I play 50 Fathoms, SWADE, and I'm adding Buccaneer's ships and naval combat rules to my games. Finally ship combat rules that are fluid, tactical, and as personal as the players.
In Buccaneer, ships have skills linked to attributes, and hindrances and edges. A ship with a superior (d8) rigging attribute might take rigging-based skills like Pursue and Run Silent, while a ship with d10 tonnage might take skills like Boarding and Ramming. Now add an edge like "Helmsman's Dream" and a hindrance like "Fire Trap".
If your players want a unique ship that will call for unique battle tactics, Buccaneer has it. SWADE and 50F are pretty generic in this regard, and PotSM is more a system of vehicle movement with acceleration and turning arcs. IMO this has more drama.
Battles are theater of the mind: The captain calls out orders, and crew tries to execute them AND take heroic (normal PC) actions. You're making skill rolls, so learning and playing this is fast. It adds hit location, like gritty damage, to every shot.
The combined result really delivers a naval battle feeling in a fun and furious way. If that's all you take from this book, it's money well-spent.
The book is huge (305 pages), rich with setting lore, edges, and character archetypes, and at least two other major features: A voodoo magic system (10 pages), with trappings and spells to feel utterly unique, and an adventure generator (28 pages), which generates adventures with a hook, classic challenges, and then escalating problems, a plot twist, and a reward. I haven't played using either yet but plan to fold them into my 50F campaign.
Four stars instead of five because it really needed an editor.
- The sloop on page 123 has "prow" as a stat. In the Ship section, it's not mentioned once in 15 ship examples.
- The rules for attributes like Mastery and orders (skills) like Broadside are unclear when the ship takes Mastery damage.
- The ships on page 110 have a "damage" stat, ranging from 1 to 2. It takes some digging to determine that this is the number of hit location cards the guns draw, and it's based on the number of guns, not the size of guns.
- It really could have used summary tables for player skills, ship orders, edges, and hindrances.