Skull & Shackles Group Question (No Spoilers!)


Skull & Shackles


I have a quick kinda general question about this AP.

NO SPOILERS PLEASE! We haven't decided which of us will be the GM for this one. If I'm a player I don't want any surprises ruined.

I've tried not to read too much about this, while still trying to find out enough to see if it will be good for our group.

I've heard that:

  • It is pretty sand box-ish. So the party has to be able to figure out what they want to do how to proceed on their own.
  • Group has to function as a team and work together more than most AP's.
  • One of the players needs to function as captain. Making decisions which the others follow.

If those 3 aren't met, it tends to just fall apart with little progress or fun had by any.

Is that correct?


-somewhat sandbox in parts, but many fixed points as well often unaffected by the sandbox bits.....so you will not wander of track or be stuck for what to do
- no more teamwork needed than any other of the 7 AP I have played
-no captain needed? Lots of npcs to tell you what to do, which was fun killer....group decision should be fine


Ok, I was just going off of some comments I've heard or read.

They said it was so sandbox-ish that the players couldn't figure out what to do next. Or at least couldn't decide on which possible thing to do next.
Also there were a few talking about how if the group didn't cooperate and follow orders it caused a bunch of unspecified problems.

Our group sometimes has problems if at least a potential course of action isn't fairly clear. They may not do the obvious, but it at least points them in the direction of what is expected. When there isn't something like that they tend to flounder or dither for a long time.

We also don't have anyone who is usually willing to be a 'leader' making decision and giving orders to the others.

So maybe this won't be as bad a fit for our group as I was afraid it was. They really seem to want a high seas ship adventure.

Scarab Sages

Are you sure you don't mean Skulls and Shackles? Because Serpent's Skull does not match what you've said that you've heard about it, but each of those three is one of the defining parts of Skulls and Shackles. In addition, it is a high seas adventure. Serpent's Skull isn't. Without spoiling anything: it gives the impression because you start on a boat ... but then you're not on a boat very quickly.


Idiot at the keyboard does some quick checking...
Doh!!!

Ok, I'm a dufus. Yesss. This should be a question about Skulls and Shackles.

I'd appreciate a moderator moving this and changing the title.

Scarab Sages

Well I can't change the title but I can answer the questions then. First of all, Skulls and Shackles is fantastic, one of my favorite APs and I am not particularly predisposed to pirate themed stuff.

1. It's definitely a sandbox, but a well designed one, where there are lots of plot hooks giving you options of where to go and find fun stuff in the sandbox. And a distinct plot the moves forward as you do the random stuff.

2. Team ... well there's a lot of activity that goes on that isn't strictly combat, so having characters with a lot of different skills can let everyone shine. For instance, this AP would rock a couple bards in the party, which isn't the case usually. Also there's a lot of team decision-making. Like you capture a slave ship. You are pirates. Do you sell them? Free them? Murder them and raise them as an undead slave army? A lot more of this sort of team decision-making comes up because of it being a sandbox and because you're not playing hero types necessarily. Your player goals are not to save the world but to become pirate kings. Big difference in moral motivations.

3. This is more a group dynamic thing. My table elected one of the players captain. It's not really following orders so much as a role to play like any other. One other group made one of the NPCs the captain because they loved the idea of a puppet regime sort of thing. It depends on the table, but there's no "oh this player gets to be captain, everyone else shut up and do what they say" unless your players are dicks.

Anyway, hope that helps. It's a fantastic AP and I've yet to hear of anyone personally that didn't have a blast.


My advice for Skull & Shackles is to make sure you read the Player's Guide and build your PCs using the suggested archetypes and traits. There are so many great sea and ship-combat archetypes you'll never get to use and have be as effective in many more traditional campaigns. Don't lose this chance by playing something like a synthesist summoner, zen archer monk, invulnerable rager barbarian or pistolero gunslinger. Go for something fitting and get swept up in the setting!

As for your questions: It's sandboxy in points, but not so much so that you'll get lost in it. Teamwork is important in any adventure, and this one can be a killer at times. Don't make your PCs in silos and do try to complement each other. Yes, there will be a captain. If you play ship-to-ship combat, s/he will be a very clear leader at times. A good player knows that it's everyone's job to make the game fun for each other however, so this shouldn't be a problem at all if the players are mature and amiable. Good luck. It's a very fun AP!

Dark Archive

Well I can give you a player's perspective since we're playing in it right now (I saw the "No Spoilers" and figured I'd be safe!)
We're currently nearing the end of Book 3.

1. It is VERY sandbox at times. I recommend you (and your other players) really come up with a reason to drive you through the Shackles. Something in your character background was what our DM had us develop.
Some suggestions our group used...
- Someone taken by pirates in the past
- Something missing in lost ruins
- Revenge against another pirate for past incident
Something like that. I'll also stress your group has to want to be pirates. Let me say that again: your group has to WANT to be pirates. If there are characters that don't want to capture other ships and plunder the Shackles, I can see portions of the sandbox being very difficult.

2. Not really more so than any other path (as others have said). There are some tough combats and if everyone isn't pulling their weight, it could be tough. But there are plenty of other APs where that's the case as well.

3. You do need a captain. How much the captain drives things really depends on the group dynamic. Even as a captain you don't have to be a tyrant. You can certainly ask and take input from your other officers (the other PCs)

Digital Products Assistant

Adjusted thread title and moved :)


Thanx Chris. I am occasionally a complete bone head.


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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

My biggest suggestion is that the PCs should really want to be pirates. If your deepest desire is to delve dungeons then you're going to derail things. If, on the other hand, your deepest desire is to be a scourge of the seas then you're going to help keep things on track.


You'll want skill points! Lots and lots of skill points. This is really an AP where the social skills gets to shine, as well as off course the ever popular profession: sailor. Add to that some swimming, some athletics, the occasional climbing in riggings, and you'll quickly run out of skill points. This is not an AP for int-dumping.


Ok, thanks guys.

I will bring it up as one of the 3 choices for our next campaign.

  • Skull and Shackles
  • Third Dawn
  • PFS campaignified story arcs


  • I would describe it as "as sandboxy as you want it to be."

    Some groups bite the hook to get to the plot this type of group can sometimes flounder in a sandbox because they assume first rumor is the adventure. This type of group will find the rails and watch the sandbox from monarail.

    If your group wants to strike at their own destiny and is really willing to develop plans and spend resource in game run amok throughout the Shackles they can.

    The real difference for a good DM is cosmetic. I have tried to provide many and numerous hooks or ideas and the plot of the AP runs alongside or interrupts their plans.

    Scarab Sages

    tbug wrote:
    If your deepest desire is to delve dungeons then you're going to derail things. If, on the other hand, your deepest desire is to be a scourge of the seas then you're going to help keep things on track.

    Along these lines, make sure the players agree on their stance toward pirates. If half of the PCs want to be pirates and hunt merchant ships, and the other half would rather hunt the pirates, then it's going to be hard to tailor the AP for the group. If the players can reach a consensus, the AP can be adapted to fit many different attitudes toward piracy.


    Gnomezrule wrote:
    ...Some groups bite the hook to get to the plot this type of group can sometimes flounder in a sandbox because they assume first rumor is the adventure. This type of group will find the rails and watch the sandbox from monarail...

    If anywhere, this is where I would expect problems to crop up in my group. Either no one wants to take charge or everyone wants to take charge. Fairly often when there is no clear 'here is what you do next' in the adventure, they dither. They once spent almost 30 minutes discussing which direction to start out to try to pick up the tracks of the missing child.


    I 100% agree that the game is as sandbox-y as you want it to be.

    There's loads of materials for the shackles and almost every island has its own theme, rulers and so on. If you want to be pirates pillaging and plundering then that's exactly what you can do.

    Scarab Sages

    Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
    They once spent almost 30 minutes discussing which direction to start out to try to pick up the tracks of the missing child.

    I hope this doesn't derail the thread, but was that a Dragonlance adventure, by any chance? That particular lost child got a long way from home with a fairly short head start.


    KarlBob wrote:
    Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
    They once spent almost 30 minutes discussing which direction to start out to try to pick up the tracks of the missing child.
    I hope this doesn't derail the thread, but was that a Dragonlance adventure, by any chance? That particular lost child got a long way from home with a fairly short head start.

    Nope. Second module of the Golden Spear trilogy. It was a very minor side plot with someone kidnapping the child designed to get the village to like the PC's better.

    I was very close to saying the child wandered back and just drop the whole line.

    Scarab Sages

    "Hi mister. Timmy said you were looking for me. Why?"

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