Ye be a pirate. Come up wit’ a name and pick four of Agility, Brawling, Cunning, Folklore, Luck, Magic, Marksmanship, Roguery, Seafaring, Streetwise, Survival, or Swordplay t’ be good at. When th’ Cap’n thinks somethin’ has risk t’ it, roll 1d10 (+2 if ye be good at it.) Total of 8+ means ye do it. If ye be good at Luck ye can reroll thrice per session. If ye be wantin’ a fight, th’ Cap’n will have ye roll 1d10. Startin’ with 10, he’ll count down t’ zero; when yer number comes up, declare what ye do. If ye be makin' an attack, ye both make yer rolls. If yer roll meets or beats yer target’s, he loses Life equal t’ yer weapon’s rating plus how much ye beat him. Fists, Pepperbox: 0 Dagger, Harpoon, Handaxe, Pistol: 1 Cutlass, Musket: 2 Saber, Blunderbuss: 3 Cannon: 8 Ye’ve got 10 Life. When ye run out, to th’ depths with ye! Yer ships has 40 Hull; Life fer ships. Ye get 1 Booty fer succeedin’ on a roll; at port, spend 10 t’ recover yer Life, fix yer ship, learn a new skill, or buy weapons, shot, or healing elixirs.
So, let’s talk about Those Held Responsible here: I’m blaming the New World of Darkness… err, Chronicles of Darkness, for the “Roll d10(s), succeed on an 8+” mechanic in general. The skills/things you are good at were directly inspired by the Virtual Reality Adventure gamebook series; “Down Among the Dead Men” and “Once Upon a Time in Arabia” in particular. The rule about dealing damage equal to the gap in your attack/defense roll was either from the Serenity RPG or from Zozer Games’ 43 AD (better-placed attacks hurt more; why hasn’t D&D figured this out yet?)
7th Sea (either edition) is also one of the major inspirations for this, as were the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the old DOS game “Redhook’s Revenge.”
Fun Fact #1: Healing elixirs are made with a rum base. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, after all, me mateys.
Fun Fact #2: When I first posted the rules on Reddit, I immediately noticed that I didn’t outright say you can only damage another ship with a cannon. My choice was to either make it so and figure out how to patch that in and keep this under 200 words, or leave it alone and make peace with the fact that RAW you can punch a pirate ship over and over until it sinks. (I made the mistake of asking my friends about this. One of them replied “WOOT ATATATATATAT. That is my ruling.” So… you know who to blame for this particular rule botch. =p)
Now, about magic: I don’t intend for magic to be like in Dungeons & Dragons, where you can have quickened maximized transmute leviathan into flash-fried-crap. Think instead of the magic from King’s Quest III and VI (more DOS games?! Christ, I’m showing my age, aren’t I???) where you have to gather all the ingredients for a spell, say the incantation (pirate PCs are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to actually say it!!) and make the Magic roll. (The spell I used for the playtest was the Create Magic Rain spell from KQ6.)
Special thanks to my D&D group– Allen, Booke, Bryan, Cory, Chrissy, Damien, and Ziggy– for their support and friendship.