Ahoy, maties! Ye be embarkin' on the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles preview blog with me, developer Gaby Weidling! YARRR! Okay, seriously, enough with the pirate talk. I just can't keep that up for a whole post. A few of you might remember my Skull & Shackles announcement blog from a while back, and if you don't, you can find it here. I'm almost sorry for all the pirate puns I put in there. In that blog, I mentioned some cool stuff you should expect from this set, but I was pretty vague—partially because, well, you know, we didn't want to spoil all the surprises, and partially because we hadn't finished writing everything yet. But now is the time for some details and probably some more piratical puns.
All right, so I talked about sharks in that last blog. Twice. They're not actually the be-all and end-all of this set, but sharks are pretty darn cool, so let's spend a moment on them.
We've got at least one shark per adventure. The thing about sharks is that you can't evade them. Any of them. Ever. But it's okay. Look at that Tiger Shark. He's smiling! He totally doesn't want to eat you. Anyway, that was the obligatory shark section of this post, because my boss at Lone Shark Games demanded it, and you know how he can be. Let's move on to some of the newer and wackier stuff.
I can pew-pew-pew and so can you-you-you! Pirates wouldn't be anything without some sweet guns.
Here you can see the Blunderbuss and Pepperbox. The thing about guns is that they're pretty unreliable—misfires all over the place. They pack a pretty good wallop, but on a bad roll, you might end up burying your gun, and then you might be weaponless. That's not what you want as a pirate...
... unless you're Lirianne the Gunslinger, one of the new characters in the set.
Lirianne is never going to lose a gun as long as she's got a backup plan. And Lirianne always has a backup plan.
Swashbuckling is an important part of being a pirate. Sometimes Swashbuckling is helpful, and sometimes it isn't. Some cards, like the Shackles Pirate, are easier to beat if your check has the Swashbuckling trait. For this card, you'll get an extra d4.
Other cards, like the Marine, are unimpressed by your Swashbuckling and are actually harder to defeat with it.
Whether or not you want to swashbuckle can be a bit of a gamble. And you're not just inherently full of Swashbuckling awesomeness. You'll have to gain it in some way, usually from a boon. One of the best ways to get it is by playing an ally to explore again. For example, if you discard the jaunty gnomish pirate Giffer Tibbs, she lets you explore again, and she adds the Swashbuckling trait to all of your combat checks during that exploration.
Some of you may have already heard tell of the fearsome Hirgenzosk. He's only a Combat 30 to defeat, and he isn't dealing damage to you, just your ship. Oh, and he has this text: "If Hirgenzosk would be defeated, he is undefeated." So there's that. He's just a big bundle of cuddles that wants to eat you and your ship.
There's a lot going on with ships, so I'm just going to dive right in. Meet the Merchantman.
This is the ship your party has when you start Skull & Shackles. On the right side, it's got some Check to Defeat numbers. Note the Wisdom and Survival check. That's going to be a recurring theme with ships. It would be unwise to be unwise in this set, or at least, that's the word on the stree- ... I mean, the word on the sea. To the left of the lovely ship art, you'll see the words "Class 0". Pretend you didn't see that yet. Just trust me.
On the bottom of the card, you'll see two boxes. One says "WHEN ENCOUNTERING THIS SHIP", and the other says "WHEN COMMANDING THIS SHIP". The easiest way to explain all this is to introduce you to some ship combat. That's right. You have a ship, and you can use it to fight other ships. Pretty rad! Anyway, sometimes you'll be bopping around locations, and you'll encounter another ship—which means it's time for ship-to-ship combat. Merchantman, meet the Shackles Pirate Ship.
They aren't friends. Time to fight! Let's look at one example where you lose and another where you win.
Losing at Ship Combat
The first thing we want to do is take a look at how to defeat the Shackles Pirate Ship. Surprise! One of the options is a Wisdom or Survival check. We'll do that one. Now look at the "WHEN ENCOUNTERING THIS SHIP" power. Having the Swashbuckling trait on your check adds 1? Sounds great! Let's say you have that. Now take a peek at the "WHEN COMMANDING THIS SHIP" power on the Merchantman. Oh, that's about plunder. That won't help you here. That only helps if you win. We'll revisit that in the section about not losing at ship combat. Guess it's time to roll the dice. Oh, no! Horror of horrors! You totally flubbed your roll and got a 3. Even with the 1 from having the Swashbuckling trait, you still don't have enough to beat the Shackles Pirate Ship. Looks like the Merchantman is going to take some Structural damage.
Like damage from monsters, Structural damage is determined by the difference between your roll and what you needed to roll, but it's dealt to your ship, not to you. You had a total of 4 against a 6, so your ship is going to take 2 Structural damage. And your armor can't help you here, because you're not the one being dealt the damage. But don't fret, Dear Readers! There is a way to protect your beloved Merchantman. Any character can discard cards to help alleviate the damage your ship takes: Structural damage is reduced by 1 for each card discarded.
So if you and I were playing, and my hand was empty because I'm the worst, it would be up to you to discard 2 cards, or our ship would be wrecked. So let's say you discard 2 cards and save the ship. Good job! The encounter ends. The mean ship would go back to wherever it belongs and the game would keep going. But what if you and I were playing and I had no cards in my hand because I'm the worst, and you had no cards in your hand because you're also the worst? Well, the poor old Merchantman would be wrecked. Which means we would flip that card over.
Holy sea cucumbers, there's a back? Indeed there is. Our ship is now wrecked and sad and sepia-toned. But fear not, there is a way to repair the ship. You can find that in the Check to Repair box. In this case, it's a Craft 6 check. Remember when I said Wisdom and Survival were a recurring theme? So is Craft. You're going to want to be crafty if your ship takes damage. At the start of each player's move step, if the ship is wrecked, that player can attempt a check to repair the ship.
But why do you care if your ship is wrecked? Well, if you're greedy and like getting new cards for your character, you'll want to right that ship pronto because your hard-earned plunder will start to float away, starting at the end of your turn. There's also a "WHEN COMMANDING THIS SHIP" power on the back that's not as helpful as the one on the front, so if you encounter another ship while yours is wrecked, your ship isn't really going to help out. It's too busy trying to keep its masthead above water. In some cases, the new power is downright nasty. Check out the Merchantman's. You might fail to defeat a bane with the Pirate trait—you've already proven you aren't good at fighting, since your ship is wrecked—and then you'd have to bury a card! And worst of all, there's the thing that happens when your ship is wrecked and your ship takes damage again… well, let's just save that horror show for when it happens, okay?
I am now pretty bummed because of all the losing we've just done. Let's talk about what happens when you win at ship combat.
Winning at Ship Combat
Ok, so we're doing the same thing, but this time when you roll, you succeed. That Shackles Pirate Ship is toast! Toast, I say! Several things happen now. The first is that you gain a plunder card for beating a ship. Huzzah! But what is plunder? And what does the "WHEN COMMANDING THIS SHIP" power on the Merchantman mean?
Plunder is a reward you can earn in Skull & Shackles. Things will often tell you to "roll on the Plunder Table," which is pretty meaningless until you look at this card.
You get plunder from being good at pirating. When this happens, you get to roll a d6 and put a random card of that type facedown under your ship. (No peeking!) While you command the Merchantman, you get to choose the plunder type you want… if you are willing to discard a card from the blessings deck. Well, I'm willing to do that, so let's toss one and select "weapon" for our plunder type, because Gaby needs a new cutlass. Hopefully that's what we'll draw… but we'll never know, because this is all hypothetical. Sorry to leave you hanging.
So what's that plunder do? Nothing yet—it's part of your reward for winning the scenario. And there are ways you can lose it, so keep it safe, or it's going back in the box!
Back to beating the other ship. Besides gaining plunder, you may have the opportunity to seize the ship you just trounced. That doesn't mean you get to check it off on your fleet card (which I haven't told you about yet), but it does mean you can use the seized ship for the rest of the scenario. Sometimes you'll be happy with the ship you have, and sometimes you'll want to seize the ship you just conquered. If you seize the Shackles Pirate Ship now, the next time you encounter a ship during this scenario, you'll be able to discard a card from the blessings deck when your check has the Swashbuckling trait to add a 1d12 to your check to defeat that other ship as per the Shackles Pirate Ship's "WHEN COMMANDING THIS SHIP" power.
Ship Things That Aren't Combat
Ships also have some uses outside of combat, like helping you move characters around. You know that move step at the beginning of your turn? In scenarios where your ship isn't anchored (which means it can only stay at one location and can't move), the ship goes with you when you move and so can anybody else at your location. Pretty handy, right? Of course, you don't all have to move with the ship.
Of course, I can't forget about the thing I told you to ignore earlier: the part that says "Class 0" on the Merchantman and Shackles Pirate Ship. For that, you'll need the fleet card that is conveniently located on the back of your Plunder Table. (Or is the Plunder Table on the back of the fleet card?) Anyway, take a look at this card.
All ships have a class, and as you play your way through Skull & Shackles, you'll occasionally gain the reward of selecting a ship from a specified class for your fleet. When you gain a Class 1 ship, you can put a check mark next to the Man's Promise or the Truewind. And when you start the next scenario, your party can choose any ship you have checked.
A Final Note about Ships
I'd be pretty mad at myself if I didn't include a sneak preview of one of the promo cards. This is my favorite card in the whole set. Bonus points to you if you can figure out why.
I mean, look at it! It's awesome. Steal some stuff from your friends in true goblin pirate fashion! Hint: that's not why this is my favorite card.
But hey, let's go ahead and spill the beans about a bunch of promo cards! Tanis already told you about Ranzak a while back, but as they say in the Shackles, that's just the tip of the Hirgenzosk.
This month, along with Paizo's July product releases, retailers should be receiving a packet officially announcing the Pathfinder Adventure Card Guild Organized Play program, and to make sure we got their attention, we stuffed it with copies of the second S&S promo card, the goblin ally Mogmurch. So tell your retailer to keep an eye out for it, and let them know you want one of those promo cards!
At Gen Con in August, we'll be debuting our convention promo for the next six months: a barrier called Goblin Keelhaulin'. You can get it just for demoing Skull & Shackles at the booth. Oh, and customers who buy the Skull & Shackles Base Set at the booth will get our August retail promo card for free.
So what's a retail promo card? Well, every month, we send a different card to retailers along with their shipment of that month's goodies. Here's the retail promo card schedule for the duration of the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path.
Goblin Weidling — August 2014
Owlbeartross — September 2014
Goblin Pegleg — October 2014
Magpie Princess — November 2014
Mistmourn — December 2014
Goblin Buckler Gun — January 2015
And that's not even all of the promo cards for Skull & Shackles. We have three more that we're not ready to talk about just yet!
As always, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game subscribers will be shipped promo cards along with their subscription orders. Ranzak, Mogmurch, Goblin Keelhaulin', and Goblin Weidling will all ship with the August shipment. Owlbeartross will ship with the September subscription shipment, and so on.
I think I've shared enough about Skull & Shackles with you now. You know about ships, sharks, swashbuckling, guns, dear ol' Hirgenzosk, and a bunch of the promo cards, so you'll just have to wait until the next PACG blog (hint: check back next Wednesday!) to learn more. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderfully piratical day!
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer