“Carve your name on the ever-changing sea
with a saber of terror and triumph. Fight
for plunder, fame, and glory, and earn your
place among the legends of the sea.”

—Besmara’s Code

Besmara (bes-MAR-uh) is the goddess of piracy, strife and sea monsters. Her most common title is the Pirate Queen, though she is also known regionally as the Black Lady, the Sea Banshee, and Sailor’s Doom. She is brash, lusty, confrontational, and greedy, but follows a code of honor and is loyal to her crew and allies as long as it serves her interests. She cares little for senseless murder or other unprofitable acts, but is willing to take risks to attain great prizes. Even the most irreligious pirate captain throws a share of treasure overboard now and then as tribute for the Pirate Queen. Mayors of port cities and captains of merchant vessels curse her name, for her followers are a direct threat to legitimate trade. She has little power or interest in the mortal world beyond the sea and its immediate reach. Her holy symbol in most seas is a skull and crossbones on a black or red field, though Northerner pirates often use a viking helm with crossed swords behind it instead of the design familiar in southern waters.


These three phrases are the core of the goddess’s code, and any person familiar with her faith should recognize them and understand what they mean.

End Your Quarrels on Shore: Whatever disagreements one sailor has with another, onboard a ship is not the place to settle them, for everyone’s survival depends on the crew working together. If one member of the crew has a disagreement with another, the place to settle it is on shore—whether this is a port or just a sandy beach.

Thirty Stripes Lacking One: The traditional punishment for a serious infraction on the ship is thirty lashes on the bare back. The captain or boatswain, however, may choose to reserve the last (30th) lash as an act of mercy if the target is repentant or unconscious. Still, the captain always has the option to make that last strike at any time—a threat to ensure better behavior from the target. Usually this “lash debt” is canceled once the ship makes port, and always if the target leaves the crew.

Truce Ends at the Horizon: While pirates recognize the need for parley, any truce is only valid until the opposing ship is past the horizon. This gives the weaker captain a head start should he fear the other captain’s intentions. Breaking this part of the code is seen as not only unsportsmanlike, but a threat to all pirates.


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