Dozens of pirate ships are coming out of drydock as our gaming group finally gets around to playing Pirates of the Spanish Main, a game that half of us have been collecting for at least three years, but have only played a handful of times. Meanwhile, the arrival of an old friend from Philadelphia has us returning once again to the mad, dangerous depths of Maure Castle in search of that ever-illusive Total Party Kill.
Arrr … Pirates!
We’ve been talking on and off about playing pirates for months, but this week we finally decided to do it. Our first session in who-knows-how-long was Tuesday night, as we got together for a four-way multiplayer battle. It was an excellent opportunity to remember the rules … and to figure out exactly what works and doesn’t work when constructing a fleet.
Movement, especially with four players, is crucial — ships that can only take one action a turn will be out-maneuvered by those capable of moving twice, or doing some sort of moving/shooting combination.
Ramming is a last ditch tactic unless your ship is very, very good at it. Once you ram an enemy ship, you are pinned until that ship moves away. If said ship also prevents you from firing your short-range guns, well, you’re just totally frakked.
Crew are great for rounding out the capabilities of your ships, but its important to get the matchup’s right. Placing your cool captain who can mind control other ships on your biggest warship may seem like a good idea, but since using that power robs said ship of its actions for the turn, you’d be better of putting the mind-bending captain on a smaller ship, and leaving the big guns to blow things up.
Having learned these lessons, I’ve crafted a new fleet tentatively called The Long Nines (a nautical term, if you must know). It’s designed as a battle fleet, one that can (and will) explore for gold, but any one of its ships can choose to go hunting instead. It’s comprised of the following ships:
- El Monte Cristo: 11 points, Spanish, +1 on cannon rolls vs. non-Spanish ships.
- Selkie: 9 points, Pirate, May double the range of this ship’s canons each turn, but you must roll a 6 to hit.
- Cannoneer (Crew for Seklie): Once per turn, one of this ship’s cannons may shoot again if it misses.
- Revenge: 12 points, Pirate, This ship gets +1 to cannon rolls against English ships.
- Blackheart (crew for Revenge): This ship can make a move after resolving shoot action.
I’m not sure how this fleet will work. Both Seklkie and El Monte Cristo are going to be slower moving ships, though Selkie’s re-roll crew ability and El Monte Cristo’s bonus against non-Spanish ships may offset this lack of maneuverability.
The Revenge is a bruiser, and with Blackheart aboard she’ll likely be one of the faster-ships on the board … if she’s fighting.
Maure Castle: Beyond Kerzit’s Fane?
The Blackrazors are once more returning to Maure Castle, a destination they’ve spent the last two real-world years (and about 6 months game time) exploring, plundering and dying in. On their last expedition, they successfully defeated the vile Cult of Kerzit in its lair on the third level of Maure Castle’s dungeon.
They know the location of the passage way to the fourth level … but will they take that passage down to the unknown depths, or will they attempt to find the legendary Tome of the Black Heart rumored to be hidden somewhere within Kerzit’s Fane?
The Bronze Key of Portals
In order to help the characters move around in Maure Castle — in particular, to get them past the Unopenable Doors, I created a major magic item known as the Bronze Key of Portals, a lesser version of the legendary Silver Key of Portals held by Mordekainen himself. A Bronze key is mentioned in the Greyhawk source book Return of the Eight (1998)by Roger E. Moore, but this is not that key, which was previously held by Tenser (the status of whom is an unknown in our campaign).
This key is wielder Jakob Dworkin, who was gifted this it by his diety, Dalt, god of doors and portals.
The Bronze Key of Portals: The Bronze Key functions like a chime of opening when it is touched to the bars, door, lock, lid, portal, or shackles to be opened. It automatically dispels hold portal/arcane lock effects of less than 22nd level (splitting the difference between the Chime and the Silver Key.
As a lesser key, it grants a +15 insight bonus to escape artist checks and the following spell-like abilities:
- Ethereal Jaunt 1x day (7th level)
- Freedom of Movement 1x day (4th level)
- Dimension Door 1x day (4nd level)