Interlude 48: The Betrayal
Previous interludes, including "The Assassin" and "The Declaration," have provided suggestions for what might happen if the PC's make a particularly influential and unforgiving enemy. Additionally, interludes such as "The Brethren" and "The Settlement" suggest events that might transpire if the PC's should try to set up a confederations of pirates, a la the Brethren of the Coast or the Flying Gang, or to create a colony of their own that is free from the restrictions of existing governments. Combining these two elements, and taking into account all of the connections that the PC's have established with NPC's throughout the campaign, this interlude presents a scenario in which an associate of the Player Characters decides to sell out to the powers that be in order to collect any reward that is offered for them.
Choosing the Betrayer
When it comes to selecting the appropriate Judas, the GM should consider a few relevant questions.
- Which NPC's have the PC's offended through their previous doings? This could include out-and-out enemies from previous adventures, as long as those characters are still aware of where the PC's are living and what they are doing.
- Perhaps a more likely possibility is that someone who is not yet an enemy--a rival, perhaps--decides to turn against the PC's. This could include a crewmember who has suffered bad luck, a rival (such as an NPC involved in such interludes as "The Competition" or "2," or a business associate such as from "The Outfitter" or "The Writer."
- Based on their background information and/or fortunes, do any of the characters have connections to NPC's who are likely candidates for this?
Who else is involved?
The next question returns to the previous mention of some kind of bounty or reward for turning in the PC's? What is it, and who has offered it? These factors become important when determining what other parties are involved in this betrayal. For example, if the local governor has declared the reward, he could send a ship or two into action against his quarry. On the other hand, a royal declaration could bring with it an entire fleet of vessels. This also give the GM a good opportunity to bring back previously defeated opponents. For example, if the PC's have run afoul of a certain Royal Navy captain in the past, it could be he who responds to this betrayal, and thus has a chance to gloat in his victory.
When, Where and How
Once the GM has chosen the appropriate betrayer, it is necessary to decide just how this nefarious act occurs. Here again, there are some important factors to consider.
- On the one hand, the GM could use this event as a plot hook for the start of an adventure. In this case, the PC's are going about their normal downtime business--perhaps recovering from a night of carousing at a local tavern--when the surprise happens. In this way, how they deal with the betrayal and its repercussions provides the conflict for that session.
- Perhaps a better option is to introduce this situation at the end of an unrelated adventure. In this way it takes the positive emotions of satisfaction and triumph and then turns them into shock and dismay. This creates a real cliffhanger, hopefully one that leaves the players reeling and then sets up a dramatic start for the next session.
- Either of these options can lead into some difficult situations for the PC's. A previous interlude, "The Escape," presents one such scenario if the PC's are being held in a town that lacks a real jail. On the other end of the spectrum, the article about Cape Coast Castle provides the layout for a full military fort. Somewhere in between these two options, the characters could also find themselves held aboard a ship bound for Port Royal or London.
A Glimmer of Hope
Historically speaking, it would be entirely appropriate for pirates to face a summary trial, after which they are condemned for piracy and sentenced to execution. Here again, however, their are some intriguing options.
For one thing, the PC's could argue in their own defense and perhaps even persuade the powers that be of their innocence. The specific details of such a situation depend largely on the events that have been transpiring in the campaign. This also provides a great opportunity for roleplaying, with the GM assigning circumstance bonuses or penalties to any Diplomacy or Perform: oratory checks as the situation merits. Of course, the powers that be could always exert their own influence in order to assure a guilty verdict. Such tactics could include bribery or even blackmail. While this is doubtless an offense to the Player Characters' sense of justice, it also adds to the sense of drama.
There is always the possibility, of course, that the PC's are summarily found guilty and sentenced to death--the proverbial "short drop and sudden stop." Although this might seem like the end of a campaign, that is not necessarily the case. After all, the PC's are likely to have their own associates and followers, at least one of whom could help stage a daring rescue. While it might seem like deus ex machina to have somebody save them outright, a better option is to have an NPC provide a means of salvation. For example, someone might give the PC's a pudding with thieves' tools in it, or something similar. In this way, the PC's must still do for themselves, albeit with a slight unexpected advantage. The scenario "Diabolical" begins with an execution if the GM should need suggestions for staging such an event.
What about the crew?
Finally, there is the matter of the Player Characters' crew to consider. These scallywags might have been taken prisoner along with their commanding officers, although the place where they are being held is probably not as secure as that chosen for the PC's. Alternately, the powers that be might not have been interested in these common criminals, leaving them free to do what they will.
In the end, the PC's should have a chance to deal with the character who betrayed them. This could happen quickly, as part of the fallout as the PC's are making their escape from trouble, or much later, once they've had some time to regroup and to seek out the person in question. Whatever the case, this should provide an opportunity for some satisfying resolution.