Life on a pirate vessel is not the cavalier fantasy portrayed in film and marketing pamphlets. It is a structured society like any other, and as such brings along its own socio-political baggage. Navigating this quasi-democratic autocracy requires grace and some form of deployable ordinance. To that effect, here are the hazards you should be aware of.
This position is a bit of a mixed blessing. The pay is marginally better than that of the crew but like most professions, it’s all about the benefits:
* Private cabin
* Private dining
* Self-set agenda
* First rights to booty
* Absolute autonomy (1)
Sound great? It is, but it comes with one very important caveat.
Everything is your fault
“That harmless freighter turned out to be not-so-harmless. Nobody is perfect, right?”
“How was I to know that ship was only carrying a shipment of Hug-A-Bunch dolls?”
Still your fault
Remember those 30-something individuals you don’t have to sleep near anymore? It turns out being stuck in a cramped and dingy bunk fosters a certain intolerance for poor execution. So much so that they will conspire to demonstrate what good execution is. First they will execute a mutiny and then they will execute the Captain. This is one of the checks and balances of the pirating life.
So if you’re the Captain with a sword of Damocles hanging over your head, it is in your enlightened self-interest to foster an atmosphere were people do not want to mutiny and kill you. To do this, they have three tools at their disposable. The first (and hardest) is success. Say what you will about your bastard of a Captain, you find it really hard to find fault with them when they’re keeping you in a steady supply of loot.
Sometimes a pirate airship will hit a dry spell, and that fountain of pillage will not be available to bath in. Now the captain has to employ the other two tools. The first is to keep everyone busy. They will yell at you to swab/paint/etc all of your waking hours; anything to keep you focused on something other than mutiny. On a pirate vessel, idle hands go for a gun. If they do go for it, the last tool is the only thing between you and thirty thousand feet of free-fall. Fear. Being scary will act as a deterrent against motive, means, and opportunity. Everyone will think twice about rising up against Captain McStabby after they’ve just made an example of the bloodslick on the deck that, up until two seconds ago, you called Bob (2).
While the Captain is the face of the ship, the Quartermaster is its very stingy wallet. And like most wallets, given enough time it will develop holes through which your rightfully stolen money will vanish. Charged with overseeing the ship’s tally of provisions and wealth, the quartermaster of a pirate airship has elevated creative book keeping to a level that would shame the most soulless of film studio accounting departments.
Even above the Captain, the Quartermaster is the one person that a pirate should make a point never to cross. Don’t believe us? Well ponder that fact after you’ve recently implied that your ship’s Quartermaster’s parents were unwed at the time of their birth. We are willing to bet large sums of money (3) that you will find every bit of food, booze, and looted pluder to be considerably more modest when it comes time to divvy shares.
And what does the Quartermaster get in return for the word they do? If they’re honest, nothing.
Nobody appreciates the chief engineer. It is the most thankless job on the entire ship, and those who take up the wrench to perform this duty do so out of a love of problem solving and spitting in Fate’s eye. It is a full time job to ensure that several tons of steel defy the Natural Order of Things and suspend itself 30,000 feet in the air like no several tons of steel was intended to. And what, you might ask, is the reward for such a miracle of modern pseudo-science? Neglect.
Nobody notices the Engineer until something bad happens. If they’re doing their job, everything runs smoothly, and life is all sunshine and rainbows. But even the best of Engineers can’t keep everything perfect, and when that moment happens, they suddenly get noticed. That notice usually comes in the form of rotten fruit, threats, and a detailed list of any character flaws they might have.
These heroes of the sky must suffer the slings and arrows of the ignorant slobs that live under the roof they provide. I mean really, would it kill one of you to stop and say hello in the corridor once in a while? I see you make eye contact and then quickly avert your gaze to inspect some particularly uninteresting bit of paint. It hurts. Especially the the comments about how we smell as you walk away. Is it my fault that I’ve been stuck in an engine room without the benefit of central air or a hot bath. It’s been two weeks since we’ve seen the sun. Two weeks. (4)
(1) But not really. See mutiny.
(2) Captain Murderington McStabby had a long and successful career as a corsair. Known for being particularly ruthless with his crew, he would often unintentionally bomb the countryside with the bodies of pirates who failed to meet expectations. Thus terrorizing not only the crew but the greater populace at large.
(3) For very large values of zero.
(4) Mr. Wunk, classically trained in the engineering vocation, was very hurt by his treatment by Mr. Fagnalls while the two were crew on the pirate ship Malice Aforethought. Despite getting top billing once the two began a writing career, Wunk always harbored a certain resentment towards his partner. Fagnalls thought Wunk should quit being such a baby.