The Shackles, Caribbean Sized


Skull & Shackles

Scarab Sages

The following comment in the thread "Can't suspend disbelief in Skulls and Shackles" got me started thinking.

vikingson wrote:

The man problem with the Shackles is, that the region is too small to not simply avoid by sailing around it. No real enforced gaps like north of Cuba along the Floridan coast, the narrow straits in the Windward Isles or between Cuba and Hispaniola whereone could reasonably lurk to catch the merchant trait forced through this gaps.

With the Shackles : sail west for 300 miles (easily done) and be far out in open offshore waters... where even a slow merchant will be hard to catch. The geography is just suboptimal.

If the geography is suboptimal, there's nothing to stop us from changing it. According to Wikipedia, the area of the Caribbean Sea is 1,063,000 square miles. At the scale of the Isles of the Shackles Web Supplement, approximately 13.44 miles per inch, the area shown on the map is approximately 119,000 square miles. Stretch that area by a factor of three in both the north/south and east/west dimensions, and the resulting area is approximately 1,072,000 square miles.

I don't think the individual islands are too small; they're just too close to one another.

Next step: Print the Shackles map at 8.5 x 11 inches, cut out chains of islands, and place them on a poster that's approximately 33 x 25.5 inches. (Or dig out my 10+ year old copy of Photoshop and try it there.)

Scarab Sages

Photoshop work is underway. I'll post a very rough map tomorrow.

I might have to take back what I said about the size of the islands. The largest island in the Shackles, Motaku Island, has an area of slightly less than 3,750 square miles (a 75 x 50 mile rectangle). Cuba has an area of approximately 42,400 square miles, and Hispaniola has an area of approximately 29,500 square miles. They're absolutely huge by comparison.

Does the Shackles need one or more huge islands? I don't know.


I'd be interested in seeing this.

Just so you don't feel like you're doing this for nobody.


I would say that it makes some sense for there to be larger islands as piracy can supplement the Shackles income but it simply cant be the whole of it. Larger islands with settled portions could make for good farming operations.*
The shackles was also the ancient home of a civilization made up of Cyclops. Being large humanoids I can only imagine that they would need larger islands to even consider settling it in groups of larger than 20-40. I think the Isle of empty eyes has a single temple that takes up a good chunk of space, an ancient civilization for a cyclops race would be difficult to place with the islands as they are.

*Though it could easily be that the shackles being connected to fantasy africa rather than fantasy north/south america is simply using the jungle to supply itself with food. Though that does raise the question of the various tribes in the muwangi and land based assaults on port peril.

Scarab Sages

Alleran - Thanks for the encouragement. S&S is getting older, so traffic in these threads is definitely slowing down. I've been reading a lot of them lately, because I'm just starting to run this AP for a group of four players (one session so far, second session next weekend).

Movin - Good points. I can go back and inflate some of the islands in the next pass. I don't know if any of them need to be Cuba-sized, but several islands a step down from Cuba's size could definitely create shipping lanes, bottlenecks, and a lot more space for the Cyclopes of Ghol-Gan.

This image comes with a trio of disclaimers:
1. I made it with Photoshop 6.0, released in the year 2000.
2. I haven't used Photoshop for a project like this in 7 or 8 years, so I'm not even using 6.0 at its full capacity.
3. I don't own the original images this came from. Paizo does.

With all that out of the way, here's my first draft: Shackles Caribe.

The Kaava Lands peninsula and the Eye of Abendego came from a map of the Inner Sea.

Scarab Sages

Here's the next draft: Shackles Caribe 2.

For this version I increased the size of several islands by 150%. Bag Island, Devil's Arches, Motaku Isle, Shark Island, Tempest Cay, Dahak's Fang, Horn and Tooth, and Widowmaker Isle have all been enlarged.

I also trimmed a slice off the bottom of the map, so it doesn't extend further south than the picture of the Kaava Lands peninsula.


Looks very good, though with regard to island size, maybe keep the proportionate size of all the islands on a similar footing?

(I am not a geography major or the like, so I don't know what this would result in, precisely. Feel free to ignore if you don't think it would help.)

Should the Eye of Abendego perhaps be bigger? Now that the Shackles themselves are being spread out to account for the issues of size, the protection afforded them by the Eye (supposedly a big selling point for the Shackles) is lessened.


You might consider looking into GIMP. It's a free, open source graphics program. It's not equivalent to Photoshop, and has very different workflow and such, but it is quite powerful and you don't have to pay for it.

I like your maps, and your concept. I don't think my players care overmuch, but I definitely want things to be believable and the Shackles are just far too small to take the place of the Carribean. Shame I already gave them the 36'x36' map I printed up at Kinkos. : )

Scarab Sages

Alleran - I could go back and inflate the other islands, I suppose. My intention was to leave most of them tiny, but put in a few larger islands, to give the Cyclopes some living space and to create a few preferred shipping lanes through the archipelago.

It's my understanding that the Eye of Abendego mostly protects individual pirate ships (who play chicken with their pursuers on the edge of the storm) rather than protecting for the whole island chain. Any nation with a navy could already send a fleet southwest from the Arch of Aroden, swing around Mediogalti Island, and reach the Shackles without coming too close to the Eye.

With favorable winds (or liberal use of magic), a fleet could also sail south through the Obari Ocean, round the Golarion equivalent of Cape Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope, and sail north to the Shackles.

FrankManic - I tried a version of GIMP called GimpShop years ago. It was meant to arrange the tools and menus closer to the Photoshop style than standard GIMP. Apparently, it's no longer being updated. If I get frustrated with the limitations of my old copy of Photoshop, I'll try a modern copy of GIMP.

Thank you. I printed an 8.5" by 11" copy of version #2 for my players (minus most of the blue - stupid cartridges of liquid gold). We're still in the early days, so it doesn't really matter much to them right now, either.


This is not a bad idea but I can not read the names on your map. I might end doing my own with real scissors and literal cut and paste.


The eye is mostly to make anyone coming south miserable. With as much space that is now provided i feel that it would be fair to say that the islands on the map are just the ones that people know about, The shackles has literally thousands of tiny islands and inlets that only the locals know. The coral of the area is a danger as well on account of the various types of monsters that live in it, fact is half the reason that the shackles is as described would be that most of the folks from normal nations feel that living in an area that monster attacks are a near daily occurrence would be considered bad.
I can see this as a major boon to the pirates, these easily reproduced maps are rife with inaccuracies and serve as one of the major threats to traders. All those ship wrecks wouldn't happen if people were aware of every piece of land in the ocean. Plus Besmara loves shipwrecks, they are the best kind of tribute, the kind someone didn't want to give her.

I like this, it solves one of the major gripes I had about pirate land as maps were one of those things that I would expect pirates to hoard like dragons.

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