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General Help me with a nautical Halloween adventure: Becalmed near a ghost ship

My son and father are playing a piratical campaign and are currently en route to an island to find buried treasure (although it obviously won't be that simple). I'd like to have them have a brief Halloweeny interlude this weekend, though, specifically, with a ghost ship.

Becalmed in the middle of the ocean and not a sail in sight. And then ... there is. Another ship, also becalmed, with slack sails. But this one has tattered sails and no sign of crew on board. The ship itself is in poor condition and seems like it should have sunk long, long ago.

How would you run this? What's on board? How does the group (a rogue, a bard and a warrior sidekick) lift the magically becalmed conditions and get sailing again? And how do we make it spoooooooky?
 

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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
What they find, surprisingly, are a bunch of still captive and living people below decks who tell the party that there is a ghost on the ship. They tell the players that the ghost and her crew are keeping them all prisoners. The ghost crew only shows up at night to keep the ship afloat, while feeding the captives a grotesque pile of fish-guts that they have "grown accustomed too"

For the twist:

What the captives say is true, to an extent. There is an undead crew who is holding them. What they don't tell the PCs, is that the captives are in fact a Sea Hag Coven and their Sea Spawn minions who are being punished for their many crimes against various towns and ships by said crew. The ghost crew might not have been able to match the power of the hags in life, but in death they managed to hold them at bay. Getting off the ship requires either making a deal with the hags to destroy a wildly-spinning compass that binds the crew and keeps the ship still, or destroying the hags, allowing the crew to finally rest in piece.
 



Zardnaar

Legend
I had this encounter about two weeks ago.

I had them becalmed in the middle of a heap of Sargasso that was semi solid in places. Smaller ships were stuck in in.

The ghost sip as such was self propelled and came in out of a fog bank.

Ship had a wraith and wright on it, crew and undead ogre in chainmail iirc. Once they killed the captain the ship started the break apart although they tried to loot one of the cannons.

Think I made it DC 25, 3/5 attempts required.

They were level 4.
 

Arvok

Explorer
I think the key to making it spooky is to make the players feel powerless. A ship stuck in the middle of the ocean certainly starts them down this path. Throw in rapidly diminishing water supplies (most of the water barrels are mysteriously turned brackish? and the crew starts circulating rumors of a ghost on board) and you're beginning to increase the desperation. Depending on the level of horror you want to introduce, that might involve crew members committing suicide or simply disappearing.

After going for a couple of days without water, the characters should be 3 levels into exhaustion. That imposes all kinds of nasty penalties that will inspire horror of a different sort.
 


After going for a couple of days without water, the characters should be 3 levels into exhaustion. That imposes all kinds of nasty penalties that will inspire horror of a different sort.
That's a great idea. I need to refamiliarize myself with the exhaustion rules. Just getting a new source of fresh water should be enough to propel them toward the ghost ship, which they will likely otherwise regard as an obviously terrible idea.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
That's a great idea. I need to refamiliarize myself with the exhaustion rules. Just getting a new source of fresh water should be enough to propel them toward the ghost ship, which they will likely otherwise regard as an obviously terrible idea.

Won't work if they can purify the water or create new water.

Another way is a fatigue wave of negative energy.
 

aco175

Legend
Should there be a second option that forces them to head to the other ship. Say a giant octopus attacks them and damages the hull. This forces them to seek the other ship for a means to repair their own ship. This may be a bit of forced action though. There could be a shiny piece of bobby-dazzler (I almost wrote bobby-dangler which is totally inappropriate for your father and son game) glinting off the other ship. Another idea is that a captive manages to S.O.S. them from the other ship.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Should there be a second option that forces them to head to the other ship. Say a giant octopus attacks them and damages the hull. This forces them to seek the other ship for a means to repair their own ship. This may be a bit of forced action though. There could be a shiny piece of bobby-dazzler (I almost wrote bobby-dangler which is totally inappropriate for your father and son game) glinting off the other ship. Another idea is that a captive manages to S.O.S. them from the other ship.

I used Salvage Operation from GoS with the giant Octopus.

My ghost ship was kind of a throw away encounter using ideas from the Savage Tide AP which has your ship get stranded in Sargasso.
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
It seems like an opportunity for a ship that just follows their ship, no matter what they do it just keeps getting closer and then their ship becomes becalmed thanks the otherworldly nature of the ghost ship. Perhaps there is some treasure on their ship the ghost captain wants returned to lift the curse?

Heck it’s the Black Pearl and it’s Captain Barbossa and his literal skeleton crew :)
 

aco175

Legend
I saw these and though they would be good for ideas.
1604104259233.png
1604104285167.png
 

keynup

Explorer
Have them becalmed a few days with nothing significant happening. Have a few minor things happen, some they might not notice unless talking to crew or looking for.
  • torn sail (with no wind?)
  • food missing (the good stuff)
  • cannon loaded and ready to fire
  • water bad / missing
  • a pigeon lands on deck (or any small bird that would never be at sea)
  • dead rats being found, the way a cat would leave a present, but there is no cat on bored
  • a board rot through mid deck. only enough rot for 1 foot, the rest is untouched.
  • maybe even some helpful things, finding a fresh apple etc.
Don't even hint at what it could it at first, Let them use there imagination. You might even get more ideas from listening.

When the ghost ship first shows up, it's noticed only a few hours before dawn (night watch asleep? or fog?) Ship disappears in sunlight. If they on it they fall into the water.

For what is on the ghost ship use one of the other ideas

If you want an extend version, have this ship only have clues and something to summon (bring you to) the real cause of the calm waters.
 

Eltab

Hero
Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the source of the phrase "to have an albatross around your neck". The full story might serve as inspiration.

Whatever the problem at sea is, the solution might involve a sacrifice ... in blood, because it is Halloween.

And Ghosts of Saltmarsh has other drop-in adventures (abandoned / haunted island settlements) that can be made spooky.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Lots of good spoook. The dehydrarion exhaustion is gold, with increasingly horrible random shit hapoening.

Literally keep saying "another day, what do you do?" - and have a bunch of horrible things happen with no explanation.

I would, myself, be tempted to have it end with the possibility of the PCs on the ghost ship, able to pilot it. Because that is a fun D&D story for after the horror. (not a requirement, but a possible outcome).

The human captives who aren't what they seem is awesome. And if they mollify the right ghosts, they get to keep the ghost ship.

Have the "humans" be ghosts, and the ghost ship being an intelligent magic item? Maybe the humans are pirates or mutineers who killed the ship's crew/captain, maybe ghosts themselves?

The mutinee was triggered by entering these haunted waters, which drove the crew insane.

The ship's soul is powered by moonlight, which is why it sleeps during the day.
 
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