The seas of Gaeleth are ferocious – not only because it is a moon world orbitting a brown dwarf star, but also because the Goddess of the Seas, Olorin, demands daily payment for the use of her waters – or dark consequences follow. The ships that sail the sea are therefore vitally important to national economies, exploration, communication, and even war. Adventurers can spend months on the open sea with not another vessel in sight, or they can put in to land every other week, all depending on the ship they sail on.
Different areas of Gaeleth operate under different sailing ideals, depending on local technologies, resources, and experience. Most of the Sholin peoples, for instance, utilize outrigger canoes, catamarans, and the like. Most of the land-based nations utilize galleys, bi- and triremes, and the galleass – all of which rely on both oar- and sail-power. A handful of advanced sailing nations have the resources, know-how, and experience to build caravels, brigantines, and galleons, as well as sloops and yachts. It is often customary among the advanced nations to burn the hulks of their ships, when possible, to prevent the technology from falling into other nations' hands.
Each ship is built individually, and so no two ships are identical – even when made by the same company, from the same plans. Each ship, therefore, is unique in many ways; the only way to differentiate between ships is how the sails are arranged and handled. Thus, ships are named by how their sails are rigged, and not by a standard size or draw.
The tonnage of a ship is not a weight, but a volume. One ton is 100 cubic feet. The total internal volume of a ship is its gross tonnage, and if we subtract all the volume not used for cargo, we get the net tonnage.
Formulas were created to estimate the tonnage of a ship from its dimensions. For wooden ships, Builder's Old Measure was instituted in 1720, in which tonnage = (L - B*3/5)*B*(B/2)/94. The tonnage of a ship was used for assessing port dues and other charges, in addition to figuring out cargo-hold volumes.
Size: Generally denotes overall hull size, with standard dimensions of the vessel, in parentheses, in terms of Length, Width, and Draw (the depth in the water the vessel sits, and thus how deep a waters it can enter).
Propulsion: Number of sails and type, or numbers of oars, or other propulsions.
Speed: Given in knots (with roughly 1.15 miles-per-hour being 1 knot); also lists day range.
Crew: The number of crewmen or occupants that normally are on the ship.
Cargo: Normal sailors require 1gallon (8lbs) of water per day, and 5lbs of food per day, translating to 13lbs of provisions per day, per person. Provisions are normally scattered all over the vessel in various nooks and crannies, and it is not unusual for half of the provisions to go bad due to disease, infestation, or disintegration. The provisional cargo determines the range of the vessel at sea.
Hull: Given in terms of strength, thickness, and durability. Some ships even had metal plating, more to protect against sea-going creatures than to protect against other ships.
Deck: Given in terms of strength, thickness, and durability.
Mast: The height of the tallest mast from the water line.
Weapons: Describes the numbers and types of weapons found on the vessel.
Ship Qualities: Special features and design systems built into the ship.
Flag: National or maritime status.
Cost and Construction Time: Listed as a raw gold-piece cost, and general time requirement.
A number of ships have become near legends in their time, such as the Rakoran super-galleon Skate, and the Kur Maen clipper Ray of Arpelos.
Skate - Rakoran super-galleon, pirate hunter.
Ray of Arpelos - Kur Maen clipper, undead hunter.
Black Holly II - Rakoran stealth sloop, fast courier.
Rattler II - Rakoran super-galleon, Rakoran flagship.
Copper Kraken - Rakoran submarine, shore defender.
Dellistar - Rakoran brigantine, merchant.
Kambringer - Rakoran brigantine, merchant.
Nightstrider - Alekdan Principalities' galleon, pirate.
Stormy Maiden - Al Fahiman brigantine, smuggler.
Beachable: The ship can be beached with little or no damage, and can be pulled back off a shelf of land by an experienced crew. Beachable ships tend to be rowable, although some smaller sailing vessels have this quality.
Coastal: Ships built for inland or coastal waters are built different than ships designed for open or oceanic waters. Coastal ships tend to have shallower drafts and can carry more top-heavy cargo. Their hulls are designed with special draw points for towing, when necessary, and are often Beachable.
Frigate: The ship has been built or rebuilt in such a way that it is a warship. Frigates tend to have little room in the way of cargo, but maximize weapons and marine space. They also tend to be armored to some extent, although they tend to prefer speed and weapons over armor.
Maged: The ship has had a mage present during construction, to imbue the vessel with arcane-resistant energies. The vessel also can sail with little to no wind, and its weapons may have arcane qualities.
Merchant: It will be maximized for cargo, while still maintaining basic ammenities. There tend to be more holds with greater capacity, as well as smaller holds for more specialized cargos.
Oceanic: Ships built for the open seas are built different, than ships designed for inland waters or near-shore waters. Oceanic ships tend to have deeper drafts, and are designed not to capsize in rougher waters. Ships with this quality tend to carry sextants and navigational logs that are extremely valuable, and closely guarded.
Raider: The 'Raider' designation is generally given to oar-powered vessels, and indicates a high number of oarsmen that also double as fighters. It can also indicate a pirate vessel with a large number of crew, or military vessels with high numbers of marines.
Runner: It will be stripped of all amenities and have reinforced sails, mast, and keel. A runner ship will be built for speed, with a significantly reduced cargo hold.
Smuggler: The ship has hidden compartments to allow contraband items or wanted persons to be smuggled aboard and remain hidden, even during inspections.
Stealthy: The ship is painted black, with black-dyed sails, and possesses other innovations for night time operations. It will often have muffles that interfere with high rates of speed, and is designed for stealth above all else.
Unsinkable: The ship is a survivor, able to be repaired from conditions that would sink lesser craft. Unsinkable ships either have unique designs, are made from extraordinary timbers, or have a bit of luck that few other ships seem to have.
Most ships employ ballistae or ballistae-like weapons. They can be very large and powerful, with good range, without interfering too much with ship operations. Ballistae can fire bolts, grapples, shot, and shells filled with various contents, such as flammable liquids. Ballistae come in a variety of sizes, though the smaller ship-mounted ones were about nine feet in length, with a range for point targets of bolts at some 300 yards, and area targets at 500 yards. 'Light' ballistae tend to be swivel-mounted, almost man-portable ballistae with ranges measured at 200/350 yards for point and area targets, and threw primarily bolts and sometimes grapples.
Catapults and trebuchets tend to be simply too large and bulky for safe usage aboard a ship, although sometimes they are found on barges, or carried aboard ships in pieces to be assembled on some strategic spit of land. Some smaller mangonels and simple catapults are used on the decks of certain ships, especially those that use oars over sails, due to the lack of running lines. Such 'bucket' weapons tended to fire shot or shells, though they could be filled with hundreds of darts, as well.
Oar-powered vessels also tend to have rams for weapons. Oared vessels have greater speed and maneuverability in the short run, and can thus engage a target with a break-away or permanent ram, and pull away before the sinking target can take the oared vessel with it.
Olorin's Fourth Law is “do no harm to the priests”. Priests of Olorin identify themselves in high seas battles with blue and green robes that stand out on a ship's deck. Enemies take careful care not to hit the priests, despite whatever prayers they may be bringing down from above. More often than not, priest battles involve non-violent prayer-casting, such as silence and web. Accidental injuries or harm is forgiven by Olorin, if appropriate prayers of remorse and apology are forth-coming from the individuals doing the harm. Individuals targeting priests in a fight have proven successful, but the Sea Goddess often dispatches krakens and other denizens of the deep to deal with the offending individuals. Krakens, more often than not, cannot target something so small as a 'man', and instead target the vessel itself.
Because of these difficulties in handling priestly battles at sea, certain rules and laws have been codified by sea-going crews. If a priest of Olorin is injured, then the battle stops, reparations are made, and the crews withdraw. The priests of Olorin must be conspicuous, and absent themselves from the main battles – nor are they allowed to place themselves in harm's way. The First Mate is traditionally responsible for defending the priest, with his life if necessary.
Priests of Olorin that engage in battle, or choose not to wear her colors, are free to act on their own. Attacks against these warrior priests are allowed by the Sea Goddess, so long as the priest fights honorably. Such warrior priests cannot invoke Olorin's Wrath after they are injured or harmed by enemy combatants. Priests of Olorin may attack one another with impunity, however, as they can somehow identify one another despite disguises, tricks, illusions, and the like.