Since only very few pirates travel alone, almost everyone who follows the great pirate age becomes part of a crew, a so-called pirate gang. You can either found your own gang, gain the rank of captain and find your own comrades-in-arms, or join an existing gang as a member.
Whitebeard as leader of one of the largest pirate gangs
Admission and size
The size of a crew varies greatly, and each captain decides how many comrades-in-arms to include in his crew.
While Luffy only takes on a few people with whom he has always survived a great adventure before, and thus leads a comparatively rather small pirate band, Don Krieg’s force consisted of over 5000 men. Bands of this size are often divided into different units. For example, Don Krieg divided his subordinates into 50 pirate ships with their own captains, and Whitebeard divided his crew of about 1600 men into 16 divisions. The criteria for inclusion are also up to the respective captain. Some captains only want particularly strong fighters in their gang, others are specifically looking for people for certain professions and positions. In some pirate gangs, certain requirements such as race or gender are even decisive. For example, the Giant and Fishmen pirate gangs, in keeping with their names, only accept members who are also members of their species. While most pirate gangs are predominantly or even exclusively male, only women are tolerated in the Kuja pirate gang of Boa Hancock.
On board a pirate ship, many different tasks arise on the high seas. In order to be able to do all these very different and important tasks as well as possible, different positions are assigned within a crew. Especially on the Grand Line, every move has to be perfect, so every crew member should be an expert in his field. In most cases they are already specialized in this task beforehand and are therefore true experts in their craft. In exceptional cases, however, work has to be done provisionally and completely amateurishly by the pirates because a suitable comrade-in-arms has not yet been found.
Under the captain as the actual leader is – if available – the vice-captainwho takes over his captain’s duties during his absence. If the gang is divided into different units or divisions, the captain often appoints a leader, called a mate, for each particular group.
Indispensable to successful sailing is the crew’s navigatorwho calculates the course. For this they need materials such as good charts and compasses, or as in the case of the Grand Line log ports, a special sense for weather changes and currents. Since one often spends long periods at a time on the high seas, a cook or Cookwho ensures good nutrition and the allocation of the limited food, is also important. For medical care, for example after battles or of course in case of illness, many pirate gangs also employ their own ship‘s doctor. To ensure the permanent maintenance of the ship, some ships even have their own carpenter or craftsman. On larger ships, cabin boys are often employed to keep order.
An important criterion of a pirate crew is its strength. The majority of such a crew consists of people who are particularly experienced in combat. You need people who can wield a sword, as well as specially trained gunners who can start a fight at long range. In a pirate gang you will also sometimes find your own musicianswho are responsible for entertaining the rest of the crew.
Among themselves, the comrades on board a pirate ship often refer to each other as nakama (仲間, “companion” or “comrade-in-arms”). They often live together in close quarters on the high seas as if they were one big family. Since their voyage is marked by battles, they must be able to rely one hundred percent on their comrades-in-arms at all times and thus trust them with their lives. However, the relationship within the individual pirate gangs often differs greatly. For example, the cohesion of the Straw Hat Pirates is so strong that any member of the gang would risk everything to save a fellow member. For example, both Sanji and Zoro were willing to sacrifice themselves for their captain when Bartholomew Kuma was sent to take him out after his victory over Gecko Moria. Even before that, they had all traveled to Enie’s lobby to free their comrade-in-arms, Nico Robin, from the hands of the World Government.
Whitebeard treated all of his fellow captains like his sons and was immediately ready to go to a huge war against the entire force of the World Government to save Ace. However, some captains also rule over their subordinates by threats and fear, are ready to sacrifice parts of their crew at any time to save their own lives, and resort to brute force in case of disobedience. There is very often great rivalry and enmity between different pirate gangs, especially when they share the same goals. However, there are also gangs that ally with each other, at least for a certain period of time.
The most important identifying mark of a pirate gang is their Jolly Roger. The Jolly Roger is the skull and crossbones flag that every pirate gang flies on their main mast. In most pirate gangs, a unique feature, often a visual flare of the crew’s captain, adorns the white skull. Often the standard crossed bones in the background of the symbol are also modified in this way.
In some pirate gangs, it is also common for not only the ship, but also all members of the gang to wear a common identifying symbol. For example, all members of Kuro’s crew wear black cat ears on their heads, and in the Sun Pirates, every member wore the same tattoo. Originally, some of the fish people were branded with the mark of the World Nobles. In order to not expose them, Fisher Tiger changed this mark and made it his symbol that every member of his gang had to wear. Thus there was no distinction between the formerly enslaved and the free members of the crew. Even in Whitebeard’s gang, many, especially higher ranking members such as Marco and Ace, had their captain’s mark tattooed into their skin forever to symbolize their loyalty and allegiance.