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KnolanCross

Pirate RPG class design

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Hi there, lately I have been thinking a lot of a pirate class design for a RPG system, but haven't really got much success.

 

Most of pirate classes you find around are designed as a swashbuckler fighting style, mostly using movement with ropes. Most also focus on using light and fast weapons or double guns, also they always focus on using light armor (since falling into the sea in a full plate would kill the wearer). In the end it tends to be mix of a rogue and a warrior, with no focus on stealth and heavy focus on high mobility and balance fighting style.

 

My problem with it is: assuming the world has magic all around, wouldn't it make sense that they have magic abilities to survive on the sea? Fighting with heavier armor would be a huge advantage (a great example of this are the iron born of the Song of Ice and Fire book series*), specially considering that heavy armored classes wouldn't be able to use it in the sea.

 

So far my concept would be:

- Medium armor wearing.

- Water and Wind magic (maybe ghost also? ghost ship spell would be nice).

- Ability to find treasures.

 

But that is it, while I see they using a spell to produce fresh water or change the course of the winds, I couldn't think of an interesting way to bring those spells to combat. So, I would love to hear other people opinion on this. How do you see pirates in a fantasy medieval world?

 

* In the book they use heavy armor, but they don't use any magic. They are just not afraid to die drowning, as they see it as a glorious death and believe that their afterlife will be in under the sea.

Edited by KnolanCross

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When I think of pirates spells never really come to my mind.  Mostly because spells are usually a scholarly pursuit.  Pirates have always seemed to only want to learn about the sea or the bar wench of the night.

If I were designing a game where Pirates had spells, the spells would probably be quite simple or revolve around chanties(pirate songs).  Pirate life just isn't really suited for dedication to learning magic in a traditional sense.

As for armor, medium(leather) armor would probably be the highest weight for a pirate, due to their required need for flexibility and mobility to maneuver around on a ship in the high seas.

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My problem with it is: assuming the world has magic all around, wouldn't it make sense that they have magic abilities to survive on the sea?

 

So far my concept would be:

- Medium armor wearing.

- Water and Wind magic (maybe ghost also? ghost ship spell would be nice).

- Ability to find treasures.

 

But that is it, while I see they using a spell to produce fresh water or change the course of the winds, I couldn't think of an interesting way to bring those spells to combat.

 

 

1) Why restrict the spells to water and wind magic / finding treasures? Odds are, if you can come up with ANY kind of spell that would be useful in some generic or miscellaneous context, a pirate would find a way to use such magic to his advantage. Use a fire spell to heat up his enemies sword so that it's too hot to wield, or explode  gunpowder from a distance (maybe some in his adversary's gun?). Or maybe he has some illusion spell that will charm reluctant shipmates into joining him for an undesirable venture. Or maybe he uses the same illusion spell to quell a mutiny by using it on a key crew member to sway people's thinking.
2) While the dedication to scholarly study brought up by moneal is indeed not characteristically the "pirate way", if you are flexible on it, there are innumerable alternative methods that you could design into the magic system in the story. Perhaps magic doesn't require a carefully honed study of texts and instead merely relies on the will of the user or the experience they have with performing similar activities in real life. Or perhaps magic itself is merely an ability to supernaturally extend the effects of someone's already present skillset. Or maybe the magic is a technology that can be uncovered as treasure and then utilized by the pirates as they gleefully sink their fingers through mystical, forgotten artifacts connected with a terrible history the world knows not...at least until the pirates stumble upon it (Pirates of the Caribbean?).

In the end, yes, it makes sense that pirates would have magic skills (if magic is readily available to them) that would help them to "survive on the sea", but far more than that. Why simply have them use magic in a purely utilitarian way. If you want people to really believe in the world you have created in which pirates are merged with magic, you gotta sell it. Pirates would probably use magic for all kinds of nefarious and likely lewd or drunken activities. The way that you design your magic system will substantially weave into the pirates a different interaction between themselves and magic, so that will be key. As for what skills to have, use your imagination. Draw from other fiction you see. And don't think they need to be utilitarian. Think, "If my character can change the direction of the wind with magic, what does that imply about what he can DO with magic? What other sorts of things could he use that magical skill for? And to what end(s)? How can I worldbuild the environment and culture of my setting and characters such that the magic seems like a 'natural' part of it and not simply tacked on?"

Good luck~

Edited by facehead1992

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Several things to note - when you go on to design a class for an RPG or design just about any archetype of character, you have to make the archetype seem realistic. And not realistic in the blunt sense but realistic in your own world that bends on it's own rules. You have to follow the same rules you yourself have created in order for things to stay consistent, realistic and believable. In that regard, if your world is heavy on magic it would be only logical for a pirate to be able to use such skills. However, I'm not so sure about the notion of the medium armor or just about any type of armor that's not light or even cloth. Thing is - the pirates are not combat motivated like say a barbarian. They thrive on riches, finding treasure, plundering and other stuff like that. They are basically greedy and would go on to do nasty stuff to satisfy their greed. In the land of exploration and sea adventure - the waters were the perfect place for defunct sailers and demoted captains to pursue these passions. And that's just the thing here - you give out the Ironborn analogy. They are prototyped more on Vikings that indeed did plunder but they craved battle and lived off of what they stole. So to the iron born, the heavy armor is something more in tune. The pirates though ... they want to live to see another day, to plunder another ship for it's riches and drink another bottle of rum. They need something light to swim in if (when) they fall.

That's the main thing of the pirate archetype - selfish, greedy, plundering, mobile, agile, sea bound, bravery driven off of greed, scavenging, adventurous.

 

Just my two cents on the topic though.

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Almost any kind of spell would be highly useful for piracy as a job: illusions to mislead ships, fireballs etc. to threaten a whole crew, mind-affecting spells to make defenders ineffective, portals into the storage areas to loot without the hassle of a proper battle, offensive and defensive buffing to prevail in combat, etc. Magical countermeasures against piracy would be equally varied.

Your pirate class, on the other hand, isn't focused around piracy, it is focused on the sort of ship-to-ship personal combat required by a specific mundane style of piracy that would simply not exist in a world where magic is common and is a better way to fight at sea. 

You need a compromise between swashbuckling and magic: magic should be carefully limited so that it doesn't affect piracy enough to make combat useless.

 

For example, if almost any seaman could shoot decent antipersonnel magical attacks beyond cannon range, artillery would be obsolete (not a great loss) and engagements would begin with a possibly brutal shootout (not unlike the airship battles in the Last Exile anime); assuming magical energy runs out and there are no other common spells the engagement would proceed normally to boarding and evasion, with less ship damage and likely more wounded people than in real-life piracy (not affecting combat style too much).

If the same kind of magical shooting were a rare ability, high level pirate crews would hire a sniper and the sniper would pick off officers unopposed (or, rather, threaten to do so: what captain wants to order an attack knowing that he's going to be incinerated before seeing the outcome?).

Many targets would try to run faster than pirates or surrender because they can't, while rare and privileged targets would bring their own wizard sniper to put up a fight (usually causing pirates to retreat).

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Pirates could very plausibly have an alcohol affinity, like dwarves or bear-people do in some settings.  Also I think that in a setting with lots of magic guns would likely run on magic, and you could have fire-magic guns and water-magic guns, etc.  Harpoons might also be in there somewhere, as the sea equivalent of a spear.  Wind magic might go with a whip or a chain weapon, unless you want your pirates to use bows and arrows or boomerangs or throwing stars or tessens (battle fans).  I was thinking they'd tend to get lost in the water though.  Depending on your magic system, you might have some kind of wood bending or nature affinity that could make an enemy ship attack its crew or spontaneously spring leaks; might be important for repairing broken masts and holes in ships too.  If your ropes are made of plant fiber they could also be commanded to attack people.  Animal affinity could call sea birds to attack too; aside from direct attacks they could cause status ailments like distract/confuse or curse.

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Wow, many replies, thank you for those.

 

As for magic being a scholar art, I would say it pretty much depends on the world. In a classic D&D world, that would be very accurate, but in many fantasy worlds I don't see things like this. In a heavy magic available world I see some magic being available to most people with the will to use (though heavy magic uses would probably require focus). The problem is to find the right balance... of course if any pirate could easily summon a 100 ft waterspout, nobody would travel by sea, but if they could for instance enchant their weapons with the water property, it wouldn't be so scared.

 

On the selfish part, I don't think it would hold true to pirates, after all they would be as effective as their crew, so being completely selfish wouldn't be efficient. Also, considering you lose a battle in the middle of the sea, what would you do? Throw yourself in the sea and try to swin hundreds of miles.

 

As alcohol skills, I though of it, but all I could think of was reduced received damage, resistance to fear effects and some trade-off skills (higher attack speed for lower hit chance, for instance).

 

Finaly, as for treasure finding, that would be an ability, not magic focus.

 

My goal is an action game, in the style of the old Secret of Mana games, using a tree skill system (games as Diablo 2, Ragnarok Online and Soma Bringer are examples that use those).

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