Mar 102014

Nat and Sebastian arrived at Joshua’s house last Saturday (March 8th) and collectively we found we were in peaceful possession of a veritable ocean beer. This provided an ideal occasion upon which  to embark upon an rash and unplanned raid on Pirates! by Michaël Janod.

Pirates!, a free tabletop rpg inspired by the eponymous movie by Polanski. It’s a funny and lighthearted game that runs almost on its own, the game master doesn’t have a lot to do while the players perform all sort of foolishness, smiling from ear to ear

Looking at the diagram you see that the game absolutely wants you to roll! Almost everything leads to rolling more and more, this is what make the game going on(*). A successful roll means colourful actions (everybody loves them) and rewards, in terms of treasure points and possibly luck. A failure means epic fails (everybody loves them too) and possible loss of luck. Both are meant to give personal and social gratification.

I had long hesitated to play because I found it hard to believe that the GM had so little responsibility to make a story happen. But it is true.  The little rules booklet, happily contains “an adventure story” that one can use to a re-assuring crutch (peg leg?) to get things started.  But it only takes a few minutes of play to realize its unnecessary.  I wouldn’t say this game facilitates emergent narrative so much as emergent ludicrousity(sic). It most definitely achieves what it sets out to do, capturing the tone and colour of the Polanski movie of the same name.

To learn the rules we started with a dramatic reading of the booklet (since all rules are provided in character). As amusing as this was it got old soon and we switched to me just bringing the players through character creation … at some point that simply devolved straight into the adventure.  We used one of the provided scnario “The Pirate King”.  The best action occurred in the Port El Perfido where the pirates tried to stage a prison break to rescue Jack Pumpkin – the holder of the secret treature map. One pirate attempted to infiltrate the fortress by “swinging” over the ramparts. We pictured a Wile E. Coyote style catapult launch from a bent over palm tree.  The failed roll clearly indicated that he had splattered himself against the fortress walls. Meanwhile the other player thought to stake out the execution grounds, hoping to prolong the Jack Pumpkin’s life by blowing up the gallows.  His failed “devastate”  roll killed 4 important townsfolk and won him his own death sentence which put right in prison with Pumpkin.   Meanwhile the other pirate successfully ‘teased’ a scullery made into switching clothes with him allowing him to infiltrate the prison… he was stuck drag for the rest of the game which turned out to be of great assistance avoiding the ire of Big Melinda and her swarthy crew of lady-pirates later on.


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