Thursday, July 21, 2016

Howl From the South: Tension at Sea

Welcome back Greyhawk mavens, today is the fifteenth installment of my ongoing 5E Hold of Sea Princes reboot of the 2E modules Five Shall Be One and Howl From the North, set in the south seas. What sort of high adventure will the crew of the Envy get into this week? Note, don't worry about spoilers, we've gone so far off script from the original adventure that any resemblance to the module HFtN is fleeting.

Dramatis personae:

Cullen (concerned captain, human rogue)
Sabriel Loreweaver (fearsome first mate, human bard)
Tyrrus Bandale (buccaneer bosun, human fighter)
Kuma Sand (seaworthy surgeon, human druid)
Ostyn (diplomatic deckhand, human fighter)

and Lash Driftwood (questionable quartermaster, sea elf ranger)

When last we saw the crew the Fivefold Council had sent them an overt message to leave Port Toli at once and search for the fourth Blade of Corusk. Getting their affairs in order, namely checking out of the sword school and collecting weekly ruby mine and crab fishing profits, the Envy deployed its silk sails and left the bustling city. Their plotted course was southeast toward the cape of the Amedio and then east across the southern trade lines to Shar. The group had their new passenger, the mutineer One-eyed Jack Price tied to a mast as they set out. After interrogations with the wily pirate it was learned he stole a ship from an abusive slave-owning captain named Adderly and sold the vessel to the notorious Crimson Fleet. Jack promised the crew of the Envy that his mutiny was justified and that the leader of the Crimson pirates, Commodore Wyther would pay a decent ransom for his release if they would only take him to Scuttlecove. Unfortunately the pirate haven was slightly out of their way, so Jack had to fast talk to make himself sound useful to Cullen, Sabriel and the others who were quite ready to make him walk the plank rather than slow down their quest. Good thing for Jack, he had been to the land of Shar before. Or so he abruptly claimed.

The first day was hot and unpleasant. Cullen untied Jack and threatened him directly should he try anything mutinous. Jack agreed and went hard to work, even outdoing Ogie the ogre. Lash cooked that night, and kept a wary eye on their ransom-guest from the crows nest. By the next day they had reached the jungle outpost, Fort Blackwell. Stopping off shore they resupplied one more time before what would be a long haul toward the Densac Gulf. News abounded at the fort about the South Provincial Armada in the east and their allies from the Sea Barons penetrating into the western Azure waters. In reaction the princes of the Hold and indeed also the Crimson Fleet were keen to pay privateers for capturing these offending nations' vessels. Setting out along the Amedio coastline, the crew kept busy and knew their next port of call would be the far-flung island harbor of Narisban. One-eyed Jack started to loosen up and tried to make friends, at one point talking to the eagle-eyed sea elf Lash about the obvious three cannons aboard their deck. No ship of this size, he had ever seen, was so armed to the teeth. His curiosity was met by a stern stare.

The fourth day out of Port Toli, a crimson sash-wearing pirate corpse was found floating in the water. The man had drowned according to Kuma and he possessed only a single gem which Sabriel found then discreetly tried to hide in her cleavage, but it fell from her shirt to clatter on the deck in front of all. As the bloated body was consigned back to the sea gods by Kuma, Jack took the break to casually talk to the mage Mallon about blackpowder weapons and how they worked. Sabriel overheard this suspicious conversation and angrily punched out the thin half-elf for being naive, while Cullen and Tyrrus tied the mutineer back to the mast again. The next day it rained and Jack was soaked. One-eye tried to talk to anyone who passed by him even Ogie, but they were ignoring him. Even Lash up above in the rigging did his best to tune out the pirate. Ostyn and Tyrrus luckily got a break from mouthy Jack when they had to go repair a leak that sprung in the hold. Eventually, Mallon came to feed Jack. Sabriel, still fuming, was ready to gut the wizard then and there but Cullen cooled her ire.

Six days out and the Amedio coast was out of sight when Lash finally snapped from One-eyed Jack's constant running mouth. He slid down the mast and got an empty barrel and sealed him in it much to the other's surprise. No one stopped the ranger, but Ostyn particularly seemed concerned. Jack moped in the barrel until the seventh day when Sabriel decided the stressed crew needed to unwind, so she brought up the rum and Kuma lit the pipe. During their celebrations, Cullen even fed some drinks to poor Jack through the barrel's hole and talked over his interest in their cannons. Jack admitted that the weapons would fetch a fortune to the Crimson Fleet's commanders and perhaps they should deal with them in addition to his ransom. Cullen assured him they were not for sale. Sabriel by then was roaring drunk and began to squabble with Tyrrus over the direction of the quest and what to do with Jack. Blades came out and clattered a bit until Ostyn yelled out. He could not take any more, Jack lamented the same barrel punishment was used on the last ship which drove him to mutiny, so conscientious Ostyn freed the pirate, and against the protests of his comrades (especially Sabriel who wanted to kill him several ways), personally vouched for Jack's conduct from there on.

A couple days later and with Ostyn overseeing, Jack was back to work and besides a subtle hit on the hungover bard, kept his mouth shut after the last intimidation by the crew. That day Lash was busy maintaining his bow and it was Kuma at the forefront who spotted a sail going in the opposite direction. Alerted, the keen eyes of Lash saw it was another pinnace, the Fortunehunter, its home flag a fish on a blue field. Few had seen this flag before but it was worked out it was from the Sea Barons. A Provincial armada ally. Signals were traded and the ships agreed to anchor and share news from rowboats. Secretly however, the crew knew this ship was potentially an enemy and there was an outstanding bounty for their ship so all three cannons were position on the rail facing with Tyrrus and Lash ready just in case. Ostyn gave Jack a minor weapon and told him to be ready for a signal, the pirate knew his place yet slyly mentioned that Ostyn would make a good captain. With Ogie rowing them, Cullen and Sabriel went between vessels to parley; met by one Lt. Karson a genial and sincere man from Oaken Isle. Offers were made by the foreigner to trade goods, information or charts. They were simply exploring for resources to trade back east they claimed. To the Envy's crew, they were just spies. 

Cullen had raised a hand about to give the order to attack when he made a change at the last minute. Lash however was always eager to action and lit the first cannon, it's rumbling roar fired a ball of metal overhead missing by a mile. With the warning shot fired, the Fortunehunter sprang to the defense and both rowboats made to rush back to their respective vessels. Tyrrus looked at the sea elf in disbelief and before he could shout to stop, Lash had hurriedly lit the second. This time the booming cannon hit its mark, tearing a gaping hole in the Sea Barons ship. Ballista and crossbow fire began to rain back, so Sabriel unleashed a wave of sound to cover their retreat, the magic shredded the Sea Baons dingy leaving Karson and his men stranded. Tyrrus lit the last gun now having no choice but the Fortunehunter had already moved enough for his shot to splash harmlessly short. Lash took out his long bow then and at a distance, marked the Sea Barons captain as he tried to pilot his ship. Letting loose two arrows, they flew unerringly and dropped the captain sending their ship off its tack. Sabriel and Cullen quickly climbed back on the Envy, Ogie securing the rowboat, while Ostyn steered the pinnace closer to their prize. Wily Jack knew what was at stake and found a grapple line to get ready.

Sabriel's song of battle inspired the crew. Bolts flew back and forth and the Sea Barons were soon using flaming ballista. While most harmlessly dinged the hull, one large flaming bolt tore through the Envy's silk sails and burned a huge hole. Proud of his ship, Ostyn was enraged by this and was first across to the Fortunehunter, his dwarven hammer struck the deck causing a thunderous wave to knock several men overboard and unconscious. Battle starved Tyrrus was right behind his ally and soon his great sword swung in cleaving arcs disbanding the ballista crews. Lash fired an arrow taking down the captain as he rose one last time and his cabin boy. No one remained standing. The ship was taken. One-eyed Jack Price looked to cut-throat Cullen who had barely touched a weapon, and complimented them on their prowess, suggesting they should join the Crimson Fleet! Ignoring this Cullen and the others took their time searching the Fortunehunter. The Sea Barons had little of worth in the holds besides spices, tropical foods and a couple Olman slaves. Lash brought out a locked chest from the captain's cabin. With Jack watching on with a wide grin, Cullen and the crew now had to decide what to do with a captured ship, surviving Sea Barons crewmen and whether or not to stay on their intended course or divert to Scuttlecove to deal with the Crimson Fleet.

to be continued...

Campaign notes: This started out a surly session with many hiccups but once Jack started talking to the PCs and manipulating things with sly words, there was so much paranoia and arguing in character that it was fun to watch the players role play most of the night. We pretty much used my random charts for weather, encounters and such with nightly onboard events arising each day. The battle was planned yet it almost was resolved by RP as well if not for Lash's player's restlessness. Next time, there will be more exotic ports and if Jack keeps his tongue, more intrigue.


Jason Raabis said...

Do you use a table for your random ship board events? If so, do you use a published one or one of your own devising?

Mike Bridges said...

I do have random event charts that I've cobbled from a variety of sources, Dragon & 3.5 splatbooks primarily. I use them haphazardly however prep permitting I sometimes do entirely planned encounters.