Roles Aboard a Pirate Ship

Man’s Promise


Captain (Required)
The ultimate authority on any ship, his word is law to all on board. The captain chooses where to sail, what to plunder, and who fills the other stations aboard the vessel, among many other command decisions. Leadership often proves perilous, however, as a captain is, above all, meant to secure success for his ship and crew. Failing to do so increases the threat of mutiny.
Benefit When on deck giving orders, the crew gets a +2 circumstance bonus on skill checks related to operating the ship.
Vacancy Penalty The ship may only take the uncontrolled action.
Special If captured or killed the first mate becomes captain.

Fist Mate
Performs the captain’s duties when the captain is not present.
Benefit When on deck giving orders, the crew gets a +1 circumstance bonus on skill checks related to operating the ship.

Concerned with the security of the ship, the fitness of the crew, and the dispensing of justice, the master-at-arms typically is one of the most feared and dreaded of a ship’s officers.
Benefit Crew gains +1 AC when repelling boarders.
Vacancy Penalty The crew begins deserting at port if its cumulative morale penalty reaches -5 and immediately mutinies if the penalty ever reaches -10.

The boatswain, or bosun (pronounced “bosun” either way), is responsible for the upper deck of the vessel and above. This makes the boatswain accountable for all rope, rigging, anchors, and sails. At the start of the day, the boatswain and those under her weigh anchor, raise the sails and report on the general condition of the ship’s deck to the captain. As she oversees many of the ship’s basic daily labors, the boatswain is often responsible for keeping discipline and dispensing punishment.
Benefit Add boatswains Int modifier to the ship’s CMB.
Vacancy Penalty Ship suffers a -4 penalty to initiative.

The navigator is responsible for making sure the ship stays on course, uses the most favorable winds and currents and stays away from dangerous waters.
Benefit Increase daily speed by 5%.
Vacancy Penalty Distance traveled between two points on a journey increases by 5%.

The quartermaster oversees the supplies and items stored aboard the ship. She maintains the supplies of food and weaponry, oversees the disbursement of food to the cook, and doles out the rum ration to the crew.
Benefit Decrease cost of provisioning the ship by 20%.
Vacancy Penalty Each week without a quartermaster roll a d8. On a 1 remaining food spoils, on a 2 the fresh water is fouled and on a 3 the rum runs out. Each day, in addition to starvation or thirst (if appropriate), the crew suffers a -1 cumulative morale penalty to perform its daily tasks until the supply is replaced. Created food and water will prevent starvation and thirst, but the superstitious crew will still suffer the moral penalty.

While the quartermaster normally allocates the rations, the cook and his apprentices make and distribute meals to the crew. Although some better-outfitted vessels employ skilled cooks to attend to the captain and the officers, many cooks are drawn from crew members who have suffered crippling injuries, allowing them to still serve even after such trauma.
Benefit Crew gains a +2 morale bonus to perform its daily tasks.
Vacancy Penalty Crew takes a cumulative -1 morale penalty to perform its daily tasks for each day without cooked meals.

Master Gunner
The master gunner is in charge of all shipboard artillery, ensuring moisture and rust don’t ruin the weapons and that the crew knows how to use them. On board ships with firearms, the master gunner maintains the vessel’s cannons, firearms, and powder supplies; on ships without such weapons, she maintains the ballistas, catapults, and so on.
Benefit Doubles the bonus gained from successive shots up to twice the normal maximum bonus.
Vacancy Penalty Siege weapons take a -2 penalty and siege firearms have double the normal misfire chance.

No matter what enchantments or alchemical unguents augment a pirate ship, its heart and bones are still wood. This simple fact makes the carpenter one of the most important positions aboard any vessel. Carpenters are chiefly responsible for maintaining the ship below the deck, finding and plugging leaks, repairing damage, and replacing masts and yards. As the crew member most skilled with the saw, the carpenter typically serves as a ship’s surgeon as well—bones cut just as easily as timbers.
Benefit The carpenter adds his ranks in Craft(ships) to the ship as temporary hit points.
Vacancy Penalty The ship takes 1d4 hp in damage for each week without a carpenter.

Cabin Boy/Girl
Servant to the captain and other officers, this low-ranking and typically young crew member assists other sailors in their duties and runs various errands across the ship, requiring him or her to gain a measure of understanding of almost all the ship’s roles.
Benefit Add the cabin boy or girl’s charisma bonus to bluff, diplomacy and intimidate skill checks made by the officers against passengers and prisoners on board the ship.


Rigger Required (7)
Riggers work the rigging and unfurl the sails. In battle, next to that of a boarding party, the riggers’ job is one of the most dangerous, as they pull enemy vessels near enough to board.

Swab Required (13): Any sailor who mops the decks. Also used as slang for any low-ranking or unskilled crew member.

Roles Aboard a Pirate Ship

Stuff and Shackles Carthorse