Excerpts 08/05/2005


Stormwrack
By Richard Baker, Joseph D. Carriker,
Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes



Grab your water gear and get ready to make a splash in your D&D campaign with Stormwrack. The third in a series of beautifully illustrated supplements focusing on play in specific environmental climes, Stormwrack contains rules on play in watery environments. Not only are rules for sea campaigns offered, but rules for including water environments in land-based D&D campaigns and dungeon adventures are also covered. The excerpts below include information about the book itself, the darfellan race, the legendary captain prestige class, and the dreaded Sable Drake and her crew.

Legendary Captain

"Come about, lads! We'll cross her bow and rake her from stem to stern! Let's teach them what it means to tangle with Dolphin's Splash!"

-- Valanthe the Golden Dolphin, legendary captain

Seafarers' tales are filled with the exploits of legendary captains -- those who can urge their ships and crews to exceptional feats through sheer determination, leadership, and tactical skill. A legendary captain might be the commander of a fleet's flagship or a bloodthirsty pirate, but whatever the role, her reputation is widespread and her crew fanatically loyal.

Becoming a Legendary Captain

The ability to command and to inspire is a rare gift, and not necessarily one that comes with high social standing. Some of the most famous captains rose from humble origins, as sailors who worked their way up through the ranks.

Others purchased a commission or bought a vessel of their own outright in order to gain a command. However one comes by it, the profession of captain requires experience, skill, and an expert knowledge of the capability of both vessel and crew. A typical legendary captain begins her career as a fighter or rogue with experience at sea, although a charismatic character such as a bard or paladin might also do well.

These characters generally operate in a navy or as masters of their own adventuring ships. Spellcasters are less common, but a sorcerer captain with the very winds at her command makes for an awe-inspiring leader. Barbarian crews are certainly well known -- the sea raiders in longships are the most obvious example -- but a legendary captain rarely springs from an uncivilized past.

Entry Requirements

Base Attack Bonus: +4
Skills: Knowledge (geography) 5 ranks, Profession (sailor) 8 ranks.
Feats: Leadership.
Special: Must be the captain or master of a ship.

Class Features

The following are all class features of the legendary captain prestige class.

Great Captain: You gain Great Captain as a bonus feat. If you already have Great Captain, you instead gain Skill Focus with one of the legendary captain class skills given above.

Leadership: At 2nd level, you gain a +2 bonus to your effective character level for purposes of the Leadership feat to attract followers. This bonus increases to +4 at 4th level, +6 at 6th level, +8 at 8th level, and +10 at 10th level.

Weather Gauge (Ex): On reaching 2nd level, your superior ability in handling a ship allows you to maneuver so as to have the more advantageous wind. You gain a +4 competence bonus on Profession (sailor) checks to gain the advantage (see Narrative Naval Combat, beginning on page 25). As long as you have the advantage, your crew gains a +2 bonus on all Profession (sailor) checks and on attack rolls made with shipboard siege engines, and your ship gains a +2 dodge bonus to Armor Class against attacks by enemy ships.

Luck of the Wind (Su): Beginning at 3rd level, you are able to cheat the fates on occasion. Once per day you can reroll a failed attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check. You must reroll before the DM declares whether the roll results in success or failure, and you must take the result of the reroll, even if it's worse than the original roll.

On reaching 7th level, you can reroll twice per day.

Uncanny Navigation (Su): On reaching 3rd level, you develop an innate sense for detecting and avoiding maritime hazards. You add your legendary captain level as a bonus on Spot checks to notice aquatic hazards and on Profession (sailor) checks to navigate safely through them.

Wind at Your Back (Ex): On reaching 4th level, you can use your mastery of navigation to coax additional speed from your ship by directing the most efficient placement of sails or encouraging rowers to exert themselves. A ship you captain moves 20% faster (minimum of +5 feet).

Accelerated Firing (Ex): Beginning at 5th level, you can urge your weapons crews to exceed ordinary performance. A ballista or catapult can be reloaded or reaimed in a round by one less crew member than normal. If the weapon is fully crewed, it can be reloaded or reaimed as a standard action instead of a full-round action. In addition, your crews gain a +2 morale bonus on Profession (siege engineer) checks.

Steady Stance (Ex): Starting at 5th level, your sea legs keep you stable when others have difficulty standing. You are not considered flat-footed while balancing or climbing, and you add your class level to Balance or Climb checks to remain balancing or climbing when taking damage.

Rake (Ex): At 6th level, you increase your ability to handle a ship and maintain an advantage in naval combat. As long as you have the advantage, attacks against enemy vessels with your shipboard siege engines deal an additional die of damage on a successful attack. This die is of the same kind as the weapon normally deals: For example, a light catapult (normal damage 4d6) deals an extra 1d6 points of damage, while a ballista (normal damage 3d8) deals an extra 1d8 points.

Legendary Helm (Ex): Starting at 7th level, you grant an additional +2 dodge bonus to the Armor Class of any vessel you steer or command. In addition, you can attempt saving throws using your save bonuses against spells or effects targeting your vessel. For example, if a dragon uses its breath weapon against a ship you are steering or commanding, you can make a Reflex save on behalf of the ship to halve the damage. (Normally, vessels are considered unattended objects and fail all saving throws.)

Misdirect (Ex): Beginning at 8th level, you might trick an enemy captain into underestimating the capabilities of your ship and crew. This includes disguising your vessel, lurking at the edge of fog, holding off on firing your weapons, and other such stratagems. The enemy captain must have line of sight to your vessel, and you must make a Bluff or Profession (sailor) check, whichever modifier is higher, with a bonus on the roll equal to one-half your legendary captain level. This is opposed by the Sense Motive check of the enemy captain. If your check succeeds, the enemy captain and crew take a -2 penalty on attacks, saves, and skill checks for the length of the engagement, and the enemy vessel takes a -2 penalty to Armor Class.

Splice the Main Brace (Su): On reaching 9th level, you can hearten your crew with your personal strength. ("Splice the main brace" is nautical jargon for hoisting a mug of grog, originally at the end of a hard day's work.) Once per day you can produce a mass cure light wounds effect to heal the injuries of all on board. Your caster level is equal to your prestige class level. It requires 10 minutes for the healing effect to take place, so it is not usable in the midst of combat.

Fleet Admiral (Ex): At 10th level, your phenomenal leadership skills allow you to assist the crews of allies' ships as well as your own. You can use the aid another action to confer a +2 morale bonus on checks made by the crews of a number of additional ships equal to your Charisma bonus (minimum one extra ship) within signaling distance (1 mile in clear conditions). You grant a +4 morale bonus on allied captains' Profession (sailor) checks to gain the advantage in combat, and they gain the same benefits you confer. In addition, when aiding the actions of your own crew, you confer a +4 bonus instead of +2 on a successful check.

Playing a Legendary Captain

The open sea is your home, and you spend as much time as you can aboard ship. Just being under sail is enough, but it's even better when you can combine your love with a purpose. You can't be a captain without a crew. To enter this class requires that you command some sort of vessel, and the first order of business is to find the right people to help you operate it. You might be able to handle a small sloop with only a handful of crew, but a proper warship needs dozens of competent sailors and other professionals. As leader of an adventuring group, you'll probably want to have other members of your party act as officers. Those who lack suitable leadership or sailing skills might instead serve as specialists, such as windsingers, prelates, or surgeons. You'll have to recruit followers and ensure they are fairly paid (a private ship has a charter setting out such details); highly skilled positions on board might be best filled by cohorts.

If you are a treasure hunter or an explorer of uncharted expanses, you are best served by a small and lightly armed vessel that can travel swiftly. Quite probably the only crew on such a ship is your adventuring party. If you're a pirate captain, you might want a more heavily armed ship, but you still need one that is relatively quick -- if you can't get away from an unfavorable encounter, you won't live long enough to become a scourge of the seas. The crew of such a ship is heavy on hand-to-hand fighting skills, since a pirate's goal is to seize ships and cargo, not sink them.

Combat

Your background is in leadership rather than hand-to-hand combat, and your expertise is in getting the most out of those under your command. Most legendary captains are good fighters, with experience as marines or pirates before gaining a command of their own.

At lower levels, use your ability to aid your crew to best effect. Your vessel is more nimble than those of your opponents, thanks to your enhanced navigation skills, and can hold up better in ranged combat while you close to attack. Once your crew has boarded the enemy, you can use the aid another action to improve all their attacks or Armor Class as necessary.

Once you reach higher levels in this class, you have exceptional ability to support your ship and crew in naval combat. Take advantage of ranged combat as much as you can, whether using magic or onboard siege engines -- your ship has an excellent chance of avoiding damage from magical attacks, and your crew can manage shipboard weaponry more efficiently. Once you close to grappling range, the enemy captain is likely to be at a disadvantage due to your clever misdirection. This in combination with the bonuses you grant to your crew should be enough to tip the balance in your favor.

Should things go badly in combat, your class abilities make it easier for your crew to escape and your ship to disengage. Once safely away, you can even help the injured recover more quickly.

Table 3-4: The Legendary Captain

Hit Die: d8

Level Base
Attack
Bonus
Fort
Save
Ref
Save
Will
Save
Special
1st +0 +2 +0 +2 Great Captain*
2nd +1 +3 +0 +3 Leadership +2, weather gauge
3rd +2 +3 +1 +3 Luck of the wind 1/day, uncanny navigation
4th +3 +4 +1 +4 Leadership +4, wind at your back
5th +3 +4 +1 +4 Accelerated firing, steady stance
6th +4 +5 +2 +5 Leadership +6, rake
7th +5 +5 +2 +5 Luck of the wind 2/day, legendary helm
8th +6 +6 +2 +6 Leadership +8, misdirect
9th +6 +7 +3 +7 Splice the main brace
10th +7 +7 +3 +7 Leadership +10, fleet admiral

*New feat described on page 92.

Skills (4 + Int per level): Balance, Bluff, Climb, Craft (any), Diplomacy, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (architecture and engineering), Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (local), Profession (any), Sense Motive, Spot, Survival, Swim, Use Rope.

Advancement

It is a matter of experience to gain the basic skills and leadership qualities needed to become a legendary captain. As a seafaring adventurer, whenever you attain a level you can improve your ability to handle a ship. You probably began your career as a sailor or marine on board another's ship, literally learning the ropes and acquiring knowledge in dealing with the hazards of life and combat at sea. As your experience grew, you moved into junior officer positions or became a specialist such as a pilot. Eventually you were able to amass enough wealth (mostly likely pooled with that of fellow adventurers) to purchase a commission in a country's navy or to buy a small ship of your own.

Once you have started on the path of the legendary captain, your own reputation and experience moves you further along. You have already acquired the Leadership feat and attracted a crew. From then on, your exploits at sea will enhance your Leadership score as stories spread from port to port, with positive modifiers in addition to the bonuses granted by class levels. Being known as a legendary captain improves the quality of the recruits as well: Experienced tars seek you out, and you can afford to choose the best. Their performance on board is enhanced by your skills, further reinforcing your crew's quality. As long as you treat them fairly and act with honor -- whether as notorious pirate or decorated fleet captain -- they will follow you loyally. Your confidence in yourself increases along with that of the crew, propelling you to ever greater heights of naval leadership. Taking ranks in Diplomacy is strongly recommended, especially when you become more involved in political matters.

Eventually you become so skilled that the followers you attract are of high enough level to possess ships of their own. Alternatively, as your star rises within the service, you are eventually called to command a fleet of ships, although the disadvantage of such a high command rank is being less free to adventure. The most free-spirited legendary captains prefer to command only a small group of ships as privateers, explorers, or pirates.

Resources

If you are a commander within a navy, you have the considerable resources of that nation's government at your disposal. Lower-ranking commanders can expect their ships to be crewed and outfitted properly at no expense to themselves, and it might be possible to request specialist crew members in the navy's employ be assigned to your ship. As you advance in your career, you will cultivate contacts within the naval hierarchy and the government on whom you can draw for unusual requests or special favors -- provided they are not too frequent or excessive.

Once you attain the rank of admiral, you have the ear of the highest government officials and are in a position to grant favors and supplies in turn to subordinate captains. As an independent captain, your access to resources is not guaranteed, but you have the advantage of a reputation that precedes you. When your ship sails into port, you are likely to be greeted by swarms of well-wishers and hopeful sailors, and perhaps by town officials hoping to gain a political advantage through association with you.

With your diplomatic skills, you can wrangle concessions such as reduced docking fees or free lodging, perhaps in exchange for taking on a mission for the town. If your bent is more piratical, your naval expertise brings you more victories at sea, along with more plunder. Cold, hard cash can get almost anything.

Legendary Captains in the World

A party with a legendary captain at its helm is assured of thrilling adventures. Having such an acclaimed leader makes your ship the easy choice for those who need something done, whether townsfolk seeking relief from pirate raids or treasure hunters looking for safe passage. You can demand premium prices and expect to get a piece of the adventuring action.

Organization

As a naval captain, you report to the senior commanders of the fleet. They in turn are responsible to the leaders of the government, who direct their missions and designate enemies. Progression in the prestige class generally corresponds to advancement in rank, so you eventually become the one giving the strategic orders. Along with this increased authority comes the inevitable politicking; as you reach new levels, you are likely to make influential new contacts -- and dangerous new enemies.

As a private operator, your life is a freer one. You own the ship, and you get to go adventuring ashore or board enemy vessels right alongside your crew (a privilege not usually accorded to senior naval officers).

NPC Reactions

Your reputation precedes you wherever you go, and each new port of call brings new contacts -- and possibly new rivalries. In general, the reaction of townsfolk is friendly as long as your reputation is an honorable one. Even if you are a famous pirate, you might be welcome as long as those you prey on are not connected with the town or are seen as deserving of attack. On the other hand, if your predations have directly affected a port, the inhabitants are likely to be unfriendly.

You are also likely to encounter other legendary captains. These might be rivals on a wide-open pirate coast, who could see you as a worthy challenge to increase their personal glory or a friendly competitor with whom to swap boasts. If you are an eminent fleet commander, you might be in pursuit of a legendary pirate captain. Such a relationship can drive an episodic storyline, with repeated encounters that increase the fame of both characters. Legendary captains and scarlet corsairs (see page 65) often become lifelong nemeses.

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