Life on the Ship


Traveling the treacherous seas of The Shackles is an adventure in itself. The following quick method helps you determine how quickly a vessel travels and whether or not it stays on course.

Each point of a vessel’s Travel Speed equals 10 leagues (30 miles). A Vessel’s total Travel Speed is how many leages it can travel per day. If sailing with the prevailing winds, the ship may move diagonally. Against the wind, it may not. For each day of travel, the navigator must make a Knowledge (Navigation) roll or a Boating roll with a –4 penalty, modified as follows.

Navigational Modifiers

Mod Circumstance
+2 Vessel stays along coast
+1 Sailing with prevailing winds
–1 Sailing against prevailing winds
–2 The navigator has no compass
–2 Most crew have no Boating
–1 Crew averages Boating of d4
+1 Crew averages Boating of d8
+2 Crew averages Boating of d10
+3 Crew averages Boating of d12

With a success, the vessel moves as expected. A raise adds +1 to the vessel’s Speed that day. Failure means the ship travels 10 leagues of its movement in a random direction — the GM rolls a d8 to determine the direction it moves to if sailing with the wind or a d4 to determine which way the lost ship moves if sailing into the wind.

If the roll moves the vessel into a land mass on the map, including a bank or reef, it may run aground. Whoever is steering the ship must make a Boating roll (the crew adds a group cooperative roll as well to account for lookouts in the crow’s nest and so forth). Some Edges and Hindrances affect this roll, too. Failure indicates the ship has run aground. The vessel is wrecked and everyone aboard must make a single Swimming roll to make it to shore, or begin to drown. Success means the pilot avoided disaster and the ship is merely beached. It takes 2d20 hours to pull it free, or 1d20 hours if another ship is available. A raise means the ship avoids the shoals, sandbars, or reefs completely and suffers no ill effects.


Wooden vessels must be “careened” on occasion. The ship is turned on its side and barnacles, sea worms, and other parasites are scraped off. Failure to careen a ship decreases its speed.

A ship should be careened once every four months (three times a year). If it is not, the ship’s Handling is reduced by one on the fifth month and every month thereafter, to a maximum penalty of –4.

Any of the major ports offer careening for 100 gold per point of the vessel’s base Toughness, which takes a number of days equal to half its base Toughness. A ship can also be careened on an island by its crew. This is a tiring and tedious process, taking a number of days equal to the craft’s base Toughness (a base Toughness of 17 requires 17 days, for instance). This is an average number based on the standard crew for a ship that size. A crew with twice the usual number of workers can careen the vessel in half the time, half the required crew takes twice the time, and so on.


The crews of ships must eat and drink, and ensuring each vessel is properly provisioned is a major concern of any captain. To keep things simple, provisions are purchased as generic “points” rather than tracking every bit of food and water required. Each point represents one day’s food, water, and other supplies for one man, and costs 1 gold. This includes fruit capable of staving off scurvy. Every 500 points of provisions takes up one cargo space.


Wild Cards suffer from starvation normally (one provision a day counts as adequate food). For the rest of the crew, they begin to suffer Fatigue when they don’t have adequate provisions. Make a group Vigor roll each day the crew has half rations (one provision for every two men). Subtract 2 if the crew has less than this. Should a crew reach Incapacitated state, 10% of the men perish each day from starvation. Most crews mutiny long before this starts to happen.

Cabin Fever

One of the worst problems faced by a crew isn’t cannon fire or pirates but the sheer boredom of life on the water. Most of a sailor’s time isn’t spent taking part in swashbuckling adventures — it’s spent swabbing the decks, splicing ropes, or mending sails. Discipline is usually quite fierce onboard as well. Most captains don’t allow gambling or drunkenness (it tends to cause deadly fights). That’s why sailors tend to spend so much of their hard-earned (or ill-gotten) booty in port taverns or brothels.

All characters automatically gain one level of Fatigue after every 30 days spent at sea. The crew never becomes Incapacitated due to Cabin Fever, but when that state would otherwise be met, the sailors might start whispering mutinous thoughts.


A night spent carousing “resets” the crew’s clock. Start the 30-day countdown again. Fatigue lost to Cabin Fever can only be relieved by rest and relaxation. This means carousing in a port with plenty of booze and women for most. Historically, sailors have often spent the equivalent of a year’s pay in a single night. Each week spent in port where the crew can relax which usually means boozing and wenching) removes one level of Fatigue due to Cabin Fever.

Life on the Ship

Skull & Shackles Psikonetic