Random things you might see in a strange port

Our random things articles are designed to give quick hits of inspiration for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, when you’re stuck for a detail roll 1D20 on the table below for an idea. Although these articles are mostly fantasy-based in nature we’ve strived to keep them generic enough that they can be used with most games.

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Storm and Sail: Profession-based rules re-write

As those of you who read my blog will be aware I am currently preparing for a fantasy-Fate I am planning to start in a couple of weeks that will take place in a setting (very) loosely inspired by the Carribean in the 18th Century.

Up until recently I was writing the rules for the game and merrily looking at subsystems for scale, vehicles and all manner of things and slapping them into the Google Doc that I was writing, then it occurred to me that the more I was adding the less and less the game was resembling the elegant simplicity of the base Fate system and was turning into something far crunchier. Now that’s fine if you like crunchier rules (and if you do version 1 of the rules I wrote is here), but it’s not really my bag, one of the things I love about Fate is how versatile the basic rules system is and I generally prefer to stick closely to it. This left me with something of a dilemna, I wanted to have vehicles of different sizes and two magic systems, so how could I include them and keep the game simple.

It was at this point I turned to a game that has rapidly become my Fate crisis-bible, and that is Jadepunk by Re-Roll Productions; I ran a campaign of this game a short while ago (you can see the videos here) and thoroughly enjoyed it, I remain impressed by how thoroughly the designers managed to get across their vision of their gameworld whilst at the same time avoiding the trap of just adding a buttload of new rules to the Fate system. One of the things I loved about this system was that instead of skills the characters had ratings in six professions that they used for their various rolls, so I decided to use this as inspiration for my campaign.

I also decided to keep the names of the two magic systems but trim down the mechanics in the extreme, concentrating more on what they bought to the game fiction.

You can check out the documents I’m working on by clicking the links below:

I plan to continue updating them as necessary until the beginning of the game, the rules are mostly done but the background will be reworked and expanded at a later date.

Storm & Sails: Reference Document

Okay, so I’ve started the planning for my forthcoming Storm & Sails campaign, I’m currently working on a gazetteer style Google Doc that will contain setting information and character creation for the campaign so that my players can peruse it. Although it is not complete the document can be viewed here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rKn4veeiiylh69GJUmuL8Q_516A6ZEpVj04CngiUto8/edit?usp=sharing

I’ll be updating the document over the next couple of weeks, once it’s complete I’ll be turning it over to my players to get some feedback before we start getting into the serious business of making characters.

GM Tips: Campaign Fatigue

GM Tips articles offer advice and ideas for gamesmasters to help hone their techniques and run their games, these lists are not exhaustive but provide some tips to point a GM in the right direction. Continue reading

"Curse of the Pirate King" – Serpents Fall Session 7 – Flashback session (write-up)

Far below castle Harcourt in the dank dungeons the ancient sage Mervane places his hand over Captain Benito’s eyes and asks him to cast his mind back to the time when his curse was first inflicted on him; the years seem to fall away as Benito finds himself transported back through the alchemy of his memories to a time long passed.
* * *
Captain Benito stands proudly on the deck of his ship as he sails the seas just south of the Turtle Islands, the coast of Celonia lying within view on the horizon; accompanying his own vessel are two of his closest allies, on one side is the ramshackle but brutal ship of the marauding Pirate Lord Draven Naysus and on the other the immaculate vessel of Lord Lantino, crewed almost entirely by blue-skinned sailors of Atlantean descent. Benito instinctly touches the Piece of Eight signifying his position as Pirate King when a shout from the crows next warns him that there are three sails on the horizon, a gentle spattering of rain begins to herald a storm brewing out at sea. Benito orders his fleet to unfurl their sails and close on the, as yet unidentified, vessels.
Over on Lord Lantino’s vessel his second in commmand Hannibal Hawkins reminds his commander that, since the vessels are in Sword Isle waters that they are legitimate prey; nodding Lantino none-the-less says that they obey the will of the Pirate King and will await his order to attack.
Drawing closer it becomes obvious that the three vessels are Saxon ships, King Benito gives the orders to prepare cannons, for the crew to take up arms and board the enemy vessels; a random firing of cannons and violent cheering from Naysus’ vessel accompanies the order as his berserkers gnash their teeth and wave weapons, their patched together ship cutting through the waves towards their prey. Having a more tactical mind, Lantino orders his men to prepare the special cannon shot; numerous cannon balls with chains hanging from them are bought forward and loaded into the cannons, those of Lantino’s crew capable of breathing underwater thanks to their ancestry drop over the sides awaiting the sight of the chains falling into the water so that they can use them to climb aboard the enemy vessels. Meanwhile on King Benito’s ship his first mate Lord Shivers begins ordering the men to prepare themselves for a boarding action and start handing out cutlasses.
Onboard one of the Saxon vessels a group of shackled men is stood on the deck of the ship, they have been bought up from below after rowing for several days, amongst them is the grimey and bedraggled form of Moroveer, once a slaver himself, misfortune has found him confined to the fate that he has overseen for many others; infront of him is a ragged, blue skinned man known as Horningold Blythe, sentenced to a life of slavery on a charge of murder (although he claims it to have been self-defence). The slaves have been bought up following a shout from the crows nest, one of the slaves nearest the mast whispers to the others that the shouting is because pirate vessels have been spotted in the area; thinking back to his time as a slaver Moroveer is worried that the Saxon vessel will attempt to dump their slaves so they can escape the pirate vessels and he begins to hushedly discus the prospect of escape with his fellow slaves. Blythe is interested in Moroveer’s plans and has tells him that he can breathe underwater and is willing to help, nodding Moroveer turns to the three guards and tells them that they’re gonna die fighting pirates in his home waters if they don’t choose the right side and free him now. One of the guards looks a little uncertain and, when the other guards look daggers at him, says “Look boys, i’m not saying we should just let them go but we aren’t getting paid enough to die on this leaky tub. I’ve got a wife and child back home in Wulfricingas, I want to get back to them.”
Ignoring the protests of his fellow guard the worried Saxon unshackles the slaves and flees up onto the deck; the slaves quickly incapacitate the guards who resist and dump them over the side, a huge melee breaks out as more men rush from their quarters and engage the slaves. 
From the crows nest on Benito’s ship a shout goes up that a mutiny his broke out aboard one of the Saxon vessel, smiling the Pirate King orders his crew to make all speed; ignoring the slave ship that is already incapacitated due to the mutiny, Benito aims his vessel towards one of the escort vessels smashing into the side of it with the battering ram mounted just below the waterline on his ship As he climbs aboard the enemy vessel one of the Saxon crew throws a small knife, it glances the side of Benito’s head and embeds itself in the mast. Seeing Naysus heading for the second escort vessel, Lantino has his own ship sail around the other side of the ship already engaged by Benito’s vessel; there is a cavalcade of cannon fire as Lantino unleashed a deadly broadside, inflicting heavy damage on the escort vessel, as the chains connected to the cannon balls fall into the water Lantino’s blue skinned buccaneers begin to climb aboard the Saxon vessel.
Heedless of the potential danger to their own vessel, Naysus’ ship plows into the escort vessel, Lord Naysus using the momentum to catapult himself onto the enemy ship; Naysus’ berzerkers begin swarming aboard, easily smashing aside the Saxon troops and beginning to strip the vessel to repair the damage done to their own done by the ramming. Meanwhile Moroveer is overseeing the mutiny, shouting out vulnerable targets for his fellow slaves as he punches the cruel overseer of the slaves, grabs the mans whip and cracks it in his face, he avoids a return blow, throwing his attacker off balance. 
Naysus’ berserkers continue hurling themselves onto the escort vessel, some of them miss and fall into the sea but the rest don’t seem to care; taking in the massive brawl raging around him, Naysus sees that his berserker tactics have thrown the Saxon sailors into disarray, he stomps his way towards where he thinks the captains quarters might be located. Opening the door he sees that there is no-one in there but the porthole at the back of the cabin is open and he can hear the sound of quiet rowing from outside. Naysus shouts to his men to deal with it and runs up onto the deck, looking over the back of the ship he can see the captain and another man escaping in a rowing boat, the Saxon captain shouting “Quickly! Row you fool! Row!”
Without hesitation Naysus picks up one of the cannonballs rolling around on the deck and hurls it at the small boat, it smashes a huge hole in the boat with the sound of splintering wood, disappearing below the waves with its passengers; Naysus orders some of his men to recover them.
On the ship where the mutiny took place, the door of the captains cabin bursts open and a man wearing a black Saxon naval uniform strides forth; Benito recognises the figure as the Black Stone Admiral Dunstan, one of the most infamous figures in the Saxon navy, Benito tells his crew to finish off the escort vessel and engage the mutinying ship. Shouting that he’ll meet them over there Benito runns along the mast of his own ship, leaping the distance between the two vessels. He is just in time to spot Admiral Dunstan lifting a rare black powder weapon and aiming it at Moroveer who is cracking his whip and keeping the Saxons as arms length; Benito swings down from the rigging, slicing part of the sail free with a cutlass, it drops down on the overseer who is grappling with Moroveer. Moroveer smashes the overseer in the face with the butt of his whip, knocking him unconscious. Seeing Benito swinging in, Dunstan fires his black powder weapon at Benito, but the Pirate King rolls out of the way of the shot; there is the sudden crack as Moroveer’s whip flashes out and yanks the black powder weapon from Dunstan’s hand, taking advantage of the opportunity Benito knocks Dunstan to the ground and kneels on his chest putting a knife to his throat. Sneakily Dustan starts to slide a knife from his sleeve unseen by Benito, Moroveer cracks his whip and one of Dunstan’s eyes is snapped out, Benito stamps on Dunstan’s hand and the knife falls out onto the deck.
With Dunstan incapacitated his men lose heart and they begin to surrender, walking up Blythe shakes hands with Benito saying, “you couldn’t have arrived at a better time”, Benito introduces himself and Blythe seems impressed to be in the presence of the dread pirate king, introducing himself and Moroveer. Moroveer thanks Benito for distracting the man and saving his life, he says that he might have momentarily owed him a debt, but he now considers it repaid after dispatching Dunstan. Benito begin to talk about dividing the plunder but Blythe isn’t concerned about it, he wants to check on the other slaves to make sure they’re okay; Moroveer runs across to the ship rammed by Captain Naysus that is sinking to check there are no slaves still chained up. There are no slaves left onboard the ship and Naysus’ men are already stripping the vessel to repair their own.
Horningold says there’s nothing left for him on the mainland, but the pirate king has impressed him, he’s half a mind to make a living on the Sword Isles;  Moroveer seems less sure and says there’s good slaving still in Stygia, to which Horningold responds that he’s heard that the Timberwolf Norse tribe is planning to raid Stygia and that it might not be a very healthy place to be. Nodding Moroveer says he owes Horningold a debt and agrees to serve him faithfully for a year before returning to his job as a slaver, Horningold says that Moroveer’s financial acumen could help him establish himself in the Sword Isles and that he’s going to ask to keep the ship for his own.
As Benito’s ship pulls alongside the captured vessel a figure falls from the rigging of Benito’s ship – it is first mate Shivers, covered in knife wounds, he falls into the arms of Moroveer and Blythe, trying to speak but blood is bubbling out of his mouth and a Saxon blade protrudes from his ribs; looking up Moroveer can see a couple of Saxon seamen in the rigging of Benito’s ship.Benito shouts for a physician but the sawbones, after examining Shivers, shakes his head sadly; gritting his teeth Moroveer swings up into the rigging using his natural agility and his whip. Lantino and Naysus have rounded up the Saxons from the ships they fought and taken them prisone; spotting the Saxons in the rigging Lantino hurls a harpoon at them, one of the Saxons cries out in pain and topples to the deck pierced through his midriff by the weapon. Moroveer lashes his whip around the waist of the remaining Saxon and swings forward, the two of them topple from the rigging like some kind of human Newtons Cradle, swinging towards each other, the ex-slaver lets go of the whip and falls to the deck avoiding the Saxon’s clumsy attack, a few moments later the Saxon also lands on the decks
Benito runs towards the edge of the ship, grabbing the rigging he cuts it and catapults himself towards the Saxon circling Moroveer, landing next to him he draws his sword in one fluid movement and slices open the sailor’s chest, as the dead Saxon falls to the deck planks Benito’s crew let out a great cheer.  Blythe shouts over that he doesn’t think Shivers will last much longer, Benito runs over, shouting for them to take him below deck and make it easy on him; Shivers has grabbed Blythe and is whispering something to him, Blythe looks confused, Shivers eyes look across at Blythe, then he dies.
Lantino and Naysus join them on the central vessel, Naysus seems non-plussed by the acrobats on display but Lantino reports that the day is theirs.
Blythe says that he’s sorry for Benito’s loss and that he didn’t really understand the last words Shivers said to him, he asks whether he can take one of the ships, Benito nods and gives Blythe one of the small escort ships, saying that he has to work his way up, the blue skinned ex-slave nods and says that Moroveer will be acting as his quartermaster. Benito warns Blythe that he must stick to the pirate code, at the mention of the code Blythe’s brow furrows and he says that Shivers mentioned the code in his last words, he reveals a piece of blue/grey metal that Shivers gave him with his dying breath. Benito nods as he recognises one of the legendary Pieces of Eight signifying the rank of Pirate Lord, “You have a steep learning curve ahead of you Lord Horningold.” Benito reveals that, in passing on the piece of eight, Shivers has made Blythe a Pirate Lord, dumbfounded Blythe asks Moroveer how much it would cost to employ him for longer than a year, but Moroveer suggests that is a conversation best had once they have all had time to absorb what has just happened.
Benito introduces Blythe to two of his fellow lords, Lantino and Naysus; approving of Blythe’s Atlantean descent Lantino introduces himself and offers 50% of his plunder to help set Blythe up, Blythe is glad to see another blue-skinned person explaining that he was the only one of his kind where he grew up on borders of Saxony and Celtia, he was attacked because he looked different, he killed one of his attackers and was arrested for murder. “It was the word of three of them against an outsider” he continues, relaying how he was sentenced to a life of slavery; Naysus introduces himself and says that he has no island and riches don’t matter to them, plunder is their reward, as he finishes speaking his men drag forward their chests of plunder and dump them at the feet of King Benito who distributes some of his share to his own crew to impress them, the crew cheer and shout his name.
Moroveer & Blythe head off with their crew (consisting of former slaves and some of the surviving Saxon crew who signed on) and as the years pass Lord Blythe settles into his role as a Pirate Lord, living on one of the smaller Turtle Islands, he adapts well aided in a financial capacity by Moroveer. 
As the years roll by Benito starts hearing rumours about some of the Captains who owe him personal loyalty disappearing, the odd loss of a pirate ship is nothing unusual, but as the number of disappearances grow Benito finds himself troubled; Moroveer watches as Blythe forges a strong relationship with Lord Lantino and slowly but surely he replaces the non-Atlantean crew members with those of Atlantean descent.
Worried Moroveer seeks out Benito in a small drinking establishment, to attract Benito’s attention he refers to the Pirate King as a slave and mentions his heritage, Benito attempts to draw his sword to discipline Moroveer but (drunk) he stumbles and the sword ends up sticking out of the wall, Moroveer gives his some rum and Benito swigs it back, the altercation of a few moments ago seemingly forgotten. Moroveer assures Benito that he has his best interests at heaty and points out that there are people out there more concerned with power and not bothered about money and that they covet his position. Moroveer asks Benito who takes his place when he dies and says that there’s probably a queue of people wanting to take his place, pointing out the antagonism between those of Lemurian and Atlantean descent. His warning given Moroveer leaves, Benito slumps into the vacated seat and continues drinking.
Over the next few months the number of Captains who owe personal loyalty to Benito who are disappearing continues to grow.
One morning on patrol Lord Drayven Naysus comes across the wreckage of a ruined ship, his crew find a single survivor clinging to a barrel, Naysus has the survivor pulled aboard, he is weak from dehydration and exposure, the survivor gestures with a shaking hand. Lord Naysus says “Speak before it’s too late, what happened?”
The survivor mouths the words “The black corsairs” and dies; Naysus’ and his crew search the surrounding waters but find nothing, it seems as though the attackers have just wrecked the ship and killed everyone on board.
Two days pass as Naysus returns to port.
Naysus makes his way to the island of Crown Port and Fort Crown, in a nearby tavern he finds King Benito regaling the locals of his daring exploits, it is a tale Naysus has heard before, each time it is told it gets more exaggerated; Benito has only seen Naysus onshore once before at his coronation as Pirate King, realising it must be urgent news he beckons Naysus over and the two head into a private booth. Naysus explains the incident he had a couple of days earlier with the wrecked ship and how it just seemed to be an attack designed purely to destroy. Benito knows that the Black Corsairs are the Sword Isle bogey men, a ghost story about a pirate crew that was so cruel and evil that when they died hell itself wouldn’t take them, forced to sail the sea forever looking for evil people to pressgang into their crew, he is dubious since the locals are very superstitious suggesting that it is more likely someone in local waters is posing as the Black Corsairs.
A salty old seadog know as Old Seamus has overheard the conversation and stumbles in to the booth shouting “Did I hear you mention the black corsairs King Benito?” Benito nods, telling him to keep quiet but to tell him what he knows, the old seadog doesn’t appear to be aware of how loudly he is talking and  says that he heard the Black Corsairs were evil spirits and not mortal men, they don’t just kill you but that they bind your soul into their crew for the rest of their days.
Moroveer has been managing Horningold Blythe’s assets and has noticed that most of the Pirate Lords have been unaffected by the recent attacks, only those who owe direct fealty to King Benito have been targetted, he also notices that Blythe hasn’t been moving as much wealth through the books as expected; realising that something underhand is going on he goes to confront Blythe, who is in conference with Lantino. As he enters they are in discussion with a brown cloaked and hooded figure, the conversation stops as he enters; Moroveer tells Blythe that Benito wants a report on the books and asks what Blythe wants him to say, he continues that they all know what is going on but he wants to know how close their plan in and that he doesn’t want to be hung if they aren’t ready. Blythe says that he values Moroveers service and that he may make his report to the Lemurian pretender to the throne as he sees fit – he will not be Pirate King long enough to take advantage of anything in it anyway, “Now is the time when Atlantis should rise again.” Moroveer hear’s a wheezing laugh from the hooded figure and, thinking he may be a shaman of some kind, he exits the room quickly.
Moroveer tracks down Marcus Dunstan, Benito’s current first mate, Dunstan is a loyal but not particularly intelligent person, he spends a lot of time gambling in the port-side taverns, he is playing blackjack with some of the other sailors, including Old Seamus; as Moroveer enters Dunstan is bemoaning his luck as Old Seamus scoops up his winnings, Moroveer gives Old Seamus five gold coins to give him some privacy with Marcus. He tells Marcus to let Benito know that “He has succeeded keeping his friends close and his enemies closer” saying that the message comes “from someone who always thinks he’s always going to be a slave.”
Later, as Benito is heading back to Fort Crown he is approached by his first-mate who passes on the message given to him by Moroveer, Benito is puzzled but gives Marcus a coin as a reward and goes about his business; Benito visits Naysus who is onboard his anchored ship, he plans to get Naysus and a couple of his men together so that they can pay Moroveer a visit and get some answers, before they can do so they spot a local sailor running towards the ship and trying to attract their attention. He comes aboard (obviously out of breath) and says he was sent by Capt Jereboam of Benito’s fleet, ships bearing black sails have been seen off the coast of Crown Port, without wasting any time Benito runs to the nearest alarm bell and begins to ring it.
Looking out across the dock of Crown Port he finds it odd that these Corsairs seem to have abandoned their previous hit and run targets and then he realises suddenly that almost the entirety of his own personal fleet are moored in Crown Port and that they are more or less defenceless, he shouts for all hands to ready themselves to defend the port. Suddenly he experiences a flash of pain and he sees a vision of a large circular chamber where a brown robed figure steps forward towards a huge object on an altar, it seems to be a huge crab claw the size of two men laid end-to-end, the figures pulls it’s hood back and to reveal grey skin and a face combining the worst features of shark and man; it begins to chant in a whispered language over the object.
Snapping back to his present surroundings Benito hears a cry of pain from behind him and something heavy hits him on the back, he turns round to see Naysus is still stood there, blood fountaining from his severed head, his first-mate Cragg pushes the old lord’s body out of the way, pulling his axe out of the corpse. Grappling hooks come over the side of the ship, Blythe, Lantino and their men swarm aboard the ship; Benito plans to attack Lantino to pay him back for his betrayal but he knows that he has only one chance before he’s overwhelmed and it is obvious that Naysus’ crew are loyal to their new Captain Cragg. Benito glances ashore looking for help from his men but a melee has broken out on the gangplanks leading to Naysus’ ship between those loyal to Benito and those attempting to overthrow him. The Pirate King draws his cutlass and attempts to throw some coins in the face of Lantino to distract him, the blue-skinned Lord ignores them and kicks Benito between the legs, he collapses down on one kneww.
Blythe steps forward and, on the wind, Benito hears the strange voice pronouncing some whispered syllables, “It’s already too late for you Benito, surrender and we’ll make your death quick” says the mocking voice of Horningold Blythe. Benito lashes out but his muscles cramp and a pain comes across him as Blythe reaches towards his neck and takes his Piece of Eight. Through the pain Benito feels himself raised into the air before Cragg hurls him over the edge into the water and, unable to sink, he begins to sink, the last thing he hears is the mocking voice of Blythe saying “The curse will take him now, he’s already dead” and a ragged chorus of buccaneers crying “Long live King Blythe!”
* * *
Back in the present Mervane removes his hand from Benito’s face as the vision of the past finishes, Benito shudders as he remembers the chanting of the robed figure over the giant claw, he doesn’t remember seeing that originally, was that some side-effect of Mervane’s magic or did it really happen?
At the back of the cell, previously unnoticed and swindled out of his money by the Regent sits Moroveer, he has been councilled by Mervane to bide his time and that an opportunity to escape would present itself; hearing a familiar voice he runs forward and in a disbelieving voice asks Benito how he survived. Moroveer says he is in jail as a result of being a slave to money and offers 2 years loyal service for his freedom; Benito nods and has Gunnar Kron bend the bars far enough to release him.

Adapting 'Age of Arthur' mass battle rules for use in Fleet battle scenarios

Anyone who has listened to my recent review (viewable here) of Wordplay Games excellent game Age of Arthur (written by Paul Mitchener and Graham Spearing) will know that I was particularly taken with the magic systems and the mass-battle rules presented in the book; we had a great session of my Serpents Fall Fate Accelerated swords & sorcery game recently (actual play video viewable here) and i’m looking to follow it up with an equally impressive session. Currently the party are in Saxony looking for someone who might be able to help Captain Benito (one of the player characters) remove the curse that has been laid on him preventing him sailing the seas; with the curse removed Benito would be able to start seriously planning to take back the title of Pirate King that was usurped from him by the scurrilous Horningold Blythe.

Usurped Pirate King Benito



Current Pirate King Horningold Blythe


We ended the last session with a couple of the characters discovering an old seer in the castle dungeons of Saxony’s villainous Regent, the seer was attempting to peer back into the past of Captain Benito to see how the curse was first laid on him (hopefully this would provide some clue to lifting it). My plan is to run the next session as a flashback with the players playing through how the curse was first levied; we are one player down and I have checked with the others that they are okay with playing pirate-NPC allies of Captain Benito (since their characters haven’t met at this point), it will also give Benito’s player a chance to enjoy being the Pirate King, giving him a taste of what he might regain should he regain his crown.

Adapting the Mass Battle Rules

My plan is to begin the session in the middle of a high-action scene as the pirate fleets of the Scarlet Brotherhood come under attack by vessels from Saxony; this could be done with individual combat rounds following the normal combat rules, however, it doesn’t really have the grand feel of fleet-scale action that I want to capture in this encounter. Thinking back to the mass-battle rules in Age of Arthur I intend to adapt them for the first scene and subsequent fleet-battles in the game.

Fleets
Effectively each fleet is treated like an army in Age of Arthur with the following stats:

  • Size: The number of ships in the fleet.
  • Fleet skill: The skill of a typical fleet ranging from 0(untrained/press-ganged crew) up to 4(legendary ships crew).
  • Fleet commander: The Fleet Skill is supported by the Clever and Sneaky skills of the commander (if one of this is higher than the skill level of the fleet then the Fleet Skill gets a +1 bonus, if both are higher then the bonus rises to +2).
  • Aspects: A Fleet has between one and five Aspects.
  • Stress Score: The larger Fleet has a stress score of 10, the stress score of the smaller Fleet depends on it’s relative size (for example a Fleet of 10 ships facing a Fleet of 20 ships will have 5 stress).
Preliminaries
Before the battle begins there are a few steps to go through:
  • Manoeuvring: The commanders make an opposed clever roll, the winner of this roll gets to place an Aspect representing their superior positioning on the enemy fleet.
  • Take advantage of the weather: A character nominated as navigator makes a an opposed quick roll against their opponents navigator to move to take advantage of the winds and currents, the winner gets to place an Aspect on his own or the enemy’s fleet to represent the benefits that their mastery of the weather conditions brings them.
The Battle
The battle is divided into a series of turns :

  • Individual Heroics: A character may spend a fate point to make a test based on what they are trying to do, the difficulty is the is the remaining stress of the opposing fleet. If they win then it places an Aspect on the opposing fleet that can be used once for free (without paying a fate point). If they fail then the character suffers damage equal to the amount that the roll failed by.
  • Getting Personal: Attacking an important NPC costs no fate points (it is assumed that their ships come close during the conflict and, amidst the swirling melee of boarding actions and cannon fire the two individuals fight each other). This interrupts the fleet battle with a standard combat. The enemy NPC will be accompanied by a mob of lackeys with the same combat skill and armament as the rest of the fleet and with numbers equal to twice to the current stress score of their fleet. It is fine for multiple PCs to take part in a single combat like this; winning gives a free Aspect indicating the fallen enemy or loss of morale.
  • Fleet actions: The smaller fleet attacks first and the other force defends. Damage from a successful attack is inflicted on the opposing fleets stress tracker, causing half the degrees of success rounded up. A draw does no damage but lets the attacker place an Aspect. This aspect can be used once for free by the army that placed it at no cost.
  • Resolution: When a fleet is reduce to zero stress it cannot maintain an active part in the combat, it may concede a combat by withdrawing or surrendering; this ends the battle but prevents further stress on the defeated fleet. Even a fleet reduced to zero stress probably has a few survivors remaining.
Looking forward to seeing how these rules play out in a couple of weeks when we have our session in a couple of weeks time 🙂

Serpents Fall: Death in the Forest – Session 3

Thinking about recent events Ozuchi calls on the knowledge of his ancestral spirits and asks them “Where will the dark corsairs target next?” A whispered voice on the wind speaks to Ozuchi as a flock of seagulls take to the air and spiral around the stygian medicine man, the spirits of the air tell him that the dark corsairs will strike next on the western coast of Saxony; as Ozuchi relays the information and Horesh points out that it’s a very long journey, Gunnar rankles at the fact they can’t even take a boat due to Benito’s curse.
Meanwhile their captive, Captain Hannibal Hawkins, observes them from where he is confined, Benito says that he’s going to interrogate him and asks for aid from the rest of the party; feeling unsettled with the notion of interrogation and possible torture of an enemy who cannot fight back, Gunnar sits in to make sure that no dishonourable methods will be used to extract information from their captive. Hannibal Hawkins, is a bald, weather-beaten man who obviously mucks in with his crew and is used to feeling the lash of the elements as he works on deck, he breathes in sharply as he is ungagged since the gag restricted him breathing through his mouth and his nose was still bloody from the fight, he spits on the ground at Benito’s feet.
“It is good to see you” says Benito, attempting to remain conversational
“The feeling is not mutual, how do you come to be here? I was told you were dead – better for you if you were” spits Hawkins
“I’m Captain Benito, you can’t kill me, how do you think I came to become pirate king?” asked Benito glibly
“I don’t know, i’m more an expert on how easy it was to depose you” replies Hawkins with a spluttering cackle
“Cutting, but you’re not really in a position to make insults are you, bound as you are on your own ship that we’ve taken from under your feet?” says Benito
“How do you think the real pirate king will respond when he realises you’re alive?”
“He’ll prob piss his pants and get someone else to deal with it, like he normally does” said Benito with bravado
“Things have changed, there’s a new order in the Sword Isles Benito”
“Who?” asked Benito
“Captain Blythe, he has promised to return the Sword Isles to a position of rulership over the world, as it was before Atlantis sank”
“He’s taking his time”
“Only a fool rushes his plans, as you should know”
Benito asks Hawkins where they were taking the slaves to be sold and Hawkins says that they weren’t selling them to anyone and that he was buying, not selling; they were providing herbs & spices to the Picts in return for the slaves since some of the ingredients are hard to get on the mainline, but the more tropical environment on the Sword Isles are ideal for growing them. Hawkins says that he doesn’t know why the pirate king wants the slaves since he doesn’t reveal his plans to Hawkins.
“So he’s not revealed his plans to you, that is a quite intelligent move on his behalf, for once” says Benito, his opinion of the usurper Pirate King Horningold Blythe obvious in his expression
Hawkins refuses to say anything further, Kron picks him up and carries the beaten pirate lord to the brig of his own ship, securing him soundly in the brig; Gunnar says that, before they deal with any thoughts of what is going on in the Sword Isles, they need to get the survivors back to their village, but before they depart Benito renders the ship unsailable without a few hours work re-tying all of the ropes and supports that he has undone.
Moving back through the tunnels, Horesh becomes aware of his spirit companion as he moves within range and that the villagers are still okay; they enter the cavern leading the survivors from the ship and the young girl Keira is re-united with her mother Kayla, both breaking down in tears of happiness. Gunnar says that they should escort the people back to the remnants of their village and make sure there’s enough for them to survive.
The party begins leading the group of malnourished villagers through the darkness of the Great Forest, Horesh and Gunnar moving carefully whilst Ozuchi and Benito moving ahead quickly, scouting out the way ahead of the group. Ozuchi becomes aware of dark shapes moving just behind the treeline, quietly seeking to surround the party and briefly sees crouched human figures with dimly glowing eyes; he holds his hand up to indicate to the rest of the party that he has seen something and then leaps into the thick foliage of the treeline.
Benito draws his weapon, Kron does likewise whilst moving up to take a defensive position besides the villagers, Horesh draws his daggers; Ozuchi dives towards what he thought was the light glinting off one of the pictish blades, but he finds that it is actually a decoy, a blade deliberately stuck into the tree so as to reflect the light, before he can retreat the stygian feels a jagged flint blade stabbed into him. Captain Benito hears Ozuchi crying a pained oath in stygian, he attempts to assess the situation but can only see silhouettes running through the trees a short distance off; yo Benito the enemies move so silently that they seem less like people and more like spirits of the woods, he has heard tales of the Picts and how they worship strange unclean spirits and perform ceremonies seeking to make them like unto spirits themselves.
Horesh sends his familiar raven spirit into the air so that, via his spiritual link with it, he can get a birds-eye view of the situation; the picts are skillfully blending into the forest (almost supernaturally so) but, sharing the senses of his familiar Horesh can see a pict fighting with Ozuchi, two are closing on himself and Kron whilst a third is drawing near to Benito. Horesh relays what he has seen to Kron; using this information Gunnar strides across the clearing and attacks as a pict rushes out of the undergrowth, the warrior is clearly taken aback that the norsican has seen through his camouflage and Kron swings his hammer at his opponent. The warrior manages to throw itself to one side, avoiding the blow although it drops its knife in the process.
As the warrior fighting Ozuchi prepares to attack, the stygian shaman sees that his opponent seems to be in the grip of the hallucinogenic woad, almost as though looking through him, the look is similar to someone viewing the spirit world; the stygian summons his komodo dragon spirit to join with him, his skin briefly becoming scaley and rough, and easily able to turn aside the knife attack of the pictish warrior. Sparks spray into the air as the pictish knife glances harmlessly off Ozuchi’s skin. Benito runs forwards to help out Ozuchi as he sees the shower of sparks shortly ahead of him, he is taken by surprise when from the undergrowth besides him another warriors bursts out of the foliage, slamming Benito down to the floor and jabbing a thin flint knife into his ribs.
Horesh thinks about running to help Benito but realises that he would be leaving Kron and the villagers at the mercy of two warriors, so he holds his position as another warrior emerges into the clearing; seeing the spirit-stare of the approaching warrior, Horesh briefly wonders if the effects of the hallucinogenic woad goes far deeper then they had previously thought, but he doesn’t have much time to think about it as the pict moves to attack.
Looking for a weakness in his enemy, Horesh takes advantage of his opponents drugged state as he ducks under the blow of the warrior and jabs his twin sacrifical knives into the underside of the pict’s skull who gurgles and topples to the floor dead. Kron leaps to the side of the remaining crouching warrior, as the warrior glances over at his companion meeting an end on the sharp blades of Horesh’s knives, the norsican swings his hammer down, impacting squarely with the pict and slaying him. Further up ahead Ozuchi, still engaged in combat, strikes his opponent in the chest and then, in an impressive display of stygian martial arts, flips the pictish warrior so that his body falls onto his own decoy-weapon, killing him.
Benito pushes off the warrior rolling around with him and, grabbing some of the hanging vines, attempts to swing clear but the pict grabs him and stabs the ex-pirate king in the neck; the warrior leaps clear of Benito’s return blow, scuttling halfway up a tree with it’s flint knife gripping between it’s teeth. Hearing the noises and cries from up ahead Horesh concentrates on the spirit world, summoning a lesser spirit of the forest to aid his companion whilst, being reluctant to leave the villagers, Kron lets out a loud norsican battle-cry in an attempt to distract whatever picts are still fighting; he feels a bestial presence briefly enter his body, making his cry reverberate around the forest as the spirits summoned by Horesh re-inforce his action.
The warrior fighting Benito is scared by the unholy sound, a fearful look entering his eyes; Ozuchi meanwhile runs back into the clearing to where Horesh and Kron are protecting the villagers. The pict leaps from the trees at Benito, his knife held high but Benito neatly sidesteps the attack, avoiding it, spins around and stabs his sword into the chest of the warrior, bringing him a quick death. The forest once again fall quiet, the echo of Kron’s mighty roar still fading slowly, Benito searches the body of the fallen warrior and takes his flint blade from him.
Thinking about the stares of the picts, Ozuchi summons up his ancestral spirits and asks them to reveal to him, what sort of spirit power the pictish warriors are using; all of the birds filling the trees turn to look at Ozuchi, and amongst their cawing, a voice says “The warriors call upon blasphemous creatures of the Outer Darkness, they are not of the spirit world.”
Ozuchi explains to the others that the anient almost mythical empire of Atlantis trafficked with spirits from the Outer Darkness and it destroyed their empire, Benito wondered whether that was what Horiningold Blythe was up to. Benito explains to the others about how the Inner Sea used to be Atlantis, and that the landmass sank after they meddled in forbidden magic creating the Inner Sea and the Sword Isles; most of the atlanteans and their slaves the lemurians were killed but some of their bloodline continued in the modern world, Benito himself has lemurian blood. Benito says that he needs to go home to stop whatever Blythe is up to, but that he can’t do so with the curse still hanging over him; Kron asks Ozuchi and Horesh if they can break the curse and Ozuchi, thinking for a moment, says that the curse is permanent must be extremely powerful and that someone of equal or greater power would be required to remove it.
Ozuchi tells his companions that the more information he has about how the curse was cast, the better; Benito suggests that, one they have made the villagers safe, they return to Hannibal Hawkins and see if he knows anything about it.
Arriving at the burnt out remnants of the village, a number of the survivors break down weeping when they see the dead bodies and the ruins of their former home; both Ozuchi and Gunnar find the experience quite moving, Ozuchi because his home village was destroyed, and Gunnar because he destroyed many such villages before he saw a way to a more honourable life. Feeling a little uncomfortable Benito removes himself from the situation and begins wandering through the wreckage; in the treeline he spots a large flat leafed plant called Arrowleaf that he remembers being used as a ships spice by one of his cooks, he tries a bit and finds it has a peppery taste and has a little heat to it. Benito picks some, planning to dry and grind it and put it in a pouch so it can be thrown in an opponents face to distract them.
Ozuchi goes to begin preparing graves but Kron stops him and suggests it may be better to make a funeral pyre; Ozuchi sells the villagers on the idea of the pyre and they agree to help build it whilst Horesh begins to delicately broach the subject of last rites. Ozuchi suggests to the villagers that they use the ashes of their dead to fertilise the land, blessing it, and keeping the spirits of the dead with them; Horesh leads them in a simple khemrian death prayer as Ozuchi and Kron place the bodies on the pyre, the villagers seem more at peace and have a renewed determination to rebuild their lives and their village. The villagers make some temporary lean to shelters and sit around a fire telling stories about those they have lost, saying that the group will always be welcome in their village.
Calling on his experience of the norsican tradition of oral storytelling, Kron tells a tale of a saxon settlement of the northern edge of Saxony, which was one of the first to be raided by the northern tribes before the horse people existed as a buffer between the two nations. In the story, there were many norsicans who gave into their anger and bestial sides, becoming something more and less than human, becoming berserkers who could shift their shapes into monstrous creatures. Despite their strength these individuals were cast out when their comrades saw the depravities that had been wreaked on this village by the deviants, for the deviants could not stand up against the pure of heart. Kron tells the villagers that they are pure of heart and no evil, no setbacks, can prevent them from rebuilding their village and story, the only thing that can is their own fear.
Horesh leaves his familiar on lookout whilst they all go to sleep. Gunnar Kron awakes first and is helping the villagers move the larger pieces of rubble ready for the rebuilding project; Ozuchi looks around to make sure there is no danger but, given that the picts seem to prefer attacking under cover of darkness, there is little sign of any trouble. Benito approaches Ozuchi as he awakes and says that, noble as helping the villagers is, there is a much larger issue and they should perhaps press on with their efforts to halt whatever nefarious scheme Blythe has afoot; Ozuchi agrees and rounds up the rest of the party, they make their way back to the burial mound and through the tunnels to the small bay where Captain Hawkins is still confined on his ship.
Benito asks Horesh to conjure some spirits to lend support to their attempts to intimidate information out of Captain Hawkins; as they move down the scree slope towards the waters edge, above the sound of tumbling rocks, Horesh hears a human scream coming from inside the boat, he shouts to the others and they break into a run towards the boat. Benito and Kron get to the boat first and jump aboard, drawing weapons and running towards the brig; Kron leaps through the trapdoor drawing his hammer whilst Benito grabs some hanging rigging and swings down after him pulling out his sword.
Hannibal Hawkins is being held up by his throat by a figure of living shadow that is throttling the life out of him; without pause Kron hurls his hammer at the strange, dark elongated figure, it strikes home causing it to drop Hawkins onto the deck. Benito draws his sword and attempts to begin negotiating saying “Now we have your attention”; as it turns towards Kron, part of the oily surface peals back to reveal a skull like head/face. It raises a skeletal hand towards Kron and begins to slowly close it’s fist, the norsican feels an increasing pressure on his heart and cries out in pain as he clasps his chest; Benito’s sword flashes out, aiming for the creatures outstretched arm, it screams and the skull collapses back into the oiley mass of it’s body, although it continues moving.
Horesh drops into the chamber and instantly recognises it as a manifested death spirit that has been summoned and empowered by someone to act as their assassin, he slices out with his daggers, striking the creature, the skeletal hands collapse back into the mass leaving just an amorphous black, thrashing blob that lashes out at Horesh; the khemrian death priest nimbly sidesteps the attack. Bereft of his hammer, Kron glances around and then grabs a barrel before smashing it down on the huge blob, it screams and lies still, before it slowly begins to fade away.
Kron rushes over to Hawkins and sits him up as Ozuchi arrives in the brig, the stygian medicine man examines Hawkins crushed throat; Benito tells Hawkins that, since they’ve saved his life and if he cooperates, they’ll help him, Hawkins nods in response. They give him water and Ozuchi applies some medicinal herbs to help sooth the inflammation of his throat; on a suggestion from Benito they take Hawkins upstairs so that he can take in some of the healthy sea air, this seems to revive him somewhat.
“That thing would seem to have been sent by Blythe since he must have realised that you’ve not been successful” says Benito to the bedraggled pirate as he once again becomes capable of talking, his throat soothed somewhat
“The pirate king does not tolerate failure” splutters Hawkins. Meanwhile Horesh tells them that a lot of power must have been used to allow the spirit to manifest at such a distance, but that the spirit itself was only a lesser spirit; Benito tells Hawkins he needs all the information he has on the curse.
Hawkins tells him that a short time before Benito was deposed that Blythe recovered something from the shores of the Inner Sea, and it was afer that he first started talking about his new world order and making arrangements to overthrow Benito, shortly after this he began to negotiate with the pictish tribes; all Hawkins knows is that the slaves are apparently essential to usher in Blythe’s new age of atlantean supremacy. He tells Benito that somehow Blythe used the blood of lemurians to lay the curse and that the solution might also lie within that blood, Ozuchi nods and says that they need to find some more lemurian and that their best chance for this is to head for a larger settlement to see if they can find an other people with lemurian blood.
To prove he is a better king than Blythe, Benito returns Hawkin’s ship to him on the understanding that he no longer traffic in human lives or have dealings with those who use black magic; Benito threatens to hunt him down if he breaks this bargain and tells him to let people know that the true pirate king still lives, Hawkins agrees. After a short discussion the group decide to head to one of the larger cities of Saxony, and begin heading towards the capitol city of Winchester.

Serpents Fall: The Darkness Beneath – Session 2

Horesh leads the group through the darkness of Celtia’s Great Forest, following the strands of death energy ahead of him, Ozuchi follows behind, his eyes darting over the varied vegetation of the Great Forest, occasionally he pauses to pluck some herbs and roots that he thinks might help with his healing arts. The trees they pass are huge and ancient, having been there for many years before they were born and will no doubt be there long after their deaths; the ground, covered in moss, rises into a burial mound or Tor infront of them. Horesh snaps out of his spirit-trance as they reach the burial mound seen in his vision, he is momentarily disorientated but is re-assured when Gunnar and Ozuchi tell him that he’s bought them to the place where the savage warriors may have come from.
Kron and Ozuchi begin searching the area for tracks and, a few moments later, Ozuchi gives a shout as he spots a concealed wooden entrance to the burial mound covered with moss, Kron congratulates him on a job well done as he pulls the concealing wooden slats aside; the wood covers a tunnel entrance heading down underground at a roughly 45-degree angle, Kron steps forward, hefting his hammer and saying “I’ll lead.”
Inside, the tunnel is narrow, only allowing them to move in single file but they make there way forwards with Kron leading, followed by Ozuchi, Horesh and with Benito bringing up the rear; the peat laden soil is damp and it is dark and cold within the tunnel. Kron keeps a hand on the wall to steady himself and maintain his position, he has them all place a hand on each other’s shoulder to keep the party together should anything unexpected occur. 
Eventually the tunnel widens out into a cavern lined with glowing moss that casts a dim blue light; despite their attempts to remain quiet as they move further into the barrow mound the group are a little bit noisey due to not being able to really see where they are putting their feet. Entering the cavern they can hear a faint sobbing and Kron sees a large cage built of vines and local wood, inside he can just see a number of huddled figures; the norsican warrior peers closer hoping that these are the captives from the small village, unable to see the people clearly Captain Benito hacks a small sheet of the glowing moss from the wall, it dims slightly but still casts light. Benito throws the glowing moss into the cage and, in the increased light, the party can see that there are three women and a couple of children (one male, one female) in the cage, all are malnourished and emaciated.
With the light from the moss fading quickly, Ozuchi looks around and spots a second tunnel leading out of the cavern in an eastern direction; Kron approaches the cage, planning to share his rations with the prisoners, recognising that Kron has the look of a norsican raider the feeble people panic and try to scramble away from him despite his attempts to speak softly with them; realising that he isn’t helping the situation, Kron steps back away. Benito suggests releasing them, thinking that they’ll be able to survive on their own, however Kron points out that, in their weakened states, they may be easy prey for the creatures of the forest; the norsican throws some of his bread ration towards the people and slowly, hunger overwhelming their fear, they move forward and start eating the bread.
Ozuchi asks Benito to keep an eye on the eastern exit from the cage, whilst he slices some moss from the wall and begins to wring moisture from it to quench the thirst of the captives, having eaten and drank a little they begin to regain a little of their colour. Captain Benito smells something strange, an odd, smokey, herblike odour drifting down the eastern tunnel that he stands next to, he moves to stand beside the tunnel entrance so that he can be hidden from view should anyone emerge from the eastern tunnel, there is a loud crunch from beneath his feet, and he looks down to see he’s standing in a shallow recess full of human bones. Benito examines the bones and sees they are recent and appear to have be scored by flint tools that stripped the flesh from them; he shouts to the others that the savages may be cannibals.
Horesh removes his hood and steps forward to speak to the bedraggled villagers, they begin screaming and attempting to scramble to the far side of the cave from Horesh with even more violence than their reaction to Kron; Kron and Benito recognise the look of absolute fear on the eyes of the panicked villagers as Horesh backs off. Benito steps forward and, comforted by Ozuchi’s medicinal skills, the villagers engage him in conversation; one of the children (a blue eyed, young girl with red hair & dry tear tracks down her cheeks) runs towards Benito and accepts some food from him, she asks him whether or not he has seen her mother (describing her as tall with red hair). Benito trys to comfort the child, who explains that her mother was taken by “the men” down the eastern tunnel and that the men have been taking villagers down the tunnel at intervals, they have heard horrible noises, screaming and laughter from down the tunnel.
Trying to establish why the people panicked at Horesh’s presence Ozuchi mentions the word Khemri but they don’t appear to respond, Benito asks the young girl why they were scared of Horesh, she apologises and says that they thought he was one of the dark men who have been taking them away; Kron feels anger growing inside him at the thought of these warriors preying on innocent women and children who cannot fight back, he says that there might still be survivors and that, if they were taken down the tunnel, then that’s where the party needs to go.
Kron opens the cage whilst Benito advises the villagers that it might be in their best interest to wait until they return so that they can guide them back in safety; the young girl appears to have taken a bit of a shine to Benito and the villagers agree to wait. Horesh leaves his familiar raven behind, relying on his spiritual link with it to inform him should the villagers face any future peril, and they begin to continue their exploration with Horesh now in the lead.
The herby, smokey smell begins to grow stronger and more pungent as they move further down the darkening tunnel, Kron speculates that perhaps the savages are sacrificing the villagers in some sort of religious ceremony; as the smoke thickens the party pull strips of cloth over their noses, unfortunately the fumes catch Ozuchi by surprise and his pupils dilate as he begins to feel the effects of the strange narcotic fumes come over him, causing the shadows and drips of water to form into dancing, geometric shapes. Benito wraps a piece of cloth around the dazed Ozuchi’s face to prevent him inhaling further fumes as the sound of distant drumming reaches their ears from further down the tunnel.
Benito looks at the others, saying “Should we get ready for a fight boys?”
“I’m always ready, I was born ready,” responds Kron gruffly.
The tunnel splits in two with the smell of the fumes far stronger from one of the tunnels, travelling down it (with Horesh moving a bit ahead) the tunnel opens into a side chamber, there is a flickering fire in the chamber and sat around it are are three savage black, woaded tribesmen; two of them are muscley warriors whilst the third is a scrawny, wiry figure wearing a rams skull atop his head. The thin figure is tattooing one of the warriors with a strange oily black substance being melted in the fire, the design is a strange intricate geometric one.
Horesh heads back to the group and explains what is occurring, he then peers into the spirit world and perceives the spirits of maddening fury that populate the tunnels, he summons a spirit that resembles a skeletal man but with an animals skeletal head and persuades it to aid them in their fight agaist the savages. Kron charges forwards into the cavern, hefting his hammer and growling a savage norse war-cry; in response the shaman reaches a hand into the embers of the fire and blows a handful of ash and dust into the charging vikings face. Briefly Kron feels like someone is exerting pressure on his skull and mind, but he shrugs it off the sorcerors mental attack, leaps the fire, grabs the shaman and crushes his head against the wall with his hammer.
Still under the effect of the fumes Ozuchi engages the warrior who easily evades his inebriated attack but is unable to land a blow on him, Benito swaggers across to the same warrior and, as the warrior swings at Ozuchi, lops his arm off and then slices his throat, the warrior topples dead into the fire. The remaining warrior leaps at Captain Benito but the pirate manages to avoid his attack, Ozuchi attempts to take out the warrior with his stygian martial arts but the influence of the fumes has slowed him and the warrior avoids his attack, pulling a burning log from the fire and swinging at him.
Ozuchi’s komodo dragon spirit and the skeletal figure that Horesh negotiated with earlier grab hold of the warrior as he swings, pulling him backwards and meaning that only a slight blow lands on Ozuchi; Horesh pulls out his twin ceremonial daggers and, being skilled with the ceremonial death knives, delivers a vicious slash to the warriors midriff. As the warrior steps sideays to avoid further cuts from Horesh, Gunnar Kron steps inside his guard and smashes his hammer into the savage’s ribcage, throwing him across the cavern where he slides to the floor dead.
With the fight over Benito searches the shaman and finds that he is holding a long antler/bone needle with a reservoir carved into it that contains some of the thick black substance; near the fire is a carved wooden bowl also containing some of the black ichor, the scent they have been smelling emanates from it; Benito takes the needle and looks at Ozuchi who is slowly starting to recover himself, he asks him to examine the substance in the bowl. Ozuchi believes it to be a narcotic mixture of poisonous berries, herbs and snake venom – it’s a dilute poison that, in the correct dose, causes hallucination and makes the taker immune to pain.
Kron looks over the bodies of the warriors, thinking that perhaps they are from the village and were mind-controlled, one of them does look similar to the locals whilst the other looks vaguely norsican; Gunnar lays them to rest and whispers an apology to their gods since he was forced to kill them and that they didn’t know what they were doing. Horesh uses his spiritual connection with his familiar and finds that the villagers left back in the initial cave still seem to be fine; the group returns to the other passageway and begin exploring it, the wall of the cave begins to become more damp with thin rivulets of water dripping down the walls as they move further down it. The khemrian death-priest realises that they must be travelling underneath the Spiritwood river that rivers eastwards through the Great Forest of Celtia.
As they continue moving Captain Benito gets a strange stomach churning feeling as they draw closer to the Inland Sea and recognises the effects of his curse; the feeling grows as they move down the tunnel, as he mentions his feeling Ozuchi urges them to press on and reluctantly Benito agrees. Kron grunts and says “We have to press on, there may be survivors,” Benito agrees but urges caution, worried about the stability of the tunnel given the weight of water on top of them. As he starts feeling progressively works Benito pulls out the tattoo needle and asks Ozuchi whether or not the stygian medicine man believes that he could safely dose him with a small dose of the hallucinogen in order to counteract (temporarily) his curse.
Ozuchi administers the poison and Benito feels slightly fatigued from the effects, but there is at least some relief from the feeling of nauseous bought on by his curse. The group emerge from a cave mouth into a small, sheltered bay partway up a scree slope on the southeast shore of Celtia where it meets the Inner Sea; a storm is raging out at sea, but the weather in the bay itself is curiously calm, a small ship bobs up and down on the waters of the bay.
Horesh hears the sound of movement from within the bay and peers out of the cave mouth, he sees a couple of the savage warriors herding some ragged villagers towards the gangplank up onto the ship; a black robed corsair beckons for them to be bought onboard. As he emerges Benito notices that the flag on the ship flies the flag of the Black Eye, emblem of Captain Hannibal Hawkins – an atlantean descended pirate who was one of the first to flock to Blythe’s banner and call for Benito’s overthrow. With his knowledge of ships Benito estimates that the pinnace could be crewed by up to 60 men and has a compliment of ten cannons – Benito shouts this to them as they scramble down the slope towards the ship.
The crew of the ship spot the group, the five cannons facing them are craned upwards and fire at them, a cannonball impacts near Benito and Ozuchi spraying them with razor shards of rock that slice their flesh whilst another glances Horesh’s arm causing it to fall limply by his side with a sickening crunch; Gunnar Kron is struck a glancing blow by one of the cannonballs tearing the beach to shreds around him and lets out an irritated howl as he hefts his hammer and continues running towards the boat. The crew on the boat begin to reload the cannons as the group run towards them; Ozuchi sprints across the beach, dodging the two warriors, running into the surf to the bottom of the gangplank, Benito follows after him shouting “Get inside the range of the cannons, they won’t be able to shoot us!”
Kron runs towards the warriors but his anger at the recent cannonball strike causes him to over-extend himself and the savage lashes out, slicing into Kron with a razor-sharp flint knife, whilst Horesh begins to summon one of the spirits of the water, offering it a future favour in return for it’s aid. The two warriors turn on Gunnar Kron, drawing their flint knives, but Kron easily avoids their blows. On the ship Ozuchi knocks a load of barrels over, the cannoneers let out a cry and begin to stumble over the rolling barrels; capitalising on this Benito leaps up onto the railing, cuts a rope and swings across the deck, slicing a mans throat before landing on a barrel and pedalling it across the deck. Stabbing out with his sword, Benito makes short work of the ten cannoneers on this side of the deck, the ten on the other side begin reaching for their weapons.
Distracted by the pain of his arm, Horesh is unable to land a blow on the warrior attacking Kron; as the warrior leaps forward, knife raised, to attack Horesh, Kron leans forward and swings his hammer, catching the warrior in the stomach and killing him. The remaining savage moves to attack Kron but the seaweed and water seems to bubble and come alive around him, pulling the savage back and causing his blow to miss Kron as the spirit of the water makes it’s presence felt. Ozuchi leaps up and swings one of the ships sails towards the remaining cannoneers, as they duck to avoid it Benito snags one of the ropes from the sails and swings past them, slaying four of the cannoneers; the remaining warrior fighting in the surf deftly avoids the blows aimed at him by Horesh and Kron.
The surviving six cannoneers attempt to pull Benito down from the rope he is holding and stab him, but the flamboyant Captain pushes off, swinging the sail back over to the other side of the deck and carrying him away from his assailants; dropping into a martial arts stance, Ozuchi manages to hold his own as the cannoneers surround him, their weight of numbers begin to show however and they slowing start dragging down the stygian medicine man.
As the weight of his injuries are starting to show on Kron, Horesh leaps on the remaining warrior and stabs his knife into the man’s skull, killing him; Kron nods and begins limping up the gangplank.
Benito grabs one of the torches from a now abandoned cannon as he swings back onto the deck and hurls it at one of the robed cannoneers, catching his clothing on fire; capitalising on this distraction Ozuchi dispatches the remaining cannoneers using his knowledge of Stygia martial arts, flipping them into the water. Captain Benito begins looking for the captain of the boat, meanwhile Horesh leads the surviving villagers out from where they have been hiding under the gangplank, he spots a woman with green eyes and red hair and explains that they have freed her daughter; the woman almost faints with happiness and relief.
Suddenly the trapdoor to the lower decks bursts open and a barrel chested man with a peg leg and tattoos across his arms, head and back strides through; Benito doesn’t recognise him personally but, due to the way that the man is carrying himself, he believes him to be the captain of the ship, the muscley figure bellows “You dare to trespass on my ship!”
Ever ready with a witty report Benito snaps back “Well i’m the king of the Scarlet Brotherhood so that makes it my ship,” before attempting to punch the muscular figure, it barely seems to phase him, and in response the man pulls out a belaying pin and smashes Benito in the face, bruising beginning to rise almost instantly on the injured pirate’s face. Ozuchi ducks under the Captain’s arm and jabs the poisoned needle into it, causing him to stagger slightly. Benito uses the pommel of his sword to push the needle further into the muscular Captain’s body, he remains standing, although he appears to be struggling; the Captain swings his belaying pin, it connects with Benito’s head and there is a sickening crunching of bone. Suddenly, from nowhere, Kron launches his hammer towards the mighty figure of the Captain, it strikes his shoulder and drives him down onto one knee; seizing the advantage Ozuchi leaps forward attempting to deliver an incapacitating blow but the Captain manages to roll out of the way.
Staggering, Benito drives his sword through the Captain’s shoulder, piercing flesh and pinning the hulking figure to the deck, knocking him out with a final elbow to the face; Benito nods, satisfied, before pausing to relieve him of a ruby signet ring with a dark imperfection in it (as well as the finger it was worn on).
With the threat removed Ozuchi begins trying to patch up his companions injuries; as he finishes the only injuries remaining are Benito’s patched up skull, Ozuchi’s cut arm and Kron’s bandaged skull. With their pain somewhat relieved the group search the ship and find numerous slaves of various extractions below deck, when freed they all tell the same tale of being taken captive by the Dark Corsairs (as they call them); as a final act of defiance Benito replaces the flag on the ship with his own pirate emblem.