Friday, February 22, 2019

Adventure: Soldiers of Fortune

The second scenario from Con of the North is a direct follow-up to the previous one.


Adventure Background
For some time now, a band of orc space pirates has been preying upon the creatures know as omas that swim through the Void, and that sometimes carry passengers in their bellies. They harvest the meat of the omas, and capture any possible hostages. Recently this plot was exposed by one such voyager, a disciple of Imhotep the Traveler, who managed to move himself aboard a passing aethership using a dimension door spell. The officers and crew of that vessel came to his aid, freeing the hostage's fellows and then taking the battle back to the orcs. Indeed, they managed to overrun the modified dhow Raptor, thereby capturing Captain Darius and his crew. While that was a major victory in and of itself, another, greater danger still remains—the covey of hags that organized the orc pirates and that provided them with weapons capable of slaying the powerful omas. 

With this plot exposed, the Royal Interplanetary Company has decided to take action. That is why Governor Luciano Reda, who runs the Crossroads asteroid colony, has called for an assembly of capable captains crews. He is prepared to give letters of marque and reprisal—essentially, government sanctions for attacking pirates as well as seizing their cargo and making prisoners of their crews—to any adventures willing to undertake such business. To that end, he has called for a gathering of possible candidates at the Sign of the Ourobouros tavern and inn, to discuss the affair and possibly grant letters of marque and reprisal.

For the Gamemaster
The masterminds behind this pirate ring are three hags, members of a coven based on the planet Freya. They have commandeered a floating island, this one the home of a djinni named Khalid. From there they use a hag eye ooze to recover blood crystal and other materials from the planet's surface, and oversee the activities of their orc pirates. Although those servants have been defeated and brought to justice, the hags have other allies—including undead they've created and creatures that they've charmed—with which to defend themselves. Of course, they also possess a sizable quantity of loot, along with information about other nefarious activities throughout the Sol System.

Part 1—A Call to Arms
This adventure begins for the PCs while they are visiting the Crossroads asteroid colony; refer to the maps below for a layout of that settlement, which is built on a floating rock in the Belt. Just after they make landfall, the PCs recognize that something important is happening at the Sign of the Ourobouros tavern and inn. 

The following introduction can be used if the PCs did not participate in the events of the scenario “No Prey, No Pay.” 

As you step off of the docking platform onto the surface of the Crossroads asteroid colony, you hear the sounds of many voices and see a crowd gathered in front of the local tavern and inn. A gentleman in fine clothes moves through the assembled people, flanked by armored knights, and a member of his retinue pauses in front of the doorway to make an announcement.
“Hear ye, hear ye,” he declares. “The Honorable Luciano Reda, governor of the Crossroads colony and agent of the Royal Interplanetary Company, calls upon all brave souls who would apply for Letters of Marque and Reprisal and thus bring to justice certain pirates who lately have preyed upon shipping in the Sol System. All who are interested should attend.”

The asteroid colony is fronted by half a dozen wooden piers that jut out into open space (1); just beyond them is the plaza (2). On the lower tier of development are the Sign of the Ourobouros, a tavern and inn (3), along with the Crossroads Outfitter (4) and the Royal Interplanetary Company warehouse (5). Rising over them are Governor Reda's manner house (6) along with more mundane dwellings (7). Finally, at the crown of the hill stand the settlement's elemental obelisk (8) and a small grove of fruit and other decorative trees (9). 

If the PCs did participate in the events of “No Prey, No Pay,” then the meeting takes place without such fanfare; they are specifically invited by the governor, without the general public being notified. After all, they are clearly the best candidates for the job. 

Refer to the map below for a layout of the tavern, the Sign of the Ourobouros. It boasts a broad front room (1) with plenty of tables, a large bar and stairs leading up to the rooms; in the back are kitchen (2), pantry (3) and two private rooms (4). 

However the PCs come to meet him, Governor Reda—standing atop a table to address the assembled crowd—presents the following information.
  • For close to a year now, a group of pirates has been preying upon omas—huge creatures that swim through the void, and are used to carry passengers in their stomachs—killing them and claiming any loot and prisoners.
  • One week ago, however, those orcs ran afoul of an aethership whose officers and crew managed to turn the tables, capturing the pirates.
  • Interrogation of the pirates has revealed that the orcs are working for a coven of hags who have themselves set up shop in a sky island on the planet Freya, one claimed by a djinni scholar and merchant named Khalid.
  • Recognizing that a threat to any shipping is a threat to all shipping, the Royal Interplanetary Company has decided to offer letters of marque and reprisal to a crew that is willing to engage in a privateering attack against the pirates.
  • As compensation for such an undertaking, the privateers will be paid a reward of 5000 gp. In addition, they will be allowed to keep any loot taken from the hags, not including specific items for which the pirates' victims can prove ownership.
  • Brother Yusuf, a follower of Imhotep the Traveler, can provide a scroll with the divination spell, along with a clear description of Lady Winifred, a paladin of Sol who is still missing and believed to be held by the hags.
This is something of a take-it-or-leave-it offer, but hopefully one that the PCs are willing to undertake—especially if they participated in the events of “No Prey, No Pay.” As long as they do agree, they can make any necessary preparations at the Crossroads settlement, such as laying in provisions, weapons and other supplies, before setting out.

Additional Information
Characters who make Knowledge: local checks can supplement the details from Governor Reda's briefing, depending on the result of the check.

15—Khalid's sky island is known as Jibal al-Nasr, the “mountain of the hawk.”
20—It boasts three docking platforms, a large orchard, stables and the djinni's tower.
25—Khalid keeps a pride of dragonnes to guard his property.
30—In addition to the dragonnes, Khalid commands numerous unseen servants and an invisible stalker.

As long as the PCs do agree to undertake the job—or, perhaps, if they are uncertain about doing so and need a bit of a push—a couple of phase spiders that the hags have charmed appear out of nowhere and attack. They've been spying for the hags for some time now, and now use their ethereal jaunt ability to state an ambush. One attacks the PCs while the other targets Governor Reda, hoping to eliminate him and thus nullify the letters of marque and reprisal.

Phase spiders (2): Refer to page 226 of the Bestiary for details.

The Crossroads Asteroid Colony
Refer to the PDF linked below for more information about the various locations on and inhabitants of Crossroads if the PCs want to do some exploring.

Part 2—Going into Harm's Way
Once the PCs do head for Freya, they could find that it is an easy voyage, or one fraught with peril—depending on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign. The GM could ask the players to set watches for the journey in order to create a sense of danger, even if no encounters occur. As this adventure is written for a four-hour time slot, however, no extraneous encounters are included. 

The approach to Freya is not entirely without incident, however. As the PCs are descending through the planet's thick, hazy atmosphere—rather like flying through an unending cloud—they are approached and challenged by one of the djinni's dragonnes. It lands on the bow of the aethership and uses its roar ability, trying to chase away the interlopers. Then it leaps into battle, using its Flyby Attack ability to strike and then move out of harm's way.

Dragonne: Refer to page 104 of Bestiary 3 for stats.

This could be a challenging combat, but it is also one that the PCs might be able to avoid. A DC 15 Perception check reveals that the creature wears a leather collar with a monogrammed K on it, revealing that it is a trained pet; hopefully that is enough to let the PCs know it's not a real enemy.

Part 3—The Heart of the Matter
Once the PCs reach Khalid's sky island, refer to the maps and area descriptions below. 

Jibal al-Nasr has three docking platforms jutting out into the open air. Much of the sky island is taken up by a lush orchard containing all manner of fruit trees, in the middle of which stands the elemental obelisk that keeps the place habitable. On the other half of it stand the djinni's stable, which is home to the dragonne guardians, and his tower. 

The stable is home to more dragonnes, which are cared for by their janni handler, Ahmed. He, in turn, is following the orders of the charmed djinni, Khalid. For that reason the PCs, as long as they aren't aggressive, should not need to fight him. Indeed, he can provide information about the inside of the tower and how the hags' minions are distributed.

Dragonnes: Refer to page 104 of Bestiary 3 for stats.

Ahmed the Janni: Refer to page 141 of the Bestiary for stats.

The Tower
Note that the tower has no windows, and an enclosed roof. As the PCs approach the front (and only) entrance, they are confronted by another guardian; this is the invisible stalker, acting on orders from Khalid, which begins to harass them just outside the entrance to the tower. Here again, the PCs could use dispel magic spells or similar methods to break the hags' control over it.

Invisible Stalker: Refer to page 181 of the Bestiary for stats.

Inside the tower on the ground floor (1), the hags have placed three large, bubbling cauldrons. In these they are creating hag eye oozes, creatures that they use—with the help of the jann—to harvest blood crystal from the surface of Freya. That is why there are tools and material that the orcs use for crafting their harpoons, the ones that they use to hunt oma and other colossal creatures that would otherwise be unassailable.

Hag eye oozes (3): Refer to page 140 of Bestiary 5 for stats.

From the ground floor an elaborate lift mechanism (2) leads up to higher levels. The mechanism that operates it is located higher in the tower, though, so the PCs need to find some means of climbing (DC 15 checks) or use magic such as a fly spell to move upward. 

On the next level is where the remaining orc crew members are housed (3). Each of these rooms is furnished with a hammock and a brazier for warmth, along with a small table and a wardrobe. There are clothing and miscellaneous personal items to be found, and perhaps interesting or valuable trinkets, at the GM's discretion. The orcs rush out to defend the hags as soon as they notice intruders.

Orc sailors (5) and ship's mate: See below for stats.

Typical Orc Sailor
CR 1/3
XP 135
Male orc warrior 1
CN Medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0
AC 12, touch 10, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor)
hp 6 (1d10+1)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +0
Defensive Abilities ferocity
Weakness light sensitivity
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Whalespear +5 (1d10+3/x3)
Melee Longsword +4 (1d8+3/19-20)
Ranged Heavy crossbow +1 (1d10)
Str 15, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 13
Feats Weapon Focus (whalespear)
Skills Profession (sailor) +4
Languages Common, Orc
SQ weapon familiarity
Equipment Clothing, whaleskin coat (treat as leather amor), longsword, whalespear, heavy crossbow, ten bolts

These orc sailors are a rough bunch; their only focus is to find and kill enough whales that they can earn their pay and go back to port in order to spend it.

Orc Ship's Mate
CR 4
XP 1200
Male orc warrior 1/fighter 4
CN Medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0
AC 12, touch 10, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor)
hp 31 (5d10+5)
Fort +7, Ref +1, Will +1
Defensive Abilities ferocity, bravery +1
Weakness light sensitivity
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Whalespear +9 (1d10+6/x3)
Melee Longsword +8 (1d8+3/19-20)
Ranged Heavy crossbow +5 (1d10)
Str 16, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 8
Base Atk +5; CMB +8; CMD 18
Feats Artillerist, Lunge, Splintering Weapon, Weapon Focus (whalespear), Weapon Specialization (whalespear)
Skills Profession (sailor) +8
Languages Common, Orc
SQ weapon familiarity
Equipment Clothing, whaleskin coat (treat as leather amor), longsword, whalespear, heavy crossbow, ten bolts

This orc was once second in command to the captain, Darius, but has been left behind here to take command of the others who assist the hags in harvesting blood crystal and crafting harpoons.

On the next level up (areas 4, 5 and 6) is where the hags reside. At the first sign of trouble, they move to a position from which they can observe the conflict below and inflict their horrific appearance ability, and then cast the evil eye. Then they move together in a relatively safe place and begin casting spells as a coven.

Sea Hags (3): Refer to page 243 of the Bestiary for stats, and to page 167 for more information about the special abilities of hag covens.

As long as all three of the hags are left alive, they use spell-like abilities such as baleful polymorph, bestow curse, blight and forcecage to hinder the PCs. Failing that, they defend themselves as best they can in hand-to-hand combat, and possibly calling upon charmed creatures such as the dragonnnes and invisible stalker for help. Because they know that they are guilty of the crimes of which the are accused, they fight to the death. 

Should the PCs wish to explore a bit, they find that the rooms here include a library (4) with shelves lining its walls along with tables and chairs; a music room (5), with plenty of seating cushions; and a dining room (6) with a long, low table surrounded by more cushions, and small storage areas for extra linens, dishes, silverware and the like. Note that the orcs have made a mess of the dining room, leaving unwashed dishes and empty bottles strewn all over the place. They've also broken all of the instruments from the music room, having used them roughly in inappropriate ways. 

On the next floor up are located the jann servants' quarters (7), which are furnished much like the guest quarters that have been overrun by the orcs. As mentioned above, the jann recognize that Khalid has been charmed by the hags, and thus are not hostile—and may even help—the PCs. There's also a kitchen (8), with two connected pantries, in which Khalid himself is busy preparing a meal for his newfound friends.

Khalid the Djinni: Refer to page 139 in the Bestiary for stats.

Janni (3): Refer to page 141 in the Bestiary for stats.

For his part, Khalid does try to defend the hags as long as he is affected by the charm spell. For that reason, the GM can use him to make combat more complicated, but he ceases his attacks as soon as the hags are defeated.

The penultimate level of the tower is the djinni's personal quarters (9); it is furnished with a large hammock, a wardrobe of colorful and diaphanous clothing, a writing desk and a large wooden, iron-bound, locked chest. That latter item contains the djinni's amassed wealth, including a pair of goggles with crystal lenses (eyes of the eagle), a ring of feather falling a bottle that contains elixir of fire breath, and a collection of mixed coins—3030 gp, 1123 sp and 707 cp. 

On the top floor of the tower (10) is the mechanism for the lift, with a four-legged support structure and a crank for raising and lower the basket-like platform. This level has an onion-shaped roof, in the Arabian style. Finally, chained to the walls are the remaining prisoners, including the aforementioned Lady Winifred.

Lady Winifred and the Pilgrims
Should it become necessary, use the stats for foot soldiers and the holy warrior from pages 286 and 269 from the GameMastery Guide to represent the abilities of the pilgrims and Lady Winifred.

As long as the PCs can defeat the hags, Khalid the djinni is freed from the effect of the charm spell and orders any of his surviving minions to stand down. At that point the only work that remains is releasing prisoners and collecting the loot. Although the djinni looks down on attempts to take his possessions without permission—and can pursue his grievance, since that would be in violations of the PCs' letters of marque and reprisal—he rewards less greedy characters with the magical items from the chest in his bedroom (see Area 10, above). He keeps the money for rebuilding his floating island home. The PCs are, of course, free to keep any loot claimed from the hags and their orc minions.

Further Adventures
Although this business is now concluded, it could lead into all manner of additional adventures; detailed below are just a few of the possibilities.
  • The GM and players could roleplay through the PCs reporting back to Governor Reda at Crossroads; indeed, if he is satisfied, that representative of the Royal Interplanetary Company could have more work to offer them.
  • Since Khalid the djinni deals in rare incense, perfume and other such niceties, he could recruit the PCs to pick up and deliver cargo for his business.
  • The PCs need to decide what to do with the blood crystal that the orcs were using to make weapons; they could use it to improve their own armaments, or they might destroy it to keep it from being used on other victims.
  • Among other items taken from the hags, there could be a letter that notified the pirates of when and where to make an attack on the dhow Venture. That was sent by a member of Lady Winifred's own noble family and thus reveals that someone tried to eliminate her by sacrificing her to them.
  • It's always possible that one of the orcs or hags possesses a treasure map, taken from some unfortunate victim and hidden away until it could be pursued.
  • There's also the unfinished mission of Lady Winifred, who was leading a band of pilgrims to establish a new religious colony; she could offer to hire the PCs to deliver her to that destination aboard their aethership.
  • This is also a chance for the GM to introduce any other NPCs desired, especially ones who have connections to the PCs (to make the business more personal for them) or to provide plot hooks for future adventures.

Appendix 1—Map of the Sol System
To give the players a better idea of their characters' place in the solar system, please refer to the following map.

Appendix 2—The Skylark
Refer to the deck plans below for the following location descriptions.  

The Skylark
Colossal aetherial vehicle
Squares 60 (20 ft. by 75 ft.); Cost 112,500 gp
AC 2; Hardness 5
hp 900 (449)
Base Save +0
Maximum Speed 180 ft. (magical); Acceleration 30 ft. (magical)
CMB +8; CMD 18
Ramming Damage 8d8
This modest aethership can carry 150 tons of cargo in addition to its normal crew complement.

Propulsion magic (two masts, 30 squares of sails, hp 150)

Driving Check Profession (pilot) +10 to the DC

Forward Facing the ship's forward

Driving Device orb of control

Driving Space the square or squares occupied by the pilot with the orb of control

Crew 20 (not including weapons crews)

Decks 2

Weapons Up to 20 Large direct-fire siege engines in banks of 10 positioned on the port and starboard sides of the vessel, or up to 5 Huge direct-fire siege engines in banks of 3 positioned on the port and starboard sides of the ship. The siege engines may only fire out the sides of the ship on which they are positioned. They cannot be swiveled to fire out the forward or aft sides of the ship.

The Skylark
Refer to the deck plans above for the following area descriptions.

The ship's wheel is located on this raised platform at the aft of the vessel; it is generally from here that the captain issues orders while sailing.

2. Main Deck
The main deck is a broad, open space, although usually it is filled at least in part with ropes, the ship's anchor, a lifeboat and that sort of thing. In between the two masts is the hatch providing access to the cargo hold below.

3. Private Cabin
For important passengers or, at least, those who can pay for it, this cabin boasts a bed and perhaps a table or a storage trunk. It can also be used for a first mate, if appropriate.

4. Private Cabin
This cabin is laid out in the same manner as the other one, above.

5. Captain's Cabin
By far the most elaborate quarters on the vessel is this small room. It has a table with four chairs for holding meetings, along with a bed, a wardrobe, a chest and a barrel of liquor.

6. Crew Quarters
Ten hammocks are arrayed in this area, in two tiers. The crew members sleep here, usually in shifts. In addition there can usually be found a number of sea chests, one per crewman, arranged beneath the hammocks.

7. Cargo Hold
This space could contain just about anything, provided it can fit in through the cargo hatch.

Typical Sailor
CR ½
XP 200
Various warrior 1
N medium humanoid
Init +0; Senses Perception +1
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 6 (1d10+1)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will +1
Resist None
Spd 30 ft.
Melee Shortsword +2 (1d6+1)
Ranged Light crossbow +1 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
Str 13, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Skill Focus (Profession)
Skills Climb +5, Profession (sailor) +8
Languages Common
SQ None
Combat Gear Shortsword, light crossbow, case of 10 bolts

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