Magazines‎ > ‎Pathfinder‎ > ‎Skulls and Shackles‎ > ‎

Raiders of the Fever Sea

So in the first part of this Adventure Series we had a slightly rocky start to the whole pirating experience but at the start of this instalment the PCs have their own ship and are ready to carve names for themselves a buccaneers.

Well not quite yet, there's still a necessary plot stop to make before we get to that. There's an interesting challenge in creating fixed page magazines and that is how to partition the material between issues. In this case the first part about refitting the character's ship feels more like it was part of the foundation story in the first instalment. Unsatisfyingly it sees the first decision the players make as captains of their own ship as being to continue the plans of their former tormentors.

Anyway it is understandable why this stuff happens, publishing a monthly magazine is not easy and I think it is just a little bit of rearranging by the GM to get a better structure.

Refitting

The first part of the adventure involves docking for repairs and this is handled through a nicely paced vignette of life in the hidden dock. The island is in the middle of a drought that affects both the human and animal life of the island. There are chances to make friends and enemies and inevitably the chance to get tremendously in hock to an NPC.

There is fundamental problem with the pirate premise of this series though. Essentially the game is still rewarding heroic behaviour. The players might be pirates but they are freebooters with a heart of gold. This might seems a standard cliche but actually if you look at things like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies then they work quite hard to establish a conflict between heroism and selfishness and provide some psychological reason why their characters act heroically (or suppress their heroic inclinations and work with roguish characters).

You kind of wonder what would happen if instead of reducing their refitting bill by running errands for the dockmaster the characters just run him through instead.

The open sea

With the refit done we are now onto the meat of this section, namely a set of encounters that can be tackled in a more freeform way as the players sail around looking for adventure.

This is the first time the pirate theme is actually expressed in the game with a sense of freedom and opportunism running through the encounters.

There is one "fixed" encounter that allows the players to acquire a base of operations through charm, force or subterfuge. While the latitude is admirable it is also skin deep as the game once again assumes that the island fortress will be taken by diplomacy.

I feel that Paizo's Kingmaker series tackled this kind of "free play" material better but honestly since there isn't any cleverness is creating open situations with intriguing resolutions I don't think it is structural. It just isn't very good.

Mancatcher Cove

It is an expression of the uneven writing and constrictions of the monthly magazine format that this issue concludes with an island dungeon that is meant to serve as some kind of conclusion. I have a lot of problems with this whole section, firstly the PCs clue as to the existence of the island is in the form of a tattoo on an abused woman's back. The woman has been commanded to attack the PCs and is expected to be dead when the tattoo is discovered.

If the theme of this path is swashbuckling then I am not sure we really need this kind of difficult material. Treasure map tattoos are okay but if they are being read off dead bodies then we need the owner to be an irredeemable scoundrel and really it works better if the villains of this adventure betray their current masters on a whim. All the better to foster a sense of knavery on the seas.

The vague note of misogyny here was echoed in the previous issue's use of Chelish ship whores. It is really not edifying.

But if we get over the questionable device and whether it is appropriate to the theme. Then we have another problem. The final dungeon is very similar to the one in the last issue and while having more locations possesses less imagination in its set pieces.

All in all it sums up this issue as smacking mightily of filler.

Comments