Friday, January 15, 2021


Back in Ye Olden Days (TM) ships hung sails on masts to catch the wind, so the crew didn't have to row everywhere. As techniques and technology improved, the masts got taller, to provide more sail area, so the ship could go faster. This does create issues, as the longer mast creates more leverage for the wind to tip the ship over (the technical term is heeling). This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that as the ship heels more, the sails present less surface area to the wind, decreasing its force, and, assuming the ship is loaded properly with its heavy cargo down low, gravity will help pull the ship upright as well.

Sometimes, though, a ship will be overloaded, or will be poorly loaded so that there's a lot of weight carried high in the hull, or sometimes the wind is just so strong that it pushes the ship over too far. Once water starts flowing in, it's a lot harder to get the ship to return upright, and many times there isn't even an opportunity to try. The ship just goes down.
I've been poking around trying to work out some factors for how much a ship can heel before capsizing, but there are just so many to take into account that it quickly gets unplayable (not to mention that there are few hard figures to be found on the matter). So rather than get too deep into numbers, I believe I'll fold them all into a general hazard system for sailing ships (later to come), and have it come down to a skill roll for the captain and/or crew of the ship to make to see whether they can shoot along under full sail in high winds or turn turtle and go to the bottom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Breaking up the rust

I'm trying to get this blog back up and running. I still have a lot to do with the ships and sailing topics I was working on, and I do plan on getting back into that.

In the meantime, here's an interesting story about locks with some ideas applicable to fantasy gaming.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Indefinite Hiatus

Due to intermittent technical problems on a dying computer and life-changing personal problems, I can't see myself gathering up the motivation to even keep to my just-about-once-a-month posting schedule.  Hopefully I'll have life sorted out in a few months.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Points of sail on a hex grid part 3: the surprising conclusion

While I was poking around on Wikipedia looking for decent images of a compass rose for one of the first posts I wrote along these lines, I stumbled upon a strange and fortuitous factoid.  Way back in ancient times (well before the time period I'm trying to emulate with these sailing rules, but heck, in a fantasy world anything goes), the Greeks and Romans developed a system of 12 wind directions. 

Roman names in red, Greek names in blue

Normally I'd glance over this kind of trivia, and maybe vaguely remember it if it ever came up, or more likely forget it altogether.  But for a hex grid, this is PERFECT.  There are no repeating patterns that you have to remember, so no need to use extra markers.  Everything is either a hex-face-to-hex-face direction, or a "half-hex" direction like I used in the other hex grid systems. 

Now, these Greek and Roman names are pretty evocative, but ultimately meaningless or outright misleading (I would think Boreas would be due North, myself).  Wikipedia also lists the names for these directions as used by the Franks, and it's not super hard to translate those into English.  The only issue being that there are some directions that end up sounding weird to English ears, specifically Eastnorth, Eastsouth, Westnorth, and Westsouth.  The other hybrid directions (Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest) also don't point directly in the directions a modern person would expect, but that's a lesser issue.

Without further ado, presented here is a 12 point wind system, using the same format as the previous posts.

Direction Vertical hexes Horizontal hexes

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Points of sail on a hex grid part 2

We went over the patterns of movement on a vertical hex grid to replicate the 32 directions of the compass rose.  Now we'll go over the patterns on a horizontal grid.  The patterns are going to be pretty much the same, just oriented differently.

First, we need to establish our directional notation.  Not entirely arbitrarily, I'll choose East as our main ("A") direction.

The patterns are all the same as on the vertical grid, just shifted 90 degrees.  This combined table lists them all for both grids.

Direction Vertical hexes Horizontal hexes
NbE 4A1B 2F1E
NE 1A3B 1A3F
EbN 2B1C 4A1F
EbS 2C1B 4A1B
SE 1D3C 1A3B
SbE 4D1C 2B1C
SbW 4D1E 2C1B
SW 1D3E 1D3C
WbS 2E1F 4D1C
WbN 2F1E 4D1E
NW 1A3F 1D3E
NbW 4A1F 2E1F

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Points of sail on a hex grid Part 1

I really truly recommend playing out ship chases and ship battles on a square grid.  It's just so much easier than all the weirdness hexes bring to a 32-point direction system.  However, I realize that pretty much everyone maps their game worlds in hexes, so ships need to be able to move on hex grids too.  I guess if you're bent on ignoring my recommendation for a square grid, you'll have the tools to run battles on hexes as well.

Before we start, we need to acknowledge that there are two main orientations of hex grids.


And Horizontal:

They're going to be somewhat related, but different enough that we'll start with the vertical orientation and move on the horizontal once the difficulties are already hammered out.

The next thing we need to do is establish a standard notation for direction.  I've decided to designate each direction with a letter, so that I can use numbers to represent the number of hexes moved in that direction.  It's a lot easier to say "4A1B" than "four hexes in the direction of grid north, then one hex 60 degrees clockwise".

So here is the standard notation for a vertical grid, with the black dot as the starting point.

North is obviously direction A.  Easy peasy.

Moving clockwise, North by East will be, as I said above, four hexes in direction A and one in direction B, or 4A1B.

North Northeast is a little weird.  The best way to keep moving in the proper direction is to move two hexes in direction A, one in B, one in A, and then one more in B before repeating the pattern.  In other words, 2A1B1A1B.

Northeast by North is even weirder.  We'll just call it 1A1B, but if you plot it out on the grid, it actually drifts ever so slightly east from this plot over time, but 1A1B is close enough and way simpler than a slightly more accurate plot.

Northeast is 1A3B (although I suppose you could go 3B1A, it works out the same).

Northeast by East isn't exactly direction B, but we would be crazy not to simplify things by using it.

East Northeast runs 5B1C.

East by North is 2B1C.

East could be 1B1C, but I'm going to go a different (possibly heretical) route.  Instead of staying strictly in the hex centers, I'm going to say you can alternate moving from hex center to the line between hexes as a one space move, and notate it as B/C.  (It's the same distance; measure it if you want.)  If a ship is currently on the line between hexes while traveling East, and fires at or is fired on by a ship to the north or south, add 1/2 of a hex worth of distance to the total range.

Further directions are mirror images of the preceding ones.

East by South - 2C1B

East Southeast - 5C1B

Southeast by East - C

Southeast - 1D3C

Southeast by South - 1D1C

South Southeast - 2D1C1D1C

South by East - 4D1C

South - D

South by West - 4D1E

South Southwest - 2D1E1D1E

Southwest by South - 1D1E

Southwest - 1D3E

Southwest by West - E

West Southwest - 5E1F

West by South - 2E1F

West - E/F

West by North - 2F1E

West Northwest - 5F1E

Northwest by West - F

Northwest - 1A3F

Northwest by North - 1A1F

North Northwest - 2A1F1A1F

North by West - 4A1F

And I'm going to end this post here.  I'll go over the horizontal orientation in the next post.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Using markers for tactical ship movement

Okay, everybody has a pretty good idea how to move in the cardinal and ordinal directions (we do it all the time with minis), and the half-wind directions aren't so hard to deal with, as long as you remember at the beginning of your turn whether you moved orthogonally or diagonally the last time.  But the quarter-wind directions are a little weird.  Did you move two spaces last time and still need to move another one orthogonally before moving diagonally, or did you move three last time and now you move diagonally?  This all gets worse as more and more ships are involved.  It's bad enough when the PCs in their little brig are maneuvering for position against a single pirate ship, but when they're leading the Grand Navy of Poraquis into battle against the Combined Fleet of the Pirate Kings of Amaray, it's going to get more than a little crazy.

The solution is to use a marker unique to each vessel to show where it is going.  For example, we have these two ships, one red and one purple. 

The red one is going to move on a bearing of Northeast by East (two squares Northeast, then one East), while the purple one is moving East by North (three squares East, then one square Northeast).

We'll assume that each one has three spaces of movement per turn, so neither one will move this full distance before their turn ends.  How do we make sure they move at the proper bearing over the course of several turns?  We'll count out the full number of spaces we use as an index, and place a marker on it.

Now we move each ship three spaces worth of movement. We still know each ship's proper bearing because of the marker.

The next turn, during their movement, each ship comes to its marker.  Assuming neither one changes its heading, count out the spaces again, place the marker in the new space, and finish movement.

And we can keep doing this until they move off the map.

Markers can also be used to keep track of vessels moving in less weird directions, just to be sure everything is going where it's supposed to be going when there are a lot of ships moving around on the table.

I hope this was clear enough.  Feel free to ask questions; I'll clarify the best I can.

ADDENDUM: Of course, these black lines won't be on the tabletop map.  They're only here for illustration.  As long as each ship moves as directly as possible towards its unique marker, it won't matter much if one takes a diagonal move a little early.  In fact, a little leeway as to exactly which path the ship takes to its index marker is recommended; each point on the compass rose accounts for 11.25 degrees of arc, so there's some variation built in already.