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Nautical Travel Events

Nautical Travels

The ocean makes up over 70% of Earth's surface, and it is fair to say that Golarion probably has a similar situation. Whether or not this is the case, it is true that there is a LOT of ocean. Unfortunately, for many campaigns ocean travel just isn't that interesting. Even though it can take days, weeks, or even months to get from one place to another, nautical travel is often skipped over, or perhaps briefly described as mostly uneventful- unless some pre-planned happening takes place partway through. But if you just want some spontaneous nautical encounters, it's rather uncharted territory. This page is an attempt at remedying that situation, by offering a solution to the boringness of nautical travel.

Random Events

The following list offers a system that the Game Master can use to determine what sorts of happenings can occur during oceanic travel. Of course, the final decision is up to the Game Master, and they can tweak, change, or interpret any of these suggestions as they see fit.

Basics of the Trip

The first thing that should be done when a party of adventurers decides to sail on the high seas is to determine the approximate duration of the journey. Many factors can be taking into account when determining this, but the most important are the distance being traveled and the speed of the ship. Other factors like currents, winds, and other persistent environmental factors can be accounted at the Game Master's discretion.

Event Frequency Table

 Type of Trip
 Event Frequency
 Very Eventful Trip
Event every 2 days.
 Interesting Trip
Event every 3 days.
 Average Trip
Event every 5 days.
 Uninteresting Trip
Event every 7 days.
 Boring Trip
Event every 10 days.
 Monotous Trip
No events.

Once the approximate duration has been determined, the Game Master should decide how frequently a random event should occur. If the waters are relatively untravelled, then it may be more desirable to have a very eventful trip, whereas sailing along a common trade route is probably more of an uninteresting trip. Consult the table to the right for recommended event frequencies.

Determining the Events

Now that you have a good idea of how long the trip is, and how often events will have, break out your fancy GM dice! If you prefer to plan everything out ahead of time, it would be a good idea to do this before you get together to play. Otherwise, you can just do this part on the spot with your players, for a truly spontaneous experience. As your players sail along the great blue road, make an event roll at the proper frequency (one roll every other day for a very eventful trip, one roll a week for an uninteresting trip, etc.). For the event roll, roll 1d20, and have several other dice prepared in case you need to roll for event details. Check your roll against the following chart to see what event happens.

Random Nautical Events

 Dice Roll
 Corresponding Event
 Event Description and Details
 Detail Die
 1 Pirates attack the players' ship
 Combat with pirates!
 2 Discover pirates in combat with a nearby merchant ship
 Possible combat with pirates or merchants. Players' choice.
 3 Refugees stranded on an island are flagging the players down
 Possibly save refugees. Players' choice.
 4 A sea monster attacks the players' ship
 Combat with sea monster!
 5 A powerful tide knocks the players' ship off course
 Trip takes 1d4 days longer (profession: sailor check DC 10 or survival check DC 18 to negate)
 6 Nothing happens
 Nothing happens for this event. It's like a free skip.
 7 The players' ship is caught in a storm
 Trip takes 1d6+1 days longer (profession: sailor check DC 15 or survival check DC 20 to negate)
 8 The players find a ship in trouble or currently sinking
 A ship populated with one of 5 possibilities is encountered, in trouble. See appropriate chart below.
 9 The players come across an uncharted island
 Possibly explore or chart island. Players' choice.
 10 A field of ice floes or possibly rocks is encountered
 Ship takes 10% damage (profession: sailor check DC 1d10+10 or survival check DC 1d10+15 to negate)
 11 The local naval military is in the area
 Outcome based on local military's friendliness. Or, for random event, see appropriate chart below.
 12 A floating-village colony is found
 A village of ships, rafts, and other free-floating structures encountered. See appropriate chart below.
 13 FORTUNE: A busy future is in store...
 Reroll this event, and roll for a bonus additional event in half of an event frequency period.
 see details
 14 FORTUNE: An unventful future is in store...
 Nothing happens for this even and the next event. Double free skip.
 15 The nagivator was busy stargazing, the ship gets lost
 Trip takes 1d4+2 days longer (profession: sailor check DC 15 or survival check DC 22 to negate)
 16 Powerful winds are blowing
 Strong gusts of wind cause one of eight possible outcomes. See appropriate chart below.
 17 A magical aura is visible in the water
 A sunken chest of gold and gems rests on the seafloor at this location. See appropriate chart below.
 18 A message is heard on the wind
 One of various messages is carried to the players on the wind. See appropriate chart below.
 19 A hostile threat returns to chase the players
 The most recent hostile, surviving threat to the players shows up for a chase.
 20 Open to GM interpretation
 Pick one of the above events, or create your own! YOU decide.

Detailing the Events

If you're planning these events in advance, then after rolling, you should flesh them out. Come up with details for encounters, a list of possible npcs the party may come in contact with, details and stats for the npcs (in case one of the players desides his alignment should be more evil...), and things of that sort. The more you come up with in advance, the easier it will be in the middle of playing to incorporate things. Even if you don't roll for the events until game time, it's a good idea to have a quick mockup of stats of pirates, maybe a floating colony name, and a few other things that'll make improvisation a little easier and keeping the game smooth. One other way to help detail the events is to roll for specifics. Several of the events above have a "Detail Die" and refer you to the chart below for specifics. If you intend to use this chart, then see what rolls for the Random Nautical Events chart have a Detail Die. If one of these events comes up when you're rolling for the events, immediately follow up by rolling the specified Detail Die, and checking the chart below to see what details now apply to the event. These added specifics help to keep the possible events very fresh, and offer even more opportunity for interesting spontaneous events.

Nautical Events Details Chart

 Event Details (This chart is color-coded to better represent nested rolls)
 Original Roll: 8, Sinking Ship
Detail Die: 1d10
-Merchants (1,2)
-Pirates (3,4)
-Passengers (5,6)
-Outlaws (7,8)
-Ghosts (9,10)

 Original Roll: 11, Naval Military
Detail Die: 1d6
-Routine practice (1,2)
-Setting out to war (3,4)
-Defending the perimeter (5,6)

 Original Roll: 12, Floating Colony
Detail Die: 1d2
-Friendly Colonists (1)
--Detail Die: 1d4
---Mages, Arcanists (1)
---Druids, Naturalists (2)
---Merchants, Traders (3)
---Clerics, Priests (4)
-Hostile Colonists (2)
--Detail Die: 1d4
---Pirates (1)
---Xenophobic Radicals (2)
----Detail Die: 1d3
-----Racist Dwarves (1)
-----Smug Elves (2)
-----Bloodthirsty Orcs (3)
---Cultists, Demon Worshippers (3)
---Ghosts (4)

 Original Roll: 16, Gusts of Wind
Detail Die: 1d8
-Wind on Your Side: Trip is 2 days shorter (1)
-Favourable Breeze: Trip is 1 day shorter (2)
-Cool Breeze: Reduce temperature (3)
-Warm Breeze: Increase temperature (4)
-Slowing Wind: Trip is 1 day longer (5)
-Halting Gusts: Trip is 2 days longer (6)
-Map Blown Away: Survival check DC 15 or Profession: Sailor check DC 12 every event day. Failed check adds 1 day to the trip (7)
-Hurricane Winds: Ship capsizes (8)

 Original Roll: 17, Treasure Glow
Detail Die: 1d6
-Cursed Treasure (1,2)
-Non-Cursed, Regular Treasure (3,4)
-Bonus Treasure: More Treasure (5)
-Bonus Treasure: More Treasure AND Valuable Armor/Weapon(s) (6)

 Original Roll: 18, Message on the Wind (Perception check to hear, DCs below)
Detail Die: 1d10
-Stray/Random Message DC 12 (1, 2)
-Ally, "Everything's Okay" DC 10 (3)
-Ally, "I'm in Trouble" DC 14 (4)
-Ally, "You're in Trouble" DC 12. If one of next 3 events is between 16 and 20, treat it as 19 (5)
-Enemies DC 18 (6)
-Refugee, Calling For Help DC 14. If one of next 3 events is between 1 and 5, treat it as 3 (7)
-Wind Djinn, Forecasting Weather DC 17
--Detail Die: 1d6
---Storm, next event treated as a 7 on the Original Roll (1)
---Clear, next 7 or 16 on the Original Roll treated as 6 instead (2,3)
---Hot (4)
---Cold (5)
---Wind, next event treated as 16 on the Original Roll (6)