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Pathfinder 2E Skull & Shackles (2E Conversion), solo campaign

Crys

daydreamer and poet
So I'm already documenting this solo campaign on my personal blog, but my husband feels it would be cool to also document it here and have him come in and comment on things he's changing around from the adventure path (aside from converting everything to 2E). As the title says this is a solo campaign, so I'm controlling four characters and he is DMing for me. We have a lot of practice at this from years of such campaigns and I've even built a google doc character sheet that shows me the main stats (ability scores, skill bonuses, perception, ac, hp, saves, three frequent attacks or spells, spell slots, spell attack bonus, spell dc, class dc, and a notes section for niggling things like circumstance bonuses granted by feats) of all four of my characters on a single page front (with additional pages for spells, feats, inventory, etc).

Here's what the primary page front looks like now that they're 8th level (Dolce's stats are explained in the Notes section of this post):

Pirates.png


I suppose I will introduce you to the characters I'm playing. Worth noting is that none of these characters are good aligned. This is a departure from the norm with our solo campaigns, as I usually play the heroes striving to bring others joy and safety in the chaos of most fantasy settings. These four are more interested in securing joy and comfort for themselves and those they consider kin. They were designed, after all, to want to continue pirating as a career.

Revel

Revel is a hobgoblin female who was born on the 12th of Sarenith, 4687 AR. She was part of a journey to Port Peril while still a young child, and ultimately was separated from her ship and left in the Port by her kin. As a result, this hobgoblin lacks much of the discipline and order of her kind after spending a lifetime fending for herself on the docks. Her family did impart the viciousness of their race upon her, and it has served her well. She is never one to shy from a fight, and has found she possesses a certain tenacity that others lack. She feels a connection to sharks, and enjoys any opportunity to watch them in the water. Her affinity must have some merit, for in the heat of battle when her rages overtake her her jaw warps and elongates and her teeth grow sharp and vicious as several more rows emerge behind them. She is an expert at bullying others, and one of the few individuals aboard her ship that can earnestly say they’ve tasted the blood of humans.

As an ally, Revel proves a valuable asset. She will jump into danger for those she considers friends, and is willing to suffer to ensure their safety. She is pretty laid back when it comes to making decisions, which makes her a useful tool if she likes you. She enjoys contests of strength and athletic prowess, but is always willing to help out those that have shown her kindness. To the surprise of many, the hobgoblin has quite a lovely singing voice and carries a rhythm well. She enjoys tavern songs especially much, and has never been known to turn down a drink… Well… except when she has a hard day of labor aboard a punishing vessel in her future. She also learned quite a bit about a lot of topics from her days on the docks. Overheard snippets of conversation from merchants, pirates, sailors, and guards have left her with more knowledge about the wider world than most would give her credit for.

Revel abandoned the name of the family that abandoned her, taking in its place the common word “revel” because there are so many things she passionately enjoys. Combat, song, competition, prowess, and of course camaraderie.

Mirielle

Mirielle is an aasimar (my husband found a supplement he rather likes with rules for aasimars and tieflings until the official rules come out) female who was born on a ship at sea on the 27th of Rova, 4688 AR. She was born to a human noble family and was promised to be married to a prominent noble in Sargava. Fate did not let this happen. Mirielle is undergoing quite a bit of character growth. She began this venture as a timid and weak individual caught up in things well out of her control, but has come into her own as she’s realized she now has authority she lacked when she was her parents’ child. Of course, she’s also realized that, having engaged in piracy, she cannot return home to the life she knew.

In battle Mirielle calls upon her angelic heritage to bolster and revive her allies, granting succor to their wounds and helping their weapons strike true. Superstition is catching up with her, partially because of her allies’ own beliefs, but she’s actually come to believe they were right when they said she had Besmara’s favor. How else could a girl groomed to be a wonderful wife to a noble lord survive all the perils of a pirate ship relatively unharmed? How else could she find herself named captain and suddenly in charge of a life she was once living under someone else’s direction? Sure, a few quick and clever lies did help her get through these ordeals, but something greater truly does seem to be at play.

Outside of combat Mirielle is easily the most charming of my characters. She makes friends easily and is generally willing to forgive those who wrong her… Her kindness is not entirely without ulterior motives, for she recognizes her ability to ingratiate (as well as her ability to deceive) are some of her most powerful strengths… That and her divine healing abilities.

Nasha

Nasha is a lizardfolk female who was born on the 24th of Desnus, 4680 AR. She is a wetlander lizardfolk, with muted blue scales that are lighter on her abdomen than on her back. The claws on her hands and feet are dangerously sharp and easily deadly in combat if she desires them to be so. Nasha originally made her living diving. With her agile swim speed and her ability to hold her breath far longer than any human, she was a natural choice for checking traps and recovering pearls. At just over seven feet tall she has little trouble reaching most anything. When not working in the water, the lizardfolk enjoyed taking leisurely breaks in the fringes of the jungle.

In combat, Nasha is swift and dangerous. She has learned to fight from her environs and self-reflection. There is an odd sort of peace in the chaos of combat for her, and she’s found it in few other places… Though she’s beginning to feel the same sense of peace in the chaos of a ship caught in a storm or being lashed by powerful waves.

Outside of combat, Nasha says little. She prefers to observe others, and decides upon her feelings about those around her based upon the actions they take. She has a strong soft spot for children and families, and will go out of her way to help reunite or comfort them if she has the opportunity to do so. When a kindness is shown to her, she does not forget it. Likewise when she is subject to needless cruelty. She is not forgiving, and will not hesitate to kill someone who has attempted to bring harm to her or anyone she considers close.

Dolce

Dolce is an elf female born under the name Inara on the Isle of Kepre Dua the 23rd of Pharast, 4623 AR. Dolce was a special child to her family, for she was among the first born in Kepre Dua after it was established. Unfortunately for them, the only calling Dolce heard from the world around her was that of the sea. Her parents and indeed every elf on the island seemed enamored of it and their elven “queen”, but Dolce felt no pull to it. Rather, she fixated on and devoured every story she could of ships at sea and piracy. When she had the opportunity she left to make her own way in the world and traveled from port to port performing songs in taverns and collecting stories.

Dolce dabbles in a bit of everything. She is quite skilled with her rapier and very capable of exploiting weaknesses shown by her opponents, but she also carries a wizard’s spellbook disguised as a book of her own musical compositions called The Tome of Arcane Whimsy. Many think her a bard, and she’s content to let them do so. Others believe her a simple sailor, and again, she allows this to be the case. It serves her well that potential opponents don’t expect her to fight the way she does or call upon the powers she possesses.

Outside of combat, Dolce is a very good friend to have. The elf has explored a great many fields of study and is usually at the very least helpful in any undertaking. She truly excels at trickery, performance, and medicine. The last being a talent she only really began cultivating in order to better care for her new friends. She is a fervent worshiper of Besmara, tithing 10% of any treasure she finds at sea and 5% of any landlocked prize she claims to the fickle Pirate Queen.

Dolce is also the mastermind of the party, though she readily hears what others have to say on any topic… She has plans, and she intends to see them become reality. She skillfully manipulates those around her as required to achieve her goals, and is not above misleading others to accomplish this. Truly most of what she desires is benign where her crew and comrades are concerned, for she just wants adventures on the high sea and to someday become a member of Besmara’s crew in death.

Notes

So, some notes for those of you curious about mechanics at play here…

Revel is an Animal Instinct (Shark) Barbarian and most of her feats relate to the Intimidation or Athletics skills.

Mirielle is an Angelic Bloodline Sorcerer and serves as the healer for this party. Most of her feats relate to Diplomacy.

Nasha is a Monk who primarily uses Tiger Stance (that 10 foot step is insanely useful). Thanks to her ancestry feat she can use her claws to do 1d6 piercing or slashing and she can just punch someone with 1d6 bludgeoning because of being a monk. Tiger Stance gives her a d8 piercing attack. Her skills lean toward Survival, Nature, and Athletics.

Dolce is special. I wanted to have an arcane spell caster, but did not want to make a 5th character so my husband suggested playing one character as a Dual-Class character to try out those optional rules. She is a Scoundrel Rogue and a Universalist Wizard as a result. He also had me start all of her ability scores at 12 instead of 10 (all the others were made with standard creation rules). As a result of this she began with an 18 Dex, 18 Int, and 18 Cha. We basically consider her a prodigy who wanted nothing to do with the elven island she was born on and wasted her time and potential wandering around singing bawdy tavern songs until she got press ganged. Now she’s coming into her own and combining her many talents (she began play trained in literally every skill) to her advantage. Dual-Class is a lot of fun to me. I don’t honestly think it tips the scale particularly much as far as balance goes. I think, honestly, her starting with all 12s in her ability scores did more for her than her having access to both classes. Though she certainly has more options.

Another variant rule in play for this game is Automatic Bonus Progression. Since my husband is converting this module to 2nd Edition he wanted to use Automatic Bonus Progression to save him some time finagling with treasure. I honestly rather enjoy it… It means never having to invest a huge amount of money into a magical weapon because you hit just as hard with any weapon you pick up. I think it would also do well for campaigns set in settings where people are more the source of power than items. It’s been fun.

Also, I colored their names the colors I use to denote them on my character sheet. It is a single sheet (with several pages) that condenses them so I can see all of their skills, saves, AC, Perception, etc. on a single page front and the rest is written out in later pages.
 
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Crys

daydreamer and poet
I decided to go ahead and add the first actual story post today too. I'm actually on session 11 or something over on my blog, but I'll probably be releasing them over here more slowly and with more OOC Notes.

That said, I'd like to mention that I'm terrible at incorporating lingo of any sort into characters, so I don't really cover much of the pirate jargon. Please just do me a favor and imagine there's some of that sprinkled in.

Also worth mentioning, when I started writing this I wasn't sure how I wanted to do it as far as whose perspective to use, so I jumped between multiples. Over time I've come to primarily write from Dolce's perspective, probably because she is often the most keenly aware of important facts and because she's a schemer. For the purpose of this post, bullet points mark a change in perspective.




Spoiler Warning: Many spoilers for the Skull & Shackles adventure path are contained within these story recap posts. If you don’t want your campaign spoiled, don’t read these!




Session 1: Getting to Know You
• Nasha woke with a start. There was movement in the room with her and all she could remember from the night before was passing out at the Formidably Maid tavern. She’d been there plenty of times before after a long day’s work, but the alcohol that night had been something else.. And now, as her vision adjusted and her hearing grew more distinct, she realized she was not in a tavern at all.

She slid from her hammock just as a harsh and loud voice started attempting to rouse her and the others in the room. Some grumbles and moans returned the man’s words and Nasha watched as a hobgoblin and a human also stood. The last to rise was an elf, her face almost green. The voice boomed again, “Welcome to the Wormwood, Landlovers! Get up on deck!”

Nasha had counted the people in the room at this point. She and the other three disoriented souls were at a severe disadvantage.. And.. aboard a ship. She quickly realized there was no reason to fight this particular battle and moved forward, passing between the gang of pirates that had come to rouse them.

• Revel watched as the blue scaled lizardfolk retreated and soon was gone up the steps. She wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but she had no intention of going so quietly. “What the heck is this? And what did you do with my things?” Her pack, her coin, her javelins… All gone.. But apparently they hadn’t searched her too closely. She’d managed to keep hold of her brass knuckles… Not that she really needed them when her blood got pumping.

The man in front cracked a whip and Revel snarled. “There’s no reason for this to get ugly.. Unless you just want it to. Get up on deck, this is your last warning.”

Revel watched as one of the other two girls that had been in the back with her skirted around the far side of the room from the man with the whip and slinked up the stairs. She looked utterly terrified. Useless, in Revel’s mind. Then there was the elf, who was currently still here. “Forget that. I’m getting my stuff back, right?” She directed the question to the elf as she got ready to throw herself at the whip-wielder.

• Dolce’s mind was reeling. The whole world felt off-balance and the loud shouting match going on round her wasn’t helping her come to her senses. There were.. 6…? No.. eight of the pirates. Pirates! She’d been press ganged, and-

She didn’t have any further time to think about it as her stomach lurched. She staggered through the sailors there to rouse them unsteadily and made for the stairs as she felt last night’s meal trying to come up. She’d heard the hobgoblin’s defiant statement, but she didn’t have time for that nonsense.

When she made it to the deck there was more laughter from the surrounding crew as she moved to the railing and retched over the side. To her dismay they were quite well away. Land was just a tiny sliver in the distance. A quiet, but calming and resonant voice asked, “Are you alright?”

She looked up to see the human from down below and hardly had time to consider answering before retching again. It had to have been something in the alcohol. She’d never felt so bothered by the sea before. Maybe the drug they’d used to knock them out? She gave the human a small nod.

• Mirielle was at least slightly relieved by the elf. She felt completely overwhelmed, but at least she hadn’t physically succumb to seasickness. It made her feel a little guilty to find comfort in the misfortune of a kindred spirit… but.. it also kept them from focusing on her. She tried desperately to remember the events of the night before.

The ship had made port at Port Peril of all places after a nasty storm had done damage to it, she’d been required to find lodging in the city and disembarked with one of her household guard in the clothes of her attendant to draw less attention in the hive of villainy.. The guard and she had been separated int he chaos of the streets and she’d found a blond-haired man…

Her eyes cast about and she saw him. Quinn was his name. He looked as miserable as them though. He’d found her in the streets and realized she was hungry and lost and said he’d get her some food and taken her to the Formidably Maid tavern… A place he’d been to before where the food wasn’t great but it was edible and the prices were reasonable.. So he’d said… And then? They’d had a bite to eat and she’d passed out with just a single drink.

That was what did it.. The alcohol. She looked at the faces of the others assembled on the deck. Some looked to be hardened sailors and others like her and the elf she was standing beside… Shocked and struggling to catch up.

• Below deck Revel scoffed as the elf fled and gave a sharp, toothy grin to the whip-wielder. “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” The hobgoblin said, still too stubborn to stand down.

The man laughed, and Revel’s blood pumped harder. “You? Against all of us? Well I guess you aren’t the brightest mind now are ya? That’s fine, Lass, I’m happy to show you your mistakes.” He cracked his whip again and everyone began moving.

It was a halfling on the left wielding a sharp dagger, who stepped forward first. He might have hit Revel, but she bellowed at him furiously, “THAT’S RIGHT! COME AND GET ME!” And somehow the hobgoblin, though only 4’4″, seemed larger than the biggest man down there. The halfling yelped and started moving backward, right into another pirate’s generous gut.

The whip-wielder snarled at him, “Ratline, what are you doing?”

Revel took advantage of the distraction to move forward and close the distance to the bully. She didn’t hesitate even a second before slamming her fist into his right cheek with a triumphant snarl. She tried to punch him again with her left, but he dodged that blow.

His demeanor had changed, the amusement gone from his eyes and his voice was a low snarl itself. “You’ll regret that, Pup.” The lash wrapped around her arm and side mercilessly. It was amazing how hard he could wield it as her skin sang from its stinging touches. The second strike caught her torso and coiled over one of her shoulders. The third fell across both of the first two and in just those few moments she fell into unconsciousness again.

• Nasha heard the sounds of combat below her as everyone stood awkwardly on the deck. It was obvious to her which among them were crew for the vessel and which had been like herself. Already she resigned to just do whatever work they required and try to survive to the next port. With her natural ability to swim and the length at which she could hold her breath they weren’t going to be able to keep up with her if she made it into shallow waters…
The sound of feet on the stairs preceded the crew that had been below to rouse them filing onto the deck, the last among them the man with the whip. His cheek was red and starting to swell already, but the hobgoblin had been dragged above by a large brute already and was limp in his grasp. Nasha shook her head at the foolishness of the hobgoblin’s actions. She supposed the woman would be lucky if she wasn’t tossed overboard.

“Tie this one to the mast,” the whip-wielder said.

The others obeyed even as a new voice spoke out. “Are you alright, Master Scourge? I hope she didn’t hurt you.”

“I’m fine, Captain,” Master Scourge responded, though Nasha noted he seemed genuinely afraid of his captain.

• Dolce may have been retching moments before, but with her stomach now empty she held to the rail and watched the scene unfolding before her. Her mind still worked as her body warred with itself. The fear Master Scourge felt toward the captain was practically tangible. He must be quite a capable man.
“Good. I’d hate to think one of my officers could be bested by a little girl like that,” the captain said as he turned to face the rest of those on deck. “Welcome to the Wormwood. We’re so happy you volunteered to join our merry crew. Understand that there is no tolerance for trouble here and you will do well. Don’t speak to me. While I enjoy speaking, I don’t care what any of you have to say. For that reason I leave you in the loving care of my Bosun, Mr Plugg.”

And with that he walked into his cabin. Mr. Plugg stood sharper and spoke loudly, “We have already had an incident from you lot, so let’s show you just how we handle troublemakers on the Wormwood. Stitchman, if you please.”

Another man moved forward, crossing his way to the hobgoblin. He rifled through his pouches and produced something that he put under her nose. The hobgoblin woke with a jerk and pulled her head away from the Stitchman. More laughter sounded from the crew and Dolce had a feeling she knew what would come next.

• Mirielle felt completely helpless standing there in the midst of everything. She could see clearly where they’d bound the hobgoblin to the mast and the expression on Master Scourge’s face looked all-too happy to her. “Rise and shine,” said the Stitchman as he stepped away.

“You are all,” Mr. Plugg said, “expected to pull your weight. A ship needs a crew that works together, and we intend to make you do so. If you don’t work, you will be punished. If you start fights… You will be punished. Piss us off enough and you’ll spend some time in the sweatbox or maybe even get to find out what it feels like to be keel hauled. This one earned herself four lashes today.” He nodded at Master Scourge.

Mirielle’s eyes grew wide as the man unfurled his whip. How had she ended up here? She had been on a boat on her way to be wed to a noble of Sargava just the day before… With servants and guards to tend her needs and keep her safe.. And now… The whip cracked through the air and though Mirielle suspected the hobgoblin was trying not to call out she did again, and fell limp in her bindings. Master Scourge didn’t stop when she was unconscious, instead letting the lash fall three more times, each time drawing blood.

“Good,” said Mr. Plugg. “Take her below, make sure she doesn’t bleed out.” The stitchman nodded and did as he was bade, untying the hobgoblin’s restraints and dragging her below deck as Mr. Plugg continued. “Now we’re going to see if any of you are good at rigging. When I say so, you’re gonna climb that mast as quick as you can. And go!”

• Dolce’s suspicions had been confirmed, and soon enough they were setting them to task. She noticed the human who’d come to check on her wasn’t moving and purposefully brushed against her arm as she passed her by to see if that would rouse her from her shock. It seemed to work, for soon enough she, the lizardfolk, and the other shocked and overwhelmed looking faces were scrambling up the rigging. Cheering and jeers were called up from below. More than one directed at her in her short, little dress.

While she didn’t mind that sort of attention, in fact it served her well enough when singing bawdy tavern songs or pirate shanties in the places she frequented, right now it was distracting. “You can climb my pole anytime, Elf!” rose above the others and she couldn’t help rolling her eyes. Another wave of sickness hit her and she almost lost her grip, but not quite. Ultimately her natural speed gave her an advantage over the others and soon enough she’d left all but one behind… The lizardfolk.

• Nasha had watched without any real sense of dread. She suspected they would do as they said, attempt to forge them into a solid crew. If she continued with her plan and applied herself she would be fine. They were instructed to climb, and climb she did, taking to the mast like she may have to the water and scaling it and the ropes upon it with relative ease. The elf was having trouble, but not overly much. The blond haired human girl who had been standing beside her was far behind with the halfling and the gnome.. One other human managed to pull away and it soon became a race between him, the elf, and her.

Nasha strove harder, pushing herself to reach further and climb faster. If she performed well she would brook less pain in the future. So she told herself. And soon enough she had made it to the crow’s nest. Curses came from the sailors below, for they had begun to think the elf would win, and she’d almost tied with Nasha, but now she struggled a few feet below, seeming to have trouble finding purchase.

It was all the time the human man needed to catch up and overtake her, and then he was in the crow’s nest with Nasha. “Not bad, but you lizards have an unfair advantage I imagine.”

Nasha considered his words and said, “My cousins would make this seem quite simple a task, but I am a far better swimmer than climber” Her voice was even and calm when she spoke.

The man shrugged his shoulders, “If you say so.” The elf finally made it up that last five feet, and soon after her the blond haired human. Mr. Plugg called up, “That’s enough, get back down here.”

• Mirielle had only just reached the top when they were called back to the deck and she sighed. The climb down would be easier than the climb up, but it still was not her strong suit. She picked her way down carefully and as she suspected was the last to reach the deck. Mr. Plugg glared at her as he waited, but didn’t say anything until all were assembled below. “Alright, you and you, you’ll be riggers.” He had pointed to the lizardfolk and the human male that had reached the top first. “Any of you know how to cook?”

Mirielle certainly didn’t. She’d had servants to cook for her and even climbing the ropes had hurt her delicate hands. Since her healing magic had emerged at a young age she’d never gained a scar and her parents had decided to be certain she never formed calluses. Her skin was silky soft and right now that would probably prove nothing but a hindrance.

The elf rocked a little on her feet, still looking like every dip of the boat was making her sick, and meekly said, “I can.”

Mr. Plugg gave a nod, “Cook’s helper. Take this one to Fish Guts.” A man called the elf over and took her below. “The rest of you are swabs.” He assigned tasks to each of them, and when he got to Mirielle he took a belaying pin from the boat and tossed it at her with a smirk. “Rat catching,” was all he said.
She fumbled with the pin as she struggled to catch it much to the amusement of the crew, but at least managed not to drop it. Rat-catching? She felt her stomach lurch. As if this whole ordeal wasn’t trying enough.. Now she’d be hunting rats all day…? At least her knowledge of ships would pay off. She knew where to look for them. Still, the thought of touching the foul vermin made her skin crawl.

• Revel woke after about an hour and a half and was told to report to Mr. Plugg. She grudgingly did so. She was given the task of being a runner and spent the day carrying messages from one part of the ship to another. While she did grumble and complain from time to time, it seemed the lesson had paid off because she mostly did as she was told without giving them trouble.

• Nasha did repair work in the sails, and while her craftsmanship was not well-honed, it did the job it was needed to and putting repairs in place proved quite effortless for her with her athletic prowess. She discovered a young man named Jack working as lookout and struck up a conversation with him regarding the scrimshaw he was working on. Soon enough the two were on friendly terms.

• Dolce found the kitchen occupied by two individuals. One in an apron smothered in fish guts and the other a half-orc female. They had been drinking, but stopped when she arrived. The half-orc wished the man luck breaking in his new help and retreated into a small chamber with a locked door, though Dolce noted she forgot to lock it. Her day proved easy enough for the chef was a capable cook and managed all the cooking himself. Dolce made efforts to befriend him and found it easy enough to do. She supposed this was as good a job as any on the ship if all she had to do was pass the man ingredients and talk to him.

• Mirielle hunted rats, and while the critters caused her some revulsion, she overcame it to fulfill the task she’d been set. She found herself int he company of a pirate named Badger who related some of her own story and gave Mirielle pause to think. The pirate had started wearing her hair in an absurd fashion to keep people from messing with her after a rough life on the streets… And Mirielle found herself reflecting on how privileged her existence had been prior to waking up here.

• At the end of their hard days’ work the crew was assembled on the deck once more. Mr. Plugg standing by the wheel bellowed out to them, “And now it’s time for tonight’s entertainment! Welcome to Bloody Hour!” The crew seemed happy to hear this proclamation and did some cheering. A man was brought from below deck by Master Scourge. “Ah, here we have good ol’ Jake Magpie! Magpie thought he needed your gold more than the rest of you!” Boos broke out from the crew and some even threw things at Jake.

• Dolce swallowed. Pirates took theft very seriously. She could only imagine they were about to witness this man’s death and her eyes sought out the tender-hearted human. Sure enough, the blond girl looked quite alarmed as she watched.

“We all know the cost of thieving, don’t we?” Mr. Plugg asked.

“YEAHHH!” Bellowed the crew.

“Get him ready, boys!” And no sooner had Plugg said the words than the crew sprung to action. A rope had been prepared for this before they’d been called to assemble it seemed, for one man held Jake who struggled and pleaded while another tied that rope around his neck. “Now, now, Jake, you knew the rules.”

“Aye, Mr. Plugg. Please, I’m sorry! I won’t steal again!” Jake said. He sounded utterly terrified and it made even Dolce frown.

Mr. Plugg looked like he was considering the man’s pleas. Looked like it, but Dolce and Mirielle both knew better. They, Nasha and Revel watched in silence as he strode down from the wheel and over to Jake’s side. “Jake, you served us well for many months. You just got too greedy. You’re right though. You won’t steal from us again.” He flashed Jake a cold smile and pushed him over the side of the ship.

Dolce heard someone else retching and turned to find Mirielle kneeling over a bucket, her face pale as the clouds int he sky. She moved closer, resting a hand on her shoulder, and the human looked up at her with actual tears in her eyes. ‘She’ll never survive this ship…’ Dolce thought, feeling pity for the only person who’d really shown her kindness before she’d set to work on Fish Guts.

The crew was hooting and hollering, even placing bets about whether or not he’d survive. Long odds, those Dolce knew. She’d studied pirate stories long enough to know just how rare it was for someone to survive the process. Sure enough, a minute and change passed before the rope made full circle and Jake was hauled up from the ocean below. Mirielle retched into the bucket again as she saw the open lacerations on the man’s body. Even Dolce felt unnerved, and she’d been prepared for what they would see. His expression was one of horror, frozen eternally on his battered face.

“Who wants to do the honors?” Mr. Plugg asked.

Ratline piped up, shooting Revel a purposeful look as he did, “I got it, Mr. Plugg!” The hobgoblin took a single step toward the halfling with her menacing grin and he edged away, but still eagerly went to Plugg’s side. Mr. Plugg handed him a sword and he used it to behead Jack’s already broken body.

• Mirielle was retching again, not that she had anything to expel at this point. Bile came up and nothing more as she saw the man’s head fall free of his body. It was a bloody ordeal for the blade wasn’t sharp enough and the wielder not strong enough to make the cut clean and strong. She closed her eyes against it and felt another hand alight on her other shoulder. When she looked up it was Quinn and she gave him a weak and fearful smile.

The body was kicked overboard and Mr. Plugg turned to the crew, “Alright you worthless slobs. It’s time for dinner and your rum rations! Get down to the galley and get your fill!”

By the time bed came Mirielle was exhausted. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d spent all day moving around like that, and she had never been required to find and kill rodents. Dinner and rum rations were passed around and it was all she could do to pick at her plate before she started to take it off to sleep.

Master Scourge appeared beside her, she wasn’t sure where he’d come from, and said, “Don’t you like the captain’s good rum?”

Mirielle was startled and shrank away from him, “Umm.. I just.. don’t hold my alcohol well…” She knew the crew would laugh at her, but wasn’t creative enough to come up with anything else in that moment.

Master Scourge smiled and it put her ill-at-ease. Then he caught her by her hair and took her rum glass in his hand, “That’s alright, Lass, let me help ya!” He forced the glass to her lips and twisted her hair until she opened her mouth and drank it down. Some spilled onto her shirt, but he made sure she drank most of it. “There ya go. See? No harm at all!” He clapped her on the back hard and looked around at the rest of the crew, “Anyone else need my assistance?”

• Dolce, who saw this scene unfold, felt wary of the alcohol, but with the officers watching she decided it best to just drink it down. She wasn’t the only one to do so. The rum was strong. Stronger than any she’d had before, and unfortunately for her her stomach was having none of it. She tried to fight it down, but the retching came back and she rushed up onto the deck again to go hang over the railing.

When she finished and made her way back below deck she saw the eyes of Master Scourge and Mr Plugg on her. She knew she’d get to pay for this the next day. For now though.. For now she could distract, perhaps, or maybe make some friends. Music was, after all, a perfect means to bond with others and her repertoire of sea shanties and tavern songs was nigh inexhaustible. And ultimately, while being press ganged had not been her preferred way to become one, she was now a pirate. Really, on the whole, her spirits were high. She had no intention of stealing from the Wormwood and as such would be able to slowly climb the ranks among the crew. Perhaps making officer herself and being able to really enact change.

Besmara said the crew should be loyal to one another after all. It had always sounded more like family than her actual family was when she’d listened to the tales and read the stories. Surely there was some of that to be found on this ship… Perhaps with a bit of effort.

• Nasha had consumed her share of the rum, but it was powerfully strong. She wondered at the harsh discipline she’d witnessed earlier that night and the potency of the alcohol provided. Did they want their sailors to perform shoddily and incur punishment? Perhaps Scourge did. He seemed the sort. She made her way over to Jack and talked to him some more. He showed her some scrimshaw dice he’d carved himself and soon they were joined by the large man who had been with the throng that had awakened the girls. The man’s name was Fipps, she learned, and he seemed to like games. Nasha curled her tail around a portion of the floor so the three of them could toss the dice with little worry of them rolling too far away and played into the night before the need for sleep overtook her.

• Revel had already been tired from the day’s abuse before she drank the rum. After that she was pretty exhausted. She might have been inclined to go and drink with others or socialize, but today.. today she just slept, slinking into her hammock and letting the day melt away.

OOC Notes

Dolce failing her save against sea sickness was pretty comical. She was the only character written with a backstory that involved traveling on boats fairly often to get from port to port to perform in taverns (we adapted the Barroom Talespinner trait into her background), and yet she was the only one to fail that save and find herself sickened by the sea. Of course, Mirielle may have as well had she not been trained in Lore: Sailing, between this and having the background 'Besmara's Blessing' (converted from the trait of the same name) she was immune to the check for seasickness.

I went into a lot of detail for the highlights of their first day, but later posts will go into much less. Still I never can manage to truly truncate a story, so every section ended up being pretty lengthy despite my intent to keep it short and to-the-point.
 
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Owlbrarian

The Librarian is Here
Hello everyone!

I am DM for this and many other solo games over the years. As my wife explained, I thought it would be cool to drop by and explain some stuff "OOC" in effect. Decisions and things I changed from the base adventure along with anything I might have added.

Minor change was turning Fipps into a "good" guy at least as much as anyone can be a good pirate. I mostly did this to play off of the "big dumb thug" stereotype but have him turn out to not be so bad.

So the first major change I made from the base game was the character Sandara Quinn. This was mostly because I wanted Quinn to be a possible romantic interest later in the adventure. That and the party ended up having a strong Besmara focus so I ended up turning him into a bard instead of a cleric.

I ran the first part of this adventure pretty much as written though I think it would have benefited from having some more events sprinkled in with the monotonous labor. Though Crys will explain that more when we get there.

Something that really helped me with this adventure was the Papercraft Tokens. Each NPC onboard the Wormwood had its own token that I could show Crys to help us both remember who they were.

I did my best so that each of the various crew-members had some screen time. Though again that will be shown later in Crys' posts.

Alright I think that is all for now! Hope you guys enjoy it, and I am happy to answer any questions from conversion or anything else.
 

Crys

daydreamer and poet
Spoiler Warning: Many spoilers for the Skull & Shackles adventure path are contained within these story recap posts. If you don’t want your campaign spoiled, don’t read these!




Session 2 – Twenty Days of Toil

What followed the first day of the girls’ lives aboard the Wormwood was a hard twenty days of work. It varied, of course, day-by-day… But Master Scourge had a personal grudge against Mirielle and associated all four of the girls with each other so he took every opportunity to make them miserable.

Dolce received lashes for not drinking her rum that first night, but resolved to never drink it again anyway. She saw how fatigued Mirielle was after being forced to imbibe the ration and she didn’t intend to let them addle her wits any. She might need them to seize the opportunity to advance on such a contentious vessel.

On the second day the bell rang to rouse them from their slumber and all of the lower deck emptied out except for five of the old crew. “Slippery”, a rather disturbed woman, “Jaundice” Jape, Narwhale, a grumpy dwarf, Shaveka, a human woman, and Ratline. Nasha had paused to wake Mirielle who was sleeping right through the morning bell, but when she finished and moved to go on deck Slippery barred her path.

Unimpressed, she tried to move around again, only to have Slippery step in her way again. The old crew informed them that they were getting broken in and advised them to just take their licks, but of course Nasha had no intention of doing so. Neither did Revel.

When Dolce ducked behind the hobgoblin there was a quick comment about, “Oh sure, now you want to fight with me,” before Revel started throwing punches at the trouble makers. The girls won the fight, though Ratline was knocked unconscious. When Dolce checked his pulse she noticed it wasn’t quite right and further inspection suggested to her trained mind that he had been damaged internally. Magical attention would be required.

They carried the halfling and the human woman, Shaveka, above deck with them and informed Mr. Plugg this one was dying even as he accused them of starting the trouble. Revel snarled something at Jaundice Jape, ordering him to ‘fess up, and when the man started to do so Mr. Plugg cut him off and said he had things well in hand.

The halfling was saved by a magic potion, the cost deducted from the girls’ future pay. They honestly hadn’t anticipated being paid after being press ganged so that news was both good and bad to them. Each was lashed three times in turn.

Things were normal for a short time. Nasha stayed out of trouble for the most part… The exception being that she developed a soft spot for Mirielle and found herself actively trying to look out for the human. Of course, she also developed a soft spot for Jack Scrimshaw, but she had expected that. She’d always been fond of children.

Revel applied herself to her work while working, but started making friends with the more brooding and sullen among the crew. Cog and Maheem were her primary candidates for camaraderie, and she and Cog ended up sharing a hammock on more than one occasion. Mr. Plugg noted how little Revel liked working on repairs and started assigning her this task frequently.

Dolce enjoyed her time in the kitchen and learned how to catch turtles alongside Fishguts, who was fast becoming a friend. She also entertained the crew with songs at night, improving their attitude toward her through her efforts, though the officers remained mostly out of her reach. The favored song soon became one she'd cobbled together especially for the crew of the Wormwood.

The Wormwood is Nigh

(with a slow, foreboding tune)

Mist in the air,
Foam thick on the waves;
The Wormwood is coming…
Best go dig your graves…

(an interlude that transitions to a higher, upbeat tempo)

Oh we hoist high the sails
And feel the sea spray
It calls to our blood
We can’t keep away!

The lure is adventure
And treasures of gold;
They call us to battle,
To our souls lay hold!

(next three lines sung sweetly)
Who could resist it –
This beckoning plea?
Certainly not
(upbeat again)
Someone rotten as me!

There’s no use in figting;
You’ll never prevail!
We’ll take your money,
Your ship has set sail!

So crawl to your graves;
The Wormwood is nigh!
If you’re lucky by hiding
You might yet survive.​


Meanwhile, Mirielle found herself on rat duty and bilge duty more often than not. Both were hard tasks for her for different reasons. Still, she applied herself and managed to do a decent job most days. She found herself talking to Quinn and Badger most of all, but also to other members of the crew and they took a genuine liking to her. When she had to heal her injuries she did it in moments of solitude, like those moments when she was alone in the bilges.

On one particular day Master Scourge took Mirielle aside and into the officer’s quarters. He explained to her that had she not captured Quinn’s attentions he knew he’d have no trouble charming the man. Over the course of this conversation Mirielle ended up revealing her divine healing powers. She convinced Master Scourge that her powers came from her angelic ancestry and hinged upon her 'purity'.

Of course, she hadn’t revealed she had healing magic and Scourge did not believe her until she stated this was why she had no lash marks after her discipline the day before. She claimed it was her angelic heritage causing her to slowly heal from the damage rather than her use of a spell upon herself. When he lifted the back of her shirt and saw her unblemished flesh, he believed her and she gained a modicum of protection from the crew to preserve her healing gifts.

Later that day Mr. Plugg informed the crew that anyone with a sprained ankle could seek her out for healing and she quietly piped up “Only a few times per day,” lest the pirates expect more of her than she could provide. He said that didn’t seem very impressive, but she knew her healing was of value to them for the cost of potions was high.




Undesirable Tasks

More often than not, the girls found themselves being volunteered for either the most difficult jobs of their stations (main sail work for Nasha, repair work for Revel, bilge duty for Mirielle) or for other undesirable tasks. Dolce held some immunity from this as Fishguts dictated her tasks for the day and he had quickly become a friend to the elf. Grok, the half-orc quartermaster, had also warmed to Dolce, and so her days were usually relatively easy. Sometimes she did actually have to cook though when Fishguts was too drunk to perform his duty.

She was not, however, immune to being volunteered for the other undesirable tasks that came up. One such task was ridding the bilges of dire rats that had infested it. This was done swiftly enough and the girls took their time going above deck. In the water of the bilges they found “Old Magpie”, a magical polearm that had once belonged to Jake Magpie. It made sense. The officers had sentenced him to labor down here the day that they’d keelhauled him.

Another undesirable task came when the ship weighed anchor relatively near a coral reef. The four girls were singled out and tasked with catching crabs. They swam out to the reef and carefully found a place shallow enough that those less capable swimmers would be able to stand. They did catch crabs, but their hours of carefully hunting the little beasts were interrupted when a pair of reefclaws attacked them. Nasha fought the creatures in the deeper part of the water to keep them from going after Mirielle, Dolce, and Revel.

Mirielle healed Nasha openly, Revel threw her javelin a lot (and missed… a lot. In nine throws I think she hit once). Dolce, meanwhile, dropped to her knees on the reef, which promptly shredded her pants. She used her magic under the water so the sailors on the ship wouldn’t see anything if they happened to be watching. The creatures were soundly defeated and the girls brought back not only a bucket brimming with delicious crab, but the two reefclaws as well. Later Mirielle discovered a stowaway in her pack in the form of an adorable turtle she would name “Cupiir”, or “Cuddles” in the Celestial tongue. Soon it was clear the pair shared a magical bond. Of course, she kept the stowaway hidden away lest Mr. Plugg or Master Scourge use it to hurt her somehow.

Dolce aided Mirielle in hiding Cupiir away when Mirielle first discovered the turtle. To her surprise, she dreamed of her own companion. She and a bright pink octopus swam through the coral reef in her dreams. On the first night she couldn’t quite keep up with the critter, and though she woke feeling as though she’d spent a day exploring the waves she found nothing unusual. On the second night she dreamed again of the reef and the octopus, and this time she followed it all the way through the reef and eventually back to the boat. When she woke up she felt a strange weight on her chest, and saw the pink creature snuggled on top of her in her hammock. She realized they shared a magical bond not unlike that of Mirielle and Cupiir. Dolce named the octopus “Revaress”, or “dream bringer” in the Elven tongue, and likewise kept it hidden from the crew.

The reef encounter really cemented the already forming bonds of the party, as well as the protectiveness of Nasha, Revel, and Dolce toward Mirielle. All three of the others had expected Mirielle to get herself killed, but instead they found she was managing. Sometimes with but a sliver between her and Mr. Plugg’s ire, but she didn’t complain.




Trickery

As the days wore on, Mr. Plugg’s targeting of Mirielle grew harsher and harsher. She was assigned to bilge duty every single day, and quite often went to bed exhausted. Dolce took pains to stealthily dispose of her own rum ration before swapping her mug for Mirielle’s and doing the same with that, but was caught once. She was happy to take the lashes for Mirielle. When Revel was caught ditching slipping away from a mug of her rum ration she pinned it on Jaundice Jape and claimed the mug wasn’t hers. He’d been a previous offender and so the lie was more than readily received.

Dolce’s skill with spells continued growing, and because of her particular interest in subtlety, deception, and performance, she managed to master the spell, Exchange Image. This led to Dolce replacing Mirielle and doing her labor on more than one occasion while Mirielle relaxed in the kitchen with Fishguts (whose real name is Ambrose). Ambrose figured the ruse out soon enough, but since he had grown close with Dolce he didn’t say anything about it. He assumed it was Mirielle’s magic that made the switch possible, and Mirielle didn’t correct him.

Doing this let Dolce spread out the infractions she and Mirielle accrued, for her job was easy and if she made a mistake in the guise of Mirielle one day and as herself the next, it was only one step further in the punishment they received. She was, unable to save Mirielle from a day in the sweat box when a powerful storm required all hands in the rigging and Mirielle performed poorly… But it was just as well, for if the illusion had failed while Dolce was within that the punishment would have likely proven quite severe.

Nasha routinely lurked in the kitchen when Dolce and Ambrose were not within. A few moments to search the cluttered space from time to time yielded rewards on several occasions. Grok’s fondness of liquor made it easy for the girls to buy back their possessions with the bottles of alcohol that had been misplaced in cluttered cabinet corners. Still, these little bits of helpful circumstance and trickery could only go so far.




Conflict

Everything really came to a head when one day Mirielle found herself working the bilges with Narwhale and Jaundice Jape. About midday Jape came back up from above and closed the hatch out of the bilge with a quiet knock. Mirielle failed to notice as she was getting another bucket of water to take above and cast overboard. She soon found herself caught between the dwarf and the human, with the human blocking the ladder up.

They made clear their intent to torment her before they killed her because they “didn’t have to worry about her spells anymore”, and Mirielle felt panic seize her.

Luck would have it that Dolce was on fishing duty that day and was bringing in the catch for Fishguts to make lunch and noticed one of the pirates sitting on a crate pushed over the trap door to the bilges. She knew Mirielle had been assigned bilge duty again and immediately suspected something was amiss. She asked the pirate what was going on, and the pirate responded it was none of her business. Dolce immediately dropped the fish she’d been carrying and the pole she’d used to catch them, drawing her rapier with impressive speed she faced the woman.

No one had seen this side of Dolce, for her preferred method of manipulation was through music, merriment, and kindness. Generally speaking these tools had better results, but with a friend’s life on the line all warmth was gone from her eyes and her expression was set and cold. “I suggest you move if you don’t want your liver on the tip of my sword.” Her voice had an entirely different feel to it, one of menacing anger and surety, and it shook the pirate to her core. She slid off the box and stepped back, watching Dolce warily.

The elf, meanwhile, kicked the crate toward her and threw open the hatch. She began springing forward as she saw the scene below, but not before calling, “Revel! Trouble in the bilge!”

Revel was only a few feet away and promptly dropped what she was doing as well, turning and jumping through the hatch with no regard for her safety. She tried to land on top of Jaundice Jape, but he deflected her and she fell on her knees in the water. Revel saw Narwhale catch hold of Mirielle by her hair. The human girl struggled, but she lacked the strength to break free and Narwhale was preparing to stab her.

Revel had little time to consider that as Jape attacked her, and chaos ensued. Soon Dolce joined them in the Bilge and Mirielle changed tactics from fruitless struggling to calling upon her divine heritage to create the halo of light around her head that often appeared when she was performing healing and praying aloud, “Dear gods, please be merciful to these men, for they know not what they do. They don’t understand how acting against your progeny, however far removed, still angers and offends you-“

Narwhale was quite shaken, releasing his grasp on her hair and taking half a step back as he looked between Mirielle and Dolce in indecision, but Dolce focused on Jape, and she and Revel inflicted significant injury upon him. As he seemed to settle back on Mirielle as a target, though with differing intent, he realized his mistake. She’d taken those moments of his distraction to ready her mace and struck him in the face as hard as she could.

Two teeth flew from his open mouth as he cursed her loudly and stabbed her in the abdomen. Mirielle shrieked and gripped her wound with her free hand, feeling the blood flow between her fingers when Nasha’s voice called down from above, “The captain’s coming. Don’t kill them.” The lizardfolk had been too slow in arriving at the hatch to join the fray.

They’d been promised keelhauling if they murdered another member of the crew, and even in these circumstances Revel figured they might receive it, but she also remembered the last time five crew had picked a fight and only they had brooked the punishment for it. With a snarl and a menacing snap of her teeth she caught hold of Jape’s collar and whirled him toward her. “You, you better scream out just what you’re doing and why at the top of your lungs or I swear by all the gods I will kill you now even if it means I’ll be dying with you!”

Jape, already scared of Revel from their previous dealings, did as he was bidden, proclaiming for all to hear that Scourge and Plugg had ordered them to murder Mirielle.




Plunder

The captain was unimpressed. Mr. Plugg he called incompetent, Master Scourge, as well as all those involved in the brawl including the girls, he said he would keelhaul… But no sooner did the words leave his lips than little Jack Scrimshaw called down from the Crow’s Nest, “SAIL!!!! SAIL ON THE HORIZON!”
The captain laughed coolly and said they’d been gifted a chance at redemption as he ordered them all to work. Revel couldn’t help taunting Scourge as she made for the mast, her blood still raging from the combat, “I hope you survive this, Scourge. I’m looking forward to round two.” Scourge made to strike her but Mr. Plugg punched him in the face and ordered him to get to work.

The days passed in tireless hours of toil, though the girls had reprieve on the last day before they caught the vessel. The captain wanted them in fighting shape since they were on the boarding party. Their assignment, of course, the most dangerous.. Take the wheel and keep the enemy from reclaiming it.
Throughout the combat all but Mirielle had a turn being pushed off the deck and clinging to the ship for dear life. The waters had been chummed by the Wormwood’s crew and sharks happily devoured all who fell into the waves below. Nasha, Revel, and Dolce all managed to stay aboard, if only just. Dolce in particular was pushed to dangling three times throughout the struggle. Still they overcame, and Mirielle’s Bless spell had time to grow to its most potent reach, empowering not only her immediate allies but all of her allies fighting on the deck of The Man’s Promise.

In the chaos of battle she saw one of the ship’s sailors sneaking up to attack their captain and called out to warn him. She didn’t think the man stood a chance of killing the captain, and if he did… She supposed Plugg would have even more power to make her miserable. The last thing she wanted was to see him as captain.

They won the confrontation and claimed the treasures of the ship’s hold. Captain Harrigan even presented Mirielle a jeweled sword for the warning she had given him. Then he declared they would sell the ship in Port Peril and divided the crew… Mirielle’s worst fear came to be when he put Mr. Plugg in charge of the second ship and let him choose his crew. Among the first he claimed for the voyage were Dolce, Revel, Nasha, and Mirielle.




New Ship - Same Problems

With their passage to The Man’s Promise came at least one good turn. Mr. Plugg didn’t believe in the rum ration. Said it dulled their ability to work. The labor didn’t change, and discipline became exclusively at the end of the cat-of-nine-tails rather than the single throng whip. He worked them all at the jobs they hated most, except Dolce again because Fishguts had been sent on this ship and he still directly oversaw the elf. Mirielle had her days of reprieve when Dolce changed places with her. Basically every other day just before Bloody Hour the elf would cast the spell or let it fade, taking punishment for both of their mistakes. And just after that, Mirielle would heal her as far as they could get from prying eyes.

The girls stayed together, but were prevented from making more headway with the crew by the hard hours they were worked. Singing was no longer allowed after lights out to prevent Dolce’s sweet music from winning them favors, and punishments were assigned and administered for even the smallest infractions.

Nasha, who had taken to sitting at the front of the Wormwood in the first hours of evening to eavesdrop on the officers below while enjoying her view of the ocean, found herself ordered below deck after dark on the very first night aboard the new vessel. She did as she was bade, though she lingered on the stairs just below the hatch straining to hear. Soon enough she did hear Mr. Plugg giving orders to change their course. They weren’t heading to Port Peril at all.

Nasha conveyed this to the others who talked among their friends on the rare occasion they could steal a moment to do so. Ambrose told Dolce he suspected Plugg and Master Scourge were stealing the ship and were currently heading for Rickety's Squibs to get their ship squibbed (I don’t honestly know if the word can be used this way, but I’m doing it anyway). Reprieve came in the form of a massive storm that overtook them… If you can call working the rigging in torrential downpour a reprieve.

The girls did their part, though Revel was assigned sail repair and botched the task. After she failed to climb the mast Plugg told her to stay out of the way and sent Cog in her place. He made it up without issue and installed her shoddy work, but had to do an additional repair on the spot to compensate for her. He ended up falling from the mast, but was fortunate enough to have his fall broken by another sail before he hit the deck and he didn’t perish from the fall.

Shortly after the sail groaned under the strain from the storm and part of it snapped clear off. Plugg bellowed for Revel, Nasha, Dolce, and Mirielle to go and get the replacement and the girls went to do so. Below deck, where the supplies were housed, they were met with a horrific sight. Tiny creatures resembling goblins with tentacles had infested the ship and Narwhale was currently unconscious between them. There were six of the creatures in total, one was pressing a strange leaf to Narwhale’s lips.

They saw the girls and began shouting in a strange language. Dolce quickly ordered Nasha and Revel to let the small monsters come to them, for grindylows are notoriously hard to keep pace with when you engaged them. Nasha, Revel, and Dolce formed a line, each blocking the way to the entry to the stairs behind them. They could feel the ship listing even as they prepared for combat.

It was a taxing encounter, but ultimately only one of the creatures escaped. The girls killed the rest as quickly as they could and then claimed the beam required for the sail and took it above, though Mirielle stayed behind and healed Narwhale. The dwarf seemed surprised to be awake at all, much less to see her standing there. He tried to speak, but couldn’t and clawed the leaf from his mouth. Mirielle took it from him and watched as it dried up and decayed before her very eyes.

The storm raged on, a few hours more, but the sail repair was successful and no one was lost to the sea from the waves or the rain. After the calm came it was discovered that Quinn and Ambrose were missing. The only logical conclusion was that the grindylows had taken them. Mirielle and Dolce were devastated, but an island was in sight and Plugg made for that. Their water barrels had ruptured in the storm because Jape failed to secure them well and there were more repairs to be made. Dolce only hoped the girls would get an opportunity to sneak away and see if any caves could be found on the island, for that was likely where the creatures would lair and it certainly seemed they had tried to take Narwhale alive…




OOC Notes

So, let's start with, I'm editing these a bit. Some darker threats were made which I already kept vague in my blog, but am keeping vaguer here due to the "Keep it Clean" rule. For the same reason, while I've searched for and seen plenty of topics come up using profanities, I'm attempting my best to keep it out of my posts.

Mechanics-wise, Mirielle scored a nat 20 on lying about the conditional nature of her healing powers.

The spell Exchange Image is an uncommon spell in Pathfinder 2E. In a more typical game where the party can go to towns and cities my husband said he would have likely made me roll to hunt it down, but he felt that Dolce's general focus in deception and performance and her aptitude as a wizard and her desire to shield Mirielle through this trickery were all reason enough for her to develop the spell herself. He also set the DC higher to impersonate Mirielle (and for Mirielle to pretend to be anyone but herself) courtesy of the random aasimar feature we rolled up for Mirielle from the third party supplement I previously linked... That being, "You speak with authority, and your voice is a strong, deep bass that resonates in people’s hearts when they hear it."

Mirielle actually made diplomacy checks with Narwhale, and had been with Ratline as well, both of whom still had quite negative attitudes toward the girls. She managed some pretty spectacular rolls with Ratline, but Narwhale only budged after Mirielle saved him.
 
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Owlbrarian

The Librarian is Here
Well the events of the Bilge assassination attempt are a little bit different than in the module though not too different. The module wants Harrigan to sort of stay away from the events of the players at first which makes sense honestly. Don't want the players to piss off a level 15 captain when they are still level 1.

I cheated a little to let the intimidate work since PF2 is pretty strict with what you can do with Diplomacy/Intimidate within combat though it was such a fun moment I let it stand.

It was a slog to get through the 20 days at least I felt as much by the end. I ended up having Scourge be sort of the driving force behind Mr. Pluggs hatred of the party. I had him something of a "tragic" villain by the end. Someone who pushed to far to end up in a position he couldn't manage and took his anger out on the party with Scourge fanning the flames.

Crys quite enjoyed Pluggs outburst toward Scourge after Harrigan got involved. That was a pretty good session all things considered.

Regrets I have are not coming up with a better way to handle the Rum Rations because it left such a bad taste in Crys. Honestly they way PF1 and PF2 handle drugs is pretty silly. Rum Rations as they are written in PF1 would have pretty much killed the entire Shackles by week two or three of their adoption.

I later found that the rules from the Arms and Equipment Guide from 3.0 were pretty serviceable. I used this much latter in the third adventure with the gambling section. Translating the ability score damage into the Drained and Clumsy conditions.
 

Richards

Legend
I am very much enjoying this Story Hour thread! The back-and-forth posts between sole player and DM is a very cool setup. And good job on juggling four PCs at once, Crys - they've all got unique personalities and characteristics and make for enjoyable protagonists. I've never read through the "Skull and Shackles" adventures and have no experience with Pathfinder 2, so I'm looking forward to learning about both as the Story Hour progresses. Well done, both of you!

Johnathan
 

Crys

daydreamer and poet
Aww, thank you! I'm really glad you're enjoying it! :)

And good job on juggling four PCs at once, Crys - they've all got unique personalities and characteristics and make for enjoyable protagonists.

On this in particular, when we first started doing solo campaigns (in about 2006) it tended to be that I had a 'primary' character and several 'backups' as it were. You'd either rarely get a feel for anyone but the primary character or the backups and the primary seemed to be more or less the same personality. After years of practice I've gotten a lot better at letting each character breath. I tend to try to react to any given situation first as either the character who would react first or the one who would have the strongest reaction and I find this helps let the spotlight travel between them.

I've never read through the "Skull and Shackles" adventures and have no experience with Pathfinder 2, so I'm looking forward to learning about both as the Story Hour progresses. Well done, both of you!

Skull & Shackles is proving very fun to me. When we sat down to make characters my husband told me I should create characters who would "want to continue being pirates". With that in mind I built characters who were neutral in alignment, though I'd actually say they lean toward being evil... Because if you're a pirate you're willing to take the livelihoods of others in order to better your own position.

As far as the system goes, I'm really loving it. We started out with Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 and 3.5. We did actually play Pathfinder first edition for a number of years as well, feeling it was basically a streamlined 3.5. The last 5 years we've been playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. While it is a great system for what it is (a friendlier and more approachable version of D&D), I hadn't realized how much I missed the crunchier nature of 3.5/Pathfinder until we tried Pathfinder 2. Owlbrarian had realized 5th had gotten stale to him. Basically all of the monsters had begun to feel like pinatas (big bags of HP where throwing out as much damage as possible mattered more than anything else for the player characters).

Feel free to ask if you every have a question about mechanics at play and one of us will happily explain it.

For a "brief" starter, the action economy is different in 2E than in the other systems. Every character and monster gets 3 actions per turn (barring Haste and similar). Actions include: Move, Step, Attack, Cast a Spell (the actions required vary, but usually 2 actions), and many others.

Each attack on your turn imposes a Multiple Attack Penalty (default is -5, some weapons are -4).. Hence the accuracy for Revel being 17 | 12 | 7 for her attacks while Nasha's are 17 | 13 | 9. I find it's usually highly advantageous to use that third action for something other than attacking because you usually are gonna miss with it anyway (but not always with bonuses and penalties in play). That third action often ends up reflecting on my character's personalities. In example:

Mirielle usually has to use hers to move into position because she's slower than everyone else. Once she's close enough she will often spend it maintaining Bless, which increases the radius of allies who gain it's +1 benefit (due to the Sustain a Spell mechanic, she's locked into doing this once she casts the spell - or choosing to lose it if something else is more important (I think that's happened once)).

Dolce often spends hers making a Recall Knowledge check about whatever they are fighting or possibly setting up for an advantageous attack in the next round (taking out a wand, moving to a position that will make someone else move where she wants (she hopes), etc.). Rarely she will feint an opponent to get sneak attack on them if she can't flank with someone.

Revel generally intimidates someone or shoves them, but quite often when she's in the thick of melee she just takes that third swing.

Nasha actually usually makes 3 to 4 attacks since she has Flurry of Blows (which lets her make 2 attacks with a single action once per turn). When she does have a free action to spare it is most often spent on the Step action (which lets her move without risking provoking attacks of opportunity). Taking a 4th attack is made at the same -10 or -8 as a third attack. That's as high as the Multiple Attack Penalty goes.

I could go on, but I'm really verbose, so I probably shouldn't. Like I said, if you ever have a question about anything going on, feel free to ask. We're happy to explain OOCly the mechanics or motivations driving a scene. :)
 
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Crys

daydreamer and poet
Spoiler Warning: Many spoilers for the Skull & Shackles adventure path are contained within these story recap posts. If you don’t want your campaign spoiled, don’t read these!




Session 3 - The Restless Isle

In the aftermath of the storm there had been some confusion on deck. It seemed neither Mr. Plugg nor Master Scourge had a compass. Mirielle witnessed them arguing over what direction they were headed and meekly offered, “I can tell you where north is.” The two turned on her and told her to do so. It was a simple cantrip, a practiced gesture and a word of power and she knew, unerringly, that north was directly behind the ship. She pointed in that direction, “That is north…”

The men cursed and barked out orders, turning the ship toward the island and trying to figure out where they had washed up. Regardless, someone had to be sent for fresh water. After dressing down Jape for his foolish mistake of not securing the water barrels properly, Master Scourge said, “You’re lucky you know how to use a hammer, or I’d send you to collect more fresh water for us… That being the case, the task falls to my favorite four volunteers.” His eyes fell on Mirielle and he smiled, “Mirielle, Dolce, Nasha, and Revel, go get fresh barrels and find us fresh water. Take one of the rowboats. You’ve got two days while we make these repairs. Better not come back empty handed.” He patted his whip for emphasis.

Dolce’s mood soared inside, though she didn’t display her joy outwardly. If she had Master Scourge might well have found a reason to keep her aboard. Revel, Nasha, and mostly Mirielle looked less pleased by the turn of events. They all retrieved barrels and got into a rowboat and moved to the island.
From a rocky outcropping Dolce and Nasha surveyed the land. There was a bonfire built here, but it had never been lit. A small metal container with three tindertwigs had been left close at hand. Dolce collected them and cast Prestidigitation to clean up their container. A Chelish symbol adorned the box and the wood in the bonfire looked to be from a Chelish ship. An interesting turn. Perhaps there would be survivors here, though the wood also seemed quite weathered.

Dolce and Nasha returned to Mirielle and Revel who had stayed below with the barrels and they pressed inward. Soon enough they found a village. The buildings were husks containing aged evidence of some pour souls’ previous lives. Here discarded wares and tools, there personal belongings. Nasha searched through one of the houses briefly and found a small, aged stuffed pig, a child’s toy, tucked into a drawer. She looked at it sadly for a time before placing it in her pack.

They left the barrels in one of the houses in the village, hidden away in case anyone came back home and found them, and followed a trail out of the village. It came to a large, muddy stream. Dolce dipped a hand in the slow-flowing water to take a closer look at it, but found it was quite salty. Still, if they traveled upstream… After an encounter with wild boars, they located the source of the spring, a waterfall of fresh water, and decided they would get the water here, but since they had two days.. They’d take a look for Quinn and Ambrose first.

Revel gave Dolce a little trouble about this decision, but not overly much. She was just probing and testing. Honestly she was pleased that the elf didn’t back down after a little challenge. It indicated she valued her friends enough to stand up to someone as intimidating as Revel. They forded the stream in the fresh water and started heading back to where the trail continued. Some giant frogs attacked them, swallowing both Revel and Nasha whole, but they regretted it soon enough. Tearing teeth and viscous claws freed the girls and split the animals from the insides out. Dolce promised they’d eat well tonight, for these frog legs would make a delectable dinner.

Continuing on, with the frogs in tow, they saw a tent in the distance. Heads swarming with flies were mounted on spikes along the trail here, and Mirielle lost her breakfast. They didn’t draw too close to the flies or the grizzly heads. Voices reached them from the tent.




An Unusual Parley
Dolce instructed Nasha and Mirielle to hide a ways off the trail in the trees. The two crept quietly out of sight. As she listened she heard voices complaining of hunger, hoping the storm would have brought them another gift. It unnerved her a bit, but they were clearly intelligent and had been on the island for quite a time if the tent was any indication. With one last look at the nearest mounted head she steeled her nerves and called out, “Hello?”

Quiet settled over the tent, though soon enough a man… or what was a man… emerged. He was a decayed corpse with a very long tongue, his flesh still clinging to his bones. The scent of him was as unsettling as the stench from the heads, but Dolce’s bluff was flawless and she appeared unperturbed by him.

Revel, on the other hand, looked shocked and then hostile, the hand carrying her rarely used javelin tightening. “Be still,” Dolce ordered, realizing her companion’s attempt to play it cool had failed. She took on a different role toward Revel, incorporating her discomfort into the narrative she would weave. As she made it seem Revel was working under her she saw two more emerge from the tent.

The trio were quite scantily clad, though their attire had been at one time quite beautiful. Ship whores, she suspected. They spoke in a language Dolce didn’t know, but the man silenced them and Dolce and he began to parley. Realizing she was dealing with ghouls had been a simple matter, and knowing their particular proclivity toward eating humans would serve her well.

She proposed that they could help one another, for she could give them the location of the pirate ship which had press ganged herself and her “guard” in exchange for information about the island. The man snapped at one of the women who seemed quite impatient. It must have been a while since they’d eaten.

Dolce accepted their invitation into the tent and convinced them that since there were three of them and only two of herself and Revel they should do the exchange by them giving up the information first. They shook hands on their deal. They learned that everyone who had survived the Chelish ship had been turned into creatures such as these. Likely because the ghouls carried on board to use in battles had gotten free in the storm and fled to the island before the rest had settled.

The man explained he believed it was the mosquitoes which now carried the disease, setting Dolce’s nerves on end. The three had indeed been whores aboard the ship. The man told them of a farm on the other end of the island, the possibility of someone living in the house above it, and the grindylow lair. Dolce’s heart soared even in the presence of their “pantry”, the piles of decaying corpses scattered throughout this chamber of the tent.

She told them where the boat was and they said they suggested she not be there when they finished as they turned to leave. Then she gave a nod to Revel, who looked utterly shocked as the elf drew her rapier. It seemed to Dolce she had fooled even the hobgoblin with her performance.

The combat went swiftly, with Revel and Dolce unaware that Nasha had crept in through the back of the tent. Nasha, Dolce, and Revel engaged in melee with the ghouls, cutting them down with only a few minor injuries to themselves… Of course, even that could be deadly, but Revel seemed to fare well enough when inspected after the combat. Notedly, Revel did not use her shark teeth to bite any one of these, rather relying on her javelin.

Mirielle tended to Revel while Nasha and Dolce searched the tent. They found, among other things, alchemist’s fire, fine perfumes, jewelry, and the body of a child dressed in clothing made of the same fabric of Nasha’s stuffed pig. Nasha quietly took the pig from her pack and set it in the hands of the decaying child. They’d moved all of the bodies to the base of the tree and now used one of the vials of alchemist’s fire to set the tent ablaze.

The chemicals would allow it to burn despite the humidity in the air around them. The three stood and watched, making sure the flames didn’t spread too far. Nasha spoke softly and said, “May they journey back to their home in the second life.”




What Once Was

On their way to the small farm plots the girls fought off some giant crabs. Dolce pronounced dinner was getting better every moment, as she had every intention of making them a delicious meal. But time was dragging on and only a few hours remained of the first day they’d been given. They needed to make progress faster.

The fields were not tended. They still were recognizable as farm plots with some clear rows remaining as the crops within grew wildly around the area. There were mounds in the earth too. Here and there a hedge had grown up, overtaking some of space that had been made for food.

They hardly got to look through it when a large creature burst from the earth and attacked Nasha. It spit acid at her and then burrowed through the ground to emerge right beside her and try to bite her. An ankhrav! Dolce cautioned the girls to be careful of the tunnels it left in its wake, and they fought the creature fiercely. Nasha was knocked unconscious just before Revel made the killing blow, biting off a chunk of its flesh.

Unlike in previous combats, the barbarian retched and spat it out, hissing as acid burned the inside of her mouth. She fumbled for her water skin and rinsed the liquid free, but not before incurring burns from the acid. Dolce sighed and set to tending Nasha, who was now conscious again thanks to Mirielle’s spells. It took some time to dress all of the lizardfolk’s wounds, but dress them she did and turned her attention on Revel’s mouth. She had to improvise a little, making a poultice and using Prestidigitation to cool the water of her own waterskin while Revel drank it. These in combination seemed to soothe the injuries.

The girls debated going straight to the grindylow lair, but they’d already used a number of spells and a night of reprieve would allow them to go into the lair fully prepared. Dolce had also spotted movement in the window of the house above the fields, and so they set off in that direction to see if they could learn anything further.

From the outside they could see a spyglass was positioned looking toward the coast, but little else. They began scouting around the building quietly, but found themselves in combat again, with plant-like creatures that assaulted them. They hadn’t realized the creatures were more than just vegetation.

A well places spell and some scuffs and bruises later and the plants had been subdued. They finished scouting the perimeter and went inside. They were greeted with another grizzly site. This time, a man hanging from the ceiling, a chain secured around his neck, nearby a stool toppled over on which he had presumably been standing. Flies swarmed around him, and the smell was strong enough Mirielle fled the structure to retch again as Dolce covered her mouth and Nasha and Revel looked queasy.

Dolce and Nasha decided to look the place over and began moving forward to do so, but the body suddenly swayed forward as its arms reached out to grab Nasha. She jumped back just in time, and Dolce looked at the creature more closely. Another once living man contorted into undeath. This one, a ghast.

Much like she had handled the ghouls, Dolce convinced him they would free him and claimed they left the ghouls alive. She gained the same information from him as she did from the ghouls, learning the grindylows were down below and this once-man had been observing them from the spyglass. Further he said he could help them, and seemed nervous by her looking over the papers on his writing desk. She continued searching through it, reading his body language as she did so, while talking about the other denizens of the island… Until at least she found in a drawer a simple, steel, blue ring.

The ghast grew frantic when she found it, and she examined it closely, determining it was a Ring of Swimming. Something that would prove quite helpful in dealing with the grindylows indeed. She pocketed the ring, and knowing there was no hope of restoring the ghast to the man he had once been, she and Nasha slew him where he hung.

They collected the spyglass, looking through it before doing so. Dolce saw below two grindylows playing in a cave entrance. One handling Quinn’s tricorn hat. She showed Mirielle, who was relieved to see that they were in the right place. They spent the night outside the house but within the shelter of the walls erected around it. In the morning they would see if they could find any trace of Quinn or Ambrose by the place the grindylows had been spotted.




OOC Notes

The ghouls were a fun encounter. Dolce rolled really well on her bluff check to act like she wasn't phased by them being undead... But Revel rolled a 2 or something. So Dolce rolled a second bluff check to immediately begin acting as Revel's superior, like Revel was her henchman. She rolled well on that too. I don't think I've ever played a character who has betrayed an agreement mere moments after making it before. Mind you, most of my characters who were good-aligned would readily betray an agreement with ghouls, it's just that they normally aren't willing to discuss anything with creatures like them at any length.

Owlbrarian determined the ankhrav would focus on the person in lead before asking me who that would be. In the natural world that is Nasha because she is actually trained in the survival skill and has a natural protective instinct of the others. On the ship out of combat it could be any of them, in combat it's usually Revel who's in a hurry to get into trouble. In this instance it worked out quite well because the ankhrav's acid can damage a character's armor and Nasha doesn't wear any. It would have been terrible for it to focus on Mirielle. She'd have been downed rather early in the combat.

Poor Mirielle couldn't catch a break with the ghast's stench. She rolled really low when they first encountered it, and then again when they started harpooning it at a distance. Needless to say, she ended up spending most of that 'combat' outside the house while her companions handled the fighting.

As an aside, I am still writing to 'catch up' to current events. Even by session 16, we're still like 4 sessions behind our current one, so a lot of this is written super quickly with maybe a single pass over for accuracy. I don't take notes about sessions, but I find since we play a little bit almost every day (or at least every other day), I'm able to remember a lot of what goes on.
 
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Owlbrarian

The Librarian is Here
So is an ankhrav a variant version of an ankheg or something, or did Paizo just rename the ankheg?

Johnathan

Yeah as far as as I can tell its the same monster renamed. There are a few like this like Aboleth becomes Alghollthu, Troglodytes become Xulgath and my personal favorite: Derro (D&D) becomes Dero (Pathfinder).

I actually made a conversion of the Sahuagin because I derped and didn't realize they had just renamed it Sea Devil. Which is made worse because they have been called that as a common name with previous editions.
 

Owlbrarian

The Librarian is Here
So onto the DM's perspective of this section.

So they went off the beaten path pretty quickly and I ultimately had them find a spring before they explored the rest of the island. In hindsight that could have ended poorly but it ended up working out alright. This comes down to me often reading the adventure and playing it at the same time. If I had read the module ahead of time I would known that the place the PC's were supposed get the water was later in this part of the adventure. Oh well like I said it worked out okay. I ended up inserting the giant frogs later from where the party was "supposed" to encounter them. Case of the Quantum Ogre or I guess Frog encounter.

Honestly I know that Paizo writes these adventures to be read more than played (or at least it feels that way sometimes) but I often find I really wish I just had some bullet points for each section rather than all the (admittedly well written) purple prose.

I loved the ghoul encounter as well. Lots of fun role-playing to be had there and a useful place to do some info dumping about the Infernus and what happened on the island. All in all nothing much was changed from the module though I could have had the final encounter be a bit more of a struggle. The vine chokers were kinda scary so it all works out.

One thing that I will say is I kinda wish we had started this like a week later so that by the time we got to this island I had the Bestiary 2 since they had many of the monsters that came up in this adventure. Oh well, all's well that ends well.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
I am very much enjoying this Story Hour thread! The back-and-forth posts between sole player and DM is a very cool setup. And good job on juggling four PCs at once, Crys - they've all got unique personalities and characteristics and make for enjoyable protagonists. I've never read through the "Skull and Shackles" adventures and have no experience with Pathfinder 2, so I'm looking forward to learning about both as the Story Hour progresses. Well done, both of you!

Johnathan

I agree, having 4 distinct pc/personalities is hard to pull off, and they do have that "Us against the world...on this ship" vibe to them. And it is well written journal style, with the DM insights as a bonus.

Glad you are having fun with the quartet. One question: What exactly is different between these posts and the one on your blog (which I don't see a link to)?
 

Crys

daydreamer and poet
I agree, having 4 distinct pc/personalities is hard to pull off, and they do have that "Us against the world...on this ship" vibe to them. And it is well written journal style, with the DM insights as a bonus.

Glad you are having fun with the quartet. One question: What exactly is different between these posts and the one on your blog (which I don't see a link to)?

I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it!

A lot of the difference in the posts here is cursing. The girls are rather fond of the f-word and other profanity (excepting Mirielle, she has cursed exactly once and it was an attempt to get Dolce to stop picking on her with a deception check she flubbed).

However, there are a few things of a more violent or delicate nature that I'm planning to be more vague and muted about here when they come up. Though honestly, we've encountered a couple points in particular that are written directly into the adventure path that are rather dark so I may censor parts of that too.

The reason there's no link to my blog is actually also because of the Keep it Clean rule...

"Keep it clean: Don't use obscenities or profanity, don't use clever tricks to run around the profanity filters, and don't link to sites with inappropriate content."

I figure by that ruling, since I'm not cleaning up the language on my blog posts I can't link to it here.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it!

A lot of the difference in the posts here is cursing. The girls are rather fond of the f-word and other profanity (excepting Mirielle, she has cursed exactly once and it was an attempt to get Dolce to stop picking on her with a deception check she flubbed).

However, there are a few things of a more violent or delicate nature that I'm planning to be more vague and muted about here when they come up. Though honestly, we've encountered a couple points in particular that are written directly into the adventure path that are rather dark so I may censor parts of that too.

The reason there's no link to my blog is actually also because of the Keep it Clean rule...

"Keep it clean: Don't use obscenities or profanity, don't use clever tricks to run around the profanity filters, and don't link to sites with inappropriate content."

I figure by that ruling, since I'm not cleaning up the language on my blog posts I can't link to it here.

Well, I'll ask for a link privately. Off course the other solution for you is word substitution for your own slang. "Frak","Farg,"Flip","Sodding","Pike that," etc. Its so common in media (film/TV and the last two are from TSR pre WoTC.). Rewriting drafts is a pain. :(
 

Crys

daydreamer and poet
Well, I'll ask for a link privately. Off course the other solution for you is word substitution for your own slang. "Frak","Farg,"Flip","Sodding","Pike that," etc. Its so common in media (film/TV and the last two are from TSR pre WoTC.). Rewriting drafts is a pain. :(

I've considered that. Ultimately I replaced them with emphasis (words in italics) or other word choices for posting here. The bright side is, it means most of my posts get a second read through before they go up here, which means I'm catching little typos as I go. :)
 

Crys

daydreamer and poet
Spoiler Warning: Many spoilers for the Skull & Shackles adventure path are contained within these story recap posts. If you don’t want your campaign spoiled, don’t read these!




Session 4 – What Lurks Below

They had kept a fire burning through the night as well as setting watches. The island had already proven quite deadly, and they didn’t particularly wish to be caught unawares in the night. The fire was to ward off mosquitoes as much as possible. After all, they really didn’t want to end up like the island’s other residents they’d met so far.

Dolce took the last watch so she would be awake before the rest. She spent the hours before they woke reviewing her spellbook, The Tome of Arcane Whimsy. She’d named it such so that it wouldn’t be obvious to others it was her spellbook and had taken great pains to come up with a magical shorthand closely resembling musical notation. One more deception among many, but it kept people guessing. Seeing the musical notes, most assumed she was a bard if they were even aware of her ability to wield magic.

Adjusting to waking before the ship’s day started had been difficult for Dolce. She’d always dreamed of being a pirate, but she’d lived by traveling from tavern to tavern singing shanties and bawdy songs for years, drinking and performing late into the night and waking late in the afternoon. Having time to study her book in the morning aboard the Wormwood had required her to wake before the morning bell. It seemed like this had taken months, but in truth she’d only been on that ship for about twenty days and had now spent a few on The Man’s Promise.

The elf considered their future as she sat there, between the old building and the walls surrounding it. Mr. Plugg hated Mirielle most, but his hate was shared with all four of them. Now they’d fought together and Mirielle, Nasha, and Revel were helping her try to find Quinn and Ambrose. It was not as though they needed to risk themselves. But… But this was the allure of pirating to Dolce. Sure, the riches were nice and the comfort they would afford her, but the sense of family and loyalty Besmara’s teachings and pirate stories told about…

Whole ships of people working in unison to one common goal, each soul aboard loyal to their captain for their own reasons. Most just simply to gain riches and enjoy a luxurious life at port. Dolce certainly planned to do that… But really, she wanted the sense of unity… family one could almost call it, of the crews in romanticized pirate tales.

Dolce ran her fingers through her fair hair and looked around at her sleeping companions. Saving Quinn and Ambrose would be a step in the direction of the crew she wanted someday. If they were still alive… She took a long, slow breath and began to wake her friends.

When morning comes
On gilded wing
We greet the sun
And songs we sing

Rise now my friend
There’s much to do
And I will lend
My aid to you

Dolce roused her companions with a gentle song. Nasha woke easily with the first notes of her singing, Revel required a shake to her shoulder. Mirielle required many. Dolce couldn’t help but smile. This one had defied all odds. She was timid, she was not very strong, she was not as enduring as the rest. All Dolce could say for her was that she had healing magic and she seemed to understand the principals of sailing. Perhaps because her family had been so involved in it before. Who would have expected her to last this long? Especially with all the hard assignments Plugg had given her. Bilge duty nearly every day, and almost every day she’d collapsed into her hammock, exhausted… Yet, here she was. Sure, Dolce had lessened the burden with her little bit of trickery, but really, Besmara seemed to be showing this one some mercy.

Mirielle roused, though she still looked quite tired. She’d had the first watch. Dolce’s logic being that of the four them she had the hardest time waking in the morning. Despite being tired, the aasimar got to her feet. Their little camp came to life and they had breakfast. When they had finished Dolce asked if everyone was ready, but she was paying the most attention to Mirielle. Mirielle nodded. “My spells are renewed. Let’s find Quinn and Ambrose.”

The four set off, going back down toward the fields. There Dolce decided to dig up one of the mounds, and to their surprise a body was under the ground. Nasha and Revel unearthed the remains and Mirielle sighed and said, “The survivors must have buried them in the fields to help feed the crop.” She ran her hand along some of the wildly growing plants. What a harsh reality they’d faced. Like Quinn’s harsh reality, even before being kidnapped by the grindylows. Or Badger’s life before coming aboard the ship. Mirielle had never felt so humbled and privileged.

At the same time, she’d spent her whole life daydreaming about what she would do with freedom. Now she was free of her father’s rules, but had committed acts of piracy and couldn’t return to any semblance of her life before. She watched as they reburied the body, but noted Dolce and Revel had stripped the corpse of its jewelry. She was thankful the two didn’t decide to unearth every mound there in the fields after finding valuables on the first. It made sense. If the girls survived The Man’s Promise under Plugg they’d need money to pay for their lives when they made port and escaped the pirates.
Escaped to what though? The thought of that made Mirielle feel hollow. She had no idea where she would go or what she would do, and it was almost overwhelming. For now though… She could focus on helping Quinn and Ambrose.




Sheer and Slippery Walls

The “cave” did not open the way Mirielle imagined most caves opening, with a large mouth one could walk into from the surface. Rather it was a sheer drop down. Nasha stood atop the ledge looking below. She’d attached a rope to a sturdy rock above and had pitons in hand for the climb down. They would make this a relatively easy undertaking.

“I would just jump, but with the tide out there’s no telling how deep the water is below,” Nasha said. Dolce and Revel gave a nod. “I will go first, then you.” Nasha pointed at Dolce, who nodded agreement again. “Then Revel, then Mirielle. This way we stagger the stronger climbers between the weaker, yes?”

Dolce smiled. The lizardfolk didn’t talk often, but it was nice to see that when she did it was to provide insight worth considering. “Sounds like a plan.” There were… currently… no grindylows in sight.

Nasha gave a nod at their agreement and then lowered herself over the ledge. She made it look so easy. Her and Revel both, really. Mirielle was the weakest link when it came to climbing. Nasha was right about that. Dolce waited. She was supposed to start her descent when Nasha was about fifteen feet along the wall.

The elf never got the chance to climb before a loud buzzing sound filled the air. “What is that?” She asked.

Nasha shushed her, hanging from the rope by one hand, her clawed feet finding purchase on the wall. She seemed to be straining to hear. “From the walls.” The lizardfolk said, and shortly after Dolce saw bloodseekers emerge from the walls. They swarmed at Nasha, three of the vile critters, the size of barn cats with horrid barbed legs and long, wicked proboscises with which to leech blood from their prey.

From atop the cliff face, Dolce, Mirielle, and Revel watched as Nasha fended off the Bloodseekers to the best of her ability. Even dangling from the rope, the lizardfolk proved quite deadly. She kept one hand firmly rooted and wielded the claws of her free hand with scary precision, but three to one odds were proving difficult. And worse, more of the vermin were coming.

Revel loosed the javelin she’d found in the bilges at the vile creatures, more grateful then ever for the Returning rune upon it as it reappeared in her hand after each throw. Dolce flung cantrips at them, for from this angle she really couldn’t hit them with much else. Mirielle, meanwhile, called upon her angelic blood. A halo of light appeared around her head and she carefully monitored Nasha’s condition, preparing to use her healing magic as required.

It seemed like the tide of bloodseekers would never end, healing magic was precious too, and Dolce was keenly aware as not one, but two of Mirielle’s spells were spent on Nasha. The lizardfolk, for her own part, seemed unwilling to climb back up the rope, perhaps thinking she could weather the onslaught better than the rest of them. She may have had a point, Dolce reflected when at last the tide was stemmed.

The buzzing had abated and Dolce instructed Nasha to return to the top of the rope before going down any further. It wouldn’t do to encounter the grindylows with her injured, and the finite spells Mirielle had at her command would need to last them through the caves if they were to find Ambrose and Quinn.

Dolce pulled her healer’s kit from her bag and tended Nasha’s injuries. It was clear the lizardfolk remained effected even when the fresh injuries were bandaged and salved. “Are you alright to press on?” Dolce asked in earnest.

Nasha had been bitten at least four times, but she’d managed alright with Mirielle’s aid, and rather than lead the swarm to her more vulnerable companions she had chosen to serve as bait of a sort. The price was feeling a bit of her tenacity sapped away. But just a bit. She would be fine. In answer to Dolce she simply looked at the elf and nodded.

It made Dolce smile a little. And without further delay the girls descended into the caves below. Certain items were left hidden above. Dolce’s lute and spell book among them. She didn’t particularly want those getting wet in the low tides of the caves. When they reached the bottom they found the water was just above their knees… Excepting on Revel, who was more than a foot shorter than even Dolce. The water was practically up to the hobgoblin’s waist.
Not long after their descent, Mirielle cried out and rushed to one side of the cave wall. There, resting amid some rocks above the water level was Quinn’s tricorn hat. She lifted it in her hands and looked over at Dolce. “It really is his hat.” She sounded hopeful.

Dolce smiled a little as she moved to the aasimar’s side. She took the hat from Mirielle and rested it on top of her blond locks saying, “Aye, it is.” Her keen elven eyes narrowed as she saw the hat’s fit adjust slightly. “And.. it’s magical..” She took it off of Mirielle’s head and examined it more closely. Perhaps it had some power that would prove useful to them.

Nasha and Revel kept watch at the entrance to the cave’s watery tunnel while the elf looked over the tricorn. About ten minutes passed before Dolce said, “Ah.. This could prove useful, but for now, I think it suits you.” She placed it back on Mirielle’s head, thinking her statement even further true considering the item’s magical properties. It was known as Besmara’s Tricorn, and if Besmara were the wearer’s deity, a command word would turn the hat into a boat for a period of eight hours or until the magical effect was dismissed. “Tell me, who do you pray to, Mirielle?”

The question seemed to surprise the aasimar, but she answered all the same, “My family gives prayers to Abadar primarily… Our fortune and holdings heavily relied on trade.” Her voice was quiet and disheartened. No surprise to Dolce, for she knew Mirielle had been a noble, and if her family prayed to Abadar then there was no way she could hope to return to them after participating in piracy. But maybe, with the right spinning of the tale, Mirielle could avoid being implicated in taking The Man’s Promise with the Wormwood‘s crew.

More puzzling though.. How did a worshiper of Abadar end up with Besmara’s blessing. “You spend a lot of time around ships then?” Dolce asked as they carefully passed through the watery tunnels. She was glad they’d come while the tide was low, swimming this far would have been exhausting.
Mirielle’s blue eyes turned on Dolce and she smiled faintly, “Yes. Enough at least to know my way around them and a good bit about how they’re run. The only thing I’ve had going for me in all of this aside from my healing magic.” She stumbled a little over the uneven cavern floor, but when she regained her balance she said, “Actually, I was born on a ship.”

Dolce studied the girl carefully. “Born on a ship? How did that come to pass?”

Mirielle chuckled, “My father had a new ship in his fleet and my mother wasn’t due to birth me for two weeks. The seas were calm and they loved sailing, so they went on a sail. I’m told one of the sailors had a pet parrot and it alighted on my mother’s shoulder just before her water broke.”

Dolce’s eyes widened slightly. Revel, Mirielle and Nasha took no notice. “So the bird scared your mom into labor?” Revel asked, sounding like she would start laughing any moment.

Mirielle brushed damp hair from her face and adjusted Quinn’s hat. “I don’t think it startled her. Father always said it was as if the bird had sensed my mother was going to start going into labor.” She shrugged her shoulders, then blinked a little and pulled her backpack off her shoulders. From the pack she drew out her turtle. “If we’re going to be trudging through water, might as well let you swim a little, huh Cupiir?” She didn’t speak in the Common tongue, but rather in the language of the angels.

Dolce blinked a little and laughed aloud. Revaress was resting on her shoulders, tentacles drooping around and clinging to her arms to help it stay in place. “You could swim too, you know.” The octopus made no response, but seemed to “nuzzle” up against the elf. “Or you could stay on my shoulder."

Her laughter had not been about the octopus, though the others would likely think it was. Rather, she was beginning to understand. Those born on the sea were said to have Besmara’s blessing… And Besmara delighted in raiding the celestial and fiendish outposts of other deities. Perhaps it was then, destined, that Mirielle be press ganged. Destined she gain her legs as a pirate. Besmara was having fun, attempting to “corrupt” an angel-blooded worshiper of Abadar… Or… perhaps not a worshiper? Mirielle had said her family primarily offered prayers to Abadar. “What strange circumstances for an Abadar worshiper to find themselves in, ey?”

A small test. Mirielle smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “A bit strange for all of us, I’d say.” Not confirmation of faith, nor denial. But was there some sense of uncertainty about the girl? Puzzles for another day.




Perils in the Caves

“Watch your step.” Dolce cautioned the others, pointing ahead of them. “There are weapons tangled up in the seaweed on chains. Most of them hooked.”
Nasha hadn’t seen it before, but the elf was right. One of two paths before them was blocked by seaweed, and mingled in the long, waxy plants were glimmers of metal. Of course, Nasha could only see them because of the Light spell Mirielle had cast upon her belt. All of her companions had better vision in the dark than she did.

The second path was narrow. Intended for smaller creatures. It made sense. The grinylow would be able to swim through either passage with little trouble as small as they were. Dolce motioned toward the narrow passage and Nasha nodded, heading down that course.

It was a tight squeeze, but as long and lithe as Nasha was, it posed little trouble for her. Revel followed second. It seemed the hobgoblin was content to force her way through any area that threatened to trap her. Mirielle was third, and they hadn’t even reached the opening of the narrow passage when she grunted and whimpered a little. “I’m stuck!” She tried to pull her leg free, but seemed to have no success.

This was when the attack came. Two grindylow moving into Nasha’s sight at the front of the tunnel, another two appearing where Dolce could see them at the other end near the seaweed. The elf was grateful she’d decided to take the rear guard because Mirielle couldn’t take a hit to save her life.

The battle tactic, while seemingly sound, did not gain the grindylows much advantage. They each carried only a single spear and were hesitant to throw them, resulting in them having to close into melee with Nasha and Dolce. Nasha slashed with her claws, and though she seemed drained by their earlier encounter with the bloodseekers, she still proved quite lethal. Dolce, on the other hand, sent crackling electricity coursing through her foes until they closed to melee, then pierced skillfully with a rapier, catching her opponents off-balance by feinting.

Revel, frustrated to be caught in the middle, threw her returning javelin whenever she could see the creatures. It was tricky to aim, but the hobgoblin managed not to hit any of her companions. Soon enough the grindylow withdrew into the chamber at the wider side of the tunnel. Nasha broke free and gave pursuit, only to have four spears thrown at her. There had been eight once, but four still hurt plenty. They didn’t take her down, but they surely left her close. She returned their attack with vicious swipes of her own. Felling two more in addition to the two she’d originally slain from the mouth of the tunnel.

Revel joined soon enough, but the water was deeper in this room, and swimming was not as natural to her as it was to Nasha. It took her long enough to reach the foe and keep above the water that she wasn’t getting in nearly as many attacks as she might have otherwise. Dolce found it was the same for her. They hurt one, but couldn’t finish it off even between the two of them, and Mirielle barely got into the room and called forth her halo before Nasha fell unconscious.

One of the creatures dragged Nasha to the far side of the chamber and seemed to be trying to take her further when Revel managed to kill the other straggler. Dolce tried to fling a Ray of Frost at the remaining one, but the ray flew wide as she had to struggle to stay above the water’s surface. Mirielle had to swim into the chamber. Thankfully the magic of the steel, blue ring let her do so with little effort and she was able to get close enough to cast another healing spell on Nasha.

The last grindylow was angered and rushed Mirielle, striking her with its tentacles. Revel took advantage of the creature coming closer and managed to get on the other side of it to take a bite out of it, ending its life. Mirielle swam over and reached for Nasha even as she emerged from the water’s surface sputtering and coughing. When Nasha had caught her breath her eyes fell on Mirielle and she said, “Again.. Thank you.”

They moved to the shallow water where Dolce treated the rest of their wounds with bandages and salves, save for Mirielle. Mirielle she had drink a potion. They’d gotten a few and Dolce didn’t think it would do to force Mirielle to heal naturally and bear scars. They might earn her rebuke from her father, who saw her as a daughter he loved but also as a tool.

The chamber the girls were in was carved to look like a great sea monster. They searched it while recovering and found various knickknacks of interest within, including a scrimshaw map of the region. It would net a tidy profit if they survived this island.

Deeper in the cave they fought a devilfish, a creature similar to an octopus but whose blood is infused with fiendish magic. The fight left all of them injured when the vile creature spewed a cloud of blood into the water that burned their flesh. They managed to slay it, and again took to shallower waters to treat their injuries. Mirielle had been the farthest from it and was the least injured when the combat settled, so she simply bore her wounds for the time being, assuring Dolce she would heal them later if required.




Enter the Tide…

The girls continued searching the caves, still having found no further sign of their friends. They entered into a particularly deep cave and were searching through it when they began hearing a roaring sound. Nasha realized what was coming first, “Hold to the walls!” She cried, grabbing Mirielle around the waist as she tried to dig her claws into the cave wall. They barely found purchase and Nasha could only hope it would be enough.

Dolce and Revel followed her example, clinging to the wall, seeking handholds. The water came soon after. It came from both sides, flooding from behind and before them, sweeping into them with amazing force. Try as she might, Nasha could not keep hold of Mirielle and the assimar’s own grip on the wall was weak as she was torn away and swept along the current. “MIRIELLE!” Nasha cried as she released the wall of her own volition.

Dolce and Revel were similarly torn from their handholds, and try though Nasha might, she was unable to keep pace with Mirielle and to her horror saw the tides swirling in one cave with four passages. Mirielle was quickly washed down one passage while Nasha, Dolce, and Revel were swept in another direction.

When they regained their “footing” the water was quite a bit higher. Now swimming was required throughout the passageway. Nasha growled and looked toward Dolce and Revel. They seemed unharmed. “I’m going to find Mirielle.”

Dolce frowned. “It might be best if we don’t split up.”

Nasha regarded Dolce coolly and the elf wondered what was going through her mind. She didn’t have to wonder long for Nasha soon said, “She is the weakest of us. If I can reach her more quickly she is more likely to survive.”

It was true, Dolce knew, and she scowled. “You’re right. Be careful. Her healing magic will not do much to fend off enemies in this place and we’ve already used a number of her spells. Take these.” Dolce handed Nasha two of the remaining three potions. She and Revel would just have to take care of one another.

With that Nasha swam off ahead in search of Mirielle.




An Audience with the Queen

The force of the water was astounding and Mirielle found herself gasping for air at every opportunity as it pushed her along. She held one arm over her head to shield it from potentially crashing into the wall or low-hanging ceilings of the caves, and otherwise just tried to keep herself upright and breath when she could.

When the current subsided she found herself facing a large, circular chamber. In front of her were two occupants. One a grindylow female. The first female she’d noticed among them. She supposed she’d assumed they were like Nasha. So lean and wiry was the lizardfolk that it was hard to tell her gender, but Mirielle had been mistaken, for this grindylow clearly had breasts.

She coughed and sputtered as she regained herself, grateful for her blue ring and fearful for her life as she heard the other occupant speak in a deep voice, “Food?” He was easily four times the size of a normal grindylow, perhaps more than that. His body was bloated to such an extant that she wondered if he could even use the more narrow tunnels she and her companions had traveled through to get here.

The female smiled, her jagged teeth bared in the chamber. There was no light, but it didn’t matter. Mirielle’s angelic heritage allowed her to see perfectly even without it, and unlike many others who had what was known as darkvision, her bloodline’s vision even allowed her to see color. The female grindylow held her hand out toward the massive male and said, “No my, love, at least.. I don’t think so.”

They were speaking in Common. Mirielle’s heart pounded in her chest. Why wasn’t she food? She hardly had time to ponder that when she saw the large one move forward toward the female and behind him chained to the wall so their heads were barely above the water and blood was trickling from their manacles were Ambrose and Quinn! Her eyes widened and a gasp escaped her lips.

“Ah, yes, I think not. These are your friends, hm?” The female asked, cooing as she pet her companion.

Mirielle blinked, clearing her thoughts. She could lie, she supposed. She was gifted at deceit, a necessary tool for life at court… But, what would it gain her in this instance? And what did they want? They hadn’t attacked her yet.

“It is quite rude to keep us waiting. What is your name, Dear?” The female cooed again.

Mirielle was shaken and feeling particularly vulnerable and at least a little panicked. She swallowed and tore her gaze away from Quinn and Ambrose to meet the female’s gaze. “M-Mirielle.”

“Ah, that’s much more polite. Now, are these your companions?” She asked again.

The time to decide was now, and convinced that lying would gain her little Mirielle said, “Y-yes. I’ve.. I’m here to return them.”

The female looked amused. “Oh-ho.. Return them? I was expecting someone but not so few. Hmm, that is a problem, isn’t it, Son?” she was was looking at the bloated grindylow again.

“I’m so hungry. Eat her?” The son asked, drool dribbling from his lips. Despite his girth it was clear he wasn’t weak, for muscles rippled beneath the layer of fat over his limbs and torso. His teeth looked sharper and larger than any of the others’ had been.

“Not yet, Dear. Not yet. Tell me, Mirielle. Are there others aboard your ship you do not like?” The woman was looking at her again.

Mirielle blinked at the strange question. There were, it was true, but what was her motive? “Umm.. yes…”

The grindylow female looked pleased. “Oh wonderful! You see, my precious son, here, he’s so very strong and powerful. Lamashtu blessed me with him, yes she did.” She was baby talking the giant grindylow, and he was nuzzling into the affections of both her hands and tentacles as she did so. Mirielle felt both alienated and as though they were somewhat relatable at the same time. “He is always so hungry. Aren’t you, Dear?”

The male rumbled his response, drawing out the word as though he could gain sustenance from it. “Foooooddd…”

“If you bring me.. eight.. eight men you don’t like, then I will return to you these two.” The female’s eyes were on her again.

Mirielle blinked, her brain struggling to digest everything she was hearing and witnessing. Eventually she stilled herself and took in a long breath. She nodded, “I will lead them here. It will take… at least a day to get them to come.”

The female frowned. “Why so long?” The question was more demand than inquiry.

“I have to travel all the way back to the ship and convince them to aid me. But I can do it. And I will. Tomorrow you will have them.” She was, of course, bluffing.

“HUNGRY!” The male protested, seeming to at least understand what was being said despite his rather small vocabulary throughout the conversation.
The mother cooed and pet him more, her tentacles coiling around him partially, “It’s alright, my sweet, strong son. She will return and you will have more food. It is a good exchange. Just be patient.”

The son grumbled but nodded and the female looked at Mirielle again. “If you don’t return by midday, he will eat them both.” She gave Mirielle a cold smile.

“I- I understand.” Mirielle found herself thankful the men were unconscious where they hung. They wouldn’t be feeling the pain of their manacles biting their flesh or hearing the conversation regarding their fate. At least they would be spared some discomfort. “I will return by midday.” With that she turned and started swimming away.

“Don’t kill my children as you leave.” The female’s voice called from behind.

“I-I won’t. And I will return!” She said again, swimming more hurriedly up the tunnel. She had to find Nasha and the others!




Reunion

Nasha found Mirielle first. She caught up to her at the junction where they’d been swept apart in the first place and was happy enough to see Mirielle she actually hugged the aasimar. “We worried.” She said simply.

Mirielle found she was shaking a little and gave Nasha a sheepish smile. “I was worried too. Where are-” She felt something press up against her thigh and panicked for a moment before seeing Cupiir. “Oh, Baby! I’m so glad you’re okay!” She realized, with a little guilt, that she hadn’t even thought about her familiar since being swept away from Nasha and the others. She supposed that was alright considering how scared and rattled she was feeling, but the guilty feeling remained despite her logic. She lifted the turtle out of the water long enough to kiss the top of its head. She wiped her lips and looked back at Nasha. “Where are Dolce and Revel?”

“Behind,” Nasha said. “I made haste to find you.”

Though the lizardfolk didn’t say it aloud, Mirielle was able to discern why. They worried she couldn’t take care of herself, and they were likely right. She excelled at lifting up and renewing others in combat, but she had very little ability to inflict harm when required. “We need to get back to them. I found Quinn and Ambrose!”

Nasha seemed to smile, the scales around her lips stretching backward. She gave a nod. “This way.” She began to swim, slower than her usual pace to allow Mirielle to keep up. Mirielle felt Cupiir press himself up against her hand on occasion as they moved through the water and felt relief at his safety every time he did so.

When they reunited with Dolce and Revel it was several caves and passages toward the entry way. Dolce was looking haggard. “Boy am I glad to see you two,” she said.

Mirielle thought for a moment that Dolce might give her a hug as well, but to her surprise the elf took Quinn’s hat and put it on. She steadied herself in the accursed water and focused on the hat, “Windfall.” It was the word of power for the hat and coupled with her intent to activate it she felt the magic of the hat respond. She took it from her head and tossed it into the middle of the cavern as it began turning into a ship. The caves would prove tight for them, and in places require them to force it below the water, but being as the ship was magical in nature she supposed it would hold up well.

When it reached its full twenty feet the elf crawled aboard looking not unlike a drowned rat. Nasha and Revel got up easily enough and held their hands out to aid Mirielle, who joined them next. “Thank you.”

Nasha nodded and Revel flashed her a toothy grin, “No problem.”

Dolce now put her hands on Mirielle’s shoulders. “Well, it looks like you made it alright.”

“Yes! I found Quinn and Ambrose!” Quickly she explained what all she had seen and heard and how she’d gotten out of their alive with the lie of intending to return. While she was explaining Dolce was casting Prestidigitation on her pack and the healing kit and her clothing, getting everything all dried out with a few expenditures of magic, though she paused when Mirielle described the state of Ambrose and Quinn, heads just above the water, blood trickling down their arms from their manacles.

Ambrose didn’t deserve that. He’d suffered enough without falling victim to sea monsters. He’d once told Dolce the skin of his back was so callused from lashes that he couldn’t feel them anymore… And of course Mr. Plugg had lashed his chest when the officers had gotten sick from some of the leftover reefclaw aboard the Wormwood. It pained her to think of her friend suffering now too.

“Well then, I guess we know where we’re going. I’ve got… some ideas about this.” She’d been saving her more potent spells. The right application of True Strike and Acid Arrow would be almost certain she hit her mark. She also had one more Chilling Spray prepared. And she could yet draw on the magic she’d vested into her rapier to recast expended spells twice today.

“Nasha, we’ll have you hide in the water in front of the boat since you can hold your breath so long. Mirielle, we’ll have you in the water behind the boat since you have the Ring of Swimming and you’re the only one they’ve seen. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll stop to talk to us to and we can catch them off guard.” It sounded like a good plan to Dolce and the others readily agreed.

Dolce took the time to dress everyone’s wounds since they weren’t expected until the next day. With that done they set off to save Quinn and Ambrose.



Confrontation…

The plan worked at least in part, for Revel rowed the boat and Dolce watched from behind, spells at the ready. Mirielle was holding on the back of the boat, using it to hide behind and to keep her afloat as well as drag her through the water so she could better keep up. Nasha was invisible to the untrained eye.

Unfortunately, it seemed the grindylow priestess… or perhaps druid… was not interested in talking again, for as soon as she saw the boat she said something in a strange language to her son and the male rushed forward.

After that chaos erupted. The female was the quickest into combat, using magic to call upon aid from the natural world and summoning a large eel-like creature to the combat. She sent it toward the boat, but it saw Nasha since it was in the water and engaged with her instead. Puzzled, the female looked below the water and saw the lizardfolk as well. More words in her strange language seemed to alert her son.

Revel rowed the boat, driving them forward into the room and closing the distance to Nasha somewhat. They ended their movement about ten feet from the lizardfolk as Revel was moving to draw the oars again. Dolce stood in the boat and cast her True Strike and Acid Arrow, focusing the attack on the female.

A cry of pain sounded out, though it was much less effective than Dolce had hoped, searing only some of the flesh from their enemy. Still, the spell had a way of lingering if you weren’t particularly resilient or particularly lucky. She pinned her hopes on that.

Even as she did so the son closed the distance between them and took the boat in his strong hands, flipping it over so that Revel and Dolce were deposited in the water. Nasha, meanwhile, was bleeding from the Eel’s attack and returned its attentions with her claws.

Mirielle emerged from behind the boat, squeezing between its overturned back and the wall. She got close enough she could reach Nasha and cast a healing spell on her, calling on one of her more powerful spells of the day.. Only one remained.

The female cursed and cast a spell all too familiar to Dolce, sending electricity coursing through her body and Revel’s. Dolce hissed in pain, but managed to keep hold of her rapier. Revel seemed to come alive from the pain, howling loudly and smiling crazily. Her jaw elongated the way it did when her blood started racing, and Dolce swore the veins were bulging from her skin as she said, “YESSSS! I LOVE A GOOD FIGHT!”

Revel moved behind the big guy, putting him between her and Dolce, and chomped down on his arm as hard as she could. The hobgoblin scored a deadly hit, nearly tearing his arm straight off with her vicious fangs. The male cried out in pain and alarm, but Dolce didn’t give him time to react further before stabbing at him with her rapier, not once, but twice.

Both attacks connected, the first leaving him bleeding in the water and howling anew, the second causing his eyes to roll back and his limp body to disappear beneath the surface as a pool of dark blood spread. Her eyes turned on the mother and she said, “You’re next.” Her voice held that steely and unnerving edge she so rarely used…

But the mother didn’t seem to care as she wailed aloud, “My BABY!” and began sobbing.

Nasha, meanwhile, had a few bites taken out of her by the eel, but managed to kill the thing, slashing its throat open with her claws only to see it disappear. She moved alongside the queen, whose skin still burned from acid, and struck mercilessly at the one who had kidnapped Quinn and Ambrose. It wasn’t quite enough to kill her, but she was looking to be in a sorry state.

Mirielle swam forward further, her eyes travelling from the relatively uninjured Revel and Dolce to Nasha. She didn’t look amazing, but she also didn’t look like she was in danger of passing out any moment. Still, Mirielle readied herself in case the worst should happen.

Revel swam forward, eyes still crazed and smile still wicked. She had no hesitation about biting into the female as she wept over the loss of her son. Her teeth caught the grindylow by the throat and more blood spilled into the water as she ripped them free. After swallowing her enemy’s flesh Revel said, sounding all too content, “Gods I love the taste of blood.”

Mirielle was unnerved in earnest, and once again grateful the hobgoblin was not her enemy. She quietly asked, “Can we turn the ship? We’ll need it for them.” She gestured to Quinn and Ambrose.

The girls righted their overturned boat and climbed back aboard, except for Nasha. The lizardfolk searched the bodies of the fallen grindylows and found the key to the manacles imprisoning their friends. They lowered them into the boat only to find they had been poisoned. Sea urchin poison if Dolce was correct. They would live, but it would take some time for them to recover… Which might complicate the story she planned to sell to Master Scourge and Mr. Plugg.

Still… for now she settled into relief that they had not only found them, but been able to rescue them. Getting them out of here would prove difficult if they went up the cave wall, but if they were lucky another exit would exist from the cave system and they could use the boat to go to the beach before returning it to Besmara’s Tricorn. For now she focused on tending to everyone’s wounds.. And there were a lot of wounds to tend.




OOC Notes

So where I said it was a difficult adjustment for Dolce to wake before the ship's bell? We couldn't decide what we should roll for her attempts to do that, and eventually settled on Will saves. She's got a 12 Wisdom and is proficient in saves at this point, so probably like a +6 or something? I couldn't roll above a five on the die for days worth of in game time. Eventually she got it two consecutive days and we decided she'd managed to adjust her sleep schedule.

So.. That part where Mirielle got swept off by herself? Owlbrarian decided to have this happen because the athletics checks were abysmal for clinging to the wall. I literally rolled a 1, 2, 3, and 4 on my four d20s. Needless to say, I was sweating bullets! She's just so squishy compared to everyone else, and to have her swept into a chamber with Quinn and Ambrose and such an unusual pair of grindylow. My mind was screaming 'Final Boss!!' We rolled randomly to determine which character got swept off that way, so it's not like Owlbrarian specifically singled her out.

Also of note, Owlbrarian watched me agonize about whether or not to lie to the queen and her son for a good minute or so before I finally decided Mirielle would be honest. He started laughing and told me I was lucky. After the conversation concluded he explained that if Mirielle had convinced them she wasn't here to reclaim Quinn and Ambrose they would have just attacked her outright and I'd have been rolling a new character. Phew.

Lastly, I'd like to say Acid Arrow has been quite a troll for Dolce. She uses it regularly because the spell does 3d8 initial damage and 1d6 persistent damage. The way persistent damage works, you take the listed damage and then have to roll a flat check (that is a d20 with no modifiers) at the end of your turn to stop the effect. The DC on the flat check is a 15 unless otherwise stated. So, the persistent damage has been very useful in combats, but I've cast the spell probably six times now and managed to roll a total of 5 or less damage on those 3d8 for literally four of them. What are the odds? Anyway, if you ever see 'the spell was less effective than she hoped', just know my dice are trolling me.
 
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Owlbrarian

The Librarian is Here
Yeah I can be mean sometimes. Honestly as far as Mirielle going off by herself that is not something I would do in a normal game. At least not in a game like PF2. Maybe in something like Numenera or Invisible Sun where GM shifts/intrusions are a thing. Honestly I sort of hated that sort of concept when I first read about them in Numenera but over time I found that I enjoy adding things that complicate the players life and give something mechanical to the player.

I might end up adding something like that but giving Hero Points or perhaps give Crys some extra experience. I enjoyed the Bloodseekers (AKA stirges). Even though they were a pretty weak foe, 8 of them drained Nasha up something fierce. It is a good thing she is a good climber otherwise that encounter would have been much worse.

So the Grindylows.

Oh the Grindylows.

So you see the Queen wants food for her "baby" boy Whale. Who "can't leave" the cave even though the walls of the cave according to the map are large enough that a large sized creature should be able to escape. But I digress, the Queen is all about food. That is why the Grindylows attacked the PC's ship in the first place.

So they capture Fishguts and Quinn and in the original module they have them tied up near some Ghouls and let the ghouls go when the PC's fight them. Like I get that this is a cool bit of spectacle forcing the PC's to split their attention. However, why in the heck are Fishguts and Quinn even alive at that point? Why didn't they become fish food for Whale?

So with my version of it Quinn and Fishguts were kept alive so that more people would travel to their cave. The queen was hoping to parlay with those that came to save the two of them to try and get more food for Whale. If nothing else it meant that they got more than just two people. Anyways, that this was the first dungeon for the party.

Something I do like about Skull & Shackles is that the dungeons rarely have a lot of traps in them. Typically no more than one or two per dungeon. Traps, if done poorly, tend to grind my gears a little bit.

Also of course Grindylows were another monster in the Bestiary 2 that I had converted beforehand. Oh well.
 

Crys

daydreamer and poet
Side note for today, I just realized I'd led all my posts on my blog and here with the word 'Disclaimer' when I really meant 'Spoiler Warning'. Whoops. I spent a good thirty minutes going through all the postings to correct that.




Spoiler Warning: Many spoilers for the Skull & Shackles adventure path are contained within these story recap posts. If you don’t want your campaign spoiled, don’t read these!




Session 5 – Trouble at Home

Pulling Quinn and Ambrose from the chains had been easy enough when Nasha had handed over the keys. Their wrists, while injured, weren’t as bad as they could have been. Dolce checked their throats for any sign of the leaf they’d found over Narwhale’s mouth while they were still unconscious, but found none.

The girls set about making their way out. They knew the tunnels they’d come from would be difficult to pass what with their ceilings being so low and the tide being in, so they rowed their way up the other tunnels, hoping to find better luck there. It was a bit of a gamble.

They explored the chambers as they came to them, believing it would give Ambrose and Quinn more time to recover from the poison. In one chamber they found a pair of ghouls trapped in a submerged cage. Perhaps the ghouls responsible for the infestation of the rest of the humans on the island? Dolce thought so. She and Nasha disposed of the ghouls from outside the cage’s bars, Nasha employing a spear they’d taken from the female grindylow.
In the cage they found a scattering of gold coins and silver. Dolce also noted some fine-looking buttons on one of the ghoul’s coats and removed them, thinking perhaps she’d use them if she one of her companions lost a button of their own.

They continued in the boat, but found they did have to capsize it and take it below the rocky ceilings on occasion. Revel and Nasha saw to this while Mirielle and Dolce held Quinn and Ambrose aloft inside the overturned boat so they could breath. They would not have done well holding their breath while paralyzed by the poison.

The tunnel connected to their original tunnel and they passed by the cliff face where the bloodseekers had swarmed Nasha. They lingered there while the lizardfolk scaled the cliff and returned with the belongings they’d left above. Tired though she was, she still managed to make climbing it look effortless, even as she removed the pitons from the wall in her wake on her way back down.

With their possessions in the boat, the girls took the opposite route up the main tunnel and soon found themselves out in the ocean. More grindylows attacked them, but they made the mistake of swarming the boat and clustering up in front of it so Dolce’s Chilling Spray spell encompassed almost all of them, trivializing the combat.

Once beyond the cave’s mouth the girls debated heading straight up the beach… However, Mirielle still had some spells and they knew the sunken wreckage of The Infernus was nearby. They decided to go explore that and give Ambrose and Quinn more time to recover.




In the Wreckage

They made anchor above the wreckage and left Revel on the boat with the two men. Using both Mirielle’s final powerful spell as well as a potion of Water Breathing they were able to ensure that all four of them and the two men could breath water. Dolce didn’t want the men to drown if something should happen and the boat capsized, however unlikely that may have been.

Mirielle moved effortlessly through the water with her ring, and Nasha had great skill at moving in the water too. Dolce, however, still had to make an effort to swim, and occasionally found herself lagging behind the others. Nasha and Mirielle responded by slowing their pace.

Soon enough they were drawing near the ship, and down below in the wreckage a very conspicuous tail was visible poking out from under some of the ship’s ruins. Dolce signaled the girls to fall back, and at a further distance she used a casting of Magic Missile to get the creature’s attention.

What came for them was an eel, not unlike the one that had been summoned to fight Nasha in Quinn and Ambrose’s prison chamber. This one was bigger though. Dolce found herself grateful that Mirielle still had some of her weaker spells available.

The battle was rougher than it would have been with Revel alongside them, but they managed well enough. Mirielle expended her last minor healing spells in the combat. In the wreckage of the ship the girls found some knickknacks worth taking above. They had accrued a good deal of wealth from the island, as well as some Alchemist’s Fire, some Potions of Healing, and a Wand of Mirror Image. Dolce held onto the wand and alchemist’s fire, but divided the healing potions between them.




Water

They rowed the boat back around the tip of the island until they found the beach just south of the marsh. It wouldn’t do to have Mr. Plugg and Master Scourge see the magical properties of the hat. By now Quinn and Ambrose were speaking and able to move, though, very slowly. When everyone had disembarked Dolce touched the side of the boat and dismissed its magical effect. The wood shrank and transformed in her fingers until she was holding Quinn’s hat.

He looked quite surprised by the transformation and Dolce smiled a little. “I guess you weren’t aware it could do that, hmm? Only works for the faithful of Besmara.” She took the hat and put it on Quinn’s head, where its size adjusted once again.

They traveled through the marsh, following the path they’d taken before. They passed the smoldering remains of the ghouls’ tent and eventually made their way around the stream again. Back in the village’s husk they collected the empty water barrels and rolled them to the waterfall to fill them.

It was all quite time-consuming and tedious, but ultimately the four girls were in high spirits. Mirielle confessed to the others she had no desire to return to her noble life. Not just because she’d committed acts of piracy, either. Rather, she found the idea of being free to choose her own direction in life appealing. This brought Dolce a smile and she felt Besmara’s machinations at work.

Dolce had coached Ambrose and Quinn on the lies they would tell Master Scourge about how the six came to be reunited. The men had to try to convince him they’d escaped during a moment when the grindylows’ attention had lapsed.

As they rolled the barrels out of the marsh with Quinn and Ambrose leaning on one another for support, Dolce saw a number of crew on the beach as well as a pile of dead Rahadoumi, the original crew of The Man’s Promise. The pirates were all those that Dolce, Revel, Nasha, and Mirielle had not managed to befriend. Although, thankfully Ratline and Narwhale were also among them, and Mirielle had managed to win them over with enough effort. An uneasy feeling set over Dolce and she slid her Wand of Mirror Image into her palm as she found herself feeling thankful she’d saved one casting of Acid Arrow.

The pirates were loading barrels of water, at least she assumed that was what was in them, into longboats. Master Scourge called out to them first. “Well, look who it is, and look who they’ve found!”

Dolce spoke up first, planning to keep to the story she’d concocted. “Yeah, these two caught up with us this morning. We had to go quite a ways into the island to find water. Might have even gotten lost!”

Mr. Plugg snorted and said, “Funny that, since we found tracks by the waterfall where we filled our barrels.”

Dolce wasn’t sure what to say to that. There were other inhabitants on the island, but would they believe the girls had been able to overcome three ghouls? And what would ghouls be doing by the waterfall? Looking for prey? She started to say that but Master Scourge spoke first, “It’s just as well. You were never going to leave this island.” He looked so pleased with himself it made Dolce’s blood boil.

Since they and all their friends were readying for a fight anyway Dolce said, “Well, just as well then, cause I’m really sick of biting my tongue. Between your stupidity and his incompetence you’ve made a right mess of what could have been a perfectly fine crew! And the kind of hostility you ferment in your own crew!? It’s despicable! Besmara would never condone your treachery, you sorry sod!” The tirade went on a few seconds more as Dolce highlighted specific incidences of their “infractions”. Of course, her audience didn’t particularly care, but she was giving Revel, Nasha, and Mirielle time to prepare for the combat that was soon to follow.

The girls took advantage, adjusting their positions so Mirielle was behind the rest, and Quinn and Ambrose were behind her. When at last Dolce fell silent Mr. Plugg said, “Is that all?”

Dolce looked as though considering before nodding, “Aye, think that about covers it, Bosun.” She made a point of calling him Bosun because he’d made such a point of correcting others and telling them to call him Captain since boarding The Man’s Promise.

“Good. Kill them all!” He shouted to his men. Chaos ensued, but Mr. Plugg started it off by brandishing his fancy little sword at Dolce and saying, “Since you’re so fond of Besmara, let’s see how you enjoy her embrace!” He activated the sword’s magic, casting Hydraulic Push through the weapon. Water spewed forth in a forceful burst that struck Dolce clear on her chest and sent her skidding back ten feet despite her best efforts to hold her ground. Laughter erupted from the pirates as Plugg said, “Pathetic!”

Dolce snarled, her grip on her wand tightening. She had intended to use it, but first.. First… This monster needed a lesson of his own. “You know, I had a feeling about today. I saved one of these for just this occasion!” She intoned the words of power and formed the gestures required to send an Acid Arrow soaring right back at Mr. Plugg. Unfortunately, the arrow struck his shoulder and was far less effective than she’d hoped it would be. Still, the acid would linger, she knew, even as more laughter sounded in her ears.

“Is that the best you can do, Elf? And you thought they were dangerous!” Plugg said to Master Scourge. Scourge’s eyes were on Mirielle all the while. With a frustrated grunt Dolce hurled her rapier at Master Scourge. He was a good sixty feet away, but with Hand of the Apprentice the distance was no trouble at all. The rapier struck true and she had gained Scourge’s attention, at least for the moment.

Nasha sprang forward, covering the ground between her and Mr. Plugg in hardly any time at all. Soon the lizardfolk was upon him, claws brandished in deadly fashion. She scored one hit, but it didn’t stagger Plugg the way it may have staggered a lesser man.

Scourge looked torn, but Plugg shouted orders and he ripped his gaze from Mirielle, instead moving forward and lashing Nasha. The whip strikes were well practiced and red blood flowed from her blue scales, making some of them appear almost purple in color.

Revel sprang forward, her jaw twisting, her fangs growing sharper. She closed the distance between the girls and Plugg and Scourge in a hurry, coming to Nasha’s aid while confronting Plugg directly. The pirates also descended on them, though Ratline and Narwhale broke from the group and made for the marsh. Master Scourge was infuriated and yelled after them to get back into the fray, but they didn’t listen.

Mirielle felt helpless as she’d already expended all of her spells. She got her potion at the ready and drew close enough to cast Forbidding Ward on Revel, to help shield her from Plugg. Only a cantrip, true, but it would at least do some good. Doing this drew Scourge’s attention and she heard him shout, “Kill her!”

Jaundice Jape closed in on Mirielle with a wicked smile, “With pleasure.” He stabbed her and the feeling of the blade tearing her flesh reminded her all too much of the fight she’d had with him and Narwhale in the bilges.

Ambrose staggered forward, not really able to move effectively. He still moved to her side and took an awkward swing at Jape with his cutlass. It went wide, but Ambrose still assured Mirielle, “Don’t you worry none, I’ll protect ya.”

As Ambrose was speaking Quinn used his magic to heal Mirielle’s wounds, casting Soothe. She’d all but forgotten he had command of magic at all, and suddenly found herself grateful for his presence there, though now Scourge was telling the crew to kill him instead of her.

The battle went on, Quinn, Revel, and Nasha taking the brunt of the injuries. Dolce cast Mirror Image from her wand before engaging Plugg, and all three of his next attacks simply dispersed her illusory clones rather than causing her any harm. She did spare a moment to throw a Ray of Frost at Jape, finishing him off even as he was trying to do the same to Quinn.

In the end, Revel ripped a solid chunk of Plugg’s shoulder off with her powerful fangs and jaws, leaving a gaping wound that made him bleed out quickly. Master Scourge tried to run for a longboat and managed to get aboard it and shove it off, but Revel and Nasha pursued. Dolce instructed them to keep Scourge alive. She had plans for him.

Had Revel landed the final blow, he might well have died then and there, but it was Nasha who took him down, leaving Revel to visit her ferocity on the last remaining pirate.

As the girls took stock of the field distant cheering reached them. It was travelling over the water from the ship. They must have seen the fighting going down. To Dolce’s delight, Ratline and Narwhale had entered the fray to help defend Quinn, Mirielle, and Ambrose. It certainly seemed Mirielle had way with people, for both of these men had at one point been targeting her specifically. Then again, saving Narwhale’s life from the grindylow had probably helped.

Dolce looked out across the water at The Man’s Promise. A ship without a captain now… But… not for long. She looked back at Mirielle and smiled. This plan suited her well. “Let’s get this water aboard and get underway. I think Rickety’s Squibs is still going to prove a wise destination.”

Ambrose nodded his agreement and they picked through the bodies, retrieving the magical boarding pike that had once been wielded by The Man’s Promise‘s original captain, as well as the sword Plugg wielded, which Dolce renamed Besmara’s Embrace and claimed as her own. Some coin was collected, but the bodies they left to rot on the beach as they rowed the two longboats back to The Man’s Promise with more water than they would need for a month.

Dolce was amused when she noticed that Quinn seemed to have given Mirielle his hat. She wasn’t on the same longboat, so she couldn’t be sure, but at least at that moment, Mirielle was wearing his tricorn and the two were laughing over something or other while Narwhale and Ratline helped row them out toward the ship.




OOC Notes

Let's start with those buttons on the ghouls. I failed my perception check (as it turns out), and had no idea until referencing the adventure (with Owlbrarian's approval) to get some proper names. There's a Feather Token, Anchor hidden in one of those buttons. Funnily enough, they were not among the treasures I would eventually sell because he described them as four rather impressive buttons and there are four girls and Dolce is the sort to think it would be fun to make them a memento some day down the line if they all survived this... So she still has them. (I decided to keep them long before coming to learn there was more to them than fancy buttons, mind you). We decided when her passive perception bonus beats the DC she'll automatically notice the secret treasure. At that time we will roll randomly to see which of the gals is wearing it (assuming Dolce's done anything with them by then).

The eel was rather comically hidden in the sunken remains of the ship. Apparently it rolled a natural one on the die, so Owlbrarian described it as, "You see a massive snake-like thing sticking out from below a piece of rubble..." And when it came out he added, "You realize basically all that was actually hidden from sight was the creature's head."

That Wand of Mirror Image was clutch. Owlbrarian rolled the damage to see what it would have been if Plugg had hit Dolce and she'd have been unconscious for sure. All of the attacks hit her AC, but the Mirror Image die saved her.
 
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