Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Crossbones

This is just a quick note. I've been a bit frustrated of late because, without paying for cable, I haven't been able to watch any episodes of Black Sails since the premiere. I am excited to note, however, that NBC's series Crossbones is set to launch--on broadcast television, mind you--on Friday, May 30th (per the show's Facebook page). Check out the website for more information.

Crossbones

UPDATE
The site now has a trailer for the show, and it has me even more excited.

-Nate

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Corsair Review

It's been a while since I last posted, due to a hard drive failure that's now been remedied. As I catch up on writing, in this post I'll start small with a book review.

Review of Corsair
I'm always on the lookout for nautical fantasy novels. Recently I've been reading a lot of non-fiction regarding piracy, but I also stumbled across a book called Corsair by Chris Bunch. All in all, I enjoyed it. It read more like a campaign condensed into one novel than like the adventure of one or a few sessions, which meant that the plot took a while to form. It also felt like it set up a sequel, sadly one that will never happen. To its credit the book had lots of action and the author was not averse to killing characters. In that way it made me think of a party of PC's traveling with their crew, engaging with enemies and knowing that not all will survive. Finally, it had plenty of seafaring detail. If you're interested, check it out.

Corsair

-Nate

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Welcome to the Party

Last weekend I had the opportunity to run some Pathfinder Freeport scenarios at Con of the North. Since they might be useful, I'll post the pre-generated characters here. In the past, when I've run games, I've given the players character sheets, but left it to them to decide upon their characters' names, personality traits and background information. This time around I provided those details, and I think it helped facilitate roleplaying and character interaction.

Here's a link to a PDF for these characters.

Pre-Generated Characters

Additionally, I should mention that these characters are based upon drawings by Claudio Pozas, as can be see here.

Claudio Pozas Pirates

-Nate



Horace
Although there is no specific rank and file among this band of adventurers, Horace is the one who gives orders while aboard ship. After all, he is an experienced and competent sailor, and he knows the water around Freeport better than most people known the insides of their own homes. He is also a skilled combatant, having honed his abilities with cutlass and pistol during numerous voyages. This corsair is just as comfortable in a tavern brawl on land as he is resisting a boarding action on the deck of a ship at sea. It should also be noted that he is inordinately vane when it comes to his moustache.

As far as other characters are concerned, Horace is a brother in arms with Uriel. Despite the fact that some Freeporters look down on the half-orc, Horace has fought back-to-back with Uriel on many occasions and has come to trust the barbarian's prowess and raw strength. Similarly, he views Konrad as a kindred spirit. Although it is unusual for a dwarf to worship Harrimast, Horace and Konrad share a love of the sea and thus have a common bond. The sorceress, Lucinda, is an enigma for him. She is beautiful and exotic, certainly, but she has also demonstrated her grit and wile in battle. Finally, while Horace doesn't always approve of Maximillian's tactics, the halfling has shown himself to be more than useful in situations that require stealth and guile instead of swashbuckling and swagger.

Horace
CR 2
XP NA
Male human fighter 3
CG Medium humanoid
Init +2; Senses Perception +2
DEFENSE
AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 armor, +1 Dodge)
hp 27 (3d10+6)
Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +3
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Masterwork cutlass +7 (1d6+3)
Ranged Stinger FP +5 (3d6)
Special Attacks None
STATISTICS
Str 16, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10
Base Atk +3; CMB +6; CMD 18
Feats Dodge, Improved Dodge, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (cutlass)
Skills Climb +9, Profession (sailor) +8, Swim +9
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Leather armor, masterwork cutlass, 2xStinger FP pistols, ammunition, 2 pouches; 23 pp, 15 gp, 10 sp


Uriel
Life in Freeport can be hard for a half-orc. After all, most "humanoids"--a term which Uriel finds objectionable--are consigned to living in the Bloodsalt district. What is more, in the aftermath of a barbarian invasion and rioting among the orcs, an individual who combines both elements is often regarded with distrust if not outright hostility. Even so, Uriel works to establish his reputation as a man of honor and a skilled combatant. While he has had success in accomplishing the latter, the prior has proven more difficult.

The barbarian is respected by his companions, if perhaps somewhat begrudgingly by Konrad. He and Horace are brothers in arms, and the half-orc has grown to appreciate the daring of the halfling Maximillian. Uriel is intrigued by Lucinda, given that she is of mixed races like he is, and--if the truth should be revealed--he is a little bit smitten with her.

It should come as no surprise that the barbarian is quite skilled in combat. His prodigious strength and his sense for natural surroundings also make him useful aboard a ship, even if it is hard for him to live in the tight spaces belowdecks.

Uriel
CR 2
XP NA
Male half-orc barbarian 2
CG Medium humanoid (orc)
Init +0; Senses Perception +8 (Darkvision 60 ft.)
DEFENSE
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (+4 armor)
hp 31 (3d12+6)
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +3
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 40 ft.
Melee Masterwork greatsword +8 (2d6+6)
Ranged Longbow +3 (1d8)
Special Attacks Power Attack, Cleave
STATISTICS
Str 18, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10
Base Atk +3; CMB +7; CMD 17
Feats Cleave, Power Attack
Skills Climb +10, Perception +8, Swim +10
Languages Orcish, Common
SQ Orc Blood, Orc Ferocity
Combat Gear Chain shirt, masterwork greatsword, longbow, 20 arrows, 2 pouches; 24 pp, 12 gp, 10 sp


Maximillian
Others tend to underestimate Maximillian because of his size, but they soon learn better. After all, the halfling possesses a reckless sense of courage and has enough speed to carry himself out of many dangerous situations. Of course, there are also times when his lack of caution requires a little outside help to remedy; happily for him, his skills in finding and eliminating traps, along with sneaking up on enemies, make him an indispensable member of the party--so Horace and Uriel don't grumble too much when they have to step in and save him.

People don't know too much about this rogue. His companions have learned that he was orphaned at a young age, and thus had to learn to fend for himself on the streets of Freeport. It was during those difficult times that Maximillian first developed a need to prove himself in the eyes of others--a compulsion that he still has to this day. He is learning to trust his fellow adventurers, however, and is coming to recognize that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. When a deadly foe threatens his friends, however--or when there is a valuable prize to be won--he is the first to rush into harm's way.

Maximillian
CR 2
XP NA
Male halfling rogue 3
CG small humanoid
Init +4; Senses Perception +8 (Low-light vision 60 ft.)
DEFENSE
AC 18, touch 16, flat-footed 12 (+4 Dex, +2 armor, +1 size, +1 Dodge)
hp 17 (3d8)
Fort +2, Ref +8, Will +2
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 20 ft.
Melee Masterwork rapier +7 (1d4)
Ranged Shortbow +6 (1d4)
Special Attacks Sneak Attack
STATISTICS
Str 11, Dex 18, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 14
Base Atk +2; CMB +3; CMD 17
Feats Dodge, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +12, Bluff +8, Climb +8, Disable Device, +10, Disguise +8, Escape Artist +10, Knowledge (local) +8, Perception +8, Sleight of Hand +10, Stealth +10
Languages Halfling, Common
SQ Fearless, Halfling Luck, Keen Senses, Sure-Footed
Combat Gear Leather aror, mastework rapier, shortbow, 20 arrows, masterwork thieves' tools, 2 pouches; 30 pp, 17 gp, 10 sp


Konrad
Few mainlanders would expect to see a dwarf serving aboard a ship. They've probably never met Konrad son of Kasimir, a loyal cleric of Harrimast. He, like his father before him, has sworn to serve the God of Pirates. In this way he is gregarious and outgoing among manners, always amicable to sharing drinks and food with others. All the while he preaches the benefits of the buccaneering life: fellowship, plunder and freedom.

This is not to say that the dwarf is bloodthirsty, however. Indeed, he seeks to take only from those who hoard wealth for themselves, and give it to those who are in need. He can be somewhat loose with his interpretation of need, though. Woe be it to any undead, demons or other such unholy things who cross his path, for he is a tireless foe for such monsters.

Konrad is just as quick to join a fight as he is a round of drinking or singing, almost as much as Uriel or Horace. The dwarf is fast friends with the human pirate, and the respect he is developing for the half-orc is slowly overcoming the prejudice that many of their kinds have for each other.

Konrad
CR 2
XP NA
Male dwarf cleric 3
NG Medium humanoid
Init +); Senses Perception +4 (Darkvision to 60 ft.)
DEFENSE
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (+4 armor)
hp 23 (3d8+6)
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +7
Resist Details
OFFENSE
Spd 20 ft.
Melee Masterwork heavy flail +4 (1d10+1)
Ranged Heavy crossbow +2 (1d10)
Special Attacks None
Domain Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd):
Agile Feet, Icicle
Spells Prepared (CL 3rd):
0th--Detect magic, guidance, resistance, virtue; 1st--bless, divine favor, obscuring mist; hold person, shield other, spiritual weapon (4/3+1/2+1)
STATISTICS
Str 12, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 18, Cha 12
Base Atk +2; CMB +3; CMD 13
Feats Combat Casting, Extra Channel
Skills Heal +10, Knowledge (religion) +6
Languages Dwarvish, Common
SQ Channel Energy 2d6, Defensive Training, Greed, Hatred, Hardy, Stability, Stonecunning
Combat Gear Chain shirt, masterwork heavy flail, silver holy sumbol, healer's kit, 2 belt pouches, heavy crossbow, 10 bolts


Lucinda
Life at sea is often considered to be a man's world. What is more, it is frequently a world in which brawn and physical toughness are considered to be the most important of a person's attributes. For those reasons, it would be easy to underestimate the value of Lucinda to her crew. Enemies should only do so at their own risk.

For one thing, the half-elf is a skilled sorceress. While not as practiced in the arcane arts as some, she is crafty enough to use her spells to aid her companions. She can charm a member of the city watch or leave a group of enemy pirates sleeping peacefully. The half-elf is a good in a fight, too, unleashing fire and other surprises upon unsuspecting foes.

What Lucinda has only shared with a select few is the fact that somewhere in her pedigree is the blood of a bronze dragon. Although she enjoys the excitement and challenge of adventuring, the sorceress hopes one day to learn more about her magical inhertiance, and perhaps even to meet the creature from whom she is descended.

Lucinda
CR 2
XP NA
Female half-elf sorcerer 3
NG Medium humanoid
Init +2; Senses Perception +0
DEFENSE
AC 12, touch 12, flat-footed 10 (+2 Dex)
hp 13 (3d6)
Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +3
Resist None
OFFENSE
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Heavy mace +1 (1d8)
Ranged Light crossbow +3 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
Spells Known (CL 3rd):
0th--Daze, detect magic, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance; 1st--shield, shocking grasp, sleep
Bloodline Draconic
STATISTICS
Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 19
Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 13
Feats Point Blank Shot, Spell Focus
Skills Knowledge (arcana) +7, Spellcraft +7, Use Magic Device +10
Languages Elvish, Common, Draconic
SQ Elf blood, elven immunities, keen senses, multitalented
Combat Gear Heavy mace, light crosswob, 10 bolts, potion of eagle's splendor, potion of cat's grace, 2 pouches

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two Lists

While working on other projects, I've come up with a couple of lists. The first presents texts that would be familiar to a shantyman during the Golden Age of Piracy; as an English teacher, I'm interested in what such a character would be reading and possibly reciting. Second is an encounter table, one that I'll continue to update.

-Nate



The Shantyman's Repertoire
Detailed here is a list of texts that would have been available to a shantyman, along with the names of their authors and the years in which they were written. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should provide a good idea of which texts were well known during the Golden Age of Piracy and how old each of them was at that time.

1719--Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
1693--Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton Mather
1685--Shakespeare's Fourth Folio
1684--The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
1684--History of the Buccaneers of America by Alexander Esquemeling
1671--Paradise Regained by John Milton
1667--Paradise Lost by John Milton
1663--Shakespeare's Third Folio
1644--The Seaman's Dictionary by Sir Henry Manwayring
1632--Shakespeare's Second Folio
1623--Shakespeare's First Folio
1615--Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
1615--The Oddysey translated by George Chapman
1611--King James Bible
1596--The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
1588--Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
1570--The Moral Fables of Aesop translated by Robert Henryson
1563--Book of Martyrs by John Foxe
1477--Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
1472--The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
1147--Historia regum Brittaniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth
1100--Chanson de Roland
1050--The Mabinogion
1000--Beowulf
900--The Thousand Nights and a Night


Nautical Encounter Table
Detailed here is a list of creatures and other enemies based on challenge rating. As always, the GM can modify the difficulty of opponents by having the PC's fight more of them, applying templates such as greater zombie, increasing size, adding hit dice, or by giving intelligent enemies additional levels in character classes (this is appopriate for any creature with a class and level listed below). What is more, human characters can be added to the list based on their character levels.

CR--Encounter
1/2--Amazon (warrior 1), Jenny Hanniver, porpoise, small viper snake, troglodyte (warrior 1), simple zombie
1--Cynocephali, hairy wild man, hyena (wild dog), manta ray, sea monk (monk 1), octopus, onijegi (warrior 1), pygmy (warrior 1), medium shark, spider swarm, squid, wolf
2--Ape, bat swarm, black bear, blemmyae, boar, cheetah, crocodile, giant tree frog, leopard, monitor lizard, rat swarm, large shark, constrictor snake, large viper snake
3--Dire ape, dire wolf, lion, huge viper snake
4--Brown bear, polar bear, dire boar, rhinoceros, huge shark, siren, tiger
5--Dire lion, orca, giant constrictor snake
6--Baleen whale
7--Cachalot whale, dire bear, elephant, island giant
8--Dire tiger, giant octopus
9--Dire shark, roc



Monday, February 17, 2014

The Puzzle 2 (and Other Stuff)


In addition to presenting a new interlude, I want to mention that the website Under the Black Flag has been revised. Among the features on it are links to four full-length old pirate movies online.


-Nate


Interlude 54: The Puzzle 2

A previous interlude presented a cryptic puzzle, one that they could decipher by visiting the grave of Lady Rose. Upon doing so, they were steered toward Rose Point on the island of Martinique. This interlude can occur as they pursue that lead.

Searching Rose Point
Ultimately, the PC's need to succeed at a DC 20 Search or Spot check to notice that, at low tide, an exposed boulder amidst a tumble of such rocks is engraved with a small image depicting a stylized five-petaled flower. That is, of course, a rose. Behind the boulder, a narrow tunnel leads back into darkness. Of course, the GM might wish to throw one or more encounters at the PC's while they are searching; refer to the appropriate tables for suggestion.

The Cache
Refer to the appropriate map for the following location descriptions.



1. Boulders
This tumble of rocks counts as difficult terrain when moving across it, unless a character succeeds at a DC 15 Tumble check to jump from boulder to boulder. Failing such a check by five or more means that a character trips and falls prone. As mentioned above, one boulder is engraved with the symbol of a rose. What is more, anyone who enters the area attracts the attention of a local beast. (Here again, refer to the appropriate table for suggested foes.)

2. Tunnel
This tunnel is about five feet wide and of a similar height. It leads upward at a considerable slope, up to a point above the high tide mark.

3. Mechanism
This round room has been built up with a flagstoned floor and walls, and timbers support the ceiling. In the middle of it is a broad circular stone similar to a millstone, lying on the floor, with an axle in the middle and a handle for turning it. What is more, four levers are arranged in front of it, with slots which clearly show that they are pulled toward the wall opposite the entrance. Finally, a DC 10 Search or Spot check reveals that a door is concealed in that same wall.

In order to open the door, the PC's must turn the stone in the correct direction for the letters that spell R - O - S - E, in that order, pulling one lever (from left to right) for each. The correct sequence opens the secret door, while any incorrect attempt triggers a trap. In theory the PC's could just set off a powder keg against the secret door to blow it open, but--at the GM's discretion--this could damage some of the treasure, or even trigger a cave-in.

The traps hurl javelins at the person who pulled the lever. Javelin Trap: CR 2; mechanical; location trigger; manual reset; Atk +16 ranged (1d6+4, javelin); Search DC 20; Disable Device DC 18.

4. Vault
Beyond the secret door is a cubical chamber with a raised platform at the far end. On the platform sit two treasure chests. The GM should tailor their contents to fit the wants and needs of the party, along with the levels of the PC's and the difficulties that they have faced in recovering it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First Episode of Black Sails Online?

For those who've been anticipating the new Starz series Black Sails, it seems that the first episode is available online. I've been attempting to watch it, but I receive an error message after a few minutes of watching. I'm going to keep trying.

-Nate

Black Sails


My second effort has proven successful. This time I went to the website directly (instead of via the Facebook link) and watched the first episode. Here are some thoughts.

1. The episode started well, with a pirate attack on a merchant vessel. I don't want to give away any important details, but beginning with this kind of action was a great way to capture interest.

2. This show is pretty. When I watch TV, I want to see things that are different from the real world in the here and now. This show delivers that in spades, with gorgeous landscapes and backdrops and characters that conjure the world of 1715.

3. This show is R-rated. (To be more precise, it is TV MA.) I'm not accustomed to shows that can be so direct about sex and violence, and this show has plenty of both.

4. These characters aren't heroes. They are pirates. They are motivated by profit and pleasure, which is realistic. That makes it a bit hard to stomach at times, but it's fun watching.

5. There's plenty of drama, most of which is only introduced and remains unresolved. Naturally, I'm eager to see what happens next.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ritual Magic

Here's a post that can apply to both D&D 3e/Skull & Bones and Pathfinder--a system for using ritual magic in a campaign.




Ritual Magic
According to the core rules for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition and its derivatives, casting spells is an individual process. A single spellcaster works by oneself to complete the necessary incantation and gesture, and provides any required materials to trigger the desired effect. While that system works very well for the types of adventures one normally experiences in a high-fantasy setting, it can also be interesting to make spellcasting into more of a group activity. This can also allow multiple lower-level characters to unleash spells that would normally beyond their capacity.

Basic Mechanics
In essence, using ritual magic allows characters to apply the bonuses of metamagic feats to spells based on the number of additional characters who contribute to them. To do so, one character--usually the highest-level caster present--is designated as the primary caster. The spell, using that character's level, is the base effect. Additional characters can contribute the bonuses of metamagic feats, based on the number of caster levels they add to the mix.

Levels / Effective Level Increase
2 / +1 spell level
4 / +2 spell levels
6 / +3 spell levels
8 / +4 spell levels

For example, a siren sorceress mistress (level 6) is being assisted by her apprentice (level 4) and eight neophytes (each level 1). The mistress is, of course, the primary caster. She decides to create a major image with which to mislead some passing sailors. Ordinarily, the DC for that spell would be 13 + her Charisma modifier; it would have a range of 640 feet, and an area of effect equal to ten 10-foot cubes. With the assitance of her fellows, however, she could add the following effects:
  • Enlarge Spell (+1 effective level; increase range to 1280 feet)
  • Widen Spell (+3 effective levels; area of effect increases to twenty 10-foot cubes)
  • Heighten Spell (+2 effective levels; increase DC to resist the spell to 15 + caster's Charisma bonus)
This combination can be especially useful for wicked spellcasters who are summoning extaplanar creatures or who are creating undead monsters.

Limitations
Note that all characters who contribute must have at least one level in a spell-casting class, and all of those who work together use only the levels that they share in a single class. Furthermore, spells which require concentration are automatically disrupted if even one of the contributing characters is incapacitated. The characters who are involved must be in physical contact with each other, such as in a circle together. Finally, the casting times for spells increases during ritual castings.

Normal / Ritual
Swift / Standard action
Move / Full-round action
Standard / Full-round action
Full-Round / Two rounds
Longer / Casting time is doubled