Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Wormwood Mutiny pt. 4

At this time of writing, this session took place more than two months ago. The details are therefore sketchy at best and in general this will be a summing up and half review of the first chapter of Skull and Shackles - Wormwood Mutiny.

This session involved Logan the rogue (captain of “Last Chance”), Jamal the halfling gunslinger, Pig the dwarven barbarian/alchemist, Sandra the human ranger/barbarian who really hates humans and Jack the Oracle of Besmara. The average party level was 3.

Time Ashore - Welcome to the jungle!
The pirates, now realizing they’d lost their most priced crew members Sandara and Shortstone to an unknown fate, set out towards the newly discovered and mysterious island. As they did so, they noticed how several odd-looking scarecrow-like beings stood in the water to greet them as they approached.
Their landing was at a pure white beach in which an old deserted fishing village was located. They spent some time rummaging through it, as well as some strange post up on a hill with an old torch-station. What ill fate the village had fallen to remained largely unknown, so they decided to set south, in which they found some strange tracks. More than likely from a pack of medium-sized creatures.

Needless to say, they got lost pretty soon.

(I find this to be rather interesting, compared to the fact that they carried a compass and decided ‘Let’s head fucking south!...and still we get lost?’. But a failed check is a failed check, I suppose. Judging from my players, the fact that they read a compass wrong isn’t entirely implausible, so say the least…)

They scoured the jungle for several hours, finding no other signs of life of beings than more of the strange totemtic skeleton-constructs. At some time they even tried destroying them, which didn’t prove much effect besides a few birds staring at them eloquently in the process. So eventually they got so lost that they ended up back at their original position; found a path and decided to set down towards it, with the much ashamed ranger keeping her position in the back.

After some time, this led them into a boggy area, in which large mosquitoes and smelly marshland  stretched as far the eye could see. The abundant sounds of wildlife around them led them to believe they had found a lot more encounters than they had bargained for; yet they decided to try and make it across the quicksand. Mandatory liana-swinging incoming.

Everyone but Pig made it, who instead plunged deep into the marsh and started sinking. Immediately they heard a large buzzing-sound as two swarms of mosquitoes hungrily aimed for their tasty blood. It was one of the usual “Queue Benny Hill-theme” fights that so often characterizes swarms, in which they all ran and hurled Alchemist Fires in every direction. They hauled up Pig and pressed onwards.

Ghouls just wanna have fun
They found an old clearing in the midst of the swamp and decided to investigate it despite the foul stench. Immediately three repulsive ghouls set upon them, dressed in tattered clothes that had once been rich and decorative. They were known as the “Ship’s Whores” and craved man-flesh more than anything.
(This was likely the first “OH SHIT!” fight in the campaign. Ghouls always tend to bring those moments to the table at lower levels, when people majorly start failing their fort-saves. In this case, they eventually managed to paralyze the entire party till only one of the ghouls stood along with the gunslinger, who luckily landed a critical hit on her, blowing her head to pieces. )

Where these fiends came from they couldn’t decide, and their disease-infected wounds started bothering them, so the pirates pushed on towards the nearby coast, in which more scarecrows rested and a strange field of corn stood oddly out of place. At this time the captain decided not to investigate further, and instead head for the nearby path leading up into the hills. On their way they’d seen an old building, which could likely shed some light on the mystery of this island.

Besides, the rotten head on a spike scared captain Logan.

As they reached it, they realized it too had been abandoned for some time, its former owner hanging from a rope in the middle of the room. As the party split up and started searching it, Sandra found an old spyglass edged into place on the top-floor, through which she noticed an odd sight. On the southern shore of the island, a couple of Grindylows flowing around on the surface, one of them wearing Sandara’s tricorne hat. As she pondered on this, she heard a scream from downstairs. Logan, who’d been investigating an old box, also howled in terror as two swarms of botflies set upon him and chaos erupted.

The hanged victim turned out as a ghast who now tried choking Jamal and spreading up the party started bashing in brains on both floors. Logan decided to call it and crashed through the upstair window, to join the fray downstairs. It was a lengthy battle, one that didn’t leave them without injuries and they decided to call it for the day and make camp in the house. Judging from the clothes of the ghast, it was Chelish in nature.

To Riptide Cove
The heroes ventured to Riptide Cove in the south, in which Sandra had spotted the Grindylows. There they found an entrance to the dungeon and descended into the watery depths.

Again, I must mention my loathing for long, pointless encounters so therefore I stuck with a much more simplified version of these tunnels, mostly settling for a simpler layout of a long series tunnels, descending till they reached the final chamber.  Of the encounters in the original adventure I only sprung D3, D5, D6 and D8. Especially encounter D8 was a very, very tough encounter when played correctly, especially for certain parties if they want their party members to survive, but my players did rather okay. I have little remembrance of their exact strategy at this time, but it mostly involved nuking down The Whale and keeping one person on distruption-duty against the Queen.  They sent in their most tough character to attend the crew members, but at this time saving them was optional. The encounter definitely gets a lot easier if the players ignore the factor of their captured friends and instead focus their fire on one enemy at the time.

As they triumphed, they received their much needed prize; a good sum of gold gathered by the grindylows and the safety of their two friends. Also, one of the fabled legendary treasures of the Shackles, The Lost Messenger, had been captured by the beasts, and now rested in a cage in the back of the cavern. It was frightened to see them at first, but they took it along as the first out of several treasures.
And with that, they returned to their ship to sail happily into chapter 2!

OPTIONAL: Adding a Le Chuck-Herrigan to your campaign
If you’re like me you love Monkey Island and you find that Le Chuck is beyond doubt the best villain to ever sail the sea in all his gory. Eh-- Glory. If this doesn’t make any sense you’ll likely want to skip this part.
I decided I wanted Herrigan to be the looming threat he is made out to be in this AP, but in the classical undead pirate sense. So how to make this possible while manifesting him as a hardcore villain early on?
What I did was to let my players spring their friends from prison and return to their ship, only to realize Harrigan had in fact caught up to them by some cruel twist of fate (perhaps Mr. Plugg managed to send a feather-token?) and now holds their ship, cargo and crew hostage. The players have the element of surprise, however, and if their two ship-mates are a live they might help them devise a cunning plan as to how to get free of Harrigan’s grasp. 

Basically what I wanted to happen was a rip-off of the famous scene of Monkey Island 3: Escape from Monkey Island:

Which would mean blasting him up with something unholy, to make him come back as something even fouler. In this regard, Shortstone recommended the heroes to wait till nightfall and sneak aboard Harrigan’s ship. He might be so direct as to recommend they blow it up, or you can have them infiltrate it and during a fight have someone accidentally knock over a torch or an oil lamp. What’s important is that they notice the strange crates of exotic voodoo-materials resting nicely in the cargo, next to the barrels of gunpowder.  In my case the players snuck aboard, got discovered and during the fight accidentally put everything on fire and fled to their own ship. As soon as they realized Harrigan was setting upon them, his ship blew up, damaging their own badly in the process. In this way they also have a much stronger enticement to sail to Rickety Squib in Chapter 2.

Of course you can improvise as you see fit on this, depending on how railroaded you want it to be : )
And so they thought Harrigan to be safely off their backs. Of course he isn’t; the voodoo-energies made absolutely sure he would reappear as an immortal zombie-captain.

Overview of “The Wormwood Mutiny”
I find that this is one of the very best first chapters I’ve found in any adventure-path to be honest. While my love for “The Haunting of Harrowstone” was great as well, this one brings some absolutely fantastic opportunities for roleplaying, while not forcing anyone at the same time.

In our case, roleplaying has been rather crucial as this is what we enjoy doing above rule-grinding, so I suppose this is what you should heed the most, when listening to my opinion. Especially the first part of the adventure in which the players interact with the various people around the ship involves a lot of opportunity to flesh out the NPC’s as you see fit; undoubtedly they will find their favorites, which in my case was Shortstone, The cook and Rosie. Ironically, Sandara failed to make much of an impact.

There is opportunity for plenty of animosity towards Scourge and Mr. Plugg; in my case I even made them possible crew-members when the heroes seized control of the ship, as possible allies of an evil-aligned party. I imagine seasoned players will adapt better to the impact these two characters make on them in the beginning of the adventure; knowing better to ‘go along with it for now’, rather than new players. They are a provoking duo of scumbags and should rightfully be played as such. I found that; take off the gloves and let it all out of those scurvy dogs if you think they can take it.

There is very little naval combat, practically none, in this adventure, so there really is no need to get acquainted with it. Instead, the adventure ends on a really classical note with a dungeon with the BBEG at the end. The island is a nice addition; it’s interesting enough to remain interesting and we got a good atmosphere going, as did we with the several small encounters along the way. They were all very charming, and the first sea-battle was absolutely thrilling.

I have very little negative stuff to say about the Wormwood Mutiny. It’s first and foremost solid and easy to get into. But if I could give you a recommendation, reading up on the player guide, the guide to the shackles and perhaps the inner sea guide will really give you a huge edge as a GM, once the players get free reins in the shackles. Especially if you’re like me and know nothing of Golarion, and shoehorned the entire thing into Forgotten Realms.

To be continued in the near future.

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