Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Black Sails - Season 1

Well season #1 had 8 episodes and I've managed to see all of them now. I don't see a lot of sailing ship/pirate era type shows on TV so if you're even slightly interested it's worth tracking down. That said it is Starz attempt to open their own HBO-style series so there's lots of nudity, sex, violence, and bad language. Keep in mind, it is a show about pirates. I will keep this largely spoiler-free in case some of you want to go check it out.

Captain Noblebeard and crew

Notable point: 8 episodes: Sometimes less is more. This is a good way to introduce a show and gauge the interest level. It'e already been renewed for season two so we will be seeing more of this story. A determined couch commander could burn through it in a day.

Captain Abs and crew

Characters: It's a fairly tight cast of characters. Each main character has 2-3 associated companion characters. There are interactions within these smaller groups and interactions between the larger groups that drive the show.
    • The woman in charge of the island/pirate port and her "crew", mainly her right hand man and girlfriend
    • Captain Noblebeard and his crew, mainly his first mate and bosun
    • Captain Abs and his crew, mainly the Bad Girl and Not-Jack-Sparrow
    • The individuals - the "cook", the land-based captain, the mystery woman, and others all making their way and developing relationships between the main characters
There is heavy pressure on each of the leads, both from within their own "team" and without. Good and bad decisions are made during the season - sometimes you see them coming, sometimes you don't. Quite a few minor and several major characters are lost over the course of the season as well - so far the "reset button" has not been a big issue. There is an overall plot that develops right from Episode 1 all the way through the finale. I can't really go into more detail there without spoilers but I'll probably talk more about that when season 2 comes along.

Also note: There's nothing blatantly supernatural in the show so far, so it's a step closer to "real" than Pirates of the Caribbean. 
Island Girl and her right hand man

From a "guy who has considered running a pirate campaign" it has some things to offer too:
  • The PC's don't all have to be the crew of a single ship. Putting them on different ships opens up opportunities for both competition and cooperation. It's an especially effective way to handle players with differing schedules. If player A can't make it this week he must be out hunting merchant ships (if the campaign focus is in port that week) or he must have had to return to port (if the focus is out on the sea). The characters could end up going after each other but they are playing pirates, right? Seems pretty true to the genre.
  • It could be run as a sandbox but a pirate town is not typically a "safe" town so that particular convention doesn't fit well. If the port is under a truce and is only a place where deals get made and loot is sold then it might work but it might miss some opportunities too. 
  • Rival NPC's are an important element of a pirate game, both other pirates and authority figures. Players need something to push against, and as a pirate you're already operating outside of conventional civilization. Having that civilization barge in occasionally reminds them of their status and puts some pressure on them to act or react in some way. Rival pirates give them a measuring stick for those who want to rank themselves. Even a rival port town (Nassau vs. Tortuga) could make for some fun options and reasons to make and break alliances within the game.
...and Island Girl's girlfriend