Today's update is an adventure, the next in the series.
Trial by Fire
This scenario is Part 6 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. It is intended to be used as part of an ongoing collection of scenarios, but it can also be run as a stand-alone adventure with some work on the part of the GM.
Recently the PC's aided Edward Chapman in the recovery of a powerful artifact, the fabled Clavicula Salomonis. This book contains the assembled occult knowledge of the legendary King Solomon; it contains rituals for communicating with, summoning and binding demonic powers. In doing so they came to battle the long-dead spirit of a Templar Warrior, Jean de Montsegur, who had found the book in the Holy Land and then carried it via Europe to the New World. After defeating the ghost, they might have thought that the book was now in safe hands, but they would have been wrong.
Even before that, the PC's foiled a plot to steal merchant ships masterminded by a bokor named Mhlongo. In doing so they earned the ire of that voodoo practitioner's teacher, Mabhena. Now the elder bokor has a plan for revenge, one that will simultaneously allow him to eliminate the offending heroes and gain tremendous power for himself. Posing as a merchant and hougan, he introduced himself to Nneka's band of maroons. Thus he managed to sell them goods infected with whooping cough, a disease that quickly decimated the crew of the Liberty. This was all part a plan to force the PC's to make a journey to Martinique, the nearest island where can be found a narcotic liana that is vital to treating the disease. Mabhena then contacted an old enemy of the PC's, a pirate by the name of Captain Bartleby. (In the event that he was killed during the events of the scenario “The Message,” the GM could substitute one of the Carlisle brothers from the adventure “Reprisal” or even someone else entirely.) These cutthroats the bokor hired to make a journey for that same islet, in order to provoke the local population and turn them against any other interlopers who might appear. The pirates started a forest fire and shot at the islet's inhabitants, then retired to their ship and found a quiet inlet from which to await the PC's. At the same time, they unleashed some of Mabhena's zombies to continue their attacks on the locals.
So far the bokor's plan has worked like a charm. The islet is inhabited by descendants of the Amazons, warrior women who are normally very territorial. Their wrath has indeed been provoked, and they are ready to take revenge against who might set foot on the island.
At the same time, Mabhena is making his move against Edward Chapman, but the details of that plot must wait until after the PC's have survived the trap that awaits them.
Introduction—A Friend in Need
This adventure begins while the PC's are relaxing in Port Royal. To add some local color at the start of the scenario, it could be helpful to have each player determine how his/her character is spending the downtime. Whichever one is in the best position to do so can notice the arrival of the Liberty and then go in search of the others, perhaps making a Gather Information check to find out where everyone is located, and finding them in potentially entertaining situations.
Event 1—Salvage Rights
As the PC's approach the Port Royal harbor, read or paraphrase the following.
Word has quickly spread throughout the city; there's a ship in harbor, one that flies two flags. One is a black field with a white skull and crossed spears, and the other is the dreaded yellow ensign. The fact there is disease on board the ship doesn't seem to be enough to scare away the opportunistic, however, as a group of scallywags bearing weapons and grappling lines begins rowing out toward the drifting vessel.
PC's who participated in the events of “Out of the Darkness” should recognize the flag as that of their old ally, Nneka. Given that he didn't bother to take it down and run up the English colors should be a clue that the Maroon and his crew are in a bad situation.
Of course, if the PC's are going to learn anything more about the situation, they must first deal with the erstwhile salvage team that is already heading out to board the drifting vessel. Said scavengers don't take kindly to such interference, of course, and put up a fight to defend their intended prize. This should set up an entertaining if not especially dangerous fight scene, with characters shooting between boats and perhaps even swimming between them. At the same time, the characters working the oars should make Strength checks to represent their rowing power. The boats can move fifteen feet per round, with the group that has the highest tally each round gaining an extra square on their opponents.
Unless the PC's are particularly ruthless toward the pirates, they're not the kind to bear a grudge about the battle. Indeed, this could even be a chance for them to gain a useful ally for the future.
As long as the PC's can deal with the interlopers, they can find the badly weakened Nneka and learn his story. Feverish and wracked by a powerful cough, he relates the following information.
*Recently his village on the island of Turneffe was overrun by the disease, one that broke out two weeks before.
*It brings on fever, body pain and wicked coughing.
*There is a cure, however, a narcotic liana that grows on an islet off the coast of Martinique.
At that point the Maroon thanks the PC's for their past services and asks them to recover the plant. Hopefully the PC's don't feel like haggling, for Nneka is in a truly desperate situation and has little to offer in exchange for help.
Note that anyone who actually touches any of the Maroons must make a Fortitude save in order to avoid contracting the disease.
Whooping Cough: Infection: contact; DC: 15; Incubation: 1d6 days; Damage: 1d6 Constitution.
Once the PC's have provided what aid they can, they can ask Nneka a few questions.
*Nneka learned of the antidote for the disease from a Voodoo practitioner name LeGris.
*According to his own explanation, LeGris is a hougan and a peddler of medicines; Nneka has copied a page from his pharmacoepia, detailing the plant and where it can be found.
*LeGris first visited the Maroons some two weeks before the outbreak of the disease.
These details could make the situation seem might suspicious to the PC's, and for good reasons. Those who make a DC 20 Spot check notice that there is something familiar about the handwriting on the copied page; if they still have the letter from Mabhena to Mhlongo, they can see that it is the same. Even so, given the urgency of the situation and the difficulty of going in search of Mhlongo/LeGris, they have little choice but to go in pursuit of the liana.
Event 2—Setting Sail
Whether or not they know to expect trouble, the PC's can make preparations to sail for Martinique. Before they can do that, however, they must decide what to do about the sick Maroons. For this they could call on any number of NPC's, but some of them present greater complications than others.
*Edward Chapman is probably the best choice, given his history with the PC's, but this could create additional problems during future business in Port Royal (refer to the next scenario in the Come Hell and High Water campaign for details).
*Ned Carstens isn't thrilled about the idea, but he does agree to take the Maroons under his protection if the PC's press him.
*Given the Maroon's status as escaped slaves, the local authorities are probably not a good option.
*If the PC's have any useful contacts, either as a result of their Backgrounds or due to other business, those could come into play as well.
Depending on the preferences of the players, these details could be resolved through roleplaying or simply be discussed and decided. Once this has been settled, the PC's can make any other necessary arrangements before hoisting anchor, unfurling the sails and steering for Martinique.
The voyage itself can be as uneventful or as full of difficulties and danger as the GM and players prefer. There's plenty of peril waiting for the party already on the islet, as becomes apparent when the ship reaches its destination.
Event 3—First Impressions and Second Guessing
As the PC's approach the islet, they are greeted by the following sight.
Like a shroud on a body not yet dead, a cloud of dark smoke hangs over the islet. The strong wind that blows outward from the land carries on it the smell of burning wood.
This development should give the PC's another clue that the situation is more complicated than they might have expected. Given the importance of their task, however, they have little alternative but to press onward, into the face of danger.
Encounters on the Islet
From this point onward, the PC's might experience one or more of the following events, depending on their chosen course of action.
Alarmed by the fire, and then enraged by the pirates' attack, this patrol of warrior women is out for blood. They charge the PC's mounted on horseback, drawing into a circle around the interlopers with rifles raised, and demand that they throw down their arms. This should be an interesting test for the PC's, requiring humility and diplomacy instead of aggression and force.
As long as they are able to parlay, the PC's can learn some important details about the situation. The Amazons assumed that they are part of the same group who fired on them, and thus are also responsible for starting the fire. If asked, the women explain that it was a band of men dressed in similar garb, who then fled back to a boat and escaped to a waiting ship before sailing away.
2. The Fire
A good way for the PC's to earn the Amazons' favor is to help in fighting the fire. To that end, bulding a firebreak is the best way to keep it from spreading across the islet. Characters who think to ask can easily ascertain the direction of the wind, thereby determining how the flames are spreading. With that in mind, a DC 15 Survival check allows them to find a suitable location where chopping down some trees could halt the flames.
Now the PC's have a chance to step up and use their particular skills and other abilities. Treat the trees as having Hardness 5 and 120 hit points; allowing combat-oriented PC's to show off their prowess in felling them. Indeed, this could become an informal competition pitting pirates against Amazons, perhaps allowing each group to win the other's admiration. In a similar way, PC's could use Profession: sailor checks and ropes for tying trees to the horses for removing them, or even Knowledge: engineering and gunpowder for blasting out difficult stumps. Those who have access to suitable magic could use it in any number of ways.
There is also the matter of a band of zombis that Captain Bartleby has let loose on the islet. They are not affected by the smoke, and therefore lurk on the edge of the fire while awaiting their victims. When it is least convenient for the PC's, they strike, probably catching them in a difficult situation. Depending on the level of the party, the GM should adjust the number of zombies accordingly.
Event 4—Sweet Revenge
After watching the PC's set sail from Port Royal, Mabhena sent word via a carrier pigeon to the waiting Captain Bartleby. Thus he has lookouts posted along the shore of Martinique, who report the arrival of their ship at the islet. Now he has taken a party ashore, moving toward the Player Characters' position with as much stealth as possible. If possible, he tries to catch them after the zombies have already weakened the PC's This should prove a challenging confrontation, forcing the PC's to take cover behind downed trees while their enemies snipe at them from the protection of the surrounding forest. Of course, bold characters could always take the fight to the attackers by charging into melee.
Calling in Reinforcements
If the PC's are hard-pressed to fight off their enemies, and if it would be dramatically appropriate to do so, they could try to summon the other amazons for aid. Indeed, this could be a good chance for a less combat-oriented character to do something heroic by mounting a horse, probably with one of the Amazons riding behind him, and then ride through the enemy lines while avoiding gunfire.
Event 5—The Aftermath
If they can defeat Captain Bartleby and his band of cutthroats (again), the PC's can win a valuable ally and gain an important clue as to the nature of their true enemy. If he can be questioned, he admits to his involvement with LeGris and that the whole situation was an elaborate trap. Should he and all of his men be killed, the PC's might still be able to dress up in the pirates' garb, sneak onto their waiting vessel and then take control of it after catching the waiting crew members by surprise.
Additionally, the PC's have an opportunity to acquire a powerful relic. As long as they participated in the events of the scenario “The Message,” and were rewarded by the Mayan priestess with talismans, they have the following encounter. Before they do so, however, it is important for the GM to know which type of talisman each character was given; these details become important as the scene develops.
Sister Sophia, a cleric, was one of the first Amazons to respond to the fire. Despite her efforts, she eventually succumbed to smoke inhalation and was dragged to safety. While she was incapacitated, however, she had a curious vision. In it, she lied in the midst of the smokey haze; altough unable to see, she could sense that a malevolent presence lurked beyond it. It was then that a number of animals gathered around her, and she felt a sense of hope emanating from them. She then continues to describe the very same types of animals that correspond to the Player Characters' talismans.
It is then that she calls forward two over her fellow warriors, bearing a gift for the PC's. Sister Sophia believes that her vision was caused by the sacred beam from the prow of the Argo, the relic that helped the Amazons make the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean many years prior. Although she doesn't understand the full import of her vision, she believes the PC's are destined to fight a great evil and therefore wants them to have the artifact.
Once they have finished their business on the islet, the PC's can prepare to set sail and return to Jamaica. When they do, they'll find that the adventure has only just begun for them. This can continue in the scenario “Love and War,” Part 7 of the Come Hell and High Water campaign.
Appendix 1—Dramatis Personae
Fighter 3; CR 3; Size medium; HD 3d10+3; hp 24; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 17 (+4 armor, +2 shield, +1 Dex); Atk +5 (1d8+2, longsword) or +X (damage, type); AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 16.
Skills: Craft: weaponsmith +2, Climb +8. Intimidate +12, Jump +8, Knowledge: history +2, Swim +8.
Feats: Cleave, Power Attack, Quick Draw, Skill Focus (Intimidate), Weapon Focus (longspear).
Equipment: Chain shirt, buckler, longspear, quiver of six shortspears, longsword.
Amazon Elite Archer
Fighter 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d10+1; hp 11; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 17 (+4 chain shirt, +3 Dex); Atk +4 (1d8, longbow) or +2 (1d8+2, longsword); AL LN; SV: Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +0; Str 15, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 13.
Skills: Craft: bowyer +2, Handle Animal +1, Hide +7, Knowledge: history +2, Move Silently +7.
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, Stealthy.
Equipment: Chain shirt, longsword, composite longbow, quiver of 20 arrows.
Amazon Elite Infantry
Fighter 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d10+1; hp 11; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 18 (+4 armor, +2 Dex, +2 shield); Atk +5 (1d8+3, longspear) or +3 (1d8, shortspear); AL LN; SV: Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +0; Str 16, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 13.
Skills: Climb +7, Craft: weaponsmith +2, Jump +7, Knowledge: history +2, Swim +7.
Feats: Cleave, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (longspear).
Equipment: Chain shirt, small steel shield, lonspear, quiver of six shortspears, longsword.
Cleric 3; CR 3; Size medium; HD 3d8; hp X; Init +0 (+0 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 16 (+4 armor, +2 shield); Atk +3 (1d8+2, longsword) or +2 (1d8, longbow); SQ Cleric abilities; AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +6; Str 13, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 16, Cha 12.
Skills: Concentration +7, Craft: armor +4, Diplomacy +7, Heal +9, Knowledge: history +4, Knowledge: religion +8, Survival +9.
Feats: Combat Casting, Track.
Domains: Protection and War.
Equipment: Chain shirt, small steel shield, longsword, longbow, quiver of 20 arrows, holy symbol.
Amazon Warrior—Refer to the Skull & Bones book for statistics.
Male Sea Dog 4/Sea Officer 3; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d0+7; hp 50; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +8/+3 (1d6+2, cutlass) or +9/+4 (2d4, pistols); SQ Close Quarters +1, Command (morale bonus), Preferred Ship (English ships), Skill Expert +2; AL CN; SV: Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +3; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 15.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Appraise +7, Diplomacy +10, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (local) +7, Knowledge (navigation) +7, Knowledge (sea lore) +7, Profession (sailor) +9.
Feats: Crimp, Dodge, Mobility, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot.
Equipment: Cutlass, buccaneer knife, pair of pistols, musket, powder horn, apostles, spyglass.
Bartleby is fairly typical of his pirate ilk; he enjoys nothing more than ship-to-ship combat, taking booty and spending it back in port. While his soul is not a noble one by any stretch of the imagination, he does respect others who demonstrate their skills and daring.
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.
Warrior 1; CR 1/2; Size medium; HD 1d8+2; hp 10; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +3 (2d6, short musket) or +2 (1d6+1, cutlass); AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +1; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Skills: Climb +3, Jump +3, Survival +3, Swim +3.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Equipment: Buff coat, short musket, cutlass.
These warriors are gathered from many different tribes and places, but all are dedicated to Nneka and his vision of freeing others from bondage.
Ranger 5; CR 4; Size medium; HD 5d10+10*; hp 42*; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +8 (2d6, short musket) or +7 (1d6+2, buccaneer knife); AL CN; SV: Fort +6*, Ref +7, Will +3; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Skills: Heal +7, Hide +13, Listen +10, Move Silently +13, Spot +10, Survival +10, Swim +10, Use Rope +11.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Endurance, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Stealthy, Track Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: Doll’s Eyes.
Equipment: Short musket, buccaneer knife, backpack.
Nneka is one with the wilderness, a warrior who can appear from the jungle to strike and then disappear just as quickly. At times when he can pause from his duty to his people, however, he is a downright jovial soul who enjoys the simple pleasures of life. His avowed purpose is to liberate as many of his people as possible from life as slaves.
*Nneka begins play having suffered six points of Constitution damage from the whooping cough.
Raymond and Roderick Carlisle
Sea Dog 3; CR 3; Medium; HD 3d10; hp 21; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +3 (1d6, cutlass) or +5 (2d4, pistol); SQ Close Quarters +1, Dodge, Favored Ship; AL CN; SV: Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +3; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 14.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Hide +8, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (sea lore) +6, Move Silently +8, Profession (sailor) +8.
Feats: Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot.
Equipment: Buff coat, two pistols, cutlass.
The brothers Carlisle are typically swarthy and swaggering, but still with a certain kind of charm, as befits pirates.
Sea Dog 2; CR 2; HD 2d10+4; hp 19; Medium-sized; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+1 Dex, +1 dueling jacket); Atk +4 (1d6+2, club) or +3 (ranged); SQ Favored Ship (English ships); AL CN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Balance +6, Climb +7, Jump +7, Profession (sailor) +6, Survival +6, Use Rope +6.
Feats: Cleave, Dodge, Power Attack.
Equipment: Dueling jacket, buccaneer knife, various improvised weapons.
Sea Dog 1; CR 1; Medium-sized; HD 1d10+2; hp 12; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+1 Dex, +1 dueling jacket); Atk +3 (1d6+2, club) or +2 (ranged); AL CN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Balance +5, Climb +6, Jump +6, Profession (sailor) +5, Survival +5, Use Rope +5.
Feats: Cleave, Dodge, Power Attack.
Equipment: Dueling jacket, buccaneer knife, various improvised weapons.
Zombies--Refer to the Skull & Bones book for statistics.
Undead Barbarian 5; CR 7; Size Medium; HD 5d12; hp 38; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 40 ft.; AC 21 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +6 natural); Atk +11 (1d12+6, greataxe) or +11 (1d6+6, slam); SQ Fast movement, Illiteracy, Rage 2/Day, Trap Sense +1, Improved Uncanny Dodge, DR 15/Magic, Cold Immunity, Turn Resistance +4; AL CN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +3; Str 22, Dex 12, Con --, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Skills: Climb +10, Handle Animal +4, Jump +10, Listen +6, Move Silently +3, Survival +6, Swim +10.
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack.
Equipment: Hide armor, greataxe.