Officer Roles


The Captain of a ship is responsible for the crew’s morale, alacrity, and expertise. On board, her word is law and she is responsible for justice (however rough) amongst the crew.

Benefit: A Captain adds her Charisma modifier to the ship’s Loyalty score. She can make use of the ship’s Loyalty score to inspire the crew or free them from mind affecting magic.

Vacancy Penalty: A ship without a Captain loses its stomach for the fight. A leaderless crew takes a –4 penalty to attack rolls and Will saving throws. A ship without a Captain surrenders when suffering 25% casualties, unless other extenuating circumstances exist (for example, if the crew knows the opposing ship will execute them).

Ship Initiative Modifier: Charisma

Special: A Captain typically does not directly command crew, relying on her officers to execute her will. The Captain designates the tasks she wants completed and which officer she wants to complete them on a turn-by-turn basis. However, the Captain (if she chooses) can directly command 20 crewmen, just as a Mate. These crewmen directly under her command are in addition to the orders she relays to the ship’s officers.


The Navigator is responsible for the navigation of a sailing vessel.

Benefit: Any Knowledge (geography) or Survival checks to avoid getting lost are made using the Navigator’s modifier. The Navigator adds her Wisdom or Intelligence modifier (whichever is better) to a ship’s Loyalty score. Navigators are responsible for the sails and rigging. At the start of combat, the Navigator makes a Profession (sailor) or Survival check to enable his ship to take advantage of the weather gauge. Rules for the weather gauge are discussed in the Combat chapter.

Vacancy Penalty: A ship without a Navigator immediately becomes lost, but may make Survival checks (DC 15) to escape this condition. In addition, the ship’s maximum Speed is reduced by 2 (to a minimum of 1). Finally, a ship without a Navigator cannot take advantage of the weather gauge if it is available, and if there is no Navigator at the start of a naval engagement, the ship cannot claim gauge.

Ship Initiative Modifier: Intelligence or Wisdom.

Special: A Navigator may command up to 20 crewmen, as a Mate does.


The Chaplain is responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of those on board.

Benefit: A Chaplain adds his Wisdom or Charisma bonus to the ship’s Loyalty, whichever is higher. In order to gain this benefit, the majority of the crew must share either the Chaplain’s alignment, the Chaplain’s deity, or the alignment of the Chaplain’s deity.

Vacancy Penalty: A ship without a Chaplain takes a –2 penalty to Loyalty.

Ship Initiative Modifier: Wisdom or Charisma

Special: A Chaplain may command up to 20 crewmen, as a Mate does. A PC serving the role of Chaplain may also fill one other officer role. However, doing so does not allow him to command extra crew — that is, he still only may issue commands to 20 crewmen during a naval engagement. See Combat for more details.


The Surgeon deals with battlefield casualties and the ongoing health of the crew.

Benefit: A Surgeon adds his Wisdom or Intelligence bonus to the ship’s Loyalty. In addition, the Surgeon is responsible for keeping injured crewmen alive and — when possible — getting them back into the battle. Oftentimes, Surgeons give their crewmen standing orders to fan out across the ship and treat the injured as necessary.

Stabilize: The Surgeon and his crewmen are responsible for stabilizing the injured. At any time during his Naval Action, the Surgeon may make a DC 15 Heal check as a free action. If he’s successful, he stabilizes one crewman; this crewman cannot fight again that day (unless later the recipient of magical healing) but will live to fight another day. For every 5 points he beats this check an additional downed crewman is stabalised. Every additional crewman under the Surgeon’s command grants him a +2 aid bonus to this check. The Surgeon need not be present in order for his Heal check to affect an injured crewman, so long as at least two of his crewmen are in the same Location as the injured sailor. In essence, the player of the Surgeon makes one Heal check to determine the effectiveness of those under his command, regardless of where they are on the ship. For example, if the Surgeon has 20 crewmen under his command and the ship has just suffered a round of cannonball fire, he and his crewmen would gain +40 to his heal check. If he raised a 22 on his own account he would recover 10 crew — two by the surgeon himself and 8 more by his crewmen — as long as all the injured crewmen can be treated that round. Crewmen stabilized in this manner are unavailable to the Captain and other officers during the battle, but will recover afterward.

Patch Up: In addition to stabilizing crewmen, each round on his Naval Action the Surgeon may make a DC 25 Heal check as a standard action if he or his crewmen are actively treating the injured. If this “patch up” check is successful, one of the injured crewmen who normally would have been stabilized is instead healed sufficiently to immediately return to the battle. If he and his crewmen are spread out across the ship, it’s the Surgeon’s choice where the injured crewman is patched up, so long as he or his crewmen are in that area. For every 5 points by which the Surgeon beats the DC, one more injured crewman is returned to the fray. The same +2 bonus for assisting crew applies. For example, if the Surgeon rolls a 37 on his Heal check, he and his crewmen return 3 injured crewmen back to the battle, providing the Captain and Mates more resources with which to work. This ability does not apply to officers and PCs. Using a channel energy class feature in a location on the turn it is hit or the turn after automatically patches up all the downed crew in that location.

Assessment: As a standard action on his Naval Action, the surgeon can assess the crewmen of the enemy ship. To do so, he must have line of sight to the ship. He makes a DC 30 Perception check and, if successful, gains a basic understanding of the status of the enemy crewmen. He learns information such as percentage of crewmen lost (either through death or being stabilized and therefore unable to fight). In addition, he can say how many officers have become incapacitated or died. The GM tells him a value +/–1 of the correct number in regards to officers. If the Surgeon instead beats a DC of 40, the GM tells him the exact number. If the surgeon has a spyglass he gets a +5 bonus to this check additionally if he is on the poopdeck he has a +5 bonus to the check or +10 if he is in a crows nest.

Post-Battle Recovery: At the end of the battle, the Surgeon and his crew move about the ship and tend to the injured and dying. The Surgeon makes a special Heal check, with the result of the check plus 10 being the percentage of “deceased” crew from the battle that don’t actually die. This check requires one hour from the Surgeon and his crew, and he must have at least 4 crewmembers under his command during this task. For example, if the Surgeon was unable to reach the lower hull to save 15 crewmembers there, those sailors were removed from the battle and marked as deceased (see the “stabilize” action above). With this action, the Surgeon could save some percentage of those crewmembers, as determined by his Heal check. The surgeon makes one check for the entire ship, using his result to determine the total percentage recovered after battle.

Vacancy Penalty: Without a Surgeon, only 5% of casualties recover at the end of the battle. A ship without a Surgeon is susceptible to disease and illness, causing 1d6 of its crewmen to become incapacitated (treat as 0 hp) per week.

Ship Initiative Modifier: Intelligence or Wisdom

Special: To perform their duties, Surgeons can designate up to 20 crewmen as interns and send them out to transport wounded and unconscious crewmen back to the Surgeon for treatment. Alternately, Surgeons may lead up to 20 crewmen (interns) around the ship to treat casualties where they lie in the field (Surgeon’s choice).


The ship’s Mates command its crewmen in any number of roles. Each commands up to 20 crewmen in whatever tasks are required. On larger ships these tasks can be specialized, but on smaller ships the Mates are expected to lead their crewmen in completing different tasks. There is no limit to the number of Mates on one ship; however, the GM should ensure all PCs have a role before assigning NPCs into these roles, and shouldn’t make an NPC a Mate unless it’s truly necessary. It’s also possible — and sometimes necessary — for two Mates to fill the same role. For example, on a ship with multiple gun decks, it probably makes sense to have two (or more) gunnery sergeants, each commanding 20 crewmen as necessary to enact the Captain’s wishes in naval combat.

Away Team: A Mate leading crewmen on a boarding mission grants his crewmen benefits while aboard the enemy ship. All away team crewmen (not officers or PCs) gain a +3 bonus when flanking an enemy, instead of the standard +2. In addition, they all receive a +2 morale bonus to saving throws.

Combat: If a Mate commanding crewmen in hand-to-hand combat aboard his own ship has the Improved Initiative feat, all his crewmen gain a +2 feat bonus to initiative. This bonus does not stack with Improved Initiative; that is, if the crewman has Improved Initiative on her own, she does not also gain this +2 bonus. In addition, all his crewmen (not officers or PCs) fighting to repel a boarding party gain a +1 morale bonus to attack and damage rolls.

Fire Master: A Mate specializing in dealing with onboard fires gains a +2 bonus to Reflex saves to extinguish these fires. In addition, only a roll of a natural 1 inflicts damage on the crewmen for an unsuccessful check. Normally, crewmen are affected by a failure of more than 5 on the Reflex save to extinguish fires. More information about fires aboard a ship and extinguishing them can be found in the Combat chapter.

Gunnery: A Mate applies any of his seige-weapon-specific feats to crewmen (not officers or PCs) under his command. These include Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization, Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Naval Gunnery, and Storm-Tossed Gunnery.

Sailing: A Mate can direct five crewmen to raise or lower sails in 1 round, rather than the standard 2 rounds, with a successful DC 20 Profession (sailor) check.

Temporary Captain: Should the Captain fall in battle, a Mate, Navigator, or Chaplain may attempt to step into the leadership void. The Mate must take a ship-based action as well as his own as a full-round action, during which time he makes an impassioned plea to the crew to rally in spite of the loss of their Captain. The Mate then makes a Profession (sailor) check opposed by the ship’s Loyalty score. If the Mate is successful, he becomes the ship’s Captain in the eyes of the crew; all crewmen who heard the new Captain’s rallying speech gain a +2 morale bonus on saving throws, attack rolls, damage rolls, and skill checks for a number of rounds equal to the new Captain’s Charisma modifier (minimum 1).

Vacancy Penalty: An untrained or leaderless crew is inefficient, and twice as many crewmen are needed to complete crew actions other than firing cannon. This includes bailing water, extinguishing fires, grappling, and managing sails.

Ship Initiative Modifier: Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma

Special: A Mate must be in the same or an adjacent Location to command his crewmen. However, a Mate can give standing orders for a crewman (or part of a crew); those orders remain in effect until a Mate (the same or different) gives new orders to the crewmen. For example, a Mate can command 10 crewmen of his 20-man crew to go below deck and bail water, and then command the other 10 to follow him to the brig. The partial crew that follows him to the brig can receive new orders at any time, but the 10 who went to bail water will need to continue at their task until told otherwise.

Officer Roles

The Skull and Shackles TheSword