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Basic Information

Piracy is defined as an act of war committed by a non-state actor. Most commonly, we think of armed robbery on the high seas, but it can also refer to coastal raids, river piracy, and seaborne terrorism or violent attacks on the water for reasons other than financial gain, as well as border raids by bandits on land.

Piracy differs from Privateering in that the later is sanctioned by a state or government.

Those who commit piracy are known as Pirates.

The word piracy is also used to refer to the violation of intellectual property by unauthorised reproduction of protected goods - any connection to actual piracy is typically tangential at best. Much the same applies to pirate radio, which is simply a term for any broadcast radio station that operates outside any licencing scheme applicable to its target area1.

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Game and Story Use

  • Pirates can be a scourge, menace and challenge for the PCs.
    • Threat of piracy can spice up seaborne travel.
    • An amphibious raid by pirates can be a sudden surprise twist for a campaign set in a coastal region.
    • Q-Ship operations, either as a naval or privateer crew, can be a good side adventure for PCs (essentially they fit and man a ship and sail about waiting for pirates to attack). As a not particularly glamorous assignment this is ideal for a rag-tag bunch of misfits as a crew.
  • Or, if strapped for cash, PCs with a fast (or well armed) vehicle can turn to piracy as a means of income.
  • Opportunistic piracy was quite a feature of many times and places - when this sort of thing was going on, there was the very real chance that any ship that encountered a weaker vessel in the absence of any witnesses might well attack and plunder it, even if they had originally set out on their voyage without any intent of larceny. Sudden, unprovoked attacks and treachery are to be expected under such conditions - and not being professional pirates, the attacking crew are less likely to leave witnesses alive to denounce them later.
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