I don’t want to make a map and outline a world made of countless islands. I am already doing this in my head but I don’t want to make anything official until the players starting rolling up characters.
Here’s what I know about what I want in a pirate D&D game:
No real world analogues: No British Empire but they’re elves, no Portugal but dwarves, no New World filled with orcs. NO NEW WORLD BUT ORCS. This leads us to my next thing…
No Colonialism as we know it: Sure there will be political battles for resources and power dynamics in play but nothing analogous to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade nor the way Europe treated the New World with noble savages…
Dungeons might be:
Islands shaped like skulls
Abandoned ships from the Sorcerer-Kings’ ancient fleet
Corrupt merchants’ ships in need of pirating
Fire Vikings’ volcano barrows
Etc. (you get the idea)
Start with a ship: Name it, come up with the story of how you got it. Classes of ships are named after monstrous beasts (manticore, dragon, hydra, griffon, tarrasque).
Also, the ship has a character sheet. I’m not sure what this will mean yet but we’ll figure it out.
As the Alexandrian said, “Everybody make pirates.”