My group is nearing the end of book 4 and it looks like they are on track to probably earn a seat on the council for each PC. My group has 6 PCs and I'm concerned that that many votes will make the "mini-game" at the start of book 5 rather silly.
Any suggestions to make that part still challenging without robbing my group of their reward?
There's always the idea of an "interim" or "provisional" acceptance - basically, they're on-track to become full-fledged members, and are accepted as such in most cases, but only retain a half-vote (or a 2/3s vote), each, instead of the standard full-vote.
After whatever happens then occurs, perhaps they then receive their full vote.
Alternatively, instead of "first past the post" (the voting style of, "whoever has the most, wins") you could have a kind of "2/3s majority" where the pirates follow the most popular by a significant margin (typically, 2/3s of the vote, rather than half+1).
Note: I have not played nor GM'd this AP, and honestly don't really know what happens there. I kind of accidentally found this by looking at the side-feed, and only realized it was for an AP after I'd already read your post several times to understand context. So... whoops!
... but that's my suggestion for how to handle it!
|Mark Seifter Designer|
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When our group was playing Skull and Shackles, we also determined that the PCs represented far too large a potential voting bloc; it didn't really make sense that the Council would agree to allow in so many people who would probably vote together (and Tessa's detractors especially, since the PCs probably have made it clear that they're fans of hers). I think Linda wound up having way more of the Council show up to add in more non-PC votes and make the other council members much less agreeable to the PC/Tessa side of the vote than initially stated.
Tacticslion's idea could be interesting though: Since the PCs will often be voting on the other side from the Hurricane King, perhaps alter the voting scheme so the Hurricane King doesn't vote on the council but instead just gets his way unless 2/3 of the rest of the council disagree.
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In our group we also went with something similar to what Mark Seifter mentions, that they dont necessarily individually get a vote.
The Council voting works best as a cinematic event I feel, describing the captains, their demeanor, them haggling over votes over drinks before the voting, highlighting sub factions and having the PCs trying to silvertongue some in the last minute. For this I did stack the votes highly against them but allowed them to garner favour as the evening proceeded.
I fleshed out the Shackles thoroughly with the help of Isles of the Shackles (best setting book I've read), so I added many of the smaller faction free captains to make the vote feel more contested. For example, the pirates around Port Peril were more inclined to vote agaisnt the PCs (unless openly defiant to the Hurricane King previously) and there were more of them (from Isles of the Shackles).
Furthermore I counted the PCs original crew as 1 vote - the Captain that got the seat and his crew. Another of our PCs had claimed Rampore for himself (a whole epic side adventure which ended up in a battle at sea with Bedu Hanji and his multihull slaver ship. When the bard dropped the raksasha Hanji's head on the table just before the voting started with a mighty Intimidate check it also swayed some votes).
Bag Island also recently lost its leader but also voted in their favour (Bedu had done a retribution strike on Bag Island to punish them for supporting the PCs, killing the anti slaver halfling), but was replaced with the next in line - Rosie, who had been avoiding responsibility for as long as she could, until the PCs pressed her into leading the island to secure her vote.
Really highlight the backstabby, no honour amongst thieves, enemy of my enemy is my friend, temporary allegiance tropes.
Oh, gods. Or just let your players run amok.
I was playing a Chaotic Good life oracle, and kept voting for what would help the most people, whether or not it helped us. The captain voted for what helped us, but tried to use subterfuge to trick the other council members into supporting us. The player who was playing the idiot fighter went along brilliantly, and voted against us because he thought he was doing what the captain wanted.
We had a hilarious vote where we voted to give away 20% of our own loot, and it was the idiot fighter who was the deciding factor.
Of course, your group may not be as dysfunctional... in that case I like TL's "2/3 vote" idea, since it reduces your group to the expected 4 votes.