Rolling Up Lots of Buccaneers

My at-sea encounter tables have a subtable for the types of men aboard that ship on the horizon, but much to my shame I did not pre-gen any ships (and crews) for my first play-test. Definitely a mistake: Rolling up 1-6 ships and their officer corps (they’ll generally all have at least two Fighters of level 2+, and some possible mages and clerics thrown in) is not like rolling up a pod of whales. I decided to remedy this in advance of my next go-round.

For a more-or-less completely fleshed out pirate/buccaneer officer, doughty enough to have survived all the way to level 2 (or more!), I went with the following:

  • Average hit points (4.5) per die, rounded up.
  • Chain, sword, crossbow unless magic is indicated
  • The Marsh/Cook rules for magic items (5% chance per level on swords, armor, miscellaneous weapons, potions, scrolls, miscellaneous magic, and rods/wands; results that cannot be used by a Fighter become no result)
  • Dexterity assumed to be 9-12, Strength and Constitution 8-18

The STR and CON range was a bit of a problem- I didn’t want to deal with totaling three dice and re-rolling totals below 8 for the dozens of fighters I was sketching out; I also didn’t want to change the relative probability of results of 8 and over (not too much, anyway). Time for a weird table:

Fiddly NPC Ability Scores Ranging 8-18
1d20 1d12
1-13 1-3: 9; 4-6: 10; 7-9: 11; 10-12: 12
14-18 1-6: 13; 7-10: 14; 11-12: 15
19 1-8: 16; 9-12: 17
20 1-10: 8; 11-12: 18

This gave me some variety in hit points from the CON bonuses, and some potential surprises in melee from STR.

If I cared less for the actual score than for the bonus, I would have disregarded the d12 roll in all cases but a 20, and rolled a d6 (1-5: -1; 6: +3).

4 Responses to “Rolling Up Lots of Buccaneers”

  1. March 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I’m not sure what your “period” is exactly for shipboard weapons, but just offhand, I’d rule that chainmail was a death sentence for anyone who slips overboard. Bows and spears strike me as good ship-to-ship weapons, I guess swords are canonical for pirates. I wonder what your ships are like, though – longboats? Cogs and caravels with fore- and stern-castles? Junks?

  2. 2 Charlatan
    March 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I guess I’d say the period is a something like the late 14th-early 15th century of naval technology: Galleys (small), Cogs (Small Sailing Ships), and Caravels (Large Sailing Ships); no Carracks. Longships are still on the water, and used for coastal raiding. However, they are toast (literally) when a magic-user is around. But this is just to say that period of naval history in the real world is part of the historical pastiche of B/X.

    The chainmail is taken right from B/X. I had originally thought that the shipboard stuff would be strictly leather and cloth, but I was persuaded otherwise by the players. Between magic items and the existing rules for swimming when encumbered (“Characters in any type of metal armor may not swim, instead they will sink and drown.”), I figure the chain-clad are taking a calculated risk.

  3. 3 Bobjester
    March 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I’d allow the chainmail armor, as long as the players know the risks of falling overboard & drowning, I, as DM would not worry about it.

    As for the weird, fiddly table, I would have skipped that altogether & simply rolled a d10 & add to 8 for Str & Con for a range of 9 to 18, but I fully understand that ‘weird, fiddly tables’ are fun to make & it is a staple of old school game design and I also like making them up when necessary. ;)


  4. 4 Eric Minton
    March 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    They’re NPCs. Who cares whether their stats follow a strict probabilistic distribution? Just whittle everything down to a single roll!

    1-5 0 0
    6-8 0 +1
    9-11 +1 0
    12-13 +1 +1
    14-15 0 +2
    16-17 +2 0
    18 +1 +2
    19 +2 +1
    20 +2 +2

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Past Adventures of the Mule

March 2011

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