In a cinematic game where swordfighting is an art form, what better way to swash your buckle than become a pirate? Yet the Introduction takes a more philosophical tone, describing how real-world priates of the 17th century operated an egalitation democracy that it took landlubbers a couple more centuries to develop (if indeed they've even managed it yet). The pirates of Théah are similar, seeing themselves almost as another nation, with a common bond forged by their lifestyle and the way in which each ship-load organises itself.
First up, though, is Chapter 1: Ports of Call. Even pirates set foot on dry land sometimes, so here are some places where they might feel at home. Summon up the visual images from The Pirates of the Caribbean, and visit the Straits of Blood. Several taverns and houses of ill-repute can be found here, and there's plenty of atmosphere and background stories to help you make it all come alive. If this very traditional pirate refuge doesn't suit, try La Bucca - a settlement built on the remains of a failed experiment in creating a self-regulating prison community on a remote island. Now it's home to a community that, although on land, lives by pirate rules like a ship. Or maybe Caguine, a nest of smugglers and scoundrels languishing under a Sidhe course takes your fancy. There are sketchmaps of each place, but it's a bit harder to determine where they actually are on Théah. Some pirate legends to beguile the party are also provided (the GM can decide if there's any truth to them, of course) to round out this chapter.
Next, Chapter 2: Pirate presents details of six of the best-known pirate bands infesting the seas of Théah. Find out their stories, organisation, tactics and more... will these be the party's enemies, allies or bosom companions? Leading NPCs are detailed here too, so you know with whom you are dealing - a horde of fellows you'd probably not want to meet in a dark alley, at least, not without your sword to hand!
Then, Chapter 3: Drama contains a bunch of game mechanics aimed at bringing pirate goodness into your game. Here, for the first time, the Destiny Spread aid to character creation is explained (most of the other Nations sourcebooks have a variant on it suited to that particular region). Best done with a Tarot deck if you have one, but there's an alternate method mostly using die rolls if you don't. There's a new swordsman school that teaches what are in effect cinematic piratical tricks, new advantages and backgrounds, new rules to handle languages in a polyglot crew, new skills and even new items... If that's not enough, learn to duel pirate style and even find rules for holding your liquour (or not, as the case might be). More rules cover sailing and naval battles, and there's a discussion about when - and if - a GM should ever deprive a hero of one of his advantages.
This is followed by Chapter 4: Sailor Sourcebook. Herein is a discussion about running a pirate-centric campaign, advancing the idea that choosing one doesn't necessarily mean that trips ashore are no more than opportunities for drinking and wenching. This discussion is divided into a Player section and a GM one, but it's probably worth everyone reading both... even the adventure ideas in the GM section are broad enough that it doesn't matter if the players have read them. There's also a piece about navigation. Without reliable timepieces, navigation at sea is a bit of a bear. You are left with dead reckoning, celestial navigation (which requires excellent mathematics even if you can see the stars), and a rutter - records of the voyages made by a previous captain. So, to pass the time whilst your ship is lost, there are a few gambling games to play here too; and a rundown of the stores and supplies your ship is likely to carry. Finally, there are some nice sketches of pirate ships.
When I first encountered the 7th Sea RPG back in 2000, my first thought was 'pirates'... then I ran a series of land-based adventures. Cinematic in the extreme, but this book rekindles the urge to put the 'sea' back into the game, it captures the essence of what it all ought to be about!
Return to Nations of Théah I: The Pirate Nations page.
Reviewed: 16 December 2016