“Yo ho ho and a bottle of cheap rum!” Oh how we love pirates! They may be scumbags, but we love them so much! A salty campaign at sea always sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? In fact, I recently finished writing a pirate adventure which our group is playing though at the moment, and through that I did some research into the great stuff available for the sea bound gaming group.
Please note, some of these products have affiliate links so that I can make some money, which helps me keep this site going. However, I’ve only reviewed stuff I actually thought was worth recommending.
"Arrr, there be loot in that there crate!"
What are pirates without their maps? And what’s a game session without a good battle map? A decent ship map has to be the first port of call for any piratical GM.
I went onto Amazon and bought the GameMastery Flip-Mat: Pirate Ship. It’s super useful, but there were aspects I didn’t like. One side has a top down view of two ships with gang planks between them while the other side has the lower levels of the primary ship, with parts repeated and parts missing (such as the ship’s wheel). I would have liked to be able to fold the map to reveal only one top view of a ship at a time. A nice aspect is that you can fold the map to show just one level of the ship, however, it is at the cost of multiple views of the action. Also, while masts are represented, there’s not much indication of where all the rigging is. There are some cheaper print and play maps out there that have done a nice job with rigging, so I really would have liked to see that here. My last gripe is about the ship’s texturing. I really like how they did the water, but the deck of the actual ship is a little too fake, in my opinion. That said, the map is fully compatible with the GameMastery Map Pack: Ship’s Cabins and makes it that little bit more useful. Unlike anything print and play, this is dry erase, which means you can write on it with markers – a huge plus.
For a cheaper option try out the Battlemap – Pirate & Ghost Ship, which looks really pretty. It’s print and play.
I’ve been listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack as inspiration for my pirate adventure, which I actually got onto because our GM uses it in our current campaign. It creates the perfect mood whether your adventure’s nautical or other.
Also, because I’m a big fan, check out Blackmore’s Night’s – Loreley, which works nicely when timed right. They have a bunch more stuff that I’ve played at LARP’s, so I generally punt Blackmore’s Night whenever I can. I mean it’s Richie Blackmore for crying out loud. Deep Purple… you know. Smoke on the Water. Okay, okay, I’ve had my say.
Another band worth checking out, if only for inspiration, is Turisas, and their song Hunting Pirates.
I really like proper miniatures, in metal or plastic, but recently I’ve found paper miniatures to be super useful, especially when travelling to the next game session on a crowded train. I’ve looked at a number of printable miniatures and nothing “pirate” really appeals to me, whereas I really like the Militia Men available from onemonk.com. I think real pirates probably looked more like these guys than the popularised image of pirates. Then again, I was raised on Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, so I may be biased.
As for metal and plastic figures, there are plenty out there, so I won’t review anything now. I just wish Wizards had released a few more pirate figures with their Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures; I think they only ever did one. Luckily though, there are also hundreds of pirate toys out there, like these, which may fit into your game, even if they’re a little cheesy. My advice: shop around.
Pretty much any toy store will carry loads of pirate props – typically hats, eye-patches, pistols and swords. Look around a bit and you might even find pirate loot. Making a map is a pretty neat touch to any campaign and you can do that in a number of ways, from dipping paper in tea to stain it and burning the edges to designing something in Photoshop. Check out this tutorial on Wired.
Well, that should be enough to keep you, *ahem*, afloat. Got any other neat ideas? Please share, I’d love to hear from you.