Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Interlude--The Wreck

This encounter can be sprung on the PC's at any time while they are traveling by sea in relatively shallow waters. Alternately, if the PC's have participated in the events of the scenario “The Message,” they could even be working for Don Santiago with one of his dive teams. All characters who are in a position to do so should make DC 20 Spot checks; those who succeed notice the shadow of the wreck beneath the waves.

Given that the water isn't too deep, hopefully the PC's feel some desire to explore the wreck. Assuming that they or the captain bring their ship back around to it and drop anchor, they are in position to do so. At that point, they could face any number of difficulties and dangers in making their investigation. Detailed here is just one way in which this situation could develop.
*DC 10 Swim checks are required to move about in the water. Characters can give themselves a +5 equipment bonus if they used diving waits to make their descent, although these inflict a penalty if not removed before surfacing.
*At the same time, the GM should keep track of how long divers can hold their breath, a number of rounds equal to twice their Constitution scores. After that, they must begin making Constitution checks with a DC of 10, increasing by one for every subsequent round. Failure means that the character falls unconscious in the first round, declines to -1 hit points in the second and dies in the third.
*The wreck could contain any number of creatures. For example, a squid or a swarm of crabs might inhabit the wreck, and combat—leaving blood in the water—could attract a shark.
*What exactly the PC's find in the wreck is up to the GM, along with its ship type, name, and point of origin, and the identities and backgrounds of its crew and passengers. This is a good chance for the GM to introduce some intrigue, if there is evidence of any kind of mystery to be found.
*For example, a DC 12 Search check could reveal, in the captain's cabin, a body impaled on a finely crafted and intricately engraved rapier. A DC 20 Search check reveals a locket around the body's neck, one that bears a pair of initials.
*There is also the matter of recovering any loot or other cargo aboard the vessel. This could include chests of coins or other such valuables, but is more likely to entail trade goods. Whatever the case, the PC's should make Knowledge: engineering, Profession: sailor or other relevant skill checks to devise a means of raising such heavy items. A good option here is to detach the ship's anchor and use the capstan for a mechanical advantage.
As usual, the GM should feel free to tailor any and all details of this encounter according to the needs of the campaign and the desires of the players.

Spinoff Scenarios
This interlude provides plenty of opportunities for continuing adventures; listed below are only a few of the possibilities.
*The cargo stowed aboard the wreck might contain a valuable sought by a relentless and ruthless individual. If the PC's take possession of it, that person might come looking to reclaim it.
*As mentioned above, the wreck could also contain clues to a murder. Should the heroes decide to investigate the matter, it could lead to a lieutenant who betrayed his captain and is perhaps even making a move on his superior's young widow.
*If the crew of the unfortunate vessel had unfinished business of their own, the PC's might find evidence of it and even decide to complete the task.
*Perhaps enemy pirates (and even including a vengeful sea witch) are behind the sinking, and don't take kindly to the PC's absconding with what they see as their rightful booty.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Relic--Xiuhcoatl

Detailed here is an artifact for use in the game, one that could be a prize in a treasure hunt or that could be used to launch a campaign of intrigue and insurrection.


Of the many items taken as treasure from the New World, or fought over by soldiers and sailors from various nations, none is more powerful or more shrouded in mystery than the weapon known as Xiuhcoatl.

This artifact is described as being an atlatl, a short staff used for throwing javelins with greater force. It is crafted in the shape of a serpent, decorated with pieces of turquoise that look like scales. The end of the staff is shaped so as to resemble a snake's head, rearing to strike. It is about two feet long but rather heavy to hold.

The wielder of Xiuhcoatl, when using it to hurl enchanted javelins (+1 or greater), can treat them as javelins of lightning. Additionally, that person can use the following spell-like abilities, with the frequency indicated below.

1/day—Control weather
2/day—Control winds, call lightning storm
3/day—Call lightning, pprotection from energy, wind wall

Note that, because the artifact embodies the power of Xiutecuhtli, the god of dryness and the sun, the relic cannot be used to summon rain, but can conjure up dry electrical storms and powerful winds.

As an intelligent item, this weapon has Intelligence 14, Wisdom 16 and Charisma 18, with Ego 12. Its designated purpose is to lead the Aztec people to victory, be that against the Spanish or any other enemies who stand in their way.

When it first appears in the annals of history, Xiuhcoatl was said to be in the possession of the Aztec hero Huitzilopochtli. It was he who led his people down into the territory of New Spain, finding there the sign—an eagle perched atop a cactus, clutching a serpent in its talons—that identified their new homeland. From that point it is believed to have been passed down among the rulers of the Aztecs, ending up with Montezuma at the time of the Spanish Conquest. It can be assumed, then, that the relic fell into the hands of Cortez and his conquistadors, probably taken as spoils back to Spain. Historians know, however, that at least one of the galleons making that return trip fell prey to the pirate Jean de Fleury (also known as Florin), so it could have ended up in the hands of the French.

Here the picture becomes murky, but details of seemingly unrelated events can perhaps provide some insight. Not long thereafter, the French established the fort of St. Caroline on the northern edge of what would become Florida. This act brought them directly into conflict with the Spanish who claimed the entire region for themselves; it also eventually led to a war with the local natives. The exact reason for this move are unknown, but some believe that the French intended to lead an uprising among the natives against the Spanish throne. If that should be the case, it would make sense that they possessed the relic as a symbol of power.

The story of that fort ended with a series of tragedies. First the natives refused to cooperate with the French, leaving the settlers short on food and provoking hostilities between both parties. Then the Spanish sent a force to besiege the fort; the soldiers promised to treat the French well if they surrendered, but then massacred them after they laid down arms. The Spanish then tried to establish their own fort on the same location, but a French freebooter returned and destroyed it, murdering its inhabitants in revenge for the previous betrayal. At that point, any hint to the location of Xiuhcoatl is lost.