Saturday, July 27, 2019

Murdered by Pirates is Good

This year started off with so much promise for the blog but, obviously, I fell off the wagon in May. So what has the Troll been up to?

Quite a lot. I'm involved in three regular campaigns. One is weekly, the other two switch off weeks, so that's two evenings of gaming every week (plus regular meet-ups for board games and the like). What's crazy for me is that, due to quirks of fate, all three games are 5e D&D. What's really crazy? I'm a player in one.

The big news is that I'm getting an adventure officially, professionally published for the first time. I've written one of the GenCon exclusive adventures Raggi will be selling at the Lamentations of the Flame Princess booth this year. Being a fan of the Orientalist painters, I wanted to do something involving the Barbary Pirates, who were busting out of the Mediterranean and onto the world stage in a big way during the default time period of LotFP adventures.

I worked with Tabby L. Rose on this one. She's DMing the 5e game I'm actually a player in. Her experience with RPGs is very different from mine. She got started later (because she couldn't find anyone who'd let a girl join their games until after high school) and played very different games from me. Where I've been accused of treating most RPG rules as variations to add to Moldvay/Cook, Tabby had an extremely varied RPG diet, ranging from first edition Rune Quest and FASERIP Marvel to Talislanta and Shadowrun. The longest running campaign she GMed was a Firefly game that started using Margaret Weis Productions rules but later migrated to Fudge. This makes her fun to collaborate with because her expectations and assumptions are often very different from mine.

And this was very important on Menagerie of Exiles because, hoo boy, was this a reminder of how odd my games are. When my players' PCs board a pirate ship, whether as guests or crew or cargo, they want to know all about what's happening: who are the pirates and where did they come from and what are they doing right now (at 3 PM on a Tuesday afternoon) and when can we get the quartermaster alone without anyone else overhearing our conversation? They're going to want to seduce the First Mate, and if they see an opening, they're going to prep a mutiny plan, even if they don't necessarily pull the trigger.

Most of my notes for something like this would be almost-kinda bullet-points jotted into my moleskin or possibly just scribbled on post-its tucked in as bookmarks into the rulebooks. Now I had to make it intelligible for other folks all while keeping it within the word-and-art limits of a GenCon exclusive booklet.

We were absolutely overly ambitious. What you’ll get is a ship and crew with the broad outlines detailed and a bit more focus on particular individuals. There’s a dark secret on the ship that threatens to split the crew apart, a secret that the enslaved prisoners in the hold are part of. And that’s probably skirting too close to spoiler territory, so I’ll stop there.

If you’re running a LotFP campaign, you’ll get a creepy little adventure on the high seas that you can use to move the campaign to more exotic locales. In the decades before the start of the English Civil War, the Barbary Pirates were raiding as far afield as Ireland and Iceland (and, in both cases, absconding with the entire populations of small villages). So you could have these pirates pop up just about anywhere and transport the PCs to just about anywhere. If you’ve been looking for a way to move the campaign to North Africa for Rafael Chandler’s World of the Lost, here you go!

If your game is not set in a real-world analogue of the 16th through 19th centuries, you still get pirates with a dark secret. They can transport your PCs across an ocean and give your table something to do with that journey, rather than just handwave it as “time passes.”

If you’re going to be at GenCon this year, be sure to stop by Raggi’s booth (#3010) and check it out. For myself, I can’t wait to get my hands on Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas. Zzarchov always does neat stuff. And I have a sneaking suspicion I know what James’ mystery book is. If I’m right, yeah, it’ll twist more than a few noses out of joint.

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