Monday, November 14, 2011

Into the Shadows

At long last, here is the next scenario in the series.


Into the Shadows
This scenario is Part 8 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 fifth-level characters. Although it is intended as part of an ongoing collection of scenarios, it can also be run as a stand-alone adventure.

There's trouble brewing in the New World, of a kind not seen since the Old World almost four centuries ago.

It all harkens back to the fateful hours before Friday, 13 October 1307. That was when Pope Clement V and King Philip IV of France conspired to destroy the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon—the Knights Templar. The Pope branded them heretics and traitors, and thus the king called for all members of that organization to be arrested. Secret orders were sent out in the middle of the night, to be enacted the next morning. In a well coordinated and sweeping initiative, most of the knights were caught and imprisoned. Over the next weeks, months and years they stood trial for their alleged crimes, and many were executed. This legal action was not entirely successful, however. Someone must have leaked word to the Templar fleet lying in harbor in La Rochelle, for it managed to disappear. Aboard it, rumors claim, was a treasure worth hundreds of thousands of gold coins.

In the years since the destruction of the Order, many have speculated about what the real motives behind the action might have been. Some claim that the Pope and King were just greedy and jealous of the knights' power, and sought the Templars' wealth and influence for themselves. In truth, however, the allegations were justified. A core group of the knights had begun to practice diablerie, having acquired the legendary Clavicula Salmonis during excavations beneath the Temple Mount in the city of Jerusalem. They sought to increase their power by making deals with demons and devils, and that was why the Philip and Clement ordered their arrest.

The threat that this group presented, while diminished, is not truly ended. Recently a group of explorers, possibly including the PC's, discovered the derelict vessel L'Etoile stuck in a drifting iceberg far to the north. There they encountered and unwittingly released the spirit of one of the knights, Jean de Montsegur (refer to the events of “Beyond the Pale”). Although they defeated the apparition, it was only a temporary victory. In this way the ghost was able to follow the explorers back to the Caribbean, where it sought out a new host. For a time it possessed the English scholar and spy Edward Chapman, and thus came into contact with Mabhena the bokor. Controlling one and leading the other, Jean's spirit was able to visit a lost shrine on the mainland, one dedicated to the worship of Mayan demons (refer to “Diabolical”).

Armed with new knowledge from these sources, the ghostly knight is nearly ready to resurrect his order and call it back to battle. Montsegur's plan is to use vodoun to resurrect his comrades who were lost at sea. Instead of divine hosts to occupy their bodies, however, it will be demons who do so. Thus he will raise an army of fiendish undead to do his evil bidding. To make this happen, however, he still requires one item—the dedicated compass—but through investigation he knows where to find it, and he's found a person who can unwittingly help him in doing so.

The compass that Jean requires lies buried in the slave cavern beneath Cape Coast Castle. There it was hidden some years ago, when the fortress was still owned by the Swedish. This was in the aftermath of the Thirty Years' War, just as the Danes were seizing control of the place from Sweden. A Swedish soldier hid it there, hoping to be able to retrieve it later, but was killed before having the chance to do so. His secret survived him, however, passed on by an African acquaintance. Over the years it has been passed from person to person, and now has reached the Maroon pirate Captain Nneka. This buccaneer is more interested in liberating his fellows, but still knows the value of the item. He has also, sadly, been possessed by the spirit of Jean de Montsegur, who seeks the compass to complete his own plot.

This adventure can begin for the heroes in a number of different ways, depending on their history with Nneka.

Should they never have met him before, the Maroon might approach them in a tavern or a similar place of rest and relaxation for them. In this case he has learned of them by reputation, by hearing tales of their previous deeds. (Hopefully there is at least one such good story for him to have heard in this manner; if the PC's are generally wicked sorts, Nneka would have to be pretty desperate in order to recruit their likes for such a mission.) He approaches them in a very businesslike manner, negotiating shares for the cruise in the traditional pirate manner.

On the other hand, if the PC's have participated in the events of “Reprisal,” “Out of the Darkness,” “Trial by Fire” or “Diabolical,” then the Maroon is already familiar with them. In that case he is much less formal, buying a round of drinks to celebrate past victories before proposing new business. He mentions the following details.
*Over the past many months he has been developing a network of spies, informants who watch for the opportunity to help slaves escape their bondage.
*Recently one of his agents learned the itinerary of a large slave ship, the Redoubtable, that is due into the Caribbean in the next few days.
*This vessel is known to make runs to the English slave market at Cape Coast Castle.
*What is more, he's learned a rumor of a valuable magical item buried there, the dedicated compass.
*According to legends, that compass can be used to help people find any item that they seek.
*His information says that the item “is hidden beneath fiery words, in a place akin to Hell itself.” He is not sure just what those words could mean.
Once he's told his story, Nneka makes his offer. He'd like to recruit the PC's to provide a second vessel for attacking the Redoubtable and freeing its human cargo. If that effort is successful, he would then like for them to accompany him on a voyage to Africa, to raid Cape Coast Castle, free the slaves there and claim the buried treasure.

As far as payment goes, Nneka insists that all slaves be freed; in this he is adamant. Beyond that, he'd like to split the value of all gold, silver or jewels taken. In trade, however, he offers to let the PC's keep the Redoubtable, providing them with a larger vessel than what they currently claim. He is willing to negotiate the latter parts of the deal, but not the first. If he and the PC's can come to an agreement, all can begin to prepare for the upcoming cruise.

Encounter 1—Plotting and Preparing
This business can take as long as the players want. Some might like to pore over the details of cargo and equipment aboard their vessel, while others could prefer to move more quickly on to the action. However they prefer, they should provide for at least some of the following items.
*Figure out the number of people to be transported, times the number of days for provisioning, and do this for each direction of passage; every six people-days cost one piece of eight
*Buy any necessary weapons, with an emphasis on swivel guns or cannon loaded with chain shot so that the slaver can be taken without risk of sinking it
Although this kind of bookkeeping might be tedious for some players, spending a little time on it at the outset can keep them more accountable if something goes wrong later in the scenario. Considering that it takes thirty or forty days to cross the Atlantic, the PC's shouldn't undertake this passage lightly.

Once they've made the necessary arrangements, the PC's, along with Nneka, can go in search of the Redoubtable. Of course, they may need to make similar preparations again if they succeed with the first part of their plan.

Encounter 2—Battle at Sea
According to Nneka's informant, the slaver is due to approach the Caribbean by way of the Virgin Islands. His plan, then, is to lie in wait near those islands, and then to strike when the opportunity arises. To that end, characters with good Search or Spot checks can take to the crow's nests, aboard his ship—the Liberty—or the party's. The Redoubtable arrives just before evening on the second day of lying in wait. The downtime could provide opportunity for roleplaying interactions, or the GM and players could move past that to the battle.

Giving Chase
Once the slaver arrives, the PC's and Maroons can approach it with a couple of different strategies. One option is simply to give chase, in which case the opening distance should be determined as per the rules in the Skull & Bones or Corsair books. After that, the respective captains/sailing masters/pilots should all make Profession: sailor checks. Each time the PC's and/or Nneka beat the Redoubtable's result, they gain half a mile on that ship. Given that they are probably using vessels that are smaller, faster and more maneuverable than the slaver, this chase shouldn't take long. At the GM's discretion, the PC's or their allies might gain bonuses to their checks by using spells or magical items appropriate to the situation.

A Ruse
Another option, however, is for the PC's and/or Nneka to lie in wait, pretending to be a friendly ship or even a vessel in distress. In that case the slaver approaches to withing hailing distance, a hundred yards away. One of its crew calls out to the other ship, at which point some Bluff checks opposed to Sense Motive efforts are needed to see if the crew of the Redoubtable is fooled. This is likely to require a fair amount of adjudication on the part of the GM, but could give more party members a chance to show off their talents.

Ship-to-Ship Combat
Once the battle is joined, it should provide plenty of action. As mentioned above, Nneka has advised using means that won't risk sinking the Redoubtable and thus drowning the slaves. The slavers have no such compunctions, however, and fire away in hopes of incapacitating their enemies with their swivel guns. They are not so zealous as to throw away their lives just to protect their cargo, however; once more than half of their number is incapacitated, they throw down arms and surrender.

After the smoke has settled and the PC's have tended to their casualties, they can decide how to proceed. Many of the slaves are eager to join up with Nneka and his allies, and could be used to replace crew members lost in the fighting. The others can be taken to Jamaica, where the Maroons arrange for them to join up with their village. At this point the characters can rest and recuperate, and then resupply for the second part of the plan.

At this point, the characters should also make some decisions about just how they're going to liberate hundreds of slaves from a mainland fortress. For one thing, there are not sufficient docking facilities at Cape Coast Castle to land the slave ship. Instead, the ship's boat must be used to ferry passengers and slaves to the shore. One option here is for the slaver to carry numerous piraguas (canoe-like craft) that can be secretly put into the water on the seaward side of a ship at anchor, then rushed into position when the time is right. There is also the matter of having a cover story ready in case the locals ask difficult questions. As always, it is never possible to anticipate all of the intrigues that the players might devise, so a fair amount of adjudication is likely to be needed.

Encounter 3—Crossing the Atlantic
Here again, this part of the adventure can be as uneventful or as filled with difficulties as fits the desires of the GM and players. A few of the possible events are detailed below.

The Mutineer
This adventure, and the campaign of which it is a part, assumes that the PC's are scoundrels with hearts of gold—that they fight the good fight rather than just looking out for their own self-interests. (Should that not be the case, this event might need some adaptation by the GM.) Not all pirates are such upstanding citizens, however. This includes one member of the party's crew, a fellow who doesn't like doing “charity work” by helping Nneka free slaves. After all, in his opinion, the slaves are “a valuable commodity” and should be sold for profit instead of “just being thrown away.” He starts his grumbling amongst the lower-ranking members of the crew, and more than a few souls agree with him. As the objections of this mercenary minority begins to mount, the PC's must deal with it.

The rules for Sway in the Skull & Bones book provide a good means for dealing with these cutthroats. This situation could also make for some dramatic roleplaying, however, and might even erupt into physical conflict between the PC's and the mutineers. After all, a good show of force helps to remind the scurvier dogs amongst the crew of just who call the shots aboard this vessel.

The Doldrums
This event could occur in conjunction with or separately from the one detailed above. At some point during the voyage the wind fails, leaving the ships drifting on the open sea. If the PC's have access to appropriate magic—especially if one of them is a sea witch or if they possess items such as wind cords—they can deal with the problem in a quick and easy manner. If not, then they're in bigger trouble.

At the GM's discretion, this event could be used to create some real hardship for the crew, or to add complications once they reach their destination. After all, the supplies they carry might not be adequate for a prolonged time, and the PC's might be forced to institute rationing. This could lead to additional drama, or even begin to affect the fighting prowess of the crew if they become hungry or dehydrated.

For a change of pace, the ship or ships might encounter a band of sirens, perhaps on one of the rocky outcroppings amidst the Cape Verde islands. They use their captivating song to lure victims toward a rocky demise, and it is up to the PC's to devise a means of avoiding it.

This encounter could even lead into others, such as the Interlude “The Wreck.” After all, the sirens are likely to have encountered other vessels before this one, and the remains of those unfortunates could contain items of value worth salvaging.

The crossing of the Atlantic is also a chance for characters to test their navigational prowess; after all, if they can't plot the correct course, the PC's could find themselves far away from their intended destination. Finding the right way requires a series of DC 18 Knowledge: navigation checks. Refer to the appropriate section in the Skull & Bones book for further details regarding navigation while traveling.

After a suitable amount of time has passed (at least thirty days at sea), those who are in a position to do so can make Spot or Search checks; the highest result is first to notice land.

Encounter 4—Entering Cape Coast Castle
Once the PC's arrive at their destination, refer to the map and area descriptions in the article on Cape Coast Castle for details to support the following events.

Making Contact
Upon arrival, the PC's and their allies see an imposing sight. Cape Coast Castle stands with walls of stone and the barrels of numerous cannon pointing out toward the sea. This should remind them just how difficult the task is that they face. With that, the castle fires one of its guns (powder only, of course) as a welcoming salute, and then a party comes to the shore to await the ship's boat and its ranking officers. Whatever has been done with the other Maroons, Nneka insists on joining the PC's in this endeavor. Given the circumstances, of course, he is willing to play the part of a slave.

Now is the time for fast-talking PC's to shine. The party is met at the shore by a lieutenant and a squad of eight soldiers. In theory this is a show of respect, but it is also intended to circumvent any possible trouble. The lieutenant introduces himself as Maxwell Higgins, then allows for the PC's to introduce themselves. He also inquires into the nature of their business. Moreover, since he knows Captain Hodges pretty well, he is curious to know why that individual or his first mate, Mister Newman, is not present. This should require a Bluff attempt opposed to the lieutenant's Sense Motive check, with a bonus or penalty based on roleplaying.

As long as the PC's can talk their way past this initial reception, they are invited into the castle. Assuming that they are claiming to be in the market for slaves, they are shown into the castle through the main gate (Area 1), the spur (Area 2) and the tower (Area 3) to a private apartment (Area 10). There they have a little time to refresh themselves before meeting with one of the castle's merchants. This is one of the few times when they are without escort and can thus make plans for further activity.

Down to Business
Normally, prospective buyers wait out in Greenhill Pointe to inspect slaves who are brought up from the dungeons below. If the PC's wish to gain access, however, a suitable argument (and another Bluff check opposed to the merchant's Sense Motive effort) can create an exception. This allows the PC's to take a look around the place and gain a better idea of how to proceed. It should also be a difficult experience for Nneka and the PC's, given the amount of human misery to be found here.

Amidst all of this is the small matter of the magical item buried here. As mentioned above, the PC's have one clue as to the whereabouts of the compass—It “is hidden beneath fiery words, in a place akin to Hell itself.” As long as they can reach the dungeon, they can see that it is covered with all kinds of graffiti; refer to Appendix 2 for a list of examples.

In addition to this business, the PC's would do well to take a close look at the fort's defensive structures and personnel; this information could be vital as they plan how to proceed.

Encounter 5—Finding the Lay of the Land
The GM and players can handle this business in a number of ways. Some groups might like to roleplay this activity, with characters moving around and interacting with the NPC's involved, while others might prefer to make some skill checks to gain the desired information. However everyone chooses to proceed, a few of the crucial details are mentioned below.

Various squads, consisting of eight soldiers and a sergeant, are stationed throughout the place. One is posted at the main gateway (Area 1), and another at the tower (Area 3). Two more are stationed in the towers (Area 7), with a fifth along the wall facing the shore (Area 13). All of these groups move to seal the place against intruders—insider or outside—should they be discovered. Another squad is usually posted around the dungeons (Area 19). At the same time, a similar number of troops are off duty, usually in the barracks (Areas 6) or the mess (Area 4).

At the same time, characters who are looking to reduce the enemy's firepower would do well to consider the cannon emplacements (Area 13) and the armor (Area 14). Options here might include tunneling into the armory and setting off a massive explosion (but only once the slaves are freed from the dungeon), pouring water into the cannon do delay their firing, replacing powder charges with ones containing floor or sand, and the like.

As always, of course, it's never possible to anticipate all of the stratagems that the players might devise. These inspirations might include any of the following possibilities: obtaining uniforms and impersonating new recruits; taking a hostage to use as a human shield; staging some kind of distraction; incapacitating the soldiers through strong drink; and more. Here again, a fair amount of GM adjudication is likely to be necessary.

Added Complications
A GM who is feeling creative (or vindictive) might choose to add encounters to this part of the adventure. One possibility is to bring back a familiar but unfriendly face, one that the PC's are not pleased to see here. For example, characters who participated in the events of “Reprisal” or “Diabolical” might run into Sergeant Burns or Captain Henderson, either (or both) of whom could have been transferred to the fort as punishment for previous failures.

Another possibility is to have another ship show up in harbor, this one filled with a new batch of military recruits. In such a case the GM could use the deck plans for the slave ship from “Out of the Darkness,” but have it carrying a contingent of forty soldiers, five sergeants and a lieutenant. This vessel could reinforce the personnel in the castle, or give chase as the PC's are trying to make their getaway.

Time for Action
Once they've had a chance to look around the place, the PC's should be able to finish their planning. However they choose to proceed, continue with the next section, below.

Encounter 6—Making an Escape
As mentioned above, there are any number of ways in which this scene could develop. By and large, however, it should play out as a running battle instead of a stand-up-fight. The sheer carnage that would be required to defeat every soldier occupying the fortress would probably become tedious, not to much that it would be a gruesome display of bloodletting.

Instead, the PC's would do well to take their shots but keep on moving. It is necessary, of course, that they free the slaves and move them aboard the ship. Unless they're actually willing to pony up the cash to do so, they'll likely need to rely on some chicanery followed by the use of force. In this way the PC's should face legitimate danger, but should also be given the benefit of the doubt if they can think of creative tactics to use.

Homeward Bound
Depending on time and preferences, the PC's could be scot free once they set sail, or they might face other difficulties on the return voyage. These might include any of the events detailed above, complicated now by the addition of dozens of hungry mouths as passengers aboard the ship.

If they are successful, the PC's can score a major coup. Not only do they acquire a much larger vessel; they also bolster a valuable ally and increase their own notoriety. They should receive enough experience points to advance halfway through a level (to sixth, if this is part of the Come Hell and High Water campaign), and a point of Fame for succeeding in the raid.

Further Adventures
The action need not stop here, however. A number of the elements in this scenario could be adapted into new plots; a few of the possibilities are detailed below.
*The dedicated compass, if the PC's obtained, can indeed be used to seek out any item desired by the one who uses it, provided that a suitably connected item can be found. In addition to leading to any number of pursuits, this item could also bring on jealous others who wish to obtain it.
8There is also the matter of retribution on the part of those who inhabit Cape Coast Castle. They might post bounties for the PC's and Nneka, or even send soldiers or spies looking to bring them to justice.
*As mentioned above, a wreck near the sirens' islet could also contain a link to a further adventure.
*Finally, there is also the matter of the possessed Nneka. To allow the PC's a sense of unblemished victory, it is best to save his next move for another time.

Appendix 1—Dramatis Personae

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.
Background: Religious.
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).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: none.

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.

Maroons (and Slaves)
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.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +3, Jump +3, Survival +3, Swim +3.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: None.
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 6; CR 5; Size medium; HD 6d10+12; hp 50; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +9/+4 (2d6, short musket) or +8/+3 (1d6+2, buccaneer knife); AL CN; SV: Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Native.
Skills: Heal +7, Hide +14, Listen +11, Move Silently +14, Spot +11, Survival +11, Swim +11, Use Rope +12.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Endurance, Far Shot, Manyshot, 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.

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); SQ details; AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Background: Seaman.
Skills: Climb +6, Knowledge (sea lore) +3, Profession (sailor) +5.
Feats: Power Attack, Seagoing.
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: Sailor's clothing, gaff hook or belaying pin, miscellaneous possessions.

Slaver Captain
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.
Background: Seaman.
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.

(Refer to the article about Cape Coast Castle regarding statistics for characters to be found there.)

Appendix 2—Graffiti
Detailed here are examples of the graffiti written on the walls of the dungeon beneath Cape Coast Castle. At the GM's discretion, it might work best to make a copy of these and then cut them up as handouts for the players to peruse.

Nneka was here.

Long live the King!

Death to the King!

God save the Queen!

Abandon hope all ye who enter here!

Home sweet home.

Samuel loves Seymour.

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