Social Conduct Aboard Ships

Privateer’s Code

Often called a “privateer’s code” or “gentleman’s code,” the following strictures are usually adhered to only by officers or those sailors whose captains consider themselves to be more than simple criminals—most frequently buccaneers who operate with government approval.

• A privateer shall not engage in one-on-one combat with an unarmed foe.
• Passengers and prisoners who may be objects of lust to crew members are not to be imposed upon or harassed.
• A privateer shall never refuse satisfaction to an honorable opponent.
• A privateer shall always accept the surrender of an honorable foe—such prisoners may later be ransomed or press-ganged into the crew.
• A privateer shall not beat or mutilate slaves or prisoners.
• A privateer shall never attack from concealment nor strike down an unsuspecting foe from behind.
• A privateer shall take what she deserves by virtue of her strength of arms, but shall not plunder the poor.
• A privateer’s word is as strong as her steel. She shall never break a promise nor renege on an agreement.
• A privateer shows discretion in conversation and does not pry into matters that don’t concern her.

Pirate’s Code

Most of a pirate’s code focuses on mutual defense and avoiding conflict through equal wealth distribution.

• Every member of the crew gets an equal share of treasure. Anyone caught taking more than his fair share of loot, or refusing to report its discovery in a timely manner, shall be marooned. The captain receives extra shares of any treasure, as do shipwrights, carpenters, and officers to lesser degrees.
• Every member of the crew must tend to his own weapons and keep them ready for battle.
• Anyone who shows cowardice in the face of the enemy or deserts in battle shall have his throat cut or be marooned.
• No crew member shall hide his abilities from the crew. A sailor who can perform magic shall use his abilities on behalf of the ship.
• No crew member shall take a position on a new ship or talk of leaving until each crew member has acquired at least 1,000 gp worth of treasure through his labors.
• No fighting is allowed between crewmates. Quarrels shall be set aside until shore leave, at which point grievances may be settled with violence on shore.
• All crew members must obey the captain and his officers.
• Any pirate found stealing from crewmates shall take 30 lashes and be put ashore at port.
• The person who spots a sail shall have first pick of its loot.
• Any crew member who loses a limb in service to the ship shall be paid 800 gp for its loss.
• Every sailor has an equal right to vote in decisions put to the crew by the captain.

Shipboard Conduct

Many of the following rules are common sense, and may be enforced on pirate, military, and merchant vessels.

• Any sailor caught below deck with open flame, magical or mundane, will suffer 10 lashes. All candles and lanterns are to be extinguished at sunset.
• No sailor is to play cards or dice for money while onboard, nor use such things to take advantage of her crewmates on shore.
• No sailor is to bring aboard a husband, wife, child, person of ill virtue, or any passenger
unbeknownst to the captain. Both sailor and passenger face marooning.
• Every sailor must do her fair share of work, and neither shirk her duty nor pass off work to another, lest she face 20 lashes. A ship’s bard may rest 1 day per week, but must stand ready to entertain on all others.
• Every sailor receives an equal share of food and drink, and 1 ration of liquor every day.
• Any sailor found drunk on duty shall face 10 lashes. Any sailor too drunk to function effectively during battle shall be killed.
• A sailor who suspects a hazard, be it storm cloud, sea monster, or enemy ship, must raise the alarm immediately. Any sailor who sees an unfamiliar sea creature must inform the captain immediately.
• A sailor shall not speak to any creature of the sea without the captain’s permission.
• A sailor must not speak ill of the dead lest they summon restless spirits to the ship.

Seaboard Slang:

Adrift: Floating loose at sea. Can also mean someone who has run away or gone missing.
Anchor: A person who wears heavy metal armor.
Torden’s Fingers: A-cat-o’-nine-tails.
Binnacle: A glass-topped box fixed to a stand on the deck. The binnacle houses a compass.
Bubbles: A person who can’t swim.
Cannon: A spellcaster with flashy offensive spells.
Captain’s Dance: When two ships meet in open water and wish to parlay, each ship sends out a boat. The two captains meet on one ship; the two first mates meet on the other.
Chase: A ship that is being pursued by pirates.
Coaming: A raised lip around a hatch to keep water from spilling belowdecks.
Fancy Jacket: Someone who dresses and talks like a pirate but has no real sailing experience.
Fast Colors: A country’s flag. Privateers sometimes fly pirate or merchant flags to lure pirate ships close, then raise their true flags when combat begins.
Fishslicer: A small blade, like a dagger.
Following Sea: Waves going in the same direction as a ship.
Frenzy: A fight, particularly a tavern brawl.
Gallows Jumper: Someone who has died and then come back to life, such as through a raise dead spell.
Holystone: Bars of sandstone used to scrub the deck.
Jack Tar: A pirate.
Lights: Lungs. (The “lights” in famous exclamations like “I’ll have your liver and lights!” actually refers to lungs, rather than eyes, as landlubbers often imagine.)
Lubber: A clumsy or stupid person, often a “landlubber.”
Paying Cargo: Passengers.
Running Lunch: A rat or large insect. Sailors sometimes joke that a new crewman must “catch himself a running lunch.”
Scaly: A fish. Can also refer to a sea monster.
Sea Legs: The ability to maintain balance on a rolling deck.
The Sweet Trade: Piracy.
Windbound: Unable to set sail because of wind conditions. Can mean any situation in which a person cannot act because of outside circumstances.
Windspinner: A spellcaster, specifically one who possesses weather magic.
X-er: A treasure hunter—someone always looking for “the X that marks the spot.” Can also mean a Pathfinder.

Information taken from Pathfinder: Pirates of the Inner Sea.

Social Conduct Aboard Ships

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