Actual Play – The Captain’s Special Day (5/5/2015)

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

Salty water splashing on your face to wake you in the morning. That’s a pirates life!

Activity on the Wormwood has settled into something of a rhythm. Work, or you’ll be whipped. Drink, or you’ll be whipped. Keep your nose clean at night…or you’ll be whipped.

Day three started without fanfare. Narwhal and Fipps were conspiring about something. Conchobhar was in a foul mood, and Madeline was exhausted from staying up all night working on an alchemical concoction. Pretty standard fare.

With Davey and Anand offering a distraction, in the form of insulting Narwhal, Sandara and Madeline weren’t noticed as Sandara Besmara’s restorative magic to put a little more spring in Madeline’s step (bumping her up from exhausted to merely fatigued). The distraction turned out to be unnecessary however, as Madeline clouded the lower deck with a thick billowing fog (cast Obscuring Mist).

Day Shift (Day 3)

Anand was given mainsail duties. Tough work with the strong winds that were coming in. He did just fine, but the day tired him out (fatigued). When he wasn’t busy pulling the mainline or letting out the sheets, he found Jack, working on the foredeck sowing a torn sail.

“You do a good with your hands.” That sounded awkward. Anand tried to start again, but Jack was already perplexed. “Who? Me?”

They got into an uncomfortable conversation about the fact that Jack really should apologize to Davey for leading him on. (Jack is now friendly).

Madeline was sent down to the bilges to pump water. She worked diligently and managed not only to work the rusted bilge pump, but also did so without pushing herself to the state of exhaustion. While down there she found a few battered scraps. Some torn quilted armor and a couple of patina covered copper coins.

While doing the work Madeline lamented that it isn’t fair for one person to captain a ship and have a special day! Not when she has to spend the day working the bilges! During the day she heard several people sneaking down into the lower decks, most of them accompanied by Tate.

McTavish was told in hushed tones that it was the captain’s “special day” and that he’d be killing one of the pigs to cook up for dinner tonight. It was a mess. The pig (who had fondly been named Gerta) didn’t go down easily, blood got everywhere in the galley, and Abrose had to finish her off.

While getting the good linens (the only linens) out of Grok’s store, McTavish couldn’t help but notice all the random items stashed both in locked boxes and scattered throughout the hold. Davey asked Grok was she was giving the captain for his “special day” and she showed him a bit of fine scrimshaw (made by Jack) depicting the Wormwood impaling a giant squid creature with it’s bowsprit.

When Grok was busy fishing for her keys, Davey slipped a fine set of carpenter’s tools which were wrapped up in a leather valise, just outside the store and into the galley where they wouldn’t be noticed and he could pick them up later. He also got to singing songs with Grok as the set the tables.

She particularly liked one about the old captain’s “blowhole” which could be heard all the way up on the main deck by the swabs.  (Grok is now helpful)

As the end of the day, Mctavish went up on desk to throw the offal overboard but didn’t quite make it… Someone bumped him from behind and he spilled a bucket of blood and intestines all over the deck.  He only barely avoided spilling it all over Master Scourge, but to do so covered himself in gross (Devil’s Bargain).  Scourge barked that the mess has better be cleaned up by the time he came back around, or someone would be licking it clean!

When Davey turn around he spotted Cog… busy at work!

Vyv was assigned… knot work! (again). Vyv is a master at knots, best on the ship. That must be why Vyv keeps getting the job! It’s also tiring work that wears a person out as you have to to keep climbing up and down the rigging all day to replace worn ropes (fatigued).

While making the rounds Vyv bumped into Ratliner and go to talking with him about bets. Eventually Vyv goaded Ratliner into challenging Rosie Cuswell to an arm wrestling match. Ratliner wasn’t really sure how that all happened. Normally he’s the one convincing others to try things that he can bet on, but he liked the cut of Vyv’s jib, so he agreed and got to liking Vyv even more (attitude changed to Helpful).

The Bloody Hour

Rosie and Conchobhar were both lashed six times for delinquency of duty and failure to give proper respect to a superior officer. Not a big surprise with those two.

The Night Shift

By way of congratulating his crew, Captain Barnabas told them that they would be seeing action soon enough, and that tonight he would take any challenge at the captains table for arm wrestling.

Madeline, eager to prove her self went up first…and we got the greatest disparity in contested strength roles that I think I’ve ever seen. -2 vs. 28 (natural 1 with a -3 penalty vs natural 20 with a +8 bonus). The captain looked at this petite girl, whose had fit in his own like a child’s, furrowed his brow in some confusion (the confusion of “you’re on my ship?”) and then beat her so swiftly that the flame under her hand was put out and she lost without being harmed.

Anand also challenged his captain and lost, but did chose “steel” over “flame” and in doing so earned his captains recognition. “You’re the new rigger. You’ve been up in the crow’s nest and we haven’t crashed into anything.” This Anand heard as “You’re the savior of our ship”.

The captain beat all of the others without much fanfare except the very last bout. The titanic Rahadoumi with a permanent scowl Maheem was the very last to challenge his captain… and he won! His scowl, for a glimmering moment turned into a smirk as his fellow crew cheered him on. Jape was another notable contender who help the captain at a standstill for a few moments before going down.

After that Madeline, and Vyv both got an early night’s sleep (remove fatigued condition), but Anand and Davey were were up to mischief. Davey was lookout for Anand while he snuck down to the berths, and tried to pry open Tate’s lockbox. When picking the lock didn’t work, the got to banging on the check and served only to mangle the hinges and damage the frame. Cracked open ever so slightly, the strong smell of pipe-weed came out. Rushed for time and not having a better option, they went ahead and swapped the lockbox with the box under Cog’s hammock, where Davey removed the Offal he had placed there earlier in the day!

As they were finishing up Davey noticed a figure in the shadows of the step up to the middle deck. Clearly the figure had kept some distance and didn’t see what they were up to, but was waiting for Davey to be free. Once spotted he stepped out. It was Jack. Who told Davey in his own half-assed way that he didn’t want to fight him, so he thought that seducing him would be the less painful way of press ganging Davey. “So anyway… I’m sorry.” Davey forgave him, but then there was more awkwardness about what Davey and Anand had been doing alone in the berths, and if they wanted to be left alone further.

Day Shift (Day 4)

“What’s that smell?” Anand bellowed as the pipe weed acrid odor was now strong around Cog’s bunk. Hard looks and threats ensued.

Vyv was sent to do… knot work again! Vyv worked diligently this time to avoid over-exertion (working diligently).

Davey was sent out with nets and harpoons to go sea turtle hunting, which he did very well (it helped that Ambrose was sensible enough to cook so Davey didn’t have to do that too) and even made sometime for himself to sneak down into the bilges and look around. There he found a suit of leather armor, three heavy maces and 12 whole silver pieces. Living large!

He also found a bilge spider, which bit him twice on the hand before he was able to smash it into a fine paste.

Madeline was set to swab the decks “and clean that stink off” which she failed to do remarkably and earned herself six lashes on the bloody hour. This was probably because she spent most of the day lollygagging with Shivikah about the good old days when the Mwangi woman owned a whole plantation of slaves, until the greedy Chelaxian’s sold her out. They both agreed that they were better suited for ordering people to do work instead of doing it themselves (Shivikah now indifferent).

Shivikah also told her that Rosie and many others thought she was one of Scourge’s cronies. He had been merciful on her, which he never is, and leered at her all the time. Maddie couldn’t really believe that is what people thought, she hated Scourge. So maybe it was good she was getting whipped today.

Anand was given mainsail duties again, and given the strong winds he just stuck to work and tried to keep the ship from blowing apart (working diligently).

The Bloody Hour

Madeline was given six lashes for failing to clean the stink off the deck. Shivikah was given the same, though she didn’t begrudge Maddie for it.

The Night Shift

That night Madeline was caught again trying to spill her rum rations. As this was the second time she was caught, it was the cat-o-nine for her this time. Davey tried to bargain to take them for her instead, since she had just been whipped, but Mr. Plug didn’t care if the whipping left her a bloody mess, justice would be done.

Davey leapt in the way of the blow and pleaded once more, this time with Ratliner backing him up (+2 help on Diplomacy). Frustrated and not feeling as bloodthirsty as usual Mr. Plug consented for Davey to take the blows instead. Which he delivered with so much vigor Davey passed out from the pain, and looked to be bleeding to death. Satisfied that justice was metered out, and that if Davey really had any salt in him he’d survive, Plug moved on to the nights festivities.

Watching Davey bleeding out, Vyv stepped up and finally showed aspect of their mysterious self. Embodying both the masculine and the feminine in one form, Vyv whirled her curled pinkies in a swirling motion and the water of life flowed from her and into Davey, who’s wounded knitted themselves back together. In a moment he gasped and was awake once more. Though famished as if he hadn’t eaten in a week. The bulk of Davey’s wounds were healed (Cure light sounds, healed 7 points of the 10 injury damage he had taken).

And then there was much singing and merriment. Or as much as their can be aboard the Wormwood.

Anand, Madeline, and Vyv got to bed early (remove fatigued).

Davey got to bed early and spent time with Jack (Jack now helpful, but Davey still fatigued).

XP Awarded

  • 50 (Ratliner Helpful)
  • 50 (Jack Helpful)
  • 100 (Cut Throat Grok Helpful)
  • 100 (First conversation with captain Barnabas)

Total gained: 300.
New XP Total: 825

What Rocked

Something totally unintentional happened with the arm wrestling match. The captain got to show that he was a scary bad ass without huffing and puffing, or having to actually get in a fight with any of the PCs. He also got to show that while he may be pirate scum, he not actually a complete asshole like his first mate and boatswain.

Instead of a two faction model that the adventure assumes will happen, it’s looking a lot more like three factions will develop. The PCs, Scourge’s lackeys, and Rosie’s little people. A few like Ratlinder will fit in multiple groups (and of course, it should be tense if/when he’s asked to choose between them). There are also some personal rivalries. Like Cog, he just hates the fuck out of Davey, as does Narwhal really have a mad hate now for Anand.

Some of the NPC initiatives are coming out. Rosie’s gang, Narwhal’s pipe leaf sales, Cog’s beef with Davey, and Conchobhar’s self destructive streak are all playing out here and there.

What could have improved

I have a few more NPCs that I really need to bring out into the spotlight. Nobody is going to know about Barefoot Samms, or Bager or Giffer Tibbs if I don’t announce them!


Actual Play – Political Machinations on the Wormwood! (4/7/2015)

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

“Where’s my hat?”

Everyone woke to Conchobhar shouting in the crew brith. “Where is my gods damned hat? Which one of you pig fuckers took it?” Bleary eyed most of the crew told Conch to shut the hell but most just got up and started getting ready for work. The first bell was rung and most started on their way up to the deck. Anand noticed however that there was a very content goat in the corner munching away on Conchobhar’s hat. He said nothing but Madeline spoke up and pointed it out. Conchobhar had a fit. He blamed Davey for letting the goats get free again. He snapped at Madeline for suggesting he might have lost it. He just generally snapped at everyone before storming off in a rage.

That one doesn’t talk much

As Anand set out he noticed a big half-orc, Jaundiced Jape was standing in the door and not moving. Jape just shrugged when Anand asked him to move and looked at his own fingernails.

From behind him a big man with ugly prison tattoos, Fipps Chumlett, spoke on his behalf. “Jape doesn’t talk much.”

Anand asked “Can he hear? Because if so he should get the fuck out of my way.”

“Oh, Japes doesn’t like it when people talk dirty to him. Thinks it’s disprespectful.” Fipps smiled wide.

Madeline charged forward yelling at Jape “You better get the hell out of our way or the captain is going to keelhaul all of us!” It worked, it got Jape to look over his shoulder and clearly made him think twice, but as she was running at him a foot showed up from no where and tripped her. Slipper Sly Lonegan appeared out of the shadows and went to clobber Maddie. It was on!

Some highlights of the fight:

  • Anand reverse headbutting Aretta Bansion in the face and breaking her nose. Aretta running off after that, not wanting more pain.
  • Sly and Madeline wrestling where she gave him an evil eye!
  • Davey pulling out a concealed sap, and prompting Fipps to pull out his concealed dagger. A few very near misses with that one.
  • Vyv kicking sly in the head and then Davey knocking him out with a sap.
  • Fipps nearly stabbed Anand in the back, but when the turned to defend himself, Jaundiced Jape wrenched his arm, dislocating his shoulder. Anand went down in agonizing pain.
  • At the end of the fight it took everyone to convince Madeline not to toss Sly in the drink!

There will be a whipping for you

When they got up Jape and Fipps were already getting lashed for being late. Davey tried to play it cool and said “glad you caught those to already, we chased them off and barely prevented them from killing these two.” (Referring to the unconscious Anand and Sly). It was just a bald faced enough lie that it might work. And it did! [Fantastic diplomacy roll]. Still, someone had to be whipped, and since Davey looked like he gave as good as he took, it was gonna be him. He took three lashes and like the others, got to work.

Getting let off early however, was noticed. Rossie Cuswell in particular now things the PCs are Scourge’s stooges [Devils bargain Davey took on the Diplomacy check]

Work all day…

Vyv hands down coils the best ropes on the ship. When Jack Scrimshaw coils a rope, it’s a tangled mess. When Vyv does it the rope unravels as if it was enchanted by Cayden Cailean himself! No surprise Vyv was tasked to do the job again, but this carrying all that rope too it’s toll and left the druid fatigued at the end of the day. [Fatigued]

When no-one was looking Vyv reset Anand’s shoulder and though it still hurt like hell and was swollen, at least he could use his right arm. [Ship action: Treat deadly wounds on Anand]

Madeline was sent to swab the decks… again. She did it better this time despite the bleariness she felt from working in the sun all day yesterday [Fatigued from yesterday].

As soon as she got a chance though she slipped down into the quartermaster’s store and, knowing the half-orc was a suspicious one, threatened Besmara’s Wrath (TM) if her goods weren’t returned. Not wanting to get mixed up in the affairs of the occult, Grok offered it over. [Ship action, shopping]

Davey was a bit trapped today, listening (and sharing) old salt stories. After a time, Ambrose, deep in his drink started sharing how he really felt about the Wormwood.

“It’s poison, this ship, but don’t let anyone hear you say it aloud. The hull listens, see, and the cap’n hears it all. Poison the Wormwood is, though, rotten to the core. You’ll not meet a more nasty, sour piece of work than Cap’n Harrigan in all your days at sea, and his crew’s the same, ’specially the first mate, Mr. Plugg. Vicious little sod, he is. He’d take his own mother’s liver to the butcher to make pies with, he would. But they leave me alone, mostly. They know I can’t ’arm ’em.”

He also told Davey he used to be renowned in Port Peril, both as a prize winning competitive eater and a cook at the Lobster’s Armor. Ah, those were the days. In sharing stories Davey was able to befriend the old drunk but had to drink more of those toxic rum rations to do so! [Ship action: Influence NPC]

Anand, because of his shoulder was assigned to rope work, carrying it around, which still hurt like hell, but at least didn’t mean climbing! It also meant he got to work next to Vyv who patched him up some. When he did hand the rope off to Ratliner, he got to talking with the halfling. Turns out Ratliner wants to be a pirate, just not on this stinking ship. He has dreams of owning his own ship and being a Free Captain one day, right there with the Hurricane King! To do that he’s gotta make the money though, and he does that placing bets on games at night. Ratliner though Anand was tough and wouldn’t do bad at Hog Lob.  The little man showed Anand how to play with a kleet and though Anand was new to it, he picked up the game quickly (Pick up this greased heavy thing…and throw it as far as you can without accidentally dropping it). Anand promised Ratliner his winning s for the night if he won an made fast friends [Ship action: Influence NPC]

The Bloody Hour

Anand and Ratliner took three lashes each, for dereliction of duty. It got them and Davey a few nods of approval like “Yeah, you’re tough enough to be on this ship.” At least from the crew, most of the officers don’t share that sentiment.

Conchobhar, however got three lashes with the cat-o-nine that cut him up badly. Apparently he had gotten in a scuff with Scourge and pushed him. That amounted to assault of an officer. Ouch.

…And play all night

After everyone but Madeline was able to toss their rum rations (Vyv pocketed theirs), they got to leisure time activities.

Vyv, exhausted from the day, just climbed in a hammock and passed out. [Removing fatigued] Sandara also helped by casting a restoration spell to help Vyv recover from the alcohol poisoning from last night [Lesser restoration healed 4 points of Con damage]

Madeline, caught trying to pour out her rations was caught by a tall Mwangi woman Shivikah who warned her that cheating your rations would get her six lashes. So instead they cavorted and got to know each other. Madeline kept her interest by promising to drink with her tomorrow night as well [Devil’s Bargain]. She found out Shivikah is an ex-Mwangi slaver. Good times [Ship action: Influence NPC].

Davey, though not successful in obtaining a healing potion for Anand before the game, did suitably amuse and impress Grok to win over her friendship, and a promise that Anand would get back all his gear if he won at Hog Lob tonight. She’d even throw in that healing potion! [Ship action: Influence NPC].

Anand was the big star of the night. Cog carried up the “pig” and Jape greased it. Once they were both content that it was well oiled, the contest started. Which of course included some good old fashioned heckling of everyone trying just to hold onto this big heavy slipping thing! Rossie went first, distracted by Madeline who mentioned scourge she had a pretty pathetic throw, barely a few feet. Cog went next and could hear Davey whispering about him behind his back. He slipped and dropped the pig. Then he tuned on Davey with daggers in his eyes. Jape went next and tossed it a respectable 16 feet. Grok took it with confidence, but only got a 10′ throw. Now Anand was up, he remembered his training montage with Ratliner [Bralwer special move to gain a feat, he took Throw Anything] and he heaved that pig…. an amazing 25 feet! “By Asmodeus that was a crazy throw. This Cheliaxian has the devil in him for sure!” Grok uttered, and now word was out to everyone on the ship that Anand was from Cheliax [Devil’s Bargain].  Anand, Davey, and Madeline all pocketed some coin (as did Ratliner). Anand also got back his equipment and a healing potion to cure his wounded shoulder. [Ship Action: Gambling]

No rest for the Wicked

While everyone else went to bed, Madeline stayed up all night concocting an alchemical antitoxin to help her recover from the awful rum ration. She succeeded so well she made two droughts! [Treating Craft:Alchemy as the Heal skill, only for providing long term care to recover from Rum Ration ability damage]. This however took everything out of her, and she’ll wake tomorrow unable to get out of bed [Late night ship action: Long term care. Failed Constitution check, would be Fatigued but since already Fatigued, now Exhausted].

Everyone recovered 1 point of Con Damage, except Madeline who recovered 2.

Corrections Department

  • Davey can deliver a sneak attack whenever someone isn’t able to defend themselves property (either when he flanks them or they are flat footed). When you all ganged up on Sly, he should have done an extra d6 damage.
  • Anand is considered “armed” with his fists, which means that when someone who is “unarmed” attacks him, he gets an attack of opportunity on them. Jesus, Anand is even more dangerous that I thought.

XP Rewards (Per Character):

Defeating Aretta, Sly, Jape, and Fipps – 200 XP
Winning the first Pirate Game – 25 XP
Anand getting back the rest of his gear – 25XP
Madeline getting back all of her gear – 50XP

Total reward: 300 XP

Obsidian Portal Update

New characters and been revealed and the old ones are updated here:

What Rocked

The Strain vs. Injury mechanic was really awesome. The fight below desk and even the lashing is all just scrapes and bruises…until someone lands a critical hit, or gets knocked below 0 hp. Then it’s serious shit. Anand’s dislocated shoulder was a big deal in the game, which I loved.

Some friend were made, but some enemies as well. Rosie thinks they are with Scourge. Cog blames Davey for him dropping the Hog. Conchobhar didn’t change his disposition (still unfriendly) but they certainly didn’t help him when Fipps was messing with him, so he’s not likely to look favorably upon them. Fishguts, Grok, Shivikah , and Ratliner however, are all thinking better of them now!

I enjoyed a lot of our Devils Bargains. Sly having some of Madeline’s hair. Everyone knowing Anand if from Cheliax. Some damn good stuff!

I have a TON of ideas for various fallout (good and bad) on the ship. Right now I’ve got a list of 8 events, 1 discovery, and 1 really good Devil’s Bargain to offer. I love all the plot threads that are opening up in the game.

What could have improved

Several times I had to correct myself on a rules call. Whats the DC to stabilize when you’re at negative HP? (10 + your current negative HP). How does Hog Lob work (A combat maneuver -4 unless you have Throw Anything, roll equals the number of feet you throw it). What’s the DC to intimidate a sailor? (13). A few times I said one number and then corrected myself with another number that was worse, and sometimes corrected myself back to the first number!

Some of this is due to all the ability score modifiers. Several people are Fatigued (-2 Str and -2 Dex), Almost all had Con damage from the Rum Rations. At several times people were Shaken (-2 on Attacks, Saving Throws, Ability Checks, and Skill Checks) and there were a few people who got caught with an Evil Eye. I just ordered a deck of condition cards to help track some of those in the future.

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.

Actual Play – Heroes of the Shackles (3/10/2015)

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

After gaming with Rocko and Meg at Endgame the four of us talked about starting up a regular game, and Pathfinder was it! We talked some about possible adventure paths and opted on Skull and Shackles for some Pirate action. Adrienne joined us so we’ have a party of four PCs (the adventure path standard).

As usual for high prep games, I prepped way to much, ready for the first four scenes (which are arguably pretty tightly scripted so prepping for them makes sense), but we only ended up doing character creation. But what cool characters they are.

Our Cast

Meg is playing Vyv, an androgenous appearing child or the sea half-elf aquatic druid. Half way between man an woman, between human and elf, between water and land. Trapped between too many things! Vyv has a peg leg and is a totally bad ass sailor! Vyv used to travel with a sorcerer but since being separated has lost much of their power.

Rocko is playing Madeline, a young witch who was found on the shoreline as a small child by a woman called the Crone. Taught the ways of the sea, magic, and hexes, she is dangerous and often mistrusted.

Adrienne is playing Davey McTavish, grandson of Vicnet the Vile, an easy going human rogue with few ambitions. He’s spent his life a drift, taking up work on ship long enough to save up a nest egg and then blowing it all on drink and men. He’s had a few loves, but like his riches they have all slipped away. Now growing a bit older and past his prime, he’s feeling the pressure to make that “one last big haul”.

Karen is playing Anand Mordwyr, a Chelish brawler who saw the writing on the wall and left Cheliax before he ended up rotting in prison cell, or worse, the ingredient in some diabolical ritual. Anand is a dirty fighter looking for a job. He’s shaved his black hair and done everything he can to get a tan so his heritage won’t be recognized. Not many in the Shackles take kindly to a Cheliaxian.

House Rules for our game

X-Card – As with all game, I kicked off our game with the X-Card. This isn’t really a house rule but it went in the part of the session when I said, “here’s some things to know”.

20 Point Buy – Pretty standard.

Strain and Injury – Hit Points are defined as abstract in the Core Rulebook as “the ability to take physical punishment and keep going, and the ability to turn a serious blow into a less serious one”. The trouble is, when it comes to hit point recovery all lost HP are treated as physical punishment. This leads GMs to start thinking of all HP as physical punishment, which becomes increasingly hard to describe when the PCs reach high levels.

By separating damage into Strain and Injury, and changing the rate at which these different types heal, we hope to make combat description easy and logical. We hope to make battles believable and action-packed. We hope to make getting wounded a tragic and important event in the course of an adventure.

Attacks of Opportunity – In principle Attacks of Opportunity add to the dynamic tactical nature of combat. In practice they make us overly reliant on a battle map or grid and slow down the game immensely. To alleviate this, movement will not draw attacks of opportunity unless you have the feat Combat Reflexes (which grants a single attack).

Devil’s Bargain – I’m stealing this right from Blades in the Dark. Because it’s awesome. Anytime before rolling a d20 the GM or another player can offer a Devil’s Bargain (some complication that will ensue regardless of the roll) to grant the PC +4 on their roll. Really excited to see how this works in play!

What Rocked

Everyone had really cool ideas for their characters. We sent a few emails back and forth before the game to talk about possible concepts and I think that paid off. By the time we got there we had some bad ass characters. An old druid, separated from their magical partner, a young witch who doesn’t know her origin, a dockside brawler with a troubled past, and a part-time pirate with illusions of grandeur. Good stuff!

What could have improved

I wanted to integrate a few of the NPCs (Sandara and the boatswain) to the PCs but didn’t find a good opportunity. There were too many other things going on. I’ll try and make a few ties before the game kicks off next sessions.

Making Pathfinder characters takes a LONG time. Between races, alternate race options, classes, archetypes, feats, traits, skills, spells, and gear… damn. I tried to keep the lists short by making several suggestions (only using the core races, only suggestion a handful of classes) but even then I can’t resist trying to help the players get the best out of their characters. Which means offering other options. It’s a bit insane. We played for a little over three hours and still weren’t done at the end. Though pretty darn close!