Monday, July 6, 2015

A Motley Crew (Take 2)

This post takes another look at a topic I previously considered as part of the Come Hell and High Water series; this time around, it's focused on Aetherial Adventures (although it applies just as well to nautical Pathfinder campaigns, too).


A Motley Crew
The ship's crew is an essential part of any expedition into aetherspace. More than that, though, crew members provide an interesting element that can add depth to any space fantasy campaign.

Hiring new crew members provides an excellent opportunity for roleplaying. The PCs probably need to find a table at a local tavern, announce their business, and then wait for interested candidates to interview. In general, every batch of new recruits should be given one set of stats in common, and keep those stats until they advance in level or are killed (see below). In this way, recruiting crew members in different locations introduces different groups of characters.

Generally, crew members should be offered either a steady wage or a share of a voyage's profit when they sign aboard. In the prior case, 3 sp per day is a good starting rate of pay. In the latter case, all crew members are assigned a rate ranging from half a share (for ship's boys and the like) to one share (for ordinary sailors) to a share and a half or even two shares (for skilled characters such as PCs, pilots, navigators, carpenters and the like.

Ship-to-Ship Combat
Having crew members present during shipboard battles can add drama, too. For one thing, having a batch of NPCs who can fire crossbows at attacking creatures means the GM can increase the CR for encounters in space. Of course, this also means that the NPCs are fair game, and attacking monsters might cause casualties that must be healed or replaced. The same goes for combat against enemy ships, which have crews of their own. In either case, it is recommended that the GM divide crew members between the players, allowing them to make attack and damage rolls in order to speed up the process and increase enjoyment for all.

Crew Advancement
Just like the PCs, crew members can also advance in level. It is recommended that each NPC receive 100 xp per character level for each voyage completed, with a bonus of the same amount for shipboard battles that occur involving the crew. For example, if the PCs venture into an old asteroid mine and do battle with the creatures who live there, but the crew is not present for such activities, then the NPCs shouldn't receive experience for it. On the other hand, a run-in with a hive of lunarmas, in which crew members contribute to the ship's defense, would count for XP. Additionally, short voyages (such as from a planet to its moon) or ones that become routine and don't have encounters, might only count for half the normal experience. In this way, crew members become more capable over time, albeit it not so quickly as the PCs do.

Typical Sailor
CR ½
XP 200
Various warrior 1
N medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +1
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 6 (1d10+1)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +1
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +2 (1d6+1)
Ranged Light crossbow +1 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
Str 13, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Skill Focus (Profession)
Skills Climb +5, Profession (sailor) +8
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Shortsword, light crossbow, case of 10 bolts

Sailors can be a mixed bunch, but most of them tend to be gruff but capable. To give them a little more personality, however, the GM may wish to use one of the many random generation systems available, or even to let the players roll on those tables. At the same time, it can be beneficial to give them all names. That way, if some of them are killed off during combat, it's easier to keep track of which ones have survived. Finally, in order to know just who is on deck when, they can be divided into separate watches based on the traditional shipboard time schedule.

First Watch
Second Watch
Third Watch

The players could keep one copy of this list, including notes about the NPCs' race, gender and which crew members have advanced in level, while the GM could keep another, with those details as wells as notes about the crew members' personalities.

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