Skull & Shackles
On the sea, the position of your flag can mean the difference
between life and death. Even pirates prefer to obey flag etiquette
unless they’re deliberately attempting to deceive others. Three
types of flags are commonly used on the water.
Ensign: An ensign is a ship’s domestic flag. For example, an
Andoren ship would fly the Andoren flag as its ensign.
Courtesy: A courtesy flag is the flag of a foreign nation. An
Andoren ship in Taldan waters would fly the Taldan flag as its
Private Signal: A private signal is the personal flag of a
particular ship or captain. This flag is usually the captain’s
personal emblem or the emblem of an organization. An
Andoren privateer must register her personal emblem before
obtaining her letters of marque; this emblem appears on her
private signal, and helps the government track her ship.
Ships use several common flag positions to signal their intentions.
In domestic waters, a ship flies its ensign at the top of the
mast. Beneath the ensign appears the ship’s private signal.
A private signal flown alone means the ship considers itself
unaffiliated with any government—in short, a pirate vessel.
Pirate flags are generally flown alone.
In foreign waters, a ship flies the courtesy flag at top mast.
Beneath the courtesy flag, ships fly the ensign and then the
private signal. Flying an ensign without a courtesy flag in
foreign waters can be seen as a declaration of hostile intent.
On ships without a flagpole, the ensign is always hoisted aft,
as close to the stern as possible. The courtesy flag, if any, is flown
fore (close to the bow) and the private signal is flown amidships.
A flag flown upside-down is a signal of distress.