Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wild Seas: A Piratical Campaign Setting

While pondering campaign settings for my local group, one concept that often pops into my head is a pirate-themed one. A world with deep seas, lots and lots of islands, and endless opportunity for swashbuckling adventure. And so I am throwing together a campaign setting with all of those elements, mixed with the basics of D&D. I wont be overly detailing too much of the setting, forcing me to "fly by the seat of my pants" so that I and my players will be continually surprised.
System-wise I will be using the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition rules (not 3.5 or Pathfinder). This is mostly because all of my players either have the books, or can easily get them via online sources. Of course it is child's-play to convert any of this to other systems, particularly d20 ones.
Of course some basic setting details are needed. As follows:

THE MAP
Each Hex is five miles on the side.
The overall setting is a tropical world that is mostly covered with shallow seas. Two major continents and innumerable islands dot the seas. On land, well watered jungle and swamps predominate with only a few small areas of desert or grassland.
Animal life is abundant and fairly typical for a fantasy setting, though large horses are rare. Most of the animals you will see here are those you will see in pirate movies, Sindbad flicks and tarzan movies. Sea-monsters are abundant, with some really powerful ones such as Krakens, sea-dragons and far weirder things showing up from time to time.
The major Sea Power is the nation of KANA (see map), a sea-going power that is looking to control the shipping lanes. It is ruled by a parliamentary government and overseen by Queen Tetradia, a mighty wizardess and shrewd politician. All other nations are city-states and small kingdoms.

RACES
The standard races found in the PHB are allowed. Elves in this setting come from the Green Moon Verda, and only dwell in small settlements. There are more half-elves than elves. Orcs are also allowed as player characters and are more advanced than Orcs on other worlds, entering into trade with other races. Orcs and Half-Orcs typically work in the fouler and less admirable labor jobs of the seas, notably Whaling, deep sea fishing and other messy work.

THE SHIP
The player characters will all be employees of Adnan, Volnon and Gench Shipping Inc., a private shipping firm that handles specialized cargoes. This is code for transporting and selling stolen cargo as well as conducting normal trade runs. The crew is expected to protect goods for the Company, deal with pirates (who have to sell loot to someone) and find buyers.
The Wayward Sun is a modified Caravel, designed to be fast, tough and able to maneuver amongst islands and reefs. The vessel is equipped with a single ballistae, but the players are free to equip her more fully if desired. It is preferred that the PC's use magic and their own weapons to defend and/or conceal the vessel, but the DM will not try to broom handle their decisions.
This ship comes equipped with some special equipment, particularly continual flame lamps in the lower deck and hold (mounted), and a barrel of endless salt pork in the kitchen. Other foodstuff, water and supplies must be purchased elsewhere.

RELIGION (THE GODS)
Religion in the setting is to be thoroughly nautical. The gods and goddesses of the setting are the sorts of beings that are mentioned in sailors stories. These include such entities as Captain Jonah (the Sailors Devil), Mother Carey (embodiment of the untameable sea), Jack The Fiddler (guardian of Fiddler's Green), Mr. Friday (Demon Lord of Bad Luck) Thomas Mariner (Angel of the Seas Splendour) and others.
Though there are specialist priests, following a specific god or goddess, most of the clerics of the Wild Seas are generalists, revering (or wary of) all of the gods, goddesses and assorted spirits. Such clerics adhere to one of the following Churches:

The Church of Sun and Stars (Sun and Stars)
This church is a society dedicated to the Heavens themselves, the sun, moon and stars used for navigation. The Sun and Stars is the religion of intellectuals, captains, and elves though many still give reference to the gods and goddesses of Wind and Wave (see below). The Church of Sun and Stars teaches that the celestial bodies watch over all of us, and that all wisdom may be gleaned from studying them. Clerics are expected to be clean and well-dressed, often going as scholars or ships officers. Holy symbols are typically worn in plain view around the neck.
Holy Symbol: Astrolabe (pendant)
Cleric Alignments: Any Lawful (LG, LN, LE)
Favored Weapon: Mace
Domains: Sun, Knowledge, Law, Magic, Protection

The Church of Wind and Wave (Mariners Church)
This is the church of the gods and spirits of the air and sea. Like the sea and sky itself, these powers can be both fair and foul, and it takes a wily sort of priest to appease them. The Church of Wind and Wave teaches that the sea is uncontrollable, and that those who look to make their living on or from the sea must appease the many spirits that dwell there. Clerics dress as well-to-do sailors, sea combers and dock hands, and are always experienced in working ships. Rough hands and sea-tanned skins are common. Holy symbols are usually attached to belts or as arm-bands.
Holy Symbol: Carrick Bend Knot
Cleric Alignments: Any non-Lawful
Favored Weapon: Belaying Pin (Club)
Domains: Air, Chaos, Luck, Travel, Water

The Church of The Black Code (Black Code)
The Church of The Black Code is more of a religious philosophy than a true church. Adherents to the Black Code (see below) preach a gospel of keeping faith with your fellows and maintaining discipline on ship as well as rules for settling disputes and punishing oathbreakers. This Code is a set of laws that are a kind of ten commandments of pirates, privateers and others who live off of the sea.
Clerics of The Black Code are walking encyclopedias of sailor superstition, taboos and variations on Black Codes. Vestments are sea-coats, and black scarves or kerchiefs, usually faded or sea-stained. Clerics of the Black Code who achieve 7th level or higher are called Provosts.
Holy Symbol: Blackened silver piece (pendant)
Cleric Alignments: Any
Domains: Fire, Luck, Strength, War
Favored Weapon: Flail or Whip

THE BLACK CODE
These are the "Nine Commandments" of Buccaneers, Pirates, Privateers, Salvagers and Smugglers.

I. Every Man Shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full Share and a half of all Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain and Gunner shall have one Share and quarter.

II. If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be marooned with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm, and Shot.

III. If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game, to the Value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be marooned or shot.

IV. If any time we shall meet another Marooner that Man shall sign his Articles without the Consent of our Company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.

V. That Man that shall strike another whilst these Articles are in force, shall receive Moses’ Law (that is, 40 Stripes lacking one) on the bare Back.

VI. That Man that shall snap his Arms, or smoke Tobacco in the Hold, without a Cap to his Pipe, or carry a Candle lighted without a Lanthorn, shall suffer the same Punishment as in the former Article.

VII. That Man shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for an Engagement, or neglect his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and suffer such other Punishment as the Captain and the Company shall think fit.

VIII. If any Man shall lose a Joint in time of an Engagement, shall have 400 Pieces of Eight ; if a Limb, 800.

IX. If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to meddle with her, without her Consent, shall suffer present Death.


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I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan