All sorceresses have tattoos,
I guess, but this one had a map!

Today was Pathfinder, day, with +Jeromy French as GM, and +kung fu hillbilly and +Matt Sutton joining me as players. +Joshua Taylor and Evil Gimble was missing tonight.

I am going to unashamedly talk spoilers here, so be warned.

Last game ended with a combat, our tower had been attacked by quite a large force. We’d reinforced anyway, and as usual we played out the battle mostly with the teeming hordes of the bad guys in the background. We basically wound up chasing a sorceress around for a while, eventually killing her.

Turns out there was some interesting stuff tattooed on her back, which naturally Evil Gimble had flayed off and made into a nice portable map.

Hey! Something like this . . . but skin

Evil-aligned characters can get away with that sort of thing, and the rest of us neutral types mainly just make noises of “is that really necessary.”

Anyway, the map had a key bit on it, a bit of a puzzle-poem, which I won’t fully reproduce.

Nonetheless, Admiral Allejandro (Kung Fu Hillbilly’s bard) totally nailed every single Knowledge: Local and other Knows Trivia roll he was asked to make, so we were able to deduce the rough corner of the ocean we should visit.

It was only a week away, so we gathered up a crew, set sail, and headed out doing what pirates do: looking for buried treasure.

The area we arrived at reminded me instantly of somewhere I’ve seen before: the Big Blue Hole in Belize. Other than some typically odd vine structures which led us to decide that there was no way in hell we were taking our ship in there, we more or less did pretty well in figuring out where to go (it didn’t hurt that the critical

Perception roll to see man-sized caves was a 33). Anyway, we decided that we’d needed to wait until dawn to ensure we got the right place. We did, saw what we expected to see, figured out the final clue without die-rolling, and went spelunking. Or climbing, and then digging, and then falling, and then spelunking. And attacked by Sahuagin.

These are like Nazis to Indiana Jones: “Sahuagin. I hate these guys.”
“Sahuagin. I hate these guys.”

Anyway, thanks to the off-camera action of Evil Gimble, we had lots of potions to let us breathe underwater and give a nice bonus to Swim. So despite forgetting the Coral Crossbows we’d looted which work remarkably well underwater, we made fairly short work of five or so Sahuagin, taking a few minor wounds in the process.

Next week, Gimble will hopefully join us as we continue the dungeon crawl to look for the loot.

Been a decent weekend for writing. I’m finally putting three articles to bed that I’ve had in the hopper for a very, very long time.

They’re all weaponry related, hand weaponry at that. One is related to weapon breakage, another on fixing and making weapons, and the last is on tweaking around with armor divisors and wound modifiers on blades. They were one big article at first, but I realized that my tendency to write far-too-complete/complex treatises on stuff had run away with me. Thus: split ’em into discrete pieces, remove some of the links that made it complicated, and thus hopefully produce something that is more usable to more people.

We shall see.

I also really need to get back into my Pathfinder overview. I dumped it in the middle of Chapter 8 (Combat), and I would like to finish that one day.

I’ll be on vacation the last week in July and the first week in August, which means I should have time to bang away at a few bits of some larger works I’d like to do. One on Age of Sail ships and battles, one on healing and medicine, and maybe starting the designer’s notes bits of Technical Grappling (and for those keeping score, that’s me getting ahead of things, not some warning that I’ve got any idea when it’s coming out).

I might also try and restart my internal notes in my Book of Pretentiousness. I’ve let that slide, and while I’ve still got some topics to mine in there, the well’s running a bit dry.

GM: +Jeromy French
Players: +Douglas Cole +Matt Sutton +kung fu hillbilly +Joshua Taylor

We pretty much leaped directly into combat, crashing our ship into two others that were grappling together, a “fellow” pirate and their quarry.

We were able to pilot our ship unnoticed towards the two vessels, and slammed our ship into the smaller of the two, and the only one that was armed.

Pel started off the combat, quaffing an invisibility potion provided by Gimble ( +Joshua Taylor‘s character), who is our resident far-too-helpful alchemist (remember, this ability is the one that makes my inner destroyer of munchkin’s cry). Still, poof, I was gone and then I shot two arrows at the bad guys, Sneak Attack, and nailed him.

Malgrim ( +Matt Sutton)  I think cleaved two foes, Gimble set someone (or several someone’s) on fire, and then we saw that there were spellcasters involved on the other team. Alejandro ( +kung fu hillbilly ) rapiers him successfully and nails him with a dagger as well for about 12 points. Definitely got his attemtion.

Atori the magic watersnake misses; these guys have decent AC.

Gimble flings another firebomb at the guy who threw a ball of fire at him (not a fireball, but a ball of fire; definite difference). He hits, but some of the flame seems to actually absorb into his skin. Five other neighboring marines also are splashed with this flaming mix (alchemy bomb) and have to make DC 15 Reflex saves. At the end of the round, five foes are on fire, and no PCs were accidentally lit up. For Gimble, that’s a notable improvement.

Malgrim, who’s drunk a potion of bull strength, and usually operates under Enlarge Person, makes another good use of Reach and enlarge, does Great Cleave and kills two.

Pel looses two arrows at two targets, nearly gets a crit on one, but solid shots on both. He scores 14 points of Sneak Attack damage on each, killing both.

Malgrim draws fire from two marines, both of whom hit and land a total of 17 HP of damage. Two more run over to Alejandro, and another closes on Pel.

Bad guys’ attack. Atori the Wonder Worm gets slashed for 6 HP by a flaming marine. Marine8 attacks Pel for 5 HP. The twe marines facing Alejandro get all fancy against AC 19 and hit him for something like 16 HP.

Alejandro strikes back at one of his foes, hitting for 6 HP. Those on fire continue to burn for 7 HP each. Gimble himself casts Invisibility on Alejandro, and seeks the high ground (hey, it worked for Obi-Wan). Malgrim does his cuisinart impression, and misses both of his potential foes.

Pel tries to bluff his way into invisibility, rolls a 1 (still good for a 10), which means he is left to leap overboard (Pel swims like a fish), but takes 5 HP due to extreme bellyflopping, since Pel rolled 2 1’s in a row, this time for Acrobatics.

The two marines swing at the now-invisible (Concealed) Alejandro and miss. Two marines gang up on Atori the Wonder Worm and while the potential flanker misses (punk), the other hits for 6 HP.

Alejandro breaks his invisibility to hit a marine from the flank for 7 HP; Atori back-slithers and nails the marine-on-fire with 13 HP, killing him. Gimble casts Targeted Bomb Admixture on his stuff, which prevents them from getting all explody, and moves behind his quarry. Malgrim, however, Cleaves and kills two in a row again.

Pel climbs up the side of the ship with his Rope Master ability, and since he also has Fast Stealth, he rolls 31 for Stealth and becomes one with the background. This was basically the plan for leaping overboard. Turns out I do not swim like a fish; I misremembered something from Character Generation. Still, this is what I wanted. I’m all sneaky behind the captain, who seems pretty much like a badass.

Alejandro’s marine tries to slash at him, but drops his sword. (oops). Gimble’s foe chops at him, misses.

Alejandro swings and misses; Atori does another 13 HP of damage to his foe and flings the corpse overboard. Gimble drinks a potion of shield and runs through his foe’s space, and the attack of opportunity swings idly by. He throws a bomb directly on the captain, nailing her for 13 HP (and this will continue to burn for full damage rolls for three turns).

Pel sneaks over and fires two sneak attack arrows into the captain, both hit, and scores 34 HP. That’s all she wrote for the Captain, and the single most effective attack Pel’s ever thrown.

Someone comes up behind Alejandro and guts him for 10 HP, reducing him to -2 HP. The disarmed guy punches at Gimble (AC 25 now), provoking a decisively feeble return strike.

Atori eats the disarmed marine, while Gimble heals Alejandro with Cure Light Wounds, bringing him back to 9 HP and now suddenly hale and robust; Pel gives Alejandro another potion for another 8 HP.

The marine swings at Pel; he misses. Alejandro steps and casts Hold Person at the last man standing, which holds him successfully. We lash that marine to the (unburning) mast.

Most of the other ship’s cargo has already been transferred to the unburning ship by the pirates we just killed. So there are about 7-8 of the original sailors surived our attack, and another 14 from those we saved, plus about 25 on our own ship. Time to split crews. Pel and Alejandro crew the newly acquired vessel with the 14 we

The minimum crew for each ship to navigate is 20 people. So we’ve got 47 crew for the two ships, and can sail them to port. We find many barrels of liquor, rum, and sailing logs. Pel looks around and digs out a secret compartment in the Captain’s quarters, with some personal effects, one of which is a marriage licence, plus a few bars of gold and a bag of gems. The spellcasters have tatoos on them; magical glyphs of dragons and waves – so no real plunder there other than spell components.

We dig into the marriage licence a bit, out of curiousity. There’s something that’s a marriage of convenience where you contract as a legal marriage for a certain number of time; this was a method to create alliances between pirates. The captain’s log also mentioned replenishing supplies at Tidewater Rock; there was a rumor that it was impenetrable, but they thought there was a way to assail it.

We broke there, having determined to sail back to a “friendly,” or at least “not so hostile” port and use Gimble’s black market contacts to offload the ship. We’re also going to nab some of the ballistae from our new-found acquisition and make some firing ports in our cargo hold. Anachronistic is trumped by Awesome any day of the week.

Last time in +Jeromy French ‘s Skull and Shackles campaign was a pretty epic fight with a mummy that had killed a lot of Pathfinders, and that had a amulet that allowed it to convert good energy (which really should kill it) into healing dark energy. Oops. We killed it, but it was a close thing.

***

Today’s adventure starts with us becoming aware of a huge ship that moored itself at the river mouth that our vessel had sailed up, blocking our exit. It’s a large warship with actual cannon on it.

+Matt Sutton dispatches his flying (swimming?) minion with telepathy-o-vision. It’s a huge ship, with many dozens of people on it. They’ll be getting water in the morning.

Our resident alchemist, +Joshua Taylor notes he has potions of Alter Self, and comes up with a ruse to make people try and leave, so we can slip by. Naturally, there are dinosaurs on the island. Important safety tip. Oh, and the potions only last 10 minutes. Hrm.

Next idea: sail by quietly, but cause as much havoc as possible as we try and slip by. We contemplate cutting the pulley system connecting the wheel to the rudder. Gotta involve fire somehow too, and an actual powder magazine is going to be hard to pass up.

We decide to send Pel (me) aboard with some potions of Alter Self, making me look more like a Chilaxian. I get on board late at night, make a quick trip to the wheel pulley mechanism, then out.

At least, that’s the plan. I am given a few Alter Self potions, a Wand of Nature’s Ally, three vials of Alchemist’s Fire, and a two-part epoxy called alchemical glue. Also a climbing aid. And a vial of brewed rot. Really foul smelling stuff.

I roll a natural 20 on my stealth roll, for a 33, and a 19 with the climbing aid gives me a 36. I spot an easy way into the wheelhouse room.

I climb into the wheelhouse, and do not make the two people sitting there aware of my presence. These pirate hunters are a nuisance, but they’re not so numerous or powerful that it’s worth uniting the shackles to counter them.

I elect to split a Rapid Shot sneak attack on each one, which crits on the first shot, and nearly kills – but not all the way – the second guy.

The officer turns and nails me with an axe for mild damage. I split shots again, and kill the second guy. The officer and I trade a couple shots, and I eventually kill him, but until he lets out a shout.

I saw at the rope until marines open the door, and then I chuck the bottle of nauseating rot at them. Next round I chuck the alchemists fire at the wheelhouse pulleys; the marine swings at me ineffectually.

Now Pel is faced with three angry marines, and the need to hit the rope one more time. I loose two arrows at my assailants, one miss, one hit.

One marine slips on the vomit of the other’s sickness and falls down, the second and third both swing cutlasses at me. One miss, one hit, minimal damage. I draw my rapier and cut through the remaining rope. One nicks me, and I dive through the window. Alas, my plans to fire the powder magazine will never come to fruition. I drink a Potion of the Sea and then climb back onto my own ship as it sails by.

The larger warship fires a few ballista bolts at us, but no real impact. I’m down to less than half of my HP, having been hit for 23 HP in the battle; the other ship rapidly finds they can’t steer.

I give Alejandro ( +kung fu hillbilly)   his wand back; he’d despaired of it’s return when I started fighting five other guys. I get some healing (back up to 26/36).

We replenish our water stores, and sail around for a while. We notice a fishing trawler with loose sails, and a fishing net that’s not fishing. No occupants, and it’s clearly taking on water. Malgrim sends his water serpent, Atori, to check it out, and finds a coral “underwater magical carpet” just hovering there, that scraped out the bottom (Pel guesses). There are some sea creatures (Sahuagin) gnawing on human remains as well.

But hmmm, the coral thing is magical. Naturally we decide to check it out and try and kick some fish ass. There look to be five of these guys.

Malgrim steps on board the fishing trawler, and they jump up through hatches on the deck; naturally Malgrim uses Cleave to hack at both, the first for 3d6+10 damage, nailing him with 20 HP in one blow. Second guy gets the same treatment. A good start.

Atori the water snake bites and misses.

Alejandro’s up, and also pierces his foe decisively. Only minimal damage. Pel’s turn, attacks a different sahuaguin twice for 8 HP.

Our foes attack Alejandro, to no good purpose. Gimble ( +Joshua Taylor) chucks a firebomb at one, forcing Alejandro to dodge, making a DC 15 reflex save, as well as the other two fishmen. Alejandro burns for 6 HP.

Malgrim steps up and rolls another killing blow, but misses the cleave; the snake successfully chomps the remainder, killing the last one.

Gimble uses a magic weapon to push Alejandro into the water with a hydropump to extinguish him. The bard is not amused. He also grabs the magical coral raft while he’s at it.

For loot, the coral raft/carpet/thing there’s some small amount of treasure. Some jewelry and whatnot. A bunch of wet dried fish (huh?). The magic underwater carpet responds to Aquan, so Alejandro can command the thing. Can fit 5 people on it. Woo hoo.

We then, a few days later, come across another pirate vessel grappled to another ship, which is currently on fire. There’s active combat going on here. A confused situation that we can exploit.

Perhaps next time.

So, Pyramid has an upcoming issue on Swashbucklers and Pirates. I’m playing in a Pathfinder Skull and Shackles campaign GMed by +Jeromy French.

This puts me in a piratical mood, and I was thinking this morning about what would happen if the typical DnD or Dungeon Fantasy world were to take to the open seas. This really applies to most magical fantasy tropes.

Ah, my ship. My glorious vessel, perhaps similar to the ships in the picture.

“They might have the weather gage, but we have the weather gods.”
       – Master and Commander

The ships portrayed in the Aubrey-Maturin novels (if you haven’t seen it, go see Master and Commander. It’s good.) seem to range in length from about 100 to 170 feet or so. Why does this matter? Well, the Wind spell has a base cost of 1/50, meaning you can enclose most ships in the spell’s area of effect for the base cost of the spell: 1 point of energy gives you a 50 yard radius. And for the price of exhaustion of one man (say, 8 FP), you can get a ship from the doldrums and becalmed to steering in a couple of knots of wind for eight hours. Then he can rest for an hour and a half and do it again. It ain’t fast, but it’s not motionless, either. With a few mages, or some sort of manastone or other power source, no ship would ever be motionless. That’s kind of a big deal.

You can also shift the wind by 22.5 degrees with the same spell. While many age of sail ships had issues going directly into the wind, again, one magic spell later, and you can all of a sudden get that much closer. With enough magic, the concept of “the weather gage” largely irrelevant.

An army travels on its stomach.
                     -Napoleon Bonaparte 

Another big deal in long-distance sailing is of course food and water. A frigate would carry a shockingly large quantity of food and water, with “six months’ stores” being a common figure.

Guess you don’t need that if you can purify water, eh? Or create it? Essential food, at six meals to the pound, is 1-2 man-days of food per pound. For a 250-500 person crew for 180 days, that’s less than 45 tons of food. That seems like a lot, but it’s probably not. A thousand-ton ship wouldn’t even notice it (it’s only slightly more than the weight of the crew). If you need a gallon of fresh water per day (ish), call it 10 lbs per man per day, that would normally be 450 tons (you’d probably never carry that much, after all, that’s 450 cubic yards of water).

You can see where this is going. Cornucopia for powder and shot, perhaps. Or bolts for ballistae and stones for catapults if that’s your thing. Forget a ship’s surgeon doing more harm than good – ships would probably sail with an alchemist for various potions, and more than one cleric both as a spiritual leader as well as for healing. Gods of water would be big, as would death or thievery for those of a piratical bent.

Of course, just because you can cast spells doesn’t mean an opposing ship’s wizards will let you. So an evenly matched duel would still be on terms that make the sailors important, if the various supernatural forces are cancelled out by each other.

Finally, if your response to all that is “frack that, you scurvy dog, I’ll hang you from the yardarm!” then you can always go Dresden on it’s ass: Water grounds magical energies. On the open sea, you’re on your own.

Healing and whatnot might be divine, and still work. Learned Prayers for wind might also be OK, though a quick look at GURPS Powers makes it look frightfully expensive.

***

Sorry it’s been a bit dry this week, but work’s been really busy. Today also marks the first time that I’ve tried to embed an image in the flow of text. Blogger handles this quite well, with autoflow around the picture. You guys know what this means, right? Pretty soon, my blog will inevitably have graphs.