Presented here are suggestions for bringing traditional land-bound Pathfinder characters into space.
Although there are always exceptions, members of different races often tend toward certain occupations in space. For example:
- Dwarves, given their love of metals and mining, frequently delve into asteroids. Indeed, it was their zeal for acquiring new mineral wealth—along with their refusal to admit any kind of fear—that initially helped to push space exploration forward.
- Elves, with their long lifespans and their connection to the natural world, are especially suited for exploration that requires time and patience. They are also curious to discover any kinds of life from beyond their own world.
- Gnomes, having a love for tinkering, often engage in salvaging activities. They are also renowned as inventors, having devised numerous pieces of equipment for use aboard aetherships.
- Half-elves are much like humans, being jacks-of-all-trades who favor not particular capacity except a willingness to undertake daring and particularly lucrative schemes.
- Half-orcs make natural roustabouts, dockhands and soldiers as part of boarding parties, due to their natural brawn and toughness. They also find that the entirely new nature of life in space provides them with chances to prove their worth, freed from the prejudices of planetary society.
- Halflings often serve as brokers and other kinds of go-betweens, being successful merchants as well as proprietors of establishments like taverns and inns. They are also frequently assigned to the crow's nest of an aethership.
The cosmopolitan nature of fantasy space also allows the GM to introduce more unusual character races, too, such as humanoids or races from other settings.
Just as with the races described above, different classes are more likely to excel at different roles aboard a ship.
- Barbarians serve well as part of boarding parties; their ferocity can often overwhelm a foe even before much injury is caused. Their strength makes them handy for moving cargo and equipment during less adventurous times, too.
- Bards, being natural entertainers, are often retained in order to reduce the tedium of aetherial travel. They also make good navigators and cooks. For them, of course, the chance to visit strange worlds and encounter new cultures provides a good opportunity for adding to their repertoires of songs and stories.
- Clerics, not surprisingly, often serve as healers, and as chaplains for crew members who share their faith. Sometimes they lead expeditions to new worlds, seeing this as a chance to spread the teachings of their deities.
- Druids serve in much the same capacity as clerics. Their skills for dealing with animals and plants make them born naturalists, and they are highly useful as members of exploring parties.
- Fighters, in addition to serving as soldiers, also can be skilled artillerists—especially if they invest feats in operating a ship's weaponry. Some serve in a military capacity, either guarding known spaceroutes against predations, or leading assaults against enemy settlements.
- Monks are especially good at serving in a ship's rigging. Beyond that, space travel is much like any other kind of journey, allowing them another opportunity for self-discovery.
- Paladins can combine the role of healer/chaplain and soldier. Their high Charisma scores make them natural commanders, although not everyone is willing to serve aboard a vessel captained by such upright individuals.
- Rangers are best suited to leading landing parties, what with their ability to find food and water and to prevent others from becoming lost. Some of them develop a love for exploring previously unknown worlds and come to specialize in that role.
- Rogues are also competent in the rigging, and often possess the knowledge and interpersonal skills to serve as quartermaster.
- Sorcerers, in addition to providing offense in combat situations, make good barkers and purchasing agents. Those who've suffered stigma due to unusual bloodlines sometimes find that they are free of such bias while traveling the aether.
- Wizards often serve as pilots and navigators due to their considerable Intelligence. Some of them find a living in writing of their journeys and discoveries, and seek out writings and materials in the pursuit of new spells and magical items.
Here, too, the GM has a good opportunity to introduce character classes that are not normally found in the campaign's starting setting. These could include ones from supplemental rulebooks, third-party products, or even the GM's own devising.
Life Aboard an Aethership
In many ways, life aboard an aethership is similar to living aboard a sailing ship onplanet. Even so, different types of voyages can have widely varying roles for crew members. What is more, traveling the spacelanes includes some factors that are unique to aetherial travel.
The first thing to consider is what type of excursion a journey entails. For exploratory missions, the vessel carries as many crew members, along with as much equipment and provisions, as is necessary. A military expedition tends to carry more passengers in the form of soldiers. Mercantile voyages, of course, carry a large amount of cargo for selling, and tend to have smaller crews. Finally, religious or colonial missions usually carry enough people and supplies to establish a settlement on the destination world.
Next it is important to determine which crew positions the PC's fill. They could always be ordinary hands. Given their exceptional abilities, however, it is more likely that they fill one of the following stations.
- The captain has command of the vessel, issuing orders to the crew and giving other assignments.
- Second in command is the first mate, who acts in the captain's stead, and who is often the one to lead landing parties while the captain remains aboard the ship.
- The pilot is the individual who possesses the orb of control and thus steers the aethership.
- On many ships, the captain or pilot also acts as the navigator—the person who uses star charts or an orrery to plot the vessel's course. Depending on the organization of a crew, however, this job could fall to another character.
- The quartermaster is the individual in charge of equipment and provisions. This crew member passes out weapons and other gear, food, and loot if there is any.
- The bosun (a shortened version of boatswain) is in charge of the ship's sails and rigging. This person oversees the crew members who hoist and furl the sails, thereby controlling the vessel's speed.
- Many vessels have a surgeon, the individual who deals with injuries to crew members. While sometimes this is a character without supernatural healing ability, most vessels have a cleric of some kind to fill this role.
- The surgeon's assistant is known as the loblolly boy/girl.
- The captain often has a steward, a servant who sets the table and delivers food and drink for meals and meetings.
- Given the many ways in which a vessel may suffer damage—collisions, enemy weapons, and unpredictable interstellar phenomena—it is important to have someone who can repair a vessel. (The sub-skills for doing so are listed above.) Since the ship, sails and rigging are magical in nature, this position needs to be filled by an arcane spellcaster with access to the appropriate feats and spells.
- It can often be beneficial for a vessel to have a chaplain, someone who shares a common faith with the crew member and leads religious services. This might be the same character as the surgeon, but not always.
- Observant characters are always welcome to position themselves in the crow's nest in order to act as lookout.
- Young people seeking a life in space are sometimes brought aboard as ship's boys/girls.
- Given the long nature of interplanetary voyages, many crews appoint one or more musicians to provide entertainment.
- It's always good to have a capable cook, too—a position that doesn't seem glamorous, but that can earn a lot of respect if handled well.
Keep in mind, too, that many of these positions have an appointed assistant; this can be a stepping stone for characters who are making the transition from ordinary swabs to more important posts.
For the most part, aetherial travel is an uneventful process. Given the distance between planets, the primary star(s) and other celestial bodies, it takes a long time. To provide some structure, the daily schedule is divided into watches, as detailed below. Time is kept via an hourglass, which is turned by crew members on duty when necessary. This system means that crew members who serve on the first, morning, afternoon and second dog watch on one day, then serve on the middle, forenoon and first dog watches on the next day.
For the most part, duty consists of little more than making sure the sails are set properly and then keeping an eye out for trouble. There are also the daily tasks of plotting and monitoring the course of travel, along with cooking and distributing meals and the like.
Watches and Times
20:00 – 0:00 / First watch
0:00 – 4:00 / Middle watch
4:00 – 8:00 / Morning watch
8:00 – 12:00 / Forenoon watch
12:00 – 16:00 / Afternoon watch
16:00 – 18:00 / First dog watch
18:00 – 20:00 / Second dog watch
Since these voyages can become tedious, any form of entertainment is welcome. The stories and songs of a bard are, needless to say, a welcome distraction. On some ships, this entertainment can even develop into an actual play, with crew members filling the roles of director, actors and other functions. Dice and card games can also make for a good distraction, although playing for money is usually prohibited in order to avoid conflicts between crew members.