Maritime Laws and Customs

The Universal Precept

  • All countries and most cities recognize one simple precept: The captain of the ship is the sole voice of order and conduct.
  • As kings rule with total authority in their own lands, the captain rules his ship, and he has the power of life and death over all aboard her.
  • Cormyr’’s and Impiltur’’s ship captains rarely put criminals to death aboard ship, instead jailing them in the ship’s brig and bringing them home for punishment.

Mutiny
•* Mutiny against a ship’s captain is a crime not suffered by any sea power.

  • If successful, the mutineers can return to port and present their case before the proper authorities.
  • Only Cormyr has ever refrained from hanging a mutineer (and then, only twice), regardless of circumstances.
  • Most mutineers become pirates or privateers without homes beyond their berths and bunks in the Pirate Isles.
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    Piracy
  • Piracy is an offense that many decry along the Inner Sea, though some states offer harsher punishments than others.
  • Cormyr allows first offenders of piracy to keep their lives, but at the price of one hand; the second offense costs the pirate’s life.
  • Most hang pirates upon proof of their crimes, though few question a captain who defeats a pirate crew and hangs them from the yardarm of his own ship.
  • The rotting corpses of pirates can occasionally be seen near the Pirate Isles.
  • The only pardon for those guilty of piracy is to recruit them as corsairs to hunt down their former fellows as unofficial arms of the coastal governments.
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    Smuggling
  • Smuggling is an even greater problem, because smugglers are either dodging taxes or providing a need or a product that is banned due to political or legal machinations. * * Most powers confiscate smuggled goods then tax the smugglers two to three times the cost of the contraband for early offenses.
  • Repeat smugglers end up banished or put to death.
  • Smuggling is rampant on the Dragon Reach and among the Dragon Coast cities and the Vilhon Reach.
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    Salvage
  • Salvaging treasure from shipwrecks is not unlike dungeon delving, though it is more difficult due to the hostile environment.
  • Any ship sunk within territorial waters officially becomes the property of the authorities, but they usually claim only 20% of the treasures or goods recovered.
  • Another 20% of any salvaged treasure automatically goes to the ship’s captain, and he gets first choice of the goods.
  • Folk who quarrel over such arrangements often find their chartered ships abandoning them while they dive, leaving them to drown.
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    Ten Miles
  • Ten miles offshore is the recognized limit of territorial waters for any lone port or country.
  • It’s tricky to recognize waters around the Alamber, as Mulhorand, Thay, Unther, and various independent cities have laid claim to overlapping territories at times, and thus sea battles happen as one power’s vessels finds another power’s within “its territory.”
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    Sovereignty
  • Attacks on a country’s ships within that country’s waters are considered acts of war and are dealt with harshly and quickly.
  • Sinking or confiscating the offending ship and the imprisonment or execution of its crew are the most common penalties.

Fishing

  • Fishing in territorial waters without paying either the local or national authorities is illegal, but hardly enforced anywhere save along Cormyr’s and Sembia’s coastal fishing areas.
  • Despite penalties to the contrary, most local fishermen attack each other’s boats when they feel someone is intruding in their waters, leading to many bitter rivalries and feuds among neighboring coastal villages.

Maritime Laws and Customs

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