"Aye, fightin' ship to ship is a grand thing. Makes ya feel like a real pirate, aimin' ballistas and catapults and such at the enemy, blastin' great holes in her hull, watchin' 'em flee like rats." Jomo Shanbaeren's eyes glaze over with memories, and for a moment he looks like a young man again as he relives his glory days.
"And boardin'! That's the thrill - leapin' from yer own gunwales onto the enemy's deck, cutlass flashin', givin' 'em the ol' hook-and-eye" - the retired pirate slashes at an invisible opponent with the iron hook that takes the place of his right hand - "...drivin' 'em back to the rails!
"Let me tell yer about the time we took on Teldar and the Kissing Maiden?"
Pirates of the Fallen Stars reveals for the first time the details about the Pirate Isles, in the center of the Inner Sea. Here are the facts about their societies, their interactions with the Inner Sea nations, their pirate kings, their ships, their style of combat; in fact, here is everything any DM or player needs to know to enjoy a campaign in the Sea of Fallen Stars and its environs.
FOR3: Pirates of the Fallen Stars (1992), by Curtis M. Scott, was the third book in the prestige Forgotten Realms series for AD&D second edition. It was released in March 1992.
Expanding FORward. Pirates continues the format of the previous FOR books with its larger size and its gloss-on-matte cover treatment. It also continues to look at aspects of the Realms that go beyond the geography of the FR series (1987-1993). However, whereas the first two FOR books both covered specific monstrous races, Pirates instead details some new ground.
To start with, Pirates looks at - no surprise! - pirates (of any race), rather than specific types of monsters - though that still kind of continues with the villainous theme of the first three books. It also gives more coverage to the Realms themselves than either of the previous books, with a heavy focus on the Sea of Fallen Stars. Finally, Pirates also provides rules for ships and (like the first FOR book) a related adventure.
About Piracy. By the 1990s, pirates had already proven themselves popular in RPGs like FGU's Skull & Crossbones (1980), Yaquinto's Pirates and Plunder (1982), and FGU's Privateers and Gentlemen (1983) - as well as sourcebooks like Pirates (1990) for Rolemaster and Hero.
Meanwhile, TSR called Pirates "the first ever pirate sourcebook for the AD&D game." And technically it was, although pirates had certainly appeared in several previous TSR books. The classic A-series "slaver" adventures (1980-81) portrayed coastal raiders; GAZ4: "The Kingdom of Ierendi" (1987) depicted a pirate haven in the Known World; and SJA2: "Skull & Crossbows" included some piratical adventures for Spelljammer.
Other publishers had also produced some piratical "generic fantasy" (e.g., no-name D&D) adventures, such as Judges Guild's "Corsair of Tallibar" (1982) and "Pirates of Hagrost" (1982) and Gamelords' "Lair of the Freebooters" (1983) - the latter of which was linked to seafaring, ship, and piracy rules in their Thieves' Guild VI (1982).
Expanding the Realms. Pirates mentions a variety of lands surrounding the Inner Sea (aka the Sea of Fallen Stars), describing how they relate to the Sea and to piracy. Among the lands touched upon are Aglarond, Chessenta, Chondath, Cormyr, The Dalelands, Impiltur, The Moonsea (including Hillsfar, Mulmaster, and Zhentil Keep), Mulhorand, Sembia, Tantras, Telflamm, Tezlir, Thay, Turmish, Unther, and Westgate. None of these lands gets a lot of attention, but some of them had been little discussed in print before this book.
Previous to this book, Chessenta, Mulhorand, and Unther had appeared in FR10: "Old Empires" (1990); the Dalelands got some attention in "Shadowdale" (1989), an Avatar adventure; the notorious nation of Thay had been featured in FR6: "Dreams of the Red Wizards" (1988); various "cities of the Heartlands" were described in Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990); and some of these lands appeared in the SSI Pool of Radiance video game series (1988-91).
However, the biggest expansion of the Realms in Pirates is the description of the Pirate Isles themselves. The book details over a dozen of these islands, from Alphar to Wear - for the first time revealing what's in the middle of the Inner Sea.
The Sea itself gets surprisingly little description; that would have to wait another seven years.
About Nautical Adventuring. D&D adventures had occurred on islands and beside the shore since the earliest days, with the A-series adventures, the L-series adventures (1981, 83), and the U-series (1981-83) being some of the earliest examples. Some brief rules for seafaring had also appeared in the rulebooks for AD&D (1977-79) and D&D Expert Set (1981); however, X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981) was likely the first D&D adventure to make use of them. Even then, those rules were very minimal, giving some simple stats for ships and some simple weather rules.
Hence, Pirates dramatically expanded seafaring rules for AD&D; it includes one full chapter on ships of the Inner Sea (with the ships laid out in more detail than in any previous rulebooks), and a second chapter covering special rules for ship movement, ship sightings, and ship combat. This would be the first of several incompatible sets of rules for ships and seafaring that appeared in AD&D over the years. TSR wouldn't really settle on a comprehensive system until DMGR9: Of Ships and the Sea (1997).
Future History. The Sea of Fallen Stars detailed herein would get considerable more attention in the waning days of AD&D second edition. These later sea-related releases include the Sea of Fallen Stars (1999) sourcebook, the "Wyrmskull Throne" (1999) adventure; and the "Threat from the Sea" trilogy of novels (1999-2000). A much later novel, Queen of the Depths (2005), is also somewhat connected.
About the Creators. Curtis M. Scott was an occasional writer for TSR. At this point, his only previous work had been FR12: Horde Campaign (1991). The same year that he wrote Pirates, he also wrote Cyber Hero (1992) for Hero and Ars Magica's Mythic Europe (1992).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.