Pirates are playing in the sandbox

This saturday, we concluded our first Pirates of the Spanish Main adventure. I used the adventure that was printed in the back of the book, added some things and made some minor changes to the characters. I also built up the Baron Pettigrew to become a recurring villain.
And instead of going to plan another adventure I will now prepare for a sandbox campaign, where the players fully decide what they want to do. I will of course always have some single-sheet adventures ready, but for the most time I will try to avoid “rail-roading” the players.
In my opinion the Spanish Main is perfectly suited for that kind of campaign. But hey, what do I mean when I talk about a sandbox campaign? I am talking about a open-ended campaign where the player’s decide the course of action not a pre-planned adventure. If the player’s want to go plundering, it’s fine with me, if the want to do trading, it’s their call.
As a GM I will set the background and once in a while drop in some hints on some things I’ve planned in the past. Just like the “sub-quests” in some computer games. But there’s no epic “rescue the world from utter destruction” plot that forces me to railroad the players to some climatic fight at the end. If they want to bring down the evil Baron Pettigrew, it’s their decision not mine. But I have some ideas on how the world will change around them even without them doing anything. After all, even the Spanish Main in the 17th century was not a static place.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

3 thoughts on “Pirates are playing in the sandbox”

  1. Any thoughts on rules for trading and similar mercantile ventures? If the game has a weak point it is the absense of a chapter on that. Not terribly FFF I know, but still… Some solid rules on trade and smuggling seem like an essential for the setting material.

  2. I'm not one to leave AD&D, but this game sounds interesting. I love marine adventures, and would be interested in a different system of handling ship voyages. Have you got a link or anything? This isn't that boardgame is it?

  3. No, it's an RPG but the background is based on the tabletop miniatures game. You can check out the official site at http://www.peginc.com or have a look at the Savage Worlds articles here on the blog. "Pirates of the Spanish Main" is using the Savage Worlds rules.

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