Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

To mark the fourth anniversary of this blog, here's a link to the compiled PDF with this year's articles.

The Logbook Volume 4 (2013)


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What Else Was Happening?

Although not all scholars agree, many concure that the Golden Age of Piracy lasted from around 1650, when Henry Morgan and other buccaneers ravaged the Spanish Main, until 1725, the point after which the pirate haven of New Providence was irradicated. The Skull & Bones rulebook, along with the Buccaneers & Bokor ezine (Issue #3), do a good job of listing the major piratical events that took place during this period. The purpose of this article is to detail the happenings that weren't specifically related to piracy, but that help flesh out the background for a campaign set during this time.

The writing of this article is indebted to one source in particular, a book called The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun.

Listed below are the respective years and the events that took place in them.

1650--The first coffeehouse opens in Oxford, England; tea is first drunk in England; the world population is estimated to be 500,000 people.
1651--England passes the Acts of Navigation; Thomas Hobbes writes Leviathan; the Dutch establish a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope.
1652--Following the Battle of the Downs, England goes to war with the Netherlands; the first opera house opens in Vienna.
1653--James Naylor, a Quaker, is recognized by some as a new Messiah; the Taj Mahal is completed.
1654--The Treaty of Westminster ends the Anglo-Dutch war and the Dutch recognize the Acts of Navigation.
1655--England captures Jamaica; the first regular newpaper begins publishing in Berlin.
1656--The Netherlands captures Colombo from Portugal.
1657--Christiann Huygens invents a pendulum for clocks; stockings and fountain pens are first manufactured in Paris.
1658--Rober Hooke develops a balance spring for watches; Sweden begins issuing bank notes; religious conflict erupts in India.
1659--France and Spain agree on the Peace of the Pyrenees.
1660--Dutch peasants begin settling in South Africa; England acquires the use of water closets from France.
1661--Robert Boyle identifies chemical elements.
1662--England acquires Bombay, Tangier and 300,000 pounds from Portugal via marriage.
1663--The Royal African Company is chartered; Turkey goes to war with the Holy Roman Empire; the Ottoman army is defeated at Vienna.
1664--The English begin wearing large periwigs.
1665--A military alliance with England helps Portugal gain independence from Spain; the Black Plague occurs in England.
1666--France and the Netherlands go to war with England; English privateers capture Tobago; Isaac Newton measure the orbit of the moon; cheddar cheese is first made; the Great Fire of London occurs.
1667--France and England make a secret treaty against Spain; John Milton writes Paradise Lost; the French army begins using hand grenades.
1668--England and the Netherlands form the Alliance of the Hague; Isaac Newton develops a reflecting telescope; France establishes a factory at Surat in India.
1669--The Venetians lose Crete to the Turks; the Hanseatic League ceases operation; China suffers an outbreak of Cholera.
1670--The Hudson's Bay Company is chartered; watches begin using minute hands; Puritans found Charleston.
1671--John Milton writes Paradise Regained; the Bible is first printed in Arabic.
1672--England and the Netherlands go to war; the Royal African Company is given a charter.
1673--Joliet and Marquette begin exploring the Mississippi River and Great Lakes.
1674--Hindus in India gain reassurance when the conqueror Shivaji is crowned king.
1675--Basho helps popularize haiku poetry; the Greenwich Observatory opens; van Leeuwnhoek uses a microscope to examin microscopic organisms.
1676--An influenza epidemic occurs in England.
1677--Ice cream becomes popular in Paris.
1678--John Bunyan begins publishing Pilgrim's Progress; Russian and Sweden go to war; chrysanthemums are brought to England from Japan.
1679--England passes the Habeas Corpus Act.
1680--Stradivari makes the first known cello; the last dodo bird dies.
1681--A London woman is flogged for becoming involved in politics.
1682--Amsterdam builds the first textile mill, with one hundred looms.
1683--Dutch traders enter Canton; Spain and France go to war; Turks begin the Siege of Vienna, William Dampier begins a voyage around the world.
1684--England gains control of the Bermudas; Alexander Esquemeling publishes History of the Buccaneers of America; a Siamese embassy visits Versailles; Changamire Dombo fights back against the Portuguese in future Zimbabwe.
1685--Chinese ports open to all foreign trade; the Duke of Monmouth foments rebellion in England.
1686--Russia goes to war with Turkey; Edmund Halley draws the first meteorological map.
1687--Isaac Newton writes Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica; Sir Hans Sloane begins collecting biological specimens that will one day be given to the British Museum.
1688--France goes to war with the Holy Roman Empire.
1689--John Locke argues that governmental authority should not be based on divine right.
1690--Calcutta is founded as an English colony.
1691--The New East India Company is formed; the Treaty of Limerick ends Irish rebellion.
1692--An earthquake destroys the city of Port Royal in Jamaica.
1693--The Knights of the Apocalypse are founded in Italy; Cotton Mather publishes Wonders of the Invisible World.
1694--English forces destroy a French fort on the Senegal River.
1695--French forces destroy an English fort on the Gambia River.
1696--Fort William is built in Calcutta.
1697--France begins colonizing West Africa; the sedan chair becomes a popular means of transportation.
1698--Peter the Great of Russia begins visiting Europe, sometimes with an entourage and sometimes disguised as a commoner.
1699--William Dampier explores the northwest coast of Australia.
1700--Governor Bellomont of New York establishes a reading room that will become an early society library; the world population is estimated to be 640,000; average life expectancy is calculated to be thirty-six years.
1701--The War of Spanish Succession begins; the Popol Vuh is translated.
1702--The Asiento Guinea Company is founded to facilitate the slave trade; Kira Yoshinaka is killed by forty-seven ronin in Japan; an Anglo-Dutch fleet captures a fortune in silver from the Spanish.
1703--Eddystone Lighthouse is destroyed by a storm.
1704--England takes control of Gibraltar; Handel and J.S. Bach begin composing; a subscription library opens in Berlin.
1705--Edmund Halley predicts the return of his comet; an observatory opens in Berlin.
1706--Henry Mill invents carriage springs.
1707--England and Scotland combine to form Great Britain; Sir John Noyer is the first to measure a person's pulse; billiards is first played in Berlin coffeehouses.
1708-The British East India Company and New East India Company merge.
1709--Bartolomeo Cristofori invents the pianoforte; Johann Maria Farina introduces cologne.
1710--France takes over Mauritius from the Netherlands; the English Sout Sea Company is founded; England captures Nova Scotia from France.
1711--John Shore invents the tuning fork.
1712--A war of succession erupts in India; slave revolts occur in New York; the last person executed for witchcraft in England dies.
1713--The Treaty of Utrecht ends the War of Spanish Succession and Queen Anne's War.
1714--Fahrenheit develops a mercury thermometer.
1715--A Jacobite rebellion erupts in Scotland.
1716--A company of English actors stages its first performance in the American colonies.
1717--Pope Clement XI funds a Spanish fleet to fight against the Ottomans, but the Spaniards use it to recapture Sicily and Sardinia.
1718--England declares war on Spain; New Orleans is founded.
1719--France declares war on Spain; Defoe publishes Robinson Crusoe.
1720--Novels are first serialized in newspapers; plague breaks out in Marseilles.
1721--Swiss immigrants first bring rifles to the New World.
1722--Benjamin Franklin begins writing the Silence Dogood letters.
1723--Vivaldi composes the Four Seasons.
1724--Gin becomes popular in Britain.
1725--The first public concert is given in Paris; Manchu Emperor Yongzheng publishes the largest encyclopedia ever created.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Interlude: The Dismasting

Here's another post inspired by Wilbur Smith. Right now I'm reading Monsoon, and in it the crew is forced to deal with a fallen mast.


Interlude 53: The Dismasting
The rigors of travel at sea--not to mention nautical combat--can be hell on a ship and crew. At no time is this more apparent than when a ship loses its mast, sending it crashing down to the deck or into the water. Such a situation presents numerous dangers and other challenges, but provides PC's with various opportunities to show off their abilities and skills.

Why This Happens
This situation could occur for a number of reasons. For one, that mast could be stricken by lightning or snapped by powerful winds during a storm. Another possibility is that enemy fire manages to break it, either through a sustained volley or because of one lucky hit. It could also happen that a band of attackers storm the ship and, using axes, manage to chop through it.

Where It Goes
Once the mast does fall, it's important to know in which direction it falls. To determine this, use the scatter chart for grenade-like weapons from Chapter 8 of the Player's Handbook. Of course, the GM should also consider the direction of the prevailing wind, especially if that is the cause of the dismasting.

When it does fall, a number of results occur right away. For one, characters who happened to be in the crow's nest or in the rigging must make DC 25 Strength checks to hold; those who fail are thrown from the mast and suffer the effects of a fall equivalent in height to the characters' initial height minus ten feet. The surface they hit, of course, is determined by the aformentioned scatter result. Those going into the water can treat the fall as being another ten feet less, although they must then make Swim checks appropriate to the condition of the sea. Those who hit the ship's deck take damage as normal. Class abilities that reduce this, such as for the rogue and monk, can be applied as normal.

There is also the chance that the falling mast hits characters standing on the main deck. If this is the case, they suffer damage equal to 1d6 for every ten feet they are from the base of the mast. Said characters make make a DC 20 Reflex save in order to halve the damage. Moreover, those who fail become pinned under the mast and need to make a DC 20 Strength check in order to be freed.

What the Crew Needs to Do
The other main effect of the dismasting is that the ship's speed is reduced to one third, rounded down (for ships with two or three masts), or one half (for ships with four or more masts). Ships with just a single mast lose their method of propulsion. Furthermore, all Profession: sailor checks made to steer it suffer a -10 circumstance penalty. For dismasted single-masted ships, of course, maneuvering is impossible. This remains the case until the crew can cut away the remains of the mast. Treat the mast as having hardness 5 and 60 hit points for this purpose. Even so, the speed only returns to one half normal (for ships that started with two masts) or to two thirds normal (for ships that started with three or more masts), rounded down, until a new mast can be put in its place.

Replacing a mast is a daunting task. First, the crew must find a suitable piece of timber. Unless the vessel is carrying a spare, they must search on shore to find one. If it is a fresh tree, they must cut it down and then move it aboard the ship. The latter action requires a series of DC 30 Strength checks, although as many as twelve characters can combine their efforts. Failed checks do not cause damage, but do take up more time. The GM could use this for a bit of excitement if the PC's have enemies pursuing them while they make repairs. Additionally, a DC 15 Use Rope check provides a +2 synergy bonus. Once the mast is close enough to be brought aboard the ship, a DC 20 Rope Use check is needed to rig it properly. Then, another combined DC 30 Strength check is required to hoist it into position, and failure by five or more causes it to fall again. Finally, a DC 20 Craft: carpentry check is required to secure it, and again failure by five or more leaves it susceptible to failure at a future time chosen by the GM.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Two Things

While I'm working on new content, I want to share a couple of recent discoveries. One is my growing excitement that a date has been set for the premier of Black Sails: 25 January 2014. It'll be nice having something pirate-themed on TV again.

The other is a picture that I found while digging around on Wikipedia the other day.