Cruising the sea lanes in search of loot, captives and reputation corsairs’ predations strike fear into the hearts of merchantmen and sailors alike. So often, though, the sea wolves themselves are little more than one-dimensional enemies that exist only to fall before the PCs’ blades.
Villainous Pirates banishes this problem by presenting 30 Pirates of Note and nine Pirates of Renown ready for the time-crunched GM to quickly and easily insert into almost any campaign. Each pirate benefits from an extensive write-up including notes on their background, personality, mannerisms and distinguishing marks as well as a fully detailed stat block. Pirates of Renown also come with plot hooks making it easy to insert them into almost any campaign.
Pirates of Note are moderately famous pirates (CRs 3 – 7) that could serve as a crew’s champion, first mate or even the captain of a small vessel.
Pirates of Renown are famed freebooters (CRs 9 -13) that captain their own vessel. Known for their seafaring skills, battle prowess and love of loot they make fearsome enemies.
This product is a Dual Format PDF. The downloadable ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.
For free samples, visit ragingswan.com/villainouspirates
For an explanation of how I use the five star review method, see my entry on So What's the Riddle Like Anyway?HERE.
As an NPC supplement, Villainous Pirates offers four different uses for the characters presented inside. This is an interesting take on Rogues Gallery type offerings. Most of these guides are there simply to provide ready-made opponent characters, essentially bestiaries and monster manuals detailing adversaries with character levels. In the In Your Campaign section we get four different ways in which the NPCs can be used: as Crewmen, Enemies, Flavour, or Rivals. The Enemies and Rivals are fairly simple and are what would normally be expected from such a supplement. Most GMs will use the character stat blocks for these purposes nine times out of ten. As crewmen for the PC's vessel, many of the Pirates of Note (see below) could make for intriguing additions to a crew. They also come with their own pasts and motivations, any of which could become an adventure hook for the party just by having them onboard.
Flavour is the most novel approach to using these pirates. Instead of just throwing them at the players, you can have the pirates talked about by other NPCs while the party is listening. Using the background information in the write-ups as ready-to-go rumours, gossip, and news can add a significant amount of verisimilitude to a campaign, making the players feel as if they are a part of much broader world that has events that occur even when they are not on center stage. The supplement even suggests using the stories as foreshadowing, allowing the reputations of the pirates reach them before they ever meet. I like anything that adds depth and a sense of immersion in gaming, so this is great advise and a fine suggested use for any NPC gallery that has character write-ups.
The pirates themselves are divided into two groups: Pirates of Note and Pirates of Renown. There are several Pirates of Note that are very unique; my particular favorites are the Cassisian angel and the miniature girallon! There are no really generic pirates and I can understand that. Generic NPCs from any Rogues Gallery type guide or the sailor stats from the NPC Gallery section of the Game Mastery Guide will work just fine for normal pirates. The pirates presented here are all unique and intriguing. All will be of some use as crew and can flesh out what is usually an unremarkable cast of human backdrops. These are the stand out pirates with small roles and not the extras. Some are quite strange in concept (I did mention the Cassisian angel, right? A flying winged angelic helmet as a pirate? Very unique and cool!), while others are more mainstream. This variety means that any GM looking for a particular style can find something useful, broadening the appeal of the supplement.
The Pirates of Renown section details nine pirate captains to work as anything but crew for your PCs. Their backgrounds are full of detail and actual goals that can bring them into conflict or cooperation with the player characters. All but one of the Pirates of Renown have potential adventure seeds and methods of interacting with the PCs. Here I began to notice a few missteps, in that the very first entry is lacking adventure seeds. The entry has two pirates connected to it instead of just one, making it unique in the collection. The story behind this unusual quasit pirate is enough to cover the lack of adventure seeds, but it seems like this additional tenth entry into the Renown section of the supplement was originally part of the Pirates of Note section and got (very understandably) upgraded at the last moment. So instead of 30 Pirates of Note, we get 28 and two linked pirates join the Pirates of Renown section. I'm fine with this, as they really belong there and any GM with any imagination should be able to use them based on Cyllav Bellcroaker's background entry without difficulty.
I also noted an attempt at a sea chantey style song accompanying another Renown entry. What is there looks good, but on the second repeat verse, the structure breaks down into what appears to be a preliminary outline to finish the lyrics. This is a shame as up to that point it was a really fun addition. There are a few other editorial mistakes such as referring to a female character as he in the stat blocks on occasion, the misspelling of Cassisian, and the like, but otherwise the supplements presentation is solid.
Final Thoughts: All in all, Villainous Pirates is a great collection of pirates to use with minimum prep-time and can add a great deal of flavour and realism to any campaign. There are a few editorial errors, but none that detract heavily from the final product. This is a very useful addition to any nautical based adventure or campaign. Four out of five stars.
Villainous Pirates was purchased for one reason: to overload myself with possible stats and memorable encounters for the endless number of ships my group was going to plunder in the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path. This book presents 38 different pirates over 49 pages and I’m pretty sure the group has killed 14 of them already and taken their stuff. They’re perpetually hiding from 3 others. The best part is the group learned quickly how you can never really know what surprises await you when attacking another ship!
From a GM management standpoint this book came in quite handy. Not all of these NPCs are expected to be captains, just ‘pirates’, so the best part for me was taking a few, making them the officers of an opposing ship and then just adding generic crewmen to their roster and I have a fully realized encounter that’s far off from the typical venue.
How’s that? Because the book works to make each one memorable. There are more than a few monstrous pirates in here. There’s girallon, tiefling, grindylow, ettercap and more mixed in with the standard Core Rulebook races to present a good mix of challenges from CR 3 to 13. Each entry is referenced in a handy table to find the type you need quickly. Each one has its own background, personality and mannerisms, but not too long winded so if you need to read it quickly in-game that works too. The stat blocks use classes form the CRB and the Advance’s Players Guide plus rules from Bestiary 1, 2, and Tome of Horrors but all rules you need to portray them are there in the block explained so you can run them easily right out of the book.
I had a bit of a snafu when printing current page or a specific number, as the pages numbers don’t sync up with the actual page of the PDF, but once you get the knack of it it’s no bother. Also, if you cut and paste the stats to another program like Word or Publisher, the formatting stays perfectly.
As you’d expect from the title, it’s not littered with goody-two-shoes, these are vile ready-for-slaying pirates your PCs will love to combat. The best part is half the book is still ready for me to use when I run Razor Coast. Easily recommended.
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30660.
Villainous Pirates presents, in 50 pages, Pirates of Note and nine Pirates of Renown ready for the time-crunched GM to quickly and easily insert into almost any campaign. Each pirate benefits from an extensive write-up including notes on their background, personality, mannerisms and distinguishing marks as well as a fully detailed stat block. Pirates of Renown also come with plot hooks making it easy to insert them into almost any campaign. It’s currently available for sale for $5.99 on DriveThruRPG or Paizo.com
Pirates are a very serious business for those who play Pathfinder. Villainous Pirates expands on the life of pirates and helps those who may need a little nudging in building pirates to remember! There are a few formatting kinks, and I would have loved the product in color, but it is not the end of the world, nor should it keep you from purchasing the item.
Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Raging Swan Press publication, but once again I was not disappointed. The layout is clean and simple. It is in black and white as per the format, but it’s not an epic deal breaker. I like the original looks of the pirates, they leave you to fill in the color thanks to the black and white format.
Formatting annoyance: I hate it when digital publishers who have enough material to give characters proper spacing, do not do so. Now granted, for printed works, space is precious. But for digital works since there is no page limits or printing restrictions it gives publishers the ability to give space wherever needed. The pirates are stacked on top of one another which makes the stat blocks not quite look right. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a ding for a GM who is trying not to go from one page to another.
Ease of Mobility: The bookmarks irritate me a bit cause they take forever to navigate. But other than that the file is smooth and doesn’t take forever to load, which is totally nice.
Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The product is quite mechanically sound. The stat blocks can be a little confusing, but again that’s due to the formatting issues that are above. Take your time when incorporating them into your campaign so you make sure to get it all right!
Value Add: 10 out of 10
There are quite a lot of pirate-related supplemental material going on in Pathfinder right now. It’s kind of that “flavor” of the RPG Season, as I’ve seen quite a lot of publishers big and small go and do a pirates add-on, but this is definitely worth the money invested! Give it a shot!
Overall: 9 out of 10
There are quite a lot of pirate fun goodies being written for the Pathfinder system as the result of Skulls and Shackles and a lot of pirate goodies in Pathfinder most recently, and this piece is no exception to the rule! This is definitely a product that will continue to help GMs for years to come!
This is an awesome resource for a GM running a pirate game, or even just for a bunch of NPCs to populate a dockside tavern with. There are full npc write ups including stat blocks for about 40 characters and creatures. The first chapter covers a bunch of lower level "pirates" or, more generally, sailors (I wouldn't consider some, like the cassian angel, to be true pirates) suitable as rivals, allies, or hired hands (which makes me glad that not all of them are evil pirates). This last one is particularly good for if the players get a ship and want to hire a captain or recruit one with Leadership. These first 29 NPCs of CR 3-7 are awesome overall, and are very creative from both a background and a character/monster design perspective. There's everything from classic humans, goblins, and half-orcs to more exotic sirens, xill, and even a cloaker that imitates the ships sail (a note on the cloaker, if you use it you will want to drop its AC by 2 or make its full plate mithral, since the max Dex bonus to AC is exceeded by 2 for regular full plate). I had one issue with the advanced young girallon because the advanced template does not normally add +4 Int to int scores of 1 or 2, but the writing is cool and the concept is so much fun I'm tempted to include her regardless. The second chapter/section is higher CR (9-13) pirates that seem to be designed as plot hooks and story drivers in home brew campaigns like ours. In a few levels if the party hasn't sold their ship and moved on to other shenanigans I am curious to see how the paladin deals with the moral conflicts that could arise from the treat barbarian (who serves as a mast on his ship, awesome imagery) seeking vengeance on those who cut down forests. There are some great characters in here and I look forward to running more of them!
This pdf is 49 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page how-to-read statblocks for novice DMs, 1 page SRD, 2 pages biographical information on the designers and 1 page on how to use them and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 38 pages of content, so let's check this out!
Funny how synergies tend to go - here's a pirate-themed AP and there we are: A solid selection of pirate-themed NPC-villains with the good ol' Raging Swan-treatment. The pirates range from a CR of 3 to 13 and the pdf kicks off with a table that has them ordered by CR.
The pirates herein are not entirely conventional and you'll soon see why: The very first pirate is actually a cassian angel bard, and we have halfling fighter/duelists, a xill expert/surgeon , half-orcish savage skalds, a samurai ronin, a brownie witch, a siren oracle, a SANDMAN (!!!!) transmuter, literally all of the NPCs herein have something going for them but if you're in doubt, the NPCs also use neat5 class options: Take for example Oga Ogati, a barbarian (invulnerable rager)4/oracle (waves) 4 or take Old Benaz, the poltergeist sea singer bard 2 to a rare 4-armed miniature girallion and even a cloaker fighter, a kapoacinth rogue, an ettercap barbarian and even a grindylow monk, we get a stellar array of awesome characters, all with mannerisms, distinguishing features etc. to make them come easier to life. And if you're thinking these characters might be too far out, rest assured that e.g. classics like a fully stated multiclassed tiefling assassin are also part of the deal - at least for me, though, the stranger pirates are the imaginative winners here. This chapter closes, as does the second, with a list of the pirates by alignment (CE to LN, btw.).
The second chapter deals with so-called pirates of renown: While the first chapter provided cool characters and solid stats to use, including short paragraphs and NPC-information, the expert fluff-writers of RSP go all out for the second chapter, providing at least one page of space for each character - take e.g. the devious quasit sorceror Cyllav Bellcroaker to Magus Banneus Pollar, who is afraid of his familiar - with reason and a lot of cool development potential for enterprising GMs. Have I mentioned the red-skinned mercane-slaver Insaelt, who is hunted by a zelekhut, making for a truly interesting and strange hook? Or take the driven Jessa Wavechaser, searching for her brother and sworn to the powers of the sea. Kalazabuil is one of my favorites: The giant advanced barghest captain of the Bleeding Edge comes with his very own poem called "Six Feasts of Kalazabuil", which might make for a neat idea for a whole campaign or a dread prophecy the PCs should have to defeat. Rexal Urexin, the minotaur-captain is also notable for his three bullet-points style special crew-members mentioned and fans of freeport should rejoice that a serpentfolk magus has also found its way into the pdf alongside Vessa, the lizardfolk shaman queen. And then there's Verdan Calanphon, the elemental kin treant barbarian-pirate who scours the sea to prevent artificial volcano-eruptions and defeat fire-giants and similar threats to forests. Oh, and he has the leader of the fire-giant's hand grafted to one of his charred limbs as a gruesome source of barbaric strength. See the details? See the iconicity? This pdf is full of such. The pdf closes with pirates of renown by alignment.
Editing and formatting are, as I've come to expect from Raging Swan, top notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's printer-friendly 2-column standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for printing, but no section of RSP-statblocks for the statblock library. It seems like RSP has abandoned that idea, which is a bit of a pity. The artworks are b/w and mostly nice and fitting, though I've seen some before. The pdf come with a plethora of nested bookmarks. See that complain about the missing RSP-statblock library file? Somehow it's sad - that's seriously the only gripe I could muster. After the stellar "Scions Of Evil" I honestly didn't expect the pdf to live up to that standard. RSP listens, RSP improves. Villainous Pirates is a stellar selection of cool NPCs, that, while not an apex of complexity in their builds, shows that the respective characters are interesting, make for awesome weird crew-mates, enrich the settings into which they are introduced and may even spark off a campaign of their own. Were all NPC-books like this, I wouldn't have to write reviews at all. Final verdict? 5 stars, endzeitgeist seal of approval and congratulations to John Bennett, Andrew Glenn and David Posener for delivering an excellent resource that sets the bar very high indeed.