Every year, the HMS Botany Bay set sail for the penal colony of the same name, in a desolate land on the other side of the world. The cargo was approximately 50 of the Realm's hardened criminals--rough men who had managed--at times, barely--to avoid the gallows. The Crown decided that, rather than house them in a dungeon, it would put them to good use as miners and laborers on the other side of the ocean. It was fairly common knowledge that assignments to the colony, known as "transportation," were a slow-motion death sentence. Five years after transportation, the survival rate for convicts was somewhere around 40%. The ten-year rate was closer to 25%.
Still, it was a better end than the hangman. And, every once in awhile, a ship dispatched to Botany Bay (there were around 5 every year) did not arrive. In this Year of Our Lord 1737, voyage by sail around the world was still a risky affair. There were storms, and pirates. And (so the condemned hoped), the prospect of mutineers having seized control of the ships and sailed to some distant port, scuttling the ship and living amongst the locals.
If the Royal Navy knew what had befallen these lost ships, the Admiralty was quite tight-lipped about it.
So in July, on a day unusually hot even for that month, the voyage began. The compliment of souls aboard was:
1 First Mate
1 Master at Arms
8 Royal Navy marines
20 Able Seamen
The Convicts were housed in cages down on the two lowest levels of the ship. The accommodations were Spartan in the extreme: each 5'x7' cell bunked three men, held in irons except during a half-hour of exercise on the top deck once per day, weather permitting. Given the shackles, a prisoner had the option to either lay on his bunk, stand next to the bunk, or squat/stand rather awkwardly over the small hole in the floor that served as a latrine. Once per week, each convict was given a saltwater bath. Food consisted of two servings of gruel per day. The voyage to the colony normally took two and a half months, after which, the average convict emerged with early signs of scurvy and about 30 pounds lighter than they had been when they begun.
This time, the voyage lasted less than five weeks. But the destination had...involuntarily changed.
At the beginning of the fourth week, the HMS Botany Bay was ambushed by Barbary pirates. Though the ship fought them off, four cannonballs had struck amidships, splintering the girders that held the iron mesh of the convicts' cages in place. Some of the convicts broke loose, managing to overpower a guard and get the keys to they manacles of their comrades. The mutiny was on! The convicts managed to overpower the crew, though several were killed. The ship's First Mate, 5 of the Royal Marines, and 6 Able Seaman were killed. Of the 10 recruits, 2 were killed, and 6 joined the mutiny.
The two sides found themselves at an impasse, and facing a common problem. The convicts held the upper hand by force, but did not have the expertise necessary to sail the ship. And even sailing the Botany Bay at this juncture was a problem. One of the cannonballs had wrecked the main mast and foresail. The ship was taking on water. The ship had drifted into uncharted waters, somewhere along the coast of Africa. While some of the convicts wanted to simply liquidate the ship's officers, the rest realized they were necessary. So while there was no love lost...the ship's officers were permitted to live, for now.
After a few days, the ship began to leak more. Fortuitously, the wind shifted. The next day, land was sighted. The ship limped close enough to shore so that a landing party could be formed. The mood of the convicts was lifted. For the Botany Bay was one of those few boats that didn't complete the trip...and the convicts (most of them, anyway) had lived! Now they could set foot as free men, on uncharted land. While the old scores to settle between the crew and the convict cargo were not forgotten, attention now focused on this new land...and how it could be used for advantage. The notion had been advanced that, if a working colony could be set up here, and resources of value to the Crown located and exploited for export, then perhaps the Royal Prosecutor might see fit to issue pardons and return the convicts to citizenship as freemen. Even the surviving crewmen saw that this might mean a rise in their stations in life, too.
This story will begin when your characters reach shore.
As for you you can play, you can play a member of the crew, or a convict. At this point in time, the two factions are in uneasy truce. Perhaps in time they will form a single society...or not. As for your characters' morality, there are likely few if any saints here. Sailors of the 18th century were, as a rule, rough, calloused men. Most did have a code of honor that they hewed to most of the time...though that code rarely extended to the dark-skinned "lesser breeds without the law" that the characters will encounter here. As for the convicts, "there is no honor among thieves" was a pretty apt statement...and many of these men were condemned for baser acts than theft.
The land the crew has come ashore in is roughly analogous to Africa. I say "roughly analogous" because there will be differences...as well as an element of fantasy. Magic will be rare--I mean "fantasy" primarily in terms of some Edgar Rice Burroughs-esque strange beasts and dark savages.
The game will be freeform, though I will use dice behind the scenes to determine the outcomes of events, like whether you hit something you swing at and how much you hurt it if you do. You characters can gain more power as they go along. Based on your storyline and character history, I'll also give your character quirks that grant bonuses (or, more rarely, impose penalties). For example, if your character was a brawler rising through the ranks of the local underworld back in the Kingdom, I might give him a 10% bonus in hand-to-hand combat. Win a few more brawls and the bonus would go to 15%, and so on. It's not exactly "leveling up," but it is character growth and development.
You set your own objectives in the story. You might seek to kill another character, or enslave some natives, or build a homestead, or adventure and rape and kill for fun and profit. Evil is permitted (and, indeed, expected) in this story. You can collaborate with others and build things together--or betray them. In short, it's an open-ended world. There could be an economic management/city sim element as well, in time, if you are sufficiently organized (and inclined) to build on that level.
Your character begins with gear typical of sailors in that era: muzzle-loaders or crossbows, cutlasses, knives, axes, breastplates, rope and other tools, etc. There are no horses. The ship has ten cannon aboard, but they weight a little under a ton each: transporting them to shore without the rope-and-tackle apparatus seaports are equipped with would be a formidable undertaking.
If interested, please reply with a character concept.