Monday, February 22, 2016

Campaign Proposal: The Golden Age of Sail

With the 7th Sea kickstarter still going on, and going so strong, I find it hard to not think about a game set in the age of sail. Grand adventures on the high seas. Canny duelists. Clever pirates. Sharp wits, and even sharper steel. A sense of high adventure and daring do. Most importantly, the call to defend the last vestiges of true freedom that humanity has known, and will know, until we find a new frontier and set sail into the stars. I'm talking about the age of sail, and here's what I'd propose for a campaign.

The idea here is for a game set during the Age of Sail. It wouldn't necessarily need to be historically accurate, or even in the real world, but that level of tech. In particular I'm thinking a combination of 1680-1690 and 1720-1730. The bow is gone, replaced by the gun. Ships have cannons. The sword is still prevalent, particularly among the elite classes and duels with swords still happen. Think the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Disney's Three Musketeers, and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.

The PCs in this game would be a crew of, effectively, pirates. I don't necessarily mean that they torment merchant vessels, but the idea here is it is a crew that is not tied to any particular nation. If to anything, they will be connected to one of the free ports that sits in areas like the Caribbean and the New World where the large nations are just exploring and settling, but also have frontiersmen and women a plenty.

As said, somewhere that is unclaimed. A heavy sense of the wilds and frontier. Rough law where people take care of their own matters, and that can get both rough and personal. The area free from the control of the big nations, but as the game goes on that area will grow smaller.

What Happens In The Game
So what happens over the course of the game? History, effectively. The nations push in. THey claim territory. They fight over land. As t hey push, and expand, and explore there becomes less and less places for the PCs to live their lives of simple freedom where they can follow the path they set out for themselves.

the idea here isn't to force the PCs to fight against this encroachment from the old world, but to see how they handle it. Do they join up? Do they fight? Do they ignore it? Do they become outlaws? Do they just try to make the best of it? Or do they burn the whole world down because if they can't have it then Anarchy will reign?

The Big Challenge
The big challenge to an idea like this is what happens when one PC wants to join with the Spanish, another the English, and three others want to stay free and fight against it? Or some other mix. Either those individuals sacrifice their players, or the GM has to be willing, able, and capable to bounce between characters as they stray very far apart.

Beyond this, is selling the sense of freedom, and the change in the world. This is a game very much about the closing of the frontier. The end of the mystery of what lies just over the horizon. In a sense, this is a story where magic and romance come to an end...unless the players find some way to preserve it.


  1. I'd absolutely love to play a game like this. And on the same note, I know everyone else would hate me If I ever did. Why? Because I've kinda been interested in exactly this for years because my family history doesn't have its roots in the ground, but in seawater. And the place where I've grown up would be absolutely perfect as a place for an adventuring party to call their home. There's a free port right in Europe everyone forgot about because the nations were too embarrassed to admit they'd been owned by a small delegation of sailors sent by an even tinier noble family.

    England and the Netherlands were heavyweight nations during the golden age of sail, and you might want to take a look at the Aubrey/Maturin and Horatio Hornblower books as well (and the movie Master and Commander, to the far end of the sea and the HH series) if you're interested in creating a campaign on sea.

    But there's this teeny tiny island off the coast of the Netherlands too, who wondered why they should be at war with England just because the Netherlands was, and sent a delegation to England to ask just that in 1652. Which resulted in a statement from England that they considered "Ameland" a neutral state, and they were allowed to trade with them and their ships would be left alone. Did this mean they were able to get the best of both sides? Hell yes. Would it be something a D&D Adventuring party would do? I certainly would!

    It would mean your party doesn't necessarily have to be a group of pirates not to have ties to specific countries, but being a neutral party would open up a lot of other options. Ferrying potential traitors across the water, smuggling goods, rescuing damsels in distress, reuniting families that have been torn apart since the start of 'the' war, fighting off bigger ships who think they can ignore your neutrality if only they catch you fast enough, do diplomatic missions, being a thorn in the side of the bigger nations and even hosting peace conferences between the bigger nations... It's all possible. Everyone focuses on the well-known facts of history, but some parts of history are simply too awesome to be as overlooked as they are. :)

    (it's in Dutch, but most of the history of Ameland is described in short here: )

    1. This is like the perfect add on to this proposal. I used pirate for lack of a better word for a "neutral party" which I suppose is just laziness, but meh. This does sound awesome, and could be used very well for getting the group involved in all sorts of shenanigans with all the major powers all while helping individuals out.

  2. A New World was one of the important things of the age of sail that 7th Sea lacked. A campaign like you are suggesting could be a lot of fun but the risk of player fragmentation would be quite real, but I would still happily play in such a game.

  3. A.L. you're a brave man to even consider the possibility of "or the GM has to be willing, able, and capable to bounce between characters as they stray very far apart". That's beyond my GM'ing capabilities.

    Definitely a cool idea of a seafaring wild west of sorts, with a Freeport or three as a geographic base of adventuring operations. Having to be wary of the sovereign "big boys" coming around periodically with their warships & trained fighting seaman looking down their nose at the seafaring scrabble. Perhaps a little pirating, perhaps a little mercenary work & certainly a little political intrigue, frontier-style, because just because it's called a "Freeport" doesn't mean there aren't those vying for power.