Wednesday, July 15, 2015

50 Fathoms

"Ahoy, Maties! Its time for plunder!"

50 Fathoms [50F] is widely acknowledged as the best Plot Point Campaign Pinnacle has produced. As one who has run a 50F campaign, I want to endorse that sentiment. So while you will find a good number of reviews out there 50F, I will attempt to delve into what makes this one the best.

The biggest driver is that 50F is a Sandbox campaign world set up in the same manner as Elder Scrolls and the Fallout games. There is an overarching metaplot, but you are encouraged and given the freedom to explore the world before you tackle that metaplot. Yes, the world is going to end if the PCs do nothing, but its not going end right away. There is enough material there to run a couple of campaigns before you ever tackled the big plot. For example, you could:

  • Run the Golden Triangle Plot Point (a classic uncover the pirate treasure scenario)
  • Deal with trade war that results from Baltimus smashing Brigandy Bay and the possible conflicts between Kiera and New Madrid
  • Exploration of Torath Ka ala Lost World type explorations
  • Build up and run a mercantile/pirate/privateer/whaler operation
  • String together a number of Savage Tales for a unique story
  • Run your own game.
What allows all this to work is the freedom of sailing on the open seas. In the opening Plot Point the PCs secure a sloop to kick off the game. This allows the PCs to explore the world in the terms of being a pirate, privateer, merchant or even try their hand at whaling. And the setting does not lock them into any of these approaches - they can change course just as the wind changes...although there are always consequences.

The locations are all richly different. Baltimus is where money buys status, where as Kiera you are born into it. Brigandy Bay is a hive of scum and villainy that only respects your accomplishments. And the PCs will visit all of these places and more as the main Plot Point takes your group across the world.

Another key is the evocative writing. I had no problem taking what was there and making it mine. If something caught the fancy of my imagination or of the players it was easy to expand into longer adventures. If something was less so, it was easy to condense to a session or two.

I also found the earth crossover of key pirates to be inspiring. Blackbeard is a favorite of mine and should prove to be the toughest adversary in the campaign - even more than Hags. The reason for this is the Hags have specific MacGuffins to deal with them, but Blackbeard does not (yes, he has a weakness but the PCs may have a hard time forcing it).

If there is a weakness to the setting, it might be the finale of the campaign. There are many ways the PCs might attack that final encounter with the Hags and the book really does not give much advice around the options. I do recommend as the players build to the end the GM really think about the final scene. I was lucky in that I could bring to a head a number of other threads to converge in the finale to make it really memorable, but not all campaigns may be that lucky.

Final Rating: Must Buy!

1 comment:

  1. One thing I consider a weakness in 50f and PotSM is ship combat. It's ok when you fire 4 guns, but when you fire 15 or more it gets very frustrating to roll for every single cannon and dealing with damage, Wounds, etc. I like using Mass Battles for that from Ultimate Pirates, Privateers and Plunder Guide which I recommend for all things regarding ships.