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Our party inadvertently captured a ship.

Is there any way to gain a proficiency now that we're 6th level? If I have to wait two more levels to get the Skilled feat, I'm afraid we'll end up sinking the ship.

If I spend time on board, under the guidance of a skilled captain, is it really going to take 250 days?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPGSE. Since you're asking a system question, please add a system tag to indicate what system and edition you're playing. \$\endgroup\$ – vicky_molokh Jul 6 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would assume the issue is that you do not have enough time to use the variant training rules, so you are looking for another way to gain the proficiency (or pilot the ship) or are you uncertain that the variant training rules require 250 days? If you made that more explicit that the variant training rule is something that you have considered but is not your main question then that would make answering easier. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jul 6 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seriously? . . . I just want to be a pirate. We don't have the time to take 250 days. In the old days (2e) it was accepted by many that if you gained 1000 xp using the skill, you could become proficient. I haven't seen anything like that. \$\endgroup\$ – Mick Miller Jul 6 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like my assumption was wrong, your question is not a means to the end of operating a ship, but about a specific way to do that via attaining the proficiency by the variant training rule, my bad. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jul 6 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. And yes, I'm interested in the story. And how to make the mechanics fit the story, not the story fit the mechanics. If that's not possible RAW, then that's a limitation I have to live with. It will just push me to greater heights of creativity. \$\endgroup\$ – Mick Miller Jul 6 at 15:38
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Use downtime training rules from Xanathar's Guide to Everything

The standard Training downtime option given in the PHB does indeed require a significant time investment - so significant that it's not a practical option in many campaigns. Luckily, however, the Downtime Revisited chapter in Xanathar's Guide to Everything offers alternative rules for training that require much less time:

Receiving training in a language or tool typically takes at least ten workweeks, but this time is reduced by a number of workweeks equal to the character’s Intelligence modifier (an Intelligence penalty doesn’t increase the time needed). Training costs 25 gp per workweek.

Proficiency with a class of vehicles is considered a tool proficiency, so under these rules - assuming your DM doesn't decide that proficiency with water vehicles is more difficult to learn than usual - an exceptionally smart character might be able to pick up the knack of sailing after just five weeks with an appropriate tutor, but even a dunce can learn the basics with ten weeks of tutelage.

It would seem appropriate for that to take the form of "on the job" training in the case of learning to sail, so you could continue your normal activities and treat all the days you'll inevitably be spending travelling around as downtime to learn the skills - though I would also rule that you'd need still need to have a properly trained crew to handle the ship effectively while you're getting your sea legs, and you will need to pay someone specifically to tutor you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Groovy. That's the answer. I was hoping that there was something out there that would let me fit the mechanics to the story and not the other way around. Thanks you! \$\endgroup\$ – Mick Miller Jul 6 at 16:54
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If your actual goal is to be a pirate for a while ...

... per your comment under the question ...

Seriously? . . . I just want to be a pirate. We don't have the time to take 250 days. In the old days (2e) it was accepted by many that if you gained 1000 xp using the skill, you could become proficient. I haven't seen anything like that.

... then all you need to do is to hire an NPC who has proficiency with Vehicles(Water) and have them drive the ship while the rest of you conduct yourselves in as piratical a manner as you like for as long as you like.

  • The expanded rules for ships in Ghosts of Saltmarsh include actions that characters who lack a proficiency in Water Vehicles can use to assist in the running of a ship (p. 198-199).
  • As usual, any task or action can be presented as a non-proficient ability check based on an ability score: work with your DM to sort out the practical details for these efforts. (Examples: Repair? Strength check. Splicing a line? Dexterity check, etc).

If you don't intend to be doing piracy for at least 250 in-game days, you can still do any number of in-character things with the ship.

  1. Promise this NPC (as an incentive) that the ship is his or hers when you stop pirating. That's a huge incentive to retain this NPC's loyalty.
  2. Sell the ship at your last port of call when you tire of pirating. (Prices in PHB, p. 157)
  3. Trade/barter the ship for something valuable when you tire of pirating. (Prices in PHB, p. 157)
    • About pricing: sailing ships go for 10,000 GP, Galleys for 30,000 GP, Longships for 10,000 GP.
  4. Use the ship as a decoy for a monster or an opposing force, and set it ablaze in a last act of piracy / randomness / cleverness when you are done with pirating.
  5. Other things that you dream up, too many to count. You've enough timber to build a few houses ...

Leave your options open - you may fall in love with piracy

If, as the adventure runs its course, you end up being a pirate for longer than 250 in-game days (it's hard to predict how an adventuring life plays out once you become a pirate) you may grow to love it and do it for longer than you currently envision. Whether this plays out or not, I still suggest that you work with your GM now, ahead of time, to accrue that proficiency / training until your pirating career does finally end.

  • Experience based point here: many years ago, my players ended up beginning their seaborne career after capturing a trading ship during a battle. The campaign took a decidedly maritime turn at that point, and they sailed all over the game world before finally losing the ship to a fire during a battle in a harbor. The game didn't start out at sea, that's how things worked out. Just over one in-game year spent both as "merchants" and as "privateers" for various nobles they met. Granted, our campaign was a bit "sand box" in style, and yours may not be. The point here is: once you start engaging in a maritime campaign, you may find that you really like piracy.

About vehicles(sea)

It taking a long time to become proficient with water vehicles is pretty consistent with how the Sailor Background offers that proficiency - you spent your whole life to date sailing the seas. It also offers a bit of verisimilitude regarding what it takes to sail effectively. It's not like driving a car. I learned to sail some decades ago, but it was a hobby I could not then afford ... and then the kids came ... then 35 years later I was sailing on Lake Travis with a bunch of hung over friends on New Year's Day, and nearly rolled them into the water by being a bit rough on the helm.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, there doesn't seem to be many options for learning skills after 1st level (without taking the Skilled Feat). I must say I am a little apprehensive about hire someone to run the ship who's interested in being a pirate . . . I know the first thing my character would do if given that job would be figure out how to kill the boss and take the ship. Thanks for your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Mick Miller Jul 6 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MickMiller That's where working with your DM and making sure that your NPC has a motive to support you comes into play. RPG, role play, great fun! :) I wish you and your party fair winds and following seas. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 6 at 15:53
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Yes. The Training downtime activity would allow a character to gain proficiency with Vehicles (Water) after spending 250 days training at 1gp/day of cost.

However, the expanded rules for Ships in Ghosts of Saltmarsh include a number of actions that characters who lack a proficiency in Water Vehicles can participate in to assist in the running of a ship.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer. So, there is no way to gain a skill, tool, language, etc. without the 250 days of downtime. That's a shame. We were looking to become pirates. Oh well. \$\endgroup\$ – Mick Miller Jul 6 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MickMiller Becoming pirates is still possible - look at the rules for ships in Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and possibly the Franchise rules in Acquisitions Incorporated for rules on building a crew (which might include NPCs who do have a Water Vehicles proficiency). \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Jul 6 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure under the circumstances that it will be possible. But it might be just as much fun to set fire to the ship and crash it into a port. That's kind of pirate-like... \$\endgroup\$ – Mick Miller Jul 6 at 15:40

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