Mister Phes

Ambassador Project - Defining the Factions

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Design a NEW LEGO Pirates Sub-Theme

DEFINING THE FACTIONS

This is an open discussion in which we determine the backstory story and common design aesthetics for each faction.

Remember, the faction and character names are not yet finalised!

We shall combine this discussion with our Definition of Design Constraints and Suggested Sets to ensure consistency throughout the sub-theme.

What to do

  • Contribute ideas to the backstory.
  • Suggest aesthetics for each faction to ensure they have different design aesthetics and are distinct from each other,this includes
    • Colour palette
    • Architectural/design elements
    • Repeating motifs

    [*]You may post ideas in the form of written descriptions, MOCs, illustrations, 3D renderings or found images and videos which represent your idea.

    [*]You may provide feedback or expand upon something another contributor has shared

    [*]Reach agreement over which aesthetics and story elements will apply

What happens next?

After the discussion conlcudes we shall collate the suggestions and produce a report.

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All names and faction details are currently tenative. During this phase of the project we shall hold a discussion to define each faction and therefore the final outcome could be vastly different to the below synopsises.

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The Merchants

The Merchants of the West Brick Trading Company hail from the bustling Port van Brickhaven which boasts more trade than the Imperial Trading Post... But the Merchants must be on guard or the LEGO Pirates will plunder their heavily laden Cargo Fluyts to restock their parrot's cracker supply!

  • It has been suggested the Merchants should have a Dutch and VOC/West India Trading Company influence. While it won't be directly stated they're Dutch is this still the right approach? Thoughts?
  • There has been concern Merchants won't be appealing to children. The City and Castle themes have demonstrated civilian sets can work so It's up to us to determine the playability. We need to incorporate a looming threat, smugglers alone aren't perhaps enough but they could be a precursor to something much larger.
  • The cracker idea probably won't last - any better ideas?

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The Smugglers

Adding to their challenges the Smugglers use stealth and cunning to sneak in and out of Port van Brickhaven to sell their own brand of crackers! The Smugglers are based in their guild deep within the Forsaken Bayou and have ways for concealing their identity so nobody suspects they're coming!

  • There has been concern that smugglers are not as exciting as pirates. Superficially the smuggler minifigures will resemble pirates anyway and the sets will still have the same pirate accessories, so it's really only the faction backstory that's different.
    While smugglers aren't as popular as pirates let's examine a couple of examples in popular culture.
    • While by no means related to Pirates of the Caribbean, Han Solo would have to be the most popular smuggler of recent generations. This character is by no means dull or lacks the swashbuckling excitement of a pirate.
    • Lesser known is Doctor Syn, who started his career as a smuggler but later became a pirate. It may be beneficial to read what Wikipedia has on the character, as it's another promising example of how smugglers can be exciting.

    [*]Our smugglers sets will need to be more clever than just posessing hidden compartments. The smugglers should have their own flag and or insignia but we need to devise methods so they can quickly alter their identity. Maybe it could be as simple as designing a flag that looks like something one way up, turn it upside down and it looks completely different. Throw more ideas around like that...

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The Haven Guard

But Mayor Verblocken has her suspicions and has called upon the help of the Haven Guard to put a stop to the Smugglers once and for all! Based in Fort Nassau, the Haven Guard patrols the port at all times.

This is our military faction which could have its own uniform and bases.

  • It has been suggested "Haven Guard" sounds like a religious cult although "haven" means "habour" in Dutch. Nonetheless, it may be more suitable to name the faction "Brickhaven Guard" to be consistent with the Merchants home port.

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Feel free to discuss the above points or raise your own.

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The Haven Guard

If we're still casting around for alternative names then the historical nickname for His/Her Majesties Tax collectors in the Cornish area was "The Revenue". It's worth remembering that most pirates were sailors from the west of England, they go "Arrr" because "Oooh-arr" is the west country farmers accent.

"The Revenue" feels right in a European context, I'm not sure it translates to the caribbean context. Opinions? Does anyone know the slang name around the Carribean for the Tax Collectors?

Edited by The_Cook

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"The Revenue" feels right in a European context, I'm not sure it translates to the caribbean context. Opinions? Does anyone know the slang name around the Carribean for the Tax Collectors?

What about in the children's context? I should also mention "Haven Guard" was chosen because it sounds like a child friendly name (although no formal study has been conducted to verify this).

While historically accurate can you imagine "The Revenue" appearing in a LEGO catalogue?

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I'm not fond of "Haven guards", I understand why you proposed this name, but I don't find it attractive... I'd suggest something more like "Royal guards" or "Royal fleet" since they should be keeping safe their country's merchants.

I think the smuggler term will not be so appealing to the young ones as pirate would be. As an adult I understand the difference between the two, and their place in history, but how should/could we explain that to 7 year old children? And if they are not pirates, should they have parrots and wooden legs? And if they have, what could differentiate them against pirates? I know I raised more questions than answers...

Regarding the merchants, as every Lego faction produced, they should not be tied to a specific existing nation. So they shouldn't wear any historical colors, emblem or name.

They should have ships and land building. A harbor town (that could connect to a guards fort set) might be their bigger set, while a merchant ship could be a medium sized set.

What could they buy/sell to be attractive to smugglers and to need protection?... Gold is the easy answer, but there could be other valuable goods, like exotic woods or spice.

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Its maybe a stupid question, but I think TLG will translate the names of the faction in several languages. Because the most children only speak their mother language.

The name Haven Guards is great in dutch, in english it will be harbour guards, in german Hafen Garde ...........

We should choose a name whitch sounds well in all for TLG important languages.

And I think Haven Guards fits great in all languages. Smugglers do the same, Merchants, too

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The Merchants

For this faction, if there are fears of kids not finding it interesting, they can (along with the smugglers) have some hidden defenses and whatnot. LEGO enjoys the whole sort of "transforming models" thing and I'm sure kids would find that fun as well. So, maybe in a few sets, the merchants are just caught in the crossfire between the guards and smugglers or have a very small ship under attack needing defense from the guard (basically, all three factions appear to small extends in these sets), and then there is one set or two where the merchants actually have their own ship or fort with concealed defenses. As for the story, yeah, that cracker idea is... well... pir_laugh2.gif One idea is perhaps that the merchants have incorporated special "relics" into their ships that protect them from the dangers of the seas, and that the smugglers, in addition to being in competition with the merchants, want these relics. LEGO loves collectibles, and this would add a neat play feature, inserting the relics into various ships depending on who has stolen them.

The Smugglers

That flag idea Phes suggested sounds neat. And things like fold-out cannons or other dangerous secrets in the ship would be neat from a design perspective, so long as they are perhaps somewhat more menacing than the hidden defenses of the Merchants, so that the Guard still needs to intervene. Don't really have much else to say about this faction.

Haven Guard

Name sounds fine, to be honest... It's something that I wouldn't be surprised if LEGO happened to think of it themselves one day. Anyway, not much to say about this faction either.

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I'm not fond of "Haven guards", I understand why you proposed this name, but I don't find it attractive... I'd suggest something more like "Royal guards" or "Royal fleet" since they should be keeping safe their country's merchants.

Problem with "Royal" in the name is it's implying the forces are imperial. "Haven Guard" was chosen specifically to be different from the Soldiers and Imperial Guards.

Regarding the merchants, as every Lego faction produced, they should not be tied to a specific existing nation. So they shouldn't wear any historical colors, emblem or name.

That's not accurate, the Imperial Guards were obviously based on the British historical uniforms and the Imperial Armada was definitely inspired by the Spanish Inquisition.

While the nation isn't specifically named, it's obvious who they represent by looking at them.

Its maybe a stupid question, but I think TLG will translate the names of the faction in several languages. Because the most children only speak their mother language.

Yes, the LEGO Group will translate and change the faction names as they deem fit.

But in the interest in simplicity we just need to select names they work well in English.

The question we should be asking is, could you imagine seeing this name appear in an English LEGO toy catalogue?

One idea is perhaps that the merchants have incorporated special "relics" into their ships that protect them from the dangers of the seas, and that the smugglers, in addition to being in competition with the merchants, want these relics. LEGO loves collectibles, and this would add a neat play feature, inserting the relics into various ships depending on who has stolen them.

What kind of relics? Please provide examples...

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Not sure how much this project is supposed to stray from familiar territory and offer "something new". The tried and tested approach would be to have a conflict between two main factions, with a possible minor third faction caught in the middle.

In this spirit, the safe approach would be to focus on the main conflict between smugglers and the Haven Guard (I like the name, btw), and tone down the merchant presence. I don't think the merchants should be a main faction, since that would put the Guard into the minor/third position, which I don't think would work, as they should logically be the most heavily armed faction.

Furthermore, if, as a main faction the merchants were armed heavily enough to be an even match for the smugglers, what's the point of a specialized Guard?

And a final reason, having the uniformed Guard (I assume they will wear uniforms) as one of two major factions makes them easier to army build, which should be taken into account.

So I would limit the Merchants to one trading ship (I assume that's the reason everyone (including me) wants merchants), then maybe a small dock/pier with cargo (this is really just throwing out a random idea), and otherwise just some minifigs here and there - a hostage/captive of the smugglers, and 1-2 merchants in the largest land-based set which would be more of a Haven Guard base (ITP style). Like the ITP, this base could have another (small) merchant vessel, but priority should be given to a smuggler vessel, for a more dynamic conflict.

Moving on, I find the idea of smuggler flags amusing - the point of a smuggler is to operate in secrecy, not to openly advertise oneself with fearsome flags. That's veering into classic Pirate shtick. To quote Ser Davos Seaworth of the Game of Thrones TV series, when asked about the difference between pirates and smugglers: "If you're a famous smuggler, you're not doing it right."

Now I'd like to be constructive, but I'm not sure what alternatives I can suggest.

Maybe no flags, but black sails so they can approach unseen at night? But those sails would be a dead giveaway in daytime.

Maybe torn sails and broken down ships, indicating they are reusing old and outdated equipment? A ragged look can be what differentiates the smugglers from the merchants.

If the smugglers are some sort of Mafia-like secret society, than some sort of insignia might be in order. Then it's a question of making it both recognizable to the kids and inconspicuous enough to seem believable in-universe.

Of course, I might be overthinking this. Playthemes are built more on stereotypical cliches and the rule of cool, rather than internal consistency and logic.

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What kind of relics? Please provide examples...

I guess, since we can't introduce new moulds, ship pieces coloured gold could work. pir_laugh2.gif In one it could be a sword held by the figurehead, in another it could be the ship's wheel, in another it could be a flag, in another it could be an anchor...

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I might be overthinking this. Playthemes are built more on stereotypical cliches and the rule of cool, rather than internal consistency and logic.

Indeed, it seems you're swayed a bit far into the internal consistency and logic. The classic LEGO themes have always been inspired by stereotypical cliches.

Moving on, I find the idea of smuggler flags amusing - the point of a smuggler is to operate in secrecy, not to openly advertise oneself with fearsome flags.

While you are indeed correct, you're missing the whole point about playability. The Smugglers flag is a nothing more than a gimmick like glow in the dark ghosts in the Castle sets... Something to make them more unique than pirates.

The tried and tested approach would be to have a conflict between two main factions, with a possible minor third faction caught in the middle.

In this spirit, the safe approach would be to focus on the main conflict between smugglers and the Haven Guard (I like the name, btw), and tone down the merchant presence.

The point of having the Merchant presence is to introduce civilian sets, so toning them down in favour the of Haven Guard defeats their purpose. We've already got two military factions in LEGO Pirates, so it's the Haven Guard that needs to take the minor role.

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Points taken. But what are the two military factions? Redcoats and Bluecoats? After all, Pirate themes are independent of one another (or at least the 2009 was independent from the previous ones, of which the 1996-97 armada subtheme was independent from the one before - there's not enough longevity to have much of a precedent). So anything from those themes (such as the previous aforementioned military factions) shouldn't really impact this one, unless there will be some heavy name-dropping, call backs or easter eggs to tie this theme together with the previous ones.

And on a mostly unrelated but already-mentioned-above note, everybody assumes the redcoats are expys of the British, but the Danish army also wore red coats, and seeing how TLG is a Danish company, the inspiration might have come from that. Of course, the reason was probably simply to reboot the subtheme from the bluecoats, and redcoats seemed like a sufficiently different take on the faction without actually being based on a specific nation.

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What are the two military factions? Redcoats and Bluecoats?

Soldiers (1989-1993) and Imperial Guards (1992-1996, 2009-2010), although technically the Imperial Armada was a military theme.

After all, Pirate themes are independent of one another (or at least the 2009 was independent from the previous ones, of which the 1996-97 armada subtheme was independent from the one before - there's not enough longevity to have much of a precedent). So anything from those themes (such as the previous aforementioned military factions) shouldn't really impact this one, unless there will be some heavy name-dropping, call backs or easter eggs to tie this theme together with the previous ones.

The Imperial Guards have plenty of longevity to set a precedent, but the point goes back to introducing non military merchant sets as that's what people have suggested and voted for. That's why the West Brick Trading Company won the poll - for the Merchants, not the Haven Guard.

And on a mostly unrelated but already-mentioned-above note, everybody assumes the redcoats are expys of the British, but the Danish army also wore red coats.

You've nailed it right there, everyone assumes the redcoat are British when they could well be any nationality. The point I was making everyone should assume the Haven Guard are Dutch but they could well be any nationality.

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3609-cropped1.jpg

Just to show how the haven guards could look. The title is Netherlands, 1821

Edited by Matthias130182

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Just to show how the haven guards could look. The title is Netherlands, 1821

They look too similar to blue coats though... Do we really want to make the Haven Guard blue coats or would blue coats be best reserved for the future? Maybe for when we get around to creating a French faction.

We have the opportunity to do something entirely different.

Sid Meier had a concept for Dutch uniforms in his latest Pirates! game...

post-273-0-79881000-1400670424_thumb.jpg

post-273-0-33013200-1400670446_thumb.jpg

post-273-0-25319200-1400670435_thumb.jpg

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So we've discussed this with BFN earlier and we find differences between these 3 factions problematic. I mean - how to distinguish Guards from Merchants and then distinguish Merchants from Smugglers. Cause that's definitely the most important thing here - all of these factions should be easily recognised by kids. Children should have no problems to say what differs them, the same way as these diffrences were easy to spot in classic Pirates sets, Castle sets, Western sets and so on.

So first thing would be to establish a different color patern for respective sides.

Starting with Smugglers I'd give them some of these new DIRTY/POOR colors - rotten brown, dark green and so on - to make them look really really bad, in worn out clothing, veteran mercenary-type, desperate killers.

They should also go with a great set of birds, eyepatches, lack some teeth and so on.

In one sentence - make them look like a Wolfpack/Forestmen of the Carribean.

As for the Guards - perhaps we could make a compromise and just use both BLUE and RED for them?

Red coats with blue pants/lapels/epaulets for sailors, blue coats with red pants/lapels/epaulets for soldiers.

Then Merchants as a pretty rich and highly cultural society, fashion freaks, could go with a great range of PASTELS, plus lots of WIGS, elegant vests for simple workers, decorated jackets for the powerful and expensive dresses for the ladies.

Edited by Mazin

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I don't understand why they cannot simply be the Company Guards?

As for distinguishing them, I suggest we use green as the coat colour and avoid the whole red/blue argument altogether.

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Forgive me if I fail too see the problem with the name Haven Guard. It has a nice feel to it. I agree with the above post with maybe a neutral color such as green. As for the merchants I believe they would be easy to define with nicer clothes. Purple was always considered a wealthy color as well as lace and frills for the ladies. Fancy hats for both male and female merchants, as well as a nicer flag on the ship. Smugglers (pirates) would have to pass as lower class merchants, dull earthy colors with simple clothes and simple hats.

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I don't understand why they cannot simply be the Company Guards?

So far you're the only one who has suggested "Company Guards", but if it comes down to it we may need a poll to determine the most suitable name.

As for distinguishing them, I suggest we use green as the coat colour and avoid the whole red/blue argument altogether.

I agree, choosing another colour is the best way to avoid the red/blue argue. Red and blue coats have been done before so its time to do something different.

But why green? There is already green Imperial Armada torsos. A few posts back I was attempting to suggest orange is more synonymous with Dutch heritage and provide examples of how it's been used in other pirate fiction to represent the Dutch.

6-pirates2008-09-27140lby.jpg

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- Merchants:

About the name (West Brick Trading Company), I'll prefer something like "Oceanic Trade, Army & Navy", A.K.A. OCTAN... the same colors for octan but without the logo... just to keep some "history" inside the LEGO Universe. Nevertheless, West Brick Trading Company is ok

-Merchants background history : a greedy company (or with an owner as a mix between "Mr. Burns" and "Ebenezer Scrooge") with an export/import products (coffee, bananas, rum) and enough rich and powerfull to had control of the troops, law and work on the population.

-Color palette: green, red foe flags and brown for ships; sand green, tan, medium blue, brown and black for buildings; purple, dark green for bourgeois minifigs; sailors, dock workers and others could be open

-Smugglers:

Insterd of crackers, The Smugglers have to smuggling something more important, so, that's opens two chances to profit whit. "something expensive" because the taxes charged by the Greedy Merchant Lord(s) or the company (this could be coffee...expensive coffee like in The Lego Movie, or goods of any kind), and the second one, "something ilegal", I've been thinking of it, and TLG puts (rum) bottles in previous sets... so, TLG exposed the "alcoholism" to the kids, it could bring the Prohibition enforced by the troops.

-Smugglers background history: They are smugglers... if there is something to commerce, they sell it in the black market cheaper, or can buy something that you... borrowed "for good"... forbbiden weapons, they have it... exotic animals, they sell them... forbbiden rum... chears!

-Color palette: dark brown, brown and black for ships (secrets compartments, mandatory!); sand green, tan, medium blue, brown and black for buildings(in fact, the same colors as the merchants, to use as disguise, but with some shadowmark, as symbol of this "guild"... it could be some old shield like the wolfpack shield, like Mazin said) ; sailors, dock workers and others thiefs could be open

-The Heaven Guard

(I'm with people unhappy with the name pirate_sceptic.gif ). This group sound more like a police force than a troop or paid army, the pirates are violent, and demand extreme force to stop them... the smugglers are pasive, so this force.

-Guards background history: military by default, keeps the order in the "realm" (it could be a realm, nation, colonies?), preserves the law, specially the Prohibition (real) act

-Color palette: dark brown, dark red, dark blue, dark green for the ships. The forts, garrisons and jails I'll let them open. for minigifs, orange coats, green coats or black coats could work

what you think?

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"Oceanic Trade, Army & Navy", A.K.A. OCTAN...

(Big Snip)

I like this whole idea (esp. the Octan in-joke, even though the name itself is a little impractical), except for the prohibition/rumrunning. While historically realistic, I have a problem with the smugglers--who, as stand-in Pirates, would be the characters kids would play with most--being all about sneaking alcohol. That being said, the crackers idea isn't cutting it either.

I don't know, maybe it is the whole concept of smugglers that seems to be holding things up. I mean, Pirates are a crude bunch of criminals, but since they are so obvious about everything, you (i.e. LEGO) can play off of the flamboyant stereotypes when designing sets, story, and minifigs.

Since smugglers are by definition more secretive and hidden, it makes it hard to have them as a separate faction whose characters and story are easily identified to kids. There becomes this need to explain what they do and why they are criminals, but without the fun factor of "a pirate's life for me, yo ho!"

As other posters have mentioned, iincluding Brig. Brick above, they would need essentially the same color scheme as the merchants, so at what point are they a discernible faction?

I suppose if there were some type of Clue thing going on (where you had to deduce which figs were smugglers), that could justify it, but that would need some other sort of media--video game or tv show--to make it work, which is already outside the bounds of this project's scope.

Edited by rodiziorobs

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I think that we're starting to get somewhere. I'll remind everyone that this was never a discussion that was going to be resolved instantly it was always something that would take time and eventually will be a compromise that the majority of us agree on. Whatever we decide someone, somewhere, will prefer the other option. Always approach this from the standpoint of what are we going to be able to sell not what do I want personally.

Looking towards the colours has been a great help. We're not trying to recreate the past (apologies to all army builder who wantted more of their particular favourite for their army). The consideration of earth tones for smugglers, bright colours for the merchants and sombre militaristic dark reds, greens or blues for the guard seems to make sense.

In terms of what are they smuggling we probably don't even have to name it. It will probably be chests of 1x1 plates or rounds. Let the kids imagination work out what it's for. For the purposes of international translation, the less we name the better.

I think the OCTAN idea is quite clever, although it only translates in English. In which case the smuggling could well be around yellow cheese wedges.

Edited by The_Cook

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i'd kinda like the idea that the smugglers are in dept to the pirates, maybe they found a treasure horde years ago and spent the money thinking it was abandoned, then the pirates found out and in exchange for there lives the smugglers promised to find a way to repay every coin that they took, they have been smuggling goods and supplies for the cutthroats ever since. they only hope that the haven guard never finds out who they've been "trading" with.

"oh and one more thing... if we see a Haven Guard flag approaching our merry little home, then by thunder! we will hunt you down and feed you to the sharks!"

-Roger Redbeard

Edited by madmordiggin

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To a certain extent we don't need to over-analyse the problem. We have three factions "identified", we need to ensure that it is easy to differentiate between them and that they have an obvious role, but beyond that a child's imagination can take over.

The differentiation is likely to come through in the design of each factions clothes, ships and buildings.

The role, the factions purpose is harder but it needs to be simple, clear and obvious. Think good-vs-bad (cops-vs-robbers), rich-vs-poor (Robin Hood-vs-King John), black and white storylines that a child can latch onto and create their own.

As xFOLs we probably want to create more deeper intricate storylines, to blur the lines or precisely recreate episodes from history. Our task here isn't to create that depth but to create a very basic palette from which each person can create their own unique deep and intricate storyline. A palette of figures and sets that appeals to and is understandable by children but with enough scope that xFOLs can be more inventive with it. Too much depth and detail will constrain the stories that can be invented around the factions and we want to create as much scope for inventiveness as possible.

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As xFOLs we probably want to create more deeper intricate storylines, to blur the lines or precisely recreate episodes from history. Our task here isn't to create that depth but to create a very basic palette from which each person can create their own unique deep and intricate storyline.

This is a good point, for the amount of backstory we need, observe this scan from the 1992 LEGO catalog.

Yes, I realise there were comics, Lady Bird Books and audio dramas for the initial release of Pirates, but for subsequent years it was merely a few lines in the catalog:

post-273-0-98082700-1400755223_thumb.jpg

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