Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Interlude--The Thieves

This post details a group of thieves who could cause all sorts of complications for the PCs.


Interlude 23: The Thieves
It's a well-known fact that pirates, after scoring a valuable haul of booty and returning to port, like to spend their money. Usually this results in them binging on booze and conjugal company, until such time as the money is gone and they must return to the sea in search of more. During such times it is not just the tavern keepers and prostitutes whose attention the pirates attract, however; sometimes these spendthrift ways attract thieves, too.

Take, for example, the following group of burglars and pickpockets. They could make an appearance at some point between adventures, just when the PC's are looking to do some celebrating and outfitting.

Rogue 6; CR 5; Size medium; HD 6d6; hp 23; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+1 Dueling Jacket, +3 Dex); Atk +4 (1d6, buccaneer knife) or +7 (2d4, pistols); SQ Sneak Attack +3d6, Trapfinding, Evasion, Trap Sense +1, Uncanny Dodge; AL CN; SV: Fort +2, Ref +8, Will +1; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 14.
Background: Scum (Hide and Sleight of Hand).
Skills: Appraise +11, Climb +10, Disable Device +11, Hide +11, Knowledge: local +11, Listen +3, Move Silently +11, Open Locks +11, Search +11, Sleight of Hand +11, Tumble +11, Use Rope +11.
Feats: Leadership.
Fortunes: Worm.
Equipment: Clothing, dueling jacket, buccaneer knife, two pistols, set of thieves' tools.

Reynard is a good-looking Frenchman of medium height and build, with dark hair and eyes. As such, he can blend in well in both English and Spanish ports, by playing the role of the Huguenot or the Catholic. He is an avid opportunist, seeking chances to increase his own wealth by liberating it from others. To that end, he has gathered around himself a loose confederation of like-minded individuals and is always on the lookout for people who've acquired money and can be separated from it.

Rogue 4; CR 3; Size medium; HD 4d6; hp 16; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+1 dueling jacket, +3 De); Atk +X (damage, type) or +X (damage, type); SQ details; AL X; SV: Fort +X, Ref +X, Will +X; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 13.
Background: Scum (Hide and Sleight of Hand).
Skills: Appraise +9, Climb +8, Disable Device +9, Hide +9, Knowledge: local +9, Listen +3, Move Silently +9, Open Locks +9, Search +9, Sleight of Hand +9, Tumble +9, Use Rope +9.
Feats: Details.
Fortunes: Worm.
Equipment: Clothing, dueling jacket, buccaneer knife, two pistols, set of thieves' tools.

Bruno is Reynard's second-in-command, and in many ways styles himself after the more experienced rogue. He is not merely a toady, however; for example, he does not hesitate to abandon his fellows if it means saving his own skin when a plan goes awry.

Rogue 1; CR 1/2; Size medium; HD 1d6; hp 6; Init +X (breakdown); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 dueling jacket, +2 Dex); Atk +1 (1d6+1, buccaneer knife) or +2 (2d4, pistols); SQ Sneak Attack +1d6, Trapfinding; AL CN; SV: Fort +0, Ref +4, Will -1; Str 12, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 13.
Background: Scum (Hide and Sleight of Hand).
Skills: Appraise +6, Climb +5, Disable Device +6, Hide +6, Knowledge: local +6, Listen +3, Move Silently +6, Open Locks +6, Search +6, Sleight of Hand +6, Tumble +6, Use Rope +6.
Feats: Details.
Fortunes: Worm.
Equipment: Clothing, dueling jacket, buccaneer knife, two pistols, set of thieves' tools.

These fellows also blend in well with their surroundings, a trait that is useful given their profession. They are just as self-concerned as their leaders; they can work together to their own gain, but might turn on each other if there is need.

Using the Thieves
Reynard and his band of rogues could become involved in a campaign in a number of ways.
  • If they should encounter a band of newly wealthy people, such as pirates returning to port after a successful cruise, the thieves could choose them as targets.
  • Taking that a step further, the thieves might be hired to acquire a particular piece of loot from somebody, perhaps a map, an important letter or the like.
  • If the thieves became really desperate, they might even let themselves be hired to assassinate someone—perhaps even by one of the party's enemies, to settle an old score.
  • Should the PC's have a run-in with the rogues and need to pursue them, this could develop into a chase; refer to the relevant interlude for more details.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Original Jolly Roger

In yesterday's post, "The Eye of the Storm," I mentioned a new relic known as the original jolly roger; today I have the stats for it.


The Original Jolly Roger, and the First Skull and Crossbones
Although the practice of piracy has been around for millennia, the use of the skull and crossbones as a flag is a relatively recent development. One of the theories to explain its adoptions hearkens back to the year 1314, when Jacques de Molay—former Grand Master of the by then disbanded Knights Templar—was executed by the French authorities. His order had been disbanded, and its members arrested, seven years previously. Since then, the disgraced knight had been subjected to relentless torture, some say because he might have known the location of the fabled Templar treasure or other secrets of great power. When he was finally burned at the stake, legend has it that individuals loyal to his cause returned to the site in the dark of knight to gather his remains. All they could find was the man's skull and two femur bones—the very same ones that are depicted on the Jolly Roger.

The flag itself, some say, takes its name from an ex-Templar by the name of Roger de Flor. He began his career as a ship's boy aboard a Mediterranean galley owned by the Templars, eventually joining the order and rising to the rank of captain. After being accused of thievery and thrown out of the order, however, he went to Genoa, borrowed money with which to purchase his own galley, and turned pirate. His mercenary band went on to serve various employers, both in battles against the Ottomans as well as in intrigues between various European factions. Eventually he was assassinated by the Emperor of Constantinople in 1305. His organization, the Catalan Company, continued to be active, and it is believed that they flew the flag to honor both him and the former Templar Commander, de Molay.

The flag itself looks much like many that have come after it, except that it has faded a bit with the passing centuries. In game terms, once per month, when it is raised in battle, all allies who are present gain the benefits of a bard's inspire courage ability (that is, a +1 bonus to saving throws against charm and fear effects, and a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls). This is an enhancement bonus, however, and so it can stack with other effects that create a morale bonus.

It is also believed that there is still a wooden box, lined with velvet, banded in iron and sealed with a stout padlock, that contains the actual bones of Jacques de Molay—the ones gathered from the ashes after he was executed. If this box is brought aboard a ship along with the aforementioned flag, the bonus granted by them together increases to +2.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Eye of the Storm

Here's the next adventure in the series.


The Eye of the Storm
This scenario is Part 12 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 seventh-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.

This adventure is meant to take place immediately following the events of the scenario “Treacherous Waters.” During that time, they should have met a Greek galley slave named Stephanos Kafouros, revealed a plot to press sailors using drugged wine, snuck into Algiers to free more slaves, and witnesses an attack on the harbor by a zombie-crewed fireship. Through all of that, they also should have learned that the attack seems to be connected to a little island, Alicudi, that forms part of the Aeolian Archipelago. It lies not far off the coast of Sicily. Ideally, they have already decided to head there to continue the search of the demon-possessed Edward Chapman.

If the PC's missed out on some of the aforementioned action, or didn't pick up on the clue at the end of that scenario, or if the GM is using this adventure as a stand-alone, then there's some groundwork that needs to be laid before the PC's can sail for the Aeolians.

Note: One of the important characters in this adventure uses the sea witch prestige class, as detailed in Issue 7 of the Buccaneers & Bokor e-zine.

This adventure should begin immediately following the events of “Treacherous Waters”—assuming that the PC's participated in that adventure.

If that is not the case, as mentioned above, the GM may need to do some work to build the foundation for scenario. Some possible plot hooks include the following options.
  • The PC's could be present at a location that is attacked by one of the zombie-crewed fireships, as detailed in the last encounter of that adventure.
  • Alternately, the PC's could be present when some of the survivors from the attack on Alicudi arrive in a fishing boat and ask for help in the aftermath of the attack.
  • The village could be just a routine stop for the PC's, perhaps part of a previously arranged cargo delivery.
  • The PC's could be seeking out the sea witch for some other business.
Whatever the case, it shouldn't take too much work to introduce new characters to the following events.

Encounter 1—Counterattack
If the PC's decided to take action against the zombie-crewed fireship at the end of “Treacherous Waters,” the action begins with this scene. The zombies are sailing their fireship into the harbor, just like they did in their attack against the PC's back at the council of war on the desert island, as detailed in the events of the scenario “Dead Reckoning.”

Just like then, the PC's should make Search or Spot checks, as appropriate; the highest result again determines how much time everyone has to prepare for battle.

Check / Time to React
0 – 9 / 5 rounds
10 – 19 / 10 rounds
20 – 29 / 15 rounds
30 – 39 / 20 rounds
40+ / 25 rounds

In this case, the zombie crew tries to steer its fireship into the midst of the corsair galleys docked in the harbor. While the PC's might not be able to entirely prevent the attack, they might be able to alert others to what is happening. Of course, if they do, this could raise some difficult questions about how they recognized the danger, and what other business brought them to Algiers. Perhaps more now than ever, GM adjudication is probably necessary to resolve this matter.

If the PC's reach the fireship before it is completely destroyed, use the same deck plan and crew stats from that scenario to resolve the battle. Whether or not they manage to foil the attack, they might still notice (DC 15 Search or Spot check) that the name of the vessel in question is the Bella Signora di Alicudi. Just like a the end of that scenario, this could provide an important clue to how they should continue their investigation.

Encounter 2—Alicudi
As long at the PC's can recognize the importance of the fireship's name, they should know where to continue their investigation into Chapman's plot. As they make their approach, however, they can see that all is not well in the little fishing village.

As your ship draws in toward Alicudi Island, you can already see that something is wrong. While there is a quaint fishing village that climbs the hillside from the seashore, the place seems desolate. A number of boats are drawn up on the shoreline, and there is no other movement in what should be a bustling village at this time of day.

At this point, show the players the village map and let the PC's plan accordingly. As they begin their exploration, refer to the appropriate building plans for the following area descriptions, and to the encounter suggestions that follow.

1. Individual Homes
The families who make up the population of Alicudi Island occupy these buildings, twenty-eight in number. Although they al have individual decorations, arrangements and other such touches, most of them follow the same pattern. Part A is the kitchen, with a hearth, barrels for water and fuel, a table and chairs and shelves for cooking utensils, pots and pans and foodstuffs. Three bedrooms, Areas B and C, lead off of that, along with Area D, the privy.

2. Fishery
This building consists of an open platform with a roof over it. A number of wooden shelves provide work space for fish to be gutted and cleaned, and then either packed into barrels for pickling or left out in the sun and wind to dry.

3. Taverna
Much of this building (Area A) is occupied by a bar, surrounded by stools. There are also tables against the outside walls, set up for groups of four or even eight. Behind the bar is a door that leads to the storeroom, which is lined with shelves filled with booze and glassware.

4. Church
This cross-shaped building is used for obvious purposes. Area A is the foyer, with a spiral staircase leading up to the bell tower. Beyond a set of double doors is the sanctuary, Area B, which is lined with pews for the congregation. In the front of this area stands a pulpit for the priest, along with a baptismal font. Behind all of this is the priest's quarters, Area C.

5. Cave
Before she left with Chapman, Alkmene resided here. The cave sits in the hillside up above the rest of the village; without being told of its location, it takes a DC 25 Search or Spot check to notice the entrance to it. (For this reason, the GM should not draw it on a depiction of the village unless one or more characters succeed at the appropriate skill check.)

While the mouth of the cave is five feet wide, it is situated such that it blends in with the rest of the hillside. From the entrance it broadens out into a roughly crescent-shaped cavern with a ceiling up to twenty feet in height. Against the south wall is a small altar, hewn from the natural stone, and topped by a pair of statues. One depicts a beautiful woman, and the other, a small and wizened man. A DC 20 Knowledge: religion or sea lore check reveals that the statues depict Amphitrite, the Greek goddess of the sea, and Aeolus, the god of the winds. This image is surrounded by partially burned candles, covering the surface of the altar.

A normal, comfortable bed stands against the north wall, with a sea chest at the head of it. Scattered around the base of the bed are small wood shavings that a DC 30 Knowledge: arcane check could reveal as being connected to the sea witch's ship model ritual. The chest is locked, requiring a DC 25 check to open or a DC 20 check to force, and having hardness 10 and 30 hit points. Inside it, along with some unremarkable women's clothing and other such personal items, there is a brief letter. It contains a vivid description of the ship in which the PC's are sailing, along with its name. The letter is signed “Sir Edward.” As long as they find this, the PC's should receive a +5 bonus to the aforementioned checks to recognize the construction of a ship model.

In the far end of the cavern is a lustral pool; a DC 25 Knowledge: arcane or sea lore check reveals that this is what a sea witch would use to work her magic—provided, of course, that the PC's have already learned of Alkmene's special abilities.

Encounters in Town
As the PC's are exploring the fishing village, they could have any number of the following encounters.
  • Amidst the carnage in one of the houses is a person who is still alive but has been mauled, badly beaten by a zombie. The victim could survive, provided somebody can make a DC 20 Heal check to treat the wounds. At that point, a DC 20 Heal check reveals that they were made by an enemy using a slam attack.
  • A flock of fiendish sea gulls attacks them. These birds have been feeding on the corpses left behind after the zombie attack, and now some of them have been corrupted by the flesh they've consumed. Refer to the appendix for the proper statistics.
  • One of the houses shelters an ornery and trigger-happy village elder by the name of Giuseppi Simi. It takes a DC 15 Listen check to realize that someone is inside and under cover. He has a readied attack with a musket against anyone who intrudes, and takes it unless the interloper can convince him of good intentions (DC 20 Diplomacy check).
  • The survivors are badly in need of food and water. If the PC's can share anything from their stores, it is greatly appreciated.
As always, the GM should feel free to add more encounters, depending on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign.

Once the PC's have had a chance to explore the village, the NPC's they've met can provide a little information. Giuseppi, and others, can mention the following details in the course of the conversation.
  • Two weeks ago the village was visited by a sloop flying English colors. The fellow who came ashore was a gentleman who went by the name of Edward Chapman.
  • Chapman bought materials for refitting his vessels, but—curiously—did not purchase provisions for a crew.
  • He did head up the hillside to speak with Alkmene.
  • If the PC's ask about her, Giuseppi mentions that she is a woman with special abilities,” ones that she uses to help the village's fishermen.
  • Those abilities including conjuring a wind when it is needed.
  • Chapman spent some time with her, and then she left with him aboard his ship, the Providence; they sailed east-southeast.
  • Only after her departure did the other zombie-crewed ship attack. The marauders took a couple of the larger fishing boats, including the Bella Signora di Alcudi, and then destroyed everything that was smaller.
  • The attacking vessel was an older type, a cog; it flew a green banner with a white crescent, the flag of Algiers.
  • The villagers dispatched their only surviving ship—a fisherman who'd been gone at the time—to the mainland to report the attack.
Assuming that the PC's have experienced the dream sequence, they should recognize the importance of the area in question. After all, the Strait of Messina lies between Sicily and the region of Calabria in Italy. They should also have their first inkling of what Chapman wants with Alkmene. He has been building a zombie-crewed armada, all while working to provoke the local powers and recruiting a powerful sea witch. If they experienced the dream sequence from the beginning of “Treacherous Waters” (or at any other time), they should also have a sense of foreboding about what is going to happen.

If the PC's want to go in search of Alkmene and Chapman, they can do so as detailed in Encounter 3, below.

Encounter 3—A Derelict, Again
In addition to staging attacks, building up his undead armada and provoking his enemies to respond, the possessed Sir Edward has been spreading rumors around the Mediterranean of strange goings-on in the area surrounding the Strait of Messina. His ultimate goal is to lure everyone to this very location, so that Alkmene can unleash her tempestuous wrath in the form of a wicked storm and then the dreaded maelstrom. At the same time, he plans to attack aboard L'Etoile, his ghostly flagship. To make all of this happen, however, he needs all of his foes to assemble in one place.

The Decoy
To that end, Chapman has left a derelict vessel floating in the middle of the Strait. This he has filled with numerous traps, with the intention of luring the PC's aboard and thus hindering them once he launches the full attack. Of course, it's up to the PC's to discover this ruse, hopefully in time to prevent a great tragedy.

As they approach, have the PC's and any crew members who are in a position to do so make Search or Spot checks; the highest result is first to notice a sloop adrift on the water. Assuming that the newcomers don't choose to ignore it, refer to the appropriate deck plan for the following area descriptions. As they approach, the PC's see the following.

Clearly, this sloop has suffered some kind of distress. Both of the vessel's masts have been toppled, leaving the main deck strewn with debris. Not a soul can be seen aboard the ship.

Those PC's who participated in the events of “Dead Reckoning” and encountered another such derelict in the Caribbean should have a distinct sense of deja vu here.

1. Sterncastle
This raised deck at the aft of the vessel is one of only two areas that are free of traps. Like all of the other areas aboard the ship, there is nothing of interest to be found here; it is simply a ruse to stall and perhaps weaken the PC's.

2. Main Deck
Amidst all of the debris, the deck has been strewn with caltrops. Characters coming aboard should make DC 20 Search or Spot checks to notice the; failure to do so means that the caltrops make an attack at +5, ignoring the target's armor, shield and deflection bonuses. A hit deals one point of damage and reduces the victim's speed by one half. What is more, the area between the two downed masts has been fitted with a tripline. Noticing this requires a DC 15 check, while a DC 18 Disable Device check can render it harmless. If triggered, it delivers trip attacks at +15 to all characters in the area and causes 1d6 damage; furthermore, tripped characters must make DC 15 Reflex saves or suffer an attack from the caltrops, as mentioned above.

Note that the hatch to the cargo hold is sealed from below; it requires a DC 25 Strength check to force open, or has hardness 10 and 50 hit points.

3&4. Private Cabins
The handles for each of these doors (on the sides in the passage) have been smeared with contact poison. It takes a DC 25 check to notice this the first time, at which point sensible precautions can prevent being exposed to it. Those who fail suffer must make a DC 16 Fortitude save or suffer 2d12 hp initial damage, and 1d6 Con secondary damage.

5. Captain's Cabin
In addition to the contact poison, as mentioned above, there's a tripwire just inside this door that connects to a pair of loaded blunderbusses. Noticing this as the door is opened requires a DC 20 check, while a DC 18 check can disable it. If that doesn't happen, the blunderbusses both fire, causing two attacks at +10 for 2d10 damage twice to characters in the hallway.

6. Crew Quarters
This area is also free of traps, hopefully causing characters a false sense of security before looking into the cargo hold, below.

7. Cargo Hold
The door from the crew quarters into this area is rigged with yet another trip wire, this one attached to a primed pistol. Rather than being loaded with shot, however, the pistol is positioned such that, when fired, it ignites a line of gunpowder leading to a full barrel of the stuff. Noticing this requires another DC 20 check, and a DC 18 check can disable it. Should it be triggered, the trap causes 8d6 damage to all characters in the hold, or 4d6 to characters in the crew quarters or on the main deck, while a DC 20 Reflex save reduces this by half. Moreover, this damage causes the sloop to start sinking.

While the PC's are exploring the derelict, there's also the matter of the zombified Nneka. Those who participated in the events of “Dead Reckoning” should have faced off against him and, hopefully, managed to defeat the Maroon without killing him. He has had his soul—in the terms of Voodoo, his gros bon ange—stolen by Sir Edward, and thus is not in control of himself. As he and the PC's have drawn closer to the possessed Englishman, and to the device that contains his immortal soul, Nneka becomes restless and combative. He attempts to escape from his bonds, something that could add another strand of drama to the already tangled web. This could also provide a clue, however, to the impending attack.

Encounter 4—Up from, and Down to, a Watery Grave
Rather than being a completely separate occurrence, this scene should begin to develop while the PC's are aboard the derelict. Refer to the appendix to find stats for the following vessels and their crews.

Algerian Galleys
These vessels arrive from the west, sailing along the coast of Sicily. Just how these fellows are reacting to the situation depends on how the PC's behaved themselves while they were in Algiers. On the one hand, they may have helped rescue at least one slave, and probably a lot more than that. In doing so they would have made Hussein “The Hunter” Ra'is look pretty bad in the eyes of the Dey and the other corsair captains. If that has been the case, then he arrives aboard his galley, Al-Saluqi, with two other galleys, al-Saji and al-Jari, as escorts. He might be out for blood, looking to settle the score with the PC's.

On the other hand, Hussein and his fellow captains have also witnessed the attack of the zombie-crewed fireship on Algiers harbor, and thus know that something more than the obvious is going on here. For that reason, they may be open to parley with the PC's.

Venetian Merchantmen
These ships arrive from the northwest, sailing down the coast of Italy (around the “toe of the boot”). They are commanded by Captain Luciano Vittorio. He leads three vessels—the Maria, Anna and Elissabeta—armed with cannons, musket-wielding soldiers and righteous zeal. Vittorio has heard the report of the attack on Alicudi, along with a number of similar stories, and has decided to put an end to what he sees as an Algerian menace supported by black magic. For this reason, he attacks any corsair galleys he sees on sight. It should take a huge show of force, along with some careful negotiation, to dissuade him from seeking divinely ordained vengeance.

Refer to the stat blocks in the appendix for details of these ships and their crew; use the modified deck plans for a slave ship to represent them.

The Undead Armada
This group of vessels is made up of cogs, the very same ones that the possessed Edward Chapman called up from where they'd sunk in the Sargasso Sea. They are the flagship, L'Etoile, along with the La Lune and La Comyte. They are crewed by zombies, and move in to grapple with enemy ships in order to board them.

As the battle is developing, storm clouds gather quickly in the skies above. Before long the wind is raging, and lightning begins to crackle. This is all a precursor, of course, to the coup de grace that Chapman has planned for just a little bit later.

The Maelstrom
Once the battle is in full swing, Chapman unleashes his secret weapon: a maelstrom conjured up by Alkmene. This should happen fairly early in the battle, making it clear just what the possessed Englishman is trying to accomplish. The scene provides a good opportunity for vivid description. At first the sea begins to churn in a circular motion, slowly, and it takes a DC 20 Search or Spot check to notice this fact. At that point, a DC 15 Knowledge: sea lore check allows characters to recognize what is about to happen.

At that point, all vessels within one hundred feet of its outside edge must make a DC 20 Profession: sailor or be drawn fifty feet closer to it; those who succeed at a DC 25 check can move away from it normally. These DC's each increase by five once a ship is pulled within the circumference of the whirlpool. Additional checks are required each round, with outcomes s indicated. Should a ship be pulled into the center of the maelstrom, it suffers 6d6 sp damage per round until it is smashed to pieces and pulled underwater.

Those crew members and passengers unfortunate enough to b aboard the vessel at this time are also pulled underwater, unless they succeed at Swim checks (with DC's as listed above) to escape. Any characters who fail their Swim checks begin to drown, as detailed in the Player's Handbook. Once they have been pulled beneath the waves, only a DC 30 Swim check can allow them to reach the surface again.

The Ship Model
If the PC's did their exploring in while in Alkmene's cave, they should know this is coming. She has created a model of their vessel; this allows her to cast spells like control currents and gust of wind on the party's ship, perhaps forcing it into the maelstrom if it seems the vessel might escape. This should help build up the tension in the situation, forcing the PC's right into the middle of the action for a number of dramatic scenes.

Tactics and Development
While it's never possible to anticipate all of the stratagems that the PC's might employ, detailed here are a few of the situation with which they should need to deal.

In order to confront their enemies, the PC's need to board L'Etoile. Given that it is a ghost ship loaded with undead warriors, this should present a daunting task. It also presents a chance for some thrilling combat. After all, it behooves the PC's to act quickly. To that end, some of the more combat-oriented characters could keep the undead crew busy while others try to find Chapman and Alkmene. This could provide for lots of movement in the battle, some real swashbuckling action.

There is also the matter of the warring factions. If left to themselves, they'll only cause harm to each other. On the other hand, if they can be convinced that it is Chapman who is responsible for the attacks on different ports, they might stop attacking each other and concentrate their efforts against the Templar ships. Persuading each side requires a DC 15 Diplomacy check. The GM can assign bonuses or penalties for good or bad roleplaying, and can modify the DC based on any history that the PC's have with these characters. Of course, there is also the matter of reaching the other ships in order to communicate with their captains. This could require swinging on an available rope, with a DC 20 Acrobatics check; or swimming, perhaps with the help of a magic item like Leucothea's veil; or other tactics, with some GM adjudication.

As far as Alkmene is concerned, it takes a DC 20 Diplomacy check to convince her that the PC's are not enemies. She believes that she is having revenge on those who've oppressed her kind. While that might be true for the Italian and Algerine forces, it is probably not the case regarding the PC's what is more, Chapman did not bother mentioning to the sea witch that his undead fleet raided her home village. characters can receive +5 bonuses for mentioning the attack on Alicudi, or for talking about any past deeds in fighting oppression (freeing slaves, aiding mermaids or a Mayan priestess and the like). As always, the GM can also give bonuses or penalties for good or bad roleplaying. If the PC's can convince Alkmene of their good intentions, she releases any spells that she's cast on their ship. What is more, at the GM's discretion, she might even close the maelstrom, leveling the playing field for the sea battle.

In the end, the PC's have a chance to settle their score with Chapman. Hopefully they keep in mind, however, that the Englishman is possessed by a Mayan demon. Those who have access to divine magic can break the outsider's hold on him by casting protection from evil. Otherwise, it might be necessary to beat the poor man into submission and then deal with the possession later.

This scenario can end in a number of different ways. If the PC's manage to establish peace with Alkmene as well as between the Venetian and Algerian forces, and then defeat the Templar vessels and their undead crews, they have scored a major victory against an evil foe and prevented the unleashing of a terrible power. This alone should feel pretty satisfying, but there are some definite rewards that come along with it, too.

For one thing, the PC's have won over Alkmene as an ally. For pirates and other seafaring heroes, having a sea witch on their side is a considerable boon. She destroys the model that she made of their ship, and provides the captain with a wind cord as a token of her appreciation. What is more, the PC's can go to her for assistance in the future. Another benefit is that the PC's have won the respect of the Venetian and Algerian captains. They could be offered positions commanding ships for either of their respective navies, although these are not without their own cost; joining the Venetians requires accepting the constraints of such a respectable post, while serving as an Algerian ra'is requires converting to Islam.

There is also the matter of the treasure aboard the Templar ships. If the GM is using this as a stand-alone scenario, the treasure could be in the cargo hold of L'Etoile. This includes three chests filled with various old coins, worth a total of 10,000 doubloons; a set of ancient scrolls containing the divine spells (written in Hebrew) greater dispel magic and hallow; a set of masterwork navigational tools, including a beautifully crafted compass and square; the original Jolly Roger, along with a wooden case (reliquary) containing a skull and two femurs; the item that holds Nneka's gros bon ange; and a golden idol depicting the head of a demon (Baphomet). The latter item is worth at least 1,000 doubloons to a collector, but possibly more. As usual, the GM should feel free to tailor these items to best fit the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign. What is more Captain Vittorio and Hussein Ra'is contribute the equivalent of 1000 doubloons each as signs of their gratitude. Of course, if the GM is willing to make things a little more challenging for the PC's, they might need to go looking for the treasure (see below).

Finally, the PC's should gain enough experience points to advance to eighth level. Given that they have resolved a major conflict, it makes sense for them to have some downtime in order to establish their influence as major pirate captains.

Further Adventures
In the aftermath of this adventure, there are still a number of possibilities for additional plot hooks; a few of them are detailed here.
  • As mentioned above, Chapman could have hidden his treasure somewhere, requiring that the PC's decipher some clues in order to find it. These consist of a small pouch containing a large tooth (from a cayman, as it were) and a large pinch of sand. Although this isn't much with which to work, it should lead them in the right direction; refer to the next scenario, “Fortune and Glory,” for the particulars of this search.
  • Once they do locate it, the hoard could contain some interesting relics. Keep in mind that some of these items were collected in the Holy Land back during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries; as such, numerous other people are interested in acquiring them.
  • Given that the PC's have some downtime, they have a good opportunity to deal with other, unfinished business of their own.

Appendix 1—Dramatis Personae

Sea Dog 3/Sea Witch 10; CR 13; Size medium; HD 3d10+10d6+13; hp 69; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 Dex); Atk +3 (damage, type) or +3 (damage, type); SQ Superstitious, Close Quarters +1, 1st Favored Ship (Greek vessels), Attuned to the Sea, Religious Enmity, Spells, Wind Cord Ritual, Ship Model Ritual, Open Maelstrom Ritual; AL CN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +4; Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 18, Cha 12.
Background: Sea Devil (Profession: sailor and Survival).
Skills: Concentration +11, Craft: ritual items +10, Knowledge: sea lore +16, Listen +19, Profession: sailor +9, Spot +19, Survival +17, Swim +16.
Feats: Details.
Fortunes: Superstitious.
Equipment: Clothing, ritual items (including a model of the party's ship), luck blade, silver dolphin necklace (500 poe).
Spells per Day: 4 0-level, 5 1st-level, 5 2nd-level, 4 3rd-level, 4 4th-level, 2 5th-level.

Alkmene has curly, raven-black hair and eyes that seem to shift from deep blue to grey, just like the colors of the sea itself. She is an attractive woman, but aloof. The sea witch can be fiercely loyal to people who earn her respect, or coldly vicious when dealing with enemies.

*Refer to Issue 7 of the Buccaneers & Bokor e-zine for details regarding the sea witch prestige class.

Fiendish Gull Swarm
Animal (Swarm); CR 4; Size tiny (swarm); HD 4d8; hp 18; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 10 ft., fly 40 ft.; AC 14 (+2 size, +2 Dex); Atk NA (1d6, bite plus eye-rake); SQ Half damage from slashing and piercing weapons, low-light vision, swarm traits, scent, darkvision 60 ft., DR 5/magic, cold and fire resistance 5, SR 9; AL N; SV: Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +3; Str 2, Dex 15, Con 8, Int 3, Wis 15, Cha 7.
Background: NA.
Skills: Listen +10, Spot +10.
Feats: Alertness, Weapon Focus (bite).
Fortunes: NA.
Equipment: NA.

This flock consists of dozens of birds, all swooping and diving through the air. They have been corrupted by the undead flesh on which they've been feasting and thus have the Fiendish template.

Any living creature damaged by a raven swarm must succeed on a DC 11 Reflex save or be blinded as the swarm scratches and tears at the victim's eyes. The blindness lasts for 1d4 days or until healed with a remove blindness or a successful DC 11 Heal check. The save DC is Constitution-based.

*These statistics are based on the ones for the raven swarm from the Pathfinder PRD.

Nneka (Zombie)
Undead Ranger 6; CR 5; Size medium; HD 6d12; hp 43; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+3 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +9/+4 (2d6, short musket) or +8/+3 (1d6+2, buccaneer knife); SQ DR 15/Magic, Undead Qualities, Immune to Cold, +4 Turn Resistance; AL CN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 16, Con --, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Native.
Skills: Heal +7, Hide +13, Intimidation +5*, Listen +10, Move Silently +19*, Spot +16*, Survival +10, Swim +10, Use Rope +11.
Feats: Armor Proficiency (light), Endurance, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Stealthy, Track Weapon Proficiencies (simple, martial).
Fortunes: Doll’s Eyes.
Equipment: Short musket, buccaneer knife, backpack.

(*+6 racial bonus to these skill checks)

The Venetian Merchantmen

Captain Luciano Vittorio
Aristocrat 6/Sea Officer 1; CR 7; Size medium; HD 6d8+1d10; hp 28; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+1 Dex, +1 dueling jacket); Atk +6 (1d6, rapier) or +6 (2d4, pistol); SQ Skill Expert (Profession: sailor) +1; AL LN; SV: Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +11; Str 10, Dex 12, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 16.
Background: Gentleman-Adventurer (Diplomacy, Knowledge: local).
Skills: Appraise +10, Diplomacy +13, Gather Information +13, Knowledge: local +10, Profession: sailor +12, Ride +5.
Feats: Dodge, Iron Will, Unusual Aptitude (Profession: sailor), Weapon Finesse (rapier).
Fortunes: Code of Honor, Vice.
Equipment: Clothing, dueling jacket, masterwork rapier and pair of pistols.

Vittorio is a no-nonsense military man with a dashing appearance and commanding demeanor. His entire focus is service to the Doge and people of Venice, something that he pursues with gusto and swagger. He is also a bit of a Romeo, however, and can be distracted by an attractive woman. (Given his devout Catholic faith and fear of her powers, Alkmene does appeal to him.) These qualities befit a man who has worked his way into his position more with the skills of a courtier than with those of a true mariner.

Brother Benito
Cleric 5; CR 5; Size medium; HD 5d8+5; hp 31; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 9 (-1 Dex); Atk +3 (1d6, cudgel) or +2 (ranged); SQ Turn or Rebuke Undead, Spells; AL LN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +0, Will +9; Str 10, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 11, Wis 17, Cha 14.
Background: Religious (Diplomacy, Knowledge: religion).
Skills: Concentration +5, Diplomacy +10, Heal +13, Knowledge: religion +10.
Feats: Iron Will, Skill Focus (Heal), Skill Mastery (Heal).
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Clothing, walking stick, healer's kit, holy symbol.
Spells per Day: 5 0-level, 4+1 1st-level, 3+1 2nd-level, 2+1 3rd-level.
Domains: Good, Protection.

Brother Benito is a humble, devout member of the Catholic faith. He does his best to aid those who he believes are doing God's work, helping people in their times of need and never passing up an opportunity to share the good word with them.

*Refer to the article “Clerics in the New World” for details regarding incorporating clerics in this setting.

Typical Crew Member
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.

The Maria, Anna and Elissabeta
Huge Merchantman
Draft: 3 fathoms
Structure Dice: 7d8 (31 sp)
Hardness: 5
Maneuverability: -4 (-2 merchantman, -2 size)
Speed: 100 ft./10 knots
Turn Rate: 2
AC: 6 (-2 merchantman, -2 size)
Weapons Fore: 2x culverin
Weapons Aft: 4x culverin
Weapons Broadside: 10x culverin
Damage: 2d4X10
Special Qualities: None
Crew: 30 (+30 on weapons crews)
Passengers: 20 (soldiers)
Cargo: 150 tons

The Templar Cogs

Half-Fiend Edward Chapman
Male Rogue 6/Bokor 2 (Outsider); CR 9; Size Medium; HD 8d6+8; hp 39; Init +4 (+4 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 16 (+1 Fencing jacket, +4 Dex, +1 natural); Atk +6 (1d6+2, rapier) or +8 (2d4, pistols); SQ Trap Sense +2, Sneak Attack +3d6, Trapfinding, Evasion, Uncanny Dodge, Smite Good, Darkvision, Poison Immunity, Resistance to Cold, Acid, Electricity and Fire 10, DR 5/Magic, SR 16; AL LE; SV: Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +4; Str 14, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 20, Wis 10, Cha 20.
Background: Gentleman-Adventurer.
Skills: Bluff +13, Decipher Script +12, Diplomacy +15, Disable Device +11, Disguise +15, Forgery +15, Hide +14, Knowledge (local) +13, Knowledge (religion) +13, Listen +7, Move Silently +14, Search +13, Sense Motive +9, Voodoo Ritual +13.
Feats: Deceitful, Iron Will, Leadership, Negotiator, Stealthy.
Spell-Like Abilities (As level 6 sorcerer): Darkness 3/day, Desecrate 1/day, Unholy Blight 1/day.
Fortunes: Cause, Obligation.
Equipment: Gentleman's clothing, dueling jacket, pair of pistols, rapier, stiletto, pouch of 200 poe, various books, vials of ink, quills and paper.
Wanga per Day: 1 0-level.
Note: This character uses the half-fiend template, but none of the overt changes—bat wings, claws or fangs and the like—are manifested. Rather, he represents a non-corporeal demon in control of a human host.

Edward Chapman is, on the surface, a proper young English gentleman, albeit one who is not particularly striking. He has dark hair and dark eyes, and is of medium height and build. Normally he dresses the part of a young aristocrat, although his natural charisma makes him equally home among the lower classes when he deems it necessary.
Chapman is highly educated, having studied at Oxford and abroad, and has recently even been accepted as a member of the Invisible College in London. In fact he serves as an agent of the Majesty's government, although the exact nature of his business is a closely guarded secret.
All of this has changed, however, now that he is possessed by a Mayan demon; he has also studied voodoo rituals through his interactions with bokor. Now he intends to use his knowledge and powers for evil, and all hell is going to break loose.

Fiendish Templar Zombies
Undead Humanoid; CR 1/2; Size medium; HD 2d12+3; hp 16; Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+4 chain shirt, +2 natural); Atk +4 (1d8+3, longsword); SQ undead traits, smite good 1/day, darkvision 60 ft., resistance to cold and fire 5, spell resistance 6; AL N; SV: Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +3; Str 17, Dex 10, Con --, Int 3, Wis 10, Cha 1.
Background: NA.
Skills: None.
Feats: Toughness.
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Tattered clothing, rusted armor and longsword.

Zombified Barbarian
Undead Barbarian 5; CR 7; Size Medium; HD 5d12; hp 38; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 40 ft.; AC 21 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +6 natural); Atk +11 (1d12+6, greataxe) or +11 (1d6+6, slam); SQ Fast movement, Illiteracy, Rage 2/Day, Trap Sense +1, Improved Uncanny Dodge, DR 15/Magic, Cold Immunity, Turn Resistance +4; AL CN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +3; Str 22, Dex 12, Con --, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8.
Background: Native.
Skills: Climb +10, Handle Animal +4, Jump +10, Listen +6, Move Silently +3, Survival +6, Swim +10.
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack.
Fortunes: None.
Equipment: Hide armor, greataxe.

L'Etoile, La Lune and La Comyte
Medium Merchantman
Draft: 3 fathoms
Structure Dice: 4d8 (18 sp)
Hardness: 6
Maneuverability: -4 (-2 merchantman, -2 antiquity)
Speed: 80 ft./8 knots
Turn Rate: 2
AC: 8 (-2 merchantman)
Weapons Fore: 2x demi-cannon
Weapons Aft: 2x demi-cannon
Weapons Broadside: 4x demi-cannon
Damage: 3d4x10
Special Qualities: None
Crew: 15 (+16 on gun crews)
Passengers: 20 (zombies)
Cargo: 50 tons

The Corsair Galleys

Hussein “the Hunter” Ra'is
Sea Dog 4/ Sea Officer 3; CR 7; Size medium; HD 7d10+7; hp 50; Init +3 (+3 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 dueling jacket); Atk +4 (1d6, cutlass) or +4 (2d6, long musket); SQ Enlightened, Close Quarters +1, Dodge, 1st Favored Ship (Galley), Mobility, Skill Expert +2, Command (morale bonus); AL N; SV: Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +3; Str 10, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 17.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Climb +7, Diplomacy +13, Knowledge (navigation) +9, Listen +9, Profession (sailor) +9, Spot +9, Survival +6, Use Rope +7.
Feats: Far Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot.
Fortunes: Enlightened, Code of Honor (Islam).
Equipment: Clothing, dueling jacket, cutlass, knife, long musket, powder and shot.

Hussein is, as his nickname implies, a pirate always in search of prizes for the glory of himself, his crew, Algiers and Allah. He is a strict disciplinarian, and very pious when it comes to his religious duties. What is more, he can be relentless when it comes to righting what he believes are the wrongs that others have done to him.

Corsair Crewmen
Sea Dog 1; CR 1; Size medium; HD 1d10+2; hp 12; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +2 (1d6+1, cutlass) or +3 (2d6, long musket); SQ Enlightened, Close Quarters +1,Dodge; AL N; SV: Fort +4, Ref +4, Will +1; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Climb +5, Listen +3, Profession (sailor) +6, Spot +3, Survival +6, Use Rope +6.
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot.
Fortunes: Enlightened, Code of Honor (Islam).
Equipment: Clothing, cutlass, knife, long musket, powder and shot.

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 (1d6+2, scimitar) or +2 (2d6, short musket); SQ none; AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +0; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12.
Background: Janissary.
Skills: Climb +6, Craft (various) +3, Diplomacy +5, Jump +6.
Feats: Power Attack, Weapon Focus (scimitar).
Fortunes: Code of Honor (adherence to Islam and loyalty to the Ottoman sultan).
Equipment: Buff coat, scimitar, short musket, powder and shot.

Janissary Lieutenant
Fighter 5; CR 5; Size medium; HD 5d10+10; hp 42; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +9 (1d6+5, scimitar) or +6 (2d6, short musket); SQ none; AL LN; SV: Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +1; Str 16, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12.
Background: Janissary.
Skills: Climb +11, Craft (various) +7, Diplomacy +5, Jump +11.
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (scimitar), Weapon Specialization (scimitar).
Fortunes: Code of Honor (adherence to Islam and loyalty to the Ottoman sultan).
Equipment: Buff coat, scimitar, short musket, powder and shot.

Al-Saluqi, Al-Jari and Al-Saji
Huge Warship
Draft: 2 fathoms
Structure Dice: 6d8 (27 sp)
Hardness: 6
Maneuverability: -2 (-2 size)
Speed: 70 ft./7 knots (sails), or 50 ft./5 knots (rowed)
Turn Rate: 2 (sails) or 10 (rowed)
AC: 8 (-2 size)
Weapons Fore: 4x cannon
Weapons Aft: 2x cannon
Weapons Broadside: None
Damage: 4d4x10 (cannon); 4d6 (ram)
Special Qualities: Can be propelled by oars
Crew: 15 sailors and 75 rowers (+20 on gun crews)
Passengers: 10 (Janissaries)
Cargo: 15 tons

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Uncanny Items

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a post today with some suggestions for developing magical items through the course of a campaign.


Uncanny Items
In the traditional Dungeons & Dragons game, magic items are things carefully crafted by divine or arcane spellcasters. These individuals decide on what they want to make, gather the requisite materials and then work through an elaborate process of harnessing magical energies and imbuing them into the chosen item. This process works well in a high-magic campaign setting, where clerics, wizards and others are relatively common it's not unusual to find shops dedicated to buying and selling such treasures.

For a low-magic and historically-inspired setting, however, this doesn't fit so well. For one thing, the characters who can harness such magical energies are few and far between. Furthermore, the tales regarding those relics that do exist describe a different process entirely. Take, for instance, some of the relics associated with the Christian religion. Veronica's veil was just an ordinary cloth, but it was rendered holy by its contact with Jesus during the Passion. There are many similar examples associated with various saints, where items that they used, and even parts of their bodies, become relics.

The legendary treasures previously presented provide more examples of this process. The highlander's broadsword is one such, the blade that finally killed Blackbeard after he's been shot and stabbed more than a score of times. The same can be said for Captain Kidd's hanging rope, Danseker's shillings, Hatuey's macana and the Mission banner. Each of these things was simply a mundane item until it became embroiled in important events, wielded by individuals who would make their mark on history. One can imagine that, if these events were being played out as part of a roleplaying game, they would make for epic and memorable moments.

In this same way, a GM can use the events of a campaign to create new legendary treasures. To do so, one should look out for noteworthy happenings during adventures. Some of the possibilities include the following:
  • A character scores a critical hit to defeat an important foe.
  • Somebody attempts a daring action that could have distinctly negative consequences, but manages to succeed.
  • A PC makes a tremendous sacrifice to benefit the rest of the party.
  • Etc.
These moments should be fairly easy to recognize, since they provide the stories that the players and GM's tell for years afterward. A hard-pressed warrior could throw a dagger to cut the rope of a chandelier, sending it crashing down on an enemy to powerful to defeat in regular combat. A roguish type might stab his rapier into the gullet of a kraken, while the rest of the party is grappled in its tentacles. A gunslinger could manage to snipe a fleeing enemy at long range with his pistol, preventing its escape. Whatever the case, these events should be noteworthy as far as the course of the campaign is concerned, and should not happen often.

As far as the bonuses are concerned, these could be a normal +1 enhancement bonus, or they could be more specific to the event in question. The aforementioned pistol might gain the distance quality, while the rapier in question could become keen. It's important to keep in mind, though, that such benefits should be distributed as evenly as possible between the PC's to prevent imbalance, hard feelings and the like.

In this way, characters in a historically-inspired pirates game can gradually accumulate magical items—in addition to those acquired as part of treasure hauls—without going to town to purchase them. An added benefit of this system is that it helps to weave the PC's into the tapestry of the campaign setting, just like the heroes and villains, saints and sinners who came before them. Imagine having a group of pirates raiding settlements of the Spanish Main during the time of Henry Morgan. If a GM then ran a game during the time of Blackbeard, items used by characters in the first series of adventures could become treasures in the second set.

This also provides the GM with a chance to introduce new items tied to specific NPC's in a campaign. For instance, a recurring enemy could possess an item that he uses frequently, and perhaps has used to defeat or escape from the PC's. By the time they manage to defeat him, the PC's can claim that treasure, which has inherent value and makes a fine trophy of their victory.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two Relics and More

While I'm still putting the finishing touches on the next adventure, for today I have descriptions for two more legendary treasures, along with suggestions for lucky charms based on the Magic fortune. What is more, tomorrow I'll post an article about developing treasured items throughout the course of play.


Apostles Cannons
These twelve cannon are each inscribed with the name of one of the Apostles, just like is sometimes done with prepared rounds for muskets and pistols. They also boast elaborate scrollwork and engraving. These cannon were forged at the behest of King Philip of Spain, for use in the war in Flanders. Rumor has it that, in the aftermath of that conflict, they were transferred from field carriages to ones appropriate for use aboard ships.

In game terms, the Apostles cannons function just like the prepared rounds, as +1 holy ammunition, except that they can be used over and over again, although they must remain together as a set. Note, however, that this makes the untrustworthy Judas cannon a calculated risk if used in battle.

Executioner's Sword
While not as well known as those who came after them, Klaus Störtebeker and his crew of mercenaries, the Vitalienbrüder, were some of the first pirates to achieve notoriety in Europe. They were initially hired to run food supplies through a blockade of Stockholm. Following that battle they became out-and-out pirates, operating out of Gotland and other locations. Eventually, of course, Störtebeker and his fellows were captured.

At their execution, the pirate captain struck a deal with his captors; they would spare all of the men past whom he could walk after being beheaded. Much to their surprise, his body, minus a head, managed to stand up and walk past eleven men—and only fell because the executioner tripped it. Going back on their word, the authorities still had those men killed. When they asked the executioner if he was growing tired, he responded that he still had strength enough to dispatch all of them, as well, and so they killed him, too.

In game terms, the executioner's sword functions as an anarchic greatsword +1.

Lucky Charms
The Skull & Bones core rulebook details a good fortune, Magic, that lets characters start out with some kind of trinket that has actual in-game effects. Detailed here are a number of possibilities for such items. Moreover, there are some suggestions for how these kinds of lucky charms can develop their powers through the course of game play.

Holy symbols—These could include a crucifix, rosary or the like. Possible powers include allowing the bearer to cast bane, bless, divine favor or protection from good or evil once per day. If a campaign features the undead or similar creatures, this might also include a supply of holy water.

Fetishes—In many ways, these items are just like the holy symbols, mentioned above. For possible examples of such items and the powers they might have, refer to the appendix for the adventure “The Message.”

Signature clothing or accessory—This might be a favorite hat, a colorful sash, a coin that is always carried and often manipulated, or similar items. Powers for it might include providing a +1 dodge to AC for three rounds a day, or a +2 bonus to skill checks with the same frequency.

A lady's (or gentleman's) favor—Most commonly, this is a handkerchief or similar small token, given by a loved one to another who is departing on some kind of journey. Possible powers include providing the benefits of the virtue spell, or rerolling a die as per the granted power for the luck domain.