Skull & Shackles
Plunder & Infamy
The acquisition of wealth and the spread of grim reputations motivate pirates to deeds of daring and depravity. The following two subsystems present GMs with ways to gauge and track their PCs’ success at achieving what all pirates desire most. Although the PCs’ situation in “The Wormwood Mutiny” prevents them from gaining much in the way of plunder or infamy in this adventure, their fortunes rise considerably in future adventures.
There’s a difference between plunder and the gold pieces in a pirate’s pocket. While gold doubloons and fabulous jewelry can be plunder, pirates are rarely lucky enough to encounter a ship with a hold full of such treasures. Typically, there are trade goods, foodstuffs, spices, and valuables of a more mundane sort. Such takes can fetch significant prices, but for scallywags more interested in looting than the specifics of what they loot, this system provides a way for parties to track their plunder without getting bogged down by lists of commonplace cargo and their values down to the copper piece. Aside from streamlining the collection of riches, this system also allows characters to increase their infamy, paying off crew members and spreading their wealth with more appealing dispensations of loot than what was aboard the last merchant ship they robbed.
Winning Plunder: What gains a group plunder is largely decided by the GM or is noted at the relevant points throughout the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path. Typically, at any point the PCs claim a ship’s cargo, conquer an enemy’s hideout, or find a significant treasure, there’s the potential for a portion (sometimes a significant portion) of that wealth to translate into plunder. Plunder means more than five wicker baskets, a barrel of pickled herring, three short swords, and a noble’s outfit; it’s a generalization of a much larger assortment of valuable but generally useless goods (and serves to help avoid bookkeeping on lists of random goods). Rather, a cargo ship carrying construction timber, dyed linens, crates of sugar, animal furs, and various other goods might equate to 4 points of plunder. Just as when awarding more standard forms of treasure, a GM doling out plunder should consider the challenge of winning the plunder and the actual value of the plunder if the PCs cash it in (see below). As a rule of thumb, GMs seeking to give the characters a minor reward might give them 1 point of plunder, while a major reward would be 5 points of plunder.
Plunder is not meant to serve as a replacement for more standard forms of treasure. GMs should still award characters gold and magic items to keep them prepared to face new challenges, whereas plunder serves as a useful shorthand for what varied mundane treasures are discovered and can be sold for values in gold. Characters can also buy plunder if they wish, though those who do so risk becoming known as merchants rather than pirates.
Value of Plunder: Plunder is valuable for two reasons: It can be sold for gold pieces, and it helps you increase your Infamy (Infamy is further detailed below). In general, 1 point of plunder is worth approximately 1,000 gp, whether it be for a crate full of valuable ores or a whole cargo hold full of foodstuffs. Regardless of what the plunder represents, getting the best price for such goods is more the domain of merchants than pirates, and just because cargo might be worth a set amount doesn’t necessarily mean the PCs can get that much for it. Exchanging 1 point of plunder for gold requires a PC to spend 1 full day at port and make an applicable skill check. Regardless of how much plunder the PCs have, one PC must spend a full day trading to exchange 1 point of plunder for gold. The PC trading also must be the same PC to make the skill check to inf luence the trade. The larger the port and the higher the skill check, the better price the PCs can get for their plunder. At smaller ports there’s little chance of getting more than half value for plunder, unless a PC can employ a skill to make a better deal. At larger ports, the chances of finding a buyer willing to pay a reasonable price for cargo increases, and PCs can still employ skill checks to make even more lucrative bargains. PCs seeking to win a higher price for their plunder can make one of the following skill checks and apply the results to the table below: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, or any applicable Profession skill, like Profession (merchant). A poor result on a skill check can reduce the value of plunder. If the PCs are not satisfied with the price they are offered for their plunder, they need not take it, but a day’s worth of effort is still expended. They can try for a better result the next day.
The table below explains how much PCs can expect to get for their plunder in communities of various sizes, the skill check DC required to increase this amount by a set percentage, and the maximum amount buyers in a community can be convinced to buy plunder for. Each column is explained in brief here.
Community Size: The size of a community is determined by its population, noted in every community stat block and further detailed in the Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide.
Base Sale %: Every community is willing to buy plunder from the PCs, but not necessarily at its full value. This column lists the percentage at which a community is willing to buy 1 point of plunder (along with that percentage’s expression in gold pieces).
DC to Increase Sale: This is the skill check DC required to increase the sale percentage a community offers for plunder. Every community can be convinced to offer more for plunder (to a maximum sale percentage listed in the final column of the table below), but this requires the PCs to make a skill check. The DC of this skill check is 10 + an amount determined by how much the PCs are trying to increase the sale percentage. For example, if a PC is unwilling to accept a mere 20% of the value of his group’s plunder when attempting to sell it in a hamlet, he can attempt to increase this percentage by 5% by making a DC 15 skill check. If he wants to attempt to increase the percentage to 30% (the maximum amount the hamlet can possibly pay), he must make a DC 20 skill check. Failure results in no increase, and this skill check can only be made once per day. In larger communities, the DC to increase these percentages rises, but the percentage also increases, as does the maximum percentage buyers can be talked up to.
Maximum Sale %: This is the highest percentage at which a community can be talked into buying 1 point of plunder. Merchants in a community will never buy plunder for a higher price than this. Additionally, this column lists the skill check DC required to haggle buyers up to this percentage, and how much the percentage is worth in gold pieces.
Spending Plunder: In addition to its value in gold pieces, plunder is vital to increasing a pirate crew’s Infamy. See the Infamy subsystem for more details.
Buying Plunder: Although gold typically proves more valuable and versatile than plunder, some parties might wish to exchange their traditional wealth for plunder. In any community, a party can buy 1 point of plunder for 1,000 gp. What form of goods this plunder takes is determined by the GM.
|Community SIze||Base Sale % (GP for Plunder)||DC to Increase Sale||Maximum Sale % (Max DC & GP for Plunder)|
|Thorp||10% (100 gp)||10 + 5 per 5%||20% (DC 20; 200 gp)|
|Hamlet||20% (200 gp)||10 + 5 per 5%||30% (DC 20; 300 gp)|
|Village||30% (300 gp)||10 + 5 per 5%||40% (DC 20; 400 gp)|
|Small town||40% (400 gp)||10 + 5 per 5%||60% (DC 30; 600 gp)|
|Large town||60% (600 gp)||10 + 5 per 5%||80% (DC 30; 800 gp)|
|Small city||80% (800 gp)||10 + 10 per 5%||90% (DC 30; 900 gp)|
|Large city||90% (900 gp)||10 + 10 per 10%||120% (DC 40; 1,200 gp)|
|Metropolis||100% (1,000 gp)||10 + 10 per 10%||140% (DC 50; 1,400 gp)|
Infamy and Disrepute
Some pirates only do what they do for the promise of wealth, being little more than brigands of the waves. Others do it for the reputation, fearsomeness, and power that comes with numbering among the most notorious scallywags on the seas. That’s where Infamy comes in. Numerous times over the course of their careers, the PCs—as members of a single pirate crew—will have the opportunity to recount their victories, boast of the treasures they’ve won, and spread tales of their outrages. All of this has the potential to win the PCs Infamy, but that alone isn’t the goal. At the most basic level, infamous pirates have the potential to press-gang unfortunates into their crews, get repairs to their ships in nearly any port, and win discounts from merchants they’d prefer not to rob. As a crew becomes more and more infamous, however, its legend stretches across the seas, allowing it to garner support from other pirate lords, win more favorable vessels, and even rally whole pirate armadas under its f lag. This system allows characters to track how their legend is growing over the course of the campaign, along with providing them tangible rewards for building appropriately piratical reputations.
Infamy and Disrepute Scores: In a method similar to the tracking system for Fame and Prestige Points detailed in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Pathfinder Society Field Guide, a party has two related scores, Infamy and Disrepute. Infamy tracks how many points of Infamy the crew has gained over its career—think of this as the sum of all the outlandish stories and rumors about the PCs being told throughout the Shackles. Infamy rarely, if ever, decreases, and reaching certain Infamy thresholds provides useful benefits and allows others to be purchased using points of Disrepute. Infamy is limited by actual skill, however, and a group’s Infamy score can never be more than 4 × the PCs’ average party level.
Disrepute is a spendable resource—a group’s actual ability to cash in on its reputation. This currency is used to purchase impositions, deeds others might not want to do for the group, but that they perform either to curry the group’s favor or to avoid its disfavor. This score will likely fluctuate over the course of a pirate crew’s career and can go as high as the group’s Infamy (but never higher), and at times might even drop to zero. This isn’t something to worry about, though, as a low Disrepute score has no bearing on a crew’s overall reputation—on the contrary, it merely means they’re making use of the benefits their status has won them. However, it does represent that even the PCs’ legend can only take them so far, and if a group’s Disrepute drops lower than the Disrepute price of a benefit, the crew must spend time building its Disrepute back up before it can purchase that benefit.
Winning Infamy and Disrepute: A few things are required to gain Infamy: an audience, a deed to tell about, and a flair for storytelling. Proof of the group’s deed in the form of plunder doesn’t hurt either.
To gain Infamy, the PCs must moor their ship at a port for 1 full day, and the PC determined by the group to be its main storyteller must spend this time on shore carousing and boasting of infamous deeds. This PC must make either a Bluff, Intimidate, or Perform check to gauge the effectiveness of her recounting or embellishing. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + twice the group’s average party level (APL), and the check is referred to as an Infamy check. If the character succeeds at this check, the group’s Infamy and Disrepute both increase by + 1 (so long as neither score is already at its maximum amount). If the result exceeds the DC by + 5, the group’s Infamy and Disrepute increase by + 2; if the result exceeds the DC by + 10, both scores increase by + 3. The most a party’s Infamy and Disrepute scores can ever increase as a result of a single Infamy check is by 3 points. If the PC fails the Infamy check, there is no change in her group’s Infamy score and the day has been wasted.
Occasionally, deeds of exceptional daring or depravity might win a party increases to its Disrepute. This sort of discretionary bonus to Disrepute is noted in the context of an adventure or determined by the GM.
Infamy and Disrepute per Port: No matter how impressionable (or drunk) the crowd, no one wants to hear the same tales and boasts over and over again. Thus, a group can only gain a maximum of 5 points of Infamy and Disrepute from any particular port. However, this amount resets every time a group reaches a new Infamy threshold.
Thus, once a group gains 5 points of Infamy and Disrepute in Quent, it can gain no further points of Infamy from that port until it reaches the next Infamy threshold, though the crew can travel to another port and gain more Infamy by boasting to a new audience.
Plunder and Infamy: Plunder can modify a PC’s attempt to gain Infamy in two ways. Before making an Infamy check for the day, the party can choose to spend plunder to influence the result—any tale is more believable when it comes from someone throwing around her wealth and buying drinks for the listeners. Every point of plunder expended adds a + 2 bonus to the character’s skill check to earn Infamy. The party can choose to spend as much plunder as it wants to influence this check—even the most leaden-tongued pirate might win fabulous renown by spending enough booty.
Additionally, if a PC fails an Infamy check, the party can choose to spend 3 points of plunder to immediately reroll the check. The party may only make one reroll attempt per day, and spend the plunder even if the second attempt fails—some people just aren’t impressed no matter how much loot you throw at them.
Spending Disrepute: A group’s Disrepute can be spent to buy beneficial effects called impositions, though some impositions might only be available in certain places—such as at port—or might have additional costs—like forcing a prisoner to walk the plank. Spending Disrepute to purchase an imposition requires 1 full day unless otherwise noted. When Disrepute is spent, the group’s Disrepute score decreases by the price of the imposition, but its Infamy (and, thus, the group’s Infamy threshold) remains the same. The prices of impositions and the Infamy threshold required to make those impositions available are detailed in their sections.