Interlude 35: The Storm 2
Every once in a while, the forces of nature generate a tidal wave. This could happen because of an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, or even the impact of a meteorite. When it does occur, it means considerable danger for ships at sea.
Seeing It Coming
In the event of a tidal wave, all characters who are in a position to do so should make Search or Spot checks to notice. The result of these checks determines how much time they have to react, along with the difficulty for the captain and crew to adjust the ship's course accordingly.
Check / Time / Modifier
0-9 / 0 rounds / -10
10-19 / 1 round / -5
20-29 / 2 rounds / -2
30-39 / 3 rounds / +0
40+ / 4 rounds / +2
Once these checks are resolved, the PC's can react accordingly. As the wave approaches, it behooves them to secure cargo and crew members, batten down hatches and the like. Options here include making Profession: sailor checks to tie down characters, making Climb checks to ascend the masts and thus be out of the area of impact.
Steering the Ship
As the tidal wave approaches, it is crucial that the ship's captain makes a DC 30 Profession: sailor check, with modifiers based on the result of the previous Search or Spot check. In this situation it is best to steer the vessel into the wave, in hopes of riding over it. (Taking a wave broadside is a very bad situation.) The results of this check determine how much water pours into the ship, and thus how hard it is to resist the wave's impacting force.
Check / Save DC / Damage
0-9 / 26 / 5d hp
10-19 / 22 / 4d hp
20-29 / 18 / 3d hp
30-39 / 14 / 2d hp
40+ / 10 / 1d hp
The type of die rolled depends on the size of the vessel: Tiny ones use four-sided dice; Small ones, six-sided; Medium ones, eight-sided; and Large ones, ten-sided. Essentially, larger ships have broader decks and therefore can take on more water. Should a vessel suffere more damage from water than it has hull points, it becomes submerged. Up to that point, the GM can use the percentage of damaged suffered versus total hull points to represent how much of the ship is filled with water. For example, a ship with three decks that has suffered 33% of its hull points in damage would have one deck filled with water. It also has its maximum speed reduced by the same percentage.
As the wave hits the ship, all who are on the main deck should make Fortitude saves to resist its force. The DC for these is determined, as mentioned above, by the result of the captain's Profession: sailor check when sailing into the wave. If the characters had time to do so, they can also use Profession: sailor checks to replace those checks, to represent tying themselves down before the impact. Should a check fail, that character must then make a Reflex save with the same DC, in an effort to grab hold of a loose rope, a mast, or the rail before being dragged overboard. If that check succeeds, it takes another Fortitude save or Strength check to latch onto something solid. At the GM's discretion, other characters could make saves or checks to latch onto comrades who are being swept into the sea.
If a character is swept overboard, this presents a very dangerous situation. First and foremost, that character must make DC 20 Swim checks in order to stay above the water. Failure means that a character slips under the water and must hold one's breath. That can be done for a number of rounds equal to one's Constitution score, after which the character begins drowning.
Of course, there's also the chance that someone else can help rescue that character. One option is for other characters to keep an eye on the unfortunate, and then to bring the ship about to rescue him/her. This requires both a Search or Spot check for anyone who is watching, along with a Profession: sailor check to bring the vessel back around to the victims. The combined DC for these checks is 50; in this way, better observation makes it easier to navigate, and vice versa. As long as both checks add up to the required total, the ship pulls within twenty feet of the victims. Every five points by which the combined check fails means that the ship is ten feet further away from that unfortunate soul.
With that, of course, it's still necessary to rescue the victim. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including sending someone into the water or throwing a line. In the prior case, someone diving into the choppy sea needs to make a DC 20 Swim check or also be at risk of drowning. On the other hand, it takes a ranged attack against AC 5 to hit a target with a rope or similar thing, with a penalty to that attack based on the distance between the victim and the ship. If that effort is successful, it then takes a DC 15 Strength check to haul the victim back aboard the ship.
Variations on a Theme
As always, the GM is free to add other elements to this interlude; a few possibilities are suggested here.
- To make things more difficult, a monster suchs as a sea serpent or giant squid could appear on the scene while the ship and crew are at their most vulnerable.
- In the event of failure, the GM could find an impetus for a new adventure hook. For example, a lost PC could wash up on a desert island, facing the challenge of survival and facilitating rescue. It might even be home to pygmies, island giants or a wild hairy man.
- Alternately, a friendly onijegi could rescue a drowning character, and then recruit him or her to help with a whole other problem.
- There's always the chance that someone lost at sea could be picked up by another ship--friend, foe or something in between the two.