Back to my (well-overdue) review pile, I’m going to take a look at ‘Piracy and Privateering’ (aka PaP from now on), written by Josh Peters and published by Stellagama Publishing back in October 2018. This is a product that is compatible with 2D6 OGL sci-fi publications such as ‘Cepheus Engine’, ‘Stars Without Number’ or ‘White Star’ but it could be used with other SFRPG’s such as Classic Traveller as it is written as a system-independent supplement. It can be picked up from Drivethru RPG for $4.99 as a PDF (normally $8.99) and contains 84 pages.
There are no print on demand options available at the time of writing. Correction: there is a print-on-demand option availabe through Lulu.com – Piracy and Privateering PoD.
PaP immediately reminds me of the Gypsy Knights Games book released back in 2016 ‘Skull and Crossbones – Piracy in the Clement Sector’:-
…and there is an amount of crossover between the two products. However I’ll reserve comparisons between the two until the end of this review.
Bearing in mind this is a system and background-independent product, the introduction starts with a look at the ‘motivation’ as to why you would want to play a pirate character and the challenges this presents a referee. This introduction rounds off with a short overview of the books contents, required materials and a little about the author.
The section ‘Piracy and Privateering Campaigns’ takes an in-depth look at how a referee would go about setting up a PaP environment so that characters can follow such a venture. The author looks into the different types of setting where the possibility of piracy could exist and the chances that players could make this a sustained campaign. There are a lot of useful points looking at the practicalities of space piracy. Do you ‘wait and lurk’ hoping that retirement-level-value cargo just happens to come along? Or do you actively go out and get intelligence on when the most valuable cargos might be shipped, will the ship be escorted and will there be anywhere advantageous where the players can press home their attack? There are pro’s and con’s in how you deal with the crew, once you have your prey within your grasp. Unless you want to make a reputation for yourself, you’ll want to take the cargo and leave with as little fuss as possible. There are risks in taking the whole ship as well, as the owner would want to involve the authorities in tracking down those responsible; there is more chance of this occurring than if just the cargo was stolen, which could probably be claimed on the insurance. The differences between piracy and privateering are discussed in quite a bit of depth and what the ‘Letter of Marque’ means. States-sponsored piracy may seem like a good proposition but if you get caught without sufficient justification, the state won’t get you out of trouble…
The next section ‘Random Space Encounters’ sets up the background to the encounter tables and how to present a star system that could be raided for pirate plunder. The text discusses the valid point that in reality because space is so vast, there is little chance of an encounter occurring. However, because there are many travel zones and shipping lanes, refuelling points and stop overs these chances are not going to be zero. To enable this, a number of encounter tables are presented depending on a number of factors, which include:-
– The Encounter Terrain; mainworlds, gas giants and the various zones of a solar system where traffic could be encountered.
– Traffic; the number of starships and stop over locations that are in the system at any one time.
– How safe is the system; is the system well patrolled, a frontier world or a backwater?
This then feeds the the process to generate the encounter which is described in a clear, easy-to-read set of steps, followed up with tables based on the factors previously described. These are all non-system specific but you are given enough guidance so that you can adapt the tables into whatever SFRPG system you happen to be using. For example one of the ship type tables (courier / scout) is broad enough that it could be easily be adapted to Classic Traveller or Clement Sector / Cepheus Engine with complete ease. The encounter tables aren’t limited to starships though; you have tables for ‘item encounters’ which include things like ‘large stations’ (naval bases, research or mining stations to mention just a few), planetoids or hazards.
Pages 57 and 58 give you a detailed example of how to put all this information together, so that you have a fully-fleshed out encounter.
Page 59 looks into the economics of piracy. No, this isn’t like a boring college lesson at all; its all relevant information for your players to actually make some cash out of the raid they’ve just performed on that huge naval base. This discussion is full of adventure ideas; the players having to pay off bribes to insiders who have helped the players with the raid; keeping the ships crew happy and paid; where do you sell the cargo, especially if it is ‘hot’? You’re not going to get market value so you’d better set your expectations low if you think you’re going to retire on the payoff from that cargo you’ve just nicked! This isn’t just a discussion however, you are given some game mechanics with how to deal with such situations.
To round off the book, you are presented with several adventure ideas (in the style of GKG’s ‘21 Plots’ or the Classic Traveller ‘76 Patron’s’ books), plus two specific system encounter tables and some NPC’s. The book has a limited amount of stock artwork in monochrome and colour which complements the content of the book.
Comparing to GKG’s ‘Skull and Crossbones: Piracy in Clement Sector’, the page count is almost the same, but GKG’s product takes a more descriptive approach (obviously as it is based around their ATU Clement Sector) but there are some common themes such as the economics of piracy, payments and life as a pirate. However much of GKG’s product is built more around the Clement Sector-specific content such as starship deck plans (which PaP does not have) and less around the generic encounter building that PaP is geared towards. GKG’s book is one of my all-time favourite gaming products and though PaP has some similar content, I find it stands extremely well on its own and has its own distinct identity compared to GKG’s product. In many ways they complete each other; the additional discussion around being a pirate and running piracy operations is stronger than GKG’s book, but GKG has more to offer with personalities, starships and what some individual worlds (in the Clement Sector) policy is towards piracy.
Piracy and Privateering is a thoroughly enjoyable read and useful resource for running space-borne piracy operations, 2D6 SFRPG referees will find a huge amount of useful material for their games which can be easily adapted for their own gaming ‘universe’. I’d consider this an excellent resource and set of tools for your games – therefore it is highly recommended! I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for very kindly sending me a copy to take a look at and for bearing with me for such a late review.