Actual Play – First Day on the Job (3/24/2015)

Skull and ShacklesGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Meg Pressley, Rocko Moran, and Adrienne Mueller
System: Pathfinder
Adventure Path: Skull and Shackles

Huzzah, off to sea with you matey!

After some emails back and forth we had the characters mostly ready and decided that the few details we didn’t know (like languages spoken) could be determined on the fly “Sure, I speak gnoll, doesn’t everybody?”

Our heroes

Anand – Character Sheet
Davey McTavish – Character Shet
Madeline – Character Sheet
Vyv – Character Sheet

Last night at the Formidably Maid

Vyv drunk with sailors, looking for another magical companion to partner with. In the loud raucous of the tavern however, any useful conversation was cut short buy shouts of “another round!” Fortunately Vyv was at home with this lot and drank like the rest of them. Mmmm…. spiced rum!

Madeline sat at table alone while an older man with gold teeth leered at her and toasted to her from across the room.

Davey after a few drinks felt bold enough to make some advances on a young man named Jack. To somewhat of his surprise they were well received and his head already light with drink was happy to step out into the alley with him, despite the woman with fiery red hair trying to get his attention.

Anand was drinking and then brawling, or brawling and then drinking, hard to say really which came first. He managed to piss off a dwarf with a particularly long nose and went outside to settle the dispute. The few others that followed looked like they wanted a good show, but quickly ganged up on Anand, clobbering him in the street.

Ahh freedom, how sweet it is, how short it lasted!

Master Scourge
Master Scourge

Wake up dirty scoundrels, there is work to do

Waking up there were still lingering memories of last night. The the scents of rich stewed meat and perfume lingering in their nostrils. The pleasant memories were rudely contrasted with this morning’s sensations – feel—a pounding headache, the sickly taste of cheap wine in their mouths, the hard floor, a rhythmic creaking noise, and the feeling of the room swaying, followed by a bucket of bilge water poured on Davey.

A whip cracked above their heads and they realized they were in the small hold with six other men. The leader leered at them with gold teeth and cracked his whip again

Still abed with the sun over the yardarm? On your feet, ye filthy swabs! Get up on deck and report for duty before Cap’n Harrigan flays your flesh into sausage skins and has Fishguts fry ye up for breakfast!

The heroes realized that their belongings had been taken from them and they were no being press ganged into service! Madeline also realized that the man with the whip, who announced himself as Master Scourge, was the same man that was toasting to her last night at the Formidably Maid.

Unpleasantries were spoken between our heroes-turned-captives and the six brutes towering over them and it was clear Anand wouldn’t go without a fight. Plus both he and McTavish felt protective of Madeline, who Master Scourge had taken an immediate fondness of, sick as that is. There was a brawl but it was quite one sided. The brutes including Jack (who really was trying to be nice to McTavish despite seducing him last night), Tam “Narwhal” Tate (the dwarf with a mad hate for Anand already), Aretta (a bad tempered woman with big ears), Maheem (a large Rahadoumi man with a permanent scowl), Slippery sly Lonegan (a man with fevered eyes). They all had saps and made quickly with the beating.

Davey stepped to Anand’s side and stared pushing people around. Anand knocked the black jack out of Tam’s meaty hand, and Madeline prepared a frostbite spell to chill one of them to the bones. Sadly it wasn’t a fair fight, and soon they were all clobbered, except Madeline whose frosty army was wrapped up in Scourge’s whip, as he promised that all women started off icy but eventually warmed up him. Yuck!

On the way out of the hold, Vyv, who had stayed out of the fight, and by virtue of having a peg leg was assumed to be “one of the crew” already, noticed an oily taste of nutmeg on their tongue. When Vyv mentioned it to Madeline she noticed it as well and recognized it as taggit oil, a poison which must have been masked by the spiced rum and beef from last night!

Captain Harrigan

A Pirates Life for You!

Brought out on the deck, more or less on their own accord, the heroes were momentarily blinded by the light. Instantly they realized they were on a ship and off at sea and far from land. Many figures clustered around them the main deck, some hanging from the rigging, others standing at attention. They were shoved before a huge man with an eye patch and a grimace. The muscular Garundi man, clearly in charge was flanked by Master Scourge and another younger man with a head shaven except for along black ponytail and carrying a cat-o’-nine tails.

Glad you could join us at last! Welcome to the Wormwood! My thanks for ‘volunteering’ to join my crew. I’m Captain Barnabas Harrigan, not that you’ll ever need to address me. I have only one rule—don’t speak to me. I like talk, but I don’t like your talk. Follow that rule and we’ll all get along fine.

Oh, and one more thing. Even with you new recruits, we’re still short-handed, and I aim to keep what crew I have. There’ll be a keelhaulin’ for anyone caught killin’ anyone. Mr. Plugg! If you’d be so kind as to make pirates out of these landlubbers, it’ll save me having to put them in the sweatbox for a week before I make pies out of ’em.

Harrigan looked them over for a bit, to see if any were going to give him trouble, then nodded and retreated to his quarters. Davey recognized the name, Harrigan is a Free Captain, which means he might own a ship, or a fleet, or even an island. He’s a man of repute, rumor has it that he wrestled a Kraken and lived to tell the tale!

Davey also recognized the red headed woman in a tricorn hat from last night as being another of the “new recruits”. It occurred to him now, too late, that last night she had been trying to get his attention, and tell him to get out of the tavern, but his eye was already caught by Jack, and he never heeded her warning.

Mr. Plugg
First Mate Mr. Plugg

Mr. Plugg’s Tests

First Mate Mr. Plugg was quick to tell everyone that he didn’t care what they thought they were good at, he needed a few positions filled and he’d be the one deciding who filled them.

“First I need a new rigger. Everyone climb up the ropes to the crows nest!”

Mr. Plugg was slightly bemused when Madeline demurred and stated she was not suited for climbing ropes. Here affections won him over [opposed bluff vs. sense motive test] but not to her liking. “Fine then, you’re a swap, report to Master Scourge.”

Davey, Anand, and Vyv all set to climbing, but with a peg leg Vyv was taking it slow. Davey and Anand however were racing for the top, and the little man in the crows nest egging them on just fueled their excitement. Anand made it to the top first, but in a rush to get their Davey slipped and fell from almost the top. He would have dropped 45′ to the ships deck had not Vyv lunged out from the rigging to catch him! It felt as though both of their shoulders were dislocated from sudden stop, but surely Vyv saved Davey’s life right there!

Plugg observed callously “Well there’s some thrilling heroics right there.” Then he turned his attention to the crows nest and called out “You’re my new rigger, you report to me. What’s your name?” He heard Anon, and would have gone on to use that as his name but Anand was adamant and called back down “It’s Anand. Anand Mordwyr!” [Opposed intimidate checks, Anand won]

“Anan-d it is.” Now looking to Davey and Mctavish “Which one of you knows how to cook?” After a few moments of awkward silence he turned to Davey and said “You, you’re fatter, you’re the new cook’s mate! Report to Fishguts below.” Back to Vyv now “And you’re a swab, you’ll report to Master Scourge.”

“Now the lot of you.”  He addressed all of the crew now “Get to work!”

Working sun up to sun down!

Abrose “Fishguts” Kroop

Anand, assigned as lookout, made quick work up and down the ropes, reporting hourly to Mr. Plugg of his sightings. A lot of not much. While he was up there he surveyed the ship as well and noticed there were no heavy armaments. [DC 10 Climb and D10 Perception check successful]

Madeline, told to swab the decks, scrubbed away with mop and holystones, and it took it out of her. [DC 10 10 Constitution check failed, result was being Fatigued after the shift]

Vyv, also a swab, assigned to hauling rope and doing knot work, did their job with ease. Tying and untying knots is simple when you can feel the living fibers within the rope. [DC 10 Profession (Sailor) and DC 10 Constitution check passed without difficulty]

Davey was sent down to the middle hold to find Ambrose “Fishguts” Kroop, completely insensible with drink. As he opened the door to the galley, a goat ran out and he heard curses from the cook about the damn creatures having a mind of their own! Fishguts pointed into the mess of a galley and told McTavish he’d be cook today, as Ambrose was going to be busy puking his guts out and then drinking to fill them back up again. Davey set to work!

Galley – The galley is the domain of Ambrose “Fishguts” Kroop, the drunken ship’s cook. The cramped and chaotic kitchen holds two wooden worktables, several wooden cupboards, and two small stoves against the port wall, as well as virtually every cooking utensil imaginable and a frightening array of meat cleavers. A score of chickens and three goats wander freely throughout the chamber; the goats are meant to be caged, but have a distressing tendency to escape their bonds. The kitchen is a madness of dirt, food, and knives, and finding anything in here is challenging. The stoves are perpetually lit, and large cauldrons bubble away atop them all times. A huge array of spices mingle with barrels of rainwater, two tuns of rum, cupboards full of ship’s biscuit and salted beef, barrels of sauerkraut, and a small supply of fresh vegetables picked up in Port Peril.

A little business on the side

Though told to break their backs all day, in truth, every sailor has a bit of free time here and there. The Skull & Shackles adventure path handles that with ship actions. Each day shift, in addition to working, a character can do one of the following:

  • Work Diligently: Gain a +4 bonus on any one check for a job’s daily task
  • Influence: Make normal checks for a job’s daily task and attempt to influence a single NPC.
  • Sneak: Make normal checks for a job’s daily task and briefly explore one area of the ship (the PC can make a single Perception check or other skill check with no chance of detection)
  • Shop: Take a –2 penalty on all checks for a job’s daily task and visit the quartermaster’s store.
  • Shirk: Take a –2 penalty on all checks for a job’s daily task and take time exploring one area of the ship. The PC can take 10 on a single Perception check or other skill check, but must make a check to avoid being discovered (see below).

As they weren’t savvy to the quartermaster’s store yet, I didn’t include the “shop” action on the first day (it will be available in the future) but it will be available in the future.

Sandara Quinn
Sandara Quinn, swab

Anand, while technically not allowed on the poop deck when an officer was on board (and was told so quite plainly by Caulky when he first approached) was able to make his way there by way of the ropes and scampered down the mizen mast when no one was looking. In an iron cage, Jakes Magpie, rotted away. He was caught stealing from the quartermaster (his own crossbow!) and had been left to die in this box for the last week. Though quite in the same plight as Anand, since the sailor wasn’t going to set him free, there was no love shared between them [Failed DC 25 Diplomacy check to influence him]. Jakes spit on the ground between them and told Anand to bugger off.

Madeline, when Scourge was otherwise occupied snuck down to the middle deck, where she found Davey trying to wrangle a goat! Here time was short, so she snooped about, looking under tarps and inside strong boxes as she could. [Successful DC 10 Perception check]

Middle Hold: This is the ship’s main cargo hold. The hold is mostly empty save for the 14 pigs; normally kept caged, they periodically escape and run loose within the hold. In the forward section, a flight of wooden stairs climbs up to a locked door, while a second set of stairs descends to the lower hold.  Another flight of stairs in the aft section next to the galley leads up to another door, locked as well. Stored near the mainmast are two light ballistas, a disassembled light catapult, and 12 barrels containing 20 gallons of oil each.

Vyv spent their day talking shop with the other sailors. Most of them, because of Vyv’s peg leg, and clear comfort on a boat, took Vyv for one of them. Press ganged into service? Sure, but Vyv looked the type who would fit right in. Noticing that the redhead with the fancy hat had been watching them, Vyv approached with a comely gesture “How you like my knots?” The woman introduced herself as Sandara Quinn and told Vvy she had “volunteered” much the same way just a week ago. She also mentioned that the quartermaster Cut-Throat Grok was superstitious and when she told Cut-Throat that her possessions were holy items blessed by Besmara, and would bring a curse to any not worthy, the quartermaster quickly gave them over. She said she was a priestess of Besmara and if Vyv would watch her back, she would do the same.

Davey, alone in the kitchen just worked his elbow grease into the soup and biscuits, doing the best job he could (working diligently)!

Jakes Magpie, thief
Jakes Magpie, thief

The Bloody Hour

Scourge called out at the end of the day “Alright you bloodthirsty bastards, work is done, nows the time we’ve all been waiting for. The Bloody Hour!”

Jakes Magpie, accused of stealing from the quartermaster, was brought out and tied to the mast. Master Scourge and Mr. Plugg interrogated him, which means they whipped him until he confessed. As this was happening the heroes asked those around what had happened. Apparently Jake was caught by the quartermaster and had been sitting in a cage for the last week.

After he confessed, Mr. Plugg gave a speech about the good of the ship and the necessity of discipline. All but Davey, who was just looking away by then, could see the zeal in Plugg’s face as he strung Jakes up and keelhauled him.

When the body made it back up the ship, Jakes was cut to ribbons, torn apart by the barnacles under the boat. He was given one more admonishment by Plugg and who ended his pronouncement “feed him to the sharks!”

Dinner and Rum

In a jovial mood from the show, the crew came down to the galley for dinner and rum. After some mulling over it, and a few conspiratorial looks at each other, the crew resounded that the soup “ain’t bad!” Badger Medlar, one of the swabs, even checked her tooth after biting into the biscuit and after a moment’s inspection gave the thumbs up. She hadn’t lost another one!

With dinner came the mandatory rum rations. A half pint of staggeringly strong rum. Knowing she didn’t have the constitution for it, Madeline tried to pass her’s off to Vyv, but was caught by the ever vigilant Master Scourge. “It’s six lashes my dear for anyone who doesn’t drink, administered by yours truly. Now why don’t you drink up, I’d hate to have to hurt such a pretty thing.” Shudder.

[All made their Fortitude saves to avoid addiction, but suffered 3 points of Con damage from the toxic stuff and gained a +2 alchemical bonus to charisma for the next three hours]

Over dinner the heroes conspired about what to do now. Get off the ship as fast as they could? Take it over themselves? Gain allies? Sandara, already befriended by Vyv pointed out that from what she could tell, some of these guys were staunchly loyal to the officers, but quite a few of the others, especially the new recruits might consider an uprising if there was enough support. She also suggested that Madeline NOT be alone with Master Scourge if she can help it. Sandara looked down to her own torn sleeve and said “he’s worse in private.”

Nighttime Activities

Like in the day, there are expectations of a pirates time. They will eat, drink, and pass out. But at night there are far fewer regulations and most of the officers are too far in their own drink to be overly vigilant. Besides conversing with each other, each character is granted one ship action to do one of the following:

  • Sleep: Go to bed early and sleep through the night (automatically recover from fatigue)
  • Gamble: Play or gamble on a game of chance or pirate entertainment
  • Entertain: Make one Perform check to entertain the crew
  • Influence: Attempt to influence a single NPC
  • Sneak: Take time exploring one area of the ship. The PC can take 20 on a single Perception check or other skill check, but must make a check to avoid being discovered.
  • Steal: Attempt to open a locked door or locker. The PC must make a check to avoid being discovered.
Conchobhar Turlach Shortstone
Conchobhar Turlach Shortstone

Madeline, fatigued from the days work, and trashed by the rum, probably should have just gotten a good night’s sleep. But that is not the way of a youthful half-elf! Instead she covered for Davey, so he had a chance to try and pick the lock on the door in the main deck that she had heard noises behind earlier in the day. She caused a distraction by way of accepting Conchobhar Sandstone’s offer to dance, and in turn earning the gnome Master Scourge’s instant enmity! [Devil’s Bargain: +4 to the roll if you spend the rest of the night dancing with Conchobhar]

Davey, while the crowd was distracted tried to pick the lock, but trying to use a kitchen knife and a rusty nail just wouldn’t do the trick. He needed his thieves tools back! Scratching at the lock however aroused the attention of whatever was inside and he heard the sounds of something moaning and chains rattling. Davey backed away just in time as Mr. Plugg came by, also noticed the noise and poked his head in the door. Seeing everything to his satisfaction Mr. Plugg locked the door again and went back to his table, where he found…

Vyv, who had approached the cabin girl Caulky. Caulky was there to make sure the captains tankard was full but otherwise was free to talk… and she sat at the officer’s table. Vyv made some innuendo about their peg leg and started drinking with Caulky. They might have become fast friends right there, if not for Mr. Plugg returning and telling Vyv “You’re sitting in my chair.” The druid, now completely smashed [3 more points of constitution damage] on run, meandered off so as not to start anything.

Cut-Thrat Grok, Quartermaster
Cut-Thrat Grok, Quartermaster

Anand, having learned that Cut-throat Grok was the quartermaster, and in charge of all of the “captain’s booty”, approached the half-orc. She was sitting away from the officers table, and near the galley, drinking with Fishguts and telling old war stories. Anand said that he wanted his leather jerkin back, to which she told him the quartermasters store would be open in the morning. He got right up in her face, and as she was leaning back in a chair with her feet on the table, implicitly threatened to knock her over “By the all the devils in Cheliax, you’ll give me my shirt, and you’ll give it to me now!” Grok opened her eyes wide, then chuckled and regained her composure. “Oohh, the pretty boy is from Cheliax, well, I should get right to it then, else he might send something evil after me.” She got up and let Anand to through the gallery to the store where his studded leather mixed in with all the other gear and returned his property to him. From now on though, she’ll be teasing Anand and testing him to see what he’s really made of [Devils Bargain: +4 to the roll, but Grok will harass you incessantly after this]

Rest and recovery

Late night they eventually slept, recovering 1 point* of Constitution damage, but not recovering from fatigue. Their first day complete we wrapped up the session!

(* I thought it was 2 points, but that is only if you get either a full 24 hours of rest or are administered to by a healer)

XP Rewards (per character)

  • Tam “Narwhal” Tate (Defeated by way of being disarmed) – 50 XP
  • Befriending Sandara Quinn – 50 XP
  • Completing the first days work – 100 XP
  • Recovering most of Anand’s starting equipment – 25 XP

Total XP for each character: 225 XP

Corrections department

I made a couple of mistakes during the game. Here’s a list so we can remember them for next time:

  • There are actually three sets of stairwells out of the middle deck, two going up (one at the fore, one at the stern) and one going down (ate the fore). The one going down is not locked, and as the characters would learn that night, leads to the lower hold where hammocks are hung for the crew to sleep. To keep things internally consistent, we should assume that Davey was trying to pick the lock on the stairs leading up at the bow of the ship.
  • As noted above ability damage only heals 1 point her night. You can be tended to by a healer [using the heal skill] to increase that to 2 points per night. In this case, as the damage comes from alcohol, someone could also use Profession (Cook) or Craft (Alchemy) to brew up either some sobering agent or a means to induce regurgitation. Using any of those skills, however, requires the appropriate tools and/or ingredients.
  • Allies (NPCs that are Helpful) can aid in one ship action per day so long as they have the skill required. Since Sandara didn’t add to any rolls, she will tend to Vyv that night as the druid looks the worse for wear of anyone. (Also, because Vyv was the one to become friends with her).
  • Talking about things like mutiny while the rest of the crew is in earshot is dangerous. A stealth or bluff check should have been rolled to keep it concealed. We’ll assume you made it and passed last time.

In the Short Term

Mutiny being on your lips could get you a lashing, or worse, time in the sweatbox. So in the short term, here are a few objectives to consider:

  • Recovering the rest of your gear, or adequate replacements.
  • Finding a time and place to prepare spells (Madeline will find out in the morning, that 15 minutes of quiet contemplation with her familiar is hard to come by)
  • Also, a safe place to meet and talk privately where you’re not in danger of having your plans overheard.
  • Finding out what makes everyone on the ship tick, which will help with…
  • Gaining more allies in the ship.

What rocked

Vyv fully saved McTavish’s life! How often does that happen? That was bad ass! [4d6 falling damage to 1st level character is bad news!]

Well, the character (and maybe players) universally hate the fuck out of Master Scourge, and I think at least Davey wants to put a shiv in Mr. Plugg’s eye so you know, a win there!

More big picture stuff, the campaign seems to have kicked off really well. Everyone said they had fun I definitely felt like the ship itself was alive, teaming with all kinds of characters.

Though not mechanically engineered to do this as well as Night Witches, Pathfinder, between non-lethal damage, alcohol poisoning, conditions like fatigued and shaken, and the overall close proximity to death has done a fair job of making prison via pirate ship work pretty well.

I didn’t remember to offer a Devil’s Bargain every time I wanted to (sometime the dice get rolled pretty quickly) but I was happy with the ones that did come up, and even happy with the ones that were refused! So far, I’m liking that mechanic.

Stress and Injury worked great. A fall from 45′ could have killed or hospitalized Davey, but otherwise we don’t have to worry to much about people getting in scraps on the ship. Yay!

Obsidian Portal Page Created. Woot:

What could have improved

I got some rules and details about the ship wrong (see corrections department above). Just some things to look out for.

Managing all the NPCs is pretty rough. I have a feeling that by next session or so, we’ll all have laptops out with the Obsidian Portal Character Page up, looking to see what’s up with who.

Filling in between the lines. During the time between sessions I’ve got time to think about what’s happening off screen. What will Scourge do to Conchobhar? Is Narwhal festering a grudge against Anand? What of the other NPCs and their own personal motivations, how will those affect the heroes down the line? These are things for me to think on and add to my notes for next session.

I do feel like Madeline got picked on a lot. Rocko, I hope that wasn’t driving you nuts. If so, let me know.

2 thoughts on “Actual Play – First Day on the Job (3/24/2015)”

  1. Things I loved:

    – Competitive Climbing with Anand, and possibly even more fun, being rescued by Vyv.

    – Vyv being awesome at everything – staying out of fights, climbing (and rescuing), knot-tying, drinking, making friends.

    – Madeleine being less awesome at everything – and just brimming with disdain for her captors.

    – Karen/Anand dropping a Rockbiter (Neverending Story) quote (I believe). It made my heart melt. (I also love how many of Anand’s communications are either bro-nods or intimidating.)

    – How deliciously vile Scourge and Plugg are. Sean did a magnificent job imbuing all of the NPCs with their own personalities – both with voice and with deed, but these two really were just so awful. Every time Scourge is in an area with Madeleine I get nervous and filled with revulsion. And then the scene of Plugg breaking poor Jake was so brutal. (In a good way! I’m sorry my looking uncomfortable broke the action. I really didn’t mind it; it’s like listening to a ghost story – an enjoyable kind of unease.) But really all the NPCs are delightful; fop-guy, rat-guy, cook-guy, half-orc-shopkeeper-lady… can’t believe there are so many more still to meet!

    Also – I’m so happy were already forming nice ties! Vyv and Madeleine are sharing info and half-elf heritage, Anand and Davey are sharing macho moments, and Madeleine, Anand and Davey are all deeply invested in Madeleine not being assaulted (Vyv too no doubt, though in a quieter way).

    Feelings regarding RP/Fixed Action Periods:
    During the game I kept on having the urge to want to chat with the other PCs and get to know them better, but we kept on being swept along by the action and not really having time. I was kind of wishing we’d had more opportunities to interact – but, having recently looked more closely into Blades in the Dark, I think it’s probably better that we avoided the large chunk of time we probably would have spent planning. We got a lot accomplished while not sitting around and chatting IC – and I wonder how badly our momentum would have suffered if we were free to just sit around and RP with each other. So, overall, I think I like the stricter structure of having set periods in the day with set actions available – and less time for lallygagging. I think we’ll get more done. And every interaction we did have with each other was delightful, and I couldn’t have had a better time.

    Shackles Setting:
    It’s nice! I like that they give you the full pictures of the NPCs and nice maps of the boat. I don’t know how much of what happened was scripted and how much was Sean-gineered, but there were lots of dramatic moments and everything felt very “pirate”.

    New Rules:
    Still loving the fast HP recovery. Also really like the Devil’s Bargain, though I too keep forgetting about it in the heat of the moment. It seems like it also serves the purpose of helping the other players get more info on what things are more or less precious to a given PC.

    Possible Correction:
    I think Rocky and I were joking about Vyv showing off the peg to Caulky, and Vyv may have actually been a less low-brow drunk and not taken that tack at all.

    Thanks for such a great game, guys! And thank you especially Sean, for these impressive write-ups and going to the extra effort of crafting the obsidian portal page. Looking forward to starting our mutiny!

    1. Yay, I’m so glad it hit so many high notes for you!

      Good call on the interaction with Caulky, if that wasn’t Meg’s intent, we can totally roll that back to something a bit more like shop talk and less about lewd innuendo.

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