Dead Man's Chest -- Spooky Pirate Fun -- COMPLETE! Nov 3/06
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  1. #1
    Gallant (Lvl 3)

    barsoomcore's Avatar

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    Jan 2002
    Ahhh, Barsoom...

    Dead Man's Chest -- Spooky Pirate Fun -- COMPLETE! Nov 3/06

    Okay, here we go. I'm running a campaign that is a mix of Green Ronin's excellent Skull & Bones game, d20 Modern and good old Call of Cthulhu. Pirates going insane, was sort of the idea.

    The campaign inspiration came from trilobite's posted ideas on HIS Skull & Bones campaign. I just ripped him off, pretty much, so super props.

    There's a campaign website online:

    As per usual with me, this is an "interpretation" of the game rather than a particularly faithful recording of the game. I don't keep much in the way of notes during play so I end up making a lot of stuff up.

    Dunno how regular them updates will be coming, but I'll do my best. Encouragement always helps...
    Last edited by barsoomcore; Saturday, 4th November, 2006 at 01:55 AM.

  2. #2
    Gallant (Lvl 3)

    barsoomcore's Avatar

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    Jan 2002
    Ahhh, Barsoom...

    Any Port In A Storm -- Part One

    My Dear Wife:

    The ship continues to make good time. Some adjustments to the placement of supplies has improved her handling a degree or two, and we are proceeding towards the Caribbean in excellent speed. Quin, one of the steadier hands, took a cast of the log yesterday and recorded eleven knots! I was very pleased.

    With the Queen's letter of marque in hand, we expect to find plenty of prizes among the Caribbean islands, French and Spanish both. Privateers have made great fortunes in this business, the unfortunate Captain Kidd aside.

    I am less pleased with the crew. Lieutenant Davis is a busybody without any respect for my position, and Lieutenant Fulcher is nothing but a scoundrel. The men are for the most part good, stout lads, but there are troublemakers among them that I must keep my eye on. Recruiting for a privateer venture always means accepting what hands turn out, but I fear more than a few of our crew are pirates passing themselves off as honest sailors. There are some strange characters indeed -- the West Indian cannibal, Ah Balaam, and the African mountain of intimidation, Horse (with his ever-present monkey, Bobo). The master-at-arms is a drunkard who carouses with the seamen and I suspect them all of plots and intrigues.

    The passengers are worse. Mister Rupert Black, no doubt a spy for the investors, pretends to a depth of sea-faring knowledge he does not possess and is forever in danger of questioning my judgement. The other is a woman, Ana, a West Indian trollop who dresses like an English lady and is forever suspicious of Swope, the excellent surgeon we've been lucky enough to acquire.

    We should reach our destination in another four weeks, God willing.

    I have deliberated over writing this next section, for fear I should make you worry. But it is not in my nature to suppress truths, as you know, and I would have you know everything that I am experiencing.

    Strange voices seem to speak to me at night.

    Looking at those words on the page, it seems ridiculous. But I assure, when I lie half-awake in my cot, the ship tilting around me over the Atlantic swells, it is all too real. High-pitched and interrupting itself with giggles, but the voice is real, my dear.

    How can I write this? What will you think? The things it says, darling. The things it tells me. The things it tells me to do.

    We will reach Monsterrat in four weeks. If I fear for my health then, I will put in and take some rest. Do not fear, darling. I must go now -- something is scratching at the door. Something small.


    Star-flecked waves swept by beneath where Ana leaned over the rail, passing the stern of the Ascot Marine and lining up all the way off to the night-time horizon. Overhead, the maintopmast creaked as the complex array of ropes and sways and braces that held with massive machine together adjusted themselves to the Atlantic wind.

    Ahead, somewhere, her people waited. Perhaps Priestess Hena was this moment preparing a morning sacrifice, piling fruit in a polished turtleshell.

    "Sorry, what was that?"

    She smiled at the mulatto boy Dras who was clinging to the shrouds above her, swaying with the motion of the ship.

    "I said, that Ah Balaam gives me the creeps."

    Dras swung down to the deck beside Ana. Dras was a slender youth with a quick grin that Ana had found the easiest person to talk to aboard the Ascot Marine.

    And Ah Balaam. The creepy mainlander, one of those fearsome Yucatans, with teeth he'd filed down to narrow points, stood opposite she and Dras, along the larboard rail, staring up into the night sky. Ana watched him reach out with his right hand and suppressed a gasp as a seagull swooped down and landed on his wrist.

    Dras and Ana stared.

    They weren't the only ones. Lurking under the jib stays, leaning against one of the nine-pounders lashed to the deck, the broad-shouldered Englishman known as Red glowered at the fierce-looking savage. Nearly invisible in the shadows, Red had already built a reputation on the ship as a savage, brutal bully, who inspired terror among the crew not only through his willingness to resort to any amount of violence in order to make his influence felt, but also because of his friendship with the most frightening man aboard the ship. Horse.

    Quinn, trying to get some sleep in a cable round near the bowsprit, kept an uneasy eye on the heavy form of Red. And his other eye peering around for any sign of Red's terrifying counterpart. Nobody wanted to be near anywhere Horse was likely to be. Trouble followed the gigantic African, and those who failed to get out of his way seemed to meet up with nasty accidents.

    Quinn had sailed his way around most of the ports of the Atlantic. He'd served on Dutch merchantmen and Norwegian whaling vessels, transatlantic packets and even on a couple not-exactly-legal "no questions asked" cargo runs along the Virginia coast. He knew pirates when he saw them, and Red and Horse and their cronies were definitely pirates. And pirates serving aboard the Ascot Marine meant nothing good, he was sure.

    Further down the length of the ship he could see the subject of Red's current ire, the spooky West Indian topman Ah Balaam. Directly across from the pointy-toothed grin of that ugly son-of-a-dog Quin saw the dark, simple dress of the island girl, Ana. With her was the cook's mate, the boy Dras, obviously a half-breed, but a good chap nonetheless. They were also staring at Ah Balaam.

    Quinn pushed his lanky frame a little more upright. Something was happening. To his surprise, he saw a seagull flutter in Ah Balaam's hand.

    And then that crazy Indian bit the bird in half. With those pointy teeth of his.

    And that's when Red charged down the deck, shrieking.

    Not until the large chap with the bright red hair started hollering did Rupert Black look up from where he sat on the quarterdeck, recording his sightings in a leather-bound journal. There seemed to be some sort of commotion going on amidships.

    "What's all this then? Come lads, behave yourselves."

    Black picked his way down the steps to the main deck, where a circle had suddenly formed around the two struggling men.

    Red had gotten in the first blow, but it was his face that streamed with blood when Black arrived, pushing through the building crowd to confront the two men.

    "What's all this then?"

    Just then Lieutenant Davis arrived, to the relief of Black. Davis grabbed Red and ripped him away from Ah Balaam, spinning him backwards into the strong arms of the bo'sun. He then grabbed Ah Balaam by the hair and yanked hard.

    "That's enough, you two. No fighting."

    Red pointed and hissed.

    "He's a sorcerer, the black bastard. He's bewitching us all."

    Dras and Ana shared a concerned look. Whatever Ah Balaam had been doing, it hadn't looked very wholesome.

    Davis slapped Red.

    "I don't care if he's Jack Darkly. He's one of our best topmen and you, Red, I don't want another word out of you."

    Dras looked around at the gathering crowd, and jumped suddenly to discover Horse standing directly behind. The mulatto looked up past a broad expanse of muscled chest to a huge black face studded with ritual scars in dense patterns. On one cliff-edge of a shoulder squatted Bobo, the monkey's little face drawn up in an angry squint. Dras edged aside fearfully, tugging Ana along out of harm's way.

    Black frowned as Davis spun, studying the surly faces around him in sudden concern. Horse. Red. Morrison, the master-at-arms. All of them pals, all of them with their heads together for the past three weeks. Black caught a whiff of Davis' fear. He swore to himself.

    And then nearly swore out loud as Captain Hancock and Lieutenant Fulcher came bustling up the deck. Black wasn't the most experienced sea hand, but he knew trouble when he saw it. And Captain Hancock's blustering, fearful, arrogant manner spelled nothing but trouble for the crew of the Ascot Marine.

    "You there, Mister Black! What's your business here?"

    Black looked up as Hancock pointed at him, shouting. The captain's face was red with restrained fury.

    "Nothing, sir. I heard a disturbance and came to see if I could help."

    "Your help, Mister Black, is not required. Nor is your interference in the smooth operation of this ship welcome, do you hear?"

    "I hear, sir. Excuse me."

    Black moved away from the circle of sailors, noticing the young ordinary seaman Quinn doing the same. They converged and Quin spoke quietly.

    "Captain's got everything in hand, as usual."

    Black nodded as the Indian woman, Ana, approached them, along with the cook's mate, the mulatto boy Dras.

    All four winced at each other as Captain Hancock's voice rose in a thin scream of fury.

    "What's the explanation for this outrage, Mister Davis? Explain yourself at once!"

    They looked down at the deck as Davis' answer was cut off.

    "You are a fool, Mister Davis, and a suspicious busybody. These men were just engaging in healthy rough-housing. Good, stout lads, all of them. Enough of this. Back to your post, Mister Davis. At once."

    Dras ventured a question.

    "Did everyone see Ah Balaam bite that... bird?"

    Black coughed.

    "I did not. He bit a bird?"

    "Yeah. A gull landed on his hand and he, uh, bit it."

    Ana drew a breath and asked the question she'd been dying to ask.

    "Mister Black, what do you think about the Captain's --"

    Black cut her off.

    "As you value your life, my dear, do not ask that question. Understand that there is nothing more important than the sanctity of the Captain's rank. If we question it, everyone will question it, and this ship will become a slaughterhouse. Keep your questions to yourself, Mistress, and pray we reach the Carribean alive."

    Dras shuddered to hear such a bald statement of their position. And then stiffened. Looking back at the crowd, Dras could just make out the little capuchin squatting on Horse's shoulder. The damned monkey was staring right at them.

  3. #3
    Sweet, I can follow this Story Hour from the start. I'm also reading your other Story Hour, Barsoom Tales, though I haven't finished it yet.

    Anyway, I just wanted to stop by to say that you're really good. You have a real knack for character portrayal and development. I'm envious.

  4. #4
    Ahhh more Barsoomcore goodness!!

    Thanks for the props! I cannot wait to see how you work things out or more to the point how your PC's handle things!

  5. #5

    Double damn.

    Man, you sure know how to get the ball rolling, don't you.

    To *hell* with the other 2 story hours, focus all of your attention HERE. um, please?

    I had no idea you had such a gift for creepiness... the letter was just plain fabulous.
    Last edited by ledded; Thursday, 15th April, 2004 at 06:59 PM.

  6. #6

    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

    tetsujin28's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Dr. Kaneda's secret lab, Oakland CA
    What, now you've got three story hours? What are you trying to do, kill me with goodness?

    And no, do not forget about the other two
    Last edited by tetsujin28; Monday, 10th May, 2004 at 01:20 AM.

  7. #7
    Gallant (Lvl 3)

    barsoomcore's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Ahhh, Barsoom...
    My dear:

    Evil follows me. Those voices. I dare not write too much, lest the shuffling things see and read and know. I cannot sleep. I cannot rest. They come for me after dark.

    They come for me!

    All is ready for mutiny. The crew are shot through with foulness, even the good now mutter and cast their dark glances upon me. Their minds and hearts have been corrupted and I am alone. They plot against me. They hate me.

    My dear, this voyage will destroy me. The crew will mutiny. The officers lead them to it. Only Swope stands by me. And even he does not know, as I know, the certainty of our doom. The voices have told me. All is lost.

    But I will not be lost alone. I will not surrender this ship. If they will take me down, I will take them with me. And the voices.

    The voices.


    It was a few days before Ana worked up the courage to approach Ah Balam about the incident with Red. She brought Dras along with her; the lanky youth's irrepressible cheeriness helped her confidence.

    They found him lazing by the bowsprit one afternoon, spitting listlessly over the side. He scowled as they approached.

    "Got nothing. Get away."

    Ana seated herself on a coil of cable, leaning against the endless roll of the deck.

    "Mr... Balam. We, um wanted to ask you..."

    Ah Balam scowled so fiercely Ana leaned back and looked up at Dras for support. The youth swallowed and tried a friendly grin.

    "Lady wants to ask a question, Balam. Stop being such a freak and listen, will you?"

    With a grateful smile, Ana plunged back into her attempted interrogation.

    "Now, Mr. Balam, I wondered what the point of that little episode the other night was. I very clearly saw you, um, BITING a seagull. Was that a, a ritual of some kind? What were you doing, exactly?"

    Ah Balam smiled, revealing teeth filed to sharp points. His dark skin bore deep pockmarks and a dirty fingernail scratched at a pimple just beneath his lower lip.

    "Yaxche. I called upon Kinich Ahau to bring us safely home."

    Dras shivered. Dark eyes watched Ana lean forward curiously.

    "What is Yaxche? I don't understand."

    Ah Balam spat again.

    "Islander. Savage. Your people root like pigs. The Lords of Yaxche watch over the faithful. The civilized. They protect us from the Demon Lords of Xibalba. Xibalba grows stronger. Xibalba rises. The Demon Lords are restless."

    Dras considered the man with pointy teeth who called himself civilized.

    "That sounds great. Thanks for that forecast."


    Black couldn't watch the flogging of Lieutenant Davis. The poor man's screams followed him into his cabin, however, and Black found himself below, on the gun deck, watching Aqbal the gunner train some of the younger crewmen in running-out procedures. The short, rotund black man wiped at his forehead as he shouted at the boys, barking out the sequence of commands over and over again.

    Black watched, fascinated, as the gun crew performed the strangely ritualized actions of mopping, loading, priming, and running out the big eighteen-pounder at each round of commands. Aqbal watched his students with sharp eyes and snarled at the slightest mis-step, but once the exercise was completed he grinned with real warmth.

    "Well done, lads. Tell Dras I said a ration for you each. Off with you."

    As the boys scurried off, eager for their tot of rum, the gunner turned to Black.

    "Mister Black. What can I do for you?"

    "Mister Aqbal. You keep your guns in fine order, sir. Fine order."

    Caution tugged at the older man's eyes. He stuffed his hankerchief in his shirt and folded stout arms across his chest.

    "What can I do for you, Black?"

    "Well, Mister Aqbal, I'm by way of being a keen sort of amateur ballistics engineer."

    "Are you then."

    "Yes, sir, I am. I thought that what with the action so likely to come upon us..."

    Black watched the gunner's face carefully and noted the quick glance up to where Davis still cried out under the cruel hiss of the lash, the careful reassembly of features and the even stare.

    "...I mean, of course in our privateering career as we encounter enemy vessels."

    "Of course you did. What else could you possibly mean?"

    Black smiled. "I see I am dealing with a gentleman of understanding."

    Aqbal smiled back. "Understanding everything, Mister Black, except your purpose here."

    Black pulled a sheaf of notes out of his sleeve.

    "Have you made any study of explosive effects, Mister Aqbal? I have here some designs for anti-personnel explosives that I think might prove desperately useful in days to come..."


    Quinn made his way with practiced nonchalance across the dark, heaving interior of the ship. Faces watched him, half lit by swinging lamps, and voices all around murmured unpleasant secrets.

    The Ascot Marine was an unhappy ship. Quinn wasn't the most experienced sailor aboard, but he had no doubt what was happening around him. Resentful and distrusting of the captain's unpredictable temper, the crew worked in sullen silence, only presenting the barest minimum of discipline. Lieutenant Davis, who seemed an honest enough man, suffered from constant public ridicule at the captain's hands, while Lieutenant Fulcher curried favour among the men while fawning to the captain whenever the deranged man in charge of the ship made an appearance.

    But there was something else. Quinn had become aware of a fear that passed over men's faces when they looked to each other. He'd noticed how nobody went anywhere alone. How nobody even whispered a word of what was happening to their captain.

    Stormy Jack sat at a ramshackle table with a few other old dogs, dicing without enthusiasm. The elderly Scot looked up as Quinn approached.

    "Kiss off, arse-wipe. I don' know and I don' want to know you."

    Quinn smiled and showed the flask in his hand, silently thanking Dras -- the cook's assistant and guardian of the rum. Jack's eyes widened at the sight and he nodded.

    "Very well then, young fellow. Sit yourself down. What can old Stormy Jack do for you, then?"

    "I understand you encountered some of our crew before. Before you joined up on this voyage."

    The old man's eyes went narrow and angry.

    "Who told you that? Who says I did?"

    "I heard it around. Is it Horse? Where did you meet Horse, Jack?"

    Quinn offered the flask. For a second, fear warred with thirst on Jack's face, but the old man snatched the little bottle and gulped a few raw swallows. He wiped his mouth and looked around as Quinn yanked the flask back.

    "No more. Where did you meet Horse?"

    Jack leaned towards the younger man and grinned.

    "Last summer it was, lad. I was a forecastle-man in the India Fortune, three days out of Barbados. We sight a strange sail, windward, and Captain puts 'er up but it's no good. Yonder sail's got the gauge on us and they means to use it. All hands make to the guns but there's not much fight in us, is there? Not when we sees the flag of Robert Bonar, the Black Bastard."

    Quinn allowed another sip to wet the old man's throat.

    "They come alongside and we get a broadside off but the men are afraid and it's too early, too far, and by the time we reload they're alongside. Come over the rail like demons of hell, boy. Demons straight from Hell. And that big Horse was right in the middle of them, leading them on. With Bonar next to him. And that Red son-of-a-dog, too. I heard Bonar shouting to kill us all since we'd dared to fire on them and those bastards laughed as they came."

    A wizened hand clutched at Quinn's collar.

    "But that wasn't the thing that chilled my heart, boy. No, not that day. It was Domino."

    "Domino?" Quinn carefully detached the hand from his clothing.

    "The Monsignor, he liked to be called, but he weren't no Catholic, no sir. Big black fellow like the size of that Horse, only rounder, if you know what I mean. Come aboard at Barbados, looking to disembark at Barbuda, only himself and three big casks he's ever so protective of. Walks right up on the deck, men slipping in their own blood, I seen him come up and look around like he was watching a tennis match, boy.

    "I didn't wait to see what he'd do. I jumped right over the larboard rail and swam for it. Sharks were busy with my friends and a day later a Dutch trader fished me out.

    "Horse and Red. They're pirates, boy. And they ain't alone on this ship, I can tell you that."

    Quinn was about to respond when the shouting began overhead. A topman ran down the companionway and cried out: "A duel! Mister Black and the cook's mate are having duel!"

    The gun deck cleared as the entire crew of the Ascot Marine swarmed up on deck to watch the fun.


    Dras grinned as Morrison came out of the armoury with the rapier. It was a beautiful weapon, all too incongruous in the hands of a mulatto cook's apprentice, but the youth took it up with obvious familiarity.

    Black watched, amused, as the youngster gave a few experimental slashes through the air. The older man drew his own weapon, another rapier though not so fine as the one Dras held. He stood near the base of the mast, squinting a little against the intense sunshine.

    "Boy, where did you come by such a weapon?"

    "My father, sir."

    Dras saluted with impish formality and the two took their guard positions. Black nodded to Captain Hancock.

    "Captain, perhaps you could call en garde?"

    He'd been accosted by the half-breed youth as he left Aqbal. Dras had noticed his rapier and asked if Black considered himself skilled with the weapon.

    "Well enough, lad," had been Black's answer. Dras announced a certain level of skill at the fence and had asked for a chance to try out the Englishman's skill with a few passes. Black, rather excited at the prospect, agreed.

    He'd been confident then, but now, watching the cook's mate relaxed stance and noting the youth's quick reflexes and grace, he wondered if this weren't a more even contest than he'd thought.

    Dras tried to keep from bouncing in place. The sword was restless, shifting and twisting almost of its own accord, eager to lunge forward. Dras couldn't stop grinning. All around shouts of odds and offers of wagers rose in a good-natured chorus, and it was obvious the odds were favouring the wealthy Englishman heavily. Dras' grin grew wider.

    "En garde."

    At the Captain's listless announcement Dras leapt at Black, their blades clashing with a quick ring that silenced the spectators.


    Black scrambled to keep his defense collected. The youth was blindingly fast, and with such lanky agility the older man was hard-pressed to keep an appropriate distance between them. He tried a couple of probing thrusts to the upper body, only to find that Dras was not only fast enough to deflect the incoming blade, he had a damnable riposte that nearly pierced Black's skin twice.

    The two duelists circled, smiles pressed on both their faces, the tips of their swords now flicking at each other in a restless rhythm as they studied each other after the first set of passes.

    The lad was so fast Black nearly forgot to assess his other qualities. His technique was a little sloppy and he had no more strength to his cuts than Black, but his parries were impenetrable and his ripostes terrifying. Black studied the youth more carefully, trying a series of half-hearted thrusts, more to observe his opponent's reactions than to generate any real chances for victory.

    The crowd watched in silence. Nobody had expected this much sport, this much talent to be displayed. That both duelists were experts with the rapier was clear to everyone. Topmen clambered up into the shrouds to get a better view, and the odds swung towards the cook's mate as the two circled.

    Even the Captain's dour expression brightened noticeably as the contest progressed.

    Dras waited. Sooner or later Black would have to open himself up, and Dras would make him pay. Memories of lessons with Uncle William and the old man's constant admonitions widened the mate's grin. Black lunged in, low. Too slow and too far. The tip of Dras' fine rapier lanced forward again and again, and each time Dras stomped forward, one-two, one-two, now high, now low, now with a beat and lunge and Black could only scramble backwards, knocking aside the thrusts with ever-wilder parries.

    One flick and the tip slipped around a parry and the heart was wide open. Dras stepped forward and touched that nimble tip to Black's chest.

    The entire crew exhaled. And then cheered, the sudden rush of noise sending petrels swirling up from the rigging.

    "Well fought, Mister Dras."

    The mulatto youth grinned and saluted.

    "Well fought, Mister Black."

    "There is more to you than meets the eye, it seems."

    "I don't know about that," Dras chuckled, "I happen to think I look pretty fine."

    Black looked around at the cheering crew and bowed in time with Dras.

    "That was well done. The crew needed something to pick them up."

    The youth nodded and spoke quietly.

    "Ah Balam's some sort of Indian priest. Says the gates of hell are opening up."

    "I think we can see them from here, lad. Stay alert."

  8. #8
    Well, you've got me hooked.

    Great stuff!

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Birmingham, AL
    Wonderful! Just wonderful. You have me hooked on this, your latest story hour as much as your other ones. Good job!

  10. #10

    Terwox's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Vermillion, South Dakota, United States
    This is tremendously cool. Love the pirate atmosphere, it's very well done. Keep it up!
    Last edited by Terwox; Monday, 10th May, 2004 at 08:56 PM.

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