The Maritime Bank of Martinesse
Captain Blackthorn grimaced against the salt air that sandblasted his face. His men were weary, his ship was falling apart and the hold was replete with treasures beyond counting. It was time to head home and enjoy the bounty that years at sea had brought them. As he braced himself against the pressing squall he considered the conundrum of converting said bounty into a transferable asset that could easily be spent without arousing suspicion of the local militia or the jealousy of rival pirates. If only large amounts of wealth could be represented on something as light and unobtrusive as a piece of paper. But then Blackthorn had a idea:
'I know what we'll do! We'll bury it!...'
And so Blackthorn's ship, The Greedy Hangman, set sail for the remote isle of Coral Spit. When his men heard of what their Captain had planned Captain Blackthorn and a few loyal die-hards had to quell what could have developed into a full-scale mutiny.
'Ye'all be fine pirates, lads, but you'll never be the men your Mothers were! Now who thinks he can take me in single combat?'
Nobody was prepared to take on the seasoned Blackthorn who was not beyond a little cheating in a 'fair fight'. So he told them the plan:
- They would bury the treasure so that none but themselves knew its true whereabouts.
- They would sail home on a lighter ship, free of cargo, to more safely cross the distance to their home port.
- They would prepare maps showing the location of the bounty with a face value representing the true value of the buried treasure.
- They would sell several copies of the map for more money than the total value of the treasure.
So the pirates walked far inland dragging the treasure behind them. They found a small ravine with a dried up river bed at its base and started to dig. The navigator prepared a local map of the area and its local landmarks to precisely position the treasure's location and they were done.
On the way back to their homeland the navigator again set to drawing the map that they planned to use for currency back home. Other members of the crew helped out with the copying and when they finished they had what Captain Backthorn believed was a bounty of riches far beyond the value of the treasure.
Two hundred and fifty seven days later the Greedy Hangman arrived in the Port of Martinesse and all the crew went ashore. Rumours began to circulate about the arrival of a sinister looking ship which is probably piratical but which unloaded nothing, and yet the crew all look so happy. The Captain himself headed to a trading establishment to see what price he can get for his maps. An hour later he left said establishment despondent and crestfallen. The negotiations had not gone well.
Blackthorn had miscalculated the perceived value of the maps. The idea was good but good ideas sometimes need a push to get going.
He next headed to the Pirates' Guild where he secured an audience with Flatfoot Peersquint, the Guild Treasurer and Bursar. Peersquint was a shrewd man and while he had no sympathy for Blackthorn or any intention of helping him out of his predicament he did see an opportunity in the crazy pirate's idea, not only to make a quick buck but to gain control over all the finances of Martiness, and perhaps beyond.
'The problem with your scheme, Blackthorn', intimated Peersquint, 'is that it lacks credibility. Nobody believes that any of these maps actually lead to anything. There are so many forged maps going around the markets of this city that no-one can tell a real one from a fraudulent one.
'I'll tell you what I'll do. The Pirate guild will purchase these maps from you for five hundred gold pieces or two hundred and fifty doubloons, if you prefer.'
'That's a hundredth of what they're worth!' protested Blackthorn
'No, it's a tenth of what your bounty is worth, which you are trying to sell to me ten times. Do you have a better deal?'
Begrudgingly, Blackthorn accepted the Guild's offer and handed over all the maps and copies he had and then went back to the docks to break the bad news to his crew.
He was later found floating in the harbour having accidentally brutally stabbed himself in the back with a cutlass, possibly while shaving.
A month later the names of Blackthorn and the Greedy Hangman were on everyone's lips, as well as their hands and in their pockets. The Pirates Guild has a new department which has issued a code of conduct for the selling of treasure maps with an interesting diversity of ways to die for anyone who breaches them, pirate or not.
Code of Conduct for the issue of Maritime Notes
As supervised by the Maritime Bank of Martinesse, 64 Duke Street, Martinesse
For the convenience of those who find themselves with an embarrassment of riches which is impractical to haul to a place of sale the Maritime Bank of Martinesse (hereinafter referred to as 'The Bank') hereby authorises the issuing of Maps baring the location of the bounty to be issued for the purpose of barter with the populace subject to the following conditions:
- The maps are derived of a cartographic method that meets with the approval of The Bank.
- The note of paper on which the map is drawn (hereinafter referred to as The Note) bares a design and is of a size that meets with the approval of The Bank.
- A promise as to the authenticity of the map is placed upon The Note along with the signature of the leader of the group that secured the bounty (hereinafter referred to as the issuer).
- A maximum of nine copies may be made and issued by the issuer.
- Once any notes have been issued to the public no further notes may be made referring to that bounty nor any existing notes issued at a later date.
- The true value of the bounty on the date of issue is prominently displayed in at least two of the four corners of the note on both sides.
- The note is countersigned by the chief cashier of the Maritime Bank as complying with all the above requirements.
Any person contravening the above shall be invited to take a voyage to a place outside national waters where he shall be divested of his intestinal organs which shall be burnt in front of him. He shall then be hanged from the neck until nearly dead and then fed to whatever sharks, orca or other predatory fauna inhabit said waters.
The first notes to be issued where by the Maritime Bank itself and the face depicted on the front of the note is none-other that Captain Blackthorn adjacent to a woodcut of the Greedy Hangman. On the reverse is an elaborately drawn map showing the location of Blackthorn's bounty. And in accordance with paragraph 3 of The Code a promise from the deceased pirate:
I do promise to the bearer
that the map on the reverse of this 'ere note
be a true and accurate representation of
the whereabouts of a bounty to the value of
Signed in his absence
Before long it is common practice for pirates to bury their treasures on remote islands and produce maps for use back home as currency. Any person being presented with such a payment has a choice. They can either spend the note as a piece of currency or more adventurous types can hire a sailing vessel and venture forth to liberate the stranded hoard.
Initially each note corresponded to a single and entire bounty but this, of course results in the issuing of a small number of notes of very high denomination and pretty soon the piratical community realises that it is easier to get rid of notes if they are of lower values. To facilitate this bounties would be broken up and each part buried separately so that even the moderately wealthy had a chance to partake in the 'new money'. Even those unlucky enough to have been on Blackthorn's last voyage.
'That Captain Blackthorn was a clever bloke after all.'
'Yea, per'aps we shouldn't 'ave killed 'im.'
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? Responses (20)-20
Very clever! An actually practical methodology for the burial and retrieval of pirate treasure. It's simple, straightforward, and quite employable in any setting.
Well done, sir. Hope to see more like this from you.
I would've said it before, but I just noticed: did you custom make those bills pictured at the bottom? Extra kudos for that gem.
Every economic idea has its day. But more than the idea, which is fun and fantastic, I enjoyed the style of writing, there is a story! with a conflict, an arc and humor that goes along with this idea. Not only is it a fun and nicely satirical idea, it is an amusing story as well.
An interesting twist on buried treasure.
Yes, the Bank notes are the result of a couple of days in Photoshop
I do like this! Light-hearted, yet still very useful, and also plausible!
This is a really excellent first sub. Congrats! I agree with what the others said. This is entertaining and creative.
My only quibble here is that these are pirates... people who make a life out of taking from others despite the risk of execution if caught. I'd expect to see numerous attempts at gaming the system.
The pirates realize (as stated by Peersquint) that confidence in the system is paramount. If the system is gamed the notes start to be devalued until they are as worthless as the fraudulent maps that went before. Hence the draconian Code of Conduct.
Also, I found it ironic that a Banking system similar to our own might be based on the machinations of a Pirate Guild.
But pirates are pirates and I guess that attempts would be made... and might even be the basis of a plot hook!
A case could be made that the difference between our banking system and the Maritime Bank is that the pirates are more honest about their intentions ;)
I think that would make an excellent plot hook. Perhaps an enterprising individual believes himself far too clever to get caught and tries to rope the PCs into his scheme.
Or, the Maritime Bank may suspect that a scheme is afoot that would undermine confidence in the currency and hires the PCs to identify the perpetrators and bring them to 'justice'. Lots of moral dilemmas about helping pirates even if they're semi-respectable.
A wonderfully clever and simple idea with instant usability. Well done!
I like this, but I am partial to pirate stuff on here. Building a nautical themed world with this as a major cornerstone would be fantastic fun.
Most excellent sub, first sub or otherwise! Welcome aboard and I hope to see more from you. The added images are great :)
Thanks, Valadaar. I'm one of those DMs who likes props. Even in my posts!
After reading this, I was very glad I logged in today. This is absolutely brilliant -- funny and well-written, and immediately usable. Allowing the creation of nine copies of a single note is a good quip at modern banking practice, which commonly loans out ten times the money that a bank actually possesses. If I ever run a pirate game, this is making an appearance. Great first sub, and I look forward to seeing more from you!
I am so glad somebody spotted the comparison with modern banking practice.
The notes themselves could be used as a means of your players moving their ill-gotten wealth across the planet even if the pirates don't make an appearance in your game.
Thanks for the kind comments.
Fun is the right word I kept reading and I laughed at the ingenuity of it. What a fun and great idea! Graphics really put it out there too!
Fun sub, well written, awesome story and it is a shame that some pirates end up dying by cutlass in the back while shaving.
What others said. Good sub.
Thought it sounded familiar. Already voted on it. But as fun a read as it was the first day. And the graphics are still tops and give vision to the discussion. Love it.