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Piracy in the Caribbean
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Requires the use of the Dungeons and 1)r;igons"' Player's Handbook,"" Edition, published by Wizards of the Coast
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All of the material in Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 is designated Open Game Content for license purposes. All other material and the presentation of this book as a complete work is designated Product Identity. With the exception of the Open Game Content, reproduction of this work
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bordered-style sidebars is designated Product Identity. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead less than 200 years is purely coincidental.
Avalanche Press Ltd.
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Introduction Part I: The Caribbean in the Early 18th Century
Drawing the Map
Spain England The Netherlands France Denmark The Locals
5 5 5 7 8 9
Cannon Size Running Out the Guns Loading Firing in Battle Types of Shot Boarding
19 19 I9 19 20
Escaped Slave Carpenter Cook Officer
Firearms Blades Food
Captain Cardinal Navigator Physician Part 5: Outfitting the Character New Feats New Skills Equipment Part 6:Setting Sail Grievous Bodily Harm Gangrene
22 24 24 24 24 25 25 25 25 26 26 26 26 27 27 27 27 27 27 28 28 29 29
The Economy New World
IO IO IO IO I1 11 I1 11
Part 3: A Pirate’s Life for Me Who Are the Pirates?
Demographics The Role of the Captain Class Warfare “Recruiting” Pirate Officers Pirate Crews
39 40 40 40 41 41 42 42 42 43 45 46 48 48 50 51 54 54 54 55 55 55 55 56 56 56 56 57 57 58 58 58 58 58 59 59 60 62 63 63
Silver and Gold Silks and Spices Sugar and Rum Agricultural Products National Specialties
Slavery Faith, or Lack of I t Part 2: All the Ships at Sea
L+ as a Pirate
Pirate Articles Ships Combat Plunder Food Slavery Pirate Havens
Misfire Chance Accuracy Rating Critical Reloading Masterwork Weapons
Ships and the Sea
Galleons Ships of the Line Frigates Merchant Vessels Manufacture Maintenance Navigation
Manning the Ship
Officers Able-bodied Seamen Slaves Marines Ship’s Boys Cook Gunner and Armorer Surgeon Carpenter Purser Sailing Master Gunnery
14 14 14 14 14 15 I5 15 16 16 16
Restricting Privateering Claiming a Prize
Size Damage Firing Cannon Types of Shot Rate of Fire Fog of War Breech Burst Ships’ AC/Damage Resistance
Flying Colors Atrocities Punishment
Bonny and Read Maria Cobham Ladies of the Night Part 4: Character Classes Player Character Classes Merchant Noble Priest
I8 I8 18 18 I8 18 I9
Panache Level Panache Points Spending Panache Points Panache Feats Credits
32 32 32 34 37
Int r o d m i on
Few historical periods invoke the fascination and the imagination like the Golden Age of Piracy. From Errol Flynn to Robert Louis Stevenson, the swashbuckling pirate adventure is one with which we are all familiar. Actually, there were several Golden Ages of Piracy. This book deals with one of them: the Caribbean in the Early 18th Century, following the War of Spanish Succession. It is one of the most historically accurate treatments of the period in games in quite awhile. Your characters will be able to experience the rigors of life aboard ship in the New World as they search for rich treasure vessels or hunt pirates along the coasts of Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Spanish Main.
What to Expect
BLACK FLAGS: PIRACY THE CARIBBEAN specifically not an Errol Flynn IN is
movie. We’ve added some things like the Panache rules (see Part 6) that are designed to emulate some of the swashbuckling genre, but our approach to the genre is an attempt to re-create the past around your gaming table. T h e first three parts of the book are designed to give you an historical overview of the early 1700’s. We stuffed as much information about life in the Caribbean in I 7 1 3 as we could in there, including parts dedicated specifically to the marine vessels of the time and the pirates that spawned legends. We then added rules to reflect the characters of the time and the occupations they held. But we didn’t create Errol Flynn, and, if we touched on Blackbeard and Mary Reed, it was only from an historical perspective. You won’t find Hollywood versions of them in here.
How to Use this Book
Parts I through 3 are purely historical. They are essays on the period, the culture, and the lives o f the people who lived in this part of the world at this time. It is the setting material for the game. Part 4 lists a host of character classes for the game. Most of them are brand new, offering a variety of new adventuring options. Part 5 lists new Feats, Skills, and Equipment that are peculiar t o the setting. Part 6 offers new rules for firearms and cannon, ship-to-ship combat, and indulges a little of the Hollywood notion with the rules for Panache. The intention is for you to use this book as a campaign setting, adapting the game t o the special rules contained herein. However, everything in Part 4 through 6 is Open Game Content for license purposes and should give you loads of new options for your game, even if you don’t use the BLACKFLAGS: PIRACY THE CARIBBEAN IN setting.
So roll out the guns! There’s a strange ship approaching fast, and her intentions
don’t look honorable. Your adventure in the Caribbean is about to begin.
The Caribbean in the
rly 18th Century
In the first years of the century, Europe engaged in the worldwide conflict known as the War of the Spanish Succession. France and Spain took on England, the Netherlands, Austria, and most of the German states in a struggle to determine which family would control the Spanish Empire, the largest the world has ever seen. Austria’s Habsburgs had the legal claim, but France’s Bourbons seized the throne.
pirates gaze longingly at its rich pickings. The Armada de Barlovento (“Windward Islands Fleet”) based in Havana wages ceaseless war on them, and it is much stronger than any other navy in the region. The squadron’s peacetime crews are long-service professionals, hardened in battle and skilled a t their craft. During much of this time the finest admiral in Spanish history, Don Blas de Lezo, has commanded the squadron. In 1741 he will lead it to a smashing victory over an English fleet five times larger but die from sickness brought on by the exertions. Don Blas is not always on duty here, though, as Spain’s worldwide ambitions have him fighting his king’s battles in all corners of the world. Because most pirates are English, the Spanish practice of hanging them outright has led to fierce hatred between the two nationalities. The English scorn the “Dons” as weak and effeminate to cover their fear of the more powerful Spaniards. The Spanish, for their part, believe all English vessels t o be pirate ships in disguise, and they stop and search any they meet. In 1 7 3 9 this will lead to open war after a Spanish frigate captain tires of a shady English merchant’s loud and obscene complaints and nails the man’s ear to the
Years of hard fighting finally exhausted the combatants, and the war ended in I71 3. T h e Bourbons kept the Spanish throne, but appeased their enemies by tossing them choice bits of formerly Spanish territory. With the fighting ended, all nations trimmed their armed forces. Overnight, England’s Royal Navy shrank from 40,000 seamen to less than IO,OOO. Other navies made similar cuts. Suddenly, tens of thousands of battle-hardened, experienced sailors found themselves without a means to make a living. Huge debts incurred during the war kept navies from patrolling very much outside home waters. In the Caribbean of this time, rich cargoes move through the warm waters with little to no protection. The climate is fine, the victims are weak and plentiful, and desperate men (and a few women) are ready to take what they want. The scene has been set for robbery on the high seas.
Drawing the Map
The major colonial powers of the Old World all have their fingers in the Caribbean. Each has key holdings that are vital not only t o its position in the New World but also its economy back home.
Spain’s power is centered in Cuba. Sugar is not yet king here; the chief industry is shipbuilding. The island also produces tobacco and rice, along with some sugar. Where other Caribbean islands are ruled by Europeans, a strong class of Cuban entrepreneurs called criollos has emerged here. They are active in business interests throughout the region, and their island prospers as a result. The criollos hate the pirates with great passion, and their influence has caused the Spanish government t o take a very hard line against piracy. Few Cubans participate in piracy due to this intense feeling. As Cuba boasts the region’s only fully developed economy,
Captain William Kidd suffers the ultimate penalty for piracy.
mainmast. This War of Jenkins’ Ear will last nine years, but the ear is only another excuse to bring boiling anger into the open. Spain and England will also go to war in 1719, 1727, and 173 , and they’ll fight a number of battles in between 3 without declarations of war. The Spanish are not completely wrong in their view of English shipping. In the past, for some English captains, the line between pirate and peaceful merchant was very thin. They would attack a weaker opponent but meekly play the harmless trader when meeting a stronger vessel. As English ships came to play a larger and larger role in world trade,
this practice declined because foreign governments would seize English ships for piracy o n sight. But especially among the Spanish, the belief is very strong that any English sailor who is not a pirate is just waiting the chance to become one. Puerto Rico is also under Spanish rule. It is a backwater colony, with little good agricultural land. O n Hispaniola, the Spanish recovered the eastern half of the island in 1697, which they call Santo Domingo. It is also a backwater, even though unlike Puerto Rico it boasts some very rich farmland. There is little trade here, despite the fact that its capital of the same name is the original European outpost in the New World.
The garrison rarely ventures outside the city, and the north coast of the island has been a popular area with pirates for over a century. This neglect spawned the original buccaneers, and some crazed loners of every imaginable nationality can still be found hunting wild cattle. Trinidad, another island claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus, provides natural tar (valuable for sealing ships’ hulls and protecting their rigging) and agricultural items. Though under Spanish rule, the island has a number of French colonists who have come to join in selling the natural tar of Pitch Lake. More important are the colonies in mainland Central and South America, known to the English as the “Spanish Main.” There are rich pickings here for pirates. Ships bring treasures of gold and silver, Asian luxury goods, and other items to Panama, a fortified port on the Pacific coast. Mule trains then carry them across the narrow but mountainous isthmus to Porto Bello on the Caribbean coast. From there, two fleets each year take the goods to Spain, protected by the guns of the Armada de Burlovento. In recent years, this flow has declined, both as the Peruvian mines have begun to play out and as larger, stronger ships have begun sailing around
the southern tip of South American t o avoid the need t o transship items over land. Periodically pirates attempt to attack these mule trains, which are escorted by bored garrison soldiers, but, without reliable information on when such trains are on the road, the marauders often become lost and die in the wilderness. Outside its two port cities, most of Panama is an unpleasant mix of jungle and swamp. New Granada, the area that will someday be known as Colombia and Venezuela, is somewhat more hospitable. Cartagena des Indias is the major port, a heavily fortified city from which gold, silver, and agricultural items (including rum and sugar) are exported. Ranchers also run cattle in huge herds, and hides are another export.
England’s chief Caribbean colony is Jamaica, which the English took from Spain in 1660. After decades of neglect and use as a pirate haven, firm government control has come to the island now that it is becoming economically valuable. Sugar and rum are produced in great quantity. Jamaican planters have imported a number of Asian plants in an effort to find a cheap food for their slaves, and recently these
experiments have accidentally produced a strange but tasty item they call grapefruit. The capital of Kingston is the seat of the Royal African Company and hosts the Western Hemisphere’s largest slave market. The governor and his staff often leave Kingston for Spanish Town, a dozen miles away but sited on the slopes of the much cooler Blue Mountains. A terrible earthquake sank most of Port Royal in 1691, but Kingston’s port on the other side of the bay has fully recovered and taken over the trade of the destroyed city. The local Vice-Admiralty court, in memory of Port Royal’s history, has convicted pirates hung here and left to rot in sight o f all ships entering or leaving the harbor. The English do not tolerate piracy against their own shipping and punish it severely. Many English pirates can still obtain letters of marque in Jamaica t o prey on the Spanish, but they are not allowed t o use the port facilities. Jamaica’s planters are known for their arrogance; few are nobles, and they resent that their great wealth has not brought them equality with the better born. In Europe, colonial planters of all nationalities are snubbed by the nobility, who show disdain for their newfound wealth and disgust over their treatment of slaves -much as they would over one who beat dogs or horses.
North of Cuba and Hispaniola, the English also hold a very loose rule over the island chain known as the Bahamas. New Providence, the capital, has been a major pirate haven for years. However, a new governor has just arrived with orders to clean up the colony. Woodes Rogers is an experienced privateer and outstanding leader, though most of his men immediately fell ill on arrival. H e commands the only English squadron permanently stationed in these waters, a handful of small sloops of war. Rogers dreads every ship arriving from England, knowing his government may decide t o cut off his funding at any moment and recall his ships and men.
The Dutch hold one colony, a small chain of islands centered around Curacao. The port here is known as Willemstad to its rulers, but everyone else calls it by the island’s name. Curagao produces sugar, but its reason for existence is the short sail to either Cartagena des Indias or Porto Bello. The island is heavily fortified and strongly garrisoned, and during the constant warfare between the Netherlands and Spain during the 1600’s it served as a secure base for Dutch pirates and privateers.
After winning a series o f wars with the English, the prosperous Dutch have come to wage war with ledger books moreso than with fleets. Pirates are not welcome at Curasao, but in case of renewed war with Spain the base is ready for action. Dutch sailors are noted for their skill and courage, but even now they are starting to be scorned as a nation of bankers rather than the tough sea dogs of the 1600’s. While the mercantile Dutch dislike piracy, Curacao is a noted center for smuggling to and from the Spanish Main. Almost anything can be bought and sold. Pirates will often sell their cargoes here if they can put on a front of being respectable smugglers rather than murderous thieves.
France holds two extremely valuable sugar islands, Guadeloupe and Martinique, in addition to a handful of nearby smaller islands. The western half of Hispaniola, known as Haiti, is also French-ruled. Like Jamaica, the French territories feature large plantations worked by thousands of badly treated slaves. France wavers between alliance and hostility with Spain and England; when friendly with one, the French are at odds with the other. French governors have greater leeway to issue letters of marque, and are more tolerant of pirates than the Spanish. French pirates are the second-most common nationality after English, though there is a wide gap between them.
Finally, Denmark rules part of the Virgin Islands. The Danes grow sugar here, once again with slave labor, although in future centuries they will develop national amnesia regarding this facet of their history. A small Danish warship is always on station a t St. Thomas. T h e Danes try to avoid conflict with their more powerful neighbors and thus fight piracy lest they anger other governments.
money a scorned wartime emergency measure, these bills are paid in hard cash: gold and silver coins. Merchants can rely more easily on bank drafts but still need to transport coin. Pirates can and do intercept these payments. Jewels are found at times, though they are more likely to be looted from passengers rather than a ship’s cargo.
Silks and Spices
Oriental products like silks, and spices from the Indies (the archipelago now known as Indonesia) have great value, but they rarely pass through the Caribbean. The area produces some valuable spices of its own, however, and much blood has been spilled for the sake of nutmeg. Galleons ply the Pacific as well, bringing Asian goods including silks and spices to Acapulco on Mexico’s coast in exchange for gold and silver. These luxuries are carried across Mexico by mule train t o load again aboard ship in Vera Cruz. To capture one of these treasure ships, even two centuries after the conquistadors’ heyday, can make a pirate crew fabulously wealthy.
There are almost no Native Americans on the Caribbean islands, though they are found on the Spanish Main. European colonizers have ruthlessly murdered the Arawaks, Taino, Caribs and others with disease finishing off the survivors. There have been few encounters with natives for well over a century and many consider them extinct. This is not strictly true on all islands, but it is very close to fact.
of the New
T h e Caribbean was plundered for a wide variety of natural
resources. Every colonial power profited from its holdings, and many pirates did as well. Below is an overview of what is to be had in t h e New World.
Sugar and Rum
Sugar rules the Caribbean. Plantations require huge numbers of slaves to cut the cane and press the juice. Few survive this backbreaking labor for long, and a steady supply of human cargo flows into the Caribbean. The cane juice is set in clay pots t o crystallize, leaving behind a sweetish brown liquid called molasses. In the mid-I 640’s French sugar growers in what is now Haiti found that they could recycle this waste product, distilling it into a very pleasing form of alcohol they called tafia. English growers at first named it kill-devil, then came to call it rumbullion or rum. European markets demand huge quantities of both sugar and rum. Rum is traded in Africa for slaves and in North America for other products. The nobility encourages the masses to drink heavily because it is thought to keep them quiet. In the Caribbean, the drink is cheap and readily available.
Silver and Gold
Spain unloaded I6,000 tons of silver and 185 tons of gold from treasure fleets between I 5 0 3 and 1650. The gold alone would have a current value of billions of dollars. Mines in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia provide huge flows of precious metal, and Spain’s kings and queens used this wealth to become Europe’s leading military power. But after 1650 the mines began t o play out. Spanish governments went bankrupt several times during the 1600’s.
By the early 1700’s,the huge fleets of treasure-laden
galleons had shrunk considerably. A year’s intake of gold and silver could be loaded aboard a single squadron of warships. Pirates rarely managed to take treasure ships, though Dutch and English warships did so fairly often. And even when they did succeed, pirates sometimes failed anyway: one drunken pirate crew captured a galleon loaded with silver, decided she was carrying ballast of worthless tin, and threw the ingots over the side. They kept one to make bullets and so learned of their stupidity later. In recent years, Spain has set up official mints in the Americas, and the remaining flow of precious metal is usually in the form of coins. A peso, the standard Spanish heavy silver coin, is known as a “piece of eight” because it is worth eight reales. T h e peso is slightly larger than an old-style U S . silver dollar. It is the standard coin of the Caribbean world, circulating freely in colonies of all nations and at home in Europe as well. Money still crosses the sea for other purposes as well. Colonies pay taxes to the home country, and governments must pay their soldiers and administrators. With paper
Pirates and everyone else drink it in vast quantities. Fictional songs about a ”bottle of rum” are just that; no one bothers to put rum in bottles in the Caribbean. Pirates drink it by the cask or barrel. Ships transport it in large barrels, and pirates who seize these vessels consider it sinful to waste t h e liquor. It is consumed on the spot with drunken pirates staggering about for as long as it takes to soak up all the rum not loaded aboard their own ship for later use. These days-long drunken sprees lead to numerous accidental deaths with more than one pirate ship destroyed by fire or explosion as a result.
Many of the trading ships plying the Caribbean carry much more mundane cargoes. Timber, salted fish, and agricultural products (some of them valuable, such as tobacco and indigo) flow in a steady stream from the New World to the Old. Valuable to their owners, these cargoes have little direct use to pirate captors. As a result, pirates often smuggle as well, slipping the goods past customs officers to sell them in legitimate markets. CuraSao and ports in British North America are friendly t o smugglers.
English, French, Dutch, and Danish ships bring sugar and rum from their Caribbean colonies to Europe. Spanish ships do not. Rum and sugar will not become important to Cuba and Puerto Rico for another I 50 years. There is little treasure to be found on a ship that isn’t Spanish, though merchant vessels of any nationality might be hauling a mundane cargo. Slave ships are also likely to be of any nationality, although the English have won the legal right to bring slaves to Spain’s colonies (the “asiento”). Each nation forbids foreign ships from trading with her colonies, but all of them smuggle. One English ship per year may trade with Porto Bello, in Panama, and can be depended to carry a rich cargo each way. village chiefs or sometimes simply through kidnapping. Prisoners of war make up many of those sold into slavery, and the trade is so profitable that African kingdoms have been making war on one another in recent decades simply to obtain captives for sale. European slave traders rarely capture slaves themselves. Once in the hands of slave traders, the unlucky people are chained together and marched to slave trading posts on the coast, usually fortified ports. Here they are kept in pens awaiting sale and transport. The conditions are terrible, and many die before ever leaving Africa. Most of these ports are run by European companies that lease the ground from the local African government; the African kingdoms turn a blind eye to the abuses their people suffer in the ports in exchange for foreign luxury goods: Asian silks and cottons, American rum, and European weapons. Two radically different societies have found common ground in their corruption. Otherwise, each finds little to love about the other. Europeans despise the Africans for their technological backwardness, while Africans sneer at European sailors for their illiteracy and incredibly foul smell. Fast European ships load their living cargo a t these ports with the ship captains usually purchasing the slaves from the local traders. Often a consortium of investors back home has raised money for the exchange, and the captain is receiving a share of the profit. Some captains chain the slaves individually to deck fittings while others simply jam them into their holds and bar the hatches. Aboard the slave ships, life for the captives is even more horrific than that in the pens. Most slave ships have been fitted with extra decks to hold more cargo, leaving only about two and a
The world of the early 18th Century is not like our own, nor is it too similar to its usual portrayal in pirate movies. This section covers some key cultural issues that Hollywood often overlooks.
Most Europeans see African slavery as part of the natural order of things. There are very few black pirates: when a pirate crew comes across a slave, he or she is simply seen as a valuable piece of property to be added t o the plunder. Free blacks are encountered rarely; a slave’s child remains property. In order to become free, a slave’s owner must manumit him or her. Owners consider this a dangerous trend and some relatives of slave-freeing owners have successfully challenged such acts in court. Anyone who frees a slave must be insane, they argue, and, thus, the manumission has no validity.
The slave trade is a key component of the Atlantic economy. In the interior of West Africa, Arab and African slave traders obtain their victims by purchasing slaves or criminals from
half feet of headroom. Slaves are normally allotted the same 18 inches of deck per person as a warship sailor. But where the sailor spends two-thirds of his time outside his bunk (thus having effective use of four and a half feet of space: his and that of two shipmates), the slave is damned to spend the entire Middle Passage in this narrow slice of deck. There are no sanitary facilities; the slaves foul themselves where they lie. Every so often, the ship’s crew will hurl food into the hold and pass in buckets of water. Slaves die in huge numbers from the poor conditions, by suicide, or simply by losing the will to live. Some crews extract the corpses and hurl them over the side, while the more lazy leave them in the hold to rot until the end of the voyage. The slave ship’s crew lives in a temporary deck structure called the “doghouse.” Transporting slaves is considered demeaning, and “going to the doghouse,” or serving aboard a slaver, is considered an insult to a respectable seaman. Even pirates will refuse to allow ex-slavers into their bands, though they have no problem putting a slave ship’s cargo to work for them. Slave ships can instantly be recognized by their smell, and other ships will not moor near them in a harbor. Naval officers of all nationalities have a particular dislike for the slave trade as it offends their sense of military honor. Dutch officers are less likely to oppose the practice than others since their fellow countrymen are the world’s leading investors in the trade.
Sexual exploitation is common, and some masters are viciously sadistic. In contrast t o practice in British North America, Caribbean slave owners do not breed slaves, preferring to replace the dead with fresh imports. Slave uprisings are common and can be extremely bloody even for this brutal age. The slaves have no hope of returning home and can only try to kill their oppressors. The plantation owners justifiably fear this pent-up rage. Still, sugar is so enormously profitable that any sense of human kindness toward the Africans has long ago been stamped out by greed. It is blood money, but the planters and colonial officials have n o problem sleeping. This is the typical outlook of white people of this period. Some slaves attempt escape, and are hunted down without mercy. A few succeed, and live in tiny communities deep in swamps, mountains, and other hidden places. There they continue what they can of their African ways mixed sometimes with what little is left of local Indian culture. A handful of these small colonies will continue another 400 years. These escaped slaves rarely venture out of their villages, and they hate and fear outsiders. But some dream of home and long to return there. “Race” has a much narrower definition than the 2 I s t Century uses. People see a separate “Spanish race” or “English race,” each with definable characteristics. A black skin is just starting t o be identified as a pre-requisite for slavery. There are white slaves in the Caribbean: a class that will not be mentioned often in later centuries’ agonized view of this evil and savage system. Criminals are put to work alongside African slaves, especially in Jamaica. Because white men die even faster from tropical diseases than do the already-acclimated Africans, and criminals are free to the plantation owner for the cost of transport, there is no incentive to keep them alive once they weaken. At home, corrupt judges are happy to keep the plantations well supplied with convicts, no matter what their actual crime. Plantation owners are not racists: their evil goes much deeper than that. This is not a unique situation. European navies still buy white slaves from North African pirates for use in galley fleets. The Ottoman Turks use slave labor on their sugar plantations on the Mediterranean, most of which are captured Christian sailors. In the Caribbean, Africans will face prejudice and scorn, though nothing on the scale of what will come by the end of the century. Life is cheap.
If given the chance, the slaves will revolt and rush the crew.
Feeling themselves damned to a horrid death already, they have nothing to lose. Most believe their white buyers plan to eat them for they cannot fathom the absurdity of transporting slaves so far just for farm work. Successful uprisings rarely result in freedom. The bloodlust of the enraged slaves is not easy to sate, and they cannot stop themselves from slaughtering the crew or tossing them overboard. Without a professional crew, the freed slaves are then condemned to drift in mid-ocean on a terribly overcrowded ship with little food or water. Enough such revolts have come close to success that authorities believe this accounts for most of the slave ships which go missing, but only one such load of slaves has ever managed to return home. During the passage and after arrival, a slave’s diet consists of boiled rice. This is sometimes bolstered with spoiled fish (no more than once per week) and perhaps some over-aged fruits or vegetables. Rice is so identified with slavery that white people and the very few free blacks refuse to eat it. Sailors, already feeling themselves in near-slave conditions, will explode into mutiny if given rice as their rations. In the Caribbean, slavery is a living hell. Most are assigned to backbreaking fieldwork cutting and pressing sugar cane, and three-quarters of them will die within a year of arrival. Many plantation owners leave them naked, though some issue ragged trousers to the men and dresses to the women out of concern for the whites’ modesty, not that of the slave. I2
All of the Caribbean islands not ruled by Spain are major centers of sugar production. Huge populations of slaves are
found on Hispaniola, Jamaica, Curagao, Guadeloupe and Martinique in particular. Port cities also employ work gangs of slaves to unload ships and perform heavy maintenance. Social pressures work against training slaves in skilled labor, though some owners violate this stricture and even use slaves in management positions.
One shipboard specialist rarely allowed aboard a pirate ship is a clergyman. Many working class Europeans see the Church as an accessory to their oppression, and often they are justified in this view. Kings, nobles, and the rich merchant class most definitely appreciate the value o f religion as the opiate of the masses: accept a hard life in this world in exchange for deliverance in the next. Pirates often reject religion, and blasphemy ranks high among charges leveled at pirate bands. Religious zeal turned deadly during the previous century: over onethird of all Germans died during the Thirty Years War. Some still carry bitter hatred for those of other faiths, and even in the 1700’s a few Protestant pirates still happily slaughter Roman Catholic crews and passengers. The Roman Catholic Church has limited power and influence in the Caribbean. Rome is far away. The New World has been a dumping ground for the incompetent and unwanted for two centuries, and the Church continues to send its least able priests to American parishes. Some especially zealous clergy volunteer for such assignments in hopes of either stemming the brutal slaughter of American Indians or helping them to find God. The most fanatic among the Roman Catholic clergy is the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits. Founded by a Spanish soldier to combat the evils of Protestantism and spread the True Faith, the Jesuits are the Church’s enforcers. Though owing total obedience to the Pope, the order understands that sometimes the Pope does not know his own will when looking after the Church’s interests. Jesuits undergo a two-year novitiate, making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Jesuit swears to go anywhere t o spread the faith and t o take any risk. Flexibility is the watchword: far from the order’s masters, the Jesuit brother must be ready to interpret the situation and use his own initiative. This helps make the order very popular with new recruits eager to defend their faith. Jesuits use the most modern of educational principles in their schools, which they found in missions all over the world. As the Roman Catholic Faith is utterly correct, it need have no fear of science or reason. T h e most modern ideas are studied and debated within Jesuit schools and the new Jesuit-run universities. Jesuit brothers preach t o American Indians in their own languages, and, in Europe, Jesuit fathers serve as confessors and advisors to kings. This
role gives the order enormous power and influence, which it uses to urge continual conflict with the Protestant nations. In the Caribbean, Jesuits are found in Spanish and French territory. English, Dutch, and Danish territories are Protestant by law. Jesuits eschew open violence but do not shy away from whatever means are necessary to defend their cause. When that fanaticism is combined with individual initiative, the “black robes” can be found committing seriously non-Christian acts in order to further their view of Christianity. If one Protestant must perish so that many more souls will find their way t o God, some Jesuits are quite willing to make that Protestant pay Protestant leaders accuse the Jesuits of committing intrigue and murder in pursuit of their goals. They are not always wrong in this claim. Jesuits are quite willing to even use the blasphemous pirates in pursuit of their goals. If a pirate raid happens to destroy the ministry of an effective Protestant missionary, then the death and destruction that surrounds the event may well be worth it in the cosmic balance. Seen by their enemies as Jesuits in dresses, the Ursuline order of nuns officially concentrates on educating girls and young women. Their schools receive high marks, though there are those who oppose the very idea of teaching females. Ursulines are found throughout the New World, running schools for young girls of all races. The Protestant charges are not entirely baseless; though less inclined to adventuring for God, Ursulines do not allow social convention to get in the way of their mission. The English and Dutch have n o counter to Jesuit fanaticism, and the Lutheran Danes don’t seem to care. Protestant missions are rare in the Caribbean. Where Jesuits oppose slavery, the Calvinist doctrines of the Puritan New Englanders and the Reformed Dutch hold that a man’s fate is decided by God at the dawn of time. If someone is fated to slavery, then this is God’s will and it cannot be changed. The Protestants do not commit atrocities in the name of their religion; they simply hold that evil cannot exist where God does not will it t o do so. If trading slaves were evil, true believers would not be doing it, but since they are, it must not be evil. This belief system insulates them and allows them to profit from some exceedingly vile acts without remorse. In the next century, the faith will evolve and Protestant clergy will take the lead in wiping out slavery, but for now it’s a very comfortable alliance. Protestant preachers do rail against piracy, for it disrupts commerce, but they have little problem profiting from the smuggling of pirated goods.
All the Ships a t Sea
This section of the book looks a t life aboard ship in the Caribbean. It details the various kinds of vessels that sailed t h e ocean at the time, how they fought, and who manned them. It also examines other aspects of life a t sea in the early 18th Century.
ips and the Sea
Many kinds of ships were present in the Caribbean of the 1700’s. It is in this period of time that ship classifications are becoming important.
have come to represent the measure of a nation’s sea power. English ships of this class periodically cruise in the Caribbean, and French and Dutch examples do so less frequently, but only Spain stations them here permanently. A ship of the line is as large as a galleon, about 200 feet long and displacing 2,000 tons. Their sides are heavily built to withstand cannon fire, and they carry anywhere from 5 0 t o I I O heavy cannon on two or even three gun decks. Only another ship of the line can stand up to this firepower. They are slower than most other ships due to the heavy weight of their guns, but a well-handled ship of the line can surprise and overtake a smaller vessel with a foolish or unlucky captain. Most of the Spanish ships of the line, or navios, found in the Caribbean mount 60 guns. This class (called the Guarnico type from the yard where they were designed; the Armada Espariol does not use “class names” like other navies) is meant for dual-purpose use: fast enough to run down frigates or pirates but strong enough t o stand in the line of battle. In practice they are not truly capable of fulfilling either function. Still, a well-handled 6 0 (sailors refer to ships by their number of guns, a practice they also extend to comments on formidable women) is a dangerous opponent for the typical pirate vessel.
Ships of all shapes and sizes pass through the Caribbean. Largest and most famous is the Spanish galleon. The galleon is a relic of an earlier age when ships were considered much too valuable to leave idle in peacetime and so would be designed both to carry cargo and to fight. The great fleets that clashed in the 1500’s and 1600’s had very few purpose-built warships among them. Few galleons are still in service with specialized warships and cargo vessels taking over their combined function. A galleon is large, about 1,000 tons in capacity. A high stern castle defines a galleon plus a jutting “beakhead” a t the prow. This structure aids in handling the foremast’s rigging, but also provides a place for the crew’s latrines. Waste from this “head” simply falls into the sea. There is little privacy for the user, and in a heavy sea the head is not usable. All larger wooden ships have a head, and sailors quickly learn to discard any shame for excreting in public view. O n small ships, sailors must make do by leaning out over the side.
More common in these waters is the frigate, a faster and more elegant ship with a single gun deck and 20 to 40 guns. Frigates are usually warships, though some merchants appreciate their size and speed and use them in the slave trade. English seamen sometimes still use the word t o indicate any fast vessel, but it is coming to mean a specific type of warship. Frigates are much smaller than ships of the line, about 120 feet long (later in the century, the new United States will change this with huge, powerful frigates). They usually carry long oars, called sweeps, to help move them when winds are calm. As a result, they are sometimes called galleys o r galley-frigates, though otherwise they bear no resemblance to an actual galley.
Ships ofthe Line
Only the Spanish squadron is likely to use the age’s most powerful warship, the ship of the line. These developments of the galleon
T h e frigate’s great weakness is her length, designed to allow for a broadside of many guns. They are also narrow in the
beam (width) for speed. However, the sea pounds against this long hull, weakening the joints and the caulking between timbers. As a result, a fast ship requires constant repair and is very expensive to maintain. Consequently, merchants prefer slower, “fat” ships, with greater beam and, thus, more cargo capacity and a longer service life. English shipyards tend to produce smaller, faster ships than their foreign counterparts. The Dutch favor shallow draft, allowing their ships to operate in shoal waters, while the Spanish go for great size and power. The French are becoming recognized for producing the best balance of size, speed, and firepower in addition to ships of exquisite beauty.
French prizes are greatly desired, and, on the open market, French-built warships command high prices from foreign buyers.
A wide variety of merchant vessels ply the Caribbean, and these are the most likely to be found in pirate hands. The “Bermuda sloop” (also called the “Jamaica sloop”) is a small and fast vessel with a single mast and large fore-and-aft sails. American shipbuilders will later call similar vessels schooners. A typical sloop of this type is 60 feet long, 21 feet wide, carrying an armament of I O +pounders and 12 swivel guns. For carrying more cargo, the two-masted brig is more common. There are several types in use: the pink and the snow have different styles of stern but are otherwise very similar, flush-decked vessels. Largest of the merchant vessels is the Indiaman, a three-masted ship similar to the galleon but with more modern lines (a lower stern and a flush deck). An Indiaman with her Quaker guns (see below) run out can easily be mistaken for a ship of the line, and naval captains hunting pirates will often pose as slow merchant vessels.
galleon with n o evident damage. Mahogany and teak from Cuba and Central America are much harder than other woods and last decades: the Spanish ship of the line, Ruyo, built in Havana in 1749, survived to fight a t Trafalgar in 1805. English and French sailors and especially officers dislike the Cuban-built ships because their wood looks and smells very different from their preferred European oak. The Dutch seem to appreciate the ships’ fine qualities, and seek ex-Spanish prizes eagerly.
Wooden ships are also prey to a variety of parasites such as barnacles that attach themselves to the underside, robbing the ship of crucial speed. The worst of these is the teredo. Known as the shipworm, it is actually a small mollusk, which uses its sharp-edged, two-part shell to bore into the wood of the hull. It leaves a white trail behind it and can bore threequarters of an inch per day. Some are known to leave tunnels more than three feet long before they become sated, spawn, and die. A bad infestation can turn a ship’s hull brittle and useless in six months. And the teredo loves the warm Caribbean waters. A wooden ship needs to be cleaned regularly; in warm waters, about every three or four months. Mooring her in a freshwater river will kill some of the growths but not the teredo. The ship must receive a thorough cleaning done by hand using iron scrapers. This is awful work. In port, she can be moored in a drydock, where water can be pumped out and gangs of workers (often slaves in the Caribbean) can swarm over her. Rotten or infested planking can be replaced, her
While most European colonial powers prefer to keep all manufactures in the home country, Spain has developed a major naval shipyard at Havana in Cuba. It has already become Spain’s most important shipyard. Cuban shipwrights use tropical hardwoods of extreme toughness, and Spanish naval crews prize these vessels highly. English privateer Woodes Rogers, later the pirate-hunting governor of the Bahamas, reported firing over 500 six-pound cannon balls at a Spanish
caulking (the combination of pitch and sawdust known as oakum jammed between the planks) renewed and a fresh coating of tar applied. Pirates are forced to do this without port facilities. An isolated location must be found, and the ship is dragged aground (using the capstan and heavy hawsers attached to large trees ashore). Her guns are usually removed and placed in shore batteries to defend her from surprise attack. A grounded ship is extremely vulnerable and a prime target if located. Once the ship is ashore, she can be careened. She is pulled over on one side to expose the hull, and cleaning begins. This whole procedure takes place under the eye of the ship’s carpenter. Defective planking can be replaced, but this is much more difficult than in a properly equipped shipyard. Some heavy repairs (to the ship’s heavy timber baulking, frames and strakes that make up her “skeleton,” or the fitting of a new mast known as “stepping”) are simply impossible outside a shipyard, and pirates usually burn such a damaged ship and try t o capture a new one. Some crews attempt a partial careening, bringing the ship into very shallow water and then heeling her over as far as possible to expose the hull. This can remove some of the growths and restore some lost speed, but it is only a stopgap measure. It leaves the ship much less vulnerable to attack, but there will still be parts of the hull uncleaned and possibly deteriorating from teredo attack.
act since it may doom the crew to wander lost at sea. These are expensive items, and governments protect their navies’ charts as state secrets. N o t only are accurate maps vital to dead reckoning, charts also often contain important information regarding reefs and shallows around ports and anchorages and other navigational hazards. Running aground is a constant threat, and a heavy surf can pound a stranded ship to bits within hours. A crew will work madly to free their ship, though some of the more panic-prone may decide the end is at hand and storm the rum locker. They will lighten the ship by any means necessary, throwing her guns overboard and even chopping down masts. They will also attempt to drag her off the obstruction by ”kedging.” The ship’s anchor will be attached t o a heavy hawser and taken out into open water by one of the ship’s boats. The crew will then turn the hawser around the capstan, the large “wheel of pain” normally used t o raise and lower the anchor. Hopefully, the ship will be pulled to her anchor.
Manning the Ship
Crewing a large sailing ship requires a number of specialized personnel. Merchant ships run with very small crews, as the owners try to keep costs down and vrofits high. Warshids carry a many morelmen, to work the g i n s duiing battle. Successful pirate crews are usually vastly swollen.
It’s not easy to navigate a ship across open waters. Using an astrolabe (an engraved metal disk), the navigator can determine the ship’s latitude (north-south position) by sighting the stars. That doesn’t help with longitude (east-west), which would require a precision clock since the Earth constantly moves in relation to the stars and sun. In a few years, English inventor John Harrison will develop just such a device and the sextant for more accurate readings, but for now ships rely on ”dead reckoning.” Using a compass to determine direction and plotting this against the ship’s speed, her rough position can be judged on a chart. Speed is determined by “throwing the log.” A chuck of wood tied to a line is tossed overboard, with knots in the line to measure the speed at which the line pays out. T h e number of knots that pass through the hands of the crewman (usually a midshipman) tossing the log determines the speed, which will still be measured in “knots” three centuries later. The only truly reliable means of navigation is to spot key landmarks. For this reason, most pirate attacks take place within sight of land. Finding an enemy ship on the high seas is extremely difficult, and such encounters only occur through random chance. Maps and nautical charts are precious items. Pirates usually confiscate a ship’s charts, and this is considered a dastardly
Officers form the elite on any ship. A merchant ship will usually only have a captain and possibly a first mate. Only the largest Indiamen and galleons have multiple officers. Warships have several, usually at least three (one for each watch). A frigate or larger warship will have a captain, first lieutenant, and three lieutenants (one for each watch). In these cases, the first lieutenant carries much of the administrative burden of the ship, aided by the purser: a sea-going accountant, usually the most wretched example of the type. Officers mess (eat) and sleep separately from their men, as befits a higher class of being. Merchant officers can rise from the ranks, but naval officers enter service as midshipmen at around the age of 12. As a result, naval officers uniformly despise merchant captains as a pretentious lower social class. They often refer to them as “ship’s master” rather than extend the courtesy of “captain” to someone who might have actually worked for a living. Pirates usually hate officers and have as few of them on their ship as possible. Most pirate ships have n o officers other than the captain and the quartermaster. In the rare instances when a pirate ship overcomes a naval vessel, the pirates will put the ships’ officers to death with great enthusiasm, often staging a mock trial.
The vast majority of any ship’s crew are the common sailors called able-bodied seamen. These sailors do the hard work of the ship: climbing the rigging to furl and unfurl sails, heaving on lines, turning the capstan to raise and lower the anchor, and a myriad of other general tasks. The job requires experience, physical strength and an excellent sense of balance. Fear of heights is not recommended. They also man the guns during battle and form boarding parties. They take pride in having been rated (declared ”able”), and years after their last voyage those few capable of signing their name proudly append “A.B.” after it. Usually an able-bodied seaman has his pick of billets, ships in which he wishes to serve. Peacetime has made life more difficult, but there are still some boundaries. Sailors do not mind danger but dislike service on slave ships. They also avoid leaky ships: a ship running its pumps in harbor is probably not only a deathtrap but also one promising lots of hard labor (the pumps are run by hand). Such a ship is said to “suck,” since her pumps are always running, and sailors will not willingly serve on a ship that sucks. Able-bodied seamen come from the ranks of inexperienced greenhorns called landsmen. They have no nautical skills and are usually farmers or unemployed craftsmen. Debtors often run away to sea, as do jilted lovers, petty criminals, and the generally bored. Some are simply failures at their occupation on dry land. Merchant ships sign on a few for each voyage because they come cheaply and can be taught to haul on a line or perform other simple tasks. Warships carry much greater numbers of landsmen since they are easily caught by press gangs. Pirate ships carry very few because they despise them
only found aboard ships; French marines also provide colonial garrisons and so are also found ashore. The French navy recruits its marines to a much higher standard than the others, who see a marine’s inability to question orders as his best quality. In all cases, marines follow the same rank structure as their nation’s army. A marine captain aboard ship is always referred to as, “Major,” since a ship can only have one captain.
Famed in nautical fiction and especially in obscene sea ditties are the ship’s boys. Boys as young as seven or eight do indeed go to sea because they are cheap, but I O t o 12 is a more common starting age bracket. They serve as personal servants to the ship’s officers, and perform menial tasks. O n warships, small boys known as “powder monkeys” carry fresh loads to the gun crews, and marine snipers on enemy ships do their best to kill them. This age does not value children, who are expected to work as soon as they are physically able. While they retain the desire to play, play is not seen as a child’s province and even adults are known to break out toys on occasion. This is not a happy time to be a child. Cabin boys are sexually exploited by some captains; this legend is not entirely fictional. The crew scorns such unfortunate children, calling them “bum boys” o r ”wingers” as a result. Naval officers begin their careers as midshipmen, and on paper many of them start a t age seven or eight. However, most of these boys come from naval families, who call in favors from friends to put their son’s name on a ship’s roster at this age to start building up his service time. But the
Pirate ships do carry large numbers of African slaves, who perform the hard, unspecialized work that would be performed by landsmen on a legitimate vessel. They are purposely not taught the special skills of sailors. Merchant ships will sometimes carry one or two as servants of the captain or owner. Naval officers as a rule dislike slavery and usually refuse to carry them: because most warships treat their crews as badly as slaves, they do not want their sailors to make the comparison.
Marines are unique to warships, and are universally held to be extremely brave but intensely stupid. “Tell it to the marines” is a derisive answer to a brainless comment, one that only the ship’s marines might believe. Marines do not participate in working the ship and are on board as the captain’s enforcers. While they have key roles in sea battle as snipers and in landing operations as infantry, their real purpose is to suppress mutiny. Marines rarely turn pirate, and pirates with a naval background often have a deep-seated hatred of the “lobsterbacks.” English, Dutch, and Spanish marines are
child does not actually leave home until several years later. A midshipman is still an officer, and receiving beatings and abuse from children incites many naval seamen to desert.
All large ships require a number of specialists. The cook is
often a sailor who lost the use of a limb and switched to this position. Quality of cooks can vary widely from ship to ship as a result. A good cook is highly prized, and pirates will reward such a man very well. The cook reigns supreme in the galley, and is the only member of the crew allowed t o keep a fire going. In the age of wooden ships covered in tar, this is a powerful trust indeed.
body, a shot anywhere in the abdominal cavity is almost always fatal but rarely quickly, The surgeon has few drugs at his command, and, lacking the ability to give a morphine overdose, the more humane doctors will sometimes smother a gut-shot man. The surgeon is somewhat better equipped to handle sicknesses, although the worst tropical diseases yellow fever and malaria - are still little understood. Some have made the connection between mosquitoes and these illnesses. As a result some hospitals on shore have walls around them measuring six feet, one inch in height, for it is common knowledge that no mosquito can fly more than six feet off the ground.
Gunner and Armorer
The gunner oversees the ship’s cannon, keeping them in working order, and is also in charge of the supplies of powder and shot. Prior to battle the gunner will break out the supplies of shot and, often with the crew’s aid, polish the cannon balls to make them fly more accurately Gunnery is a tricky science requiring immense practical knowledge of physics and mathematics. Usually a t least one officer on a large warship shares this arcane craft with the gunner. The armorer often works with the gunner but has the special task of keeping the crew’s small arms fit for combat. Firearms are delicate instruments, requiring constant maintenance and repair. Even bladed weapons rust rapidly in the humid atmosphere; stainless steel is two centuries away In addition to tending weapons, the armorer serves as the ship’s blacksmith, and often has a forge, anvil and tools stored in the hold (these are only set up on shore). When needed, the armorer can break these out and manufacture nails, iron fittings, or other needed small items. T h e armorer also conducts small-arms training if required, especially on ships with no marines. Only large ships carry an armorer; on smaller vessels, the gunner takes charge of these weapons as well but rarely has the special skills t o repair them.
Perhaps the most important position on a ship is the carpenter, always called “Chips” or ”Chippy ” on The does more than hammer and Is essentiallY a who saw; this makes repairs on the spot. With proper materials and plenty
Of labor* a good can recreate wooden given enough time. The carpenter oversees careening the vessel, and makes repairs to storm and battle damage. Pirates always recruit the carpenter from any ship they take, feeling one can never have too many of these specialists aboard. They also distrust volunteer carpenters, feeling that any carpenter they would want on board would not want t o join them. Judges understand this, and, if captured, few pirate carpenters face punishment alongside their crewmates.
Sailors like to have a surgeon onboard, although medical knowledge in this era is primitive a t best. Germ theory lies I 5 0 years in the future as does the use of disinfectant. During battle, the surgeon’s station is the “cockpit,” a small compartment in the best-protected part of the ship. A table is slung from the deck above by chains, and the patient placed upon it and tied down. Several large and strong hands are assigned as surgeon’s mates to hold down a struggling shipmate. Medical practice has little answer to the terrible wounds caused by musket shot, cannon fire, and, worst of all, by flying wooden splinters. Ships are built of hard, seasoned timber that can throw off terrible fragments when hit by a cannon ball. Gangrene will usually set in the wounds even if the bleeding can be stanched, and so shattered limbs are quickly amputated. While a surgeon can sew up a slash wound t o the
well-equiPPed ship carries a full set of carpenter’s Saws 2nd axes for felling trees plus a supply of stout seasoned timber for hull repairs. N o t j U S t any wood will do for ship construction, and green timbers Will a t an ~ l m o s visible speed. A ship’s t carpenter has the special knowledge of wood to choose good specimens. Seasoned timber is rare and valuable, however, and all ship owners often must make do with green wood, knowing they’ll be repeating the repairs within months a t best.
This is a corrupt age, and ships’ carpenters are often greedy and acquisitive- They are known to sell off their supplies and when In Port. But no one aboard ship 1s as venal as the agent- This accountant often uses the Purser+Or position to steal, substituting rotting, moldy food for the crew but charging the Owners O r the government for regular, healthy rations for instance. Accountants of this age are uniformly unpleasant people, disliked by the crew. Pirates greatly enjoy killing captured pursers and will have none on their ship.
The sailing master is in charge of the ship’s rig and often is also its navigator. A good captain is also expected to be a
competent navigator, and, in a well-run ship, each will take separate readings and check them against one another. The sailing master takes the helm personally during battle and other key moments and is in charge of selecting and training sailors who will handle the helm a t other times.
Naval guns are almost all cast iron and are muzzle-loaders (loaded at the open end). Though a common theme in fiction, ‘‘spiking” a by hammering an object (usually a n iron marlinespike; thus the name) into the touchhole is only a minor inconvenience. This can prevent a gun crew from firing on a fleeing enemy for a few minutes while they extract the foreign object from the touchhole, but it in no way permanently disables the gun. Gun crews in land batteries usually have access to many sorts of tools that can be used to quickly repair the barrel.
A ship’s fighting power depends on the rows of cannon mounted on either side of the ship. These are often fired together for more devastating effect, which is known as a “broadside.” With specialized warships becoming common, merchant ships now carry very few cannon. This allows for both smaller crews and more cargo capacity, greatly increasing a voyage’s profitability. Some merchant ships have gunports and fake wooden cannon known as “Quaker guns” to scare off potential attackers.
A proper warship carries a uniform armament for
ease of ammunition supply, training, and for ranging of broadsides. Cannon are measured by the weight of their shot. Naval guns range from +pounder “pop guns” up to 24-pounder and 3 6-pounder guns. Much above that, the shot becomes larger than a single man can comfortably carry about during battle, and rates of fire drop quickly. Turkish practice sometimes mounts a huge siege cannon on a turntable (called a “swivel mount”) on the ship’s main deck to fire on either broadside. T h i s large gun fires a carved stone projectile weighing 100 pounds or more. It is very difficult t o handle and its weight drastically cuts down the amount of other guns that can be carried, but the shot can cause enormous damage to an opponent. After centuries of battle with the Turks, the Spanish have adopted this practice in a handful of ships, though they use a standard cast-iron gun firing iron shot, usually a 50-pounder.
A gun crew of this period consists of eight to I O men (this will drop to six later in the century, as improved carriages make the gun easier t o handle). Each man has a specific task: swabbing (vital t o clean out any burning residue from the last shot, lest that ignite the new powder charge), loading the powder charge, loading the shot, ramming, several handlers to help run the gun out, aiming (called “laying” the gun), and firing. Firing is by slow match touched directly t o the powder charge through a small touchhole at the breech (back) end of the cannon. The gun’s recoil brings it back inboard for re-loading; should it break loose from its tackle, it can become a highly dangerous loose cannon.
Firing in Battle
The gun captain usually does the aiming, and he also directs the gun crew in its evolutions during firing. The ship’s gunner and usually its first officer (on a warship) will run from crew to crew, checking their aim. At close range, the gun crew simply points its gun a t the target without concern for elevation and fires. Spanish gunners call this punto de blanca, or pointing at the target, which has crept into English nautical jargon as “point-blank range.” At longer ranges, the gun must be elevated so that its shot will follow a ballistic curve. This is a difficult science, and ships often fire single “ranging shots” when first engaging an enemy. Long-range gunnery (in this era, 300 to 800 yards) usually aims for an opposing ship’s rigging, both to cripple its maneuverability and because the shot often has spent so much of its velocity that it won’t penetrate the hull. Other captains prefer to hold fire until they reach pointblank range and unleash a deadly broadside. The broadside is delivered either in mass or in rolling fire, as each gun fires in succession. These leaders would argue that training time is best spent bringing their crews to great speed, and careful aiming disrupts this speed. A good gun crew can fire Once per minute, and captains will often time their rolling broadsides so that their ship is constantly firing. This age puts much stock in shows of strength t o demoralize an enemy, and a well-honed rolling broadside heartens a ship’s I9
Running Out the Guns
Cannon are mounted on wooden carriages with small wheels to allow the crew to draw them back onto the gun deck for reloading and run them out for firing. A cannon must be run out through its gun port before firing, or the huge muzzle flash will ignite the ship’s hull. When not in action, a cannon is firmly lashed in place. A loose cannon can cause enormous damage rolling about the gun deck, smashing men flat and sometimes Punching through the if it gains momentum in a heavy sea. As most sailors sleep in hammocks slung in tightly packed rows on the gun deck the ’‘berthing deck” when used for this Purpose), are especially wary of loose cannon.
crew and demoralizes the enemy. Much like land battles, though, a close-fought sea duel often degenerates into “battle fire,” in which individual gun crews, having lost contact with their officers in the smoke and noise of battle, load and fire on their own. Some captains, acknowledging this reality, simply order their crews to “fire at will.”
attempt to take her in hand-to-hand combat. Most of these are over quickly, but some epic battles I@$!! have been known to take an hour or more as the fight rages across the decks J of both ships. Most ships also mount much smaller “swivel guns” on the main deck. These fire small charges of grapeshot and are very useful in close actions.
In the early 1700’s, small arms consist of a mixture of bladed weapons and firearms. By the end of the century, gunpowder will become the primary means for humans to kill each other, but during this era shot and steel stand in rough balance.
Types o Shot f
Cannon fire several types of shot. Grapeshot, a large number of musket balls packed in a canvas bag, is devastating against enemy crews but has a very short range. Chain shot (two cannon balls chained together) and bar shot (similar, but with an iron bar welded between them) are used to destroy an enemy ship’s rigging. But the real weapon of the age is the cast iron ball. This smashes enemy hulls and, when it strikes an enemy ship, throws off the long, jagged splinters of wood that are the man-killers of naval battle. Cast iron cannonballs rust, however, and, as cast iron rusts, it swells. A swollen cannonball lodged in a gun barrel can cause a devastating breech burst, which will instantly kill the gun crew and many nearby comrades. Cannon are made with ample windage (the space between a shot and the walls of the barrel) for this reason, but this also allows much of the force of the powder charge to escape and greatly reduces a cannon’s muzzle velocity. Guns are charged with black powder, the same as that used in small arms. Like cannonballs, it ages poorly at sea. A ship with an old store of powder is likely to suffer misfires in battle and to get less range and power from its guns. A misfire can be dangerous because it leaves the barrel full of smoldering powder, which must be carefully cleaned once the ball is extracted. Small boys known as “powder monkeys” bring fresh charges from the magazine where powder is carefully stored in a flameproof locker to the gun crews during battle using small buckets. Black powder throws up enormous clouds of thick, choking smoke. A ship in a naval battle bears great resemblance to the Fires of Hell itself with splinters and shot whirring blindly out of the smoke to decapitate men without warning and often no sight of the enemy through the fog of war. In a lengthy battle, members of gun crews are mangled when they cannot see their own gun recoil in the smoke and it smashes them.
For most of the I600’s, firearms used matchlock actions. This consisted of a slow-burning wick (the “match”) held above the barrel by a coiled action called a serpentine. When the wielder pulled the trigger, the serpentine would turn and touch the burning match to a pan of powder, igniting the charge and firing the weapon. Wet weather, of course, made the matchlock utterly useless. In this period, firearms encountered in an out-of-the-way area like the Caribbean are about evenly split between the obsolete matchlock and the modern new flintlock. This new innovation makes firearms (both muskets and pistols) much more potent. Pulling the trigger releases the cock, a spring-loaded vise which brings a piece of flint down against a steel plate and sets off sparks to ignite the primer, which in turn sets off the charge. To load a flintlock, a charge of powder is poured down the barrel, followed by a wad of linen or paper and then the lead musket or pistol ball. A ramrod is then used to tamp down this load, and a small amount of powder poured into the priming pan. The cock is pulled back (normally it would be kept in down position, lest it go off accidentally; even “going off half-cocked” could cause disaster) and the weapon is ready to fire.
A well-trained soldier can perform the loading procedure in about 30 to 40 seconds on the parade ground. Amid screams,
smoke and confusion, loading takes much longer and is often done improperly. Thus armies rely on the “manual o f arms,” forcing their men to learn a rigid set of evolutions they can revert to in the heat of battle. Most commonly, soldiers become nervous and load several rounds, which would cause the barrel to explode if the weapon were then fired. Our cover girl sports a flintlock pistol, and she appears loaded and ready for action with the cock pulled back in firing position. Her ramrod is in its slipcase below the barrel, and the stock is inlaid with gold filigree. Firearms are expensive in this era; before Eli Whitney ’s mass production techniques in the 1790’s, each has to be made by hand by an expert gunsmith. Thus, their owners decorate these prized possessions
A ship on the losing end of a firefight will often try to grapple
her opponent, tossing grappling irons (large barbed hooks, such as that shown on our cover) onto the enemy vessel to draw her close. Boarding parties then swarm aboard and
as a display of wealth as this young lady has done. Fine pistols usually come in a “brace,” or pair, with a matching powder horn as shown on the cover. Some pirate crewmen carry pistols plundered from victims, but for the most part then, as now, a pistol is an officer’s weapon. I n close-quarters fighting, a pistol is good for one shot only. Because they are expensive status symbols, the owner often hesitates before casting a discharged pistol aside and tries to place it back in his clothing (belt holsters only became common much later; Blackbeard is reputed to have worn bandoleers with holsters for six pistols and many pirates do likewise). In a desperate fight on the deck of a heaving ship, such hesitation can be fatal. Confusion and chaos in the midst of battle, and just ordinary handling, can easily damage a
weapons. Rifles (a musket with grooves inside the barrel to spin the bullet) will one day boast much greater range and accuracy but are not yet in use at this time. Though unreliable in many respects, a musket or even a pistol ball can wreak havoc on the human body. Weighing about an ounce, the soft lead projectile is several times the size of a modern bullet though it does not have anywhere near the velocity (if weapons were able t o impart the force of a 20th or 21st Century rifle, the lead ball would melt in flight). If a round strikes a man in the torso, it will usually kill him outright. An arm or leg would suffer a grievous wound usually requiring amputation (a century later, such a round will have the force to literally e------. rit, a man’s limb from
and the terrible stench of a human
loading and firing a musket is not hard, and even the stupidest of sailors could master the general principles, long training is needed to actually do it under pressure. Many officers also hesitate t o issue muskets to unsteady men due to the danger of their breaking ranks and inadvertently shooting their comrades in the back or head (casualty reports from European land battles of this time show an appalling number of close-range head wounds, most likely from “friendly fire”). Marines often climb into the rigging to fire down onto an enemy’s deck, especially targeting officers and “powder monkeys,” the small boys who bring fresh loads of gunpowder and shot to gun crews. Pirates, of course, have no marines. Though some crewmembers specialize in musket fire and perform the same tasks during sea battles, a pirate ship lacks the same sniping capability as a warship. Some pirate captains issue muskets to their entire crew, however, and set off a mass volley just before boarding an enemy ship. Muskets would improve steadily over time. In this period, they can be fired accurately by an expert out to about 100 yards. Pistols have a much shorter accurate range, making them very much close-quarter weapons: duelists are known to miss one another a t four paces and this with precision 21
actions are determined by cold steel rather than gunpowder. European armies have used the bayonet for only a decade or two. During this period, soldiers still carry the “plug bayonet,” which fits into the end of the barrel. This turns the musket into a rather unwieldy spear but prevents the user from firing it. T h e socket bayonet, allowing the weapon to be fired with the bayonet fixed, is only just coming into use. Pirates usually discard bayonets taken as plunder, although marines on warships use them. Useless as a tool and dangerous on a heaving deck, the bayonet is scorned by pirates and privateers, who prefer to drop a fired musket and draw a more useful blade for close-in fighting. Marines and soldiers, damned to follow their employer’s doctrine no matter how divorced from reality, do not have this option. Edged weapons predominate, chiefly the cutlass. A heavy, wide single-edged blade, the cutlass requires no expertise but merely a strong arm to swing it. Officers carry much finer swords as a mark o f distinction, and our cover pirate is marked out as a pirate captain by her basket-hiked sword as well as her inlaid pistol. A fine sword such as hers can’t be used for chopping and requires training in its use, making it an unwanted distraction for the usual sailor or pirate. The filigree on the end plate of her scabbard is another mark of her social class.
For most Europeans, “the right to bear arms” means to carry a sword. Only the nobility has this right; the U.S. Constitution’s enshrinement of this phrase has as much to do with quashing class distinction as it does carrying weapons. While nobles and the handful of non-noble professional military officers study swordplay, the law bars commoners from this practice. Thus sailors swing their clumsy cutlasses while their betters duel with swords. Few pirate captains have real skill with the sword, though most carry one as a sign of authority. From the low-slung sword belt (allowing her to pull the scabbard in front of her to draw the blade in tight quarters) to t h e wear on the grip and her gloves, our lovely pirate lass appears to know her way around her weapon. Polearms are found aboard ship a t times, though these are fairly unusual. Sailors also improvise weapons out of common shipboard instruments like belaying pins (the heavy wooden pins used to secure lines), marlinespikes (a sharply pointed iron tool used to separate the strands of a line for splicing) or boat hooks (a long, heavy metal pole with an iron hook on the end for handling a ship’s boats, fishing items out of the water and other such chores). All sailors carry heavy work knives, which have a myriad of uses aboard ship. Both naval and merchant ships recruit their crews from the dregs of port cities, and those who turn pirate were usually the dregs of the dregs. These are men with great experience in barroom brawling and a willingness to use knives and other instruments on other men. European garrisons in the Caribbean - whether English, Spanish, French, Dutch or Danish - have low priority for arms and equipment. The soldiers found in these backwater ports are likely to still carry outmoded weapons like matchlock muskets or pistols and plug bayonets. An expedition outfitted in Europe would likely have more modern flintlocks and usually no bayonets since private adventurers dislike them.
are then packed tightly in barrels and sealed. They are often burned in the process but packed away just the same. The biscuits can last for years, and navies and ship owners never throw them away. In fact, during the I ~ ~ O ’ excavations S, of the English mining colony on Baffin Island in the Arctic found that wood and metal implements from the 1577 expedition had long rotted away, but the sea biscuits left there still held their shape and disgusting texture. Sea biscuits are issued to sailors no matter how old, moldy or rotten they have become. Much like the modern game industry, naval and merchant warehouses trade the biscuits back and forth. They age, but no one will get rid of them. While sailors hate sea biscuits, weevils, maggots, and other vermin love them. Years after going ashore, old sailors can still be recognized by their habit of rapping bread on the table before eating it to drive out the weevils.
Daily rations also include salted meat, usually beef or pork. This must be soaked in fresh water for hours or even days before becoming somewhat edible. The meat is kept in brinefilled barrels and packed with extra fat known as “slush,” which is greatly prized since animal fat is considered a delicacy by Europeans, who have little meat or fat in their diets. T h e ship’s cook traditionally has the right t o dispose of this material and sells these leavings of the “pork barrel” to the crew t o fill his “slush fund.” Pirate Articles often specifically forbid a slush fund. Sailors always carry fishing lines and hooks, and captains usually encourage crewmembers t o fish over the side t o supplement their rations. Merchant and warships routinely stop when meeting fishing boats to purchase some of the catch. Sailors enjoy fish, usually fried whole or chopped up for stews. However, they uniformly refuse to eat bottomdwelling crustaceans like crabs or lobsters because they believe that these creatures scavenge and eat the corpses of drowned seamen.
Much aboard a sailing ship of the early 1700’s would disgust 21st Century senses, but little is more repulsive than the food. With no means of modern preservation available, sailors had to resort t o eating horrible food that either went bad or was prepared in such a way that it wouldn’t spoil. From Roman times up until a I972 uprising aboard a destroyer in the Soviet Baltic Fleet, poor food has been cited as a major cause of mutiny aboard ships. Working hard in dangerous conditions for long hours, sleeping in wet clothes in swinging hammocks in tight crowded spaces, denied recreation or sex, sailors can only look forward to their next meal to break the monotony. When that meal sprouts legs and runs away, they often become infuriated.
English sailors prize their “burgoo,” or porridge, a mixture of grain and water flavored with whatever comes to hand meat, fruit, or alcohol. They also like puddings. Even the most incompetent cook can whip up a “hasty pudding” of flour, water, and sugar in equal measure. Dried vegetables sometimes round out the rations - peas on English ships, beans on French, Spanish, and Dutch vessels. While navies stubbornly resist, many merchant captains have figured out that they can fight scurvy with fresh fruit or vegetables, juices, or fresh meat. Pirates seldom suffer from scurvy except on long voyages, and most understand that they can recover with proper diet. Scurvy is debilitating; teeth fall out, old wounds reopen, bones are more brittle and the victim tires very easily.
Sea biscuits form the staple of sailor’s fare. Disc-shaped and about four or five inches across, these are baked a t extreme heat until all moisture is forced out of them. The biscuits 22
Sailors consider a daily ration of alcohol to be a basic human right. In this period, sailors receive their booze in several forms. In the Caribbean, with rum extremely cheap, most get a straight shot o f the liquor twice a day. Officers usually stand over them while they drink it on the spot, to prevent them from hoarding their rum ration to get drunk. English ships will not begin issuing grog (three parts water to one part rum) until 1741. Rations also include low-alcohol “small beer,” served at each meal including breakfast. More substantial brews (porters and stouts) are not often seen in the Caribbean but are greatly relished when found. Central European lagers, the model in appearance if not in taste for the clear yellow industrial fluid called “beer” in the 21st century, have not been widely introduced into English, French, or Spanish diets. During this period it is beer that the wealthy drink in preference to hard liquor, the working man’s friend. The Dutch, coming from a wealthy society, do receive real beer in their naval rations.
wrapping papers used ashore do not keep well in a damp environment. Some sailors are aware, however, that bible pages make excellent rolling paper and seize these from pious captives. As fire is a constant danger aboard a tar-coated wooden ship, smoking times and places are closely regulated. T h e tobacco is rough-cut and packed loosely. It contains no additives designed to make it more addictive.
Alcohol and tobacco are not the only item on the menu enjoyed by pirates. Sailors in the Caribbean have the luxury of unlimited supplies of green turtles, and addiction t o their meat seems to have prompted at least a few to turn pirate rather than face a return t o Europe and a diet of sea biscuits. These large animals, rare today, swarm on island beaches by the millions. Slow and ungainly by land, they can be slaughtered at will by even the most
Some pirate crews penalize drunkenness on duty; others do not. The “drunken pirate” is a Victorian-era invention, showing that the pirates are evil by assigning them behavior seen dreadfully sinful in the 19th Century: drinking and whoring. Pirates most certainly are evil, but not because they drink. Sailors of this time almost all drink to excess. O n a sinking ship, sailors will , & often break into the alcohol stores in hopes of dying drunk, which is thought to be far less painful. Similarly, some drink heavily just before entering battle so wounds will not hurt as much.
chunks of meat into a pot, however. One animal can provide 200 pounds or more of meat. Turtles are hoisted on deck and kept as livestock, and “to turtle” has become a verb in English nautical jargon.
Water is far more important to human life than food. A sailing ship requires fresh water to soak the salted meat and for cooking as well as for drinking. Ships carry water in wooden casks; iron tanks will not come into use until later in the century. These casks are trundled ashore a t springs and streams to be refilled, and the search for water supplies takes up much of a crew’s time. It doesn’t take long for the fresh water t o become fairly disgusting, filled with all sorts of growths. And as this century does not understand many aspects of sanitation, they do not boil the water before drinking. All manner of germs swim in a ship’s water casks. Drinking water is placed on deck in a cask sawn in half, known as a butt. A dipper, or scuttle, is provided as well and thirsty men drink as needed if water has not been rationed. While they drink together a t this 18th Century water cooler, they exchange shipboard gossip, or “scuttlebutt.”
Pirate captains, elected democratically, spend much of their time negotiating the issue of alcohol. Their crews often became pirates because they chafed under regulations limiting drinking, and many pirate captains are alcoholics themselves. But an inebriated crew is easy pickings for a warship or privateer. The idea of alcoholism as a disease lies centuries in the future. People have a general understanding that drinking water can cause sickness unless it comes from a clear spring or stream. Adding alcohol seems to lessen the chances of falling ill. All people drink, from the very young to the extremely old, and it is viewed as a healthy activity.
Smoking is also seen as very healthful. Sailors expect a daily tobacco ration, which they smoke in pipes. Machine-made cigarettes lie almost two centuries in the future, while the
A Pirate’s Lfe for Me
Piracy enjoyed one of its “golden ages” (if one can use such a term for a decade of high seas terror and looting) in the years between 1713 and 1730. Pirates have inspired the imagination of later writers for centuries. But who were they? Why did they turn pirate, what did they hope to accomplish, and how did they live? This section looks at the lives of pirates in the early 18th Century so as to answer some of those questions.
Dutch, French and Spanish sailors also turn pirate, but not in the numbers of their English counterparts. English rulers have encouraged piracy often in the past, establishing a tradition their descendants would like to stamp out. While the other governments see piracy as an evil in itself, English leaders are usually only offended by the pirating of English vessels. What happens to a ship flying a foreign banner is not their concern. Most privateers are also English. Spain licenses privateers of her own, though Spanish governors issue very few licenses in the Caribbean. The Spanish government does not approve of armed, private warships operating under its colors in distant places, and prefers to keep privateers where they can be closely supervised. Most Spanish letters of marque go to “coast guards” that operate close to Spanish harbors. Spain does not recognize other nations’ letters of marque as legal justification, and Spanish authorities routinely execute captured privateers as pirates. This helps give English pirates a special hatred for Spain, one reflected in pirate fiction and movies.
Who Are the Pirates?
Pirate crews get their start by several methods. A small handful of men decide to turn pirate, snatch a rowboat or canoe, and use it to attack small coastal ships. This can be profitable enough that these low-rent pirates might be satisfied with minor raids. But often, they will kill or more likely maroon the crew of a passing ship, take her as their own, and recruit more like-minded felons. Other bands began as legitimate crews who mutinied against their captain and felt they could not safely return home after committing such a crime. Sadistic and cruel men can and do rise t o command ships, enjoying the exercise of life-and-death powers over their crews. The upper classes from whom captains usually originate seriously consider themselves superior by birth to any commoner. Thus, cruelty to lesser beings is not only allowed, some see it as the natural order of things. Nothing brings out a man’s or woman’s vicious nature like utter certainty in their righteousness. Sometimes the captain himself decides to reject legitimate means and encourages his crew to “turn pirate.” The bumbling but famous Captain Kidd followed this route. Entire privateer crews (see below) turn pirate surprisingly rarely, though they already stand on the legal edge of the crime.
The Role ofthe Captain
In this age of predatory capitalism, merchant ships operate with the smallest possible crews in order to save money. While some ship captains can be experienced, crafty old salts, anyone with the money to fit out a ship can declare himself its captain. Overloaded with backbreaking work, exhausted sailors stumble about in a daze, risking injury or death at each mistake. When overwork and bad food combine with an overbearing o r inexperienced captain (and for some unlucky crews, a captain who is both), the entire situation can easily explode. Naval warships operate with much larger crews, needing more hands to operate the guns in time of battle. Sailors on these ships suffer under fearsome discipline, and many have been “pressed:” drafted against their will and forced t o serve at low pay. T h e draft is no “selective service:” gangs of trustworthy sailors and marines simply grab likely looking candidates in port cities. These men desert in droves if the opportunity arises, and most pirates have had at least some experience aboard warships. Often these men are the worst disciplined, vicious bullies, and hard cases. Smart officers make only weak attempts to stop their flight. With severe punishments awaiting their return, many deserters become pirates. Piracy does not simply attract the brutal and stupid among ships’ crews, but often also the most intelligent and motivated. By law and tradition, sailors have certain rights concerning terms of employment, food, pay and working conditions. Captains and ship owners often trust in sailors’ general ignorance and violate these conditions. Most crews have at least one or two literate members who then write protests to the captain, the government, the Admiralty (on a warship) and anyone else who will listen. Known as “sea lawyers,” these men can cause great trouble for a corrupt or incompetent officer. Officers hate and fear these men, and treat them accordingly. T h e sea lawyer, often knowing himself to be far better qualified for advancement than his well-born “betters,” 24
The overwhelming maioritv of Dirates are U l l l English. England is staking a claim as the world’s dominant sea power, but France maintains large fleets of war and merchant ships. The Netherlands has begun its economic maturation; the Dutch have invented the system that will become known as capitalism and now depend more on indirect investment than direct action. The Dutch fleet remains strong, though, and Dutch merchant ships are found around the world. Spain’s naval power declined in the last century, but has begun a revival now that a new ruling family sits on the throne.
responds with deep-seated anger and resentment. These men are often the focal point of mutinies.
European society treats rich and poor in vastly different ways. Nobles have great privilege and quite literally live under another set of laws. Corruption and oppression make everyday life a trial for workers and peasants. Serfdom has ended in England, but in the American Colonies many commoners have sold themselves into bondage to pay for their passage. In exchange for the crossing, they agree to work for a specified time, usually seven years. The bondholder has little restriction on treatment of the bonded servants, and they usually face the same conditions as African slaves. Yet as the bond comes closer to expiring, the more vicious of the owners (and this is a vicious time) have no incentive to keep the bondsmen and -women alive. Bonded servants run away whenever possible, and, with the law on the side of oppression, they often turn pirate if they have the chance. France, Spain, and the Netherlands rely much less on this bond system. Serfdom still exists in Spain, but no one wastes shipping space on serfs. Almost all pirates without a nautical background are English. England especially, and other colonial powers to a lesser extent, sees the Americas as a dumping ground for criminals, heretics, and malcontents. Often used as forced slave labor on their arrival in the New World, these individuals take readily to piracy. Escaped criminals find acceptance among the pirates, and usually look to join a pirate band.
Sailors consider themselves separate from and superior to mere land-dwellers. They travel to strange places and have experiences beyond the imagination of mere farmers or laborers. They are this age’s adventurers. Like any socially isolated clique, they have developed their own jargon to reinforce their sense of specialness. Their speech is also extremely obscene: while fictional pirates bellow corrupted nautical phrases (”Avast!” “Shiver me timbers!”), real pirates enjoy a truly disgusting oath. Most profanity of this era is religious in nature, invoking “God’s Wounds” or other similar imagery. This survives in the English use of “bloody” as a curse. Obscenities relating to sex and excrement are much less common, but are also used. Sex with animals, a serious crime at a time when ships carry live sheep and goats, is no joking matter, and invoking the subject will always result in drawn blades.
When pirates capture a ship, they usually offer the crew a chance to join them. Acceptance varies depending on the captured crew’s view of their circumstances. Some specialists will be ordered on pain of death to sign the pirate articles (the rules under which the pirates organize themselves) and join the band. Carpenters and coopers to repair the ship and make barrels, navigators, and surgeons are among these forced recruits. Rarely do these “forced men” include common seamen, though when captured many such pirates will claim they had been forced to sign. Pirates usually receive plenty of willing recruits and have no need to compel ordinary crewmembers to sign up. Crew size ordinarily knows no limit. As long as recruits want to come aboard, pirate bands keep accepting them even as their ships grow overcrowded and sometimes dangerously overloaded. A large, well-armed crew helps intimidate potential victims. Eventually, a successful pirate band will find itself unable to be contained aboard its ship. They ”trade up” to ever-larger ships as they capture them, but this method can’t really accommodate a growing crew as the largest ships lack the speed for successful raiding. Instead, the pirate bands split, taking over a new ship when they capture a likely vessel. Whether the two pirate ships act in consort as one pirate band or go their separate ways, usually depends on a vote of the crew.
A pirate crew usually elects its captain. To keep the post, the
individual must successfully lead the pirates to plunder and an easy lifestyle. The captain can be removed by a vote of the crew as well. Pirate articles usually specify that a captain’s word is only absolute in battle, though a few strong leaders manage to hold fairly tight discipline at all times. T h e only other officer elected by the pirate bands is the quartermaster, who oversees the practicalities of running the ship: doling out food and drink, setting rations in times of shortage, deciding when the ship needs fresh supplies, etc. In most bands, the quartermaster has an equal role in decisionmaking with the captain, except in battle. The captain and quartermaster consult together and appoint a handful of specialist assistants such as a navigator, sailing master, chief gunner, and cook. Each of these men has authority in his department, and normally cannot be removed unless the captain and quartermaster are also overthrown.
The remaining pirates serve as common seamen, and most are satisfied with that station. With large crews, they will not be called on t o work the ship in nearly as hard a fashion as aboard a merchant vessel or even a warship. And pirate ships normally have plenty of slaves aboard to carry out the heavy
Pirates of the early 1700’s dress like noncriminal sailors: in ragged and dirty clothing. Some make their own out of canvas sailcloth. Fashion made a transition during these decades, with pantaloons cut off below the knee still seen (with stockings below them) while others wear longer trousers down to the ankle. By this time most wear shirts not that different in cut from modern work shirts but with wooden buttons. Common sailors usually go barefoot to better grip wet wooden decks. Officers wear either pants tucked into high boots like those sported by our cover model or pantaloons and stockings with low shoes sporting silver buckles. Some wear petticoat trousers: ballooning legwear tucked into high boots. These look ridiculous to modern eyes but appear to have been thought quite manly at the time and even the dreaded Blackbeard is portrayed wearing them. O n pirate ships, with their relaxed codes of conduct, many crewmembers go about without shirts in the Caribbean heat. Outright nudity is rare but not unknown Until the coming of the steam-powered loom and the cotton gin almost a century after this period, clothes are very expensive. Working people own one set, which they rarely wash since this would leave them naked while the clothes dried; not a viable option in a cold climate like Europe. Keeping these habits in their new environment, pirates and other sailors usually wear their clothes until they turn into stinking rags, rot, and drop away. Like common urban criminals who “roll a drunk” to steal his clothes, pirates often force the crews of captured vessels t o strip naked and then seize their garments. This also helps humiliate the victims and tamp down possible resistance. Pirate captains enjoy dressing for battle, decking themselves out in finery. Most famous is Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts, who clad himself in crimson from head to toe before an engagement.
drudgery of human existence. N o t having to work their crew to exhaustion, the captain and quartermaster can usually extract enough effort by calling on their sailors’ pride in their craft. And if a crewmember performs so poorly as to endanger his comrades, the offender will be brought before the assembled crew for judgment and punishment. Pirate bands represent anarchy rather than democracy. They do not take majority votes but rather make key decisions by acclamation. The loudest of mouths usually has his way. Hence, in an otherwise even fight, a disciplined naval warship will quickly smash a pirate ship of the same fighting power.
as a Pirate
Pirates run their ships and their operations differently than naval and merchant vessels. Partly this is due to their dislike of the rigid, exploitative life of professional shipping. Partly it is because, as outlaws, they had to stay ahead of the law. This section discusses how pirates operated.
Pirate crews organize themselves under written Articles that everyone must sign. Showing that pirates had at least some overlap with privateers, those Articles that survive appear very closely modeled on the terms of employment signed by privateer crews. Usually, these specify that all loot will be placed in a common pool and then divided later. Pocketing items aboard a captured ship (a “prize” in nautical lingo) is considered a terrible crime against the community.
Pirates prefer speed over all other ship characteristics. Unlike a merchant owner or a navy, a pirate crew can’t easily have a ship built to order and has to make do with what they can capture. In this period, the small, relatively fast “Bermuda sloop” has great favor with pirates, but they can be found operating almost any type of vessel. Armament comes next on the list of pirate desires. They typically overload their ships with too many cannon, adding new guns from captured prizes and often ruin their ship’s sailing characteristics. Along with the huge crews, this damages the ship’s seaworthiness; some pirate vessels have three feet or less of freeboard, leaving them prey to even small storms. Pirates face a difficult dilemma caused by their need for speed and their outlaw status. Ships will not be given copper sheathing for their hulls for another two decades. Their wooden hulls are exposed to the sea, and pick up all sorts of marine growth: barnacles, seaweed, and other infestations. Too many growths on the hull slow the ship noticeably, necessitating that it be careened and cleaned.
Though pirate movies often have a climactic battle scene, real-life pirates try to avoid combat whenever possible. It is much more profitable to capture a ship that does not resist. Overawing smaller opponents is easy, and sailors turn pirate
because they seek an easier life. Therefore, they usually avoid opponents of equal or greater strength. Pirate crews also often lack the discipline required for rapid cannon fire. While they can be determined fighters, good gunnery is the result of practice, and men do not become pirates to practice handling cannon. Warships often have less of an edge than might be imagined for most governments shy away from the expense of providing powder and shot for “live fire” exercises. Naval training is mostly “dumb drill,” running out the guns and going through the motions of loading and firing without actually touching flame to powder. The pirate habit of cramming as many cannon as possible aboard their ships gives some vessels a bewildering array of guns. Several sizes of ammunition are often in use on the same gun deck, overloading the gunner and powder monkeys struggling to keep the gun crews supplied during a long battle. Most pirates feel this to be a worthwhile tradeoff because they would rather overawe an enemy with their massive firepower to bring a quick surrender. In that case, no gun crew will ever exhaust the ready supply of ammunition kept slung in canvas bags a t their post, so it won’t matter if every cannon is firing a different-sized ball.
Pirate ships usually carry as many slaves as they can capture and support to handle the drudge work of everyday existence: cooking, cleaning, and unskilled labor. Pirate articles often specify how many slaves a disabled pirate will receive as compensation for his injury. Slaves are not taught the specialized skills of sailors for it would not do to have them seize the ship and head home. Slaves seem to find pirate service less oppressive than plantation work, though only in comparison.
In past decades, corrupt colonial officials allowed their ports to become pirate havens. Only North Carolina now gives shelter to the freebooters and then only in isolated coves and anchorages. In a few years this “golden age of piracy” will come to an end as warships hunt down and exterminate the pirates. But for now, they still have use of all sorts of out-of-the-way stopping points. Many are not content to constantly run from the law or other pirates. A number of successful crews have upped anchor and sailed for Madagascar, the large island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Here the pirates have set up their own communities, married local women, and formed alliances with local kings. It is a pirate’s paradise, and many dream of retiring there.
Pirates congregate in the Caribbean for the warm weather, ready supply of food and alcohol, lack of government control, and rich merchant traffic. Needing to take goods they could easily carry away, and inflamed by simple greed, pirates seek gold and silver most of all. However, they often loot prizes for their equipment as well as their cargo. Ships’ boats, tackle, rigging and other items wear out or become damaged over time. As pirates cannot easily sail into a port to buy new gear, they take what they need from captured ships. They are also known to remove entire sections of a prize to obtain seasoned timber to repair their own ship. Pirates can also a c t much like a band of drunken, destructive teenagers. They seem to take great joy in destroying what they cannot carry off, and will often wreck a cargo they do not seize: smashing sugar barrels, tossing items into the ocean, and even setting captured ships afire.
Many pirates, famous and otherwise, took at least some ships with legal justification if no less savagery. A privateer receives a government license, known as a “letter of marque and reprisal,” to attack enemy shipping during wartime. A royal governor can issue a letter of marque on his own authority, and pirates can and d o obtain them from French, Dutch, Danish, and English governors in the Caribbean.
A new English law of 1700, quickly copied by most other nations, set firm bounds on privateer status. A privateer
must be a subject of the sovereign or nation issuing the letter, and may not take ships of that nationality. As this age has little concept of “citizenship” (people being subjects of their ruler), the law does not recognize naturalization. Once born a subject of the king, a person remains in that status for the rest of his or her life. People can declare themselves subject t o another ruler, but their original sovereign often claims lordship as well. Old practices of obtaining multiple licenses and preying on all nations fell away under the new rules. Until the late 1600’s, peace treaties between warring European nations usually specified that they only held force in Europe and beyond up to ”the Line.” This imaginary boundary, along which the Pope divided the rest of the world between Spain and Portugal in 1494, sat in the mid-Atlantic several hundred miles off Europe’s shore. Privateers could and did continue to capture “enemy” shipping on the other side of the Line long after their home nations had declared peace back home.
With poor food often a root cause of pirates’ dissatisfaction with their old life, pirate captains take pains to feed their crews well. Long voyages can cause short rations, but, when close to land, pirate vessels do their best to obtain meat and other goods from shore rather than rely on the dreaded sea biscuit. They also loot food supplies from captured ships, relishing the food animals and other delicacies reserved for officers and especially the captain. Pirate captains, elected by their crew, uniformly eat the same rations as the men.
Literacy and Letters of Marque
Few sailors can read and write, and, as in many illiterate societies, the written word takes on a special symbolic power. Pirates greatly desire letters of marque or other government commissions. The letters themselves are bought and sold, and some pirates carry forged letters. These include some spectacularly bad forgeries, but thanks to the ineptitude of many colonial officials, they sometimes work. But desire for them has little to do with practical uses, as pirates think little of their futures. Instead, they value the papers for their own sake, as a symbol of power and prestige.
recruits a crew based on “no purchase, no pay.” If the privateer takes no prizes (in the day’s legal jargon, the Admiralty Court “purchases” a lawful prize by condemning it), the crew gets no pay. Despite these pitfalls and bureaucratic niceties, privateering can be immensely profitable. Privateers have one enormous advantage over outright pirates: the ability to openly turn their booty into cash. Without the legal protection of an Admiralty Court, pirates find themselves limited to taking immediately convertible valuables (coins, precious metals) or items they can use (clothing, weapons, food, equipment, slaves). Many rich cargoes bring little wealth to their pirate captors. Privateer crews also often find themselves with little to show for their trouble. Owners will often neglect to pay the crew their shares or tie them up with fees, deductions, and other legalisms that simple sailors do not understand. Having no experience with the courts, and often illiterate, the sailors have no recourse. Thus, some privateers make sure they’ll get their share by overthrowing their captain and turning pirate.
By 1700, however, peace treaties now specified their worldwide
nature. A privateer who continued to pillage his nation’s enemies after they were no longer enemies could expect to be treated as a pirate. This in part explains the explosion of piracy in the I720’s, as crews who in earlier decades would have had a t least some legal justification for their acts now fall wholly outside the law.
Pirates operated under black flags from about 1700. During Europe’s vicious and bloody religious wars of the 1600’s, armies that flew the black flag signified that they would take n o prisoners. This usually took place during attacks on fortresses and cities, in hopes of terrorizing the garrison. If the defenders offered resistance, none would be granted quarter (their lives spared) when the place eventually fell. Pirates fly the black flag to transmit the same message. If a merchant ship’s crew resists them, all aboard her will be killed. If they give up their ship and cargo without a fight, they will at least be allowed to live. Pirates don’t want to fight unless forced to do so, and so most crews keep this promise though not without abusing their victims before release. While the landlubber’s version of the black flag consists of a plain, unadorned banner, pirates usually decorate theirs with symbols intended to terrorize. The “Jolly Roger” with its skull and crossbones appeared on the very first recorded use of a black flag. Other symbols include hourglasses (“time is running out”), daggers piercing hearts, and skeletons. Some pirates fly a red flag instead, to convey the same bloody message. The red flag has also come to mean no quarter among the pirates, and, in a confusing turnabout,
Claiming a Priq
While pirates plunder their catches on the high seas, a privateer is expected to bring its prize before an Admiralty Court for judgment. At first, this meant that prizes had t o be sailed back to Europe. England set up Vice-Admiralty courts in colonial capitals in 1700, and other nations followed suit in this example as well. Hoping that their lawyers can defend what their cannon could not, ship owners often carry multiple sets of flags, registry papers, and cargo manifests. The court attempts to sort out whether or not the ship and its cargo constitute a “lawful prize.” If found t o be so, the plunder is condemned and sold by the court. Colonial governments of all nations are riddled with incompetent and corrupt officials (often sent to the New World as punishment for poor performance in the Old), giving a sleazy merchant a chance to bribe his ship out of prize status. If sold anyway, the greatest share of the proceeds (after the court skimmed more than its share) goes to the privateer’s owners with remaining shares divided among officers and crew. Investors buy and outfit privateers as business ventures. They pick a captain, who then chooses his officers and
When meeting another ship on the high seas, custom dictates that the national ensign be unfurled to show the ship’s nationality. Most ships carry a locker full of flags and run up whichever banner the captain feels most convenient at the time. Merchants fly false colors to avoid attack, while warships and pirates do so to lull victims into a false sense of security. Naval etiquette demands that the false colors be lowered and the genuine article raised before the ship fires a gun. To open fire while flying another nation’s flag is considered a serious crime: one that could result in hanging under some nations’ laws. Few offenses do more to permanently impugn the captain’s honor. Pirates follow this convention to a surprising degree. They also break out their pirate flags before firing weapons, in part because they wish to frighten their adversary into quiet surrender. However, maritime tradition has a powerful hold on all sailors of this time, and few can abandon this ingrained convention lightly.
tails. The “cat” is made of nine lengths of rope, each about two feet long, Secured to a wooden The ends are knotted, and especially sadistic practitioners insert bits of metal or glass in those knots to inflict even more pain. Aboard a ship, the victim is stripped t o the waist, tied to a grating and whipped on the open deck (the man inflicting the beating - always the bosun on a warship - needs “enough room to swing a cat”). O n land, victims are tied to large A-shaped frames and the punisher gets a running start before laying into them. As a legal punishment, flogging knows no prejudices, and both women and children are also stripped and flogged. A healthy man can endure about 100 lashes in a single session before dying, though some are known to survive 500 or more. Although a beating pulverizes the flesh of the victim’s back and leaves deep scars, death most often results from the severe pain inflicted on the lungs.
have the Power to flogging as a punishment for petty crimes, and many pirates bear the scars of the lash on their backs. As a result, they greatly enjoy returning the favor t o captured naval officers and other members of the elite classes.
Nasty people, pirates often commit heinous crimes, though never to the extent claimed by later writers. When a merchant ship’s crew offers resistance, pirates will often react with unspeakable cruelty once the ship has been captured. Rape, torture, and murder follow. Walking the plank, made famous in J.M. Barrie’s
Peter Pan and seen in a number of movies, can only be found once in the historical record (and some historians question even that). While few European sailors can swim (there being little purpose in the skill, when cold Northern waters would sap a man’s life away in minutes), dropping someone into the Caribbean does not assure their death. And pirates like to see death.
Aboard naval ships and many other vessels, dead men are sewn into sacks made of sailcloth, weighted with cannon shot or other pieces of ballast, and slid overboard. Pirates take inspiration from this method of burial at sea but with live victims. Especially cruel pirates sew a live pig into the sack with the victim. When the pig panics under water, it turns on its sack-mate and causes grievous pain and injury before both drown. A favorite pirate torture is called “woolding,” from the name of the cords wrapped tightly around a ship’s mast to increase its strength. A length of rope is looped around the victim’s head with a belaying pin passed through it. The pirates then slowly twist the pin, tightening the rope. Eventually, the victim’s skull will crack and his or her eyes burst - to the great amusement of the pirates. Or, if the pirates (or the captains of legitimate vessels) want to engage in some cheap and easy cruelty, they simply lash their victims to the ship’s rigging and leave them to dangle by their arms or legs. Historian B.R. Burg, in his Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, argues t h a t pirate crews in the period committed relativelv few raDes of women because thev were overI I I whelmingly homosexual. As rape is a crime of violence and dominance rather than a sex act, absence of rape doesn’t necessarily make the non-rapists gay (or perpetrators heterosexual). Much like the Serbian crimes of the 1990’s, pirates used rape to instill fear and terror in their victims. While it appears in the historical record for the Caribbean less than it does during the sack of European towns during the same period, far fewer white women are to be found in this area and the chroniclers often did not consider women of color
Sailors dread keelhauling, a punishment used in the Dutch fleets but elsewhere- The Procedure a .lot of work and gives little sadistic satisfaction: the . . . . victim c a n t be seen suffering.
The unfortunate is secured to a line, which is then passed under the ship. Sailors heave on the line, dragging the hapless subject under the ship and along the encrusted barnacles and other growths on her hull. These cause deep cuts and scrapes that usually
By the 1700’s, keelhauling is used as a threat and a curse but
is rarely practiced. At least some British warships keelhauled men as late as the Napoleonic Wars, but, with so many easier forms of inhumanity available, keelhauling has little place. Flogging is much more common. This involves whipping a person with a vicious instrument known as the cat 0’ nine
worth mentioning. When it does appear, the stories can be horrific: when the English pirate ship Good Fortune took an English ship off Martinique in 1721 the pirates raped the lone female passenger 21 times before breaking her back and hurling her over the side. In other cases female genital mutilation is also recorded, which may lend support to some of Burg’s notions. Most dastardly of pirate tortures is the seemingly benign practice of ”marooning.” Usually reserved for a crewmember who has transgressed against his comrades, the victim is set unharmed on one of the many sandspits dotting the Caribbean. Often, pirates try to choose one that will be engulfed at high tide. The man is given a small amount of food and water, a pistol, and powder and shot. These lend an aspect of psychological torture, as the victim tries to extend his life as long as possible in vain hope of rescue, while always having the possibility of ending the charade with a bullet to the head. Pirates encourage tales of marooned men being rescued; the better to ignite a tiny flare of hope in the hearts of victims that then slowly burns out as days pass and no ships come by. Pirate cruelty is the product of a cruel age. “Civilized” nations of Europe inflict all manner of sadistic punishments on their people. People are broken on the wheel for religious heresy (tied to a wagon wheel, their bones are slowly and methodically pulverized one by one with an iron bar). They are burned to death for incest or sodomy, drawn and quartered (torn apart by horses or oxen) for treason, or mutilated for theft. All of these atrocities are administered in public in front of huge throngs of people with the shattered corpses put on display afterwards. Pirates simply take what their governments give them for entertainment and employ it for their own amusement.
pirates seldom understand is that governments are usually run by lawyers. The Act of Grace always includes rigid specifics on when and where a pirate must surrender to qualify for amnesty. If the pirate misses the smallest rule, the Admiralty Court or governor (in a colony) will gleefully execute him and confiscate his booty. An indignant pirate captain named Bowen called the 1698 Act of Grace “a sham to entrap honest pirates” after narrowly escaping execution. However, corrupt government officials are likely to issue pardons in exchange for a share of the take. North Carolina’s government is notorious for its pirate-friendly policies. Virginia and South Carolina execute them with rigid certainty. In recent years, New York also smiled on pirates, but both New York and the Bahamas have new anti-pirate governors. Bribery is an effective means to gain a pardon, and the pardon allows the pirate crew to dispose of its booty legally and thus at something approaching full value.
Legends aside, sailors of this time do not see women as bringing bad luck to a ship or voyage. Women sail regularly as passengers, and occasionally wives of sailors or, more often, officers go to sea as well. Ships’ captains, however, readily understand the sexual tensions inherent in a months-long voyage by a crew of lusty young men. Their competition for sexual favors can rip the crew apart in short order. Rather than sort out such disputes, most captains handle the problem by banning women from ships at sea. Ships in port are another manner, and anchored vessels soon swarm with wives, girlfriends, and prostitutes. T h e lack of privacy aboard a crowded ship is n o deterrent. Most Pirate Articles expressly ban women aboard ship as well. Black Bart’s version stated that, “If any man were found seducing any of the latter sex and carried her to sea disguised, he was to suffer death.” As historian Patrick Pringle points out, pirates didn’t engage in academic debates over rarefied philosophies. If they felt the need to execute their comrades for an infraction, they felt that a problem truly existed. The image of a powerful female pirate chief, beautiful and deadly, taking what she wants on her own terms, resonates as powerfully now as it did three centuries ago. The reality is less attractive. Women entrepreneurs periodically outfit privateers, much as they would invest in other legitimate if risky business ventures. And occasionally, they sail aboard and even command their vessels, as did a female Cuban privateer during the Napoleonic Wars. Probably more women participated as pirates than history records for, like their male comrades, they faced horrible deaths if captured and convicted. Therefore, they usually pleaded extenuating circumstances. For example, during this period a woman named Mary Harvey joined her husband, Thomas, in a fairly incompetent band that used small boats to attack shipping off the North Carolina coast. When put on trial, no one would claim to be the mastermind; all
Piracy is a capital offense, and convicted pirates are executed in horrible fashion. Hanging is the preferred method with the , convict lowered off the scaffold to die slowly by strangulation rather than perish quickly from a broken neck. Their bodies are usually left to rot in visible locations near busy ports, as a warning to others. Periodically, the English Crown will issue an ‘= “Act of Grace,” granting pardons to pirates who turn themselves in. This is very popular with successful pirates, who often find that their wealth has little meaning if they can’t spend it. What
claimed to have been forced. The jury believed Mary and had the rest hung; she was even given passage back to England.
Bonny and Read
Among the most enduring legends of the real pirates are those of Mary Read and Anne Bonny, a pair of women who sailed with Calico Jack Rackham in and near the Bahamas. They proved very popular characters with European audiences. Much in the spirit of our own cover, that of the I725 Dutch edition of Johnson’s General History Ofthe Pyrutes features a busty Anne Bonny waving a pistol and showing generous cleavage. That last is, unfortunately, about the only accurate part of Johnson’s story. Later books and movies have taken the story even further; a 1950’s movie even turned Anne into a beautiful, powerful and modestly dressed pirate princess with a heart of gold who is eventually killed by Blackbeard. Johnson’s version of the story has the two women dressing as men and fooling their shipmates. Anne had become Rackham’s lover ashore and stowed away with Calico Jack’s connivance while Mary signed up as a “male” recruit. As many historians have noted, this would not have been possible aboard the band’s small sloop. Sanitary arrangements alone would have given them away, and their remaining fully covered while others went about topless would have been quickly noticed. Johnson has Mary “carelessly showing her breasts, which were very white,” and at their trial witness Dorothy Thomas remarked on “the largeness of their breasts.” Other witnesses said the two wore women’s clothing most of the time, but eagerly donned trousers to participate in action.
thirsty. Her exploits, however, are probably just as fictional as the most exaggerated Bonny-Read tales. Pirate captain Eric Cobham found Maria working as a prostitute in Plymouth and brought her aboard as “part of his cabin furniture.” How the crew took t o this is not recorded. Scantily dressed, Maria joined the boarding party that stormed a small brig. When the brig’s captain refused to strike his colors, Maria stabbed him in the heart and directed the pirates to slaughter all of the merchant crew. As the voyage progressed, Maria asserted ever more authority as her lover became tentative. When Cobham tied up the officers of a Dutch merchant ship, Maria shot them. Cobham tried to return home and retire, but Maria insisted on continuing the cruise. Capturing a large Indiaman, Maria instructed the pirate band to chain its crew together and toss them over the side. She then consented to sail to France, where she and Cobham married, bought an estate, and became a respectable couple. Some years later, the story goes, Maria suddenly grew remorseful and killed herself.
Ladies Ofthe N k h t
Maria’s story cannot be verified, but her original occupation is well represented in this period. Caribbean ports throng with prostitutes in a trade often run by women as well. English courts condemn women convicted of prostitution t o transportation to the American Colonies, where many resume their business. Taverns, known in English Caribbean ports as “punch houses,” usually serve as brothels as well. Very few female prostitutes in these establishments are slaves or natives. Pirates probably participated in no greater sexual excess than other men of the period. Later, more prudish times would consider visiting prostitutes a sign of moral degeneracy, and so writers linked the practice to the general disgusting nature of the pirates. Suddenly wealthy after a successful voyage, pirates of course celebrate with heavy drinking and sexual gymnastics. Prostitutes’ customers come from all levels of society, respectable and otherwise. This is not an age that smiles on women. That a handful may violently reject such bonds by turning pirate is not surprising. But female pirates are rare and will not be encountered often. Women sailors, while not common, are found more often than one might expect. Invariably, they disguise themselves as men in front of non-crewmates.
No submissive victims, Read and Bonny appear to have been
the toughest and most bloodthirsty fighters in their crew. ”They were both very profligate,” testified the captain o f a captured ship, “cursing and swearing much, and ready to do anything.” After another pirate challenged Mary’s lover to a duel, Mary picked a fight with the other pirate before the duel could take place, shot him with a pistol and then for good measure ran him through with a cutlass. Another witness said the other pirates stopped the two women from massacring their captives. When Calico Jack surrendered his ship, Anne cursed him for cowardice and both women fought their attackers, the only pirates to offer resistance. After he had been condemned to death, Anne told him that “if he had fought like a man, he need not have been hanged like a dog.” Yet a t the end, when convicted and sentenced to death, both Read and Bonny cried out with the traditional last excuse of convicted women: “We plead our bellies!” English law did not allow a pregnant woman to be executed, as her fetus had done no wrong. What eventually happened to the women is unclear, but neither appears to have been put to death.
Maria Cobham, who operated some years after Bonny and Read, is said to have been even more assertive and blood-
Because it is set in the 18th Century, BLACK FLAGS: PIRACY IN THE
+ Int Modifier) x 4 Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int Modifier
Skill Points at
Class Skills: Appraise, Bluff, Bribe, Craft, Diplomacy, Forgery,
Gather Information, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge: Any, Listen, Profession, Read Lips, Ride, Search, Sense Motive, Speak Language, Spot.
+! ! I
CARIBBEAN not use the standard does fantasy character classes. Many of them are simply not appropriate t o the time period. A Wizard,
for example, would be considered heretical and arrested a t the -. first opportunity.
Weapon and A m o r Proficiency: Merchants are proficient with Simple Weapons and with Firearms. Starting Pesos: I d4+ I x I 00 Class Features: Merchants gain access t o the following Class
Features at a rate described on “Table 4-1: Merchant Class Features.”
Instead, BLACKFLAGS: PIRACY THE IN CARIBBEAN offers its own set of character classes. Listed below are the standard Player Character Classes, which are then followed by Class Templates and Prestige Classes. In all, there are more than I O new classes from which t o choose, and many of these can be combined to make some unique characters. In addition to the new classes listed below, players may choose to play the Rogue Class from the standard game. Thieves, after all, are somewhat timeless.
Literaty (Ex): Merchants receive the Literacy Feat for their native language for free. Knowledge: Market (Ex): Because it is their business to know
such things, Merchants are extremely knowledgeable about the markets in which they deal. They receive a +4 Class Bonus to any Skill check t h a t pertains to knowledge of the business or the market in which they are working.
All of the material contained in Part 4 is designated Open
Game Content, not just the information in the special sidebars.
Contacts (Ex): Merchants’ business carries them to far off
places and introduces them to a wide variety of individuals. When arriving in a new locale, the Merchant may make a Search check at DC 20. If it is successful, the character knows someone who may be of assistance to the party’s needs. There is no guarantee that the person in question will be willing to help, but he or she will have something that will assist the characters. Unless something has changed since the Merchant last saw the Contact, the character should have a t least a vague idea of what the Contact’s disposition towards him or her will be. Note too that the Merchant knows this person through business. Thus, he or she may be helpful to the character but will also likely expect to be paid for any goods or services rendered.
Player Character Classes Merchant
While the nobility holds the keys to political power, they are not the only class with influence. The Merchant has a say in how things are done if only in his or her ability to control the commerce that pays for the elaborate plans made by the aristocracy. Merchant characters typically own ships or other key businesses, or they work for one in hopes of earning enough income to one day start their own enterprise. They come to the Caribbean for a myriad number of reasons. The vast number of commercial opportunities in the New World, from the legitimate sale and shipping of rum, sugar, and slaves to the theft and resale on the black market of those same goods, is enough to provide opportunity for a lifetime. A crafty merchant can get rich in a hurry, but it’s a difficult life. Aside from the thousand headaches that always accompany a life in business for one’s self, there is the constant fear of piracy and privateering leaving one destitute in a singular raid. Because they are commoners, Merchants lack the carte blanche protection from the law often afforded the aristocracy. However, in the New World, the shrewd government officials recognize just how important the merchant class is. Successful and powerful Merchants can often avoid legal unpleasantries with a few well-placed bribes. Merchants make excellent player characters. There is always some wealthy enterprise just around the corner, and these characters either have the equipment t o undertake it or they know where they can get it.
Haggle (Ex): One doesn’t get ahead in business by paying full price. The Merchant has learned how to successfully negotiate for better prices. When purchasing anything in the market, the Merchant may make a Diplomacy Skill check. The D C for this check is 15 plus the level of the Merchant doing the selling. If it is successful, the price is reduced by 10 percent plus one additional percent per number by which the roll exceeds the DC. The maximum reduction is 15 percent. Note that prices do vary from market to market so a deal in one place may be the going price in another. Jack $All Trades (Ex): Because they deal with so many different people in so many different situations, Merchants tend
to pick up a lot of extraneous knowledge. Each level that the character gains in Jack of All Trades grants him or her an additional IO Skill Points to spend. The Merchant may purchase new Skills or add to .existing ones, but the maximum number of ranks that a Skill can improve to through use of these bonus points is 8. These bonus points represent little tricks and tidbits, not actual training.
Hit Die: d8
Puyofls (Ex): Sometimes you need t o grease the wheels a little
to get things done. This ability represents the Merchant’s unique ability to make things happen illegally but non-violently. The Merchant gets a +4 Class Bonus to all Bribe attempts.
+ Level I : 1000 pesos + Level 2: 5000 pesos + Level 3: 10,000 pesos
Note that such Resources must be invested in the business venture, not on the character himself or herself. For more information on Resources, see the Noble character class below.
Resources (Ex): A successful Merchant has an easier time
convincing others to invest in his or her enterprises. By getting others to front some of the cash for any given project, it allows the character to reduce some of the risk. Of course, such people usually want a piece of the profits as well, but that’s a problem for after the success of the venture. Using this ability, the character can persuade Nobles to offer some start-up capital t o his or her enterprises. The maximum amount of gold that can be generated is determined by the level of the Resources.
F r i e d in High Phes
(Ex): This ability works much like Contacts,
except that the person the character knows is a high-ranking official. The D C for the Search check is 25. Like with Contacts, the target Friend may not be in a position to help the character, but he or she has something that can be of assistance to the Merchant. Friends in High Places are more difficult t o come by. Hence, this ability can only be used once per adventure.
The Noble character comes from the ruling aristocracy of one of the European colonial powers. This character has wealth and influence a t his or her fingertips and commands respect from those o f the parent nation. Such characters typically have a government position in the New World. They are ambassadors or governors or counselors from the throne. Their reasons for coming to the Caribbean are various. They may have been assigned to a post because their sovereign needs someone trustworthy to run the position. Conversely, this character may have been sent to the New World to get him or her away from court where the character is making trouble or is perceived as a threat. Sometimes, these characters
are here because they come from large families, and there simply aren’t enough positions for them a t court back home. A Noble could be on a secret mission for the throne or sent to advise the local governor. Finally, he or she might be here simply out of boredom or a sense of adventure. Whatever their reasons for coming to the New World, Nobles have all the advantages of the law on their sides. Within their country’s sovereign territory, their power is limited only by their influence with local officials. To cross a Noble is to make a serious enemy. Outside their territories they have less influence, but an ambassador to a foreign power still has some privileges that prevent him or her from being openly attacked. The local governor wants no more trouble than necessary from the Noble’s government.
Nobles make good adventurers due to their wealth, breadth of training, and place in the social structure. They are excellent for funding expeditions, although they generally wish to lead (even if they are not suited to it). Unfortunately, a Noble’s background and importance has little significance to a pirate. Indeed, unless there is profit in ransoming the captured dignitary, his or her status as an aristocrat is likely to net a painful death.
the character will receive invitations t o most social events and may throw ones of his or her own with the expectation that anyone they invite of equal or lesser station will attend. T h e Noble may invite those of greater station, but can only hope that they will acquiesce and come.
Hit Die: d 6
+ Int Modifier) x 4 Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int Modifier
Skill Points at
Class Skills: Appraise, Bluff, Bribe, Diplomacy, Forgery,
Gather Information, Innuendo, Intimidate, Knowledge: Any, Read Lips, Ride, Sense Motive, Speak Language, Spot.
Weapon and Armor Proficienry: Nobles are proficient with rapiers, daggers and stilettos, and firearms. Starting Pesos: 2d4-t-2 x 100 Special Restriction: A character must begin the game as a Noble to be a member of this class. He or she cannot choose i t as a second class later on. You are noble from birth or you are not. Class Feattrres: Nobles gain the following Class Features at a rate indicated on Table 4-2. Detailed explanations follow. Literacy (Ex): Nobles gain the Literacy Feat at no cost. The
feat is for their native tongue.
L w e l 4 : The character is a significant player in the politics of his or her home country. H e or she can expect absolute compliance rom those of lower rank. Characters of the same station must think twice about crossing him or her as it can have serious repercussions. Back home, the character is of sufficient standing t o request an audience with the top aristocrats including the sovereign. Such requests may be denied, but the character has the reputation to make them. T h e Noble has some influence with foreign governments now too. Rival powers will treat him or her with respect (though perhaps only socially). Any party the character throws will be seen as important, and all those of lesser station invited will attend. Any event the character attends thrown by someone lesser than he or she becomes instantly more fabulous as a result of his or her presence. Level5: At this level, the Noble has become one of the most powerful people in the world. H e or she wields great influence over the politics of his or her nation, and kings and queens treat the character with great respect. Any character of lesser station than the character can expect a world of trouble by not complying with his or her wishes. Indeed, disobeying a character’s request is unthinkable to most people from his or her nation. Additionally, the Noble can request and expect to receive an audience with the most powerful politicos from any European nation, including their sovereigns. Detaining or attacking the character without just cause can be deemed an act o f war.
Note that Social Standing is only good when it can be applied. In one’s own territory, it is reasonable to expect basic compliance with the respect due the character. Outside one’s own nation or aboard the deck of a pirate ship, Social Standing isn’t good for much until it reaches the higher levels (4 and 5). Foreign powers will treat the character with some respect, and pirates will see him or her as at least worthy of ransoming.
Social Standing (Ex): A Noble’s blood makes him or her an
important person from birth. The more powerful he or she becomes, the wider the character can wield this influence to move through social circles. Each level of Social Standing makes the character a more formidable figure in the politics of the colonial powers.
+ Level I : The character is acknowledged as aristocracy.
He or she can expect (demand) the proper level of respect from those of inferior station. A Noble can apply his or her Social Standing to influence the police or other local petty officials.
+ Level 2: The Noble’s reputation has grown a little. H e
or she can now expect to be treated with respect by those of equal station. Additionally, the character can expect invitations to the largest social gatherings since he or she is now of sufficient rank to be noticed by the movers and shakers in society. The character can exert influence to gain an audience with a local governor and expect a polite reception, although there is no guarantee the official will feel obliged t o honor any requests the Noble makes.
Resources (Ex): Being an aristocrat grants one access to other
powerful individuals. Some are relatives, some are friends, and some are strangers who will help the character based on his or her noble blood. One of the most important aspects of this is being able to get others to fund projects. A Noble may call on his or her connections and reputation to acquire money to fund a mission. This enterprise must be shown to somehow benefit the crown (or at least the ambitions of the people the character is hitting up for cash), and it can only be done once per adventure. To acquire the funds, the character makes a Charisma check at D C 20. Modifiers to this roll can be found on “Table 4-3: Resource Roll Modifiers.” If successful, he or she can get the cash, usually in the form of a writ from the person from whom the money was borrowed.
+ Level3 T h e character is now well respected as an
important dignitary within the confines of his or her sovereign’s territory. He or she may demand audiences with local governors and expect their requests to be given serious consideration. Additionally, the character has a strong enough reputation to request audiences with higher-ranking officials such as ambassadors and key officials from the crown, though these people are under no obligation to honor any requests. Finally,
Note that this money is not for the character. It is to fund his or her expedition, pay off spies, or otherwise be used to accomplish the lender’s goals. Thus, the character cannot use the money to buy himself or herself a fancy new house. The Noble could use it to buy a ship and hire a crew, though (so long as the plan called for such). It’s important to note that the person giving the cash sees the use of money in this fashion as an investment. Said investment must have some return for him or her. This isn’t always about getting more money. More often it’s about furthering the aims of the throne or the wealthy individual’s own goals. The Charisma check is not to see if the character can persuade the lender to give him or her the money. It’s to determine if the Noble can convince the lender that this is a worthy use of his or her funds. The maximum amount of money a character can procure is limited by his or her level in Resources.
cannot be Influenced. Note that this ability can also be used negatively. By whispering poison in the right ears, the Noble can interfere with another character.
(Ex): The Nobility typically has more time for romantic pursuits than the working classes. The character can turn this to his or her advantage as well. By courting members of the opposite sex, he o r she can acquire favors and allies. A Noble may have one Paramour for every three character levels he or she has attained. A Paramour is a Noble of the opposite sex of equal or lesser Social Standing than the character. This person will act as a staunch ally and help the character whenever possible so long as the Noble maintains the relationship and appears to be interested. In general, the character must see the Paramour a t least once a week, unless he or she is in another country or back in the Old World, in which case the character must maintain a regular correspondence.
Keeping multiple Paramours is advantageous since it broadens the character’s network. ‘3 in every port” allows the Noble girl to find assistance in more places. However, Paramours often become jealous, and the character must keep his or her relationship with one secret from another. If he or she is exposed as having multiple lovers, the Noble loses all Paramours who become aware. It’s possible for married Nobles to have Paramours too. They must keep the relationship secret from their spouses, but the Paramour usually knows the character is married and accepts his or her role as cavalier servante or mistress. Such Paramours do become jealous of other lovers, though. Finally, it’s important t o remember that Paramours are Nobles too. This means they have their own spheres of influence. A spurned lover may become a dangerous enemy, using his or her resources to take revenge on the character. Likewise, jealous
+ Level 2: 5000 pesos
+ Level I :
+ Level3 10,000 pesos + Level 4: 20,000 pesos + Level5: 50,000 pesos
Infltrence (Ex): One of the side effects of being a Noble is that
others often ask for favors. This ability allows the character to act on another’s behalf. Influence enables a character to “put in a good word” for someone. The ability must be used for someone else’s benefit. When making the request, any Noble of equal level in Social Standing or below will comply with the request. Those one level of Social Standing above will give the character’s request favorable consideration ( $ 2 Circumstance Bonus to any Charisma checks made in relation to the request). Nobles two ranks or more above the character
Table 4-4: Priest Class Features
Bless I/Day, Bless Water I/Day, Literacy x 2 Bane I/Day Aura of Fear I/Day Bless 2/Day, Divine Favor 1/Day Bonus Feat Bane 2/Day, Aura of Fear 2/Day Bishop, Doom I/Day, Remove Fear I/Day Bless, ?/Day, Divine Favor 2/Day Bane j/Day, Lay Hands I/Day Bonus Feat Aura of Fear 3/Day Divine Favor 3/Day Doom 2/Day Remove Fear 2/Day Bonus Feat Lay Hands UDay Doom 3/Day Remove Fear 3/Day Lay Hands 3/Day Bonus Feat
+2 +2 +2
+2 +2 +2
+3 +3 +3
+3 +3 +3
+8 +8 +9
+5 +5 +5
Paramours may use their power t o harm their rivals for the character’s affections. This is particularly true for the spouses of Nobles discovered to have extramarital lovers. The cuckolded spouse typically seeks retribution, and may resort to murder to get it.
towards the Noble asking. Those who are neutral may still be asked, but the D C is 30. Characters who are hostile towards the Noble cannot be asked for a Favor.
Despite Protestant nations like England and the Netherlands having a strong anchor in the New World, Rome is not without a voice. Amongst the Spanish and French holdings, the power of the Catholic Clergy remains strong, and it has no stronger custodian of its majesty than the Jesuits. Standard bearers for Mother Rome, Priests are extremely influential among the Catholic territories. These characters are well educated, stern in their faith, and
Fuuors (Ex):This is a powerful ability that allows the Noble to
trade on his or her reputation to get something accomplished. The character may ask a Favor of another Noble one rank above him or her in Social Standing. This Favor can be for the character or for someone else. If he or she makes a Charisma check at D C 25, the Favor is granted. The character from whom the Favor is requested must be favorably disposed
staunchly anti-Protestant. Moreover, they have discretion to act as necessary “in the interest of the Faith.” That can make them extremely dangerous since, so long as they believe they are acting on behalf of the Church, they can do all manner of deeds and believe them to be just.
Bishop (Ex): Bishop is a promotion from the rank of Priest
in the Church. It’s acquired partly through experience and partly through politicking. When the character reaches 7th Level, he may begin attempting to acquire that promotion. To do so, the Priest may convert Skill Points into a Bishop fund. These Skill Points cannot be used for any other purpose, and the character never gets them back. Once per level, the Priest may make a Diplomacy Skill check to attempt to become promoted to Bishop. The D C for this roll is 30, but the character may apply all of his points in Bishop as a special Circumstance Bonus to the roll. If the check is successful, the character is promoted. H e is now in charge of a diocese (several churches) instead of a single parish (one church). In addition to the greater responsibility and influence the character acquires, the Bishop also garners added respect from the aristocracy. H e is invited to social gatherings and consulted on political matters as though he had the Noble Class Feature, Social Standing 3 .
It also makes them interesting player characters, though. A Jesuit can go on an adventure as a spy for the Church, as a benefactor for an ally, or to destroy a Protestant holding. A Priest that rises high in level has an excellent chance of being appointed as a Bishop (see below) and of having influence over the Nobles and Merchants who control the business of the Caribbean.
Hit Die: d6 Skill Points at zst Level: (6
+ Int Modifier) x 4 Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int Modifier
Class Skills: Appraise, Bluff, Concentration, Craft, Decipher
Script, Diplomacy, Forgery, Gather Information, Handle Animal, Heal, Innuendo, Intimidate, Knowledge: Any, Listen, Profession, Read Lips, Ride, Sense Motive, Speak Language, Spot, Swim, Wilderness Lore.
If the roll is a failure, the Priest is not promoted. However,
he may keep the Skill Points invested in the Bishop fund and try again the next time he gains a level. Priests are under no obligation to seek promotion to Bishop. Many are perfectly content to live out their lives as simple Priests in the service of the Lord. A character is never required to put Skill Points in the Bishop fund, and never needs to seek promotion. It’s all up to the character. Note too, that a character need not spend Skill Points on the Bishop fund. If his Diplomacy Skill is high enough, he could always attempt the roll without the bonus the Bishop fund provides.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency Priests are not officially allowed to engage in violence. Thus, they are not taught any weapon proficiencies. This does not prevent them from learning a few on their own, however. Starting Pesos: 5d4 x I O Special Restrictions: Priests will not willingly work with any
Protestant characters. They will only work on behalf of Protestant nations if doing so harms another Protestant nation. These apostates are seen as the most corrupt creatures living, for they openly reject the Church. To consort too closely with them is to betray the Faith and risk damnation. The same goes for agnostics and atheists.
Also, Priests must be male. T h e Roman Catholic Church
does not ordain women to lead its flocks.
(Sp): This powerful ability enables the Priest to channel God’s Grace directly into another human being to undo damage. It takes an extraordinary person to perform this ability, and it borders on the miraculous.
By use of Lay Hands, the Priest can either heal I d l o points of damage or cure a sick person as though a Remove Disease spell had been cast. Such power is not used idly. A priest doesn’t Lay Hands to just patch up a colleague after a fight. That reduces this significant display of the Lord’s power to that of a parlor trick. Lay Hands is done to save lives.
Skill Bonw: Priests speak Latin in addition to their own language. Consequently, they receive a + 4 Class Bonus to all Speak
Language: Latin checks.
Class Features: Priests have Class Features as designated on
“Table 4-4: Priest Class Features.” A great many of them are standard Divine Spells. However, it’s important to note that Priests do not cast spells. Magic is heresy and can lead to condemnation or excommunication. Rather, these Spell-like Abilities operate from the Priest’s divine relationship with God. These are all minor miracles, if you will, and they are only possible through Grace. To suggest that they are magical or that the source of them is the Priest himself is blasphemy, and such things are taken very seriously in the 18th Century. Unless otherwise noted below, a11 Spell-like Abilities function just as if they had been cast by a Cleric. Caster level is equal to the Priest’s character level. Using a Spell-like Ability is a Standard Action.
Ex-Priests: Priests who throw off their vows to take up
another profession lose any Priest Class Features. To give up their vocation is to break faith with the Church and the promise they made to God. Those who leave to become members of another faith (apostates) are excommunicated.
2 (Ex): Priests begin with the Literacy Feat in two languages: their native one and Latin.
One of the most important groups of people in the Caribbean and indeed throughout the New World is the Sailors. These working class individuals provide much of the grease that
Aura $Fear (Sp): As the spell, Cause Fear. Radius is five feet.
keeps the wheels of the Atlantic economy moving. They sail the ships that move goods from the New World to the Old, carry dignitaries, orders, and supplies from Europe to the Caribbean, and man both the pirate ships that plunder the treasure hoards of the colonial powers and the vessels that pursue these ruthless criminals. A Sailor generally comes to the Caribbean from the Old World, though there are instances of natives joining a crew. Many sign on to crew the merchant ships that ply the Atlantic. Many more serve aboard the naval vessels that patrol the warm waters of the Caribbean in search of pirates and to defend their countries’ holdings. A great number of these are pressed men, hapless individuals drafted by their government and pressed
into service in the Navy. Whatever their reason for coming to the Caribbean, they are a common sight in the port cities, and they are critical to the operation of the shipping economy. Sailors make excellent PC’s for any nautical canipaign. They can be in the service of the government, working aboard a merchant vessel, or crewing a pirate ship. Any adventure on the ocean has need of Sailors.
H i t Die: d I o
+ Int Modifier) x 4 Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int Modifier
Skill Points at 1st Level: (4
Class Skills: Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Disable
Device, Heal, Innuendo, Intimidate, Intuit Direction, Jump,
Table 43: Sailor Class Features
Sea Legs Great Fortitude Feat Improvised Weapon Proficiency Feat
+5 +5 +6 +6
+5 +5 +5
Listen, Navigation, Piloting, Profession, Search, Spot, Swim, Use Rope, Wilderness Lore.
There is no shortage of need for military power in the Caribbean. Each of the Old World Colonial powers needs the manpower to defend its holdings, protect its shipments, and enforce its laws far from home. Soldiers may be garrison troops, marines in the navy of their homeland, or elite specialists hunting pirates or performing secret missions for the state. Regardless, they are in the service of their native country. A Soldier is considered on active duty. They make excellent player characters, though the focus of their adventures must include the military. Soldiers are treated exactly as Fighters. They use the same Experience chart and have all the other traits of Fighters. In addition, all Soldiers have the Firearms Proficiency. Soldiers begin the game with 5d4 pesos, but they get a starting outfit that includes a uniform, a blanket, a powder horn, a cartridge case ( I O bullets, a bar of lead, and a bullet mold), and a musket with a plug bayonet. There is a chance that musket is a flintlock based on the Soldier’s national origin. Crossreference the character’s nationality below and roll a dlo. If the result is equal to or less than the number represented, the character has a flintlock musket. If not, it is a matchlock.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: While not specifically trained to
fight, sailing is a tough life, and many of the people that do it learn the trade working for the Navy. Sailors are proficient with all Simple Weapons, Firearms, and the cutlass.
starting pesos: 2d4 x 10
Class Features: While Sailors have few specific Class Features
of their own, the numerous bonus Feats they receive enable them to gain a wide variety of abilities - just the thing for a life of unknown adventure on the open sea. Unique abilities are described below.
(Ex): As a ship bobs up and down on the waves of a rough ocean, keeping one’s feet can be difficult. Sailors learn early on to adapt to the rolling of the deck and maintain their balance in all but the worst conditions. To reflect this, Sailor characters a get a + 2 Class Bonus to any Dexteritybased Skill check whenever they are onboard a ship at sea. This bonus does not apply when they are on land or in port.
Great Fortitude: Sailors get the Great Fortitude Feat for free.
Zmprwised Weapon Proficiency: Owing in no small part to their
more colorful adventures in port saloons, Sailors receive the Improvised Weapon Proficiency Feat for free.
Curse (Sp): Sailors are a superstitious group of individuals,
and their faith in these supernatural forces is very powerful. Experienced Sailors know how to work these heretical forces to bring bad luck to others. This ability works exactly like the Divine Spell, Bestow Curse. It’s important to note that a Sailor Curses another character only rarely. All of them fear the power of a Curse, and so they invoke such forces only against those that truly deserve it. A Sailor who Curses idly is shunned by his or her mates and may be the subject of a retaliatory Curse.
+ Netherlands + Denmark + Spain
The following are templates that can be added to any Character Class. They are professions that offer certain advantages but don’t have enough interesting aspects to make them exciting adventurers.
A Class Template costs one Character Level to add. Thus, a character with five levels could be a 4th Level Sailor with the Carpenter Template. If the character were already 5th Level, he or she would have to wait until gaining a 6th Level t o add
the Carpenter Template. Class Templates grant one extra H i t Die and several Skill bonuses and Class Features. Some Class Templates may not be added to certain Character Classes. These restrictions are listed within the descriptions of each template.
Remove Curse (Sp):
The one saving grace against an effective Curse is that there is a means for it to be undone. Truly experienced Sailors know the right rituals t o free their comrades from the clutches of a nasty Curse. T h i s ability works exactly like the Divine Spell, Remove Curse.
Most slaves die before reaching the New World or shortly after arriving. The conditions of their captivity are simply too debilitating for the human body to last long. A rare few not only survive these heinous conditions but manage to escape from their masters. While this subjects them to a life on the run, always attempting t o stay one step ahead of the law, i t is a preferable life to dying under the lash while performing backbreaking work. Escaped Slaves are best employed in outlaw campaigns. While they may be able to enlist as soldiers without their
true identities becoming known, most hate the authorities that brought them to their lowly condition and prefer a life of piracy, striking back at those who hurt them. African slaves have a much more difficult time blending in than European ones owing to the rampant racism that runs virtually unchecked through the colonial holdings of the Old World. Africans might be accepted among pirate crews on occasion assuming they can prove themselves worthy. It is extremely rare to find them among Merchant crews. European escapees, on the other hand, can fit in easily so long as they can prove themselves useful to the crew they would like to join. Some even rise up to lead a pirate crew or command their own merchant vessel. Captain Blood, one of the most famous swashbuckling films of all time, concerns a group of Escaped Slaves who become pirates tormenting those who imprisoned them.
Carpenters have the following Class Features:
Damage Control (Ex): During a battle, a
Carpenter working steadily can reduce the damage the ship takes by 2%. For each additional Carpenter working on vessel, this numl increases by I%.
Amputate (Ex): Carpenters gain
the Amputate Feat for free since, given their expertise with cutting and sawing, they are sometimes called upon to perform this grisly duty.
Hit Die: d8 Saving Throw Bonus: Fortitude
+2 Class Bonus to the
Skill Bonus: Escaped Slaves gain a
following Skills: Disguise, Escape Artist, Hide, and Move Silently.
Class Restrictions: Nobles and Priests cannot take the Carpenter Class Template. Priests may have the template if
they come to it prior to entering the priesthood. Characters may not take Carpenter if they already have the template, Escaped Slave.
Class Features: Escaped Slaves gain the Endurance and Run
Feats for free.
Class Restrictions: Priest characters may not take the Escaped
Slave Class Template. Nobles may take it, but if their former captivity is discovered, they are treated as characters of half their Noble level for purposes of access to Class Features until such time as the persons responsible for their enslavement are brought to justice. The aristocracy takes a dim view of those who must work for a living. A character who can’t take revenge upon those who brought him or her to such a lowly state is worthy of being ostracized.
Onboard a ship, this is an extremely important position. A ship has limited resources. It can only carry so much food, water, and alcohol. These resources must be doled out appropriately and carefully kept track of so that they don’t run out. Failure to do so can mean the death of the crew. Moreover, someone has t o prepare the food and that means setting a fire on a vessel made of wood that is held together by pitch and tar. Such an individual has to be extremely trustworthy and careful since a mistake here could also kill everyone aboard. The Cook is in charge of all these things, and he or she also has to keep the crew happy. Food aboard a ship is largely horrible, and bad food can lead to mutiny or worse. Onboard a pirate ship, a Cook is often respected because everyone including the captain eats the same food. The Cook does his or her best to make it as palatable as possible. Aboard merchant vessels, this isn’t always the case, and naval ships are even worse. Here, the officers dine on a much better class of food, and the Cook can become a focus for the frustrations of the crew. Such individuals are often thrown in with the officers for revenge when a successful mutiny occurs. A good Cook is worth a lot on the ocean. H e or she has a knack for making the most of the ship’s meager resources while still keeping the food as palatable as possible. It’s a difficult and often thankless task. The character who can pull it off with aplomb will be worshipped by his or her mates.
No vessel goes to sea without at least one Carpenter aboard,
and captured Carpenters are always forced to join the crew of the ship that conquers them. The integrity of a ship is the very life of its crew. Thus, individuals skilled at keeping it afloat and in good working condition are highly prized. Characters with this template have learned the trade, and can patch and repair a ship whether it’s in port or at sea. Obviously, a ship out on the ocean is more difficult to repair than one that is tied up in port, but, assuming the vessel hasn’t been hulled below the waterline and raw materials are available, the character can at worst, patch it up so that it can limp back home.
Hit Die: d 6 Saving Throw Bonus: Reflex +2
Skill Bonus: Carpenters gain Class Bonuses to Skill checks in
the following Skills: Balance +2, Climb +2, Craft: Carpentry +4.
Hit Die: d6 Saving Throw Bonus: Reflex +2
Skill Bonus: Cooks receive a +4 Class Bonus to all checks for
the following Skills: Craft: Cook and Haggle
backbreaking work, it’s far better to give than t o receive.
H i t Die: d I o
Saving Throw Bonus: Will +2
Class Features: Cooks have the following Class Features:
Alertness (Ex): Cooks get the Alertness Feat for free. Forage (Ex): In addition to preparing the meals, Cooks have
the ability to find food sources. Whenever a ship sends an expedition ashore, the Cook can make a check to help find new supplies for the ship. The character makes a Wilderness Lore check at DC 15. If successful, he or she is able to find enough food to restock one third of the ship’s food and water supplies.
Skill Bonus: Officers receive a +2 Class Bonus to the following
Skills: Balance, Intimidate, Navigation, Piloting
Class Features: Officers gain the Weapon Finesse: Rapier Feat
for free. They may also select any one Panache Feat for free.
BLACKFLAGS: PIRACY OF
THE CARIBBEAN offers four new Prestige Classes for players to choose. Each is detailed below.
Class Restrictions: Nobles and Priests may not take the Cook template. A Priest may have the template if he enters the
order after having been a Cook.
One of the most prestigious positions available, the Captain is the commander of a ship. This can be a naval vessel, a merchant transport, or a pirate ship. Anyone can become a captain. All he or she needs is the money to purchase a ship or to be elected by the crew (in the case of pirate vessels). However, the Prestige Class of Captain is reserved for those few men and women who are born to lead on the open seas. These individuals naturally rise to the top regardless of their assigned stations, and it is only a matter of time before they are commanding their own crews. There cannot be two Captains per ship. Invariably, their styles do not quite mesh and the crew will begin to feel the tension. Ultimately, the Sailors underneath these Captains need t o know who is in charge. One Captain will eventually take control of the ship. The fate of the other depends upon the circumstances under which this occurs. Often, the crews 42
Officers are the commanders in the armies and navies of the Old World powers. They are generally of the upper class, but there are instances of Sailors and Soldiers working their way up to Officer. These characters are not well liked by most enlisted. Particularly in the Navy, the common Sailors are treated little better than slaves, and many of them have been pressed into service. A mutiny typically sees the butchering of all Officers aboard.
Still, if one is in the military, Officer is the way to go. They are
paid more, eat better food, and get to give orders rather than take them. Considering that many of those orders command
split with one Captain taking his or her loyalists and the rest of the crew remaining behind. This frequently happens with pirate crews, particularly when a ship becomes overcrowded with crewmembers. One Captain will take half the crew t o man a captured vessel and go their separate ways. Sometimes however, a bloody mutiny is the result of a struggle between Captains. The loser of such a conflict rarely survives. Note that a character can be promoted to the rank of captain or captain a ship without being a member of this class. The Captain Prestige Class represents those who are born to the position and excel at leading others in maritime expeditions.
Requirements: Charisma I 3 Hit Die: d I o
Leadership Feat, Navigation Skill: 8 ranks, Piloting Skill: 8 ranks
Skill Points per Level: 2
+ Int Modifier
Experienced and successful Captains have a knack for making the right decision, even in difficult situations. Once per session, the player playing the Captain may ask the game master for advice before deciding what to do. The game master is under no obligation t o tell the player what he or she should do, but the advice given should be sound. For instance, if a Captain’s player wonders if it is a good idea to fire on an approaching Spanish vessel, the game master might say, “your country currently has a treaty with Spain. Attacking the ship could land you and your crew in irons if you get caught, not to mention provoke new aggression from Spain. O n the other hand, that galleon is approaching awfully fast, and the dread pirate, Robert, has been rumored to fly a Spanish flag on approach. If you do nothing, you risk being a sitting duck if they close any further.”
Among the most powerful people in the world not born of noble blood are the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. These men have risen through the ranks of the Church hierarchy and hold sway over the direction Rome’s policy moves. It is they who elect the Pope, they who advise him on matters both theological and political, and they who oversee the enforcement of his decrees throughout the world. Outside the direct sphere of the Vatican’s influence in Europe, a Cardinal may as well be the Pope he speaks with such authority. And that makes Cardinals in the New World very powerful, indeed. Rising to the rank of Cardinal is not easily accomplished. Only characters of the Priest Class may choose this Prestige Class, and then only those who have ascended to the rank of Bishop. Additionally, the character must be a proven leader so that people will respect his edicts and authority. It is not an easy role to undertake, and Rome wants to make certain that her Cardinals are up to the task of spreading the One True Faith. There are very few Cardinals in the N e w World. A character who ascends to such a position is rare. H e is in charge of all of the Bishops in a given territory, giving him command over several dioceses at once. This automatically puts the character into the upper crust of society and grants him access to most of the aristocracy of his assigned Colonial holding. H e has influence in other Catholic holdings as well, but is most profoundly respected on his home turf.
Class Skills: Balance, Climb, Concentration, Intimidate, Intuit
Direction, Jump, Listen, Navigation, Piloting, Search, Spot, Swim, Use Rope, Wilderness Lore
Weapon and Armor Proficienry: Captains are proficient with
Firearms and with any sword.
Class Features: Captains accrue the following Class Features
at a rate designated on “Table 4-6: Captain Class Features.”
of Command (Su): The character has a natural confidence
that others detect and respect. Once per day per two character levels the Captain possesses, he or she may add a + 2 Command Bonus to any Charisma-based Skill check. This includes determining the character’s Leadership Score for the Leadership Feat.
Bonus Panache Feat: The character may select a new Feat from
the list of Panache Feats. Only a Panache Feat may be selected with this ability.
Remove Fear (Su): The character’s presence is such that
those fighting with him or her are not afraid, no matter what the odds. In battle, characters within range of the Captain are immune to the effects of Fear. Range is 5 feet times the Captain’s Charisma Modifier. The maximum range is 25 feet.
Inspire to Greatness (Su): Captains of this level are legends.
Those who fight with them feel privileged and honored to serve under them and would gladly die for the character. During battle, all allies within range of the Captain receive a f 2 Inspiration Bonus to all die rolls. Effective range is five feet times the Charisma Modifier of the Captain.
Requirements: Priest Class, Promoted t o Bishop, Charisma
+, Leadership Feat, Diplomacy Skill: I 2 ranks.
H i t Die: d6 Skill Points per Level: 4
Aura ofFear (Su): The character’s legend has grown such that
enemies don’t wish to fight him or her. All enemies within 5 0 feet of the Captain must make a Will Save as though the Captain had cast the Cause Fear spell. The D C for the Saving Throw is I 3 the Captain’s level. This ability can be directed at a distance if the Captain fights under a unique banner. When flying this flag, enemies who recognize it also must Save even if they are outside the range of the ability.
+ Int Modifier
Class Skills: Appraise, Bluff, Concentration, Decipher Script,
Diplomacy, Forgery, Gather Information, Heal, Innuendo, Intimidate, Knowledge: Any, Listen, Read Lips, Ride, Sense Motive, Speak Language, Spot.
Weapon and Armor Prcjicienry: Like the Priest Class from which they come, Cardinals are not taught how to use
weapons. They are supposed t o eschew violence. However, one doesn’t get this far in the New World without knowing a few secrets. Cardinals may choose to be proficient with one weapon in which they currently aren’t.
both the Sharpshooter and Deadeye Feats. If any members of this Guard are killed, they are replaced within a week.
Social Standing 4 (Ex): The Cardinal is treated as though he
were a high-ranking member of the aristocracy (which, in fact, he is). For more information, see the description of the Social Standing Class Feature in the section on Nobles.
Class Feutures: Cardinals gain Class Features a t a rate
described on “Table 4-7: Cardinal Class Features.” Definitions of those features follow.
Entourage: To help him fulfill his duties, a Cardinal is
assigned a group of Priests to assist him. These individuals exist solely to serve the Cardinal’s needs. They are lackeys, gofers, secretaries, messengers, and intermediaries whose job it is to facilitate the Cardinal overseeing his territory. The character has a number of Priests in his entourage equal to his Charisma Modifier plus his character level. One of these individuals is a 6th Level Priest who serves as the Cardinal’s personal assistant. Two more are 4th Level and oversee the remaining Priests, who are all 1st Level.
Tbeological Wisdom (Ex): Because Cardinals must come from the Priest Class, they have the unique advantage of continuing to benefit from both Classes. Each time the character gains a level, he may choose to apply the level gain to his Priest or his Cardinal Class, and the character uses his total character level for purposes of determining Caster Level for the Spelllike abilities of both classes
+ I(Sp): The Cardinal gains an additional use per
day of the Priest Class Feature, Aura of Fear. Thus, if the character had Aura of Fear 2/Day as a result of being a t least a 6th Level Priest, he could use the ability a third time each day.
Guard: Upon ascension to the rank of Cardinal, the character is assigned a squad of elite Soldiers whose task it is to protect
him from harm. 20 such Soldiers of 3rd Level are assigned to the character. They are commanded by a captain who is 5th Level. The guards are equipped with flintlock muskets and rapiers. In addition, they have the Sharpshooter Feat. The captain has all the same arms, but also carries a flintlock pistol and has
Lay Hands +Z(Sp): T h e character may add an additional Lay
Hands attempt per day. Therefore, if the Cardinal had Lay Hands I/Day, Lay Hands + I would allow him to do so a second time each day. Lay Hands I is a cumulative effect, so each time the character gets it, he can add an additional one Lay Hands attempt per day.
Table 4-8: Navigator Class Features
Familiar Waters Know Direction I/Day
Familiar Waters Know Direction 2/Day
Familiar Waters Know Direction 3/Day
Remove Curse (Sp): Once per day, the Cardinal may cast the Divine spell, Remove Curse.
Remove Blindness/Deafness (Sp): The Cardinal has now become
powerful enough in the eyes of God to heal more serious afflictions. Once per day, he can cure blindness or deafness as though he had cast the Divine Spell of the same name
Social Standing5 (Ex): The Cardinal has now entered the elite level of the aristocracy. See the description of the Social Standing Class Feature in the section on Nobles for more information
the Church n o good to excommunicate members of other faiths since they don’t recognize the Pope’s authority over them in the first place. It will work against apostates since they were raised to fear the Power of Rome. Excommunication deals 2 points of permanent Wisdom and Charisma damage. This can cause the target to lose Character Classes and any Class Features that are dependent upon being a member of that Class. Priests and Cardinals who are excommunicated lose all of their powers and advantages of the Class in question. Additionally, characters who have been excommunicated become enemies of the state in the eyes of Rome. The Church will ask that they be brought to justice and may put bounties out for their capture. Catholic Colonial Powers (France and Spain) will be pressured to bring such an individual in and turn him or her over to the Church. The local government may or may not choose to comply, but it makes entering Catholic territory dangerous for the target character.
Divination (Sp): Once per day, the Cardinal can call on the Almighty for guidance. He can cast the Divine Spell, Divination. Divine Power (Sp): The character can now call upon the Power of God to assist him in battle. Once per day, the Cardinal may cast the Divine Power spell.
Exrommunicate (Su): Technically, an Order of Excommunication comes from the Pope, but the Cardinal is sufficiently advanced at this level to make it happen. In essence, this ability allows the character to have an enemy excommunicated from the Church. Excommunication is a very serious action and is only used for the most heinous of crimes against the Faith. N o Cardinal uses this power lightly, though that is not to say that it can’t be used for political reasons.
Excommunication is only effective against Catholics. It does
Few people are appreciated more than a good Navigator onboard a ship. Without one, the crew risks getting lost. T h e ocean is an unforgiving adversary. Small mistakes can cost people their lives. T h e Navigator helps mitigate some of that danger.
Navigators are always in need, and a good one can usually sign on with a crew for a handsome price. Often, the more dangerous the mission, the more important a Navigator is. It is this character who helps identify dangerous shallows, treacherous reefs, and enemy shipping lanes. Navigators are typically drawn from the Sailor Class. They usually learn the skill serving onboard a merchant ship or a naval vessel and discover that they have a gift for it. Time and experience turn them into masters of the navigational arts.
for telltale signs of danger. It doesn’t work if the Navigator is the one a t the ship’s wheel.
Tactical Navigation (Ex): In combat, the character’s prowess as a Navigator can help his or her crew. The ship or its pilot gains a +2 Circumstance Bonus for flanking, speed, or
other checks that involve putting the ship in position to more effectively fight its opponent. This ability works in reverse as well. The Navigator can offer the bonus to his or her ship when it is attempting to flee pursuit.
Requirements: Wisdom I 3 Hit Die: d8 Skill Points per Lwel: 2
Intuit Direction Skill: 8 ranks, Navigation Skill: 12 ranks, Piloting Skill: 6 ranks.
Nwer Lost (Su): At this level, the Navigator has an almost
supernatural sense of direction. H e or she simply cannot be truly lost. Even when the character errs on a Navigation check, he or she can intuitively get the ship or friends back on course. It is impossible for the character to become hopelessly lost, though he or she does sometimes take a roundabout path t o get to the destination. The character gets a +2 Class Bonus on all Navigation checks. O n the rare occasions that the roll is a failure, the ship drifts off course, but it does so in the most favorable direction possible. Additionally, n o matter how lost the character and his or her companions become, so long as the Navigator can see the stars at night, he or she can guide them to safety on land or sea.
+ Int Modifier
Class Skills: Balance, Climb, Concentration, Decipher Script,
Gather Information, Intuit Direction, Navigation, Piloting, Profession: Cartographer, Speak Language, Spot, Wilderness Lore.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Navigators earn no additional Weapon Proficiencies. They may use any they already know. Class Features: Navigators gain Class Features as designated
on ”Table 4-8: Navigator Class Features.”
Familiar Waters (Ex): Each time the Navigator gains this feature,
he or she may designate one area of n o greater than 50 miles (circumference) as “Familiar Waters.” The Navigator has been to this area on numerous occasions and knows it intimately. The character knows where the best currents are, where the best coves are for shelter (if it is near shore), when patrol and merchant ships can be expected to pass, etc. The character gains a +4 Knowledge Bonus to any checks having to do with familiarity with the area including Piloting checks to negotiate difficult passages such as reefs or shallows.
Though by n o means as talented or as knowledgeable as the medical doctors of today, a Physician is still a valuable person to have aboard ship. Such a character cannot always save limbs but can save lives. He or she also has some specialized knowledge that assists in the treatment of sickness. This character can brew tonics to help shipmates in need. Physicians typically learn their trade on the fly. Many Physicians began their careers as Physician’s mates, the strong men assigned to hold down struggling shipmates during surgery. In the course of such work, they are taught rudimentary skills to help out. Those that become Physicians themselves sometimes discover they have a talent for it, but more often find themselves the most knowledgeable person aboard when the current Physician leaves or is killed, forcing them into duty.
Know Direction (Sp): The Navigator’s sense of direction becomes so finely attuned that he or she can benefit from
the effects of the Divine Spell, Know Direction. Using this ability takes a standard action just as if the character were casting a spell.
E$cient Plotting (Ex): When plotting courses for a ship’s voyages,
a skilled Navigator can improve upon the usual travel time by working out the best way for the vessel to go. At the beginning of the voyage, the character makes a Navigation check at D C 25. If it is successful, the ship may make the trip in IO% less time than normal. This can be a huge boon to merchant vessels since they can make more voyages and to military and pirate ships that may be attempting to catch an enemy, The improved time assumes that the ship does not become lost or get blown off course by a storm.
Requirements: Intelligence I 2 + , Alchemy Skill: 6 ranks, Heal Skill: 8 ranks, Wilderness Survival Skill: 6 Ranks. Hit Die: d6
Skill Points per Level: 4
+ Int Modifier
Class Skills: Alchemy, Balance, Concentration, Heal,
Knowledge: Medicine, Profession: Physician, Wilderness Lore.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Physicians earn n o additional Weapon Proficiencies. They may use any they already know. Class Features: The Physician gains a variety of Class Features all of which concern helping comrades. “Table 4-9: Physician
Class Features” outlines the rate at which they are received. Definitions follow below.
Improved Piloting (Ex): By shouting directions t o the ship’s pilot, the Navigator can confer a +2 Circumstance Bonus to
piloting rolls when the person a t the tiller is attempting to negotiate tricky waters. This bonus comes from the Navigator’s charts and his or her ability to watch the waters 46
Cure Minor Wounds (Ex): The character may heal I H i t Point as though he or she had cast the Divine Spell, Cure Minor
Wounds. This can be done once per day per Character Level he or she has. The Physician does not cast a spell but rather sews up wounds and salves burns and bruises.
Amputate (Ex): Physician characters gain the Amputate Feat
only be used once a day per disease because the Physician must prepare the proper medicine, but any number of afflicted crewmembers can benefit from its use. Gangrene is immune to the effects of this ability. The science of the time has no idea how to combat it.
Eeat Sickness (Ex): The Physician knows how to treat the
minor illnesses of the day that the crew may contract. Any character suffering from Disease may make a Fortitude Save with a + 2 Circumstance Bonus t o recover after treatment. The D C for the Save is the same as that the character had to make to prevent the onset of the sickness in the first place.
Save Limb (Ex): The Physician has become so skilled in the trade, he or she can now actually save a limb that might otherwise have to be amputated. The feat is not easily
accomplished, though. A character that has suffered Grievous Bodily Harm (see Part 6) can be treated normally if the Physician succeeds at a Heal Skill check a t D C 3 5. The character may Take I O but not 20. If the check is successful, the limb does not have to be amputated, and the character gains H i t Points equal to I d 8 the character’s Physician Level as though the Divine Spell, Cure Light Wounds, had been cast. The lucky character must still make a Fortitude Save at D C 1 5 to prevent a Gangrene infection, but assuming that is successful, the character makes a full recovery. If the Heal Skill check fails, the patient takes another I d 1 0 points of damage from blood loss, and the limb must be amputated immediately.
Heal Wounds (Ex): This ability allows the Physician to perform
minor surgery t o repair small wounds. Large gashes can be sewn shut, broken bones can be set, and sprains can be treated. However, this sort of work takes considerably more time, and, thus, can only be accomplished once per day until the Physician reaches sufficient level that he or she has learned enough shortcuts to perform it twice. When performing Heal Wounds, the character heals 2d6 points of damage for the patient.
&we Disease (Ex): The character has now become experienced enough that he or she can cure diseases outright as though casting the Divine Spell, Remove Disease. The ability can
Outfitting the Character
This section covers equipment peculiar to the 1700’s as well as providing a host of new Feats and Skills characters may acquire. Everything your character needs *. e,, to fit out as an authentic 18th Century Caribbean adventurer 9 is here.
In addition to a series of new General Feats, BLACK FLAGS: PIRACY THE CARIBBEAN a new type of Feat: Panache. IN offers Panache Feats and the rules for using them are discussed in Part 6. The Feat descriptions are listed here. Panache Feats are indicated in the brackets following the Feat’s name. Those that are listed as General and Panache can be taken as either kind of Feat. Those that only say “Panache,” can only be used as Panache Feats.
All of the material contained in Part 5
This is the brutal but often necessary task of removing a shattered or severely injured limb either because it is ruined or to prevent the onset of gangrene. Amputation is a tricky
is designated Open Game Content, not just the information in the special sidebars.
Alignment in the 18th Century
Alignment is a tricky question in this time period. It presumes a certain moral center that simply doesn’t exist. In a traditional fantasy game, orcs are Evil and therefore must be destroyed. Why they’re Evil isn’t explained very fully. Perhaps they work for an evil wizard. Perhaps they serve a dark god. Whatever the reason, they’re just Evil. There are no orcs in the Caribbean of the early 1700’s,and the answer to what is evil generally depends upon the worldview of the person whom you are asking. For example, is it evil (or at least wrong) to abuse and maim those under you? The sailor would certainly say, yes, but the captain over him would probably say, no. After all, such a commander is just exercising his right to maintain discipline with people who are lesser born. Going a step further, slavery (and the treatment of the slaves in this era) is certainly evil, at least to modern eyes. At the time, though, virtually every nation engaged in the Slave Trade, including the African nations where many of the slaves originated. T h e Roman Catholic Church opposed slavery in principle, but it gave its silent consent to the practice. The gears of 18th Century commerce were oiled with the blood of slaves. Are all characters in the game evil then? The English and Spanish hate each other. Which nation is the band of orcs that needs to be wiped out for everyone’s protection? When a Jesuit priest has a Protestant mission burned to the ground so that none may be corrupted by its false teachings, is that a Good act or an Evil one? And is that character Lawful for fulfilling the Church’s mission of saving as many souls as possible or Chaotic for moving outside the bounds of priestly non-violence?
T properly recreate the period, one has to redefine how Alignment works. We at Avalanche Press offer two solutions. o The first is the easier and perhaps the preferred method: drop Alignment for campaigns in this setting. There are no Alignment-dependent powers, benefits, or penalties in BLACKFLAGS: PIRACY THE CARIBBEAN, you can IN so eliminate Alignment with no loss of play satisfaction a t all.
The second solution is to keep Alignment in the game but remember that Character Class and profession are not tied to a person’s Alignment. While it’s difficult to imagine a Chaotic Evil Priest, a Lawful Evil or Neutral Evil one isn’t difficult at all. Likewise, it would be hard to define a pirate character as Lawful, but he or she could be Good. And there are always exceptions. Suppose the character is an English privateer who strictly follows the laws for privateering, treats his crew well, and only harms those opponents he has to fight. Doesn’t that sound like Lawful Good? The important thing to remember is that what a character does for a living does not necessarily determine where he or she falls on the Alignment map. The same holds true for the character’s nationality. Our Lawful Good privateer certainly wouldn’t be seen as such by the Spanish and Dutch vessels upon whom he preys. Whichever method you choose to use, remember that a character’s actions determine what he or she thinks his or her Alignment is. How those actions are viewed by others may offer a different determination altogether.
business since it does harm to the patient. Anyone can do it, but performing the operation in such a way as to enable the victim to survive requires some skill. Characters with this Feat have some practice a t it, thereby granting them a better chance of success.
Character is poor Character is an Escaped Slave Character is a Merchant Character hates his or her superior Bribe is three times the minimum amount Bribe is twice the minimum amount Character is a Priest Character fears his or her superior Bribe involves serious crime Bribe asks target to betray his or her country
Prerequisites: Heal Skill: 8 Ranks Benefit: The character can attempt an
amputation with a relative degree of success. This requires a Heal Skill check at D C 25. For every Level in the Physician Prestige Class the character has, he or she may add a + I Knowledge Bonus to the roll. If successful, the limb is properly removed and the wound cauterized t o prevent further infection. If it fails, the patient bleeds to death.
N d :Characters attempting an amputation
without benefit of this Feat suffer a -4 Penalty to the Skill check. Those who d o not have the Heal Skill double that penalty to -8. For more information on when amputation is necessary, see “Grievous Bodily Harm” in Part 6.
Deadeye L[Panache 7 J
The character is a deadly shot with a firearm, increasing the odds that a given shot will score a critical hit.
Prerequisite: Firearms Proficiency Benefit: T h e character can make normal attack rolls with
cannon and other heavy weapons. Additionally, the character is educated in the proper cleaning, maintenance, and repair of such weaponry.
Prereqwisites: Base Attack Bonus
+ 5, Firearms Proficiency,
Benefit: The Critical Threat Range of the character’s firearms
is doubled, owing to his or her supreme talent. Thus, if a firearm usually threatens on an I 8-20 (three numbers), it threatens on I 5-20 (six numbers) for a character with Deadeye.
Normal: A character without the Gunnery Feat suffers a -6
penalty on all attack rolls with such weapons. One without the Firearms Proficiency Feat suffers a -8 penalty. Note that a character can serve on a gunnery crew without this Feat with no penalty. So long as the character is not in charge of the aiming or the firing of the weapon, the penalty for untrained use of this Feat does not apply.
Firearms Proficiency [General, Panache]
Benefit: T h e character can make normal attack rolls with
hand-held firearms. This Feat does not extend to large weapons such as cannon, which require the Gunnery Feat.
Normal: A character who uses a firearm without being
proficient suffers a -4 penalty on attack rolls.
Improvised Weapon Proficiency [General, Panache]
The character is skilled at making the most out of the situation at hand. He or she can find weapons in even the most mundane objects and turn them to his or her advantage.
These characters have a certain air about them. They are more graceful, more inspiring, and more refined than usual. A combination of natural style and good breeding cause them to carry themselves a little more elegantly than others.
Ben@: Practically any object that the character can pick up can
be turned into a makeshift weapon. Tree limbs, mugs, a sack of coins, a chair, a leg of meat, etc. can all be used effectively by the character in a fight. The wielder of these unusual weapons gains a I Proficiency Bonus to hit, and an additional + 2 Proficiency Bonus to damage with such “weapons.”
Benefit: The character gains a +2 Racial Bonus to all
Gunnery [General, Panache]
The character is trained in the use of ships’ cannon and other heavy weaponry.
Normal: Tpically such items are treated as Simple Weapons and
incur no Proficiency Penalties if used in a fight. They are not as effective as other weapons, though. Characters without this proficiency don’t get the bonus to hit and to deal damage.
The character has a natural aptitude for firearms.
Table jc2: Navigation Modifiers
Navigator has good charts’ Navigator has exceptional charts? Ship has been on course for last 1-3 days Ship has been on course for last 4-6 days Ship has been on course for a week or more Night sky is absolutely clear Night sky is overcast Navigator has poor charts# Navigator has no charts Navigator has no compass Navigator has no astrolabe Ship has been off course for 1-3 days Ship has been off course for 4-6 days Ship has been off course for a week or more Ship was just in a storm
Prerequisites: Dexterity 1 5
Benefit: The character’s intuitive
understanding of guns allows him or her to compensate for the weapon’s natural flaws. Characters with this Feat may ignore the penalties for a firearm’s Accuracy Rating.
Trick Shot [Panache]
Characters with Trick Shot are skilled a t using firearms in unusual ways. They can shoot the cutlass out of an opponent’s hand, knock down a chandelier, and create ricochet shots.
-2 -2 -2
Prerequisites: Base Attack Bonus
7, Firearms Proficiency, Sharpshooter
Benefit: The character gains a +4
Bonus to attack rolls and Skill checks whenever he or she is attempting a trick shot. The bonus does not apply to normal attack rolls. What constitutes a trick shot is a t the discretion of the game master, but it should be using the gun in some unusual way or to pull off an incredible stunt.
* Double the price of such charts during purchase.
is a I 5% chance that the charts were made badly or by someone who is ignorant. Note that good and exceptional charts have no chance of being poor. They are crafted by the best cartographers available. Note that, while most of these modifiers are cumulative, those for the number of days a ship has been on course or off course are not. A ship that has been off course for 4 days incurs a -2 penalty. It does not incur a -2 penalty for being off for 4-6 days and a - I for being off for 1-3 days.
? Triple the price of such charts during purchase # Game master rolls secretly at the purchase of charts. There
This skill represents the character’s ability to offer money in exchange for the target performing some illegal or unsavory service or just plain “looking the other way.” It is most typically applied to officials, but it can be used on others as well.
Literacv L[GeneralJ7 J
Benefit: The character can read and write his or her native
language in addition t o speaking it. This Feat can be taken multiple times. ~~~h time, the character specify a new language. Note that he or she must also take the Speak Language Skill if he or she wishes to speak it too. Likewise, a character can take Speak Language to know a foreign tongue without being able to read it if this Feat is not also taken.
Bribe differs from Diplomacy in that the latter relies on the niceties of expression to convince someone. A bribe is crass. It flat-out offers someone money to do something they know is wrong, and, in a world where honor and duty still mean a great deal, this is not easily accomplished. To make a Bribe attempt, the character makes a Skill check the character level of the target. “Table 5-1: at a D C of 15 Bribe Modifiers” offers additional modifiers. If the roll is successful, the target character takes the cash. The amount
offered is up to the character, but he or she must offer at least I O times the subject's character level in pieces of eight. If the target is a Merchant or a Priest, the amount must be 100 times his or her level. Nobles cannot be Bribed. They must be coerced by other means. Bribe is a Class Skill for Merchants and Nobles. It is a Cross-class Skill for all others.
Table ~ 3Piloting Check ; Difficulv Class Modifiers
Narrow Straits Shallows Sandbars Treacherous Currents Reefs Stiff Winds" Rough Seas* Storm" Darkness
Navigation (Wis; Trained Only,)
This is the ability to use charts and the stars to successfully plot the course of a ship. Without accurate navigation, a ship at sea can become lost and drift hopelessly searching for a port. To make a Navigation check, the character rolls a standard Skill check a t a D C set by the GM. This number is typically 15, but it can vary by circumstances. See "Table 5-2: Navigation Modifiers" for a list of variables. If the roll is successful, the ship continues on course. If not, it drifts off in a random direction. Near land, a Navigation check must be made every three days the vessel does not put into port. The abundance of landmarks and the familiarity with the waters being sailed makes it easier to stay on course. In the open sea, a check must be made once a day. Game masters may wish to make the Navigation check for players so as to keep the results secret. After all, one doesn't usually realize one has made a mistake setting a course until after it is too late. For this reason, Navigation checks are only allowed once per day and the character may not Take 20. Navigation is a Class Skill for Sailors. It is a Cross-class Skill for all others.
+3 +5 +3 +5
* Rough Seas, Storm, and Stiff Winds are not cumulative. Use the highest modifier that applies.
Piloting (Dex; Trained Only)
This skill is every bit as important as Navigation t o the Sailor. Piloting involves the accurate steering of a ship through the waters it plies. It is most often used to bring the ship in close to shore or to guide it through narrow passages or treacherous waters such as those with thick reefs. Sometimes, it is used during a storm to hold the ship somewhat on course. Regardless, a talented pilot is worth his or her weight in gold. A character makes a Piloting check whenever the game master decides that it may be tricky navigating the ship exactly to where the characters want it to go. The D C for the check depends upon the obstacles the character must negotiate to bring the vessel safely to the other side. The base D C for the check is IO. "Table 5-3: Piloting Check Difficulty Class Modifiers" lists the variables for determining the final DC. Unless otherwise noted, all modifiers are cumulative. Piloting is a Class Skill for Sailors. It is a Cross-class Skill for all others.
The world of the 18th Century is a little different from standard fantasy campaigns. Hence, the equipment list is altered a little. Some of the usual items are eliminated owing to their being out of genre or simply outdated while numerous additions have been made to account for more modern tools. "Table 5 -4: Updated Equipment List" outlines new additions and modifications to the list of standard equipment. Prices are given in pesos, or pieces of eight, which is the standard coin throughout the N e w World. Prices on the regular
Table 9 4 : Updated Equipment List
Firearms Weapon cost Navigational Tools Item
Compass Astrolabe Charts4
Miscellaneous G e a r Ltem
Compass Astrolabe Axe Soap Chunk of Meat Powder Horn
Flintlock Musket 20 Flintlock Pistol 30 Matchlock Musket 12 Matchlock Pistol 20 Brace of Masterwork Pistols’ 500
5 per pound
3 per pound
Simple Weapons Melee
Case Cartridge 100 lb. Keg of Powder Cannonballs5 4-, 6-Pound 12-, I & , 24-Pound 3 6-Pound 5 o- Po un d6
I 20 I 2
M a r t i a l Weapons Melee Weapon cost
Dueling Sword2 Saber Boarding Pike3 25 22
I - Includes case and powder horn. 2 - Usually a rapier. 3 - Equivalent to a ranseur. 4 - Prices range by region and quality; see the description of this item.
5 - Comes in lots of 12. Available as grapeshot and ball, and as chain shot and bar shot for all but 3 6- and 50-pounder at same prices. 6 - This item is rare and hard t o come by; 50pounder cannon are uncommon.
equipment list should be modified to reflect this unit of measure. Keep in mind that the prices listed are average and that they vary from port to port, from territory to territory, and with the quality of manufacture. Two items bear closer examination: muskets and charts.
Muskets: These weapons come with a plug bayonet. When employed, the weapon becomes equivalent to a shortspear, but it is so clumsy that it suffers a - I Penalty to the attack roll.
Charts: Charts vary widely in price. How much one pays
depends greatly on what one wishes to buy. The better a chart (the more accurate and the more reliable the cartographer), the more expensive it is going to be. Good Charts as defined in “Table 5-2: Navigation Modifiers” double the going rate of the charts. Exceptional Charts triple that cost. The base price is determined by where the purchaser wants to go. Well-traveled passages in his or her nation’s territories are inexpensive. Exotic locations, territories controlled by a foreign power, and treacherous waters all increase the price. “Table 5-5: Restricted Equipment” lists everything from the standard game that is forbidden in this setting. 52
Prices for ships are based largely on the size of the vessel and its general condition. The prices listed on "Table 5-6: Ships," are for vessels in serviceable but not pristine condition. Cut the price in half for a ship in poor condition, and multiply it by 1.5 for a ship that is either brand new or in outstanding condition. For more information on ships, see Part 6.
Table 53: Restricted Equipment
The following standard fantasy equipment is not allowed in BLACKFLAGS campaigns:
Punching Dagger Spiked Gauntlet Halfspear Heavy Mace Morningstar Crossbows of all types Sling
Portable Ram Silk rope
Class Tools and
Trident Warhammer Bows of any type
Mounts and Related Gear
Barding Riding Dog Sled
I3 I2 12 IO
6-Gun Merchant Brig I4-Gun Sloop 20-Gun Galleon 4O-Gun Frigate Indiaman 60-Gun Ship of the Line
"Any vessel manufactured in the Cuban shipyards gets an additional 2% Damage Reduction bonus owing to the raw materials used in its construction.
f A ship of the line is a military vessel and therefore cannot be purchased.
..&s\\ i &
This section of the book looks at a variety of new rules for the setting. It briefly explores ship-to-ship combat, examines the deadly , nature of firearms, and provides c genre-specific rules for how to create that swashbuckling feel for your campaigns.
actual H i t Points, not the current total) or whenever the character suffers a Critical H i t from a firearm, he or she may have sustained Grievous Bodily Harm. The character must make a Reflex Save at DC 20. If it is successful, the injury is nasty but not necessarily grievous. The character must make a Fortitude Save a t D C I 5 one day later to avoid the onset of gangrene in the wound but otherwise need not worry further.
If the Reflex Save fails, however, the character has sustained
a devastating wound that threatens his or her life. Roll I d 8 and consult “Table 6-1: Grievous Wound Location” to determine where the damage occurred. The affected body part is either completely ruined or has serious wounds such as deep gashes, a compound fracture, third degree burns, etc.
All of the material contained in Part 6
is designated Open Game Content, not just the information in the special sidebars.
Grievous Bodily Harm
One of the problems with combat in the early 1700’s is that medical science has not caught up with the destructive power of firearms, cannon, and the devastating collateral damage that they cause. Those unfortunates who are hit by small arms fire or who are in the vicinity of a cannonball when it strikes its target usually don’t survive. Those who do generally bear horrible scars from the incident or lose limbs to the terrible fury of battle in the age of black powder. To simulate the more lethal nature of 18th Century combat, BLACKFLAGS: PIRACY THE CARIBBEAN IN introduces Grievous Bodily Harm. This is the serious injury caused by metal projectiles and other nasty objects ripping into a person. Whenever a character takes damage equal to one quarter of his or her full total of H i t Points (one quarter of the character’s
A character that sustains Grievous Bodily Harm must succeed at a Will Save at DC 20 to continue acting. Otherwise, he or
she simply falls down screaming or passes out from the pain. Moreover, the harmed limb must be amputated to save the character’s life. If it is not, gangrene sets in within 24 hours. Eighteenth Century medicine has no answer for this deadly infection, meaning that if the character doesn’t bleed t o death from the wound, the gangrene will get him or her. Amputation isn’t a great option, though. Failed amputation attempts can kill the character outright. The rules for amputating a limb can be found in the description for the Amputate Feat in Part 5. The character sustains an additional I d 8 points of damage from the surgery and takes Permanent Dexterity Damage as well. Amputees lose one point of Dexterity if a hand or foot is lost. If the limb is a leg or arm, the Dexterity Damage is 2 points.
Gangrene is a serious infection that results from bacteria growing in severe wounds, which causes the flesh to die and rot. Because 18th Century science doesn’t yet grasp the concept of disinfection and antibiotics are more than 200 years away, gangrene is almost always fatal. Once it sets in, amputation of the affected limb before the disease spreads to the rest of the body is the only way known t o save the afflicted person. Characters get gangrene from Grievous Bodily Harm and wounds that might have caused such damage. A character who survives sustaining Grievous Bodily Harm will contract gangrene within 24 hours of receiving the wound if the affected body part is not amputated. Characters who take enough damage in a single blow to sustain Grievous Bodily Harm but who make the Reflex Save to avoid it must still make a Fortitude Save a t D C 15 the day after taking the damage. If they fail, they contract gangrene too.
Table 6-2: Firearms
Flintlock Pistol Flintlock Musket Matchlock Pistol Matchlock Musket
Characters infected suffer from swollen skin and blistering that inflicts I d 4 points of Temporary Dexterity Damage for two days. As the skin becomes more infected, it also begins to smell foul. These are telltale signs of the disease, and any character can make an Intelligence check a t D C I 5 to recognize what is happening. Physicians recognize gangrene automatically. O n the third day, the skin rot begins to kill the character. He or she takes Id6 points of Permanent Constitution Damage every day until the disease is fatal or until the affected limb is amputated. Characters who had only been afflicted in the hand or foot now see the disease automatically spread to their arm or leg. When the victim is reduced to a Constitution score of 6 or less, the disease has spread t o the torso and is irreversible. Prior to the disease becoming fatal, amputating the affected limb can save the patient.
the trigger, before making the actual attack roll, he or she rolls I d l o to see if the weapon misfires. If the result of this check is equal to or less than the gun's Misfire Chance (see "Table 6-2: Firearms"), the weapon discharges, but is ineffective. No attack roll is made. A misfired weapon must be cleared and cleaned before it can be used again. Matchlock weapons cannot be fired in wet weather. If it is raining, the gun simply will not work. Aboard a ship, double the chance for a misfire with a matchlock weapon.
N o t all weapons are created equal. Muskets are more accurate than pistols owing to their longer barrels, and flintlocks tend to be a little better than matchlock guns. The Accuracy Rating of a gun is a modifier applied to the attack roll. Note that this Accuracy Rating is always a negative modifier since the guns of the time were unreliable.
Firearms are divided into two basic classifications: matchlock and the more reliable flintlock. Each is also available as a pistol or musket. Using any firearm requires the Firearms Proficiency Feat. A character can fire a gun without the Feat, but he or she incurs the usual -4 penalty. Despite their being superior to crossbows, 18th Century guns are clumsy weapons. They take a great deal of time to load, they often misfire, and they aren't very accurate. They are best fired in close quarters a t the beginning o f a fight and then discarded in favor of a sword. Firearms have certain unique characteristics from other weapons. Each of these is described below.
Firearms are much more lethal weapons than their Renaissance and Medieval counterparts. This is reflected not just in the gun's damage rating but also in its Critical Threat Range. In the days before disinfectant, a gunshot wound is devastating and likely to kill even if the shot hits no vital organs (albeit in the long term). Hence, firearms are much more likely t o inflict a Critical H i t on their targets. Additionally, any time an attack with a gun does result in a Critical Hit, the target must make a Reflex Save a t D C 20 to avoid having Grievous Bodily Harm inflicted upon him or her. Even if the Reflex Save is successful, the wounded character must make a Fortitude Save the following day a t D C 15 to avoid the onset of gangrene.
Every firearm has a chance to misfire. This is a d I o roll that accompanies the usual attack roll. When the character pulls
by Type ofshot
3 d I0/1/7
*36-pounders are too heavy to mount on a ship’s upper deck. These are only carried on the lower gun deck of a ship of the line. They can’t be elevated enough to fire effectively at enemy rigging, thus they are never issued with specialized ammunition. A 50pounder is sometimes found on deck in a swivel mount but cannot be elevated either.
Reloading a black powder gun is a lengthy process. A new charge of powder must be inserted along with a wad of cotton or paper and a new musket ball. Then it all must be tamped down and packed in tightly. Improper loading is one of the principle reasons that weapons misfire.
coordinated to fire a t once or in a rolling broadside. They are tricky to fire accurately, though, and using them requires some special considerations.
For purposes of the game, cannon come in seven basic sizes: +pounder, 6-pounder, I pounder, I 8-pounder, 2+pounder, 3 6-pounder, and 50-pounder. This last is an enormous gun that is only available on the largest military vessels. The Spanish use them on ships of the line. The only commercially available ship that can support such a weapon is the Indiaman. Other ships are simply too small for it to be of practical use. The others are commonly found aboard all types of vessels. Sleeker, fast ships tend to favor the smaller 4- and 6-pounders so as t o prevent the guns slowing them down. Merchant vessels also find the +pound guns to be preferable since they leave more room for cargo. Larger military ships favor the 24- and 3 6-pounders for their increased firepower. Pirate ships use a variety since they salvage whatever they can from their prizes including the cannon. The main consideration in the size of the cannon is that of the cannonball it can fire. Cannon shot is classified by
A pistol can be reloaded in three rounds if the wielder is
doing nothing else. These are Full Round Actions. Flintlock muskets require five rounds to reload, and matchlocks need seven. Once again, the character can do nothing but work on reloading the gun.
Pistols are available as Masterwork Weapons. All such Masterwork Pistols are sold in braces. They typically come in a hand-carved box for storage as well. As usual, Masterwork quality adds + I to the attack roll. Muskets are not available as Masterwork Weapons.
Cannon are the principle heavy weapons of the age. They can be fired to devastating effect, particularly when many are
weight. Thus, a 24-pounder can fire a 24-pound cast iron ball. It can’t fire a 36-pound ball because the muzzle is too narrow. Likewise, a 36-pounder can’t fire 24-pound shot because, despite the fact that the smaller ball would fit, the excess room would allow the explosion to escape around it, severely reducing the range and muzzle velocity. For this reason, most ships carry a single class of cannon. Uniformity of ammunition reduces confusion during reloading in a battle. The main exception t o this rule is a pirate ship. Pirates use a wide variety weapons - whatever they can lay hands on. Most pirate captains account for the problems of reloading by ensuring that every cannon crew has plenty of shot, even for an extended battle.
reduced to less than 2 5 percent H u l l Integrity being t o list and have their speed cut in half. A ship reduced t o o H u l l Integrity sinks. N o t e that speed reductions for H u l l Damage are against the ship’s current speed, n o t its maximum total.
Aiming a cannon and firing it accurately is a difficult science, particularly when one is trying to d o i t aboard a ship bobbing in the ocean. Hence, cannon fire is handled a little differently than a standard attack roll, as is the application of any damage sustained. First, the firing character must have the Gunnery Feat to have any hope of firing accurately. Without it, the character suffers a -6 penalty on the attack roll in addition to any other penalties already applied. If the character also is without the Firearms Proficiency Feat, this penalty increases to -8. Also, because shooting a cannon requires the gunner to properly estimate a ballistic curve intercepting a moving target from another moving vehicle, the character applies his or her Wisdom Bonus to the Base Attack Bonus instead of Strength or Dexterity. Next, the shooter must declare a target. The character decides whether to fire the cannon at the enemy ship’s rigging or a t its hull. Both have advantages and disadvantages. In short, it’s easier to hit the hull but harder t o damage it.
Damage from cannon is dependent upon several factors: the target, the size of the shot, and where the shot lands. T h e sheer size of a cannonball has some impact on how much damage i t can inflict since the larger its circumference, the larger the hole it can pound in a ship’s hull. However, where on the ship it lands has some bearing on this damage, and the harm to the ship isn’t the only factor: the injury to the crew is important too. Cannon damage has three basic types: Crew Damage, Rigging Damage, and Hull Damage. These damage factors are presented on “Table 6-3: Cannon” as three numbers separated by slashes under the “Damage” column. T h e first number is the amount of H i t Points of damage that is delivered t o all crewmembers within a IO-foot radius of the shot’s impact. The second number (after the first slash) is the damage done t o the ship’s rigging if the shot hits there. T h e third number (after the second slash) is the damage done to the ship’s hull if a hit is scored on the hull rather than the rigging (see “Firing Cannon” below). The second two numbers in the “Damage” column (Rigging Damage and Hull Damage) are single numbers that express percentages. The number indicated represents the percentage by which the ship’s total speed or hull integrity is reduced: speed for a hit to the rigging, hull integrity for one to the hull. Thus, if a ship’s rigging is struck by a cannonball from a 24-pounder cannon, its speed is reduced one percent. If the blow strikes the hull, the hull integrity of the ship goes down eight percent. Crew Damage is absorbed no matter where the shot hits. Whether it lands in the rigging or smashes into the hull, all crewmembers within 10 feet of the impact sustain Crew Damage as indicated in the “Damage Column” on “Table 6-3: Cannon.” As usual, if a Critical H i t is scored, the Crew Damage is doubled. Ships that have their Speed reduced t o o are dead in the water and cannot escape. Those t h a t have their Hull Integrity reduced to less than 5 0 percent are taking on water and have their speed cut by 2 5 percent. Those
If the character elects to shoot at the rigging, he or she
makes a standard attack roll, applying a - 3 Circumstance Penalty, which accounts for the increased difficulty. If the shot misses, it splashes harmlessly into the water. If it hits, though, the shot either strikes a mast, causing it to crack and splinter, tears through a sail, or otherwise disrupts the rigging, causing a reduction in speed before it then drops onto the deck. The gunner rolls for Crew Damage based on the size cannon fired and applies the percentage reduction in speed to the enemy vessel. Critical Hits double the damage applied to the crew but not the speed. Note that percentage reduction in speed is against the ship’s total normal speed, not its current speed. A ship that is reduced to o Speed is effectively dead in the water. All of its masts have been toppled and its sails and rigging shredded. It can no longer move or maneuver.
If the gunner instead aims at the hull, he or she makes a
normal attack roll. If the shot misses, it falls into the ocean short of the target. However, a hit does not guarantee damage to the vessel. When firing a t the hull, the gunner must score a Critical H i t to inflict Hull Damage. In such a case, the shot smashes into the side of the ship, damaging its hull integrity, reducing it by the percentage indicated for the type of size and shot on “Table 6-3: Cannon.” If it hits, but does not score a Critical Hit, the shot simply bounces off the ship’s hull without inflicting any structural damage. However, a non-Critical H i t still results in Crew Damage.
Fog o War f
6-4:Panache Level Progression
One of the side effects of cannon fire is the thick, choking clouds of black smoke they put out. For every time a cannon fires after its second shot, the gun suffers a -2 Circumstance Penalty to the attack roll on subsequent attacks. These penalties are cumulative and are caused by the smoke obscuring the vision of the crew.
Aside from loose cannon rolling around deck, the most terrifying prospect of being hurt by one’s own weapon is a deadly breech burst. This is often the result of a swollen cannonball being unable t o exit the muzzle. Any time the firing character rolls a natural “ I ” on the attack roll, there is a breech burst of the cannon. The weapon explodes, inflicting damage on the gun crew as though a critical hit had been scored by a cannon of the crew’s type. This is generally enough to kill the entire crew, but if any of them survive and the damage done I S one quarter of their hit points or more, those characters must make Reflex Saves to avoid Grievous Bodily Harm as usual.
While, the shot may not have been able to cause any serious damage to the ship itself, the impact still sends splinters flying or crashes onto the deck or otherwise injures crewmembers within the vicinity of its landing. A Critical Hit inflicts double damage to the crew as usual.
Each type of shot has advantages and disadvantages. Brief descriptions follow.
Ships AC/Damage Resistance
Larger, more powerful ships shrug off cannon fire more easily than small ships. However, the smaller ships are generally harder to hit due both to their size and their speed. “Table 5-6: Ships” outlines the basic statistics for the average vessel. Specific issues are outlined below.
Grapeshot: Essentially a load of musket balls in a sack, this
type of scatter shot wreaks devastating havoc on the crew of a ship, but only minimal damage to the rigging and none at
all to the hull. Grapeshot also has half the range of standard
shot since it breaks up quickly.
q p e $Guns: Each
type of ship is listed with a number of guns (6-gun merchant brig, 14-gun sloop, etc.). These cannon
Cannonball: This is the standard ammunition for any
cannon: a cast iron ball of the appropriate weight.
Chain shot: Two cannonballs chained together. This can cause real trouble in the rigging.
Bar shot: Two cannonballs joined by an iron bar that is welded between them. This is another type of shot designed to damage the rigging of a ship.
Rate o Fire f
While they are effective and destructive weapons, cannon are difficult to load and fire. This is partially due to the preparation that must be done, and partly the result of having to lug huge cannonballs into position, not to mention running the gun out. 4- and 6-pounder guns can be fired once every I O rounds. 12- through 36-pounders fire every 1 2 rounds, and the enormous 50-pounder cannon that can be found on Spanish ships of the line require 1 5 rounds to reload after firing.
3 to 4 5 to 6 7-8 9 to 1 0
-I0 -10 -5 -5
are of a given classification to maximize the ship’s performance. The smaller brigs and sloops use 4 - and 6-pounder guns. Frigates and galleons employ 1 2 - and 18-pounder guns. The larger Indiamen generally employ Quaker guns while ships of the line use 24- and 36-pounder guns. Ships may upgrade the weight of their guns at the cost of speed and armor class. A brig or sloop may upgrade from lightweight cannon to 12-pounders by reducing its speed to 6 0 and dropping 2 points of Armor Class. A frigate or a galleon can move up to 24-pounders by reducing speed by I O and AC by I. Likewise, they could downgrade to lighter cannon from 12-pounders and gain 2 AC and 2 0 speed. No ship smaller than an Indiaman or ship of the line can take on 50-pounder guns.
Damage Resistance: The harder a ship’s hull, the more difficult
Simply put, Panache is adding unnecessary flair to a task so as to make it look more impressive. A man’s reputation was extremely important to his ability to lead others, get the things he needed, impress nobles, and other key aspects of charisma. The greater flair with which a given job can be accomplished, the more impressive is the person who does it. The ability to build a legend around one’s self made it possible for pirates and naval captains alike to inspire others to follow them and to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.
Every character class in the BLACKFLAGS: PIRACY IN THE CARIBBEAN setting gains the Panache ability as a Class Feature at 1st Level. Characters increase in Panache Level according to “Table 6-4: Panache Level Progression.” The character’s Panache Level affects the benefits he or she gains from adding flair to an action. The higher the Panache Level, the greater the potential benefit. However, as a character rises in level, more is expected of him or her. The same old stunts fail to impress after awhile, and the character must continue to attempt more and more dangerous ones. Hence, the difficulty of pulling off a Panache-enhanced maneuver is increased as well. “Table 6-5: Panache Level Effects” outlines the penalties and bonuses associated with each level of Panache. O n the table, “Penalty” is the penalty applied to the die roll any time the character attempts to use Panache on an action. Thus, if the character has Panache Level 3 and attempts to use Panache in a duel with an enemy captain, he or she applies a -3 penalty t o the die roll any time Panache is attempted. 59
it is to damage in battle. T h e Damage Resistance number is applied against the Hull and Rigging Damage a ship takes in battle. Thus, a 20-gun galleon that absorbs 5 percent Hull Damage from a 3 6-pound cannonball, reduces that number to 4 percent since the galleon has Damage Resistance 1. Note that this is a very simple system for handling ship-toship combat. For a more detailed one, see Avalanche Press’s forthcoming book, SEA AND FOAM.
Panache is a new ability unique to the BLACK FLAGS: PIRACY I N THE CARIBBEAN setting. Its purpose is t o add the swashbuckling heroics of pirate films to the game.
Table 6-7: Panache Rewards for 6c10 Witnesses
0 -20 -30
“Bonus” is the potential benefit the character can gain from the attempt. In the example duel from above, the character would gain + I to the damage roll each time he or she hit using a Panache-enhanced strike. The bonus is applied wherever it can be, but note that sometimes it’s not always possible. For instance, a character might use Panache to pick the lock of a treasure chest. The penalty would apply to the Open Lock Skill Check, but the bonus might not be usable. Once the lock is open, to what does one add the bonus number?
a 6th Level character would have Panache Level 3 and would thus incur the - 3 penalty to the roll. H e or she couldn’t choose to perform the action a t Level 2 and thereby only suffer a -2 penalty to the roll. Once again, that’s the trouble with Panache. You have to keep doing bigger and better things. The character does get to apply the maximum bonus allowed so long as it is possible to apply it.
With increased risk of failure and potentially limited returns, why would anyone add Panache to a die roll? Because Panache can be turned into tangible benefits down the road. In addition to Panache Level, characters have a trait called Panache Points. These points are used to create special effects, and they can only be gained through the use of Panache in more mundane situations. First Level characters have 5 Panache Points t o spend. They gain another I O Panache Points each time they gain a new Panache Level. Beyond that, the character has t o take risks to garner them.
If the roll succeeds, the character is awarded Panache Points. The number of points awarded is based on two factors: the number of witnesses and the relative Challenge Rating of the task or opponent. In general, the tougher the opponent or challenge and the more witnesses, the more points the character is awarded. Panache Points are about building the character’s reputation, and, thus, greater rewards are offered for those who perform dangerous feats in especially challenging situations.
However, there is some limit to such posturing. For the most part, no one wants to deal with a fool or a bully. Characters who take on challenges well beyond their abilities suffer negative consequences beyond simple failure. In general, taking on an opponent or task that is six or seven Challenge Ratings above the character’s level is considered foolhardy. Taking on tasks even greater is stupid. Characters who do so actually lose Panache Points even if they don’t attempt to add panache to a dice roll. This is a form of negative reputation building. The reason is simple: characters who take foolish risks often end up getting hurt or worse. People who associate with characters that take foolish risks often end up getting hurt too. The fool gets the more sensible person into trouble. Hence the penalty.
To gain Panache Points, the character must willfully add flair to
an attack roll or Skill Check. H e or she adds that unnecessary flair to the action to make it look more stylish. This can be dangerous in certain situations, and that makes pulling it off impressive to those watching. T h e player simply indicates that he or she is “adding panache” to any die roll prior to making the roll. The character must suffer the penalty indicated on Table 6-5 a t the highest possible level. For instance,
Likewise, no one respects a bully. Those who like to pick on people considerably weaker than they are not only cruel but suggest they can’t beat anyone of similar stature. Likewise, if a character only attempts the simplest tasks, people start to wonder if he or she can actually do anything harder. Thus, a character who attempts a deed six or seven Challenge Ratings below his or her level is ignored, and one who attempts one lower loses Panache Points as well. Tables 6-6, 6-7, and 6-8 detail the rewards for adding Panache to an action based on the relative C R of the task in relation to the number of witnesses. The more witnesses, the greater the reward or penalty. Having no witnesses creates a slightly different situation. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to have people see what you do so that you can build your reputation. Sometimes, though, it’s more advantageous to take care of things behind the scenes. When no witnesses are involved, it’s more acceptable to take on challenges that are six to I I levels higher than the character. When no one’s watching, the character can cheat or do whatever is necessary to succeed. No one’s there t o witness how he or she actually pulled it off. Thus, if the character takes on such a challenge and succeeds, he or she is awarded Panache Points. After all, the character can tell the story any way that he or she likes afterwards (including dismissing the difficulty of the task). Similarly, it’s okay to handle things (usually troublesome people) that are considerably beneath the character’s level when no one is looking. This allows the character t o see
t o things himself or herself without having t o stain the
T h e reverse principles are true as well, though. A character that is only six to I I levels above an opponent is penalized Panache Points for fighting such an opponent with no witnesses. T h e reason is because the other character has the opportunity to cheat or otherwise even the odds, making it foolhardy to fight him or her without someone looking on. Likewise, a character should never fight someone who is more than I I levels beyond him or her with no witnesses around. T h e higher-ranking character is not only more formidable, he or she can cheat, making things that much harder on the overmatched character. Finally, characters are penalized for fighting others or taking on challenges with no witnesses if they would normally receive a bonus for doing so in front of others. A character who misses an opportunity to win Panache Points and therefore build his or her reputation is perhaps the biggest fool of all. “Table 6-9: Panache Rewards for o Witnesses” outlines the number of Panache Points awarded or penalized when no one is around.
Spending Panache Points
Panache Points are used to create special effects in the game. They may be spent for the following purposes: Gain a Panache Bonus to a Charisma check. Gain a Panache Bonus on a Reflex Save. Add a Morale Bonus to an ally’s attack roll or Skill check. Temporarily gain any Panache Feat.
+ + +
-20 -20 -15
-25 -20 -20 -15
-30 -25 -20 -20 -I5
-25 -25 -20 -20 -15
-25 -20 -20 -15
+15 +20 $25
+I5 +20 +25
-25 -20 -20
+I5 +20 +25
+I5 +20 +25
-15 -20 -25
+I5 +20 +25
+IO +I5 +20 +25
-15 -20 -25
Table 6-9: Panache Rewardsfor o Witnesses
+I0 +I5 0
Panache Bonus to Charisma Check: Because a character’s reputation
is tied up in Panache, it can be used to affect his or her Charisma Modifier. Any die roll that involves using the character’s Charisma Modifier can be affected, including Leadership checks. For every three Panache Points spent, the character can add I t o the die roll. The maximum Panache Bonus that can be applied is 5.
Panache Bonus to Reflex Save: Much of what a character does
when adding flair to an action is Dexterity-related. Consequently, he or she has some natural aptitude when trying to avoid trouble. When a character must make a Reflex Saving Throw, he or she may spend Panache Points to enhance the roll. For every three Panache Points spent, the character may add i to the die roll. The maximum Panache Bonus that may be applied is 3.
legends is to unexpectedly do what seems to be impossible. Panache Points enable characters to pull off things they shouldn’t be able to do. By spending Panache Points, the character can buy for one round any Panache Feat he or doesn’t already have (see “Panache Feats” below). T h e character can use the Feat for that round (and that round only) regardless of whether o r not he or she has the proper prerequisites. T h e number of Panache Points that must be spent varies by Feat. See ”Table 6 - i O ” for more details. A character cannot spend more Panache Points than he or she currently has available. If the character has 0 points or less, he or she will have to acquire some more first.
It is possible for a character to have a negative number of Panache Points. If he or she loses points for committing a foolhardy action (see Tables 6-6, 6-7, 6-8, and 6-9) and the
number of points lost is greater than the amount the Character actually has at the moment, he or she is stuck with negative Panache Points. T h e character will have to earn some more to dig out of the hole. This is a factor of the character having done serious harm t o his or her reputation. H e or she has done something so stupid or heinous, that the character cannot benefit from Panache. The character must restore his or her name first. Panache Points also decay naturally At the beginning of each game session, the character loses three Panache Points. Additionally, the character loses one point per day within the game. Once again, Panache and reputation are built on the “what-have-you-done-lately ” premise. A character must work
Morale Bonusfor Allies: Characters with a great deal of
Panache inspire others around them. Consequently, being near to someone of this stature allows lesser characters to benefit. At a cost of five Panache Points, the character may grant a +2 Morale Bonus to one other character. The target must be within i 5 feet of the bestowing character and must be a t least one level lower to benefit. For each additional three Panache Points spent, the bestowing character can affect one additional person. Additional targets must also be within I 5 feet and be of a t least one level lower. The bonus affects all die rolls and lasts for five rounds plus one round per Panache Level of the bestowing character.
Gain a Temporay Panache Feat: One of the things that makes 62
constantly to maintain his or her stature as a legend. Let it go too long, and suddenly n o one remembers
Feats allow characters to do extraordinary things, and this leads to their impressing others. Some Feats facilitate this better than others. Such Feats are designated as Panache Feats. These new Feats appear in Part 5. In addition to these, a number of existing General Feats have also been designated as Panache Feats. Those that have appear on “Table 6-10: Panache Feats.” A Panache Feat is one that may be purchased for temporary use with Panache Points. As mentioned above, a character does not need the prerequisites for a Panache Feat to purchase it for a single round’s use. A character must have all the prerequisites if he or she wants to add it permanently. One note on the chart: the Improved Critical Feat may only be applied to melee weapons and thrown weapons in this setting. Firearms use the Deadeye Feat.
Table 6-10:Panache Feats
A list of all Feats that are designated as Panache Feats follows. Those that appear for the first time in BLACK FLAGS: PIRACY THE IN CARIBBEAN marked in bold. “Points” indicates the number of are Panache Points a character must spend to purchase the Feat for one round.
Alertness Ambidexterity Blind Fight Combat Reflexes Deadeye Dodge Expertise Far Shot Firearms Proficiency Gunnery Improved Critical’ Improved Disarm Improved Initiative Improved Trip Improvised Weapon Proficiency Mobility Point Biank Shot Precise Shot Quick Draw Rapid Shot
Points 3 9 9 6 9 3 3 6 3 6 6 6 6 6 3 6 3 9 3 6
*Only usable on melee weapons and thrown weapons
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Black Flags: Piracy in the Caribbean copyright 2002, Avalanche Press, Ltd.
T a k e your dzo System campaign to a new century o adventuring and discovery. This is the essentialguidebook to f role-play 18th Century pirates and privateers i n the Caribbean. This book is loaded with historical information on lije at sea, the political division of the New World and colotful characters like M a y Read and Anne Bonny who made pirates into legends. I t includesf i v e new character classes, three character class templates and f o u r new prestige classes. some panache to There's also a host o f new feats and skills, rulesfor ship-to-ship combat, a special secti r play, and a re-evaluation offi ective o f the period.
Press LTD, Virginia Beach, VA.
800-564-9008 www.avalanchePress.com /
opyright 0 2001,Avalanche Press LTD. AU Rights Reserved
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