Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interlude--The Tournament

Not too long ago I wrote a supplement providing background details and other material for using the Amazons in a game, based on their inclusion in the Skull & Bones rulebook. While thinking about that, I had an idea for an encounter involving them.


Interlude 20: The Tournament
Amazons are legendary women warriors who shun male-run society in favor of their own settlements, far from other civilizations. Many consider them to be legendary, although more than a few licentious adventurers have speculated about the possibility of encountering them. For some this is because of rumors that the amazons choose their mates from among the strongest men that they can find, ones who will help them sire mighty warriors for future generations. Usually such speculation leads to nothing more than empty boasting, along with vivid imagining by the parties involved. What few realize is that these legends are true, and that the amazons occasionally recruit men to compete for the honor of being chosen for mating.

Note: Refer to a previous post about the amazons for relevant stat blocks and maps to use with this encounter.

Given their seclusion from other societies, the amazons don't exactly advertise when they want to stage a tournament. Rather, characters can become involved in a number of less direct ways.
  • Those adventurous types who happen to stumble into amazon territory could be confronted and captured or, if they demonstrate considerable prowess, might be asked to accompany the warrior women back to their settlement.
  • Should a hero develop a reputation for feats of strength and puissance in combat, he might receive some kind of cryptic invitation—but without directly being told what it entails.
  • Given that certain daring amazons will actually venture to visit other societies, one such woman could learn of a particular hero or perhaps even meet him on the street of a place such as Port Royal.
However it is that the PC's become involved, making the journey to the amazons' settlement is no easy or straightforward task. Because of their love of privacy, they insist on meeting at a predetermined site, at which point the characters involved are blindfolded and led to the place where the tournament is held. This requirement applies even to female characters from outside the amazon's society, although—at the GM's discretion—those who have earned the trust of the warrior women could be allowed to make the journey without the normal precautions. Yielding control in this manner should present a challenge to many of the characters, but the amazons refuse to allow anyone to make the trip in any other manner.

The tournament itself is a single-elimination series of fights pitting the combatants against each other, two at a time. For this reason, it is most appropriate to start with two, four, eight, sixteen (and so on) men involved. In this way it is a last man standing competition, with the winner being chosen as a mate for the amazon queen herself. Others who are defeated late in the tournament, but who demonstrate considerable skill, could be selected by lower-ranking women.

Note that these fights aren't necessarily to the death; this is up to the contestants involved. Some ruthless competitors choose to slay their opponents, while others show mercy to fallen foes. Depending on the general alignment of the amazon group that is hosting the tournament, such cold-bloodedness or compassion could reflect well on a fighter or be considered a sign of weakness.

This interlude doesn't provide write-ups for possible competitors because it would take too many to represent the possible range of fighting styles that characters of various levels might encounter. Refer to other adventures, interludes and articles, however, to find a variety of stat blocks that could serve as opponents in the contest.

Given that the competition probably only involves a few members of the party, and no female characters, the others might be looking for something to do during the fights. Detailed here are a few possible occurrences, ones that can add a little drama to the tournament as a whole.
  • One of the men involved has no qualms about cheating. He puts poison on his weapon, something that astute characters might notice.
  • In a more subtle variation on this theme, the competitor could receive magical assistance, and it is up to the other PC's to detect that this is happening.
  • Another of the people present is a thief, and tries to pick the pocket of someone in attendance. This could happen between bouts, or perhaps as a distraction during a fight.
  • Should one of the PC's defeat an opponent but show him mercy, he could try to take revenge on the man who humiliated him.
  • A younger amazon, one who has reached the age of majority but who isn't in a position to choose a husband from this tournament, could become smitten with a charismatic non-combatant. Of course, if her kin should learn of the matter, they might demand that the charming fellow prove his worthiness.

The amazons honor the character who wins the tournament by arranging for him, and perhaps those who otherwise demonstrate their abilities, a night of conjugal bliss. This lasts through the night, and then the characters involved are given a day in which to recover from everything. After that, they are escorted back the way from which they came and thus homeward. There is an invitation, however; after ten months, the amazons will send word to the winners so that they may see their offspring, the fruits of their efforts. This is not without its own complication, however. The amazons keep any female offspring for themselves, but they turn any males over to the ones responsible for siring them. Since the PC's are probably pirates, being presented with babies could lead to all sorts of drama and shenanigans.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Treacherous Waters

Today's post is the next adventure in the series, "Treacherous Waters."


Treacherous Waters
This scenario is Part 11 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 seventh-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 a new and dangerous power has arisen in the New World, one born from the long-running conflicts of the Old World. This is the spirit of Jean de Montsegur, a Templar Knight who fled with other members of his order following its suppression in 1307. Although his fleet was confronted and sunk amidst the Sargasso Sea, he survived—only to become trapped in the ice along the northern coast of the Americas. There he might have remained, trapped in a frozen and lifeless body, if not for the intervention of the unfortunate scholar Edward Chapman.

Chapman had long been interested in the legends of the Knights Templar and other occult subjects. That was why, when a whaler captain brought word of an ancient ship trapped in the ice, he recruited some capable adventurers to help explore it. While they succeeded, recovering its treasures and bringing them back to civilization, they also helped the Templar's ghost resume its relentless mission. (See the events of “Beyond the Pale” for details of this event.)

Part of this plot has included efforts to liberate a Mayan demon that was trapped in an underground temple and to acquire the secrets of voodoo ritual (as depicted in “Diabolical”). Following that, the fiend made multiple attempts to eliminate the same adventurers who had released it (refer to “Trial by Fire” and “Dead Reckoning”). He also arranged to raise some of the vessels from the lost fleet, and thus create a flotilla of zombie-crewed ships (as developed in “The Mermaid's Tale”).

Now the Mayan demon, possessing the body of Edward Chapman, has sailed for the Mediterranean Sea to complete his long-delayed mission. To do this he has forged an alliance with a Greek sea witch, Alkmene, by claiming that they share a history of persecution at the hands of intolerant religious powers. He also intends to provoke a war between the corsairs of the Barbary Coast, the nations of Europe and anyone else he can deceive, thereby providing more corpses with which to supplement his zombie armada. Chapman's only problem is that the heroes that he meant to leave for dead in the Caribbean have survived, and are following him to the Mediterranean.

To this end Chapman has forged other alliances, too. Most notable among these is his deal with Mustafa al-Aqil, better known as Mustafa the Wise. He is a merchant with the heart of an adventurer, one who has an eye both for valuable commodities and for tales of fortune and glory. It was a combination of these two things that led him to find the legendary lotus plant, the very same mentioned in the Odyssey as having a soporific effect on imbibers. Ali makes a wine from the fruit, and mixes it with regular wine, then sells it to unsuspecting European ships' crews. He also sells the names of those crews to Barbary corsairs, who wait until the time is right and then attack the unprepared vessels. In this way he has become a vital source of new slaves for the powers of North Africa, and has turned a tidy profit in doing so.

It is that tangentially-related plot that could provide the PC's with a chance to uncover Chapman's greater threat, since they have a chance to encounter just such a corsair vessel during their explorations of the Mediterranean.

Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Voodoo and Witchcraft
Religion is a complicated thing. One of the major plot elements of this scenario the conflict between the Muslims of North Africa and the Christians of Europe, along with references to the ancient religions of the region. In a traditional fantasy roleplaying campaign, characters could worship different gods, all of whom have equal influence on the world of the campaign setting. In the Come Hell and High Water campaign, it would not be appropriate to posit that there are multiple gods with their own spheres of influence. Rather, the default explanation is that there are different people who worship different gods, and all of them receive answers to their prayers. Just how that happens is best left as a mystery.

This adventure can begin in one of two ways, depending on how the GM is using it. If it is being run as part of the Come Hell and High Water campaign, it can begin just as soon as the PC's finish making their preparations in the aftermath of the scenario “Dead Reckoning.” In that case they have outfitted for the journey across the Atlantic, going in search of the possessed Edward Chapman; this is detailed in Event 1. On the other hand, if it is being run as a stand-alone scenario, the PC's can be thrown into the middle of things by jumping to Event 2. What is more, if they participated in the events of “Trial by Fire,” the GM could add a special encounter (Event 0, below) to help foreshadow some of the approaching conflicts.

Event 0—The Dream
This is an optional encounter, one that might occur if the PC's have managed to acquire the beam from the prow of the legendary ship Argo. It could occur at any time during the passage across the Atlantic (see below for details). If that is the case, they and the rest of their crew experience together the following dream. They shouldn't know what it is at the time, however, but only after finishing what should make for a harrowing confrontation.

“Land, ho!” The cry goes up from the lookout in the crow's nest, who points directly ahead of
your vessel. Indeed, you see not one but two bodies of land looming before you, with only a narrow gap between them.

At this point, all who are in a position to do so should make Knowledge: sea lore and Search or Spot checks. A DC 15 result on the first one allows characters to recognize the approaching area as the Straits of Messina, while a DC 20 check identifies that location as the legendary home of Scylla and Charybdis. The latter check is opposed to each of those monsters' efforts to Hide, with the results determining if the PC's and their crew are surprised when they attack. When appropriate, the PC's and their crew members witness the following sights.

To your horror, a creature born of nightmare looms out of the shadows to starboard. It looks
like a mass of writhing tentacles, wolflike heads and sharp-fanged mouths, all straining to reach you as your vessel draws closer to it.

With a terrifying roar, the very sea itself seems to open up beneath you, but it is in fact a toothy
maw ready to swallow your vessel.

If somebody suggests evasive maneuvers, the situation becomes even worse. The sea itself seems to be carrying the ship into the gap, and no Profession: sailor check can prevent its fate. The only option the PC's and their crew have is to choose one side or the other—Scylla or Charybdis.

Once the fighting starts, it should make for a pitched battle, and perhaps one that the party can't win. Even so, it should allow for dramatic action, and the PC's and crew should receive experience points for facing such a challenge. However the scenes, everyone involved, except for the monsters, awakens to discover that it was all just a dream, but one that all aboard the ship shared.

Event 1—Voyage into the Unknown
Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean is never a simple task. In this case, the GM can make it as challenging as is appropriate, given the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign. If the PC's are eager to pursue their lead in the aftermath of “Dead Reckoning,” it would be appropriate to skip the voyage entirely. On the other hand, if the players are interested in some action along the way, one or more of the following encounters could provide it for them.
  • The GM could introduce one or more of the Interlude encounters, including the Storm, the Sea Serpent, the Stowaway, the Competition 2, etc.
  • A feud could break out among two or more of the crew members (perhaps as detailed in the interlude “The Jonah,” or for other reasons), requiring the PC's to devise a means of settling it, even while other members of the crew begin taking sides in the growing squabble.
As always, the GM is free to adapt these encounters or add to them as necessary.

During the crossing, it is important for one of the PC's or other crew members to make some Knowledge: navigation checks to plot the correct course. The DC for this is 18, if the weather remains fair; 22 if it becomes overcast; 25 if there is some rain; or 30 if it turns downright foul. The voyage should last at least twenty-four days, and each failed check adds two days' time to the duration. If failure becomes a problem for the PC's, they could begin to face certain logistical difficulties. Depending on how much food and water they've stored aboard their ship, they might begin to run short. What is more, the GM could enforce some in-game penalties for such faulty navigation.

Two possible results of these checks are that the PC's follow courses too far to the north or south. In the prior case, they might run into European waters. This could prove difficult for them, as they are possibly wanted by the governments of England (for offenses against the Crown, such as are detailed in the scenarios “Diabolical” and “Into the Shadows”), or for actions against the Spanish throne and the Inquisition (such as might have arisen during the scenarios “The Message” and “Beyond the Pale”). Should either of these situations occur, the GM could be well warranted in sending a ship from the appropriate country in pursuit of the PC's and their crew.

In the latter case, the PC's might find themselves approaching land in the vicinity of Cape Coast Castle in West Africa. Those characters who have participated in the events of “Into the Shadows” should be especially wary of approaching that location, given that they probably helped foment a slave uprising there. Whatever the situation, such a development could be treated in the same manner as Event 2, detailed below, with the exception that the PC's must cover a lot more ground in order to escape from pursuit.

Land, Ho!
As long as the PC's can find the correct route to their destination, they and their crew members are met by an impressive sight. They approach the Rock of Gibraltar, referred to in history as one half of the Pillars of Herakles—the edge of the known world as far as the Greeks and Romans were concerned. All characters who are in a position to do so should make Search or Spot checks, with the highest result being the first to notice the anticipated landmarks.

The call comes just as you are beginning to wonder when this voyage will ever end—land has been sighted. Shortly thereafter, a mountain of rock seems to rise up out of the sea to port. It is the Rock of Gibraltar, gateway to the Mediterranean Sea and all of the intrigues and adventures that can be found on those fabled waters.

At this point, the PC's could run into a variety of enemies, as detailed in the next couple of encounters.

Event 2—The Escapee
This encounter can occur at any time after the PC's have entered the Mediterranean Sea. Whichever direction they are headed, they run into a small group of ships—Barbary corsairs, but flying the colors of Spain. Although they are still a fair ways away, examination via spyglass can provide greater details. A DC 20 Search check reveals that some of the crew members are wearing turbans, while a DC 24 also reveals the presence of haggard-looking and bald-headed Europeans in raggedy clothing. With a DC 28 one can see that the ship is al-Saluqi, at which point a DC 25 Knowledge: sea lore check reveals that this ship is commanded by the notorious Algerian captain Hussein “the Hunter” Ra'is. It is up to the PC's, however, to recognize that the Europeans are slaves.

The matter quickly comes to a head, however, once the PC's draw close enough, when one of the slaves on deck, Stephanos Kaphouros, takes a running leap into the water. He does his best to swim for the party's vessel, but the waves make this a difficult task. Soon he begins to flounder, and then slips beneath the waves. Remember that, since he possesses Leucothea's Veil, Stephanos is not actually in danger. The PC's should think otherwise, however, and take action accordingly. Doing so requires one of the following options.
  • Someone could jump into the water and make a DC 20 Swim check to reach Stephanos. He is panicking, however, and struggles; for that reason, the swimmer must grapple him or otherwise incapacitate him. At that point, it just takes another DC 20 Swim check to return to the ship.
  • Another option—at least to help a rescuer in the water back to the ship—is to throw a line. This requires a successful ranged attack against an AC of 5, modified by range. Successful puts the rope close enough to the rescuer to grab onto it, making all other Swim checks unnecessary.

While the above-mentioned rescue is in progress, the corsair ships come about to approach the party's vessel. Those characters who are in a position to notice this development should make Spot checks, while those who declare that they're watching the other ships the whole time can take 20 on a Search check. The highest result determines how much time the PC's and their associates have to react, as detailed below.

Check Time to React
0-9 1 minute
10-19 2 minutes
20-29 3 minutes
30-39 4 minutes
40+ 5 minutes

This time limit should help determine how the PC's respond to the confrontation, perhaps forcing them to act quickly or allowing them more time to make a plan. Either way, a few of the possible responses are detailed below.

One option here is to make a run for it. Here the PC's would do well to remember that they're in unfamiliar waters, and that the Mediterranean doesn't provide as much room to escape as does the Caribbean. Even so, this can be a viable solution. Since the pursuing vessel is a galley, it isn't as fast at sailing as the party's ship is likely to be. For that reason, as long as there's a decent wind, the PC's stand a good chance. In this case, it might be necessary for them to conjure a breeze, perhaps via a wind cord or through similar magic.

Another possibility is to parley. For example, if the PC's can position their ship in such a way that that they can drag Kafouros out of the water without letting the corsairs see what they're doing, they might be able to persuade the pursuers that the unfortunate fellow drowned. Such an effort requires a Bluff check opposed to the corsair captain's Sense Motive effort, and perhaps a Hide check opposed to the corsairs' Search efforts. As always, the GM should feel free to assign bonuses or penalties for good roleplaying and strategy.

Of course, there's always a chance that the PC's want to stand and fight. Depending on the size of their vessel, the armaments she carries and the capabilities of the crew, this could be a very viable option. They might be able to beat the corsairs into submission, or at least convince them that they're overmatched. Keep in mind here that the corsairs, because they're in a galley, might be able to flee up wind and/or into shallow water, allowing them to escape if the fight turns against them. In such a case, the corsairs begin to spread word about the PC's and what they've done, something that should have repercussions for the party later in the adventure.

Event 3—Rendezvous
As long as the PC's can rescue Stephanos, they can learn what he has to tell. Summarize the following details in a little speech, or feel free to let the PC's pull them out of him through more in-depth conversation.
  • Kafouros is a Greek sailor who was captured by the corsairs and thus pressed into service aboard their galley.
  • He and his men were camped on the island of Crete when they were waylaid by the Turks.
  • He is hesitant to admit the fact, but they were all passed out drunk when the corsairs shanghaied them.
  • Even so, he suspects that the wine they were drinking was tainted with a soporific brewed from the fabled lotus blossom.
  • One might scoff at such far-fetched tales, but Kafouros believes there is truth to it. In spite of his enslavement, he's been able to learn something about the man behind the plot.
  • The wine dealer is a man named Mustafa al-Aqil, who operates on the island of Djerba. He possesses a journal detailing his investigations into legendary events, including the voyages of Odysseus, Aeneas and Jason.
  • Recently there have been reports of attacks on local settlements by a ship that flies the flag chosen by the PC's. These have been merciless, and the the locals powers that be are incensed by them.
  • That is why, when the slave saw the party's ship, he dared to jump overboard, suspecting that the PC's could be allies against the corsairs. (At the very least, anything would be better than remaining as a galley slave.)
  • If anyone would know about strange goings-on in the area, it's Mustafa al-Aqil.
Admittedly, this news might be a little hard to swallow. Even so, Kafouros swears by it. What is more, he offers to make a deal with the PC's. If they're willing to help him free his fellows from slavery in Algiers, he'll help them learn what they can about al-Aqil's involvement with Edward Chapman.

The Plan
Indeed, Kafouros believes that he and the PC's can kill two birds with one stone by staging a raid on Mustafa's operation. He can have his revenge on the person who tricked him, while they can discover what the old man might know. Granted, he isn't sure that the fellow has information. As such, he offers to provide a monetary reward, too. He and his fellows—those who can be rescued, that is—will serve the PC's and crew members until such time as they have repaid their debt. What is more, he insists that the PC's should keep whatever spoils they acquire during the action, exluding anything that already belongs to his mates and him.

This is the Greek's plan. He suggests that the PC's sail for Djerba, where they can raid Mustafa's plantation. There they can learn everything that he knows about recent events. After doing so, they can pose as the Turk's agents and thus enter Algiers in disguise. Once there, they can free the Greek's fellows and make an escape. Additionally, they might be able to learn whatever the taifat al-ra'is, the council of corsairs, knows about a Templar vessel sailing in these waters.

If the PC's aren't willing to attempt the task, Kafouros thanks them for rescuing them and then asks that they put him ashore somewhere on the northern coastline, so that he can “find someone else with the necessary boldness.” On the other hand, if they do consent to help him, his gratitude is profuse. He can guide the ship and crew to Djerba, at which point he's open to suggestions about how to stage the raid.

The Plantation
As the PC's approach the island, they and appropriate crew members should make Search or Spot checks. A DC 25 check allows them to notice the plantation well before coming within sight of the guards posted there, meaning that they can make landing without themselves being observed. Of course, if they're not in the mood for subtlety, the PC's could also just sail up to their target, put out boats and land that way. However the PC's do approach, Mustafa's guards should make Spot checks opposed to the party's efforts to Hide, if they are being stealthy, or with the result determining how much time they have to react (just as happened for the PC's during Event 2, above).

Refer to the appropriate map for the following area descriptions once the PC's arrive on the scene.

1. Front Room
Mustafa receives visitors here. The walls are lined with shelves containing various jugs, jars and bottles. A tall, narrow table is positioned so that he can write in his ledger. That item is likely to be of interest to the PC's, since it lists the names of his contacts in Algiers and throughout the Mediterranean (see below for details).

2. Study
If they PC's want to learn more about the legends that Mustafa has been studying, this is the place to look. The shelves that line these walls are filled with books about natural history, along with copies of texts like a Koran and a Bible, The Odyssey, The Voyage of the Argo and Alf Layla wa Layla (The Thousand and One Nights). There are also jars containing the specimens that he has gathered, along with trinkets collected from his journeys. A GM looking to insert adventure seeds for future use could easily do so here.

3. Bedroom
This room boasts all of the expected features, including a comfortable bed, a desk and chair, a chest and a wardrobe. That last item contains numerous changes of clothing, along with a spare pair of boots. The chest is sealed with a lock of good quality (DC 25 to open); it contains a pouch that holds 500 pieces of eight, along with various mundane personal items.

4. Kitchen
Unless they're hungry, the PC's probably won't find much of interest here. There's a hearth fire, flanked by barrels containing firewood and water. The shelves hold boxes and jars of foodstuffs, along with a variety of pots, pans and utensils, and a preparation table sits in the middle of the room.

5. Workroom
This is where Mustafa and his men press the fruit and ferment the wine. As such, there are three broad tables in the middle, covered with the tools used in the process. Underneath these are barrels used for fermenting, and jars for the wine line the surrounding shelves.

6. Workers' Quarters
The men who work for Mustafa live here. Hammocks are strung from the posts in four directions, and two broad tables with chairs are situated in the middle of the room.

7. Privy
This small outbuilding has the usual features, including a bench with a hole in the middle.

As long as the PC's can beat Mustafa and his workers into submission, they should be able to learn a good deal of information about his operation. The following details could emerge through discussion with him or from reading his journals.
  • Mustafa has done a good deal of research into the many legends of the Mediterranean region. In addition to the subject texts, he has his own notes about people and places that he has encountered during his investigations.
  • One of the books contains his recipe for lotus wine, while another details the progress of his batches and the clients to whom he is planning on selling them. Among the names are those of Hussein Ra'is and Mubarak al-Nasr, the slave trader in Algiers from whom he receives a kickback, and who operates a bagnio near the northwest gate in the city. (Stephanos can confirm those other details, or the PC's could make a DC 20 Knowledge: local check.)
  • Again, as mentioned above, this could also be a good opportunity for the GM to introduce future plot hooks, such as information about a band of sirens or a roc living in the area.
Armed with this information, the PC's should have a decent idea of how to proceed if they're going to continue helping Kafouros rescue his fellows.

Where to Go from Here?
Although Port Royal is perhaps most notorious when it comes to harboring pirate activity, it certainly has some competition in Algiers. Indeed, when it comes to an organized system of piracy, this town is better organized and possibly more profitable. It's also a place pretty foreign to what is familiar for the PC's, and so presents a number of different challenges.

First and foremost is the question of how to approach the city. Depending on the circumstances, the PC's have a number of options. One is to sail right into the harbor, either while posing as someone who has legitimate business there, or in a display of considerable bravado. In such circumstances, it's important to know a number of details. First, what colors are they flying? If they confronted Hussein the Hunter, but he lived to tell about it, then he has returned to Algiers and reported about the encounter; this should make things more difficult for them later. On the other hand, if they hoist false colors—a common practice in the area—they could be able to buy themselves some time or to establish a fake identity.

Another possibility is that the PC's could go ashore at some point down the coast from Algiers, and then approach by land. This could require trekking across the surrounding desert, perhaps while dealing with wild animals, hostile tribesmen and perhaps even a sandstorm. Such activities could provide an interesting change of pace from life aboard a ship, along with some new and unusual challenges for the PC's.

A third strategy is to go in search of a local corsair, perhaps Hussein the Hunter or someone similar. If the PC's could take over his ship, they could then use it to sail into port with a disguise. This would require some in-depth roleplaying involving difficult questions and planned or impromptu answers, and perhaps a number of Bluff checks opposed to the Sense Motive efforts of the powers that be.
Whichever way the PC's decide to do it, this situation is likely to require a great deal of GM adjudication, but should facilitate some exciting action.

Event 4—The Second Wickedest City in the World
Once they've gained access to the city, the PC's can set about their business. Although it's not possible to anticipate the order in which they'll do things, here are guidelines for some of the likely events.

The previous encounter provides details for some of the difficulties the PC's might face in approaching Algiers. As long as they can blend in a little bit and avoid any unnecessary entanglements, they should be able to reach their destination without too much trouble. If things should go wrong, however, they could face pursuit. In such a case, one squad of janissaries (a lieutenant accompanied by a dozen soldiers) can respond within ten rounds to confront them. Should the PC's defeat that group or flee, an additional squad can arrive every five minutes. For a little more action, chases can be resolved using the guidelines from the appropriate Interlude, perhaps adjusted to reflect the characteristics of this city. As always, a fair amount of GM adjudication is likely to be needed.

The Bagnio
This large building sits in the northwest corner of the city, not far from that gate.

1. Entry
Broad double doors, made from stout oak and reinforced with bands of iron; they have hardness 5 and 30 hit points. The locks are of good quality, requiring a DC 25 Disable Device check to open, or a DC 25 Strength check to force.

2. Hallway
These passages are fifteen feet wide and lined by doors to the cells. Outside of the fact that they provide access to other parts of the building, they are of little interest.

3. Cells
Fifteen feet deep and twenty-five in width, these rooms house the slaves who live in the bagnio. As such, they are sealed with solid doors that have hardness 5 and 20 hit points. The locks on these are not as good, requiring a DC 20 Disable Device check to open or a DC 20 Strength check to force. Each one has one or two barred windows to provide light and a little fresh air.

4. Stairwell
These open areas have skylights for a little extra illumination. In addition to providing access to the building's three floors, they also go all the way up to the roof.

 Luckily for the PC's, they should be able to enter the bagnio without too much fuss. After all, many of the cells on the lower level are converted into shops, including a makeshift tavern and a stalls for a variety of craftspeople. Because of that, they can enter ostensibly to do some shopping, and then perhaps sneak away to find Kafouros's mates. Since there are guards posted at each stairway, barring access to the bagnio's upper level, this presents another challenge. The PC's could arrange a distraction, or perhaps pose as buyers of slaves in order to go and inspect possible purchases.

However they manage it, the PC's should be in for a notable dilemma if they can reach the upper level. That is because many of the cells are filled with other people who've been enslaved, many of whom clamor for rescue if they realize that there's a chance for it to happen. Any of the following characters could be present.
  • One is a Spanish nobleman who was taken with his crew. They have been shipped off to work, rowing for galleys or hauling stones to the mole, but he is kept for ransom. For a twist, this could be one of the characters who previously has been a bane to the PC's, such as Don Jorge Gutierrez (from “Out of the Darkness”).
  • An English seaman (or someone of a different nationality) with whom one or more of the PC's once sailed. This character could thus be tied to someone's background story, thus providing a blast from the past and complicating efforts to rescue the Greek sailors.
These slaves could also provide the GM with a good chance to introduce other NPC's for future use, depending on the needs of the campaign.

The Report
If the PC's did not utterly defeat Hussein Ra'is, he returns to Algiers at some point while the PC's are in town. Those who are in a position to do so might notice the arrival of his ship (assuming it survived the encounter); otherwise, the PC's might be caught unawares. If the PC's happen to have their vessel docked in the harbor, and he recognizes it, that should make things notable more difficult for later. Depending on the actions of the PC's, once he makes his report to the Dey and gives a description of them, it might be possible that someone could recognize them. For example, if one of the PC's is a native from Central America and doesn't disguise the fact, word could spread quickly enough. As always, the GM should adjust circumstances to reflect the events that have transpired during play.

Event 5—Cry Havoc!
Some time after the PC's arrive in Algiers, but before they have a chance to put their rescue plan into motion, the situation becomes a good deal more complicated. An Italian vessel, the Bella Signora di Alicudi, sails into the city's harbor, heading straight for a cluster of ships that are moored inside the mole. If flies the flag chosen by the PC's, assuming they have one, or English colors (or whatever else is appropriate to the PC's) if they do not. This happens at some point when the PC's are in position to witness the scene; what is more, those who are present see a familiar and discomfiting sight.

The ship in question begins trailing smoke—a lot of it. Those characters who participated in the events of “Dead Reckoning” recognize this as a fireship; others can do so with a DC 20 Profession: sailor or DC 15 Knowledge: sea lore check. This is the same tactic that Chapman's zombie sailors used against the party, after all.

How the PC's react to this attack should present yet another difficult decision, and one that could tremendously affect the direction in which the action heads. After all, they probably can't warn the Algerians about the attack without revealing their identities and thus exposing themselves to the wrath of the local Dey. On the other hand, they might not want to just stand by and watch as the fireship rams into its targets, creating a growing inferno out of which zombified Templars and sailors come swarming. This development could provide just the distraction they need to stage their rescue, but it also provides a tantalizing hint at just what the party's nemesis has been doing.

It's not usually possible to predict every move the PC's will make, and that is especially the case here, so a great deal of GM adjudication is likely to be needed.

The Clue
What the PC's should be able to take from this adventure is an important clue to finding Edward Chapman—the vessel used for a fireship. As her name implies, she hails from the tiny island of Alicudi. A DC 12 Knowledge: navigation check, or a DC 18 Knowledge: sea lore check, reveals that Alicudi is one of the little volcanic islands that form the Aeolian Archipelago, named for the Greek god of the winds. It lies just off of the big island Sicily, which itself forms one half of the Strait of Messina, thought to be the dwelling place of the monsters Scylla and Charybdis. (The PC's should recognize those if they experienced the dream sequence at the start of this adventure.) Although this isn't a lot of information, it should give them an idea of where to continue their investigations.

Eventually the PC's need to leave Algiers. Just how they do so depends on the choices that they've made in the city. They might sneak out on land and hike back to a waiting ship, or make a run for the harbor and sail out of it with enemy corsairs in pursuit. Hopefully they have Kafouros's Greek crew mates with them, and perhaps some other former slaves as well. It could be that they decide to parley with the corsairs, although it would take tremendous skill and ingenuity to do so successfully.

As long as the PC's can escape from Algiers, they can continue to search for Chapman and work to uncover his grand scheme. Although they might not be totally satisfied with the outcome of the scenario, rescuing the enslaved Greek sailors should provide some excitement and fulfillment. At the same time, the clues they've learned should help build suspense and anticipation as they look to continue their search, as will be detailed in the scenario “The Eye of the Storm.”

Further Adventures
This scenario leaves a number of unanswered questions, all of which could provide for further adventures; some of the possibilities are detailed below.
  • As mentioned above, Mustafa's journal could provide clues to places and things mentioned in Homer's epic The Odyssey. If they're appropriate to the nature of the campaign, these could include the islands of Circe, Calypso or Polyphemus, among other possibilities.
  • There are probably still a large number of slaves in Algiers. When word spreads of how the PC's helped out Kafouros, other people might contact them in hopes of staging another rescue.
  • Hussein the Hunter, if he survives, could become a recurring enemy in his own right.

Appendix 1—Dramatis Personae

Hussein “the Hunter” Ra'is
Sea Dog 4/ Sea Officer 3; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d10+7; hp 50; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 dueling jacket); Atk +4 (1d6, cutlass) or +4 (2d6, long musket); SQ Enlightened, Close Quarters +1, Dodge, 1st Favored Ship (Galley), Mobility, Skill Expert +2, Command (morale bonus); AL N; SV: Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; Str 10, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 17.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Climb +7, Diplomacy +13, Knowledge (navigation) +9, Listen +9, Profession (sailor) +9, Spot +9, Survival +6, Use Rope +7.
Feats: Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot.
Fortunes: Enlightened, Code of Honor (Islam).
Equipment: Clothing, dueling jacket, cutlass, knife, long musket, powder and shot.

Hussein is, as his nickname implies, a pirate always in search of prizes for the glory of himself, his crew, Algiers and Allah. He is a strict disciplinarian, and very pious when it comes to his religious duties. What is more, he can be relentless when it comes to righting what he believes are the wrongs that others have done to him.

Corsair Crewmen
Sea Dog 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d10+2; hp 12; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +2 (1d6+1, cutlass) or +3 (2d6, long musket); SQ Enlightened, Close Quarters +1,Dodge; AL N; SV: Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +1; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Climb +5, Listen +3, Profession (sailor) +6, Spot +3, Survival +6, Use Rope +6.
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot.
Fortunes: Enlightened, Code of Honor (Islam).
Equipment: Clothing, cutlass, knife, long musket, powder and shot.

Fighter 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d10+2; hp 12; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +4 (1d6+2, scimitar) or +2 (2d6, short musket); SQ none; AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +0; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12.
Background: Janissary.
Skills: Climb +6, Craft (various) +3, Diplomacy +5, Jump +6.
Feats: Power Attack, Weapon Focus (scimitar).
Fortunes: Code of Honor (adherence to Islam and loyalty to the Ottoman sultan).
Equipment: Buff coat, scimitar, short musket, powder and shot.

Janissary Lieutenant
Fighter 5; CR 5; Size medium; HD 5d10+10; hp 42; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +9 (1d6+5, scimitar) or +6 (2d6, short musket); SQ none; AL LN; SV: Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +1; Str 16, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12.
Background: Janissary.
Skills: Climb +11, Craft (various) +7, Diplomacy +5, Jump +11.
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (scimitar), Weapon Specialization (scimitar).
Fortunes: Code of Honor (adherence to Islam and loyalty to the Ottoman sultan).
Equipment: Buff coat, scimitar, short musket, powder and shot.

Mustafa al-Aqil
Shantyman 7; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d8+7; hp 41; Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+4 chain shirt); Atk +5 (1d6, staff) or +5 (ranged); SQ Bardic Music, Bardic Knowledge, Bonus Contacts (3), Vaporing, Fame Tale; AL N; SV: Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +6; Str 10, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 17.
Background: Gentleman-Adventurer (Diplomacy, Knowledge: local, Knowledge: sea lore).
Skills: Appraise +12, Diplomacy +15, Gather Information +13, Knowledge: local +12, Knowledge: sea lore +12, Perform: oratory +16, Sense Motive +9.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Negotiator, Port Savvy, Skill Focus (Perform: oratory).
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: Masterwork chain shirt, clothing, walking stick, pouch holding 24 p.o.e.

Mustafa al-Aqil is fascinated by the legendary tales told around the world. Although a devout Muslim, he is especially interested in researching Greek and Roman myths and the possibility that there is truth behind the stories. In addition to providing a scholarly pursuit, he has turned it into a lucrative business by brewing lotus wine and selling it to unsuspecting buyers, who then make easy prey for Algerian corsairs. Despite this close connection with the corsairs, however, Mustafa is not so loyal that he won't consider other employment if his current occupation becomes too hazardous.

Mustafa's Guards
Ranger 4; CR 4; Size medium; HD 4d10+8; hp 34; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +7 (2d6 or 2d4, short musket or pistol) or +6 (1d6+2, cutlass or buccaneer knife); AL CN; SV: Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +3; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Native.
Skills: Heal +6, Hide +12, Listen +9, Move Silently +12, Spot +9, Survival +9, Swim +9, Use Rope +10.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Endurance, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Stealthy, Track Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: Doll’s Eyes.
Equipment: Short musket, pair of pistols, cutlass, buccaneer knife, backpack.

These fellows are highly mercenary. Although they have a good arrangement with Mustafa, they are none too zealous in their convictions and thus can be persuaded to cooperate with enemies who are much more skilled in the ways of battle.

Stephanos Kafouros
Sea Dog 5; CR 5; Size medium; HD 5d10+10; hp 42; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +7 (melee) or +7 (ranged); SQ Superstitious, Close Quarters +2, Dodge, 1st Favored Ship (sloop); AL NG; SV: Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +3; Str 14, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10.
Background: Seaman (Climb and Profession: sailor).
Skills: Climb +10, Jump +8, Knowledge: sea lore +9, Profession: sailor +9, Swim +10, Use Rope +8.
Feats: Athletic, Diehard, Endurance.
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: None.

As his name—which he gave himself—suggests, Kafouros is every bit the Greek scallywag. He is boastful and vain, especially when it comes to his carefully groomed mustache. Even so, his skills are almost enough to justify his self-confidence and pride. His experience as a galley slave has taught him some humility, but the possibility of rescue means that his boisterous nature could return to the fore.

Appendix 2—Scylla and Charybdis
These stats are provided in case the GM wishes to use the dream sequence at the start of the scenario. These stats are taken from the book Relics & Rituals: Olympus, from White Wolf Publishing.

Huge Magical Beast
Hit Dice:
12d10+48 (114 hp)
+2 (+2 Dex)
30 ft.
Armor Class:
23 (-2 size, +2 Dex, +13 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple:
Bite +15 melee (2d6+4/19-20/x2)
Full Attack:
6 bites +15 melee (2d6+4/19-20/x2) and snakes +12 melee (2d6 plus poison)
15 ft./15 ft.
Special Attacks:
Poison (Fort DC 20, initial 1d6 Str, secondary 2d6 Str)
Special Qualities:
DR 5/--, darkvision 60 ft., improved uncanny dodge, low-light vision, scent, uncanny dodge
Fort +12, Ref +10, Will +5
Str 19, Dex 14, Con 18, Int 11, Wis 12, Cha 10
Listen +13, Spot +13, Survival +10
Alertness, Improved Critical (bite), Multiattack, Snatch, Weapon Focus (bite)
Temperate cliff caves and islands
Challenge Rating:
Double standard
Always chaotic evil
13-16 HD (Huge), 17-20 HD (Gargantuan)
Level Adjustment:

Scylla is a monster with the upper torso of a woman, although six necks with fanged maws protrude from her body. Her waist is encircled by wolflike heads, while below her waist is a writhing mass of tentacles. Some say that she has always taken this form, but others claim that she was once a beautiful sea nymph who was cursed for some kind of transgression.

Huge Elemental (Water)
Hit Dice:
16d8+80 (152 hp)
+4 (+4 Dex)
30 ft.; swim 120 ft.
Armor Class:
21 (-2 size, +4 Dex, +9 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple:
Slam +17 melee (2d10+7/19-20)
Full Attack:
2 slams +17 melee (2d10+7/19-20)
15 ft./15 ft.
Special Attacks:
Water mastery, drench, spew, vortex
Special Qualities:
Damage reduction 5/--, Darkvision 60 ft., elemental traits, immunity to cold and fire
Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +8
Str 24, Dex 18, Con 21, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 11
Listen +22, Spot +22
Alertness, Cleave, Improved Critical (slam), Improved Bull Rush, Iron Will, Power Attack
Any ocean, lake, sea
Challenge Rating:
Usually neutral evil
17-20 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment:

Charybdis is a monster whose body is dominated by a gaping maw, one that can swallow unsuspecting vessels whole. The creature is vaguely fish-like, with fins that let it swim in search of prey.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Mediterranean Sea and Algiers

Today's post includes a couple of maps, the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Algiers. There's also some information about the Barbary corsairs, along with a glossary of terms.


Piracy, Slavery, Ransom and Tribute
For centuries, the Barbary Coast has boasted an organized system of commercial piracy that makes the buccaneers of the Caribbean Sea seem crude by comparison. In the cities of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, wealthy merchants invest in outfitting expeditions, working with the approval of the local ruler and carrying crews of janissary soldiers into battle. Any loot they acquire is divided according to a predetermined contract. For example, with Algerian booty, 10% of the value would go to the Dey, and 1% would be taxed for repairs to the mole; the remains would be split evenly between the backers of the voyage and the crew.

Even more important than material goods, however, is the traffic in slaves. Those who are taken as prisoners aboard a prize vessel are loaded aboard the corsair ship, with men chained below decks in the cargo hold. Women taken as slaves are generally kept separate from the rest, in a protected area where they remain unmolested. (After all, it is important that they arrive in the slave market in an unspoiled condition.) This human cargo is fed a crude diet of coarse black bread and oil or thin soup in order to keep them fairly healthy.

Once they reach port, the slaves are taken to the bagnio where they live until (and often after) being purchased. New slaves were inspected like animals, especially for signs of being unaccustomed to labor; after all, those who could have wealthy relatives back in Europe become especially valuable. All slaves are made to wear iron rings on their ankles as a sign of their status. Some might even be given an emetic to find any valuables they might have swallowed.

After inspection, the slaves are sent on to different fates. Women are often purchased for the harems of the wealthy, and blonde and red-headed women are considered especially exotic. Those who possess useful skills, such as carpentry or other crafts, might be given a limited amount of freedom in which to practice their trades—with their owners claiming shares of the profits, of course. Slaves who can be identified are held for ransom, with notification being sent to their families in order to arrange a price. The most dreaded fate awaits those who are chosen for hard labor, such as hauling stones for the mole in Algiers harbor or serving as a rower aboard a galley. Those who are sent to the galleys have their heads shaved.

Some slaves opt to “turn Turk” instead of suffering captivity. To do so they convert to Islam, at which point they are freed. Many of those who do so become renegadoes, serving aboard a corsair vessel and putting their skills to use by the Barbary powers. They become particularly reviled back home, regarded as turncoats by other Europeans.

This system has given rise to an unusual kind of diplomacy between the Barbary powers and their European fellows. Sometimes, instead of risking having its ships taken by corsairs, a country decides to pay tribute to the local ruler in exchange for a guarantee of safe passage. This usually lasts until the corsairs renege on the agreement, or until the country's government works up the gumption to stage an attack and demand a better arrangement.

Map and Locations
Refer to the appropriate map to find the following locations. This is a modified version based on one created by Daniel Dalet, from the following website:

This major port sits at the point where the Nile River flows into the Mediterranean. As such, it serves as a hub of trade for Cairo and the rest of Egypt. At one time it boasted two impressive buildings, the famed lighthouse and library. Sadly, the prior fell into the sea following an earthquake, while the latter was burned to the ground during political turmoil involving Julius Caesar.

Refer to the section about this city, below, for greater details.

This is the largest city in Egypt, up the Nile River from Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to being a center for commerce and education, it lies close to the famous pyramids of Giza.

This island is the legendary home of the Lotus-Eaters, encountered by Odysseus and his crew during their wanderings. It lies some fifty miles off the coast of Tunisia, and was used as a place of exile for deposed Tunisian rulers. Even so, it is describes as being almost barren, with little more than a few huts for habitation.

The strait between two elevated coastlines—once known as the Pillars of Herakles and considered the edge of civilization by the Greeks—marks the entry point to the Mediterranean.

This is home to the Ottoman Sultan, who lives in the beautiful Topkapi Palace. As such, it is the center of the Empire. Before being conquered it was known as Constantinople, the center of the Eastern Roman Empire.

The capital and chief port of Portugal, it is especially known as a launching point for voyages of exploration around the coast of Africa and thus to India, the East Indies, and even so far as China and Japan.

This island has come to be the home of the Knights of Malta, an order descended from the famous Knights Hospitaller. That group, after being expelled from the Holy Land following the Muslim conquest, eventually made its way via Rhodes and Cyprus to this island, where it now carries on its war against Islam.

Ruled by its own Emperor, Morocco is therefore independent from Ottoman rule. It maintains its own fleet of corsairs, who tend more frequently than others to venture into northern waters. Even so, its rulers have also attempted at times to make peace with various European powers. One Emperor, Ismail, was rumored to keep a collection of wild beasts and occasionally fed slaves to it. He is also said to have boasted a large harem that produced some five hundred sons.

Steeped in antiquity, Rome is home to the Vatican and the Pope, and therefore the center of the Catholic faith. While it is not as much of a maritime power as cities like Venice, it still claims considerable influence given the power of the church.

Sallee is something of an anomaly, this port is ruled by the Taifat al-Ra'is, a council of corsairs (with fourteen members, including the admiral). In this way, it resembles the pirate communities of New Providence and certain communiites on the islands off of Madagascar, known as Libertalia. In addition to a seaport, it boasts an ancient necropolis, the Chellah, that dates back to 600 BCE.

Tripoli is built on Greek and Roman ruins. Indeed, its name comes from the Greek word tripolis, meaning “three cities,” since it stood in the middle of a trio of settlements. It is ruled by a Pasha (Bashaw) and is the weakest of the corsair cities. The land surrounding Tripolis is very rich, used to grow dates, oranges, figs, olives and lemons.

Tunis lies near ruins of Carthage, on the inside edge of lake that is five miles wide. The seaside entrance to the lake is guarded by a stout fort; this, combined with the fact that water is very shallow and must be dredged to allow ships, makes for a solid defensive position. Tunis boasts a population of 150,000 people. It is ruled by a Bey.

This Italian city is perhaps the strongest maritime power in the Mediterranean. Its military has long fought against the Turkish forces, including the famous Battle of Lepanto as well as a long-running struggle for the island of Crete. Venice is also quite powerful when it comes to mercantile interests, boasting at one time three thousand ships in the water.

The City of Algiers
When it comes to piracy on the Caribbean Sea, no city is more notorious than Port Royal. As far as such activity on the Mediterranean Sea is concerned, the city of Algiers has just as much intrigue and infamy.

Algiers is located on the coast of North Africa, roughly halfway between the Strait of Gibraltar and the point where the coastline turns south in the vicinity of Tunis. The city itself is nestled amidst hills rising up from the shoreline; its white-washed buildings create a dazzling sight for newcomers. It is surrounded by a wall twenty-five feet in height and roughly three miles in length. A number of gates provide access through this; they include the Customs Gate, or Bab al-Gazira (Area 4), which opens onto the waterfront; the Bab Azoun (Area 5) and New Gate (Area 7), which lead out to the east; the Bab el-Oued (Area 9), to the northwest; and other minor ones (Areas 6 and 8). Beyond the city itself there are training grounds for the local janissaries, along with private country estates for the very wealthy, including numerous beautiful orchards and gardens. There is also a series of lookout posts with bonfires that can be used to warn of an impending attack.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the city is the islet in the harbor, el Peńon (Area 1). It is connected to the harbor by a man-made mole (Area 2), a long and narrow pile of rocks across which the city wall runs. It is perhaps six or seven yards wide, and more than three hundred paces in length. This creates an excellent harbor, and provides numerous locations for cannon with which to defend the ships anchored in it. This mole has come to symbolize the burden of the slaves who live in Algiers, since it was built through their labor. One of the major barracks for the janissaries is located on el Peńon, as those soldiers are entrusted with protecting the harbor during times of attack.

In the center of the city is the Dey's palace (Area 3), a lavish structure of marble and alabaster that houses the local ruler, his bodyguard and advisors and, of course, his harem. Tales from those who have visited the palace describe it as labyrinthine, a place in which those who are not supposed to be there could easily become lost.

Atop the slope of the hill sits the Casbah (Area 10), a major fortress that is often used as a market for slaves, or bedistan. It stands at a height of five hundred feet above the harbor. Beneath that and the waterfront is a complicated sprawl of buildings. Although there are a number of broader streets that serve as main thoroughfares, many are twelve feet wide or less, and are overhung with buildings, thus creating a maze that can be disorienting for those who are not familiar with the city.

The population of the city is roughly 120,000 people, living in some 15,000 houses. It consists of a tremendous variety of people, including Arabs who have migrated to the region, local Berbers from the highlands to the south, Moors who have fled from Spain, and some four thousand janissaries who represent the authority of the Ottoman Empire. There are also numerous free Christian and Jewish residents, along with thousands of slaves.

The Jews live in ghettos and wear black clothing with tricorn hats; they act as brokers between Christians and Muslims. This is due in part to an Islamic ban on moneylending, creating a niche market that provides a rare opportunity for Jewish citizens. Indeed, such banking business often involves them in efforts to ransom captives; they provide loans and letters of credit for petitioners, then follow up on collecting those debts back in Europe.

Most of the city's Christian residents are slaves. There are also representatives of various European governments, ambassadors or consuls for various countries. They act as intermediaries for visitors, helping to arrange meetings with government officials and thus broker deals. Another distinct group is formed by members of the Mercedarian and Trinitarian orders, clerical and lay brethren dedicated to redeeming the slaves who are held in Algiers.

These slaves fill a number of roles in the city's economy. Some are simple laborers, cutting stone from the surrounding hills and hauling it to the mole to help maintain it. Others run their own businesses, giving some of their profits to their masters in exchange for a little bit of freedom. This is why individuals with marketable skills, such as carpenters and the like, demand higher prices in the slave market than others. Of course, the most valuable of the captives claimed are women of exotic appearance who might go to serve in the Dey's harem or those of other influential people. The final groups of (former) slaves are those who have converted to Islam—or “turned Turk,” as it is known in Europe—and thus gained their freedom.

The janissaries are perhaps the most important power group in the city. They are direct representatives of the Ottoman throne, acting as advisors as part of the Dey's divan and even voting when it comes to choosing new leadership. Indeed, there have been times when the janissaries decided that a change was necessary and took it into their own hands to eliminate an old ruler.

Daily Life
The city of Algiers is a hub of trade throughout the surrounding region. While much of this business is supplied through legitimate means, there's no doubt that organized piracy is an important industry here. Wealthy citizens invest in outfitting ships and crews, who are accompanied by janissaries. These voyages can include cruises to prey upon European shipping, along with razzias against specific towns to take slaves and spoils.

Much of the trade in the city, therefore, supports this piracy. That includes crafts such as carpentry, cooperage and related businesses, as well as the merchants who help to dispose of booty. During the daytime, the city's marketplaces are filled with merchants and others who are selling all manner of foodstuffs and goods. Most notable are the bedistans, the markets used when shiploads of slaves are brought to the city. This hustle and bustle is broken only when the muezzins issue their calls to prayer.
After dark is a special time in the city. That is when the rooftops of many buildings are opened to the women who spend most of the other time sequestered in their homes. This allows them to move about without being exposed to the lusty gazes of men—although certain brave fellows are willing to risk official wrath in order to make a romantic visit.

Those slaves who spend the day toiling for the profit of their masters, come the evening, are taken back either to individual homes or to the bagnios, large buildings that houses scores and sometimes even hundreds of slaves. Indeed, these structures often include shops run by bondsmen, giving them an opportunity to earn money for themselves while also turning a profit for their masters.

The janissaries provide law enforcement in the city and serve aboard vessels leaving for specific missions. When they are not engaged in such activities, they entertain themselves via contests of martial skill such as archery, wrestling and horseback riding.