Some Notes on a Ship-Crawl


These notes were originally posted in a thread on Mastodon. And then on Twitter. Sharing here to expand the audience and solicit further feedback.

What I’m trying to hack together is a system for sailing ship operation and activities while going from port to port. Sorta Traveller-esque (in the operating a free trader sense), but in a fantasy setting. The encounters and events in port are the more interesting bits, but what do you do in-between?

Events at sea could include weather (becalming, storms, etc), ship issues (damage and repair, crew matters, fire, etc), passenger and cargo issues, and so forth.

I am envisioning this for use in a game setting where some of the area has been charted, but possible discoveries of new islands may occur. Encounters with fauna or with other vessels (friendly or hostile) could be possible, as well.

For in port activity, I’d like to have a a few systems or sets of tables: a trade and cargo bit for brokering; an encounters bit for potential passengers or possible adventure hooks; administrative and tariff matters; some maintenance and upkeep requirements to keep things in check and have tasks the PCs and crew need to keep up with (or not, if they’re feeling risky).

This was the general shape for the F2F game I was trying to get started at the end of 2021 to start up a new DragonQuest game, but it never quite gelled. So I’m still thinking about it as a PBEM. I’ll probably use DQ for the characters and activities, but it’s not going to be a tactical game at all.

It seems to me that this could be done as a system-agnostic set of tables and rules. It’s hexcrawl-ish, but with elements of castle maintenance for the ship operation and so forth.

My setting concept is for a somewhat known region, but it could be adaptable to a more Edge of the World/There Be Dragons kind of setting, as well.

Is there already something like that out there, so I don’t have to reinvent existing wheels (to pick a particularly un-related metaphor)?

Is this something anyone else would want to play? If someone else was running a game like this, I am pretty sure this would definitely be my jam. Hopefully it’s interesting enough that others might want to playtest this with me.

Some things other people have posted about that’s been a nudge or an inspiration to do more with this idea:
Mastodon discussion
ara –
emmy – @emmyverte

Also, I think the concept of Paul Czege’s Traverser is an influence, even if his actual game is nothing like what I’ve imagined for it.

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3 Responses to “Some Notes on a Ship-Crawl”

  1. VPofTucson Says:

    I think you can get a lot of mileage out of adapting the spaceship trade/maintenance/travel/encounter rules from Stars Without Number, as its an OSR (albeit sci-fi) example of what you’re trying to do.

  2. Andrew Wright Says:

    Worlds Without Number is the fantasy version of Stars Without Number. Kevin Crawford has a kickstarter going for a supplement with seafaring rules as well

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