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A note from captaink-19

Bit of an info-dump chapter, but I hope to answer some of the questions and requests I've been getting about Domenic's abilities.  Enjoy!

When I’d gotten the ship interface for the Wind Runner, ‘interface’ really was the best term. The ship was its own, and I had merely been given a limited interaction with it. When I raised my dinghy, the ship interface had seemed small in comparison to the galleon, even with my expanded cursed features. Still, I had felt closer to the dinghy than the Wind Runner. I’d written the feeling off as time and sense of ownership: I’d only had the Wind Runner for an hour or so and that was by default, while the dinghy was my own.

Now I understood that it had been more than that. The ship interface wasn’t the same glimpse into a ship’s identity like I’d felt on the Wind Runner, the same interface most captains experienced. It was part of my profession, part of me. My ship was claimed as my own. I was not just a captain manning a ship, the ship was an extension of myself.

And now, claiming this brig brought my new interface – the full expansion of my consciousness – flooding into my mind like a tsunami.

If I’d been anchored, I’d have fallen to my knees. Adrift as I was, my head snapped back like I’d caught a fist to the nose. My body started to follow it, but I curled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around my head in a variation of the fetal position. My shoulder bounced off the deck before my feet did, and my disorientation didn’t help matters.

Everything about the ship just popped into my head, and the volume of it discombobulated me. I closed my eyes but the interface was still in my mind. It was there, I could process it, I just needed time to work through it, an order to everything instead of this mass.

I mentally ordered the interface to appear as categories and subcategories. I trundled everything upwards until I had a neat, concise, non-overwhelming list.

Sea Cruiser (Cursed)

 

Ship Class

Brig

Captain

Domenic Seaborn

Ship Durability

22,000/28,000

Ship level

2

Cursed Status:

The Grieving Captain

   

Crew

 

 

 

Ship alterations:

 
 

Speed

 

Maneuverability

 

Handling

 

Durability

 

Modifications:

 

Repairs

 

Effects

   

Relationships

 

When I had my list summarized, I realized there were a number of prompts demanding my attention as well. Before I opened them, I felt my connection to the ship and changed its orientation. The port side rose from the mud and the ship was again level, the keel still resting on the sea floor. I smiled and patted her gunwale before returning to business.

Your ‘dinghy’ has been discarded.

I ignored that one because I already knew it would happen.

The ships history and your experience with it have an effect on the nature of the ship’s curse. You have no history or connection with this ship. Given your reaction to the crew lost on board, cursed status has been set as: The Grieving Captain.

I broke from the other prompts demanding my attention to analyze the cursed status section of my interface. It surrendered its secrets to me immediately.

The Grieving Captain: the commander of this ship has felt a sense of loss that his ship now bears. Any person in close proximity to the Sea Cruiser feels a sense of loss and mourning unless they are able to resist, in which case they have a chance to develop anger. Additional time spent within the area of effect does not multiply the effect.

I was surprised to have a curse tailor-made for my ship. I had thought that the curse meant … well, cursed. I guess I hadn’t thought of a curse being a specific thing, only a label. My dinghy didn’t have that, but there were a couple of reasons. One was that it didn’t count because it wasn’t a ship. Another was that because I had no history or experience with the dinghy at all, I didn’t get a tailor-made curse – just a generic label.

Getting a custom curse for this ship seemed odd as well, as my reaction to the tragedy here didn’t seem like it warranted something so unique. But then, looking at the nature of the curse it didn’t seem all that special. ‘A person in close proximity’ didn’t seem like it would have a wide area of effect. Would it affect my crew? Would it affect me? That would be a heck of a ship to run, everyone either depressed or angry.

I didn’t feel any influence magnifying my grief or turning it to anger, but maybe I was resisting it. Maybe it was really easy to resist, and the curse barely applied. For my purposes, that would be fine, as I’d just as soon not have mood swings during my experimentation.

As a cursed ship, certain effects are non-applicable. Ship durability has been reset at 22,000 points.

A lot of the damage to the ship had probably been the result of its time underwater. Having flooding in the cargo hold would normally be an problem, but not for me. It seemed that a cursed status made some things a non-issue, which I was glad for. Any ship that was on the bottom would have damage, starting with whatever had sunk it and ending with the hull losing cohesion. There was no way to fix something like that, it was easier to make a new ship. Not having to deal with that meant I wouldn’t have to claim an intact ship on the surface.

Previous alterations on ‘dinghy’ have been carried over where applicable.

2500 XP has been allocated to sails.

My XP did carry over from one ship to the next! Not perfectly, I’d invested 3,000 XP into the dinghy, and 2,500 carried over. Still, it was better than nothing.

You are in an area that has been deprived of mana. Certain functions will be limited.

My deeper magic had literally stripped the surrounding area of magic to fuel my ability. If I understood correctly, the balance would gradually be restored, though I didn’t know how long it would take. In the meantime, things aboard my ship that needed mana would go without. That didn’t seem to be a problem for things like hull integrity – the durability stayed where it was at – but it would affect things like my sailing speed. While I could catch the natural currents of the water, my primary propulsion was mana pulled from the water by the sails. If I ran into dead zones like this, it would be like running into a doldrum on the surface.

Having dealt with the prompts, I turned to my interface. I investigated ship level and saw that it was a composite score of ship durability, average crew level, and appraised might. I was proud that just myself controlling a ship brought it to level 2. Levels didn’t matter much outside of naval combat, so I didn’t have much experience with them. I did know that most trade ships stayed around level 1. Having a few artillery pieces didn’t automatically bump you up to level 2, but get some crew trained on them and a boarding team and you might find yourself at level 3 or 4.

I recalled the whaling ship Essential under captain Coe had been level 2 for most of its tenure until Coe had added more Atlas harpoons. That had pushed it over the threshold to level 3, at least with his normal crew.

I wanted to explore the crew function, but it was locked to me. Until I actually had a crew, I couldn’t figure out what it was.

I briefly considered buying the summon crew ability. Sure, I’d only be able to summon magical constructs, but I’d get to explore the crew function and sail away with my new ship instead of my dinghy.

I’d already decided to save for the raise crew ability, though. I wouldn’t be able to gain the XP needed to buy the second of the two options for a long time. While summoning crew would help me right now, they wouldn’t fight for me. I already had enemies lining up, I needed real people. And I was just a few thousand XP short of being able to get the raise crew ability now.

I felt that passing over crew was ignoring a significant portion of the interface, but I’d have to wait to explore it. Moving on to ship alterations I found where I’d initially been overwhelmed.

Nearly everything was scalable. The cost of some features were chump change even for a normal profession, seeing XP costs as low as 5 for an upgrade was a balm to my soul.

There were just upgrades for everything.

I tried categorizing everything under speed, maneuverability, etc. Each time I ended up with something like a catch-all miscellaneous category. No wonder. There were things like cordoning off areas of the ship so that when it submerged, they wouldn’t be flooded. Where would I have put that ability? A miscellaneous category, of course.

Still, I found a lot of ship abilities that tied into crew functions, which probably explained why they seemed to be adrift. I could get the specific, ship-related ability, but it belonged under a crew tab. Those were things like sleeping quarters (or the need to sleep!), creating areas of crew space (which I gathered wasn’t setting aside a lounge for them, but creating chests that were like adventurer bags), or food.

Speaking of food, that was a category I hadn’t considered the ramifications of until I investigated the function. On a long voyage, you stock up on non-perishable items and resupply at the first opportunity, right? What if you’re on a cursed ship? Does Davy Jones drop into port for his groceries?

Like the function for sleeping, there were options that magically reduced the crews need for food. The problem was they were exorbitantly expensive, and even if I could afford them, I’d hesitate. Sleeping wasn’t just to replenish your energy; it was a reset button that let you start a new day. I’d been in spots where the crew couldn’t sleep for a few days. It did more than exhaust you, it started to drive you mad. Unless I knew this shipboard function prevented that too, I wouldn’t take it.

Food was similar. I hadn’t had a drink of water since I set out on this trip because I didn’t need it underwater. I still missed it now and then, though. I’d packed some water in my bag for the sole purpose of the sensation of drinking when I felt I needed to. I could make my crew non-dependent on food, but I’d bet I’d see a drop in morale; first when they missed the sensations of eating a meal and then when the missed the activity and socialization of a crew eating together.

Even though those things weren’t on my short-list to buy, they underscored how powerful my profession was. It would no doubt take decades of grinding to be able to afford those abilities, but once owned I would have a crew that was indefatigable. It was a long-run gambit, but then I’d been playing those since I started hoarding attribute points.

The first stage of the food ability was something I would have to buy, though. It magically restocked food supplies over a period of time. The first stage was hardtack and water, but it could be upgraded until the crew feasted like kings. Again, it would just have to come at an XP cost.

The other categories of my interface were what they described, but I still found surprises there. On my dinghy, speed had only applied to the sailing speed, or how many knots I was making in an hour. Here there was also the ability to increase the speed which I dove and submerged at. Seeing the progression which that followed, I realized that trying to operate at some of those speeds would create a vortex where I’d submerged. Then I realized that might even be the point …

I adapted my visual interface to project the list of speed enhancements onto their constituent parts, like I’d done with the dinghy. There, it had affected the sails. Here there were enhancements on the sails, the masts, the hull …

When I tried taking it all in, I realized that adjustments could be made to lengthen the ship, narrow the beam … why, if you spent enough XP, you could change the Sea Cruiser into a completely different type of vessel! That would take tens of millions of XP, so it was essentially impossible and definitely impractical when you could build and claim a ship far cheaper.

Other functions operated on a similar principle. Modifications included artillery and weapons. I was curious what weapons entailed, so I investigated and found that I could have the ship supply the materials for maintaining crew weapons. If I designated an area of the ship as an armory, I could have the ship generate cursed weapons there. My interface went on to tell me what weapons I could generate and the XP cost of each, but I skimmed that. I wouldn’t be sinking XP into weapons when I had so many other places to invest it. The ship was capable of acting as an armory for the right price, but that price made it so much more practical to get weapons elsewhere. Heck, I would face down an armed man for his weapons when I was barehanded! It would be better than wasting XP.

Artillery was similar, but as I already had artillery installed on the Sea Cruiser there were more options. There was an option of creating a spatial chest for the artillery pieces that would contain their ammunition. Being able to store larger amounts of ammunition in a smaller state was a definite bonus, but I also saw the benefit of having the ammunition in a secure area. Having the enchantments on artillery triggered before they were fired didn’t happen often, but it was possible. It was for reasons like that the ammunition for onagers wasn’t kept with them above decks. If someone dropped a tool on a gas round and set it off, it could kill a large part of the crew. If they were stored in a spatial container, not only would it be safe from mishaps, but anything destroying the container would just destroy access to the munitions, rather than set them all off.

By hunting through the different ways of upgrading my ballistae, I found clues to crew abilities. I wondered why I couldn’t just have my ships’ carpenter or an artilleryman perform the upgrades. After a bit of investigating, it seemed that I could. If someone had the requisite skills and materials, they could do the same thing the ship offered.

If I was locked into sailing this ship on my own, with only summoned constructs to help me, some of these XP upgrades would make sense. As it was, I could enlist real experts into doing the work without having to kill a bunch of creatures to afford it. I wasn’t just being frugal, the potential customization here might be limitless, but it was designed to be impractical. If it wasn’t, getting lucky with the profession would be the path to easy power. Some people might be born with a silver spoon, but the world did a pretty good job of keeping professions balanced.

Durability was straightforward, even if it did apply to everything. I could increase the durability of the hull, sure, but I could also increase the durability of the sails, lines, or tools.

Handling and maneuverability were closely intertwined. Maneuverability related to how well the ship could perform, while handling referred to how well the crew and I could manage that control.

For instance, there were maneuverability upgrades related to speed and turning radiuses. Their counterpart in handling applied to the lines the crew used, making it easier for them to manage the lines. They’d have to have that capability, as the increased performance required it. The person at the helm – me, in this case – stood as the bridge between the two categories, where ship handling met maneuverability.

I looked at the surface above, a grin creeping across my face. I was in that position of control...

There were no sails hanging from the mast, they’d either torn free or rotted off. I couldn’t have managed them on my own anyway, I’d need a crew for that. Since they weren’t there to pull my ship who-knows-where, I was dead in the water.

Except I didn’t need the sails to surface.

I grasped the ships wheel and looked to the surface while mentally controlling the depth. For the first time since it sank, the Sea Cruiser left the sea floor!

The bulk of the ship moved slower than my dinghy, and I began to see why increasing the speed of ascent could be beneficial. Still, this was movement without sails. If I did this maneuver with forward thrust, I bet I could climb much faster.

I raised the ship until just below the surface. There, I decided to take the prudent step of swimming to the surface and looking about for traffic first. I’d been on my back-foot since the day Lawless Jack attacked, figuring out things as I went along and getting used to lies and subterfuge as a requisite part of keeping my nature hidden. That didn’t mean I hadn’t earned my Adaptable perk or my Trickster achievement. Give me time and arm me with knowledge, and I’d show you what I was capable of. I just happened to be short on those, lately.

There was no one in the vicinity that I could see. I looked at my ship below me – close enough that I could still control its depth – and giggled at what I saw. I commanded it to rise and adjusted my position slightly as it did so. The crow’s nest met my feet, then lifted me out of the water. I was awed as I thrust into the sky, my ship and I both dripping with seawater.

I exulted. I whooped, hollered and danced whatever jig I could in the tight space of the lookout position. I remembered to scan the horizons for ships again from my new position, but again saw no one.

This was what I wanted from my profession – from the sea. This was what is was all about. I sat down in the crow’s nest, ran my hands through my hair and processed things. I had a ship of my own. I wouldn’t keep this one, it was a temporary thing, but I was a captain in more than title. Being the captain of a dinghy hadn’t really brought it home the way the Sea Cruiser did.

A few weeks ago, I’d been unsure that I’d ever pick a profession. I didn’t want to be chained to the land. I’d gotten my heart’s desire; I’d gotten a profession that meant a life at sea.

It had come at a price. There was a reason all the stories warned against making deals at the crossroads of fate like I’d done. At the time, I’d refused to let my life end there. I still couldn’t imagine choosing death, but the chains I felt around myself grew tighter and tighter. Jones hadn’t even tasked me with a mission yet and still I felt myself squirming under his thumb. There were two halves to the coin that was my profession: one side was the freedom I now enjoyed; the other side was the chains I’d accepted to get it. Two halves, one coin. Like Jones and me.

I put my leg over the crow’s nest to climb down the rigging but thought twice about it. One of the sections on my interface had been repair, and the ship had need of it. The missing mast was the biggest issue, but the state of the remaining lines and rigging was also problematic. Rather than trust myself to the tattered rigging, I submerged the ship until I was treading water again, then raised it when I was above the helm.

I experimented and played around with my ship for the rest of the day, observing how the water flooded in when I dove or was forced out when I surfaced. I toed the line between surfaced and submerged and observed the results. I looked over my interface again and again, familiarizing myself with it, customizing it suit me better. I looked over the whole ship both when it was surfaced and submerged, trying to see if anything changed between the two. I toggled my interface so that I could look at a tattered line and see all the possible upgrades and repairs for it one minute, then see nothing but the line the next. It was good practice. It was needed practice. Mastering my profession felt like mastering a new skill.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I did get a skill increase, but it did.

You have advanced to skill level 19 in Seamanship. Your proficiency in all seamanship-related activities has advanced.

I was so shocked when I got the message that I released the helm and let the Sea Cruiser continue submerging as it had been, dropping away beneath my feet. It had taken a year and a half to advance from level 17 to 18, even with my perk bonuses. Everything I’d heard from experienced sailors indicated there would be more and more time between advancements, if you advanced at all. Yet my level 18 advancement had been eight months ago. I had advanced to a higher level twice as fast as I’d made the previous tier! That was practically unheard of!

It had to be my new profession. I wasn’t just developing old skills, I was adding new skills and mastering them. But I’d only been using my profession for a short time! Would this mean that I’d see a bump in the pace of my progression while I mastered my new abilities? Could I return to the time when I’d levelled Seamanship multiple times in a year?

Level 20 was a huge milestone in any ability, and I was one level away from it. This day had been amazing from start to finish!

Most of it, anyway. I found a spare sail stored below and took the time to gather the remains of the crew from where they were tied or thrown about. There was nothing wrong with a burial at sea, but it seemed wrong for me to come, claim their ship and thrust them out of it. This was their resting place, and since I’d be done with the ship at the end of the day, I saw no reason I couldn’t return it to them.

Wrapping them all in sailcloth wasn’t a perfect sendoff. It felt similar to how I imagined a mass grave. Still, wrapping them felt like the right step, as it removed them from their positions of terror, the positions they’d violently died in. They would remain buried at sea, in the hold they’d perished in, but there would be human hand laying them to rest. If their spirits had clung to this place, maybe now they could rest.

I also took care of business, identifying the most valuable ores in the cargo and dumping them from their crates into my bag. If the ores had been smelted already, I probably could have managed the whole cargo. Who shipped a half-finished product? I’m sure it made economic sense somehow, or else they wouldn’t have done it. It still didn’t make sense to me.

As it was, I fit the most valuable ores in my bag and had started with the ores of middling value when I got the notification that I had no more space. I’d been surprised at the number of crates I managed to empty, but the party was over. This was the only haul I’d be able to make.

Except that a pay chest was on the list too. My observation skill had let me know there was something odd about the captain’s cabin, but I never would have found it if I hadn’t claimed the ship. The Sea Cruiser had no secrets from me, however. There was a small chest hidden in a secret compartment of the captain’s cabin.

I could not, however, find the key. Nor did I have any good lockpicks on me, they hadn’t been the sort of thing to pick up at the open market. Still, I needed to remember to get some, I had the skill to use them and it was underutilized. The locked chest removed the temptation to filch any coins.

Having agreed to Smitty’s terms, I normally wouldn’t have entertained the thought of reneging on my deal, but I thought I’d finally seen how Smitty had gotten the better end of me. In the contract, he’d specifically offered me 30% of the appraised value of everything I recovered. Now I wondered if there wasn’t going to be a discrepancy between the appraised value and what he actually sold it for, with him pocketing the difference.

Maybe it wasn’t fair to think he was cheating me before I’d even been paid, but the man was a miser operating out of a pirate town for goodness sake! Things considered contraband in Dagat could be found on the open market in Tulisang, and that just so happened to be where he set up shop?

As long as I made enough to pay for my training, I’d be fine. Given the heft of the chest and the amount of coin I heard rattling inside, 30% of that would suit me. I had to clear out some of the ore to fit the chest (which was thankfully small enough to fit through the mouth of my bag), but the coin inside was worth much more than the rocks were.

The sun was setting when I decided to call it a day. I’d do some magic practice, sleep in the captain’s cabin, and reclaim the dinghy before heading back tomorrow.

I brought the Sea Cruiser back down to the sea floor, then hunted down my dinghy. I hadn’t been able to sail the Sea Cruiser without sails, but I’d still drifted throughout the day. Nothing major, I still set down on the ridge and I knew where the dinghy had been left. Finding it wasn’t the issue.

What remained of it was an issue.

Apparently when the prompt had said ‘your dinghy will be discarded’ it meant ‘destroyed’. It had been an ancient thing when I’d claimed it, only its cursed status had allowed it to be seaworthy. Now it looked like it had suffered all the abuse it had been magically protected from while cursed in a single instant. It didn’t even quantify as a ‘wreck’ because I couldn’t analyze it at all!

I told myself it was fine, that I’d use a raft from the Sea Cruiser. That lasted the entire second it took me to remember that my ship had no rafts, they’d been used or lost in the storm that had sunk it. I groaned and rubbed my face. I wouldn’t change anything I’d done or would do; I’d made the right call in coming out here to practice and I’d made the right call claiming the Sea Cruiser to explore my interface. Only now it meant I had a long trip back to Tulisang, and I wouldn’t be sailing.

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A note from captaink-19

Lists, ability names, and progression paths are easily the most difficult part of writing LitRPG for me.  If you see a way to add to or improve to Domenic's interface, please comment and share!  Shout out to my patron Horathio for his advice that helped flesh the interface out a bit more already!  We'll see more explanations and experiments with other ships Domenic raises.


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captaink-19

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