Our group is starting a new campaign, and this time I’m the gamemaster! It’s called “Reavers on the Seas of Fate,” and is using the Pathfinder RPG rules to tell tales of piracy and horror on the high seas of the world of Golarion.
As usual, we’ll be posting session summaries, character writeups, etc. on the campaign home page. Since I’m GMing, I’ll also be sharing “behind the scenes” reports on how I design and run the game. I’ll start by explaining how “Reavers on the Seas of Fate” came to be.
Well, we’ve been enjoying the Paizo Publishing Adventure Paths quite a bit. We played through Rise of the Runelords and Curse of the Crimson Throne. Unfortunately, there we got stalled. We have a large extended group of gamers and there are other campaigns underway with some of the same people, and so Legacy of Fire and Council of Thieves were already being used. We evaluated Second Darkness but pretty much hated the latter parts of it. Earlier Dungeon Magazine-era APs like Savage Tide and Age of Worms had been read or played or run by people in the group as well.
So I decided so step in and run one myself, cobbling an AP together from various bits. An aside on my terminology – a “campaign” is any game with the same characters progressing through multiple adventures, but those don’t have to be linked. You could run a long campaign with completely unrelated adventures, or composed of mega-adventures (like if you ran through Temple of Elemental Evil, Scourge of the Slavelords, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits). The meaning behind calling this an Adventure Path is the assumption that there will be an overarching plotline that covers all levels of play.
I knew I wanted to do something pirate-themed. My first 3e game was a pirate campaign set in Green Ronin’s Freeport and we all loved it; that gaming group, Wulf’s Animals, is still active in Memphis, TN to this day! I mentioned “Pathfinder Pirates” to the group and got good response. So I went off and came up with two different coherent options to run by them. One was a traditional pirate campaign, somewhat sandboxey, with an equal focus on the life of piracy and more organized adventures. The second was an Eastern pirate, or “wako,” campaign, where we use Asian races and creatures, with more of a supernatural spirit-hunter aspect to it.
I wrote up two potential premises and sent them to our group mailing list. If you don’t have a mailing list for your gaming group, you need one. I like Yahoo! Groups, they’re straightforward to use and besides the mailing list has calendars, polls, a file repository, etc.
Anyway, the two options presented for comment were:
Option 1: Wako (Asian Pirates)
“A fate like that can kiss my ass. I believe in one thing. A better tomorrow.”
Humans (Japanese, Chinese, maybe other SE Asian, Indian) and maybe spirit folk and/or hengeyokai (none of the standard races). Probably not really use variant classes, just make some cosmetic changes and call clerics sohei, wizards wu jen, etc. Often not using typical Pathfinder/Golarion stuff so would mean more work for DM and the players – Eastern weapons, races, culture, etc.
1. Go to Western lands and do “fish out of water” feel; could use Freeport, Riddleport, and other published stuff
2. Use Tian Xia in Golarion (basically homebrew, as there’s nothing published for Tian Xia yet)
3. Use Rokugan; there’s lots published for this, but a lot of it isnt really helpful. Very into all that L5R clan crap which I don’t like.
An ancient puzzlebox created by evil alchemists has opened a gate to the spirit realm, letting in all kinds of bizarre Asian monsters. The box broke into 108 pieces each of which is now embedded in a phantom/demon, and they all need to be reassembled to close the gate… The evil spirits have taken over and influence the leaders, so the players have become pirates out of necessity, but are righteous rebels working to banish the phantoms and restore the Empire. (I am even now stealing this plot from an anime called Tokko I’m watching on Chiller.)
In this option I can use some published adventures but not that many. This would be more rural+ocean+maybe undersea. Dark horror/action. There would be general reaving and a “dimensional crossrip” thing (like the Worldwound or Shadowlands) letting in loads of bizarre Asian monsters to fight.
I expressed concern about taking on new rules *and* immediately “going Asian” with them, but was willing to if people wanted to.
Option 2: Western Pirates
“At them mateys! No quarter!”
Pathfinder stock, some house rules
1. Pure Freeport. Freeport is cool and theres no end of Freeport adventures. (Is anyone too familiar with any of them?)
2. Pure Golarion. Use the first two Second Darkness adventures (if Paul doesn’t have them memorized) and then perhaps head to the Shackles and Mwangi Expanse areas. Is Golarioney and I can strongly leverage written adventures.
3. Combine Golarion’s Port Peril, Riddleport from Second Darkness, and Freeport into one uber pirate city and do both. Probably the most material rich option!
This would work best with the players being more general pirates. I’d have a lot of adventures but with no real “AP” I could do it sandboxey at the same time; you could expect getting a ship, losing a ship, having to join the crew of a pirate that beats you, getting pirates you beat to join you, empire building… Depending on what you go and mess with, it could be really easy and you get to slash fools or really hard and you have to flee or get owned (traditional sandbox play, not APL=EL play). This would be more urban+ocean+hidden treasure dungeons. Gritty swashbuckling feel.
Everyone chipped in with their thoughts. People did not like the “fish out of water” option, wanting to stay in the Orient if they were Asian. They saw that doing Asian (when many of us didn’t even have the PFRPG book in hand yet) might be too much to bite off at this point, though it was intriguing. There was strong response to the “Tokko” puzzlebox plot, however. Players were concerned about running too sandboxey and then just kinda drifting aimlessly around sometimes.
After thinking about it, I decided to go with Western pirates, mixing Golarion and Freeport, but to adapt the Tokko plot somehow as well. I only had a couple weeks to prep and the Asian thing would need a lot of pre-work on setting and rules.
Next time, developing the campaign!
Hey, mxyzlplk, I didn’t see a post about Pathfinder coming out in official hardcover. What do you think of the final product? Obviously you’re fairly happy with it, since you’re running a campaign with it, but are there any kinks you see that need to be worked out?
Hmm, a good question. I should probably do a more in depth post in response, but in general we’re happy with it as an incremental improvement over 3.5. Really I wish they’d changed more – they dialed back the changes even from the beta – I don’t dislike 4e because it’s “change,” but “change for the worse.” The differences between Pathfinder final and 3.5 are about like the differences between 3.0 and 3.5, which is to say “nothing unless you’re really pedantic.” I’m running both 3e and 3.5e adventures in Pathfinder without conversion. I do look forward to an evolution of Pathfinder in the future that changes more to fix some of the more fundamental problems of 3.5e (like the problems with play above about level 14). More in a separate post, but that’s the long and short. I’ll also be posting about some of our house rules and tone-setters for Reavers which illuminate some of our desires too.
I’ll wait for your longer future post, but I had a feeling you’d be in that camp. I skimmed a buddy’s copy and I wasn’t really that happy with it. I mean, it did help some of my issues with 3.5E, but I saw a book that effectively didn’t make me want to run out and replace my 3.5 books. It made me want to look at my old 3.5 campaign and tweak some of the rules I already had in place.
I’m not saying it’s a terrible product. If you don’t own 3.5 books, Pathfinder is definitely worth the buy if you want something in that vein. But if you own them… I’m not so sure I’m willing to fork over that much dough to get what amounts to 2 3.5E books I already own reprinted with significant errata and some minor rejigging of rules to try to simplify some parts.
Memphis, TN, eh? That’s where I hail from. Wonder if I know anyone in Wulf’s Animals…
And I just saw on your About Me page (which I probably should have read first) that you co-founded FORGE. Wow. 🙂 I played in FORGE games for months before I decided that I’d had enough of 4th edition D&D and LFR. Thankfully they are starting to run some Pathfinder Society scenarios these days to give people some variety…
Ah, good to hear! Yeah, I’m Ernest – Hal Phillips and I turned the engine over back in the day. It’s been a long time and I don’t recognize most of the officers’ names now, but the Overstreets and Seagraves were around even then… I moved to Austin 7 years ago though. Glad the group is still going strong.
Brock is probably the Wulf’s Animal most active in the FORGE, as far as I know, though some of the “new guys” may be.
Cool, small world. I’ve played in many games with the Overstreets. They are primarily the ones pushing Pathfinder. I’ve played games with Brock too, although it’s been a while and he probably wouldn’t remember me. Right now I’m obsessed with Savage Worlds and my schedule isn’t very open so I’m not going too much with FORGE. I’m glad they are around though, the Memphis gaming scene needs all the help it can get.