Saturday, June 21, 2014


At long last, here's the scenario that's intended to wrap up the Come Hell and High Water campaign. It feels a little bit piecemeal, but I think that's how it works when it's designed to wrap up all of the loose ends in this long series of adventures. I hope that people have been able to make use of material from them and have some fun in doing so.


This scenario is Part 19 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 eleventh-level characters. Although it is intended as the finale of an ongoing collection of scenarios, it can also be run as a stand-alone adventure with a bit of modification.

For some time now, the PC's have been involved in the hunt for lost relics and lore around the world. This started with a visit to Circe's island in “Living Legends,” followed by a visit to the home of the remaining giants in “The Ends of the Earth,” a journey back to London in “Machinations” and then a voyage to an ancient Chinese treasure cache in “Above and Below.” During that time, they and/or the agents of the Cabal, or perhaps even the Spanish, have been gathering all of the magical spells and items that they could. Their ultimate aim is to create a collection equivalent to a codex of infinite spells, allowing them to access magic beyond anything known in the world.

Of course, it's never completely possible to anticipate the actions of the Player Characters or the outcomes of their adventures. For that reason, many options for starting this scenario are presented in the Introduction, below.

Depending on the Player Characters' situation in the aftermath of the previous scenarios, this adventure could begin in many different ways.

If the PC's acquired the last items necessary to completing the codex of infinite spells and managed to flee from the Chinese treasure cache, there are a number of possibilities. Should the PC's be tempted to use the codex to their own ends, the GM could start with Encounter 1—Unleashing the Power, below. If the agents of the Cabal managed to take the information from them, the action could begin with Encounter 2—Reclaiming the Prize. The same goes if the Spaniards managed to take control of the materials in question. On the other hand, in the event that the PC's decide it's best to rid the world of such a temptation—or those of another power group—are in hot pursuit, kick it off with Encounter 3—Protecting the Secret.

While those options cover most of the possible outcomes from the last few adventures, there are some other elements that could come into play. For example, it's always possible that the PC's might be the recipient of a proposal from one of the world's sovereigns who has heard of the pursuit and wishes to gain control of nearly unlimited magical power. That could lead into the events of Encounter 4—The Powers That Be. Should the PC's wish to gather their old associates around them, such possibilities are detailed in Encounter 5—Gathering Forces. Finally, if they have managed to acquired the Prow of the Argo (as detailed in the scenario “Trial by Fire,” and either they or their enemies have gained access to the aforementioned source of unlimited magical power, and the GM wants to test their intentions and resolve concerning the latter, ways to introduce a vision of temptation or warning are detailed in Encounter 6—Dreams or Nightmares.

Encounter 1—Unleashing the Power
As mentioned above, possessing the accumulation of relics and lore gives the PC's access to power similar to that of a codex of infinite spells. In that way, they can wield the power of spells like wish and miracle—but not without some danger to themselves and others. If the PC's decide to use such a power, the GM should keep in mind a few suggested guidelines.

First and foremost, any effects that the PCs might wish to achieve should be compared to existing spells. For example, bring a comrade back from the dead is analogous to raise dead or resurrection; unleashing devastation upon an enemy stronghold can be accomplished via earthquake; and just about anything can be handled through a casting of limited wish, wish or miracle. These guidelines, then, determine the effective level of the magic being wielded, which in turn determines the danger that it presents.

Refer to page 238 of the Dungeon Master's Guide to find rules for characters who attempt to use spells beyond their capacity. Keep in mind that they must meet four qualifications to cast the spell without risk of ill effects: 1) Be able to cast spells of the appropriate type (divine or arcane); 2) Have the spell in question on the spell lists for their classes; and 3) Possess the necessary ability scores for casting spells of that type; 4) Be of sufficient class level to cast that spell. Ordinarily, if the character in question doesn't meet all four of those criteria, he must make a DC 5 Wisdom check in order to avoid a mishap. In this case, that DC increases by five for each additional criterion that the character does not meet. For example, a PC who is unable to cast spells of any kind, and doesn't have high enough Wisdom or Intelligence scores, must make a caster level check in order to properly activate the magic. Failure means that said character must succeed at a DC 20 Wisdom check in order to avoid a mishap.

Should a mishap occur, refer to the same section of the Dungeon Master's Guide in order to determine its effects.

On the other hand, if these efforts are successful, the implications are left up to the judgment of the DM to determine. They might be able to build for themselves an idealistic pirate paradise, but old enemies and new would not hesitate to try and take that from them.

Encounter 2—Reclaiming the Prize
If the PC's turned the last of the sacred information over to the agents of the Cabal, or were overpowered in trying to protect it—either to the Cabal or to the Spanish—they face the challenge of taking it back from their enemies.

In the prior case, if they gave it up willingly to their employers, they'll soon find reason to regret doing so. This could take a fair amount of adjudication on the part of the GM, as the Cabal begins to unleash untold power upon their enemies. This could include unprecedented attacks agains the allies of the PC's, as detailed in the scenario “Retribution.” That alone should be enough to provoke a change of heart on the part of such mercenary characters.

If and when such a new resolution occurs, there are two possible options; each of these is detailed below.

The Chase
In this case, it is up to the PC's, aboard their ship, to chase down the agents of the Cabal and take the items in question away from them. The GM should use the stats presented in the previous scenario, “Above and Below,” to represent the abilities of these foes—and perhaps increased by a level to represent newly gained experience. This sets up an exciting ship-to-ship battle, provided that the PC's make their move with enough time left to run down their enemies before they reach their destination—London.

The Assault
Should the agents of the Cabal be able to return to their stronghold in London, refer to the article “The Cabal” for a map of that group's stronghold, along with stats for the characters who might be found there. Here again, a fair amount of adjudication on the part of the GM is likely necessary in order to resolve such an attack.

Encounter 3—Protecting the Secret
In the event that the PC's manage to escape from the island with the necessary items in their control, they find themselves as the object of pursuit. Just as with the previous encounter, this can take one of two likely forms.

As mentioned above, the wicked machinations that the Cabal could undertake in order to lure the PC's out of hiding are detailed in the scenario “Retribution.” Should the occultists already have staged such an attack, they could be empowered to new levels of violence and ruthlessness now that they possess the relics and lore. Of course, in the face of such aggression, it's up to the PC's to decide how they want to respond. Eventually these predations should demand some kind of response from them. When and where that happens is left to the adjudication of the GM, likely using characters and locations introduced during prior adventures. This could lead into a chase or an assault, as detailed above and below.

The Chase (Reversed)
This situation can play out in much the same manner as if the PC's were pursuing agents of the Cabal or Spaniards, except in reverse. In this case it is the NPC's who are chasing the PC's, and they're out for blood. Here again the GM should refer to the deck plans for the vessel in question, along with the stats for the characters aboard them. Of course, should they wish to acquire a little help for this endeavor, they could turn to existing allies (as detailed in Encounter 6) or even have some offered to them (covered in Encounter 4).

If the PC's manage to defeat their enemies, they win a reprieve from pursuit. Even so, they could still be tempted by the notion of using this power, or another foe could become apparent. There is always the option of destroying the items, as detailed below. On the other hand, should the agents of the Cabal acquire the goods from the PC's, such a development sets up either of the two encounters mentioned above.

Another option is for the PC's to destroy the assembled magical materials once and for all. To do so they have a variety of options. Unlike artifacts in high-fantasy settings, these ones are not indestructible save for one particular situation. For that reason the PC's could simply stoke a large bonfire and cast the materials into it. Those who have a more dramatic flare could lock them into a weighted trunk and throw them overboard in the deepest part of the ocean, or even cast them into a volcano. At the very least, this should require that the PC's fight off a last-ditch effort by their enemies to prevent such actions, requiring a desperate battle in an exotic location to eliminate the problem once and for all.

Encounter 4—The Powers That Be
Given the magnitude of the power represented by the accumulated magical materials, it's also possible that some of the world's most powerful figures could take an interest in them. This might include the kings or queens of England, France or Spain; the emperor of China; a corsair ruler of Algiers, Tunis or Tripoli; or even the Pope himself. (In the latter case, the pontiff would probably seek the items in order to ensure their destruction.) At the GM's discretion, there could even be multiple representatives from competing parties. Whoever the important person might be, though, this development is likely to take place in a few different steps.

The Meeting
In contrast to the pomp and circumstance that could accompany such an encounter, the initial contact from the sovereign is conducted by an empowered representative who conducts this business in a nondescript manner. If the PC's happen to be in port, he—along with a cadre of bodyguards—approach them wherever they might be visiting. Should they be at sea, the representative could approach them aboard a ship—probably a galleon or a similarly large and well-armed vessel—and invite them aboard for the meeting. The PC's always have the choice of rebuffing this proposal, but they should be wary lest the potential ally become an enemy.

Given that the PC's have other foes about whom to worry, it is possible that a spy might try to eavesdrop upon a meeting on land in order to report back to her own employers.

The Offer
The representative comes armed with a royal proclamation, signed by the sovereign in question. (Refer to Interlude 47: The Declaration for an example of how such a document might look.) It even bears the royal seal, and promises the PC's something lucrative in exchange for turning the accumulated magical materials over to the sovereign (or helping the sovereign's representative to acquire the items, if someone else possesses them). Some options for this offer include the following.
  • A pardon for past crimes, especially that of piracy.
  • Granting one or more of the PC's a commission in the Royal Navy, as captain of one of His Majesty's vessels.
  • A royal title (such as Baron or Lord) along with a grant of land in the sovereign's domain.
  • Riches, in the form of 100,000 piece of eight.
  • Perhaps even the vice-governorship of one of the Crown's royal colonies—a position that would put the character in question on part with Captain Henry Morgan himself.
  • Favors on behalf of other characters, such as Nneka the Maroon or even Gath the Shaman.
  • A reward of the character's choosing—at the GM's discretion, as always, and something comparable to the aforementioned incentives.
Whatever these promises might entail, it is up to the PC's to accept or decline. The prior decision likely wins them influential assistance, while the latter might yield powerful opposition.

The Fallout
Just how this situation develops depends, of course, on the decisions of the Player Characters. They could find themselves sailing with a might escort, or having said vessel in pursuit of them. What is more, whether or not they receive the rewards in questions is determined by whether or not they can deliver on their end of the bargain.

Encounter 5—Gathering Forces
It is quite possible that either the PC's or the agents of the Cabal, or both, could try to gather up their allies (or people with whom they share enemies) in order to tip the scales during the final confrontation. For characters who've participated in the entire Come Hell or High Water campaign, there could be plenty of both. This all depends on how previous scenarios developed, and—more importantly—who survived them.

Potential friends of the PC's could include the following characters.
  • Captain Ned Carstens (from “An Ill Wind Blows”)
  • Mama Cecile and/or Nneka the Maroon (from “Reprisal,” etc.)
  • The Priestess and her Mayan warriors (from “The Message”)
  • Captain Oliver Sedgewick, whaler (from “Beyond the Pale”)
  • Sister Sophia and the Amazons (from “Trial by Fire”)
  • Arukuma the Wanderer and her onijegi (from “The Mermaid's Tale”)
  • Hussein “the Hunter” Ra'is and his corsairs (from “Treacherous Waters”)
  • Alkmene the sea witch (from “Treacherous Waters”)
  • Captain Luciano Vittorio (from “Treacherous Waters”)
  • Annabell “Banshee” O'Bannon and Michael “Cannon” O'Bannon (from “Fortune & Glory”)
  • Mustafa al-Aqil (from “Living Legends”)
  • Amelia Cordeiro (from “The Ends of the Earth”)
  • Gath the Shaman (from “The Ends of the Earth”)
  • Captain Isaac Faulkes (from “Machinations”)
  • Reuben Meier (from “Machinations”)
  • Liu-Chang Kwan (from “Machinations”)
Here it is up to the PC's to rally their allies around them, although the GM could always surprise them with an unexpected arrival, especially if they find themselves in a seemingly insurmountable situation.

Included among those who might be enemies of the PC's are these individuals.
  • Mhlongo or Mabhena the Bokors (from “An Ill Wind Blows”)
  • Raymond and/or Roderick Carlisle (from “Reprisal,” etc.)
  • Captain Salvator Jimenez (from “Out of the Darkness,” etc.)
  • Captain Bartleby the Pirate (from “The Message,” etc.)
  • Various members of the Inquisition (from “The Message,” etc.)
  • The spirit of Jean de Montsegur (from “Beyond the Pale,” etc.)
  • Hussein “the Hunter” Ra'is and his corsairs (from “Treacherous Waters”)
  • Captain Luciano Vittorio (from “Treacherous Waters”)
  • Annabell “Banshee” O'Bannon and Michael “Cannon” O'Bannon (from “Fortune & Glory”)
  • Various agents of the Cabal (from “Living Legends,” etc.)
The GM is encouraged to pull out all the stops in assembling a force with which to challenge the PC's.
Note, too, that these are only NPC's culled from the various scenarios in the campaign series; there could be any number of other characters from various Interludes, or ones introduced by the GM. Including these characters helps to pull together the different strings from which this tapestry has been woven, helping to create both continuity and closure as the climactic finale approaches.

Encounter 6—Dreams or Nightmares
Although the previous encounters lay out the most likely developments as this confrontation comes to a head, this one provides a chance for a “do-over” in the event that the PC's fail. This assumes, of course, that they have managed to acquire the beam from the Argo's prow, a relic detailed in the scenario “Trial by Fire.” Given that this item is known to grant prophetic dreams upon those who carry it on their ships, PC's who fail in their efforts could wake up to find that they only dreamt of such catastrophes. (Refer to Event 0 from the scenario “Treacherous Waters” for an example of how this could work.)

Providing an Impetus
It's a well known fact that Player Characters don't always act in an altruistic manner, and this is probably more often the case with pirates. Should the PC's be reluctant to undertake a nobel endeavor, the GM could always give them a push in the right direction using a vision from the beam. In this case, the GM can run an encounter as normal, perhaps one involving the agents of the Cabal unleashing the power of the assembled magical materials, or even of an effort by one or more PC's backfiring and thus leading to tragic consequences.

Once all has been said and done, it's time to wrap up any loose ends for the campaign. In addition to having the PC's advance to twelfth level, it's important to know what they plan to do now that these adventures are finished. To that end, rather than including suggestions for further adventures, this conclusion presents some questions to answer regarding the resolution of the Come Hell and High Water campaign.
  • What does each character intend to do in the future? Is the character settling down into retirement, or taking on a new job (or continuing the old one)?
  • How do the characters stand in the eyes of the world's governments? Are they honored as heroes, or reviled as villains?
  • What kind of legacy does each character leave for the future?
  • Are there any relationships between PC's and NPC's that need to be resolved?
In this way, the players can bring their characters' stories to a satisfying finish—and perhaps even start laying the foundation for future campaigns.

Appendix 1: Dramatis Personae

(Note that stat blocks for many of the characters who could be included in these events are not included here, given how unpredictable the outcomes of previous scenarios can be. The GM is encouraged to draw them from the Player Characters' previous adventures, perhaps bumping them up a level to represent experience gained through success or failure.)

The Representative
The Vatican
Sir Basil McNaughton
Guillaum Verdier
Manuel Gutierrez
Fat Chow
Jamal al-Jazeeri
Sergio Moretti

Royal Representative
Fighter 13; CR 13; Size medium; HD 13d10+26; hp 102; Init +5 (+1 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+2 buff coat, +1 Dex); Atk +19/+13/+7 (1d6+7, rapier); SQ None; AL LN; SV: Fort +10, Ref +5, Will +5; Str 18, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +17, Jump +17, Survival +3, Swim +17.
Feats: Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Great Cleave, Improved Critical, Improved Initiative, Improved Weapon Focus, Improved Weapon Specialization, Mobility, Power Attack, Spring Attack, Weapon Focus (rapier), Weapon Specialization (rapier).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Clothing, buff coat, rapier, royal proclamation.

These representatives are not negotiators, but rather messengers who are skilled in defending themselves as well as the interests of their sovereigns. They are unswervingly loyal to said lieges, but not could be susceptible to magical influence. Note, too, that they are not empowered to negotiation, only to present the offers they've been given.

Fighter 7; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d10+14; hp 57; Init +5 (+1 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+2 buff coat, +1 Dex); Atk +11/+6 (1d6+5, rapier); SQ None; AL LN; SV: Fort +7, Ref +3, Will +3; Str 16, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +13, Jump +13, Survival +3, Swim +13.
Feats: Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Great Cleave, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (rapier), Weapon Specialization (rapier).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Clothing, buff coat, rapier.

Monday, June 2, 2014


This post is a follow-up to the scenario Strange Bedfellows, post previously. It presents four encounters using the AD&D 2nd Edition rules, in the Al-Qadim campaign setting.