What got short shrift from me was the roleplaying portion due to lack of interested players and also my own uncertainty in running a game. As a roleplaying setting, the Napoleonic era games are pretty sparse on the ground. While Privateers and Gentlemen is not the sole role playing game to feature Napoleonic Sail, it certainly has to be the first.
And, there is a lot of good there to be had. So, some history.
Privateers and Gentlemen was published in but, the core miniature rules were first published in Like many games of the era, it started as a miniatures game with role playing rules tacked on later. Thanks to Walter Jon Williams for clearing up this confusion. Note: Of these, Car Wars is unique in that it started with a simple but, coherent character system in the original game. The roleplaying aspect mainly serves to feed the players into the miniature combat game.
But, despite recent pushes to move roleplaying games toward less combat centered play, this style of play remains popular as can be shown by the continued popularity of the games on the above list. Given its age, it features some of the typical downsides of this era of game: no unified game mechanics; a scattershot organization; and sometimes uses inconsistent terminology. However, reading it today, it also has all the features of a workable game and some things to endear you to it. Without going into extended description of the rules here are a few features I like. How the game deals with initiative and combat order is interesting.
Players first declare intentions then determine strike order which depends on weapon type as modified by the MASS i.
I expect this to be a somewhat slow system but, melee is not the focus of the game. And, a good thing too, because damage is dealt to by hit location with a typical arm taking 8 points of damage before being lopped off. Plus, the book all of them really feature many historical tidbits that both encourage roleplaying and add to ways to interact with the rules. For example, a successful captain who earns enough money to buy a rotten borough can assign himself as Member of Parliament, which then can be used to increase his odds of promotion.
The focus of the roleplaying game is to feed players into miniature naval battles so characters, gunnery, sailing ability, and seamanship are the more important skills. Characters can be British or American naval officers, or Privateers. The game provides no information for playing nationalities other than British or American, though, one can see that an industrious player could come up with a French, Spanish, or Dutch character using the bones of the system without much trouble. If a character is a military officer the rules provide means of being assigned ships and generating missions convoy, blockade, dispatch, cruizing, squadron, and special.
If a privateer, there are rules for ship creation and missions are all cruizing. Kingdoms of Sand: Books Daniel Arenson.
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