Traveling, and the random encounters therein are an integral part of the RPG experience, be it a face to face group at a table, a console or computer game, or a moderated PBeM game. While Where the Road may take you, and Walking Through the Forest When… dealt with traveling on land, this scroll takes the PCs out onto the water.
Lakes, seas, and rivers are all common features of gaming worlds. Travel in a boat, be it a small river raft or a coast hugging merchant ship, is something that will eventually happen in every game. Encounters on the water need not all be life threatening, battles with kraken, whirlpools, and sirens on the rocks. The following scroll is presented for encounters for a low level PC party on a small ship, ideally one where the PCs are the primary members, rather than on very large ocean going vessels with large crews.
So thus is presented for the Citadel’s approval…
I Will Sail My Vessel…
Additional Ideas (13)
riding in a small river boat, the PCs have been enjoying an easy trip as the winds have favored the ship's small sails and single mast. Trouble arises as the ship moves into a turbid part of the river. Here the river is littered with sandbars and rock ridges. One misstep can strang the boat, requiring the PCs to have to dig out a sandbar by hand, or find someway to life a rivercraft off of a rockbar.
The captain calls the crew and PCs to the sweeps/oars and they must endure some hard manual labor at the rowlocks as the ship crawls through the sand infested part of the river. If the ship makes it through, the captain breaks out some Buccaneer Rum to reward his small crew and the PCs. If the ship is grounded, the PCs are delayed and the captain asks for a new fee so he can do some repair work on the ship after they are dropped off at their destination.
A seam in the hull has sprung and now water is filling the ship at a steady rate. Only the most daft of Pcs would not notice the ship sitting lower and lower in the water as she takes on water and gains weight. If the PCs are that dense, the ship can start to list, or lean to the side as one side fills faster than the other.
Once the situation is realized, the PCs/crew can fix the leaking seam with a moderate skill check. The real challenge comes as they have to drain the water out of the ship, possibly one bucket at a time if they do not have anytihng like a bilge pump. Their goods, cargo, and equipment might even be completely soaked before they save the sinking ship.
While gliding up the river, the ship passes a calm riverside pool where a number of young women from a nearby village have gathered to wash themselves and their weekly laundry. The PCs are able to get an eyefull of their young bodies.
The young women wave as the ship passes but if the PCs try to put ashore, or dive off of the ship, the women scurry to gather their goods and escape back to the village where the menfolk are with spears and shields and such.
Another boat on the river hails the PCs and their small craft. The captain has the look of a river rat and a thief, but he offers a few small goods, primarly a double handful of limes gathered from several small potted lime trees on his ship. In exchange he is interested in getting more hull sealant for his ship, possibly some new rope, a spare sail, or some other vital need. He has no treasure and is a simple river rat who lives on his boat, fishes, and does some business as a non-guild merchant and courier.
Along the river, the PC encounter a massive three masted ocean going ship. She is half buried in river sand, her sails gone to tatters, rope rotted or looted, and her deck warped and swaybacked from exposure. If they explore the wreck that blocks half of the river they find it slick with growing slime and mold, the upper parts home to hundred of birds and all sorts of other creatures who have made their homes inside of its dark and cool interior.
There is no real treasure to be found aboard. The ship was part of an attempt to map the river a long time ago when the waters were much deeper. The ship was grounded and abandoned, its crew assimilated into the local populace. Alternately, it could be the hulk of a once known and feared pirate, igniting a bout of pirate treasure fever!
The PC's ship happen upon a ramshackle vessel barely keeping above the waves. On board are a ridiculous number of refugees in very bad condition. There are too many on board to easily take on the PC's own ship. It is obvious that the next bit of bad weather will spell the end for the passengers. The PCs are now given the dilemma of what to do? If they pull overside, then the refugees will attempt, en masse, to board the PC's better ship, possibly overloading it, or upsetting their own vessel, causing many weakened persons to fall into the water. If the PCs ignore the vessel, then it could be a problem for characters such as priests & paladins who need to uphold good. To add to the problem, make the refugees a relatively unpopular, but not evil, people.
This encounter can be scaled appropriately - but it needs to happen on the high seas, so that the simple option of landing the ship is not available.
The PC's lookout sees smoke on the horison. If the PC's ship moves closer to investigate, they will see that it is medium-sized longship and that it is piled with burning brush. It appears to be a funeral ship - the body has alredy been consumed by flame, but there does appear to be some grave goods remaining.
If the PC's decide to try and salvage something, they have a few issues:
1. Ship is on fire :)
2. Moral issues - this is graverobbing.
3. If they are seen by another ship of the same group, they will be attacked without mercy.
The PC's are treated to a rare performance by mother nature - a Waterspout appears some distance away from the PC's vessel. Generally these are not as dangerous as land-based tornadoes, but then again, this may not be a natural waterspout...
The PCs have spent long days and uncomfortable nights on the ship, when one evening they discover a golden medallion stuffed between two sacks in the cargo hold. There seems to be blood on it and it is unnaturally cold to the touch. It is a 14 karat medallion (gold-silver alloy) and on it two stylized ravens, much like a coat of arms, is engraved. On the edges an inscription reads: "Honour, glory and skill".
The medallion is a piece of mystery. No one aboard the ship will recognize it, though some scruffians will be quick to claim it should the PCs be so naive as to openly declare that they found it. No one has been wounded either, but should the PCs inspect the cargo they will discover a dismembered corpse wrapped in layer upon layer of cloth in three of the sacks. A PC with heraldry may recognize the coat of arms as belonging to the Dularien Family, an influential noble family making their home in the previous port they visited.
The corpse is Berus Dularien, the eldest son and heir of old lord Dularien. Whether Berus was killed by his brothers (for the title and wealth), by criminals (gambling debt) or by some random psychotic (aboard the ship) is up to the GM. They did not intend to leave the amulet behind, but lost it and had to flee when dock workers approached to put more cargo in the hold.
The amulet has a minor enchantment, protecting the wearer from water. This extends to rain, snow and even drunk water (rolls out of the mouth and down his neck (without touching the neck)), until it is sucked up into the clothing (wet clothing will be pushed 1 mm from the wearer's skin). To drink, bathe (will sink to the bottom of the ocean... dry) or feel the rain, the wearer must remove the amulet.
Blood, oil, paint and other liquids do stick to the amulet.
In wide open ocean, the PCs come across a languishing, slowly sinking ship. As the PCs vessel approaches, the ship can be seen to be somewhat broken up and tilted heavily downward to one side, bobbing in the water, no more than three or four hours away from permanently sinking below the sloshing waves.
If the PCs board the vessel and investigate, they will discover several corpses in a state of physical disarray, arms torn off, heads bashed in, legs twisted and broken. Masts are splintered, and all wood aboard the ship seems to have suffered from some rampaging force.
Suddenly, as all else is quiet, one of the PCs opens the hatch and out comes running a huge fleshy creature not unlike a man, but too large and revolting by half to be human. Brandishing its fists, the flesh golem advances on the PCs with speed and indescribable ferocity. As the ship sinks slowly, the PCs will have to battle this unexpected creature.
The Flesh Golem was the ensorcelled servant of a wizard, to whom this ship belonged. During the wizard's voyage, the mage had an epiphany. In lieu of tiring out his hired sailors, and in order to keep up morale, the wizard had his tireless golem do most of the sailor's work on board. All went well, until the golem snapped, the wizard having pushed the envelope as far as commands handed out to the brainless creature. The golem went berserk, slew the shocked wizard, and every man on board in a matter of minutes, and then began destroying the ship itself in fury, uncaring of its own fate.
This scenario is not original in and of itself. The PCs have probably seen their share of golems over the years. However, the surprise factor involved in boarding a creaky, sinking ship, out in the middle of nowhere, to investigate its mysterious fate, and being assaulted by a berserk flesh golem, bent on destruction, if handled correctly, could freak the PCs out, and make this a memorable encounter. (It was for my PCs)
Another variation is that the Golem went berserk, slew everyone on board, then "calmed" again, and seeing its master slain, by its own hand, grew depressed. In this case, the PCs find the saddened automaton below deck, holding the dead wizard in his arms, and making sounds not unlike the sounds of human crying. Upon seeing the PCs, the golem groans loudly, and rises, holding the mage in his arms, and staring at the PCs with a longing, pleading look of deep melancholy.
(based on Frankenstein's tragic ending of course)
Sailing comfortably down the river, a small boat approaches yours. The man inside rows intensively, gives you little more than a disapproving glance, and surpasses you in a moment, getting out of sight where the river bends. Moments later, a group of men passes by in two larger boats, rowing and ignoring you as well.
Intervening may bring you trouble, but asking in the right way (they are soldiers, for those who can see) will reveal you that this is part of training new recruits; the first to reach the city downstream gets a leave.
(The encounter may be of no big consequence, or be another hint that war is coming.)
A strange fog descends upon the ship, limiting visibility to just a few feet. Within the fog is an array of evil spirits who will then enter the ship and cause one or more misfortunes:
Effects of the Killing Fog...
1. A crew member or other NPC is possessed and become psychotic.
2. A crew member or other NPC disappears into the fog. Someone might hear a body fall into the water, but the encompassing fog makes rescue unlikely.
3. A shipboard animal - perhaps a pet, war dog, or other beast, undergoes a grotesque transformation, becoming demonic in visage and attacking.
4. A crewman or NPC is found dead, their skin a dreadfully pale white. Unless properly disposed of with funeral rites, they will come back to haunt the ship. Searching of the ship turns up nothing.
5. Incorporeal undead board the ship - perhaps as minor as poltergeists, or as deadly as wraiths.
6. All sources of fire are snuffed and refuse to light for many hours after the fog dissipates.
Torn from my At the Foot of the World sub, and altered slightly to suit this scroll.
The ship encounters a massive school of fish - so many cod that the progress of the ship is impeded. Using nets, baskets or other devices, the ship can load up on as much fish as it cares to carry.