Lacking Natural Simplicity

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Notes for the WVHTCF 50 Fathoms Campaign

Notes for the WVHTCF 50 Fathoms Campaign


2021-08-09 12:03:18

We're playing Pinnacle Entertainment Games's 50 Fathoms plot point setting using the Savage Worlds system. (The Test Drive gives you most of the Savage Worlds rules for free.)

  • We're using the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition for our main rule book.

  • We're using any of the edges and hindrances from Pirates of the Spanish Main (also known as PotSM) and some of the updated ship rules as well.

  • We're using the Knowledge (Navigation) skill from PotSM for navigation (instead of 50 Fathoms's Boating), but using the Boating skill for all other ship handling.

  • Ships wishing to sell found treasure need a 1000$ Salvage license.

  • Privateers get a bounty of 50% of the value of a lawfully captured prize.

    (In unusual circumstances, head money may be offered.)

WVHTCF 50 Fathoms, Session #3: Salvage, Pirates, and Enterprise

WVHTCF 50 Fathoms, Session #3: Salvage, Pirates, and Enterprise




2021-08-09 12:04:06

This is an actual play report from the Savage Worlds 50 Fathoms plot point campaign from Pinnacle Entertainment Games. These actual play reports are available in html from T.K.B.'s blog.


Clockwise round the table, starting with the GM:

  • T.K.B. — GM

  • B.MC. — playing Azrulektos, a Kraken warrior/wizard

  • C.A.H. — playing Karl Kroc, a Masaquani treasure hunter and navigator

  • M.A.H. — playing Moorumah, a charming but rather dim Grael


C.A.H. contributed the (lightly formatted) actual play report for this session.

Actual Play

After an extensive recap of what their previous adventures had been 8 months earlier, the party set out to make their fortune by any and all ways (at least the mostly legal ways). The overall plan was to sail north from port to port, making enough profit as a merchant to keep themselves fed, and hopefully purchase a salvage license before heading to the Whip Islands where vast wealth can be found.

But first we had to await boat repairs in Swindon. Moorumah decided it was best to wait in the shade, or perhaps underwater, so she set out to find the "shadiest dive" she could. While she found shade there, there was no swimming, only beer. There was also apparently no arm wrestling allowed. Disappointed, she left the bar, but shortly afterwards a young Doreen girl challenged her to a wrestling match for the contents of her purse. Unsuprisingly, the Doreen was no match for a Grael. Defeated, the Doreen ran off to the docks and disappeared into the water (apparently she enjoyed dives, even if they are not shady). Azrulektos decided that he would like to help the Doreen out. After a few rounds of catch with Moorumah's net, he hid by the docks to wait for her to emerge from the water. When she eventually emerged, he presented her an employment opportunity (and decided that using a fishing net was perhaps not the best recruitment tool when seeking crew). We learned the Doreen's name is Trix. We took her on as a lookout.

A few days later we topped off our provisions ($56) and finally set sail. Karl and Azrulektos worked out a merchant plan to maximize profit while sailing up the coast. Our first destination was the fishing village of Bristo where we planned to take on food cargo. However, 1 day out, our new lookout proved profitable when she spotted a possible ruin 80 yards down. We stopped, and set up a diving operation with Azrulektos, Moorumah, Karl, Trix, and Mongrel. Eight hours later we had found $625 in coins and treasure, and decided to keep working. This proved to be a good decision, as we found a mansion containing lots of loot -- $5625 and a sealed vial containing a yellow liquid. Miguel continued to display hidden talents, and directed us to the ship's hidey hole to store our newfound wealth. We continued on to Bristo without further incident.

In Bristo we had no difficulty finding and securing 4 cargo spaces worth of food from the harbor master Thomas Crane for $440. We did not stay over, as there was nothing much to do (other than clean up Moorumah's rat hunting), and the crew was eager to get to a large port (Baltimus) to spend their earnings (our first big profit since our original shipwreck nearly a month ago). However it was not to be an uneventful trip.

Three days out we cleared a fog bank to find ourselves on the scene of a very recent act of piracy. Indeed the pirates had not yet vacated the area, as they seemed to be engaging in a drunken revelry over their recent profit. Moorumah followed her usual course upon encountering a battle scene and cannon-balled into water and began to swim to the nearest boat. The pirates were so engaged in their festivities that they failed to notice her, or even our ship (until it was too late). We loaded the cannon with grapeshot, and "crossed the T", killing nearly half of them outright. We then pulled along side them and prepared to board, while Moorumah climbed up from the other side. Partying pirates were no match for a partying Grael, who began pulverising them one by one, howling with victory after each kill. Azrulektos's water bolts and Karl's pistols and rapier were equally deadly, and the combat was over in three rounds.

We now find ourselves in possession of a black sloop, 4 storage units of iron, $1700, and a whole lot of guns. As well as two seriously injured victims of the pirates (whom we healed to the best of our abilities). We decide the best course of action is to leave half the guns and money (kept $800) on the pirate ship to reduce suspicion of looting, and sail it behind our own boat into Baltimus. Just out of site of the port Azrulektos hides our salvaged goods in a chest underwater. Upon arriving in port, we are greeted by many soldiers and cannon, who are suspicious of the known pirate vessel (The Black Falcon). We convince them we are not pirates and that we have killed the pirate captain Patrick Triloni [Patrik Trelawany, to be precise — GM] (Moorumah helpfully displays his corpse). We express interest in aquiring a Letter of Marque, and also in upgrading from our boat to the captured boat. The harbormaster tells us there are some legal issues to work out, and it will take a few days, we decide we will use the time to take a cargo of Goods up to Calib's Rock, and then return with another load of Food. But first we sell our current load for $1200, pay the crew their long awaited wages of $350, buy a salvage license for $1000, a compass for $500, and spend $70 restocking our rations. As well as some time and money carousing.







salvage (+$3125 in non cash)


buy Food cargo


3 grape shot


pirate booty


sell food cargo


buy Goods cargo


crew wages


salvage license






Moorumah's carousing allowance (need similar for Karl and Azrulektos)

Final assets:

  • $2198 (+$3215 in our "offshore account")

  • Yellow vial

  • Cargo full of 4 Goods

  • salvage license

  • 10 muskets (ammo and powder?)

  • 12 pistols

  • 2 remaining grapeshot

  • 10 cannonballs

  • 9? charges of powder

  • Unknown profit from pirate sloop capture/pirate bounty.

  • +2 XP for everyone (+1 XP to C.A.H. for journal)

Cargo plans:

(subject to change if we change boats or pick up a second cannon)

  • Goods to Calib's Rock for $1200, buy food for $440

  • Food To Baltiums for $1200, buy goods for $880

  • Goods to Calib's Rock for $1200 (If double run is possible)

  • Buy Goods in Tuck for $440

  • Goods to Caresia for $800


Each PC each got +2 XP, and Karl Kroc got a bonus +1 XP for C.A.H. writing up an actual play report.

(Azrulektos: 9 XP, Karl Kroc: 9 XP, Moorumah: 9 XP.)


When the PCs brought in their capture, I wasn't sure how to handle it. The 50 Fathoms rules, on p. 35, essentially say that privateers must first buy a letter of marque for $15,000, and then they get a 25% bounty on captured ships. That commission is much, much lower than typical historical amounts. Moreover, if someone captures a pirate ship without a letter of marque they get a token bounty of 10%. I decided that I'd look into the historical values, and decide what to do before the next session, and in the meantime the authorities told the PCs there were some legal details to work out.

C.A.H.'s Research

C.A.H found the following online, in the paper Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for Private Profit, by Larry J. Sechrest:

Once the ship was declared a “lawful prize”, the court issued the decree of condemnation, and she and her cargo would be sold at auction. However, the gross proceeds from that sale were not received by the privateer. Three deductions first had to be made. As payment for their services, small percentages went to the auctioneer, the marshal, and the clerk of the court. A further, much larger deduction was also necessary. Since the goods that made up the prize’s cargo now represented “imports”, customs duties were imposed. Although the magnitude of these duties varied with the nature of the goods, Garitee estimates that during the War of 1812 such taxes usually reduced the revenue accruing to American privateers by 30-40%. The owners of privateers protested so angrily against these high duties that, in August of 1813, Congress reduced the taxes on “imported” prize goods by one-third.

British and American prize courts operated in very similar ways even after the American Revolutionary War. And yet, during the earlier period of letter of marque activity, British privateers---including of course those outfitted in Britain’s American colonies---were confronted with deductions from the gross prize proceeds that included not only court costs and import duties but also a share for the crown. This share varied from one-half to one-tenth. Due to the growing economic importance and political influence of privateers, the crown’s share was gradually reduced and, in 1708, eliminated altogether. As a result, privateer profits increased by as much as 30%.

Decisions, Decisions

Option 1

So, with the 50 Fathoms rules, the sloop and its cargo are worth $23,200, but the bounty for someone without a letter of marque is only $2,320, and if they get the letter of marque it leaves them in the hole by $12,680.

I was originally tempted to go with something closer to the real-world values: say, 1% fee for selling the ship and cargo, and a 25% tax on the value of the seized ship and cargo. That would mean that the sloop and cargo would net the PCs $17,168, minus $15,000 for the letter of marque, leaving the PCs with $2,168.

On the other hand, handing over this much money to the PCs might make the trade economy in 50 Fathoms go crazy.

Option 2

In Pirates of the Spanish Main (PotSM), judging by the discussion on pages 70 and 207, a letter of marque costs $1,000 and privateers must pay 50% of their spoils to the crown. That means that the sloop and cargo, minus the cost of the letter of marque, would leave the PCs with a net of $10,600. Ouch. That seems too much.

Option 3

If we combine the 50 Fathoms letter of marque cost of $15,000 with the PotSM bounty of 50%, that leaves the PCs owing the Baltimus authorities $3,400. That seemed reasonable to me.

Option 4

But it's not that simple. The PCs want to keep the sloop they captured, and sell the skiff they have.

If the authorities let them substitute the skiff for the sloop they'd still have to pay the whole tax on the sloop and the cargo, $11,600, and they'd have only the sale price of the skiff and the cargo, $13,200, and they'd still have to pay for the license, which would leave them owing the authorities $13,000.

After E-mail

In the end, the e-mail discussion lead the players to choose Option 3.

As was mentioned in the e-mail discussion, there wasn't a specific bounty for Patrick Trelawany.

C.A.H. said: “We left $4800 worth of firearms + $900 in cash on the sloop”. Ok, the PCs get 50% of the cash, $450, and 25% of the firearms, $1200.


It was interesting to see that even with Karl Kroc's d10 Knowledge (Navigation) there were at least two occasions where C.A.H. had to resort to bennies to keep from running off course.

Return to the Frontiers of Alusia Uploaded

I had to upload a document to the other day to get a document out of their archive, so I uploaded my notes for my Savage Worlds adventure “Return to the Frontiers of Alusia”, a revised version of a GURPS adventure I ran in 1988 in the DragonQuest setting Frontiers of Alusia. Anyway, today I uploaded a revised version that has my hand-drawn maps from the original 1988 version.


I found this post today while doing maintenance on my blog, and realized that I've long since decided I hate and think it should not be used. So I deleted the few documents I'd uploaded there, including this one, and I'm hosting it here instead, updated with some additional comments on where I got my ideas for it.

Later on I started a Savage Worlds campaign set in The Frontiers of Alusia with some of the same players but with different characters — I lost the character sheets for the characters that played this adventure — so now I call that campaign “Return to the Frontiers of Alusia” and this adventure “Return to the Frontiers of Alusia Precursor”.

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator

Today I got my copy of James Raggi's The Random Esoteric Creature Generator, published by Goodman Games. In general I like it. However, I do have two criticisms.

  • First, and most important, to the publishers: black text on a gray background with white lines is much harder to read than black text on a white background with black lines Please, please, please, don't do this. It doesn't make your book look any better, and it just irritates anybody with less than absolutely perfect vision!

  • Second, to the author: In the Basic Body Shape table, on pages 6 through 7, in the Polyhedron sub-table you missed the obvious: the Icosahedron shape should occur on a roll of 20.

Fabled Curse of the Brigand Crypt, Play Session #3

Played Labyrinth Lord with the kids. E.A. went to the Jubilee, but T.A. and M.A. stayed to play Labyrinth Lord.


We're playing Prime Requisite Games DLD2 — Fabled Curse of the Brigand Crypt, so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.


  • T.K.B. — Labyrinth Lord

  • T.A played Arlow (an Elf) and Grimmin (a Dwarf), and also played Hermes (A Magic User) and James (a Thief), who were created by D.B.

  • M.A. played John (a Cleric) and Zedd (a Magic User), and also played Elsie (an Elf) and Leanna (a Dwarf), who were created by E.A.

Actual Play

1st day: They found the crypt doors locked again. Pick Locks failed, so they went back to the Temple. Hermes: Red Stone. James: Key, so /bite (he immediately dropped the key, so was only bitten once), then Blue Stone. Zedd: Gray Stone. John: Key, so Bite (and dropped the key). Arlow: Gold Stone. Elsie: Green Stone. Grimmin: Key. Since some were injured they went back to Mad Sammy's, go thealed, and slept.

2nd day: Back to crypt. Door in room 2 was locked again and when they opened it they surprised 8 giant rats. R1 rats surprised, Leanna and Grimmin step forward and attack, killing 3 rats, while the rest of the party falls back and takes position in room 2. R2 Hermes casts sleep, sending the remaining 5 rats off to their last slumber, then the rest of the party coup-de-graced the rats. They decided to pick them up on the way back out to smoke-dry for rations. Off to area 4, the pit. Wandering Monster: 4 skeletons in the pit. They animate when James starts down into the pit. John turns 5 HD, so all the skeletons tried to flee over the north edge of the pit, which repeatedly dumps them back into the pit. It takes the party 6 rounds to destroy the skeletons, but James took 4 wounds and fell unconscious. Zedd had the Green Rod Key. He put it in the green-daubed hole and pulls upward. Everybody hears the click. He takes the key out. The party members in the pit climb out on the north side, which now doesn't dump them back in the pit, and the rest of the party steps around the corner from the west site of the pit. Leanna picks up James and carries him, and they all head off to the door to room 11.

They had reached the doors when they noticed, coming up the hallway behind them, a rather surly looking dwarf. After an exchange where the dwarf insisted they shouldn't be here and tried to intimidate them into leaving, he turned and left. T.A. immediately has Arlow (?) agitating for the party to attack the retreating dwarf. Upon learning that the dwarf is wearing plate mail, Grimmin and Leanna fire their crossbows at the dwarf, and Arlow joins in. They score one hit, but the dwarf steps round the corner over the pit, and Arlow, Grimmin, and Leanna chase after him. They chase him in the dark until he vanishes out of their range of sight at the bottom of the stairs in room 10. They hesitate at the top of the stairs, Leanna retreating to find the others, and Grimmin and Arlow hear a scream in the room below, then sounds of struggle, then silence. They wait, listening, and then Grimmin is surprised by the shadow and taken to –1 HP in the first attack. Arlow picks up Grimmin and flees to room 2, where they paused. The others (carrying James) are already in room 2. Here they are all surprised again when 2 shadows attack! The shadows attacked Arlow (and missed) and Zedd (and hit). In the second round the shadows attacked Hermes (and missed) and Leanna (and hit). Party fled and left crypt door open.

They spent two days just resting and healing. Every night they had wolves howling outside and clawing at the Mad Sammy's cellar door. Mad Sammy shrieked and howled, babbling that they had offended “the eye”. On the third day some of them hunted, because their supplies were gone and Mad Sammy's supplies were running low. They found enough to feed four people for the day. On the fourth day they found enough food to feed three people for the day. On the fifth day John was able to heal Leanna of the last of her wounds, and the party was finally completely healed. On the sixth day they found enough rations for 12 people, and after eating had 3 days rations to smoke dry that evening.

On the seventh day they headed back to the crypt. They went directly to room 11, where they were surprised by 2 ghouls hidden in the loose dirt near a ¾ buried chest. Grimmin was paralyzed on the first round (for 7 rounds), but the rest of the party was able to kill the ghouls in three more rounds. John cast cure light wounds on Grimmin, which also cured his paralysis. Leanna took the magic flail, and Hermes took both scrolls. Back to mad Sam's, where there were still wolves at the door every night.


I made an effort this time to follow the Labyrinth Lord Labyrinth Play Sequence, Time and Movement, Rest, Monster Reaction, Wandering Monsters, and Morale Checks rules more closely than I have hitherto.1 The dwarf was a wandering monster roll, straight from the Level 1 column on the Wandering Monster Table on p. 104 of Labyrinth Lord, with everything after that improvised on the fly — I decided he was another treasure hunter, upset at finding competition, and once he started to flee the PCs it seemed inevitable that he end up in the room with the shadow, and get killed and turned into a shadow himself. I thought it added a lot to the game, and made me look on wandering monsters with much more approval. I do think that I ought to make location-specific wandering monster tables, though.


I don't remember how closely I used to follow AD&D's equivalents back in the day when I primarily played AD&D.

Goblin Gully, Play Session #1

B.B. and his girlfriend C. came down to the farm to visit before going off to Utah for college. After dinner with the families, B.B. and C. and the kids rolled up Labyrinth Lord characters and set out on an adventure.


We're playing Goblin Gully, from the blog A character for every game so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.

T.A., E.A., and M.A. had created characters earlier, but D.B. had to create characters before we started.


Clockwise round the table:

  • T.K.B. — Labyrinth Lord

  • C.DW. — a Thief named Aria

  • B.B. — a Dwarf named Urgo

  • T.A. — a Magic User named Octavian

  • E.A. — an Elf named Trista

  • M.A. — a Cleric named Jude

They trekked through the hills for 4 days (Trista downing a dear when their rations were gone), until they finally found the huge tree said to be the entrance to the old pit. Unfortunately, they were unable to find the entrance, and as they were looking they were attacked by javelins thrown from above, in the tree. Not able to see their assailants in the leafy boughs, they fled. At a safe distance they decided to run back and have the dwarf climb the tree, while the elf, thief, and cleric used their missile weapons. With the goblins concentrating on the dwarf climbing towards them, the others were finally able to pinpoint the goblins, and managed to kill one of them, by the time the heavily wounded dwarf managed to climb up to the goblins and miss his first attack. The dwarf managed to scare the remaining goblin into surrendering, and they climbed down out of the tree. The goblin swore he would leave and go back to the deep mountains, if they would let him go. When the dwarf swore he would let him go if the goblin told them how to enter the pit, the goblin did so. An argument ensued among the PCs, Octavian in particular not wanting to let the goblin go, but Urgo finally did (having sworn) and the goblin high-tailed it out of there. Several of the PCs had been injured, but Urgo had taken the worst of the damage while climbing up the tree.

They headed down the narrow dirt tunnel the goblin had shown them, concealed behind a cleverly hinged section of a huge root, and the tunnel quickly opened up into a stairway cut from stone. They passed through one empty room, where they paused to light Octavian's lantern, then down another stair to a much larger room. At the far side of the room they could just make out a demonic face carved on the wall, its huge mouth gaping blackly. As they stared at the demonic face they were surprised by 4 goblins springing down from niches high on the wall where the stairway entered, behind them. After a few rounds, they were attacked by archers in the dark beyond the demonic mouth, too. Soon all the PCs were badly injured, the dwarf at 0 HP, Octavian at negative HP, and then Aria was brought to negative HP. Urgo bound Aria's wounds, and fell unconscious himself, bleeding to death, while Trista and Jade attacked the two goblins beyond the mouth, Jade throwing himself through the gaping mouth. Jude killed one of the two goblin archers, but fell to the other, who finally fled in the face of Trista's deadly arrows. This left Trista the only conscious adventurer, with four unconscious companions to care for in this deadly dungeon.

She bound up her comrades' wounds, then searched the dead goblins, finding a single vial of thick green liquid. She gave it to the dwarf, Urgo, and when he revived they carried their comrades partway back up the winding stairs, out of easy bowshot, and secured them to iron spikes, so they wouldn't slip down the steps. There they each guarded one approach. Urgo fell asleep, but luckily Trista's keen elvish senses noticed his snores and woke him, for in the night he heard goblins approaching up the stair. He hurtled himself down the stair into the 4 goblins, killing one outright and injuring another and setting them and himself tumbling to the bottom of the stairs. Dazed and confused by the tumble, they all traded blows in the dark, flailing madly and futilely until Urgo finally killed 2 more of them, and the last remaining goblin fled back through the mouth before Urgo could catch up with him.

Eventually Jude recovered from his wounds enough to wake and pray, and then healed Aria. The companions then fled, carrying the unconscious and deeply wounded Octavian with them, headed for town!


I hope to continue this adventure when B.B. & C. are next in, perhaps on fall break.

Fabled Curse of the Brigand Crypt, Play Session #2

More gaming with the kids. D.B. left the farm after lunch, before we had a chance to play, but E.A. and M.A. were available and eager to play. They created some new characters to add to the party — E.A. created Leanna (a Dwarf) and M.A. created Zedd (a Magic User).


We're playing Prime Requisite Games DLD2 — Fabled Curse of the Brigand Crypt, so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.


  • T.K.B. — Labyrinth Lord

  • T.A played Arlow (an Elf) and Grimmin (a Dwarf), and also played Hermes (A Magic User), who was created by D.B.

  • E.A. played Elsie (an Elf) and Leanna (a Dwarf), and also played James (a Thief), who was created by D.B.

  • M.A. played John (a Cleric) and Zedd (a Magic User).

Actual Play

The characters from part 1 spent several days healing and resting. Some friends who'd had the same idea about finding the brigands' treasure showed up (M.A.'s Zedd and E.A's Leanna) and were welcomed to the party. Zedd brought his pony, who sleeps with them in Mad Sammy's cellar at night.


For some reason I think the first fight in the sarcophagus happened right after the fight with the ghouls, but my notes say it happened in the second session. I'll put it both places for now.

They went back to room 6, and decided to open one of the closed stone coffins, and while pushing the heavy lid off, Elsie, along with several others, fell into the coffin on top of the skeleton. The others managed to (eventually) exit the coffin, but poor Elsie was too entangled with the skeleton. Eventually the party killed the skeleton, but Elsie ended in the negative hit points, so they went back to Mad Sammy's with Elsie on a floating disk to recover.

After healing up, they went back to room 6 and opened coffin #2, where a couple fell in again, but got pulled out more quickly. They killed the skeleton and opened the rest of the coffins and found the treasure and a key. They move through room 7, empty since its occupants were killed in room 6 in the first session, and enter room 8, where the piercers drop, impaling Zedd & Leanna & missing Arlow. They eventually pull the piercers out (doing more damage in the process, and kill the piercers. Then it was back to Mad Sammy's to rest again.

When they returned to the crypt they entered room 9 where they pulled down the hanging bodies and were attacked by the 2 blue cave spiders. John is bit and paralyzed, but the others kill the spiders. John recovers from the paralysis in 6 rounds, and makes his save vs. poison, so lives. (Maybe here is when they went back to Sam's, instead, or also?) Next they're down the stairs to room 10. John puts the key in first, gets bit, and tries to bash the statue with his flail, and gets bit again. Finally he drops the key, which rolls to the floor after the statue releases John's arm. Next they put the stones in: Elsie the green (one of her weapons glows), Arlow the gray (and he gets gray hair), James the gold (he gets a ring from the statute, which Zedd puts on then returns to James, who puts it in the statue's mouth, whereupon it falls out again), Grimmin the red (stung for 1 HP of damage), Hermes the blue (he made his save), and then Elsie put the key in. They heard the chain beyond the wall, and got the Green Rod Key, and then were attacked by the shadow. By the time they got it off Elsie, she was in the negatives, and by the time they got it off Leanna (injuring her with their non-magical weapons in the process and figuring out they could only injure the shadow the magic) she was in the negatives took, so they grabbed the girls and fled, leaving the shadow. Each time the shadow attacked from the shadows and the party was surprised. Of course, they ran back to Mad Sam's, although they did close the crypt doors on the way out.