Freeport Designer Journal, Part 1

Chris Pramas

"What did I want? Danger, pleasure, the chance to simply look and sniff and imagine. Port towns have a pungent density of smells and sights; yet they are open, too, one whole wall removed and exposed to the sea, a place of comings and goings, dreams hatched and dreams dashed."
—Barbara Sjoholm

The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea

This spring Green Ronin is releasing the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, a new beginning for the famous "City of Adventure." Over the following weeks we’re going to be telling you a lot about the book and our other plans for Freeport. Before I get into all the whys and wherefores, however, I’d like to start by giving you a basic overview of the book.

The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport is a 256-page hardback book that fully details a city that can be used in any campaign setting and with any fantasy roleplaying game. Freeport takes classic fantasy elements and mixes them with pirates and Lovecraftian horror to create a unique city with a dangerous flavor. Unlike most game books, the Pirate’s Guide is not tied to a particular game system. Every page of the book is dedicated to describing the city and giving you ideas on how to use as the backdrop of your campaign. Its features include:

  • An overview of the city, including its customs, politics, and laws.
  • A 16-page color section that includes beautiful paintings by renowned fantasy artist Wayne Reynolds.
  • A complete history and timeline of Freeport.
  • Over 100 fully detailed locations, from taverns and beer halls to prisons and asylums.
  • Details on Freeport’s many gangs, organizations, and cults.
  • A district by district breakdown of the city.
  • Over 200 characters, from pirates and priests to minstrels and mercenaries.
  • Details on the Serpent’s Teeth, the island group where Freeport is situated.
  • Beyond Freeport, an optional chapter that turns Freeport into a full campaign setting and offers details on “the Continent” for the very first time.
  • End papers with fantastic full color maps of the city, the Serpent’s Teeth, and the Continent by cartographer Andy Law.
  • Plenty of campaign advice, so GMs can make the most of Freeport.
  • Hundreds of adventure hooks that make all this material as easy to use as possible.

Some people have described Freeport as a cross between Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu but that’s not quite right. If D&D and CoC went on a date and conceived an unholy progeny while watching Pirates of the Caribbean, THAT would be Freeport. Sound like fun yet?

Support Plans
With the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, the City of Adventure enters a major new phase, so it’s only natural that we have plenty of support lined up. This consists of three major types of products: rules companions, setting books, and adventures.

Let me start with the rules companions first. Originally, Freeport was tied to one game system exclusively, but we decided to take a different approach this time around. While the Pirate’s Guide details the setting, a series of companion books will tackle the rules. Each companion book will provide all the rules support you need for a specific system. The first of these is the True20 Freeport Companion and it will be followed this summer by the d20 Freeport Companion. Each one is tailored for the system it supports. The d20 adaptation will have new core and prestige classes, for example, but such things are not required in the True20 version. Every companion will include a short adventure that can be used to kick off a new campaign, as well as stats for important NPCs. We are planning Freeport companions for other rules systems as well, some in print and some in PDF format. Watch for future announcements to see what systems we’ll be supporting.

The second type of support we have planned is setting books. These will be similar in format to the Pirate’s Guide but focusing in on a single topic. At the moment two of these are in design. The first is Cults of Freeport, which will detail many of the city’s vilest organizations (including the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign). The second is Buccaneers of Freeport, which provides a pack of vicious pirates for use in your games and includes full details on their crews and ships. Rules support for these books will appear either in the companions or as free PDF downloads from

The last type of support is adventures. These take a more traditional approach and include game stats for a single system. Support for other systems will be available as free downloads. Right now Green Ronin’s major adventure line, the Bleeding Edge series, is designed for the d20 System but there are True20 conversions on The Bleeding Edge adventures take place on “the Continent,” the major land mass nearest to Freeport. Bleeding Edge #7 will take place in Freeport itself. You may also see some Freeport adventures in PDF form.

Let’s Go!
Stay tuned for more of my design diaries, as well as those of my co-designers on the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, Robert J. Schwalb and Patrick O’Duffy. We’ll be talking about the design decisions of the book, how new and old elements were blended together, and just how the whole thing came together. We’ll also be putting some art previews and doing a special installment on the new, jaw-droppingly beautiful maps.

Welcome to the City of Adventure, mates. This is the just the beginning.