A Jolly Rogers Tale: Skull & Shackles
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 influence 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.