Saturday, April 21, 2012

Interlude: The Shipwrecker

Today's post is another interlude. This one helps to transition into a series of article and adventures set in the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa, following the events of the last adventure.


Interlude: The Shipwrecker
Legends tell of a massive bird known as the roc, one that has a wingspan eighty feet wide and is big enough to snatch up an elephant in its talons. Most naturalists believe that the creature is just a massive animal, and no more intelligent than other normal birds. That conclusions flies in the face of the old tales of Sindbad, however, take from The Thousand and One Nights. According to them, some rocs are
intelligent and even possess the ability to snatch up boulders and drop them on unsuspecting vessels. 

Unfortunately for ships sailing the Mediterranean along the coast of North Africa, the tales are true. Indeed, there's a local by the name of Bashir the Bird Man who managed to acquire the egg of a roc, and then hatch the bird and raise it to be loyal to him. Now he uses the bird to attack unsuspecting vessels, hitting them with boulders from the air and sinking them, leaving their cargoes and other valuables for easy salvage.

Bashir “The Bird Man”
Fighter 9; CR 9; Size medium; HD 9d10+9; hp 55; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+3 Dex); Atk +12/+7 (1d8+3, scimitar) or +14/+9 (1d8+2, longbow); AL CN; SV: Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +4; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +5, Handle Animal +16, Jump +5, Ride +5, Survival +7, Swim +13.
Feats: Animal Affinity, Cleave, Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Power Attack, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow, scimitar), Weapon Specialization (longbow, scimitar).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Traditional desert clothing, masterwork scimitar, masterwork longbow with 20 arrows.

At first glance, Bashir looks no different from any number of other desert-dwelling nomads. He wears the traditional flowing robe and turban, and always carries his trusty longbow and scimitar. He is ambitious and cunning, however, as shown by the fact that he was able to acquire a roc egg, hatch it, and raise the creature to do his bidding.

Using the Shipwrecker in Adventures
Bashir and his pet roc can be incorporated into adventures in any number of ways; a few of the possibilities are listed below.
*During a voyage in the Mediterranean, the roc could attack out of the blue, dropping boulders on an unsuspecting ship.
*The PC's could be hired to go in search of a ship that Bashir and his roc sunk, forcing them to scour the waters and eventually go in search of the man and his bird.
*If the PC's have made enemies in the area, one of them might hire Bashir to eliminate them once and for all.
*Given the roc's ability to snatch up horses, camels and even elephants in its talons, intrepid explorers might find all manner of goods amidst the nest it is aerie.
*The waters around its nest could contain numerous shipwrecks.
*For a twist, the PC's could be hired to steal an egg from just such a creature.

The Nest
The roc makes its home in an aerie along the coast of North Africa, a spire of rock that rises up on hundred feet out of the surrounding sea. This gives it an excellent vantage point and a highly defensible home. DC 15 Climb checks are required to scale this surface, along with Move Silently checks opposed by the roc's efforts to Listen if it happens to be present.

Detailed below are adjusted statistics for the roc, using the elite ability array instead of the normal scores. This makes the rocs more intelligent, giving them a ranged attack with thrown boulders.

Advanced Roc
Gargantuan Animal
Hit Dice: 18d8+144 (225 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares), fly 80 ft. (average) Armor Class: 19 (–4 size, +4 Dex, +9 natural), touch 10, flatfooted 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +14/+38
Attack: Talon +22 melee (2d6+13)
Attack: Boulder +18 (damage varies—see below) Full Attack: 2 talons +22 melee (2d6+13) and bite +20 melee (2d8+6)
Space/Reach: 20 ft./15 ft.
Special Qualities: Low-light vision
Saves: Fort +19, Ref +15, Will +9
Abilities: Str 36, Dex 18, Con 27, Int 7, Wis 13, Cha 9
Skills: Hide –1, Listen +10, Spot +14
Feats: Alertness, Flyby Attack, Iron Will, Multiattack, Power Attack, Snatch, Wingover
Environment: Warm mountains
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 9
Treasure: Incidental
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 19–32 HD (Gargantuan); 33–54 (Colossal)

To hit a targeted vessel with a boulder, the roc must make a ranged attack against an AC of 5. To do this it must be flying above the target, and the attack suffers a -2 penalty for every twenty feet the creature is above its target. If it hits, the attack deals 2d6 damage, plus 1d6 for every extra ten feet of elevation the roc has. For example, if the roc is fifty feet in the air, it makes an attack at -4, and deals 6d6 damage to the target.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Report on Real Pirates

This past Thursday I finally had a chance to visit the Real Pirates exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota, and I thought I'd post comments.

First and foremost, I was pleased by the exhibit. This probably doesn't come as a surprise, given that I really like pirates, but I wasn't taking it for granted that I would be. Granted, because the exhibit features items actually reclaimed from the wreck of the Whydah, there isn't a huge amount of physical material. There were a variety of weapons, utensils, jewelry, some clothing items and other goods, though, along with an impressive display of recovered coinage. All of it was put together with very informative printed materials and a solid audio tour, creating a surprisingly intimate look at life aboard one ship. Real Pirates also did a good job of telling the pirates' stories, including the vicious storm that eventually claimed the vessel. Although there was a fair amount of information that was already familiar to me, it still took me a solid ninety minutes to look at everything, and I came out of it feeling like I'd learned a good deal about how life aboard a pirate ship would have been.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Armada Medallion

Today's post is a short one, detailing a new treasure inspired by tales of the Spanish Armada.


Armada Medallions
Each of these golden amulets was created following the English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. As part of the celebration on that occasion, copies were given to Captains Drake, Hawkyns and Frobisher, Lord Howard, and others. Since then they have come to represent how a small group of dedicated mariners were able to fend off the a larger enemy in defense of their homes.

In game terms, the medallions provide a +1 circumstance bonus to all saving throws and attack and damage rolls made by a character defending one's home. In this case, home can be defined as a city, against people from the same country; anywhere in that country, against opponents from another nation; or a ship, insofar as mariners are at home aboard it. Note that the character who possesses one of the medallions should declare which city, country and ship one considers to be home.