20 Shipboard Sights & Sounds

Long voyages can be deathly boring, and sometimes the GM just glosses over the journey. Occasionally, pirates, sea monsters or worse intercept the ship, which relieves the boredom!


Other times, minor events of interest may punctuate the day, providing some light relief for the PCs and the GM with a way to add detail and verisimilitude to the session.

Use the table below, to generate details of minor events of interest to enliven a day at sea:

  1. The insistent cawing of the seabirds wheeling and diving overhead fills the air. Anyone eating on deck is constantly dive-bombed by hungry birds.
  2. A huge bird—perhaps an albatross or something more “exotic”—soars high overhead. It takes no note of the vessel as it continues on its lonely course.
  3. A smudge of dark clouds hangs over the horizon for much of the day. When he descends, the lookout from the crow’s-nest speaks of gloomy shadows on the surface of the ocean. The next day, the clouds have disappeared.
  4. A sudden loud thud speaks of something large and heavy hitting the ship’s hull below the waterline. Of what struck the vessel there is no sign, but the event puts some of the sailors—a superstitious lot—on edge for the rest of the day.
  5. Rats infest the ship’s bilges. Driven forth by hunger, several of the creatures scamper about the deck in search of food. If chased, they flee seeking hiding places in one of the ship’s uncountable nooks and crannies.
  6. A ship under full sail appears on the horizon late in the afternoon. In the morning, it is no longer visible.
  7. Sailors clamber about the rigging. One starts singing a sea shanty telling of the epic tale of Vilimzair Aralivar’s legendary voyages. (Vilimzair was a bard of puissant skill who fell into the clutches of pirates. He endured many hardships before he wrested control of the vessel from the pirate captain).
  8. Some of the other passengers get into a loud argument about sleeping arrangements—some want to swap berths, but the others decline. Investigations reveals they all believe the berths of the first group to be haunted!
  9. Loud voices from below decks speak of a sudden, angry argument. PCs eavesdropping discover one of the sailors has just surprised and captured a stowaway! (See 6 Stowaways with Personality).
  10. A sudden wind picks up, filling the ship’s sails. The ship runs before the wind, making good time, but several of the passengers fall seasick, much to the crew’s amusement.
  11. Several passengers stroll about the deck around midday to both take the air and to gossip. One blunders into the way of the sailors going about their business, causing a minor accident.
  12. A few off-duty members of the crew sit by the rail idly fishing and chatting. They are doing quite well—they have already half filled their bucket with fish destined for the galley.
  13. Off-duty crewmen sit about playing a simple dice game, to pass the time. They are gambling for a combination of small stakes and choice jobs in the upcoming days. They welcome the chance to take money from a passenger, but cannot afford to lose the kind of money an adventurer could throw around.
  14. The ship sails through a heavy swell. Waves break over the bow; quickly the spray soaks everyone on deck. The wind picks up, and for the rest of the day the weather is best described as inclement.
  15. A scream from above presages a sailor falling from the rigging. The unfortunate man misses the hard deck, but falls into the water. The rest of the crew rushes to help him before he is lost to a watery grave.
  16. The ship sails through a small patch of debris: broken spars, pieces of decking and a sodden mass of sail floats seemingly serenely on the gentle swell. What caused the ship to sink is a mystery.
  17. A shout from the rigging and a sailor pointing insistently off to starboard warns the ship’s company of something in the water. Perceptive PCs spot a huge black shadow gliding beneath the waves. It passes below the ship without incident.
  18. Three sailors sit about the deck repairing a torn sail. As they do so, they talk among themselves and occasionally break into a sea shanty. They are bored, and welcome any diversion.
  19. A sailor comes up from the galley with a bucket of rubbish. She unceremoniously hurls the contents over the side, before returning below decks.
  20. The sound of someone playing a jaunty tune on a flute wafts up from below decks. The tune continues for several minutes before tailing off.

Want More?

20 Shipboard Sights & Sounds appears in 20 Things #22: Ocean Voyage.

For more free content, check out our Free Resources page.

If you’d like to support Raging Swan Press, please join our Patreon campaign. Pledge what you want. Cancel when you want. Get cheap books. Even a $1 pledge is epic and helps us pay our freelancers a decent rate!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 thoughts on “20 Shipboard Sights & Sounds