Sea Dogs: Game Mechanics Part I

Pirates lived exciting, eventful lives that we still tell stories about to this day, and my partner Becky and I want to express this in our game. We’ve been struggling slightly with incorporating the randomness of events that might happen in a D&D-like game into a game that has a limited number of situations without becoming boring or repetitive. We also don’t want to make the game so complicated that players feel intimidated by it, so finding a middle ground is extremely important! These are a handful of game mechanics that we’ve come up with so far.

The main goal of the player is to be crowned the Pirate Queen, although the ways of actually doing this are going to vary based on player choices. The main section of the game is dedicated to making yourself and your crew as strong and well-supplied as possible in preparation for the ending, where all the players battle one another and the winner is given the title of Pirate Queen. The time and place of this boss fight will be predetermined (still figuring this out- possibly after a certain amount of turns/rounds) so the players know that they have a limited amount of time to make themselves as formidable a foe as possible.

The Map and the Money

The game will have three different types of locations that the player can choose to go: ports, colonized islands, and deserted islands. The ports are where the player can recruit crew members and upgrade/repair their ship in exchange for money. The deserted islands are where the player might find buried treasure and the colonized islands are places that the player can choose to raid. To make each option appealing, going to a deserted island lowers the chances of being involved in a fight while increasing the chance of not finding any treasure at all, while raiding a colonized island ensures money but also almost guarantees a fight.

While traveling to islands, players may also encounter enemies at sea in the form of random events or of one another.


Reputation is a game element that will make a large difference in the success of the players as it directly effects the loyalty of your crew members- after all, what’s a captain without her crew? The higher the reputation of the player, the greater the rewards. It can also give the player an edge in a fight (I.E. “The British Navy has sent men to kill you. If your reputation is over [amount], avoid a fight as they run away at the sight of you). Conversely, a low reputation can cause problems with the crew and cause them to possibly leave or even start a mutiny.

Reputation can be increased by:

  • Paying your crew mates consistently and on time
  • Winning fights
  • Successful treasure expeditions
  • Following your ship’s code

Reputation can decrease by:

  • Failing to pay your crew
  • Running away from fights
  • Failed treasure expeditions
  • Not following your ship’s code


Battles will happen either via event cards or if one player decides to attack another. The player will always have the option to run away from a fight at any point, although running away will decrease their reputation. Event card battles will vary in difficulty. The outcome of the actual battle itself will likely be based around a D&D-like point/dice system.

A fight is considered to have been won when the opponent is either defeated or chooses to run away. However, if the ship being attacked chooses to run away from a fight with another player, the other player can then choose to pursue them. As long as the pursuing ship is within a certain number of spaces on the board, the fleeing ship will continue to take damage until they either reach port or are defeated.

When a player is defeated in a fight they will lose ALL progress that they have made and will have to start from the very beginning with a small ship and no crew.


These are just three of the major overall game mechanics that we’ve been looking into. We’ll get more specific as we continue to plan- a large portion of creating this game will be dedicated to writing interesting events/situations for the players to find themselves in, especially ones that would be specific to the “female pirate experience”. Please feel free to let us know what you think of our plans so far!

One thought on “Sea Dogs: Game Mechanics Part I

  1. I’m in love with this so far honestly ! I find pirate history really interesting, especially that of female pirates. I don’t know what your plans are for other mechanics, but I think it might be interesting to include something with food since struggles with that were a big part of the pirate experience. Just off the top of my head, for example getting +20 food when you stop at a location and -1 for every space you move or -2 with low reputation. I really like what you have so far and I look forward to seeing how the rest of your game pans out!

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