoid mutiny.

Ship: A single ship in a fleet, which is commanded by a single captain.

Significant Character: A PC (in the case of a player fleet) or a named unique NPC (in the case of a GM-controlled fleet) whose presence in a fleet grants additional boons and bonuses.

Squadron: A number of similar ships commanded by a single commodore.

Sunken: When a ship sinks, it is removed entirely from a fleet. A new ship must be purchased or recruited to replace it. Survival of any characters on a sunken ship is subject to the GM's discretion and how quickly and successfully the PCs undertake rescue attempts (in the case of a player fleet).