Today's post is an encounter that could be added to any piratical or otherwise nautical campaign.
Interlude: The Storm
This encounter is intended for use at any time when the crew is traveling by sea. It can be used as a stand-alone scenario, or as an event to be inserted in the middle of another adventure. Either way, it takes place when the PC's are in the midst of a voyage and run into a storm.
1. Signs of Trouble
Before the storm strikes, the PC's should make Knowledge: sea lore or nature checks to recognize that a storm is approaching; the highest result determines how much time they have to prepare before it arrives. Refer to the chart below. With this in mind, the PC's should begin working at a variety of tasks in order to be ready for it.
*Casting appropriate spells
*Checking to make sure the cargo is properly secured
*Putting characters into position in case of trouble
*Whatever else the GM decides is necessary
Check Result and Time to Prepare
0-9 allows 1 round
10-19 allows 5 rounds
20-29 allows 2 minutes
30+ allows 10 minutes
Whether or not the crew is ready for it, the storm arrives at the time indicated.
As the swell of the sea intensifies, the rats living in the ship's bilge slowly work up into a frenzy. This comes to a boil when they erupt from the hatches, looking for a way to escape and attacking anyone who happens to be in their path. As usual, the GM should tailor the number of rat swarms that appear to the level of the PC's involved.
3. The Zealot
As increasingly powerful waves begin to pound the ship, one crew member decides that the entire crew is being punished for its sins; he falls to his knees and begins to pray for forgiveness. The trouble with this is that other sailors are impressed by his sudden religious fervor and follow his example, leaving the crew shorthanded for its necessary duties. To put them back on track, someone must find a means of convincing them to focus on their mortal bodies now and their immortal bodies later. A DC 20 Diplomacy or Intimidate check suffices for their purpose, with circumstance benefits as usual for good roleplaying.
4. Lightning Strikes
In the midst of all the other developments, lighting strikes the vessel's mainmast. It topples, and the unfortunate soul who was occupying the crow's nest is thrown into the churning embrace of the sea. At the same time, since it is not entirely severed, the mast begins to drag in the water and threatens to turn the entire vessel broadside into the oncoming waves.
The first task that the PC's face is to cut away the remains of the mainmast so the vessel can keep on sailing. The splintered mass of wood has hardness 5 and 100 hit points; it causes the vessel to slew to port. For every round it takes the crew to cut it loose, the vessel suffers subdual damage dependent on the size of the ship. This represents the water that comes crashing over the bow and, as the ship skews, the starboard side. This is not permanent damage but, if it exceeds the ship's total structure points, the vessel is filled with water and sinks.
Size of Ships and Damage Suffered
Small ships suffer 1d4 structure points per round
Medium ships suffer 2d4 structure points per round
Large ships suffer 2d6 structure points per round
Huge ships suffer 2d8 structure points per round
Gargantuan ships suffer 2d10 structure points per round
5. Man Overboard!
There is also the matter of the crew member who has fallen into the water. Given the danger of turning around in the storm, it is nearly impossible to bring it about for a rescue. Of course, the tumbled mainmast brings the ship to a halt, proving an opportunity for rescuers. The only trouble is to find a means of doing so.
Given the dangerous nature of this task, it is best if the victim in question is of considerable importance to the PC's. This could be a favorite sidekick or comic foil, the only female aboard the ship, or someone similar. Reaching the unconscious victim requires DC 20 Swim checks enough to cover sixty feet of distance, along with a DC 20 Spot or search check to locate the victim. (Characters aboard the ship could offer directions to someone in the water.) Those who think to dive underwater must only make DC 15 checks, along with the DC 15 Search or Spot check. Once the character reaches the victim, there is still the matter of swimming back to the ship—and this assumes that it hasn't yet resumed sailing. Alternately, the character in the water could bring a rope, in which case it takes only three DC 12 Strength checks to hang onto the victim while others aboard the vessel pull them back aboard it. In the latter case, those aboard the ship must make three DC 18 Strength checks to pull in those characters, but many characters can combine their efforts. All of these DC's increase by five once the ship resumes sailing.
6. Putting Things Aright
The final task is to put the ship back on course. This requires a DC 20 Profession: sailor check, assuming that the crew members aren't being distracted from their duties. Once that happens, the ship straightens out on its course and everyone can ride out the storm until the coming of morning. Of course, the ship continues to suffer subdual damage until that check succeeds. When the sun has risen, the PC's and crew must make a DC 15 Knowledge: navigation check to put the ship back on course.