Interlude 17: The Competition 2
A previous interlude provided suggestions for using competitions as a non-combat challenge during an adventure. While those situations were appropriate for downtime on land, it is also possible that some friendly competition could arise while the ship is at sea. Given the penchant for sailors to boast about their prowess at a variety of activities, it's only natural that they might challenge one another to show off their puissance when it comes to the tasks commonly performed by seamen.
This can also be a good opportunity to develop the personalities for other members of the crew. Indeed, players whose characters are not skilled in these activities could claim an ordinary sailor, give him/her a name, and have that character compete. This could help increase the challenge for the PC's, and might lead to some good-natured ribbing if a lowly swab outperforms an officer. Additionally, these details could increase the drama later during combat situations, if sailors with established names and personalities are injured or killed.
Race to the Top
It's an old and time-tested means for sailors to test their abilities against one another: who can be the first to the top of the mainmast, and back down again? This contest allows for two competitors—one going up the starboard ratline, and one going up on the port side.
To resolve this competition, characters involved should first make opposed Initiative rolls. The character who wins gains the initial upper hand, and a slight lead on the opposition. From that point onward, the characters should make opposed Climb checks. Technically speaking, each character involved moves one quarter of his speed, or one half of his speed with a full-round action. The higher check is a little bit faster, however, and gains a slight lead on his opponent. While this check doesn't change the distance that each character travels, it does represent who moves a little more quickly and thus can reach the goal a little more quickly. (The exception to this is that characters who fail to make the DC 15 check come to a halt, and don't make any progress in their climbing. In such an instance, the character who falls behind must manage to catch up in distance travelled, and have a higher number of compared successes.) In this way, the characters should continue to make opposed checks until they reach the top of the mainsail, at which point the character who has won the most opposed checks wins.
Note that characters with a higher speed, especially barbarians, have a distinct advantage in this competition. In such cases, the opponent must win initiative and manage to reach the top of the mainsail through successful checks before the opponent with the higher speed can do so.
In a Bind
To resolve this contest, each of the characters involved should make Profession: sailor checks to represent how quickly each character can tie the appropriate knots. Given the number of knots, it is best that from two to six characters compete. In the event that there is a tie after all of the knots have been attempted, the person running the competition could certainly devise some more complicated tests, perhaps involving splices. Some possible knots include the bowline, bowline on a bight, clove hitch, figure-eight knot, sheet bend, and square (reef) knot.
Ready, Aim, Fire
This challenge is especially appropriate if the ship should become caught in the doldrums, and if the captain just wants to give the gun crews a little practice. Whatever the case, the ship should be riding at anchor. To arrange it, somebody in a rowboat should haul out appropriate targets—barrels or crates that have been irreparably damaged, excess timber that has been cut away, and the like. These should be taken to an appropriate range, perhaps a hundred yards, and left floating.
At this point, gun crews take turns preparing and firing their piece (treat the debris as having AC 15). This should be resolved as normal, recording how many attempts it takes to hit the target. Subsequently, those who attempt the challenge must manage to hit the target with a smaller number of shots. In the event of a tie, the target could be removed to a greater distance for another round of shooting.