What would a captain be without a crew to lead? They are an integral part of being a pirate. Your crew is with you from the start to lend a hand with your quests and to assist in your battles.
You begin the game with one companion already once you've completed the tutorial. As you travel the Skyways, visit more worlds, and help people in need you will recruit even more. Some will depend on many variables; Starter Class, Kraken Skulls, Presidio/Orphan, and Universal from side quests and main storyline. Others can only be obtained by specific classes either from side or main line quests, while still more can be purchased from prepaid gift cards, hoard packs, or after unlocking them in the Crown Shop.
Let's begin by sorting the companions by how they acquired. First, though, a word on Crown Shop (CS) companions. There are plenty of unique companions that can only be obtained by a specific pirate class or through certain quests. There are, however, CS companions who have counterparts. They will look different, have different names, and may not get the same or as many Talents/Epics as the primary. This is not to say they aren't good, but of course nothing beats the original :)
When you first begin the game and do the tutorial, your pirate is locked up (see "Who are you...Creating Your Pirate" for quiz questions) but you aren't the only one. Before you embark on your journey you must free this other prisoner who is grateful and offers to stand by you from now on. You have just recruited your first (hereby known as Starter) companion! This new First Mate is unique because he is only available to your specific class of pirate.
Remember the third question "What crime did the Armada arrest you for"? Well it not only decided your class, but also who your Starter would be. Here is the breakdown listing
Crime-Pirate Class-Starter-Crown Shop Counterpart
Brawling-Buccaneer-Kobe Yojimbo is a Swashbuckler Bull-Wagyu Sanjuro
Smuggling-Musketeer-Wing Chun is a Privateer Crane-Wu Tang
Treason-Privateer-Egg Shen is a Buccaneer Goose-Zang Cha
Dueling-Swashbuckler-Subodai is a Buccaneer Horse-Temujin
Hoodoo-Witchdoctor-Kan Po is a Swashbuckler Goat-Keisuke Yagi
Not too long after you've done a few quests, you are given another one which leads you to the Kraken Skulls Tavern. Here you receive another companion. Every pirate will receive a companion from this quest. Which one, though, is based on your class of pirate.
Pirate Class-Kraken Skulls-Crown Shop Counterpart
Buccaneer-Barnabus a Buccaneer Sloth-Gerard
Musketeer-Louis LeBisque a Musketeer Crab-Pepe DeTorteau
Privateer-Emmett a Musketeer Otter-Exeter
Swashbuckler-Sarah Steele a Swashbuckler Mouse-Lucy Sterling
Witchdoctor-Mormo a Witchdoctor Water Mole-Uga Buga
The first question you answered on the pirate quiz, "How did you lose your parents?" will determine who you rescue in the Presidio Dungeon. This companion is very special to your pirate for familial reasons that will become clearer the further you progress in the story line. Based on your choice for how you were orphaned, these will be one of the companions you will get.
Tragedy-Presidio-Crown Shop Counterpart
Armada-Gaspard De Vole a Buccaneer Guinea Pig-Giordano Bravo
Mutiny-Dead Mike a Buccaneer Zombie-S.M. Arson
Shipwreck-Lucky Jack Russell a Privateer Dog-Sergeant Shepherd
Squid Attack-Birgus Latro a Buccaneer Crab-Caracticus
Storm-Milo Graytail a Swashbuckler Rat-Malik
These companions are picked up while trying to bring law and order to Cool Ranch. Each class gets their own lawperson and all 6 are available in the CS (no counterparts). These are part of the main story line and therefore cannot be refused.
Pirate Class-Mag 7-Companion Class
Buccaneer-Billy the Kid-Musketeer
Privateer-Jane Canary AND Wild Bill Peacock both Musketeers
A Universal companion is one that EVERY pirate gets regardless. There are no questions to answer and it doesn't matter the class of your pirate. They are recruited either through main story line or side quests. There are no CS counterparts for these companions and you cannot refuse or decline the main story line quests to get them.
Here is the listing for them in order of how you would receive them (including if you do the sides at that time).
Bonnie Anne is a Musketeer Fox-Main
Old Scratch an Undead Witchdoctor-Main
Ratbeard is a Buccaneer Rat-Main
Rooster Cogburn is a Musketeer Rooster-Side
El Toro is a Swashbuckler Bull/Minotaur-Main
Monkey King is a Swashbuckler Monkey-Main
Ju Hao is a Swashbuckler Inoshishi-Side
Shiruku Neko a Swashbuckler Cat-Side
Gracie Conrad is a Privateer Dog-Main
Catbeard is a Privateer Cat-Main
Hawkules is a Buccaneer Eagle-Main
Zeena is a Musketeer Eagle-Side
You can check out all the companions that are available in the game here. They are sorted so it's easier to find the ones you are looking for.
Your companions area part of your crew. Once recruited they can't be dismissed. They will work better for you when they are trained properly. You can think of it like an employer/employee relationship. If you don't train your team, their skills will be lacking and they won't perform adequately. In fact, they could even possibly become a hindrance to the workplace (battle board). Also, like employees, certain companions can be promoted. Their reward is to gain new Epics and Abilities. Your reward will be to have a better team mate.
How do you train a companion? By using training tomes. These can be purchased for gold in any tavern but you cannot have more than ten in your current inventory. You can also earn tomes by completing side quests. There are even some that can be found lying around the Spiral just waiting to be picked up.
Training Tome Vendor in Tavern
The amount of experience given is determined by the ratio of your companion's level to your pirate's level. The closer your levels are to each other, the less XP your crew will get. For example: if your pirate is level 38 and the companion is 27 then your companion could gain three levels putting them to 30. If you are level 65 and trying to train a level 64 then it could three of four tomes to gain just one level. Your companion can NEVER be trained past your pirate's current level. So you will never have a pirate at level 18 with a level 26 companion. You can, however, receive a companion a level or two higher than your pirate. You will just never be able to "train" them further.
Training tomes become more expensive the higher your pirate's level. Therefore, you will want to use them wisely. Try to bank or hoard as many as you can. Don't train unless one tome will give your companion at least 2-3 levels. Train your best companions first, but don't forget to try to train your second or third string evenly, too. You don't want to get into a battle and have one of your <1% companions show up where they are still only level 34 and you are fighting rank 59 enemies. They won't stand much of a chance or last very long. Remember you can always farm for gold to purchase more tomes as needed.
When should you promote? Different companions promote at various levels. You can check here to find out when they will. Some companions don't promote at all while others can promoted up to three times. A few will promote for gold and several will have (somewhat) lengthy promotion quests. Once promoted, the companion will gain a new title, new look, and new Epic(s). It is definitely a lot more fun to have them in battle after they've promoted!
Your companions are an extension of you. You can control them and are responsible for them. Treat them right and they'll be there for you.
Many players have disagreeing opinions about companions. Some prefer a small crew and refuse to do side quests because they don't want to pick up any extra companions. For others, companions are what "make the game" so they'll even buy a few more from bundles, the CS or try for ones in packs in addition to their regular crew mates.
Whichever faction you choose to belong to, I would suggest making any companion you get your First Mate once you acquire it. Keep it in the first position and check out the pros and cons for five battles minimum before you make up your mind. Then you can determine whether or not that particular companion is suitable for your own playing style. This can help you figure out its placement on your roster. Also what talents it may need increased when you train it later.
How do you sort or arrange your companions? To sort your companions simply open the Companion Management (shortcut "U") and left click their portrait to drag and drop them where you want. The closer they are to being in the top rows of the first page, the better their chance of showing up to fight. This is not a guarantee so don't expect it.
Your companion roster is based on a percent (%) system that will decide how likely they will show up for your battles. Your First Mate will show up 100% of the time. The rest are calculated based on the number of companions you have, how many you will draw for a particular fight, and how many other pirates + their companions will be in the battle. You could get anywhere between 1-4 companions.
Page 1 of the Roster
Just because a companion has <1% does not mean they won't ever join. Only that their chance is less than 1% but there is still a chance.
Page 2 of the Roster
Once your pirate is level 15 they are issued one sleep token. This can put a companion to sleep that you may not particularly like or would rather prefer they didn't get drawn for a specific battle. Any companion who is sleeping will have a 0% chance of appearing. If you put a companion to sleep who has a beginning positive (+%) chance of joining, they go to 0% and any companions that are behind them in sorting order will have an increase. Compare the two pictures above with the ones below to check the differences in the percentage.
Page 1 of Sleeping Companions
Page 2 of Sleeping Companions
Until we meet in the Skyways...