Friday, November 6, 2015

Sea Princes: Azure Bound and Down

ADVENTURE! So last Monday I ran the continuation of my Sea Princes campaign. This one was extra special since it was played around Halloween time so as an added bonus to my players, I DMed the session dressed as a scurvy pirate! I used to be against cosplay at the game table, but I think years of seeing costumes at GenCon has softened me to the notion. I believe the session was a success since we managed to finish my latest storyline based on Smokey and the Bandit. All in all it was a goofy, fun, romp across the Azure Sea like you'd expect.

Here is some plot points and thoughts I took away from running this adapted plot in Greyhawk:

1. The Provincial Navy makes a great villain or power group. Naturally, given the plot my main antagonist was a rear admiral based on Buford T. Justice.  he is a variant paladin of Hextor whose evil brand of maritime law is perfect for chasing offenders way out of his jurisdiction. There is many seafaring nations on the Azure and the South Province is arguably the most tyrannical of the lot, yet they are still a stable, lawful nation so I built them up as an economic force in addition to a military might by blockading Irongate from exporting beer to Keoland. Their fleets' presence on the sea is a threat to pirates and merchants alike. However, Hextorians aren't known for sea based warfare, so I played them as terribly inept compared to an experienced Sea Princes crew. The sight of a yellow flag with a crowned boar's head is now forever ingrained in my players mind as a bad guy. They will appear again.

2. True Strike plus siege weapons is bad news. When it comes to ship to ship combat, I tend to keep it vague and cinematic, I don't like to get bogged down in ship stats and would rather get on to a boarding action or evade a pursuer entirely. However players will throw you curves and the first level True Strike is one of those 3.5/Pathfinder era spells that just needs to go away. True Strike when applied to a siege weapon I think is OP and I'm sure I'll find out later that it doesn't work on these devices, but for now it's cutting into my thrill of ship combat.

3. Always try to say yes to players' actions. When running a swashbuckling adventure, players tend to try things and take risks that they normally wouldn't in a static dungeon setting. I used to be a hard-nosed DM who tried to keep things grounded, but on the open sea with that much rope hanging around why not let the players do some crazy acrobatic things.

Curses! I didn't crit anyone. Arr!
4. If you use critical results use fumbles too. For a long time now I've been all about Pathfinder Critical and Fumble cards. The variety of things that can happen in a 52 card deck is so much better than most charts I've seen or boring damage multipliers. But I can't stress enough that if you allow crit effects you need to balance it with fumbles. Fumbles keep things tense and unpredictable unlike crits which are assumed in most games. And since this is a high seas adventure, any little hiccup in the middle of a fight only adds to the danger. Try it.

5. Maps are essential, especially if you're going to run a sea-based campaign. This may seem like a no-brainer, but its easy to forget that visual aids help in player immersion. I could have easily led the players on a rail-road journey from Irongate to Gradsul without use of one, but knowing that they needed to get there in 13 days; being able to see their progress charted out in front of them kept them on edge to the very last day of the mission. For DMs it's also a quick way to teach the setting to new players. I learned Greyhawk by Darlene's map and exploring it with my eyes before I ever played in it.

6. Communication at sea is helpful in moving the story. In the real world there is ways to communicate at sea; signal flags, lights at night or even yelling. In a world of magic there is even more possibilities like the spells Whispering Wind, Sending and so on. For this campaign certain ships were equipped with magic figureheads that could cast Sending to any other figurehead once a day. What this simulated was the CB communications from Smokey and the Bandit. Not every ship had these, but I made sure the main ships did.  

That's all for now!


Anonymous said...

I'd rule that true strike doesn't apply to siege weapon attacks, since the spell only affects the caster; aiming and firing a siege weapon is a team effort. Only if the whole team was made up of sorcerers and/or wizards all under the effects of the spell would I allow it.

Mike Bridges said...

Brilliant! :)

Anonymous said...

Now that I think about it, I'd probably allow a partial bonus, proportional to the number of crew members with the spell. For example, one mage with true strike in a five-man crew would grant a +4 bonus to the attack roll.

Jason Raabis said...

Hey Mike, quick question: are you going to be posting campaign journal entries for these on your Best of Greyhawkery page like in past campaigns?