Officers and Crew

ZenBear

Villager
My players have just acquired a sailing ship, as per the Ghosts of Saltmarsh appendices, and I need help making a few decisions. I just finished running them through The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse and they convinced Aryn Hest of the Jade Lion to abdicate leadership to them as they pursue their military-appointed mission.

Mainly, I need to figure out how to best fulfill the various roles on the ship with the party I have. The party consists of a Cha/Dex Paladin, Dex/Str Rogue, Cha/Dex Warlock, and Int/Dex Wizard. I can keep Aryn Hest aboard so I have at least one NPC with proficiency in water vehicles, which none of the party has. The Rogue has Expertise in Athletics, so he will fit in well enough as the Bosun as long as he finds someone to help him learn how to use carpenter's tools. The Paladin would normally be a natural fit for captain, but she has an 8 INT and WIS, so being the decision maker is a terrible idea. She's the party chef and healer, so that situates her to handle both the Cook and Surgeon roles on her own, though a single person covering two roles ought to have some repercussions. The Warlock is skilled at Deception and Intimidation but not Persuasion, and is functionally insane so really isn't well suited to Captain or First Mate. Also, as a Kenku Warlock of the Raven Queen he has demanded that the crows nest be turned into a literal birdhouse. No one in the party has high Wisdom or skill in Nature or navigator's tools, so I'll likely need an NPC for that role. The Wizard I think is likely to take the Captain role, since he's not bad at social skills and is the only borderline mature party member. On the other hand, my brother's character is a Fighter and has been the straight-man/leader of the group all along. Unfortunately he is leaving town in a month, so perhaps I can just turn him into an NPC and have him be the permanent Captain of the ship.

What other roles on the ship might these characters suit? What other NPCs do I need to create to fill the gaps?
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
Owners, adventurers and passengers.

As both a player and DM I've never had the party crew the ship in a fantasy campaign except as noted below. I leave that to a crew of NPCs.

One thing I do is take a hint from a friend of mine who a small boat sailor. He often captain's sail boats in regattas for the owner(s). He runs the crew, but the owner still tells him what s/he wants. So, the owner commands the ship, but the captain is the one that tells the crew what to do and navigates the ship. He's the professional sailor, not the owner.

Do the same things with the party, they tell the captain what to do and the captain makes it happen. The rest of the party can do things like load and fire the ballista or cannon if the ship has one. The ranger and wizard can do their own range things.

But in general, I don't worry or want the party to be doing typical sailor stuff. Let them do adventurer stuff (i.e. I don't make rolls for guiding the ship in a storm etc, after all, I don't play sailing simulations.) The ship is just a means for them to get to fun places to adventure.
 
Mainly, I need to figure out how to best fulfill the various roles on the ship with the party I have. I can keep Aryn Hest aboard so I have at least one NPC with proficiency in water vehicles, which none of the party has.
He can take the post of "Sailing Master," subordinate to the captain, even a warrant officer, but with all the skills to run the ship. ("Master & Commander" like the movie is when an officer below rank of Captain acts as both highest-ranking officer and sailing-master for his ship. Maybe that's what this guy was before the PCs took over?)


The party consists of a Cha/Dex Paladin, Dex/Str Rogue, Cha/Dex Warlock, and Int/Dex Wizard. The Rogue has Expertise in Athletics, so he will fit in well enough as the Bosun as long as he finds someone to help him learn how to use carpenter's tools. The Paladin would normally be a natural fit for captain, but she has an 8 INT and WIS, so being the decision maker is a terrible idea.
Lol, she can still be the Captain, make with the stirring speeches and the shouted commands and "follow me!" when there's a boarding action. She just has to pay close attention to her 'advisors.'

The Warlock is skilled at Deception and Intimidation but not Persuasion, and is functionally insane so really isn't well suited to Captain or First Mate.
Could make a fair bosun, keeping the crew working with a rope's end.
Also, as a Kenku Warlock of the Raven Queen he has demanded that the crows nest be turned into a literal birdhouse.
Ho-kay, stand watch-on-watch if that's what y'want.

No one in the party has high Wisdom or skill in Nature or navigator's tools, so I'll likely need an NPC for that role. The Wizard I think is likely to take the Captain role, since he's not bad at social skills and is the only borderline mature party member.
You'd think a wizard could navigate. All that math, should be right up his alley. ;)




I have a long campaign set on a ship, and essentially none of the party took on defined roles (for the while they had a PC surgeon). The crew considers whichever of them is shouting at them the captain, which has been funny at times. A ship is a way to get around, and a mobile set piece for boarding actions - OK, we've had the odd small naval battle, too, running a blockade for instance, but for the most part, at the scope/scale of D&D, a ship battle will /mostly/ be about the boarding action.
The PCs decide where they're going, and do the lion's share of the fighting. Captain & marines, in essence, I suppose.
 

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