Friday, December 21, 2012

Acts of Faith

I like to write about my characters. To me, that's the next best thing to actually playing them in adventures. From a GM's standpoint, however, there's another benefit that comes from players who are motivated in this way. Take, for example, a recent Pathfinder campaign of mine, as detailed in my other blog at . As I was preparing to run that campaign, a few of my players wrote background stories for their PC's. Not only did this help me to understand the characters they were playing; it also gave me plot elements to use while planning adventures. Numerous adventures sprang from these initial ideas, making my job as the GM a whole lot easier.

With that in mind, here is a possible background story for a character with the Enemy fortune. Also, it pleases me to observe that this blog has now surpassed twenty thousand page views in three years of existence.


Acts of Faith
It had been a long and laborious but, in the end, lucrative voyage.

It all started with a cargo of manufactured goods—cooking utensils, firearms, glassware and the like. These items they'd loaded up into the Venture and delivered to an unobtrusive log cutter camp on the Mosquito Coast. In exchange they'd acquired a hold full of logwood, something that they could sell for a tidy profit across the Atlantic in London. Not wanting to attract unwanted Spanish attention, however, they had moved to a nearby bay in order to re-provision with fresh water, fruits and boucan-smoked meat. It should have provided a chance for rest and relaxation before the long voyage, but that was not to be.

Captain Ned Carstens began to worry when the detail he'd sent for water was overdue.

“How late are they?” he asked.

Roy Williams examined the ship's hourglass. “Thirty minutes, Sir.”

The other man scowled. “I don't like it.”

“Shall we send another search party to look for them?”


He was interrupted by the crack of a pistol shot ringing out through the thick jungle air.

Roy ran to the side rail closest to the shore. There he could see shadowy figures emerging from beneath the dense green canopy, ones who brandished firearms and other weapons.

“Quartermaster!” he shouted. “Arm the men!”

Roy was about to follow said person belowdecks when he glanced over the other side of the ship, out toward the sea—and saw two periaguas loaded with more attackers, closing in on the Venture. He had to duck as a bullet ricocheted off of the railing. A moment later two pairs of grappling hooks came flying over the side, and then their lines were pulled taut.

“Boarders!” Roy announced. “Off the starboard side!”

Letting the others take care of armaments, Roy pulled out his buccaneer knife and ran to the side rail, where he slashed at the ropes connected to the grapples. He managed to sever one and was halfway through the other when a barrage of musket shots sent him scurrying back behind cover.

Before he could finish his task, two stout pirates hauled themselves up and over the side and onto the deck.

One of the newcomers made a show of drawing his cutlass while looking at Roy's knife. “Sorry, lad, but mine's bigger.”

Roy began to backpedal, looking to buy time for himself, but even as he did so, the other pirate moved around to flank him.

I need to buy time for the quartermaster. Resolving himself, Roy spun about and rushed the man behind him. He feinted with a stab of his knife, and then caught the pirate unprepared with a backhand to his jaw. That sent the pirate reeling, but his comrade was quick to compensate. That fellow jumped on Roy, grabbing his knife arm with both hands in an effort to wrestle it away from him.

Realizing his predicament, Roy pulled a pistol from his attacker's belt and used it to club the unfortunate fellow, resulting in a loud crack. That bought him a little separation, and he was preparing for a clear shot when a commanding voice cut through the din of combat.


The voice was that of Captain Carstens, so Roy obeyed the order.

A moment later he could see the cause of the captain's reluctance.

Half a dozen more pirates had managed to board the Venture. Three had muskets at the ready and covered the stairs that led belowdecks, ready to shoot down anyone who emerged. Even worse, two more held bottles containing some kind of liquid, with burning rags hanging from their mouths.

“I think, now, that you understand the situation.” It was the sixth pirate who spoke. He seemed to be their leader, as he wore a brass-buttoned coat and a broad hat with an elaborate feather. “If you resist, my men and I will simply set fire to your ship and kill any who try to escape from it.”

Roy paused, looking to his captain for orders, but Carstens' uncertainty was clear to see. His eyes were wide as he glanced back and forth between the attackers.

“Have no fear,” Roy declared. “God will protect us.”

“God?” The pirate leader sneered. “God? It's not divine will that should concern you now, lad, but the will of Mad Dog Madigan and his fellows.”

“I disagree,” Roy countered. “We are Englishmen in the service of our king; the Lord will not allow any harm to come to us.”

Now the rest of Roy's mates gaped at him in bewilderment not unlike that of their captain; the pirates likewise scoffed at this declaration of faith.

“If you don't believe me,” he continued, “just try it.” Roy offered the pistol to Madigan. “God will not permit the bullet to touch me.”

“You're crazy,” Madigan spat, even as he accepted the weapon.

“No.” Roy shook his head. “I am righteous.”

“Is that so?” Without another word, Madigan aimed the pistol and pulled the trigger.

It exploded in his hand.

In the moment before chaos erupted, Roy stepped up to the stunned pirate and caught him around the neck, using him as a human shield. Then he pulled another pistol from his opponent's belt, aimed, and shot the bottle in the next nearest pirate's hand.

That fellow was engulfed in a ball of fire; as he flailed about in agony and terror, Captain Carstens caught him with a kick that sent him toppling over the side of the ship and into the water.

In the next moment, the crew of the Venture came storming up from belowdecks with weapons at the ready. The remaining pirates decided to flee—diving overboard, swimming for shore and then heading for the solace of the jungle.

“Hold your fire, men,” Carstens commanded. “They aren't any more danger to us.” He continued to watch their flight until the enemies were out of sight. Then he turned to Roy. “That was a fortunate turn of events, Mr. Williams. But how did you know it would work out that way?”

“It's not about knowing, Sir,” Roy replied. It's about believing.”

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