Tracking… Pirate Loot

In Tracking… Ryan Costello, Jr catches up with people of note in the Pathfinder community. Designers of items of interest, third party publishers, and significant volunteers. Today, we’re tracking Pirate Loot, a new Kickstarter by Jason Bulmahn.

Pathfinder enthusiasts know Jason Bulmahn’s design chops when it comes to RPGs, from adventures to options to worlds. But apparently working full time on the world’s best selling roleplaying game isn’t enough for Bulmahn; Pathfinder’s lead designer sets sails for a different kind of tabletop experience.


Know Direction (KD): Where do you find the time?

Jason Bulmahn (JB): I honestly don’t know. The past few months have flown by in a blur. Paizo all day, Pirates all night. I’m pretty sure I got some sleep in there at some point, but I can’t be sure.


KD: Tell us about Pirate Loot.

JB: Pirate Loot is a card game, wherein you and your friends take turns recruiting pirates and stabbing each other in the back. Your goal is to assemble the best possible crew of scurvy pirates before the ships set sail. Once that happens, the best crew gets the best loot. Ultimately you’re trying to get enough loot to satisfy your crew and win the game. Its easy to learn, the play is fast paced, and it has enough tactics in it to keep things exciting.


KD: Are you particularly passionate about pirates?

JB: I’ve always enjoyed pirates. They usually manage to make an appearance in the RPG campaigns that I run. The seed of the idea for this game came to me after a long night binge watching Black Sails. Not that it is drawn from the show, but it just got me thinking about what would make for a fun pirate game. The basics of the game came in quite a rush. I had most of the mechanics for it in about an hour. Its pretty rare for me. My games usually take time to ferment, but the pirates just would not wait.


KD: What are the similarities and differences between designing for a card game and designing for an RPG?

JB: Well, ultimately they have very different goals. In an RPG, there is no “winner”, just participants in a story. With Pirate Loot, somebody will win. The rest will end up at the bottom of the ocean. Beyond the end condition though, some of the elements are similar. In both, I am trying to create a clear and concise set of rules using easily defined terms. I think that might even be more important for a card game. After all, there is no GM to fix it if something is unclear.


KD: Paizo just released their own card game about pirates. Any conflict of interest between Pirate Loot and the Skull & Shackles Adventure Card Game?

JB: No, not at all. The Adventure Card Game is an entirely different beast. In some ways, it plays much more like an RPG, with the players taking on the role of characters who cooperate with one another to complete a series of adventures. No one cooperates in Pirate Loot. Its every traitorous dog for himself.


KD: You’ve playtested with friends in the game industry. How has their experience influenced Pirate Loot?

JB: There have been a lot of changes to the game since its first inception early this year. Many of the cards have had their abilities changed or had their text significantly revised to clean up inconsistencies. Its an ongoing process and one that I hope will continue right up until the moment we send it to the printer. I am really looking forward to seeing what our Kickstarter Backers have to say when they get the “print and play” decks.


KD: Let’s say I’m sitting down with my friends to play Pirate Loot, what is the experience around the table going to be like?

JB: The game play is pretty quick and light. Each player takes a turn putting one card into play from their hand and resolving whatever effects (if any) the card has. You want to build up the best possible crew of one faction (or suit) of pirate, but sometimes the other cards have abilities that are just too good to pass up. Games are filled with treachery as the players are constantly backstabbing each other. When you don’t know when the round will end, you have to make the most out of every opportunity. In short, its fast, brutal, and filled with laughs.


KD: How did you settle on the look of the game?

JB: Being a game about treasure and treachery, I knew I wanted a more “light-hearted” art approach. I wanted the game to convey a certain amount of whimsy while you are busy destroying each other. When Scott Kurtz and Dylan Meconis came onboard, I knew I had exactly what I needed. Their style is a perfect match for the tone and overall theme of the game. And they can draw some really awesome pirates!


KD: Why Kickstarter?

JB: Kickstarter really is the best way for creators to work directly with the public to make the things they want. For me, this is a way for me to have total control over a project from beginning to end. Its also allowed me to grow as a gaming professional, learning about some sides of the business that I have ever only tangentially dealt with. In the end, Kickstarter is a way for me to make the game and make it as big and as awesome as the audience wants. We are well on our way and I could not be more excited!


KD: What influenced how you crafted Pirate Loot’s Kickstarters?

JB: I scanned through about 50 successful kickstarters before putting the Pirate Loot Kickstarter together. Ultimately, I decided to make it as clean and simple as possible. Too many kickstarters break up their pages in ways that are confusing and difficult to navigate. Just like a pirate, I like things as straightforward as possible.. and maybe covered in the blood of my foes.


KD: What is the best case scenario you are willing to entertain for Pirate Loot’s future?

JB: Oh no. I am not going to jinx it. Right now I am focusing on hitting the funding goal and then I will look to the horizon and see how far this ship will sail. I’d love to hit both of my major stretch goals, but its still way too early to count on. That is the great thing about kickstarter. You never know how far it will take you.


We’ll be talking with Jason Bulmahn in an upcoming episode of Know Direction about the recently released Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide, the upcoming Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Strategy Guide and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Monster Codex, and more about Pirate Loot. Join us live, September 3rd at 8:30 pm Eastern.


Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game grew into a podcast network. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as the director of logistics and co-host of Upshift podcast, dedicated to the Essence20 RPG system he writes for and helped design. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting:

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