Sky Pirates - An Edge Chronicles Hack

Hi everyone. I was thinking a while back about a potential hack for the Edge Chronicles. The Edge Chronicles is a book series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. They have created a really amazing world that is slightly steampunk, but very unique. I was thinking about how to tweak it into an RPG. I haven’t worked on this in a while, and it is very rough at this point.

Here is what I’ve done so far.

I probably should have only noted the major skill and trait differences. But I was wanting to get in the sky pirate mood so I went through each one to tweak the wording a little. Also, because there will be a variety of playable creatures, I am going to use traits to differentiate between creatures. Some traits are impossible for certain creatures to have. All creatures are born with a trait that is exclusive to that creature. I have many pictures that I can incorporate into the document to give the people a feel for the edge and it’s creatures. Also, you will have to skim through a lot of pages. Some of it is just rough notes that I will probably never use in the actual hack. Again, I haven’t worked on this in a while and it’s still very messy. So what do you think? Is it worth pursuing? Do you have any advice? Would you be interested in playing or helping? Let me know your ideas.

Everyone on the hack forum seems to be talking about nature at the moment. So I thought I’d bring up Pirate Nature. It seems pretty simple to me, but let me know if you think there are any problems. This is what I’ve written so far for it.

Pirate Nature stands for the sky pirate’s natural qualities and tendencies. It represents what he was born to do, what helps
him survive on the wild and cruel Edge.

For those in a sky pirate crew, there are four aspects to their Nature: Pilfering, Murdering, Cheating, and Backstabbing. These
aspects describe the situations in which you can use your Nature without penalty. If you use your Nature in situations
outside of pilfering, murdering, lying, and backstabbing, you risk losing a bit of it.
The higher your Nature rank, the more pirate-like you are. The
lower your rank, the more “honest” you are.

If your character is in a situation that is against his Nature— providing aid, learning, developing relationships, self defense combat, etc.—and
doesn’t have the proper skill, he may make the test using his current Nature rating. However, if you’re testing to overcome an obstacle that’s
outside of your Nature, your ability rating could be taxed.

Your nature is important to what type of a pirate you are. Are you a
sky pirate who wishes to be honest and true, fighting the evil leagues-men and doing business with Undertowners? Or are you a
sky pirate who is in it for himself?
If Nature drops to 0 due to tax, the individual is strongly affected. He becomes unlike other pirates. Perhaps he has lofty ideals of
purity and honor. Perhaps he’s become to soft to live the life of a sky pirate. Whatever’s happened, he’s become distinctly

If your current Nature rating drops to 0 due to tax, one of the
character’s traits is immediately changed to a trait like Noble, Weak, Inept, or something else appropriate to the test that taxed
him. The group should make something up on the spot!

If your maximum Nature rating drops to 0—for example, if you
have a 1 maximum and you’re taxed—you’re in trouble! Your character begins to back off from the life of a pirate or challenge
the others’ ways. He starts to see the world differently and doesn’t want to be a sky pirate anymore. At the end of this mission, your
character must retire until the captain (the GM) hires you back onto the crew. You may play another character until then.

If Nature advances to 7 and remains at that rating at the end of your current session, the character has become too much of a
pirate. He’s too cutthroat and untrustworthy. To represent this, one of his traits is changed to something like Ruthless, Killer or Cheat.
The other players may pick the trait to be changed.

Technically, there is no such thing as a Nature rating of 8, but if
you have enough passes and fails to advance to 8, you are festooned by your crew. You can read about this in the Festooning
section. Because a player with high nature can really upset some of the other players, an unanimous vote is required if the festooned
character is ever to be allowed back on the ship. If a vote is made and it is not unanimous, the character is considered dead.

That’s what I’ve done so far with nature. I think it sounds fun to play. Any ideas?

Oops, one more comment. I need to change cheating to lieing because cheating and backstabbing are the same thing. I forgot to do that.

This is what Luke said in another thread about my Pirate Nature:

“I don’t think your Nature set up is well-reasoned or compelling. I see what you’re trying to do, but based on my experience with gamers at the table and my experience with MG hacks, I don’t think you’re going to produce strong decisions. For one, your Nature is occupational – Pirate – and it’s FUN. We love to get our hands dirty in RP. I have a hard time imagining a player compelled to make meaningful decision to tap his Nature to learn something. Also, the more you tax your Nature in MG, the faster you learn. So that relationship is weird at best.”

I partly understand this critique, and I definitely trust his judgement over mine. But I thought that this Nature would give players many opportunities to tax their nature. Every time they want to do anything that is good, they will be compelled to tax their nature. Sure, a player could merely do exclusively cut-throaght actions and roll nature all the time, but he would soon run up his nature and get dumped by the other shipmates. Also, I thought the relationship between learning was interesting. A Pirate who is stuck in his pirate ways and refuses to open his mind would be a slow learner. But a pirate that was resisting his pirate urges and trying to change himself would be quick to learn new things.

I didn’t think nature was supposed to be boring. Like in mouse guard, nature is fun. It is always fun to forage and run away. Why? Because it makes you feel like a mouse doing what mice do best. If a pirates nature was not to do evil, how would you feel that same feeling of a pirate doing what he knows best? Also, without this nature, how do I include that struggle of trying to do good? How do I make it hard to resist the evil pirate life. I personally think that there is a boring element to this pirate nature because everyone will get sick of playing a cut-throught pirate, but they enjoy the struggle of trying to be noble and resisting your pirate nature.

If anyone has any ideas on how I could fix this nature, let me know.

It’s just way too easy to game, man. I could keep my Nature at 6 indefinitely using your definitions.

My pirate nature would be Mutiny, Rapine, And Shirking. Go too far in any those directions and you’ll suffer.

Thanks for your input noclue. I really appreciate other people’s thoughts on this.

I’m not sure how yours are that different. Is it because they are too risky? Rapine really makes sense because it is like pilfering only narrowed down to something far worse that you would use a lot less. As for Mutiny and shirking, I’m not sure how those would work. I think mutiny is basically refusing to do what your commander says, and that would work well in the GMs turn because I was going to have the GM play the captain who gives orders/obstacles in the GMs turn. It wouldn’t work out to use your nature for disobeying. Also shirking is similar. Basically, you could roll for shirking and time you are doing something other than your duty.

Maybe I’m wrong and they do make sense. I’m not sure.

If their Nature is to do the things you want them to do in the game, then they don’t need any other skills. imagine if guards mice had fighting, guarding and rescuing as there nature.

So I imagine a pirates nature to anything that destroys the disciplined functioning of the ship and leaves them vulnerable from within and without.

Replace rapine with impatience, and you’d have a great list. Rapine (violent theft) is too close to duty.

@twice born: yours are useful for duty. Noclues are only rarely useful for duty.

Pilfering, Murdering, Lying and backstabbing…

Pilfering IS duty.
Murdering is useful for many forms of pirate duty.
Lying is too useful for when trying to get into range or out of port.
Backstabbing is too broad and generally useful.

Mutiny: 180° out from duty. But useful when the captain looks weak or the orders are stupid. I think disobedience would be better, less 180° out and instead only 90° out…
Rapine is theft by force, and too close again to duty.
Shirking is again, 180° out from duty… but awesome for blaming others for your own failure.
Impatience is sometimes duty-useful, but also often duty-countering…

Well I was kinda going with Rapine as unfettered violence and greed, but you’re right. Impatience though, just doesn’t cut it for me…how about Wantonness?

Actually, Wantonness, Impatience, and Shirking, sounds pretty piratical to me… I want it all, I want it now, and I don’t want to work to get it… That’s pretty much why people go into piracy, and why most of them fail miserably at it… they grab too much, forget to stick to the plan due to that shiny bauble, aren’t willing to wait for just the right time, and if they can get laid, drunk, or some z’s instead of work, they will…

These are all great ideas. But I’m not sure how impatience or shirking would be used. Can you give me any ideas? Also, would wantonness basically be used like greed? And shirking as laziness? just making sure I understand some definitions.

Thanks for the response.

Shirking would be very useful for avoiding punishments via Persuade or Intimidate.

Skipper says to go ashore and chase down the lady Isabella. You instead go ashore, and, using Nature as a bonus to persuasion, convince the locals to return her to you while you wait in the bar. (sounds like an excellent conflict to me: nature as defend, persuasion and resources as attack and feint, (local)-wise as maneuver…)

Impatience being very useful with conspicuous or intimidate… helps any time you decide to “do it now” instead of prepping. Can’t be invoked if ANY prep is done. Just a matter of building obstacles where the choice is “Hard Now” or “Take a while and prep”…

The only burning wheel I’ve played is Mouse Guard. Maybe that is why I’m not understanding some of your examples. The GM turn doesn’t really allow for prep to be done. I am unfamiliar with intimidate and conspicuous.

You’re misreading prepping as character action - another name for linked tests - with prep as GM action.

I’m kinda liking these three.

Mutinying - rolling for acts of open rebellion against established authority.

Wantoning - rolling for acts that are inhumane, merciless, unruly, cruel, or wrongfully malicious.

Shirking - rolling for acts that cause a player to avoid his work or duty.

Would those definitions work in gameplay? I might change these later, but they sound good to me currently. Thanks everyone. If you have anymore advice I’d love to hear it.

I can’t quite figure out where you want to put the core tension in your hack. Carrying out your pirate-y duties versus…what?

It’s that “what” that’s going to tell you where to aim Nature. Nature is your default state that messes with your ability to carry out your duties.

If I were doing a pirate crew hack…hm. I guess it depends on how serious I wanted to be.

If I was aiming for very frowny-serious I’d go Pirate vs. Christian. It’d be about fighting against my fundamental decent, god-fearing self to carry out the horrors of my job.

If I was aiming for high-adventure piracy (fighting sea monsters and exploring for lost treasure rather than skull-fucking my enemies), I’d go Pirate vs. Landlubber. It’d be about fighting against my urge for safety and security in the quest for adventure.

Those would each be very different games with very different tensions inside them.

There’s also kind of an unexplored three-way tension inside MG that I think a lot of folks don’t understand without a lot of play: your duty, your goal and your Nature. Those things can all pull at each other. When I’m working on a hack, I spend at least as much time thinking about Goal guidelines/hacking as I do Nature.


Perhaps this will help. The following defines a large portion of what I want this hack to be.

[i]A Brief History of Sky Pirates

Long ago, sky pirates were vicious buccaneers that would maraud around the Edge pillaging settlements, steeling from merchant ships, and reeking havoc. The life of a sky pirate was looked down upon by all decent people in the edge.

Then, the Leagues were established. The Leagues were groups of merchants who formed monopolies in their areas of business on the Edge. Because the individuals running the leagues were so rich and well known in Undertown, they became prominent voices of reason and eventually took over Undertown. The leagues then wrote laws that made it illegal to do certain forms of business without having an affiliation with the appropriate league. The rouge merchants were hunted down and destroyed. Because of this, many sky ship crews were forced to resort to piracy.

There was a group of merchants that were cunning and skilled enough to do their business under the table. They met together in the taverns of Undertown. They formed a free market underground system where customers and venders could come alike to do business without facing the high prices or regulations of the leagues. Soon there was a substantial group of merchants and business men flying across the Edge and the leagues could not control or stop them. Because the merchants were breaking the law, the leagues declared them as sky pirates.

Today those free merchants wear the name “sky pirates” proudly. They continue to do business under the leagues nose and have become a force to be reckoned with, almost as big as the leagues themselves. Many of the leagues do under-the-table business with the pirates themselves, hiring them to do their dirty work.

Most citizens of Undertown look upon sky pirates as symbols of freedom, but there are those pirates that still resort to the original evils of piracy. It is in the nature of every sky pirate to be lawless. Even the noble pirates must fight the impulse to steal, swindle, backstab, and pillage.[/i]

The leagues are going to be a huge part of the game. They will provide sky pirates with some contracts and they will also fight against the pirates. But the main focus I want to emphasize is the conflict between being noble or being a pirate. Here is more about the sky pirate duties that the GM can use.

[i]Sky Pirate Enterprises

Proper Sky Pirates make there money from business ventures. If they are not supplying others with service or goods, they will not have enough money to pay off their employees or for ship supplies. This is what drives their lives. New pirate captains usually have payments to make on their ship. There is also the ships reputation to think of. If the ship fails to fulfill business agreements, they will have a hard time getting the best contracts.

Harvest Orders
There are many items in the Deepwoods that are needed by those in Undertown and Santaphrax. Paying the leagues for these items is very expensive so many submit their orders to sky pirates. The sky pirates have contracts they must fulfill before they will be payed of the goods. Most of these goods are incredibly dangerous to acquire. Creatures and plants are ordered alike.

Slave Trading
Undertown was founded to be a town of freedom and equality, and, even though Undertown is rarely what it claims to be, slavery is still a crime that is ruthlessly punished. Because of this, the leagues pay off sky pirates to transport slaves in from the Deepwoods so they will be spared from blame. Many sky pirates are joined against slavery and do everything in their power to eradicate it.

Trail Blazing
There are times when new trails and paths need to be made. Sky pirates are sometimes paid to set up routes to various areas of the Deepwoods. To do this they must set up way pointers and landmarks. They also need to install docking rings in the ground for ease of anchoring the sky ship.

Sky pirates can deliver messages to various places across the edge. Sometimes, if an important letter is being delivered to a dangerous remote location, large sums will be paid to sky pirates to deliver it.

Journey by sky ship is the fastest way to travel on the Edge. Rich individuals are often willing to pay large sums to be taken along.

Sky Exploration
From time to time, sky ships are contracted by universities in Santaphrax to travel into dangerous weather and study the sky. Many times they take Sky Scholors to makes observations and conduct experiments that influence the weather. Sky Pirates also keep a close eye on the weather and report any signs of danger or a a chance or a new storm to Santaphrax. Storms play a huge role in the world of the Edge because they cause many risks to sky ships and Santaphrax. Some storms are majorly disastrous, causing problems with the ecosystems of the Edge. Rescuing Wrecked Sky Ships Sometimes sky pirates are paid to seek out other sky ships that have gone missing or individuals that have been lost in the Deepwoods.

Some sky pirates are involved in the politics of Undertown. They help out politicians that are trying to change laws in the sky pirates favor. They also attend events to rally the people of Undertown, hoping to overthrow the corruption of the leagues-men.[/i]

Does that offer any insight? In the world of the edge, the definition of sky pirate is a little different than ours. The poor people of the edge see sky pirates and a symbol of freedom. And there are some noble sky pirates that pride themselves in their work. But I wanted that evil pirate nature to still be remaining to be a central area of conflict in the game.

Nope! But let me try another thing based on what you wrote: Being a sky pirate sounds completely awesome! So why isn’t everyone a sky pirate?

Hm, different peoples have different reasons.

Undertowners: Too weak and afraid to be a sky pirate.

Leagues-men: Already in corrupt positions of leadership and power and have no need to go rogue.

Santaphrax academics: Not concerned with adventure but only with studying and experimenting.

Deepwoods dwellers: Afraid of the sky. Like to be hidden away.

Does that help you?