Notes for Players
Zoltea is a world where the horizon always beckons. This is a place where the sea is not a barrier, but instead is a means for travel and communication. Atop the waves, below the ground, and on the scattered islands in between, adventures unfold wherever you look for them.
Fleets sail through all but the most remote corners of the ocean, always seeking to hire skilled sailors. Adventurers can often get aboard by offering protection from monsters and pirates. The whaling ships of the Halfling Armada in particular are always in need of brave souls for their dangerous ventures.
Planning Your Voyage.
Adventurers and explorers will always be drawn towards the open sea and the wide horizon. But sailing over that horizon without a plan could easily prove fatal. Taverns in Deneb—the center of human civilization—are always filled with adventurers drawing up itineraries, proposals, crew manifests, and the like over a crisp pint of ocean plum cider, a loaf of sweet seaweed bread, and a melty block of dugong butter.
There is always somewhere to go or something to do on the seas of Zoltea, and it is up to you what you choose to pursue. The average exploration voyage takes several years (game time, though perhaps real time as well), and setting off without the necessary preparations is certainly unwise. Ask yourselves some simple questions:
- Where are you going?
- What do you expect to find?
- How will you get there?
- How long will it take?
- What will you eat along the way? What will you drink?
- Who will your crew be? Where do they come from?
- Does this quest require financial backing?
Financing Your Voyage.
The Royal Family of Deneb finances a certain number of explorers each year who adventure on behalf of the crown. The churches of some deities also fund holy crusades against opposing forces. In these cases the journey is funded for primarily idealistic reasons.
Private companies also pay for a fair number of voyages. These are whaling voyages, trade voyages, and expeditions to find islands with valuable timber. Companies are concerned primarily with wealth, and in return for their investment they will be expecting a hefty profit.
A third option is to buy or broker passage on an already-funded voyage. Many expeditions are in need of skilled and brave adventurers. While you won’t be able to dictate where you travel, sailors are compensated for their work, an appealing alternative to the potentially crushing debt involved in building, sailing, and financing your own ship.
Eventually, of course, after recovering enough treasure and completing enough quests you will be able to sail your own ship—free of debt—and travel across whichever horizon beckons.
Building and Manning Your Vessel.
Page 159 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook offers prices for a few types of vessels, which are described on page 163. More ships, as well as rules for ship-to-ship combat, are described in the Pathfinder RPG Game Mastery Guide, pp. 214-219.
Captain and Crew
Every ship needs a valiant captain and a dedicated crew. No vessel will get very far without the following complement:
Captain: The captain’s word is law. He dictates the course, crew, and operations of his ship. The captain only occasionally is the owner of his vessel; usually vessels and voyages are funded by third-party backers, and it is the captain’s duty to ensure the expedition stays on task. Most captains have worked their way up through the officer ranks to where they are today, and consequently they have an excellent understanding of maritime life and practices.
First Officer: Often called the “Chief Mate” or “First Mate,” the First Officer is responsible for the safety and security of the ship and her crew, and he is the primary link between the captain and the deck crew. He oversees cargo operations, ballast, lifeboats, hull maintenance, and crew accommodations. The First Officer generally takes the second navigation watch: 0400 to 0800 in the morning, and 1600 to 2000 in the afternoon.
Second Officer: Also called the Second Mate or Navigator, the Second Officer is in charge of the navigation of a seagoing vessel. She is third in line for command, and is licensed to act as captain if the Captain and First Mate are incapacitated. The Second Officer typically takes the first navigation watch: 1200 to 1600 in the afternoon, and 0000 to 0400 at night.
Third Officer: The Third Officer is in charge of the safety of the crew, and maintains security aboard the ship. Many ships do not have a Third Officer, in which case the Captain takes the third navigation watch instead: 0800 to 1200 in the morning and 2000 to 0000 at night.
Boatswain: Pronounced “bosun,” the Boatswain is charged with everything that happens on the deck of a ship. Also sometimes called the deck chief, the boatswain ensures that the crew stays on task and the deck is orderly and efficient.
Seamen: The backbone of a ship’s crew, seamen do everything from taking watches at the masthead; to maintaining the sails and rigging; to scrubbing, painting, and maintaining the deck. Seamen are under direct command from the boatswain, but they must also take orders from the captain and executive officers.
Ship’s Cook: In addition to cooking and serving all meals on board a vessel, the ship’s cook also sets the schedule of watches and deck operations to correspond with the meal schedule. She is the chief officer belowdecks, just like the boatswain above.
Cabin Boy: The cabin boy is the assistant and apprentice to the ship’s cook. He performs all of the menial labor belowdecks—cleaning, stocking, and serving the cabins. It is also generally desirable that the cabin boy be optimistic and entertaining, to help keep crew morale high.