Monday, May 5, 2014

The Sea Lord is Dead! Long Live the Sea Lord!

One thing that role-playing game designers often do is a mashup of genres.  This has been a part of gaming for a LONG time.  As early as 1980, TSR was mixing science fiction with fantasy in Expedition to Barrier Peaks.  Want some horror mixed with your old west action?  Play some Deadlands.  Cyberpunk and Trolls more to your liking?  Try out some Shadowrun (but you will have to do it without me.  For the life of me, I could never figure out the magic system for that game.) 
Roleplaying at the turn of the 80s.
   Back when so much of the art was rubbish,
 but we didn't know any better.

Sometimes, the genre mixing goes so far that it is hard to tell where one genre ends and the other begins (Torg comes to mind).  One of the products that got the mix just right, however, is the Freeport setting by Green Ronin.  One of the original third party products released alongside Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons in 2000, Freeport is a world independent setting that mixes the trappings of the fantasy and pirate genres into a tasty grog of goodness.  In keeping with the independent nature of the setting, material has been created by GR and its affiliates for Freeport that span the fantasy rules gamut: 3rd edition, True 20, Savage Worlds, Pathfinder, Castles and Crusades, and Fate all have conversion rules to adapt the setting.  There is even a 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons conversion, but I doubt even Freeport could salvage that train wreck.  A recent kickstarter is going to lead to an expanded edition of the Pirate's Guide going from systemless to a Pathfinder product.

The Pirate's Guide to Freeport strained the limits of
how  much awesome could be contained between
 two book covers.

The eponymous island is a fantasy pirate haven built to drop off the coast of any traditional fantasy campaign continent.  Most of the traditional fantasy races have a role to play on the island, but humans are clearly the biggest movers and shakers there.  Eventually in the pretty brilliant Pirates Guide to Freeport, they added some skeletal information for a fantasy continent to place the island near if you did not have a world in mind to use.  The beauty of the setting is that they layered a number of plots and schemes over one another and allowed the Game master to pick and choose which plots to use.  Need some horror?  Freeport has a little King in Yellow action going for you.  If secret societies are your bag (baby) the island was lousy with them all going about their nefarious way.  Want big pirate battles?  You could always tangle with the dreaded Orc Pirate Captain Scarbelly.  My players did, and paid the price for it.  Don’t necessarily want to use any of that?  Well, that is okay too.  Freeport has plenty of room to create your own material and just use the city as a piratey backdrop.

I have used Freeport on a number of occasions.  I filed off the fantasy serial numbers (made all the fantasy races human) and used it briefly in one of my 7th Sea campaigns.  Freeport was the setting for abortive 3rd Edition game I ran in 2007 as well.  My best use of the setting, however, was the 2012 Savage Worlds fantasy game I ran for my Sunday group.  The first half of that game was set directly in Freeport until the characters decided that killing the great Sea Lord Milton Drac was probably going to make them outlaw and they fled to the mainland.  Since Freeport was where I planned on running the whole game, I just cobbled together a combination of the continent provided in Pirates’s Guide with the caravan module from the GURPS basic rules and slapped Trobridge Inn from Harnmaster into the mix and we had a campaign that lasted another six months.  I think the players enjoyed it.  I know I did.

But this brings me to my campaign idea for the day:  What happened in Freeport after the Sea Lord’s demise?  The original players fled the city and left chaos in their wake.  Drac’s line of succession was unclear.  Will the great Sea Council make their move to expel the hated Drac family from the Sea Lord postion permanently?  Drac was insane, and probably a cultist, but Freeport was stable under his rule.  Will one of the rival cults be able to capitalize on the power vacuum to strengthen their position?  Will the remnants of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign regroup and try to reestablish themselves?  Will rogue pirate captains use the disorder to strike out and attack the very ships they were supposed to protect?  The answer of course is yes to all of these things and the players would be right in the middle of it, helping some factions (whether they know it or not) and fighting others.  And then there is always the matter of that skeletal dragon figure that was seen flying over the port a few months back. Surely that was an aberration that will never appear again.  I see this game as a haven for new characters with an opportunity to build on what has come before.

He's not evil.  He's just misunderstood.  And hungry.


  1. so, what about the Snake men?? and crazy cultists! If there is ever anything you can kill and not feel sorry, its cultists.

  2. It I reveal everything about the game in the teaser, then there are not secrets for the players who haven't been in the game yet to discover. That said, I do like watching players kill cultists. It makes me warm and tingly inside.