Sailor Grogs needed

I need to generate 15 or so sailor grogs in the next couple of days. I welcome your ideas (Virtues and flaws, short background, abilities, whatever). Just a concept or archetype to lock onto, so I can keep them all straight, populate my players' ship, and have a grog ready when we need one....


Also, anyone have any thoughts on the general crew members of a typical merchant cog?
1st Mate
What else?

The cook should be the most bad ass sailor of the lot. Why? Well, because cooks both rule and kick ass :laughing:

It wasn't uncommon for sailors who were crippled to stay on in an axillary role, like the cook. While peg legs and what not are a bit cliche this could still be a fun way to characterize an individual or two since it gives you an good hook for their backstory.

I would watch Master and Commander (again). The age differences there are quite important and show how diverse a crew could be.

For a change, I would make a lookout child that is really proud (proud) since he believed his mother's (or a local storyteller if you prefer) tales about him being a lost princeling (delusion that causes the proud flaw) saved from a sinking ship. But he is also afraid of heights (fear, or better a personality trait of "hates heights"), so each time he goes up he needs to fight with his fear and show that he can do it (proud and fear conflict). In general he succeeds, but sometimes he does not and gets a beating. So far this is not a problem, since he is 7-8 years old, but when he grows up this might become an issue when he thinks that he should under no circumstances be chastised by those lowly peasants in the crew. On the other hand he is quite adept at walking up and down ropes (perfect balance) so he is almost always up in the upper parts of the ship.

Besides that he is a fairly good chap that is still in a malleable age, so he can end up as a spiteful bastard or as a nice courty dude depending on how things turn out for him.

/Shudder/ Once was enough...

You could have one of the sailors be either a reformed criminal, or one that picked up this job "on the spot" to flee some place or person (and why?).

You've also got the classic "girl hiding as a sailor" bit. Be it to flee a violent father, a rapist that's somehow untouchable (or no one believes her, or care, if he's important enough), the classic mariage to someone she doesn't love, or just to seek out adventure.

One could be a bitter man, alone and chidless, having devoted his life to the sea.
On the opposite, one could be a father of numerous children and a good man, working to feed his family and happy to talk about it and how he enjoys life.

One could make (and bring with him) one of the most infamous jungle juice the PCs will ever drink. He's very proud of it, you should try it!

You've got the classic pseudo-wise man, who's seen it all (beauty of the sea, violence of the sea) and is rather at peace, sprouting words of wisdom when needed (common sense?) but also knows what to do and when to take action

Looking for stuff about this, I found those. I guess you already know about them, but I fouind them interesting. :slight_smile:

Xavi ... CCsQsAQwAw

Master and commander would be a bad movie to base anything on for this period. #1 it is a military ship. #2 It is at the height of the science for sailing ships.

The Cogs of this period might not have a deck. They are basically large Viking Longboats ( clink built). Most would have a steering oar rather than a rudder.

Other than the captain and navigator, everyone else would not have any other "special" skills beyond profession:sailor. you can mix them up to be the nimble ones that go up the rigging. A keen vision or two for look outs. A large one to act as a bosun's mate( keep the others in line)

Or not even that!

Many sailors didn't even know how to sail - they just pulled on a line when told to by someone who did know what they were doing. They learned in a very mechanistic way, not understanding "why" they were doing something, nor really what change it made to the boat, just that it had to be done. That's how you make use of slaves, and how shang-hai'd crew are useful - no one gives them sailing lessons before putting them to work, or to sea. And that's the difference between a swab, a seaman and a sailor, a hand and a mate, or a pirate and a captain - the latter actually know how the boat works, not just how to follow orders. :wink:

And, as odd as it sounds, don't bother wasting points for (m)any of them on Swimming.

Water was not a natural or welcoming environment for most medieval folk - you stayed on the boat, you walked on your legs - It's not like anyone tried to get clean or get excercise, so why swim, ever? If God had meant man to swim, he wouldn't have invented boats and bridges, right?

VERY few medieval folk knew how to swim, and even then what we know as swimming wasn't made popular until the late 1800's - far too much splashing, far too much exertion - one might drown from exhaustion! Local exceptions certainly existed - if your family/community were diving for pearls or oysters, or otherwise made their living in the water (rather than just "on" it), or (possibly, but not necessarily) grew up adjacent to water, you would know how to swim.

But sailors and swimming were not a recognized natural pairing - if the boat sank, it was usually far too far to land to make any diff. :confused:

Postby JeanMichelle » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:19 pm for "Fire in the North"

Lucky Wodin Whoreson, the pirate

  • 1 greedy
  • 1 story: Visions
    -3 Outlaw
    -1 Weakness gambling
    -1 Afflicted tongue
    -1 Disfigured
    -1 Missing eye
  • 1 fluctuating fortune (from A&A p. 134: alternating: one year virtue rich, the next year poor flaw)

3 Ways of the sea
1 Premonitions [associated with the magic realm]
1 Perfect balance
1 Affinity with single weapon
1 tough
1 puissant single weapons
1 Self-confident
1 Luck

Int 0 Pe +1
Com -2 Pr -2
Sta +2 Str +2
Dex +2 Quk +2

Early childhood:
Native Language Gaelic (Hebrides) 5
Athletics (Climbing) 2
Brawl (dagger) 2
Survival (fishing) 1
Awareness (seeing things at a long distance) 1
Swim (Salt Water) 1

Wodin was born on Skye. His mother was a red-haired public woman who found her customers among the fishermen, smugglers and pirates. Her hands were as large as bed-pans and her voice as deep and loud as any man’s. She had no idea who his father was, but as she said: “He was a sailor - that’s all I can say for sure.” Wodin’s childhood environment was marked by loose morals, hard drinking and periodic violence, and there was never shortage of rough father figures for him to imitate. One of these encounters left him with a permanent scar in the face and a lisp (his face is slightly asymmetrical).
He became a rather violent child, who nursed his bruises in his frequent bruises in his secret hiding place: A small cave in the cliffs.

Later life
Year 6: Wodin: Wodin stays at home, and learns about drinking, and gambling [Carousing (games of chance) 2]
Year 7+8: Wodin’s mother is stabbed to death by a suitor. Wodin puts a knife in him, runs away and is taken on as a ship’s boy by a smuggler. [Profession: Sailing (Irish Sea) 2, Area Lore Irish Sea (Coast) 2]
Year 9: The smuggler is caught by the authorities. All the adults are hanged, the boy has an eye put out.
He starts seeing things with his blind eye. Folk Ken (authorities) 1, Premonitions 2]
Year 10-18: Wodin is taken on by another vessel – pirates. There he spends the next ten years of his life living the cruel life of a pirate, and gets promoted to the position of Watch leader. He also acquires a reputation for being the luckiest bastard on the seas that surround Albion. He warns the other pirates that their last trip is going to end in disaster, but they scoff at his murky predictions. So he leaves the ship, only to learn of their bloody end at the hand of a rival pirate group some days later. His visions then lead him to Ailsa Craig, where he finds refuge, good pay, and magi who might eventually explain[Single Weapon (Axe) 5+2, Carousing to 3, Profession Sailor to 4, Area Lore Irish Sea to 3, Premonitions to 4, Leadership (ship) 1]

Athletics (Climbing) 2 [+6 for perfect balance if applicable, +3 for Ways of the sea if applicable]
Area Lore Irish Sea (Coasts) 3 [+3 for ways of the Sea]
Awareness (seeing things at a long distance) 1 [+3 for ways of the sea, if applicable]
Brawl (dagger) 2 [see below]
Carouse (Gambling) 3
Leadership (ship) 1 [+3 for ways of the sea, if applicable]
Native Language Gaelic (Hebrides) 5
Premonitions (threats to himself) 4 [+3 for sea-linked dangers like storms]
Profession: Sailor (Irish Sea) 4 [+3 for Ways of the sea]
Single Weapon (Axe) 5+2 [see below]
Survival (fishing) 1 [+3 for Ways of the sea, if applicable]
Swimming (Salt Water) 1 [+3 for salt water]

Personality: Brave +3, uncouth +2
Reputations: Pirate (port towns) 2, lucky (pirates) 1

Equipment: A well-made sailor’s leather outfit, complete with 2 daggers (one hidden in his boot), and an axe [Load 1] that is primarily a tool, but can also be used in combat.
For raids, or fights he sees coming, he equips a heater shield [Load two] and a full leather scale armor [load 5]
Load: 1/8 encumbrance: 0/-3

Combat Values (-1 attack for missing eye included; +3 in sea regions in […], -3 for armor has not yet been included because he normally doesn’t wear it)
Soak: +5 naked/ normal outfit, +10 when expecting battle
Punches: Initiative+2 [+5] Attack +3 [+6] Defense +4 [+7] Damage +2
Dagger: Initiative+2 [+5] Attack +6 [+9] Defense +5 [+8] Damage +5
Axe: Initiative +3 [+6] Attack +13 [+16] Defense +10 [+13] Damage +8
Axe and Heater shield: Initiative +3 [+6] Attack +13 [+16] Defense +13 [+16] Damage +8

Well, that does it then, our cook will be named Marko, and be a pyromaniac....

Thanks everyone for these ideas, they're awesome.
JeanMichelle, this character is great. I'll bring him in at a later date, and turn it into it's own story. Having a character with visions on board will allow for some fun stories.

I welcome more ideas!


Craft: Ropework (this is anything from complex knots to splicing to fancywork, and probably making rope from twine as well, given the right tools. Always need for mending rope on a ship, always time to have your hands busy doing something.)

Craft: Sewing (sim to above, with clothes, sails, bags, etc)

Craft: Carving (less directly useful, but sailors always have time on their hands)

Charm - few sailors don't love the social scene

Leadership (Intimidate) - mebbe?

And Brawl should be with fists - unless he has some sort of bloodlust, not so much with knives I'd think.

We’re Liverpool born, boys, and Liverpool bred,
Yo, ho, blow the man down!
Thick in the arm, boys, and thick in the head.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

(The words are much later than our period, but the sentiment is timeless.)

This is probably more correct later on when pressganging and large navies become more common.

Although one thing, pirates more often than not tended to be among the better sailors around, they had to be because of the lack of or at least limited hierarchy.

The common sailor at this time though were probably mostly "pro´s", with some trainees and the occasional "noob" that happened to become part of the crew for one reason or another.

Yup, although that depends a bit on where the ship´s crew is from, and there´s always the occasional captain who required all of his crew to be able to swim.


I would say Carouse as a better choice.

Add Carpentry(or ship building or something like it) to that and you got the most important parts pretty well covered.

Mmm, maybe. No good clues as to what was common at "this" time, but at least later on, knives becomes an extremely common thing, however not all that commonly used(a fistfight could be overlooked, knives usually resulted in serious injuries), usually fists was the norm for brawls in port and with shipmates while the knives were reserved for thiefs, pirates and other serious threats. But again, if the same was true in AM´s time is a guess.

Ah no, we´re still not at the "height of the science for sailing ships", its just that sailing ships got overrun by enginepowered ships. Although in the last decade and over the next, we may be seeing quite a bit of "sails" making a comeback (this: is a good example of a product already starting to go into commercial use), because sail technology keeps improving while engine fuel keeps getting more expensive.
Ship building overall is still faaaar from at the end of the line of development, for example it is quite likely that the next generation of warships will have their fuel usage reduced by 15-30% just because they are finally starting to adopt advanced versions of the bulbous bow and then also adding the "rear flap"(basically a small "outgrowth" at the end of a ship that reduces the amount of waves made, and thereby reduces the amount of power that is lost) idea someone came up with not so many years ago...

I would say more than not has a deck, its still a shiptype in very active evolution, but i wouldnt expect any larger cogs to lack a deck by the standard game time.

2 thoughts

  1. no cogs in 1220
  2. Profession Sailor covers all the crafts and professions needed

Indeed you are right, partly because the English word cog is used more generously than the German ship type "Kogge", which I erroneously assumed to be a translation.
As you pointed out yourself, some characteristics of Koggen (the Schlesvig/Lübeck type) only became popular shortly after the standard setting.

  1. With the first cogs appearing in the 10th century and being VERY common in the 12th century and onwards up to around the 14th century when it was gradually being replaced by the holk i find your assertion of "no cogs in 1220" less than sane.

  2. No. It covers all direct needs. Otherwise you get a single profession covering essentially ropework, sewing, carpentry and smithing all in one. Which becomes quite absurd. And there are more still crafts and professions that could potentially be included under "sailor".

I misspoke before... I'm not using a cog. We're in the Mediterranean. I'm using a nef.

C&G, pg 84 "Seagoing ships"

Sorry about the confusion (and I appreciate the links for cogs, Xavi! The Bremen Cog info is really cool.)

What is absurd about that? Sailors existed. And it didn't require years of study to become a sailor. If the rules as you see them do not cover this fact, you should revise your viewpoint.

Or even better: Please create a young sailor (let's say age 22), with all those skills you suggested (and the others, like Profession cleaning, athletics etc which you omitted). Then ask yourself if he's playable.
And do post it here.

Also a thing to remember, depending on what type of vessel it is, about half of those on board or more would be slaves or bound men. Every boat of the middle age would have oars and for the most part they were rowed by the dingiest lot. There would be a mix of slaves and men who traded travel or small wages for the work.

From what I have read, (please be kind I am only a reader not a scholar) there were three distinctions on board ship. Row men, steer men, and passengers. Row men were made up of mostly slaves and some bound men who were rowing for payment. Steer men, were the true sailors, they worked the sails, steered, navigated, and were basically the classic idea of a sailor. Passengers were your merchants, soldiers, ect. and they typically were expected to simply stay out of the way and not die, heh heh.

I seem to be in a bit of a fog right now, but it would be one thing to consider just how this ship is to be run. There should be a LOT of rowing, as the actual sailing part of shipmanship was poor during this time. So does the vessel run with all hands being free men? Or is the a need for a slavemaster?

From what I can remember the cog really was a very poor vessel until well into the 13th century, being that the design was constantly in flux depending on who was building it.