Interlude: The Map
This encounter can occur at any time after the PC's have acquired some loot, either a small personal stash or a larger hoard. At first glance it seems that the item in question is nothing more than an ordinary tinderbox, but opening it reveals a small scrap of parchment folded into a neat little parcel. The scrap contains the following words:
The Archipelago of Mary
Characters who succeed at a DC 15 Knowledge: geography check can confirm that no such archipelago exists in this part of the world. There are, however, the Virgin Islands and, given that Mary is the virgin mother of Jesus in Christian tradition, someone might make the connection. If that happens, those who look closely at a map of that chain of islands might notice one named St. Peter. At that point, a DC 15 Knowledge: religion check recognizes that St. Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus, is also considered to be the first Catholic Pope, “the rock” on which that church was built.
With that information in mind, the PC's can look to the second item, a small crucifix wrapped up in the scrap of parchment. It is made of silver but otherwise quite ordinary, except for one small detail that requires a DC 18 Spot check to notice. On the back side of the cross are scratched four small letters, corresponding to the cardinal directions—N, S, E and W. When the pirate who left these clues buried the treasure, he/she chose a spot equidistant between the points on the island that were furthest in each direction. In this case, X does mark the spot.
Armed with this information, the PC's can head out in search of the treasure.
The Island of St. Peter is inhabited by a small colony of Dutch settlers. One of that number is Albert Vandemere, a man who enjoys hiking throughout the island and hunting the wild goats living on it. He is also intrigued to note a band of interlopers searching the otherwise unoccupied territory, and immediately begins to suspect that a treasure might be involved. For that reason he approaches the PC's and makes casual conversation with them, hoping to discern the true nature of their purpose for visiting. If he can do so, or as long as he has sufficient reason to suspect that they do possess a treasure map, he tries to act casual before making excuses for leaving. At that point he returns to the small settlement on the island and gathers reinforcements, intending to come back and claim the treasure for the locals.
Once they're on the island, a DC 15 Knowledge: geography or similar check allows the PC's to take their bearings and thus find the spot indicated by the clues. There is only one location of interest in that area, a small shrine to Mary herself. This was of course set up by the pirates in order to hide their treasure in plain sight, but it could also present a problem for the PC's. Once it becomes clear that they must disturb the shrine in order to discover what lies beneath it, those who have the Superstitious fortune should take exception to such an idea. After all, Mother Mary is a compassionate soul who intercedes on behalf of the penitent, so vandalizing her shrine should seem like a bad idea.
The shrine itself is a compact structure, five feet by five feet in its footprint and only a little taller in height. It contains a small altar with a statue of Mary, along with a number of candles and offerings of little value such as pieces of eight and other trinkets. Buried beneath it, however, is the cache that the PC's seek. This includes a chest containing 1250 pieces of eight, a large pearl in a scrap of cloth (300 gp), a cutlass +1 elaborately engraved with Arabic phrases, a bandolier with twelve apostles and a wind cord. As usual, the GM should supplement or modify this cache based on the wants of the players and the needs of the campaign.
The Passerby, Again
If Albert Vandemere, after his first interaction with the PC's, had suitable reason to believe that they're involved in a treasure hunt, he returns with a party of local hunters and a few hunting dogs. His intention is to make sure that the locals receive their share of the booty, and he things a fifty-fifty split is appropriate. To this end, he and and cronies make a show of their muskets, but do not initiate actual hostilities if they can avoid doing so.
The PC's have a number of options for handling this situation. One is to parley, allowing one or more characters to make Diplomacy checks and talk the Dutchman down to a smaller share. In this case, the amount of the split can be reduced by five percent (from fifty) for every five points by which the PC's check exceeds his own. Of course, these negotiations should provide a good chance for roleplaying, with the GM assigning appropriate bonuses or penalties to checks based on who says what.
Fighting is another option. Albert and his hunting party consider themselves to be pretty tough, but a strong show of force can convince them otherwise. If defeated, the Dutchman could become a new ally or a recurring enemy, depending on how the PC's treat him.
Male Buccaneer 5; CR 5; Size medium; HD 5d10 +5; hp 37; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +8 (2d6, long musket) or +6 (1d6+1, buccaneer knife); SQ Survivor +2, Expert Pilot, Resilient; AL TN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +3; Str 13, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Skills: Appraise +8, Climb +9, Heal +10, Hide +11, Knowledge (local) +2, Move Silently +11, Profession (guide) +4, Survival +10, Swim +9.
Feats: Alertness, Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (musket).
Equipment: Buff coat, necklace of boar's tusks, two long muskets, buccaneer knife, backpack, bedroll, tinder box, salt pork, cheese, biscuit and water for three days, gallon jug of ale.
Albert Vandemere is a boisterous and robust fellow with rosy cheeks and a shock of curly blonde hair. He enjoys nothing more than sleeping out under the stars while hunting various kinds of game. Nevertheless, he is quick to seize any opportunity for gain with which he is presented. Although friendly and outgoing, he can turn ruthless when it is to his advantage.
Male Buccaneer 2; CR 2; Size medium; HD 2d10+2; hp 19; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +4 (1d6+2, cutlass or buccaneer knife) or +3 (2d6, short musket); SQ Survivor +1, Expert Pilot; AL CN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Skills: Climb +7, Heal +6, Hide +6, Knowledge (local) +2, Move Silently +6, Profession (guide) +4, Survival +6, Swim +7, Use Rope +6.
Feats: Alertness, Power Attack.
Equipment: Buff coat, long musket, buccaneer knife, cutlass, backpack, bedroll, tinder box, salt pork, cheese, biscuit and water for three days, gallon jug of ale, pipe and tobacco.
These hunters are a varied lot, generally surly toward newcomers and little better toward each other.