Shiver me timbers, it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Here on Treasure Tables, we celebrate only the finest fake holidays (check out our 2006 GM’s Day coverage), and TLaPD is no exception. (Okay, technically it was an exception last year, because I forgot all about it.)

Are pirates cooler than ninjas? Who can say, really (except today, of course, when the answer is an unequivocal “yes!”). What matters, of course, is that for you as a GM, pirates are chock full of awesome.

Here are five reasons that pirates rock in RPGs.

1. They’re just plain fun. Really, who doesn’t like pirates? This one’s hard to quantify, but the proof is in the grog: Put pirates in your game, and your players will have fun.

2. Pirates can provide a change of pace. There are three ways you can handle pirates: over-the-top, movie-style (flashing blades, lots of pirate sayings — think Pirates of the Carribean); straight-up, just like any other adversary; or dark, dirty and vicious (more like real pirates, in other words).

No matter what the tone of your game, one of those three approaches is going to be a change of pace for your group — most likely options one or three.

3. They’re a known quantity. Especially in pre-modern day RPGs, when you say “pirates” your players will instantly know what to expect — naval battles, broadsides, battles on the high seas, hunting for treasure, etc.

You can go the beer and pretzels route and play to those expectations, or you can go against the preconceptions and handle your pirates very differently. Either way, see number one.

4. Pirate-themed adventures are easy to come up with. Just mix two or more pirate-y elements, add the PCs, and you’re good to go! Likely candidates include: treasure hunts, kidnapping, swashbuckling, sea battles, port raids, mutiny, sea monsters and betrayal.

5. Colorful characters come easily. History and fiction are brimming with larger-than-life pirate characters — it seems to come with the territory. From brutal bastards to the Dread Pirate Roberts, pirates (especially captains) tend to be colorful folks.

This gives you free reign to make your pirate NPCs as crazy as you like, or to simply steal your favorite existing characters and convert them into game terms.

Do you use pirates in your own game? How are you celebrating TLaPD? What are your favorite pirate resources, online or off?

(Also, a big thank you to John Arcadian of Silvervine Games for reminding me about TLaPD — I’d have forgotten again without you, John!)