D&D General Possible Pirate Game for Teens?

Retreater

Legend
This weekend I was approached at a neighborhood pool party to run a game for some enthusiastic players. Apparently, they had a neighborhood D&D group before my wife and I moved to the area, but COVID stopped their meetings. They are now eager to start playing, and their previous DM wants a chance to play. This includes two families with adults and teen children - a combination of 8 players.
I am prepared to be fast-and-loose with the rules, with so many players and younger gamers - especially one who is already talking about playing an intelligent parrot henchman to her older sister. I plan to just roll with it and have fun.
They told me they wanted to play a pirate game, and I was secretly worried. I've never been a part of a successful D&D pirate game. Most of them have devolved into mutiny, characters being tortured and keelhauled, captains overtaking the party's fun, etc.
What tips would you have? If they are all subservient to an NPC captain, that could take away player agency. If they are subservient to a PC captain (such as parent who was the former GM), I could see that not being fun.
I was thinking about having a backstory for all the characters that they all put up money to buy the ship and are running it like a corporation, so they all have votes for what they should do.
Any ideas about what to do? Any good ideas for pirate adventures? What about running for a multi-generational group?
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
A corporation just doesn't seem very "pirate-like", esp. with younger players. Perhaps have the game start with a successful mutiny just finished, so the party is the crew. The previous captain has been made to walk the plank (a good opening scene maybe), and maybe one guy bossing them around is what started the mutiny.

Another direction could be to go for privateer instead of pirate (or have that evolve out of play), where they have the backing of a nation against rivals they can plunder.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
You could have the captain be an NPC and the PCs are all taking the part of other ship officers/specialists (mates, cook, carpenter, master of arms, navigator, etc). In such cases, you'd have the PCs all in charge of their separate areas, assigned crew members, and you'd go with whatever consensus rose out of the group of players when decisions needed to be made. Basically, you'd be a figurehead.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I'd take a look at Skull and Shackles AP from Paizo.
Definitely worth a look. It's also helpful that the first chapter is basically about goading the PCs with a tyrannical leadership until they mutiny. That tyrannical leadership example gives them some reason and motivation to not be like that, should they succeed.
 

talking about playing an intelligent parrot henchman to her older sister
Reskin a kenku? That could be fun :)
If they are all subservient to an NPC captain, that could take away player agency.
Yeh, you don't want that. The captain, if you start with one, dies or retires (Dread PIrate style) after the first session or so.
I was thinking about having a backstory for all the characters that they all put up money to buy the ship and are running it like a corporation, so they all have votes for what they should do.
Don't call it a corporation, but you could certainly make a pirate code (Caribbean style) that gives everyone equal shares and a say in which direction they go and what agreements they make.
 

Dioltach

Legend
For inspiration and fun, read The Pyrates (not just pirates: pyrates!) by George MacDonald Fraser. All the pirate stories (pre-Johnny Depp) that you could possibly imagine, all rolled into one! With Col. Blood thrown in for good measure.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Ghosts of Saltmarsh isn't really a "pirate" story, but it might scratch that itch. It certainly has rules material for running a nautical campaign with ship to ship combat.
 

MGibster

Legend
What tips would you have? If they are all subservient to an NPC captain, that could take away player agency. If they are subservient to a PC captain (such as parent who was the former GM), I could see that not being fun.
The trick to have any kind of commander in an RPG is to make sure they don't get in the way of PCs handling the situation. The captain has assigned you to the shore party to find fresh food and water as your supplies are running low (and since we're talking about kids here, be sure to describe how slimy the ships water is and how worm infested the seabiscuits are). It's up to the PCs to decide how they're going to gather the food & water as well as handle whatever adventure you throw at them. An NPC captain allows you to give the PCs a direction, but doesn't have to get in the way of them doing things the way they choose.
 

dave2008

Legend
IIRC, LevelUp or one of its products has a pirate ship as a "stonghold." That might be worth looking at. @Morrus can probably point you in the correct direction.
 

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