Tag Archives: WorldWorks Games

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?