I have been working for a long time on a project cataloging warships from the age of sail, and as gamers we see the same 6 ships over and over, they might be sort of iconic, but they’re overused and in a lot of cases not terribly accurate.
AD&D DMG — Barge, Galley, Merchant, Rowboat, Warship
3.0 SRD — Galley, Keelboat, Longboat, Rowboat, Sailing Ship, Warship
3.5 SRD — Galley, Keelboat, Longboat, Rowboat, Sailing Ship, Warship
Pathfinder + Skull & Shackles — Galley, Junk, Keelboat, Longboat, Raft, Rowboat, Sailing Ship, Ship’s Boat, Warship
5e Ghosts of Saltmarsh/UA: Ships of the Sea — Galley, Keelboat, Longship, Rowboat, Sailing Ship, Warship, the Airship from Ships of the Sea didn’t make it into Saltmarsh.
5e Naval Combat — Brig, Caravel, Cog, Galleon, Sloop
5e Ultimate Ships — Galley, Junk, Keelboat, Longboat, Raft, Rowboat, Sailing Ship, Ship’s Boat, Warship (It seems like Legendary ported over the ships and descriptions from the Skull & Shackles player’s guide to 5e, if Paizo got them from anywhere else I don’t recognize the original source yet)
Pathfinder 2e Gamemastery Guide — +Galley, +Rowboat, +Sailing Ship
Galley — this is the everyship from the Greek Trireme to the Roman war galley, even Venice had war galleys and yet, galleys were a product of the Mediterranean sea and handled horribly in rough seas/oceans like the Atlantic. Galleys gave way to other ships as trade moved to the Atlantic and the advent of gunpowder. Skull & Shackles says Galleys include: biremes and triremes to galliots and dromons.
Junk — the only ship we ever see from Asia, and this is a shame because there is a diversity of Korean, Japanese and Chinese ships as well as Chinese pirates that could be reflected with some more focus on Asian ship types.
Keelboat — Skull & Shackles says keelboats include: cog, hoy, hulk, karve, and knarr.
Longship — Skull & Shackles says Longships include: Norse longships such as the karvi, snekkja, and skei, as well as the balinger and birlinn.
Rowboat — Skull & Shackles says Longships include: any of a number small open boats propelled by oars, such as dinghies, dories, skiffs, and wherries.
Sailing Ship — Skull & Shackles calls the Sailing ship a catch all for the following: barques, brigantines, caravels, carracks, larger cogs, frigates, galleons, schooners, sloops, and xebecs. There are a number of differences inside this category between two, three and four masted ships, ships that were meant only for cargo, ships built just for war and very fast ships.
|Cargo||150 tons||0.5 tons||10 tons||0.25 tons||100 tons||200 tons||100 tons||200 tons||10 tons||1 ton|
|Dmg Immunities||poison, psychic||poison, psychic||poison, psychic||poison,
|poison, psychic||poison, psychic||poison, psychic||poison, psychic|
|Weapons||Ballistas, Mangonels, Ram||Ballista||—||—||Ballista, Mangonel||Ballistas, Mangonels, Ram||Ballistas, Mangonels,||Ballistas, Mangonels||Rockets||Ballistas|
Ship’s Boat — this becomes a very important vessel late in the age of sail. Oceangoing vessels can’t just put into any harbor, the ship’s boats moved marines, sailors, equipment, tons of fresh water and food from ports and harbors. Captain Bligh of the Bounty sailed 3,000 miles in a ship’s boat. Some were armed with swivel guns or carronades. Skull & Shackles says ship’s boats include: cutters, gigs, jolly boats, launches, longboats, or pinnaces, as well as other small, open boats such as faerings, sampans, and whaleboats.
Warship — Skull & Shackles says Warships include: largest Norse longships, called drekar or drakkar, as well as very large galleys such as galleasses and lantern galleys, are all considered warships.
Rowboat, Ship’s boat and raft are all tiny little things in the boat category so we only have 6 actual ships we see repeatedly in the history of D&D.
To scratch my particular itch I want to create something like the Stronghold Builder’s Guide or Ultimate Campaign for ships where you can build out your ships more than just a few customizations. I also want to give you ships fit for the Age of Piracy and up to the Napoleonic Era. I will ground it all in the historical ships of earth with some notes on considerations for your fantasy game.
Ships by Josh Shinabarger from Louis Porter Jr Designs stock art.
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