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Thorvald

Heroes of the High Seas open project

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So, based off this post, here's a call to anyone interested to take part in this "Heroes of the High Seas" (working title) open project!

 

First, here's the "elevator pitch":

- Heroes of the High Seas: roguish, dashingly handsome pirates fight off an oppressive Spanish-British mercantile colonial empire, discover and explore mysterious islands populated by bloodthirsty savages and terrifying sorcerers, and hunt for treasure in the ruins of ancient inhuman civilizations located in eldritch jungles.

 

Now, let me expand on it a bit with a few more suggestions:

- Piracy, as presented by the game, should be more in line with the old, Romantic notion of pirates as freedom fighters and "Robin Hoods of the Sea"; while there should be room for some moral ambiguity for PCs (otherwise, the game might be too dull), I feel that more explicitly villainous acts like killing innocents or doing unspeakable things to women should be the sole province of villains.

- To help with the above, the game's analogues of the West India Company and others should be portrayed for the most part as corrupt, soulless companies that exploit everyone and everything in their relentless pursuit of profit.

- I think the game should run a fine line between "historical Earth" and "fantasy world". I think something like "alternate History-Earth with fantasy elements" is the way to go,

 

So, as of now, that's it. But this thread is open to anyone who wishes to contribute! This isn't my game, or anyone's really; let's make it the forum's game. :-)

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Some skill name ideas:

 

Parley - covers bargaining and persuasion

Swag - covers how much wealth the pirate has (if you are using a wealth type system)

<x> Savvy - How knowledgeable the pirate is about a particular subject

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Sorry I didn't get this posted myself. Had some issues to deal with.

 

I like the idea of the historical/fatasy aspect. What area would you like to focus on as far as the setting goes for starters? The Caribbean/Americas, Europe?

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What area would you like to focus on as far as the setting goes for starters? The Caribbean/Americas, Europe?

 

The Caribbean/Americas would be best, I think - both to remain more faithful to the "pirates" theme, and to avoid comparisons with "7th Sea" and other swashbuckling games.

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One idea I had to justify the differences between the real world and the fictional one is to have a family, analogue to the Habsbourgs but with a fictional name, that managed to become the ruling family of the most important European kingdoms - England, Spain, France, Prussia, etc. - through convoluted means that employed politics, warfare and maybe even sorcery (though this last part would be unknown to all but a few, of course). I imagine that in this fictional Earth, the Invincible Armada defeated England and became basically the sole ruler of the seven seas.

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I agree with all your comments. Also I would like to add something else.

I understand the plan is to base the game in the Caribbean/Americas. Why are the players trapped there? Why can't they simply sail back to Europe? My response to that would be something like this:

European ruling families cast a curse on all ships leaving Europe. The curse prevented those ships to return to Europe. They simply got lost in the ocean o returned to the Caribbean/Americas to another coast. Of course, these same families wanted to get the precious resources of the new world, so they created a way to "break" the curse temporarily and gave that secret to their own loyal ships. That curse breaking way should be something that got used in the return to Europe, so it could be used only once, lets call it a ticket (for lack of a better term, so please find another name for it). For example, a drop of blood or a lock of hair of a prominent member of one of the families that needs to be burned in the sea, allowing the ship to return to Europe.

I think that opens some good plot hooks to create adventures and expand the world. Anyone wants to return to Europe to complete a vengeance? then look for one of those tickets. Where is one of those loyal ships? Where is the ticket hidden? Would the captain of the loyal ship fight for it or just throw it off board or burn it to avoid the players using it? Is that ticket real or just a fake? The captain of that loyal ship was betrayed by the ruling families? why? Is there another way to break the curse, readily available in the Caribbean/Americas?

This idea also opens the option for a future expansion book with Europe as scenario for the moment when the players get one of the tickets and want to return to the old continent. And then that book can expand in the families and their politics.

Just my ideas for this.

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I like the curse concept. The ticket could be called a talisman, or totem.

 

As for the fictional family, we could dig into history and see what comes up for a family name. Of course, it could also be a group of families that have banded together for world domination. The shipping company could be their eyes and ears in the far reaches of their empire, used as cover for their dastardly designs.

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What kind of template concepts would work well for this? There are a lot of generic versions of sailor/adventurers, starting with your basic, generic Sailor (some specialized variations may be Cabin Boy or Boarder). Explorer, such as Sir Walter Raleigh (this template would be more scholarly, a cartographer; also with experience navigating the politics of a king or queen's court). Disgraced Naval Officer. Mercenary (who knows how to fight, but not necessarily how to sail very well). A rescued Castaway (after being marooned alone on a small island, he's an excellent survivalist, but with some psychological damage). An Impoverish or Disposessed Lord (chasing after the other half of the treasure that helped establish his family; legend tells that the other half was lost, or something). An Outlawed Colonist (the colony was supposed to be a fresh start, but that persistent tendency for rough play blew it, there's no where else to go in civilized society). It might be an interesting challenge to see if worthy templates can be created to entice a Player into wanting to play The Parrot or Dog or Ship's Mascot as a PC. Tribal Warrior (who now journeys alongside the rest of the crew, having left in tribe.

 

On the mystical side of things, a Tribal Shaman or a Priestess (or a Voodoo Priestess, don't know if that's historically accurate or appropriate? Forgive me my ignorance.), or maybe a Fallen Star (like from Stardust or Voyage of the Dawn Treader), depending on how far you want to push the fantasy elements.

 

Depending on how wildly a GM wants to diverge from a Humans Only type of game, have a template for something like the Sea Devils from Doctor Who. Their able to survive on land and underwater, and worship some powerful great Old One like Dagon as their god. An option to include or exclude, depending on GM preference. Admittedly, my impression of this setting is Humans Only. Or some type of Mer-person. Alternatively, there's a character from the old Star Wars Marvel comics that is an underwater dweller who is humanoid, who wears diver-type equipment (it looks that way visually) when he's on dry land, the opposite of us.

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All of those template ideas sound great. I'm sure you can add land lubber types without much hassle. Outlaws running from justice, disenchanted nobles even, maybe a simple bookworm/dreamer looking to find out if the rumors of the magical new lands are all that they're cracked up to be.

 

There should definitely be shamans/witch doctors. A Stardust type character might be something to add for those wishing to go a little deeper into the mystical/fantastical.

 

I don't see a problem with adding templates for non-humans. Again, you could have them for those wishing to go deeper into the fantasy style of gaming too.

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All of those template ideas sound great. I'm sure you can add land lubber types without much hassle. Outlaws running from justice, disenchanted nobles even, maybe a simple bookworm/dreamer looking to find out if the rumors of the magical new lands are all that they're cracked up to be.

 

There should definitely be shamans/witch doctors. A Stardust type character might be something to add for those wishing to go a little deeper into the mystical/fantastical.

 

I don't see a problem with adding templates for non-humans. Again, you could have them for those wishing to go deeper into the fantasy style of gaming too.

 

Thanks! Yeah, I think witch doctor was more what I was going for, that sounds much better. The shaman/witch doctor and priestess are for GM's who want to have it be low fantasy, the Fallen Star idea (I was trying to really think outside the box as much as I could here) for kicking it up into high fantasy.

 

The underwater dwellers would be great for a twist on that trope of finding exploring a Lost City, which has ended up at the bottom of the sea (where it once was above land; or maybe always was an underwater city).

 

Having slept on it for a few hours, the one character type I can think of is a Prize Fighter type, based on Robert E. Howard's Sailor/Boxer character, Steve Costigan I think, who always gets roped into some kind of boxing match while he's in port, sometimes in the ring, sometimes just on the street; he tends not to fight with a sword, but he's so formidable with just his two fists!

 

I also thought of a Dock Worker type, a land dweller who has extensive interaction with sea faring types (and if necessary can also have a back story that has run him off dry land, but would still have lots of street level contacts and be quite strong because of loading work).

 

One note, some of these character templates feel like they're wanting or needing psychological issues (not to complicate play, per se, even though it will, but to add flavor). I often get the sense that characters in these types of stories are out of their ever-loving minds, and that seems like something fun to play with from a roleplaying standpoint

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I understand the plan is to base the game in the Caribbean/Americas. Why are the players trapped there? Why can't they simply sail back to Europe?

 

Well, my initial idea is that they wouldn't be trapped in the Caribbeans, they just would have the same incentives to remain there the historical pirates had: lots of refuges (by which I mean places where they could hide from the Law and could easily repair the ship and restock their supplies), easier accessibility to loot-worthy vessels and long distance from the main naval strength of the European kingdoms.

 

I do like the "curse" idea, but I think if the setting will have open magic like that, we should think on how it would interact with Christianity in general. I mean, the "glory days" of Tomás de Torquemada were long behind, but the Inquisition still existed and there were still witch-hunts.

Maybe the magical barrier that controls access between Europe and the Americas could be secretly a form of sorcery, but it would be presented to the public as an extension of the King's divine right to rule - dominion (in the Biblical sense) over the land and air and sea. Thus, the totem could be the King's seal, of which there would be multiple copies of course, and which secretly used some of the King's blood in their making.

 

There should definitely be shamans/witch doctors. A Stardust type character might be something to add for those wishing to go a little deeper into the mystical/fantastical.

I don't see a problem with adding templates for non-humans. Again, you could have them for those wishing to go deeper into the fantasy style of gaming too.

 

I do think there should be shamans and witch-doctors and European-style witches/warlocks, but I'm not sure if there should be non-human PCs - at least not for the core book. I think things like non-human races and more overtly fantastic stuff should be strictly GM-only, at least initially, in order to preserve the "historical fantasy" feeling (as opposed to "high fantasy").

 

Having slept on it for a few hours, the one character type I can think of is a Prize Fighter type, based on Robert E. Howard's Sailor/Boxer character, Steve Costigan I think, who always gets roped into some kind of boxing match while he's in port, sometimes in the ring, sometimes just on the street; he tends not to fight with a sword, but he's so formidable with just his two fists!

 

I like it! Maybe we could have an Advantage or something to bring fists up to par with melee weapons.

And yes, we should have both seafarers and landlubbers as ideas for PCs. I think adventures for this game should have a healthy mix of land and sea, and the pirates should be more of a mix of pirates/smugglers/explorers. That way, there will be several options available for PCs and GMs.

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(...)have a template for something like the Sea Devils from Doctor Who. Their able to survive on land and underwater, and worship some powerful great Old One like Dagon as their god.

 

Can you please explain more about the Sea Devils? Are they like the monster of the black lagoon - that is, humanoid fishes, basically -, or are they more like mermaids/mermen?

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Can you please explain more about the Sea Devils? Are they like the monster of the black lagoon - that is, humanoid fishes, basically -, or are they more like mermaids/mermen?

 

Sure! The Sea Devils are of a race of sentient reptiles who were the civilization before Humans. They're a bit like a humanoid Sea Turtle, without a shell. Within the context of Doctor Who they were an adversarial alien race with a twist: they weren't aliens, they were Earthlings, just like us; so they were just as entitled to claim the planet Earth as theirs as we do. The Sea Devils were the ocean dwelling branch of these Earth Reptiles, the whole race when into a controlled sleep or hibernation for millenia when the Earth was threatened with a cataclysm (either the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, which they existed alongside; or they thought the moon was going to crash with the Earth rather than settle into orbit around it). But their alarm clock never woke the species up after all was clear; sometimes their individual bunkers are disturbed and a tribe will be awakened individually. Some branches of the Earth Reptiles have a Third Eye, and the telekinetic powers they display are remembered by humans through race conscious memories, manifesting in human legends and mythologies. The bit about worshipping Dagon isn't in the TV series, but it's an embellishment from DW novels that played with blending elements of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction into the DW setting.

 

The details above can easily be played with to make them more individualized for the specific setting cooked up here. They reminded me of a race of snake-men from Conan/Kull short stories, which I believe also crossed over with Lovecraft's stories (or could be perceived to cross over), a primordial race of beings whose empires and civilizations pre-date Humanity's history and civilization. I threw in the Sea Devils and the Mer-Folk, and even Aqua-Men types as way to give the High Seas adventure scenario the option of working 3 dimensionally; so not only can adventures take place on the sea and dry land, they can also take place on the ocean's floor. It occurred to me just now that this leaves room for speculating about adventures in the sky as well (unless that's too far from initial concept), especially if someone likes the idea of playing a Parrot as the ship's mascot. Maybe Da Vinci's flying machines work, or were adapted so that they eventually did work.

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Sure! The Sea Devils are of a race of sentient reptiles who were the civilization before Humans.(...)

 

VERY interesting! So in one fell swoop, we could have additional antagonists for PCs (and a possible PC race) AND justification for some of the eldritch ruins littered across the world! Not all ruins, though; we don't want the world to feel small. :-) I was thinking that some of those ruins could be of Atlantean origin - unless that's deemed too cliché.

Oh, and thanks for the explanation. I'm not too familiar with Doctor Who, although I've been interested for some time in its new incarnation. :-)

 

It occurred to me just now that this leaves room for speculating about adventures in the sky as well (unless that's too far from initial concept)(...)

 

Well, like everything about this project, that's open for everybody interested to discuss. I would be against it because I feel it would detract from the feel of the setting, but maybe there could be a single working prototype in existence - at least so far.

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Hey there. Sorry to be silent for so long.

 

The Sea Devils do reach out from the fantasy side a bit, but I like the concept. I also like the flying ships and the like, but that takes us away from the core idea of the genre, and takes us into something resembling Starjammer. It's not a bad idea, but like Thorvald mentioned, I wouldn't mind keeping things as close to a traditional pirate theme as possible. We can definitely explore those areas while we work on the core material, but have it in mind for a separate document, or at the very least, a separate chapter/section of the main book.

 

As for the traditional material, I think we might want to look at what should be a central aspect to a game devoted to pirates. That being, the pirates themselves. I found a forum, HERE, that has a pretty good description of the various crew positions one would find aboard a typical pirate vessel. HERE is another site with more descriptions of crew positions. I am beginning to formulate some templates for those positions, but before I go headlong into it, we need to decide on which vein of OpenD6 we are wanting to follow.

 

Should we begin with the D6 Adventure rules set, Mini Six, or go back to basics with something like the first edition Star Wars rules? Mini Six is a great set of rules, and would keep things nice and tidy during game play, IMHO. D6 Adventure is pretty much set up for this type of gaming too. Opinions?

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Airships no...airship yes. I think it fits in if you approach is from a Jules Verne perspective. Here is the one airship in the world terrorizing the shipping lanes...just watch the movie Master of the World or read the Jules Verne novels it is based on. That would definitely fit in as a one off for a story or campaign. I don't see a problem with gliders though, of course that might be too anime. How does everyone see the mood or theme of the setting. Serious or why so serious?

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Airships might go well in a steampunk setting, but that, as well as the rest Jules Verne's writings, are a few hundred years after the golden age of piracy in the caribbean. Airships before the invention of some sort of engine are just balloons with no locomotive power of their own.

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I know that some templates would have to be patterned off shipboard positions, and I figured a little bit of mysticism would be fun to play with. I was trying to think broadly outside the box, and I thought that the game's boundaries would establish themselves by regarding which templates are extreme beyond the intended scope of what is conceptualized for it. For what it's worth, I do think the airship angle would be more advanced that what is being looked for, and I do also think the Sea Devils and Mer-Folk are farther in the fantasy department that what are being looked for. Throwing them out there helps to define the boundaries of the game; I'm not strongly attached to the ideas. If I were running a game of it, I would use the ideas very sparingly at first, the way Indiana Jones holds back on it's fantastical elements except for brief glimpses a key points in a story line. Depending on how well it works would determine how much more or less I would use those elements as the game unfolds. Another example it makes me think of are the background elements of a show called Alias, which kept elements related to Rambaldi's (a historical figure who is basically some kind of Uber-Da Vinci) in the background to it's superspy conventions; the Rambaldi artifacts add a level of intrigue for the audience and kicks off whatever mission the characters are on, but the show is still basically about the superspy missions rather than those extraordinary artifacts.

 

Regarding which variation of D6 to use, let me just say that periodically I've tried to find the rules for mini-D6, and it's all been a chase through dead-end links. I don't have any investment in a game that's going to be based on a rules set that is not properly linked and available on the internet. Go Adventure D6 with the appropriate system modifications (renamed stats and so forth) or else, someone please show how to access it without dead-end links. It's doesn't matter how good a system is; I frankly don't care about mini-D6 if it's going to remain so elusive, and it's not readily available to find without needing a 15D skill rating in Google Search. Lame.

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Hmm, I don't think Mini Six is too hard to find. Here's the product page over at Antipaladin games (the guys that produced it). Just checked it, and the download works fine.

 

My previous post wasn't meant to quash any fantasy elements from the design. I'm just suggesting that we form a baseline to proceed from, basic templates that one would find in a historically founded game, which would also carry over into the fantasy realm as well. I love everything that has been mentioned so far.

 

I love the idea of airships, or a single airship used by the ruling house to rain terror on the shipping lanes too! Considering that we're working on this as an alternate Earth sort of idea, I don't think having the airships powered by steam would be too far of a stretch, and if we do limit it to a design controlled completely by the royal family we wouldn't have to worry about the technology being wide-spread. If we wanted to stay clear of steam, we could have the discovery of air streams early on too.

 

Just some ideas.

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Should we begin with the D6 Adventure rules set, Mini Six, or go back to basics with something like the first edition Star Wars rules? Mini Six is a great set of rules, and would keep things nice and tidy during game play, IMHO. D6 Adventure is pretty much set up for this type of gaming too. Opinions?

 

An interesting question. I am a very big fan of the Star Wars rules, and I think it's still the most famous version of the rules system; we'd just have to take care to not repeat the glut of redundant skills.

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Airships might go well in a steampunk setting, but that, as well as the rest Jules Verne's writings, are a few hundred years after the golden age of piracy in the caribbean. Airships before the invention of some sort of engine are just balloons with no locomotive power of their own.

 

...or it could look like this http://www.peterpopken.com/images/3m_ship.jpg , locomotion courtesy of sail. Stick some cannon bellow and watch the fun begin.

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Part of the reason sails work is that the water is there keeping the ship from being blown whichever way the wind is going. If the ship is in the air there is nothing keeping the ship from being blown all about.

 

Now, if everyone else wants airships, then by all means, but personally, I think airships are way overused in this kind of setting and would like to see this go in a different direction.

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Now, if everyone else wants airships, then by all means, but personally, I think airships are way overused in this kind of setting and would like to see this go in a different direction.

 

I see the airship idea more as an add on than a central design for this project. The main focus will likely be a more historical rendering with a touch of magic interspersed (voodoo/hoodoo, low magic type stuff), then in later chapters (or source books) we can add the more fantastic ideas. Sort of how Thorvald envisioned it in the OP:

- I think the game should run a fine line between "historical Earth" and "fantasy world". I think something like "alternate History-Earth with fantasy elements" is the way to go,

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Merfolk live in underwater cities (Atlantis was one, but it was in the Mediterranean). Their gods require human sacrifices so they are always trying to lure unsuspecting sailors to their deaths.

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Hello,

 

I wanted to comment on this thread.

 

As the original idea of Thorvald was that of an alternate History-Earth with fantasy elements, with a sense of historical fantasy (not high fantasy) I feel the idea of airships is a little over the board. I like the idea of the merfolk, but I think in the core rules, there should be only a hint of them, something in the vein of the Innsmouth hybrids from Lovecraft, so when the players are comfortable that the merfolk are only an exageration, a supplement book can prove them wrong. I think merfolk wouldn't like to be seen by the surface dwellers easily, so they can keep their existence in secret and have all the human sacrifices they need without problems (using fantomx11's idea).

 

About the rules system, I don't know all you mention, but I think D6 Fantasy would be closer to what is needed. I would need to have a firearms added and a magic system trimmed down to something more historically accurate.

 

On the magic side of things I think magic should be very subtle and not obvious. No fireball throwing mages, but more in the style of "I'll destroy your ship!" and then one or two days after, a storm arrives and rip the ship's sails. That leaves the doubt of was it a coincidence or really that guy managed to get that storm to destroy the sails? So voodoo looks very good for this game, because it's not an obvious source of magic. The curse I mentioned in a previous post works also this way. No one has ever seen anyone casting a curse, but curiously the only ships returning from America to Europe are the ones which have a talisman/totem from the ruling European families, so the rumor spread between sailors and the Curse came to be known (remember that all sailors from that time were incredibly superstitious).

 

A would like to add some fluff to this alternate historical Earth. Maybe it could be considered to be included in the book. On april-may 1587, Sir Francis Drake did his raid on Cádiz, destroying a lot of ships from the spanish fleet, delaying their invasion plans (history up to here). During the battle, Drake's ship was hit by a spanish cannon and was destroyed, but Drake managed to escape alive, but was captured by one of the remaining spanish ships. Sir Francis Drake was sent to prison and sentenced to death, but he manages to escape his death sentence sneaking into a ship in the middle of the night. That ship took off to America early in the morning. Now, Sir Francis Drake is living in America/Caribbean, trying to figure a way to return to Europe, but also trying not to be spotted by the spanish who would kill him on sight. A VIP NPC for the core book.

 

These are my comments. I hope you like them. :)

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