The Xmas season saw a return to swashbuckling for my little gaming group. Way back in April of last year, I abandoned a promising Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG campaign due to personality conflicts with one of the players. I could probably write one of those “The Problem with Problem Players” posts about the situation, but let it suffice to say for now that Gunter’s continuing selfish and asinine behavior really soured us on the campaign so we kicked his player out of the group and tried some other approaches.
We first played a ‘70s exploitation homebrew setting with Savage Worlds that was supposed to lead to a new campaign but instead turned into a one-shot. I take all the blame for that; I had a pretty difficult time doing my usual improv-style GMing in that particular gritty ‘70s New York. I apologize to everybody who put time and effort into developing their characters for that game. I suck.
The buzz about D&D Next being a modular system with different levels of granularity then suckered me in for a try at playtesting that system. I’ve got a great deal of sympathy with and fascination for the OSR movement, but I am not and have never been an old-school gamer. D&D Next seemed like a good opportunity to try out something closer to the OSR play style – and it was at first. The earliest version of the rules was fun and flexible (if still bogged down by annoying 3rd edition crap like attacks of opportunity -- which I don't like in Savage Worlds either) and we had a few fun dungeon-crawling sessions with that. Unfortunately, the last round of design changes for D&D Next soured me on the entire system, so we switched back to the late, lamented Pirates of the Spanish Main campaign.
|Hats from the Sean & Robin B Collection|
Silas’ player hadn’t played Savage Worlds before, so we got things started with a gratuitous fight scene to practice using the system. Six incredibly stupid thugs jumped the three player characters and – for the most part – died from beheading. I think a few actually ran away; I’m trying to work up some morale guidelines for myself so I don’t always play the NPCs like suicidal idiots.
The crew then slipped into the Silver Eel Tavern for a drink and met St. Nicholas. They all found the old man charming (Nana was particularly fascinated by the presence of such an inscrutable kami while Brother Seamus was dumbstruck) but they declined St. Nick’s offer of freeing them from their vows to Dionysus and he vanished after giving them an ambiguous blessing that will only last until they do something bad. Despite not doing anything particularly heroic, I don’t think they did anything particularly villainous this session so the crew should begin play next session with an extra benny each. I completely subscribe to the “They’re all pretty nice” version of Santa Claus.
Kit was feeling restless, so he suggested the crew go on the account again. When we last left the crew of the Bloody Revenge, they had acquired the Codex Brendani – an atlas of all the great mysteries and magical islands of the greater Caribbean region – and a Latin translator, the aforementioned Brother Seamus (though Silas reads Latin as well, something I hope the crew will take advantage of in the future). The assembled crewmen badgered the unhappy monk into deciphering a selection of randomly-chosen notes on the maps in hopes of finding a rich prize. Brother Seamus complied, but lied about a significant detail about the Codex that could have dire implications in the future. (He really, really doesn’t like being a pirate but everyone wants to keep him around because he’s hilarious.)
About the Codex -- basically, I’m just using the adventure seeds listed in Green Ronin’s Skull & Bones and PotSM and reading them verbatim to the players. When I get a new printer, I’ll probably put together a print-up compiling those seeds and some from “Buccaneers & Bokor” and just hand it to Silas’ player. To simulate randomly flipping through the atlas, I borrowed a bit from what I've read about Vornheim (I don't own it) and just had the players roll dice across the map. It worked pretty well.
The random locations they rolled up were:
- The Cayman Islands – home to super-legendary NPCs Calico Cat and Jack
SparrowHawkins in the Pirates of the Spanish Main universe and “crocodiles that walk upright” in the S&B setting.
- Guadeloupe - notable for a mysterious, ancient bridge between worlds in Skull & Bones and not much of anything in PotSM.
- and someplace else that I've forgotten. Something about hot springs. Montserrat?
The players decided on exploring the possibility of making money from traveling between worlds and headed to Guadeloupe. Funny enough, this actually puts me in the same position as Beedo is facing with his Goblins of the Spanish Main campaign: determining success for NPC experts. Remember, Kit is actually a GM PC -- not a real player character – and he’s the only one of the pirates (excepting, of course, their redshirt crewmen) who actually knows how to sail. I could spend five or ten minutes making multiple Boating rolls and consulting charts (or force the players to do that for me) or I could just cut to the chase and get this oddly landlubberly crew to the next adventure. I erred on the side of adventure and determined that since Kit succeeded on his roll but didn’t get a raise that they got where they wanted to go but had to carouse to work off the Fatigue from cabin fever.
In the future, I might try running voyages as a Dramatic Task as per Savage Worlds Deluxe or try something like:
Skill Roll Result
1 Lost; you are out of provisions; draw for a chance encounter.
2-3 Lost; draw for a chance encounter.
Success You reach your destination with a bad case of cabin fever (-2 Fatigue).
Raise You reach your destination with a mild case of cabin fever (-1 Fatigue).
2+ Raises You reach your destination in record time.
They recruited a local houngan (whose name I’ve forgotten) who was using the bridge to smuggle escaped slaves to the other world (figuring anything was better than where they were) and the crew joined his latest batch of escapees to brave the crossing. By keeping their eye on the pole star as they walked across the bridge on the night of the full moon, the crew of the Bloody Revenge found themselves in Caribdus, setting of Pinnacle's other pirate game, 50 Fathoms.
I've had the book sitting around for awhile; I figured I might as well use it.
Attempts to guilt the characters into joining the quest to save the drowning world were to no avail; the crew is very id-driven (maybe they did lose St. Nicholas' blessing after all). It did give Nana a chance to finally strut her stuff with character interaction; they found themselves just outside of the Chinese colony of Deiking and so Nana was able to talk to people whose culture she understood. They eventually wound up in the Red Lantern and helped the former geisha Hatsuoki and the human part of her workers escape back to Earth (for a cut of Hatsuoki's future earnings when she sets up shop in Tortuga). There was a lot of talking and scheming and a bad Dr. Zoidberg impression on my part (what else should a scurillian sound like?) and Elias being his usual kleptomaniac self and it was fun. It was really, really nice to be able to do some dialogue-driven scenes in the pirate game that didn't involve Gunter announcing his plans to go wenching.
The crew decided that their next venture would be to investigate the rumors of walking crocodiles in the Cayman Islands, which leaves me with the choice as to what these walkodiles are going to be. The rumor comes from Skull and Bones, a d20 sourcebook, so I can assume that the authors had D&D-style lizard
I regret not allowing Silas to do more, but I'll correct that next time around. I'm sure he'll be able to charm the pants off a Silurian, right? Well, obviously not Madame Vastra, but...
|Yeah, it'll probably be Silurians. Then I can do my Tenth Doctor voice.|