Monday, 6 November 2017

Gaming Classic Literature: Long John Silver for Poison'd

The system I will be using.
One of my favourite characters in all of literature is Long John Silver.  The grand-daddy of all fictional pirates.  If Robert Louis Stevenson hadn't written Treasure Island without Silver as the villain.  I doubt that pirates like Jack Sparrow would ever have been put to screen.  So much of what we think of when we think of pirates is owed to Long John.  So to honour him I decided to stat him up in Vincent Baker's Poison'd.  Now this game by the creator of Apocalypse World and Dogs in the Vineyard has an air of controversy around it.  Largely due to an unfortunate incident, (the specifics of which you can find in this 1d4chan article about the game).  Despite that I like Poison'd, I find it to be the perfect mix of story-telling with brutal Pirate action.  Which I think works great for creating the villain of Treasure Island.  So without further ado, let's jump right into it.


1. Choosing Silver's Position

The book tells us that Silver served aboard the ship Walrus with the infamous Captain Flint.  Where Silver was Flint's quartermaster, meaning he was pretty much in charge of the ship's day to day running of the ship.  When it wasn't in combat.  Which makes sense since Silver is shown to be incredibly intelligent and forward-thinking, compared to his fellow pirates.  While most of Flint's old crew seems to have wasted all of their money on rum and women.  Reducing themselves to beggars, forcing them to take part in Silver's plan to go in search of Flint's treasure.  Silver has set himself up quite a nice for himself, running a Tavern known as the Spyglass and having saved his plunder in a bank in Bristol.  Making him a perfect candidate for the position.  The only reason I didn't make Silver a Cook is because in Poison'd the assumption is that the ship's cook poisoned the captain of the ship.  Forcing the characters to deal with the aftermath.  


2. Choosing Silver's Sins

Poison'd requires that the player choose a number of Sins that the character has committed.  Now the list isn't exactly in line with the actions of the characters in Stevenson's book.  Since it was written in the Victorian era of 1883, when what you could publish on paper was a lot more restricted in terms of content.  While Poison'd is written more for a modern adult audience.  It took some thinking but I was eventually able to come up with a list of Sins that fit Silver.  Murder and robbery were a must given his profession, I took both twice.  Since he appears to be incredibly unrepentant about the whole thing.  Since he plans the Mutiny aboard the Hispaniola, something tells me that this isn't his first rodeo.  The only other Sins that were fit with Silver's character Adultery and Blasphemy.  Didn't seem to fit, given that he is shown to be something of a pious man.  Admonishing his fellow pirates when they cut out a page of the Bible to make a Blackspot for him.  When they decide that he's no longer fit to be Captain.  Adultery didn't seem to fit either since Long John is married.  (A fact that is often left out of film adaptations of the book).  To an ex-slave by the name of Rebecca Silver, he trusts to close his bank account and sell his tavern.  After he leaves Bristol in search of Flint's treasure.  This leaves us with a total of Devil 5 and Soul 3.  This tells us that Silver is incredibly brave in the face of danger.  Yet can't stand to endure punishment or torture.  Which I believe is in keeping with his character in the book.  


3. What has Silver Suffered?
My primary reference for constructing his character
based on how he's described in the book.

Very little is known about Silver's past.  All we know is that he is a man of some education (when compared to his fellows) and that he's served with famous pirates such as Edward England and Captain Flint.  Chances are before he was a quartermaster he rose through the ranks as an ordinary seaman.  His going to sea might not have been of his own free will.  Many sailors of the era, including those that served aboard Navy, merchant and Pirate ships, were impressed.  Kidnapped from the streets of a local port and forced into service by a pressgang.  Under any of these commands he would have suffered beatings and lashings as punishment.  He has also suffered mutilation in the form of his missing left leg.  Which he claims to have lost in a broadside in service to the Royal Navy.  While I imagine the him losing it in service of King and Country is a load of BS, I do believe the part about losing it in a broadside.  If your going to lie about something you might as well include some true-ish details.  Finally Silver has suffered damnation at the hands of one Tom.  A crew member who told Silver he would go to the devil, after Silver's compatriots murdered Tom's friend Allan.  All this while Long John was trying to convince Tom to join in the mutiny against Captain Smollett.  This brings Silver's Brutality score up to 5, he's suffered quite a bit in his lifetime.  One could make the argument for adding Imprisonment to the list bringing Silver's Brutality up to 6.  That is if you counted being Marooned as being the same as being Imprisoned.  Since being Marooned is not an option for something your character could have suffered in the past.  Silver claimed to have served with the Pirate Captain Edward England, who was later mutinied against and marooned along with a few men who stood by his side.  Supposedly there was a one-legged maroonee who in one theory served as inspiration to the character of Silver.

4. Choosing Silver's Ambitions

Choosing Long John's ambitions is a simple matter, he's nothing if not ambitious.  The problem is that most of his ambitions aren't covered by the Poison'd rule system.  This presented something of a problem, because Ambition is the stat that covers deception and cunning.  Something that Silver has in spades, since he's able to make himself well-liked among the officers of the Hispaniola.  Despite the fact that he's planning to lead a mutiny against them upon reaching the island.  I did however manage to finagle a list of ambitions that resembles his ambitions.  First off he wants to be Captain, he's spent his life following the orders of various Captains and obviously wants to be one himself.  Otherwise why go to the trouble of leading the mutiny on the Hispaniola.  He also wishes to own land, the closest thing to owning a tavern I could find in the ruleset.  He wants to spit in the eye of the devil, to never have to pay for his lifetime of wicked deeds.  Finally Silver wants to be regarded highly by society.  That's why he goes after Flint's treasure to set himself up as a wealthy man.  It's his defining characteristic, everything he does in the book is in pursuit of being thought of highly by others.  Even the way he refers to himself as a "gentleman of fortune" is an obvious attempt to add an air of legitimacy, to what he does for a living.  Altogether it brings his Ambition up to 4, not as high as some of his others.  But a respectable score nonetheless.   

5. Choosing Silver's Armaments

Every pirate created under Poison'd comes equipped with a wicked long knife, a cutlass and a flintlock pistol.  So it's safe to assume that Long John Silver will be equipped with these as well.  The rules instruct the player to pick at most two more weapons.  While they can choose to not take anymore.  I don't think I've ever met a role-player that'd ever turn down extra weaponry though.  Silver is described as a tall man.  Israel "Another Step Mr. Hands and I'll blow your brains out" Hands says of him "A lion's nothing alongside of Long John!  I seen him grapple four and knock their heads together - him unarmed." he's obviously a capable unarmed fighter.  So combining that and his height, I decided to give him "Not a weapon, but your pirate's a great hulking brute with with fists like big stones."  I also decided to give him a brace of pistols since in some versions of the story he kills Tom with a pair of pistols.  Rather than throwing his crutch, breaking Tom's back and then slitting his throat with a knife.  This is also where I marked down that he was missing most of his left leg.  Altogether this brings his Profile stat up to 3.  It's not the maximum, but he could certainly hold his own in a fight.

My preferred screen portrayal of Silver, by Charlton Heston.
In the made-for-TV movie Treasure Island.  To his left is
Jim Hawkins as played by a young Christian Bale.
Long John "Barbecue" Silver, quartermaster
Sins: Murder x2, mutiny, robbery x2
Devil: 5
Soul: 3
Suffered: Beating, damnation, impressment, lashing, mutilation
Brutality: 5
Ambitions: to be captain, to own land, to spit in the eye of the devil, to be regarded highly by society.
Ambition: 4
Brinksmanship: 5
I go armed with knife, cutlass, a brace of pistols and I'm a hulking brute with fists like stones.  I am missing a leg, lost in a broadside.
Profile: 3

So there you have Silver's full stats.  Overall I'm quite happy with how he turned out.  It was a little harder to work with the Poison'd ruleset than I had initially thought it would be.  Long John Silver is pretty tame for a pirate as far as the rules are concerned.  I doubt he'd last long among the type of pirates you can create in Poison'd.  Which kind of works since near the end of the story his band of mutinous treasure-hunters in turn mutiny against him.  It might not be long before he'd end up on the wrong end of a sword or pistol.  If he didn't end up getting hung by some magistrate.  As always be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below.  +1, reshare and follow for more from me.  As always have a good day and may the dice be ever in your favour.