Themes: Pirate

So far almost every theme I’ve written has been something from my initial list of concepts. Only two themes came about because a player wanted something specific for a character. The first is the noble and the second is this one. Both of those characters are in the same campaign, and the second season of that campaign is starting very soon. Coincidence!?


You were trained on the sea, but not in the mundane life of an ordinary sailor. You may have been a common smuggler, lived the riskier but more rewarding lifestyle of waterway bandits, or joined a government-sanctioned crew commissioned to stop the former. Your dream has always been to lead your own crew, and if you keep yourself alive long enough your exploits and experience will inspire loyalty in your allies and respect in your enemies.

Theme Skills: Acrobatics, Climb, Intimidate, Profession (sailor), Swim
Theme Feats: Intimidating Prowess, Lightning Reflexes, Lunge, Nimble Moves, Two-Weapon Fighting, Vital Strike

Theme Quests

Novice Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 3rd tier.

  • The pirate overhears a group of sailors in a tavern talking about a hidden treasure on a small island nearby. They’re mostly speculating about what it is, who hid it, and why, but they do know their captain has a map or journal that will lead them to it. If somebody beats them to the punch, it could be a serious windfall.
  • Rumors are swirling of a pirate’s cove, a safe haven where seafaring bandits can hide, trade, and restock without fear of arrest. If it exists, it would be an excellent home base. But there is a chance, however small, that the rumors only exist to lead pirates into a trap, or that the cove is legitimate but navy ships are bearing down on it, intent on razing it to the ground.

Expert Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 6th tier.

  • A legendary ghost ship has been spotted nearby. The tales alone are enough to scare most ships from the area it patrols, and the few foolish enough to seek it out never come back. But a true pirate had heard the legends of this ship, and knows it has never been seen this far from the waters where it sank. Is it a hoax, a portent of some coming tragedy, or or a final mission of revenge against the crew who sank it decades ago?
  • A tribe of aquatic humanoids, like merfolk or sahuagin, has formed a new country and established sovereign borders. Their territory includes popular shipping routes, and moving through the borders is considered trespassing at best and an act of war at worst. But it’s not clear whether this is the first strike of a belligerent tribe trying to hurt surface-dwellers as much as possible, or the last resort of a people whose lives have been disrupted by the ships above and for whom civil negotiation has already failed.

Advanced Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 9th tier.

  • The port in a major port city is locked down. Nobody can enter or leave by water, and it’s been that way for a month. The extended shore leave is grating on sailors and pirates, and they’re starting to take it out on each other and anybody they can find. Businesses and captains are losing money as well; some are planning to break the law and fight their way out if anybody tries to stop them, and even the most patient are considering the town a write-off. If nobody finds out what’s causing the blockade and stops it, the city might become a ghost town.
  • A captain is calling for a crew for the biggest theft anybody has heard of. The target is an inhabited island with great treasure, like a royal noble’s summer home or a monastery with a powerful religious artifact. The job is fraught with peril and will bring the crew great infamy, but the reward is easily worth it. The only cause for concern is that the captain in question is known to have died ten years ago, attempting the very same theft.

Legendary Quest: The sea is angry. It’s attacking ships of all sizes as though it has a mind of its own, smashing them to pieces regardless of their composition and leaving few survivors. None of the sailors who lived to tell about it saw a specific cause, but it could be a hungry monster awakened from the deep, a powerful druid reclaiming the waters for their original inhabitants, or an absurdly large water elemental who doesn’t know how else to act. As long as the waters are like this, sea travel is basically impossible, and nobody knows how long it might be before the problem finds its way to land as well.

Theme Abilities

Deck Caster (Ex): A rolling sea is no trouble for you. You do not need to make a concentration check to cast a spell due to vigorous motion or wind with rain and sleet while casting.
Deck Runner (Ex): A pitched floor doesn’t limit your speed. You can move at full speed while making an Acrobatics check on a narrow or uneven surface without increasing the DC. You must be at least 4th tier and possess the deck walker ability before selecting this ability.
Deck Walker (Ex): You grew up on a moving floor. You take no penalty to Acrobatics checks for being on a slightly slippery or slightly unsteady surface, and the DC for being on a mildly or severely unsteady surface decreases by 2.
Friend in Every Port (Ex): Your travels have made you many acquaintances. Whenever you enter a settlement to which you have been before and to which you have not been in at least six months, you can make a Diplomacy or Knowledge (local) check with a DC equal to 10 + 3 per size category of the settlement (13 for a thorpe, 16 for a hamlet, and so on, up to 34 for a metropolis). If you succeed, you learn generally what happened in the city since you last visited it, including any and all major stories, people, or events. This check takes 1 hour. You can also find a place to eat and sleep for free for the first week you are in the settlement.
Helmsman (Ex): You can steer a ship with the best of them. You gain a +4 bonus to driving checks for water vehicles, which also increases the vehicle’s the AC, saving throw bonuses, and other checks appropriately.
Hold Breath (Ex): The amount of time you can stay underwater has extra importance when you live on the sea. You can hold your breath for a number of rounds equal to three times your Constitution score.
Improved Deck Caster (Ex): Even a storm can’t disrupt your magic. You do not need to make a concentration check to cast a spell due to violent motion or wind with hail and debris while casting. You must be at least 4th tier and possess the deck caster ability before selecting this ability.
Navigator (Ex): Your crew looks to you to get them safely home. You gain a +2 theme bonus to Perception and Survival checks on water, and you can always tell which direction is north when you have a clear view of the sun or stars.
Sea Creature Expert (Ex): You’re familiar with the monsters who could attack your ship. You gain a +2 bonus to Knowledge checks to identify monsters with the aquatic subtype.
Steady Feet (Ex): You offer no advantages to your enemies, even when you’re off-balance. You are not flat-footed when climbing or using Acrobatics to balance.

Advancement Abilities

Capable Crewman (Ex): Your strength under pressure encourages your allies. At 4th tier, allies within 30 feet of you who can see and hear you gain a +2 bonus to saving throws against charm and fear.
Inspiring Officer (Ex): When things are grim, you know just what to say to motivate your crew. At 7th tier, as a move action you can give a rousing speech. Any ally within 30 feet who can see and understand you gains temporary hit points equal to twice your theme tier. You cannot use this ability if you cannot move or speak. You can use this ability three times per day.
Tactical Captain (Ex): Even simple orders from you can drastically turn the tide of battle. At 10th tier, at will as a standard action you can issue a command to all allies within 30 feet who can see and understand you. When you issue this command, each affected ally gains a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, or AC and a -2 penalty to another option from the same list. You choose which option gains the bonus and penalty when you issue the command. The bonus and penalty last for one minute.

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