Life Aboard The Sadness

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The Red Sadness works on discipline and routine. Captain Herrera’s philosophy is that a busy swab is a tired swab, and tired swabs don’t pick fights with each other. After breakfast, the crew work at their allotted jobs until dusk, when they gather on the main deck to witness punishments (the “Bloody Hour”), eat dinner, and receive their rum rations. After punishment time and the evening meal, the crew can do what they wish until dawn bell the next morning.

Each day, the PCs are assigned tasks to complete, based on the their jobs (cook’s mate, rigger, or swab). Roll 1d6 on the following tables to randomly determine the daily tasks for each PC who’s a rigger or swab. See The Cook’s Mate below for details on tasks assigned to the cook’s mate. Each task represents a day’s hard work and requires at least one successful skill check to complete. Failing a task’s required skill check results in punishment. The punishment for failing a check by 4 or less is merely a severe verbal reprimand, or at worse, a rope bash. Failing by 5 or more results in three lashes. The number of lashes increases to six if this is the second such failure in a row, to nine lashes for three failures in a row, and so on. Because failure in this work carries consequences, PCs may not “take 10” or “take 20” on checks for their daily labor aboard the ship.

Work takes place under the watchful eyes of Mr. Plugg and Master Scourge, and getting away from them is not easy. If a PC refuses to work or is unable to work, he or she receives a dozen lashes for the first such offense and a dozen lashes with the cat for the second. A third offense results in the character being put in the sweatbox for 12 hours.


Rigger Tasks

d6 Roll Daily Task
1 Rigging Repair: The ship’s rigging frequently gets damaged and must be repaired, requiring DC 10 Climb checks to reach the rigging 30 feet up, followed by a DC 10 Profession (sailor) or Dexterity check.
2 Line Work: Hard work hoisting and lowering sails, requiring a DC 10 Profession (sailor) or Dexterity check. The PC must also make a DC 10 Constitution check to avoid being fatigued at the end of the shift.
3 Upper Rigging Work: Work in the upper rigging, 50 feet up, requiring DC 10 Climb checks, followed by a DC 10 Profession (sailor) or Dexterity check.
4 Rope Work: Handling the ship’s ropes, including coiling them, stowing them, and securing them to cleats and single and double bollards, requiring a DC 10 Profession (sailor) or Dexterity check.
5 Lookout: A climb to the crow’s nest 60 feet up, requiring DC 10 Climb checks followed by a DC 10 Perception check.
6 Mainsail Duties: Tough work raising and lowering the mainsail, requiring a DC 10 Profession (sailor) or Strength check. The PC must also make a DC 10 Constitution check to avoid being fatigued at the end of the shift.

Swab Tasks

d6 Roll Daily Task
1 Man the Bilges: Vile and sweaty work cleaning out the bilges (area A11), requiring a DC 12 Strength check. The PC must also make a DC 10 Constitution check to avoid being fatigued at the end of the shift, and may be attacked by bilge spiders.
2 Rat Catcher: Catching rats and other vermin belowdecks, requiring either a DC 10 Stealth check, Survival check, or Dexterity check to catch and kill enough rats, cockroaches, and beetles for a good day’s work.
3 Swab the Decks: Backbreaking work mopping the decks and scrubbing them with sandstone blocks called holystones, requiring a DC 10 Strength or Constitution check. Failing either check results in the PC being fatigued at the end of the shift.
4 Hauling Rope and Knot Work: Tying and untying knots in the ship’s ropes and moving heavy coils of rope from one part of the ship to another, requiring a DC 10 Profession (sailor) or Strength check. The PC must also make a DC 10 Constitution check to avoid being fatigued at the end of the shift.
5 Runner: Passing messages to the crew and officers of the Red Sadness in all parts of the ship except officers’ cabins (areas A4 and A5), requiring a DC 10 Acrobatics check and DC 10 Constitution check. Failing the Constitution check results in the PC being fatigued at the end of the shift. A PC with the Run feat automatically succeeds at this task.
6 Repairs: Things constantly tear or break aboard the ship and need repairs, whether sewing sails, patching the hull, or splicing rope all day, requiring a DC 10 Profession (sailor) or Dexterity check.

The Cook’s Mate

The PC who ends up as the cook’s mate is in for an interesting life. The ship’s cook, Ambrose Kroop, spends half of his time drunk. At the start of each day, there is a 50% chance that Kroop is insensible and no help during the whole day. Otherwise, he is merely drunk, but not helplessly so. If Kroop is insensible, Mr. Plugg supervises the cook’s mate instead.

Each day, roll 1d6 on the table below to randomly determine the cook’s mate’s daily task. When Kroop is sober, he automatically makes the skill check for the day’s cooking, with the PC’s assistance. When the cook is drunk, the cook’s mate must make the day’s meal for the pirates by herself, in addition to her normal duties for the day. If the PC has to hunt or slaughter the food as well as cook, all checks for both tasks are made with a –4 penalty. In such cases, if the cook’s mate takes any ship action during the day other than working, all work checks automatically fail (the cook’s mate does not receive the +4 bonus for working diligently in this case). On a failed check, the angry crew soundly berate the cook’s mate and administer several rope bashes to Kroop and his lazy mate. Regardless, food is still food, and the crew generally eat what they are given, no matter the results of the cooking checks (though they are still likely to complain loudly and frequently).

The captain’s cabin girl, “Caulky” Tarroon, collects the officers’ food from the galley each evening to take it to the captain’s cabin. She tastes the food for poison before serving the other officers (you can’t trust anyone on a pirate ship). Attempting to poison the officers is a horrendous crime, punishable by a triple keelhauling for the ship’s cook and his mate.

Cook’s Mate Tasks

d6 Roll Daily Task
1 or 2 Cooking: Assisting Ambrose Kroop in preparing the day’s meal. If Kroop is sober, no check is required. If Kroop is drunk, this requires a DC 10 Profession (cook) or Intelligence check.
3 Fishing: Catching tonight’s supper using the ship’s nets. A DC 10 Profession (fisherman) or Survival check provides enough fish. A failed check results in a day in the bilges as punishment the following day (see the swab task Man the Bilges).
4 Turtle Hunting: Hunting leatherback sea turtles with harpoons, treble hooks, and nets. A DC 10 Profession (fisherman) or Survival check provides enough food. A failed check results in a day in the bilges as punishment the following day (see the swab task Man the Bilges).
5 Bull Session: Drinking with Ambrose Kroop and listening to his stories. The cook’s mate must drink an additional rum ration, but is able to take an additional ship action during the day.
6 Special Occasion: Captain Herrera is celebrating something today, and wants one of the ship’s pigs butchered and cooked for dinner. The PC must make a DC 10 Profession (cook) or Survival check to slaughter the animal, then help Kroop to clean, cut, and prepare the carcass. If Kroop is sober, no additional check is required. If Kroop is drunk, this requires a DC 15 Profession (cook) or Intelligence check.

Ship Actions

In addition to their normal jobs on the ship, the PCs can also utilize their time during the day (and night) to explore the ship, scrounger for gear, interact with their shipmates, or attempt to influence NPCs. With the PCs potentially scattered across the ship working at their jobs, however, there is a danger that early events in the adventure might focus too much upon the actions of individual characters. Some PCs might have more time on their hands and act accordingly. To avoid this, the PCs’ activities aboard ship—carrying out their assigned tasks; exploring the ship; robbing, bullying, or befriending shipmates; working; or playing—are performed as part of ship actions. These actions reflect the time required to set up or complete an activity, such as gathering enough crew to play a game, scouting out a room to make sure it’s empty, and so on. Remember that even the cook’s mate has a job to do during the day, and ship actions are meant to reflect the available time a PC can carve out from his or her work time without going into too much detail.

Each PC can normally take two ship actions each day, one during the day and one at night. A PC can also attempt to take up to two additional ship actions during the middle watch in the dead of night (any nighttime ship action marked with an asterisk), but to do so the PC must make a successful Constitution check (DC 10, +4 per extra ship action taken) or be fatigued for the next day.

Daytime Ship Actions:

  • Work Diligently: Gain a +4 bonus on any one check for a job’s daily task.
  • Influence: Make normal checks for a job’s daily task and attempt to influence a single NPC with a Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check.
  • Sneak: Make normal checks for a job’s daily task and briefly explore one area of the ship (the PC can make a single Perception check or other skill check with no chance of detection).
  • Shop: Take a –2 penalty on all checks for a job’s daily task and visit the quartermaster’s store.
  • Shirk: Take a –2 penalty on all checks for a job’s daily task and take time exploring one area of the ship. The PC can take 10 on a single Perception check or other skill check, but must make a check to avoid being discovered (see below).

Nighttime Ship Actions:

  • Sleep: Go to bed early and sleep through the night (automatically recover from fatigue).
  • Gamble: Play or gamble on a game of chance or pirate entertainment.
  • Entertain: Make one Perform check to entertain the crew.
  • Influence: Attempt to influence a single NPC.
  • Sneak: Take time exploring one area of the ship. The PC can take 20 on a single Perception check or other skill check, but must make a check to avoid being discovered (see below).
  • Steal: Attempt to open a locked door or locker. The PC must make a check to avoid being discovered (see below).

The Red Sadness is a pirate ship, filled with dubious and murderous characters at best. Theft is common, but the key is not getting caught. To perform any action unobserved, a PC must generally make an opposed skill check, such as a Sleight of Hand or Stealth check against an NPC’s Perception check.

On a crowded ship, however, it’s not practical to make opposed checks against potentially dozens of NPCs. Instead, the PC should make an appropriate skill check (usually Sleight of Hand or Stealth) to represent a typical situation, using the following guidelines to set the DC of the check.

  • Attempting a stealthy action in a crowd, such as casting a spell with verbal or somatic components without being noticed: DC 20.
  • Attempting a stealthy action where there is a chance of discovery, such as visiting the quartermaster’s store during work, exploring a room during the day, or attempting to open a chest in a room while its occupants are sleeping: DC 15.
  • Attempting a stealthy action under cover of a suitable diversion, such as attempting to open lockers when the rest of the crew are working or on deck enjoying themselves: DC 10.

Failing this check by 4 or less means the PC attempting the action is merely disturbed and is unable to complete the action. Failing the check by 5 or more means the PC is caught red-handed by a random crew member, and might be turned over to Master Scourge for discipline.


Rum Rations

Aboard many ships, half a pint of rum is distributed to each crew member at dusk. The rum is staggeringly strong, and is often watered down to make grog. Characters drinking the ration are affected as though they had taken an addictive drug. The rum ration is doled out more to keep the crew sated and docile than for recreation. The penalty for selling or spilling the ration is six lashes, or six lashes from a cat-o’-nine-tails for a second offense. Deliberately tipping away rum on board a crowded ship without being seen requires a DC 10 Stealth check. While on merchant or navy vessels rum rations are strictly limited, on pirate ships, crew members can often request more rum if they please.

Rum Ration

  • Type: ingested; Addiction: minor, Fortitude: DC 5; Price: 2 sp
  • Effect: +1d4 alchemical bonus to Charisma and fatigued for 1d8 hours
  • Damage: 1d3 Con

Life Aboard The Sadness

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