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The Sid Meier's Pirates! Challenge Pack


Since creating my Iron-man Mod for Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004), I've finished another five mods and I'm releasing all six together. I call this The Challenge Pack because all but one of the mods serve to make the game more challenging. The current release of the challenge pack contains the following mods:

  • Iron-man Mod - This mod prevents the player from simply reloading a saved game after making a mistake.
  • Minor Relations / Useless Items Mod - This mod fleshes out the relationships with the minor powers (pirates, Indians, and Jesuits), which were never implemented in the original game, and gives use to the Indian and Jesuit artifacts, which were therefore useless in the original game. It also makes disguises more useful and fixes the Dutch rutter so it works correctly according to its description.
  • Realistic Cannonball Speed - This mod increases the cannonballs to a realistic speed, giving a very different and more challenging combat experience.
  • Reformulated Crew Happiness - This mod changes the crew happiness formulas to eliminate the exploit that allowed players to sail indefinitely without ever paying the crew. It also makes the crew take into account the length of the voyage when dividing the plunder, makes the musical instruments a bit more effective, and fixes a minor bug in the game's calculation of crew morale. This mod is balanced for the harder difficulty levels (Adventurer, Rogue, and Swashbuckler), and might make the easy difficulty levels easier.
  • Slower Aging - This mod reduces the effects of aging by 25%. This is the only mod that makes the game easier, but the result is more realistic and it helps with finishing the more difficult game that results from applying the other mods.
  • Tenacious Top Pirates - This mod makes the top pirates never surrender, in the same way that the main quest villains never surrender, meaning that you have to duel them aboard their ships to beat them. Unlike the main quest villains, however, top pirate ships can still be sunk.
  • Miscellaneous fixes - This mod simply fixes minor grammatical errors in the game text. It is always enabled when you use the challenge pack.
The mods not only make the game more difficult, they also make it more interesting by requiring of the player more thoughtful play and a more varied set of tactics. I challenge you to complete a Swashbuckler game with all mods enabled! The challenge pack is compatible with both the Steam and retail versions of the game.

Download: ChallengePack.zip (version 1.2.3)

To use it, replace your game executable (Pirates!.exe) with the one generated by the program. (You may want to make a backup first.)

Contact me if you have any trouble!

As a bonus, if you don't select any mods, you'll get a clean, unencrypted executable that's suitable for creating mods and applying other people's mods. (The Steam version supports no exe mods. The retail version supports exe data mods but not code mods. This version supports both code and data mods.)


Thanks! 2014-07-26 01:05PM
Been looking around for some mods that actually effect game play... finally! thanks alot for your time making this.
an anonymous Rex
RE: Thanks! 2014-08-15 02:51AM
Thanks for the thanks. I hope you enjoy it. :-)
Fantastic mod 2015-09-25 11:07AM
I just finished a Swashbuckler run with all of your mods enabled. It really changes the game for the better. Although I didn't end up needing them, I prioritized getting the jail and maroon items as a safety strat. Great work on this, and thanks for sharing it.
an anonymous Jon
RE: Fantastic mod 2015-09-26 04:25AM
Hey Jon, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
CHeers and a question 2015-12-07 04:47PM
First my congratulations for the amazing job

Second I would like to ask if the 25% less aging is moddable into higher values

an anonymous Pirata Alma Negra
RE: Cheers and a question 2015-12-08 02:27AM
The Challenge Pack doesn't have built-in support for it, but of course it's possible to create a mod that changes aging in a different way.
It's perfect but 2016-01-04 07:49AM
It is possible to stop aging by hero i want be immortal and enjoy my game with all items and ships
an anonymous Bermax
RE: It's perfect but 2016-01-04 02:03PM
Hi Bermax. The challenge pack doesn't have such an option built-in, but of course it's possible to create such a mod.
explanation 2016-01-05 02:03PM
Can you explain what should i change or how off this aging in game i would be grateful
an anonymous Bermax
RE: explanation 2016-01-07 06:36PM
Hi Bermax. Unless you're a programmer or otherwise technically adept, I think it would be quite difficult for you to change this part of the game. But if you give me your email address I'll see about sending you a modded executable.
Email 2016-01-08 04:03AM
I send you an email
an anonymous Bermax
Thx 2018-02-14 09:58AM
Hey man, just wanted to say thank you for your work on this. Cheers
an anonymous Pirate_fan
Thanks! 2018-03-17 05:13PM
Adam Thank you! I fell in love with Pirates on the C64 back in the 80's and have followed and played it on PC since. I love this game and I'm looking forward to an improved experience. Peace
an anonymous Doug
RE: Thx / Thanks! 2018-03-18 09:57AM
I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. :-) That helps make my effort worthwhile.
Thank you so much! 2018-04-11 07:28AM
I've been playing pirates! since the Amiga days, and have wanted to make the modern version more difficult and fun. I'm so excited to play esp now that the indian and mission items function!
Thank you so much for all your effort, you'll make King's Advisor for this!

Sail ho! :D
an anonymous Aaaaaaar!
Sound? 2018-05-09 12:26PM
The mod is great, but I have to play it on mute because duels became too noisy (plenty of surrender voice clips at sea, and clanging swords, and the noise doesn't stop after victory) and the same clanging swords effect disrupts my experience while I'm on a city visiting the Merchant of Shipwright.

Also, the voice clip for taunts during duels doesn't play.

Can you take a look into that, please? I love the soundtrack in the Pirates! game and it's annoying that I have to play it on mute.
an anonymous Nic
RE: Sound? 2018-05-30 09:39PM
It's the first I've heard of audio problems. Is it consistent (i.e. the battle noise continues after every victory)? If so, does reverting to the original executable (or just unchecking all the boxes and generating a new executable) fix it?
Great Modification, HELP! 2018-06-23 02:54PM
Pretty nifty program!

I especially like the way Indians and Abbots now require artifacts before helping- this definitely adds to the game.

Since you are clearly an expert programmer I was hoping you can help me with some problems I'm having with this game, maybe you can tell me how to modify certain things:

1) Duels and dancing are slow, 1 FPS. How can this be increased?

2) Montalban on the Quest map, the fat abbot, and the surrendering Ducth captain all have that "Terminator Guy" look. This is with patch V1.02.

3) The BINK videos do not work except with Swiftshader, which is too slow for overall gameplay (the laptop is a 2001 Intel Pentium 3 XP- I have reasons for using it). The images are of strange and dark, weirdly-colored and aligned quality. The RAD Video app cannot play them although the VLC Player, Windows Media Player, and Media Player Lite all can.

Thank you- by the way, where can one learn how to modify and create applications? I have website programming experience.
an anonymous GusCE6
RE: Great Modification, HELP! 2018-07-02 02:47PM
Hey, I don't think I have enough information to answer your questions. My guess is that the slow dancing and duels (and possibly the BINK video problems) are because the laptop is old. I don't know what you mean by the "Terminator Guy" look, but I'm not too knowledgeable about the game's graphics.

Creating and modifying applications are two different things. For creating applications, I'd recommend looking into some C# tutorials. As for modifying applications, it depends on how the application was written, including which language it was written in. If you have the source code for the application, that's the easiest way to modify it. Trying to modify an application whose source code you don't have is known as reverse engineering and is a much more difficult task, especially if the application was written in an older language like C++. It may take years to develop the knowledge to reverse engineer such applications, and then months to reverse engineer any particular application. Nonetheless if you want to start down that path, you can begin to learn "assembly language" and see how languages like C and C++ get converted into assembly language.
Ships 2018-07-17 09:21PM
is there any way you can make ships more real like depending on relations i know that the more negative you are with a country then the will send out ships to attack you but is there anyway to make like bigger ships and more of the come for you depending on how much a country dislikes you and also have them actively search for you like if i sink a french ship but im not close to a french settlement/city france will still send ships to go after me and also the captains are stronger depending on the ship size and fleet size
an anonymous jacktdaw
RE: Ships 2018-07-18 11:56PM
Hi jacktdaw,

I think it's already the case - although I could be misremembering - that the severity of an attack depends on how much they dislike you. It would be possible to change the game so that they also hunt you down when you're far from their territory, but it would not be a simple change.
Thank you! 2018-09-17 03:14PM
an anonymous Aurrai
Thank you so much for making this! 2018-10-25 10:55PM
I've used the entire pack to beat every difficulty from Apprentice to Rogue and I'm now about half way through a perfect Swashbuckler run, and I'm having a blast. This is now the definitive way to play the game as far as I'm concerned. I was wondering if any of your modifications gave the quartermaster an actual effect, since I don't believe he actually does anything in the base game. Thank you!
an anonymous Captain Leatherwing
RE: Thank you so much for making this! 2018-10-30 08:51PM
Hi, Capt. Leatherwing. I'm glad you enjoy it! It's a common belief that the quartermaster does nothing, but in fact he does! As I wrote some years ago on the Hooked on Pirates Forum:
The quartermaster doesn't keep people happy; he enforces discipline. Happy crews don't need to be disciplined, so instead he reduces the effect of unhappiness. He halves the number of men who desert and makes more ships eligible for stealing. With the quartermaster, a mutinous crew can take any ship but the flagship. Without a quartermaster, it can take only take the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th ship. This may sound unintuitive, but I suppose it's based on the assumption that the best ships are at the front of your fleet, so letting them steal the ships at the end decreases the chance of you losing a great ship.
Relations and sound issues 2019-07-10 02:06AM
As noted above, I also experienced audio issues with the swords clanging. This seems to happen at the victory screen and at the merchant or shipwright.
I'm playing on version 1.0 and using only the Minor Relations mod.
About the relations: is there a way to win back good relations? I seem able to anger pirate ports, but I can't figure out how restore good relations with them. Once I defeat a major pirate, they seem to hate me till the end of times.
an anonymous Periko
RE: Relations and sound issues 2019-07-10 01:02PM
For relations with pirates, you need to attack the ships of civilized nations, plunder treasures ships, etc. to get on their good side. Basically, be a pirate. (This is how it works in the base game.)

As for audio issues, I've never experienced it. Does it happen if you uncheck all the boxes and generate a new executable with all mods disabled?
RE: Relations and sound issues 2019-07-11 12:53AM
That was quick. Thanks for answering.
I tested with a no-mod executable.
· Sound effects during boarding battles seem inconsistent: some sounds play twice, some seem out of place, some are missing (e.g: taunt sfx doesn't play at all). It's not a big concern in this case, it just feels weird if you're paying attention to the sound.
When testing with the mod, battles seemed much more noisy and the noise carried on through the victory screen.
· While anchored in a port, the occasional sword clanging sound is heard. This seems to happen anywhere, be it tavern, merchant, shipwright or even the port menu. It's no big deal, the clanging can even follow the music.
When testing with the mod, the sword clanging in this situation was noisier and bothersome.

Hope this helps.
an anonymous Periko
RE: Relations and sound issues 2019-07-11 09:59PM
Ok. After downloading and applying the 1.02 update, all sound issues are gone. Seems that was definitely the cause; version 1.0 and this mod don't get along too well.
Now that I had some time to play with your mods, I get the feeling that these rapid cannon shots are not nearly as destructive as in vanilla. Maybe it's just a graphic thing, but most shots don't seem to even hit the ship.

In spite of these reports I'm quite pleased I found this Challenge Pack. Great work here.
an anonymous Periko
Challenge Pack compatibility question 2019-08-04 12:27PM
Is your Challenge Pack compatible with Phalzyr's PH Trainer version 3.20?
an anonymous Nitehawke
RE: Challenge Pack compatibility question 2019-08-06 05:56PM
Hi, Nitehawke. I don't know about specific version numbers, but if Phalzyr's trainer is compatible with both the Steam and retail versions of the game, then it should be compatible with the Challenge Pack too, at least for the most part. (There's always a chance that the Challenge Pack and the trainer both try to modify the same thing, but I think there would be few conflicts of that type.)
2019-08-06 06:13PM
Great! I mostly only use the trainer in auto-dance mode, since I cannot maintain hand-eye coordination long enough to complete a dance.

The areas it might conflict with would seem to me to be crew morale, since it can be set to lock your crew to happy, and aging, since it can be set to lock your age to 18 either permanently (which locks the game year to the starting year, or it can be set to change your age to 18 only in sword fights.

I typically do not use those settings, so I think I'll give your Challenge Pack a shot!
an anonymous Nitehawke

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