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Travel By Boat


Adventurers in the Panakos world find themselves traveling by boat quite a lot, especially considering it's the only viable means of travel between archipelagos for PCs of most levels. While Paizo's Skull and Shackles supplement provides an outstanding resource for vessel construction and vessel combat, it doesn't cover long ocean journeys well at all, possibly due to limitations within their chosen campaign setting. The core movement rules for Pathfinder do not mesh properly with the vessel statistics either, because ships with the movement rates listed in the SRD are four times (or more) faster than the distance traveled "per day" in the Movement section of the core rules. To reconcile this, we present herein some simple rules for distance travel.


Vessels in rivers or close to shore may follow the standard Paizo weather rules, but vessels out to sea in the Pakanos world should use the following chart, rolled as necessary:

(d20 result) : (weather effect)

  1. Clear. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing, favorable winds for 3d6 days, then roll twice and take lowest result
  2. Clear. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing, favorable winds for 2d6 days
  3. Partly Cloudy. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing, favorable winds for 2d6 days
  4. Cloudy. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing, favorable winds for 2d6 days
  5. Fog. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing, favorable winds for 1d2 days.
  6. Clear. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing light winds for 1d6 days, then roll twice and take lowest result
  7. Partly Cloudy. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing light winds for 1d6 days, then roll twice and take lowest result
  8. Cloudy. Sailing Check DC10. Prevailing light winds for 1d6 days, then roll twice and take lowest result
  9. Fog. Sailing Check DC15. Prevailing light winds for 1d2 days, then roll twice and take lowest result
  10. Clear. Sailing Check DC15. Air pole dominant strong winds for 1d6 days, then roll twice and take the highest result.
  11. Heavy Rain. Sailing Check DC15. Water pole dominant favorable winds for 1d6 days, then roll twice and take the highest result.
  12. Cold Snap. Sailing Check DC15. Earth pole dominant winds. Snow or sleet in colder climates, thunderstorms in warmer climates, lasting 1d6 days.
  13. Heat Wave. Sailing Check DC10. Light fire pole dominant winds for 1d6 days, then roll twice and take lowest result.
  14. Moonward Weather. Sailing Check DC15. Clear. Heavy prevailing winds and heavy seas for 1d6 days.
  15. Choked. Clear skies. Sailing Check DC15. Becalmed for 1d6 days. Heavy sargasso develops as the days progress, then clears if a different result is rolled.
  16. Squalls. Sailing Check DC15. Light to heavy rain, prevailing strong winds, lasting 1d6 days.
  17. Heavy Weather. Sailing Check DC15. Rain, sleet or snow and variable strong winds lasting 1d6 days, ocean swells to 10 feet.
  18. Heavier Weather. Sailing Check DC20. Rain, sleet or snow and variable severe winds lasting 1d4 days, ocean swells to 15 feet.
  19. Windstorm. Sailing Check DC25. Clear skies and air pole dominant windstorm level winds lasting 1d2 days, ocean swells to 20 feet.
  20. Hurricane / Typhoon. Sailing Check DC30. Severe precipitation. 30 ft ocean swells or larger. Variable hurricane force winds lasting 1d4 days. The boat is blown a random direction 200 miles each day.

A "prevailing wind" is a wind that follows the trade winds in the above graphic. A "pole dominant wind," is a wind that originates at the indicated elemental pole on the campaign map or above graphic, and has the characteristics listed. 


A vessel traveling at maximum speed can travel one tenth it's ft/round speed in nautical miles per hour. So a sailing vessel with a 90 ft/round speed travels 9 nautical miles in an hour of travel, provided the wind is favorable. Please note this differs from the core movement rules in Pathfinder, but is consistent with the vessel combat rules from the Skull and Shackles expansion.

Wind powered vessels travel their maximum speed for 24 hours under favorable wind. They make no headway if becalmed. If the wind originates anywhere in their rear 90 degree arc, they travel with no modifiers to their movement. They are at a -25% speed penalty if the wind originates in their forward 90 degree arc, an additional -25% speed penalty if the wind is light, and an additional -25% speed penalty (totaling -50% or -75%) with a headwind, representing time spent tacking against the wind. Variable winds are a -50% penalty. They are at no headway penalty from ocean swells.

Oar powered vessels travel their maximum speed for every hour under oar, provided the wind is lower than "windstorm" level. They are at a percent speed penalty equal to as much as double the ocean swell in feet, which a GM may choose to waive if the seas are "following," meaning the waves come from the rear of the vessel and act to push it along.  In windstorms and hurricanes, oar powered vessels are pushed along in the direction of the wind at half their speed.

Sailing Checks

Different vessels require different kind of checks to manage, as listed in their vessel description, typically either diplomacy, intimidate, or profession (sailing). Some vessels or vessel modifications grant bonuses to these checks. A captain may receive aid on these checks, and may take 10, so many times checks aren't required even if they're listed in the weather description above. The check is made once per day. If a captain fails a check, his vessel makes no headway. If he fails the check by five or more, the vessel is additionally damaged in some way (GM discretion) and all further sailing checks will be taken at a -5 penalty until the damage is repaired. If the check is failed by 10 or more, the vessel has severe damage for some reason (GM discretion), is barely seaworthy, and future sailing checks are at -10. If a check is failed by 15, the vessel either sinks or is dashed against the rocks.

For every 25% a vessel is undermanned, it takes an additional -5 penalty to the sailing check roll.

Putting in to Port

As experienced sailors know, one of the more difficult tasks is anchoring up, as it's one of the few times your vessel is close enough to land to run aground. For oared vessels, putting in to port (or simply rowing up onto the beach) requires a simple DC 10 Sailing Check. For wind powered vessels, anchoring in a protected harbor requires a sailing check of a DC relative to the dominant weather condition. To bring a sailing vessel into dock such that it may be tied up requires a similar check at a +5 penalty to the DC.

Navigation Checks

Navigation in Panakos consists of reading a set of "Panakos Compasses," which are between two and four compasses, each keyed to point to a different elemental pole. A complete compass set will include four, but navigation may be attempted with as few as two. The navigator reads the angles between each of the compass points, and interpolates his location on an ocean map by triangulation with the known locations of the four poles. Navigation checks may be made with knowledge (geography), knowledge (nature) at a -5 penalty, or profession (sailor) at a -5 penalty, or a wisdom check at a -5 penalty. Triangulating your location with a complete compass set is a DC 10 check, a DC 15 check for a set of 3 compasses, and a DC 20 check for a set of 2 compasses.

Planning a Journey

First, instruct the players to determine the origin, the destination, the distance, and the prevailing wind direction. Next, have them calculate their vessel's speed in feet per round, nautical miles per hour, and nautical miles per day. Calculate the number of miles per day in 100%, 75%, 50%, and 25% increments, for easy reference under adverse weather circumstances. Have your players calculate the expected length of the trip, and suggest they anticipate unforeseen circumstances, as well as the return trip. You may wish to roll the weather in advance.

Panakos Hazards

If a vessel is within 2000 nautical miles of the Torrentia, (16) it must roll twice on the weather chart, and take the higher result. If within 1000 miles of its center (within the graphic representation on the map) the vessel must roll twice per day and take the higher result, unless the result is lower than the current weather and the current weather has days left on its duration. If a vessel is within 1000 nautical miles of the Choke, (15) roll twice and take the lower result. All results indicating light wind are becalmed, and all results indicating favorable wind are considered light wind. If a vessel is within the graphic representation of the Choke itself, do not roll. The vessel is becalmed under clear, cloudless skies. Increase all sailing check DCs by +5 for vessels in the Bite, (17) and by +10 for vessels in the Teeth (18) representing the hazards of icebergs and shifting shoals and reefs. 

Random Encounters

We recommend a 10% chance per day of a random encounter, but we also note that many encounters will simply have no effect on a party within a vessel. Use the Ocean table for deep sea encounters, the low level ocean table near shore,  and the coastal table within site of land.