Tag Archives: Naval Adventures

Two Page Mini Delves: The Secret of the Pale Reaver

 This article is part of the May of the Dead blog carnival. For lots (and lots) more May of the Dead goodness, check out Going Last’s carnival page here.

There are a few things that I’m trying out with this two page delve. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not I was successful. Of all the two page delves I’ve made thus far, this was the one I really wish I could have playtested and tweaked. Unfortunately, this was not an option. So even if you don’t think the delve would work out for your group as presented, at the very least this will hopefully be a starting point for ideas.

I tried out an isometric view when I made the map. It turns out that isometric dungeons are quite easy to make, as long as you have some isometric graph paper. You can print out isometric graph paper for free online; I used at 1/4″ grid. I also drew the map with a 6B pencil instead of the usual black gel pen. You’ll have to let me know if you like the look better or worse than the cleaner lines of a pen.

And of course this is my first shot at horror. There isn’t really a way to “win” this delve, only a way to survive. Many players might not like that. I tried to incorporate advice on horror writing that I’ve found in various places – I’ve used lots of foreshadowing before the final “encounter” and included advice for the DM to generate suspense during the delve.

The map for this dungeon is an exact replica of the Fat Dragon Games “Sea Dragon” model, which I talked about last week. You certainly don’t need the model to run the delve, but if you want a 3D representation on the table, that’s where you can get one.

 You can download the mini delve here.

The Pale Reaver

Large Scale Naval Conflict – Post Playtest

The players made short work of my "solo" ship

I mentioned a post or two ago that I had tried my Large Scale Naval Conflict rules with my group.  I thought I’d write a few words about how it went, and how I might have done things a bit differently.

First however, for those of you unwilling to go back and read the original article, the gist is this:  use the miniature ship battling game “Pirates of the Spanish Main” as a starting point, and pare the rules down so they can be learned in about 5 minutes.    

The advantages to doing this are twofold.  First, the miniatures for this game are really quite stunning.  Moving little model ships around the battlemat when you’re simulating a naval encounter is really the only way to go, in my opinion.  Second, since it’s already a miniature battling game, the mechanics are already there, and only have to be tinkered with (or not!) to successfully bring them into your 4e Dungeons & Dragons adventure.    

First, the setup.  Each of my players had a two mast ship, worth about 5 or 6 points.  The number of masts rougly corresponds to hit points – without any masts, you can’t move or shoot, and if you’re hit, you sink.  The points are merely a measure of how “good” the ship is.  I had two ships, plus a special crew member.  The first ship was a 5 mast, 21 point ship (El Acorazado), and the other was a 3 mast, 8 point ship (El Corazon Del Mar).  The first ship had a special ability that required a player to make two successful hits to remove one mast.  On top of that, the pirate crew member they were after (Joaquin Vega) had a complimentary ability that ignored the first hit as long as the ship had all its masts.  So basically, my big bad solo ship could take two hits from every player, every turn, without showing any damage.  It was the third hit that took out a mast.  The second ship was there to lend support, be a distraction, and balance out the points (I had 28, my players had 30).      

Now, a ship gets one shot per mast, so the two mast ships that my players had were going to have a difficult time damaging my ship.  I was ok with that because it was 5 on 2, so the odds were stacked against me otherwise.   It was my way of balancing the encounter, and keeping the ship threatening.  Otherwise, the sheer number of cannons on the players’ ships would easily take out mine.  This way, I was able to keep shooting for a few more turns.  

So how did it go? If the metric we’re using is fun, I’d say it went very well.  If the metric we’re using is challenge, I feel I could have done a better job.  Even with a “three hits to damage” setup, I was only able to sink one of their ships.  I did have another of their ships down to no sails as well, but in the end, it was too easy for them to use the force of numbers to hem me in and pound me with cannon fire.   

 Here are a few tweaks that I would suggest if you’re considering doing this as well: 

  • Instead of a second “medium sized” ship, I would have used several smaller ships (think minions).  I had opted for two ships in order to keep my turns simple, but in the end, that wasn’t really an issue.  Having more cannons on my side would have been helpful, as well as more ships to run interference.
  • Don’t be afraid to put more than one type of crew member on your ships – having a musketeer AND a helmsman makes you more of a threat.  I wouldn’t recommend more than two, however.  Since crew members have point values, you can use that to keep the encounter balanced.
  • Like D&D solo monsters, give your big ship an “action point.” 

Finally, I realized that I didn’t need the “correct” ships to make the scenario work.  As long as each ship had the correct number of masts, it would be possible to make up cards with the rest of the relevant stats to reference.  You’re not playing the “official” game; the ships are mostly for visual appeal, so having the “right” ship to go with the stats in front of you isn’t necessary.  That’s good news, because I’m guessing you can pick up some of the less desirable ships on Ebay for pretty cheap.  If you need ideas as to what different ships can do, I’d suggest this link to Miniature Trading.  Pick any of the Pirates of the Spanish Main expansion sets, and sort by “Type” to get all the ships.  Hover on any ship name, and you get a popup picture of the mini; click on it, and you get all its stats.  Pretty cool. 

I would definitely do this again.  I’m not sure the opportunity will come up again anytime soon, but I’m going to keep it in my little bag of tricks.  It was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. 

So, I’m sure I didn’t cover everything.  Do you have any questions about how the scenario went?  

The Sea Dragon’s Maiden Voyage, Part III

Yes, that's one of my players on his cell phone in the background. I'm so ashamed...

In Part I of this fun little series, I outlined a skill challenge that took place aboard World Works Games’ “Maiden of the High Seas papercraft ship.  If you don’t remember the skill challenge, take a second to go back and read it over again.  Even though it’s been two weeks since you read about it, keep in mind that the following combat happens immediately after the PCs pass or fail the skill challenge.   

The Combat (Level 4)    

First, let me emphasize that this combat isn’t really “winnable” in the traditional sense.  It has been designed to keep replenishing monsters every round.  Instead of just killing everything in sight to end the encounter, the PCs have a goal (which should be made very clear to them) that has to be accomplished in a certain time frame.    

Second, the combat will be far more difficult if they did not successfully complete the prior skill challenge.  Before I dive into the actual combat, here is what the PCs face if they were unsuccessful at the skill challenge:    

  • All squares are difficult terrain
  • At the beginning of each round, everyone makes a moderate acrobatics check.  On a failure, you slide 2 square toward the port or starboard (random, by die roll) as a gust of wind catches one of the unfurled sails and tosses the boat violently.  This forced movement can push a PC overboard.
  • Both of these combat conditions can be ended by completing the skill challenge.
    Protip: Ranged strikers do their thing from the crow’s nest really well.

     

    One of the sailors bellows a war cry, drawing your attention to the side rails.  Swarming over the sides of the boat are dozens of sahuagin. Plus, with an adequate passive perception, players are given the following information before the combat starts. Otherwise, they receive it after the first round of combat: There seem to be two of the shark-men who are not involving themselves in the combat; one at the fore of the boat, and one at the aft.  Instead, they are performing some kind of ritual.  If you look closely, you can see a faint thread of energy running between them.  A moderate arcana or religion check will reveal that the ritualists are performing a summoning ritual.  A difficult check will reveal that they are summoning an elemental.   

 

  • Goal: Kill the two ritualists before 5-7 rounds have passed. (DM discretion, determine ahead of time based upon your party)
  • Enemies: 4 sahuagin raiders, 1 sahuagin priest, 6 sahuagin guards (pg. 224 of the Monster Manual) PLUS the two ritualists who are also sahuagin priests, but do not involve themselves in the combat in any way.
  • Special 1: At the beginning of every round, add 3-6 sahuagin guards to the combat, DM’s discretion. They start their turn next to one of the ship’s side rails.
  • Special 2: The Arcane Ballista from Part II is in play.
  • Tactics: The ritualists start the combat at either end of the boat, and the raiders are with them, as protection.  The guards (minions) should run interference, making it more difficult for PCs to get from one end of the boat to the other, and otherwise distracting them.  They should not all bunch up around the ritualists, making them impossible to reach.  The idea is to make it as much like a chaotic melee as possible.  Finally, the priest (the active one) should stand near one of the ritualists, taking advantage of the raiders’ protection, and attack the party from range with Spectral Jaws and then Water BoltAny sahuagin that is pushed overboard will “lose a turn” and reappear on deck on their following turn.  Therefore, pushing one of the ritualists overboard will extend the number of rounds allowed for success by 1.  In other words, it does not interrupt the ritual, but it does slow it down.   

 

There was a mini shortage that night, so I resorted to using odd minis and dice.

If you want to make the combat even more interesting, you could have some of the sahuagin start attacking the captain as he steers the boat, threatening to lose control of the boat if he is killed.  If that happens, revert to the “skill challenge failure” conditions unless a standard action is spent every round behind the wheel to keep the ship under control.  I would only recommend this if it seems like the PCs aren’t having too much trouble.    

Of course, the “why” of the combat is up to you.  Perhaps it’s a random attack, but perhaps the sahuagin are attacking that ship specifically for some reason.  Maybe there’s a certain cargo or passanger aboard that they want to get at.  Alternately, the attack could be a precursor to widespread attacks by sahuagin on sailing vessels.  So, if you want to just drop it in your campaign as a one-off, you can, and if you want to make the combat more meaningful, you can do that too.    

That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.  What’s that? I missed something?  What happens if they don’t kill the ritualists in time, you ask?  Let me tell you:  a gargantuan water elemental shaped like a shark appears and smashes the boat to tinder in his monstrous jaws.  Seriously.  (By the way, if the PCs are successful, the same water elemental appears and smashes into the boat, but this time, only the sahuagin are washed off the deck, and once it’s gone, everything is mysteriously dry, the sun is out, and the storm is gone.  So either way, you get to describe the fearsome elemental.)    

Unfortunately for my players, they didn’t recognize the urgency of the situation, and decided to engage the minions, raiders, and priest for 7 rounds instead of really focusing their attacks on the ritualists.  I know they will probably argue with that assessment, but I think the results speak for themselves.  (Sorry guys)  They are now adrift in the middle of the ocean, one dead, and the rest struggling for survival on whatever pieces of wood they could cobble together from the remains of the Sea Dragon.  Will they survive?  We’ll all find out (myself included) tonight…    

One final note: I mentioned that one of the characters died.  Since January, I’ve been bringing the Going, Going, Gone! Dicie award from WeXogo.com to every session, and just letting it sit next to me.  So I was finally able to give that away.  Here is the lucky recipient, whose Shaman died as his ethereal celestial bear wept tears made of pure sunshine, or some sentimental crap like that:

The Sea Dragon’s Maiden Voyage, Part II

In Part I, I outlined a skill challenge I used aboard a ship, and promised the combat encounter that followed; before we get into that combat encounter for the Sea Maiden, I wanted to highlight two other things I did during this adventure, and my thoughts on how they worked out. 

Arcane Ballista on the forecastle. The sailor henchmen are the pink starburst.

I’ve long been a fan of using special terrain features to add spice to combats.  This particular combat, however, was my first time actually trying it, and I think it went very well.  I used the Arcane Ballista from the D&D Miniatures “War Drums” line, framing it as a deck gun that the players could fire on their turn using a minor action.  Since the card that came with the mini was written with 3.5 rules, I had to come up with some 4e mechanics governing how the ballista was to be used.  I required a difficult arcane or thievery check to operate it, and then an intelligence or dexterity attack vs. AC.  Once the ballista had been fired (hit or miss), it took a full round to reload, so the team couldn’t just gather around it and fire it six times a round.  I struggled the most with determining the damage output of the ballista.  I wanted to make it good enough to be enticing to use, but not so overpowered that it would break the combat.  Obviously, the damage would be force damage, but how much?  I eventually settled on 3d6 for the 4th level party, rationalizing that rolling lots of dice is fun, and the average damage didn’t seem too out of line.  Being that the PCs were on a ship, I also gave the ballista a push ability so the players would have the opportunity to shove their adversaries overboard.  Here is what the finished product looked like: 

Arcane Ballista 

  • The arcane ballista requires a DC 22 arcana or thievery check every time you want to operate it.  This skill check is part of the minor action to fire it.
  • Powerful Blast  recharge: 1 round; Minor Action Ranged 20; Int+5 or Dex+5 vs. AC; Hit: 3d6 force damage, and you may push the target 1 square.

 (Sorry about the formatting, but you get the picture…) 

In retrospect, I may have changed the push to 2 squares, and perhaps made the arcana/thievery check a one time thing.  Other than that, I think it went very well.  Two of the PCs (trained in arcana and theivery, of course) made a beeline for the ballista as soon as I handed them the mechanic.  It’s something I will definitely do again. 

Arrrrr! Sing a chanty and man the topsail! (Artwork by Wesley K. Hall)

The second thing I tried was giving each of the players a henchman.  This idea I owe entirely to Wesley Hall over at WeXogo.com, who proposed the idea of “reverse minions.”  He’s created three: the Merchant, Soldier, and Farmer.  These were the inspiration for my henchmen, the Sailor.  I wanted to make mine more sturdy than 1 hp, so I took the idea of a “two hit” minion, and turned it into a power.  Here is a pdf of the final result, with artwork courtesy of Wesley Hall.  They are set at level 1, but can easily be leveled up with the PCs, if you so choose, by using the SlyFlourish cheat sheet.  Just use the minion damage, atk vs def for the attack bonus, average AC, Fort & Will -2, and average Def for Reflex.  The defenses you could tweak a bit depending upon the flavor you want to give the henchmen.  

How did they go?  I’d say swimmingly. (See what I did there?)  The group immediately gave their “cabin boys” names and personalities without any real prompting.  While I didn’t give them a lot of opportunity to roleplay them, I suspect there would have been shenanigans.  The combat they were involved in wasn’t broken by the addition of the henchmen, and because they only have the one attack, things weren’t really slowed up either.  

In planning to use them, the biggest question I had was: would the players involve their henchman in combat, or opt to hide them in order to keep them around for roleplaying opportunities later?  I mean, sure, two hits is twice as hardy as one hit, but it’s still pretty fragile.  Involving them in combat would mean a pretty good chance of henchman death, and there wasn’t a replacement waiting in the wings.  I did make it clear at the start of combat that their henchmen were either in or out; they couldn’t choose to run and hide after the first hit.  In the end, only one of them chose to leave their sailor out of the combat, which was fortunate because he ended up being a hero later on.  Only one of the henchmen died, though several of them took their first hit.  I still haven’t decided whether the henchmen will stick around, given the PCs current predicament, but if they do, I expect that the group will have a lot of fun with them. 

Well, this post has run a little long, and rather than tax your attention span even more, I think we’ll put off the combat encounter until next week.  You’ll be highly amused when you see how it ends, I guarantee it.  See you then!

The Sea Dragon’s Maiden Voyage

Almost done with the skill challenge. Notice all the sails are furled but one in the stern.

A month or so ago, I mentioned in passing that I had finished my first build of World Works Games’ papercraft ship, the “Sea Maiden.”  Although I actively looked for an occasion to use it, only recently did an opportunity present itself.  My group had just finished an adventure tracking down a drug cartel, and clues led them to another area of the campaign world that was reached fastest via sea travel.  So I put together a fun little “on the way” adventure for them that also contained hooks that they may or may not investigate.  I thought I’d share the adventure with you in a few different posts because I had a lot of fun running it, and since it’s an adventure that happens “on the way” from point A to point B, it can pretty much be dropped wholesale into any campaign.  Alternately, you could just take any of the pieces and use them individually.

But first, to address some questions that I’ve been getting about the ship itself:

How long did it take to make?

The ship took between 20 and 30 hours, by my estimate, to put together.  I did not time myself, and did most of my cutting and gluing in the evening while watching TV.  The 20-30 hour time frame did not include printing time, which I discuss below.

How big is it? I can’t tell from the picture.

The ship is approximately 36 inches from stem to stern, and 28 inches from bow to stern.  It’s 7 inches wide, and the masts stand 20 inches tall.  The main deck is about 3 inches off the table, and the forecastle and sterncastle deck are 6 inches up.

How much did the ship cost?

The plans themselves cost only $17 from the World Works Games website.  You receive a downloadable PDF that you can print out as many times as you want.  However, I found that the cost of the PDF was not the most expensive part of the ship.  I only have an inkjet printer, and I went through approximately 4 ink cartridges in the course of making the ship.  That worked out to about $44 more dollars in ink.  I have since purchased a color laser printer for all my papercrafting needs, and expect that future builds will be markedly cheaper.  The printing also took a long time, and the printer I used required babysitting or it would jam, so I couldn’t just send the print job and walk away.

Future builds?

Yes, I plan on making this ship again… sort of.  I learned a lot in the course of making it; for example, it’s really important that the foamcore you base your decks on does not warp.  I also have some ideas for kitbashes* that I’d like to try, and I think it might be neat to print out the plans in black and white for a ghost ship, or a ship from the Shadowfell.  Will I do all of these?  Maybe, maybe not, and certainly not anytime soon; I have a few other projects on the table right now that will be taking precedence (like the mini I talked about in our last podcast).  But that’s the nice thing about the PDF plans.  They’re there when you want them.

*Kitbashing is taking the plans, and changing them to suit your needs.  For example, I might make the ship without the fore and sterncastle cabins, or I may shorten the deck considerably and only have one mast.

And now, on to the adventure…

The group started in a port city, and in need of “nautical transportation.”  Heading to the docks, they proceed to try and locate a ship that will grant them passage.  This can be as involved and interactive as you like, but I ended up handwaving this part, and informing the party that there is only one ship available.  The captain of the ship is a bounty hunter; he is planning on leaving today with two prisoners, but if the party wants to pick up one last bounty that he didn’t have time for, he will give them free passage and share the bounty as well.

While I think everyone (especially myself) had a lot of fun with the bounty hunting part of the adventure, I’m not going to outline it here.  Suffice it to say, it involved most of the party entering through the front door of a tavern, and exiting a second story window.  I’ll leave this part of the adventure to your imagination, or you can leave it out altogether.

The party returns to the ship bounty in hand (or in the case of my group, not), and the ship departs.  At some point in the passage, an unnatural storm suddenly arises, and the ship is tossed about like a cork. I used a moderate Arcana or Nature check to determine that the storm was not natural, and in fact magical in nature. 

The captain shouts over the storm to furl the sails before the wind takes down the masts.

Skill challenge! I will note that I designed this skill challenge specifically for the Sea Maiden.  The plans come with open and furled sails, and they can be swapped out on the fly – from unfurled to furled in seconds.  I saw this as a built in skill challenge.  Since there are six yards on the ship, the skill challenge is 6 successes before 3 failures.  At every success, I would swap an open sail for a furled one, so that the group had a real visual of their progress.

Furl the Sails! (Skill challenge complexity 2: 6 successes before 3 failures)

  • Endurance (mandatory group check, easy DC): You continue to work as you are pelted by rain, buffeted by wind, and soaked through again and again by waves washing over the deck.
  • Athletics (moderate DC): You climb the masts and pull the ropes in.
  • Acrobatics (hard DC): You keep your footing on the rolling deck.  You scramble out on the yardarms to help furl the sails in the upper masts.
  • Theivery (moderate DC): You’re a wizard with the ropes, tying them off to the cleats on the deck and securing the sails.
  • Perception (moderate DC): You watch for incoming waves, and warn the crew before they hit so that no one is washed overboard.
  • Intimidate (moderate DC): You convince the crew that if they don’t work harder and faster, “we’re all gonna die.”
  • Bluff (moderate DC): You convince the crew that things “aren’t really that bad,” and “I’ve seen worse” so that they do not panic and make mistakes.
  • Nature (difficult DC, optional): You assist the captain with navigating the boat so that you don’t capsize, and in fact the waves don’t toss it around quite as much.

Success: The sails are furled in time, and the PCs get a breather before the combat starts. (Yes, combat. Who did you think was generating the storm?)

Failure: Lose a healing surge.  Also, because the wind is still buffeting the sails, the entire deck is difficult terrain and a moderate acrobatics check is required for movement in the following combat (Failure=fall prone).  The movement penalty and acrobatics check can be eliminated by completing the 6 successes during the combat.

I hope you enjoyed the skill challenge.  Come back next time to find out who is behind the storm!

Large Scale Naval Conflict In Your D&D Campaign

I recently bought the WorldWorks Games “Maiden of the High Seas.”  It’s a huge, beautiful papercraft ship for use in D&D and other fantasy games.  As I’ve been cutting, gluing, and folding, I’ve also been brainstorming ways to incorporate it into adventures.  After all, it would be a little depressing to do a bunch of work putting it together only to let it gather dust on a shelf somewhere.  One of my brainstorms involved a large scale naval battle.  Unfortunately, the size of the finished ship and the time it takes to build just one disqualifies using the papercraft model for such an endeavor.  It occurred to me, however, that there is a way to simulate something like this within your game – by dropping an already complete miniature ship battling game into your D&D adventure.

A few years ago, I got into the game “Pirates of the Spanish Main” by WizKids games.  I have quite a ship collection.  All my cards have been sitting unused on my game shelf for a while now, and it occurred to me that I could drop the entire rules set, slightly modified, into a D&D adventure.

For those of you who have never played Pirates of the Spanish Main, it’s a cross between a collectible card game (CCG) and a miniatures battling game.  Your ships come as pieces that you punch out of a plastic card (think credit card) and assemble.  Assembled ships are a little less than an inch across, and generally two or three inches long.  Each ship has a number of masts with cannons attached, a cargo hold size, a given speed, a point value and usually a special ability.  Players build fleets in a “point-buy” system; in other words, players agree on a number of points to build fleets with, and use the point value assigned to each boat (and special crew members) to choose ships.  Movement is free-form (there’s no grid).  During gameplay, players move around to attack one another’s ships, land on islands (which are also included in ship packs) and gather gold.

I hadn’t read the rules in a while, but after a quick refresher, I decided that I could slightly modify the rules to work in a D&D setting.  Here are the changes I made:

Drop the Exploration & Gold Gathering Aspect

For the purposes of what I want to do, there’s no reason for players to gather gold.  They’re only engaging in a naval battle.  So immediately, the rules for exploration, pillaging others’ ships, and cargo hold capacity get thrown out.

Drop the “Ram,” “Pin,” and “Board” Rules

Pinning and Ramming add something to the game, but they’re too detailed for what I’m trying to do – make a boiled down version of the game.  Plus, I have in mind a battle with one or two really big ships (the DM) against several smaller ships (the PCs).  Having one of the DM’s ships pinned during the combat would be akin to the PCs stunning a solo monster.  There’s a fairly good chance one of my players will want to try and ram anyways, in which case I’ll fall back on the rules as written, minus the pinning aspect.  Boarding is something I would want to “zoom in” on and use the big papercraft model ship for, so I’m dropping those rules as well.

Use a Grid for Movement

Dungeons & Dragons players are used to using a grid for movement, and to be honest, I always thought the free-form movement rules for the original game were a bit fiddly.  I replaced free movement with a simpler, grid-based, rule: short equals 2 squares, and long equals 3. I left the rest of the movement rules intact.

Adding a Risk Component

I needed to incorporate an aspect of risk to the battle as well.  After all, if there’s no fear of death, why would it be fun?  So I added the following rules:

  • If your ship is sunk, you need to make a moderate DC athletics check every subsequent turn.  If you fail your athletics check by 5 or more, you sink below the waves, and die.  (Note: Hardcore DMs could probably leave out the “by 5 or more” part.  I certainly considered it, but I guess I’m a bigger softie than I’d like to admit.)
  • If you haven’t died, any ship can pick you up as a minor action by stopping in one of the squares you sank in.  You are now considered a musketeer aboard that boat, and roll your own attack roll on that ship’s turn.

Making it More Familiar

Finally, I decided to use the action economy that D&D has, to make the game more familiar.  On their turn, each player gets a minor, a move, and a standard, with the same “trade down” system that D&D uses.  Not only does this put the players farther up the learning curve, it will also move the combat along; the original game only allows a move OR an attack on your turn.

An Anachronistic Problem

Of course, there is also a “fluff” issue we have, but it’s easily solved.  Most D&D settings do not have gunpowder, let alone cannons.  Instead, we’re going to say that every ship has a wizard in each crow’s nest.  These wizards are one-trick ponies, but they do that trick really well: they can only cast “Force Orb” (PHB p. 160) as an at-will power.  There are varying degrees of ability among these wizards, which explains the different ranges and to-hits of each cannon.  Finally, it’s a good way to explain why there are only a number of cannons as there are masts, and why you can no longer shoot the cannon when the mast is destroyed.  You might also introduce the “mast wizards” earlier in the adventure to help players suspend disbelief when you introduce the naval battle.  As a note in the rules, I described them as wizards that have been nicknamed “canons” because they are generally smarter than the rest of the crew.

Check out our Downloads page to view the full rules set that I gave my players as a handout.

The idea is to have one or two big ships on the DMs side against one ship per PC.  Referencing ship point values is the best way to make sure the encounter is balanced.  For example, the DM could pit two 15 or higher point ships against five or six 4-6 point ships.   The best resource I have found on ship names and their point values is at Miniature Trading.  They have complete lists of all the ships, and their point values, though you have to click on a ship’s name to pull up its point value.

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, WizKids no longer makes the Pirates of the Spanish Main booster packs.  Fortunately, at the time of this writing, the secondary market for these little ships is still booming.  Aside from the Miniature Trading site, you will want to check out Ebay and Amazon, and you can also check out online game sellers like Troll & Toad.  Most dealers that carry Magic: The Gathering cards and D&D Miniatures will carry the ships as well.  I might also mention that there were several expansions to the game such as Pirates of the Revolution, Pirates of the Barbary Coast, etcetera, so feel free to use ships from those collections as well.

Hopefully, I’ve sparked your imagination a little bit.  Perhaps you have no use for naval combat, but there are a myriad of miniatures games out there.  What others could we easily drop into our D&D games to change things up?