From website description:
Avast there! There be grand adventure ahead, mateys! Where some other Game Captains be leadin' adventurous souls ta battles where there be nothing but blood, this 'ere game sets sail fer rich waters, where there be gold and glory awaitin' ye. The secret coves and rich cities charted in these 'ere books be a gamer's paradise. For this 'ere game won't be a tellin' ya ta be honorable or chivalrous while settin' ya up fer a battle where the brave be the first ta die. No matey, this 'ere game makes no bones 'bout it! If ye be wantin' ta cut some throats, pick yer friends' pockets and become the richest man in the world, this be the game fer ya!
Pirates goes back to the basics of role-playing games for its fun. Its simple yet comprehensive rules maxime the opportunity for a 'hack-&-slash' game while at the same time providing a fine opportunity to role-play in a New World of RPGs. Pirates as a role-playing game genre is ideal for those Players who want to gather power, or be a killing machine, or hoard gold, or have high-stakes adventures just for the hell of it.
The Pirates game demanded to be created. Realizing the potential for adventures in this setting demanded the possibility, and then the passage of time and the reinventing of rules for other game systems opened up possibilities for how a pirates game would work, and work well! Its carefree rules blow rule-laden games out of the water with salvos of dramatic action that are hard to come by anywhere else. As an 'action' RPG, a game for hack-&-slash players, treasure hunters and flamboyant characters, the Pirates game reaches new levels. And that's only the beginning, for we've only begun to chart the waters where this game leads us.
The Pirates game system offers many rules and elements that are ever sought by role-players, and usually have been for some time, or will be soon enough, as the hobby sails into waters infested with sickening heroes or gets mired in rulebooks that are just too heavy to stay afloat. The basic structure of our game is outlined below by listing the standards it uses compared to other game systems.
1) Not d20. In fact, this game uses the D12 only. This not only works better with nautical rules, such as there being 12 months in a year, or leagues averaging 6 miles, but also makes for more fun and frantic play as a pirate's life would be. For example, Critical Hits and Misses come up far more often on a D12 than a D20, as its two extreme rolls have less of a range between them.
2) Class and Level based. However, the Classes are little more than a formality, as one's prowess comes from how well he builds his Ability Scores and Skill Levels.
3) Reward systems beyond XP. These include scoring systems for fame, fear, and privateering ranks and titles. As a pirate's career should be, all these different systems use the same ranges and proportions and thus can be used to help build each other to gain the best possible advantage while plundering and raiding on the high seas!
4) The best of history and Hollywood. The game is set in classic pirate eras on Earth, such as the 16th and 17th Century Caribbean and the 15th and 16th Century Mediterranean, but it is not a wholly historically accurate game, the textbooks used only for what makes for a more exciting adventure, and then the rest is filled in with horror and Hollywood. For example, rapiers are effective in duels because a good swashbuckling game wouldn't be as much fun without them. There is also an element of the supernatural, as undead pirates and terrible curses are more than mere superstition, though they do not dominate the storylines. On the other hand, some elements of the game are brutally real, such as having prostitute rules, Skills for swindling even other PCs, and above all there being a mortality rate amongst both PCs and NPCs alike.
5) Characters and ships interchangeable. The game normally plays like any other RPG, focusing on the Player Characters and their individual actions, while the bulk concept of ships and crews remains abstract, thus minimizing the number crunching. However, naval combat is a large part of the game and can even be played separately, with or without miniatures, and does not diminish the differences made by the PCs in those same battles For example, Encounter descriptions in Adventures are deliberately written not to name the PCs as captain or crew, so whether they are in command or happen to be aboard a ship that is sailing in the direction of adventure, the storyline will need little or no modification, and if that adventure should involve battle, the Players roll for the ship they are on, whether they are in command or not, the crew summarized in a mass combat system while they personally can still seek out and duel with the enemy captain or quartermaster, or sneak down to the treasure hold, or to the powder hold and blow the entire vessel up!