Thursday, October 7, 2010

Freeport + Pirates of the Spanish Main

This post is mostly for the players in my upcoming Freeport + PotSM campaign, but it may be of use for others seeking to combine the two and overcome the "hump" of demihumans with the Cthulhu Mythos and Pirates of the Spanish Main setting.

Came to some decisions about my game.

1. I am NOT using "The Continent" from the Freeport campaign setting. We will be using the pseudo-historical, pseudo-fantasy setting from Pirates of the Spanish Main. In this context, Freeport itself becomes the capitol of Tortuga. It fits pretty seamlessly in that respect.

2. We are dropping demihuman races altogether. However, there is a slum/ghetto in Freeport which in the book was constructed specifically to keep the orcs who showed up out of nowhere to bail out Freeport when a massive fleet from the Continent tried to take down the city. In our game, a massive fleet comprised of a rare cooperation between the British, Spanish, and French navies moved to take out Tortuga; during the battle a thick fog descended, out of which a fleet of sleek, swift black ships with black sails emerged. These ships took the side of Tortuga and turned the tide, driving back the attacking navy. After the battle, the black fleet disappeared again. Unfortunately, many of the black ships were destroyed and their survivors stranded on Freeport. These men and women are extremely tall and lanky, with pale and ashen complexions, ice blue or gray eyes and hair that seems to be either platinum blonde or jet black. They claim that they are from Hyperborea. To pretty much everyone in the civilized world, Hyperborea is a myth, a legend. A mysterious land that if it exists at all, is off the edge of the world far to the north, beyond even the northernmost reaches of Finland or Greenland.

At first these mysterious northerners were welcomed in gratitude; their demeanor and mysterious ways eventually made them outcast. People whispered that they were spies and assassins. Some even believe they are witches who sacrifice children to their dark gods, and drink human blood as part of their unholy rituals. In order to keep the peace and avoid gang wars and massacres in the streets, the Sea Lord ordered a district built for them to call home. This district is Bloodsalt, and it's the worst kind of slum/ghetto. Word is, if you're not Hyperborean, you're not welcome there.

It's possible to play a Hyperborean if you want, but I'd prefer not to have more than one of them in the group. They will begin with extra benefits and penalties for being what they are, which do not count against normal starting Edges and Hindrances. I can do First Come, First Served on Hyperboreans, but if I get several requests I'd like you all to discuss when it comes time for char gen before making your decision on who plays one. At that point we'll discuss what you know about your homeland and the reasons for coming to Tortuga in the first place.

3. Magic. I've been waffling about this, but here's how it's going to work: Solomon Kane's magic system, combined with Realms of Cthulhu. If you want to play a spellcaster, take an arcane background from Solomon Kane. Those powers will be your standard spell list. In addition, there will be Cthulhu Mythos magic, which you can only get through instruction or reading Mythos tomes, and will operate off of your Cthulhu Mythos skill (which you can also only obtain through reading Mythos tomes). An important thing to remember: just like with Edges, at character creation YOU CAN IGNORE RANK REQUIREMENTS FOR SPELLS, unless those spells are Legendary. Rank requirements only come into play AFTER char gen. Thus, you can be a starting character with an Heroic level spell, but after character generation should you take the "New Power" Edge, you'll be restricted to spells at your rank or lower.

Magic in general is not flashy; there are no fireballs or lightning bolts. It's dark and alien and mysterious and does things like calling down fog, shape shifting, scrying and cursing people. And yes, it can corrupt you. We will be adopting the corruption and sanity system from Realms of Cthulhu (but using the "pulp" variant to make it less gritty). I'll explain this when we start play but it is very elegant and works pretty much exactly like physical combat.

As with Hyperboreans I am limiting the playing field with Magic. I will allow a maximum of TWO spellcasters--one sorcerer and one shaman. Yes, the Hyperborean can be one of these two, but really...you're being a bit greedy, now, aren't you? ;).

4. Sailing the Seven Seas! Last week I mentioned that most of the game would be spent on land. In looking over my campaign options this is not entirely accurate--there will be plenty of opportunities to buckle your swashes on the open seas. However, I would strongly recommend against "one trick pony" characters. If your character is no good on land, you'll end up sitting out a lot. If your character's no good on the high seas, you're likewise going to have problems. Try and strike a balance and remember there's lots of room for advancement and focusing your character down the road. Owning your own ship is not a worthless idea, if you are of a mind to do so. Having people with sailing skills will be useful and vital. That being said, part of the beauty of Savage Worlds is the ability to control your group's henchmen and allied NPCs, so even if your character finds themselves without especially useful skills in a situation, there's still a chance you'll get to meaningfully participate in the scene as a player.

5. Thinking about characters. I may or may not have time to make use of it, but I also like to have my players "cast" their characters using famous actors and actresses. So choose a celebrity to portray your character. Doesn't have to be someone living or current. You could, if you like, say you want your pirate to be portrayed by Jimmy Stewart or Douglas Fairbanks just as easily as you could Antonio Banderas or Scarlett Johansson. The only request I would make is that you make it someone for whom I can easily get actual film footage. Like I said, I may or may not get to do it, but I have been known to cut TV-style "opening credits" sequences in the past...

...I think that about covers it for now. We're still a couple months from starting, as I still need to decide what to do about your first adventure, but I wanted to get some of the basic setting and game tropes down so you can all begin thinking about characters.

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