Rapscallion: Strange Pirate Roleplaying on the Great Sea!

Rapscallion: Strange Pirate Roleplaying on the Great Sea!

Rapscallion is a tabletop roleplaying game in which you play a rambunctious crew of pirates, testing their luck against the unpredictable winds of Fate on the Great Sea—a unique setting featuring terrifying leviathans, living books, and magic aplenty.
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Magpie Games is proud to present Rapscallion, a tabletop roleplaying game in which you play a rambunctious crew of pirates, testing their luck against the unpredictable winds of Fate on the Great Sea. After more than five years of playtesting, writing, design, and illustration, Rapscallion is finally ready for a full release, and we are thrilled to bring you a full-color, 250+ page core book filled with updated rules, new playbooks, and amazing art and layout that brings the Great Sea to life on every page.


Are you a scoundrel? Does your heart contain a hidden streak of villainy? Have you ever yearned for the wild horizon at the edge of the sea? In Rapscallion, you (and your crew) sail on a magical ocean, swashbuckle atop heaving ship decks, and commit dark deeds against dangerous foes, all while contending with the vices and troubles you just can't seem to shake. With the Law on your tail, the Free at your side, and the Weird around every corner, your adventures on the Great Sea will be wondrous and frantic, desperate and strange...but never boring. Never, ever boring.

In Rapscallion, you don't just play any old pirate. Your character matches the strangeness of the Great Sea itself: you might play a haunted captain possessed by a thousand ghosts, a bound djinni trapped within a magical book, a dark sea-sorcerer who made a deal with a demon, or a mysterious navigator who stole the heart of the ocean. And there is no limit to who takes to the Great Sea on the crew of such a ship—sleek selkies, cerulean cyclops, and undead skeletons all crew the ships of the Free! No matter who you are, though, you’re a rogue at heart. You’ve only got your ship and your crew to rely on, in this world of a thousand enemies.



Rapscallion is based on the Powered by the Apocalypse system used by tabletop RPGs like Apocalypse World, Monsterhearts, and other works in the Magpie Games catalog—Masks: A New Generation, Urban Shadows, and Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Games. Like these games, Rapscallion uses the basic structure of Powered by the Apocalypse to tell its stories: your pirates have specific traits, roll two six-sided dice, categorize themselves into certain archetypes called playbooks, and resolve conflict using a system of moves; it also adds unique and new mechanics like ship playbooks and reputation, compels and vices, and more. You can read more about Rapscallion's custom-built system in the Rules & Mechanics section below!

If you like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the One Piece series, Our Flag Means Death, The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi, any of the Sinbad stories, Peter Pan and Hook, Sea of Thieves, Treasure Island (including the Muppets version, of course), Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, or the Monkey Island series...then Rapscallion is the perfect way to bring stories of strange pirates and their fantastic adventures to your table! 
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When you play Rapscallion, your pirates are thrust onto an ocean full of magic, mystery, danger, and adventure, where treasure lies in abundance and the horizon stretches on forever. You won’t find this place on any modern map, because Rapscallion exists in a separate world from our own—an ocean where any and all of the grandiose pirate’s tales we tell each other can come true. This ocean has many names, as many as the people that sail across it: Sweet Isobella, Lady Luck, Godsrest...but for our purposes, we call her the Great Sea

The Great Sea is a place of legend: sections of it might fade into mist, or churn with a thousand leviathans, or hide mysterious moving islands, or be lost to Death’s embrace. It is also always changing. When you play this game, you will create your own version of the Great Sea. Your first tool will be your map, which you’ll make together: a sparse collection of islands, archipelagos, and treasure hunts that will slowly fill with juicy details as you play. The variability of the Sea means that it cannot be tamed – that it retains its alchemy, its wild magic. You might add a hole in the world, a secret pirate hideout, a sentient storm, a haunted sea, or a cove of sirens – the power is at your fingertips. 
Upon the sea sail countless foes. Its waters are infested with navy infantry, royal assassins, pirate lords, scallywags, witches, and demons. In the story of your pirate crew, these colorful characters serve as your supporting cast: your allies, villains, and set dressing. This suit of strangers can be cast into three categories. 

First there are the forces of Law, who prowl the waters around their empires and palaces, enforcing their cruel whims. These corrupt governments hoard land and resources, and punish the have-nots. They are your greatest enemies, who chase you across the seas for the crime of being different. (And maybe a few other crimes as well!) 

Then there are the Weird things that haunt the edges of the ocean and pursue eldritch agendas: demons, leviathans, witches, ghosts, and gods. These creatures wield magic, the sort that law-abiding folk abhor. There are many stripes of magic in Rapscallion’s world: deathly magic, the magic of stars and sea, the dark sorceries given by demons, and the narrative magic of a well-written book. Such magic will make you powerful – but it is also mysterious, and ultimately, dangerous. No one can control magic. You can only hope it doesn’t destroy you. 

And finally, there are the Free, a rabble of misfits and scoundrels, those that have been banished or ousted from the stringent, corrupt forces of Law and forced to roam the grand oceans. Among this wild horde is... you! You are just one of thousands of pirates who sail this wild sea. This story is about your adventures. 


You will not brave the Great Sea alone. You and your gaming companions play a pirate crew, a group of dastardly ruffians who find themselves unlikely allies in the face of a chaotic world. None of you are free from vices, regrets, and dark dreams. Your secrets might tangle at each other’s heels, tripping you up and dragging you down. But ultimately, the only people you can rely on are each other. No doubt each of you has your own agendas, and they might even be dark and mutinous. But you share a dream, too, a tenuous but precious one. As you drag your crewmates through countless wild adventures with you, you might find yourself becoming unlikely friends... and, if you’re lucky, you might look up one morning and discover that they’re family, too. 

But for now, piracy gives you no room for sentiment. You’ve got riches to steal! 


Your crew sails upon a ship. This ship is no mere vessel. It is your shared dream: a dream of freedom and a clean sky. It’s the steed who steals you from danger’s jaws, every time. It carries your hopes upon its timber. It is also the cornerstone of your pirate story. After all, it’s the only home you know. 

Rapscallion cares deeply for its ships, just as much as for its pirates. You will use it to assault Navy forts, fight massive ship battles, sneak into bays under the cover of fog, and take wild journeys to the ends of the world. And there are a myriad of different types of ships for you to choose from: haunted pirate ships crewed by Death’s minions, ships of prophecy that whisper into the ears of its sailors, grand vessels stolen from under the noses of the Imperial Navy, clumsy little home-made sailboats tied together with spit and a prayer... 

These choices alter the course of your story forever. A grand pirate’s vessel with a big legacy and a sordid history will lead a very different life than a ramshackle little dinghy held up with string. Your ship is a framing device, within which the story will settle like water in a glass.
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Rapscallion uses the Powered by the Apocalypse framework of moves to resolve interesting questions that arise in the story. Moves are like minigames, little pieces of scaffolding that say: “When you do [x], [y] happens.” Each move trigger—the “When you do [x]” part—represents a moment of uncertainty, when neither the players nor the GM know exactly what happens next. Examples of such moments include:

  • When you blow up your jail-cell door to escape from the Navy’s prison... 
  • When you fight a pirate’s duel atop the ship’s heaving mast...
  • When you sneak into a royal opera house in fancy disguises...
  • When you traverse a leviathan-infested sea in pursuit of treasure...

Rapscallion’s moves are all piratical deeds: getting into scraps, breaking into or out of places, clever tricks, twisting your fate, hoodwinking your enemies, and—if the going gets too tough—a bit of parley.

When you trigger a move—that is, when you perform the action described in the move’s trigger—the rest of the move then kicks into effect. How will this dramatic moment resolve? Usually, the move will use dice to determine what happens next. In this case, you roll 2d6 (two six-sided dice) and add one of your traits to your roll to find out what happens.

Every character in Rapscallion uses four traits:

  • Blood. This is your liquid courage. It’s what gets your blood boiling. When your wits and wisdom escape you, you’re left with your will to survive and the pants you woke up in. Use Blood when you face danger, make trouble, and act daring. 
  • Vinegar. On the high seas, strength will keep you on top...but cunning will keep you alive. That’s you: too damn clever for your own good. Use Vinegar if you want to fight dirty, outsmart your enemies, and know things you shouldn't.
  • Polish. Oh, well-bred, are you? Or just good at pretending? With that swift tongue and sweet face, you’re more dangerous than any sword. Use Polish to talk your way in and out of trouble.
  • Spitfire. Here’s that special something. Not everyone has it; those that do are best avoided by civilized folk. It’s the spark in the eyes, your naked soul, a wildness that the spirits of this world (and the next) might notice. Use it to twist your fate.

Each stat is ranked from -2 to +3. You add your stat to some rolls when you trigger certain moves. For example, when you get into a scrap, you roll 2d6 + Blood.

On most moves, if you get a 10 or higher (10+), things go your way! If you get a 7-9, you get what you were after, but usually with some cost or complication. If you get a 6 or lower, that’s called a miss, and the GM gets to tell you what happens next as things spiral out of control. 

The Fates are describing the chaotic escape you’re making from a cursed pirate lair. “As you burst from the dark cave with the treasure in hand, you find yourself accosted by dread skeletons. They've risen from the grave to haunt the steps of thieves! What do you do?”

“Are they in the way of my exit?” you ask. “Yes? Well then, I skewer them with my sword!”

“Great! That’s
getting into a scrap. So, roll with Blood.”

You roll 2d6 plus your Blood, which is 1. The dice roll a 2 and a 4 for a total of 6 – plus your modifier of 1, that's a 7. A partial success, just barely! That means you get to choose two things to do to your opponent from the move's list. 

"Well, I'm definitely going to damage them," you say, "so let's
deal them harm first. As for my second choice... Can I force them into a precarious position? I want to clear the path of skeletons so I can make my escape!"
 
"Absolutely," the Fates say, "but remember what the move says: for each option you choose, I get to respond. So as you slice through the crowd of skeletons, they all fall to pieces, like marionettes with their strings cut. But as you step over their bones, you hear a clattering noise. You look behind you, but too late: the skeletons are reassembling themselves before your eyes, and one of them slashes at your heels with its sword. Mark 1-harm on your playbook sheet. But you've cleared a path for sure, and have a chance to escape. What do you do now?" 


Every pirate hides a handful of dark secrets behind their wicked smile. This is the price of your freedom: you’ve long shadows, and those shadows will sometimes weigh you down and stain your soul. These corruptive influences are more than just petty injuries that you could sustain in battle; they’re often emotional, or even spiritual. To represent these, Rapscallion uses a system of troubles. Your pirate could accumulate troubles throughout their adventures, problems that aren’t easy to shake. And each pirate archetype possesses a vice – a special, unique trouble – that they must fight forever, a shadow on their souls.

 
Your pirate can have up to four troubles at once, and each one will haunt you with thorny problems and interesting narrative prompts. You might be smitten with your pirate rival – a trouble that compels you to do what they say. Or perhaps you’ve been poisoned by an assassin’s blade, and you begin to hallucinate frightful visions. You might even become demontouched after an encounter with dark forces, and find yourself inexplicably drawn toward demonic creatures. Each trouble has a unique endpoint that allows you to clear it and escape its influence. But an endpoint can cause trouble all on its own: imagine if the assassin’s poison could only be cured by an evil witch who lives on the edge of the sea! 

Vices are unique troubles that define certain pirate archetypes. For instance, a pirate captain might be defined by their raging ambition: to become a pirate lord, for instance, or to claim the lost treasure of the leviathans. This ambition burns in the captain’s chest, fuel to their fire – but it might also cause them to selfishly forsake the crewmates that rely on them. 

If you fall prey to your vice, it becomes one of your troubles, constantly compelling you towards villainous behavior. But of course, falling prey to your vices is the most piratical thing imaginable! There are incentives to letting your vices control you, juicy rewards for giving in. Sometimes, it’s fun to be bad. 



Pirates are not solitary creatures. You need your crew to survive. You rely on each other, even as you bicker, laugh, and fight with each other. Are your crewmates your fast friends, the only people you can count on in this crazy world? Or are they a band of rabble that will betray you at the drop of a hat? Pirate crews stand on the edge of this knife. 

Rapscallion uses bonds to represent these relationships, but this relationship need not be positive; it need only be strong. You may have bonds with the loyal second-in-command of your crew; but you may have just as many bonds with your dearly detested pirate rival. You affect both people in equal measure, even if your rival would rather die than admit it. In this game, you’ll gain bonds with people you meet on your adventures; then, in proper pirate fashion, you can lean on those relationships to get what you want. 

Bonds are rare on the Great Sea. They represent something true and fragile, a fleeting moment of intimacy. But they are also powerful. You can use bonds to influence people – either to help them overcome their demons, or to manipulate them into doing what you want. You can even spend your bonds to ignore your vices, troubles, and temptations. Only through the help of your crew can you throw off the shackles of your inner demons. 



On the Great Sea, luck is tangible – as important and changeable as the ocean. Pirates court luck like a lover, and a pirate’s luck is their lifeblood. So, of course, luck is a resource you can spend in Rapscallion. It’s a rare and often fleeting thing, given only to those star-touched or strange enough to skirt the boundaries of reality. But if you have it, you can use it to literally rewrite the rules of this world. 

After all, a pirate can always twist their fate when they need to. There’s always another knife, a secret hatch, an ally swinging in at the last minute. Luck allows you to insert these details into the story, no questions asked. For those with strange powers, luck might even allow you to twist the very fabric of reality, courting the very oceans and winds.



Rapscallion arranges its pirates into archetypes for its players to choose from called playbooks. You pick a pirate archetype, take the playbook associated with it, and use it to flesh out a full character. Each playbook comes prepared with a suite of ideas and narrative choices, so ultimately, although your archetype confines you to a certain piratical genre, your pirate will be unique, complete with their own set of strange quirks and treasures.





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With your help, we can make Rapscallion even better—we've lined up stretch goals ranging from new playbooks and ports of call to physical accessories and digital toolsets to ensure your journey on the Great Sea is packed full of adventure.

No pirate worth their salt sails alone, and this campaign is no different! Please let your friends know about the project...we'd love to see them join the crew too!



We're adding a pack of five pairs of six-sided dice customized for Rapscallion. Backers at the Officer pledge level and up receive the Dice Pack for free!


At 2,500 follows, we're creating free Roll20 play materials for Rapscallion. Everyone—including non-backers—gets access to all the materials from the core game, including basic moves, playbooks, and GM materials!


At $35,000, we're creating a four-panel GM’s screen for Rapscallion; each panel is roughly 8.5” x 11” (with a total length of 34”), featuring Whistler’s awesome art on one side and tools, tables, and info for making the game run smooth on the other. Backers at the Officer pledge level and up receive the GM Screen for free!


At $45,000, we’re releasing a new playbook: The Witch:

Your smile makes sailors shiver; your teeth have whet themselves on the hearts of men; your hands weave ghosts into wedding gowns. You are a sea-witch, a creature whose words can make Death stir in its sleep! And when you stepped onto this ship, you brought a tangle of ulterior motives with you. Let’s hope you don’t destroy your crewmates with your dark secrets.

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of The Witch for free!


At $55,000, we’ve unlocked a new faction: The Bathic Parish: 

Every sailor worth their salt must pay some homage to the sea goddess, Lady Isobella. But only the mysterious, fish-like Parishioners can use her magic to enact their dark miracles: summoning leviathans to their aid, turning their enemies to pillars of salt, or even twisting the flesh of the living into scales, tentacles, and spines. The Parish is led by the monstrous Saltwives, who preach the sanctity of Isobella’s embrace. Offer yourself to her, and let the world drown! 

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of The Bathic Parish for free.


At $65,000, we’ve unlocked a new map: The Law. This beautifully illustrated 11" x 17" map is designed for you and your crew to add your findings, creating a new and exciting world atop what is there.

The Lace Empire dominates the world, their influence sickening the sea more and more every day. Freefolk are forced to the edges of the map, eking out a living in the Empire’s shadow. 

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital version of this map for free; backers at the Officer pledge level and up receive the physical print for free!


At $75,000, we’ve unlocked a new port of call—a set of plot hooks, adventures, and NPCs— Horizon!

Horizon is the fabled city of pirates: a wild shantytown made from scuppered ships hidden deep within a secret seaside canyon! Make sure to keep your head—brigands, vices, and adventures lurk in every alleyway, and you’ll collect high-paying jobs and enemies in equal measure. Can you find your fortune in this den of scallywags?

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of Horizon for free.


At $85,000, we’ve unlocked a new ship: The Fated

This is no ship at all; it is an entity. It desires. It has a destiny to fulfill, and now it’s dragging you along for the ride. Pick this ship if you want an explicitly magic adventure from the outset. Your Fated ship will be an important, unavoidable NPC, and you’ll need to contend with its wants. Don’t pick this ship if you’re not prepared for things to get weird, quick. 

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of the Fated for free.


At $100,000, we’ve unlocked a cursed dice tray. The Dice Tray is a square neoprene and rubber back dice tray (approximately 8” x 8”) featuring Rapscallion art and plastic button corners. Wonderful to use with the dice ye’ll be receiving as part of yer booty. Backers at the Officer pledge level and up receive the dice tray for free!


At $110,000 we've unlocked a new playbook: The Seadog.

Your young crewmates are all sound and thunder; but you? You’re the eye of the storm. Oh, you’ve seen this all before. You have a steady wisdom, a steel-eyed patience, that can only be forged from many, many years at sea. And the sea’s taken her due. You’re old now. Maybe even a little broken. How long can you keep this up? And will your crew survive when you’re gone? 

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of The Seadog for free!


At $120,000, we’ve unlocked a new faction: The Painted Guild

The Guild of Intimate Pleasures travels the sea on its orchid barges, offering its unique brand of companionship to the lonely and the lecherous - a companionship that happens to be illegal in most Lawful oceans. Luckily for the Painted folk, the ocean is very lonely, and sailors are very amorous. The Guild balances, defenseless, on a knife’s edge of political tolerance; but if you take advantage of their hospitality, you’ll discover that soft power hides daggers in velvet.

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of The Painted Guild for free!


At $130,000, we’ve unlocked a new map: The Free. This beautifully illustrated 11"" x 17"" map is designed for you and your crew to add your findings, creating a new and exciting world atop what is there.

The sea is wild, stormy, and full of adventures. Pirate lords, the Queen’s Navy, and herds of leviathans squabble for territory amid the island archipelagos. 

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital version of this map for free; backers at the Officer pledge level and up receive the physical print for free!


At $140,000, we’ve unlocked a new port of call: Doll's Harbor

Welcome to Doll’s Harbor—a pretty little port town whose glimmering golden facade hides a recent, violent invasion by the corrupt Lace Empire. While the city’s new silk-clad masters parade in sedan chairs down their newly acquired streets, the murmurs of discontent in Doll’s Harbor are turning into a full-scale revolution…and now you’re in the thick of it!

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of Doll's Harbor for free.

At $150,000, we’ve unlocked a new ship: The Mystery

Something terrible, secret, and strange rests in the heart and history of this ship - and you have no idea what it is. You’d best solve its manifold riddles, or else find yourself succumbing to them. Pick this ship if you like intrigue and enjoy a ticking time bomb. The Mystery’s secrets will be a collaboration between you and the Fates, and you’ll be rewarded for plumbing its depths and learning about its past. Don’t pick this ship if you like feeling in control from the outset.  

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of the Mystery for free.



At $160,000, we’ll unlock a new map: The Weird

The ocean is mythical and strange, filled with sea monsters, ghosts, demons, witches, and immortal dragon kings. In the middle of it all sits a mysterious floating city in the clouds.

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital version of this map for free; backers at the Officer pledge level and up receive the physical print for free!



At $170,000 we'll release a new playbook: The Fop.

You’re not a pirate at all - you’re a soft, lily-livered landlubber with delusions of grandeur. And now you’re stranded at sea, surrounded by vice-ridden varmints. How’d you get here? Why can’t you return to your comfortable, sheltered life? And most importantly, how will you survive when you are so clearly, hopelessly out of your depth? 

Backers at the Stowaway pledge level and up receive a digital copy of The Fop for free!
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This is Magpie Games' fourteenth crowdfunding project, and we've got a long history of fulfilling projects, including Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game, Root: The Roleplaying Game, Masks: A New Generation, Bluebeard's Bride, Zombie World, and many more. We've got a good grasp on how to get stuff designed, written, illustrated, shipped, and fulfilled.

We also take seriously the challenge of creating and maintaining an inclusive space; we expect backers to adhere to our code of conduct (https://magpiegames.com/pages/get-involved) in all of our spaces, including this campaign. Failure to abide by our code of conduct will result in your removal as a backer from the project, which may or may not be accompanied by a refund of your pledge.


While many parts of the supply chain are still reeling from the global pandemic, we're cautiously optimistic about the timeline for Rapscallion. We've got a ton of experience getting books to the printer and then into the hands of backers, and we've weathered challenges and obstacles that most people haven't ever seen. We're excited to print and ship these books!

That said, we know that we've often run late. One reason we're excited about Rapscallion is that we've taken the last few years to retool our internal production process, which means we're further along in this project than we've ever been when launching a crowdfunding campaign. Here's where we stand with the text of the book:

  • 95% of the text has already been written
  • 90% of the text has already been dev edited
  • 80% of the text has already been copy edited

Because so much of the book is already final, we expect our timeline to look like this:

Please note that it is likely the production of this book will overlap with other Magpie Games crowdfunding campaigns. While we do our best to deliver every campaign in a timely manner, some delays may arise and other campaigns may launch on their own timelines. We ask that all backers be patient with us—no one wants to ship these books more than us!
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We're happy to ship Rapscallion almost anywhere in the world (except Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia)! Unfortunately, we cannot find a reliable way to ship to those countries. We're sorry!

Global shipping continues to be uncertain, tumultuous, and risky. We've shipped more than 200,000 packages over the last ten years, and we know how hard it can be to get rewards into the hands of backers. Our commitment is always to ensuring that backers get their rewards in amazing condition, and both our own US-based warehouse and our international shipping partners are time-tested experts in shipping roleplaying games to backers.

Shipping will be charged for this campaign during the pledge manager phase of the campaign—when you select your final rewards, we will charge you for shipping based on the best available rates at the time; if your order contains a large number of rewards, your shipping cost will rise. Our estimated costs for shipping are as follows:


All shipping is US/EU/CA/UK/AU-friendly. We will cover the cost of importing rewards into those regions, and our reshippers will do their best to ensure that you receive the book from a local address. Backers will pay no additional customs or fees—everything will be delivered duty paid—but we will charge VAT on all United Kingdom and European Union pledges along with shipping. You can read more about our shipping policies in the FAQ!


Retail shipping for this campaign is free. You will not be charged for shipping if you pledge at a retail tier, even if you are an international backer. Instead, we’ll cover the shipping as a thank you for supporting our work. We know operating a retail store is hard work even in the best of times, and we appreciate you all a ton!

All PDF products will be fulfilled through DriveThruRPG. We will deliver coupon codes for you to add Rapscallion to your library via Backerkit digital downloads. 
If you believe that this project is not in compliance with BackerKit’s Community Guidelines or Terms of Service, you can file a report by sending a message via this link: Report this project