Pirate Captain (Prestige Class)

“Hoist the colors, boys! Let’s see if this crew of merchants and traders is made of sterner stuff than the last.”
-Hector Berell, captain of the pirate ship Arya’s Jaunt

All one needs is a ship and crew in order to be a captain. But there is more to running a ship than giving orders. It takes experience, know-how and a willingness to pull your own weight. Captaining a ship of rowdy pirates requires a special fortitude that few possess.

Pirate captains are the terrors of the seas. Their reputations are so widespread, their fame (or infamy) so great, that many can strike fear into the hearts of entire crews. Ships often surrender their cargo without chase or a fight rather than risk the wrath of a well-known pirate captain, but a pirate captain is more than just a fearsome reputation. He also knows how to motivate his crew to work harder and faster, giving them every edge possible over their intended targets.

Alignment: Any non-lawful.

Abilities: As with any other pirate, Dexterity is important. A pirate that wears armor is rare, and a high Dex score helps keep a pirate captain from being wounded in the inevitable fighting that comes with his activities. Charisma is also important to a pirate captain, because a higher Charisma score improves his Pirate of Renown ability. Intelligence is also important to a pirate captain, even more so than to the average pirate. Extra ranks in useful skills like Heal or Knowledge (geography) ensure that rebellions and mutinies are few and far between.

Hit Die: d8

In order to become a pirate captain, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria.
Skills: Intimidate 8 ranks, Knowledge (geography) or Profession (sailor) 5 ranks.
Feats: Persuasive.
Special: The pirate captain must own his own ship, whether it was purchased, captured in battle, or stolen.

Class Skills
The pirate captain’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) (Int), 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
Will Save Special
1 +0 +0 +2 +0 Pirate of renown
2 +1 +0 +3 +0 Burst of speed
3 +2 +1 +3 +1 Inspire Courage

Class Features: All of the following are class features of the pirate captain class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Pirate captains gain no proficiency with any weapons or armor.

Pirate of Renown: Pirate captains develop a widespread reputation. Each pirate captain has his own personal flag (sometimes referred to as a “Jolly Roger”) that is raised just prior to ordering another ship to stand down. Once per day while hoisting his flag while within sight of a ship he intends to board, a pirate captain can make a special Intimidate check, adding his class level as a bonus. This check is opposed by the modified level check (1d20 + character level or HD + Wis bonus + target’s modifiers on saves against fear) of the captain of the opposing ship. If the Intimidate check succeeds, the opposing captain not only recognizes the pirate captain’s standard, but is affected by it. If the pirate captain has a reputation for sparing his victims’ lives, the captain orders his ship to stand down and allows the pirates to board. If the pirate captain has a reputation for cruelty and murder, the opposing ship may try to fight or flee, but each member of the crew that is not immune to fear effects is shaken, taking a –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. This condition lasts for as long as the pirate captain is within sight.

Burst of Speed: Pirates are often hunted by the authorities, followed, overtaken and captured or executed. A good pirate captain can help widen the gap between his ship and any pursuers. At 2nd level, a pirate captain can inspire his crew to work harder and faster to increase the speed of his ship. For one hour, the ship’s speed increases by 50% (see table 9-6, Player's Handbook page 164). A pirate captain may do this a number of times per day equal to his class level.

Inspire Courage (Su): Pirate captains know how to motivate their crews, whether by direction or the lash. Once per day, a pirate captain can inspire courage in his shipmates, bolstering them against fear and improving their combat abilities. To be affected, a crewman must be able to hear the pirate captain’s voice. The effect lasts for as long as the crewman hears the pirate captain and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected crewman receives a +1 morale bonus on attack and weapon damage rolls. Inspire courage is a mind-affecting ability.

Pirate (Core Class)

"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
Will Save Special
1 +0 +0 +2 +0 Deft reflexes, fast climber
2 +1 +0 +3 +0
3 +2 +0 +3 +0 Sneak attack +1d6
4 +3 +1 +4 +1 Luck of the sea (1/day)
5 +3 +1 +4 +1 Deft reflexes
6 +4 +1 +5 +1 Sneak attack +2d6
7 +5 +2 +5 +2 Uncanny dodge
8 +6/+1 +2 +6 +2
9 +6/+1 +2 +6 +2 Luck of the sea (2/day), sneak attack +3d6
10 +7/+2 +3 +7 +3 Deft reflexes
11 +8/+3 +3 +7 +3
12 +9/+4 +3 +8 +3 Sneak attack +4d6
13 +9/+4 +4 +8 +4
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
17 +12/+7/+2 +5 +10 +5
18 +13/+8/+3 +5 +11 +5 Sneak attack +6d6
19 +14/+9/+4 +6 +11 +6 Luck of the sea (4/day)
20 +15/+10/+5 +6 +12 +6 Deft reflexes

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.

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