Shiver me timbers! The poll be closed!
The voting seems to have settled down, so it’s time to close the poll. With 58 votes cast, we’ve come up with a tie, between “Pirates!” and “Apocalypose Again: Fifteen Years Later”. Given the desire for a change of pace, I’m going to break the tie in favor of the pirate game. Everybody’s got to run one, right?
For inspiration, I’ll be re-reading Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides. Yes, they made a Disney movie that used the name and the movie rights to the book, but the two are actually quite distinct. They use all the same pieces, but the results are different.
After flipping through my copy of GURPS Swashbucklers (3rd edition, but still useful) and doing some scholarly research (*cough*), I’m leaning towards starting the campaign during the time of the buccaneers. Say, 1657, when the governor of Port Royal invited the Brethren of the Coast to use that port. PCs are assumed to be members of the Brethren, based out of Port Royal and/or Tortuga. That year puts us firmly into TL4.
A thing to keep in mind here is that the Brethren are tight. They have been forged by shared adversity. They’ve been hunted by the same governments. Even members of different crews, on different ships, on different business, will help each other out. They won’t steal from each other. They won’t cheat one another. The assumption is that any member of the Brethren will have Sense of Duty (Brethren of the Coast) for -10 points, and quite likely a Pirate’s Code of Honor as well.
Another advantage of using the Brethren is that they seem to have operated in a democratic/anarchic way, making them a natural source for PCs. They were, according to GURPS Swashbucklers (page 61)
…English, Dutch, French, and other nationalities, and were largely criminals, escaped indentured servants, and out-of-work sailors, but with an occasional gentleman adventurer.
Yup, that sounds like PCs to me. Finally, the Brethren fought the Spanish. At the time, Spain was engaged in the slave trade. If you take a romantic view of history, you could see a sort of “rag-tag band of freedom fighters against the vast empire” story shaping up here. It might be possible to have a band of PCs who consider themselves the good guys, not just another random gang of murder-hobos.
(I guess they would be murder-seamen in this campaign, though, wouldn’t they?)
This implies that the center of action for the campaign would be somewhere around the southern end of Cuba, between Haiti and Jamaica. Sailing ships in the mid-17th-century had quite a range, though, so there’s no telling where the story might go from there.
Now, I know my players. I know the second question is going to be about magic.
(The first question would be “Can I play a vampire? ghost? demon? alien? time-traveller? Batman? James Hetfield? small block of overripe cheese? Pete?” The answer would be, no.)
Given the genre and setting, I think this would be an excellent time for us to experiment with Ritual Path Magic, from GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic. I’ve threatened my group with this magic system before. It’s the one where most magic is going to be cast as a ritual, and where there’s a mechanical benefit for packing in a lot of ceremony and incense and so forth, so the magic should feel more like what you see in the movies than the casual spell-slinging of Dungeon Fantasy. There’s a lot more flexibility, as well. Rather than being restricted to a single list of spells, that’s it and that’s all, a RPM spellcaster can try to do just about anything. Want to curse the governor so any time he wants a hard-boiled egg, he gets soft-boiled instead?
With magic comes other spookiness, so I’ll be open to the weird traits, like Medium or True Faith, that seem to be true to the genre. Keep in mind, I’m not expecting “Harry Potter on a boat”, though. No more than “Ars Magica on a boat” at the very most.
My usual quirks about PC traits apply. Don’t bother with Weirdness Magnet. It exists in a notional sort of way, but you’ll never see it in the wild. Feel free to be Cursed. Just know that mine is an evil laugh, and your character shall pray for the sweet release of death before the end of the first session.
I’ll allow appropriate styles from GURPS Martial Arts. Page 245 of that work points us towards the various fencing arts, as well as Bare-Knuckle Boxing, Capoeira, Dagger Fighting, and Savate. I would expect the Traditional French School and French Smallsword to be somewhat more common among the Brethren who put any points into a fencing style at all. Most won’t.
PCs start with 150 points, with up to -75 in Disadvantages and up to 5 Quirks. Starting wealth is $2000.