Saturday, October 17, 2015

Two More Reviews

While I've been doing a good deal of writing throughout the spring and summer involving Pirates of the Spanish Main, I've also been running a Pathfinder campaign using Green Ronin's Freeport setting. As part of that, I've made use of several published scenarios to fill in the gaps between The Lost Island, Peril in Freeport and Dark Deeds in Freeport. Here are reviews for two of those adventures.

Anyone who's interested, by the way, could follow my campaign notes over at the Piazza.

Freeport Campaign #4


The Golden Banner
When I picked up this scenario, I was admittedly just looking for an adventure to fill up a session or two, and to let the heroes gain some experience. I was familiar with the author's work, especially his Broken Earth campaign setting, which was my introduction to Savage Worlds, so I figured I'd give it a try. It proved even better than I expected.

The premise of the adventure is that a local nobleman--or, more correctly, some of his people--has found an old relic related to a battle involving local churches; now he's trying to decide to which church to give it. That leads to conflict, of course, including a threat to the merchant's safety.

On the one hand, the players moved quickly through the investigation. That's a good thing, I think, because it's hard when investigations take up too much time at the table. That, in turn, led into solid action, first at a fancy dinner gathering and then in an old warehouse. I tailored some things to better fit the Freeport setting, and we had two fun sessions from it.

The Golden Banner

Scourge of the Steaming Isle
This is another of the Pirate Campaign Plug-Ins from Legendary Games. While intended to be used as an interlude in Paizo's Skull & Shackles adventure path, it proved a good fit here.

The premise is that the PCs have earned the enmity of Captain Sculberd Crags, a pirate who has done harm to them through their associates or property. The PCs, then can seek him out in his island lair for some comeuppance. They can come at the situation in a number of ways.

When I ran this one, the PCs came at it from an unexpected direction, leading into a running battle in which they sniped at the pirates and were eventually forced into a big confrontation. We wound up spending three sessions (with about three solid hours of play from each) in order to finish this business. Here again there was solid action, especially in the dark surrounding the pirates' camp and then between both sides' ships. I recommend this scenario, too.

Scourge of the Steaming Isle

Monday, August 10, 2015

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

This post wraps up the series of adventures for Pirates of the Spanish Main on which I've been working, ones that combine to form an overarching story.

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged


Friday, August 7, 2015

New Edges, Hindrances and Relics for Pirates of the Spanish Main

While I've been working on some adventures for Pirates of the Spanish Main, I've had some ideas for new edges, hindrances and relics. These are presented below, as a work in progress that I'll update as I can.


----------------------------New Edges----------------------------

Requirements: Novice.
You possess some kind of relic that has been passed down through your family from generation to generation. This might be a weapon carried in military service, a religious artifact, or something similar. The player or GM could roll randomly using the tables from pages 205-6 of the core rulebook, or work together to choose an item that is appropriate to the hero's background story.
Note that, while this is most appropriate as a background feat, it might also be taken if the hero in question acquires the item while making a discovery about his or her own family history, or through similar circumstances.

Iron Lungs
Requirements: Novice; Swimming skill d4.
You can hold your breath for longer than normal, a number of seconds equal to ten times your Vigor score, before you begin to suffer the effects of drowning.

Requirements: Novice.
You have a useful or colorful pet, such as a dog (see page 224 of the core rulebook), horse (page 231), monkey (page 234) or parrot (page 236).

Trained Pet
Requirements: Novice, Pet edge.
Your pet is even more highly trained than normal. Choosing this edge grants the animal the benefits of a raise, either by increasing an attribute or skill, or the benefits of an edge (limited by the approval of the GM, of course).

-------------------------New Hindrances-----------------------

Secret (Minor or Major)
Unlike other hindrances, this one initially provides no particular penalty—mechanical, role playing-based or otherwise. Instead, it gives the GM the opportunity to make up an unknown background for the character in question at the most opportune (or, as the case may be, inopportune) moment.

----------------------------New Relics----------------------------

Apostles ($50): This collection of twelve cartridges provides power and bullet for pistol or musket shots. Additionally, each is inscribed with the name of Christ's apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Hames, Thaddeus, Simon and Judas.
In game terms, each of these shots provides a +1 bonus to Shooting and damage rolls—not because of any inherent magical power, but because the user believes they have power. Each is, of course, expended when used.


Monday, August 3, 2015

There Is No Honor Among Thieves

This update presents yet another adventure for the Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG, one that builds off of the previous scenarios and leads toward an important and climactic event.

There Is No Honor Among Thieves


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Here's another scenario for Pirates of the Spanish Main; it builds upon the events of previous adventures, but also works well if run independently of them.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Additionally, I've update the list of resources for Savage Worlds and Pirates of the Spanish Main (see below).


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ship-to-Ship Combat in Three Dimensions

Here are the results of some speculation about three-dimensional combat.


Ship-to-Ship Combat in Three Dimensions
The rules in Chapter 4 of Ultimate Combat provide comprehensive guidelines for handling the movements of vehicles as well as combat between them. Even so, the peculiar nature of aethership combat—in which vessels are not constrained by the laws of gravity and thus can move in many relatively unusual ways—requires extra adjudication. Some suggestions for these circumstances are presented here.

Taking Evasive Action
For the most part, changing the relative positions of two or more aetherships can be handled with a maneuver known as evasive action. In this case, the respective pilots make opposed Pilot checks; the one with the higher result gains his or her preferred position. This check is considered to be part of other movements undertaken by the vessel, such as accelerating, decelerating, keeping it going and turning.

Sailing on an “Even Keel”
If they want, aetherships can travel in the same geometric plane as one another, keeping themselves squared up as if they were on a calm body of water together. This is called “sailing on a even keel.” In this case, combat can proceed as normal. The sides of the vessels provide crew members on deck with cover (+2 bonus to AC and +1 bonus to Reflex saves for those within 30 feet of the protecting side).

In the example below, vessels A and B are sailing on an even keel, so all combat between them and their crews is conducted normally. 

Gaining “the High Ground”
Another option is for one vessel to position itself in plane slight above that of the other, thereby exposing more of its hull but less of its main deck and sails. This is called “gaining the high ground.” in this case, bonuses for cover provided to crew members aboard the vessel with high ground are doubled, for +4 to AC and +2 to Reflex saves. On the other hand, attacks against the hull of a vessel that has the high ground receive a +2 circumstance bonus.

In the example below, the crew on the deck of vessel B gains double the normal bonuses due to cover, but attacks made by vessel A against vessel B's hull receive a +2 circumstance bonus. Keep in mind, too, that a ship could claim the high ground on one opponent, while simultaneously giving up the high ground to another. 

Above and Below
It's also possible for one aethership to swoop directly above or below another. In either case, it's unlikely that any of either ship's weapons can fire on the opponent, since they tend to have a fire arc of roughly forty-five degrees above or below the plane(s) in which the vessels are traveling. On the other hand, special attacks such as magic spells and portable missile weapons can still be used.

Plotted, Simultaneous Movement
An optional rule that can add to the sense of realism in ship-to-ship combat is to have the pilots involved plot the movements of their vessels at the beginning of each round, writing them down on a scrap of paper or something similar, and then have them play out simultaneously. Actions by crew members, especially attacks, happen in the normal initiative order.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Motley Crew (Take 2)

This post takes another look at a topic I previously considered as part of the Come Hell and High Water series; this time around, it's focused on Aetherial Adventures (although it applies just as well to nautical Pathfinder campaigns, too).


A Motley Crew
The ship's crew is an essential part of any expedition into aetherspace. More than that, though, crew members provide an interesting element that can add depth to any space fantasy campaign.

Hiring new crew members provides an excellent opportunity for roleplaying. The PCs probably need to find a table at a local tavern, announce their business, and then wait for interested candidates to interview. In general, every batch of new recruits should be given one set of stats in common, and keep those stats until they advance in level or are killed (see below). In this way, recruiting crew members in different locations introduces different groups of characters.

Generally, crew members should be offered either a steady wage or a share of a voyage's profit when they sign aboard. In the prior case, 3 sp per day is a good starting rate of pay. In the latter case, all crew members are assigned a rate ranging from half a share (for ship's boys and the like) to one share (for ordinary sailors) to a share and a half or even two shares (for skilled characters such as PCs, pilots, navigators, carpenters and the like.

Ship-to-Ship Combat
Having crew members present during shipboard battles can add drama, too. For one thing, having a batch of NPCs who can fire crossbows at attacking creatures means the GM can increase the CR for encounters in space. Of course, this also means that the NPCs are fair game, and attacking monsters might cause casualties that must be healed or replaced. The same goes for combat against enemy ships, which have crews of their own. In either case, it is recommended that the GM divide crew members between the players, allowing them to make attack and damage rolls in order to speed up the process and increase enjoyment for all.

Crew Advancement
Just like the PCs, crew members can also advance in level. It is recommended that each NPC receive 100 xp per character level for each voyage completed, with a bonus of the same amount for shipboard battles that occur involving the crew. For example, if the PCs venture into an old asteroid mine and do battle with the creatures who live there, but the crew is not present for such activities, then the NPCs shouldn't receive experience for it. On the other hand, a run-in with a hive of lunarmas, in which crew members contribute to the ship's defense, would count for XP. Additionally, short voyages (such as from a planet to its moon) or ones that become routine and don't have encounters, might only count for half the normal experience. In this way, crew members become more capable over time, albeit it not so quickly as the PCs do.

Typical Sailor
CR ½
XP 200
Various warrior 1
N medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +1
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 6 (1d10+1)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +1
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +2 (1d6+1)
Ranged Light crossbow +1 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
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

Sailors can be a mixed bunch, but most of them tend to be gruff but capable. To give them a little more personality, however, the GM may wish to use one of the many random generation systems available, or even to let the players roll on those tables. At the same time, it can be beneficial to give them all names. That way, if some of them are killed off during combat, it's easier to keep track of which ones have survived. Finally, in order to know just who is on deck when, they can be divided into separate watches based on the traditional shipboard time schedule.

First Watch
Second Watch
Third Watch

The players could keep one copy of this list, including notes about the NPCs' race, gender and which crew members have advanced in level, while the GM could keep another, with those details as wells as notes about the crew members' personalities.