For everyone else, here's the next adventure in the series. As usual, I welcome feedback from people; my e-mail address is
Beyond the Pale
This scenario is Part 5 of the Come Hell and High Water campaign, an adventure series for the Skull & Bones historical setting, for use with the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game version 3.5. It is intended for a party of fourth-level characters. Although it is intended as part of an ongoing collection of scenarios, it can also be run as a stand-alone adventure.
Edward Chapman is a man on a mission. Specifically, he has come from England to the New World in search of clues to the location of the legendary lost Templar Fleet. In 1307 it went missing, on the night before that organization was disbanded and its members were arrested. They were charged with heresy, and those who were captured faced judgement and execution. Before the king's soldiers could lay claim on the Order's treasure fleet, however, it sailed from port and was never seen again. Since then there have been many rumors of what happened to it, but the truth has remained unknown.
What really happened is this. Certain members of that order, skilled in the art of navigation, set sail in search of the fabled Christian kingdom of Prester John. Like others of the time, they believed that Asia lied across the sea to the west, and they were wrong. Although they did find the eastern shore of North America, they never found Prester John's domain. Instead they ran afoul of the local natives, used up their provisions and eventually succumbed to starvation and cold. In desperation they outfitted one vessel and sent it sailing back to Europe to seek help, but it became lost in a storm, ran into an iceberg and was trapped. The sailors aboard it froze to death, and its secrets remained hidden.
All of this changed when an English whaling ship, while pursuing its prey, ventured into the northern waters. One sailor aboard that vessel spied a mast in the ice, one from which a distinctive pennant hung. This was embroidered with the mark of the Xeno family, a group known for their nautical prowess. The vessel's captain, Oliver Sedgewick, knew enough of history to be intrigued by this discovery. He commenced to research the story, and eventually his inquires led to correspondence with Chapman. What he did not know, however, was that others had learned of his find and were plotting to usurp his salvage claim.
It was Spanish spies who intercepted a letter from Chapman to Sedgewick. They happened to confront the vessel carrying the news; when they read the whaler's story, they took decisive action. The Spaniards sent a ship in pursuit of Sedgewick and his crew, and at the same time dispatched thugs to kidnap Chapman and learn what he could tell. While this might seem excessive given the amount of treasure that flows from New Spain, it is in their minds justified by what they hope to find. The item in question is the Clavicula Salomonis, the Key of Solomon, a tome containing that ruler's incantations for controlling demons and other supernatural creatures. This the knights found along with other treasures during their excavations beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is a tome filled with secret lore for summoning and binding demons and devils, one that could be used for tremendous good or evil—depending on who should claim it.
This adventure begins for the PC's during a storm at sea. This arose at the end of the battle between the Spanish vessel, the Nuestra Senora de Habana, and the English whaler, the Resolute. It is this storm that forced the Spaniards to seek shelter, allowing Captain Sedgewick to escape. He is the only survivor from among his crew.
The action could pick up immediately following the storm, with the PC's in their ship encountering the captain as detailed in Event 1. On the other hand, GM's and/or players who prefer a little more action could use the interlude “The Storm,” detailed in a previous publication, to depict the end of the inclement weather. In such a case, the rest of the events detailed below can commence immediately upon the conclusion of that scene.
Event 1—The Survivor
In the aftermath of the storm, have all of the characters present on deck make Spot checks; the one with the highest result notices a flash of light on the horizon. Closer examination (at best with a spyglass) reveals that it is coming from a barely discernible dark shape—Sedgewick's crude raft. Only sheer determination has carried this unfortunate soul through the raging tempest, and now he clings to life. If he is to survive, the PC's must move quickly.
Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. The poor, wounded fellow has attracted the attention of a huge shark; it first appears just as the PC's are approaching Sedgewick's raft. Once again everyone present to do so should make Spot checks, with the highest result first noticing as the telltale pointed fin first breaks the surface of the water and begins cutting toward its target. At that point, roll initiative. The starting distance between the party's vessel—which, by this time, is furling its sails so as to come to a stop—is three hundred feet. The ship continues at a rate of 120 feet in the first round, with its speed decreasing by thirty feet per round. On its initiative, the shark makes one pass around the raft, followed by a lunge that topples it and puts Sedgewick into the water. It then makes a slow circle for one round, then strikes. This should allow enough time for bold PC's to intervene, provided they're willing to go into the water.
As long as the heroes can reduce the shark to one quarter of its starting hit points, it swims away. Keep in mind, however, that characters in the water must make Swim checks to stay above the surface and thus avoid drowning. All in all this should be a challenging encounter but one that the heroes can survive as long as they use smart tactics.
The Captain's Tale
If Sedgewick is rescued, he can tell his story; read or paraphrase the following details.
*He is captain of the whaling ship Resolute, based out of Boston.
*During one expedition, he and his crew sited a strange vessel, an old cog flying a red cross on a white field as its flag.
*He believes the vessel may be a remnant of the legendary Templar fleet that disappeared from France on the night before 13 October 1307, when King Phillip le Bel ordered the arrest of its members.
*According to legends, the fleet took with it the treasure that belonged to the order.
*He and his crew were bound for Port Royal, hoping to confer with a scholar there who is an expert regarding the Order's history—Edward Chapman.
*Somehow word of the discovery must have leaked, however, because they were attacked by a Spanish galleon; it sank the whaler, but was chased off by a storm.
*Captain Sedgewick was able to survive only by clinging to his crude raft. “And even then I wouldn't have made it, if you hadn't come along to save me. Perhaps I should have gone down with my vessel, as the tradition holds, but it's supposed to be a truly grand treasure.”
With that he asks the PC's to bring him to Port Royal so as to confer with Chapman. Should they feel like discussing shares, Sedgewick suggests a fifty-fifty split, half for the PC's and half for him and Chapman.
Event 2—Out for Blood
While the Spanish galleon has been pursuing the Resolute, other agents of the Inquisition have also gone in search of Edward Chapman. Provided they sail for Port Royal immediately after rescuing Captain Sedgewick, the PC's should be able to arrive just in time to intervene once again. Upon making landfall, a little bit of investigation reveals that the scholar can be found at an old and familiar location, the Sign of the Boar's Head Tavern. He is relaxing at a table in the corner of the main room when the PC's arrive. (Refer to the map and description of that establishment to set up this scene.)
Now, the Spaniards do not dare act openly in Port Royal; it is, after all, home to the buccaneers that plague shipping in the New World. Instead they have sent in a spy of their own, a Frenchwoman by the name of Genevieve, to handle the situation in a more subtle manner. Claiming to be a Huguenot who has fled from Catholic oppression, this wily woman has begun to win Chapman's confidence. When the heroes arrive, she is seated with him, using her charms to lower his defenses. In this way she also tries to use flattery on the PC's, complementing them for whatever qualities seem appropriate. She then tries to slip away and order a round of drinks for everyone, hoping to poison all involved. If that tactic should fail—such as if the PC's draw attention to the suspicious nature of her recent arrival—she changes tactics and calls in help. A party of fellow Frenchmen is present at a nearby table; she whistles for help, and they make their move.
For their part, the Frenchmen try to incapacitate Chapman as quickly as possible and then remove him from the premises. One of them throws a grenadoe over the bar, igniting the liquor there and starting a fire to prevent interference by other patrons. They also escalate quickly from fists to blades and firearms once they learn that the PC's are no lubberly locals. All in all this should make for a chaotic battle, and provide plenty of opportunities for various kinds of heroics.
For characters who participated in the events of “The Message,” the GM can make this situation a little more personal by including enemies who survived the business on Cozumel detailed in that scenario. Should they see a familiar face among the Inquisitors in the Sign of the Boar's Head, the PC's might find they have a score to settle.
As long as they can save Chapman, he tells the PC's what he knows about the matter. Provide the relevant details from the Background section. If pressed, he is also willing to admit his involvement with the Invisible College, and his hope that the Clavicula Salomonis might be among the treasures of the Templar Hoard.
At that point, assuming that the PC's are still interested in making a voyage, they can make preparations for setting sail. Given that they'll head for far northern waters, it behooves them to purchase adequate clothing, foodstuffs and other supplies necessary for staying warm in that climate. Once they've had a chance to buy what they need, they can begin their search.
Event 3—Cold Comfort and Hot Pursuit
The voyage northward can be as uneventful or as fraught with peril as the GM and players desire. Some of the possible events that might transpire are detailed below.
“Cold... So cold...”
Declining temperatures also present a danger to the crew and passengers. Those who venture out on deck must make a DC 15 Fortitude save for each hour of exposure, with a cumulative +1 modifier for each additional hour spent outside. Proper clothing provides a +2 equipment bonus to these saves, a reward for those who thought to purchase such equipment before setting sail. Failure causes 1d6 subdual damage. These checks should be used to represent a standard day aboard ship, forcing the PC's to set up watches based on the hardships they face.
“Thar she blows!”
At some point along the way, the party encounters a cachelot whale. It has been shot with a harpoon, to which a number of large, empty barrels are attached. The intention, of course, is to tire out the creature so that the whalers can then kill it. This one has escaped from its hunters, but has grown enraged by the fact that it cannot dive. It attacks the party's vessel, thinking them to be the whalers and mad with pain.
The PC's have at least two options for dealing with this creature. One is to kill it outright; indeed, it could be of some value, as long as the PC's can find a place to store the blubber and meat harvested from it. Another possibility is to cut the rope connecting the harpoon to the barrels, thereby releasing it. Either option brings its attacks to an end. Otherwise it continues to attack the party's ship, doing one hull point of damage per ten hit points inflicted with every successful strike.
“Iceberg, right ahead!”
As the ship reaches the norther waters, floating chunks of ice become a notable danger. As the field of icebergs grows thicker and thicker, the person in command of the party's vessel must make three Profession: sailor checks to avoid collisions. The DC's are 12, 15 and 18. Each failure incurs 1d6 hull points damage, increased by 1d6 for each multiple of three by which the check failed. For example, a captain with a skill check result of 7 on the last check causes 4d6 damage to the vessel. Characters who make Search or Spot checks can aid the captain in this effort, and the person in the crow's nest receives a +5 circumstance bonus to these checks.
There is also the matter of the Nuestra Senora de Habana. It waited for any word from the enforcers sent to apprehend Chapman; when they did not return, it headed northward in hopes of intercepting the PC's and their allies. Unless the PC's take more than a little time to rest, recuperate or restock their provisions, this vessel should be behind them in their search. If they do allow such delays, however, the Senora could catch them and force a confrontation. (Should this happen in the field of icebergs, this could make for an especially interesting pursuit.)
Event 4—The Derelict
As the voyage draws to a close, those who are on deck should make Search or Spot checks (DC 15 or 21, respectively) to notice the mast and pennant of the derelict vessel, protruding from a mass of floating ice. Of course, finding the prize is one thing; claiming it is another matter entirely.
Approaching the iceberg in a ship's boat is a relatively easy task. At that point, however, it is necessary to climb up the ice. This requires a DC 30 Climb check for each fifteen or twenty feet covered, depending on the movement of the PC. While this is very difficult, those who think to use boarding axes or other tools to cut hand- and footholds can reduce the DC to 20. Even so, this should present a daunting obstacle to the PC's. Those who fail fall into the water; they suffer only 1d6 damage, but must make another Climb check to pull themselves out of the water. All in all this should provide a considerable physical challenge for the PC's, but the GM should also allow for any clever tactics they devise in response to it.
Refer to the map of the iceberg and the following area descriptions for details regarding the layout of the Etoile.
This raised platform at the stern of the vessel is where the sailing master can control the whipstaff, and the place from which the captain normally gives orders. It is empty, and covered with a thick layer of ice. For that reason, movement in this area requires a DC 10 Balance check, or the character falls prone and suffers 1d3 damage.
Normally only used in combat situations, this raised section allows a clear line of fire on the main deck and on enemy vessels alike. It, too, is empty, and requires a Balance check to move around on it.
3. Main Deck
Four short sets of stairs lead away from this area—two up to the sterncastle and fourcastle, and two to the deck below. There is also a hatch that provides access to the cargo hold. The main deck is also covered in ice, like the castles detailed above.
A door from the main deck lets into this passageway, and two doors lead out of it.
5. Captain's Cabin
A once comfortable bed stands against one wall of this room, while a desk occupies the other side. This latter item contains sheets of crumbling parchment, dried ink and deteriorating quills, along with a journal written by Jean de Montesegur. See the appendix for details of what is written in the journal. Beneath the bed is an old chest containing fresh underclothing as befitting a knight.
6. Chaplain's Cabin
This room is similar to that of the captain, except that the desk is empty. Above it is a crucifix mounted to the wall.
7. Passenger Quarters
Two beds fill the opposite walls of this area; beneath each sits a chest. All are empty.
8. Cargo Hold
In the middle of the hold are six bodies, frozen in the midst of their prayers for mercy. They kneel in a circle, with crosses clutched in unmoving fingers and eyes wide open to the agony of their demise. All of them wear chainmail over padding and carry swords. The leader's sword is especially nice, engraved with inscriptions in Hebrew; it is a longsword +2. He also wears a chain shirt +2 along with a phylactery proof against drowning.
9. Pantry and Mess
Empty barrels line the walls of this area; they once held food, water and wine, but the Templars who became trapped in the ice long ago emptied them of any sustenance they contained.
In the front end of this room, a wall bears a cross with a man crucified upon it. Closer inspection reveals this not to be Jesus Christ, but rather the Apostle Peter. Seeing this, characters who succeed at a DC 5 Knowledge: religion check recognize him as the saint who founded the Catholic church; those who make a DC 10 check should realize that this is a curious bit of iconography for the Templars, who were persecuted by the Catholic church. Given that, a DC 20 check allows characters to remember that Saint Peter was crucified upside down, while this depiction is right-side up. Grasping the cross and turning it 180 degrees clockwise opens the hatch in the floor, one that otherwise requires a DC 25 Search or Spot check to notice.
This secret compartment contains the objects of centuries of searching, the Clavicula Salomonis.
Event 5—Good Spirits and Bad
The power of King Solomon's knowledge is not the only danger to the PC's here. One of the long-deceased Templars, Jean de Montsegur, is a fellow who centuries ago dedicated his life to studying demonology and gaining control of evil spirits. When the Pope and the King of France outlawed the Templar Order in 1307, it was because of his unholy research that they did so. Now his evil spirit remains, hoping for any chance to have revenge upon those who brought about his downfall.
In game terms, the ghost tries to use its malevolence ability to overwhelm a selected target. It takes aim at barbarian characters first, along with buccaneers and sea dogs who also tend to have low Will saves. Because it must manifest in order to do so, this should prompt a battle. Remember, of course, that normal weapons have only a 50% chance of harming incorporeal undead. What is more, even if it is defeated, the ghost is not necessarily destroyed. If possible, it reforms in the vicinity of the ancient tome that led to its corruption, hoping to use the ancient power once more.
Clearly, the survival and continued activity of an enemy is not as satisfying as vanquishing said foe once and for all. In this case, however, it helps to set up an ongoing enemy for later adventures. Let the PC's believe they have won the day, and even enjoy the spoils of their victory. While it could be interesting to allow subtle clues that one of the crew members is possessed, the impact of this development will be even greater if it catches the PC's completely unaware.
As long as the PC's can (apparently) defeat the ghost, they can claim the treasures and set sail for home. This should present a satisfying conclusion to the adventure, even if they don't recognize the continued threat that they face. For his part, Edward Chapman is eager to study the ancient tome and learn its secrets. Because of this, he is willing to let the PC's and Captain Sedgewick divide the other treasures amongst themselves, and also to allow interested PC's to help in researching the arcane text.
This scenario leaves a number of unanswered questions, all of which could provide for further adventures; some of the possibilities are detailed below.
*Having suffered two setbacks at the hands of the PC's, the agents of the Inquisition are now bent on revenge.
*Edward Chapman, as a member of the Invisible College, could have other tasks for which he needs the party's aid.
*The power of the tome—summoning and binding demons and other such forces—could provide all manner of temptation for the PC's and others.
*As mentioned above, the ghost of Jean de Montsegur might be able to return.
Appendix 1—Dramatis Personae
Male Rogue 6; CR 6; Size Medium; HD 6d6; hp 24; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Fencing jacket, +2 Dex); Atk +4 (1d6, rapier) or +6 (2d4, pistols); SQ Trap Sense +2,Sneak Attack +3d6, Trapfinding, Evasion, Uncanny Dodge; AL LN; SV: Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +2; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 17.
Skills: Bluff +11, Decipher Script +10, Diplomacy +13, Disable Device +9, Disguise +13, Forgery +13, Hide +12, Knowledge (local) +11, Knowledge (religion) +11, Listen +7, Move Silently +12, Search +11, Sense Motive +9.
Feats: Deceitful, Leadership, Negotiator, Stealthy.
Fortunes: Cause, Obligation.
Equipment: Gentleman's clothing, dueling jacket, pair of pistols, rapier, stiletto, pouch of 200 poe, various books, vials of ink, quills and paper.
Edward Chapman is, on the surface, a proper young English gentleman, albeit one who is not particularly striking. He has dark hair and dark eyes, and is of medium height and build. Normally he dresses the part of a young aristocrat, although his natural charisma makes him equally home among the lower classes when he deems it necessary.
Chapman is highly educated, having studied at Oxford and abroad, and has recently even been accepted as a member of the Invisible College in London. In fact he serves as an agent of the Majesty's government, although the exact nature of his business is a closely guarded secret.
Rogue 7; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d6; hp 27; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +7 (2d4, pistol) or +7 (1d6+2, rapier); SQ Sneak Attack +4d6, Trapfinding, Evasion, Trap Sense +2, Uncanny Dodge; AL LN; SV: Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +3; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 16.
Skills: Bluff +6, Decipher Script +5, Diplomacy +6, Disable Device +6, Disguise +5, Gather Information +6, Hide +6, Knowledge (local) +5, Knowledge (religion) +4, Move Silently +6, Search +5.
Feats: Investigator, Point Blank Shot, Precise Attack (rapier), Weapon Finesse (rapier).
Equipment: Rapier, dirk, pistol, powder horn, apostles.
While she plays the part of an alluring and seductive woman, Genevieve is in fact a devout agent of the Inquisition. Her tanned complexion and raven hair help her to blend in anywhere in the Caribbean, while her shapely figure and striking looks make her a hit with menfolk. These are all weapons in her arsenal, however, and her mission is to stamp out heresy wherever she finds it. In this her zeal is unmatched and unwavering.
Rogue 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d6; hp 6; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +3 (2d4, pistol) or +2 (1d6+1, rapier); SQ Sneak Attack +1d6, Trapfinding; AL LN; SV: Fort +0, Ref +4, Will +1; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 14.
Skills: Bluff +6, Decipher Script +5, Diplomacy +6, Disable Device +6, Disguise +5, Gather Information +6, Hide +6, Knowledge (local) +5, Knowledge (religion) +4, Move Silently +6, Search +5.
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot.
Equipment: Rapier, dirk, pistol, powder horn, apostles, Bible.
The Ghost of Jean de Montsegur
Cleric 4/Fighter 4; Medium incorporeal undead; CR 10; HD 8d12; hp 51; Init +0 (+0 Dex); Spd 30 ft., fly 30 ft.; AC 16 or 20 (+6 armor; +4 Charisma bonus when manifesting); Atk +12/+7 (1d8+6, longsword +2) or +7/+2 (ranged); SQ Ghost abilities, spells; AL LE; SV: Fort +12, Ref +2, Will +9; Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 11, Wis 16, Cha 18.
Skills: Concentration +13, Hide +8, Knowledge (religion) +11, Listen +10, Search +8, Spot +10.
Feats: Cleave, Combat Casting, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization (longsword).
Equipment: Chain shirt +2, longsword +2, phylactery proof against drowning.
At one time, Jean de Montsegur was a Knight of the Order of Christ and the Temple of Solomon. As a Templar he fought in the crusades and travelled the Holy Land, learning occult secrets from many sources. It was this knowledge that eventually led to his downfall, when he came into possession of the Clavicula Salomonis. At first he believed that he could harness its power as a weapon against the enemies of the Catholic Church, but soon he was using it for his own gain. When the Pope and King disbanded his order and called for its members to be arrested, he fled with the rest of the fleet. They made it as far as the mainland of North America, but hostile natives and an unforgiving climate eventually led to their demise.
Such was the knight's obsession, however, that his spirit could not rest.
Captain Oliver Sedgewick
Sea Dog 3; CR 3; Medium; HD 3d10+6; hp 27; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +3 (1d3, unarmed) or +5 (ranged); SQ Close Quarters +1, Dodge, Favored Ship; AL CN; SV: Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +3; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 10.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Knowledge (sea lore) +6, Profession (sailor) +8, Survival +8, Swim +6, Use Rope +8.
Feats: Far Shot, Great Fortitude, Point Blank Shot.
Equipment: Buff coat.
Captain Oliver Sedgewick is the consummate whaler. His skill as a sailor is surpassed only by his tenacity, a single-mindedness that can sometimes border on obsession. He appreciates the comforts of home port, however, and is unfailingly loyal to those who do him a service. As befits a man in his line of work, Sedgewick has shaggy grey hair and a grizzled beard.
Expert 5; CR 4; Size medium; HD 5d6+5; hp 25; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 9 (-1 Dex); Atk +3 (1d6, cutlass) or +2 (2d6, pistol); SQ details; AL LN; SV: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +7; Str 10, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 14.
Skills: Appraise +9, Climb +4, Diplomacy +10, Knowledge (navigation) +9, Knowledge (sea lore) +9, Listen +13, Profession (sailor) +14, Sense Motive +11, Spot +13, Survival +11.
Feats: Alertness, Seagoing, Skill Focus (Profession: sailor).
Fortunes: Been-Round, True Thomas.
Equipment: Sailor's clothing, cutlass, pair of pistols, logbook, pouch with 100 poe, pipe and tobacco.
Warrior 1; CR 1/2; Size medium; HD 1d8+2; hp 10; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 Dex); Atk +3 (1d6+2, belaying pin or gaff hook) or +2 (ranged); AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Skills: Climb +6, Knowledge (sea lore) +3, Profession (sailor) +5.
Feats: Power Attack, Seagoing.
Equipment: Sailor's clothing, gaff hook or belaying pin, miscellaneous possessions.
Appendix 2—The Clavicula Salomonis
Known in occult circles as the Key of Solomon, this ancient tome is bound in black leather and embossed with a golden magen david on the front cover. Its pages are written in ancient Hebrew, and include various drawings of an arcane nature; they contain ancient lore regarding communicating with, summoning and even binding supernatural forces. According to legend it was written by the fabled King Solomon himself.
In game terms it can be used to prepare the following spells: banishment, commune, dismissal, forbiddance, greater planar ally, lesser planar ally, planar ally. Note that characters can use it to cast spells to which they might not normally have access, in the same manner as a high-level scroll, except that this can be done without destroying the text. At the GM's discretion, mishaps while attempting to cast these spells could bring diabolical consequences on the unfortunate individual.