longetalos writes "This article provides some information that can be used to flesh out whalers and those that hunt other large aquatic creatures in the Flanaess. it is a blend of text from on the internet, along with some gaming information that can be adapted for the GM who wants to introduce a whaling skill to their game.
Whalers is a generic
term used to represent any professional that hunts huge aquatic creatures such
as whales and sea serpents. As a whaler gains experience, they can perform more
complicated tasks – and hence earn more. Frequently whalers are paid out as a
percentage of the profit from the hunt and not paid a daily wage. The crew of a
whaling ship consists of the Foremast hands/Crewman (who does the basic jobs on
the ship and the flencing), Boatsteerers (row the whaleboats), the Harpooners
(they are the ones that attack with the harpoon), Officers/Mates and the Captain.
Products made from whales include;
· Whale oil: This is
oil rendered from the blubber.
· Spermaceti oil:
Sperm whales have an additional oil source in a cavity in their head. Pressing
this waxy spermaceti oil separates it into the highest grade
of oil and a superior candle wax.
· Baleen: Some whales
have plates that hang from the upper jaw to strain food from seawater. These
plates, called baleen, are strong and flexible. In the fashion
industry, baleen was often called "whalebone."
· Ambergris: A
substance produced occasionally in the intestines of sperm whales. Ambergris
was used in fine perfumes to keep the scent from changing, and was occasionally
added to wine as an aphrodisiac.
For the whaleman, it
was a rough and dangerous life. Once a whale was sighted, the crew took to
their whaleboats in pursuit with the immediate objective of harpooning their
prey. If the harpooner successfully speared a victim, the whaleboat and its
crew were treated to what was called a "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" as the
whale dragged its hunters through the sea in an attempt to escape.
"The grim realty is it's basically a waiting
game, a very dangerous waiting game," Millard says. "People have been
dragged out to sea for entire nights. There's been examples of guys who got
dragged about 120km away - and ate their own clothes to survive."
Typically, after two
to three hours of this rollercoaster ride, the whale would tire, be finished
off and hauled to the mother ship. Other times, whales have destroyed boats
entirely. When the whale is too tired to continue fighting, someone jumps into
the water and severs the spinal cord.
“The loose boat then came to the ship for a hawser to
fasten round his flukes; which being done, the captain left his irons in the
carcass and pulled for the ship, in order to beat to windward, and, after
getting alongside, to 'cut him in.' This done, and the mammoth carcass secured
to the ship by a chain round the bitts, they proceeded to reeve the huge blocks
that are always made fast for the purpose to the fore and main mast head, and
to fasten the cutting-in tackle. The captain and two mates then went over the
sides on steps well secured, and having each a breast-rope to steady them and
lean upon. The cooper then passed them the long-handled spades, which he was
all the time grinding and whetting, and they fell lustily to work chopping off
Soon after we had finished cutting in, while the ship
is lying to, the business has begun in good earnest; the blubber-men cutting up
in the blubberroom; others pitching it on deck; others forking it over to the
side of the 'try-works;' two men standing by a 'horse' with a mincing knife to
cleave the pieces into many parts for the more easy trying out, as the rind of
a joint of pork is cut by the cook for roasting: the boatsteerers and one of
the mates are pitching it into the kettles, feeding the fires with the scraps,
and bailing the boiling fluid into copper tanks, from which it is the duty of
another to dip into casks.
The whale now taken proves to be a cow whale,
forty-five feet long and twenty-five round, and it will yield between seventy
and eighty barrels of right whale oil (7000 to 8600 liters)."
Skill progression: The Whaling
profession consists of different roles/tasks. As a whaler gains ranks in this
skill, they can perform the more complicated tasks.
Rank 1 (Foremast hands/Crewmen): The majority of the
crew (65% of the crew) was made up of foremast hands. They performed daily
duties of cleaning the vessel, converting the prey into sellable products, and
taking turns on watch.
Rank 2 (Boatsteerers): These
are the crew members (20% of the crew) that rowed the whaleboat into position
(usually 3 to 5 per whaleboat). They then needed to hold on and keep the
whaleboat afloat as the prey fled with the whaleboat attached.
o Harpooners: These are the crew
members (5% of the crew) that threw the harpoon, hoping to latch onto the
whale. This began the process of the whale hunt. They enjoyed more liberties
than the average crew member.
o Officers/Mates: These crew
members (10% of the crew) commanded their own whaleboat, and acted as the
captain’s direct supervisors of the rest of the crew.
Rank 4 (Captain/Master): Perhaps the
term Master was more applicable than captain. This individual had complete
control and authority over the whaleship and its operations. As one whaling
captain said to his timid crew while on the whaling grounds, “I am God.”
Rank 1: Flencing &
Trying out, Rowing
Flencing & Trying out: The individual can
remove blubber from the prey (flencing) and boil it (trying out) such that it
becomes oil. On average, the individual will convert 20 kg of blubber into 10
liters of oil each hour (the rest of the blubber is used to fuel the boiler or
waste). Whales have (6d6+40)% of their body mass as blubber.
· Rowing: A Standard
complement of whalers can row a boat at its Best speed.
Rank 2: Artillerist, Hunt, Wild
Artillerist: The individual is considered Trained when using
catapults that launch harpoons against aquatic prey.
Hunt: The individual will locate a whale after 2d6+2
days of hunting.
Wild ride: The individual can control the whaleboat such
that the boat does not capsize as the prey flees pulling the whaleboat. The
ride will last 1d6 minutes per point of CON of the prey until the prey tires
itself out and bleeds to death.
Rank 3: Harpooning, Throw
Harpooning: Against huge aquatic creatures, the individual
can leap off the whaleboat with a harpoon, onto the back of their prey, imbedding the harpoon and latching it properly. When used in this manner, the harpoon
does double maximum damage.
Throw harpoon: Against huge aquatic creatures, the individual
can throw a harpoon with great accuracy such that the harpoon imbeds itself and
latches properly. When used in this manner, the harpoon does maximum damage.
Rank 4: Improved Artillerist,
Improved Artillerist: The individual is
considered Expert when using catapults that launch harpoons against aquatic
Improved Hunting: The individual will locate a whale after 1d6
days of hunting.
Rank 5: Improved
Harpooning, Improved Throw harpoon
Improved Harpooning: Similar to Harpooning except the harpoon does
triple maximum damage.
Improved Throw harpoon: Similar to Throw
Harpoon except the harpoon does double maximum damage."