Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: Pyramid 3/64: Pirates and Swashbucklers

A brief review of Pyramid 3/64: Pirates and Swashbucklers.

I pretty much buy Pyramid when it has DF stuff I can't live without, or when it's all about pirates. This one has DF stuff I can't live without and pirates.

Swords Against Evil by Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch

Besides having an awesomely Fritz Lieber-sounding title, this article also has excellent content. It presents four different spins on the Swashbuckler template from Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers. The Aristocrat combines the leader-of-men aspect of the Knight with the swordsmanship of the Swashbuckler and the arrogance of blue-blooded fictional fops. The Buccaneer straddles the Barbarian and the Swashbuckler with a heavy dose of sea-going ability. The Duelist puts aside anything that isn't sticking a sword into a vital spot to be an even more focused version of the swords-and-chandeliers Swashbuckler. The Rogue turns the chandeliers up to 11 and combines swordsmanship with a lot more concern for stealth and palming valuables. It also has stats from Low-Tech for swords overlooked in Basic Set, allowing for even more flexibility in weapon choices. Nicely, the longsword (almost an ideal swashbuckler's weapon in DF) gets the nod, too.

Scury-Dog Sorcery by Jason "PK" Levine

Scurvy-Dog Sorcery is a six=tiered (six level) magical style, drawing off the ideas and rules in Thaumatology: Magical Styles. It is squarely aimed at spells pirates would need to track, board, and loot, followed by a side order of avoiding naval opposition. It's a mix of perks, shortcuts to spells pirates need, and specialized secret spells to do things like identify loot or facilitate no-contact boarding of ships.

It's got a nice little history to it, explanations of where it comes from and how it evolves, and so on. It's also well designed. I can see picking this up and dropping it directly into an existing or future fantasy game.

Eidetic Memory: The Spanish Prisoner by David Pulver

This month's Eidetic Memory is a complete pirate adventure. It's historically set (in 1666), and gives some pirates a fairly linear task to get done. Basically, Henry Morgan wants to launch a raid and needs the information in the head of a pirate to pull it off. Said pirate needs to be tracked down. The game is set up for a convention, so it's not a sandbox as much as a linear series of encounters (although you can very easily change how encounters go, you can't really do much more than follow the guy you need until you catch up.) Still, it does the job nicely and it's enough for a short taste of piracy when you need it. It also acts as a bridge to a larger game if you follow up on the raid. Good stuff.

The Qanat Pirates of Old Than by Matt Riggsby

Underground waterway pirates. Picture a small area of cities connected by a mesh of underground water tunnels laid out along magical ley lines (for luck and other reasons). Now stick some barge-borne torchlit pirates, and you've got the Qanat Pirates of Old Than. It's short but complete and well-executed.

It comes with a nice maps of the tunnel system at a large scale that lends itself to either wilderness adventure or a pointcrawl. It also comes with tactical hex maps of the barges, although at least in my case printing them out made them hard to read so you might want to play with the darkness when you print it yourself.

Sailing the Open Skies by Christopher Rice

Skyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy pi-rates! (Sorry)
Magical, steampunk, and cinematic airships, from the pen of the extremely prolific organizer of the Pyramid Writer's Group. All of the airships are written up in both a normal vehicle stat line and a Spaceships 1d6 system, too, making them doubly useful. Easily useful for a skyborn pirate game, or GURPS-based Calidar.

Random Thought Table by Steven Marsh

A look at the idea of "good" pirates and why being pirates can basically skate by the morally objectionable aspects of killing people to steal their stuff. Mostly tied to Star Wars and Treasure Island. Interesting and thought-provoking, but my gaming didn't get better from reading this.

Overall, this was an excellent issue of Pyramid. I can pretty much get some use out of all of it, either directly (Qanat, Swords against Evil), or indirectly (using the airships from Sailing or the NPCs from The Spanish Prisoner). Very solid and well worth $7.99.

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