Re-writing Skull n' Shackles for good(ish) characters - spoilers obviously


Skull & Shackles

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We've recently completed this AP and it was without a doubt the best campaign I've ever run - many times I found myself wishing I could have been playing it instead. There were so many great and memorable moments I swear I could novelize our campaign and have a blast doing it. Of course, in hindsight, it could have been run even better as is the case with all adventures...

I've seen some interest and confusion on approaching this AP from a less nefarious direction than that of rogue pirates, and after rolling it around in my head I've come up with an angle - a fairly obvious one actually - that might work really well and would require very little re-writing. I'm doing this from work so bear with me if I'm a little lighter on the details than usual.

(New) Campaign background:
Bonefist is an unpopular King in the Shackles and Cheliax sees his tenuous grasp on the crown as an ideal opportunity to install a puppet on the throne in Barnabus Harrigan (or more likely one of their own once Harrigan has served his purpose). Sargavan agents have uncovered the Cheliax machinations and is understandably terrified of such an eventuality. As such, they have managed to locate a sympathetic ear in the Pirate's Council, one Tessa Fairwind who has no love for Bonefist, even less love for Cheliax and has no desire to see the Shackles come under the devil-binder's thumb regardless of how it might affect Sargava. She has begun quietly consolidating her power, seeking out Chelish agents while organizing a clandestine resistance of her own - she fears moving too openly without both adequate support and ironclad proof of Cheliax's intentions lest she cause either Bonefist and his powerful allies to move preemptively against her or Cheliax-backed forces do the same. The PC's are an unaligned wildcard with no love for Harrigan who might just be the tip of the scales she's been looking for.

It is important to determine the demeanor of your party early on, whether they are the sort who would seek the Hurricane Crown for themselves or would enjoy playing king-maker in elevating their ally and benefactor Tessa Fairwind. Either would work equally well but some of the role-playing interactions might change and it would be helpful to know how to play Tessa's designs from the start.

Re-writes:
The first book of the AP can be played pretty much as originally written, serving as an introduction to life aboard a pirate ship in the Shackles, inducing a genuine hatred for Harrigan and eventually putting the PC's in possession of a ship of their own.

The second book has a few minor changes to be written in. The first is that of Merrill Pegsworthy whom has been recruited by Tessa Fairwind and is doing his part by patrolling waters in this region with an eye out for Chelish ships - not just merchant ships but ships posing as merchants as they pass wealth and personnel to their agents in the Shackles. He takes a careful measure of the PC's, notes their hatred of Harrigan whom he suspects to be in league with Cheliax and passes that information on to Tessa. His role and interaction with the PC's should be expanded upon and he can be used as a way to introduce 'honorable' piracy by specifically targeting Chelish shipping, slavers and eventually other pirates on the occasional clandestine 'seek and destroy' mission at Tessa's behest.

The next thing that needs to be changed is the nature of The Rock - the Lady of the Rock should be re-written as a potential ally of Tessa's whom the PC's are sent to secure an alliance with. A meeting with one of Tessa's agents should be arranged in the PC's first port of call after they've gained a bit of infamy for themselves who will then direct them to the Rock and promise them rewards and support if successful. From that vantage they can monitor local shipping and take up a role similar to Pegsworthy's. The attack on The Rock by Inkskin and her Sahuagin allies can be orchestrated by Chelish agents as hired mercenaries. The PC's can then seek out and exterminate this threat and potential Chellaxian ally while searching for the lost treasure.

An option to begin in the second book and beyond will be that of the occasional Sargovan ship sent to meet with the PC's on the high seas, to supply them with what plunder and personnel they can through acts disguised as piracy, mimicking the ruse that Harrigan himself has been using. This might help an otherwise treasure-poor campaign and allow the PC's to gain the minor magic items and coin that they lose out on by not engaging in indiscriminate piracy.

The third book will be when and where the PC's finally meet their benefactor face-to-face, and a romance netween she and one of the PC's would serve the story well, cementing them to her cause whether the ultimate goal is her on the throne or one of them. The regatta will serve as the perfect opportunity to earn one of the PC's a seat on the Pirate Council.

The fourth book follows course with the PC's trying to cement their hold on the Pirate Council while a suspicious Harrigan does all he can to prevent it.

In the fifth book the PC's seek out whatever aid they can (including a trip to the Black Tower) and Harrigan makes his move against them. In our campaign the Black Tower excursion was replaced by a PC-led revolt against the ruler of Bag Island when the halfling leader (a distant cousin of Rosie Cuswell's twice removed on her mother's side) was found to be corrupt and complicit in the selling of slaves to Cheliax. There's some good information on Bag Island in the Shackles source book. The PC's received a Sending from Tessa that allies of hers had been attacked by Harrigan's forces and that they should look to the protection of their home from his invasion fleet. The new halfling government whom they helped install offered the aid of a squadron of their own for the battle.

The sixth book can play out much as it has been written in an effort to oust the ineffective Bonefist and install either Tessa or one of the PC's in his place. Again, in our campaign we flipped events, removing Bonefist first and then, by Tessa's decree assembled a fleet to battle the impending Chelaxian invasion which served as the climax of the campaign.

Those are my initial thoughts on how to redesign and reorganize Skull n' Shackles for a good(ish) party, but I'd love to get some input and ideas from others whom have made the attempt. I'm still educating myself on Golarion and the history and regional politics of the nations involved. To be honest, while I'm not opposed to a bit of daring and even dastardly piracy (it was a blast for our group), I'm starting to think that the AP as a whole would have played better like this.


Any thoughts on this at all?


I like the overall story re-write quite a bit, actually - it makes Tessa a more interesting character, and gives the PCs a little different slant on the AP in general. I'm not sure how really "good" (or "good-ish" ;D) the PCs actually can be, though. While they may limit their personal depredations to Chelaxian vessels, they ultimately are working to put Tessa at the head of the Pirate Council as Hurricane King. No matter how Tessa and the PCs may see things, some of the council members are truly horrible people who are not going to suddenly grow wings and halos and give up their nasty ways. Tessa is going to have to work with those folks or risk being deposed in her turn, so in the long run what you've accomplished is to replace an ineffective leader with one better suited to the job - but the job is still leading a collection of bloodthirsty and murderous pirates. Not really sure how that translates to "good" at the end of the day.....


"Good-ish".

More for Neutral characters with good-ish intentions than Evil or Good ones I'm guessing is what she meant.


Fitzwalrus wrote:
I like the overall story re-write quite a bit, actually - it makes Tessa a more interesting character, and gives the PCs a little different slant on the AP in general. I'm not sure how really "good" (or "good-ish" ;D) the PCs actually can be, though. While they may limit their personal depredations to Chelaxian vessels, they ultimately are working to put Tessa at the head of the Pirate Council as Hurricane King. No matter how Tessa and the PCs may see things, some of the council members are truly horrible people who are not going to suddenly grow wings and halos and give up their nasty ways. Tessa is going to have to work with those folks or risk being deposed in her turn, so in the long run what you've accomplished is to replace an ineffective leader with one better suited to the job - but the job is still leading a collection of bloodthirsty and murderous pirates. Not really sure how that translates to "good" at the end of the day.....

The point was really to com eup with a practical way to approach and enjoy the AP more or less as written without having to worry about your character committing evil acts such as indiscriminate piracy. I feel like, in the above outline, even a Paladin could play through the AP without much difficulty since a lot of the AP is fighting evil creatures or evil foes, and most 'piracy' is committed against pirates or the designs of an evil empire bent on subjugating a people whom, when it comes down to it, are really just trying to live free.

As far as Tessa gaining the Hurricane crown, its up the the GM exactly how he wants to play her and while obviously some of the various pirate are despicable individuals, 1) they are much less a threat individually to the region and the realm than an empowered Chelaxian empire would be and 2) by having Tessa in power she is much more able to mitigate their influence to some degree. Having her gain the crown won't fix everything in one fell swoop, but its a big step in the process and certainly a far better alternative to what threatens for both good and neutral characters.


Bumping this for a friend...


I am thinking of recommending my crew watch as much Firefly as they can prior to playing.


Firefly? Well, I guess that would be somewhat appropriate. I have been trying to watch as many old pirate movies as I can get on Netflix.
So far my party has just reached The Man's Promise, but so far no issues with most of them being of good alignment. They aren't too fond of Harrington & co and already talking mutiny from day 18.


Gnomezrule wrote:
I am thinking of recommending my crew watch as much Firefly as they can prior to playing.

To be fair, there's rarely a time when Firefly shouldn't be watched as often as possible. ;)

The particular mindset here though is to make sure they view Cheliax, not the Hurricane King as the 'evil empire'...


These are some good thoughts. It doesn't solve my main issue with book 6 and doesn't (to me) seem to work for a good-ish campaign. And that is, because the Hurricane King is stubborn, the PCs decide to kill him. It's pretty weak motive for what they go through to get to him, and feels disconnected from the rest of the adventure.

I would alter your story slightly to make the Hurricane King more compelling. Bonefist has sensed his power has waned and already knew that he'd been betrayed by Harrigan, who was once his strong ally. He doesn't want that to come to light, because it shows more weakness in his power. Bonefist's inaction/stubbornness throughout the adventure path is actually part of a big gamble he's taking.

He knows his position is tenuous already. He needs to solidify those on his side. So he allows thorn-in-his-side Tessa and her lapdogs (the PCs) to gather those who would dare stand against the Hurricane King's orders. Let them gather in one spot, fight the Cheliax and then when both sides are weakened, Bonefist and his loyal crew come in and wipe them all out. In this way, he removes the Chelish plot, destroys his enemies on the Pirate Council, and solidifies his power once more.

It's easy enough to have Bonefist survive the naval assault (or not even be there personally) and then have the PCs learn of his betrayal and come after him as in the adventure path.


There are a lot of good ideas here for my take as a Spelljammer adventure. Looking at it as the PCs are tasked with taking the Pirates down from within, much the same as Harrigan, only for a good-ish sponsor. ;)


I had toyed with the idea that Besmara was a more benevolent deity than described in the official books. That her image and intent had basically been perverted and distorted by pirates who just wanted to do whatever they wanted... They removed some of the laws in the pirates code of conduct to suit their needs. You (and Tessa Fairwind) are agents of a Besmara cult determined to clean up the Pirate Council and restore piracy to its intended civility.


I was thinking about Besmara too. I was going to leave her CN but I was going to put rumors from the planes that one of her pirate raids on the Abyss had raised the attention of Asmodeous. Perhaps even that she is prisoner and Cayden Cailen is out to shut down Asmodeous and get the attention of Besmara who he has a thing for.


I am not the first to bring up Firefly. But it fits a "good" pirate well. Remove all the western garb and think about it. Their on a ship pulling questionable robberies and avoiding the over reaching oppressive evil some are relatively good and civilized almost pushed into the life, others are former soldiers trying to get a piece of the action fro themselves . . . you get the idea.


I just had my PC's create scoundrel characters with good alignments. I made them all watch every episode of Firefly along with the movie, and we then started. Had no problem with indiscriminate piracy. Watch "insert pirate movie here," (from POTC to Cutthroat Island to Yellowbeard) most of the main characters will be good aligned. I'm not having any problems with good aligned PC's.

The only change I made was to make sure Inkskin survived the attack on the rock so she could pop up later and be a bigger villain in the campaign (The PC's took her alive, i just eliminated the pufferfish and had her escape as the PC's were leaving Mancatcher cove. Ended up meeting her end in the Race. That was really the only change i made.

Grand Lodge

I wonder if there is a plot mechanism that could be introduced to make the PCs privateers, rather than pirates, cruising for prizes with Letters of Mark and Reprisal? While piracy was reviled, privateering was considered an honorable and patriotic profession. Not sure how this idea could be added to the Skulls & Shackles adventure path, but it would allow the PCs to behave as "good", or ethical pirates, and behave according to the "Gentleman's Code" as listed in Pirates of the Inner Sea. For example, Letters of Mark and Reprisal issued by Andoran would allow the PCs to travel to the country and use its ports and take Chelaxian-flagged merchant ships and slavers as prizes. The Republic of Andoran may even pay to outfit the character's expeditions in return for a share of the prizes taken.

I might use this idea in the future when running the Scourge of the Slave Lords adventure collection in Golarion.


TritonOne wrote:

I wonder if there is a plot mechanism that could be introduced to make the PCs privateers, rather than pirates, cruising for prizes with Letters of Mark and Reprisal? While piracy was reviled, privateering was considered an honorable and patriotic profession. Not sure how this idea could be added to the Skulls & Shackles adventure path, but it would allow the PCs to behave as "good", or ethical pirates, and behave according to the "Gentleman's Code" as listed in Pirates of the Inner Sea. For example, Letters of Mark and Reprisal issued by Andoran would allow the PCs to travel to the country and use its ports and take Chelaxian-flagged merchant ships and slavers as prizes. The Republic of Andoran may even pay to outfit the character's expeditions in return for a share of the prizes taken.

I might use this idea in the future when running the Scourge of the Slave Lords adventure collection in Golarion.

That's pretty much what I outlined...


TritonOne wrote:

I wonder if there is a plot mechanism that could be introduced to make the PCs privateers, rather than pirates, cruising for prizes with Letters of Mark and Reprisal? While piracy was reviled, privateering was considered an honorable and patriotic profession. Not sure how this idea could be added to the Skulls & Shackles adventure path, but it would allow the PCs to behave as "good", or ethical pirates, and behave according to the "Gentleman's Code" as listed in Pirates of the Inner Sea. For example, Letters of Mark and Reprisal issued by Andoran would allow the PCs to travel to the country and use its ports and take Chelaxian-flagged merchant ships and slavers as prizes. The Republic of Andoran may even pay to outfit the character's expeditions in return for a share of the prizes taken.

I might use this idea in the future when running the Scourge of the Slave Lords adventure collection in Golarion.

Hey TritonOne,

I am also going to be running a campaign in a similar vein although I won't have the PCs be privateers with 'official backing' operating in the Shackles. I came to the conclusion that such a way of operating would be very difficult because as soon as they became 'too big a privateer', a small pirate fleet would go after them and eliminate them.

I'm planning on having the PC be 'goodish pirates' who take down the 'evil merchants', slavers, and 'odd 'unaligned' pirate'.

There's further discussion here: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2psgi?Another-SS-for-goodish-PCs

Good gaming!


I have been reading some other adventures of late and if you want more things for a "good" pirate to do add some elements from the Savage Tide AP. Sasserine one of the principal cities would make for a great Andoran colony down south near Sargava.

Also it may have been said before. If you want good pirates give them worse enemies. Rather than have them raiding innocent fishing villages and decent merchant marines instead send them after slave prisons, mines, and plantations. Have the ships that brave the shipping near the shackles be chells and slavers and Aspis consortium you get the idea.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Also have goodish pirates actually protect Shackle's islands by "pacifying" less friendly competition ( e.g. the Hobgoblin raiders as shown in raiders and other free consorts) and underwater monstrosites/humanoids (like the Sahuagin from Raider's of the Fever Sea as well).
Perhaps, consider them the "Reavers" from Firefly. Brigands etc abound enough through Firefly as well. Or strengthen up the Kuru and their demonic ruler.

And if your players are interested, have them sabotage other pirates logistics, secret bases - possibly Chelian or run by "free" independent slavers. Both offer chances to free slaves and willing prisoners to add to the crew, as well as provisions, some funds and possibly magic items or stuff plundered by the villains.


As they have just reached Rickety's they have yet to realize that they will need to start capturing other ships and with most of them of good alignment I am not sure how they will deal with that yet. I don't want to telegraph too much to them.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

@brvheart maybe have some out-of-work sailors in Rickety point thm in the direction of the slave trade. This might include making up some slaver cartels, their bases and perhaps some idea just where those slaves are traded off, too. Specific islands or particular trades like sugarcane etc.

The Pathfinder Tale novel "pirate's honour" has some interesting and indirect ways to introduce any goodish player to the lack-of-any-decency involved in the slave trade. Or have them come across a slave ship either in the aftermath of a slaverevolt, or hollowed out by a sudden streak of disease in the crowded holds, perhaps now rampant with ghouls and the ghosts of the crew....and now a floating hazard.
Okeno slavers make for good pirate vs. pirate enmity as well. Or being attacked/chased by the Firegrass Island bunch of freebooters.

Same might be true for disenfranchised marine humanoids, recently driven from their aquatic homes by submarine treasure hunters or greedy prospectors ( say, some company intend on chiseling off any coral of the reef, threatening the fisheries and environmnt ? Nevermind some smugglers trading in drugs, poisons or alcohol, robbing blind some coastal or upriver tribes ?).

As for "pointing" - drop a hint of just how much plunder the group may need to actually achieve recgnition by the pirate council. A concise goal of the amounts needed to achieve enough infamy/notority and bribe the council as well should be a nice shock... and something Captain Pegsworthy should be capable of outlining in general terms


brvheart wrote:
As they have just reached Rickety's they have yet to realize that they will need to start capturing other ships and with most of them of good alignment I am not sure how they will deal with that yet. I don't want to telegraph too much to them.

Pegsworthy is of tremendous value at the this point in the story as far as getting the player's heads right and providing both background and guidance - hell, they could go to work for him if they wished, adding his flag to their ship and sailing with his protection and sponsorship.


They will be meeting Pegworthy very soon so yes that is a good idea. As for the pirate council, I am not sure how much they would care about it at this point having been shanghaied far from home and just having got themselves freed. Good motivation for freeing others though. That and wanting to at some point get justice with Harrington!

Silver Crusade

My group has run into the same moral issues that some of you also seem to be finding. My character in particular is an NG wanderer who was in the shackles to explore the wonders of the islands. Next thing he knew he was shanghaied and forced into service on the pirate ship. All this was fine when he couldn't do anything about it and was just waiting for his opportunity to escape to freedom, but now that they have taken the ship he suddenly finds that the others who were captured with him really just seem to have been waiting in Port Peril for the chance to be 'recruited' as pirates. I'm not sure this makes a whole lot of sense motivation wise.

At this point he wants to return the captured ship to it's owners... (several of the crew are from that ship anyway) ...and be a hero.

I'm not sure where this is going... but it doesn't seem 'good' or 'right'. Is this AP without heroism?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This AP is very much about heroics... usually by characters not really "built" for it, the classic "anti-hero" syndrom. Provided the PCs are not in the mood for wholesale destruction, their individual goals should clash with the general course of the AP.
Forcing them into actions that other might consider heroic, while the PCs might be in it more for selfish reasons... "bring me that horizon" etc.
The PCs might just be the lesser of two evils, and yes, integrating a NG explorer/tourist will provide some difficulty for full-scale mingling into the camapign. Something your GM might/should have counseled you against.

Bringing up "Firefly" : think of Brother Glass or Doctor Tam (or even Kaylee) as to how life and fate might develop for such an attitude - especially in comparison to Jayne, or even soe rebelious if honourable types like Malcolm or Zoe. The Firefly crew is mostly neutral or chaotic neutral (they certainly used to hate the Law as put down by the LE "Alliance"; or some pretty nasty folks like Niska), perhaps with the exception of Jayne... who himself is not utterly wicked and without "goodish" moments.

So yes, there will be heroics, unless your group massively discourages them. And that is mostly a matter of internal cohesion

Silver Crusade

Our group seems to feel that internal squabbling over motivations will be counterproductive to play. Plus I'm not really sure why a 'good' character wouldn't (A) Try and return the Man's Promise at the first opportunity. (B) Try and get off the boat and go on with their lives as soon as possible... which is pretty much right after the Plugg and his buddies are put down like the dogs they are.


I don't think either is really possible at this point as they don't know where to return it and would probably get hung for participating in the act of piracy for helping to take it in the first place.

The good news though is my considers the best pirates as being CG anyway and her character is captain. Her model is Cutthroat Island and its like rather than Firefly.


This point keeps coming up, and keeps going aground on the same "but I want to be Lawful/Good/not-a-pirate" reef. To quote Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan: "Pirate!"

Without a major rewrite of the entire AP, GMs or PCs who want to buck the tide of piratical actions in this adventure are in the wrong game. As the introduction to the first module makes clear, his AP is intended for players who intend to become pirates (level of dastardlyness to be determined at the gaming table) and both GM and players need to understand that from the beginning or else be prepared for a great deal of frustration and/or wasted time.

Silver Crusade

Honestly, based on the setup, it makes no sense for them to 'want to be pirates'. They get enslaved and forced to become pirates.. why would they stay with that trade? The setup seems poor if that is the intention... why wouldn't they just get recruited or have some sort of normal background where they end up following the path that they have chosen for their lives?
The background pretty much calls for them being off-kilter in the environment and wanting to 'get away' from the evil pirates have forced them into servitude.


Iggy Toymaker wrote:

Honestly, based on the setup, it makes no sense for them to 'want to be pirates' they get enslaved and forced to become pirates.. why would they stay with that trade? The setup seems poor if that is the intention... why wouldn't they just get recruited or have some sort of normal background where they end up following the path that they have chosen for their lives?

The background pretty much calls for them being off-kilter in the environment and wanting to 'get away' from the evil pirates have forced them into servitude.

Yes - if they were made as good characters who had no intention of becoming pirates in the first place. If they were not-so-good characters intent on becoming pirates, predators and masters of their own domain on the high seas, then the set-up is just fine. It introduces to the Shackles and piracy - in many cases giving them a good example of the type of pirates they might not want to be - and sets up a strong and enduring antagonist.

The only time the AP and the characters come into conflict is when the characters aren't made with the express intent of the AP in mind, i.e. becoming pirates. The upcoming Wrath of the Righteous would probably be difficult for a chaotically or evilly aligned party who has no desire to risk their lives in hope of sealing the Worldwound. That's not a problem with the AP, its the entire point of it.

The AP's background isn't the determining factor in this case, the PC's background does. If you don't want to be pirates from the get-go, then DON'T play this AP.


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There's a difference between the motivation of the players and the characters.

For the characters, what you say could be one way of looking at it. They could be random victims, who just happenede to be in Port Peril, the greatest pirate city of the entire world. A city far removed from anything else of interest, with only the fact that it holds the largest concentration of pirates making it unique.

It is allways the players responsibility to make characters that are interested in following the plot. The first time any adventurer picks up a +1 sword as loot, he could chose to sell it and live his entire life as a wealthy man (a trained hireling earns 3 sp pr. day. Let's say 1 gp pr. 3 days. A +1 sword sells for 1150 gp. Thats more than 3000 days work!). But the player have created a character with a greater motivation than making 3000 days wages. He has created an adventurer. So the character have another motivation, and keeps on adventuring.

The first time an adventuring companion dies, a very sensible response would be: "screw this, this is to dangerous, I'm off to live the rest of my long and peacefull life as a farmer." But again, the player have created a character that is not (overtly) afraid of danger, and sticks in the dangerous and deadly adventuring profession.

A player playing S&S could of course chose to play a LG paladin. But then he has created a character with very little interest in the AP, and his GM and co-players chould advice against it. It's not like it's a secret that this AP is about pirates and piracy! Or at least, it shouldn't be.

So instead of creating characters that are surprised to find themself pressganged, and who decide to stop being pirates as soon as they get the chance, make characters who are either:
a) actively seeking to become pirates. And who have journeyed to Port Peril in order to enlist on a pirate ship, but just became pressganged by a s!!&ty captain before they got to enlist with the captain of their dreams.
b) Embrace the pirates life when they meet it. They might be innocent fishermen, or knowledgeseeking scholars, or landlubbers in the wrong tavern at the wrong time, but then they decide to become pirates since the opportinity presents themself.

In short, players should create characters that work with the story, instead of against it. Creating a character is not just about stats and classes, but also about personality and motivation.

There's nothing wrong with deciding to retailor S&S to good'ish characters. There's something wrong with creating a good'ish character knowing the set-up isn't suited for one.

Silver Crusade

My character had no issues in the AP right up until they went to refit the ship. Now... well... unless I can tweak his background for him to be on the run or something... I guess I'll have to bail on the AP.


I don't think anyone is talking about introducing a LG paladin here, but that doesn't mean that some of the players are not CG and have fallen into a life that they have not chosen. Fictionally, that made for some of the best scripts for pirates anyway. The challenge is always in book 2 to make the transition from being freed from captivity to being full fledged pirated themselves. The players were aware this is a pirate campaign so it is not like they intend to go back to their old way of life, but that doesn't mean their characters know that yet. But they are adventurers and that should motivate them to continue down the only path they have available to them. Sorry, but I don't want to run an AP that requires that the characters be evil. I don't mind a mix of good and neutral, but I don't run evil characters, that is just me. I struggled for several months about even getting this AP until I could see whether it could be played for good characters or at least some of them. I don't even run a campaign in Golarion so I am adapting this area to fit into my world.

Silver Crusade

brvheart wrote:
I don't think anyone is talking about introducing a LG paladin here, but that doesn't mean that some of the players are not CG and have fallen into a life that they have not chosen. Fictionally, that made for some of the best scripts for pirates anyway. The challenge is always in book 2 to make the transition from being freed from captivity to being full fledged pirated themselves. The players were aware this is a pirate campaign so it is not like they intend to go back to their old way of life, but that doesn't mean their characters know that yet. But they are adventurers and that should motivate them to continue down the only path they have available to them. Sorry, but I don't want to run an AP that requires that the characters be evil. I don't mind a mix of good and neutral, but I don't run evil characters, that is just me. I struggled for several months about even getting this AP until I could see whether it could be played for good characters or at least some of them. I don't even run a campaign in Golarion so I am adapting this area to fit into my world.

I have to agree with you on this.

It 'seems' like good/honorable/honest characters can put up with this AP as long as there is enough story to basically force them to stay on the ship. Initially, my character was forced to bide his time, there was no way he could stand up to all those pirates and escape. At this point, the crew are people he has come to trust with his back, much like any adventuring party. There will be pressure from the 'crew' to do whatever (probably some sort of illegal activity.. although some of them were honest men forced into service).. but we are in charge of the ship.
I don't know what goals there are out there on those islands that might keep a man on board a boat despite his better judgement... but it doesn't seem like that big a stretch to come up with something.


Iggy Toymaker wrote:
brvheart wrote:
I don't think anyone is talking about introducing a LG paladin here, but that doesn't mean that some of the players are not CG and have fallen into a life that they have not chosen. Fictionally, that made for some of the best scripts for pirates anyway. The challenge is always in book 2 to make the transition from being freed from captivity to being full fledged pirated themselves. The players were aware this is a pirate campaign so it is not like they intend to go back to their old way of life, but that doesn't mean their characters know that yet. But they are adventurers and that should motivate them to continue down the only path they have available to them. Sorry, but I don't want to run an AP that requires that the characters be evil. I don't mind a mix of good and neutral, but I don't run evil characters, that is just me. I struggled for several months about even getting this AP until I could see whether it could be played for good characters or at least some of them. I don't even run a campaign in Golarion so I am adapting this area to fit into my world.

I have to agree with you on this.

It 'seems' like good/honorable/honest characters can put up with this AP as long as there is enough story to basically force them to stay on the ship. Initially, my character was forced to bide his time, there was no way he could stand up to all those pirates and escape. At this point, the crew are people he has come to trust with his back, much like any adventuring party. There will be pressure from the 'crew' to do whatever (probably some sort of illegal activity.. although some of them were honest men forced into service).. but we are in charge of the ship.
I don't know what goals there are out there on those islands that might keep a man on board a boat despite his better judgement... but it doesn't seem like that big a stretch to come up with something.

The OP does a pretty good job of outlining an effective re-write for the AP tailoring it to Good(ish)characters. The 'working for Tessa to protect the Shackles from Cheliax' angle is a great one which would only require minimum changes.

If the choice is to bail on the AP because the character was ill-suited for the campaign or to bail on the character because the character was ill-suited for the campaign, I'd reccomend ditching the character and making one that will allow you to enjoy all this AP has to offer.

Silver Crusade

Personally I have no desire to play an evil character at all.. so unless I can figure a way to make it work with a good(ish) character without the GM having to rewrite the AP.. I'll probably bail.
I really wasn't aware when I signed up that it was going to be an evil game.


Iggy Toymaker wrote:

Personally I have no desire to play an evil character at all.. so unless I can figure a way to make it work with a good(ish) character without the GM having to rewrite the AP.. I'll probably bail.

I really wasn't aware when I signed up that it was going to be an evil game.

Sounds like your decision is an easy one then.


Don't let them get to you Iggy. Have a talk with the DM first. That is the point of this thread is to show how to work this AP with good"ish" characters. If you can't work anything out and still want to play it I might be able to work some out bringing you on via Skype.


Sorry if I sounded to harsh. Of course you can play good'ish. You can go for slavers, Chelians and Aspis Consortium only, and even then deal fairly with captives.

Minor spoiler ahead:

A lot of the major Pirate Lords are CN,

Spoiler:

including the one the PC's are supposed to ally themself with. This could easily lead to an 'ally with the lesser evil'-situation, where the PC's accept to ally with a CN Pirate Lord in order to topple a CE Pirate Lord, and prevent the whole area (and soon thereafter Saragava) from falling into the hands of LE Cheliax. That won't demand any changes to the AP at all.

Being a CG or NG pirate is doable, especially if the rest of the party agrees.

What I argues is, that your character has to have the motivation to do so. He/she has to decide to become a CG pirate, roaming the Fever Sea for the greater good and his/her own entertainment.
This is not an AP for a "lets save the world"-kind-of-hero, be that LG paladin or CG ranger. This could be the AP for a "I'll live life to the fullest, but do a few good deeds as opportunity present itself"-hero, be that CG or CN.


BzAli, that sounds like most of my good aligned players in most of my games! In fact we often have table conversation that all my players are CG- Chaotic Greedy! Sometimes we have to remind the good aligned players of their alignments! Most of my players have played at least part of the AP although most of them have gone over to the Razor Coast campaign I have due to scheduling. They all started out on the Wormwood even if some end up in Port Shaw rather than Rickety's.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Iggy Toymaker wrote:
My character had no issues in the AP right up until they went to refit the ship. Now... well... unless I can tweak his background for him to be on the run or something... I guess I'll have to bail on the AP.

for one : the captain of the "Man's Promise" might just have been the owner. Who has been killed by Harrigan, and the ship will now be dis-owned. Who do you trade it back to ? And would the charcter actually try to find the legal owner for any other treasures acquired ? Just following the logic through to the concluison...

Second : a character should meta-technically fit into a campaign concept, usually this prvides more fun for everyone at the table. co-players and GM alike. Roleplaying is a group activity, requiring some sense of respect of keeping the spirits up with regards to the plot and the co-players

Third : characters out off their depths are still great fun - Again, to quote "Firefly" : did Dctor Tam or Brother Glass choose to be space-brigands ? Both had their fate thrust upon them, by morals or circumstances, outside their own choice.. Or looking at the original "on stranger Tides" (Tim Powers), the protagonist tries pretty hard not to be a pirate, but does for survival and love's sake act as a pirate...

Fourth : to be honest to RL history, very few pirates actually "volunteered" for piracy, but were indicted/pressed into crews out of their merchant vessels (yes, even captains like Bartholomew Rodgers. He got pressed, because he was a master's mate and capable of navigation ). Even fewer contemporary rulers cared. Once you took part in piracy, it was VERY hard to ever get rid of the blame, unless one got a rare offer of a general amnesty. The PC might not wish to be a pirate, but he/she has plundered and pillaged under Harrigan, and yes, that has made him a pirate. I don't really see PCs getting rid of such stigmata through an appellate court. Looking at history, they dangled from yardarms, gibbets or gallows first, however innocent and pressed they claimed to have been.

Fifth : think "privateer"

Silver Crusade

At this point.. coming up with a good motivation to NOT leave them at the first opportunity is really my goal.

My backstory is pretty light but falls in along the lines of what BzAli was suggesting... he's a Catfolk barbarian wanderer from the hills of Andoran who has seen a bit of the world and has come to explore the Shackles because of what he's heard of it's rich history and mysterious islands. He's an NG follower of Sinashakti. I have the Ancient Explorer trait and have focused his background around being that sort of fellow. As such, finding a new path really just helps him along to his goals... unless there is some reason to stay on the ship with these, mostly trustworthy fellows.
He could care less about 'saving the world' or anything like that.. but he has no interest in benefiting at the expense of others, loot, plunder, fame or anything like that.

Hrm.

From the getgo I felt like traveling the seas on a ship would fit well with this guy, seeing sights and wonders... learning rare and exotic things.... that was what I figured the 'hook' would be for him. But when faced with becoming a 'bad guy' to do this.. and having the chance to go another way with relatively little effort.. I'm not sure why he wouldn't.

Silver Crusade

vikingson wrote:
Fourth : to be honest to RL history, very few pirates actually "volunteered" for piracy, but were indicted/pressed into crews out of their merchant vessels (yes, even captains like Bartholomew Rodgers. He got pressed, because he was a master's mate and capable of navigation ). Even fewer contemporary rulers cared. Once you took part in piracy, it was VERY hard to ever get rid of the blame, unless one got a rare offer of a general amnesty. The PC might not wish to be a pirate, but he/she has plundered and pillaged under Harrigan, and yes, that has made him a pirate. I don't really see PCs getting rid of such stigmata through an appellate court. Looking at history, they dangled from yardarms, gibbets or gallows first, however innocent and pressed they...

By the same token, in a world like Golarion, just leaving the area of the Shackles probably would be enough to leave whatever supposed connection to piracy you might have had behind you forever. Once clear of the ports there would be nobody who could tie you to those activities... well.. unless some very specific divination spells were cast.. and then someone would have to have a reason to cast them.


Okay, someone help me out - is this a thread about how to rewrite or modify Skull and Shackles to better serve a more good-aligned party, or is it a thread about how Iggy Toymaker shouldn't have to play a pirate or associate with pirates in a pirate-themed campaign?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Iggy Toymaker wrote:
I really wasn't aware when I signed up that it was going to be an evil game.

The AP in itself is not evil, or evil oriented. If your group intentionally does play it that way... you may have picked the wrong group. But that's hardly a reason to blame paizo.

There is little actual "piracy" ( meaning "plunder, pillage, sink and maim" way), and if your GM takes player wishes into account, all of the encounters can easily be turned into very neutral if not goodish setpieces. Anyhing more descriptove would really creep into heavy spoiler territory.

I'd recommend you give the whole thing a try, even if paladineque feelgood moments seem to be rare.( in the beginning)


Its the Shackles. Its not a good noble just Lawful Goody kingdom. Its a region of pirates and evil trading companies.

Who in the region does not have blood, or slavery, or greed, or whatever on their hands. Sure their are probably some natives or subsistence fishers don't rob them. But the merchants who are exploiting the poor, loading their ships with goods riped from the hands of the locals to bring that treasure on ships loaded with slaves plucked from those locals to bring their goods to the north. I think its pretty easy to look at the region and just pick your targets with care.

Here is a helpful assignment. Go watch the "Train Job" episode of Firefly. Classic episode also I would challenge that it shows that some of the crew of Serenity are decidedly Chaotic Good not Nuetral as Some have suggested.


Any question whether my players could act as pirates was resolved this evening when they took their first ship. The captain's attitude is any armed ship is fair game and quarter will be give and prisoners will be treated fairly.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Martial, Martial, Martial! wrote:
Okay, someone help me out - is this a thread about how to rewrite or modify Skull and Shackles to better serve a more good-aligned party, or is it a thread about how Iggy Toymaker shouldn't have to play a pirate or associate with pirates in a pirate-themed campaign?

explaining based on concrete, specific examples does at times do the trick. To Iggy and others.

The AP is not "inherently evil" as some/too many people claim, and those parts touching on brigand activities (mostly in AP#2), can be easily changed to be less villainous or even avoided.

Spoiler:

AP#1 : gain freedom from servitude as a pressed pirate.
AP#2 : some robbing and plundering, plus some treasure hunting
AP#3 : Quest for the pirate council plus the Regatta
AP#4 : Emanicpation to becoming pirate lords, crawling and intrigue
AP#5 : Dealing with established major villain
AP#6 : Dealing with newly established major villain, big battle

Why again is this AP "evil" ? Say, in comparison to "being murderous, pyromanic hobos" in many other campaigns ?

I mean looking at English pirates (Drake, Morgan) in the Spanish main... "good guys" by English standards, "dastardly scoundrels" by the take of the Spanish. Or French Privateers like Robert Surcouf.. national French hero but also a nefarious pirate if you ask the Royal Navy.

Why again is piracy "universally" evil ? The only thing this AP definitely is about is freedom, independency and striving against imperial ambitions, aka "the Chelians". "Firefly". "Robin Hood"... whatever. In a pacifist emergency, shoot at the enemy's kneecaps !

@gnomerulez I fully embrace your take on the local traders, consortiums and many of the ships


Completed the AP a few months ago with all good characters (one, the captain, was LG). Had not a single problem. Very fun.

The idea was that they were all good characters, but none of them *knew* it.

Also might have something to do with how i see alignment (As two separate words rather than a phrase, Lawful just means rules, never says what rules or who's, Good is self evident).

If you can play a Lawful Good Hellknight (as the world guide clearly states) you can have a Lawful Good pirate!

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