Out on the endless ocean
We tear along the gales
With rum inside our bellies warm
And freedom in our sails
A wayward bunch of scoundrels
Assassins, thieves and slaves
The rich and blue bloods fear us when
We hunt upon the waves
Beneath the Black Flag – Miracle of Sound
So, thanks to a discovery recently, I’ve had a thought about running a pirate LARP. Mostly owing to Ian Sturrock, a British game writer, whose bio mentioned he’d run a game called Cutlass Island (described as a cross between It’s a Knockout and Pirates of the Caribbean), which has to be one of the greatest ideas known to mankind. Sliced bread? BAH!
So, the ship has been sunk (By storm, battle, or kraken) and the survivors struggle to shore, dragging what weapons and supplies they can, and must now decide what to do. That was the basic idea, closely followed by the possibility of running it on a beach somewhere for that extra bit of atmosphere. Finding a good location is a start, preferably free of civilians and with a fire pit or two nearby, though having gamed on public beaches before it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. (I’m still curious to know what that fisherman must have thought of the group of heavily armed crusaders walking down to the beach during the first St Wolfgang’s Vampire Hunters.)
Do they elect a new captain, break into petty recriminations or just get roaring drunk? Are there survivors from other ships, leading into an uneasy alliance for survival? Or are the others plotting to wait till they sleep and cut their throats? Paranoia’s always a fun tool in a GM’s arsenal, with the occasional glimpse of something through the trees, or sentry’s being picked off unawares. (During St Wolfgang’s we didn’t spot the first vampire till near midnight, which only made the wait more maddening) Players don’t necessarily have to play pirates or sailors, they could be merchants, travellers, apprentice sorcerers or any sort of character with a reasonable excuse to be at sea.
Could there be food and fresh water inland? It’s possible. There could also be mysterious natives from an aeon’s old civilisation, escaped slaves desperate to escape or degenerate cannibals. There could be survivors of other wrecks desperate to escape or other horrifying monsters. It could even be the legendary island of the scantily clad nymphomaniacs where the rivers flow with wine, but you aren’t that lucky are you? Does someone have a map (Maybe even one not written on human skin), heard rumours in a tavern or have you delved into the iron-bound books of Vathelos the Blind in search of hints of what grisly fate awaits you here? Or is it just wrong place, wrong time?
I’m not interested in debating rule’s systems at the moment. All I do know is I’d prefer to keep things as rules light as possible, which brings to mind the ruleset used for Hyborian Tales. Perhaps an adaption of Barbarians of Lemuria (A system I adore), the career stytem fits well. Weapons would be LARP safe, possibly with Nerf bows and crossbows mixed in. Alternatively, it could come down to card draws or rock paper scissors for combat, but I really enjoy live combat, so that’s not my preferred approach. Could be put to a vote of prospective players. Moving along…
As for what setting, well, that’s another matter. I don’t know Seventh Sea (Though I really should) or Mage: The Sorcerer’s Crusade, which at the moment leaves A: the real world, or at least a modified version of such (Possibly adding voodoo and other sorcery, such as from Green Ronin’s Skull and Bones campaign setting) or B: Conan. Real world is easily identifiable (And easier to costume), but runs the risk of descending into cliché. I can’t throw stones at that, as most of my previous games were powered by them, but I’d like to have more than people yell “Arrr” at each other for several hours. A bit more historical murderous savages, rather than the sanitised movie version. (This would mean warning players beforehand and having spare crew roles for dead PC’s as well)
Then, Conan. It’s a setting I adore, being a huge fan of the original stories and where no shortage of piratical shenanigans can be had (In his time Conan sailed with all 4 of the Hyborian Age’s major pirate bands), along with oceans over flowing with lost islands stuffed full of monsters and loot that’s worth the ransom of kings. There’s an eternal enmity between the Barachan Pirates and the Zingaran Freebooters, while the Red Brotherhood of the Vilayet Sea plunder the Turanian galleys, striking back at those that held them as slaves. The last major pirate group of the setting is the Black Corsairs of the Southern Islands, from whom Belit, the Queen of the Black Coast emerged to sweep the coast with fire and sword. I’d be most likely to set a game on the western oceans, which also leaves open the Picts (The Picts of the Conan saga were more like American Indians rather than the proto-Scots of Howards Bran Mak Morn tales) and if we go really far North, the Vanir (Read Vikings). Either way, the chance of hell or plunder is a good one.
There were some seventy of them, a wild horde made up of men from many nations: Kothians, Zamorians, Brythunians, Corinthians, Shemites. Their features reflected the wildness of their natures. Many bore the scars of the lash or the branding-iron. There were cropped ears, slit noses, gaping eye-sockets, stumps of wrists—marks of the hangman as well as scars of battle. Most of them were half naked, but the garments they wore were fine; gold-braided jackets, satin girdles, silken breeches, tattered, stained with tar and blood, vied with pieces of silver- chased armour. Jewels glittered in nose-rings and earrings, and in the hilts of their daggers.
Robert E Howard – Iron Shadows on the Moon
The main method of advancement among crews is simple and to the point – have the support of enough of the crew, then kill the captain in a fair fight and you’re sweet. But, how can you can be sure of their support? Have you led them to enough loot, or are they drunk enough? Or are you just going to have them all killed ‘accidentally’ and thuse leave yourself with a larger share of the loot?
I guess the only other thing to work out at the moment is what they’re going to do outside that – what’s the final goal for the adventure? Survive? Make it through the night, or to another ship? Or find the horrific monstrosity guarding the treasure at the heart of the island and kill it? Or a combination of all three? *ponders*