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Nan o’ War CH9: Fifteen Men on a Big Ol’ Chest

By Rutskarn
on Wednesday Apr 26, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play


Having just killed a bunch of thugs to protect a man I’d just beaten up to scare him into paying me to kill a bunch of other thugs who were probably paid to beat him up to scare him into paying me to protect him, I think I’ve proven that my capacity for vicious, backbiting, syntactically ambiguous crime is bottomless. Really, I have no moral standards whatsoever. But you know what I do have?

Regular standards. Screw this Mickey Mouse mine mission that keeps popping up. Actually, you know what, screw this whole territory. I think I’ve had enough of rum-dandy colonial life. Time to really commit to this romantic aesthetic and cruise up the island chain to Þe Olde Pyrate Faction.

Note the differences between a pirate town and a regular town. For one thing, there's a pirate flag. For another, when I set foot on shore, all Spaniards worldwide wrinkle their noses in unison and make a note to hate that granny they've never met.
Note the differences between a pirate town and a regular town. For one thing, there's a pirate flag. For another, when I set foot on shore, all Spaniards worldwide wrinkle their noses in unison and make a note to hate that granny they've never met.

Behold the Caicos Islands! I can’t wait for these to be settled, uh, ten years from now.

For the half-dozen gamers who care (and those who pretend to care to rack up their list of comic grievances), this game’s a stew of modest anachronisms. Which makes sense, in a very complicated and arguably necessary way.

So to be a proper sandbox game in the Mount and Blade style, players must always have a choice between legitimate, honorable military action and self-interested opportunism. In genre terms, this pretty clearly means Blood and Gold needs to give equal prominence to both piracy and privateering.

For those not clear on the distinction, piracy is a criminal enterprise where self-starting go-getters put together a crew and go rob merchants on the high seas. Privateering is a legal military action wherein an authorized captain robs enemy merchants to the enrichment of investors. They’re both associated with swashbuckling fiction, and from a sandbox design perspective, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to give players a choice between the two paradigms of naval mugging.

Here’s the problem: the choice is basically bogus. I don’t mean that there’s no difference between being a pirate or a privateer, I mean that being a privateer is clearly, obviously better. As the famous historical sea shanty goes:

Yo, ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me

We’re basically fucked and we live on the run

Drink up, me hearties, yo ho

We sell our hauls cheap to whomever will come

Drink up, me hearties, yo ho

My leg’s rotting off and we don’t have a doc

Drink up, me hearties, yo ho

We’re all gonna hang so we run out the clock

Oh god, it’s Woodes Rogers, go

And as the famous privateering tune goes:

We are so goddamned rich and we got away with it

Suck our dicks, me hearties, yo ho

(Freestyle crotch-chopping)

It’s a growth industry. At least, it is when there’s belligerent powers to rob. So when you get right down to it, there’s just one key distinction between “pirate” and “privateer”:

Is there a war on?

As a general rule, privateers are born when a period of sustained naval conflict begins. Pirates are born when a period of sustained naval conflict ends, often because a bunch of sailors (whether privateers or press-ganged seamen) find themselves abruptly unemployed and clutching resumes short on software languages and long on cannon murder.

If you want a game with lots of opportunities to serve as privateer, it’s reasonable to set your game in the late 17th century when everyone with a navy is fucking with each other. If you want a game full of pirate hideouts and lawless renegades and famous faces, you really ought to set the game after the War of the Spanish Succession ends in the early 18th century, which is when pirates like Blackbeard get their careers started. This game decides it wants both privateering and famous pirates, and as a result, cops a world map and list of NPCs that makes no real historical sense. And the main problem with this is, uh.

Actually, it’s fine. It’s a good design choice.

So…hey, look, some bosoms!

I haven’t done any in-depth economical analyses or anything, but the chief difference between pirate towns and regular towns seems to be the jaunty skull-and-bones flags hung from the rafters and the dishabille women dancing on tables whom you can tip thousands of piastres to disrobe.And they really do. This is, as best as I can tell, the game’s “adult content.”

Which is very historically inaccurate. The flags and rafters, I mean. The outrageously overpriced strippers are basically spot-on for a Caribbean(!) pirate haven. There’s creditable historical accounts that when pirates showed up at an island, drunk and richer than they’ve ever been and vaguely stunned that they haven’t been hanged yet, extremely stupid amounts of money changed hands for very basic erotic gestures. I’m serious; this is practically documentary fanservice.

“Yyeaagh! I’m so fuckin’ pumped! I love pirating almost as much as I love Quatre Loco energy rum!”

“Hey, layday, that quasi-Mesoamerican fetish costume would look even more pointlessly elaborate on my bedroom floor!

“Wait hold the fuck up tell me this granny’s not gonna get naked”

So you think these costumes are supplied by management? Or are the women independent buskers? Honestly, I’m not sure this kind of permanent tavern structure is cost-effective. You’d have less hassle and overhead running a kind of permanent farmer’s market. “There’s foodstuff cargo, there’s precious cargo, and here’s the alley for boobs and booze. That’ll be one fistful of various national currencies. Thank you.

Then again, I guess you’ve got to invest in a four-walled tavern or two if you want to attract shady-corner-based businesses, such as:

Shooting people!

Apparently, there is no community in the Caribbean(!) too impermanent and disorganized to support full-time murder-based industries. So who’s the target?

A rich guy who rides his horse around town with his bodyguards! You know, the local color of pirate occupied squatter towns. Okay, let’s rent a room from one of the charming hoteliers and get ready to snipe his morning commute. Then, while his mounted bodyguards search all dozen windows for the one with a huge plume of 17th century gunsmoke rolling out of it, I’ll escape on foot. I’m not getting paid until afterwards? You don’t say.

After like sixty full seconds of staring at an empty window, my target laboriously trundles up. I shoot him. He dies, and I instantly win.

So that was fast and easy, but at least it was boring and slow. Now what?

Oh son of a

Okay HOW is he paying ten FUCKING


Yeah. That’s enough Suspicious Man for now.



[1] And they really do. This is, as best as I can tell, the game’s “adult content.”

Comments (43)

  1. ehlijen says:

    Hurray, more Nan-o-war! That always makes my day. It’s good to see you still writing here, Rutskarn.

    How did our piratical protagonist travel to pirate port, by the way? Did she get a new ship?

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Is there a war on?

    But didnt the big factions employ privateers in peace time as well?Because “They are our allies NOW,but in a couple of years…who knows?”.I mean the base premise behind privateers is that the others shouldnt know who employed them,which is why they were not flying a flag of any country(or flying a flag of a different country)when on a raid.

    Also,werent there pirates who pretended to be privateers for multiple countries?In those days,I doubt that it would be easy to find out that you were the one who last month robed an english trade ship while working for the french,only to now rob a french ship on behest of her majesty the queen of england.Yes the most well known captains are the ones who built a reputation for themselves and boasted about their plunders,but there had to be plenty of unknowns who did not want their dastardly deeds to be found out.

    • Veylon says:

      It’s actually worse than that – though multiply-faced privateers were very much a thing – there were even privateers for nations of dubious and/or transitory existence. There were a lot of rebel groups who stormed out of the jungle, overran a port city, declared themselves a country, issued a boatload of letters of marque, and then were bloodily driven out, sometimes all in the same month.

      So you’d have a privateer (?) come into port with a pile of loot and claim it’s all legit to sell because he’s got a paper that may or may not be from the Governancy of Cartagena, which may or may not exist any more if it ever did.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    A sniper shooting in the age of wooden ship piracy?I gueeesss…Though using a crossbow would probably be more reliable than one of those guns.

  4. David says:

    Hold on, a sniper with a musket? Now I’m certainly not an expert, but… a sniper with a musket?!

    • Steve C says:

      Davy Crockett was a sniper with musket.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Probably a rifled one. This probably is simply another run of the mill smooth bore.

        • Flavius says:

          I am not an expert either, but based on what I have heard and read, an American Revolution-era smooth-bore musket could reliably hit a human-sized target at around 80-100 yards. This is, of course, a gross generalization, as issues such as weapon heat, ammunition type and caliber, and the time taken in preparation of the shot would have had a considerable effect on the effective range. Keep in mind that in most situations in warfare, rate of fire was generally valued over accuracy, so troops would have had less time to line up their shots.

          • Rutskarn says:

            This is accurate. The boucaneers evicted by the Spanish were infamous for their accuracy with long-barreled, non-rifled muskets.

            • FelBlood says:


              Good top gunners were good enough to ensure that the name lives on in a different form of nautical, long-range killing today. That and calling their carrier fighter pilots “top guns” helps the US Navy compete with the Air Force in recruiting pilots.

              Who doesn’t want a job title that sounds like the name of an early Tom Cruise vehicle?

  5. Guile says:

    After a while I suppose all the murder blends together, ay Rutskarn? Try and name a single one of these brief fellows, that’ll be good for a laugh. Is this the lad with ten stout bodyguards that Nan murdered in Caicos, or is this the lad with ten stout bodyguards that Nan murdered in Beginner Town Whatever The Fuck?

    ‘Well obviously this is Mr. 2500 Piastres, and that other one was Mr. 1500 Piastres! See, I remember them perfectly, the old memory’s not gone yet.’

  6. John says:

    Procedurally generated quests! What fun! I like how none of the targets have names. It adds, eh, versimillitude.

  7. Christopher says:

    It’s hard to know what to write after the announcement yesterday, but to try and block all that out for a minute:

    Those are the most informative stripper facts I’ve read. I wasn’t aware that the pirates were getting robbed themselves by the local red light district. I also laughed out loud at that helpfully numbered *YOU GET THE POINT image, so thanks for giving me something funny to read today.

  8. Scampi says:

    Oh my, what is that poor noble even doing in that rotten and advertised pirate town?
    Is that the pirate version of Sir Francois from the Order of the Stick’s “Origin of PCs” issue? With his own Elan advising him to just get into that ulcer of a town for the night because surely nothing will happen to an unsuspecting noble in a town flying a pirate flag?

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait,I have to ask:

    Was there ever an actual settlement that proudly identified itself as “pirate base”?I know that plenty of towns were willing to declare themselves neutral and accept the wealth from all the lowlifes that were around.But to actually officially identify as pirate seems a bit…stupid.

    • Scampi says:

      Wait-do you mean in the sense that they spread greeting cards that read “Pirate Bay – It’s nice during season” or in the sense that it’s known to harbour large amounts of pirates?
      Apparently, Tortuga (the same island as appeared in Pirates of the Carribean) was notorious enough to be known for the latter, but I wonder if any large powers of the time knew. At least their buccaneers must have known, according to Wiki
      I guess nobody really made any effort of permanently smoking it out because it harbored everyone’s own privateers as well?

    • Rutskarn says:

      Yes, but mostly during the period I mentioned (the early 18th century). There were several unofficial and basically official pirate havens in the Caribbean. New Providence, Nassau, Tortuga, and Cicao come to mind.

  10. Paul Spooner says:

    “being a privateer is clearly, obviously better”
    I realize you’re oversimplifying for comedy and concision, but to draw an even finer line, the difference between a pirate and a privateer is in who you ask, as the English regularly tried as pirates those the Spanish had hired as privateers.

    But yeah, at the end of the day “Actually, it's fine. It's a good design choice.”

    Though, this makes me wonder… can you hire a forgerer to simply fabricate letters of writ from ALL the major powers, thereby giving you nominal legitimacy with anywhere you might want to put into port?
    In actual history, ships were expensive enough to be rare enough for local officials to have personal contact with all of the captains, which makes forgeries of this sort impossible, but it would be an interesting mechanic.

    • Scampi says:

      I’d say the answer depends on whether you’re successful or not.
      If you, as a captain, can convince a steady supply of pirates to sail under your flag, can limit losses and capture lots of booty, you’d probably enjoy being a pirate better, as there would be more possible targets to hit and no other interest to pay off, as the patron power might demand a kind of tax from their buccaneers.
      But if your existence depends on the ability to hide under your patron power’s wing at times, your general success rate is mediocre and you’re a sad sap whom nobody trusts and who therefore has problems building up a crew, you’d prefer being someone’s privateer, I think.
      On the other hand, the powers would of course prefer contracting successful powerful pirates into being privateers, so I guess if you’re a pirate who would prefer being a privateer, your chances of achieving exactly this would be abysmal.

      • FelBlood says:

        Even if you haul in less loot and pay a modest tax on it, a letter of marque allows you to get so much more out of it that the other benefits are minor by comparison.

        If you are a privateer and you have a good cruise, you can take your haul to your patron nation, sell your boat and retire on your huge pile of gold. If the ships you hit were important treasury or payroll ships, you might even be knighted* for your military service and welcomed into the noble class with a small estate to supplement that retirement.

        If you are a pirate before the rise of the pirate havens and you have a hold full of treasure, you have two options. Bury it until the heat is off and try to lie low, or barter it away for supplies, at a fraction of it’s cash value. On the off chance you have anything left to bury after resupplying your ship, you’ll probably just die on another cruise (and you have to keep cruising to keep bartering for food), long before it’s time to come dig it back up.

        Inflation’s a right bitch when you have a boatload of gold, no food, and nowhere to spend it.

  11. Fade2Gray says:

    I love your stuff Ruts! Please keep it coming until either I die or the entire universe is swallowed by super-massive black holes (whichever comes first).

  12. The balancing problem with being a privateer ought to be that all other privateers flying enemy flags will attack you on sight. If that doesn’t exist, then yeah, being a pirate instead is pretty silly viz gameplay.

  13. Lorpius Prime says:

    I enjoyed your proper use of a thorn.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Okay HOW is he paying ten FUCKING

    Ah,but the real question is how many of them survived?And how many people on the other side did he promise to pay?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Spishie’s next briefing is all:

      I’ve need for a hired sword. Seems a few employees of mine weren’t reckless enough. A few of them lived, and now they’re all clamoring for coin! Gut as many as you can and I’ll pay you instead.
      At a discounted rate of course. Let’s not get silly expectations.

  15. Disc says:

    By the way, if you’re ever gonna do more writing on M&B spinoffs, this… thing might make for something awfully interesting.

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