The ARRR! PIRATES! Live Game


Fight, drink, dance, fight, sing, wench, fight, and plunder!


by Ian Fagan and Brian McInnis

with acknowledgements to Scott Martin, Charles Ofria, and Cheryl Vuong


ARRR! PIRATES! is a lighthearted, one-time live game to be run from 8:30 to 11 p.m. on Monday, October 20, 1997.


Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to - the sooner the better.


Admission is one dollar; beverages will be provided. The admission fee may be waived if you bring snacks or beverages (please let us know in advance if you intend to do so.)


All of the information below is subject to revision before the game takes place. Any changes to these rules will be announced before the game begins.



Collect the most treasure and become the wealthiest pirate. Or collect the most Pirate Points and be acknowledged the Pirate King! In addition, most characters should have a personal goal; for example, slay the pirate who murdered your brother, or buy your own pirate ship, or prove yourself to be the best gunner in the Spanish Main.


Hand-to-Hand Combat

We will be using the mod-6 system (developed by Ian Fagan and Charles Ofria) for handling personal combat. This system is essentially a way of simulating the roll of a six-sided die.

This method is almost exactly like scissors-paper-rock, except that instead of one of those symbols, each person throws out a number of fingers from zero to five. These numbers are then added together, and then (this is the tricky part) if the total is six or more, subtract six. This final number is referred to as the Throw, and is a completely random number between zero and five. (Trust us.) This is much easier than it sounds; this has been used in other games with almost no difficulty. A demonstration should make everything clear.

The Throw is then added to the attacker's Fighting stat (which will be between zero and three.) If this sum is equal to four or more, the defender takes a point of damage.

In a one-on-one combat, players alternate attacking and defending; the person who initiated combat should attack first. In a combat involving more than two people, make sure everyone has had a chance to attack before anyone attacks again.



If you have a cutlass, you get a +1 bonus to your Fighting stat. Flintlock pistols will be represented by dart guns. (If you have extra dart or Nerf weapons, please bring them.) A flintlock can be fired only once per combat and inflicts one point of damage on anyone you hit. (Head shots will not count, and anyone shooting others in the head may be expelled from the game immediately at the gamemasters' discretion.) You may not carry more than two flintlock pistols.


Unconsciousness and Death

Most people will have three hit points. If you are reduced to zero hit points, you are either unconscious or dead, at your attacker's whim. If you are unconscious, you will wake up in five minutes with one hit point. If you are killed, report to the GMs, who will have a plethora of new characters for you to choose from.


Ship Sailing

Each person who owns a ship will have four pieces of twine. Four people may each take two ends of twine and form a diamond; this is the ship formation. The captain of the ship must be at the front. You may not leave port until the ship is in formation and the captain has shouted "Hoist the mainsails!" At this time you may proceed out of port. The captain leads the way; the other sailors must follow the captain's lead. The ship must keep moving at all times when not in port, and can only move forward (no sideways or backward maneuvers.) Anyone not among the crew who is on the ship must be in the middle of the diamond.

The speed at which the ship can move depends upon the skill of the captain. If the captain has no Captaining skill, all crew members must walk heel-to-toe (that is, the heel of your forward foot must touch the toe of your back foot with each step. Yes, this is slow and annoying.) If the captain has a Captaining skill of 1, the crew may walk normally. If the captain has a skill of 2, the crew may walk as fast as they can. If the captain has a skill of 3, the crew may skip. The ship need not move at top speed, but cannot stop in place unless it is in port. Passengers need not move in the same way as the crew, but must remain inside the bounds of the ship. There is no "Sailing" skill; anyone may serve as crew on a ship.

There are two types of ships: pinnaces and galleons. For a pinnace, the lengths of twine will be ten feet long, and the ship can have one gunner. For a galleon, the lengths of twine are fifteen feet long, and the ship can have two gunners firing simultaneously. Either ship can accommodate any number of passengers.


Ship Combat

Gunners will have large, extremely lightweight rubber balls with which to hurl at the enemy. Balls must be pitched underhand at the crew of enemy ships. If someone is hit, that section of his ship is damaged; he must hold the twine over his head and is no longer a valid target. However, for every man down, the captain's effective Captaining skill is reduced by one. (If his skill is reduced to zero, the crew must walk heel-to-toe. If his skill is reduced to -1, the ship is brought to a standstill, and he must shout "Stand by to repel boarders!"; if it is reduced to -2 or lower, he must shout "All hands abandon ship!", and the ship promptly sinks.) The head of an enemy crew member is NOT a valid target. Attempting to dodge the cannonballs (other than by steering the entire ship away) is not permitted.

Hitting a crew member does not actually harm the character, merely that part of the ship. However, the crew member is incapacitated for boarding purposes (see below.)

The first cannonball "fired" may be thrown at any time. However, immediately after firing, the crew must begin to sing "yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!" and the crew of the other ship must join in. Subsequent cannonballs may only be thrown on the word "me!"

If the gunner has no Gunnery skill, he may throw every third "me!" If he has Gunnery 1, he may throw every second "me!", and if he has Gunnery 2, he can throw on every "me!" Since the crews are singing in unison, this ensures that everyone is firing at the proper rates in relation to each other.

Each gunner may carry up to three cannonballs at any given time (and crew members may not carry any.) However, crew members may pick up stray cannonballs and hand them to the gunner (as long as he doesn't already have three.) Thus, a fair amount of ship combat may be spent chasing cannonballs. Think of it as maneuvering for position in ever-changing winds. Or don't.

If the gunner is hit by cannon fire, he may switch places with any still-functional crew member. He is considered a functional crew member and need not hold the twine over his head. However, he may not become the gunner again on this voyage. The new gunner may then commence firing (albeit using his own Gunnery skill.)

If the captain is struck by cannon fire, he is incapacitated, just like a crewman, and should switch places with another crew member and hold the twine over his head. The ship must always be piloted by a member of the crew who has not been incapacitated. (Hence, if there is no one else on board with the Captaining skill, a ship may be brought to a standstill by simply hitting the captain.) Passengers struck by cannonballs are killed, but they may dodge as much as they like (as long as they stay within the bounds of the ship.) Rebounds don't count (i.e., if a cannonball hits Joe, then bounces away and hits Jane, only Joe is considered to have been struck by cannon fire.)

If a ship is brought to a standstill, it may be boarded. (Upon taking enough damage to bring one's ship to a standstill, the captain must shout "Stand by to repel boarders!") The boarding ship must pull up alongside the immobilized ship (which may continue to fire until the boarding ship comes within ten feet.) Hand-to-hand combat then begins as normal; however, anyone hit by a cannonball during ship combat may not participate. If everyone on one ship is killed, knocked unconscious, or surrenders, then the bodies and ship may be looted. (Surrendering in the face of overwhelming force is encouraged.)

If a ship is sunk, anyone not dead or unconscious may swim for shore. Swimmers move at the same speed as a ship with no competent captain (walk heel-to-toe) and the swimmer must make swimming motions with his/her arms. The swimmer must head for the CLOSEST shore. Any swimmer hit by a cannonball is killed instantly. Swimmers may be hauled out of the water by other ships, but may not climb onto passing ships on their own. Swimmers lose any money that they were carrying, but may retain weapons and maps. All of the cargo on a sunk ship is lost for good.


The Islands

Port Royale is a thriving pirate base. Here, ships may be repaired, grog may be consumed, and weapons can be purchased. Shipments of rum may be sold here and dry goods purchased at favorable prices.

Caracas is an important Spanish port. Here, ships may be purchased and repaired, grog may be consumed, and bounties can be claimed. Sugar can be sold here and shipments of rum can be purchased at favorable prices.

Petit Goave is a small settlement in Western Hispaniola. The strange religion of voodoo is rumored to be practiced by the native inhabitants. Dry goods may be sold here and sugar bought at good prices.

Treasure Island has no inhabitants. Treasure may be buried here, to prevent it from being stolen. Any amount of treasure can be buried at once, but each burial takes five minutes. Take an index card; write your name on it, an identifying number (a different one for each burial you perform), and draw a crude map (with an X to mark the spot.) The gamemaster in charge of Treasure Island will take your money and make a note of the burial. You MUST have the map in order to recover your treasure. Reclaiming your own treasure takes five minutes; digging up someone else's treasure (using their map) takes ten minutes. You may give the map to someone else to hold for you, but you may not hide it anywhere.



Although women are generally not welcome on pirate vessels, pirates are not very bright and are easily fooled by a simple disguise. Women should be assumed to be in male garb unless they let you know otherwise.



Drinking a mug of grog will heal a point of damage. You must also carouse for three minutes while drinking the grog; carousing is characterized by bawdy songs, hooting, hollering, fighting, boasting, and general revelry. (Actual beverages will be provided.) The damage is healed, but you are also intoxicated for the next fifteen minutes; while intoxicated, your Captaining, Fighting, and Gunning skills are all reduced by one level. This is cumulative; for example, you may drink two mugs of grog to heal two points of damage, but you must carouse for six minutes and you are intoxicated for thirty minutes. A mug of grog costs a single piece o' eight.

Barrels of rum, which are a trade good, can also heal damage. By breaking open a barrel of rum, up to six people can drink their fill; however, the barrel is used and cannot be sold. The same intoxication penalties apply for drinking rum as for drinking grog. (but there's less nasty aftertaste.) Since damage during a ship battle is to the ship, not the crew, this will do no good during a battle.

Note that penalties to Captaining for intoxication and for damage to a ship are cumulative, so a drunk captain of a damaged ship is in real trouble! It is the captain's responsibility to keep track of his current effective Captaining skill at all times, and inform the crew appropriately.


Picking Pockets

People with the appropriate skill may steal things from others. To pick a pocket, you must place a sticker (provided by the GMs) on your target without your target noticing. You must then inform a GM of what you have done. If the sticker is still there, the GM will remove it, along with a random item from the target, and give it to you secretly. (The best pickpockets can target a specific type of item; a coin, map, or weapon.)



The town elders in Caracas will post bounties on certain known pirates. Anyone who can bring in that pirate will receive the reward. A dead pirate is worth only half the reward. (If a dead pirate is brought in and later found to have Cheated Death, the reward automatically doubles.)


Attacking the Town

Caracas puts out bounties on known pirates, and if they are brought in alive they will be held for trial. They can be freed by attacking the town. To attack the town, sail towards it and begin singing "Yo, ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!" A GM, or possibly a player, will man the fort, join the singing, and begin firing cannonballs. If the defender of the fort is disabled, the town can be stormed and captives freed. If the ship is disabled in the harbor (i.e., while attacking the town), the pirates will be captured and held prisoner. Anyone involved in a successful attack on the town immediately has a bounty of five doubloons put on his/her head (or added to his/her current bounty.) Attacking the town is a good way to earn Pirate Points.


Repairing Ships

Ships can be repaired in Port Royale and Caracas. This takes five minutes and costs ten doubloons for every point of damage the ship has taken (i.e., each crew members who was hit.) Caracas will not repair ships for anyone who has a bounty on his/her head.



It is typical for treasure gathered on a voyage to be shared out among the crew, with the captain getting a double share. However, crews and captains are free to distribute treasure however they see fit. Mutiny over treasure division is not uncommon.

Pirate Points

Pirate Points are awarded by the GMs, completely at their whim, to players who are acting like pirates. This includes using pirate slang, singing lustily, going down with one's ship, mutinying, shouting "Arr!", etcetera. At the end of the game, the person with the most Pirate Points is declared the Pirate King. In addition, if you are killed and you have at least three Pirate Points, you may spend them to Cheat Death. Act as if killed, and then report to a GM and tell them that you are spending your Pirate Points to Cheat Death. You will be out of the game for ten minutes and must come up with an explanation for how you cheated death, but can then return to the game uninjured (but minus your Pirate Points.) Sample explanations: you weren't quite killed by that sword blow. It was your evil twin whose head was cut off and brought to the town elders. The cannonball hit the crewman next to you. Etcetera.

Pirate Points may also be spent, with the GMs' permission, to improve your skills. This will probably only be permitted if there is a sudden lack of captains, gunners, or similar.

Pirate Points may also be taken away by the GMs for not acting like a pirate. Failure to shout "Arr!" after every sentence, not singing loudly or lustily enough, walking faster than you should while sailing or swimming, not knowing the words to "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest", and similar things are grounds for loss of Pirate Points.


Winning the Game

At the end of the game, the character with the most money, both on his person and buried (by him only; maps to treasures buried by others don't count) is the winner, and is known as the Dread Pirate [whatever his/her name is.] The player with the most Pirate Points at the end is the new Pirate King (and may sing the song if so desired.)


Building Characters

Each person gets six points with which to buy traits and build a character. Certain traits are flaws and give you extra points. In addition to your traits, please also send us a short paragraph with your character's name, reputation, and a personal goals. Sample goals include killing a certain person, buying your own ship, being acknowledged as the best gunner in the Carribbean, marrying a handsome pirate captain, finding five buried treasures, capturing five wanted pirates, or whatever floats your boat. Completing your goal will be worth Pirate Points, with the exact number determined by the GMs depending on how hard your goal is to accomplish. To encourage early character submission, characters submitted by Friday (October 17th) will start with extra doubloons. If you are at a loss as to what kind of character you want to play, feel free to ask what kinds of characters are still needed. The list of traits follows:



Price List

(note: the number of flintlocks available for sale in Port Royale is dependent upon the number of dart/Nerf guns brought to the game. Once they're all sold, you're out of luck.)