View Full Version : DM Help I need piratey-ideas

2017-12-21, 04:17 PM
One of my players is a huge fan of the anime One Piece, and as such has wanted (for ages) to do some pirate stuff. Our games are semi-gritty so obviously won't be as high-power as One Piece, but I think he's more interested in general piracy than that specifically. So my players have got new characters on the other side of our world's sea, where piracy and sea-related magic/shenanigans will be a lot more common. The trouble is, I've never really consumed pirate media, so I'm lost on adventure ideas and the like. Any suggestions on adventures, monsters, and just general theme-creation would be VERY appreciated.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Jay R
2017-12-21, 06:39 PM
The trouble is, I've never really consumed pirate media, so I'm lost on adventure ideas and the like.

You're right - that's the trouble. And a single thread can't fix it much.

So go watch some pirate movies. Read Captain Blood and the sequels. There's good stuff out there.

You don't just need a summarized plot; you need the feel and the culture.

2017-12-22, 02:21 AM
In a piracy-centered campaign, first and foremost, what kind of characters are they going to be playing? The story could vary wildly depending on what aspect of seafaring you focus on. Are they honest merchantmen, ferrying cargoes across dangerous seas? Are they intrepid explorers, seeking to put exotic locations on the map, and funding from some rich patron in order to do so? Are they crew on a warship, hunting down enemies to the crown and vile pirates? Are they privateers, bold civilians seizing the cargoes of rival nations? Are they smugglers, trying to bring luxury goods to port while evading the authorities? Or, are they dastardly pirates, flying their own (possibly soon to be) infamous flag, seeking booty and making the captured walk the plank?

Once you have the general tone figured out, there are a couple of plot hooks you could use. Some that are generally useful no matter the background of the players are as follows:

A. "Find it" quests. These take many forms, but here are a few that are suited for a piratical campaign. Things to consider are resource management as the players try to stretch their budget to cover the costs of their exploration and attempt to convince the crew to keep sailing and not head back to shore.

1. The hunt for the 7 Cities/City of Gold/Fountain of Youth/Hidden Leaf Village/Whatever. There are rumors of a vast city/temple/natural wonder with immeasurable riches/mystical powers/important macguffin somewhere out there beyond the horizon, and you've got a (dis)reputable source that might point you in the right direction.

2. Treasure Island. A famous pirate is widely known to have left his immense collection of loot buried somewhere, and you recently acquired a map that will lead you there/fragment that will lead you to the next piece of the puzzle.

3. The Wreck of the Golden Queen. One of the great powers in the area lost the pride and joy of their treasure fleet in a massive storm/battle/what have you. You think you have an idea of the general area where she lies, but the problem is, you're not quite sure of the exact location, the environment is inhospitable to human life, and the natives and/or wildlife is not much better.

B. "Gotta Fight 'Em All" quests. In this world, there are/is a/a bunch of infamous pirate/s. They may or may not be flying the same flag, or even be willing to be within cannon range without opening fire, but they are colorful characters who make excellent bosses.

1. They protect the macguffin. This usually overlaps with one of the "find it" quests, where a plot-critical piece of information is in the possession of a famous pirate, who will only spill his guts in order to stop his actual guts from being spilled.

2. There is a bounty on their head. Their life has been declared forfeit by the powers that be, and anyone who brings proof of their demise can expect a hefty payout. Even fellow pirates can take advantage of this...provided they can disguise their identity when they go to collect their reward.

3. They carry immense riches on their person/on their ship. If you can somehow manage to acquire them, their ill-gotten gains can be yours.

C. Finally, good old-fashioned fetch quests. You've got a ship, your ship has a cargo hold, and there's surely somebody somewhere who needs what you've got in there.

1. Dire need. A place was devastated by fire/flood/storm/meteor, and there is a dire shortage of food/medicine/spice/purple flurp. You have been tasked/have decided to take what is needed there, and surely stand to gain lots of money/the everlasting devotion of the locals when you come to their rescue.

2. "We're going to Alderaan". A/a few wealthy passenger/s have purchased a berth on your vessel, and it's your job to make sure they get there in one piece...Or not, as the case may be. Things can happen while on a voyage.

2017-12-22, 05:42 AM
A quick image search always gives me a ton of ideas. I suggest googling: pirate deviantart, or pirate tumblr.

2017-12-22, 09:14 AM
* Rob a merchant ship, and find some kind of package that really shouldn't be there (a cursed treasure being moved? an item that serves as a map?) It can be a source of trouble on its own, and the original owner might want it back.

* What is the politics of the local area? One king's pirate might be another king's privateer.

* An infamous pirate crew is shaking up seaside towns looking for clues for some mysterious search. Are they looking for a legendary treasure... or looking to unleash a legendary horror?

* few people go to the sea thinking "I'm gonna be a pirate" It usually starts with a small military ship, a cruel captain and a mutiny. (or, in adventurers' case, a mess in the port city that makes it a must to leave town before the dawn, no matter what crew they have to join to do it)

2017-12-22, 09:16 AM
Also, depending on what system you're using, you might need to carefully consider the mechanics before starting any sea battles.

Much like in One Piece, a D&D character may easily end up more durable than the ship he's on.

2017-12-22, 09:30 AM
Read "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's the source of basically every pirate trope ever.

Also, pirates tend to be bards (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nrj8EZm9ca8), especially the kings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ7SVMVrick).

2017-12-22, 01:13 PM
Pirates are nice for D&D since all pirate tales are about one thing which D&D already focuses on. Treasure. There may be many sub-plots but the MacGuffin is always the same. I'd probably go classic here and suggest a campaign where they start off with a clue to the location of a huge treasure haul and they need to continue gathering clues to progress. Rather than having a constant stream of incoming loot I'd probably roughly halve the normal amount of treasure (fighting the locals in the area they are in, fighting people with inherent magical powers rather than gear, etc...) that they get but then have it offset by them getting a massive dump of treasure at the location of the next clue, motivating them to keep looking for clues rather than just giving up.

I would actually recommend Star Trek as one possible source of inspiration only instead of calmly seeking out new life and new civilizations you are wildly seeking treasure (and running into new life and new civilizations).

Of course the reason pirate tales are all about seeking treasure is that the alternative is a butt load of murder and rape of civilians and that just isn't so much fun.

Jay R
2017-12-22, 02:52 PM
Have a complete system ready for sea combat. Ordinary combat rules don't necessarily deal with sinking damage, sail damage, wind changes, and other aspects of combat at sea.