OK, I'm planning to run Skull & Shackles soon. My guiding rule is "I want this to be a pirate movie." Meaning, lots of grog, lots of swashbuckling and derring-do, and magic should be a mysterious and somewhat scary thing.
I'm planning to restrict player character classes to martials and half-casters (no occult adventures) and allow early firearms. Also planning to use Auto Bonus Progression, Wound Levels, and Combat Stamina (free for all characters) from Unchained as well as Called Shots from Ultimate Combat.
I'm also toying with asking each player to give me their character's agenda (whether that is "Win a race," "Get gold," "Drink lots of grog," or "Knit lace doilies") and award XP for pursuing that agenda. I'm also thinking of encouraging a little bit of skullduggery and PC rivalry with private GM notes. I also think I might replace the Plunder mechanic with Capital -- Labor, Goods, Magic, and Influence -- that the players can either exchange for cash or use for bonuses.
Where possible, I would like to plug in a couple adventures from Dungeon Crawl Classics to give my players some dungeoning goodness.
I have a few questions.
How well will these rules and such work out?
What should I watch out for in this AP?
We are currently in book 5 of my game and here are some of my thoughts
If you can, try and make it so your players don't know they are going to lose all of their gear immediately. It's pretty funny, though I believe any of them that read the players guide in full will know how they are going to start.
Learn about all of the Ship NPCs. I made a spreadsheet and added some interests for all of them, since a lot of the first book is you players interacting with them.
Familiarize yourself with the ship to ship combat and make the decision that everyone has to make. Do I skip it, run it as is, add to it, or sub it our for the Razor coast rules. I went with add to it, and it's worked out ok.
I also made a google doc to help my players keep track of how their ship is doing. I even added a section with their crew, named them using Fantasynamegenerator.com and assigned races using Excel and a random number generator. It's nice touch, let them decide which ones were their favorites(AKA the ones with the best names) and track some of the stranger crew additions, which have included at one time or another a Naga, a Gargoyle, and a cyclops.
If you skip ahead to book 5, there is a section where their ship can be attacked while the PCs are off adventuring. I had them play as their most powerful NPCs and try and defend their ship. THey seemed to really enjoy it.
There is a good chance someone will die in book 1. It just kinda happens sometimes. Especially with con loss Grog and wound levels.
Speaking of wound levels, it's just a personal thing, but I declared that characters under a rage effect ignore the wounds penalties.
Having been a player and now GMing the AP...
Skip or highly modify the grog rules. They're fatal all on their own.
Be aware some players HATE the first book. Totally depends on personality. For my groups, I find warning folks ahead of time that the first book is not "heroic" is essential for managing expectations. But your mileage may vary.
I'd stick with just plunder...it's an abstract way of measuring things but both tables have gone along with it and no found it too immersion-breaking. But again, YMMV.
Limited magic could be fun but maybe rethink no occult adventures. Remember the fortune teller turned Titan/God in PotC? Weird magic and curses and dark themes can definitely co-exist in a pirate movie, but it's your table's movie. Go with what sets the atmosphere you want, for sure. Even half-casters should be able to provide enough magic to surmount the challenges ahead.
A lot of great suggestions have been made for plug-ins in some of the other threads. S&S is perfect for them. For straight up dungeon crawls, finding a treasure map is an easy hook.
Also, Mark_Twain007...I don't suppose you've still got that Google doc? I'd love to set my players up with a version of their own.
|2 people marked this as a favorite.|
I've been running S&S for a while now and have a few pointers.
1. I also believe any pirate-centric game requires guns (something I'm generally averse to using in PF games). As such, I made "simple" guns (muskets, pistols, blunderbusses, etc.) simple weapons and more complex guns martial, so (most) everyone can use some sort of gun without additional feats or penalties. Prices are also drastically reduced and pretty much every pirate and sailor carries a couple of basic or MW pistols. This is great for the setting, but hitting touch AC and doing x4 damage on crits can instakill PCs for the first few levels. To help counteract this, I also use the racial bonus HP rule from the PF Beta Playtest. It's helped keep everyone alive.
2. We also use wound thresholds from Unchained. It hasn't seriously affected anything yet, and has actually benefited the players several times by knocking a tough enemy down a little just as the party is starting to wear down.
3. We use the background skill system from Unchained, too. Because so much depends on the PCs being able to work as sailors and have various social interaction skills that aren't always useful in a "normal" PFRPG game, the background system allows the characters to have those skills without harming their ability to make adventuring skill rolls. I seriously recommend giving it a try.
I have 5 PCs in the group, and the challenges as presented in the books are a little underwhelming for a party of more than 4. So, to keep them at a reasonable level, I've added in a few extra adventures to allow them to gain additional experience without needing to increase individual encounter difficulties (much).
1. I have added all of the adventures from the Legendary Games Adventure Path Plug-Ins "Islands of Plunder" Series: "Spices and Flesh" between Books 1 and 2, "Tarin's Crown" between Books 2 and 3, "Raid on the Emperor's Hand" during the investigation portion of Book 3, and "Scourge of the Steaming Isle" between Books 3 and 4.
2. I'm adding modified and reduced portions of Paizo's "Plunder and Peril" module(s) during the "Piracy on the Fever Sea" portion of book 2. I increased the time to squib the Man's Promise to d3+1 weeks (because 8 days seemed like a ridiculous amount of time to completely change a ships superstructure), and had Capt. Peggsworthy offer to take the party to the Rum Punch festival as amends for barging in on them at Rickety's.
3. I'm adding 3 other Paizo modules, also: LB1 - "Tower of the Last Baron," moved from Andoran to Sargava to help reinforce the Cheliax invasion subplot and provide some non-piratey type adventure. LB2 - "The Treasure of Chimera Cove" to finish the LB1 story. And "From Shore to Sea," because one of the PCs is a gillman.
I'm a little worried these additions may allow the PCs to progress beyond where they should be in later books, but I'm ok with adding a couple of additional class levels to the BBEGs in books 4-6. I'd like the PCs to be around level 19 when they face the Hurricane King, I think. However, I have too much AD&D 2nd Ed. in my history and I calculate XP exactly rather than use the more free-form method suggested in the rules.
Things to Look Out For:
1. The Wormwood Mutiny can drag or become a drudgery. Specifically the grindylow dungeon crawl in Riptide Cove. I recommend either warning your players of this when they start, or heavily modify it. In our game, the PCs mutinied early and were already in control of the ship before they were shipwrecked on Bonewrack. I rolled randomly to see which NPC the grindylows snagged in addition to Sandara and got Rosie (whom the party loved and had made their new quartermaster). Be warned, following the scenario as written is likely to result in at least one of the NPCs captured by the grindylows drowning. It is difficult, if not downright impossible, for the PCs to save both once they're dropped into the water. I played through the scenario myself a couple of times before running it for my group, and only once was I able to save both (using the party's PCs). They were only able to save Sandara, and were pretty broken up when Rosie died. That added some nice reality and emotional development for the characters, but if your players aren't likely to handle that well, it could go poorly.
2. Because PCs are PCs, expect them to completely screw up the storyline in book 1. Like, seriously jack it up. I warned my players before we started that it was important they befriend NPCs (our group is generally a lot more focused on roll-playing rather than role-playing). Of course, they took this advice to heart, one of the PCs is a face bard focused on diplomacy and perform skills, and spent every free moment influencing NPCs. They never even explored the ship and barely recovered their gear from Grok. They literally converted every non-officer NPC (and three officers) to friendly before "Day 17: Unpleasant Duties." Conchobhar was the only NPC they didn't convert, actually making him actively hostile, which I've read other GMs indicate was especially hard to do. This led them to mutiny early, as mentioned above, and a pretty simple fight against Plugg, Scourge (who they nicknamed 'The Goodwife'), and the few sailors brought on from the Man's Promise's original crew.
3. The ship-to-ship rules suck. I'm currently in the process of deciding which alternate version to use instead. Start planning your conversion now, before you start the campaign.
4. Be ready for lots of unheroic actions. I was at GenCon the year this AP released and sat in on a Paizo seminar with Eric Mona and Lisa Stevens who suggested this AP was the first where GMs were told it was OK for players to be evil. Not required, but allowable. That was one of the many reasons I decided to run it, and it certainly doesn't hurt anything to have non-good PCs. However, it can present an entirely different set of issues for a GM when running a game for evil characters. No problem if you've done so before or decide to disallow evil characters. I just thought it worth mentioning.
Sorry for the novel...but I hope at least some of this is useful to you! Enjoy the AP, it's a lot of fun!
|1 person marked this as a favorite.|
Snowheart HERE is a link the file. Below is a brief description of the tabs
First tab is the crew for their ship. It uses some formulas to count the number of names in the first Column and count up to the total number of crew. It also has spots for PCs and NPCs in command rolls that are also counted. It was made to list 2 ships, as my PCs had 2 for a while before they sent one off to pirate for them
2nd tab lists officers just for officer pay. It honestly has not been updated in a while
3rd tab is the Leviathan, the PCs main ship. AC and saves are calulated using formulas based on whatever numbers are in the green boxes. Also has their flag, and siege engine locations, to hit, and damage.
4th tab, they renamed Island of the empty syses to Dead Eye Island(they had a bunch of skulls from earlier and put them in all the statues that were empty). Based on the ultimate campaign rules, have placed NPCs in leadership positions. I'm not planning on running a lot of stuff with this, it just gives them a good idea of how they are doing. ALso has their 4 settlements they have setup on the island.
5th tab in info on the fleet they are currently building in book 5. From an in game perspective, I'm actually not having them go through ship to ship combat. I'm working on making an excel sheet do all that math for me, so they con concentrate on fighting a few ships.
6th and 7th tabs are infamy. Players were not using it much as it was because not all of them were sure what they could do, so I am making it easier to read for everyone in 7th tab
8th tab, I added crew upgrades. This lists theirs for their ship and the ship that is off pirating in their name.
9th tab is ship upgrades