Making Tools Useful in 5e: Navigator's Tools

Making Tools Useful in 5e: Navigator's Tools

Other tools: Leatherworker’s Tools, Cobbler’s Tools, Poisoner’s Kit, Cartographer’s Tools, Alchemist’s Supplies, Mason’s Tools, Gaming Sets, Tinker’s Tools, Healer’s Kit, Brewer’s Supplies, Smith’s Tools & Cooking Utensils.

Oh boy! This is an exciting tool to work on… and frankly, I’m quite surprised about how long it took me to finally get to it. As some of you know, I’ve been working on a big Archipelago Adventure in a type of campaign diary and documenting many new mechanics to be used in an adventure focused on discovering islands in an uncharted island adventure, and I’ve partly touched on the role of a navigator. But, with there being over 25 different tools I have vowed to make useful in 5e… I suppose unlucky 13 is a good enough spot to work on Navigator’s Tools.

For those that don’t care about the how of my tool:
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Navigator’s Tools

Let’s review Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and I’m sure we will be blown away with the wealth of information we are about to learn! Flip to page 83 and hold your breath!

Navigator’s Tools

Proficiency with navigator's tools helps you determine a true course based on observing the stars. It also grants you insight into charts and maps while developing your sense of direction.
Components. Navigator's tools include a sextant, a compass, calipers, a ruler, parchment, ink, and a quill.
Survival. Knowledge of navigator's tools helps you avoid becoming lost and also grants you insight into the most likely location for roads and settlements.
Sighting. By taking careful measurements, you can determine your position on a nautical chart and the time of day.

And you can breath again. Man, Xanathar better be glad he is cute cause this information is pretty worthless. If you have navigator’s tools you can determine where roads are! Except you are on the ocean, doesn’t really do much for you huh? I just… sometimes, I have to wonder…

There isn’t really much I care about Navigator’s Tools in Xanathars, though it at least gives us what is included the Navigator’s Tools so that’s nice!


So, what do we want our Navigator’s Tools to do? I see them being the person that plots the course of the ship and is instrumental in keeping the ship from getting lost on its routes. Futhermore, I see them as able to foresee the weather and be able to give the ship’s captain a weather forecast. I’d hate to plot a course that cuts through a massive Typhoon when we could stay in port for an extra day and wait it out!

Part of what is going to make out Navigator’s Tools is that I am currently working on a big island adventure that deals a lot with traveling through uncharted waters and how exploration would work on a ship. I recommend starting at Part 1 - Introduction to a Sea Campaign, but I can’t tell you what to do! I’m probably not your father, and you are more than welcome to start at Part 21 - Island Discovery 6.

And now… The Weather

One of the big things I have to remind myself while GMing is that there is weather. Its not always beautifully sunny days and clear skies. Sometimes there is bad weather, and that can suck to remember during combats and telling players they have disadvantage on their Perception check due to the heavy fog. No one likes its when it comes to mechanical issues, but I think it is an important part of describing your world to the players. If they can imagine the heavy rain pouring down through the thick foilage of the forest, they start getting closer to your world. Despite the multitude of flaws that Waterdeep: Dragon Heist had, I do have to say I enjoyed the different season effects in it.

So, with that being said, I took my chart from the Archipelago Adventures and brought it to this class. This puts a bit more work on the GM as they have another chart to roll on, or come up with something off the top of their head, but can be used to provide encounters to the players that is more than just water mephits or sahuagins or sharks. The weather provides a challenge that can’t be overcome with just hitting it with a sword, and it can be scary. Ships have sunk during bad storms, and even in storms where it isn’t all that bad. Playing a character trying to save their ship during a horrible storm can create a type of bond to that ship that they wouldn’t normally be able to create.

Plotting the Course

While weather might provide a fantastic backdrop for the class, a big thing about this class is navigating a ship across the ocean or just around the lake. Every morning the navigator must plot out the course and get them set up to journey through out the day, if they fail their check they become lost sometime during the day. Pretty easy.

Now, if they get lost that night they can attempt another check, and on a success they can locate their position on the ocean based on the stars above them. This ability doesn’t work if there is heavy clouds or something else is obscuring the stars from their view, again weather comes into play here.

This is the main bread and butter of the tool, and allows the navigator to shine at sea… unless they roll horrible like myself. In which case, they might just be going in a huge circle while out on the ocean, and they’ll never find land and they’ll pry get forced to walk the plank!

Somewhere, Beyond the Sea

And that’s the Navigator’s Tools. It’s not crazy, but it has a lot of elements in it that can help get you from point a to point b, as well as let you know that you are about to head into a typhoon! And really… that’s someone I want with me… mostly cause I get seasick easily and I’m sure a typhoon would make me very seasick…

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