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!

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2 Responses to The Sea Dragon’s Maiden Voyage

  1. Wow, that is one beautiful ship, but at over sixty bucks it pretty much confirms what I’ve always worried about PDF terrain.
    Loved the idea to use the 3-d prop with the skill challenge. It’s little things like that I find that really get people involved in the game (DMs too, and if you’re having fun its usually infectious).
    Good ideas.

    • Benoit says:

      Yeah, the cost of printing is not something I took into account when I bought the plans. The laser printer I got should drastically reduce the cost of future builds though. I got an HP CP1215 from TigerDirect for $150 (and it’s $20 cheaper if you get a refurb), so it’s not ridiculously expensive to get a color laser printer. If I get generic toner carts, the price per page is very affordable.

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