Ask Th’ Readers: What’s Yer favorite Pirate RPG?

Hello, me heartys. As ye all may well know ’tis Talk Like A Pirate Day. That’s why I decided ‘t would be fun t’ talk about Seafarin’ hearty roleplayin’ games today. Arrrr!

pirate Even before the successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise I always had an interest in the pirate genre. Back as a kid I watched all the pirate movies I could get my hands on. I totally loved Sid Meier’s Pirates! and played the hell out of it. The first pirate-themed pen & paper roleplaying game I played was a homebrew campaign written by my good friend Peter. After we ended the previous Rolemaster campaign in shame (this is a story for another time), he decided to start a new campaign and this time the players were a pirate crew. The game was set in the same world as the previous campaign, but was set 1000 years after the events of the other campaign. I actually played the ship’s captain and learned the hard way that pirates can’t be trusted.

Some time later I stumbled upon Pinnacle Entertainment’s Pirates of the Spanish Main, a stand-alone game based on WizKid’s Constructible Strategy Game and using the Savage Worlds rules. We actually played a couple of times but then moved to Rippers for some reason. Even though none of my Pirate campaigns lasted a long time, I still think it could be fun to revisit that genre in the future especially because creating a pirate sandbox campaign sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

The question I am asking my players today is: “What’s your favorite Pirate RPG?” There are quite a few pirate-themed games out there, some are just supplements for existing systems, others are stand-alone games. The question is which one do you like best and why? As always every comment is highly appreciated.

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.

20 thoughts on “Ask Th’ Readers: What’s Yer favorite Pirate RPG?”

    1. This. Seconded.

      Out of print for years and still the favourite game of my group; I can’t wait to get back to it (playing a Cthulhu game at the moment).

      There are flaws in the system but nothing matches the combat rules for the swashbuckling – thrust, parry, riposte – feel.

  1. None – I’m not particularily fond of pirates. And even if I might provoke the wrath and violent reactions of the faithful Pastafarians* – I actually hold pirates to be massively overrated.
    *You are hereby invited to storm my humble abode, burn any flags you may find and kill any time remaining – I couldn’t care less… 😉

    1. I’m also a pastafarian (I’m a fundamentalist pastafarian, and don’t get into all of the superlative add-ons like pirates vs ninjas and all of that), and am not really into pirates at all. I was as a kid (when Pirates of the Caribbean meant the ride, and not the movie franchise), but that interest ended … 35 years ago.

  2. I liked Pirates of the Spanish Main for the depth and detail of material and 7th Sea for its excellent swashbuckling mashup but frankly any pirate theme in fantasy RPG would get this rum stinkin’ scurvy son of a kraken goin fer it!

    Fondly remember some creaking tub hauling across the misty seas of cursed Ravenloft or in a different life the wretched tavers of Sartosa…


  3. Gotta go with Airship Pirates. It’s silly enough to avoid the whole “Dude, pirates are murderous a**holes” and the world is unique enough to be interesting (at least to someone who hasn’t been immersed in steampunk). I ripped out the time travelling aspect, though. The world is enough.

  4. Pinnacle’s Savage Worlds-based Pirates of the Spanish Main is my favorite, hands-down. So, so beautifully-produced and well-written, with all the bells and whistles I want to see in a Hollywood Pirate game (Fencing Schools w/secret, ultimate techniques! Intrigue! Customizable and Legendary Ships! Sea battles!). And, if you want to move into On Stranger Tides territory, the whole scope of SW supplements (Horror Companion, Fantasy Companion, 50 Fathoms, Deadlands) are 100% mechanically and thematically compatible.

    And the pulpy, low-bookeeping, dozens of minions on the table SW game mechanics are perfect for the genre.

  5. I have to agree with 7th Sea. It’s a pity that it got steamrollered by the OGL.

    If you want amore modern system, I’d go with Pathfinder. It’s got more than enough options to swing a cat around.

  6. I totally liked the pirate campaign. It was set in a fantasy background, a thousand years after another bunch of heroes failed to stop the reawakening of Columquez the Dreamer in the most terrific way. So my beloved creation fell under the reign of terror of the demon and his vampire lords only leaving some free islands in the West and South.
    Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the trolls of flamewar, but I’m still fond of Rolemaster. The campaign Michael mentioned was based on RMSS with snippets of the Sea Law supplement. Later on we tried Roll Out the Guns from ICE, which doesn’t work for me. But to be honest, I didn’t find the time to work my way into this supplement.
    If people talk about pirates, they mostly think about the Caribbean sea. But you can use this theme in a lot of settings. If you look at Cesar, who was kidnapped by pirates, at the victual brothers (Vitalienbrüder) of the middle ages or the arabic corsairs there are a lot of backgrounds imaginable like Arabian Nights or just the classical fantasy world.

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