Jake Cooper is just one in a long line of seafaring men; his father is a fisherman in the waters off of Port Peril, unconcerned about the pirates that sail around his little fishing boat on a daily basis. His two older brothers take after his father; the eldest helps the old man each day, the younger has secured his own ship and sells his catch with theirs. His grandfather was a pirate swab who retired after a few trips landed him enough money to buy a boat and convince a pretty half-orc carpenter to marry him.
Jake, on the other hand, has spent his life in trouble. He’s an unfortunate man, a kleptomaniac in a world with nothing to help him control it. He alternates between thinking of it as the dark half of himself and a personal demon sent by Dagon to torment him; whispering in the back of his head about how nice all the things around him look, and occasionally just taking his hands and plucking them away from their owners outright.
He used to try to return the things, apologizing for it and trying to explain that he hadn’t intended to do it. His parents did their best to raise him well, after all, and if he’d been born somewhere else he might have been able to get his impulses under control and live a passably normal life. Even if he’d stayed in Port Peril he might have at least found a way to survive, staying on a fishing boat by himself until exhausted, leaving family to sell the catch, or pilfering from beggars and urchins.
Instead, he tried to keep his urges sated by taking to the high seas, signing up aboard the Midnight Gale first. It was too late when he discovered that, rather than having a supply of ships to loot, he was often at sea for weeks or months at a time with no one to pilfer from save his shipmates. For a few years this sufficed; he slipped from one ship to another as crewmates got suspicious, trying to keep his thefts to inconsequential and meaningless trinkets.
Then, to his dismay, he signed up aboard the Wormwood a few months ago. Mister Plugg and Master Scourge were already well-settled, with their harsh discipline in evidence on the backs of the other swabs. Jake was hard-pressed to keep his urges under control and out of sight, keeping his inner demon sated by pilfering the occasional scrap of plunder, stray bits of ship biscuit, and cast-off scraps from ship maintenance, eventually having to discard bits of it overboard when no one was watching to keep his locker from becoming a tangled nest of detritus.
Things came to a head when poor Jake reached into the pouch at his belt for a rag to wipe his face only to discover that he had somehow purloined a small vial of some dark, oily liquid. Something like that, he knew, could only belong to one of two people – the formidable ship’s mage or Mister Plugg’s arsenal of toxic compounds. Neither option was good news for him; one would probably kill him on the spot if he tried to return it, the other would be sure to have him whipped bloody and then keelhauled.
His limited choices were taken away when the bottle was discovered hidden amid the tangled mess in his locker, where he’d hidden it while trying to decide how to get rid of it without drawing attention. The day before the Wormwood was set to take on a load of new swabs, Plugg did an inspection of lockers while Jake was in the rigging, finding the bottle and recognizing it as one of his own.
Plugg, unwilling to openly admit to his stash of poisons and drugs, concocted a story – corroborated by his clique of sycophants – of Jake planning to poison his way into being an officer, bringing it to Captain Harrigan’s ear. Before he knew what had happened, Jake was in the sweatbox, stripped of his fine daggers and left to stew while the ship sat at dock; his punishment to be keelhauling once the ship was underway.
So it is that poor Jake “Magpie” Cooper will be hauled to the deck the evening after the Wormwood sets sail again, his skill as a thief letting him help himself to the brass knives of his fellow pirates as they haul him before the Captain and First Mate to face his fate. As to who he plans to go after… Well.
That’s for the GM (or the accomplice the GM hands him to) to decide. Perhaps he’ll go after Harrigan, trying to avenge himself on the man for letting such a malevolent first mate run things. Perhaps he’ll go for Plugg, the man who framed him for attempted murder. Or perhaps he’ll try to end himself quickly, rather than the slow and savage punishment of being keelhauled.
For those looking to use poor young Jake in their own games, I present the stat block:
Jake “Magpie” Cooper CR 1
Human (Chelaxian) rogue (pirate) 2
N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +4
AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor, +2 Dex)
hp 15 (2d8+2)
Fort +0, Ref +5, Will -1
Defensive Abilities: Evasion
Speed 30 ft.
Melee brass knife +1 (1d4+1/19-20) or
brass knife +1 (1d4/19-20)
Special Attacks sneak attack +1d6
Str 12, Dex 15, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 10
BAB +1; CMB +2; CMD 14
Feats: Sea Legs, Two-weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +9, Bluff +5, Climb +8, Escape Artist +7, Intimidate +5, Perception +4, Profession (sailor) +4, Sleight of Hand +7, Swim +3
SQ swinging reposition
Other Gear: masterwork leather armor, brass knife x2; Stowed gear: belt pouch, grappling hook, hemp rope (50 ft.), mess kit, mirror, pot
Evasion (Ex) If succeed on Reflex save for half dam, take none instead.
Sneak Attack +1d6 Attacks deal extra dam if flank foe or if foe is flat-footed.
Swinging Reposition (Ex) Can move 5 feet as a free action after a charge or bull rush when masts and riggings are present.