A Jolly Rogers Tale: Skull & Shackles
Pirates and sailors use many technical terms and also develop their own shorthand at sea. Many of the terms below have become common on ships and in port cities, particularly in dock districts.
Adrift: Floating loose at sea. Can also mean someone who has run away or gone missing.
Anchor: A person who wears heavy metal armor.
Besmara’s Fingers: A-cat-o’-nine-tails.
Binnacle: A glass-topped box fixed to a stand on the deck. The binnacle houses a compass.
Bubbles: A person who can’t swim.
Cannon: A spellcaster with flashy offensive spells.
Captain’s Dance: When two ships meet in open water and wish to parlay, each ship sends out a boat. The two captains meet on one ship; the two first mates meet on the other.
Chase: A ship that is being pursued by pirates.
Coaming: A raised lip around a hatch to keep water from spilling belowdecks.
Fancy Jacket: Someone who dresses and talks like a pirate but has no real sailing experience.
Fast Colors: A country’s flag. Privateers sometimes fly pirate or merchant flags to lure pirate ships close, then raise their true flags when combat begins.
Fishslicer: A small blade, like a dagger.
Following Sea: Waves going in the same direction as a ship.
Frenzy: A fight, particularly a tavern brawl.
Gallows Jumper: Someone who has died and then come back to life, such as through a raise dead spell.
Holystone: Bars of sandstone used to scrub the deck.
Jack Tar: A pirate.
Lights: Lungs. (The “lights” in famous exclamations like “I’ll have your liver and lights!” actually refers to lungs, rather than eyes, as landlubbers often imagine.)
Lubber: A clumsy or stupid person, often a “landlubber.”
Paying Cargo: Passengers.
Running Lunch: A rat or large insect. Sailors sometimes joke that a new crewman must “catch himself a running lunch.”
Scaly: A fish. Can also refer to a sea monster.
Sea Legs: The ability to maintain balance on a rolling deck.
The Sweet Trade: Piracy.
Windbound: Unable to set sail because of wind conditions. Can mean any situation in which a person cannot act because of outside circumstances.
Windspinner: A spellcaster, specifically one who possesses weather magic.
X-er: A treasure hunter—someone always looking for “the X that marks the spot.” Can also mean a Pathfinder.