Written by: Limithron, creator of Pirate Borg
Pirate Borg is a rules-light, scurvy ridden TTPRG about being a flighty scoundrel, sailing ships, looking for jungle temples, fighting undead, drinking rum, dying a meaningless death, and then rolling up a new character and doing it all over again.
Here are my top ten choices for Czepeku map variations you can use in your Dark Caribbean campaign.
10. Slum District: Clean Day
A good chunk of any decent sea-faring campaign will take place in port, and Pirate Borg is no exception. But the Dark Caribbean isn’t the carefree paradise its real world counterpart is. The undead Scourge have ravaged the seas forcing thousands to consolidate into 18th century metropolises.
One such place is Tortuga, a settlement so rundown and infested with misanthrops that even the pirates of Nassau don’t travel there unless they absolutely must. And the Slum District map is perfect for a back alley altercation or a chase through the streets.
I’d start with the Clean Day version, and as the town gets worse as armageddon approaches, you can switch to the original version with the gross sewage flowing in the river. Most of these buildings are probably taverns, brothels, smuggling warehouses, ASH dens… or all four!
9. Harpy Cove: No Nest Day
One thing I love to do in Pirate Borg is let my players get the big ship. Let them steal it! Give them the fancy Spansih galleon or decked out military frigate. But then crash it against some rocks and wash them up onshore. Its actually a great way to start a campaign.
Harpy Cove is excellent for this. Of course, an ambush of zombies, sirens, gorilla grabs, or rival pirates are probably patrolling the shore, so an encounter is sure to unravel. This map is also great from the other direction: have them discover ship debris and suddenly you have a mystery scenario on your hands… and a bunch of pirates wondering what cargo was in the hold.
8. Oasis City: Torches Night
Oasis City could be used for any major port, but it really says Havana to me. A colourful hotbed of Spanish conquistadors and politicians, it's an amazing location to explore and get into trouble… but you’ve got to get past the city guards and scale the outer wall before spying on that secret meeting the governor is having tomorrow morning.
7. Eldritch Church: Deep Sea
I’m obsessed with this map. It just oozes with built-in story. And it’s perfect for creepy encounters with deep sea creatures, Wretched cultists, or a Great Old One attempting to return to Earth. The Deep Sea version is ideal for excursions into The Abyss, the deep sea trench south of Cuba, and the R’Lyeh version is perfect for an encounter if you are running The Sinking of C’Thagn.
6. Coral Throne: Coral Bleach Day
While most early Pirate Borg campaigns involve stealing ships, fighting undead, and carousing, eventually your players will start to wonder what is under the water. The Abyss, C’Thagn, Atlantis… they are all worth exploring. So once they get their hands on some Mermaid Scales or the sorcerer learns the Call of the Sea ritual, deep water exploration becomes a whole new option for exploration.
Honestly, all of the Coral Throne variations are great, but the Coral Bleach Day version gives off that “this place is not safe” vibe. A meeting with a Deep One sorcerer king? A siren’s dinner party? Lord of the Merfolk has called them for questioning? There are so many options!
5. Secret Sailor Lair: Pirate
Another no brainer here. The Pirate version of the Secret Sailor map could be a shipyard in a major city, the recently captured docks in Havana, or an English outpost that has recently been taken over by the pirates. The other versions could be used to show the progression of this location over the course of your campaign in the Dark Caribbean.
The icing on the cake is that this map ties into two of Czepeku’s other projects. It’s part of the larger Borough Bound project Yllmourne, giving you battlemaps for an entire port town. And it has an amazing digital painting as part of Czepeku Scenes, which is perfect for setting the scene for social encounters and roleplaying, not to mention it is ideal for platforms like Alchemy RPG.
4. Temple of the Couatl Exterior: Jungle Day
Number 4 on the list is really two maps: the Exterior and Interior of the Couatl Temple. No Pirate Borg campaign is complete without a deep delve into a lost Mesoan temple. They can be found all over the regions: across the Dark Yucatan, deep in the rainforests south of the dungeon city of Maracaibo, buried in the swamps of Florida, or even on a remote tropical island.
I even ran a short campaign for my players that climaxed with four large monsters inspired by Mayan and Aztecs mythology, and I printed out the interior of the map for them to explore. For the exterior, the Jungle Day version is my pick for use in a Pirate Borg campaign as it’s a little overgrown and moody. But don’t neglect the whirpool version for something in Atlantis, and both Sunset and Illuminated Night versions could be used for an excursion into El Dorado.
3. City Marketplace: Gallows Day
One great aspect of pirate campaigns is the marketplace or shanty town. Carousing, chasing, looting, spying, sneaking… they all fit it. I love this Gallows Day version of the City Marketplace map because it’s very multifunctional. Your players can shop for clothes, weapons, and rum. They can tail important politicians emerging from the inner city and eavesdrop for important information. They can try to infiltrate the city walls.
I’ve used this map at the start of a campaign: have Captain Kidd on the gallows—historically they actually had to hang him twice—and with his last breath he can throw out a hook for where his treasure is buried. For extra use of this map, have Kidd’s ghost ship visit the town later in the campaign. 5th edition players might want to check out my adventure: The Haunting of Deathlight Cove for more Captain-Kidd-Ghost-Ship-shenanigans.
2. Open Ocean: Rocks Day
This map release is a literal treasure trove of content. Between the open water, the island combos, and the encounters, you could play for hours and hours using just these maps. The Scar is perfect for an entrance into the Abyss. Shipwreck is an inevitable state for most pirate ships. All of the Rocks variations are useful for any number of random sailing encounters. And don’t forget the tentacles!
I really like how the variations for this map are simple and extremely useful in multiple settings. These maps are also great in that they can inspire some gameplay ideas all on our own. Eight glowing mermaids on a rock at night in the middle of the Devil’s Triangle? What pirate wouldn’t at least get a closer look. And don’t forget: you can play as a merfolk character in Pirate Borg!
1. Pirate Port Tavern: Tavern Level Night
This map remains one of my favorite battle maps of all time. It was one of my earliest inspirations to really give a pirate RPG campaign a serious attempt, and in my mind it is the Green Kraken Tavern in Nassau. I actually named the smaller public facing tavern on the bottom of the map “The Red Herring”, with the real place of interest through the secret door through the barrel of grog.
You don’t always need a battlemap for a tavern, but this one is so much more. The passages provide nooks and crannies for secret meetings, the back tavern has a table where the 'important looking pirates' must hang out, and the hidden treasure cave is the perfect reward for exploring scallywags and enterprising new tavern owners. And you can access it via boat!
About Limithron & Pirate Borg
Some of my earliest inspiration for the game came from early Czepeku maps. In fact, the very first battlemap was an Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag style fort I made by kitbashing bits and pieces of Czepeku’s maps. I showed it to Cze, and he actually encouraged me to share it with the community. This was the start of my battlemap career!
Fast forward to today, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and my RPG PIRATE BORG comes out worldwide via Free League Publishing!
Learn more and pick up a copy at www.pirateborg.com.
If you are interested in more Pirate RPG maps check out my maps and more at www.limithron.com
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