Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dead Reckoning

I've finally finished the tenth adventure in the series. Enjoy!


Dead Reckoning
This scenario is Part 10 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 sixth-level characters. Although it is intended as part of an ongoing collection of scenarios, it can also be run as a stand-alone adventure with a bit of modification.

Recently Edward Chapman, possessed by the spirit of Jean de Chartres, orchestrated the recovery of the lost Templar fleet. With this once again sailing the Seven Seas, crewed by a growing army of zombie sailors and soldiers, he is now ready to initiate the final stages of his master plan.

This endeavor is two-fold. The first element involves making a voyage to the Mediterranean to forge an alliance with a powerful sea witch, Alkmene. The Templar intends to claim kinship with her, given the fact that his own order was suppressed by the Catholic church in the same way that it has persecuted witches for centuries. With her assistance, he intends to lead all of his enemies into one massive and destructive battle, creating an abundance of casualties that will swell the ranks of his armada.

The second part of the plot involves sending one vessel—Le Cyleste, commanded by a zombified Nneka—to help provoke enemy forces into going to battle. To do this, the Maroon captain is flying the party's colors, while engaging in a series of brutal and unprovoked attacks on English and Spanish ships. He has even left at least one of them drifting with the tides, a trap for the unsuspecting PC's. In this way he hopes to eliminate them so that they will no longer interfere with Chapman's plans.

That is not all, however. As part of the conspiracy, Chapman has convinced Minister Jonathan Gow of Port Royal that he can help bring the wicked PC's to justice by acting as his spy. For that reason, the minister has sent a crate of messenger pigeons—that he claims are doves, for good luck—along with Sergeant Burns aboard the English ship Redoubtable. That vessel, commanded by Captain Josiah Henderson and the reprehensible Sergeant Gerald Burns, is out on patrol, searching for the PC's. In this way, with two parties searching for the Player Characters, the possessed Nneka hopes to eliminate them once and for all.

It works best if this adventure beings immediately following the events of the scenario “The Mermaid's Tale.” If that is the case, the PC's have just rescued the onijegi and exposed the efforts of the possessed Chapman to raise the lost Templar fleet. For that reason they are sailing in pursuit of a trail of clues across the water, having just departed the cursed Sargasso; proceed with Event 1 below.

On the other hand, a party of characters that has not participated in previous adventures could stumble into this business for any of the following reasons.
*Perhaps one of the PC's is connected to someone who was traveling aboard the missing vessel, the Duchess. In such an instance, they might all have been hired to help find the missing vessel, or perhaps have been goaded into doing so by the concerned associate.
*Another possibility is that the PC's happen to stumble upon one of Nneka's victims, and through investigation become involved in the plot.
*For a twist on this, the PC's could be passengers and crew members aboard one of the vessels when it is attacked. This would require a good deal more modification, but could certainly make for an exciting start to the business.
In all but the last case, the action can begin with Event 2 below.

Event 1—Path of Destruction
Assuming that the PC's are pursuing their quarry from the depths of the Sargasso, they find a trail of clues waiting for them. In order to keep this from seeming too convenient, however, they should have to work to follow them. Some of the traces they might discover are detailed below.
*One member of the crew, a zombie, has fallen overboard and now drifts in the water east of the Bahamas. Have the PC's make Search or Spot checks, with the highest result being the first to notice it. From a distance it looks just like a dark shape, but closer investigation reveals it to be a human form. Indeed, it remains still until characters enter the water, swimming or in a boat, or someone manages to snag it with a rope or something similar. Once it is close to a living person, the zombie springs to life and attacks. In the first round it rages, pummeling its victims with a flurry of blows.
*In the aftermath of this encounter, the PC's can use the zombie's appearance to help gauge the location of Nneka and Le Cyleste. A DC 15 Knowledge: nautical check reveals the directions of the prevailing sea currents in this area, from the southeast; logic indicates that the creature entered the water somewhere in that direction, toward the Turks and Caicos Islands.
*The next clue is a flock of sea birds, barely visible on the horizon (DC 20 Search or Spot check to notice). They flit about another handful of bodies, these unfortunately the victims of one of the possessed Maroon crew's attacks. Feel free to play up the eerie nature of this seen, given what happened the last time the PC's tried to retrieve a body, but these corpses are harmless. They do provided the first hint at the nature of Nneka's activities, however, and help to build tension leading up to the discovery of the derelict.
*Finally, another DC 20 Search or Spot check reveals the presence of a faint plume of smoke rising into the sky, in the direction of the Silver Banks just north of Hispaniola. Although they'll need to look closer to confirm the truth, this is a derelict left behind by Nneka to lure in his victims.
Assuming that they do investigate, the action continues with Event 2, below.

Event 2—The Derelict
As they sail toward the source of the smoke, the PC's find a grim sight waiting for them. It is the Duchess, caught in the middle of a coral reef and still smoldering from a fire set upon its upper deck. Only because of a passing rain shower is the unfortunate vessel still afloat, with its grisly evidence of the attack preserved.

Refer to the Reef Map for the following action. When the PC's arrive, they find that the ship is close to being swamped; the occasional big wave breaks over what remains of the vessel's sides, and the hold is slowly filling, threatening to sink her. What is more, the presence of bodies in the water has attracted sharks, something that PC's who make a DC 20 Spot check or a DC 15 Search check (and who declare that they're actively looking for such dangers) notice.

Given the dangers presented by the reef, it is best for the PC's to lower a ship's boat and approach the Duchess that way. Such activity requires a DC 15 Profession: sailor check for the person guiding the boat; failure causes it to strike the reef and suffer 1d4 damage, plus 1d4 for every five extra points by which the check fails.

Success, on the other hand, allows the PC's to reach the derelict, at which point they can throw a grapple (ranged attack against AC 5) and climb aboard (DC 10 check). The Climb check here is particularly important, considering the fact that falling into the water leaves characters open to the predations of the waiting sharks.

The Scene of the Crime
Once they are aboard the sloop, the PC's can begin to explore it; refer to the Sloop Deck Plan for the following area descriptions.

1. Poop Deck
This area is only a charred shell of its normal structure. Any amount of weight causes it to collapse, depositing the character in question into one of the rooms below and requiring a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid taking 2d6 damage from the resulting fall and splintering wood.

2. Main Deck
Although the wood here is scorched from the fire, it is still strong enough to bear the weight of those who board the ship. A couple of charred bodies are still present, including one wearing the chainmail of a Templar knight (DC 20 Spot check or DC 15 Search check to notice).

3. Passengers' Cabin
This area was consumed in the fire as well, although the burned remains of bunk beds with feather mattresses along with a couple of sea chests are still present. The chests themselves still contain traces of their contents, perhaps including evidence related to one of the adventure hooks mentioned above.

4. First Mate's Cabin
What remains of this cabin contains a single bed, a sea chest, and a desk and chair, but these (and the chest's contents) are burned beyond recognition.

5. Captain's Cabin
This area once held a large table with four chairs, along with a comfortable bed, a wardrobe, sea chest and barrel of rum, but these items have fared as poorly as in other areas. What is distinct, however, is the image painted on the scorched back wall in white paint: the very same one that the PC's fly as their own personal flag. (Note that, if the PC's have not developed their own jolly roger, the enemy could substitute Nneka's skull and crossed spears, the emblem of an outlaw with whom the PC's have probably been known to associate.)

6. Crew Quarters
This area, along with the cargo hold (Area 7), is filled waist deep with water from a passing rain shower. Bits of debris float in it, along with the hammocks strung from the walls to the center posts. There is also a surviving zombie here, an unfortunate undead that was knocked overboard during the last battle and has taken refuge here. It attempts to grapple opponents, in hope of pulling them amidst the tangle of hammocks and drowning them. (Treat this as a large net trap, +5 melee to hit, and victims must succeed at a DC 14 Reflex save or become entangled as if by an opponent with Strength 18.)

7. Cargo Hold
The crates and barrels in the hold remain lashed in place, but the crates are now thoroughly water-logged. The area is also teeming with swarms of rats, which rush to escape the area as soon as it is disturbed.

Once they've finished exploring the derelict, the PC's should have a little time to process what they've learned before the English ship arrives on the scene.

Familiar Faces
Characters who are in a position to do so should make Spot or Search checks; the one with the highest result is first to notice the approaching ship—use the slave ship stats and deck plan. What is more, the highest result determines how much time everyone has to react before the newcomer arrives.

Check / Time to React
0 – 9 / 5 rounds
10 – 19 / 10 rounds
20 – 29 / 15 rounds
30 – 39 / 20 rounds
40+ / 25 rounds

With this in mind, the Player Characters' preparations should be fast and furious. They probably want to load some cannons and other firearms, if they haven't done so already, and move sailors and/or soldiers into position for battle. Whether or not they're finished, however, the ship arrives at the indicated moment.

For their part, Captain Henderson and Sergeant Burns are in no mood to parlay. They are sold on the rumors they've heard of the party's misdeeds (some of which might not be false), and therefore move into position to deliver a broadside—hesitating only to demand a complete surrender. Even so, if the PC's are insistent, they might be able to avoid bloodshed. It takes a DC 20 Diplomacy check to do so, with bonuses or penalties as usual due to good roleplaying. The Englishmen demand to send their own party aboard the derelict to inspect it, and are of course upset to see the mark painted upon the transom of the victim ship. Should the PC's realize that there is no white paint present aboard the vessel, however, this detail could help to assuage the righteous fury of the newcomers.

In the event that a fight does erupt, the English soldiers try to close for boarding. This should make for a grueling battle, but if the PC's do gain the upper hand, they might still call for a ceasefire in order to discuss the situation. If he finds himself and his force to be outmatched, Captain Henderson becomes much more open to negotiations.

Event 3—Council of War
This event assumes that the PC's were able to avoid battle with the English to at least some extent. If that is not the case, the GM must likely do some heavy adjudicating to make the situation work. It might be necessary simply to skip to the next encounter, allowing the PC's to search the defeated vessel and thus uncover the truth behind the double betrayal.

Provided a more peaceful outcome can be reached, however, the PC's and their erstwhile enemies have a chance to discuss matters. In that case they can simply drop anchor where they are, or perhaps take shelter in a nearby cove (refer to the appropriate map). Whichever the case, the two groups can meet aboard one of their ships or go ashore to conduct the palaver. This should provide for some more good roleplaying, with Captain Henderson insisting that the PC's come to him. Here again, a DC 15 Diplomacy check, with modifiers for roleplaying, can settle the matter one way or the other.

Once the meeting begins, as long as the PC's are at least somewhat hospitable, they can learn some important details from the captain.
*He and his men have ventured forth in response to a series of recent attacks against English shipping, ones that have left results similar to those seen aboard the Duchess.
*According to reports, the vessel responsible flew a flag that matches the one flown by the PC's (or by Nneka, as mentioned above).
*The common opinion in Port Royal is that the PC's are on a rampage, aided by Captain Nneka and his crew of Maroons.
*What is more, the powers that be believe that either Nneka, the PC's, or both parties have entered into a pact with demonic forces, and that their attacks are somehow part of a plot to spread such wicked influence throughout the New World.
This discussion should give the PC's some things to consider, and no doubt they'll want to learn more about the situation. Should they decide to take bold actions, the GM may need to do some adjudicating, perhaps by letting the PC's discover some of the information mentioned below. Otherwise, the PC's and their uncertain enemies have a chance to rest and perhaps go ashore before they are confronted by their true foes.

The Island
Refer to the appropriate map for the following area descriptions. The island itself is almost a sixth of a mile wide, and more than a quarter mile long. It has a smallish bay, but one that can protect at least a couple of ships.

The water here is not very deep—no more than five fathoms (thirty feet) at the deepest during low tide—but is plenty for most ships to come in and anchor. There is decent fishing to be had here, and a good source of fresh water where the stream enters into it. There are also swarms of crabs living in the area, however, providing both a source of food and a dangerous threat.

This rocky area makes for difficult passage and boasts little of interest for visitors, except perhaps a place to hide from those who are pursuing them.

In addition to giving shade and fuel for fires, this area boasts wild boars descended from pigs released on the island long before—good eating for those skilled enough to hunt them.

Sea birds make nests and lay their eggs in this area, creating another possible food source for visitors, but people had best be wary; the area is also home to a variety of poisonous snakes.

In addition to providing fresh water, the river is navigable in small boats until it enters the wooded part of the island. Where it runs through the grassland, it turns the surrounding area into a swampy marsh.

Event 4—Cry Havoc!
However the negotiations develop, the PC's have some time to kill before the zombie crew arrives to wreck havoc. Once those enemies do show up on the scene, the action really starts; it is fast and furious. For that reason it's important to know who is on watch, where and when. Furthermore, to avoid revealing this upcoming development to the players, it's best to determine this information as subtly as possible.

When the time does come, the characters who are in a position to do so should make Search or Spot checks to notice the approaching ship, just like with the approach of the Redoubtable; the highest result once again determines how much time everyone has to prepare for battle.

Check / Time to React
0 – 9 / 5 rounds
10 – 19 / 10 rounds
20 – 29 / 15 rounds
30 – 39 / 20 rounds
40+ / 25 rounds

As soon as the attacking ship is noticed, it becomes important to keep track of how much time the characters' preparations require. The incoming vessel simply steers for the cove (or whichever location the PC's have chosen for the meeting) and comes full speed ahead. Those who look more closely (DC 20 Search check) notice the zombies on deck, readying grappling hooks and weapons for a boarding party. Additionally, once the ship is within a hundred yards of its target, smoke begins to billow out from belowdecks. It probably doesn't take a DC 10 Knowledge: sea lore or Profession: sailor check to recognize that the zombies have prepared a fireship.

This should make for a difficult encounter. The zombies are swarming the deck of their vessel and seek only to eliminate the PC's once and for all. To that end, they steer their ship in for a ramming attack, making a to-hit roll at +2 and doing 2d6 damage. Once that is resolved, the zombies with grappling hooks throw them to bridge the gap between the two vessels, then come storming aboard. All the while, the fire that was started aboard Le Cyleste continues to spread, and occasionally a cannon explodes in a mass of flames, smoke and shrapnel.

This fire is perhaps the biggest threat in the entire battle. In the round following the ram attack (assuming that it succeeds), it does another 1d6 damage. Treat whichever squares of the party's ship are adjacent to Le Cyleste, and exposed to the air, as being filled with flames. On each subsequent round, the fire deals the same amount of damage plus one; it spreads into one adjacent square, probably determined by wind direction, per round. This can quickly spiral out of control if not contained in some way. Refer to the Corsair rulebook for more details on how to handle fires aboard ships.

To complicate matters further, there is the fact that Nneka is acting against his own will. Having been turned into a zombie, he is not responsible for the actions that he commits. With that in mind, it would be best if the PC's did not kill the unfortunate fellow. Instead, incapacitating or otherwise restraining him would be the best response. Even so, there is still the matter of recovering his gros bon ange, which is still in the possession of Chapman.

At the same time, the PC's should be able to muster a considerable defense. If they have enough time to load and fire cannons, the approaching ship suffers a -2 penalty to its armor class as it charges forward. With the GM's discretion and adjudication, the PC's might be able to prepare other kinds of resistance. There are also the sailors aboard the Redoubtable, Henderson's vessel, who can also be roused to action with a suitable use of Diplomacy, Intimidate or Sway checks.

As long as they do survive the battle, the PC's can begin to investigate the situation behind it. Perhaps the first of their questions should be how the zombies knew to find them at the remote island—a question that only Sergeant Burns can answer.

Burns, it should be remembered, is a self-righteous and racist fellow. He has become convinced that the PC's are conspiring to foment a slave uprising, in addition to pursuing diabolical influence, and because of that Burns is in league with Jonathan Gow to prevent such things. For that reason, he has brought a crate of messenger pigeons aboard the ship, and uses them to communicate with his religious mentor back in Port Royal. Faced with the fact that the zombies attacked the PC's, he finds himself questioning his previous conviction and uncertain of how to proceed. That is why he is conspicuously absent during the battle, something that the PC's could notice with a DC 15 Spot check.

If the PC's go looking for him, they find Burns in the cargo hold, scribbling a message to Gow:

The pirates have been attacked by the zombies. How should I proceed?

If given the chance, he attaches the message to the leg of one of the four remaining pigeons and tries to let it loose. As long as the PC's intervene, however, they can read it and confront him about it.

Even so, the military man doesn't crack easily. It takes a successful use of Intimidate (with bonuses or penalties for good roleplaying, of course) to convince him to talk. Alternately, clever PC's could use the pigeons to figure out the location of his conspirator, by releasing one and then taking a bearing on its flight path. With that, a DC 5 Knowledge: navigation check reveals that the route leads right back to Jamaica, the home port of Sergeant Burns and Captain Henderson. With that in mind, the PC's could sail for Jamaica, and then use another pigeon to narrow down the destination to Port Royal, and another to confirm that Burns is sending his messages to St. Paul's Church.

Event 5—On Holy Ground
PC's who participated in the events of “An Ill Wind Blows” should find this is familiar territory. After all, this is the same place in which the bokor Mhlongo found the bodies he used in a plot to hijack ships by smuggling his undead minions aboard them.

Minister Gow is in the middle of a fiery sermon when the PC's arrive to confront him, something the PC's can confirm with a DC 15 Listen check before entering. This complicates matters, considering that the preacher is surrounded by a throng of his faithful. Even so, it shouldn't take too much for them to bypass the congregation. Indeed, the situation should make for a dramatic moment and some good roleplaying. Given that the parishioners are ordinary commoners, the PC's would have to be pretty bloodthirsty to engage them in mortal combat. Instead, they would do well to rely on attempts to Intimidate or use Diplomacy, or they might employ non-lethal attacks, even if this is a change from their usual tactics.

As long as they manage to capture the minister, the PC's can learn what they need about his involvement in the plot. In the belfry of the church he keeps his own cage of six pigeons, these ones trained to seek out the place where Le Cyleste had been lying in wait. That location is the Gutierrez plantation on the Santo Domingo side of Hispaniola—the very same that the PC's may have helped overrun if they participated in the events of the scenario “Out of the Darkness.”

Event 6—Charting a Course
A visit to the plantation can provide another trip down memory lane for the PC's, as mentioned above. Even if they haven't visited the location previously, the situation should make for some excitement.

The Plantation
A. Manor House
B. Slaves' and Overseers' Quarters
C. Drying and Storage Building
D. Dock

Unlike previously, however, the plantation is now vacant of all inhabitants save the zombies. Even so, if the PC's should wish to explore it more closely, refer to the appropriate adventure for greater detail regarding each of the specific buildings.

As mentioned above, Nneka and his fellow zombies are using the place as a base of operations. For that reason, half a dozen of said undead Templar minions are still present, in order to guard against interlopers. While that's much less a challenge than what the PC's faced in their battle at the desert island, it does mean that they can't just walk into the place without opposition. Once they have defeated the zombies, however, they can set up shop and wait for the next clue to arrive.

In this case, the pigeon arrives after about a day of waiting. The PC's should make Spot checks to notices its arrival, with the highest check being the first to notice it. The problem, however, is that a hungry farm cat also notices the bird, and hopes to make a quick meal of it. As such, it attempts to Hide and Move Silently, opposed in this case by the PC's who might want to spare the pigeon. This situation should make for more of a comical confrontation than anything else, but still could provide a challenge.

Note: It might seem curious that Chapman would send a message to his zombie attackers, given the suicidal nature of their attack on the PC's. His reasoning is that the zombies, after defeating their enemy, would commandeer a new vessel and then come to aid his endgame strategy—although it is up to the PC's to recognize this bit of strategy.

The Message
Attached to the leg of this pigeon is the message that the PC's need to continue their pursuit of Edward Chapman.

All is proceeding as planned. Rendezvous with me at the islet.

This isn't a lot of information, but it should be enough to steer the PC's in the right direction if they wish to confront their enemy once and for all.

This scenario admittedly ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. Even so, defeating the zombies aboard the fireship, confronting Jonathan Gow and discovering the message from Chapman should provide considerable satisfaction. It should also allow the PC's to gain enough experience points to move halfway to the next character level—to seventh level, if they are participating in each adventure of the Come Hell and High Water campaign.

Further Adventures
This scenario can provide a number of other plot hooks, as detailed below.
*If the PC's have managed to expose Jonathan Gow's communication with Chapman, they could use the last message delivered to help track the diabolical Templar to the Mediterranean Sea.
*There is also the matter of Nneka, who is still zombified. If the PC's wish to free him from this affliction, they must recover his gros bon ange—which the Templar possesses. Dealing with him while sailing the Seven Seas could be a source of various difficulties.
*If the PC's wish, they could also bear the news of the Duchess's fate to its passenger's next of kin.
*Inscrutable characters could choose to salvage and sell the Duchess's cargo, bringing them into conflict with said next of kin.
*That cargo could always contain other secrets, such as valuable documents or smuggled goods.

Appendix 1—Dramatis Personae

Fiendish Templar Zombies
Undead Humanoid; CR 1/2; Size medium; HD 2d12+3; hp 16; Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+4 chain shirt, +2 natural); Atk +4 (1d8+3, longsword); SQ undead traits, smite good 1/day, darkvision 60 ft., resistance to cold and fire 5, spell resistance 6; AL N; SV: Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +3; Str 17, Dex 10, Con --, Int 3, Wis 10, Cha 1.
Background: NA.
Skills: None.
Feats: Toughness.
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Tattered clothing, rusted armor and longsword.

Zombified Barbarian
Undead Barbarian 5; CR 7; Size Medium; HD 5d12; hp 38; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 40 ft.; AC 21 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +6 natural); Atk +11 (1d12+6, greataxe) or +11 (1d6+6, slam); SQ Fast movement, Illiteracy, Rage 2/Day, Trap Sense +1, Improved Uncanny Dodge, DR 15/Magic, Cold Immunity, Turn Resistance +4; AL CN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +3; Str 22, Dex 12, Con --, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Native.
Skills: Climb +10, Handle Animal +4, Jump +10, Listen +6, Move Silently +3, Survival +6, Swim +10.
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack.
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Hide armor, greataxe.

Sergeant Gerald Burns
Warrior 4; CR 3; Size medium; HD 4d8+8; hp 29; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +6 (2d6, short musket) or +5 (1d6+1, cutlass); AL LN; SV: Fort +6, Ref +3, Will +2; Str 14, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +7, Jump +7, Survival +5, Swim +7.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Buff coat, short musket, cutlass.

Sergeant Burns is brusque and pompous, with an inflated idea of his own importance. This is plainly evident in his impeccable uniform as well as in the elaborate mustache and connected sideburns that he wears. Even so, those who win his respect, even begrudgingly, find him to be a stout friend. Right now he is engaged in a quest to rid the Caribbean of the PC's, whom he views as a threat to civilized life.

Captain Josiah Henderson
Warrior 8; CR 7; Size medium; HD 8d8+16; hp 55; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +11/+6 (2d6, short musket) or +9/+4 (1d6+1, cutlass); AL LN; SV: Fort +8, Ref +5, Will +1; Str 13, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 9, Cha 12.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +11, Intimidate +11, Jump +11, Profession: sailor +3, Swim +11.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (pistol), Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Buff coat, short musket, cutlass, pair of pistols, spyglass, whistle.

The captain is a resourceful and capable officer but, sadly, one who is all too susceptible to the biases of the time. As such, he is quick to believe that the Maroons are a deadly threat. This prejudice is only exceeded by his very low opinion of pirates. Because of this, he is quick to judgement and sees himself as a bastion of protection and civilization in Port Royal. His precise military bearing and plain good looks reflect his ideas of his role in the world. He has also been duped by Chapman via Minster Gow, and as such seeks to bring th PC's to justice once and for all.

Minister Jonathan Gow
Expert 5; CR 3; Size medium; HD 5d6+5; hp 24; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 9 (-1 Dex); Atk +3 (1d6, walking stick) or +2 (ranged); AL LG; SV: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +6; Str 10, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 14.
Background: Religious.
Skills: Decipher Script +9, Diplomacy +13, Gather Information +10, Heal +13, Knowledge: local +5, Knowledge: religion +12, Listen +10, Sense Motive +10, Spot +10.
Feats: Skill Foci (Diplomacy, Heal, Knowledge: religion), Weapon Proficiency (simple).
Fortunes: Code of Honor.
Equipment: Vestments, scripture, religious paraphernalia.

Jonathan Gow is a devout and zealous Puritan minister. He sees Port Royal as “the wickedest city in the world” and is determined to help its people find the path of righteousness. Barring that, he intends to see that they receive the punishments he believes they deserve. This includes the PC's, who—according to a reliable source (Chapman)--are the greatest threat to peace and prosperity in the region.

Nneka (Zombie)
Undead Ranger 6; CR 4; Size medium; HD 6d12; hp 43; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +9/+4 (2d6, short musket) or +8/+3 (1d6+2, buccaneer knife); SQ DR 15/Magic, Undead Qualities, Immune to Cold, +4 Turn Resistance; AL CN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 16, Con --, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Native.
Skills: Heal +7, Hide +13, Intimidation +5*, Listen +10, Move Silently +19*, Spot +16*, Survival +10, Swim +10, Use Rope +11.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Endurance, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Stealthy, Track Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: Doll’s Eyes.
Equipment: Short musket, buccaneer knife, backpack.

(*+6 racial bonus to these skill checks)

Nneka is one with the wilderness, a warrior who can appear from the jungle to strike and then disappear just as quickly. At times when he can pause from his duty to his people, however, he is a downright jovial soul who enjoys the simple pleasures of life. His avowed purpose is to liberate as many of his people as possible from life as slaves.
Recently, however, he has had his gros bon ange stolen, leaving him asa greater zombie. Because of this, he remembers nothing of his previous cause, instead doing the bidding of Edward Chapman.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Yacumama

Today's post is an addendum to a previous one that provided stats for the deadly sea serpent. This post provides supplemental stats for a monster known as the yacumama, along with a new magical item tied to this mythical monster.


Variant: The Yacumama (CR +1)
Legend has it that a great serpent lives in the waters at the mouth of the Amazon River, preying upon victims who travel in the area. In addition to having all of the abilities of a sea serpent, this monster also possesses three even deadlier attacks, along with an Intelligence score of 3. It also has a weakness, however, one that knowledgeable characters can use to avoid it.

Conch Infatuation
The natives who live in the vicinity of the Amazon River maintain that one can blow upon a conch shell, and that the resulting sound forces the yacumama to reveal itself; this is partly true. The person blowing must make a Perform: wind instruments check, opposed by the creature's own Will save. Success for the musician means that the yacumama reveals itself, perhaps allowing others to avoid it.

As a standard action, the yacumama can inhale a large quantity of water, drawing a targeted swimming victim into its mouth. When doing so, the creature makes a Strength check, opposed by the victim's own Swim check. If the yacumama succeeds, it can then make a free bite attack against that creature. (This also sets up the victim to be swallowed whole, as detailed below.)

Swallow Whole
This ability functions in the same manner as detailed in the Monster Manual, page 315.

Water Spout
Just as the yacumama can inhale large quantities of water to draw victims toward itself, it can also spew the water in a jetting stream—a line five feet wide and 60 feet long—as a ranged touch attack. Success causes 1d8+5 damage, and forces the target to make a DC 18 Fortitude save or be knocked prone by the attack.

New Magical Item: The Yacumama Conch
Depending on who's telling the story, this item may have been created by the Amazons themselves, by the natives who live near that river, or even by the onijegi. It is a large and elaborate conch shell, inscribed with faint magical runes. The one who plays it, in addition to forcing the yacumama to reveal itself, can also affect it as if by a charm monster spell. Should the creature fail its Will save, it obeys the commands of the wielder to the best of its limited intelligence. Just like with the spell, however, it is occasionally allowed new saving throws to shake off the influence of the spell.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Interlude--The Chase

Today's post is something of an homage to the old 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide and its city encounter tables, which seemed to cover any possible event that could take place in town. Detailed below are random tables to use during a chase, scenarios such as those at the start of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides or Cutthroat Island.


Interlude: The Chase
When one thinks of swashbuckling adventure, it's natural that the first images which come to mind are aboard ships, with characters swarming across the decks, swinging from the rigging and doing similar things. Another exciting element of such games can happen back in port, however—a thrilling chase through the streets or across the rooftops of town.

This situation can arise for numerous reasons. In the middle of a combat, the heroes could find themselves overwhelmed and be forced to flee. On the flip side of the coin, the enemy might be forced to run for it, requiring the PC's to pursue if they wish to acquire information or other valuables. It an also be an effective introduction to a storyline, as the heroes become aware of a chase and must join in to learn just what is happening.

Whatever the case, the following tables provide a quick and easy means for the GM to adjudicate such pursuits. There are two tables of possible hazards and obstacles—one for in the street, and one for across the rooftops—along with guidelines for determining the size and shape of various buildings.

Typical Width of Roof
(2d4+2) x 5 feet, or 4d4 x 5 feet
At the same time, there is a fifty percent chance that the rooftop has another notable feature; roll on the table below if one is indicated.

Hazards and Obstacles—Rooftop (Roll 1d12)

1. Rotted Rooftop
The timbers and covering here are soaked with water and badly rotten. A DC 15 Search or Spot check allows a character to notice them, and a DC 15 Reflex save can avoid them. Failure means that the character suffers 1d6 falling damage, and suffers the equivalent of an attack with a spear (+5 to hit and 1d6+2 damage). What is more, this development leaves the character stranded in the upper level of the building.

2. Sloping Rooftop
The pitch of this roof is more difficult, counting as difficult terrain. This requires characters to move at half speed, unless they succeed at DC 15 Tumble checks. Those who fail may attempt a DC 15 Reflex save to catch themselves (losing any further actions in the round), or fall off of the roof to the ground below.

3. Flock of Pigeons
Unless they're noticed (DC 10 check), these birds explode into the air when disturbed. Although they do not present any real physical threat, the surprise does force characters to make a DC 10 Will save or lose an action because of the interruption.

4. Balcony
This occurrence only happens if the building in question is more than one story in height. On the level below the roof is a balcony that juts over the street; it provides an opportunity to reach the street, or even perhaps to hide.

5. Sign
This also juts out from a building, on the second level. It can again provide an opportunity to reach the street, among other things.

6. Clothesline
This rope runs between two buildings, with garments hanging from it. Characters could use it like a tightrope (DC 20 Balance check for every fifteen feet of distance), or could cut it free and swing on it like a rope.

7. Awning
The greatest benefit of this canopy, stretched across an entry, is that it can cushion a fall. Characters who can leap into it (DC 10 Jump check) treat the fall as only half as far as it would otherwise be, and take only subdual damage from the impact.

8. Sleeping Cat
This disturbed kitty acts in much the same way as the pigeons, above. Enterprising characters, however, might figure out a way to use it as a weapon against their pursuers.

9. Carriage/Cart/Wagon
A wagon passes in the street below; roll on the appropriate table to determine its contents. This could be a chance to cushion a fall, or perhaps acquire a means of escaping from pursuit.

10. Loose Tiles
The clay tiles of this elaborate rooftop have come loose, acting like a trap. It takes a DC 15 Perception check to notice them; failing that, a DC 15 Reflex save allows someone to navigate the hazard and continue forward. Another failure means that the character slips and falls from the rooftop.

11. Alley or Street
Roll to determine the distance between this building and the next. The distance between buildings is normally five feet. If there is an alley or a street, however, the distance is 1d4 x 5 feet.

12. Trapdoor
There is a fifty percent chance that the trapdoor is locked. If it is not, or if it is opened (DC 20 Open Locks to disable; otherwise, hardness 10 and 10 hit points), roll on the table below to determine what kind of building it accesses.

Types of Buildings (Roll 1d6)
1. Church—Use the building from “An Ill Wind Blows”
2. Private Home (Fancy)—Use the building from “Out of the Darkness”
3. Private Home (Simple)—Use the building from “The Message”
4. Stable—Use the building from “Reprisal”
5. Tavern—Use the building from “The Mermaid's Tale”
6. Warehouse—Use the building from “An Ill Wind Blows”

Carriage/Cart/Wagon Contents (Roll 1d6)
1. Hay or Straw
2. Baskets of Fruits and/or Vegetables
3. Manure
4. Crates or Barrels
5. Passengers (Carriage)
6. Nothing

Hazards and Obstacles—Street (Roll 1d8)

1. Crowd
These people might be gathered to watch an entertainer, a street preacher or a hanging. Whatever the case, they pack the street and force characters to make a DC 15 Tumble check to move at a double move (limited by conditions to a double move), or be forced to move only at half speed.

2. Carriage/Cart/Wagon (Slow)
This horse-drawn conveyance comes rumbling along, right into the middle of the path. Jumping over it requires a DC 15 check, while sliding under it requires a DC 10 Tumble check. Failing the prior causes 1d6 points of damage and ends the character's movement, while failing the latter causes 2d6 damage, ends movement and leaves the unfortunate person lying prone in the middle of the street.

3. Carriage/Cart/Wagon (Fast)
This hazard functions in the same manner as the previous one, except that the Tumble chek DC is increased to 15.

4. Dead End
The road ends abruptly here, due to a building, a low wall or something else blocking the path. The height of the obstruction is (1d4+1) x 5 feet.

5. Squad of Soldiers
Here a group of the government's own stumbles into the area, and is no doubt surprised to be caught in the middle of a chase. (Refer to the end of “Into the Shadows” for stats.) How they respond depends on the characters' actions, perhaps including a Bluff effort or a little Diplomacy.

6. Drinking Pirate
Sometimes a person just wants to cut loose a little bit. This pirate has a barrel of wine, cups to share and two loaded pistols for anyone who refuses to drink a toast. (Use the “Tough Pirate” stats from the article about the Sign of the Boar's Head for him.) He doesn't take kindly to refusal of his offer.

7. Familiar Place
The fleeing character happens to stumble upon a previously visited place, be it a tavern, a shop or some other location. This could provide a chance to turn the tables on an NPC, or perhaps to embroil an associate in the pursuit.

8. Market
Here the street opens up into a broad square, one filled with stalls of people selling foodstuffs and other goods. The possible developments that could take place here are myriad, especially for those who are clever enough to exploit them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Ring

Today's post is a magical item inspired by the curious tale of the pirate Stede Bonnet.


Bonnet's Wedding Band
Throughout history, pirates have turned to life “on the account” for a variety of reasons. Some were ordinary sailors who grew tired of the strict discipline and Spartan living conditions aboard Navy or merchant vessels, while others were privateers who could not give up the life of adventure and plunder when a war ended. Stede Bonnet's motivation was something else entirely; he sought at escape from his troublesome marriage.

Just what his wife did to make him abandon her and three young children is not known. What is known is that he did turn to piracy in order to be free from her. From the life of a wealthy plantation owner on Barbados, he fled to the Bahamas, where he met up with the likes of pirates such as Benjamin Hornigold and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. This led him to be involved in taking a variety of prizes, earning him a criminal reputation. In the end he was captured at Sullivan's Island and hanged at Charleston. Although his accumulated spoils were reclaimed by the powers that be, however, one of his personal possessions went unclaimed—his wedding ring.

This ring is a simple gold band without adornment. In game terms, however, it provides the wearer with a +1 circumstance bonus to saving throws against magic used by females, and a +2 circumstance bonus to opposed skill checks made against women.