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August 23, 2009, 8:36 pm

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Corvorane's Cave

By:

The dread pirate Corvorane was legendary even after his capture and conversion to a privateer.  His secret fortress and hidden treasure are of equal fame.  But more than gold lurks in the depths of Corvorane’s Cave.

sea_cave

History

For a score and seven years, Corvorane was the most feared pirate of Ansilian Seas.  As a captain, he led a fleet of nine strong ships crewed by more than 400 buccaneers.  They plundered without mercy, taking vessels regardless of their colors and marauding towns without quarter to any.  This band of rogues, known as Corvorane’s Corsairs, were mighty enough to put even the Royal Armada on guard.

As a man, Corvorane was just as threatening as his fleet.  He stood over two meters tall, with a huge barrel chest and arms like banded steel.  He styled himself as a noble, wearing a powdered wig and a sharp, trim goatee and moustache.  This somehow made him even more menacing to behold.  The few who survived him in battle told tales of a fierce and ruthless fighter, wielding a cutlass in one hand and a whaling harpoon in the other.  Both him and his Corsairs seemed impossible to capture.

Many wondered what he did with his wealth, and where he hid himself.  Some said he lived with his fleet, making his flagship Deadheart his castle.  Other rumored that he was no man but a water dragon in disguise, and he disappeared onto the ocean floor at night.  The most popular rumor, however, was that Corvorane used caves on the northernmost coast of the kingdom, at the rugged Maho Cape, as his headquarters.  It was this that would soon prove to be true.

One fateful day, after a raid on the port town Haverstone, royal constables assessing the damage came across one of Corvorane’s Corsairs in the town hall’s cellar, having apparently drank himself asleep.  The constables immediately seized the rogue and brought him back to the castle’s keep for interrogation.  After only a few days of intense torture, the pirate broke down and, weeping like a child, told the interrogator where Corvorane hid.  Taking the prisoner with them, skilled marines of the Royal Armada sailed off to Maho Cape to capture the dread pirate.

After a harrowing journey sailing along the rough coast, the prisoner finally told the marines to stop, for this was Corvorane’s cave.  To the marines’ surprise, there was no visible cave, only high rocky cliffs.  The prisoner explained: the entrance to Corvorane’s fortress was beneath the sea.  To access it, one had to swim eight meters down, then upward into the mouth of the cave.  The marines were skeptical to say the least, but having no other lead, their strongest swimmer volunteered to go down.  Taking a dirk and the prisoner, the marine swam beneath the rough seas and disappeared.  Twenty minutes later, he swam back, bloodied and bruised.  There was indeed a cave entrance, but it was guarded by a beastly white crocodile which had made a meal of the prisoner.  Five other marines dove in and entered the cave, managing to kill the crocodile with losing only one man.  They navigated the dark, barnacled caves until they finally entered the main chamber: a huge room filled with gold and treasures.  They found Corvorane, too, along with a dozen of his corsairs.  The marines had the advantage of surprise, however, and managed to best the corsairs, losing two men in the fight.  The other two finally cornered Corvorane and disarmed him.  They managed to wrestle him kicking and screaming to the surface, where he was immediately manacled and chained.  The remaining marines gave three cheers and opened a bottle of fine wine: the pirate Corvorane was finally caught.  The treasure should be returned, they agreed, but bringing it out of the cave and up to the surface was too much trouble for the moment.  The loot was safe, for no one could possibly access it.

A parade greeted the soldiers at the royal capitol.  Corvorane was marched through the city streets, to be jeered and awed at.  He no longer resisted, instead appearing deeply ashamed.  Brought before the king, he was promptly convicted of piracy and murder, a crime which carries execution as its sentence.  Just as Corvorane was about to be dragged to the stockade, the Grand Admiral stopped them.  He made a recommendation to the king: Corvorane was too valuable to be wasted with death.  He knew every pirate on the sea, where they hid, and what their weaknesses were.  The Royal Armada could use his knowledge to capture every pirate on the sea and bring an end to maritime crime.  Inspired, the king made an offer to Corvorane: work for the crown as a pirate hunter, and be spared death.  The once-proud marauder, who would normally have been infuriated at such an insulting offer, was too humiliated to say no.  Corvorane was given commission as a privateer, command of a ship, and servile freedom under the crown.  His first hunt was one of revenge: he found the Deadheart and slaughtered every crewman who had served under him.

This was Corvorane’s last.  He seized ship after ship, always capturing as much of the crew alive as possible, sending them aboard prison ships to the capitol.  The king gradually granted him more freedom: payment first, then his own crew selection, and finally liberty to live where he pleased.  Corvorane had proved himself loyal to the kingdom.  He sailed for ten more years, eventually simply sending back pirate ships with his own skeleton crew.  Where were the pirates?  The crews never seemed to know.  Also a mystery was precisely where Corvorane lived; only the surviving marines and the king knew of the Maho Cape cave.  By the end of the decade, there was hardly a pirate to be found in the Ansilian Seas, and Corvorane retired to his home.

Though the king no longer cared where Corvorane lived since he had served his purpose, the public felt differently.  A delegation from the Merchants’ Guild lobbied the king constantly to retrieve Corvorane’s stolen treasure, which was owed to the people.  The king relented, and asked the Grand Admiral to handle it.  For the complex task of raising tons of treasure from underwater, the Grand Admiral dispatched a large chunk of the fleet.  The marines were more than happy to do the task, the past several months being very slow with no pirate activity.  Unfortunately for the kingdom, the Grand Admiral’s decision to send nearly the entire Royal Armada would cost dearly.

A day and a half out of the capitol, the Armada spotted a pinnance flying royal colors fast approaching.  The ship’s small crew brought terrible news: the kingdom was under attack.  It seemed the king’s nephew, a selfish brat of a teenager, had taken the opportunity to attack with a fleet of his own mercenaries.  He had paid of the Merchants’ Guild to distract the king with demands for the treasure.  Defectors in the royal army joined the nephew as well, and the capitol was in grave danger.  The Armada immediately came about and headed for the capitol, but it was too late.  The king was dead, and the nephew now wore the crown.  Civil war was fought for several months, and it was years before the kingdom flourished again.  In those years, Corvorane and his treasure were all but forgotten.

Corvorane did not forget.  With dark obsession for cruelty, he waited in his cave, eating the various crabs and kelps that lived there.  Every once in a while, a treasure hunter or pirate would find his way into the cave seeking fortune.  They would be greeted with Corvorane’s malicious smile, and their fate was sealed…

Plot Hooks

It is unlikely the party is going to simply wander underwater and into the cave; they must seek it somehow, and manage to find it.  They may hear rumors of Corvorane’s wealth and his secret fortress, or that among his treasures was {vital campaign item}.  They may even wish to use the cave as their own base of operations.  Finding it, however, is a more difficult matter.  Since the cave has an underwater entrance, they will need either a guide or a very detailed map.  Perhaps one of the surviving marines, now an old sea dog, has a sense of adventure and is willing to go with them to find it.  Or the royal library, largely ignored during the civil war, contains a map of the cave’s location made for the king.  Once they have knowledge of how to get to the cave, they will have to get there.

The Ansilian Seas and Maho Cape

The coasts of the Ansilian Seas are dotted with port towns and harbors, so finding a ship will not be difficult.  If the PCs aren’t good sailors, they’ll need to hire a crew as well.  The Ansilian Seas are mostly calm, but Maho Cape is rougher.  A two-and-a-half day journey northward, the path to Maho is filled with reefs, shallows, and rough seas.  The coast gradually goes from sandy to rough and rocky, and Maho itself is little more than a rocky outcropping of cliffs.  Storms also tend to crop up here, so careful sailing is required.

The Entrance

To access the dungeon, the PCs must swim down eight meters and then up into the mouth of the cave.  This must be done at low tide, as the entrance is too far down to swim at high tide (unless you happen to be merfolk).  The current and undertow is swift, but the water is quite clear.  Even if they do expect to see combat (and they will), the PCs may do well to leave their heavy armor and gear in the boat, lest they sink to Davy Jones’ trying to get into the cave.

The Crocs

Once the players enter the cave and get a look around, they’ll be greeted with toothy grins and pale hides: the huge albino crocodiles that dwell in the cave’s wide mouth.  Relatives of the one killed by the marines years back, these crocs wait for the tide to go out, feasting on the fish and other fauna that are stranded on the rocks at low tide.  Their skin is pale from seeing little light, and though they appear fat and lazy, they are terribly swift and strong.  There are about three to five of these reptiles in the cave’s mouth (or more, for higher level campaigns).  They are sensitive to light, however, and are easily blinded by light spells.  When blinded, they go into a clumsy rage that is fierce but unguided.  If the players manage to best the crocs, they must then navigate…

The Tunnels

A few dozen meters past the mouth, the cavern narrows and splits off into a labyrinthine series of tunnels.  This natural maze is tight, narrow, and dark.  The volcanic rock walls are sharp and wet, though sometimes slippery.  The tunnels twist and turn, some leading into dead ends or dropping straight into the ocean.  Small crustaceans and patches of kelp dot the walls, floors, and ceilings of the tunnels.  Also dwelling here are more dangerous foes: spider crabs and brute crabs.  Spider crabs are spindly and fast creatures, ranging in leg span from a few feet up to three meters.  Their claws are sharp and swift, but their carapace is only moderately strong.  Brute crabs, on the other hand, are thick and slow, but unusually strong.  They vary in size, from about two feet to two meters in length, head to tail.  They are built compact and bulky, with large crushing claws and a thick carapace.  These crabs wander the tunnels, mostly concerned with eating and breeding, but are territorial and will attack whatever comes into their domain.  Assuming the players can maneuver through the tunnels and deal with the crabs, they will find themselves in the main chamber of Corvorane’s fortress.

The Main Chamber

The tunnel opens into the main chamber, a massive domed room of natural rock.  Cheap oil lanterns encricle the room, hanging from the walls.  A large arch in the back of the chamber is draped with a huge fishing net; gold, chests, and barrels are visible in the room behind.  To the right is a tunnel blocked by thick wrought iron bars.  Just in front of the arch sits a throne-like armchair, its wood and upholstrery well worn by salt and water.  Seated in the chair is none other than Corvorane himself.  He wears the tattered remains of a royal naval uniform, the bright orange color faded to a sad rust.  The shine of an iron breastplate can be seen beneath the naval coat.  Atop his head sits a captain’s bicorne and a noble’s wig, both a dull gray color.  He has aged, his face somewhat wrinkled and pale, but he is as large and muscular as ever.  As he rises to greet his “guests,” something growls from behind him.  An enormous, scarred albino crocodile lurches out from behind the throne.  Corvorane gives a blackened smile, his gray-blond moustache and goatee twitching.

Well, lookie here.  Pirates, eh?  Ye’ve come a long way, by the looks o’ ye.  A bit surprised ye made it this far—pleasantly surprised, mind ye.  Haven’t had visitors for a few years now.  Ain’t that right, Queenie?  Yes, Ol’ Queen an’ I ‘ave been lookin’ for some company.  Give ‘em the ol’ welcoming show, Queenie, eh?

With what you swear is a grin, the huge crocodile saunters forward, then lunges.  Defeating Ol’ Queenie is no easy feat.  She is a full eight meters long and wrapped with thick muscle.  Her hide is white and marred with deep cuts and scars.  Unlike her relatives the party has already dealt with, she seems unphased by light.  She is strong, but not too fast.  It would be difficult to penetrate her strong back and skull, but her underbelly is thinner.

If the players manage to best Ol’ Queenie, Corvorane will be enraged and leap into the battle himself.  He wields a large cutlass and a serrated whaling harpoon.  He fights strong and fierce, with surprising swiftness for his age and size.  He is not a fair fighter either, kicking sand and tripping his opponents with the butt of his harpoon.  He seems to ignore most injuries, fighting until he is bloodied and broken.

When the players finally corner Corvorane, he lets loose his ace in the hole.  With a tug on one of the hanging lanterns, the iron gate blocking the smaller tunnel drops into the ground.  Moans and grunts can be heard, then hisses and growls.  Suddenly, a white mass bursts from the tunnel.  Dozens of humanoid figures—gaunt, pale, naked, and unnaturally thin—stumble out and heave toward the players.  At first, they appear to be undead, but no such luck.  These abominable creatures are Corvorane’s prisoners from his hunting days, kept in the cavern to pay their sentence alive, albeit barely.  Corvorane has kept them half-starved and mostly mad, their hair and nails long from years of neglect.  Their skin, like the albino crocodiles, has faded to a pale white.  Driven insane by hunger, they crave any food—even if it’s still on the player’s bones.  The destitute prisoners are not very strong, though their adrenaline and madness gives them unnatural speed and viciousness.  Their sheer numbers are enough to keep the party busy as they try to feast on their living flesh.  Corvorane, their tormenter, will alternate between fighting off the prisoners and the party.  At the GM’s discretion, Ol’ Queenie, apparently injured rather than killed, may even join the fray.  The end of the battle will (hopefully) leave the prisoners, Queenie, and Corvorane dead.  At last, the treasure is the party’s for the taking.  Unless, of course, you wish to throw in the following further challenges for higher level players.

Threll

Corvorane and Ol’ Queenie have had more company all these years than they realised.  Not long after Corvorane the pirate had been captured, a young half-elf thief named Threll discovered the legendary cavern.  He had heard the marines talking of the place in a bar and was able to follow their conversation well enough to find the place.  The crocodile, the only one living in the cave at that time, was dead, and the beastly crabs had not yet made a home of the recently used tunnels.  The young crook was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of treasure.  Unfortunately, he had no way to get the bulk of it out of the cave.  Settling for a few select items, he swam out and swore to return.

And return he did, for several years while Corvorane hunted in the Ansilian Seas, each time taking a bit of the treasure.  The young thief also worked the cities, becoming skilled in his trade.  On one fateful trip to the secret cavern, Threll was preparing to leave with some choice items when he heard the sound of footsteps coming from the tunnels.  A dyed-in-the-wool coward, Threll hid behind a few barrels and waited.  He was horrified by what entered: it was Corvorane and some of his crew, leading in a chained group of prisoners.  They were driven into a side tunnel, into which Corvorane entered as well.  Minutes later, horrific screams of pain were heard.  Threll hid for hours until the crew and Corvorane finally left.  As soon as he thought the coast was clear, Threll made for the tunnels, quickly navigating the now familiar maze.  When he finally emerged at the mouth, he was greeted by a monstrous white reptile—none other than Queenie, Corvorane’s newly acquired pet.  Terrified, Threll fled back to the safety of the treasure room.  He struggled to find another exit—another tunnel, a crack in the wall, anything—but it was hopeless.  Threll’s fear would not allow him to even attempt to maneuver around the crocodile.  He was trapped by his own cowardice.

Thus Threll stayed, hiding in the treasure room, surviving off small crabs and other marine life that wandered his way.  He became extremely skilled at staying hidden, managing to keep out of Corvorane’s sight for all the years he lived there.  His fear never stopped however, fed by the sights of giant crabs that Corvorane brought back for his meals and pirate prisoners that were clearly mad.  He too grew gradually mad in a way, coming to believe that all the treasure was rightfully his and Corvorane was but an intruder in Threll’s own domain.  He practiced throwing weapons he found in the treasure room, from stones to sharp gems to gilded daggers.  He never had the courage to try and assassinate Corvorane, however, the pirate hunter’s bulk and ferocity too intimidating.

But now, finally, he sees an opportunity.  Corvorane, Queenie, even the cannibalistic prisoners are dead.  The players appear to be skilled enough fighters to have made it through the crab-infested tunnels; they are surely clear of any danger now.  Threll is ready to finally escape his prison.  But leaving now would mean abandoning his treasure, which the newcomer warriors are surely after.  They cannot be allowed to live.  With Corvorane dead, Threll finds new courage to eliminate his foes.

As soon as the party enters the treasure room, they will be greeted with an assault of projectiles: coins, gems, knives, stones, anything and everything.  Threll will not assault them directly, though, and hides behind the myriad barrels, chests, crates and stones of the treasure trove.  The room is partially filled with water, and the fight takes place on top of stacks of loot.  Threll is very fast, but not particuarly strong.  If the players can somehow corner him and keep him from disappearing in a nook or cranny, they’ll surely have victory.  Threll’s resolve breaks under pressure, and if he is captured, he will burst into tears and plea for his life.  It’s up to the players whether or not to spare him.

“The Crew”

The players may decide to explore the prisoner tunnel.  They will find a reeking, disgusting pit filled with excrement, blood, and rotting corpses.  In an adjoining room, they will find what appears to be a dining room, but the table has a gruesome meal: a fresh corpse, opened at the ribcage with organs hanging out.  Before the PCs can react, a door swings open and out steps another prisoner.  He is unlike the others, though.  Though pale and sickly-looking, he is somewhat fit, clothed, and armed.  On seeing the players, he lets out a piercing cry.  Four more prisoners, also clothed and armed, come out through the door.  Apparently, they want a fight.

These wretches are Corvorane’s “Crew”.  He chooses a few strong prisoners from his catches and feeds them more than the others, giving them the privilege of clothing as well.  They act as guards for the prisoners, keeping new ones in line and dealing out violent order.  Apparently, they missed the din of battle as they were preparing to feast on a prisoner Corvorane provided for them as sustenance.  They’ve figured out what has happened on seeing the players, and are quick to enact vengeance.  The crew are fairly skilled fighters, and combat with an unmatched recklessness and animal-like ferocity.  The players should be able to handle them, though.

The Reward

When all the danger is through, the party has free reign over the caverns.  Beyond the treasure, there’s not much to be had in the cave, but there is plenty of treasure.  The trouble is the same one Threll had: the bulk of the loot would have to be somehow dragged through the narrow tunnels and up to the surface (exactly how Corvorane got the loot down there is still a mystery).  That doesn’t mean they’ll go empty handed, however.  There’s plenty of small but valuable treasures they can carry to the surface.  They might even find an item they’ve been looking for, or a clue to their next quest.  On Covorane’s person, they won’t find much else besides his cutlass—perhaps enchanted with evil from his crew he cut down on the Deadheart—, his harpoon, and his old letter of marque from the deposed king.  On their return to the kingdom, the letter of marque will likely provide the players with some degree of fame for having killed the infamous Corvorane.  The cavern may remain hidden as well, if the players don’t spread word of its location, and they may use it as a hideout or personal bank.



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Comments ( 20 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Scrasamax
July 19, 2006, 23:55
0xp
Lets see, pirates, a nest of hidden treasure, a huge betrayal, a civil war, a giant albino crocodile, cowards, crabs, cannibalism, and a fight scene in a half flooded treasuse room. Everything looks to be in perfect shape here.
Voted CaptainPenguin
July 20, 2006, 0:31
0xp
Lovely!
Dozus
July 20, 2006, 0:39
0xp
Updated: Adjusted a few measurements and corrected a grammatical error.
Voted Shadoweagle
July 20, 2006, 2:32
0xp
A thoroughly enjoyable post - Keep up the good work!
Voted manfred
July 20, 2006, 2:53
0xp
Watch out - the pirates rise in the Citadel!

A classical plot with many juicy details. Entertaining, and the picture gets the feel of the place nicely. Good work.
Voted Murometz
July 20, 2006, 8:42
0xp
hmmm..you were holding back in chat a bit werent you?..:P

This is wonderful!! Great atmosphere, juicy details, and not a "high-level" world-changing adventure, but an old-fashioned "low-level" yarn, high on imagery and descriptions!

Thumbs all the way up!
Voted MoonHunter
July 20, 2006, 9:44
0xp
Two paws up. A nice brief history, good characterization, and a lot of potential. Really, you can do no better for a good adventure not involved in "saving the X".

The Image helps "sell" the piece. However, it also interferes with the text some. Can we reformat the post so the image is first and the text follows.
Dozus
July 20, 2006, 11:45
0xp
Yes, we certainly can.
Voted Cheka Man
July 20, 2006, 12:35
0xp
Yo ho ho and 5/5 points!
Voted Pariah
July 20, 2006, 20:34
0xp
Yeah!!! New AND improved, without that sentance contradicting itself.
Voted Ria Hawk
July 21, 2006, 16:59
0xp
Wow. This is awesome. It's one of those "Congratulations! You're screwed!" that repeats itself about six times. So many plot twists are possible, and there are a lot of ways that this can be used. Nifty.
Voted Ancient Gamer
July 23, 2006, 5:26
0xp
As have been said it is a classical plot and probably one that the elder GMs here have tried variants of. Jules Verne and his Captain Nemo as well as the recent Pirates of the Caribbean films do come to mind.

As for the dungeon itself: It is obvious that you put much labour into this. It is well written and very interesting at times. However I cannot escape that feeling of deja-vu. It all feels so predictable... A series of fights so the party can get treasure. A big nasty Pirate Captain and his pet Crocodiles.

Regardless: You have done well and the Citadellians obviously cherish your work. Congratulations!
Dozus
July 24, 2006, 15:36
0xp
Deja-vu can't be helped. It's an olde skool plot that kinda follows a predictable formula. I tried to punch it up with the mad prisoners and Threll the thief, but it's mainly meant to be a well-done classic dungeon.
Ancient Gamer
July 26, 2006, 4:10
0xp
As such it excels! My bet is that this will give you one very good evening with the crew :)
Voted Mourngrymn
July 23, 2006, 9:10
0xp
Not much to say that already hasn't been said. Entertaining all around. Good job.
manfred
October 2, 2007, 15:01
0xp
BUMP for another dungeon of some notoriety (and also featuring an image).
Voted Lanfear57
January 12, 2008, 18:09
0xp
Kudos, I like, I'm going to use this in a campaign I'm running this coming semester ^_^
Strolen
August 23, 2009, 20:16
0xp
Update: Updated graphic
Voted Lockheed
October 23, 2009, 23:03
0xp
Cool! Exactly the kind of Piratical adventure I've been looking for.
Voted valadaar
April 10, 2013, 11:11
0xp
Most Piratical indeed - nice adjective Lockheed. Though the practicality of having so many prisoners seems off, it delivers a cool scene.

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