Wednesday, July 31, 2013


This adventure is a bit of a tease, since it sends the PC's off on a voyage into the South Sea and beyond, but I think it should be fun.


This scenario is Part 17 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 tenth-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. Note also that this scenario, as with its predecessors, "The Ends of the Earth" and "Retribution"--uses much more of a “sandbox” style, allowing for many different developments depending on the course of action chosen by the PC's. To that end, the events of this scenario could even be intertwined amidst those of "Retribution."

As mentioned above, the previous scenario was an open-ended affair with all kinds of possible outcomes. As such, it is necessary before starting this one to answer a number of preparatory questions.
  1. Have the PC's remained loyal to the Cabal (or at least seemingly so), or did they betray that organization and strike out on their own?
  2. Has the Cabal been successful in its efforts to gather practitioners of various magical traditions, likely including old associates of the PC's? What efforts have the PC's made to deal with this activity?
  3. Is there any other unfinished business that the PC's have, not necessarily related to this, that could become entangled with it?
  4. Etc.
The answers to these questions should help set the scene for the start of this scenario.

Unfinished Business
In 221 BCE, the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang Ti united his country under his rule. Although his leadership brought prosperity and many other benefits to the land, it was not without a price. For one thing, the Emperor tried to control the intellectual pursuits of his people, ordering certain texts to be burned and even a few scholars to be buried alive. Some believe this effort was made to prevent lines of throught that ran contrary to his beliefs, but others maintain that the purpose was to focus the efforts of the nation's scholars on a single task: finding the key to immortality.

To that end, Qin Shi Huang Ti sent an expedition across the sea to the east, a fleet of ships crewed by sailors and scholars, in search of a mythical island where the answer to this puzzle could be found. It was under the command of Fu Xu. After years away, he returned with a report that some kind of sea monster blocked access to the desired goal; the Emperor sent him back with more ships, sailors and soldiers. This time, Fu Xu and the expedition never returned.

Although the fate of the fleet was never learned, the tale of its disappearance remained. Indeed, no less a person than Sir Francis Drake was aware of it, and looked out for evidence of its ultimate end when he made his famous circumnavigation in 1577-80. After all, he had as an advisor John Dee, one of the most famous occultists of his era.What few people know, however, is that certain agents of the English crown have remained interested in the matter, even going so far as to enlist the Cabal in order to search for the lost fleet.

At the start of this scenario, it's important to know a few details about the party's situation. Some of these questions are presented in the Background section, above, but there are others. For one thing, how is it that the PC's find themselves in London? Do they have a ship at the docks? Where are they lodging? How do they spend their downtime in the city? As always, the answers to these questions help to set the scene when the action starts.

Use the answers to these questions to determine the starting points for the different PC's. Allow each player to describe what one's character is doing, and perhaps to do a little bit of roleplaying or perhaps make some relative skill checks or other dice rolls--these might include ones for a drinking contest, a bit of knife throwing or wrestling, carousing and the like. It should not continue for too long, however, before the real action begins.

Encounter 1--Explosive Developments
Just after dark, London is rocked by a massive explosion down along the River Thames. Those who look can see the rising fireball, followed by a tall plume of thick black smoke. It is easy to follow these down to the river, where a ship in the harbor is burning. Once they are close enough to do so, the PC's should make Search or Spot checks; a DC 10 reveals that there are sailors still on deck, choking amidst the smoke, and a similar Listen effort lets characters hear them crying out for help.

At this point, roll initiative. This should help give a sense of urgency to the situation, and to help track how the situation develops as the PC's respond to it. The ship sits three hundred feet from shore, and its bilge is already flooded, while water continues to pour in through the hole in its side. It takes six rounds for the lower deck to flood, and then another six for the middle deck. The fore- and sterncastles fill in only four rounds, at which point the vessel sinks to the bottom of the Thames. (The GM might wish to use appropriate dice to represent the amount of time that has passed as a visible reminder to the players that the ship is sinking.

The first problem that the PC's face is finding a means of reaching the vessel. While swimming is one option, perhaps a better one is to commandeer a lonboat or rowboat. The local boatmen are hesitant to venture out to the ship, given its situation, so it takes a DC 15 Diplomacy, Intimidate or Sway check to convince them. Alternately, of course, the PC's could just take a boat by force. If they do acquire a boat, the PC's should make Strength checks (with lower results counting as Aid Another actions for the highest one) to determine how fast they can move the boat.

Result / Time Taken
0-9 / 8 rounds
10-19 / 5 rounds
20-29 / 3 rounds
30+ / 2 rounds

Refer to the appropriate map to find a layout for this vessel. The panicking sailors are gathered on the main deck (Area 1), and move to the sterncastle (Area 8) once the water threatens to run over the side of it. Due to their fear, they attempt to leap aboard any boat that approaches their ship; the PC's might need to use Intimidate or Sway checks to keep them in good order. It's also necessary for the PC's to climb up the side, requiring a DC 5 check. As always, the GM should feel free to provide circumstance bonuses or even quick, cinematic interpretations if the PC's devise clever means of putting themselves aboard the ship.

Once they are aboard, the PC's can learn from the sailors that other people are still aboard the vessel, in the lower decks. This includes their captain, who was "belowdecks before she blew" as one sailor recalls. Should the PC's wish to take more time for questions and answers, they can learn that this ship is the Temerarious, captained by Isaac Faulkes. At that point, a DC 15 Knowledge: local check reveals that this captain is one who often works with the English nobility--certainly a valuable personage, if he can be saved. The location of the breach is marked with an X on the map.

As long as one or more PC's do head below, it's important to remember just how far this ship has sunk into the water. By now the lower deck should be mostly full, meaning that it takes DC 10 Swim checks, along with holding one's breath, to explore it. Captain Faulkes is in the special cargo hold, Area 12, and is trapped by the press of water against the door there, which opens out into Area 11. It takes a DC 20 Strength check to force open this door; up to two characters can combine on this effort, along with Faulkes. At this point the captain has already been holding his breath for the number of rounds that have transpired, meaning that he might fall unconcious and could drown if not quickly freed.

At the GM's discretion, there could be other opportunities for heroism aboard this ship. For example, any of the following things could happen.
  • One crew member is trapped underneath some barrels that were knocked loose by the explosion; rescuing him requires making a DC 20 Strength check, although the PC's can combine their efforts and perhaps even gain a +2 circumstance bonus for using leverage.
  • Another crewmen has broken both his legs, and needs to be moved. This can be handled via some kind of strategy, such as rigging a stretcher or the like.
  • There are more victims than can fit in one boat. When they all try to crowd into it, the craft is in imminent danger of being swamped. To deal with this the PC's must again devise a suitable tactic, such as having some of the escapees hang on to the side while swimming in the water.
  • A number of the victims need medical treatment; this requires one DC 15 Heal check to properly triage their injuries, followed by a similar check to set the broken leg and others to deal with characters who've been injured.

The Opposition
While this situation is unfolding, there is also the matter of the enemies who caused this trouble in the first place. Believing that they've accomplished their goal of eliminating Captain Faulkes, the assassins who serve the Cabal have fled in a long boat heading across the Thames. In this way, they expect to land and then make their way by foot, back across the bridge to London proper. PC's who are in a position to do so might (DC 20 Search or Spot check) notice them. Should any character have a spyglass handy, it's even possible to take a close look at the attackers. On the other hand, the assassins can attempt a similar effort to notice the PC's and realize that their plan has been foiled. They do not have a spyglass, however.

Should one or more PC's be so bold as to pursue the attackers, the situation could become complicated. While it's unlikely that they have more than one rowboat with which to haul away rescuees, it is possible. Alternately, one could even try to swim across the river by making DC 10 checks over a distance of 600 feet. If a character does manage to reach the other side of the river, this could turn into a running chase. The attackers have a wagon waiting there, ready to take them back to their lodgings at a nearby London inn.

However this situation develops, as long as they manage to rescue Captain Faulkes, he asks them to take him to a nearby apothecary's shop, as detailed in Encounter 3.

Encounter 2--Trouble in the Streets
In the event that a chase does occur, this encounter presents some options for conducting such a scene. The GM is advised to mix in these events as necessary, both in response to the actions of the NPC's and as necessary to keep the action moving along at a steady clip. Refer to the map included with the article "London Town" for a layout of the city.

Spying on the Party
If the Cabal is aware of the party's interference--such as if the assassins managed to witness the rescue that the PC's staged and weren't prevented from escaping--they might draw surveillance from the occultists who serve that organization. This could take a number of forms.

If Muriel Grey is still alive, she could send her raven familiar, Shadow, to follow them. This should present a particularly difficult challenge, given that the bird can fly and is stealthy. On the other hand, should she be dead, the Cabal could use agents with the same stats as the assassins to trail the party. Whatever the case, the PC's should make Spot or Search checks, as appropriate, opposed to the spy's/spies' Hide efforts. (This assumes that, since they don't need to be very close to report on the party's movements, the spy/spies need not be close enough to require Move Silently checks.

If they are successful, the spy/spies can report the party's location to the Cabal, bringing trouble in the future. On the other hand, if they PC's spot their followers(s), they can force a confrontation. Such a situation could be quickly resolved, given that the PC's outnumber their opponent, but it could also develop into a running chase, as mentioned above.

The Long Arm of the Law
As a further complication, action in the streets could draw the unwanted attention of the local constables. Such a development could be used for comic effect, with bumbling and outgunned local peacekeepers showing up at the wrong time to make the situation more complicated. On the other hand, this could also build on any sense of paranoia that the PC's are experiencing. After all, the constables are essentially mercenaries, hired by their neighborhoods to enforce the law; who is to say they aren't under the influence of the Cabal?

Encounter 3--Aftermath
Depending on the actions of the PC's during the previous encounter, they could find themselves in a number of different situations. While it is never possible to anticipate all of them, a few of the more likely possibilities are detailed here. As always, a fair amount of GM adjudication is probably going to be needed.

The Apothecary's Shop
As long as they are interested in pursuing this matter, it doesn't take much to find the apothecary's shop, given that good advertising has made it commonly known. Indeed, a DC 10 Knowledge: local or Gather Information check reveals the location. Provided they can accomplish one result or the other, refer to the appropriate map for the following encounter.

1. Front Room
The walls in half of this room are lined with shelves that hold all manner of bottles, jars and boxes; these are the various medicines, unguents and elixirs that Meier has prepared for sale. There is also a waist-high counter that holds the apothecary's account book, along with writing materials and a strongbox (hardness 10 and 10 hit points; DC 20 to finesse open and 20 to break) that holds 500 poe in mixed coins.

2. Workshop
Here again, two of the walls are lined with shelves; in this case, they hold the raw materials for the apothecary's creations, along with tools such as knives, a mortar and pestle, glass containers and other apparatus for heating preparations and the like. In the middle of the room is a broad work table, and tucked underneath it are stools for sitting.

3. Kitchen
This room is well stocked with supplies and equipment, much like in the workshop, albeit here it is for preparing meals. There are half a dozen stools for the host and guests to gather around the table.

4. Bedroom
A comfortable bed, trunk and wardrobe stand against one wall of this room. The wardrobe contains various clothing items, all of a plain but quality style, while the chest holds numerous mundane personal items.

5. Privy
Just as one would expect, this room boasts the usual low bench with a hole in it. This is where Liu-Chang Kwan conceals himself when the PC's show up at the shop.

If they announce their arrival, such as by knocking on the door, they are greeted by an old man in simple clothing, one whose face is lined by age but whose eyes have a keen light still shining in them. He declares that his shop is closed for the night, but can be of the urgency of this business as long as the PC's tell some of their recent activities. As long as that happens, Meier invites them inside, and then bolts the door securely behind them. At that point he makes a pot of tea and then brings Kwan out of his hiding place.

Communicating with Kwan presents a considerable problem, of course, since he does not speak English. In the unlikely circumstance that one of the PC's does speak Chinese, the old man is delighted and tells his full story. Assuming that is not the case, however, it should take a good deal of finagling to learn what he knows. With this in mind, he could use some of the following techniques.

The Story
Once he has been suitably revived, Faulkes and Meier can help Liu-Chang tell his story. This is best presented in a conversational manner, rather than as a monologue, but should include the following elements.
  • Recently Faulkes and his crew aboard the Temerarious made a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope into the Pacific Ocean, where they cruised up and down the western coast of the Americas.
  • Their objective was to intercept the Spanish treasure fleet, a goal that they very nearly achieved.
  • During their pursuit of a Spanish galleon, however, both vessels ran into a wicked storm that blew them way off course to the north.
  • In order to make necessary repairs, they took shelter in a secluded bay, one with an island in the middle of it.
  • There they met an unusual individual--a Chinese fellow, the survivor of a shipwreck.
  • After long and difficult efforts to communicate, Faulkes was able to discover that this person, whose name is Liu-Chang Kwan, was the only survivor of an attack on his ship by an unknown vessel.
  • Knowing that he could not remain on that island forever, Kwan decided to accompany them back to England with the hope of finding a way home from there.
  • Finally Liu-Chang admits what he and his men were searching for on the West Coast--evidence of the legendary Fu Xu and the final whereabouts of his lost expedition.
  • If he'd known that detail at the time, Faulkes would've stayed in the area; sadly, however, the language barrier prevented him from learning it until they'd returned to England.
  • Not knowing better than to trust the Cabal, he went to one of its agents for help in translating Liu-Chang's story.
  • While he knows that his charts and logbook were stolen by the thieves, Faulkes believes that he remembers the details well enough to lead a ship back to the island.
At the conclusion of this discussion, Faulkes and Liu-Chang present their proposition to the PC's: Would they be willing to help outfit and lead an expedition to complete Liu-Chang's mission? With the destruction of the Temerarious, the two men now need a ship--something that the PC's should have at their disposal.

Smoking Out Their Quarry
It's at this point that the Player Characters' enemies--assuming they have some means of doing so--catch up to them. As mentioned above, this could happen because of spies following the party, Muriel Grey's raven familiar, or perhaps even interviewing locals who've witnessed the party's movements. Whatever the case, the agents of the Cabal show up in force, hoping to take the PC's out of this competition once and for all.

To do this, they use the following tactics. First, a group sharpshooters takes up positions with cover and line of sight on the building's front door. They can attempt Hide checks to do so if there are any PC's who specifically sat that they are watching outside. Then the close-combat specialists move into position around the door, ready to make an entrance or deal with those who make an exit. Note that this requires them to make Move Silently checks opposed to the Player Characters' Listen efforts, albeit with a +5 circumstance bonus because the PC's are inside the shop. Finally, other agents smash in the windows and toss in smokepots to force a confrontation. At the GM's discretion, there could also be a Cabal occultist present to provide magical assistance.

Once the attack begins, or when the PC's become aware of these developments, it's time to roll initiative. This battle should be a dynamic one, with a good chance of it turning into a running chase through the streets of London. Should that happen, refer to the previous encounter for some suggestions regarding how it could develop. Otherwise, if the PC's manage to defeat all of their foes, they can proceed with their own business.

Encounter 4--Preparations
If the PC's are interested in accepting the offer made by Faulkes and Liu-Chang, there's a lot for them to do in order to make ready for the voyage. Given that the agents of the Cabal are still on the lookout for the PC's, however, many of these tasks need to be undertaken in secret.
  • For one thing, the PC's need to gather their own crewmembers. Depending on the predilections of these individuals, this could involve interrupting them during what they expected to be some longer-lasting R&R. The GM is free to interpret any roleplaying challenges that ensue from this situation.
  • Additionally, Faulkes asks that the survivors from his crew be allowed to join the expedition. Since he is the only one who knows how to find the island again, he does have some leverage if he wishes to push the point. This provides a chance for the GM to develop the personalities of these NPC's, and perhaps to create some drama as they are integrated with the Player Characters' own crew members.
  • There is also the matter of provisioning the ship, which is complicated by the need for stealth and secrecy, along with the fact that it's happening in the middle of the night. This is a good chance for the PC's to call on some contacts, if they have any, or to use roleplaying and perhaps some skill checks to make the deals happen.
  • Should they wish to acquire any armaments or munitions for their vessel, the PC's face an even greater challenge. Not only does that present the challenge of dealing with more outfitters, possibly at an ungodly hour, but it also takes a great deal of work to move heavy ordinance aboard a ship.
Additionally, Reuben Meier asks to accompany the group, given that he no longer feels safe in his apothecary shop. If they're willing to include him, he could prove to be a useful asset for the party.

The possibility of this event is left to the discretion of the GM. If the Cabal has been able to identify the PC's, and if its agents could track them back to their ship, they could stage an attack on it. Here it's important to consider how much notoriety the PC's have gained and how much their ship would blend in among the other vessels (or not). How much Fame have the PC's earned? Do they fly a particular flag? Have they been keeping a low profile in London, or have they been spending lots of money and letting it be known that they're in port?

If an attack of this nature is appropriate, it can make for an engaging scene. Although the attack could happen while the PC's happen to be aboard their ship, it could also be interesting to focus the action here on other crew members. This is especially true if the GM has been using the suggestion for troupe-style play (from page 126 of the Skull & Bones rulebook) or has been tracking the sailors aboard the ship as noted in the article "A Motley Crew."

The force that attacks should be modified based on who is defending the party's ship. Whatever the case, the attackers approach in longboats as detailed in Encounter 1, and the characters who are present should make Listen checks to notice their approach.

Setting Sail
The final task that the PC's face is making their way down the Thames and out into the English Channel. Given the twists and turns that this river takes on its way to the sea, that is no easy task. To successfully maneuver this passage, the PC's must make two DC 20 Profession: sailor checks--one to maneuver amidst the vessels that are docked in the river, and another to make way through the numerous bends in the river. Failure on either of these checks causes 1d4 structure points of damge for every five points by which it failed (with the same damage dealt to an unfortunate ship on the first check). Although this shouldn't be enough to compromise the seaworthiness of their ship, it should provide a bit of comedic counterpoint as the voyage for the mysterious island begins.

This ending is a little bit of a cliffhanger, given that the finale is really a beginning. Even so, the down time that such a voyage provides gives the PC's a chance to rest and recuperate, and to prepare for what is to come. For one thing, if this adventure is being run as part of the Come Hell and High Water campaign, the PC's should earn enough experience to reach 11th level. What is more, they can also take some time to discuss the situation with Liu-Chang Kwan and Reuben Meier, and thus to learn just why the Cabal is so interested in Faulkes' discovery and what kind of a threat they present to the rest of the world.

Continuing the Adventure
At this point there are a lot of possibilities for future storylines; presented here are a few of the possibilities.
  • As mentioned above, there is the possibility for drama between the party's crew and those who served under Faulkes. This shouldn't be anything too violent, but could make for some engaging roleplaying.
  • Also mentioned previously is the fact that Reuben Meier is a font of information about the Cabal's plots. He is, after all, an accomplished Khabbalist, and is knowledgeable about all kinds of religious and occult subjects. Indeed, both he and Liu-Chang Kwan could become mentors to the PC's, especially ones who are interested in pursuing arcane or divine magic.
  • It is likely that the agents of the Cabal, once they realize that the PC's have departed London, decide to send their own vessel in pursuit; this should add a real sense of impending danger to the voyage across the Atlantic. What is more, they could again call on Muriel Grey's raven familiar or other means in order to track the movements of the PC's.
  • Ocean crossings are never an easy matter. The GM here could incorporate any number of events, but especially recommended are such interludes as "The Storm," "The Competition 2," or perhaps even "The Jonah" or "The Stowaway."
Whatever the case, the voyage can be as eventful or unremarkable as fits the desires of the GM and players.

Appendix 1--Dramatis Personae

Warrior 3; CR 2; Size medium; HD 3d8+6; hp 23; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +5 (2d6, short musket) or +4 (1d6+1, cutlass); AL LN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +2; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +5, Jump +5, Survival +5, Swim +5.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Buff coat, short musket, cutlass.

Contsable Sergeant
Warrior 5; CR 4; Size medium; HD 5d8+10; hp 36; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +8 (2d6, short musket) or +6 (1d6+1, cutlass); AL LN; SV: Fort +6, Ref +4, Will +2; Str 13, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Background: Military.
Skills: Climb +7, Jump +7, Survival +7, 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, pair of pistols.

Captain Isaac Faulkes
Sea Dog 4/Sea Officer 5; CR 9; Size medium; HD 4d8+5d10+18; hp 68; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+2 buff coat, -1 Dex); Atk +8 (melee) or +6 (ranged); SQ Bonus feat, survivor +2, expert pilot, resilient, skill expert +3 (Profession: sailor), command (morale bonus, readiness); AL NG; SV: Fort +7, Ref +1, Will +7; Str 12, Dex 8, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 16.
Background: Seaman (Climb, Profession: sailor).
Skills: Climb +5, Diplomacy +10, Gather Information +8, Heal +12, Knowledge (geography) +8, Knowledge (sea lore) +8, Listen +12, Profession (sailor) +16, Sense Motive +9, Spot +12, Survival +12.
Feats: Alertness, Guidance, Negotiator, Self-Sufficient, Skill Focus (Profession: sailor), Track.
Fortunes: Code of Honor.
Equipment: Buff coat.

Isaac Faulkes is something of a rarity in England, a Jewish ship's captain. In this way he is notably more pious than some others of his profession. Even so, his years spent commanding voyages and exploring new lands have proven his competence, and the discrimination that he sometimes faces because of his beliefs has only honed his determination. He has long been friends with Reuben Meier; the older fellow acts as a spiritual advisor to Isaac, while the sailor helps the apothecary with his business.

Faulke's Sailors
Warrior 1; CR 1/2; Size medium; HD 1d8+2; hp 10; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 Dex); Atk +3 (1d6+2, belaying pin or gaff hook) or +2 (ranged); SQ details; AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10.
Background: Seaman.
Skills: Climb +6, Knowledge (sea lore) +3, Profession (sailor) +5.
Feats: Power Attack, Seagoing.
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: Sailor's clothing, gaff hook or belaying pin, miscellaneous possessions.

Liu-Chang Kwan
Wizard (Diviner) 9; CR 9; Size medium; HD 9d4; hp 24; Init +0 (+0 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 10 (+0 Dex); Atk +4 (melee) or +4 (ranged); SQ Scribe Scroll, bonus feat; AL N; SV: Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +13; Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 20, Wis 12, Cha 13.
Background: Scholar.
Skills: Concentration +12, Decipher Script +14, Knowledge (arcana) +14, Knowledge (history) +14, Knowledge (religion) +14, Spellcraft +14.
Feats: Greater Spell Focus (divination), Iron Will, Mental Acumen, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Concentration), Spell Focus (divination).
Fortunes: Enlightened.
Equipment: Spell components & pouch, I Ching coins.
Spells per Day: 4/5/5/4/3/2. Spells Known: (0) Arcane mark, detect magic, read magic, resistance; (1) identify, mage armor, shield, true strike; (2) cat's grace, fox's cunning, locate object, obscure object; (3) arcane sight, dispel magic, illusory script, nondetection; (4) detect scrying, lesser glove of invulnerability, locate creature, mnemonic enhancer; (5) break enchantment, dream

Liu-Chang Kwan is a Chinese mystic who is skilled in the art of divination. He uses his powers to gain a greater understanding of the world around him, and therefore of his own place in it; he has little concern for gaining power or wealth. It is this desire that led him to trace the legendary voyage of Fu Xu, leaving him in his current predicament.

Reuben Meier
Cleric 9; CR 9; Size medium; HD 9d8; hp 35; Init +0 (+0 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+0 Dex, +2 magic); Atk +6/+1 (melee) or +6/+1 (ranged); SQ Turn Undead; AL LG; SV: Fort +6, Ref +3, Will +10; Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 20, Cha 12.
Background: Religious (Diplomacy and Knowledge: religion).
Skills: Craft Wondrous Item, Diplomacy +13, Heal +17, Knowledge: religion +16, Profession: apothecary +17, Survival +4.
Feats: Herbalist, Iron Will, Self-Sufficient, Skill Focus (Knowledge: religion).
Fortunes: Enlightened.
Equipment: Clothing, books, various herbs and powders, herbalist equipment, amulet of natural armor +2, incense of meditation, restorative ointment.
Spells per Day: 6/5+1/5+1/4+1/3+1/2+1. Meier may select from the list of "discreet" spells presented in the article "Clerics in the New World."

Reuben Meier is best known around London as a highly skilled apothecary; many people swear by his remedies, and rightly so. What fewer people know is that he's also an accomplished Khabbalist. In his spare time, he reads from his religious texts and meditates on their meanings. He is also intrigued by other cultures, however, delighting especially in books and tales from the far-flung corners of the world.

Mercenary Soldier
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 (1d8+2, cutlass) or +2 (2d6, musket); AL LN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Military (Survival 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +6, Jump +6, Professions (sailor) +5, Survival +5.
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Rugged, Weapon Focus (cutlass).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Buff coat, cutlass, musket, powder and shot.

Mercenary Sergeant
Fighter 3; CR 3; Size medium; HD 3d10+6; hp 27; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +6 (1d8+2, cutlass) or +4 (2d6, musket); AL LN; SV: Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +2; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Military (Survival 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +8, Jump +8, Professions (sailor) +7, Survival +5.
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Power Attack, Precise Shot, Rugged, Weapon Focus (cutlass).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Buff coat, cutlass, musket, powder and shot.

Mercenary Lieutenant
Fighter 6; CR 6; Size medium; HD 6d10+12; hp 49; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +9/+4 (1d8+7, cutlass) or +6 (2d6, musket); AL LN; SV: Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +3; Str 16, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Military (Survival 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +12, Jump +12, Professions (sailor) +11, Survival +5.
Feats: Cleave, Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Power Attack, Precise Shot, Rugged, Weapon Focus (cutlass), Weapon Specialization (cutlass).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Buff coat, cutlass, musket, powder and shot.

Mercenary Captain
Fighter 10; CR 10; Size medium; HD 10d10+20; hp 75; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +15/+10 (1d8+9, cutlass) or +11 (2d6, musket); AL LN; SV: Fort +10, Ref +4, Will +4; Str 16, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Military (Survival 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +16, Jump +16, Professions (sailor) +15, Survival +5.
Feats: Cleave, Far Shot, Great Cleave, Greater Weapon Focus (cutlass), Greater Weapon Specialization (cutlass), Point Blank Shot, Power Attack, Precise Shot, Rugged, Weapon Focus (cutlass), Weapon Specialization (cutlass).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Buff coat, masterwork cutlass, masterwork musket, powder and shot.

These soldiers of fortune are all business. They sell their services to the highest bidder, working to support that patron in whatever pursuits he or she might have. For that reason, they do not take the actions of opponents personally, but that does not mean they aren't ruthless toward their enemies. They would rather shoot first and ask questions later, if at all. Of course, should someone offer them more money, that could always change the situation.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Interlude: The Betrayal

Here's another interlude, this one providing suggestions about how the Player Characters' associates could turn on them.


Interlude 48: The Betrayal
Previous interludes, including "The Assassin" and "The Declaration," have provided suggestions for what might happen if the PC's make a particularly influential and unforgiving enemy. Additionally, interludes such as "The Brethren" and "The Settlement" suggest events that might transpire if the PC's should try to set up a confederations of pirates, a la the Brethren of the Coast or the Flying Gang, or to create a colony of their own that is free from the restrictions of existing governments. Combining these two elements, and taking into account all of the connections that the PC's have established with NPC's throughout the campaign, this interlude presents a scenario in which an associate of the Player Characters decides to sell out to the powers that be in order to collect any reward that is offered for them.

Choosing the Betrayer
When it comes to selecting the appropriate Judas, the GM should consider a few relevant questions.
  • Which NPC's have the PC's offended through their previous doings? This could include out-and-out enemies from previous adventures, as long as those characters are still aware of where the PC's are living and what they are doing.
  • Perhaps a more likely possibility is that someone who is not yet an enemy--a rival, perhaps--decides to turn against the PC's. This could include a crewmember who has suffered bad luck, a rival (such as an NPC involved in such interludes as "The Competition" or "2," or a business associate such as from "The Outfitter" or "The Writer."
  • Based on their background information and/or fortunes, do any of the characters have connections to NPC's who are likely candidates for this?

Who else is involved?
The next question returns to the previous mention of some kind of bounty or reward for turning in the PC's? What is it, and who has offered it? These factors become important when determining what other parties are involved in this betrayal. For example, if the local governor has declared the reward, he could send a ship or two into action against his quarry. On the other hand, a royal declaration could bring with it an entire fleet of vessels. This also give the GM a good opportunity to bring back previously defeated opponents. For example, if the PC's have run afoul of a certain Royal Navy captain in the past, it could be he who responds to this betrayal, and thus has a chance to gloat in his victory.

When, Where and How
Once the GM has chosen the appropriate betrayer, it is necessary to decide just how this nefarious act occurs. Here again, there are some important factors to consider.
  • On the one hand, the GM could use this event as a plot hook for the start of an adventure. In this case, the PC's are going about their normal downtime business--perhaps recovering from a night of carousing at a local tavern--when the surprise happens. In this way, how they deal with the betrayal and its repercussions provides the conflict for that session.
  • Perhaps a better option is to introduce this situation at the end of an unrelated adventure. In this way it takes the positive emotions of satisfaction and triumph and then turns them into shock and dismay. This creates a real cliffhanger, hopefully one that leaves the players reeling and then sets up a dramatic start for the next session.
  • Either of these options can lead into some difficult situations for the PC's. A previous interlude, "The Escape," presents one such scenario if the PC's are being held in a town that lacks a real jail. On the other end of the spectrum, the article about Cape Coast Castle provides the layout for a full military fort. Somewhere in between these two options, the characters could also find themselves held aboard a ship bound for Port Royal or London.

A Glimmer of Hope
Historically speaking, it would be entirely appropriate for pirates to face a summary trial, after which they are condemned for piracy and sentenced to execution. Here again, however, their are some intriguing options.

For one thing, the PC's could argue in their own defense and perhaps even persuade the powers that be of their innocence. The specific details of such a situation depend largely on the events that have been transpiring in the campaign. This also provides a great opportunity for roleplaying, with the GM assigning circumstance bonuses or penalties to any Diplomacy or Perform: oratory checks as the situation merits. Of course, the powers that be could always exert their own influence in order to assure a guilty verdict. Such tactics could include bribery or even blackmail. While this is doubtless an offense to the Player Characters' sense of justice, it also adds to the sense of drama.

There is always the possibility, of course, that the PC's are summarily found guilty and sentenced to death--the proverbial "short drop and sudden stop." Although this might seem like the end of a campaign, that is not necessarily the case. After all, the PC's are likely to have their own associates and followers, at least one of whom could help stage a daring rescue. While it might seem like deus ex machina to have somebody save them outright, a better option is to have an NPC provide a means of salvation. For example, someone might give the PC's a pudding with thieves' tools in it, or something similar. In this way, the PC's must still do for themselves, albeit with a slight unexpected advantage. The scenario "Diabolical" begins with an execution if the GM should need suggestions for staging such an event.

What about the crew?
Finally, there is the matter of the Player Characters' crew to consider. These scallywags might have been taken prisoner along with their commanding officers, although the place where they are being held is probably not as secure as that chosen for the PC's. Alternately, the powers that be might not have been interested in these common criminals, leaving them free to do what they will.

In the end, the PC's should have a chance to deal with the character who betrayed them. This could happen quickly, as part of the fallout as the PC's are making their escape from trouble, or much later, once they've had some time to regroup and to seek out the person in question. Whatever the case, this should provide an opportunity for some satisfying resolution.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Interlude: The Declaration

Today's post provides some suggestions for dealing with the government's response to the actions of piratical PC's.


Interlude 47: The Declaration
In a Skull & Bones campaign, it's pretty likely that the PC's are going to make some enemies. A previous interlude, "The Assassin," provides a possible course of action if the foe in question is an individual who feels wronged by them. On the other hand, if they have managed to anger an entire government, the consequences are even more dire. This interlude suggests some ways in which the PC's can find themselves wanted by the law.

Wanted Posters
The most common example for this kind of persecution is, of course, the wanted poster. It includes a few common elements.
  • The name of the individual or organization that posted it, along with the date
  • The name of the pirate in question, along with any known aliases
  • A picture of the individual, if available
  • Detailed descriptions of the character, including height; weight; eye, skin and hair color; any scars, deformities or other distinguishing marks; etc.
  • A list of his/her crimes--this is a good opportunity to review the known business of the PC's from previous adventures
  • A list of known associates
  • The reward for this character's capture
In this way, such a poster not only ties into previous deeds of the PC's, but also can create a sense of competition among them as to who has the highest bounty and why.

A Royal Declaration
Should the PC's really become a thorn in the side of the powers that be, they could find themselves facing official persecution on the orders of a head of state. Such a declaration is likely to include the following details.
  • An introduction
  • A list of offenses, each starting with the word Whereas...
  • A statement of desired action and/or the reward for it, starting with the phrase Therefore be it resolved that...
  • The signature of the sovereign in question, along with a list of his/her royal titles
  • Details about when this declaration was written

GM's with a flair for making props could soak a sheet of printer paper in coffee, allow it to dry, and the use it to print the documents to give them an authentic feel.

These declarations should, naturally, have some negative effects for the party. For one thing, ordinary citizens could now become their enemies, given the possibility of reward. The same can especially be said for existing associates, who might betray the PC's if they think they can do so without putting themselves in harm's way. It should become increasingly difficult to make landfall in civilized areas, perhaps requiring the PC's to find a new vessel and/or use disguises. If this should all be a misunderstanding, the PC's might need to work to clear their names. Depending on their nature, of course, they might delight in these developments, especially as the amount of the reward offered increases to keep pace with their continuing deeds.

Friday, July 19, 2013


One of the great regular articles from the old Dragon magazine was its "The Ecology of the..." series. This took creatures from Monster Manual I and II and the Fiend Folio and explained their origins, habitats and activities in much greater detail, providing ways to incorporate them in a campaign setting. Inspired by this, presented here is a similar take on the merfolk known as onijegi.


The Ecology of the Onijegi
This article expands on the description of these creatures presented in the Skull & Bones rulebook.

Origin Story
The first appearance of the onijegi is explained in a traditional Yoruba tale. According to it, a young woman once pledged to marry the most handsome man in the world. Just such a fellow she met one day in the marketplace. He explained, however, that he actually came from the river Idunmaibo; he was fish, but had been granted the power to take on human form. Nevertheless, the young woman insisted that they be married, and he assented. They agreed to meet occasionally at Idunmaibo whenever she sang a song to summon him, where she would bring him foodstuffs and he would bring her gifts from the sea.

They continued in this way for some time, until it was that the woman's family insisted on her taking a husband. After all, they did not know of her marriage to the fish-man. When she explained that she was already married, they were outraged. One of her brothers followed her to the river during her usual meeting with her husband. In this way he learned the magic song and, returning without her, used it to summon the fish-man. The brother then stabbed him to death. Some time later she attempted to call him as usual, but he did not reply, and she recognized what had happened. In her passionate grief she threw herself into the river, but instead of dying she was turned into the very first onijegi.

Onijegi in the New World
At some point, of course, the onijegi travelled from Africa to the Caribbean. Perhaps some of them followed the slave ships that made this run with their living cargo; after all, it is commonly believed that onijegi sometimes fall in love with humans, and if one such were then captured and taken as a slave, the merfolk lover might follow the ship and captive to their destination. Some might argue that the length of such a journey is impossibly daunting, but one cannot argue against the fact that the onijegi are to be found in the New World.

The most common dwelling place for onijegi is one with plenty of reefs, where they can find shelter from storms and possible enemies. Some prefer small, individual domiciles, while others band together and occupy sprawling complexes of tunnels and caverns. Whatever the case, these are generally in shallow water. Refer to the appropriate map for an example of one such structure.

1. Entry
The entrance to the tunnels and chamber in this coral reef lies at the bottom of the sea. More trusting onijegi leave it open to any potential visitors, while those who value their privacy cultivate a bed of kelp in front of it so as to provide concealment from prying eyes. Additionally, those who have access to such things sometimes afix a barred gate in this narrow passage so as to keep unwanted guests from entering.

2. Passageways
The second line of defense for the lair is the maze of twisting passageways--all filled with water, of course--that eventually lead to the main chamber. While the onijegi know the correct path, and can don't need to worry about the lack of oxygen, it serves to disorient and delay intruders. What is more, the onijegi sometimes arrange for unpleasant surprises to be found here, such as sharks, squids or aggressive crabs.

3. Common Area
The onijegi are a highly communal, open kind of people--at least among themselves. To that end, the common area of the lair is not divided into private quarters or similar chambers, but instead is one large space. Small vents provide an inflow of new water, along with sunlight during the daytime. In the lairs of those onijegi who are open to contact with outsiders, this area sometimes has a pocket of air close to the ceiling that allows them to breathe while visiting. It is here that they spend much of their downtime, sharing meals along with stories and other entertainments.

Onijegi dwellings are usually located close to reliable sources of food, usually large beds of kelp. The merfolk supplement this with some meat taken from hunting. Note that they only hunt singly so as to give their prey a fighting chance, out of respect to these sea creatures. Onijegi use coral or stone for making their knives and spearpoints, and weave nets out of seaweed. Coral is also a source of personal decoration for them, as are the pearls that they sometimes harvest.

Indeed, it is the desire for shiny baubles, along with the merfolk's love of storytelling, that sometimes brings them into contact with land dwellers. Given their love of tales, occasional eavesdropping on sailors and others who live by the sea provides them with a wealth of new material. In the same way, onijegi sometimes trade goods from the sea, such as pearls or recovered treasure, for items such as mirrors, steel weapons and other manufactured goods. As mentioned above, this contact also can lead to merfolk becoming infatuated with land dwellers, leading to a relationship that usually brings conflict of some kind.

Connections to Other Aquatic Humanoids
Given their resemblance to other creatures who dwell in the sea, those who know about the existence of the onijegi sometimes speculate that they could all be related to one another. While it is not known how these distinct groups have come to be, it is clear that there are important differences between them.

The sea monks, most people believe, are onijegi who were inspired by the teachings of early Christian missionaries and have now established a monastic order dedicated to them. Ostensibly this should create a conflict, given that the sea monks are generally a pacifistic punch. The fact that they have adopted Christianity, however--as opposed to the traditional onijegi belief in such half-fish divine beings as the West African Mami Wata--is sure to bring some kind of strife as both sides try to win the hearts and minds of the faithful.

Whereas sea monks are lawful, and onijegi are chaotic but good in their outlook on life, the sirens are a cold and uncaring bunch. Their aptitude for leading sailors to their doom shows a calous disregard for other living things, something that pits them against onijegi. It is known that they've practiced such deeds for many centuries, given that they were reported in the time of Odysseus and the Trojan War, but it is not known why they have such a dispassionate outlook.

Throughout the world there are many variations on the story of the onijegi, sometimes in the oceans and sometimes in the rivers. These include the merrow of Scotland and Ireland, the Japanese ningyo, the German Rhine maidens, and many others. Additionally, the resemblance of such legendary figures as the Babylonian Oannes as well as Fu Xi and Nuwa of China--all of whom are reputed to have brought wisdom and civilization to their respective lands--hint that the merfolk could have an even older and more influential culture.

Some mariners consider merfolk to be wicked creatures of ill omen. This is likely because, although most onijegi are kind, there are exceptions. It is those evil individuals whose misdeeds lead to such superstitious beliefs.

Onijegi Characters
Detailed here are some typical onijegi characters who play specialized roles withing that society.

Onijegi Hunter
Ranger 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d8+2; hp 10; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 5 ft., swim 50 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +2 (1d8+1, trident) or +4 (net); SQ Low-light vision, spelllike abilities, 1st favored enemy (animal), Track, wild empathy; AL CG; SV: Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +2; Str 13, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10.
Background: NA.
Skills: Handle Animal +2, Heal +4, Hide +7, Listen +4, Move Silently +7, Spot +4, Survival +6, Swim +3.
Feats: Dodge, Track.
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Trident, net, dagger, sharkskin (leather) armor.

Onijegi Hunter Sergeant
Ranger 3; CR 3; Size medium; HD 3d8+6; hp 23; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 5 ft., swim 50 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +4 (1d8+1, trident) or +2/+2 (1d4 +1, two daggers) or +6 (net); SQ Low-light vision, spelllike abilities, 1st favored enemy (animal), Track, wild empathy, combat style (two-weapon fighting), Endurance; AL CG; SV: Fort +5, Ref +6, Will +3; Str 13, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10.
Background: NA.
Skills: Handle Animal +4, Heal +6, Hide +9, Listen +6, Move Silently +9, Spot +6, Survival +8, Swim +5.
Feats: Dodge, Endurance, Mobility, Track, Two-Weapon Fighting.
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Trident, net, two daggers, sharkskin (leather) armor.

Onijegi Hunter Lieutenant
Ranger 7; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d8+14; hp 49; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 5 ft., swim 50 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 armor); Atk +9/+4 (1d8+2, trident) or +8/+8/+2/+2 (1d4 +2, two daggers) or +10/+5 (net); SQ Low-light vision, spelllike abilities, 1st favored enemy (animal), Track, wild empathy, combat style (two-weapon fighting), Endurance, animal companion, improved combat style, woodland stride; AL CG; SV: Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 10.
Background: NA.
Skills: Handle Animal +6, Heal +10, Hide +13, Listen +8, Move Silently +13, Spot +8, Survival +12, Swim +8.
Feats: Dodge, Endurance, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Leaping Attack, Mobility, Track, Two-Weapon Fighting.
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Trident, net, two daggers, sharkskin (leather) armor.

The onijegi hunters are individuals to be respected, both for their prowess in combat and for their sense of honor. They only hunt animals singly, to give them a fighting chance; the exception to this is grave threats to the community, such as if a dreaded timingila began prowling in their territory. All of them are proficient with the trident and net. More experienced sergeants also learn to fight with a pair of daggers, allowing them to strike a foe numerous times. Finally, the lieutenants--who often are leaders of their communities--master the ability to leap from the water and attack foes on land or in boats.

Porpoise (Animal Companion)
Medium Animal
Hit Dice: 4d8+4 (22 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: Swim 80 ft. (16 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (+4 Dex, +4 natural), touch 14, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+3
Attack: Slam +5 melee (2d4+1)
Full Attack: Slam +5 melee (2d4+1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks:
Special Qualities: Blindsight 120 ft., hold breath, low-light vision, link, Evasion
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +7, Will +1
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 18, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6
Skills: Listen +8*, Spot +7*, Swim +9
Feats: Evasion, Weapon Finesse
Environment: Temperate aquatic
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 2

Onijegi Storyteller (such as Arukuma the Wanderer)
Bard 5; CR 5; Size medium; HD 5d6+5; hp 25; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 5 ft., swim 50 ft.; AC 13 (+3 Dex); Atk +4 (1d4+1, dagger) or +6 ranged; SQ low-light vision, bardic music, bardic knowledge, countersong, fascinate, inspire courage +1, inspire competence; AL CG; SV: Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +3; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 13, Wis 8, Cha 18.
Background: NA.
Skills: Diplomacy +12, Escape Artist +11, Hide +11, Gather Information +12, Move Silently +11, Perform (singing) +15, Tumble +11.
Feats: Dodge, Skill Focus (Perform: singing).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: None.
Spells Known: Daze, detect magic, know direction, message, read magic, resistance; charm person, hypnotism, identify, sleep; daze monster, enthrall, suggestion.
Spells per Day: 3/4/2.

The storytellers among the onijegi are perhaps the most adventurous of them all. Given their penchant for learning new stories, they are the most likely to travel close to human and other settlements. It is these who occasionally meet and fall in love with non-onijegi, something that always brings drama of some kind to both parties.

New Relic: Song of Onijegi Summoning
This song, which is a closely guarded secret among the onijegi and the rare outsiders whom they entrust to learn it, can be used to call the nearest of these merfolk to the one who sings it. It can only be used once per month, and doesn't necessarily give the singer any influence or control over the onijegi who responds to it. The song is usually passed along by teaching it orally; a written copy of it would be rare and valuable indeed.

Using the Onijegi in a Skull & Bones Campaign
The onijegi can connect to all kinds of adventure in the Caribbean or elsewhere; detailed here are just a few of the possibilities.
  • Sunken ships and lost treasures are a tremendous resource for the onijegi. As such, they can use the location of a wreck as a reward for services performed, or as an enticement for those who have something they want.
  • Romance and marriage are always a possibility when a storyteller is involved. This is especially likely if the character in question is highly charismatic and has tales of bravery and love to tell.
  • Should some kind of tremendous threat arrive in their territory, the onijegi might need to seek outside help to deal with it.
  • Were a siren to gain command of a band of onijegi, she could begin using them to attack unwary ships or boats.
  • In that event, it could become necessary to raid the creatures' lair in order to rescue a hostage or recover stolen valuables.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two Upcoming Premieres

Here's a quick, non-RPG-related post for today. Previously I've mentioned the upcoming series Black Sails on Starz, a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island. As part of the promotion for the show, due out in January of 2014, there's a companion website.

Pirates Wanted

It has some interesting graphics and information, and provides a chance to sign up for additional information. Given that San Diego Comic Con is happening right now, there should be more details about the show released to the general public in the near future.

Additionally, has a trailer for the upcoming video game Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. Have a look at it.

Blastr Article

The article claims that the game looks better than the Pirates of the Caribbean films. I'm not sure that's the case, but if I played video games, I'd play this one.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013


In a traditional D&D game, in my opinion, monks never stacked up very well against other combat-oriented characters. For a Skull & Bones game, however, I think they can make engaging foes. Note that this post is intended to compliment the junk deckplan presented previously.



These skilled martial artists provide an interesting and challenging foe for more traditional swashbuckling pirates, given their prowess in unarmed combat and the different sorts of tactics they can thus employ. Historically, wokou (pronounced like wako) are believed to have had mixed Chinese, Korean and Japanese ancestry.

Wokou Crew Member
Monk 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d8+1; hp 9; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 Wis); Atk +3 (1d6+2, unarmed) or +1/+1 (1d6+2, flurry of blows) or +2 ranged; SQ Bonus feat, flurry of blows, unarmed strike; AL TN; SV: Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 9.
Background: Seaman (Climb 2 ranks, Profession: sailor 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +6, Hide +6, Jump +6, Move Silently +6, Profession (sailor) +6, Tumble +6.
Feats: Improved Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist, Weapon Focus (unarmed strike).
Fortunes: Code of Honor.
Equipment: Clothing, various personal items.

These low-ranking members of the crew are already developing impressive skills, and are adept at handling a ship, too. Although they can be downright jovial in their own company, they are serious when facing newcomers and ferocious toward their enemies.

Veteran Wokou Crew Member
Monk 3; CR 3; Size medium; HD 3d8+3; hp 20; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 40 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 Wis); Atk +5 (1d6+2, unarmed) or +3/+3 (1d6+2, flurry of blows) or +4 ranged; SQ Bonus feats, flurry of blows, unarmed strike, evasion, still mind; AL TN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +5; Str 14, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 9.
Background: Seaman (Climb 2 ranks, Profession: sailor 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +8, Hide +7, Jump +8, Move Silently +7, Profession (sailor) +8, Tumble +8.
Feats: Combat Reflexes, Improved Grapple, Improved Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist, Weapon Focus (unarmed strike).
Fortunes: Code of Honor.
Equipment: Clothing, various personal items.

When it comes time to storming a potential prize, these individuals lead the way. They can climb the side of a ship almost as quickly as others walk, swarming around the opposition and striking quickly to incapacitate their foes.

Wokou First Mate
Monk 9; CR 9; Size medium; HD 9d8+9; hp 53; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 60 ft.; AC 15 (+2 Dex, +2 Wis, +1 class); Atk +9/+4 (1d10+2, unarmed) or +9/+9/+4 (1d10+2, flurry of blows) or +7/+7/+2/+2 (1d10+2, Two Weapon Fighting) or +7 ranged; SQ Bonus feats, flurry of blows, unarmed strike, evasion, still mind, Ki strike (magic), slow fall 40 ft., purity of body, wholeness of body, improved evasion; AL TN; SV: Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +8; Str 15, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 9.
Background: Seaman (Climb 2 ranks, Profession: sailor 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +14, Hide +10, Jump +14, Move Silently +10, Profession (sailor) +14, Tumble +14.
Feats: Combat Reflexes, Improved Grapple, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus (unarmed strike).
Fortunes: Code of Honor.
Equipment: Clothing, various personal items.

Second only to the captain, this toughened pirate should be a match for most other characters in single combat.

Wokou Captain
Monk 13; CR 13; Size medium; HD 13d8+13; hp 75; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 70 ft.; AC 17 (+2 Dex, +2 Wis, +2 class, +1 shield); Atk +13/+8 (2d6+3, unarmed) or +13/+13/+13/+8 (2d6+3, flurry of blows) or +7/+7/+2/+2 (2d6+3, Two Weapon Fighting) or +10 ranged; SQ Bonus feats, flurry of blows, unarmed strike, evasion, still mind, Ki strike (magic, lawful), slow fall 60 ft., purity of body, wholeness of body, improved evasion, diamond body, greater flurry, abundant step, diamond soul; AL TN; SV: Fort +9, Ref +10, Will +10; Str 16, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 9.
Background: Seaman (Climb 2 ranks, Profession: sailor 2 ranks).
Skills: Climb +19, Hide +12, Jump +19, Move Silently +12, Profession (sailor) +18, Tumble +18.
Feats: Combat Reflexes, Improved Grapple, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist, Two-Weapon Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus (unarmed strike).
Fortunes: Code of Honor.
Equipment: Clothing, various personal items.

Reigning over the motley crew of martial artists is this unarmed combatant bar none. Despite his prowess in battle and the larcenous practice of piracy, however, the captain is also a serious and disciplined person, one who takes time to contemplate the mysteries of life and the surrounding world.

*Note that these stats do not include magical items. Depending on the nature of a campaign, a GM might want to equip more powerful wokou with items such as magical martial arts weapons, amulets of natural armor or even a monk's belt.

Using the Wokou in a Skull & Bones Campaign
These characters can make for an exotic, intriguing change of pace in a historically-based pirate campaign; presented below are a few options for doing so.
  • First and foremost, the wokou provide an interesting clash of cultures with pirates from a Western setting. Their tactics in combat should provide a challenge, but they can just as easily be begrudged rivals or even allies if the PC's can win their respect.
  • The PC's might have a run-in with the wokou while one group or the other is fighting with a Spanish prize in the South Seas, leaving them to decide whether to compete or cooperate with the Oriental pirates.
  • The wokou could be explorers and merchants, in the tradition of the famous captain Zheng He.
  • If a noted wokou captain were capture by the Spanish, the Easterners might approach the PC's and ask for help with staging a rescue.
  • Should the PC's be part of a world-spanning network of pirates, it is likely that a wokou captain and crew would be part of such an organization.