Skull & Shackles
To simulate the busy working day of a pirate, each day a PC must make skill checks to complete his or her day’s work aboard the ship. The DCs are usually 10 for these checks but may vary due to weather or other circumstances and penalties may apply due to sea-sickness/fatigue etc. During the day, clever pirates find ways to perform other activities such as talking to colleagues, stealing from colleagues or just slacking off in general. A PC who completes their day’s tasks can make one ship action during the day (note: it is assumed that these tasks take the whole day to do, so influencing an NPC might represent several conversations and stealing may represent scouting a location, watching for patrols then running in when the room is empty):
Work Dilligently: take no ship action but gain a +4 bonus to one skill check for your daily task (declare before rolling).
Influence: work normally and make a single influence check (bluff, diplomacy, intimidate or roleplay) versus one NPC
Sneak: work normally and briefly explore one area of the ship (single perception check with no chance of getting caught).
Shop: take a -2 penalty on all task checks and visit Grok’s stores
Shirk: take a -2 penalty on all task checks but spend time thoroughly exploring an area of the ship (take 10 on perception but risk getting caught)
Socialize: work normally and make Diplomacy to gather information about up to 2 crew members
Slack Off: take -2 penalty on all task checks but choose one benefit: automatically recover from fatigue, regain 1 extra hp, regain 1 point to a damaged ability score
At the end of the day, pirates eat and experience ‘bloody hour’ where all the day’s punishments are meted out (see below). Afterwards, PCs can take an additional night time ship action:
Sleep: go straight to your bunk and sleep through the night. Automatically recover from fatigue and regain 1 bonus hp overnight.
Gamble: join in with pirate entertainments (see below)
Entertain: make Perform checks to influence the crew. Success grants +2 bonus to influence all crew for 24 hours (in addition to certain personal bonuses).
Influence: as above
Sneak: as above but take 20
Steal: attempt to open a locker or locked door but risk detection
Socialize: as above
Craft: make a craft check
Once the night watch sets in, most pirates go to their hammocks. PCs can attempt further ship actions during the middle watches but must make Constitution checks to avoid being fatigued the entire next day (DC= 10+4 per additional action).
Sneak as above
Steal as above
Influence as above
Craft as above (noisy actions might lead to angry crewmates)
With time on their hands and precious few places to go, Shackles pirates have come up with an astonishing array of pastimes.
Performances: One way pirates amuse themselves is through songs and stories. Pirates love a good sea chantey, and characters with the right kind of Perform skills quickly find themselves popular members of the crew. However, a bad performance could result in the crew ignoring the next performance unless the performer makes a Bluff or Intimidate check before doing so.
Arm Wrestling: Not merely typical arm wrestling bouts, such matches are usually conducted on a barrel top covered in broken glass, knives, or caltrops. Participants make opposed Strength checks, with the higher result determining the winner, and the loser taking damage as his hand and arm are pushed onto whatever lies on the table.
Hog Lob: Participants lob a lead ingot covered in a greased piglet skin, the “hog,” as far across the deck as possible. Some pirates claim to have participated in games played against The Hurricane King using a live hog.
Heave: This potentially deadly drinking game is played with rum and takes place between any number of pirates, who bet to predict the winner beforehand. Each pirate drinks a half pint of rum in one swig. Pirates then take turns drinking until only one is left standing. Some tales tell of entire crews drinking themselves to death through this game, leaving ships of drunk ghosts wandering the shipping routes.
Boxing: Two pirates test their mettle against each other, in hand to hand combat. Magic use is highly discouraged, though sometimes used in secret..
Rope Bash: Little more than an admonishment—and occasionally used as a sign of endearment—a rope bash is a single attack with the hefty, sealed end of a ship’s rope that delivers nonlethal damage.
The Lash: This is an attack using a whip. Damage dealt by the lash during ‘Bloody Hour’ is typically non-lethal. Most punishments are dealt with by a few lashes.
Cat-o’-Nine-Tails: This is an attack using a cat-o’-nine-tails, also referred to simply as a cat— which deals slashing damage on a successful hit. Serious transgressions are typically met with the ‘Cat’.
Confined in the Sweat-box: A cramped metal box left on deck and exposed to the sun, a sweatbox is terribly confining and replicates unbearably hot conditions. Each hour a character spends in the box, she must succeed at a fortitude saving throw or take nonlethal damage. Victims typically spend 8, 12 or even 24 hours locked up in the sweat-box but serious transgressions can lead to longer (sometimes with short breaks to allow the crew-member to be conscious for the punishment).
Keelhauling: The most frightful of pirate punishments is keelhauling, as it generally ends in death—often by decapitation. Being keelhauled involves being tied to a rope looped over a ship’s keel and dragged down one side of a ship, underwater across the barnacle encrusted hull, and up the other side. Keelhauling takes several rounds and can be done either fast or slow. If done fast, the barnacles cut deep and flense the victim, dealing damage per round. If done slow, shallower cuts are incurred, dealing less damage per round, but the risk of drowning increases . How long keelhauling takes typically depends on the vessel.