Friday, June 15, 2018

A Storm of Sails Review



This scenario, Part 5 of the Return to Freeport campaign, was released back in February, but I've taken my time getting to it because I'm still waiting to see the sixth and final adventure in the series be published. I read it, though, and enjoyed it; here's the breakdown. 

On a positive note, this scenario includes a lot of ship-to-ship combat—something that has not been all that common in a campaign setting based around pirates. Indeed, there are two different engagements between the fleet that the PCs assembled in The Freebooter's City and the attacking Mazin armada. The rules involved are a simpler version than those presented in Ultimate Combat, and even the ones in the Player's Guide for the Skull & Shackles adventure path, and it seems like they'll work well for fast fleet action. My only concern is that they might seem a little too simplified, perhaps causing players who like crunchier mechanics to be frustrated. Should that be the case, though, then the GM can always fall back on more complicated rules. 

My only real frustration is that this adventure, like previous ones in the series, uses stat blocks from books such as the NPC Codex, requiring access to that text rather than repeating the stats in the module itself. It's a small complaint, I know. Now it just remains for the last adventure to be published, taking the action back to Freeport so the PCs can confront the traitor who's been working to undermine their heroic efforts; let's hope that it's been worth the wait.

-Nate 



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sahuagin Lair



In an isolated area of relatively shallow saltwater one can find this excavated mound. It is home to a team of sahuagin scouts, ones who are always on the lookout for lost travelers, foundering vessels and other easy prey. To that end, they use this lair as a launching point for raids against their enemies, and eventually move their ill-gotten gains back to the tribe's stronghold.
Refer to the map above for the following location descriptions.

1. Entrance
In the front of this hollowed-out mass of rock and dirt there is a single passageway that grants entrance. It is concealed by a mass of weeds, requiring a DC 20 Perception check to notice.

2. Tunnels
Beyond concealment, the next line of defense for the lair is this network of winding tunnels. They are intended to slow any attackers, forcing them to waste precious air while exploring. For that reason most of them loop around until ending abruptly or reconnecting with other paths; only one ends in a hole that passes up to the next level. As a general rule, the tunnels are as tall as they are wide.

3. Main Chamber
This broad, open hollow has narrow slots dug into its side walls, allowing the sahuagin to look out but not letting others see inside. (In game terms, treat them like arrow slits.) The floor is littered with bones from past meals, and concealed among them are the valuables that the patrol possesses. Note, too, that they keep a sizable supply of heavy crossbows and bolts at the ready, to help repel an attacking force.

Sahuagin: Refer to page 239 in the Bestiary for stats.

Sahuagin Scout: Refer to page 190 in the Monster Codex for stats.

At the GM's discretion, more powerful sahuagin characters could also be present; refer to pages 186-197 in the Monster Codex to find additional options for, and information about, these foes.


Using the Sahuagin Lair in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
This underwater dwelling and its wicked inhabitants can tie into all sorts of adventures, including the following possibilities.
  • As the sahuagin prey upon local inhabitants and passing vessels, someone before long would hire adventurers to deal with their threat.
  • The PCs could, of course, be on a vessel that is attacked by these vile shark-men.
  • Knowing that they've been staging their attacks for some time, the PCs should also recognize that their lair can contain a sizable cache of valuables.
  • Of course, the fickle nature of maritime law could mean that certain lucrative items are claimed by those who lost them, leading to legal troubles.
  • As mentioned above, this lair is but an outpost from which they lead ambushes; questioning the sahuagin could lead back to a larger stronghold—one that is filled with more treasure, but also fraught with greater peril.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

PDF #12

Here's a link to a PDF compilation of the most recent articles and stories.

Aetherial Adventures 12

-Nate

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Remote Island

This small, relatively remote island is home to various natural features, along with two different settlements: a trading company fort and a lizard folk village. 




The Island
Claw Island takes its name from its distinctive shape, with a broad natural harbor enclosed by jutting stretches of land. The western half of the island, along with the narrow southern peninsula, is hilly and covered with scrub forest. The eastern half, including the larger “claw” peninsula, gives way to swampland and sandy shoreline. A stream runs from the central highlands in an arc to the northeast and then southwest, finally emptying into the bay. 


Refer to the map above for the following location descriptions.

A. Trading Fort
Detailed in the previous article, the Royal Interplanetary Company uses this small settlement for buying from and selling to the local lizard folk and those who wish to keep their dealings discreet. The island's broad natural harbor ensures that numerous ships can ride safely at anchor in its confines, ferrying their goods and passengers to the fort's pier.

B. Lizard Folk Village
Also detailed in a previous article, this village sits inside the treeline close to the swampy part of the island. From here the lizard folk hunt, fish, and gather other foodstuffs. They trade with the agents in the fort, obtaining metal goods and other conveniences in exchange for consumables.
Refer to the appropriate article to find the layout of a typical village and information about the folk who inhabit it.


C. Sahuagin Lair
This is marked on the map above more as an approximation than as any truly known location. It is believed to be an underwater lair somewhere in the sea surrounding the island, a place from which sahuagin warbands stage raids against unsuspecting vessels.


Using Claw Island in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
This landmass can tie into all sorts of adventures, including the following possibilities.
  • As a relatively remote location that is close to more civilized areas, it's an ideal place to conduct illicit business, such as buying or selling an illegal cargo, careening a ship used for piracy, or even just hiding from the powers that be while recovering from injuries and enjoying the spoils after a successful raid.
  • The PCs could be hired to come here in search of another adventurer whose expedition never returned. That just begs the question, though: What was that person seeking, and does it remain to be found?
  • Agents of the trading company, or even the lizard folk themselves, might recruit the PCs to help find and eliminate the sahuagin raiding parties.
  • For some reason conflict erupts between the normally peaceful lizard folk and the trading company's agents; cooler heads are needed to resolve the dispute before it turns bloody.
  • When a vessel from beyond the heavens crashes nearby, bringing it with an otherworldly plague, this island becomes the epicenter of spreading infection; it takes a brave band of adventurers to explore the island, find the source, and sterilize it.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Trading Company Fort


Detailed below is a trading compound typical of those used in remote locations by organizations such as the Royal Interplanetary Company; refer to that map for the following location descriptions.




A. Main House
The center of activity in the compound is this two-story building, which is home to the RIC representative and his servants; refer to the map below for a detailed layout. The house's front room (1) is two stories tall, with stairs leading to the upper level. From here, a single door leads into the comfortably furnished sitting room (2), which boasts a sofa and armchairs, along with side tables. Double doors lead to the dining room (3), which is dominated by a broad table and chairs. In the rear of the house is the kitchen (4), with a broad hearth and space for preparing food, and a door leading out the back; it is flanked by the pantry (5) and servant's quarters (6). 

The house's upper level consists of bedrooms. Three of them (7) are for visiting agents of the Company and other guests, while the fourth (8), more comfortably furnished, is occupied by the resident agent. All have beds that are comfortable, if not fancy, along with small desks. Finally there is the office (9), with a large desk, bookshelves and a locked, iron-bound trunk.


B. Storage Shed
This broad, single-story structure has double doors at both ends, to facilitate moving goods in and out of it. The interior walls are lined with sturdy shelves, and various containers—crates, barrels, sacks and the like—are arranged in the center of the building.

C. Stockade
Walls built from hewn logs surround the compound, fifteen feet in height. There is also a walkway, ten feet in the air, from which guards can watch the surround area and, if need be, fire missile weapons. The only gap in the stockade is a front gate, which can be barred from the inside.

D. Landing
In front of the compound, a pier—ten feet wide and sixty feet long—juts out over the water. The water around it is deep enough to allow longboats and smaller ships, such as dhows and even barks, to dock. Larger vessels, like merchantmen and galleys, must use their longboats to load and unload passengers and cargo.


Using the Trading Compound in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
This location can tie into all sorts of adventures, including the following possibilities.
  • If the PCs are interested in turning a profit from their travels, then they might want to buy and sell cargo as they travel between different parts of the world. In that case, the trading company agent could become a recurring NPC, one whom they visit between voyages.
  • The PCs could also hire the agent to track down magic items or other important equipment for them.
  • It could happen that the PCs are tasked with recovering a cargo that is being held inside the trading fort, requiring them to use stealth, guile, force or other means to retrieve it.
  • If some hostile force attacked the trading compound while the PCs are visiting it, then they could find themselves pressed into service staging its defense.
  • Ambitious characters might even become members of the trading company, working their way up through the ranks and eventually taking command of this facility. In that case, they'd have all kinds of opportunities for buying and selling goods—and, of course, would need to deal with the problems that arise from such dealings.

The Royal Interplanetary Company and the Order of the Lion
A previous article provides more information about the organizations mentioned herein.




Trading Company Agent
CR 2
XP 600
Male human bard 3
N medium humanoid
Init +1; Senses Perception +9
DEFENSE
AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 12 (+1 Dex, +2 armor)
hp 13 (3d8)
Fort +1, Ref +4, Will +4
Resist Bard abilities
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +1 (1d6-1)
Ranged Light crossbow +3 (1d8)
Special Attacks Bard abilities
STATISTICS
Str 8, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 14
Base Atk +2; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats Alertness, Dodge, Persuasive
Skills Appraise +8, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +10, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (local) +8, Perception +9, Perform +10, Profession (Sailor) +7, Sense Motive +9
Languages Common, Dwarven, Elven
SQ Bard abilities
Combat Gear Leather armor, short sword, light crossbow, case of 10 bolts, musical instrument, pouch containing 1d20 for each type of coin, logbook, quills and ink

Trading company agents usually lead very comfortable lives, and as such are dedicated to their employers.

Trading Company Guards
CR ½
XP 200
Various human fighter 1
N medium humanoid
Init +1; Senses Perception +1
DEFENSE
AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 12 (+1 Dex, +2 armor)
hp 8 (1d10+2)
Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +1
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Longsword +4 (1d8+2)
Ranged Light crossbow +2 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
STATISTICS
Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 14
Feats Cleave, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (longsword)
Skills Climb +6, Profession (sailor) +5
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Leather armor, longsword, light crossbow, case of 10 bolts, pouch containing 1d6 sp and 1d12 cp

These guards are little more than mercenaries, doing their jobs because the pay is pretty good. Should a better offer come along, however, then they might be willing to change their loyalties.



Saturday, June 2, 2018

Middle Sea Galley Sailors and Soldiers

Here are stats for the sailors and soldiers that crew a Middle Sea galley. As always, the GM should customize them to fit the needs of an adventure or campaign.

-Nate


Galley Captain
CR 3
XP 800
Male human warrior 5
N medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +1
DEFENSE
AC 12, touch 12, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex, +1 Dodge)
hp 42 (5d10+10)
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +2
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +6 (1d6+1)
Ranged Light crossbow +5 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
STATISTICS
Str 13, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +5; CMB +6; CMD 16
Feats Dodge, Skill Focus (Knowledge, Profession)
Skills Climb +5, Knowledge (Geography), Profession (sailor) +8
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Masterwork shortsword, master-work light crossbow, case of 10 bolts, logbook, masterwork navigation tools

Middle Sea galley captains are skilled sailors and able commanders. Even so, they generally defer to the soldiers—most often from the Order of the Lion—whom they transport.

Galley Crew
CR ½
XP 200
Various warrior 1
N medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +1
DEFENSE
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 6 (1d10+1)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +1
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +2 (1d6+1)
Ranged Light crossbow +1 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
STATISTICS
Str 13, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Skill Focus (Profession)
Skills Climb +5, Profession (sailor) +8
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Shortsword, light crossbow, case of 10 bolts

These sailors live comfortable lives, sailing in relatively calm waters and letting the soldiers do the fighting. Even so, they can handle themselves in combat if forced to do so.



Order of the Lion Lieutenant
CR 6
XP 2400
Male human cavalier 7
LN medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception -1
DEFENSE
AC 15, touch 11, flat-footed 14 (+1 Dodge, +4 chain shirt)
hp 57 (7d10+14)
Fort +7, Ref +2, Will +1
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Longsword +10/+5 (1d8+2)
Ranged Light crossbow +7/+2 (1d8)
Special Attacks Challenge 3/day, cavalier's charge, banner
STATISTICS
Str 15, Dex 11, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 12
Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 13
Feats Cleave, Dodge, Leadership, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (longsword)
Skills Climb +12, Diplomacy +11, Handle Animal +9, Ride +10, Sense Motive +9
Languages Common
SQ Mount, order (Lion), tactician, order ability (lion's call), expert trainer
Combat Gear Chain shirt +1, longsword +1, light crossbow, case of 20 bolts, signal whistle, cloak of resistance, potion of cure serious wounds

The lieutenant has much the same mindset as his underlings, but he is even more fervent in his devotion.

Order of the Lion Soldiers
CR 1/2
XP 200
Male human cavalier 1
LN medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception -1
DEFENSE
AC 15, touch 11, flat-footed 14 (+1 Dodge, +4 chain shirt)
hp 12 (1d10+2)
Fort +4, Ref +0, Will -1
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Longsword +4 (1d8+2)
Ranged Light crossbow +1 (1d8)
Special Attacks Challenge 1/day
STATISTICS
Str 15, Dex 11, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 12
Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 13
Feats Dodge, Weapon Focus (longsword)
Skills Climb +6, Diplomacy +5, Handle Animal +3, Ride +4, Sense Motive +3
Languages Common
SQ Mount, order (Lion), tactician
Combat Gear Chain shirt, longsword, light crossbow, case of 20 bolts, signal whistle

The cavaliers who serve the Order of the Lion are dedicated to enforcing the will of their Emperor.




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Tale: Bad Business


Tale: “Bad Business”
The bark Skylark once again lied at anchor; this time it was drawn up alongside a pier in the harbor of the religious settlement known as Sรคis. Horace stood on the main deck, saying farewell to the disembarking passengers—clerics of Gaea, whom the Larks had transported back from their pilgrimage. Max and Urield stood with Horace, sharing gregarious farewells. For his part, Max made a deep bow to the halfling woman who'd drawn his eye.

After all had gone ashore, Horace was about to give orders to set sail; he was interrupted by Lucinda, who emerged from the companionway that led aft to the main cabin. “Captain,” she announced, “our patient has regained consciousness.”

“Belay,” Horace called. “Hold here and wait for further orders!” Then, turning on his heel, he followed her aft. In the main cabin he found Konrad sitting on a chair from the captain's table, which he'd drawn up alongside the narrow bed built against the aft wall. As Horace watched, the dwarf sprinkled water with a ladle from a steaming pot onto the bedclothes in which the lizard-woman was wrapped.

She gave a contented sigh. “Again, I thank you,” she said in sibilant Common.

“It is nothing.” Konrad shook his head. “But, Narraw, can you tell me why you came seeking us?”

Her expression of comfort dissolved into a worried frown. “They... they took our children,” she hissed.

“Your children?” That question came from Lucinda.

“Yes. Our eggs.”

Horace's brow furrowed. “Do you know why?”

“They needed a way to make us work for them, to make us dive in the water and explore a...” She struggled to find the correct word. “A wreck.”

“A wreck?” Each of the adventurers asked that question simultaneously.

“Yes. I did not understand all that they said, but it sounded like it was... important to them.”

Max and Uriel smiled identical wolfish grins; Konrad stroked his beard, and Horace twirled the end of his moustache.

It was Lucinda who spoke. “If we help you recover your eggs, then would you help us recover whatever is in that wreck?”

The lizard-woman nodded. “Yes.”

“It's settled, then,” Horace declared. “All hands to stations; make ready to sail.”

* * *

Because the river provided plenty of propulsion, they set only the topsails to aid in steering the Skylark. While they made a brisk pace downstream, Horace left a veteran hand in charge of the whipstaff so that he and his officers could reconvene with Narraw in the main cabin.

“So,” Horace began, “we encountered Martelli.”

“And gave him and his men a good thrashing,” Uriel added with a grin.

“Indeed,” Horace continued. He turned back to the lizard-woman, and gave her a quick description of the fallen foe. “Is he the one?”

“Yes,” she hissed.

“You said they forced you and your people to dive on a wrecked ship. Did they have a place where they took the things that you recovered from it?”

She nodded.

“Can you lead us there?”

“Yes.”

“Very good. Let's go up on deck, then, and see what we can see.”

* * *

An hour later found the Skylark once again trailing behind its longboat. This time, though, it was moving under minimal sails instead of being towed. Konrad was stationed in the bow of the boat, watching and reporting, and Horace stood by the helm. Lucinda, Uriel and Max crewed the longboat, and Narraw accompanied them. They waited while the lizard-woman scanned the passing shoreline, looking for telltale signs of the hideout.

After what seemed like hours, she raised a hand and then pointed at a dense cluster of reeds. Max signaled back to Konrad, who relayed the message to Horace.

“Strike sails,” the human whispered, “and drop anchor.” The crewed moved quietly to execute his orders.

Back in the longboat, Uriel was preparing for action. He stripped off his leather armor and any clothing beyond a loincloth and a belt. Into that item he slipped the halfling-sized shortsword that Max offered him, which in the half-orc's big hand looked more like a longknife. Then he turned to Narraw and gestured toward the water. “After you.”

In one lithe motion she dove into the water, making hardly a splash. Uriel was nearly as graceful following her. For a time they were gone, and then they came back up to the surface.

“This is the place,” Uriel explained. “Max, we need your help.”

The halfling stripped out of his armor, too, and then stepped up onto the boat's gunwhale and dove; he added a backflip to it.

Lucinda, watched that display and then followed their progress toward the shore as best she could; then her eye was caught by a flicker of bright color descending from the sky. The newcomer settle down onto the gunwhale next to her; it was Polly, her familiar.

She looked the bird in the eyes for a moment, and it nodded. Turning back toward her departed comrades, the half-elf considered for a moment and then decided. Taking up the boat's oars, she began rowing back toward the Skylark.

* * *

Before long Lucinda was back aboard the bark, having been hauled up on the carpenter's swing while a sailor took her place in the boat. After asking Konrad to keep a lookout for the others, she approached Horace.

“Captain,” she announced, “I have good news and bad news.”

“What is it?” he asked.

“The good news is that most or all of the pirates are currently away from their hideout.

Horace considered that information. “What's the bad news?”

She gave a rueful smile. “It seems that they've attacked and overrun a Northern Empire galley, and they did it not far from here.”

“What are the odds that they'll return to their hideout?”

“I think it pretty likely.”

“Then spread the word: double the watch and arm the crew, bows and blades.”

* * *

For a time Narraw swam through the water, her powerful tail propelling her like an oar. Max did his best to keep up with her, while Uriel brought up the rear. Both the half-orc and halfling were force to surface from time to time in order to take a fresh breath, and thus it was that she came swimming back to them, indicating with gestures that they should follow her.

She led them to a pace where a narrow tunnel, concealed by the reeds, led up under the shoreline. Urield and Max both recognized that it would be completely hidden at high tide, but partially expose at low ebb. Kicking back to the surface, the two adventurers took deep breaths before diving again and, with Max in the lead, swimming into it.

The tunnel, narrow and sandy, sloped upward, rising after some fifty feet above the waterline. Max and Uriel pushed themselves into the air pocket, and then the halfling began to crawl further forward. After a time the tunnel opened up into a broader cavern, one with stone walls and a sandy floor. It was nearly empty, except floor a hole in the floor, on the other side of the chamber, that led downward and had a ladder sticking out of it. Max scrutinized it and then started toward the ladder—but not in a straight line; instead he kept one hand against the wall to his left. Reaching the hole, he listened for a moment before jumping downward.

The lower level was dimly lit by a few everburning torches set in crude sconces along the walls. They illuminated a chamber that was furnished with hammocks tied to support posts, along with a rough, broad table surrounded by chairs. Against the wall opposite the ladder rested a number of chests, each bound in iron and secured with a heavy padlock. Most notable, however, were the sharpened stakes that jutted up from the ground, ones that were placed directly beneath a false canvas floor in the middle of the upper level.

While Uriel considered that, Narraw dropped to the sand against one wall and began sniffing at it. Both of the others could see numerous small, circular indentations in that area.

“They were here,” she declared. “The eggs were here.”

Uriel nodded. “But where are they now?”

“Maybe they moved them onto a ship,” Max suggested.

“If they did, then how will we ever find them?” Narraw asked.

“Don't worry.” Uriel tried to sound confident. “We can ask the others. They'll think of something.”

“Do you think so?”

“I do.”

The lizard-woman nodded. With a final glance at the small impressions, she turned and headed for the exit. Before long they were treading water in front of the shoreline, looking for the longboat that wasn't there.

“Wait a minute,” Max cautioned, nodding in the direction of the Skylark. They could see that a galley had pulled alongside it, and sailors were already streaming from it onto the smaller bark.

“That's a vessel of the Northern Empire,” Uriel noted, holding a hand over his eyes. “Finally, a little help when you need it.”

“No,” Max cautioned. “Something's not right.”

* * *

Back aboard the Skylark, Horace was overseeing his crew's preparations to receive visitors. The newcomer, a galley named the Luminous, had been secured with grappling lines, and its crew was now laying boarding planks across the gap between the vessels. He moved to stand nearby them, waiting for the traditional request for permission to come aboard.

Instead he saw musket-bearing soldiers come tramping across, with their weapons held at the ready.

“What is the meaning of this?” Horace demanded.

His answer came from an officer who followed the soldiers. “Order your crew to stand down,” the officer declared. “You and your crew are under arrest.”