The players in my 7th Sea campaign finally invested in a ship, late in their careers, which means we've finally broken out the naval combat rules. The rules seem like a bit of an afterthought, with a lot of confusing and strange quirks to them... But that's fodder for other questions.

The important thing is, the rules as written seem to have a lot of book keeping involved. A given ship can take quite a few hits before sinking, each one of which requires the selection of a stat to penalize. When the NPCs have more than one ship, this makes it difficult to manage and track the NPCs.

This leads to my question: Are there any official or (playtested) homebrew alternatives to the stock naval combat rules that reduce the book keeping required?

For example, the PCs were fighting three smaller ships. A good hit from the PCs' over-gunned ship could force me to find a couple of stats to reduce, followed by increased time for stat lookups, as each NPC ship quickly evolved its own to-hit, defense, initiative and damage.

Something that reduces or eliminates the stat differences and/or the extra decisions and tracking when damage is taken would be nice.

I've got a few ideas (like eliminating wound penalties for NPCs, but making them sink sooner), but I'd like to see if anyone has something that's actually been played with.


2 Answers 2


The primary idea behind the naval combat was to turn it into a board game (pg 182 of the GM guide). Thus each ship is one character, and the actual PCs contribute their individual knacks to a roll but otherwise it's the crew of the ship, once again condensing mass combat into easier to manage segments.

The easiest way requires less desk checking than you think - just take a sheet of graph paper and make a grid of the ships in play, with the Y axis labeled as the traits (Brawn, Finesse, etc.) and make it two or three columns wide per ship. Tic marks have worked best for me in situations like these because I will use vertical tic marks with a little space between them to represent the maximum, and cross them out with a dash as they were damaged. For me it is a lot easier to look at the tic marks left at a glance and know what's left in that trait.

If you want something a little less visually confusing, an index card can easily be cut up into four or six different ships.

Whenever I'm in a big hurry or the ship battle isn't the important bit (or I'm lazy and don't have a map on hand), I conduct the fights exactly how I would with characters. Damage works as per the listed rules, except I work with the Henchmen damage track (Resolve wounds = sunk/sinking, unless some other objective is in play).

Is there something specific you would like to reduce or include?

EDIT1: In that case, I defer to the Henchmen and Brute Squad rules and adapt them to the ships. Using my core answer, you could put all damage to Resolve and just sink them instead of turning the NPC ships into a tactical placement of damage, thus dragging things out and changing dice pools.

To go the Brute Squad route, ignore their roll against the hits rolled and base it on a passive defense type number, IE Resolve x 5, and treat that as the ship's roll every time.

Going one level even further past "I don't care about these guys", you can say that the roll against Hits is always 0. This way, there is always a critical hit against the wimpy ships that only exist for the sake of existing and the roll determines how many extras there are.

In the end, though, if there are important ships I still have to side with my core answer for an easier method of keeping track of the ships in play, because just as with an actual Villain, the combat should be intense and make the players test their resourcefulness.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Mostly I'm looking to reduce the complexity of the stat tracking. For example, the PCs were fighting three smaller ships. A good hit from the PCs' over-gunned ship could force me to find a couple of stats to reduce, followed by increased time for stat lookups, as each NPC ship quickly evolved its own to-hit, defense, initiative and damage. Less of that would be nice. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited, I hope that provides some insight. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the edit, that looks more like what I'm getting at. I'll add it to the queue to try out. And definitely agree that "villain" ships deserve the extra detail... But they can't all be villains :) \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 19:44
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Incidentally, pieces from the WizKids' Pirates miniatures game are great for this, if you can find some. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aesin
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 21:51

There are a few sets of homebrew rules out there.

The 7th Sea blog Courtiers & Criminals has some good ones that try to use the official rules as much as possible. It does not use a mat or track actual ship movements - rather, those are abstract. I find this allows me to concentrate on the story:


In addition, rvhist has some rules that still make use of tracking the ships' locations:


Last, Jeff Qualkenbush has some rules that are a complete re-write and use none of the 7th Sea stats. I don't prefer these, but he has some great ideas that can be ported. I like the way he handles Brute Squads during boarding, as well as his rules for random encounters and trade.


I'm currently working on rules of my own that will essentially steal what I like best from each. I want an abstract system that is easy but really shows the difference between fast and slow ships, heavily gunned, or very maneuverable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer, Malcolm! I'll check them out, and add them to the list of things to experiment with come game time. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I finally had a naval battle to go over last weekend, and read through the systems in detail. Unfortunately, none of them quite work out: rvhist's system requires pre-declaring actions which is a lot of bookwork with many NPC ships. The other two systems use a relative-distance system designed for one or possibly two antagonists. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Still: +1. If I get a chance, I may cannibalize these to build a more perfect system. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 13:13

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