Today, the writer and one of the founders for Cakebread and Walton, Ken Walton, talks to us about his upcoming RPG setting Pirates & Dragons the RPG.
In Pirates and Dragons the RPG, gold loving pirates attempt to plunder the gold from one of fantasies most famous gold hoarders, dragons. This tabletop RPG features swashbuckling, magic, gunpowder, and cold steel as pirates attempt to plunder the New World and fight a dragon or two using the Renaissance D100 system.
DRPG: Tell us a little about yourself Ken and the company Cakebread and Walton.
Ken: I’ve been writing RPGs for years, beginning with GURPS Celtic Myth and Realms of Sorcery for Warhammer FRP, many a long year ago. Since 2010, I’ve been running my own small games company with my business partner and fellow-writer (and friend!) Peter Cakebread. We’ve produced a heap of books in that time, including the award-winning Abney Park’s Airship Pirates, Clockwork & Chivalry, and our own D100 core rules system, Renaissance Deluxe. The most recent book we’ve written is the wonderfully grim Dark Streets, which involves a handful of Bow Street Runners facing the Cthulhu Mythos monstrosities in Georgian London. We’ve also just released Underneath the Lamplight, a supplement written by the brilliant Andrew Peregrine for the Airship Pirates RPG. As well as writing and designing, I still find time to run a game once a week (currently we’re playing The One Ring using our own Renaissance rules) and Pete is introducing his kids to the joys of D&D and Pirates & Dragons.
DRPG: Why Pirates and Dragons as a concept?
Ken: We’re offering a huge sandbox in which players get to play at being pirates. They’ll get to steal treasure from dragons, explore weird tropical islands and ancient ruins, evade various navies, compete with double-crossing cutthroats, and get up to all kinds of skullduggery.
The Dragon Isles are a huge collection of islands. Some are occupied by native Islanders, some have been settled by Uropan colonists, and some are ruled by huge, powerful, and usually very unpleasant dragons, some of whom have enslaved tribes (the Dragon Tribes) and armies of undead at their beck and call.
For a while we were toying with the idea of a New World or Caribbean supplement for our Renaissance system. However, we decided to take a different direction and rather than write an historical supplement, we began to think about introducing more fantasy elements. With Clockwork & Chivalry, the emphasis was very much on the history in the alternate history. With Pirates & Dragons, although we draw on some elements from history, the action takes place in a fantasy world – it’s like the Caribbean, but it definitely isn’t the Caribbean. Not tying ourselves to real history or geography has meant that we can draw on elements from the Conquistadors to the Napoleonic Wars, but also mix in a whole host of fantasy elements that work really together. We love pirate movies, old and new, and we were also inspired by re-watching the old Ray Harryhausen movies with their ancient ruins and weird monsters.
We also wanted a more swashbuckling, cinematic feel to the mechanics, and we’ve adapted the rules to reflect this.
DRPG: The description makes it sounds like there is voodoo, science, religion, and steel. Is there a specific tribe on different islands representing different forms of magic and science across the setting?
Ken: OK, I’ll take these in order.
There are two types of magic. We don’t call it voodoo, but there is Island Magic – it’s generally benevolent, as long as you don’t cross the island spirits. Most Islanders have a little Island Magic, Shamans usually have a lot more. There’s also Dragon Magic, which is generally malevolent and in no small part necromantic. We’ve simplified how the magic system works, while keeping it very flavoursome. There are also magical items, rare artifacts and cursed relics to be found in dragon hoards and ancient Adalantan ruins.
As far as science goes, Islanders lived a pretty stone age existence before the arrival of the Uropans, although the Adalantan artifacts are evidence of an advanced ancient civilisation, in possession of a technology beyond that of the Uropans. The Uropans have technology that you’d expect to find in a pirate setting, but with a few twists. The Esbanians have vast galleons the size of a town and the Albionics have concentrated their naval innovations on dragon-hunting. The Batavians are the most scientifically and technologically adept, Batavian technologists are responsible for producing some very deadly weaponry. The Gaules, meanwhile, are too busy having a political revolution to worry about technological revolutions.
Religion doesn’t play a huge part in the core of the game (you’ll have to play Clockwork & Chivalry if you want that!) but nearly all the Uropans, to a greater or lesser extent, follow the True Church and the Islanders generally make sure that they stay on the good side of their island spirits. That said, the Esbanian Inquisition take a dim view of heresy (I bet you didn’t expect that!!).
As far as steel goes, the world is set up with conflict in mind – all the Uropan powers are in shifting state of war, truce and alliance, with each other and the various Islander tribes, as are the dragons. Some Islanders are at perpetual war with the Dragon Tribes (although they don’t use steel, they use hardwood and magic!). Meanwhile, out at sea, there are pirates, privateers, merchant companies, navies and dragons – as you can imagine, they don’t get on.
Ken: The party has a pool of Doubloons which they can spend to give themselves an edge, characters have swashbuckling skills they can use to perform cool stunts, and we’ve introduced a simple system of Talents, which allow them to do some other awesome things. We’ve created a system where characters can do all the amazing stunts that you see in pirate movies.
DRPG: On the Roll The Bones Pledge, you and up to five people get to play a game session with the authors. Very cool. Are you going to take them through character development etc? And how long of a game session can they expect?
Ken: We hadn’t thought of taking them through character development, but you know what, we will if they want us to! A minimum of 4+ hours, up to six – it’s down to what the players want. Likewise, we’ll offer a Q&A at the end of the session with both Pete and myself.
DRPG: The first add on pledge features a teeshirt with promises of additional addons. Can you give us a hint of the next add on surprise?
Ken: It won’t be a surprise then! Oh, go on then, something shiny…
DRPG: Can you talk about what the High Adalantans, Bestial Low Adalantans, and Insect People are?
Ken: There’s an area of the Dragon Isles known as the Storm Circle. The Storm Circle Sea is pretty unnavigable and best avoided – constant storms rage there, and sometimes strange things are washed ashore on its margins. Long ago, the High Adalantans fought a war with the dragons – whether they won or lost, no-one knows, but its said that the Storm Circle may be a portal to another dimension where the High Adalantan civilisation still flourishes. The Low Adalantans live on some of the islands nearest to the Storm Circle Sea, and are the bestial remnants of the ancient High Adalantan civilisation – blue cannibal humanoids who live in the ancient ruins of their forefathers’ cities and temples.
The Insect People generally live in hive societies although there are a few rare “awakened” specimens. They started as a simple entry in the bestiary, but they ended up being one of the major civilisations of the Dragon Isles. They are the sole providers of flame-proof sails for dragon-hunting ships. Many Esbanians consider them to be demons.
DRPG: Do you have any good stories from the creation or playtesting of Pirates and Dragons?
Ken: Shooting the video was pretty amusing, as well as being terrifying! Gary, our Art Director, performed sterling service as an auto-cue, filming while holding the script in his teeth, which made it difficult to keep a straight face.
It was also awesome letting our junior playtesters loose on the game. Mind you, they spent so long going “ooh” and “ah” over the fantastic map that Gary produced, and wanting to know who lived on every island, that it took a while for them to get to character creation. They also really enjoyed the Doubloons.
DRPG: How can we get in touch with Cakebread and Walton or support Pirates and Dragons?
Ken: You can get in touch with us via our website, www.clockworkandchivalry.co.uk or you can message us on the Kickstarter page. The Pirates & Dragons Kickstarter is at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1317990451/pirates-and-dragons-rpg
The best way to support us, is to support the Kickstarter – pledge if you can, and tell all of your friends. We have a lot of cool plans for the line, but we need the Kickstarter to succeed.
Are you excited about the upcoming Pirates and Dragons RPG campaign? Do you have an extra question I should have asked Ken? Let us know in the comments below!