I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.
Poison’d is a pirate-themed roleplaying game by D. Vincent Baker. It’s a lean, efficient package, a 28 page pamphlet containing character creation, system and the basics of a short campaign.
In fact, the format is what I perhaps like the most about it. It’s a fun little thing, a mean game about mean people with absolutely nothing extraneous in it.
The game has a definite, specific start: The captain has just been poisoned by the cook. What do the characters do about it? They’ve all suffered under the captain’s rule. Who’ll be the next captain? Does the poisoner need to be punished?
The setup is very similar to the opening of the other pirate-themed game I’ve talked about here, the Danish scenario Femten Mand. Perhaps it’s just obvious to kill the captain when you’re playing pirates!
Poison’d embraces the ugliness and hardship of the pirate life. The game doesn’t provide much of anything in the way of a setting, assuming that players will use their genre knowledge to get by. The mechanics guide them towards a darker interpretation of a pirate’s life.
For example, character creation involves choosing sins you have committed (such as murder, mutiny or sodomy). You have goals which can involve spitting in God’s eye or fucking the daughter of a man beyond your station.
When you die, there’s a final tally that determines the fate of your soul. You may enter Heaven but it’s more likely that you’ll have eternal silent rest or fall to the Pit.