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Privateers & Gentlemen - the lost Chaosium edition?


Warthur

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Was looking over the PDF haul from the Call of Cthulhu Classic Kickstarter and was glancing over the reproduction of the Winter 1981 Chaosium catalogue they've included, and I was interested to see listed as a forthcoming game none other than Privateers & Gentlemen.

For anyone who's not heard of it, this was a Hornblower-esque RPG of adventure in the age of sail, which was originally published by Fantasy Games Unlimited along with Heart of Oak, the associated naval wargame rules. Checking my FGU copy, I note that it's designated as a second edition, with the first edition having come out in 1978.

I guess the Winter Catalogue is evidence that at one point Chaosium had been planning to publish P&G - which would make sense given that its system is clearly based on BRP - but eventually let it go to FGU. I'd be super-interested to hear about the history there, because given that its first edition came out before CoC or Stormbringer, Privateers would be the first published adaptation of the BRP system to a non-Runequest context, so it's a pretty interesting "missing link".

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  • 2 weeks later...

P&G was mentioned by Rick Meints in one of the Out of the Suitcase posts, the one about things that appeared in the old catalogs that for one reason or another didn't materialize. There are probably a hosts of reasons why one thing or the other didn't see print-not the least of which was money. Back then they probably could only afford to get X things printed and had X+20 things to choose from. Considering how productive Chaosium was in the early 80s P&G could have been dropped to make room for CoC, Stormbringer, Worlds of Wonder, Cults of Terror, or some other thing that did see print in' 81/'82.

I always wondered why P&G was so similar to RQ. I wonder how much more similar it would have been had Chaosium released it. Considering how much information is in the book, what would Chaosium  done with it? Cut some of it? Simplify it? or print in in a smaller point font, such as FGU? 

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

I always wondered why P&G was so similar to RQ. I wonder how much more similar it would have been had Chaosium released it. 

This is essentially the game I was hoping to see in the pages of the misbegotten Blood Tide.  It's a pity those dots couldn't have been connected.

!i!

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carbon copy logo smallest.jpg  ...developer of White Rabbit Green

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3 hours ago, Ian Absentia said:

This is essentially the game I was hoping to see in the pages of the misbegotten Blood Tide.  It's a pity those dots couldn't have been connected.

!i!

It wouldn't be that hard to adapt P&B to BRP either. Could even use the RQ3/Stormbringer ship rules as a baseline. Elric has stats for early Brigs and Schooners, so it wouldn't be all that hard to add in Sloops, Frigates Galleons, and Ships of the line. I could see either statting up cannon by weight of shot and adding in bonus to hit for multiple guns in a volley (it's hard to hit a moving ship, especially from another moving ship), or do up damage by weight of broadside (1D6 per so many pounds of shot).

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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46 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

It wouldn't be that hard to adapt P&B to BRP either...

Just -how- "not that hard," do you think?   (I recall looking wistfully at the P&G/HoO duo, and thinking that sounded like an awesome combo to run, whipping out the wargame to run the actual naval battles, and the RPG for everything else.  As I recall, my college (or just-post-college?) budget said "no, thank you.")

At this point, however, a really good "1700's Napoleonic/Regency/American-Independence era BRP" game is a goodly chunk of one of my 2-3 low-key / back-burner passion projects, currently only a few notes in the cloud... and a lot of inchoate speculation still rattling between the eardrums...

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8 hours ago, Ian Absentia said:

This is essentially the game I was hoping to see in the pages of the misbegotten Blood Tide.  It's a pity those dots couldn't have been connected.

!i!

Buried somewhere in the utterly woeful organisation of the published version of Blood Tide there's a  lot of good material; it just desperately needed better editing and layout... and probably flensing down to a more focused work (it feels flabby and overstuffed with ideas all over the shop at 240 pages).

*sigh* I regularly get enthused about a nugget of an idea I've had for years for a fantasy BRP / horror (but NOT Cthulhu ) thing that riffs on bits of UK and Caribbean history circa 1680-1690 for which Blood Tide OUGHT to be an ideal resource - and then I try to read the damn book again and get annoyed all over again... ...I still hope that Ken Spencer will link up with someone and do a second edition with better editing and layout (and a sane index...).

... hold on. I might have a PDF of P&G... *exit stage left to interrogate various old backups and external hard drives...*

3 hours ago, g33k said:

Just -how- "not that hard," do you think?   (I recall looking wistfully at the P&G/HoO duo, and thinking that sounded like an awesome combo to run, whipping out the wargame to run the actual naval battles, and the RPG for everything else.  As I recall, my college (or just-post-college?) budget said "no, thank you.")


At this point, however, a really good "1700's Napoleonic/Regency/American-Independence era BRP" game is a goodly chunk of one of my 2-3 low-key / back-burner passion projects, currently only a few notes in the cloud... and a lot of inchoate speculation still rattling between the eardrums...

Found it! Quickly scanning character gen, its very  BRP and combat skills look VERY RQ; melee combat has a vaguely strike rank like system, with hit locations etc. (Cutlass does 1D6+2, Smallsword 1D6 etc).  Non-Combat skills are assigned to a stat and then a simple "roll d20 vs stat, roll under to succeed". There's a fair bit of detail about social status, family, crewing a ship / operating as a privateer or other operations, surviving ship board life (scurvy etc)... 

Definitely worth a look for BRP fans and the PDF is $10 from Drive ThruRPG. Very much an artefact of its times in some ways, but looks to be one of the "good" FGU games.

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5 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

Buried somewhere in the utterly woeful organisation of the published version of Blood Tide there's a  lot of good material; it just desperately needed better editing and layout... 

All of this.  Blood Tide is the only game book from any publisher that has made me actually angry.

5 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

...and probably flensing down to a more focused work (it feels flabby and overstuffed with ideas all over the shop at 240 pages).

This may have been what pushed me past disappointment and into anger.  It needed a clear mission statement, either historical piracy on the high seas or historical horror in the Caribbean.  In a perfect world, it might have been a good historical supplement to P&G.

!i!

carbon copy logo smallest.jpg  ...developer of White Rabbit Green

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12 hours ago, g33k said:

Just -how- "not that hard," do you think?   

From the RPG system not hard at all. P&G is very similar to RQ2. It changes SIZ to MASS and varies weapon damages a point or two, changed some skills to D20 scale, but probably isn't much more different than Mythras, Pendragon,  or any other near-BRP game system. P&G is close enough that you can pretty much take what you want and mix it with BRP rules that you prefer.

The hardest part to adapt would be the ship battles. Heart of Oak is really a stand alone wargame, rather than ship rules for an RPG. If I were to run an Age of Sail BRP campaign, I'd probably port over the RQ3/Stormbringer ship rules, and come up with stats for the various ship types. Off the top of my head 1 point of Hull in Heart of Oak seems to be equivalent to 10 Structure Points in BRP. As Heart of Oak equate Number of Guns and Hull, the broadside damage in BRP could be based on the Structure Points of a ship. Generally speaking it takes several broadsides for a ship to disable/sink a similar ship, so the average damage takenshould be lower than the structure points in BRP terms. I'd probably do up some sort of damage scale either by gun (with a bonus to hit for firing multiple guns)  or by total broadside weight. RQ seaworthiness seems to be a multiplier of the Beaufort Number, and tonnage could be worked out using one of the formulas used during the era...so it could be done without too much trouble. 

But it depends on how badly you need the info on the Royal Navy and Heart of Oak. If you don't need that stuff it would be just as easy to run the campaign without P&G. 

 

12 hours ago, g33k said:

 

 

I recall looking wistfully at the P&G/HoO duo, and thinking that sounded like an awesome combo to run, whipping out the wargame to run the actual naval battles, and the RPG for everything else.  As I recall, my college (or just-post-college?) budget said "no, thank you.")

At $15 for the PDf it's not a bad option. FGU's Flashing Blades and High Seas would be another possibility too. Not as crucnhy or detailed as P&G, and set in an earlier era, but much more RPG oriented.

12 hours ago, g33k said:



At this point, however, a really good "1700's Napoleonic/Regency/American-Independence era BRP" game is a goodly chunk of one of my 2-3 low-key / back-burner passion projects, currently only a few notes in the cloud... and a lot of inchoate speculation still rattling between the eardrums...

P&G might be worth it then. IMO it's big draw is the information and rules it provides regarding the Royal Navy, character promotions, and history. It's kinda like going though a histroy book, but one where the author tries to give you the feel on actually living during those times rather than focusing on names and dates. As far as game mechaics go, RQ/BRP does most of it better. BTW, just what would you need to run such a campaign?

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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16 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

Definitely worth a look for BRP fans and the PDF is $10 from Drive ThruRPG. Very much an artefact of its times in some ways, but looks to be one of the "good" FGU games.

Just a tenner?  Well, then!
 

6 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

...P&G might be worth it then...

Looks like it very well might!
 

 

6 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

... BTW, just what would you need to run such a campaign?

Oh, no; it's not an *actual* historical game that I plan to run.


The other thing I'd need would be some decent aerial-dogfighting rules, if you novik I mean... 😉

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51 minutes ago, g33k said:

Oh, no; it's not an *actual* historical game that I plan to run.

Then the question is do you need the stuff for the orgnaization and pay grades for the Royal Navy at all.

51 minutes ago, g33k said:


The other thing I'd need would be some decent aerial-dogfighting rules, if you novik I mean... 😉

Yeah. Probably the easiest thing to do would be to adapt dogfighting rules from another RPG. Hero System has a nice opposed skill roll system that could be adapted to BRP easily enough, something like:

Tie: Both planes neutral; neither may fire

Win but same Success level: Both planes neutral; neither may fire, winner gets +20% to next turn's dogfighting.

Win by 1 success level: Head On; both planes may fire once

Win by 2 success levels: Side On: Attacker may fire once

Win by 3 or more success levels: Tailing: Attacker may fire.

 

 

 and a few games have maneuvers that could be adapted. Both the James Bond RPG and Warbirds RPG spring to mind. 

 

It all depends on how detailed you need it to be.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I quite liked Blood Tide, at least in concept - but it very much felt like one of those products which was essentially a monograph given a fairly bare-bones art and layout job and pushed out the door. Perhaps more work went into it than that - but if so, that work doesn't seem to have been reflected in the end product.

I don't miss that particular era of Chaosium's history - too many products which had some really interesting ideas but were hampered with standards of editing and presentation which might have passed muster in the 1990s but were increasingly sloppy and out of step with the rest of the market, and a fair few products which just didn't merit release at all. The monograph idea at least was an early pass at the sort of thing you get now with the Miskatonic Repository and similar schemes - but actually printing the damn things rather than selling them as PDFs was absurd.

Blood Tide was a victim of sloppy standards, and failing to give it better direction and a better editing job in general was part of that. I don't blame Ken Spencer at all for how it turned out.

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Flashing Blades (also FGU) and its supplements would also provide useful/stealable info, d20 based but easily convertible to d100. Pretty good game in its own right too. The High Seas book includes rules for ships, and a mini campaign including possibility (or not) of some voodoo being involved.

Always start what you finish.

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I come somewhat late to this chat, however, Privateers and Gentlemen is a very good sort of rules set both as a stand alone role playing game (on a BRP model, a person who is familiar with another BRP system will have no problem grasping everything) and as a wargame rules set.  There is a very good link between the two things, so you could have the players as officers on a plausible ship and have that 'work' well.

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