Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ports of Mystara -- Updated May 16th 2012

Here's another file I dug up, written some thirteen years ago. It describes a system to rate ports. There are four separate categories, all of which are expressed in Hull Points (HP):
  • Total Capacity
  • Dock Size
  • Clearance
  • Traffic
Capacity expresses the total number of HP that may be moored at the docks or anchored within the port's harbor. Class rating is just an abbreviation. Ports rated C or better are often fortified and offer stone docks. D or smaller have wooden piers. Dry dock capacity equals 1/10th the total capacity, and only in ports D or bigger.

1. Total Capacity
Combined HP
Very Large
Very Small
up to 499

Dock size tells how large a vessel the port's docks may accommodate. Ships that are too large for the docks must anchor in the harbor. For simplicity, it is assumed there's enough dock space to accommodate all ships of the appropriate size.

2. Dock Size
Single Ship HP
Very Large
 (. . .)

I'm opening this article to anyone who wishes to contribute.  If you're interested in helping out, post comments here about the port(s) you've selected.  I'll try my best to incorporate them to the file, on a first-come-first-serve basis.

As of May 16: All ports have been revised.  Now would be a good time to start pitching comments for each port.  I'll enter them after each relevant section break to avoid cluttering the lists. 

Click HERE to Continue


  1. These two articles (this one and the last one) are both great for all kinds of reasons. I had never really thought of rating ports in the 10th Age, but I think I may just lift this system to do so.

    Ports are really such an essential part of medieval economics, most trade being over-water. It's a shame that they are generally so neglected in terms of roleplaying supplements.

    1. I agree. This could be the starting point for a more fleshed out atlas of ports, as seen by navigators. There are some obvious uses for games where ships are used, but I can see a greater use yet for simple roleplaying (legends, red-herrings, actual information, etc.) Could be fun if it's done right. The ratings given here though are for use with BECMI. I haven't checked yet with AD&D to see how to adapt that system.

    2. AD&D lacks any type of hull points system outside of Spelljammer, I believe, but if BECMI has a rating for ships like that it could be imported wholecloth without much trouble. I really have not seen ANY supplement on the sea (naval combat, trading, or any such thing) for AD&D... which is something it sorely needs.

      Perhaps a netbook is on the way...

    3. I'd better add the ship ratings from BECMI at the end of the article then. It's not very complicated and it would help players without access to BECMI. The port ratings would make more sense that way.

  2. This is a great idea Bruce, and you've produced another beautiful product! I have to rush away now and try to stake my claim on a port or two ;)

  3. This isn't just something that is great for Mystara. The concept of guidelines for designing ports could work for fans of a great many other campaign settings. (All someone needs to do is remove the list of Mystara ports and add ports for another setting and the article gets a new life with a second fanbase.)

    Your guidelines (on their own) could even be useful as a guide for designing a homebrew world that has ports that makes sense.

    As a Spelljammer fan, I would love to see that AD&D friendly version fit in (somehow) with the Hull Points that Spelljammer gave to spelljamming ships. (Even if some sort of conversion needed to be applied.) But even as it stands, an AD&D friendly version of this would be helpful to fans of the many settings released during the 2nd Edition Era.

    I wonder if you think it would be worth adding something about the port facilities. Things like ropes and sails require specialist craftsmen to make them and I would guess that bigger ports would have more ports and better facilities.

    I think that all ports would need repair facilities, but wonder if some ports would specialise in ship building or if certain ports could build smaller ships but not larger ones.

    Things like drydocks would certainly eat up space that would then be unavailable as docking space. I'm not even sure how old a drydock is. Maybe ships would need to be dragged up onto the shore in some places.

    I'm not sure how old rope walks are, but I saw a Victorian one called The Ropery that was a quarter of a mile long. That definitely isn't the sort of thing that is going to exist in a tiny fishing village, but I wonder how large a port would need to be to provide enough work for a ropery. Maybe bigger ports would have a longer rope walk and could make bigger ropes.

    Even sailmaking could be something that could vary from place to place. Some ports could have a better sail loft and larger sails could be laid out. I read on Wikipedia's sailmaker article that large ships often had one or more sailmakers as crewmen, so the existence of sailmaking facilities might also give a GM an idea of crew for hire in a given port.

    Anyhoo, I'd love it if there was a little bit about those sort of things at some stage.

    1. Hit the wrong button... I just replied to your comment. Check my next message.

    2. I like the idea of having Mystara aspects utilize parts of SpellJammer. We already have flying ships, so this is like not far off. I imagined that Alphatians spell jammed their way to Mystara anyhow. The other elemental races of that world voyaged the cosmos in other ways.

    3. There was a space travel system devised for Mystara, but it's not as clean as Spelljammer. Besides, Spelljammer is pretty much standard out there and well liked. I think it's best to use that if it works with Mystara's little quirks.

  4. Hi David

    The present system does allow for "dry docks" (or whatever building facilities) which are limited to ports Class D or better, and which can handle a total number of Hull Points equal of 10% of the port's capacity. I think it's pretty clear what kinds of ships can be built where, and how many of them (or how large considering the port's rating). Of course this implies all needed services are present, such as ropemakers, sailmakers, carpenters, and so on. If there's something special with any of them, it should be noted in the comments. I general, I would err toward simplicity.

    I want to have a look at Spelljammer, and come up with an AD&D adaptation to this rating system. That's definitely on my to-do list.

  5. I wrote down a list of suggestions for your work (basically about increasing a few port capacities and adding new entries to the list of ports); it is not precisely what you asked for, but I hope it could help anyway.
    Unlukily my became very long so I put it on the Piazza at this link: