All of the talk of piracy in the news these days, as well lots of games of Pirates Cove, has led me to including some pirates in the current D&D campaign. The PC’s were recently attacked by some pirates, who naturally needed some sort sea faring, swash buckling Captain. So I took a look at the Dread Pirate prestige class in Complete Adventurer and I found it to be a very cool, well balanced class. Since so much of it is suited for sea travel it probably is not the most versatile class for a PC, but it works great for an NPC as it equally balances skills and both combat and non combat abilities. Of course, in any sort of nautical themed campaign this would work great for a PC.
The requirements are pretty straightforward and offer a couple of options for getting in; +4 Base Attack, non-lawful, 8 ranks of Appraise and Profession (Sailor), 4 ranks of Swim and Use Rope, Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse, and ownership of a boat worth 10,000gp. The ideal class for this would be the Swashbuckler if the character plans on mixing it up in melee a bunch, but a Bard also works great due to the synergy of Inspire Courage and the Dread Pirate’s Rally the Crew. Some Rogue is also a great fit. I love that a wide variety of pirating types can be produced with the class.
Once the requirements are met the class offers full Base Attack, good Reflex, d8 Hit die, and 6 skill points. That’s a decent offering. Seamanship is a nice 1st level ability that will continue to improve, but Two Weapon Fighting is even better. A Rogue or Swashbuckler can take real advantage of two weapon benefits, they just need to resist the temptation to take it before going into the class. At 2nd level the Pirate is given a choice between being an honorable or dishonorable Pirate, the decision effects whether they receive a bonus to Diplomacy or Intimidate, and other abilities at higher levels.
The honorable or dishonorable feature of the class is a neat mechanic and I’m glad it was included. It’s just another step in giving the class options and something to differentiate one pirate or another. I just don’t see how it meshes with the alignment restriction for the class. The description makes a point to show how this class could also used for an honorable type of seafarer (the example given is a pirate who honors flags of truce) as well as the ruthless marauder and profiteer. So my question is, why limit the alignment? Honoring flags of truce seems very lawful. Perhaps lawful evil in the case of a pirate, but lawful nonetheless. As a DM I would gladly look past the alignment issue.
At 3rd level the dishonorable pirate receives 1d6 Sneak Attack, while his honorable brethren gets the Rally the Crew ability. Rally the Crew is a free action that gives +1 to attack, damage, and saves versus fear to all the Pirates allies. It also lasts for minutes per level and continues even if the Pirate is unconscious, and the range is any ally who can hear it. That’s not good enough? It also stacks with the Bard’s Inspire Courage. Excellent ability all around. At 7th level the bonus becomes +2, and the sneak attack goes up by another 1d6. Advantage honorable Pirate.
At 5th level Luck of the Wind and Scourge of the Seas are given to the honorable and dishonorable pirates, respectively. Luck of the Wind allows a 1/day reroll on most failed rolls, while Scourge of the Seas allows Intimidate to affect all within 30 feet. Both of these are pretty good, but nothing game breaking. The final pair comes at 9th level with Fight to the Death and Motivate the Scum. Fight to the Death grants the allies of an honorable Pirate temporary hit points (10+Pirates Cha modifier), the Diehard feat, and a bonus to AC equal to the Pirates Cha modifier. For a Bard based Dread Pirate this can be extremely powerful. Since we are looking at a character that is probably going to be around 15th level it’s not unreasonable to think that the Cha bonus may be as high as +6. That’s a huge AC bonus and the hit points are pretty nice too. If a dishonorable Pirate kills a helpless individual in front of his allies it will activate the Motivate the Scum ability, such is their fear of the Pirate that they are motivated to do an extra 2 points of damage on each attack for the next 24 hours. If the killed individual is a member of the crew the bonus is +4, though a -2 to Will saves also applies. The real key here is the 24 hour duration, which can certainly lead to a day long orgy of murder and looting.
At 10th level all Pirates gain the Pirate King ability which is essentially the Leadership feat.
I think that I would just remove the alignment from the class and allow the player to decide which type of Pirate they would like to be. A high level Dread Pirate with a large crew is indeed a fearsome opponent. And probably a very fun class to be as well.