Skill Challenge: Stormy Waters

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on June 17, 2009

Pirates and adventure on the high seas haven’t always been the typical D&D adventure setting. However, almost all PCs are required to travel by ship at some point in their adventuring career. The skill challenge below tackles the issue of surviving during a raging storm at sea.


The PCs are travelling by sea and are beset upon by a raging storm. Will they survive unscathed or will they succumb and sink in the chilly depths?


2 Level +2 (6 successes before 3 failures)

Primary Skills

Acrobatics, Endurance, Diplomacy, Nature, Perception

  • Each skill can only be used to accomplish 1 success towards the overall skill challenge unless noted otherwise.
  • Skill checks denoted as assist do not count as a success or failure towards the overall skill challenge.

Other Skills

Acrobatics, Athletics

Mandatory Check

At the beginning of each turn, each PC must make a moderate DC Acrobatics check to maintain their balance. The DC becomes hard for any PC who climbs the rigging. Additional details are provided below under Acrobatics. Success or failure on this check does not affect the outcome of the skill challenge. However, a failure will result in a -2 modifier to that PC’s next skill check.

Acrobatics (easy DC, maximum 2 successes)

You find a loose rope and tie it off.

Acrobatics (hard DC, assist)

You’ve managed to climb up the rigging. However, keeping your balance up here is another task. Use of Acrobatics in this manner does not grant a success or failure, it merely positions the PC to take additional actions not available on the deck. Additionally, any PC up in the rigging gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Nature or Perception checks.

Any PC who climbs the rigging must make a hard DC check to maintain their balance each turn. Failure by 5 or more results in the character falling to the deck below and taking 2d10 points of damage in addition to the normal -2 penalty to skill checks for loosing their balance.

Acrobatics (hard DC)

You see a crew member loose their balance and slide overboard. You are able to grab them before the sea claims them.

Athletics (moderate DC, assist)

You strength can be put to good use by securing the sails from above in the rigging. Use of Athletics in this manner does not grant a success or failure, it merely positions the PC to make an acrobatics check to tie off a loose rope. Additionally, any PC up in the rigging gains a +2 circumstance bonus to Nature or Perception checks.

Endurance (hard DC)

You grab a loose rope and have pulled it tight to keep the sail taut. However, there is nothing nearby to tie the rope to. You opt to use your own weight as the anchor.

Diplomacy (hard DC, maximum 2 successes)

The crew have lost their composure and chaos is loose upon the decks. With the authority of your voice you gain control and restore order.

Nature (moderate DC, maximum 2 successes)

Your knowledge of the wind and waves allows you to suggest an alternate course to the captain which might allow him to steer out of the storm.

Perception (hard DC, maximum 2 successes)

You detect the scent of a fresh wind coming in. Your keen eyes see a break in the storm off in the distance. You recommend that the captain alter course to find calmer seas.


The ship comes out of the storm relatively unscathed. The journey is able to continue without much lost time.


The ship has been damaged and the journey will be extended by 2d10 days. Additionally, all PCs loose one healing surge. If a PC has no healing surges remaining they instead take 2d10 points of damage. Is that a shaughain boarding party in the distance?

1 Rook June 17, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Nice. My homebrew world has quite a few port cities and a fair amount of sea travel, so this post is a real time saver. There is also a lot of large caravan travel. Maybe you could come up with something for that as well. Just something to think on.

Thanks for the great ideas.
.-= Rook´s last blog ..My Foray into 4E: Taking the “Role” out of roleplaying =-.

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