Skulls and Shackles, Ship Idea

This post will be of interest to people who play Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, specifically those who have played Skulls and Shackles and found the ships to be less than piratey or engaging. For some background, Skulls and Shackles is the pirate themed Adventure Path. As part of the theme, there are ships. Ships are represented by cards that don’t do much.

Ships can be used to move characters, when they are not docked at one location. Ships are used to store plunder underneath them, when you acquire plunder. Think of plunder as extra post game loot. Characters can encounter other ships, but instead of epic ship vs ship encounters with cannons blasting, heroic boarding actions, and other pirate themed ship stuff defeating another ship is a simple check, typically attribute or skill not related to combat. Ships can take damage, which can be offset by discarding cards from a character’s hand, any character. Ships despite being a central theme, the characters mutiny to take over their first ship, play little memorable role in the adventure path. Just another obstacle or thing to ignore.

I’ve been pondering a way to make ships more important and interesting and I think I may have hit upon something. Keep in mind this is a rough idea and I am aware that I have thought of every interaction that would be affected.

At the start of Skulls and Shackles Adventure Path, instead of choosing a class 0 ship card, players would choose from one of the following “starter” ships. Each ship has a card just like characters do, with attributes, skills, and power feats. I thought about using different names for attributes and skills, but did not want to create new rules. Instead the attributes have different meanings for ships.

  • Strength and Melee: size and skill of the ships crew for boarding actions
  • Dexterity and Ranged: number, accuracy, and power of cannons
  • Constitution and Fortitude: durability of the ship
  • Intelligence and Knowledge or Craft: complexity of ship, ease of repair, etc.
  • Wisdom and Perception: functions of the ship (not sure what I mean by that) 🙂
  • Charisma and Diplomacy: intimidation/wow factor of the ship

The ship’s Attribute die and skill bonus would be used by anyone on the ship when they encounter another ship or aquatic monster or barrier (this would require some modifying of cards to make complete sense). This would represent the crew of the ship on the ship tackling the challenge instead of just the character on the ship tackling the challenge.

Power Feats examples:

  • Hull Armor: Reduce damage to ship by 1, 2, or 3 (2 and 3 would be check boxes)
  • Barrage: Increase range damage by 1 or 2 and add fire (2 and fire would be check boxes)
  • Long Boats: Characters at the same location can move to another adjacent location, even if ship is docked
  • Increase plunder capacity by 1, 2, or 3 cards (all would be check boxes)

Ships would have a deck consisting of plunder equal to their starting class, this deck is called capacity. It is a combination of end game loot and life points for the ship. All ships start out with one plunder card per current rules, additional plunder cards are added as per current rules. A ship can carry a maximum plunder cards equal to its capacity rating. Damage inflicted on a ship cannot be reduced through character discard, although character abilities (such as the swashbuckler character) can reduce damage. To represent damage taken by the ship, plunder cards are discarded. When all of the plunder cards are gone the ship has sunk; the ship has died. At the start of the next scenario players start with a new ship or another ship from their fleet.

It’s a rough idea, but one that our group will explore during our next playthru of Skulls and Shackles. As I mockup cards and work on the idea I will post more. If you have any thoughts please share them.



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