* PCs begin the game as all being hired on the same merchant ship (level 1 characters). They may be hired as sailors, marines, guards whatever suits them. The ship sails, and eventually it's attacked by pirates! This is intended in part to give the PCs an example of ship-to-ship combat. The pirates will be tough enough that the merchant will lose if the PCs don't do anything; if the PCs are clever or especially lucky, they may drive off the pirates.
** If the PCs lose, they are captured along with the ship. The pirate captain (who I'm going to try and make a recurring NPC) takes them back to a pirate town. If the PCs were knocked out and captured, then they will be sold as slaves [probably to the same pirate captain, who has decided they're impressive fighters). He then puts them on a ship, perhaps with one of his higher level crew-members to "watch" them. If the PCs tried to surrender or negotiated somehow, they will be let out around town. The PCs should eventually try and aquire a ship, and find out they have to clear it with the "pirate king" NPC. I'm thinking there needs to be some kind of loyalty test for them to get a ship. Maybe going and collecting the year's exorbitant tribute from the nearby peaceful fishing hamlet. If the PCs pass, they get a ship, perhaps with a higher level pirate to "watch" them. Once the PCs have aquired a ship, they are sent off to become pirates. They may try and mutinee against the pirate "watching" them and then go do whatever they like. Otherwise, they attack a few merchant ships, gaining wealth, experience, and infamy.
** If the PCs win, the merchant ship sails on. Upon reaching port, news spreads of how they "saved" the ship against the pirates--rumors primarily spread by the merchant himself (who wants to show off how awesome his hires are). But because of these rumors, the PCs get roped into performing some kind of heroics--maybe doing basic adventure stuff, or even helping to lead a raid against the very pirates who attacked them! I haven't planned out this branch as intricately. This may be a kind of side-quest, after which the merchant ship sails to new exotic ports where other adventures could occur (depending on what the PCs want to do).
Does this sound like a good start to an adventure? Does anyone have any ideas for
1) A pirate loyalty test
2) Interesting jobs to do as a low-level pirate
3) Tasks the reported "pirate-slayers" might be asked to do?