Serving Before the Mast

Pleasures and Punishments

Life aboard a pirate ship must be a careful balance between iron discipline and the enjoyment or leisure and freedom. Otherwise, the ever present risk of mutiny grows greater and a man who thought himself a captain and king of his little world can quickly find himself subject to the fishes on the seabed.


Games are typically only allowed in the evenings, after a day’s work is completed. The festivities are usually accompanied by a ration of grog, both to placate the crew and reward them for a day’s labor.

Arm Wrestling In the Shackles, Arm Wrestling is a common entertainment, but was deemed too mundane to be enjoyable. To spice it up, it became custom to first spread nails or glass shards on the playing surface.

Cards Virtually any card game conceived is played to while away the hours in the middle of the sea, with Towers being a particular favorite in the Shackles. Betting in these games has a habit of getting out of hand and leading to scuffles and brawls on deck, however.

Dice A bluffing game played by guessing how many dice of a certain value have been rolled. The idea is to deceive your opponents while learning everything you can about their own concealed rolls.

Hog Log An iron ingot wrapped in a greased pig skin makes a great game on the deck of a ship. Players take turns throwing the “hog” as far as they can and getting it to slide a greater distance than their competitors’.

Heave A favorite in the Shackles, Heave is a test of fortitude and courage. Participants drink an especially potent grog, one tankard at a time until only one is left standing or the others surrender. Part of the game is measuring up one’s foes and gauging their willingness to continue. The game can prove especially lethal and their are always stories of ships crewed by drunken ghosts still plying the waterways of the Shackles.


Keeping a crew in line is critical aboard a ship, particularly one that doesn’t already have military discipline. Without some form of order, the anarchy preached by many pirates truly comes home and can quickly lead to a breakdown of ship functions and even rebellion.

Rope Bash A light blow with the sealed end of a ship’s rope that deals 1 point of nonlethal damage.

The Lash A stroke of a whip that typically deals 1d4+str of nonlethal damage.

Cat-o’-Nine-Tails An attack with the multi-pronged whip deals 1d4+str of lethal damage.

Confined to the Sweatbox A box of iron or wood just big enough to be an uncomfortable fit for a person, being locked in this for a day subjects the victim to incredible heat and discomfort. A character in the sweatbox must succeed a DC 15 Fortitude Save every hour with a -1 for every previous save or suffer 1d4 points of nonlethal fire damage.

Serving Before the Mast

Skull & Shackles 10th_King 10th_King