[RPG] the current status of official 5e Naval Combat


In May of 2019, Ghosts of Saltmarsh was released bringing official rules for naval combat in the form of Appendix A: Of Ships and the Sea. This appears to be the culmination of the published "Unearthed Arcana" versions of the same name.

However, there is still the Ships and Sailing material from the 5th Edition SRD, and there are significant differences between that and the GoSM Appendix A. I understand that this material is the Open Source information Wizards of the Coast allows people to use in their own published material. I'm just confused as to while WotC would have Open Source info that contradicted their official published material.

Question: Does WotC have two different official material for rules for naval combat? Which is the definitive set of rules?

Best Answer

There are two sets of rules for ship combat, but the ones you link are not both official

The first set of rules we get for ship combat appears in the Unusual Environments section of Chapter 5 of the Dungeon Master's Guide:

Traveling through the wilderness doesn’t always mean an overland trek. Adventurers might ply the open sea in a caravel or an elemental-powered galleon...

The rules here are very sparse and not the most detailed, but include such things as describing the HP and defenses of various ships.

The later addition of the rules from Ghosts of Saltmarsh provide a much needed improvement on these rules for that setting. These rules appear in Appendix A of the book under Ships in Combat:

Whether sailing to war or hunting notorious pirates, ships make deadly weapons and dramatic battlefields. This section provides guidance on using ships in combat.

The D&D 5e SRD

The D&D 5e SRD does not contain any rules about ship combat. I'm not sure what the source of the rules you link are, but I don't recognize them from any official rulebook. You can find the actual D&D 5e SRD on the Wizards of the Coast website.