DM Apocalypso's Skull & Shackles

Game Master Apocalypso

Aye, the compass doesn't point North, but we're not trying to find North, are we?

Link to our Obsidian Portal Site, with Maps, NPC descriptions, Places to upload cool pics of your character, etc:
Obsidian Portal

Link to Pathfinder Rules:

Character Creation:

1. Class:
I recommend starting with this. What kind of character do you want to play?
*The Skull and Shackles Players Guide has some good suggestions for pirate versions of several classes.
All pathfinder classes, prestige classes, and archetypes are allowable, except:
*No psionics.
*No gunslingers.
*3rd party or conversion from D&D 3.5? Pitch me your idea. My answer will depend mostly on ease of integration with the rest of the game and players.
*Don’t worry about what everyone else is playing, there are enough NPC’s to fill in any holes. Play something that will be fun for you.

2. Race
Pick a race with good attributes for your class.
(Rogues will generally look for a race with bonuses to dexterity, for example.)
This is not a rule so much as a guideline. If you wanna play a character that chose an odd profession for his race (and tends to be a little less good at it), that’s fine too.
*All core races are fine.
*All featured races are fine.
*Uncommon races & Races from the Advanced Race Guide?
---CR 1/2 or Race Points less than 11 are fine. (On par with the other races)
---CR 2-3, or RP 11-20? I’ll probably cut some of your abilities to start, and make you take them as feats when you advance in level. Yes, you will get fewer feats because of this, but you’ll eventually get those cool racial abilities you wanted.
*Make sure to look over special traits, feats, and class archetypes for your race in the ARG. (I can get you a copy if you tell me which race)

3. Attributes
Method I— Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest number— 7×.
Keep the 6 best numbers.
(I will ask you to do this on Paizo’s dice roller— I’ll show you how.)

Method II— 25 point build from this chart:
(Yes, you can try Method 1 and see what happens first.)
"7" costs -4
"8" costs -2
"9" costs -1
"10" costs 0
"11" costs 1
"12" costs 2
"13" costs 3
"14" costs 5
"15" costs 7
"16" costs 10
"17" costs 13
"18" costs 17

*Then add your racial bonuses to your attributes.

4. Feats
Choose the Appropriate number for your class and race.
Everything on Pathfinders Feat list is acceptable.

5. Traits

•Choose 1 campaign trait
•And another trait from Pathfinders trait list.

6. Alignment
*Preferred Alignments are Chaotic Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Neutral, and True Neutral.
*If you wish to play a lawful character, explain to me why they want to be a pirate (not a privateer.)
*If you wish to play an evil character, explain to me how they will play well with the other characters. I will allow your character to engage in whatever mischief, but if you get caught, and the others decide to use you as shark bait… I will also allow that. So try to come up with a character that’s fun for the other players too.

7. 5 Character Build Points (something I borrowed from another GM)

•Spend 3 Points to get a 30 Point Build for Attributes. You must also spend the 3 Points if you rolled 30+.
•Spend 2 Points for an Extra Feat.
•Spend 1 Point for an Extra Trait.
•Spend 1 Point for every Race Point over 10 (Advanced Race Guide)
•Spend 1 Point to roll from the Aasimar variant chart (good alignments) or the Tiefling variant chart (not-good alignments). Roll 1d100 3×. Pick your favorite of the 3.
•Gain 1 Point for taking a flaw.

8. Pick Spells, Weapons, and Skills

9. Give yourself maximum HP for your class, and add (or subtract) your Con bonus.

10. Give yourself minimum gold for your class at first level.
Go ahead and buy gear "normally." GM hint-- it will all be taken away, but you will have a chance to get it back...eventually.

*In addition to the above, you will be allowed to keep one small, overlooked item. It can be either a small masterwork item such as a holy symbol, thieves tools, or weapon or... a gem or piece of jewelry worth 200gp. Yes, you must be able to hide it on your person, Daniel. If you can demonstrate via webcam how you will hide the grappling hook, you may keep it. Yes, Doug your rat can hide himself on or near you. We won't explore those details too closely. Or... you can recruit a familiar once on board. There will be candidates available--some of them fly or swim. Spellbook stored on a mw thumbdrive? Er, sure. But you'll have to wait a good while to come across a reading device, 300-400 years. Otherwise wizards are SOL for a while. Sorry.

11. Hero Points (one-use luck points, to make an impossible shot, or… not die, for example.)

•Everyone gets one at 1st level, and one at every new level.
•You get a second one if you write a good character background. 3 paragraphs or more about where you’re from, why you’re here, how you discovered your talents, friends/family/enemies, etc.
•Other Hero Points will be awarded for doing things that are especially clever, or for making the GM laugh hard.

12. Character History
At least 3 paragraphs about where you’re from, why you’re in Port Peril, how you discovered your talents, friends/family/enemies, etc.

13. Create a Character Sheet.

•If you have Hero Lab, post your character sheet both on Obsidian Portal and Paizo.
•If you do not have Hero Lab, contact me with your stats, and I will make a character sheet for you.

Play by Post Conventions:

For all the following examples, wherever you see ( ), you should type [ ] instead.

Check in Regularly
*Consensus seems to be at least 3-4 times per week.
*Try to check in more often if we’re in combat, to keep things moving.
*If you’re going to be away for a few days, let me know, and I’ll run you as an NPC until you get back.

Exposition is King
Please elaborate freely about all the whys and wherefores of your character.

Things your character SAYS should be in BOLD
{b}Watch out for that tree!{/b}

Things your character thinks should be in Italics
As follows:
{i}How did I get myself into this mess?{/i}

Out of character things should be done like so… it will appear as blue text.*
{ooc}Do I get to add my dexterity bonus to that? I have the weapon finesse feat. {/ooc}

•If its a longer post or not relevant to the current action— You can also use the Discussion Page instead. ie…“I just wanted to let you guys know I’ll be on vacation next week. Could you run my character? In the following situations she’ll do this…”

Dice Rolling
{dice}1d20+3{/dice} or {dice}3d6+1{/dice} or {dice}1d20, 1d4{/dice}

Spoilers (Things you hide so not everyone can read or to save room.)
{spoiler=Perception Check 20}There’s a glint of gold under a loose board{/spoiler}
Your character would then need to make a 20 perception roll to be allowed to read the spoiler. Honor System.

There are a number of other features at the bottom of Paizo’s board, under a button marked “Show”.

At Lori's suggestion we're going to try something new, my unconventional conventionalists.
When combat begins: Private Message me your initiative and action. I will determine who did what when, and who it affected... and then post the results for you all to see, before we go on to the next round. Mwahaha!
Lets try to resolve one round/day of combat. Private message me your actions during the day, and I will resolve and post the results of the round at 1-2 am EST.

GM Hints:

1. I'll reiterate: I will allow your characters to try anything they wish. Bear in mind however, that I will also allow other characters to retaliate in any way that they wish. Mischief is fine, but try to keep it on a level that's fun for everybody.

2. In most games there's a convention that with skill and luck you can handle everything you encounter. That convention is not at all true in this campaign. The Captain and his close subordinates are much, much more powerful than you. Your characters will probably chaff at captivity--in fact I'll do my best to make sure of it-- but try to find a reason why your character will bide his/her time. Not dying should be a good enough reason.

I promise-- you'll get your chance, but not yet.

3. With the lesser NPC's, you have a slightly better chance of surviving a skirmish, but fighting is still likely to have dire consequences. Try to find diplomatic and/or sneaky ways around a fight.

4. Even once you break free of captivity, you will not have enough knowledge or people in your party to crew a ship. Try to find some helpful allies amongst your other shipmates. Learn your way around a ship, make friends, bide your time. It'll be a rough start, but soon enough you'll be captains of your own destiny.

Alright, them's enough hints. Back to work ye useless dogs!

Kestryl's Poker:

Basic 5 Card Draw Poker, with some adaptations for PbP

Cards are read by this formula:
1d4= Suit
1=Spades, 2=Hearts, 3=Diamonds, 4=Clubs

1d13= Number.
1=Ace, 2=2,... 11=J, 12=Q, 13=K

Phase I- Ante
Ante 5 coppers.
Deal yourself 5 cards with the formula (dice)1d4;1d13(/dice)
Reroll any duplicates in your own hand.
If you choose to cheat (with sleight of hand, magic, etc), roll yourself an extra card.
If you cheat make a DC 15 check for whatever method you used. If you fail miserably, please write that into your in-character narrative.
Put your cards in a spoiler

Phase II- Bet
Betting will go for 24 hours from first bet placed.
Betting is in any order (to speed things up).
Each character may bet up to 3 times.
Bets are 'check,' 'raise,' 'fold,' and 'see'.
Anyone not betting in 24 hours is considered folded

Phase III- Draw 1, 2, or 3 new cards
Announce Discards and Keepers in Spoiler.
Roll 1, 2 or 3 new cards. . Reroll any duplicates in your own hand.

Phase IV- Winner Resolution
No second round of betting (to speed things up).
Show cards.
If more than one player has the same card, clearly there was cheating. Resolve in character.
If you suspect someone of peeking at your cards, resolve in character.
If you suspect someone of cheating in the first round, resolve in character.

Feel free to make up new rules appropriate to your character-- familiars spying, great perception checks, great bluff checks, etc. Some may need to be announced in ooc's. Try to make it more about role-playing your character and less about winning at poker. Have fun!

Daytime Ship Actions:

Work Diligently: Gain a +4 bonus on any one check for a job’s daily task
Influence: Make normal checks for a job’s daily task and attempt to influence a single NPC.
Sneak: Make normal checks for a job’s daily task and briefly explore one area of the ship (the PC can make a single Perception check or other skill check with no chance of detection)
Shop: Take a –2 penalty on all checks for a job’s daily task and visit the quartermaster’s store.
Shirk: Take a –2 penalty on all checks for a job’s daily task and take time exploring one area of the ship. The PC can take 10 on a single Perception check or other skill check, but must make a check to avoid being discovered.

Nighttime Ship Actions:

Sleep: Go to bed early and sleep through the night(automatically recover from fatigue)
Gamble: Play or gamble on a game of chance or pirate entertainment
Entertain: Make one Perform check to entertain the crew
Influence: Attempt to influence a single NPC
Sneak: Take time exploring one area of the ship. The PC can take 20 on a single Perception check or other skill check, but must make a check to avoid being discovered.
Steal: Attempt to open a locked door or locker. The PC must make a check to avoid being discovered.

Shipboard Life Descriptions:

Pretty much all work was physical. A sailing ship is like a living creature heaving & moving with wind & waves - - - the propulsion being sails a man had to be prepared to scamper up ropes to incredible heights and there were no excuses for being afraid of heights! One had to let loose and haul in sails, heavy canvas sheets weighing several hundred pounds, in all sorts of weather.
Let us go back to the beginning; daylight, after a night spent sleeping in a hammock a few inches below the sweaty stinking reeking body of fellow seaman in the bowels of the ship, one is awakened at dawn. One immediately swabs the deck; this involves cold seawater and heavy stones, while one man throws buckets of water on deck, another man squats and scrubs the deck. Then it is off to breakfast on hardtack crawling with worms, actually old salts see the worms as a treat - - - - Meat!!!!!
The day is spent hauling in and loosening 'sheets,' the sails. This involves scampering up ropes to the top of the mast. The tallest mast is fifty to seventy feet above the deck and the motion is like a modern roller coaster.
Here is a 'funny' one. You have seen those movies where a man is leasurely twisting the ship's wheel. HAH>>>!!!!! There were no hydraulics in those days. The ship's wheel was link to the tiller/rudder by chains and it was a backbreaking task requiring both strength and finesse. Fighting the current, the wind, often two men or in a storm three men had to man handle the wheel.

Man the pumps: sailing ships leaked like a sieve and many required constant pumping utilizing a device like a fireplace bellows. Backbreaking strenuous work often deep inside the ship, squatting in the foul cold slimy water in the bilges. Many a time captured prisioners were given this chore.

Now suppose your ship has cannons. Unwieldy beasts atop wooden wheels they weighed from a friendly 500 lbs to over 1,500 pounds. It took a crew of four to eight men to tug them away from the gun ports, once again recall the ship is heaving & slithering about, and it took four to eight men to push the cannon back into place. Since the cannons were unwieldy and since most ships officers were harsh and unrelenting one was expected to tend to the task of loading and running out the guns swiftly. So if you were a bit slow or clumsy you might suffer a crushed foot or a broken leg.
Oh and during the heat of battle the ropes holding a cannon in place might be severed thus a loose cannon would be careening around mowing down men!!

Say you age ten or so - - - you are employeed as a 'Ships Monkey.' You are expected to carry charges of powder and nine to twelve pound cannon balls from deep in the ship up to the gun deck. And did I mention that many ships were cramped and doorways were not only shorter than a man's head but had a lip on the bottom. This still bedevils a sailor; you have to step up while ducking your head down!! Trust me it is not easy - - - a newbie bangs his shins while smashing his head- - - ouch!!!

Old sea salts suffered many a rupture. Hernias. And those days - - - well there were no commercially made hernia straps so essentially you wore a tight diaper. Your mates help you do this - - - you lay on your back while a friend strapped your crotch with a swatch of cloth - - - tight enough to keep your innards from spilling out!!!

Heavy Weather Sailing
extracts from article by Barrie Jackson

The wind's backed and freshened. Dark, foreboding clouds blot out the sun. It's chilly now. The sea fetches up. A wave breaks. The signs are there, and you are headed for heavy weather.

But what exactly defines heavy weather -- a hurricane, a gale or just strong winds? There are two components that contribute to the severity of a storm at sea: the force of the wind and the sea state. For the average person, heavy weather is anything over 25 knots. On the open sea, high waves are intimidating, but are not necessarily dangerous. Inshore, on the other hand, strong currents, shoals and other underwater obstructions can make riding out a storm in coastal waters treacherous. For one, strong currents inshore can add appreciably to wind strengths. A four-knot current running against a 30-knot wind, for instance, creates an apparent wind of 34 knots. And, in a strong rip, wave lengths decrease and the seas can become choppy, will break often, and can be dangerous.

Predicting Heavy Weather
For the coastal sailor, the best heavy weather strategy is "Don't go!" Avoidance is the best heavy weather tactic. A common reason why sailors get caught in heavy weather is because they disregard weather warnings in their rush to get to the next harbor or home port. This is also a major factor in aviation accidents. It is called 'get homeitis'.

Be Prepared
Weather is capricious. Conditions can change suddenly, rendering the forecast obsolete. So if you do get caught out on the water in a blow, what do you do? Firstly, create a plan and work out your current position and the safest course to sail. "If the present course is no longer safe, bear away onto a reach or run. Head to the alternate destinations you have established in your sail plan. Are you on a lee shore or in the lee of the shore? In the lee, one can expect less fetch and smooth seas. The best advice in this situation is to anchor and wait out the storm. But if you can't find shelter, get ready to meet the storm. If you have advance warning, prepare for heavy weather early and create a check-list with these three headings: on deck, below deck and crew.

Shorten sail
It's easier to shake out a reef than put one in. Therefore, reef early and progressively, ahead of the weather. The longer the crew waits, the more difficult it is to reef. A rule of thumb about reefing is to shorten sail to balance the boat in the gusts and squalls, not just the average wind conditions. Better still, for safety, carry less sail than the yacht can stand. There will be little sacrifice in speed but a huge gain in comfort. The extra sail required to achieve the last quarter knot places a load on a yacht's sails, gear and crew which is out of all proportion to the gain.

What about storm sails?
"They're not essential for the coastal sailor. Instead, consider a good roller reefing/furling system. This headsail will work better in a breeze if it is equipped with a foam-luff draft regulator to flatten the sail as it is reduced in size. "As well, your mainsail should have two, and perhaps three, deep reefs - not the tiny ones found on most production boats." If you are planning a longer blue-water passage, cruisers can consider retrofitting a detachable inner forestay on a lever or pelican hook on which to hoist a hanked-on storm jib or heavy air staysail. The addition of an inner forestay is a major boat modification and requires various structural modifications to the deck, anchor bulkhead and mast, and may involve adding running backstays. But for those offshore sailors who have sailed with their storm jibs rigged on inner-forestays and with three reefs in main, this retrofit is well worth the investment and is an excellent heavy weather configuration. They key point here is that the inner stay allows you to centre-up the sail plan to the mast. This will keep the centre of effort and lateral resistance close together for balance. A balanced boat will not have excessive windward or lee helm in high winds and seas.

Preparing the crew
A well-built boat will take more punishment than its crew. In the 1979 Fastnet race the people gave up before the boats did. Many of these sailors drowned after they abandoned their yachts during a fierce storm that raked this infamous Admiral's Cup offshore race. Most of the boats were recovered still floating after the storm and during the search for survivors. Had these crews "stayed with the boat", they would still be racing today.

An alert crew is vital; but when the going gets rough fear and fatigue will often sap crew morale. And someone comatose with seasickness is of no use at all. So, prepare your crew physically and psychologically for the challenge ahead. Boat preparations, in themselves, help psychologically. Serve a hot meal beforehand and insist that everyone take sea-sickness medication well before the storm - for even seasoned sailors get queasy as wave heights increase.

Prone rest combats exhaustion almost as effectively as sleep, so encourage your crew to rest, even if sleep eludes them. On deck, dress for the weather. If anything, overdress slightly - being too warm is better than being cold. After you've addressed fatigue, what about fear? People never really overcome fear so come to terms with the fact that you will be frightened on occasion. Overcoming it is part of the challenge. That's why reefing in time is so important. Being over-canvassed is very scary - the boat will heel excessively, will become difficult to steer, and will fatigue the helmsperson quickly. Take heavy weather in a controlled way. Sail to the ability of the crew, not the skipper or boat.

Heavy Weather Tactics
Strain on the helmsperson generally determines the amount of sail to carry when close hauled. In coastal waters or lakes, you may have to sail a bit fuller and carry a little more sail to punch through short, choppy seas. Assessing wind strength on a run is more difficult as an increase in wind speed across the deck is difficult to gauge easily. But don't run with more sail than you would carry close hauled. There is a huge load on the boat and steering gear. You are being lifted and slewed all the time and take the waves on your quarter if you are off the wind. When beating, round up slightly as you approach the crest of the wave and turn away as you sail down the back side towards the trough. Bearing off at the crest prevents the stern from falling into the trough.

When it's too windy to sail
In a gale it may be prudent to heave to. In this state, the boat will make leeway rather than resist the wind or sea. Surprisingly, the ride when hove-to is quite comfortable compared to being underway. But perhaps more importantly, the boat is safe.

Most offshore sailors are sceptical of sea anchors. Shaped like a wind sock and made from heavy canvas and/or webbing, sea anchors are run from the bow or stern. In fact, these storm devices impose dangerous loads on the yacht. Drogues spin, twisting up the tether. If you can deploy, operate and retrieve a sea anchor you're not in trouble! But what else can you do?

When it gets really crazy, above 60 knots of wind, offshore sailors will "lie a-hull". In this state, a yacht is left to find its own position in the waves under bare poles and rides, rather than resists, the waves.

Another effective tactic is to tow warps in hurricane-force winds. Although a warp won't slow the boat much, it will provide directional stability, keeping the stern to the seas. In very bad storms, though, the most vulnerable part of the boat (ie. the stern) will be exposed to breaking waves.

Alternatively, run before the gale. Some say the following sea may break dangerously in the quarter wave. At five- to six-knots, the quarter wave is insignificant, but watch that the speed doesn't fall too low, otherwise the boat will loose steerage and will become hard to manage in the troughs. Quick helm response is lost just when it is needed most. In summary, either run fast enough for absolute control or slow down with warps to steady the stern.

Gybing in heavy weather
Only gybe when the boat is at maximum speed and not while it is accelerating. The pressure of wind on the sails will be less, making the boom easier to pull across the boat.

It is easier and safer to gybe from run to run rather than from reach to reach.

The centreboard should be about halfway up (or down!) which will allow the boat to slip sideways and avoid a broach. Some plate is necessary to give some grip on the water to turn and to climb up on should a capsize occur.

Crew weight should be kept as far back as possible to prevent the bows digging in and the boat broaching.

The boat should be sailed upright throughout the gybe to maintain stability and prevent the chine digging in causing a broach.

Kicker, Cunningham and Outhaul should be tightened to flatten the sail to prevent a "Chinese gybe". Minimal twist and belly in the mainsail will help a great deal to get the boom over with the least drama.

The sequence of events for a successful gybe is as follows:-

Approach the mark wide giving yourself plenty of room for manoeuvre.

Crew sits in. Helm sits back.

Kicker, Cunningham and Outhaul on.

If sailing with spinnaker, put leeward twinning line on and let windward one off.

Spinnaker guy is hauled in until pole is 90 degrees to boat.

Bear away until sailing by the lee and genoa starts to back.

Crew lets off genoa.

Helm pulls in mainsheet until sail is just off the leeward shroud.

When everything is right helm shouts "Gybe Ho!" and crew hauls the boom over using the kicker while helm simultaneously crosses the boat, sheets in and puts tiller across to new side.

As boom comes across the boat the helm lets mainsheet off. The boat should now have rounded the mark and be on the new gybe.

To prevent broaching at this stage the helm should pull the tiller to windward momentarily .It is important at this stage to keep the boat upright and trimmed aft as it is all too easy to screw up to windward and capsize due to centrifugal force.

Genoa is then sheeted in and crew does the necessary with the spinnaker pole. Helm must keep weight right aft as crew works near the mast.

Trim sails and zip off to the next mark with grins all round.