Small Galley

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Created On 20 April 2000
Last Updated On 10 September 2002
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 2000

Third Edition RuneQuest contains a number of examples of ships as part of its rules on Sailing. However, these are generally unsuitable for adventuring parties as they are too large. Here is an example of a Small Galley that would be more suitable for a large party of adventurers. This ship is based on the ship used by Tim Severin and described in his books "The Jason Voyage" and "The Ulysses Voyage" and was based on the 20-oar galley that was the work-horse of Bronze Age Greece. It struck me when reading his books, that the small galley would be ideal for conversion to Rune Quest.

Hull TypeWarship
Hull Quality1D6 + 3Seaworthiness Max12Structure Points30
Length18mBeam6mCapacity1 ton
Crew StrengthTypical CrewMaximum SpeedFatigue Cost
Full Crew20 oarsmen, Steersman, Captain, Carpenter, cook, Master Oarsman, LookoutRaceNormal
Half crew10 oarsmen, Steersman, lookout, Master OarsmanCruiseDoubled
Minimum Crew4 Oarsmen, Steersman, LookoutBack OarsTripled


TypeSpeed (knots)Fatigue Lost/Hour *
Back Oars31

* If rowing into a head-wind, double fatigue costs.


Wind/DirectionBefore/QuarterHalfHead Calm100 Light Breeze310 Moderate Wind53-1 Strong Wind75-2 Fresh GaleXXX Whole GaleXXX HurricaneXXX

X = Speed depends on the strength of the storm and how well the crew handles the ship. This varies widely but takes into account the Captain's Shiphandling skill.

All speeds are cumulative, so a small galley rowing at cruise speed with a following moderate wind would be moving at 9 knots and rowing at cruise speed into a moderate head-wind would give a speed of 3 knots.

The small galley is a jack-of-all-trades as it can be used for trade, for raiding and for warfare, it is best suited for hopping along a coastline but can be used for short journeys across the open sea and also for sailing. A full crew of 20 oarsman allows the full rowing speed to be achieved, but a part crew also allows a reduced speed to be kept up. With a favourable wind, the galley can be made to perform quite adequately. Usually, the oarsmen can perform several jobs on board ship, so some may also be fishermen, others carpenters, others traders and others warriors. On a raiding expedition, most would be warriors, on a trading mission, some would be traders and others guards. The steersman is normally an initiate or acolyte of Dormal and is the first officer on board ship. He is responsible for steering and controlling the ship and is often also the Captain. The Master oarsman is responsible for keeping the oarsmen in step and for rotating the oarsmen so that all are not rowing at the same time. Once again, the Steersman/Captain may take on this role.