The characters for this session:
Rogar, a mariner [L2 Warrior, sword and shield]
Snorri, a northern barbarian [L1 Warrior, axe and shield]
Dokrah, a Keshite [L1 Rogue, talent = locks & traps]
Pras, a freeman scribe [L1 Rogue, talent = fraud]
The Black Skull AKA the Seal, pirate vessel the characters sign aboard
Captain Senric, commander and leader of the Seal
First Mate Teavis
Archer captain Fang
Mercenary halberdier Hogard
Mercenary arbalestier Arst
Mercenary duellist Subrey
Mercenary knife-artist Neem
Mercenary Mingol Grits
This adventure begins as the princess heist four are feeling the heat from Mingols searching Lankhmar, thirsting for blood! (By luck, the word on the street is that the escapees were eunuchs, so nothing specific points to our lads.)
Rogar contacts the other three to say that, as he previously hinted, his contact Orik does have a work offer. Best of all it is away from town!
A chance for a bracing sea voyage, with treasure
The four all check out of their accommodation and sign articles with Captain Senric of the Seal, the name the pirate vessel Black Skull is using in port.
Senric explains to Rogar [we do this the wrong way round and commit before all the details are known] that the prize is a treasure ship out of Illthmar and bound for Ool-Hrusp, far across the inland sea. There must be no survivors, for the ruler of Ool-Hrusp is the notoriously mad and vicious Duke Lithquin. He entertains his folk with death-match arena fights.
After partners and captain get half, and officers take their share, 30% of treasure captured will remain to be divided. Aside from sailing crew, the fighting crew includes the four characters, about half a dozen Slayers Guild members, some dockside scum, and a complement of Illthmart archers who follow the shark cult.
The Black Skull, AKA the Seal, is a sleek lateen-rigged three-master disguised to look more like a normal trader. A couple of decks have been reinforced for ballistae, and oarlocks suited for 8 sweeps per side allow for movement in calm.
Making friends and influencing people
The four characters aren’t automatically assign one role or another. For example three of them carry aboard missile weapons, so are given the chance to slot in with the Illthmart archers. They bunk in a marine deck, amidships. Then, front-rank fighters have their own pride, and bunk in the foc’sle. Snorri easily slots in with the latter, meeting Hogard, Neem, Arst and a couple of other Slayers. Dokrah is more inclined to use his bow and makes efforts to be seen scaling the fighting top. Rogar is actually competent with his bow and ends up practicing under captain of archers Fang.
Pras is least suited, but even before boarding buys a gross of fire-arrows (specially made) then tries to talk his way into a partnership. It doesn’t succeed [merely makes L1 CHR SR] but he does get a full share and is assigned to work under Berkly, who is quartermaster but not in a command role. Pras passes a basic test Berkly sets him.
As the Seal rolls under a gentle swell Dokrah experiences the fighting top and manages to keep his breakfast down [L1 CON SR].
Senric addresses the assembled crew and explains the general shape and length of the voyage and establishes sparring sessions for the fighters to adjust to their places.
Sparring is just like real combat, with AP being handed out for stunts (because failing might have a real cost, like shares of treasure) but damage is not real. The four all participate. Pras is by far the weakest, Rogar is the best of the four. It’s pretty clear Hogard is the strongest fighter aboard but Arts Subrey Neem and Grits the Mingol are probably not far behind.
An ill omen?
The only event of any real note in that first week is the loss of likeable cabin boy Walt overboard one night. Senric is upset enough to order his ship put about, and most of 12 hours is wasted in a fruitless search. Snorri theorises that the shark cultists sacrificed the boy but there is no evidence of it.
Plans for the assault
In the second week as the Black Skull sails east searching for the Shark Tooth’s profile, it becomes known that the target ship is taller-built and an assault will be up, not across. Pras has an idea for making the climb up safer, and Rogar pitches it successfully.
Sparring is repeated, and as sail ho! is shouted, volunteers are sought for the assault.
Snorri steps forward even before Senric can add any incentive! Once “extra share” is announced, Pras Rogar and Dokrah, Hogard, Subrey, Grits and three more Slayers volunteer. Dokrah will begin in the fighting top then work his way down, so Hogard asks him to pitch the halberd across to the enemy deck.
“I’ll just drop it,” Dokrah replies uneasily
“That’s fine, drop it on the deck and I’ll pick it up,” Hogard agrees heartily. A man who hears what he wants to hear.
Then all fighting complement hide, and the sails are trimmed to appear a regular trader.
Fire and Assault!
Sure enough the ship sighted is the treasure ship, Shark Tooth. The ruse of sailing “casually” gains enough proximity for a real chase, then sails are adjusted and the fighting crews make ready and ballistae bolted in. Trenchie the bosun makes his ready. He will fire a harpoon into the stern boards, then the ship’s capstan will winch the two vessels together.
At 100 yards the tacking battle begins, and the Black Skull wins it comfortably. Ballistae shots are exchanged. Then the Illthmarts fire all fire arrows not used in practice, with some effect on the Shark Tooth’s sails and rigging. The cable harpoon slams into the Shark Tooth’s stern and the assault spar is swung out. It is basically the spare fore-yardarm; but with handy amounts of rope tied over it to make quick climbing practical.
It’s still not an easy climb and only the good, strong climbers make the assault look easy – Subrey in particular! Dokrah tosses the halberd more in hope than conviction, and by good fortune [L3 LK SR] it lands perfectly as Hogard clears the enemy rail. Dokrah swings down and speeds up the great spar, joining the others.
[The GM gives each player the option of attribute to SR with. Pras includes his roguery bonus of +3, Snorri his northern barbarian bonus of +3, and Dokrah once again finds cat-burglar is relevant at +5.]
It’s time to hold! The ten need to buy enough time for more fighting crew to gain the enemy wheeldeck.
[The GM rolls a lot of dice, there’s no special need to stunt so it’s a straight combat.]
Since they include the toughest fighters, and all ten made it over, they make short work of the enemy ballista crew and the first waves of fighting crew. And as we pack up the session, victory looks certain!
Pacing this kind of session with its plethora of NPCs, and tasks no PC is involved in, is difficult. Our GM did a good job but I think we all still felt it was a quiet session for AP.
There will be a longer than usual wait for the next instalment, it will be a weekend game. Stay tuned!