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Adept Greytalker

Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:33 am    Post subject: Post 22: Backstory for Shefak Ishu, Bakluni Monk, Level 1 Reply with quote

Post 22: Backstory for Shefak Ishu, Bakluni Monk, level 1

Shefak Ishu was born to a wandering tribe of horse nomads in the Plains of the Paynims. Although physically weak, she was considered wise beyond her years by the holy women of the tribe. When she was a girl, her tribe’s travels took them near a temple to Xan Yae, “The Lady of Perfection,” the Bakluni goddess of Mental and Physical Mastery. It was there that she was enrolled as an acolyte, with her family hoping that she would become a priestess. After years of training, it was found that she excelled more at physical combat than prayer and spell-casting, so her training became that of a monk.

Eventually she was told the story of Zuoken, the most perfect disciple of Xan Yae. About sixty years ago, Zuoken was imprisoned, but no one knows where. It is the goal of every follower of Xan Yae to find and release Zuoken.

When Shefak completed her initial training as a monk, she asked to travel and look for clues as to where Zuoken might be imprisoned. Though she was young and inexperienced, she was also wise and dedicated and her petition was granted.

Shefak followed the rising sun to the east and the rivers to the south. After months of travel she eventually found herself in the nation of Keoland. There, the people all stared at her as most of them had never seen a Bakluni woman, but that did not bother her or deter her from her quest.

She has heard of an ancient forest called the Dreadwood, which is supposed to be home to many evil secrets. She thinks that would be an excellent place to start looking for Zuoken, but she knows she is not yet skilled enough to enter it on her own.

For the past month, she has been in the city of Seaton, trying to find people who would want to explore the Dreadwood with her. She has had several run-ins with the local constables, who do not appreciate her presence. But she has studied the local law and has made sure to never do anything illegal, so they have been unable to arrest or deport her.

One week ago, a representative of the Viscount of Salinmor (the lord of Seaton) met with her and explained that he knew of a group of adventurers who might wish to go to the Dreadwood with her. First, however, she must accompany them on a mission and prove herself capable. Shefak agreed to this and traveled to the town of Saltmarsh to meet the group. It appears that their mission is to attack a ship of smugglers, and she has been training with them to this end for several days.

Shefak Ishu
First Level Monk / Human (Bakluni) (Acolyte)
Skills: Acrobatics, Insight, Religion, Stealth
My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
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Adept Greytalker

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:40 pm    Post subject: Post 23: Battle for the Sea Ghost Reply with quote

Post 23: Battle for the Sea Ghost

Note: While it should be obvious, this post will include numerous spoilers to the second section of Module U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

DM's Note: Successfully taking the Sea Ghost and discovering the arms-running plot were the story requirements for the characters to level to third, with the exception of Shefak. Since the monk joined the party after the Haunted House, her participation in taking the ship would get her to second level. The player of Willa was allowed to start her at second level due to her pre-existing role and position in the customs officers, and the stats provided for her as an NPC in the module. Thus, she leveled to third along with the others.

14 August, 570 - The Sea Cave

Tom had sailed the excise cutter into the sea cave, taking down the mast to enter but not removing it from the ship in his haste. Willa directs its removal, then sees Thokk and Barnabus loaded and launched while she puts the rest of the party to order in the jollyboat.

Thokk strains against the oars and pulls his craft out into the black, rolling sea. His darkvision is sufficient for him to avoid the rocks around the cave mouth, but for Barnabus it is a terrifying few minutes of blackness and crashing waves, being tossed about the cutter and wet with spray while Thokk heaves and frets. Once they are out beyond the surf zone and into the open sea the waves calm and Thokk concentrates on rowing silently with a steady pace. Every so often the half orc looks over his shoulder, trying to detect a dark ship against the dark sky so that he has somewhere to make for more precise than “away from land”.

Willa checks everything twice in the jollyboat before shoving off - she is in no hurry, and wants Thokk to have as long a lead as possible. Her hauberk of chain is neatly folded under her aft seat. Her lantern is lit, and she directs the beam through the fog and across the rocks as she calls orders to those at the oars - Tyrius and Babshapka at the outset, though she will spell them out if needed.

Tom has made his way to the first floor window in the bedroom overlooking the ocean and has his lantern lit but covered. He scans the dark waters, trying to find the ship he saw before. After several minutes he still has not seen it - but he does see a flash of light! It is a long flash, followed by three short flashes. He looks at the parchment given him by the party, and reasons that it is the first line of the code - but how is he to respond? They have not told him! The same signal - a long flash followed by three short ones, is repeated twice more, with a pause between each. Tom decides the safest bet is to repeat the sequence itself, and this he does, uncovering one wall of the lantern and holding it toward the sea. He waits anxiously for a response. He cares little for the strangers, but is acutely aware that his sister, his only living family, is on board the jollyboat with them, even now rowing out to a ship full of cutthroats.

“Thokk!” hisses Barnabus, seeing flashes over the shoulder of the barbarian. He directs his companion to take their cutter more in the direction of the light, estimating they are perhaps half the distance out to it or more. In the jollyboat behind, Willa sees the signal as well, and she whispers to Babshapka to pull harder so as to turn them. Aurora has been in-and-out communicating with Barnabus through her message, but Thokk is keeping the cutter just at the edge of her range.

On board the Sea Ghost, Captain Sigurd “Snake Eyes”, Punketah the Mage, and two crewmen stare up at the decrepit mansion. “Ol’ Sanballet’s gone barmy,” mutters Punketah. “That ain’t the response signal, no how. That be our signal.”

“Nae be ye wrong,” replies Sigurd. “Too much brandy, or wacthin’ t’em coloured lights too long? Wait a fair bit an’ hail ‘im again,” he orders.

Ten minutes later, Sigurd has the crewman on the lantern flash another signal at the house. In the house, Tom sees the same signal as before, frets silently, and then repeats it again. The smugglers watch from the rail of the Ghost. “T’at’s wrong, alright,” says a crewman, shaking his head.

“Might be…” says Punketah, drawing his words out, “that Sanballet’s got summit to say to us and is coming out hisself - and one o’ those land lummuxes he uses fer muscle don’t know ther signal from his arse.”

“‘Tmight be,” says Sigurd, unconvinced. “Or ‘tmight be Sanballet got hisself caught, an’ yon light’s made by no friend o’ ours.”

“Kingsmen?” spits Punketah. “Nahh, it be past ther bedtime. Kingsmen don’t sail o’ ther night.”

Nevertheless, Sigurd calls up to the man in the crow’s nest, “Luke! Eye’s up! All directions, laddie!”

Sigurd waits a few minutes more, just to give whomever is in the house the chance to right the signal, but it does not come. “We be cuttin’ bait,” he decides, then shouts to the man at the fore, “Weigh anchor, lad!”

The man aloft calls down, “Cap’n, jolly t’ starboard!”

“Belay t’at!” shouts Sigurd to the man at the capstan. He has the crewman with the lantern shine it low across the water. The approaching jollyboat is dimly illuminated - and it holds fully six figures, though their identities cannot be made out in the misty air. “Bjorn, make ready t’ receive ‘em,” Sigurd calls out to his mate on the lower deck.

“Do ye want our jolly launched?” Bjorn calls back.

“Nae jes' yet.”

“Mayhap ye be right,” Sigurd murmurs to Punketah, “a full boat could mean Sanballet’s comin’ out fer a parlay - or ‘tmight be me in ther right, an’ t’ese nae be friends. When t’ey gets close enou’ t’ see, be ye castin’ yer web t’ keep ‘em in t’ boat, t’en sleep, t’en we be guttin’ any left standin’.”

“Aye, Cap’n,” agrees Punketah darkly, and his hand opens a belt pouch and draws forth a pinch of cobweb.

With most eyes on the approaching jollyboat, Thokk and Barnabus slip the cutter in front of the prow of the still-anchored Sea Ghost. Thokk’s oar strokes yield no more noise than the sea lapping gently against the hull of the great ship, and they pass unseen to the seaward port side of the Ghost. Barnabus takes out a grapnel, its hooks muffled by sackcloth, and tosses it neatly up to catch on the rail above.

Bloody Bjorn and a crewmen stand by at the starboard rail, the crewman with a rope ladder in hand. On the stern deck, the man with the lantern keeps it shining on the approaching jollyboat, and several of the figures aboard can be seen to lean in and whisper to one another.

When the prow of the jollyboat is some twenty yards from the hull of the Ghost, the mist parts enough to reveal that all those in the boat are strangers, though they are concealed by dark cloaks. The stout dwarf is the first giveaway, but none of those below are familiar to those on deck. Bjorn draws his broadsword, and the man next to him drops the ladder to the deck. “Now!” bellows Sigurd, and Punketah begins the words of an incantation.

Those in the boat are quicker. Babshapka drops his oar, turns and stands, pulling forth a bow, already strung, from beneath his cloak. He looses an arrow - a single shot that strikes Bjorn square in the chest - but the arrow shaft erupts in a tangle of vines that wrap around the mate and take him to the deck. His companion is hit by a firebolt from Aurora but does not go down.

Willa lunges across the seats to take up Babshapka’s oar. Together with Tyrius, she steers the jollyboat and then pulls in the oar so that they grind to a stop against the hull of the Sea Ghost, the two ships broadside to one another.

Larry has been mumbling under his breath for several seconds, perhaps even before Punketah. Suddenly, the whole jollyboat and the main deck besides are covered in a thick fog bank, obscuring all. A second later Punketah completes his web, but now has no targets in sight. The web splashes harmlessly in the water, its fringes adhering the jolly to the larger ship, but catches no beings in its sticky strands. Punketah utters a foul oath. Sigurd yells for the anchor to be raised and draws his own sword.

Under the shroud of Larry’s fog cloud, those in the jollyboat throw up grapnels and ascend to the main deck of the Ghost, even as Barnabus and Thokk climb aboard on the other side. “Sleep, damn you Punketah!” curses Sigurd, while the mage pulls forth a pinch of sand and mutters that he cannot sleep what he cannot see. The wounded crewman at the main deck rail slashes at a shape in the fog but is then felled by a blow from an unseen opponent as those in the jollyboat clamber aboard.

The stern crewman’s lantern dances through the fog but reveals nothing. Suddenly from the main deck comes a great cry of rage: “Thokk bathe ship in blood!”

Blown astern by the east wind, the fog advances across the main deck, and the boarders use it for cover as they move aft. Barnabus ascends the port ladder to the poop deck ahead of the fog but immediately darts into the shadows. With a clatter of heavy booted feet, Thokk, Tyrius, and Willa ascend the starboard ladder to the poop deck and engage the smugglers in melee. Shefak runs across the fog-covered deck but ignores the ladder. Rather, she uses her staff to vault over the railing to the poop deck, rolling as she lands.

Before the first blow is struck, Punketah completes his sleep spell, centering it on the attackers surging up the ladder. The first to collapse is Shefak, but then the crewmen at the tiller and holding the lantern go down. The lantern clatters to the deck but does not spill oil. Barnabus, sneaking up behind the man on the tiller, also succumbs to the sleep before he can strike. Aurora and Babshapka, still on the main deck but approaching the ladder, feel a brief moment of drowsiness before their fey heritage asserts itself.

With Thokk, Willa, and Tyrius now confronting Sigurd and Punketah on the poop deck and no one else there conscious, Tyrius calls for Sigurd to drop his sword and surrender his ship. In response, Sigurd roars defiance and slashes at Thokk faster than they can follow. After three devastating cuts the deck is wet with blood and Thokk falls to his knees. He is still struggling to rise when Sigurd runs him through with a final stab. The massive half-orc collapses with a groan.

[DM’s aside: With Tyrius and Willa arriving behind Thokk on the ladder, I ruled they could move but not attack on the first round. Barnabus, Shefak, and the two crewmen would have been allowed to attack but all were incapacitated by the sleep spell before their initiative came up, so only Sigurd and Thokk remained to go for the first round of this combat. This was the first 5E game I had run, and I converted Sigurd over as a 5th level fighter, champion duelist. In retrospect, a second level party facing a fifth level enemy fighter in 5E is a much steeper contest than the same level difference in the 1e original module. Had the party not been lucky with the previous initiative and gotten Larry’s fog cloud off before Punketah’s web, it would have easily been a TPK. In the case of Sigurd vs. Thokk, Sigurd was at +8 to hit and +7 to damage. He chose action surge in the first round to make four attacks. His first three hits on Thokk with d8+7 each did more than 38 damage total, which could have taken Thokk to -19 and instantly killed him. However, Thokk had his rage up for half weapon damage. He was knocked to zero but used his half-orc relentless endurance to persist at 1 hp until Sigurd’s fourth blow, which took him again to 0 hp.]

Babshapka ascends the ladder to the poop deck next and just behind him is Aurora. He joins the melee while she slaps Shefak and Barnabus awake. Aurora then takes an arrow from the man in the crow’s nest. With Tyrius busy trading blows with Sigurd and unlikely to notice, Barnabus takes the opportunity to kill, not capture, the two sleeping crewmen. This makes it five of the party against just Sigurd and Punketah in the melee, with Aurora and the man in the crow’s nest still trading arrows for firebolts. Punketah goes down quickly, but even at five-on-one Sigurd holds his own for quite a while and both Tyrius and Willa are seriously wounded by the time he falls.

The party holds the ship for the moment. The fog has cleared from the main deck, revealing a single dead smuggler by the rail. The formerly entangled mate is gone, as is the man who was at the capstan, and the anchor is still down. Thokk, Punketah, and Sigurd are all found to be alive though unconscious - the latter two are bound. Between Larry and Tyrius, Thokk is revived and some of the worse wounds of Willa and Tyrius are healed.

As the party crosses the main deck, a cabin door is flung open. Three lizardfolk charge the party, and Thokk is the first to meet them, blocking their javelins with his large hide shield. A small flying creature is with them, and it sinks its tail barb into the half-orc as combat is joined again. Seeing the beast, Aurora begins “Isn’t that a dragonne…” but that is as far as she gets before Thokk slices it in half with his axe. After the lizardfolk are slain as well, and dumped overboard besides, the deck is again clear and calm. Willa retrieves her chainmail hauberk from the jollyboat and dons it.

The subsequent battle below decks is desperate and hard-fought on both sides. It involves fighting on rope ladders, climbing on and over brandy casks and even attempts to roll them down upon others, thrown daggers in the dark, and the use of all of the party’s remaining spells. In the end, all of the party are wounded, most of them severely. Five common smugglers are dead, three have surrendered, and all of the ship’s officers (the Captain, the Mate, the Bosun, and Punketah) have been knocked unconscious, captured alive, and bound to the mast in the hold.

Besides the items recovered from officers themselves (jewelry, armor and weapons, and possibly magical gear) and the obviously valuable cargo of silk and brandy, the party’s search of the ship uncovers a cache of odd coins in the cabin of the lizardfolk, strange papers and four (labeled!) potion vials in the captain’s cabin, a spellbook and a wand in Punketah’s cabin, a secret room filled with weapons, and a secret prison cell with a manacled sea elf (who is soon after released).

The smuggler’s role in supplying Sanballet and Master Murphey with brandy and silk is already obvious. Between the accounts of the surrendered crew, the letter found in the captain’s cabin, the hundred electrum pieces the lizardfolk had, and the store of weapons, the party quickly surmises that the smugglers are also dealing in arms, supplying weapons to lizardfolk. Willa, in particular, is concerned about this for if she is reading the captured map correctly, the lizardfolk lair is at the mouth of the Dun River, which is just a few hours west of Saltmarsh by sail.

Where these arms are coming from, and for what purpose the lizardfolk are purchasing them, is not as obvious, for the three crewman claim not to know, and Sigurd has already told the others, “I’ll nae be sayin’ naught, an’ ye’ll do ther same, if ye hae any wits aboot ye.” The crewmen do say that the silks and brandy are loaded in the port of Jetsam in the nation of the Sea Princes, but none of them ever saw the arms come aboard.

The party decides to interrogate each of the four smuggler leaders separately. Aurora clumsily tries to get Tyrius to watch the remaining prisoners so that he will not be present during the questioning, but he quickly sees through that and has Thokk guard those remaining. Willa, Tyrius, and Aurora spend some time alone with each of the prisoners in a below-decks cabin before returning them to the group bound to the mast. The common smugglers have had their hands and feet bound, but are sitting on the deck and not tied to anything for the moment.

Captain Sigurd “Snake Eyes” is calm, collected, and quiet during his interrogation. He tells them his name, inquires after theirs, and agrees that he is captain of the Sea Ghost. Other than that, he steadfastly refuses to provide them with any information.

The first mate “Bloody Bjorn” struggles a bit and curses them as they take him away from the others, but settles down once they are alone with him and asks for a deal. Once he learns (from Tyrius) that his freedom is non-negotiable, and that regardless of what he says they will be turning him over to the Saltmarsh Town Council, he goes thoughtfully quiet. Eventually he tells them that Sigurd has a contact in Jetsam for the weapons. He says he could recognize the man and point him out in a crowd, but he does not know his name or the location of his business. The silk and brandy are brought aboard as legal goods in Jetsam, but the weapons are handled only by the officers and without the knowledge of the port’s customs officials or the crew. Bjorn knows that they have been running the arms to the lizardfolk for months, since the spring, but he does not know why. He also says that they captured the sea elf sneaking on board their ship while docked in Jetsam, but that no one has been able to speak with him, and that Sigurd is considering selling him to slavers. In return for this information, Bjorn asks them to not say anything to his shipmates about what he has told them, and he asks Tyrius to tell the Town Council that he has been cooperative, and Tyrius agrees to both of these conditions.

The bosun “Foul” Frithoff is sullen when they pull him from the mast, but once they have him alone in the cabin he lets fly with a string of invectives the likes of which even Willa has never heard. He curses them and their families, past and future, and goes into lurid detail about what he will be doing to each of them once he is free. His interrogation is effectively over after a minute, but they keep him in the cabin as long as the others so as to sow doubt among them. When they finally drag him out his voice is hoarse and their ears are red.

Lastly they separate Punketah. Tyrius begins by saying that the Saltmarsh Town Council has required them to turn over the smuggler officers but has empowered them to make their own decisions about the common crew. Punketah replies that he is not an officer and is outside the chain of command of the ship - he is more like an adjunct specialist, who reports only to the captain but does not rank higher than the sailors. He emphasizes that he was not personally involved in the smuggling or in breaking the King’s law - he was just hired by Sigurd as a spellcaster to defend the ship. In that case, Aurora reasons aloud, the party should be free to deal with him as they see fit. When Tyrius does not object, she asks Punketah what he is willing to trade.

Punketah claims to know even less about the weapons deal than Bjorn did - he says he does not know where they are from or how they get on board. He does confirm that the weapons are ultimately sold to the lizardfolk, and that they have a large lair at the mouth of the Dun. He also agrees that the brandy and silks are purchased legally in Jetsam, and that the sea elf was captured in that port. He says that since the party is free to deal with him as they choose, he would like to offer his magic items in return for his life and freedom. Aurora replies that they already have, by the Council’s affirmation of their right of pillage, his spellbook and wand, so unless he has some magic items they have not found, he still has nothing to bargain with. Punketah replies that he will tell the party the command word for the magic wand, and also describe to them how his magic ring functions (the party had taken his ring, suspecting but not sure of it of being magical), both valuable pieces of information. While they consider that, he also offers the following: the lizardfolk are arming themselves for an attack on Saltmarsh, he says, and the town is in imminent danger. If they allow him to keep his spellbook and magic items, he will join them in defense of the town or their pre-emptive attack on the lair, so long as he can go free with his possessions once the lizardfolk are defeated. Tyrius, Willa, and Aurora say that they will consider his offer, but need to talk amongst themselves.

Once all four captives are back at the mast, the party leaves Larry and Thokk to guard them and goes above decks to talk. They take the surrendered crew with them, releasing their leg restraints but leaving their hands bound. Out of earshot of the prisoners, Willa, Aurora, and Tyrius convey to Barnabus, Babshapka, and Shefak what Punketah and the officers said, and they talk about what they believe and what they don’t. The involvement of the Sea Princes is worrisome, as both Barnabus and Willa relate that the Princes are ancient rivals of Keoland, and that the nations have fought many naval wars in the past. If the Princes are indeed involved in arming lizardfolk to assault Saltmarsh, it could be part of a larger plan to invade all of Salinmoor!
My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
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Adept Greytalker

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:03 am    Post subject: Post 24: An Awkward Homecoming Reply with quote

DM's note: This post includes numerous spoilers to the second section of Module U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

Post 24 - An Awkward Homecoming

15 August, 570 - Azure Sea, early morning, after the battle
The party, at least those inclined to discuss such matters, has spent most of the night talking. All of the gathered loot has been placed in a single pile, and Aurora has made a ritual casting of detect magic on it. The three common sailors have had their hand restraints removed so that they can give sea burials to their dead companions, and after observing them during this act, Tyrius declares that they are to remain unbound, so long as they remain above decks. The three smuggler officers, and Punketah the mage, after their separate interrogations, remain tied to the mast in the hold and under the guard of Thokk and Larry. With the grapnels and hard work the party and sailors together have pulled both the smuggler’s jollyboat and the excise cutter aboard and lashed them to the deck. The sky is getting lighter and lighter as dawn approaches.

There has not been time to tell Tom back at the House what is happening. Willa hopes by waiting until it is light enough for him to see that they are sailing to Saltmarsh, he will deduce the ship has been successfully taken. As Willa directs the smugglers to raise anchor, she can see the the ship itself, painted on the prow, bears the name The Sea Ghost, an appropriate moniker for a smuggling vessel if ever there was one.

Willa takes the tiller while the three sailors raise the sail and work the ropes. Aurora asks her whether the crew of four will be enough to get to harbor in Saltmarsh. Willa points off the port side to where storm clouds blacken the southern horizon. “Wit’ ther fair east wind we hae right now, an’ calm seas, aye we be arrivin' soon eno’, though we willnae be settin’ any speed records. I nae be wantin’ t’ be out on ther open sea wit’ only four sailors on deck if summit blows up, tho'. That thar storm out t’ sea durn’t look t’ be gettin’ any closer, but we hae better be safe in harbor if she hits.”

One of the reasons Willa is at the tiller is so that she (rather than the sailors) can be in control of the ship’s direction, but the other is so that she can stand easily and speak with the rest of the party, who are on the poop deck discussing what happens next.

Willa and Tyrius are adamant that the captain, first mate, and bosun will be turned over to the Council, and will brook no contrary argument. For the common sailors, and Punketah, however, opinions are divided, as the council explicitly (or implicitly, in the case of Punketah) said that the party could use their discretion.

Should the mage be turned over to the Council? Should he be held by the party and the Council just told about him? Should they even mention him? By his own claim, the party will need him to safely approach the lizardfolk lair, since he warns of dangerous shoals and lizardfolk traps, but can they trust him? He said he would help them in return for his life and his gear.

As for the common sailors, they know the ship and could prove a valuable crew, but can they be trusted? Willa has already said they will not be sufficient to crew the ship should the party want to use it to sail to the mouth of the Dun, and more sailors will need to be hired. That being the case, why not just crew the ship entirely with Saltmarsh sailors of more certain loyalty? Then again, will the party be taking the ship to the lizardfolk lair? Even Punketah has said that he can only help them navigate if they approach during the day - but in a day approach the ship will be seen from miles off. Should they instead sail one of the jollyboats or the cutter, or even approach from the land?

Also, there is the question of the sea elf, who Babshapka has said is named Oceanus. For the moment he seems content to speak with Babshapka, who is filling him in on not only what the party is doing at the moment, but the history of the Haunted House as well. Should he leave the ship before it reaches Saltmarsh? If he stays on it, would he be summoned before the Council or possibly even seized or interrogated by them?

Finally, there is the question of the disposition of the magical treasure. It is generally agreed on that all the monetary treasure will be equally split, with Willa (but not Tom) receiving a full share. But since the magical loot cannot be divided equally, who will receive it?

Aurora is of the opinion that the gear should go to “whomever can best use it for the benefit of the party”. Items she has identified as being magical include:

The captain’s longsword - this is large and could be used one or two-handed - the most obvious choice would be Willa

The mate’s broadsword - this has a single edge like a large cutlass - it seems most fitting for Thokk but might not do as much damage as his axe. It could also be used by Babshapka, and seems light enough he could still use his shortsword in the other hand. It is similar enough to Bakluni falchions that Shefak would also be able to wield it.

Punketah’s ring - not yet identified, though he claims it is protective and has offered to explain its use.

Punketah’s wand - not yet identified, though he claims it is of magic detection, and has offered to provide the party with its command word.

Punketah’s spellbook - not yet read.

The four phials from the captain’s quarters - not yet identified, but labeled as healing, healing, cure disease, and neutralize poison.

Not magical, but possibly important, is an unopened scroll tube that was found with Punketah’s spellbook. Babshapka and Dirty Larry find that two of the officers' three chain shirts fit them well enough to use. They are rusty and missing links in places, to be sure, but still an improvement over their own leathers.

Tyrius, while arguing his own opinion, makes it clear that he will abide by the decision of the party, but that whatever deal they offer to the mage, Tyrius will make sure both sides hold to the agreement.

Aurora thinks it'd be best to hand over all the officers to the authorities (including the wizard, despite his offer to "help"). She believes they should be very clear to the Council that the smugglers were involved in an attempt to foment a revolution against the mainland, and so they should use all means at their disposal to wrest information from the prisoners, especially the Captain, Snake-eyes, who was uncooperative when the party questioned him. With luck, that should garner a little information to help the party assault or handle the lizard folk.

As far as the three sailors, Aurora votes that the party hire them on as deckhands for their new vessel, but she would propose some type of test for them. Perhaps they could anchor the boat off the coast, hide a few members of the party on board (Barnabus and Shefak are obvious choices) and then make a show of "everyone" leaving to go ashore. They could then listen in on conversations and be prepared to kill them and resume control of the ship if they are disloyal. The party could also hire another couple of sailors (if needed) from Saltmarsh to balance them out. Aurora thinks that they should ask Oceanus what he would most like the party to do with him and, assuming he wishes to be released close to his people, perhaps try to enlist his people's help in the fight against the lizard folk.

Aurora is also most curious about the spellbook and what it may contain. If they are useful spells, she'd like to propose pooling money to pay for their inscription into her spellbook. After that, she'd like to deposit this book in the same bank in Seaton where she put the first one (from the Alchemist).

Regarding the magical booty, Aurora suggests that Thokk could make good use of the ring of protection, given how often he is in the forefront of attacks, and she is happy to identify the magical weapons to be on the safe side (to be sure they are not cursed), but she would appreciate it if the party could split the cost of the expensive pearl required for each use of the spell. She thinks Thokk could make use of the longsword as well, but if Willa would like to use it she should get priority if Thokk gets the ring.

Thokk is happy relaying his opinion up to Aurora via her message spell, although he doesn’t get the part about whispering to her and instead speaks plainly in front of the prisoners. He thinks the easiest thing to do would be just to kill the entire crew, including those who surrendered and the fish-elf, but he's fine with letting the officers go to the Council at Saltmarsh if that is the decision of the party. He personally offers to slay any people who need slaying, and to test out the fancy new weapons in the process if anyone would like him to. He loves the look of the ring, and thinks it would complement his scars. While he admires the craftsmanship of the longsword, he has some sentimental connection to his trusty battleaxe, so he may take some convincing to use the sword. He is exceptionally excited by the prospect of killing hordes of lizard folk and begins nagging the party as to when that will happen.

Shefak is not interested in the broadsword. She says that by relying on magic as a crutch, one will never learn to truly focus the body and mind. She doesn’t mind contributing to the cost of identifying the magic items themselves, because pursuing knowledge is inherently worthwhile. She warns anyone who doesn’t want to contribute that a foolish attachment to money and other material things will surely bar them from spiritual progress. She is willing to accept the decision of the party with regards to the sailors, mage, and officers - they have all chosen their path and must walk it to its conclusion.

Babshapka is willing to take the broadsword, provided that magical identification shows that it is more potent than the weapons he now wields, and that it is light enough for him to continue using two blades. He does not comment on the disposition of the prisoners beyond saying that he will not allow Thokk to harm Oceanus.

Willa is very interested in the magic longsword, although she is is also considering purchasing a greatsword with her share of the booty. She agrees with the assessment of Aurora regarding the wizard, the officers and the crew. She likes the idea of hiring more crew in Saltmarsh for the ship. She, of course, will follow the direction/orders of the Council and the Chief Customs Master, Secun, in any matter they decide upon.

It is eventually decided that Punketah will be turned over to the Council along with the three officers, but with a warning to them that he might be useful to the party later (so a swift execution is not in anyone's interest).

The three sailors will not be turned over.

Willa takes the longsword, Babshapka the broadsword, Thokk the ring, and these are practiced with but not identified. Aurora takes the wand, spell book, and scroll tube.

Babshapka speaks with Oceanus, and the sea elf says that he would like to go with the party to assess whether the lizardfolk are a threat to his people - if so, he would then return to his home and ask that his people help the party in dealing with the threat. He warns Babshapka that just because the lizardfolk want to attack the humans of Saltmarsh, they will not necessarily be seen as threatening to his people.

15 August - Saltmarsh
In the early morning, the Sea Ghost docks in Saltmarsh harbor. She has been seen coming in for hours, and the docks are full of customs officials and a dozen guardsmen, while the length of the harbor is lined with small folk.

Chief Secun approaches once the ship is tied off and a gang plank lowered. He calls to speak with Willa, and when she answers, he asks her permission to come aboard. Those unfamiliar with naval custom are surprised or confused that her superior would ask her permission, but Willa stands a bit taller and pauses before granting him leave. Once he is aboard he asks her to order that no one comes aboard or leaves, and then the two head for the Captain’s cabin to have a private conversation.

Willa begins by telling him everything that happened the night before, and everything they learned from the prisoners. He remains thoughtful for half a glass of brandy, and then tells her that so long as the common sailors stay on the ship, they are outside the jurisdiction of Saltmarsh, but should they step on shore, they will be arrested for smuggling. He also says that while the party may speak freely about the smugglers to the townsfolk, they are on no account to speak of the lizardfolk, so as to avoid scaring the townspeople. The Council will need to debate the meaning of all this before making a public announcement. It would have been better had Oceanus remained below decks as well, but half of Saltmarsh has seen him now, so that ship has sailed. Secun says that the town constables are waiting to receive the ship’s officers. They will be taken first to the blacksmith, to be fitted for hand-manacles and leg irons, and then walked to the town’s single-cell gaol. Upon reflection, he doesn’t want the mage stored with the others - he believes that the butcher’s ice-cellar will do for Punketah.

When Willa and Secun emerge, the party decides to take the officers off the boat one at a time. The captain goes quietly, without concern, with hands tied and feet hobbled. He is marched slowly up the harbor road toward the blacksmith’s.

Foul Frithoff is next. He is halfway down the gangplank when he hops neatly out into the air and plummets straight down into the water. Thokk and Barnabus immediately dive in after him, but by the time they are next to him he already has his hands free, having used the sharp barnacles and mussel shells of a dock piling to cut the ropes that bound them. Oceanus also dives in: by the time Frithoff has been sliced by Barnabus, stabbed and brought to the surface by Oceanus, and shot with an arrow from the crow’s nest by Babshapka, he is dead. His body is laid along the shore for the people to gawk at, and his blood slowly stains the gravel around him.

After this, Thokk insists on knocking the prisoners unconscious before he hauls them off the boat. The captain and mate Bloody Bjorn share the town’s gaol cell; the wizard Punketah, after being manacled, is kept separately in the butcher’s basement.

The party are told there will be a late-night Council meeting; Tyrius and Aurora are expected to attend.

The party turns over most of the items of value found on the Sea Ghost, but they retain the magical items, the armor of the officers, and the weapons (both used and stored) of the unmentioned lizardfolk. Aurora uses their single remaining pearl to identify the wand of magic detection and learns that it holds more than 30 charges. After selling what they can to the merchants of the Council and paying excise taxes on the cargo, an eight-way split is 171gp for each of them (including Willa but not Tom). Party members except for Willa are given an additional 50gp from Council funds as a reward for capturing the smugglers.
My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:22 am    Post subject: Post 25: Sigurd and the Council Reply with quote

Post 25: Sigurd and the Council

15 August, 570 - afternoon - Saltmarsh
Most of the party remains on the ship, using the galley to fix meals. Aurora copies several spells from Punketah’s book into her own.

Willa goes ashore and buys a greatsword for herself. She sets aside the entire remainder of her share of the booty for a fishing cottage, boat, and nets for her younger brother Tom, so that he is now provided for with an inheritance and means of supporting a family, should he marry. While she is out, she also cruises the bars and taverns searching for available deckhands. She finds none, but learns that a merchant ship is due in to port which will have several men available.

In the evening Aurora and Tyrius go to the Council meeting. Babshapka is able to gain admittance as Aurora’s bodyguard, and Willa also attends as an aide to Secun.

The meeting starts with Secun, the High Constable, and the Militia Captain revealing to the rest of the Council the lizardfolk menace. There is great consternation - fear at the threat itself, and anger that the information was kept from them until now. There is an immediate resolution to ask the party to assess the threat posed, and an offer of a reward. Aurora makes a claim that if the threat is real, the Council ought to be paying the party more than what is offered...but this is not well received, especially considering that they were just granted an entire merchant ship and its cargo as their plunder.

The Militia Captain says that messengers have been dispatched to Bale Keep and to Seaton. They have not heard back from Seaton yet (not surprising since the city is more than 20 miles away). The commander at Bale Keep has his troops on alert, ready to dispatch to Saltmarsh if necessary. Bale Keep patrols the Hool Marshes, but the patrols penetrate deep into the marshes themselves only during the winter, when the ground is firmer under foot and there are less mosquitoes and poisonous snakes about. During the summer (such as now), they patrol at the edges of the marsh only, and make sure nothing threatening emerges. Thus, they can say with certainty only that if a lizardfolk lair exists at the mouth of the Dun, it was not there last winter.

When it is the party’s turn to speak, Aurora clarifies the connection between the lizardfolk, smugglers, and the Sea Princes. Most of the Council dismisses her idea at first, as they do not feel that the “flickers” could be part of a sophisticated plan, or that the Princes would be interested in a land war (since the previous animosity between their nations has been confined largely to naval battles). However, Aurora is persistent and persuasive. When she hits on the fact that the electrum coins used by the lizardfolk to pay for the weapons were of Sea Prince mint, several members of the Council do start to look concerned, and some are even alarmed. Willa has to intervene, telling Aurora privately to stop speaking along this line before the Council itself panics. Secun works to steer them back to the business at hand.

Captain Sigurd is brought in, still in irons. He calmly confesses to his part in the smuggling and arms running, although he offers no oaths. He explains that an assistant to one of the Sea Princes told him of the opportunity to run arms to the lizardfolk after he was already smuggling silks and brandy, and that the two operations are not connected. He does not know, and never asked, from where the lizardfolk got their coins. He names his contact for buying arms in the Sea Princes.

The Council asks him if he is repentant, and he says no, because he is not guilty. At least, he clarifies, he is not legally culpable, because he intends to demand trial by combat to prove his innocence before the law. Given that it took the entire party, plus magic, to bring him down, he is confident that he will be found innocent when fighting any of them in single combat in a fair fight. He doubts that Saltmarsh has anyone more challenging to offer as an opponent than Thokk, Willa, or Tyrius.

Aurora is incredulous and asks the Council whether Sigurd can do that. The High Constable explains that if he is a freeborn crown subject with no previous convictions, and the crime in question was not witnessed within the boundaries of Saltmarsh itself, he does indeed have the right to trial by combat. Sigurd nods sagely, apparently having known this all along and counting upon it.

However, the High Constable adds pointedly, since smuggling is a crime against the King, the Council has the right to petition for the King’s Champion to fight on their behalf, and as skilled as the Captain might be, he would not win such a fight.

The Captain agrees that he would not win that fight, but says nonchalantly that summoning the King’s Champion would assuredly take a great deal of time, and long before he arrived the town would be under attack by flickers. The Captain says that he is hopeful the Council will grant him clemency in return for his fighting on their behalf, for if they are willing to free him he will gladly defend the town, or accompany the party to scout the flicker lair. The Council members are outraged, but have to admit he makes compelling arguments.

The party members briefly question the Captain. They trade him some of his personal papers back in return for the command word to Punketah’s wand. He is then led away. Aurora claims that the party has no need of Sigurd's help in scouting the lizardfolk lair, and recommends that they do ask for a Champion to prove his guilt. There is a brief debate among the Council members, and it is agreed that it is better to keep Sigurd on hand in the gaol until the party returns with the results of their mission.

The Council concludes that it is more urgent than ever for the party to assess what is going on with the lizardfolk. They are prepared to offer a reward of 500gp total to the party to split as they choose, plus the right of pillage to anything they find in the lair. Aurora tries to get them to assign someone “expendable” to scout the lair from the sea under guise of a fishing expedition, but she is told coldly that none of the citizens of Saltmarsh are expendable and that the Council is only willing to pay the party the small fortune of half a thousand gold because they expect that the party is able to handle such dangers without hiding behind the good folk of the town. Tyrius interjects and says that they will set out as soon as they have a full crew for their ship.

16 August - Saltmarsh
When Shefak wakes in the morning she finds she is now second level.

Tom Stoutley joins the crew of the Sea Ghost. The excise cutter is returned to Customs service, but the Ghost still has two jollyboats - one that was on deck, and the other from the sea cave.

Willa is able to find at the cartographer's shop a nautical chart showing the coastline around the mouth of the Dunwater; the Customs Service buys this “for customs use” and she stows it aboard the Sea Ghost.

At noon, “Bloody” Bjorn (who, unlike Sigurd, does have prior convictions) is hung from a gallows outside the village gaol, for crimes including imprisonment, extortion, smuggling, manslaughter, and assault upon the King’s representatives. There is a good turnout from the town to witness the execution.

No merchant ships come into port this day, but Willa is able to convince “Old Lefty,” a retired sailor, to come out of retirement for one last voyage on behalf of the town. He is too arthritic to climb the rigging, but she trusts him at the tiller and declares him First Mate of the Ghost and in charge of the crew when she is not on-board. He will be charging the party 1gp per day, or 24gp if they wish to pay him for a month in advance.

17 August - Saltmarsh
In the early morning a merchant ship makes port in Saltmarsh. Two locals have ended their service with the voyage and disembark. They are immediately met at the docks by Willa and Tyrius, who offer them employment at the rate of 1gp per day, provided they are ready to leave before midday. They are reluctant to miss their shore leave, but agree. This brings the crew of the Ghost to eight, with Willa, Tom, three smugglers, two locals, and Old Lefty.

As the party finishes an early lunch, a private letter arrives for Tyrius.

High tide is around 1pm; the ship casts off just as the tide turns. Since she was sailed into the harbor prow first, crewmen row the jollyboats while pulling the ship about. Once she is facing out of the harbor, Willa lets the tide pull the ship out into the open sea. When she is well beyond the rocks of shore the jollyboats come aboard, the sails are raised, and they begin their journey to the mouth of the Dunwater.
My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:34 pm    Post subject: Post 26: The Lizardfolk Threat Reply with quote

Post 26: The Lizardfolk Threat

15 August, 570 - evening - Saltmarsh

Willa remains by Secun's side after the party leaves, as the Council continues to discuss the state of affairs. To her surprise, he asks her to stay on for a private conversation even after most of the Council has left. When they are alone, he asks for her assessment of the situation.

Saltmarsh is not walled, and it relies on the broad Janustream River as a natural barrier to threats from the Hool Marshes in the east. In time of need, the soldiers of Bale Keep are tasked with the active defense of the town, but both Secun and Willa know full well that a foe like lizardfolk, accustomed to traveling through the marsh, could arrive long before soldiers from the Keep. In the event the town had to defend itself without outside assistance, they figure the following would be available and dependable as combat officers:

The High Constable and the five town constables, and possibly the gaoler
The Militia Captain and the five sergeants of the militia
The five part-time customs officers, including Willa and Tom, but not Secun himself (as he is too old to lead troops in the field)
The priest of Kord
A few of the priests of Xerbo
The priest of Sol

In terms of troops, all of the heads of household of Saltmarsh are required to train one day a month in the militia (or to support ten militiamen with arms and equipment, which is what most of the wealthy do). Many of the town youths train at their own option as archers. The fishermen are stout folk, and the militia itself would easily number 500 able-bodied men if there was a general muster, assuming there was time for a muster. In an open field, in the day, Willa and Secun are confident that Saltmarsh could stand against any threat unless the lizardfolk numbered in the several hundreds.

As Willa and Secun discuss scenarios, what they fear most is lizardfolk deployed more strategically, who could attack with coordinated raids all along the seashore, coming up undetected from the water and not making any formal troop engagements. Once the families of the militiamen were under attack, most would not have the discipline to remain under the command of their sergeants; rather “every man for himself” would take his family and evacuate the town by whatever means were at hand. This would be exacerbated if the raids occurred at night, or if they came too swiftly for the militia to be mustered. If companies of militia, drastically reduced by desertions, faced a dedicated lizardfolk host, they would likely fail morale, break and run.

Secun's original charge for Willa was to assess the true nature of the party - were they actually fledgling adventurers, or was some ulterior motive in play? She can now assure him that they are well-intentioned but very inexperienced. With that in mind, he now assigns her the task of leading this scouting expedition to the lizardfolk lair. The safety of Saltmarsh itself may depend on it.
My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer.
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