Training in this trade makes of the character a real ocean-going saltwater Mariner, eventually enabling him to fill a crew position on any ocean-going vessel, sailing dogger, cog, caravel, carrack, or holk, or oared galley, from running lines or sail to manning the rudder/helm and keeping all things ship-shape, as his experience and ability grows, as follows (see LoA’s), and eventually perhaps becoming qualified to captain his own ship. The Mariner’s trade is based on sailing in the larger ships on salt waters (seas and oceans), or sailing smaller coastal and harbor and bay craft that can be handled by no more than (Mariner AWA ÷ 4) skilled pairs of hands, which usually stay within sight of land, or will only sail to island and other bodies of land not much farther out that this. In either case, the player must choose whether his character’s trade is sail- or oar-based (galley), for each of these types of ships requires a different set of skills to manage. This will also include the skill of handling any small ship’s vessel for putting in to shore without benefit of a quay to pull up to for mooring, either sail or oared, according to the Mariner’s chosen specialty (sail, oar).

This Trade makes the character something of a “Ranger of the Sea,” providing the sailor with a Weather Sense, the ability to predict the prevailing weather patterns for the area in which he is located for up to [(AWA ÷ 4) + SL] hours in the future. He will also have the ability to tell the approximate time of day or night, month and week of year by the positions of the sun, moon, and familiar constellations, the taste and quality of the wind and the behavior of the beasts, and roughly where he is in the waters he usually sails by the color, temperature and color of the waters, and taste of the sea.

For those characters versed in navigating, this aspect of the Mariner skills can come in very handy when one is bereft of instruments for navigation, allowing him to exercise a Direction Sense. The weather sense of those having the saltwater skills will only be of use within (AWA ÷ 4) miles of the sea, or while on the water.

Due to the fact that the Mariner develops his “sea-legs”, any DV penalties to physical skills that are levied due to the shifting, pitching, and rolling of the deck of the boat on which he labors (dependent on the weather and the waters, GM’s discretion) is reduced by his Mariner trade SL. Eventually, his skill will off-set any penalties entirely.

The player is able to buy the Forage skill for use at sea, but primarily for use on the shore and in coastal waters. When on open sea, the Mariner is able to fish, but only be able to actually Forage at 1/4 normal SL. The Mariner character is eligible to have the Brawling skill as a trade skill, to represent his skill in the greatest of sailors’ recreational pastimes, the barroom brawl.

During the first year of the character’s apprenticeship, he will have been referred to as a “landsman”, with no real nautical experience, not to be trusted with any but the most menial of shipboard tasks. After accumulating a year’s experience aboard ship, the character is the equivalent of an “ordinary”, one who goes aloft into the rigging to handle the sails. The Climber skill is made available to Mariners to reflect his ability and license to complete tasks aloft. Ordinaries also make up the bulk of the ranks of rowers on galleys. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of oarsmen on galleys is freemen working for wages. Slave crews definitely lack the motivation to row well, even under a well-plied lash.

Upon reaching the Journeyman LoA, the character is an able bodied seaman, or A-B. These are the sailors who really “know the ropes”, splicing and Knot-Tying, without doubt the equal of that possessed by any Huntsman character. The character’s SL with this skill will determine the DV with which his knots can be untied, and also how strong those knots are, up to the STR possessed by the rope itself (GM’s discretion). These men also carry out the more common repairs on board when at sea. On a galley, the AB’s are the lead rowers, spaced out at intervals between the ranks of ordinary oarsmen who take their rowing cues from the leads.

Upon reaching the Warden LoA, the character is qualified to serve as a “Mate”. On a galley, the mates are spaced between the banks of oarsmen and set the pace. Mates can be divided between the various departments of command on the ship, as well. It is at this point that the player must choose the area on the ship where he wants to serve.

The Botswain and his mates are in charge of various supplies and daily ship maintenance. The Midshipmen, or “middies”, head work details on the ship and answer to the lieutenants, who are the lowest rank of commissioned officers onboard. Some of the middies also study navigation with the Sailing Master. The Quartermaster is a very junior mate to the sailing master who handles the helm as he learns navigation from the master.

The player will please note that his character must have the Mathematics skill at the Warden LoA before he may learn the skills of chart reading and navigation. When ready, he graduates to a full mate serving under the Sailing Master. A Quartermaster or Sailing Master’s Mate can man the helm of any craft.

The sailing master’s mates can also navigate, if they have the proper maps and instruments. The Master-at-Arms is in charge of keeping the ship’s locker (weapon stores) and training the crew for combat in case of war, piracy, or other ship-to-ship fights.

Upon reaching the Artisan LoA, the character is eligible to work as a petty officer or take a commission in his country’s navy as an officer, a lieutenant. The Petty Officers in the chain of command are the Botswain (Bosun), Master-at-Arms, and Sailing Master, but the other petty officers on the ship can include the Purser, Cook, Sail Maker, Cooper, and Carpenter. These men need not be sailors of any skill, but their being hired depends upon possessing a high level with other skills (Cook, Artificer, etc.). All petty officers report to the most senior lieutenant on board, or first lieutenant, except for the sailing master, who reports directly to the captain.

For riding the rudder/helm, tying knots, and the like the att. mod. is based upon the character’s STR and CRD scores.

For navigating or exercising the character’s time or weather senses the att. mod. is based upon the character’s AWA score.

GM’s Notes

The DV’s for Climbing and Knot-tying is the same as presented in the descriptions of those skills.

The DV for manning the helm is equal to the length of the craft  in feet from bow to stern, minus [Mariner’s AWA + (SL x 5)]. The effective SL for determining the DV for quartermasters or sailing master’s mates to man the helm of will not be reduced to show LoA, the full SL will always be used in the equation above.


The following text of the Barcelona Maritime code (1258) is provided to give both the player and the GM an idea of what the working conditions of this trade should be, and what the character can expect in the way of treatment, rights, and work expectations and duties when working aboard a ship in the gameworld, should he choose to enlist or be pressed into duty on board a ship for king and country come time of war. The Code is provided as a tool for the player and the GM to use to understand better what the job of the sailor was historically, and to use the elements contained in it as an easy and ready source for details to create a more realistic experience for the Mariner characters and to provide a better idea for the players of what the sailor character’s past experiences have been like and prepare him for what he may encounter in the future in the gameworld by making him more familiar with it.

It is not here so the player or GM can find loopholes in it or use the law to trap or beat an opponent, though it might be used as a tool to accomplish either, at need.

The information set forth in the Code may be amended as the GM sees fit, of course, though when doing so he should be sure to make the player of any and all Mariner characters aware.

The Barcelona Maritime Code of 1258

Be it known to all that we, James, by the grace of God, King of Aragon, of Majorca, and of Valencia, Count of Barcelona and Urgell, and Lord of Montpellier, hearing the ordinances written below, which you, James Gruny, our faithful servant, have made at our wish and command and with our consent, and which you have drawn up with the advice of the honest water-men of Barcelona and based upon the ordinance of the same, having heard, seen, and understood that the said ordinances were to be made in our honor, and for the use and welfare of the water-men and the citizens of Barcelona, having confirmed the document by the authentic application of our seal, we grant, approve, and confirm all and each of the undermentioned ordinances, made by you and the said honest men on our authority. Wishing that the said ordinances may endure and be observed as long as it shall please us and the said honest water-men of Barcelona, by commanding our mayors, and bailiffs, both present and future, that they observe each and all of the undermentioned regulations, firmly and strictly, if they hope confidently for our grace and affection, and that they see that they are observed inviolably, so that they do not allow them to be disturbed by any one.

1. In the first place: we ordain, wish, and command, that the captain of a ship or vessel of any kind and the sailors and mariners shall not leave or depart from the ship or vessel in which they arrived, until all the merchandise, which is on the ship or vessel, be discharged on land, and until that same ship or vessel be emptied of ballast and moored. But the captain of that ship or vessel is able to go on land with his clerk when he begins to discharge the cargo, if the sea be calm; and if perhaps the weather be such that he cannot discharge the cargo the said captain, if he be on land, shall immediately repair to the said ship or vessel, and if he cannot so repair by reason of the weather, his crew shall have full power and permission to depart with the ship or vessel from the place at which it arrived, and to go to the harbor or put out to sea. Nevertheless, if the said captain be unwilling to go to his ship, his merchants shall be able to order and command him firmly, on behalf of the Lord King and the said James Gruny, to repair to the said ship or vessel and to place upon him such penalty as the said James Gruny is empowered to place upon him. Moreover, the said captain of the ship shall not dare to stay on land until all merchandise which came in the ship or vessel be discharged. And if the merchants wish to disembark from the ship or vessel and a storm should arise after their disembarkation, the captain of the ship or vessel, if he be there, or his crew, shall have permission to withdraw from the place in which he was with that ship or vessel and with the merchandise contained therein, and of going to sea or putting in to harbor. But if the mariners should not have done this let each one incur a penalty of 10s. of the money of Barcelona, and the captain of a ship 50s., and the captain of a vessel 30s.; and over and above the said penalty the captains of ships and vessels shall be condemned to repair all the damage which the said merchants suffered through their fault. But of the penalties, both foregoing and those written below, the King will receive half, and the other half will go to the Order of Water-men of Barcelona. Moreover, these penalties and all those written below shall be paid as long as it be the will of the honest water-men of Barcelona.

2. Also: we order that every ship and vessel shall have a sworn clerk on every voyage, which clerk shall not write anything in the contract book of that ship or vessel unless both parties are present, namely the captain and the merchants, or the captain and his mariners; and the said clerk shall be a good and lawful man, and shall make out the expenses truly and lawfully, and all the mariners shall be expected to swear to the captains of the ships and vessels that to the best of their ability they will save, protect, and defend the captain and all his goods, and his ship or vessel, and its rigging and equipment, and all the merchants going with it, and all their goods and merchandise, by sea and land, in good faith and without fraud. Moreover, the said clerk shall be at least of the age of twenty years, and if the captains of the said ships or vessels do not wish to have the said clerk they shall not leave Barcelona or any other place in which they may be, until they have another clerk, if they can find one.

3. Also: we command that on every ship which loads at sea, so that it is loaded with merchandise worth 2000s. (Barcelona money), half the mariners of the ship with one officer shall be obliged to remain one night with their arms on the ship; and after any vessel has loaded at sea with merchandise worth 1000s. (Barcelona money), half the mariners of that vessel with one officer shall be obliged to stay on their vessel for one night with their arms. Also we command that the captain of a ship or vessel shall have food in his ship or vessel sufficient for 15 days; namely, bread, wine, salt meat, vegetables, oil, water, and two packets of candles. And if the said captain of ship or vessel be unwilling to do this, let him incur a penalty of 20s., and each of the mariners and crew incur a penalty of 5s.

4. (Provision made for assistance to be given in storms to ships in distress).

5. Also: we command that no boat shall load for a voyage nor send away any living merchandise and if it loads with heavy goods, it shall not dare to load except as far as the middle of the deck, and the captain of the boat shall take his boat, manned and with its rigging, just as is understood between the captain and the merchants whose merchandise it is; and if the said merchants fear they is held as hostages in any place, the captain of the boat shall not enter with his boat nor go into the place suspected of holding them without the consent of the merchants. Moreover every boat shall be expected to carry two ballistae with their equipment, and a hundred spears and two shields; and every sailor is expected to bear a lance and a sword or bill. And if the captains of the boats should not observe this rule they shall incur a penalty of 10s.

6. Also: we command that if any ship or vessel or boat be taken with its company to Barbary or other parts it shall not take a guard except it be understood between the captain of the vessel and the partners of the said company.

7. Also: we command that every ship’s mariner who is expected to do the work of a ballistarius, shall carry two ballistae of two feet, and one scaling ladder, and three hundred spears, and a helmet, and a breast-plate or corselet, and a straight or curved sword. Likewise, the ballistarii of the other vessels shall be expected to carry the same weapons; but the other mariners on ships shall be expected to bear a breast-plate, and an iron helmet, or cofa maresa, and a shield, and two lances, and a straight or a curved sword. But mariners on vessels shall be expected to carry a breast-plate or corselet, shield, iron helmet, or cofa maresa, and two lances, and a straight or a curved sword. And if the said mariners do not have the said arms, the captains of the ships or vessels shall not take them; and if they do take them they shall pay as a penalty 50s. for each mariner.

8. Also: we command that mariners of vessels or boats shall be expected to help to draw their vessel or boat on shore, whenever the captain of the vessel or boat wishes to have it done, as long as those same mariners are present; and they shall be expected to do this by virtue of an oath taken by them.

9. Also: we command that captains of barges and those who discharge cargoes shall discharge well and in good order from ships, vessels, and boats, all merchandise with their barges and boats, and they shall not load their barges or boats excessively; and if they do load them excessively, let them be in the jurisdiction and command of two honest men whom James Gruny or his locum tenens with the advice of his counselors shall have appointed; and if the said captains of barges transgress the command and jurisdiction of the two honest men, let them repair all damage which the merchandise has suffered, in the knowledge of the said two honest men.

10. Also: we command that every captain of a barge or boat shall not dare to take ashore any mariner of a ship or vessel or boat until the said vessel or ship be discharged and emptied of ballast, or until the said boat be discharged; and if they do contrary to this they shall be expected to pay 5s. as a penalty for every mariner they take from the ship or vessel.

11. Also: we command that every co-proprietor of a ship or vessel, and every merchant, and every pilot of a ship or vessel who accepts wages from that ship or vessel shall be expected to take an oath to the captain of the ship, just as the other mariners who are not partners, or pilots, or merchants, and this by an oath taken by them to us.

12. Also: we command that a vessel with a covered deck shall not take away any merchandise upon the covered deck, except only the sea-chests of the mariners and merchants, and the wine and water which are necessary to the mariners and merchants; and if the said vessel have store-rooms, it shall not take away any merchandise in those store-rooms, except only its arms and those of the mariners and merchants, and the rigging of the vessel, if they wish to place them there. Moreover every vessel with a covered deck shall take four shields and twelve lances, besides the arms of the mariners and merchants who sail in the vessel above mentioned; and if any merchandise be carried in the said store-room, it shall pay a fine for the merchandise, which fine shall be divided between the Lord King and the Society of Water-men.

13. Also: we command that a vessel with two covered decks shall not send or carry away any merchandise between the mainmast and the poop, except only its boat with its rigging and the company of the merchants; and if it wishes to have merchandise in the same place, it may do this with the consent of the merchants, and without their consent it shall not dare to place any merchandise in the said place. But in the cabin of the poop of the vessel it shall carry its company and that of the merchants. Moreover, on the higher deck of the said vessel it shall not dare to carry water or wine, or other merchandise, except only its sea-chests and those of the mariners and merchants, and in the store-rooms of that same vessel it shall not carry any merchandise, except only the arms going in that vessel, and the rigging if it can place any there, except it do so with the consent of the majority of the merchants, and if it carry any merchandise in the said places, it shall pay the fine incurred just as is contained in the preceding paragraph.

14. Also: we command that every captain of a ship or vessel, of whatever kind it be, shall free his ship or vessel and the rudders from all tolls in whatever dominion or lordship it be, whether of Christians or Arabs, without any expense or payment from the merchants. In the same way the merchants shall free all their merchandise, in whatever dominion or lordship it be, without any expense to the captains of the vessels or ships, and if the said lordship should chance to make other tolls, let them stand in the pledge of two honest men, whom they have elected in the said ship or vessel.

15. Also: we command that every merchant and mariner who takes of his own accord or in company with his friends anything in common to Barbary or to other parts, before he departs from Barcelona shall come to an agreement with three or four or more of his partners, according as he be able to gather several of the said company together, and when the expenses of the purchase have been made with the deliberation of that same company, the said merchant or company carrying the goods shall not accept any merchandise from the said partners except according as they agreed on that day on which it was pledged, and this under pain of an oath to be taken by them to us and the honest men before mentioned.

16. Also: we command that merchants or mariners or other persons carrying the company to any parts shall not take their wages or fare nor shall they be given to them until they return to Barcelona, and then when they have made an agreement with the partners of the company they shall have and take their wages and fare with the knowledge of their partners with whom they made the agreement about the company above mentioned. And if the said merchant be not a mariner or do not perform the office of mariner, he shall not take his wages or fare.

17. Also: we command that merchants or mariners or other persons carrying the company shall not dare to carry any goods or money in denarii for the company or from other persons except for the company it takes. But all things which they carry with them shall belong to the company and be in its possession, and whatever they sell or buy, or obtain in any way, they shall buy and sell, in whatever parts they are, for the good and use of the company mentioned above.

18. Also: we command that all men who have submitted to this ordinance, in whatever parts they be, shall love each other, and protect and help each other, both in their persons and in their goods against all other persons, just as if they were the special goods of each one; and they shall do this in good faith and without any fraud, by virtue of an oath taken to us and to the honest watermen of Barcelona.

19. Also: we command that if any ship or vessel should have stopped at the quays of Barcelona so that it could not straightway sail, that all captains of ships and vessels of that society with their mariners, although their ships or vessels are prepared to sail, shall help the said ship or vessel to sail or put to sea and they shall not leave that ship or vessel which is detained until it have sailed, and if they are unwilling to do this the captain of the ship or vessel shall incur a penalty of 50s. and the mariners of 5s.

20. Also: we command that if any mariner should die in the service of any ship or vessel, from the time when that ship or vessel moved from the quay or river bank, or from any port, the said mariner shall have all his wages, just as was written in the contract book of that ship or vessel. And if any mariner be sick or be injured in his legs from the time when the ship or vessel put to sea, the captain of the ship or vessel shall give to the said mariner his needs in food for the whole voyage, if the mariner make the voyage, and the mariner shall have all his wages. But if the mariner be unwilling to go on the voyage, he shall not have any wages. But if the mariner has accepted such free victuals for doing work on the said ship or vessel, so that he cannot go on the said voyage to the knowledge of two honest men of the society, he shall have only half his wages; and if the captain of the said ship or vessel shall have paid all the wages to the mariner, he shall not be expected to put another mariner in the place of the one who remained ashore. And if the said captain shall have paid half the wages to the mariner who remained, the captain shall be expected to put another mariner in his place, and to give him the remaining half of the wages which he did not pay. And the merchants is expected to give the other half of the wages to the mariner placed in the position of the other who did not go.

21. Also: we command that on every ship or vessel departing from the quay of Barcelona there shall be appointed and elected by the men in that ship or vessel 2 proctors distinguished by their knowledge and lawfulness whose commands they will obey, both the captain of the ship or vessel, and the mariners, and the merchants going in the ship, and all shall be expected to stand by and obey the orders of the 2 proctors. These 2 proctors shall elect other men of the ship with the advice of whom they will make and order all things which are to be done on that ship; and whatever is ordered by the 7 men shall be strictly obeyed by all going in that ship. But in a vessel the two proctors shall elect another two by the advice of whom they shall ordain all things which are to be obeyed on that vessel. And the election of the 2 proctors shall be made within 4 days or 8 before the departure of the said ship or vessel from the shores of Barcelona, and as many men of Barcelona as they find in other parts, Arab or Christian, shall be expected to stand by and obey the command and advice of the 7 or 4. And whatever the elected men do or ordain they shall do and ordain in the name of the Lord King and saving his jurisdiction, and in the name of the Council of the honest water-men of Barcelona. But if the 2 elected men should depart in ships from the place at which they arrived with the said ship, on their departure let them elect another 2 with the advice of the said 5 counselors who shall stand in their places, and those two elected on vessels shall elect another 2 with the advice of the said 2 counselors; and if the 2 elected by these 2 shall depart, let them elect another 2, and thus in order; and whatever shall be done or ordered by those elected shall be strictly observed by all others, and this we command in the name of the Lord King and by virtue of an oath.

Given at Barcelona on the twenty-sixth of August, in the year 1258.

Seal of James, by the grace of God, King of Aragon, etc.

Boats, Ships & Seamanship of the Period

For the reference of both player and GM, the following are a selection of boats and ships used in the period of the game. For the benefit of the GM, following that is a collection of statistics applying to their use. A number of dimensions and descriptions are provided, however, they are labeled in jargon with which the reader may not be familiar : beam is the ship’s width from side to side at its widest point; draught refers to how much of the ship’s height from the keel on the bottom to the gunwales (top of sides) lies below the water; a jib is a triangular sail generally deployed on the bow of the ship; a lugsail is trapezoidal deployed sideways, mounted asymmetrically, off-set laterally from the mast so the longest side is parallel to it and farthest from it.

The most basic parameter for ships is size, and that is usually given in tons. The equivalent in northern waters was the “last”, roughly 2 tons, while the “botte” of c. 1/2 ton, prevailed In the Mediterranean. As time went on and shipbuilding techniques were refined, the sizes of the ships grew, the Hanseatic notes in the Lübecker Zollrolle of 1227 showed a breakdown of under 5 lasten (under 10 tons); 5-12 lasten (10-24 tons); more than 12 lasten (more than 24 tons) in ship size.

In a similar document from 1358 there were only two classes – under 60 lasten (120 tons) and more than 60 lasten (120 tons).

The compass had made a transition from primitive pointer to the needle swinging freely on a dry point by 1300, a form more familiar to modern eyes.

Commonly overcast skies forced pilots along the North and Baltic Seas to depend on soundings taken with lead and line, one reason why for so many years so many ships stuck close to land and always anchored at night. Indeed, so often were anchors lost by getting snagged on rocks and reefs or from their lines snapping due to prolonged or extreme stress, or even broken in use due to the weaknesses inherent in the poor grade of iron used to forge them, that it is common practice to equip a ship with as many as 20 or 30 anchors for each side of a voyage, outbound and the return, and to hang as many as four or six at a time on the side of the ship ready to drop.

While changing maritime technology also changed the ways in which the English fought at sea in the period, the changes in England were largely matched by those in other countries. England kept up with new developments, even leading the way in some, but the prevailing medieval economic situation and technological achievements made it impossible for anyone to maintain any kind of serious technological advantage for long. Superior numbers of troops and the ability to raise fleets when needed mattered more. This gave the English an edge over their naval opponents in Wales, Scotland and France. Although French forces were able to stage many devastating raids on the English coastline over the course of the Hundred Years War, in the 13-1400’s French armies were never able to land an invasion in England. The English, on the other hand, invaded France on a number of occasions and conducted devastating chevauchees, culminating in Henry V’s conquest of northern France and subsequent recognition as heir to the French throne. In the end, medieval England’s wars were won or lost on land, however. The only way in which the English could gain even partial control of the English Channel was to conquer Normandy, which was only briefly achieved from 1419 to 1450, at the end of the 100 Years’ War.

Medieval England lacked anything resembling a standing navy. The sea-going efforts in time of war were accomplished with a collection of civilian ships commandeered to implement the campaign plans of the Crown, largely for the purposes of moving troops, horses, and supplies to the region of the conflict. Until the 1500’s, most naval operations were generally only extensions of land warfare.

The Ships

Doggers are fishing boats that usually displace about 13 tons, carry around a ton of bait, three tons of salt, and a 1/2 ton each of food and firewood for the crew. This leaves about 6 tons of cargo space for carrying fish. They are square-rigged on the main-mast, and carry a lugsail (trapezoidal) on the mizzen-mast, with two jibs (triangular) on a long bowsprit. Doggers are generally c. 50ft. long, with a maximum beam of 15ft., high sides, and a draught of about 15ft.. They have a rudder rather than a steering oar. A decked area in the bow provides limited accommodations for the crew, along with a storage locker and cooking area, and another similar area to the stern. They carry 2 small anchors, and 1 main anchor to allow for extended periods fishing in the same spot, in waters up to 60ft. deep, thus only weighing anchor in coastal waters. The dogger also carries a small open ship’s boat to maintain the lines when fishing and to row ashore.

The Knarr is the Norse term for ships of the period that are built for Atlantic voyages. They are primarily cargo ships with a length of about 54ft., a beam of 15ft., and a hull capable of carrying up to 24 tons.It is primarily used to transport trading goods such as walrus ivory, wool, timber, wheat, furs, armor, slaves, honey. It is also used to supply food, drink, and weapons and armor to warriors and traders.

Knarrer (plural) historically plied routes across the Baltic, the Mediterranean and other seas, and routinely crossed the North Atlantic carrying livestock and stores to Norse settlements in Iceland and Greenland as well as trading goods to trading posts in the British Isles, Continental Europe and the Middle East.

The cog and cog-like square-rigged vessels, are wide and spacious transport ships commonly 70ft. long by 20ft. in the beam, with clinker-built hulls, planks overlapping rather than butted edge to edge along the length of the hull, as in carvel style. Originally open-hulled and fitted with oars for rowing short distances, cogs looked like wooden bowls with pointed bows and squared off sterns. They grew larger in the 1200’s and were fitted with a deck. widely used by the late Middle Ages all along the coasts of Europe, in the Baltic, and also in the Mediterranean. Steering was accomplished by means of a large tiller or pair of tillers, one at each side of the stern, connected by a whip staff.

The invention of the stern-post pintle-and-gudgeon rudder in Medieval Europe is attributed to Somerled in 1156, when it was the decisive factor in his defeat of Gofraidh mac Amhlaibh during the formation of the Lordship of the Isles.

The caravel utilized the carvel method of construction, which enables the shipwright to achieve a greater length and breadth of hull, as well as a stronger hull that can better withstand the stresses of being more fully rigged with sail. They generally carried two or three masts with lateen (triangular) sails, while later types had four masts. Early caravels usually had two masts, a weight of around 50 tons, an overall length of 65 to 100ft., a high length-to-beam ratio of around 3.5 : 1, and narrow ellipsoidal frame (unlike the circular frame of the Portuguese nau or carrack), making them very fast and maneuverable but with somewhat low in capacity. Towards the end of the 15th century, the caravel was occasionally modified by giving it the same rig as a carrack with a foresail, square mainsail and lateen mizzen, but not the carrack’s high forecastle nor much of a sterncastle, which would have made it unwieldy in bad weather. In this form it was sometimes known as caravela redonda (a bulging square sail is said to be “redonda” (“round”, Spanish). It was in such ships that Christopher Columbus set out on his expedition in 1492; the Pinta and Niña were slightly larger caravel ships of c. 100ft. in length with a beam of 20ft., weighing about 100 tons.

A carrack is an ocean-going ship also utilizing the carvel method of construction, large enough to be stable in heavy seas and roomy enough to carry provisions for long voyages. It had a high rounded stern with an aftcastle and a forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. It was square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast and lateen-rigged on the mizzenmast.

Carracks were developed a bit late for the period of the game, but in the same manner as some Renaissance weapons were also included, some information is provided for these as well. Their proper place in history noted, the GM is free to decide for himself whether he wishes to include them in play.

The Santa Maria was a small carrack which served as Christopher Columbusflagship (1492). The size of the São Gabriel of Vasco da Gama (1497) according to contemporary accounts was between 90-120 tons. The overall length was 85ft., the width 28ft.4, the draft of 7.5ft. and fully loaded weight was about 178 tons, however. To enter estuaries the draft was kept shallow. The Flor de la Mar (Flower of the Sea, 1512) was a Portuguese nau (carrack) of 400 tons.

It was not unusual for the English king to have a single large sailing ship for the prestige, as a symbol of their personal greatness. King John had a ‘great ship’ called Dieulabeneie, and the 300-ton Trinity owned first by Richard II and then by Henry IV. Henry V’s first great ship was a rebuild of the old Trinity at c. 400 tons, renamed the Trinity Royal afterwards. His second was the Holigost (“Holy Ghost”), a rebuild of a large Spanish ship. The biggest ones were purpose-built constructed from scratch – the 1,400-ton Grace Dieu (launched in 1418) and the 1,000-ton Jesus. 

These great ships, appearing somewhat later than the period specified for the game, were different in size and scale from earlier large royal ships. They carried as many people as a large village. The Jesus had a crew of 201. The tall, heavily manned ships were perceived to be of great use in the form of sea warfare that was resolved by boarding actions. Both the Holigost and the Trinity Royal were in the middle of the heaviest fighting at the battle of Harfleur (1416), in which the English not only captured 3 large carracks, but also carried the day.

The earliest galley specifications come from the text of an order of Charles I of Sicily (1275). The overall length was 130ft., the keel length 92ft., the draft 7ft., and hull width 12ft. (beam). Width between outriggers 15ft., with 108 oars, most of which were 22ft. long, some as long as 26ft., and 2 steering oars each 20ft. long. This type of vessel had 2, later 3, men on a bench, each working his own oar. Only in the 1500’s were ships called galleys developed with many men to each oar. The galley’s foremast was 53ft. and the middle mast 36ft. tall; their circumferences being 2.5ft. each, and yard lengths of 88ft. and 57ft., respectively. Overall deadweight tonnage was roughly 80 metric tons. This type of warship was called galia sottil.

The medieval galleys had no rams.

The standard Venetian war galleys (1571) were 138ft. long and 17ft. wide (22ft. with the rowing frame), had a draft of 5.5ft. and a freeboard of 3.25ft., and weighed empty about 140 tons. The lanterna (“lantern”) galleys – larger flagship-types – were 150ft. long and 18ft. wide (24ft. with the rowing frame), had 6ft. of draft and 3.5ft. of freeboard, and weighed 180 tons. The standard galleys had 24 rowing benches on each side, with three rowers to a bench. (One bench on each side was typically removed to make space for platforms carrying the skiff and the stove). The crew typically comprised 10 officers, about 65 sailors, gunners and other staff plus 138 rowers. The “lanterns” had 27 benches on each side, with 156 rowers, and a crew of 15 officers and about 105 other sailors, gunners and soldiers.

From the first half of the 1300’s, the Venetian galere da mercato the “merchant galley” were built in the shipyards of the state-run Arsenal as a combination of the state’s initiative and a kind of consortium of export merchants in private association. The ships sailed together in convoy, defended by compliments of archers and slingers (ballestieri) on board.

The Scots’ Lords of the Isles used galleys c. 1263 to 1500 both for warfare and for transport around their maritime domain, which included the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides, and Antrim (Ireland). They employed these ships for ship-to-ship battles at sea and for attacking castles or forts built close by on the coast. As a feudal suzerain, the Lord of the Isles required the service of a specified number and size of galleys from each vassal according the size of his feof, i.e., the Isle of Man provided 6 galleys of 26 oars each while Sleat on the Isle of Skye had to provide one 18-oar galley. From the 1300’s on the Scots abandoned the steering-oar in favor of a stern post rudder, with a straight stern to suit it. A proper galley was required to have 18 to 24 oars, while a birlinn had 12 to 18 oars and a lymphad had fewer still (1624).

Fleets of galleys were too vulnerable to rough waters at sea or on open ocean and too logistically short-ranged to act independently of land resources. As a result, Mediterranean navies were still tethered to the shore well into the 1500’s. Galley fleets had a radius of operations limited to some 500 miles at best, and in that radius limited only to piloting along coasts, not sailing or rowing along a straight line from point to point. At night, galley commanders preferred to back their ships up and ground them on a safe beach, where the crew slept and searched out fresh food and water. For a galley squadron to blockade of a distant enemy port was only possible if a friendly army held a nearby stretch of coast. leashed as they were to the shores, navies usually operated as flanking forces for the land forces to which they were attached.

Northern Europeans were never as fond of galleys as their Mediterranean cousins. Northern seas, even coastal waters, were generally too rough for vessels with such low freeboards as galleys have. Many of the tides and currents of the English Channel ebb and flow more quickly than the best speed a rowed vessel could make. Indeed, the Vikings conducted most of their distant oceanic voyages in more functional sailing vessels rather than their oared longships or war galleys.

As shipwrights constructed larger, more strongly built, more maneuverable caravels in the late 1200’s, the countries along the Atlantic seaboard began to incorporate the new vessels into their naval forces. Northerners quickly adopted improved roundships (cogs) as war platforms, by necessity rather than choice; the Mediterranean states, both Christian and Muslim, did not.

The English navy of the late 1100’s consisted principally of assorted types of galleys, but by the early 1200’s powerful caravels formed the core of English war fleet. By the early 1300’s galleys had all but disappeared from English orders of battle.

Waterline length (ft.)

Max. Hull Speed (mph)

Pulse Move



6.2 cm



6.9 cm



7.6 cm



8.2 cm



8.8 cm

90 – 100


9.5 cm



10.3 cm

120 – 130


11 cm

140 – 150


11.7 cm

160 – 170


12.5 cm

180 – 190


13.2 cm



13.9 cm

Ship Speeds

The speed a ship can attain is limited by the length of the outside of the hull at the waterline. The larger it is, the faster it can go, provided it has sails enough to catch the wind. Medieval ships were NOT rigged in the best way to take advantage of winds that were from the sides of the ship, and were incapable of really tacking into the wind, until the advent of the Caravel. Hull speeds for smaller boats are provided in the notes for the Boatman skill. The maximum hull speed assumes good winds and smooth water, BUT good winds cause choppy waters. The only way around that is a conjure a wind trained on the sails by magick. For everyone else, a reasonable average ship’s speed can be determined for a ship by dividing the hull speed by 2.

A 50′ cog’s hull speed limit is 9.4 knots (c. 11 mph), yielding an average speed of around 4.7 or 5 knots (c. 5 or 6 mph).

A 75′ cog’s hull speed is 11.6 knots (c. 13 mph), or an average speed around 5.8 or 6 knots (c. 7 mph).

A 100′ cog’s hull speed is 13.4 knots (c. 15 mph), or around 6.7 or 7 knots on average (c. 8 mph).

So, if a party of adventurers decide to take a trip on a 75ft. (waterline) vessel, in 2 weeks’ time they can travel 2,352 nautical miles, or 2,704 statute miles (7 x 24 hr’s x 14 days = 2352). This assumes constant favorable winds to run before, however. If the winds shift to either side of the direction they are heading, there is a certain amount of lateral push involved in catching it, which can reduce their forward progress by as much as half (GM’s discretion).

The length of a trireme galley averages 115ft., the beam as 12ft. (due to the outrigger the dimensions could be smaller than for the penteconter, and the ship could still pack more punch in battle). The top speed is usually estimated at 11.5 knots (c. 13 mph), although actually entering the glide phase, which would defeat most of the wave resistance, allowed speeds of up to 18 or 20 knots (c. 21 to 23 mph) for very short bursts. A trireme with a crack crew can manage 9 knots (c. 10 mph) and maintain it for as much as 24 hours.

Because wave resistance grows exponentially with the speed of the ship, the speed of a trireme is only 20% higher than for the penteconter (16.8 to 18.4 mph), despite the fact it has three times as many rowers. A trireme has other advantages, however. It is much more maneuverable than the penteconter, accelerating from a standstill to 1/2 speed in 8 Pulses, and to top speed in 30 Pulses (or close enough).

The Type 2 bireme was developed in answer to the high cost and complexity by taking the lower row out of a trireme and shrinking the beam. With a length of 65 to 85ft., and a beam of only 8ft., the four rowers worked all abreast, and the fulcrums for all oars were on the outrigger. These biremes were cheaper than the trireme, and required only about 100 rowers. It was also easier to train the crew to row with only two rows of oars.

The following table illustrates journeys by sea that come from the historic record, for which we have sufficient information to evaluate. The “Length” is the distance in miles, the “DUR” is the duration of the journey in days, and the entries in the “Speed” column are in knots and (mph, rounded to the nearest 1/4th).

The slowest of these figures are for fleets that included slow transports. A fleet can only travel as fast as its slowest constituent, just like an army on land. The only thing not accounted for in these figures is how heavily laden the ship is, which is likely the factor slowing the ships down in a number of instances. Some of these journeys the ships made over a 100 miles in a day, sometimes half that. But these are also all on smaller Bronze Age (Greek) ships. If a 100ft. medieval cog with an average speed of 7 knots (8 mph) and favorable winds is substituted, the mileage covered in a single day becomes truly impressive.

The distance covered by a ship must be decreased, of course,  according to the amount of time spent if the ship puts into port or anchors at night, follows the coast as opposed to a linear path from port to port, encounters sea monsters, pirates, or enemies of their kingdom on the waters who offer battle, or if it get lost in a fog or tossed and sails shredded by a storm, captain and/or helmsman gets drunk and heads the wrong way, currents and/or winds work against the ship, etc…






Rhodes toAlexandria



4.5 (5)


Greater Syrtes toHeracleia Minoa



4.4 (5)


Sason to Cephallenia



4 (4.5)


Troy to Alexandria



3.2 (3.5)

Very Fav.

Carales toAfrican Coast



2.8 (3.25)


Lilybaeum toCape Mercury



2.7 (3)


Pisa-Massilia toLigurian Coast



2.2 (2.5)


Utica to Carales



2.2 (2.5)


Lilybaeum toRuspina



1.7 (2)


Lilybaeum toAnquillaria



1.5 (1.75)


Syracuse toCape Mercury



1.5 (1.75)


Euripus to Phalerum



1.2 (1.5)


Lilybaeum to Africa



1 (1.25)