Dread Pirate


Thugs and cutthroats in every port lay claim to the title “pirate,” but actually making a fortune through piracy is no easy task. A dread pirate, however, has mastered every aspect of larceny on the high seas.

Some dread pirates accomplish their goals through fear, killing indiscriminately and ruling their ships at rapier-point. Others minimize bloodshed and exhibit a curious sort of chivalry, perhaps realizing that the captain and crew of a prize ship are more likely to surrender if they believe they will live to see port again. Now and then a dread pirate takes his chivalric streak a step farther and preys only on the ships of enemy nations—or even solely on other pirates.

Role: A dread pirate’s lifestyle is ideal for most rogues, because the job requires a number of skills that other classes don’t have the time or inclination to learn. However, the class also attracts some spellcasters, who can use magic to conceal their ships or incapacitate a prize vessel’s crew.

Alignment: Pirates are often chaotic and rarely good, but can be any non-lawful alignment.

HD: d8


Base Attack Bonus: +4
Alignment: Any non-lawful
Skills: Appraise 6 ranks, Profession [Sailor] 6 ranks, Swim 6 ranks
Feats: Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse
Special: The character must own a ship worth at least 10,000 gp. The method of acquisition—purchase, force of arms, or skullduggery—makes no difference, as long as he can freely operate it on the high seas.

Class Skills:

The Dread Pirate’s class skills are Appraise (INT) , Climb (STR) , Intimidate (CHA) , Knowledge [nature] (INT) , Profession [Sailor] (WIS) , Swim (STR).

Skill Ranks per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Level Base Attack Bonus FORT save REF save WILL save Special
1st +0 +0 +1 +0 Seamanship, Two-Weapon Fighting
2nd +1 +1 +1 +1 Fearsome Reputation +2, Pirate Trick
3rd +2 +1 +2 +1 Rally The Crew +1 (1/day) / Sneak Attack +1d6
4th +3 +1 +2 +1 Pirate Trick
5th +3 +2 +3 +2 Luck Of The Wind / Scourge Of The Seas
6th +4 +2 +3 +2 Fearsome Reputation +4, Pirate Trick
7th +5 +2 +4 +2 Rally The Crew +2 (2/day) / Sneak Attack +2d6
8th +6 +3 +4 +3 Pirate Trick, Skill Mastery
9th +6 +3 +5 +3 Fight To The Death / Motivate The Scum
10th +7 +3 +6 +3 Fearsome Reputation +6, Pirate King

Class Features:

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: An Inner Sea pirate gains proficiency with the cutlass, hook hand, rapier, and short sword. An Inner Sea pirate gains no armor proficiency.

Seamanship (Ex): A Dread Pirate adds his class level as an insight bonus on all Profession [sailor] checks. Allies within sight or hearing of a Dread Pirate add an insight bonus equal to half this number on their Profession [sailor] checks.

Two-Weapon Fighting: A Dread Pirate wearing light or no armor is treated as having the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, even if he does not have the prerequisites for the feat.

Fearsome Reputation (Ex): By the time he attains 2nd level, a Dread Pirate has developed a reputation on the high seas. At this point, he must choose whether to cultivate a reputation as an honorable pirate (avoiding undue bloodshed, honoring flags of truce, and the like) or as a dishonorable pirate (favoring mayhem and dire treatment of prisoners).

An honorable Dread Pirate gains a +2 circumstance bonus on Diplomacy checks, while a dishonorable one gains a +2 circumstance bonus on Intimidate checks. This bonus increases to +4 at 6th level and to +6 at 10th level. In addition, a Dread Pirate gains other abilities at higher levels based on his chosen reputation.

A Dread Pirate’s actual activities or alignment need not match his reputation. However, a radical shift away from his reputation might negate or even reverse that reputation at the DM’s option. Also, a Dread Pirate in disguise does not gain any effect granted by his reputation (including the special abilities described below that depend on the Dread Pirate’s reputation).

Pirate Trick: As a Dread Pirate develops his skill, he learns a number of tricks that aid him in his work. He gains a pirate trick at 2nd level and every two levels thereafter, up to 8th level. A Dread Pirate cannot select an individual trick more than once.

Acrobatic Charge (Ex): A Dread Pirate can charge over difficult terrain that normally slows movement or through the squares occupied by allies blocking his path. This ability enables him to charge across a cluttered ship’s deck, leap down from a higher deck, or swing between two adjacent ships to get to his target. Depending on the circumstances, he might still need to make Acrobatics checks to successfully move over the terrain.

Classic Duelist (Ex): The Dread Pirate gains a +1 competence bonus on attack rolls made with a cutlass, hook hand, rapier, or short sword. Additionally, a Dread Pirate wearing light or no armor is treated as having the Two-Weapon Feint feat, even if he does not have the prerequisites for the feat.

Deep Breath (Ex): The Dread Pirate can hold his breath for a number of rounds equal to three times his Constitution modifier before he must start making Constitution checks. This ability also grants the Dread Pirate a +2 bonus on Swim checks and allows the Dread Pirate to move at half his speed while swimming (by spending a full-round action he can move at his normal speed).

Rigging Monkey (Ex): Some pirates become skilled at climbing on ropes and rigging. This ability grants the Dread Pirate a +2 bonus on Climb checks when using a rope to help him climb. In addition, when using a rope to help him climb, the Dread Pirate can move at half his speed (by accepting a –5 penalty he can move at his normal speed).

Storm Sailor (Ex): The Dread Pirate treats all storms as if they were one category less severe for the purposes of sailing and navigation (this benefit stacks with the Hurricane Savvy character trait and other effects related to wind conditions). Additionally, a Dread Pirate remains stable on his feet when others have difficulty standing. He can make an Acrobatics check to move his normal speed across uneven ground, and he does not take a penalty on any Acrobatics checks due to slightly slippery, slightly unsteady, or moderately unsteady conditions. He is also not considered flat-footed while balancing or climbing, and he adds his class level as a bonus on Acrobatics or Climb checks to remain balancing or climbing when he takes damage.

Windrigger (Ex): The Dread Pirate has learned the tricky art of tacking. With a DC 20 Profession [sailor] check, he increases his ship’s base movement by 5 feet for 1 hour, with every 5 over the required DC increasing the speed by another 5 feet (an automatic success takes the amount rolled normally and rounds the value up, rather than down).

Rally the Crew (Ex): Starting at 3rd level, an honorable Dread Pirate can inspire his allies (including himself) to great bravery in combat once per day. This inspiration grants them a +1 morale bonus on saving throws against charm and fear effects and a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls and weapon damage rolls. To be affected, an ally must be able to see or hear the Dread Pirate. The effect requires a free action to activate and lasts for 1 minute per class level, even if the Dread Pirate moves out of range or loses consciousness. This is a mind-affecting ability.

At 7th level, a Dread Pirate can use this ability twice per day, and the bonus increases to +2.

If a Dread Pirate has the inspire courage bardic music ability, he can add the morale bonus gained from that ability to the morale bonus gained from this ability to determine the total morale bonus granted. For example, an 8th-level Bard/3rd-level Dread Pirate would provide a +3 morale bonus on attack rolls and weapon damage rolls.

Sneak Attack (Ex): Beginning at 3rd level, a dishonorable Dread Pirate deals an extra 1d6 points of damage when flanking an opponent or at any time when the target would be denied its Dexterity bonus. This extra damage applies to ranged attacks only if the target is within 30 feet (see the Rogue class features for more details). The amount of extra damage dealt increases to 2d6 at 7th level. If a dishonorable Dread Pirate gets a sneak attack bonus from another source (such as levels of Rogue), the bonuses on damage stack.

Luck of the Wind (Ex): Once per day, an honorable Dread Pirate of 5th level or higher can reroll any failed attack roll, skill check, ability check, or saving throw. He must take the result of the reroll, even if it’s worse than the original roll.

Scourge of the Seas (Ex): Starting at 5th level, a dishonorable Dread Pirate can instill fear into his enemies. When the character uses Intimidate to demoralize foes, the attempt affects all enemies within 30 feet who can see and hear him, and the effect lasts for a number of rounds equal to his Charisma modifier (minimum 1 round). Multiple uses of this ability don’t stack. This is a mind-affecting ability.

Skill Mastery (Ex): At 8th level, a Dread Pirate becomes supremely confident of his mobility. He has mastered the skills Acrobatics, Climb and Swim to the extent that he can take 10 with them even under stress.

Fight to the Death (Ex): At 9th level and higher, an honorable Dread Pirate can inspire his allies to carry on against tremendous odds. Each ally affected by the Dread Pirate’s Rally The Crew ability (see above) also gains temporary hit points equal to 10 + the Dread Pirate’s Cha bonus (minimum 10), gains a dodge bonus to Armor Class equal to the Dread Pirate’s Cha bonus (minimum +1), and is treated as having the Diehard feat even if he doesn’t meet the prerequisites. These effects are lost if the Dread Pirate loses consciousness.

Motivate the Scum (Ex): Once per day, a dishonorable Dread Pirate of 9th level or higher can motivate his allies by killing a helpless individual. All allies of the Dread Pirate who see the act gain a +2 morale bonus on damage rolls. This effect lasts for 24 hours.

Most dishonorable Dread Pirates don’t care whether the victim is a prisoner or one of their own crew. In fact, if the slain individual is one of the Dread Pirate’s crew, the morale bonus on damage rolls improves to +4, but the allies also take a —2 penalty on Will saves for the duration of the effect.

Pirate King (Ex): A 10th-level Dread Pirate’s exploits have become so legendary that great numbers of able sailors are willing to sign on as his crew for no compensation other than a share of the booty. Treat this ability as the equivalent of the Leadership feat, except that only followers (and no cohorts) are gained.

The Pirate Code

Most pirate codes share a number of elements regarding the proper “etiquette” of piracy. Here are a few ideas that might be appropriate for your Dread Pirate’s personal code:

  • Everyone shall obey all orders.
  • Everyone shall have a vote in major decisions. (This point is not necessarily limited to honorable dread pirates.)
  • Everyone shall have a share of captured food and drink.
  • Booty will be shared out as follows: one share to each among the crew; one and one-half shares each to the first mate, master carpenter, and boatswain; and two shares to the captain. (Some honorable captains might accept a smaller share, but they will take no fewer than one and one-half shares.)
  • Anyone not keeping his weapons clean and fit for an engagement shall be cut off from his share, and suffer other punishment as the captain deems fit.
  • Anyone who strikes another among the crew shall receive forty lashes across his back.
  • Anyone who attempts to desert or keep any secret from the company shall be marooned with one bottle of water and one weapon.
  • Anyone who steals from a crewmate shall be marooned or run through. (The latter consequence is more appropriate for dishonorable dread pirates.)


Athena - From The Ashes Tykor