Oceanic encounters basically are used while the PCs are traveling a long distance across open water. Now this is quite seperate from the river and lake encounters from I will Sail My Vessel. These encounters occur miles from shore, generally on the deck of a ship.
Travel by sail putters to a stop as the wind utterly dies. The ship sits dead in the water without so much as a breeze to stir the pennant, let alone the canvas of the sails. This doldrum lasts for 1D4 days before the winds pick up again.
The Squall Line
Clouds darken the horizon and within the span of an hour, a storm has broken over the ship. The wind howls and threatens to snap spars and rip the canvas, and waves crash over the deck of the ship. The PCs are battered by the storm and have plenty of opportunities for exciting hurry up and accomplish the task rolls before the storm breaks some part of the ship.
The ship encounters a massive monolith of ice drifting across the ocean. While this could simply be a sight encounter, the captain decides that the longship should be sent over and ice cut from the iceburg to replenish the ship's fresh water, and the rum just seems to taste better when it is nice and cold.
Not all omens one the sea are for ill. As the ship makes good time, a pod of dolphins are seen swimming and playing in the bow wave of the ship. The crew's morale is improved for the day.
The Cold Ones
In a gruesome spectacle, the PC's ship crosses above a shoal of feeding squid. These beasts are in the vicinity or 30 feet long and while no threat to the ship, crewmen standing on the rail might get slapped by a slimy tentacle from a curious cephalopod.
Dead in the Water
The Pc's ship approaches another vessel. Much like their own craft, this ship has lost it's main mast and it's sails are naught but rags. Caught in a violent storm, this ship has been dead in the water for some time, and then the supplies ran out. Most of her crew is long since dead and those who still survive (1D6 crewmen) are half mad with thirst and have resorted to desperate cannibalism to survive. They will be overjoyed and will serve as exemplary crewmen if taken aboard, though the rest of the crew will be superstitious about having these wolf-lean men aboard.
Far across the calm waters, a small dinghy rocks gently. Battered and parched, his cracked lips blackened by the hot sun, a seaman lies in the bottom of the tiny vessel.
His ship was attacked by undersea marauders, revolting abominations combining the traits of men and fish. Fleeing in the chaos, this lone sailor escaped the carnage by leaping off the ship's stern and quickly clambering into one of the ship's boats towed behind it. Setting the tiny boat's sail, he watched his ship suddenly founder after the alien things swarmed aboard it.
He had little water: Thirst has tormented him in the days since the attack, but not nearly as cruelly as the guilt over his cowardly flight. Nightmares and visions of his lost shipmates haunt him constantly.
Even worse, he feels like something has been watching him... something inhuman. Perhaps the things from below the waves aren't done with him.
The Kraken Customs
As the ship sails near a group of islands a large tentacle as thick as a tree trunk coils around it and a bubbling voice speaks from the deep. The Captain turns to the ship's mage who translates it as "You are at the borders of the Kraken States. Do you have anything to declare?"
And one foggy morning...
...there was fog. Thick, milky-white fog, that you could cut with a knife, and of course a lack of wind to disperse it. As soon as the weather turns, it will be blown away, but right now it is a place of quietness, and the occasional strange sound heard from afar.
The crew will honor the silence, and maybe an old salt will tell a story of what happened in such a fog once. All the better to teach the youngsters among the crew.
Birds leaving the sky
But there are also bad omens. One day birds will be found on board, dead birds. Did they die of disease, something that happened to them while in the air, or merely from exhaustion? That will not be revealed.
Still it is not a good sign. And maybe, maybe it has something to do with the purpose of your journey...
A message in a bottle, baby.
Either telling of a gruesome or just tragic fate of a ship, or hidden treasure, or a letter to an unattainable love...
What went on in the heart of someone who entrusted a message to the sea?
It is deep night, not a single cloud in sight. The stars are visible, twinkling, shining, winking on you, there is peace to fully enjoy the whole sky. There... a little star shines more than the others, moves, then it leaves behind a long trail, and falls somewhere in the west, far off your position. More of them follow.
Stars are falling. Make a wish.
The ship encounters a massive school of fish - so many cod that the progress of the ship is impeded. Using nets, baskets or other devices, the ship can load up on as much fish as it cares to carry.
This reuse is why I advocate the use of Stubs as scroll entries, so useful entries can be reused where appropriate
The day is as dreadful as any has been so far on the trip. Heavy seas make it impossible to get comfortable below. Suddenly, a hatch is opened and the boatswain calls 'All hands on deck - and that means you! The ship is in danger!" If the PCs venture on the deck - and they had better, unless they want the ship to flounder, they see that virtually everything is coated with ice. The tallship's mast and rigging groan under the weight of it. Sailors frantically scramble over the icy rigging, desperately trying to remove the ice before the weight causes the ship to turn turtle, and condemn all to an icy, wet grave.
"For Gods sakes, help chip off the ice!" shouts the boatswain.
The PCs can help as their resources and ingenuity will allow. Careful use of spells and magic items may speed the effort. So long as they try, the ship will survive. While working, PCs need to occasionally make dexterity or equivalent checks to avoid injury. Possible outcomes of failure are injury to self or other with tools, loss of tools/weapons overboard, falling - either on deck or overboard, being hit by falling debris or anything else the GM can think of. This work is dangerous.
One nice morning, a sailor discovers stones floating in the sea, wasn't even drunk as you thought. There are indeed stones on the waves, smaller and larger, hundreds of them, defying the laws of nature. Has the world gone mad? A more detailed look reveals it is pumice, simple volcanic ash, but your crew is frightened anyway. Bad omen, they mumble again.
As you pass another ship far out at sea, you see and hear men with drawn cutlasses ordering their officers into a small boat. Do you intervene?
The glint of metal is seen near the horizon, regular and rhythmic: a signal. Following it reveals a tiny makeshift raft occupied by a single, bedraggled sailor. Pulled aboard, between grateful mouthfuls of salt pork and fresh water, he explains the ship he was serving on sunk in a storm, and he landed on a tiny uncharted island some distance from here. After a year of managing survival, he finally got the supplies and courage to try a voyage.
More than that, the survivor describes a treasure-trove on the island, a hidden redoubt of some lost civilization or pirate. Glittering gold, enchanted goods, secret artifacts: an incredible pile of loot for the waiting. As proof, he offers a brilliant jeweled dagger, the only thing he dared to weigh his rickety craft with. Thankful for the rescue, he offers his knowledge to seek out the gilded atoll. When pressed for more information about himself, however, he is quiet, saying the harsh year of survival has caused him to forget much.
Does this man tell the truth? Who is he really - before his lost year or after? Is the island a true treasure, or a waiting trap?
The Sea Serpent Smugglers
Out in the deep waters, the ship encounters a trio of sea serpents. A known deadly danger, the crew arms themselves to fend off the beasts as the approach. The serpents, however, begin to merely circle the boat, occasionally popping out a head with jaws agape and expectant.
A further investigation reveals oiled leather sacks attached to the serpents with harnesses. Within several layers of oiled leather are various valuable goods, some illegal. Evidently, someone has trained the sea serpents to act as smuggler mules. The animals go from place to place on a trained route, rewarded with ample food upon landing. This trio is either wayward or otherwise confused. Where might their original destination be? And who is using them?
The Iron Ship
Yet, it simply passes through your ship like a dream, with nothing remaining but a chill, and the shakes from terror.
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? Responses (7)-8
Yet another useful encounter list - and something else to add to the to-do list....
They might be applicable on a large lake, but indeed, the ocean is a world of its own.
Another good scroll to add to! Yay!
Can't believe I missed this before. I love high seas adventures.
I encourage everyone to add at least one maritime encounter.
A good utility sub.
*Commented on for the Commenting Challenge
Wow, this has been on my to-do to add to list for _how_ long?