Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

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.

Print Friendly and PDF


Comments powered by Disqus