Mothership, for all the attention it (rightfully) gets for its layout, strong sense of theme, atmosphere and mass appeal etc, doesn’t seem to elicit much mechanical discussion or hacking. In particular, the Panic Die/Table rules, and the associated trauma responses for each player class.

Pondering this has meant I’ve had a draft post entitled Mothership panic die, but for supply?” sat on my Google drive for a few months. I’m trying to blog more this year, so I decided to actually flesh it out and choose a theme. Thus, I present:

The Panicking Pirate Supply Die

Why Pirates?
I think this mechanic works best for shared, rather than individual supply. An isolated, irregular assortment of resources also fits the unpredictable nature of this. A merchant caravan, or a Battlestar Galactica-style pursuit would also work well.

Note that this deliberately doesn’t mention gold, treasure, booty etc. It is assumed that anything valuable is also functionally useless for survival or that the GM can make rulings if, for example, you need to break open the valuable brandy keg to restore morale.

These rules aren’t intended for any particular system, so feel free to adapt the tags etc as you see fit.

When you start the campaign, each character takes a ship role and chooses a need (see below).

When you begin a voyage, set your supply based on the location you obtained resources from:

20: Large port

18: Small port

16: Captured merchant vessel

14: Uninhabited island

12: Wrecked ship

10: Scavenged flotsam

Reduce supply when you:

  • Spend a night at sea

  • Repair damage to the ship

  • Take on board passengers (or captives, if you treat them well)

Make an Inventory Check:

  • Every morning at dawn. 

  • When you survive a storm or similar hazard.

  • When you take back your ship after it has been raided, captured etc

  • Whenever crew morale becomes critical (this can be triggered by results on the table)

Roll a d20 - if the result is equal to or lower than your current supply, nothing happens. If the result is higher than your current supply, consult the table below:

20. Overlooked cache. Gain 1 supply.

19. Inefficient storage. Lose 1 supply.

18. Missing keepsake. A random crewmember is [Disgruntled].

17. Critical spare part. The ship’s speed, navigation or cargo capability is damaged. This cannot be repaired this voyage. 

16. Ink pot overturned. Any logs, maps or charts you make will be short and provide minimum information.

15. Unspiced. D6 crewmembers become [Disgruntled] as the taste of their food can no longer be disguised. 

14. Last of the stolen wine. All high status food and drink has been consumed. This may impact diplomacy. 

13. Thieving mascot. Lose 1 supply. d6 crewmembers are [Disgruntled]. If you discipline the parrot/monkey/pig/other remove [Disgruntled] from the crewmembers and apply it to a different group of d6 crewmembers instead.  

12. Infestation. Spend time and effort to exterminate pests or lose 1d3 supply.

11. Cracked lens. Your telescope’s image is distorted and there is no replacement this voyage.

10. Running dark. You have no more lamp oil or torches this voyage.

9. Hard tack and water. You are down to basic survival rations. 2d6 crewmembers are [Disgruntled]. 

8. Limeless. The crew become more vulnerable to disease, especially scurvy. 

7. Rope, cloth, nails. You can no longer repair the ship beyond minimum functionality.

6. Disorganised. All subsequent inventory checks are made at disadvantage.

5. No medicine, only rum. Halve the rate of any [Healing] onboard ship. 

4. Nowt but weevils. The ship has no food remaining. Crew will become [Impaired] tomorrow and perish in 3d6 days (roll separately for each). 

3. Out of powder. Each cannon/musket can make one final attack before becoming useless.

2. Rum dry. You have no alcohol left. Entire crew is [Disgruntled].

1. Water, water, every where. No fresh water. Entire crew is [Impaired]. Each crewmember will perish in 1d6 days (roll separately for each).

Ship Roles:

  • Quartermaster: Gain advantage once per voyage on a single Inventory Check

  • Bosun: Once per voyage, repair a ship element to full functionality (irrespective of any table results).

  • Cook: Once per voyage, delay a food-based result on the table for d6 days. 

  • Captain: Suppress [Disgruntled] or [Impaired] on d6 crew per day. 

  • Barber Surgeon: Ignore the effect of a healing or alcohol-based result for a single crewmember once per day.


Your character needs one of the following to be fully functional and use all of their skills/abilities:

  • Alcohol

  • Fresh food

  • Healthy crew morale

  • An undamaged ship

  • Light

  • Accurate position/navigation

  • Medicine

  • A loaded firearm

January 7, 2024