CREW TO CREW BOARDING ACTION

Adapted from “Boarding Ships for Fun and Profit” by Caleb T. Gordan, Wayfinder No. 8, Winter 2012

Once Crew-to-Crew Boarding Action begins (usually as the result of a successful grapple), one of the officers for each ship needs to be in charge of their boarding crew. This officer is called the boarding officer for the ship that is attacking and the master-at-arms for the ship that is defending.

This boarding action is not going to be represented like the PCs and NPCs with miniatures, but by a line that marks the success of either boarding or repelling. As the battle ebbs and flows, the number of 5-foot squares each side controls represents how successful the boarding action is.

Squares controlled by your crew are counted as normal terrain in combat. Squares controlled by enemy crew are counted at difficult terrain, and PCs or important NPCs that end their turns behind the enemy line take 1d6 points of swarm attack damage representing the fighting all around the characters and the danger of wading into unfriendly crews.

At the start of combat, the boarding officer makes a Profession (sailor), Profession (soldier), Intimidate, or Diplomacy check as a free action to see how successful his crew is at boarding against a DC equal to 10 + the master-at-arms’ Profession (sailor or soldier), Intimidate, or Diplomacy skill check modifier. If successful, the boarding party is able to claim 3 adjacent squares of deck, plus one adjacent square for every 5 the boarding officer beats the DC. The boarding officer may also step onto one of those squares and begin combat in that space.

At initiative count 0 of each round, the boarding officer and master-at-arms make opposing Profession (sailor or soldier), Intimidate, or Diplomacy checks. The winner is able to claim one 5-foot square of ship deck, with an additional 5-foot square claimed for every 2 they the beat the other officer’s check. The squares must be adjacent to already claimed squares. In the case of a tie, no squares are claimed by either side.

Boarding Modifiers

A number of factors can modify the officer’s check:

  • Area Attack or Splash Weapon: If an area of effect attack or splash weapon is used against enemy combatants, the boarding officer or master-at- arms gains a bonus on his next opposed Profession (sailor or soldier) check. This bonus is equal to the effect’s spell level (or +1 if the effect is a cantrip, orison, or non-magical).
  • Attack Modifiers: If a spell or class ability modifies the attack roll of all the boarding officer or master-at-arms’s allies on the ship (such as bane or inspire courage), apply the same bonus or penalty to that officer’s opposed Profession (sailor or soldier) check.
  • Officer Killed: The boarding officer or master-at-arms suffers a −2 penalty on all subsequent opposed Profession (sailor or soldier) checks for each allied ship’s officer (e.g., a PC) killed in the combat. This penalty increases to −4 if the boarding officer or master-at-arms is killed, and another officer must take his place to make the check.

Special Boarding Actions

The boarding officer or master-at-arms and his allies can take special actions to modify the results of the check. These special actions are:

  • Aid Another: As a standard action, another officer can make a DC 10 Profession (sailor or soldier) check to provide a +2 bonus to the boarding officer or master-at-arms’ next opposed check.
  • Build Up Defenses: As a move action, the boarding officer or master-at-arms can order his crew to take a defensive position. The crew fortifies inside cabins, presses against the attackers, or fights to keep the higher ground. The officer gains a +4 bonus on his next opposed Profession (sailor or soldier) check, but if successful, his crew does not gain any squares this round.
  • Bull Rush: As a full round action, any officer can make a bull rush attempt against the enemy crew as a full round action. Treat the CMD as 5 + the opposing officer’s Profession (sailor or soldier), Intimidate, or Diplomacy skill check modifier. For every square the target would be pushed back, instead gain control of one square. If the acting character does not have the Improved Bull Rush feat, he takes 1d6 points of swarm damage.
  • Cut the Rigging: As a move action, the boarding officer or master-at-arms can order his crew to damage the ship. He chooses either the oars, sails, or ship as the target. If the opposed Profession (sailor or soldier), Intimidate, or Diplomacy check is successful, the crew does not gain control of any squares. Instead, for every square the crew controls, the target takes 2d6 points of damage that bypasses hardness. If the check fails, the crew deals no damage and lose squares as normal.
  • Slash the Lashings: As a move action, the boarding officer or master-at-arms can order his crew to cut the lines that keep the two ships together and shove the ships apart. This order can only be used if the crew using it controls all of the ship’s squares. On a successful opposed check, lashings are cut and the two ships separate. This ends the opposed boarding checks but does not end combat for the PCs if they still have targets. Captains in control of their ship can try to grapple and initiate boarding once more, or they can attempt to escape and sail away.

The Ship Is Ours, Captain!

Once the primary battle between the PCs and the enemy NPCs is complete, the battle is finished and the winner’s crew takes control of all remaining squares. Your arbitrary and capricious DM will probably assess losses to each crew based on the relative success or failure of the boarding action just before the end.

CREW TO CREW BOARDING ACTION

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