Adventure Notes #8: Voyage to Horta

OUR LAST GAME went excellent. I ended up the last session feeling a little let down about the scenes that took place aboard the ship, and I had wanted to fix that. Ships present lots of problems, for one, you’ve got tons of NPCs running around, and 2. I’ve never been on a big old fashion ship. I’ve read lots of stories! I have a deep love for Maritime Adventure, and I didn’t want just short fights to dominate the adventure. THAT IS BORING!!! It got to be too much, and I didn’t feel that I was capturing ship life as well as what I wanted to.

You know that the game is suffering when the only thing that you roleplay is fight scenes, it gives the PC’s to much information, for one; but it also quickly turns into a dice session which isn’t good either.

My biggest challange was figuring out what to put on the ship. We needed something that could blend in, it would be stupid to have a monster lair on a ship with so many men on board, and I remember stewing about this for several days, when it dawned on me, ISOLATION!!! These folks are totally isolated from everything, what if The Thing From Outerspace was on board? Well, I down-graded it to some dopplegangers, but of the Ravenloft variety which are much tougher to detect as they possess powers of ESP.

I had three of them, one boss and two underlings, but as it turned out the PC’s couldn’t tell how many were on board, they were hoping that it was just one, but after finding and killing one, they discovered that their problem wasn’t yet over. These monsters were ambushing men and tying them to barrels, which served as markers for a Si Fan ship that was tailing them. This also let the PC’s know that the Si Fan was not just a human enemy, but was a much darker entity.

We didn’t get as far as I wanted too, but that is cool because I let the PC’s pick the pace that they wanted to go, which worked really well. If they wanted to spend more time investigating certain aspects of the game then I just let them have at it. The whole time they are trying to figure out what was on board, who the monsters were parading as, as well as dealing with every day hazards of an ocean voyage. We just took it one day at a time, and eventually got to Horta and they got the Info that I promised them.

Again, I prerolled weather conditions and build my story around it, the monsters used the weather to their advantage, as did the PCs. A no wind day turned into their favor when, off in the distance, they were able to capture a marker which the monsters had set.

I also prerolled all fight sequences between the monsters and their victims, they were attacking stronger men now, and one of them was injured in the ambush, this lead to it’s undoing, as it should had. The characters caught on and were able to kill that one.

I still wanted to keep some things random, so I generated a cool little list. Twice a day, and once at night I’d roll a d20, if it resulted in a 1 or a 2 then the dopplegangers sabotaged the ship.

Random Sabotage Generator (1d12)

1. Poison Food
2. Broken rigging
3. Fire in kitchen
4. Robbed Lockbox
5. Key to arms room stolen
6. Cannon strap breaks, cannon lose on deck
7. Powder keg explodes
8. Diseased rat
9. Fight, mutiny
10. Man over board
11. Lifeboat hull broken
12. Engine breaks down

This actually worked out really well! Of course, this could also work as a random bad thing generator that can be specialized for any voyage, even ones that don’t involve water and can work as a secondary random monster. Nothing is worse then a voyage of any kind that begins and ends in the same sentence. The TRIP itself should mean something.

It took a bunch of time, but the players seemed happy about it,

I did have a disagreement with the DMG.

Under ocean travel they have this percentile number for “seaworthiness”, and ALL of the seaworthy ratings are terrible. The deal is that if weather gets too bad (and it will) you have to check the seaworthiness of the boat, in my case, it gave me the rating of 75%; a roll above the ships rating results in the craft sinking. THIS IS TERRIBLE! If this were the case, there would be no shipping whatsoever, it would be pointless! So I changed things a bit. A result over 75% signifies a catastrophe of some kind, a challenge which if the pc’s fail, then the ship will sink, but it gives them the ability to save it.

This can be a moral dilemma, or a physical challenge of some kind. In this leg of the journey I placed a Henchman in peril, he was serving lookout duty and the mast collapsed, throwing him and the mast into the sea. The PC’s only had three minutes before the mast capsized the ship, and it would had taken 4 rounds for the henchman to climb to safety, and we were using real time so the PC’s had to think fast, in the end, one of them just cut the rigging, sacrificing the henchman, but saving the ship.

Other ideas I think will just depend on how badly I roll over the seaworthiness rating. Anything from simply replacing a destroyed sail during dangerous conditions, to aiding the carpenters in repairing a breached hull. There are lots of possibilities, but I’m not sure that a random list of results for failing a seaworthy check should take place, instead it should be DM’s judgment, and uses the result that he gets to determine just how bad the damage is and if it can be repaired or not.


Unknown said...

Good idea about the seaworthiness. I agree with you, if a fairly large ship like the type you're talking about only has a one in four shot at not going all Titanic on you then you're in trouble.

Also, I have another possibility next time you need a challenge on board a ship. Have an infestation! In a fantasy world this can be a pretty serious deal. Think watchmaker moties from "The Mote in God's Eye" if you've read that. Wererats should be pretty workable too if you want a more traditional D&D challenge.

RipperX said...

Those are excellent ideas, Erik. Skipping trips is a pet peeve of mine, and a LOT of my DMs have done it, it is very tempting to do, and even the rules themselves seem to support the idea. Finding cool little tricks to make trips exciting and interesting is much harder but I feel it to be more rewarding, and helps build up to the big showdown. Players feel more like they really earned something.

"The Mote in God's Eye", I'll have to check this book out. Finding good Sci-fi is very daunting for me, so I appreciate the suggestion.

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