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What is Cepheus Störtebeker?

This article is reprinted with permission in the March/April issue and originally appeared in Cepheus Journal #001.

Mercator is a fan-made rule book for Traveller by Paul Elliot. The setting is about ships that are trading in the eastern Mediterranean in the first and second century. I always wanted to play that game. I planned for the setting to be transferred to the Baltic Sea. I considered using Vikings or the Hanseatic League. While researching the setting I came across Klaus Störtebeker, a pirate.

Störtebeker was the leader of the Victual Brothers, a group of privateers. They started out helping Sweden and attacking Denmark, but then became pirates. They were very successful and conquered the island of Gotland and held it for a few years.

When Cepheus Engine arrived and then The Sword of Cepheus, I decided to do this using the Cepheus Engine rules. The result is Cepheus Störtebeker. A game of Trading and Piracy in the Baltic and the North Sea. The game is set near the year 1400 AD.

In a typical game, the PCs will own a cog, and trade in the Baltic, while trying to avoid pirates and the Hansa. Maybe the PCs are pirates themselves. Maybe they even get to meet Störtebeker.

This is very similar to a game in space where the PCs own a small cargo ship. A lot of space adventures could probably be converted for this setting. It will be like a small ship universe, since there are no super huge cogs. The biggest war cogs are only a few times larger than a trader cog.

The base rules will be Sword of Cepheus, and to that will be added special rules that are valid for the era. Rules for trade, sailing, sea encounters, and ship building will also be included.

Most fantasy elements from Sword of Cepheus will be removed.

There will be room and rules for alternative settings. Settings where there are monsters and fictional islands from Carta Marina.

I am happy that I decided to use Cepheus Engine for this project. There have been lots of interest in this. (Especially from Germany where Störtebeker is well known.) There is a Facebook group for those who want to know more, or even help.

Can I play Cepheus Störtebeker today?

Yes. Use Sword of Cepheus and a map of the political situation in northern Europe around the year 1400. Some Cepheus Störtebeker rules will of course be missing, but it should be possible to run a game of trade and piracy on the Baltic Sea and North Sea.