How do you describe shipboard directions?

I’ve been building a map using shipboard directions (port, starboard, fore, aft)…and just realized I’m not sure how to explain them in room descriptions.

With compass directions, I might say “a passage leads north” or “to the north is a cave”. With shipboard directions, how do I say that? “To port/starboard is…” sounds right (no “the”), but *“to fore/aft is…” sounds wrong, and I’m not sure how to use them as adverbs (“leads north”).

Bonus question: is there a shipboard equivalent of the ordinal directions (northeast, southwest, etc)?


I feel like you might have to turn the sentence around for fore/aft: “The fo’c’sle is forward, the poop deck is aft.”


I don’t think you need to turn the sentence around (although that definitely works) but you would leave off “to.” As in “Aft is the brig” and “The red door leads forward.”

Although maybe a true mariner would like to step in here.

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This is how I handled it. Although in retrospect I might use compass directions as well, as in Starcross.

Yeah, I’m planning to have “north” and “n” be synonyms for “port”, etc, for the sake of experienced parser players who are used to them.

As is convention, the ship will be heading east, so that there’s no conflict between S for Starboard and S for South.


I’m no true mariner but I did a bunch of smaller-boat sailing back in the day and this is how I’d handle it to.

Not really as far as I know – you can obviously just say “aft and starboard” but a player isn’t likely to intuit a command from that unless you specifically prompt something like AS, which personally feels awkward. On the flip side, I think most ships don’t really use those directions anyway? Like the layout on most I’m familiar with is pretty orthogonal given the space and usage constraints – like you have one or two main corridors running fore and aft and cabins/chambers off of that. Up on deck, it’s obviously more open, but that’s one where a GO TO LOCATION command might be appropriate since you’re not following corridors.

(All of this assuming a naval vessel; for a spaceship obviously all bets are off!)

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I’ll admit my knowledge of how ships are laid out is mostly based on Return of the Obra Dinn—but based on that, I have been doing things mostly orthogonally. One or two main corridors down each deck, with cabins etc off them. I’m glad to hear that fits modern ships too!

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Naval historian here…

well, often location names is relative to direction, e.g. “starboard/port battery” “forward boiler room” “aft boiler room” so one ought to avoid thing like “starboard is the starboard crane”, albeit by the rule “no door, even “watertight” ones below the waterline”, aboard ships built after 1900s/1910s, lower spaces, below the waterline (holds, engineering spaces and, on warships, magazines) are normally accessible only from above, so on many ship types the main passages down into the bowels of the ship (often full of W/T doors) are on the lowest corridor deck (the last above the waterline; decks, often partial because of the size and height of the engineering spaces, below the waterline are called “platform deck(s)”) albeit on major warships often the access to the engineering spaces is up to the middle or upper corridor deck.

and so on… and there’s many variation (and the dreaded “Navalese”) in dealing with description of ship’s compartments (that is, locations in “adventurese”)

oh, for actual ship maps:

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


Maybe someone should ping Dr. Piergiorgio

That was so funny, I just got post sniped before I could find his handle to ping him. This forum is chock full of interesting, intelligent people!

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In theory, you’d use:

Forward are the living quarters.
Aft lies the galley.
Aport lies the radio schack.
Astarboard lie the captain’s quarters.

Not sure how many landlubbers feel that this is natural, or get that they need to type port or p to go aport.