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High Seas Campaign - Pirates!
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Thread: High Seas Campaign - Pirates!

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    High Seas Campaign - Pirates!

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    We all love pirates. The swashbuckling action, the treasure, the ship to ship combat work perfectly in a D&D environment. I'd like to go with that premise in my next campaign, and wanted to see what ideas you guys could come up with.

    Introduction

    Coming from a port city, the players are all aboard a merchant vessel shipping spices to a continent across the ocean, a two week trip. The merchant traffic between the continents has gotten difficult, with pirate activity increasing. Some vessels have disappeared completely, so the crew is on their guard.

    For the merchants that still make this run, this has been a lucrative business... supply is being strangled, so the ships that do make it get top gold piece for their goods, so much so that it makes it worth it even if a ship is lost now and then.

    This cargo on this merchant vessel is particularly valueable however, for a reason I haven't come up with yet. Because of this, the merchant has hired the services of one of the largest galleons of the fleet as an escort for the most dangerous part of the journey, a massive ship bristling with ballistae and catapults, as well as towers where the veteran ship mage can launch spells.

    As the two ships sail on, one day a flying figure can be seen approaching from the rear. The ships put on full sail as they realize it is a dragon. The dragon chases them towards an island, when a galley suddenly appears from a hidden cove, bearing down on the trapped ships.

    The dragon arrives, a young red dragon, who attacks the escort with incredible ferocity. Despite the efforts of the experienced crew, they are no match for the dragon, who lights the ship up and eats the mage. The dragon smashes a big hole into the ship, and it sinks, all hands lost as the players watch from the less armed merchant ship.

    Meanwhile, the galley arrives and rams the merchant vessel, critically wounding it. Orc pirates storm aboard, some engaging the players, while an overwhelming number locate the cargo and bring the dragon in to carry it off. The merchant vessel sinking, the orc pirates don't bother to clean up, taking some of their wounded but leaving the rest. The galley leaves, and the merchant vessel sinks, with only the players and maybe one or two NPCs suriving to swim to the island.

    The campaign

    I'd like to have a campaign full of pirate style adventures with a D&D flair. I like some of the ideas found in the Eberron campaign setting, such as having ships that have elementals bound to them to improve their performance, and having airships occasionaly available. Consider also having undead oarsman who never tire on a longship, and mages who rain artillery down on opposing vessels such as fireballs and ice storms.

    I imagine the players will be rescued by a smuggling vessel and start as hands on this ship as they seek more information about what is going on. Eventually, they will take command of this ship when the captain dies in some battle, and maybe someday even acquire an airship.

    Some questions I need to work out:
    What are some ideas for adventures? Not everything has to be ship board of course.

    What kind of things will you see in a D&D high seas campaign? Druids controlling weather, wind fans (DM guied) used to give the vessel a speed boost, specific magic spells that are particularly effective are a start.

    Who is the mastermind behind the attacks? Obviously, the dragon isn't going to be roaming around looking for ships... there has to be some information about the location and defenses of ships sailing across the sea, so there is a traitor involved. Someone is directing the orc pirates and has some vile plans, for which the piracy might be just a distraction.

    I'm not going to involve dieties in this campaign much other than as a source for divine power to clerics/druids.

    Developer for Darkage Warlord, a Pen & Paper Games exclusive Medieval Wargame.

    If you are in the DC metro area and like to trade D&D minis (1.0 or 2.0), please send me a PM!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelstrom View Post
    What are some ideas for adventures? Not everything has to be ship board of course.
    The campaign setting sounds very interesting so far. A given would have to be the recovery of the cargo from the Orc pirates who could either be on a boat offshore or have a small camp setup somewhere on the island.

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    I want to play. I like the Swashbuckler class and the pirate style setting. Right now I have been thinking that as a plot, campaign option in the principalities of Eberron.
    Check for traps always. Move silently all the time and know when to run regardless of what the rest of the party is doing.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Mulsiphix View Post
    The campaign setting sounds very interesting so far. A given would have to be the recovery of the cargo from the Orc pirates who could either be on a boat offshore or have a small camp setup somewhere on the island.
    Sounds like a good start. I like it. Could be that the dragon is under direct command of the major villian (or he is the major villian), and he only is used to soften up larger targets. The big bad guy doesn't care much for the pirates themselves, letting them loot what they like in return for the aid of some humanoids that can locate what they are looking for on a given ship.

    So the orc camp could be one of the first adventures, allowing the players to supply themselves and learn a little about what is going from any communication they have received. I would modify the intro by saying the dragon took with it a mysterious box that the orcs brought up from the hold. The orcs took a the rest of the loot aboard their ship, trying to escape quickly as their air support flies off, the dragon's mission accomplished.

    Developer for Darkage Warlord, a Pen & Paper Games exclusive Medieval Wargame.

    If you are in the DC metro area and like to trade D&D minis (1.0 or 2.0), please send me a PM!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xaels Greyshadow View Post
    I want to play. I like the Swashbuckler class and the pirate style setting. Right now I have been thinking that as a plot, campaign option in the principalities of Eberron.
    Yeah, the Eberron setting has a lot to offer for this style of campaign. Particularly the Lhazaar Principalities, a group of islands infested with pirates, or the Thunder sea, the major point of transit between Xen'drik (where all the ancient ruins and many treasures can be found) and the main continent.

    Developer for Darkage Warlord, a Pen & Paper Games exclusive Medieval Wargame.

    If you are in the DC metro area and like to trade D&D minis (1.0 or 2.0), please send me a PM!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelstrom View Post
    Could be that the dragon is under direct command of the major villian (or he is the major villian)
    I think that would be a great way to get the party some equipment, some information, and even a little spice which could come in handy later for trade or money with an NPC you haven't created yet. I've never really found Dragons being the super villian any fun. Dragons are huge and represent one of the greatest challenges a party can face. They are notorious for lairs full of great treasure but I always like to think of them as the pets of a truly evil villian. Surely anybody that can command a dragon is amazingly powerful. I think in most cases those who can control dragons are usually much weaker than the dragon itself. At least if they were to fight the dragon the entire party would be pretty beaten up afterwards, possibly missing a member or two. Then when they go against the villian the fight is a little more balanced. Meh that is just my personal preference though.

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    I tend to agree with you on the purpose of dragons. They are incredibly intelligent, but why would a Dragon care about ruling a nation or unlocking a great evil? It would seem more likely that they would be paid/blackmailed into following a mastermind with these kind of goals than being that mastermind.

    Anyways, I think the island is a good start. They could have several encounters with the orc pirates before finally having a showdown with the bugbear captain and his shaman enforcer. By this point, they should be leveled enough to return to the seas and find themselves to a port somewhat like Stormreach on Xen'drik or Tortuga in Pirates of the Carribean, a stronghold where pirates are safe from the law enough to stew in their own intrigues and vices.

    Carrying on the campaign, what are some major adventures the players may encounter? I'd like to do at least one undersea adventure, maybe seeking aid from merfolk or unlocking a Sauhaugin artifact.

    Developer for Darkage Warlord, a Pen & Paper Games exclusive Medieval Wargame.

    If you are in the DC metro area and like to trade D&D minis (1.0 or 2.0), please send me a PM!

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    Corsairs of the Great Sea

    You can get "Corsairs of the Great Sea" is an ADnD supplement for Al-Qadim. Pirate oriented, and if you like the Forgotten Realms is 100% compatible.

    Of course Legend says that there are No Dragons in Zakhara
    Last edited by Dimthar; 01-01-2008 at 09:28 PM. Reason: Added Link
    Saluti
    Carlos

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    Pirates...good god, yes, I love them.

    Good supplements for pirate adventure:

    Pirate's Guide to Freeport (Green Ronin)
    A systemless book describing a perfect pirate port city. Entertaining and a fine read. Also a great map. If you like this book, there is a whole line of adventures and other material to support Freeport. I would say "Black Sails over Freeport" is probably the most "piratety" of the published adventures.

    Savage Tide (Dungeon #139-#150 plus support in concurrent issues of Dragon magazine)
    Perhaps the definitive D&D pirates campaign. Great stuff. Adventures from the exotic port city of Sasserine to the Isle of Dread to heart of the Abyss. Even if you don't use the campaign itself, it is great read and a great resource for what a D&D themed pirate campaign could be like.

    En Route II: By Land or By Sea (Atlas Games)
    A collection of short adventures intended to be used en route to other adventures. Many of the second collection are set at sea and make interesting interludes for an "at sea" campaign

    Five Fingers: Port of Deceit (Privateer Press)
    Another pirate city with another great map. Yes, yes, its set in the technofantasy world of Iron Kingdoms and gives dire warnings on the cover if you don't own the (now hard to find) Iron Kingdoms two main books. But that said, I read it before I read either of the two main books and I followed it fine. I bet it would be a cinch to add to Eberron. Its full of great ideas for adventure in a fantasy pirate port. It also has Wolfgang Baur's great little system for running your own pirate gang.

    Stormwrack (Wizards of the Coast)
    Not really my thing. But if you are looking for nautical crunch for the d20 system, here it is. It does have some pretty cool sea beasties in it. And the ship stats are interesting. It is probably the best of the environment books by WOTC. Be sure to read John Cooper's review on ENWorld for his "unofficial" errata.

    Skull and Bones (Green Ronin)
    A book I've had recommended to me several times that I don't own (yet). It brings relatively historically accurate pirates and voodoo magic to the d20 system. Its also full of island maps.

    Anyways, that's all I can think of off the top of my head.

    Gary

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelstrom View Post
    Carrying on the campaign, what are some major adventures the players may encounter? I'd like to do at least one undersea adventure, maybe seeking aid from merfolk or unlocking a Sauhaugin artifact.
    No pirate setting is complete with out some form of a treasure hunt. Even if it is just a small side adventure. I know they're very "cookie-cutter" by definition but if you dress it up, make it a real puzzle, then I think it could be great fun. I think riddles are definitely appropriate for clues and having at least one stop during the hunt where the players are positive this is the location of the treasure, only to find yet another clue or that the treasure is long gone... well that would be awesome.

    My favorite type of treasure hunts are the kind with riddle clues that lead you in circles. You end up right back where you started or the treasure or the answer to a riddle that makes no sense at all, was right in your face the entire time. Another option for there being no treasure at the end of the hunt is there being a box with a note in it or perhaps nothing but a single random item. Random item should be able to identify a location or event but not point them exactly where they need to go. The note could be that very item. Say a "Took the treasure, better luck next time" note in an empty chest and the note is written on the stationary of an inn the players remember. Adds adventure to the end of a side quest that could easily lead them to whoever possesses the treasure now or at least serve as a hook to start the next part of the campaign.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelstrom View Post
    Carrying on the campaign, what are some major adventures the players may encounter? I'd like to do at least one undersea adventure, maybe seeking aid from merfolk or unlocking a Sauhaugin artifact.
    Or Aquatic Elves? (Scrags and Water Mephits are always nice too, for a road block)

    The party can always have a rival pirate ship that wants to steal their goods. Hiding out in a pirate-friendly port(ie the ones loaded with taverns) is always fun, the PCs can always have allies here.

    Ditto to what Mulsiphix said. Trailing the guy that took the treasure could be a nice segway, too. For example, when one of my guys dropped out in Revenge of the Dragon, most of the party was in a fortress, and his character was on guard duty, outside. When the party came out, they found him kidnapped by the villian NPC, so another series of events happened to get their friend back.
    Last edited by Anaesthesia; 01-03-2008 at 01:10 PM.

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    I always enjoy a good rescue mission. Maybe an NPC they meet along the way gets kidnapped, is being held hostage/for ransom, or is killed. Either way the party is driven to fight it out over the open seas. I've always enjoyed ship VS ship battles but the most memorable ones are when one or both ship crews board the their opponents ship for some quality close quarter fighting. Not to mention a great place to plunder is onboard a pirate ship. A good boat chase is always nice, especially when fog is involved and the party has a hard time figuring out where exactly the enemy is.

    Another idea for an adventure is clearing out entire islands or multiple islands in order to setup some kind of establishment. This could be another pirate friendly territory, a place where your party can draw their enemies in for an ambush, a place to hide when others are looking for them, or even a place to give up the life of piracy and start real honest establishments. Of course you took the land by force, through blood and death, but why not give out piracy by going "out with a bang"

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    Excellent ideas Mulsiphix and Anaesthesia, this is great.

    I looked up the Corsairs of the Great Seas module, and it is full of great ideas that I'll be able to put in as well, thanks Dimthar.

    Thanks for the booklist, gdmcbride... I'll have to wait until DDXP and my determination whether to jump headfirst into 4.0 before investing heavily, but looking at Stormwrack I might be interested in at least picking that one up, looks like a good book.

    So, now we have several possible adventures laid out:
    Introduction and being stranded on the island
    Defeating the orc pirates
    Treasure hunt with plenty of puzzles
    Follow up when treasure is missing
    Undersea mission
    Clearing and maintaining a hideout
    Adventures relating to a pirate port
    Rescue

    There will definitely be plenty of ship-ship action and ship-monster action, shipboard as well as chases and retreats. I envision the party won't start out with much, but as they reach higher levels they'll be able to be major parts of a larger ships crew, and eventually have one to themselves with a crew to man it as they go ashore (or undersea) for adventures. Of course they'll be a traitor in their midst, and a bunch of bloodthirsty pirate rivals trying to kill them, and the danger of that red dragon on the horizon.

    I expect this campaign to be pretty fluid, going the way the players seem to enjoy the most, since there are plenty of directions this campaign can go.

    So now with some of these details worked out its time to think about the grand scheme, so that it can all be tied together. Obviously it started with the dragon taking something from the ship, important enough that a dragon got involved in the mess. The dragon will act as a mercenary for a shadowy figure or group, intent on some kind of evil.

    So the players have a few mysteries to solve:
    1) Who is behind the attack which seems to have had some kind of inside information?
    2) Why is a dragon involved?
    3) What is it that the dragon took?

    As the players seek to answer these questions, they will unravel the plot bit by bit and realize it goes much deeper. So, what I would like to do now is get ideas regading this scheme. Is it the machinations of a would be pirate king? Is there a group intent on awakening the Leviathon, a force that caused a great deal of destruction a couple thousand years ago? Lets hear your ideas.

    Developer for Darkage Warlord, a Pen & Paper Games exclusive Medieval Wargame.

    If you are in the DC metro area and like to trade D&D minis (1.0 or 2.0), please send me a PM!

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    A personal favorite of mine in any setting is a very strong puppet (shadowy figure who has the dragon working for him) is being manipulated or is willing working for an evil that has no physical body in this world. This grand evil could be in another dimension, realm, or imprisoned in an item in this world. While, in LOTR, it was cool that Sauron could come back if he got his hands on the ring, I prefer the "grand evil was cast of of this realm/dimension thousands of years ago" as it was shown in the movie Hellboy. The idea that an evil was so grand that it was imprisoned in another plane of existence long ago by the worlds most powerful wizards and warriors... oh man that is sexy.

    So the item on the ship could be part of whatever is needed to bring this great evil back into our world. As the party continues on they witness other ships being attacked, cities being razed, etc... They could be out in the middle of nowhere and spot the dragon crawling under a waterfall only to come back out with something in its claws. When they go to inspect they find cave writing or other evidence that gives them a great deal of information about this shadowy figure and what the dragon has been up to.

    Such a storyline is always thrilling and can be quite suspenseful. It allows for lots of fighting, tracking. puzzles, clues, adventure, RP, grand plots with countless sub-plots, saving the world, etc...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mulsiphix View Post
    A personal favorite of mine in any setting is a very strong puppet (shadowy figure who has the dragon working for him) is being manipulated or is willing working for an evil that has no physical body in this world.

    So the item on the ship could be part of whatever is needed to bring this great evil back into our world.
    I was just thinking. If the party has one part of this magic item, and the NPC trapped on the other plane (or what have you) has the other part of this, and once both items are placed/put together the NPC can break free of the plane he's trapped on. The NPC could also have some sort of ally that is willing to fight (and to get others invovled to do the legwork) for this item to get his friend/master/whatever out.

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