Monday, February 25, 2013

Interlude: The Writer

This Interlude introduces a character that can provide all kinds of adventure hooks, a writer who seeks to chronicle the tales of real-life pirates. I like the NPC in part because he represents what I think I would do aboard a pirate ship back in the day.


Interlude 36: The Writer
During the Golden Age of Piracy, it was not uncommon for a person of a literary bent to spend some time among the buccaneers and scallywags of the world in hopes of writing a book about them. Take, for example, two very popular compilations, The Bunccaneers of America by Alexander Esquemeling and A History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates by Captain Charles Johnson. The prior book focuses on the buccaneers who were active during the time of Henry Morgan and other Brethren of the Coast, while the latter focuses on those who sailed around the time of Blackbeard and various members of the Flying Gang. Esquemeling wrote his book after spending considerable time among the buccaneers, while Johnson conducted extensive interviews but is not believed to have served on a pirate crew. In both cases, however, the books were runaway successes, with readers thrilling to the swashbuckling adventures and wicked misdeeds of the characters chronicled.

With that in mind, the PC's and their allies, once they have established themselves as notable pirates, somehow manage to attract the attention of a writer named Durwin Oswald Chatwick. He is an eager reader of adventure stories and of a mind to write some of his own--or somebody's stories, at least. (Think of the character John Reed from Cutthroat Island for an example of this type of character.)

Durwin Oswald Chatwick
Expert 8; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d6+14; hp 41; Init +0 (+0 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 10 (+0 Dex); Atk +7/+2 (1d6, walking stick) or +6/+1 (ranged); SQ none; AL X; SV: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +6; Str 12, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 18, Wis 10, Cha 14.
Background: Scholar (Knowledge: history and Knowledge: sea lore).
Skills: Appraise +17, Bluff +13, Craft (writing) +18, Decipher Script +17, Diplomacy +15, Forgery +15, Gather Information +15, Knowledge (history) +11, Knowledge (local) +15, Knowledge (sea lore) +12, Profession (printer) +11, Search +17, Sense Motive +2.
Feats: Diligent, Investigator, Negotiator, Skill Focus (Craft: writing).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Clothing, walking stick, satchel containing quills, ink and papers, pouch containing 20 poe, printing press.

Durwin Chatwick is an amicable fellow who is robust but rather soft. He enjoys nothing more than a rousing tale, with a glass of ale, in comfortable surroundings. As such, while he himself would not make a good pirate, he thrills to other peoples' stories of derring-do. That is why he has decided to come to the Caribbean and seek out those who have lived such lives, in order to chronicle their exploits and thus win a name for himself.

Using the Writer in a Campaign
Chatwick could find any number of uses in a Skull & Bones campaign; a few of the possibilities are detailed here.
  • The PC's might find Chatwick aboard a ship, either a prize or a friendly vessel; he could even be transporting a printing press to Port Royal or somewhere else in the New World.
  • Alternately, Chatwick could hear of the Player Characters' reputations and decide to seek them out to record their tales.
  • This interview process provides great opportunities for roleplaying, as Chatwick asks the PC's to recount some of their most famous exploits. This is a chance to test the players' memories, and to see how different characters recall various events in different ways.
  • If their are players in the group who keep detailed notes about adventures, these writings could form the basis of Chatwick's manuscript.
  • Should the PC's decide to invite the writer to accompany them on a voyage, he would eagerly agree--and then prove to be a liability, as his book knowledge does not help him in dangerous sistuations.
  • In the event that he has interviewed other pirates, the PC's could learn from him an important clue to some unfinished business or unclaimed treasure.
  • This could even lead to an uncomfortable encounter with an old enemy whom Chatwick has also arranged to interview.
  • Chatwick could decide to take liberties with someone's story, perhaps adding details that would be considered libelous.
  • If the PC's had any political motivations of their own, access to Chatwick's printing press could help them spread their beliefs by creating pamphlets.
  • Of course, Chatwick could always be a spy, looking for the PC's to confess their misdeeds so that some power can bring them to justice.
  • For a more complicated scenario, a band of troglodytes could take an interest in Chatwick's printing press and steal parts from it just as a book is being readied for publication.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interlude--The Storm 2

This post comes while I'm sitting in the Kingdoms of Legend themed room at Con of the North in Saint Paul, MN. I'm here running games and enjoying the fellowship of gamers. As far as the blog goes, I'm still working on the next adventure in the Come Hell and High Water series; in the meantime, here's another interlude that can be added to a campaign.


Interlude 35: The Storm 2
Every once in a while, the forces of nature generate a tidal wave. This could happen because of an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, or even the impact of a meteorite. When it does occur, it means considerable danger for ships at sea.

Seeing It Coming
In the event of a tidal wave, all characters who are in a position to do so should make Search or Spot checks to notice. The result of these checks determines how much time they have to react, along with the difficulty for the captain and crew to adjust the ship's course accordingly.

Check / Time / Modifier
0-9 / 0 rounds / -10
10-19 / 1 round / -5
20-29 / 2 rounds / -2
30-39 / 3 rounds / +0
40+ / 4 rounds / +2

Once these checks are resolved, the PC's can react accordingly. As the wave approaches, it behooves them to secure cargo and crew members, batten down hatches and the like. Options here include making Profession: sailor checks to tie down characters, making Climb checks to ascend the masts and thus be out of the area of impact.

Steering the Ship
As the tidal wave approaches, it is crucial that the ship's captain makes a DC 30 Profession: sailor check, with modifiers based on the result of the previous Search or Spot check. In this situation it is best to steer the vessel into the wave, in hopes of riding over it. (Taking a wave broadside is a very bad situation.) The results of this check determine how much water pours into the ship, and thus how hard it is to resist the wave's impacting force.

Check / Save DC / Damage
0-9 / 26 / 5d hp
10-19 / 22 / 4d hp
20-29 / 18 / 3d hp
30-39 / 14 / 2d hp
40+ / 10 / 1d hp

The type of die rolled depends on the size of the vessel: Tiny ones use four-sided dice; Small ones, six-sided; Medium ones, eight-sided; and Large ones, ten-sided. Essentially, larger ships have broader decks and therefore can take on more water. Should a vessel suffere more damage from water than it has hull points, it becomes submerged. Up to that point, the GM can use the percentage of damaged suffered versus total hull points to represent how much of the ship is filled with water. For example, a ship with three decks that has suffered 33% of its hull points in damage would have one deck filled with water. It also has its maximum speed reduced by the same percentage.

Bracing Oneself
As the wave hits the ship, all who are on the main deck should make Fortitude saves to resist its force. The DC for these is determined, as mentioned above, by the result of the captain's Profession: sailor check when sailing into the wave. If the characters had time to do so, they can also use Profession: sailor checks to replace those checks, to represent tying themselves down before the impact. Should a check fail, that character must then make a Reflex save with the same DC, in an effort to grab hold of a loose rope, a mast, or the rail before being dragged overboard. If that check succeeds, it takes another Fortitude save or Strength check to latch onto something solid. At the GM's discretion, other characters could make saves or checks to latch onto comrades who are being swept into the sea.

Man Overboard!
If a character is swept overboard, this presents a very dangerous situation. First and foremost, that character must make DC 20 Swim checks in order to stay above the water. Failure means that a character slips under the water and must hold one's breath. That can be done for a number of rounds equal to one's Constitution score, after which the character begins drowning.

Of course, there's also the chance that someone else can help rescue that character. One option is for other characters to keep an eye on the unfortunate, and then to bring the ship about to rescue him/her. This requires both a Search or Spot check for anyone who is watching, along with a Profession: sailor check to bring the vessel back around to the victims. The combined DC for these checks is 50; in this way, better observation makes it easier to navigate, and vice versa. As long as both checks add up to the required total, the ship pulls within twenty feet of the victims. Every five points by which the combined check fails means that the ship is ten feet further away from that unfortunate soul.

With that, of course, it's still necessary to rescue the victim. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including sending someone into the water or throwing a line. In the prior case, someone diving into the choppy sea needs to make a DC 20 Swim check or also be at risk of drowning. On the other hand, it takes a ranged attack against AC 5 to hit a target with a rope or similar thing, with a penalty to that attack based on the distance between the victim and the ship. If that effort is successful, it then takes a DC 15 Strength check to haul the victim back aboard the ship.

Variations on a Theme
As always, the GM is free to add other elements to this interlude; a few possibilities are suggested here.
  • To make things more difficult, a monster suchs as a sea serpent or giant squid could appear on the scene while the ship and crew are at their most vulnerable.
  • In the event of failure, the GM could find an impetus for a new adventure hook. For example, a lost PC could wash up on a desert island, facing the challenge of survival and facilitating rescue. It might even be home to pygmies, island giants or a wild hairy man.
  • Alternately, a friendly onijegi could rescue a drowning character, and then recruit him or her to help with a whole other problem.
  • There's always the chance that someone lost at sea could be picked up by another ship--friend, foe or something in between the two.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Seductress

The next agent of the Cabal to be detailed here is one who specializes in seduction and information gathering--a spy.


Lillian Whitmore

Rogue 4/Wizard 7 (Enchanter--prohibited schools: illusion, necromancy); CR 11; Size medium; HD 4d6+7d4; hp 33; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +8/+3 (1d4 + poison, dagger) or +8 (ranged); SQ Sneak Attack +2d6, trapfinding, evasion, trap sense +1, uncanny dodge; AL CN; SV: Fort +3, Ref +8, Will +5; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 15.
Background: Lady-Adventurer (Diplomacy and Knowledge: local).
Skills: Bluff +9, Concentration +14, Decipher Script +17, Diplomacy +11, Disable Device +10, Disguise +9, Escape Artist +9, Gather Information +9, Hide +9, Knowledge (arcane) +17, Move Silently +9, Open Lock +9, Search +10, Sleight of Hand +9, Spellcraft +17, Tumble +9.
Feats: Combat Casting, Dodge, Greater Spell Focus (enchantment), Leadership, Scribe Scroll, Spell Focus (enchantment), Weapon Finesse (dagger).
Fortunes: Touched.
Equipment: Clothing, hidden pouch of spell components, dagger; magic items at the GM's discretion.
Spells (4/5+1/4+1/3+1/2): All cantrips; charm person, identify, mage armor, shield, true strike; cat's grace, detect thoughts, eagle's splendor, fox's cunning, locate object; dispel magic, haste, heroism, rage, suggestion; lesser geas, locate creature.

Alluring and outgoing, Lillian Whitmore maintains a network of spies in major ports around the world. These women work as prostitutes, and use seductive magic and flattery to obtain information from sailors and others with whom they do business. That, along with their roguish skills, allows them to acquire a considerable amount of information, which they pass along to Lady Whitmore. She in turn shares these details with theother members of the Cabal--when it suits her purpose to do so. After all, although they have given her her current life, she does not feel beholden to them.

Years ago, Lillian was a bored gentleman's wife, with little to do but to attend diplomatic functions and socialize with women in similar positions. All of that changed when she encountered other members of the Cabal, and began to pursue arcane magic. Recognizing that she was considered beautiful, she studied spells that would enhance her natural charms and thus give her more power over those who found her to be enticing. Once she was experienced enough to gather a group of students, she sought out like-minded women with whom to develop a network of spies on behalf of the Cabal. Even so, she sometimes resents the male-dominated hierarchy of the organization, and even imagines taking control for herself.


Rogue 3/Wizard 6 (Enchanter--prohibited schools: illusion, necromancy); CR 9; Size medium; HD 3d6+6d4; hp 28; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +7 (1d4, dagger) or +7 (ranged); SQ Sneak Attack +2d6, trapfinding, evasion, trap sense +1; AL CN; SV: Fort +3, Ref +8, Will +6; Str 11, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 14.
Background: None.
Skills: Bluff +8, Concentration +12, Decipher Script +9, Disable Device +15, Disguise +8, Escape Artist +8, Hide +8, Knowledge (arcane) +12, Move Silently +8, Open Lock +8, Search +9, Sleight of Hand +8, Spellcraft +15, Tumble +8.
Feats: Combat Casting, Dodge, Greater Spell Focus (enchantment), Spell Focus (enchantment), Weapon Finesse (dagger).
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: Clothing, dagger, hidden pouch of spell components; magic items at the GM's discretion.
Spells (4/4+1/4+1/3+1): All cantrips; charm person, identify, mage armor, shield, true strike; cat's grace, detect thoughts, eagle's splendor, fox's cunning, locate object; dispel magic, haste, heroism, rage.


Rogue 1/Wizard 1 (Enchanter--prohibited schools: illusion, necromancy); CR 2; Size medium; HD 1d6+1d4; hp 8; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +0 (1d4, dagger) or +2 (ranged); SQ Sneak Attack +1d6, trapfinding; AL CN; SV: Fort +0, Ref +4, Will +2; Str 11, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 14.
Background: None.
Skills: Bluff +6, Decipher Script +6, Disable Device +6, Disguise +6, Escape Artist +6, Hide +6, Move Silently +6, Open Lock +6, Search +6, Sleight of Hand +6, Spellcraft +7, Tumble +6.
Feats: Dodge, Weapon Finesse (dagger).
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: Clothing, dagger, hidden pouch of spell components.
Spells (3/2+1): All cantrips; charm person, identify, mage armor.

Using Lady Whitmore in a Campaign
Lady Whitmore and her followers can provide for numerous adventure hooks in a campaign; a few of the possibilities are detailed here.
  • First and foremost, Lady Whitmore and her followers are spies; they linger with clients, use their magic to influence them, and then report back to the Cabal. If a PC should blab about a particular discovery or enterprise, this could lead to interference from that organization.
  • Another option is that an influential NPC finds himself betrayed by, and perhaps even being extorted by, one of Whitmore's spies; he asks the PC's to help deal with the problem.
  • If Lady Whitmore should gain influence over a nobleman, the stakes would be even higher.
  • For a character wishing to study arcane magic, or who wants to pursue a particular magical item, Lillian could be the first connection to the Cabal.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Artificer and the Repository

The adventure "Living Legends" introduced a shadowy organization known as the Cabal, a group of occultists operating out of London. The following article presents one agent of that entity, a man with an interest in the legendary weapons of history who also seeks to create new ones. This will be the first in a series of articles developing the Cabal.


The Artificer--Morisson Kearns Fairmont

Fighter 6/Wizard 6; CR 12; Size medium; HD 6d10+6d4+24; hp 76; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 dueling jacket, +2 Dex); Atk +11 (1d8+2, longsword) or +10 (ranged); SQ details; AL N; SV: Fort +9, Ref +5, Will +9; Str 14, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 17, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Military (Survival 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb + 10, Concentration +12, Craft (weaponsmithing) +21, Jump +10, Knowledge (arcane) +15, Ride +9, Spellcraft +15, Survival +4, Swim +10.
Feats: (10) Cleave, Combat Casting, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Great Cleave, Improved Critical (Longsword), Skill Focus (Knowledge: arcane), Power Attack, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Craft: weaponsmithing), Weapon Focus (Longsword), Weapon Specialization (Longsword).
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: Dueling jacket, magical longsword (GM's discretion), pouch with spell components, spellbook.
Spells per Day: 4/3+1/3+1/2+1. Spells Known: (0) All; (1) Identify, mage armor, magic weapon, shield, true strike; (2) Bear's strength, cat's grace, fox's cunning, locate object; (3) Arcane sight, dispel magic, greater magic weapon, heroism, keen edge.

As a boy, Morisson Fairmont loved to read stories about the heroes of old, imaging himself as the doer of those great deeds. Because he was strong and healthy, with a good deal of coordination, it was not unrealistic for him to imagine such valorous deeds. To that end, he enlisted in His Majesty's army, eventually working his way up to the rank of Lieutenant. All the while he was different from many of his comarades, however; whereas they were sociable and outgoing, he tended to spend his time alone, reading.

What nobody knew is that he also spent his time studying the art of magic. Indeed, his focus was on the history of, and ultimately the creation of, magical weapons. For that reason he sought out other members of the Cabal, and eventually apprenticed himself to one of them. At the same time he began studying metallurgy and weaponsmithing, and then combined the two pursuits into one glorious craft.

Using the Artificer in a Campaign
There are many ways in which Morisson Fairmont could be incorporated into Skull & Bones adventures; a few of the possibilities are detailed here.
  • First and foremost, Fairmont could serve as a buyer if the PC's should ever acuire a magical weapon. In that case, they could research his background and connections, thus affecting their decision about whether or not to sell it.
  • If he received reports about a desired item, he could hire the PC's to undertake acquiring it. At the GM's discretion, he could also accompany them.
  • Another options is that Fairmont hires the PC's to recover material components necessary for a project, such as an onijegi's tears, the fangs of a sea serpent or a bit of fur from a hairy man.
  • Should the PC's find an relic that he covets, but not wish to sell it, he might hire a band of thieves to steal it.
  • If the PC's were in the Cabal's good graces, Fairmont could be hired to create magical weapons for them, and might even do so as gifts following a job well done.
  • Alternately, a rival organization such as the Inquisition could hire the PC's to spy on Fairmont, or perhaps to acquire an item from the Repository (see below).

The Repository

In 1753, Hans Sloane--a noted naturalist who at one time resided in Port Royal, Jamaica--donated his collection of oddities, curiosities and writings to an organization in England that would become the British Museum. Although this act would harken the establishment of one of the world's foremost assemblages of cultural material goods, what many don't know is that this kind of gathering of artifacts had already been underway for quite some time in a building run by the Cabal and known only as the Repository. This two-story, plain-looking stone building in London now hosts what is perhaps the highest number of relics and lore since the Library of Alexandria itself.

1. Front Door
The exterior walls of the structure are built from eignteen-inch blocks of granite; a broad flight of stairs leads up to the front doors. Those are of thick, iron-banded oak, secured with high-quality locks (details). The windows are covered by wrought-iron bars.

2. Entrance
Inside, however, the Repository is a failry comfortable place. Although the interior has the wide-open, somewhat cold feel common to museums, the walls are paneled with mahogany and the place is well lit. Two desks stand inside the front doors, where guards are ready to greet members of the Cabal, and to deal harshly with those who are not supposed to be here.

3. Sitting Area
Nicely upholstered, overstuffed chairs, along with side tables, provide a place for visitors to sit and read or chat.

4. Stairwells
Three sets of stairs allow movement between floors, an uncommon precaution in case of a fire.

5-11. First Collection
Gathered in various sections are items from around the world. For ease of reference and examination, they are gathered int sections based on provenance; those on the lower floor are from closer to home.

5. British Isles
6. Northern Europe
7. France/Spain/Italy
8. Greece
9. Scandinavia and Iceland
10. Eastern Europe
11. The Middle East

12. Atrium
This area on the main floor is open to the sky above; on the upper floor it has a balcony that allows light from the overhead skylights to reach both levels.

13-20. Second Collection
These items hail from further afield, gathered by the various agents who travel the globe while serving the Cabal.

13. North America
14. China
15. Japan
16. India
17. Sub-Saharan Africa
18. The Middle East
19. Oceania
20. South America