Of the Seas, the Stars and the Weird

Author: The Weird Admiral

The Lightless Beacon

This review is part of my list of Maritime TTRPG scenarios. This overview is meant to help players to select the adventures they want to play. It’s spoiler-free up the section for gamemasters. Please keep the comments spoiler-free as well!

April 12th, 1926, 8:15pm. The Beacon Island lighthouse off the shore of Folly Point, Massachusetts, ceased to cast its light over the region’s dangerous rocky waters about 15 minutes ago. As a result, the SS Essex County, a mixed passenger and cargo vessel on which you are all traveling to Rockport, has foundered on the rocks and incurred considerable damage to its hull.
The ship is sinking, and the crew hurries you toward one of the many small rowboats acting as the ship’s lifeboats. As they load you in, they tell you your best bet is to aim for Beacon Island—they doubt you’ll make the mainland as a storm is brewing. You should have just enough time to reach the island before it hits.
Then, without another word, they shove you off into the dark, churning waters. All you have to guide you is the small light shining at the base of the lighthouse’s towering silhouette.

The LightLess Beacon, page 9

Quick Stats

  • System/Ruleset: Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition
  • Dependencies: Basic Rules only (several options)
  • Authors: Leigh Carr with Lynne Hardy
  • Setting: 1920s, New England, USA
  • Theme: Lighthouse, Smuggling, Mythos
  • Pregens: four, gender-neutral & nameless
  • Players: 2-4 (5+ optional), best with 4
  • Time (as written/as tested): 60/300 mins
  • Source: The Lightless Beacon (Free PDF)
  • Weird Admiral’s Rating: 7/7
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The Seven Seas

Ahoy, laddies! You all surely heard variations of the phrase “Sailing the Seven Seas”, which today generally means that one has been or is sailing all the seas of the world (the IHO 1953 listed a total of 23 seas in their S-23 standard), indicating superior experience due to having seen things; or – used less with a nautical subtext and even more metaphorically – it can tell us that one is not restricted to just one area (of expertise, action, work, …) alone, but is more versatile or more mobile (in modern marketing speak, you could say: “more agile”) than others.

Interestingly enough, the term “Seven Seas” seems to be an cultural example of convergent evolution, appearing in different times and areas of the world with different seas (or other bodies of water) in mind. The Wikipedia page on the term lists several ancient & early modern origins or variations, which seems to indicate that not the seas, but the number part is the real thing we’d need to take a closer look at, but I don’t want to drift into esoterical numerology here – although I’d be interested in reading a cultural history about the significance of number “7“.

Let us focus on the seas here for a bit. I am not going to collect any of the historical or recent catalogues with their different names and waters here. Instead, I want to point out something that all of thoses lists seem to have in common: the people who made them saw a need for distinction between those areas of water. Something set them apart from each other, made them recognizable, gave them their own character – and such their own name. It’s not just “the Sea”, it’s “the Atlantic”, “the Mediterranean”, or “the Adriatic” even. Why is that?

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More Krakens, less Dragons!

Ahoy, landlubbers! Two weeks ago I had an interesting discussion about apex monsters in tabletop role-playing games, and especially about Dragons, which still seem to be the epitome of end-game adversaries in most fantasy settings. Actually, they are not even limited to higher levels or later acts in ttrpgs anymore, but are literally everywhere you look, as soon as you enter most classic fantasy worlds – and I am not only speaking of Dungeons & Dragons, where these beasts are a prominent part of the brand name since 1974, or of Game of Thrones, where the winged fire-breathers are a central part of the world’s history and the story-arc of Daenerys Targaryen and her family in particular. I am speaking of the fact that there is a List of dragons in popular culture on Wikipedia, that is just an overview/landing page for even more lists concerning the appearance of Dragons in literature, film, television, video games – and even sports! And while I can somehow understand the audience being fascinated by those close-to-all-powerful creatures (who’s not attracted to symbols of absolute power?) – those scaly dinosaurs bore me to Death, whenever I encounter them.

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The Forbidden Seas

Ahoy, laddies! This weekend I had a great idea for a TTRPG campaign that basically explores the question: “What if the high seas of your fictional fantasy world were (suddenly) off limits for everyone?” What if the use of the seas were forbidden? No gathering of natural resources, no travel and no trade allowed?

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Not all Swashbucklers!

Shiver me timbers, what is it with the monoculture of Piratey stereotypes in this popular culture’s fiction today, especially in tabletop role-playing games (which I have spoken of before)? I have to wonder: Do you all really have only such a limited imagination? I speak, of course, of the idea, that “Swashbuckler” seems to be a synonym for “good” Piratey types somehow.

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Ships as Dungeons?

7 things to think about

Ahoy, laddies! I hear some of you like to play these kinds of games where you send people you imagine into castles, caves and other kinds of areas that are full of deadly monsters, traps and treasures – table-top roleplaying games they are called, I think, or sometimes just pen-and-paper. Well, that’s all fine and all. Only when I see ships used in these kinds of scenarios, I am a bit worried, because I am not convinced most of the players actually realize the limitations and possibilities of ships – and especially those from the Age of Sail and earlier.

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Yarrr!

Oh, how I hate these first entries into a new and empty log. And of course I have to hunt myself some fresh ink directly after sitting down to start writing. This one is merely legible. Where is that stupid squid, when you need him? Have to search him again, I guess. Hope he’s not trying to climb the mast as he did last week. I am not a young lad anymore, ach. See you later, dear log. If I survive. Right.

W.

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