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September 20, 2014, 7:42 pm

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Tales of the Phantom Ship


Tales of the Phantom Ship

From Top to keel ablaze

It sails the wide northumbrian strait

No-one knows her name.

Tales of the Phantom Ship

It’s a ship afire they cry

Hard against the wind it sails

No-one can say why

Lennie Gallant (Breakwater, 1988)

Thinking about submission ideas, I heard on the CBC (The canadian equivalent to the U.SA. National Public Radio) a song by Lennie Gallant, an east-coast folk artist.

Now, I’ve always loved this song, and now I think it is great material to post a sub, so here we go :)

You can find the full Lyrics here

Full Item Description

The Phantom Ship appears as a older-style ship (depending on the local technology level), perhaps dating back a few hundred years. What makes it exceptional is that it always appears to be on fire, and is rarely seen close up. Those rare times where it is encountered closely, details vary depending on the ship’s origins (see History). What is also common is that it is generally seen in or just before very bad weather (And as a result, considered quite the ill omen).

This scroll is intended to list possible origins of the Phantom ship and possible plot ideas to go with them.

Here a few to get started (inspired by lyrics of the abovementioned song):

A snippet can be heard at

The Harried

The Taru tribe had always been a headache for the Ramun Empire. The rough highlands provided difficult terrain for the empire’s armies, more suited to open battle on the great plains which formed much of it’s territory. After one particularly savage raid by the tribesmen (in truth, a reprisal for a prior raid by the empire), the emperor decided enough was enough and started a campaign to purge the highlands. Many of the Taru were slain in the campaign, but many managed to flee to the seaside city of Ashar. Cashing in the spoils of generations of raiding, the Taru purchased ships to make their escape from the pursuing imperial armies and took to the sea.

Planning to settle (by force if necessary) the first large island they found, they instead blundered into a savage storm which sunk the entire fleet. The Phantom Ship is the Osgood, ‘flagship’ of the ill-fortuned armada.

Plot Ideas:

The ghost ship will not be easy to put to rest. The empire which forced them to their doom is still standing and the current rulers descend from the emperor which ordered the purge. The destruction of the empire, or perhaps just the royal family would end their eternal voyage.

Alternatively, the PC’s could seek to set the ship at rest by destroying the ghosts (should your rule-system allow this). Attacking the ship would be difficult - even as ghosts the Taru are formidable warriors, and all of the ships of the fleet were overcrowded.

The Cursed

The Lanu people of the Isle of Anara were a particularly pious people. What happened to them at the hands of the privateers of Arnauch was beyond the pale. After many inhabitants were put to the sword, and the town put to the torch, the privateers brought the survivors of the town out to the reefs and cast them one by one into the shark-infested waters.

As one old woman was thrown to the waves to be torn apart by the creatures of the deep, she screamed a curse against the privateers that her gods heard, and made fact. From the bloody seas arose a great golden flame which engulfed the privateers and their ship.

Now they eternally burn - every moment an agony, as the cursed ship sails the waves.

Plot Ideas:

Given that this ship cursed due to the especially heinous acts of it’s crew, the gods which cursed them would oppose any attempts to put the ship to rest. Even destroying the ship and it’s crew would be temporary, at best, as on the next anniversary of the curse the ship and its crew would reform to sail the seas anew.

Perhaps the PCs would try and find out where the privateers kept their treasure? Making contact with the ship full of ghosts would be dangerous to body and soul..

The Unwanted

The Sudpholk were the losers in a war much larger then they. Their king failed in a bid to seize lands from his enemies and instead many of his own lands were lost.

The Sudpholk submitted quietly to the demands of their new ruler and continued to live their lives as they always had.
However, one of the Sudpholk villages made the mistake of attempting to throw off the yoke. It failed and the town was razed in response. As an additional measure, all remaining Sudpholk towns were ordered to swear fealty directly to the new king. Those who would not were faced with the choice of exile or death.

Many of the Sudpholk were proud and hoped that their own king would eventually free them. Seceding to their enemies demands would make them collaborators! As a result, most of the Sudpholk selected exile.

Unfortunately for them, no other kingdom would have them. For the same reasons they would not swear fealty to the enemy, they would not swear to any other new king. And without such they were not allowed to land.

They were stuck at sea and what treasure and provisions they had dwindled quickly. The fleet degraded under the effects of starvation and misadventure. Finally, while travelling south on rumor of an uninhabited island, a hurricane overtook them and left no ship afloat. The Phantom ship is one of these lost vessels.

Plot Ideas

A simple welcome to land given by one with the authority to do so would suffice to cease their endless voyage, but few would ever make this effort. What if they were to land and stay as ghosts?

Additional Ideas (2)

Captain Vakhtin was known as the rudest and most impaitent officer in the entire Banhoesea Navy. His men hate him because of the many unjustified floggings that he ordered, his junior officers loathed the way he insulted them, and even the senior officers above him in rank could sense that not all was well.

One afternoon when trying to get into the harbour in the teeth of a storm, he cursed the all the Acquan gods and goddesses and swore that he would sail on until Judgement Day if he had to. His ship was wrecked and went down with all hands and the wreckage blocked the harbour for weeks. Soon afterwards the ghost ship appeared.

Ever since then in Banhoesea to do a "Vakhtin" means to be rude and get in the way.

2007-04-26 07:46 PM » Link: [3076#27062|text]
The Summoned

On the isolated isle of Harp Rock, the ancient liche Dalan Bahngrin continues the magical researches that occupied him while he was alive. Not a seeker of worldly power, nor of wealth, the ancient undead labors patiently at his endless magical studies. He prefers the solitude and privacy to be found on the storm-tossed island, where no man disturbs him. Occasionally, however, the undead magus requires something from the lands of men. His needs may be as modest as a few drams of quicksilver or as elaborate as a score of expendable slaves, but he prefers to fetch items from the mainland himself, rather than send the undead servants that attend his few needs on the island.

Dalan Bahngrin’s vessel is a decayed wreck, drawn from the briny mire and enmeshed in a field of magical power. A sickly reddish glow of unnatural magic plays over its hull. The ancient barque’s sails long gone, phosphorescent sheets of ectoplasmic residue flicker in their place. Phantoms of the ancient crew haul upon the lines and shout commands with voices that can barely be heard by the living.

The villagers that work the sea know that master of the burning ship will not be gainsaid. Whatever his demands, however strange or unreasonable, they must be obeyed, for his anger is as terrible as is his chilling visage. He offers gold and jewels to those who serve him well, but few accept, for all men know that to accept the gifts of the dead draws a man closer to death itself.

2007-05-01 06:57 PM » Link: [3076#27116|text]
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Comments ( 5 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Cheka Man
April 26, 2007, 19:12
Only voted
Voted Wulfhere
May 1, 2007, 19:00
A worthwhile variation on that staple of chilling tales, the ghost ship. Well presented with several interesting interpretations offered.
Voted manfred
May 2, 2007, 14:50
Great atmosphere!
Voted Michael Jotne Slayer
November 7, 2007, 9:49
Ah, the Ghost Ship, one of my favorite subjects. Nice one.
Voted Raspu10
July 2, 2013, 23:54
Always like ghost ships

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