[Player Question] Good Guy Pirates?


Skull & Shackles

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Given what Piracy entails, are Good Aligned Pirates even possible?

Pirates take by force, and will sometimes need to carry out their threats.

Even a great film like Captain Blood had to dance around this issue by having all actual "piracy" offstage.


Lord Fyre wrote:

Given what Piracy entails, are Good Aligned Pirates even possible?

Pirates take by force, and will sometimes need to carry out their threats.

Even a great film like Captain Blood had to dance around this issue by having all actual "piracy" offstage.

See the TV show 'Firefly' for an example of what you are looking for.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Scarykavu wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:

Given what Piracy entails, are Good Aligned Pirates even possible?

Pirates take by force, and will sometimes need to carry out their threats.

Even a great film like Captain Blood had to dance around this issue by having all actual "piracy" offstage.

See the TV show 'Firefly' for an example of what you are looking for.

Really? They were more smugglers then pirates.

Perhaps that would be a way to go. Smuggling, avoiding legal bans or taxation, would simply be Chaotic (unless the commodity smuggled is evil, like slaves).


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Currently GMing the AP, with a nominally good-aligned group, and my players are doing a pretty solid job of it so far.

They're taking a very solid anti-slavery stance; refusing to sell captives themselves, accepting surrenders and healing injured, then releasing prisoners at the next port. They're also being more choosy about their targets, specifically going after slavers, and shipping from the Aspis Consortium and Cheliax. Finally, they make a point to push for diplomatic solutions to problems, using nonlethal damage and disabling techniques rather than killing opponents - this has, in at least one case, won them a tentative ally.

I've been playing up the Chelish involvement in the region to foreshadow the eventual confrontation, and since the players have decided to specifically target Aspis Consortium interests, I'm also bringing in some extra content and events to give them the opportunity to have an effect on the region.

If they keep going as they have been, I rather anticipate that by the end of the AP, the Shackles could be a very different place, politically speaking.


Lord Fyre wrote:

Given what Piracy entails, are Good Aligned Pirates even possible?

Pirates take by force, and will sometimes need to carry out their threats.

Historically, privateers were a thing. Although the legal distinction involves a piece of paper (technically a letter of marque), international law also recognizes the right of people to spontaneously self-assemble in their own defense without being part of a formal armed forces. It wouldn't be unreasonable either for a set of good-aligned rebels (against the existing power structures in the Shackles) or a bunch of good-aligned patriots (fighting against the enemies of their people) to form a pirate crew that behaved as privateers.

The fact that pirates "take by force" doesn't mean much in this context; soldiers do that as well.

The key is the conduct of their fight. A group of good-aligned pirates would be expected to confine their attacks to clearly identified enemies, to minimize collateral damage, to allow their enemies a chance to surrender, and so on. On the other hand, that's also the kind of behavior that a successful pirate would display; you make more money capturing the cargo and ship undamaged than you do shooting holes through the ship, setting the cargo on fire, and possibly sinking the lot.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Jondera wrote:

Currently GMing the AP, with a nominally good-aligned group, and my players are doing a pretty solid job of it so far.

They're taking a very solid anti-slavery stance; refusing to sell captives themselves, accepting surrenders and healing injured, then releasing prisoners at the next port. They're also being more choosy about their targets, specifically going after slavers, and shipping from the Aspis Consortium and Cheliax. Finally, they make a point to push for diplomatic solutions to problems, using nonlethal damage and disabling techniques rather than killing opponents - this has, in at least one case, won them a tentative ally.

I've been playing up the Chelish involvement in the region to foreshadow the eventual confrontation, and since the players have decided to specifically target Aspis Consortium interests, I'm also bringing in some extra content and events to give them the opportunity to have an effect on the region.

If they keep going as they have been, I rather anticipate that by the end of the AP, the Shackles could be a very different place, politically speaking.

I know the covers of the AP volumes spoil that to a degree, but remember that is a player question.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:

Given what Piracy entails, are Good Aligned Pirates even possible?

Pirates take by force, and will sometimes need to carry out their threats.

Even a great film like Captain Blood had to dance around this issue by having all actual "piracy" offstage.

Aw, Fyre, you've been sipping from the James Jacobs Kool-Aid again, haven't you? ;->

I completely agree with Orfamay Quest's point: the proof is in the pudding, and your alignment will be reflected (and vice versa) by the choices you make. ;->

And just remember: pragmatic don't mean evil (or even neutral, necessarily). It means thinking like a successful hunting critter and/or businessperson. Pirate = Rogue on the water, and you've known some CG Rogues; heck, you proposed to one at the end of Curse of the Crimson Throne. ;->

LB da GM


I agree. Historically, many privateers became pirates when they "went too far." Besides, one nation's privateer is another's pirate.


A Chaotic Good pirate could easily "explain away" his piracy IMO. As stated above, a pirate is basically just a thief or a bandit on the water, and there are enough gold-hearted thieves/bandits, why not pirates?
The slavery thing is an especially good angle. Historically, many pirates were runaway slaves, and they lived by all the same rules and were given the same shares of loot as any white sailor. Most ships weren't ruled by their captain with an iron fist, and in fact many pirate captains were elected and gave their crews a voice in how things were run. During the Golden Age of Piracy, the deck of a pirate ship was arguably the most truly democratic place in the Americas. Some pirates would sell slaves they captured, of course, but others would free them and recruit them for their crews.
So play stuff like that up for a Chaotic Good pirate. A Chaotic Good pirate captain would do his best not to have any unnecessary casualties or killing, especially of noncombatants. He would refuse to take part in slavery, and would free any slaves he chanced upon (or more likely, specifically targeted) while out raiding, and if he was hoping to expand his crew/fleet he'd probably offer them to work under him, and would drop them off at the nearest port or wherever if they didn't want to, perhaps leaving them with some of his share of the plunder so they could build a life or find a way back home or whatever.
Play Robin Hood by robbing mostly from the rich (the fact the your crew's gonna spend most of the plunder once you get to port is as much "giving to the poor" as you need, really) who can take the sting; there's no shortage of them, especially with the Aspis Consortium operating close by. If you take someone captive who can be held for ransom, do so but treat them well and keep them comfortable while you negotiate things like a proper gentle(wo)man pirate. Give captured crewmen the opportunity to join up or just get directions to the nearest port on their ship (after stripping it of its weapons, of course).
If a Chaotic Good pirate can convince himself his lifestyle, which provides him with more wealth and freedom than most people can ever hope for, also does more good than harm, then why not, right? Chaotic Good is pretty much designed to play the lovable rogue angle.
Lawful and Neutral Good are much harder to swing, and would probably only be possible if you're playing patriotic privateer.


Remember that there are other threats around The Shackles that a Good-aligned crew can defend against. Defending the common fisherman from the threats posed by the sea is a good (and possibly profitable) way to be good-aligned.

The pirates of Mediogalti are notorious for preying upon the inhabitants of The Shackles and so Chaotic Good pirates taking up arms to defend against Chaotic Evil pirates are a way to go.

And let's not forget those red-clad Lawful Evil worshipers of Achaekek as well. Sniffing out (and killing) Red Mantis assassins is a dangerous but good way to go.

Then there's the undead crawling from underneath the sea, evil relics lost to time from the ancient Cyclops empire, the savage Sahuagin, Aboleths, whatever abominations come out of the Eye of Abednego...

At the end of the day, the PCs are a crew of mercenaries with a ship, weapons and an attitude of "Yeah, for the right price, we can take care of that problem for you." How good or how bad they want to be is up to them.


My group chose to go this route as well. We have strict but fair rules for conduct while committing piracy: no fighting or killing unless necessary, accept an honorable surrender (once), no slavery, no raping and such. We wanted to build a good reputation to make the job easier and also to get support from the locals, as well as less resistance. We're happy to recruit from ships we defeat, or let them go if the sailors are not suitable for our "kinder, gentler" form of piracy.

What it comes down to is we don't enjoy playing the nasty, odious kind of pirate that is probably more typical of the reality.

Andrew <:-{}

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