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Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean

Another gift for my birthday (my brother was feeling generous), another pulp roleplaying game campaign for my collection, and one that really clicks all the right buttons. And so, after spending a few hours checking the material, why not do a proper review here on Karavansara?
After all it features pirates, biplanes and airships, an alternate history of post-WW1 Europe, and enough nifty tricks to leave everybody happy.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Scott Rhymer’s Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean.

The end of the Great War has left the Mediterranean Area in a rather different state than the one we know from history. Free cities and crime-controlled islands vie for control of the sky routes, and veteran pilots from the war have found a new call as sky pirates and privateers, mercenaries and adventurers.

This is, in a nutshell, the basic premise of Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean – in the post-war years fortunes can be made or burned in a moment, and a brave man with a plane and a modicum of courage can carve a future for himself.

Fiume could be used as a Casablanca of the Adriatic: a port of call for dispossessed or stateless people that is rife with crime, corruption, and espionage until the Second World War.

Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean, p. 21

With its Mediterranean setting, the Adriatic and the free city of Fiume, the Aegean and Malta and the North-African coast, the gaming world is one that might recall old Foreign Legion movies, but also Casablanca and, why not, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Various air ace pulps, the novels by Eric Ambler, such as The Mask of Dimitrios, or Clive Cussler’s The Mediterranean Caper might also work nicely as inspiration. What the heck, even the movie Gunbus, that we reviewed a while back might work!
But really, let me put it this way – if you ever dreamed of a game to play Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso, this is it.

Available for little more than 5 bucks as a pdf via DriveThruRPG, Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean comes as a 146 pages book. The game runs on the Ubiquity System, and you’ll need a handbook for that, such as Hollow Earth Expeditions (really “la morte sua” as they say in Rome – dead perfect) and Leagues of Adventure.

Chapters cover the history and pseudo-history of the setting, a general overview of the state of affairs of the Sky Pirates and other mercenary groups of flying adventurers, including profiles of the major groups and characters, a nicely detailed gazetteer of the Mediterranean between the 1920s and 1930s, and then a big chunk of rules for aerial maneuvering and plane-to-plane combat, and then the expected planes and airship list.
Each geographical area comes with a scenario and a few adventure hooks.

The presentation is nice, with good art and a clear layout.
The main drawback for the casual player is probably the reliance on an external handbook for the system, but ina pinch you can download the free quickstart rules for Space: 1889 and get an idea of how the system works. Sky Pirates provides you with a tonne of pre-generated characters, so you really just need an idea of how the system works.
On the other hand, probably the best option is adapting the source material to a game of Hollow Earth Expeditions. The game and the sourcebook work perfectly in tandem.

Alternatively, with really a minimum of effort you can adapt the setting to Savage Worlds – the SWADE edition fits the mood of this game as a glove. Should you happen to have the old Pulp handbook and toolkit, you’d be set for long months of sky pirate campaigning.

But there are other alternatives.
Do you want to go really radical?
Well, here’s what I am planning: I am adapting Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean to the old, beloved Adventure! roleplaying game. You don’t need to change a single comma in the whole alternate timeline and the Aeon Society already comes with its own group of flying daredevils.
And the gods of roleplaying know we need all the source material we can lay our hands on to supplement the game that White Wolf criminally let die (curses!)

Finally, you can just read the handbook and enjoy the worldbuilding and the options that the setting offers. And maybe get a few ideas for a story or two. I know I did.

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Who knows if we shall meet again
Samuel Becket, Private Eye