Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Interlude and a Review

Today's post combines two things. The first is a review of the novel The Guardship, the first book in the Brethren of the Coast trilogy by James L. Nelson. The second is an interlude entitled, appropriately enough, "The Brethren," which presents the notion of the pirates in a campaign banding together into a group akin to the council of pirate lords in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.


Book Review

As a fan of all things piratical, I'm always on the lookout for fiction and non-fiction related to the subject. In this case, I was intrigued when I first learned of The Guardship during a Google search for pirate fiction. Since my local library had a copy of it, I figured it was worth a try. I was not disappointed.

The novel has an interesting premise, rather the opposite of the classic Captain Blood. In the latter, Peter Blood is a respectable gentleman who is thrust into a life of slavery by performing his duties as a doctor. In The Guardship, the hero is a former pirate who seeks to give up that life by going ashore, buying a plantation and living like the other landowners. For that reason, a fair amount of the early action is less swashbuckling and more intriguing. It does not drag, however, since the other gentlemen with whom Thomas Marlowe must deal are just as cutthroat as any pirate. The conflicts are interesting, the characters are engaging, and the story is thus quite satisfying.

Interlude 33: The Brethren
In the time of Captain Henry Morgan, there was a band of pirates known as the Brethren of the Coast. Years later, the pirates who gathered around New Providence Island came to be known as the Flying Gang. Both of these groups represent a classic idea for pirates: banding together as an alliance which can resist the forces that would hunt them.

In a Skull & Bones campaign, the notion of an overarching band of pirates can provide for lots of drama an adventure hooks. A few of the possibilities are detailed here.
  • First and foremost, the PC's could be invited to join this organization once they have made their own names as leaders of a pirate crew.
  • This could come in the form of a messenger who bears the invitation, or perhaps it could come in the form of an encrypted message a la "The Letter."
  • One option for this invitation is to be part of a coalition to resist enemies, such as the English or Spanish navies. Under such circumstances the enemy in question would need to be a fearsome one, indeed.
  • Another option is that the pirates wish to establish their own settlement, a pirate utopia. This would, of course, require much negotiation and planning in order to find the best possible location and then determine how to administer such a settlement.
  • The chosen location is likely to be a remote location, given the checkered histories of those who are invited to it.
  • Whatever the situation, the assemblage could bring the PC's together with old allies as well as enemies. For example, the PC's might have previously encountered the Carlisle Brothers during the events of "Reprisal," Captain Bartleby during "Trial by Fire," Captain Horne during "The Mermaid's Tale," or Banshee and Cannon O'Bannon during "Fortune and Glory." If Nneka has established himself as a captain, he too could be present.
  • This gives the GM an opportunity for some vivid description, as the PC's see the other vessel arrive, flying their distinctive pirate flags.
  • An aggrieved party could call for a duel to settle the matter.
  • This gathering provides an opening for other interludes, such as "The Competition" or "The Competition 2," as well as something akin to "The Articles."
  • Once the assemblage is brought together, there is the question of leadership. In the tradition of pirate equality, it would be best for each captain to have a vote in matters. Given the tendency for people to be ambitious, however, it could also happen that one pirate tries to be elected as commodore over all the other captains.
  • Of course, this call for unity could also be a ruse. For example, an enemy of the PC's could have captured one of their rivals, and then persuaded that unfortunate to betray them.
In this way, this interlude could make for numerous short- as well as long-term conflicts. For example, the PC's might be able to settle an old grudge with a single confrontation, whereas the notion of founding an idyllic pirate community on a remote desert island could make for many sessions' worth of activity.

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