A classic element of maritime legends, ghost ships are (rightly) feared by superstitious mariners as harbingers of doom.
Of course, for PCs a ghost ship is a call to adventure, but not all such vessels can be boarded and explored. Some are merely echoes of some terrible tragedy.
Use the table below, to generate details of such ghostly vessels the party encounter.
- A translucent ship—its sails full as if it were running before a storm—passes close by the PCs’ vessel. The ship passes so close the PCs can see ghostly figures working desperately in the rigging.
- Halfway to the horizon, the silhouette of a fighting ship languishes as if caught upon hidden rocks. If the PCs’ ship moves closer to investigate, the party can hear the roar of breakers crashing on rocks and the screams of men dashed into the sea before the ship fades from view. However, the sea is calm and flat.
- The mast of a sunken ship is the only part of the vessel yet above the waves. Several ghostly figures cling desperately to the translucent rigging. As the PCs’ ship draws closer, the mast and the figures fade away.
- A lonely ship’s boat bobs in the waves. A black miasma hangs above the boat, resisting the wind’s attempts to disperse it. Strangely, although no one is at the oars, the boat is moving against the swell.
- Smoke pours from the blackened hulk of a ruined ship listing baldly. As the PCs draw closer, the ship capsizes and sinks—strangely leaving no wreckage behind.
- In the depths of the night, the ship’s lookout calls a desperate warning. Bearing down on the PCs’ ship—just a few hundred yards away—is a caravel aflame from bow to stern. Figures writhe in the fire and screams fill the night. As the caravel comes within touching distance of the PCs’ ship it abruptly vanishes leaving behind only the stench of smoke, scorched wood and burning flesh.
- A ship barrels out of a nearby fog bank. It moves swiftly and silently through the waters but has no sails aloft.
- Although no ship is visible, the wake of a ship moving impossibly fast first catches and then passes the PCs’ vessel.
- Although no ship is visible the sounds of one—the snap of rigging, the cries of its crew and so on—are all around the PCs’ ship. The invisible ghost ship stays with the PCs’ ship for several hours before disappearing as abruptly as it first “appeared.”
- The terrified call of a lookout draws the party’s attention to a nearby translucent ghost ship. But, this ghost ship is not sailing on the ocean’s waters but flying through the sky! After it enters a thick cloudbank, it does not reemerge.
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This article will appear in the upcoming GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things compilation releasing in 2016. You can read more about the book, here and check out loads of similar lists here.