Thursday, August 30, 2012

Interlude: The Rendezvous

It's been slow around here for a while, but with good reason. I've had two weeks of school workshops, with Gen Con sandwiched in between them, followed by the first week of the new school year. There's also a new Star Wars roleplaying game, required reading. Even so, detailed here is another Interlude, this one presenting maps for a hidden cavern behind a waterfall. I apologize for the poor quality of the maps; I'm still trying to prepare better-quality versions of them.


Interlude 25: The Rendezvous
There are times when pirates, and others, need a quiet place to hold a meeting. This precludes the local public house, and sometimes even a person's home has too many ears around it. For that reason, an out-of-the-way, hard-to-notice location is ideal.

This rendezvous serves that purpose well. The cave is located behind a waterfall; for that reason, it requires a DC 25 Search or Spot check to notice, followed by a DC 20 Climb check to gain entry. Failure on the latter means that a character is swept away by the cascading water, and thus must make a DC 20 Swim check to keep from being pushed under by it. Other characters are free to help, however.

The cave could be used for any number of purposes in a campaign; a few of the possibilities are detailed here.

  • Any manner of ne'er-do-well could use the place for secret meetings, such as smugglers, a cult or the like.
  • The location is ideal for hidden treasures, perhaps the end point of an old map.
  • Alternately, the site could be considered sacred by the local native population--perhaps in conjunction with one of the other options.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Interlude--The Refitting

I'm a sucker for roleplaying games that involve deck plans. That's probably why a lot of my favorite campaigns have involved them. There were an epic Spelljammer game in junior high and high school, numerous Star Wars campaigns in college, and then three forays out of Freeport and the start of a voyage across the starlit sea in third-edition D&D and Pathfinder. The element I particularly enjoyed was taking a deck plan, making modifications to it, and then deciding where different characters had their quarters. This was particularly fun in the Spelljammer game since, by the end of it, each of the PC's had his own ship as part of the party's armada.

This article, then, provides suggestions for doing just this sort of thing in a Skull & Bones campaign.


Interlude 25: The Refitting
It was a common practice for a pirate crew, after taking its first prize, to refit the vessel. This was when the ship's carpenter had a chance to shine, by adding, modifying or removing bulkheads and other features, cutting out extra gun ports and sometimes even cutting out an entire forecastle or moving a mast. In this way the pirates could take an ordinary merchant vessel and turn into a real sea rover, and into their own floating home.

The same thing can be a fun element in a Skull & Bones campaign. The PC's can take an old deck plan and modify it, adding cabins for themselves and important NPC's, and making any other changes they desire. Take, for example, the plan for a slave ship shown previously. Presented here is the same footprint, now modified to serve as a pirate vessel. Area 2, which had been a special hold, is divided into four separate cabins. The shelves have been removed from the middle and lower decks, making room for ten cannon on each side, with gun ports to match. These are, of course, only a couple of the possibilities, and players are likely to have their own ideas for how to customize their ship.

In game terms, most of this (outside of adding the cannon) can be handled with a series of Craft: carpentry skill checks. A skilled PC could lead the work; otherwise, it might be necessary to hire an expert NPC. This could also require going shopping or staging a raid for supplies. It's also important to identify specific quarters and label them, as this creates default locations for the characters when future encounters happen.

Finally, if anyone has access to graph paper with one-inch squares, it could be nice to draw out the finished plan in order to reuse it from session to session.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Links to Resources

While I'm working on other material, I thought I would create a list of links to useful websites. This will be a work in progress, and I'll update it as I discover others. (If anybody would like to recommend a page, too, I'd appreciate it.)


Pirate Resource Links

The pages for Adamant Entertainment and Green Ronin Publishing, the companies that produced Skull & Bones:

The website for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (coming this September 19th):

Probably the most comprehensive site I've found:

A large collection of public domain images that are great for reference:

Here's a site with discussion of various topics related to piracy, along with original fiction.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Interlude--The Manor

Today I have a fancy manor house, suitable for use in all kinds of encounters.


Interlude 24—The Manor

This encounter could arise in any number of ways. This kind of home could be located anywhere from Port Royal to London. The PC's might be asked to visit a wealthy patron who doesn't relish doing so in public. Alternately, they might decide to liberate something in the possession of an inhabitant. In the prior case, it could present a challenge of diplomacy, while in the latter, stealth and/or speed could become important.

Refer to the appropriate map for the following area descriptions.

1. Entry
This room is two stories tall, and flanked by staircases on both sides. Double doors open into from the outside, while another set leads into the ball room (Area 15).

2. Parlor
Guests who come to visit the house are received here. To that end, the room is occupied by comfortable armchairs and sofas, along with side tables.

3. Steward's Quarters
The steward (also known as the butler) has his quarters here. It is his job to oversee the rest of the staff in the house, and to receive and announce visitors.

4. Storage
The walls of this room are lined with shelves which hold all of the necessities for keeping a lovely home: fresh linens, candles and lamp oil, extra draperies, spare cushions for furniture and the like.

5. Smoking Room
This room is filled with comfortable chairs, much like the parlor, but it is intended for guests and inhabitants who wish to smoke. As such, it also contains a case of cigars, jars of tobacco and other necessities.

6. Library
Bookshelves line the walls fo this room. They are filled with fancy, leather-bound books. A table surrounded by chairs sits in the middle of it all.

7. Dining Room
A broad table, surrounded by a dozen chairs, commands the center of the room. This is, of course, where meals are held.

8. Kitchen
In addition to a broad oven and cooking stove that occupies the outside wall of the room, this area is filled with racks of cooking supplies, cabinets of spices and the like.

9. Pantry
The walls of this room are filled with shelves holding all kinds of non-perishable foodstuffs, such as flour, rice, sugar, dried goods and more.

10. Cellar (not pictured)
Underneath the pantry is the cellar; a trapdoor and ladder provide access to it. Provisions that need to be kept cool, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, beer and wine, are stored here.

11. Secure Storage
This room is sealed with a stoutly locked door. The family's silver, along with other valuable goods and documents, are kept here.

12. Cook's Quarters
The cook lives in this room, with easy access to the kitchen.

13. Servants' Quarters
The family maintains a staff of three servant girls, who have their quarters here.

14. Footmen's Quarters
There are also three footmen—essentially, guards in fancy uniforms. One is always posted at the front gate, and the others remain at the ready in case of trouble.

15. Ball Room
This broad, open room is only used when the family hosts large gatherings. It is two stories tall, and has skylights in the ceiling as well as chandeliers for lighting.

16. Private Rooms
These bedrooms on the upper level of the house are for the use of family members and guests. Each boasts a bed, desk and chair, dressing table and wardrobe.

17. Master Bedroom
This room is just like the other bedrooms upstairs, except that it is reserved for the husband and wife.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: The Cabin Boy's Pocket Pirate Hand Book

I like PDFs a lot. I know not everyone does, in part because there's something to be said for a hard copy of a text that you can hold in your hand. The way I see it, though, one can always print copies of them. (I have a binder containing all seven issues of Buccaneers & Bokor, for example, because I refer to them  frequently.) One of the reasons I like them so much is because they help to make publishing more accessible for RPG materials that fit into a smaller niche, publications that might not be viable in print but that can be shared around the world because they're electronic. This ties into one of the main reasons why I liked 3rd Edition/D20/OGL so much, because it helped to support different styles of play in the game.

Periodically I visit RPGNow's website and run a search for the term pirate, just to see what new items are available. One item that I've been seeing for a few years now is The Cabin Boy's Pocket Pirate Hand Book, from Healing Fireball Publications. Up until today I never purchased a copy, but now I wish I would've done so years ago. It's a sweet little PDF with a lot of information packed into it:

  • A pirate glossary
  • Types of ships
  • Various knots
  • Different flags
  • Sample ships' articles
  • Types of weapons
  • Recipes
This is historical information, not tied to any ruleset. It provides a good overview of life aboard a ship, a great accessory to give players at the start of a campaign.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Another Relic

Recently I've been reading an interesting book, Under the Black Flag (by Don C. Seitz--not the book of the same title by David Cordingly); it describes the careers of some lesser-known pirates. Today's post is inspired by the story of Edward Low.


Low's Knife
Although the tales told of pirates sometimes make their lives seem romantic, like free spirits a la Robin Hood and his Merry Men, the reality is usually much more grim. Indeed, many of them could be ruthless and bloodthirsty. Perhaps none is as notorious in this way as Edward Low. During his career as a pirate, he was reported to have abused unfortunate victims in increasingly cruel and creative ways. One captain was heinously whipped, another was simply beheaded, and a third was disemboweled. Perhaps the most gruesome was the time when he forced one fellow to eat his own ears with a little pepper and salt.

The weapon associated with him is a buccaneer knife, albeit one that is worn from frequent use and marred by blood stains that can never be completely washed away. In game terms, Low's knife functions like a buccaneer knife +2. It has some of the same qualities of a mace of blood, however, in that it forces the wielder to make a DC 13 Will save once per day or become chaotic evil. Once that happens, the blade's influence functions like that of a berserking sword. When drawing it, the wielder must make another DC 13 Will save or go berserk and attack the nearest creature(s) until dead, or until there is no other living creature within thirty feet.