"Avast, ye scurvy mongrels! Stay yer hands and prepare t’be boarded, lest ye be sleepin’ in Davy Jones’ locker this night!" -Andrel Waynemyer, first mate of the pirate ship Renegade
Anyone with a boat can be a common robber on the high seas. A ship full of barbarians or sorcerers can make a sort of living raiding coastlines or attacking other ships, but most such crews would fall before the skill of a vessel crewed by actual pirates. Pirates are not only skilled brigands, but also professional sailors of the highest caliber. Instead of spending their time learning complicated spells or tinkering with locks and traps, pirates hone their ability to bring other vessels under their control so that they can take what they want. The most successful pirates are so feared that they can cow other crews into submission without a fight by raising their flags.
Abilities: Dexterity is usually the pirate’s most important ability score, since very few pirates wear armor; it’s likely to drag them to the briny depths if they fall or are pushed overboard. Charisma is also important for many of the pirate’s skills, and a high Charisma score improves a pirate’s Luck of the Sea ability. A high Intelligence score provides more skill points, which can make a pirate more versatile (and therefore, more valuable to his captain) than his companions.
Alignment: Any non-lawful. Some pirates claim to live by a “pirate code,” but most follow no law but the tide, and would shake your hand to seal a deal with one hand while running you through with the dagger in the other. Pirates of good alignment try to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, favoring intimidation tactics over open violence. Many such pirates are actually privateers, working with the (albeit deniable) backing of a government. Evil pirates often promise to spare anyone that surrenders, but execute all prisoners and burn the captured ship after taking everything of value. They are often as interested in the violence of a pirate’s lifestyle as they are in the wealth.
Hit Die: d8
Class Skills The pirate’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Appraise (Int), Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (nature), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language (N/A), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex) and Use Rope (Dex).
Skill Points at 1st Level: (6 + Int modifier) x 4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 6 + Int modifier.
|Level||BaB||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1||+0||+0||+2||+0||Deft reflexes, fast climber|
|3||+2||+0||+3||+0||Sneak attack +1d6|
|4||+3||+1||+4||+1||Luck of the sea (1/day)|
|6||+4||+1||+5||+1||Sneak attack +2d6|
|9||+6/+1||+2||+6||+2||Luck of the sea (2/day), sneak attack +3d6|
|12||+9/+4||+3||+8||+3||Sneak attack +4d6|
|14||+10/+5||+4||+9||+4||Luck of the sea (3/day)|
|15||+11/+6/+1||+4||+9||+4||Deft reflexes, sneak attack +5d6|
|16||+12/+7/+2||+5||+10||+5||Improved uncanny dodge|
|18||+13/+8/+3||+5||+11||+5||Sneak attack +6d6|
|19||+14/+9/+4||+6||+11||+6||Luck of the sea (4/day)|
Class Features: All of the following are class features of the pirate class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Pirates are proficient with all simple weapons as well as the hand axe, short sword, light crossbow, hand crossbow, heavy crossbow and rapier. Pirates are proficient with the use of bucklers, but not with armor or shields of any other kind.
Deft Reflexes: Pirates rely on extremely quick reflexes to keep them alive every day. The pirate may choose a bonus feat from the following list: Acrobatic, Agile, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Mobility, Quick Draw, Rapid Reload, Skill Focus (Balance), Skill Focus (Tumble) or Weapon Finesse. A pirate must still meet all the prerequisites for a bonus feat granted by deft reflexes, including ability score and base attack bonus minimums.
Fast Climber: Pirates are skilled climbers that work from ropes and rigging every day. A pirate may attempt an accelerated climb (PHB page 69) without the standard –5 penalty whenever climbing a rope, a ship’s rigging or the sides of a ship.
Sneak Attack: Beginning at 2nd level, a pirate deals an extra 1d6 points of damage when flanking an opponent or any time the target would be denied its Dexterity bonus to AC. This extra damage applies to ranged attacks only if the target is within 30 feet. It increases by an extra 1d6 damage every three levels. See the rogue class feature (PHB page 50). If the pirate gets a sneak attack bonus from another source (such as levels of rogue), the bonuses on damage stack.
Luck of the Sea (Ex): A pirate that lives long enough seems to gain the favor of the sea itself. At 4th level, if the pirate is on a ship or within half a mile of the sea, he may add his Charisma bonus to an attack roll or a saving throw. This ability may be applied after a roll is made, but must be used before the DM announces success or failure. A pirate may also use this ability to add half of his Charisma bonus (round down) to his Armor Class for one round. Every five levels, a pirate gains another daily use of luck of the sea. Luck of the sea may only be used once per round.
Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Starting at 7th level, a pirate can react to danger before his senses would normally allow him to do so. He retains his dexterity bonus (if any) to AC, even if he is caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. However, he still loses his Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized. If a pirate already has uncanny dodge from a different class (such as rogue or barbarian), he automatically gains improved uncanny dodge (see below) instead.
Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): A pirate of 16th level or higher can no longer be flanked; he can react to opponents on both sides of himself as easily as he can react to a single attacker. This defense denies an attacker the ability to sneak attack the character by flanking him, unless the attacker is a pirate or rogue at least four levels higher than the character. If a character already has uncanny dodge (see above) from a second class, the character automatically gains improved uncanny dodge instead, and the levels from the classes that grant uncanny dodge stack to determine the minimum pirate or rogue level required to flank the character.
A Pirate’s Ship: Pirate ships run the entire gamut of ship design. Some are powered by the strong arms and backs of rowers and are designed with metal rams for crippling other ships. Others are sleek, streamlined ships with triangular sails that are useful even for sailing into the wind. Still others are large affairs with huge holds and massive square sails that sacrifice maneuverability for better speed. In fact, only one major link exists among pirate vessels: they’re almost always stolen. The standard pirate ship may have begun its career as a merchant ship or even a ship of war. Whatever its origins, the average pirate ship has probably seen many alterations in the name of more efficient piracy. By and large, tall forecastles and stern decks are removed to allow for faster sailing. Additional masts are often installed to allow for more sails; the more canvas that can be stretched, the better. Partitions under the deck are usually removed to reduce the ship’s weight and add cargo space. In short, pirates usually want their vessels to be lighter and faster than ordinary ships. Lighter pirate vessels can outrun slower ships or sail easily over reefs and sandbars that would ground bulkier ships loaded down with soldiers. An average-sized pirate ship of about 75 ft. (like a 1700s schooner) should have a crew of about 40. This includes the captain, who is either elected by popular vote among the crew or attains his position by force of arms, and the first mate, who is responsible both for representing the interests of the crew to the captain and for administering punishments to errant crew members. Among the crew, at least one member will have maximum ranks in the Craft (carpentry) skill and several other members of the crew will have the odd rank as well. Another crewman will probably have maximum ranks in Knowledge (navigation), and will read maps and charts and generally plot the course as instructed by the captain. Odds are fair that someone will have a few ranks in the Heal skill and will act as the de facto surgeon. Lucky ships might have a multi-classed cleric or sorcerer on board to act as healer or artillery. Exceptionally fortuitous crews may include a spellcaster capable of casting spells like control wind or create food and water.