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Comments: 9
Ideas: 0
Rating: 3.7727
Condition: Normal
ID: 176


April 1, 2006, 8:30 pm

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The Coast Is Not Clear


Someone has been raiding the coast.  The PC’s are dispatched to help - but can they trust the local authorities?

The PC’s find themselves in the middle of a dawn or twilight Viking-style raid (whether forewarned of the possibility or not left to the GM).  The raiders have fast, maneuverable craft that can strike a village for plunder and then quickly retreat to sea, before a defense can be organized or brought in from elsewhere.  The raiders rely on surprise, freely strike at the disorganized or fleeing villagers, grab what they can, burn a few houses and depart. They don’t seem intent on slaughter, nor do they know about village treasure: If anything, they seem to prefer food and clothing, armor and weapons, though they would take anything of value that they happened across.  This is a new form of attack in this area, so the villages have not yet adapted to a such a rapid loot-and-run tactic.

The raiders should be the equal of the PC’s, so it’s not a rout on either side - some wounds and even a stray death, but this should only be a quick skirmish, not a battle to the death.  The craft are protected from any obvious “normal” magicks or big weapons: fireballs, etc. But the marauders are easily driven away: They have no interest in fighting against equal foes, and will flee at any decent resistance.  Clever PC’s will realize this, even if the villagers do not.

The village will beg the PC’s to go to the local stronghold for help.  The villagers will be afraid to go by boat, will have minimal land transportation, and are obviously stretched very thin by repairs and loss of material.  Besides, they explain, the raiders have come three times now, but about a fortnight apart - so the village is probably safe for a little while.

The village lies near the border of two nominally friendly states (e.g., duchies with a common liege), with a presumed interest in mutual defense.  The village belongs to Agnar, who’s nearest stronghold is known to be undermanned and many days away.  The real power of Agnar is much further than that.  A major castle/coastal port of neighboring Zellin is much closer and faster to reach.  Presumably, the PC’s will head to Zellin; if they decide to go to Agnar, they should be berated for their foolishness in not going to Zellin in the firstplace.

As the PC’s travel in either direction, they will hear of similar raids, but none within a day or so of Zellin’s castle.

On arrival at Zellin, they will be greeted somewhat coolly by local officials.  Though they will be granted an audience at the castle, their story will be disputed, along with several whispered conversations and shifty glances.  There should be just enough grudging acceptance so that the PC’s believe that they are making their case and help will be forthcoming.  Manners and conversation should be coarser than the PC’s would expect, just barely civil, so that the PC’s feel uncomfortable and suspicous themselves.  After an indifferent dinner and vague promises to “return to the matter in the morning”, the PC’s will be given rooms for the night.

Something will alert the PC’s to movement in the wee hours of the morning.  A group of the Zellin authorities that “entertained” them at dinner will be furtively leaving the castle and heading further along the coast.  They will proceed an hour or so away to a concealed entrance into a rockface overlooking the sea, leaving a couple of guards at the entrance.  Inside, a partially concealed stair (plenty of hiding places) leads down into a grotto (sea cave), within which lies a pirate ship very similar (but not identical) to the one the PC’s encountered at the village. 

The Zellin authorities are having an animated conversation with the crew.  Within minutes, it becomes apparent that the ship is rapidly being made ready to set sail.  (This little outing can repeat once, with the Zellin stringing the PC’s along by day, etc. if the PC’s don’t follow on the first opportunity.)


What’s the full story?

The Zellin are not raiders, but they are moderately xenophobic and paranoid about sensitive political issues.  They lack credibility at Court compared to Agnar and others, which makes them vulnerable to irrational suspicions: They naturally regard the PC’s as proxies of Agnar, given their presence at the Agnarian village.

The Zellin want to get rid of the raiders, but they definitely do not want to share any credit for doing so.  If they can resolve thes raids alone, then they can lay claim to Agnar’s fishing villages as true protectors, and grow their little empire and influence:  Such are the ways of real-politick. 

The Zellin captured this raider ship recently, and have been preparing to send it out as a decoy or ruse to get close enough to strike at the raiders.  Unfortunately, manning such a boat is new to them, so they are still inexpert.  The Zellin also recognize the additional risk that the ship itself would be extremely incriminating if they don’t have more trophies, and an end to the raids, to demonstrate their plan is working.

The PC’s sudden appearance have made the Zellin take action much sooner than they were prepared to do, and with enhanced sensitivity to their own vulnerability.  If the Zellin come to suspect or know the PC’s know too much, then they will try to capture and imprison the PC’s.  Even if the Zellin do try to explain the full situation, they will do so with so many omissions, furtive glances and apparent contradictions that the truth will be easy to disbelieve..

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Comments ( 9 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

October 13, 2004, 0:11
Please do comment - even if only to say it's hackneyed, or unplayable, or whatever. It's a working draft - I'm asking for criticism to help me improve!

thank you!
October 29, 2004, 8:53
I like it.Does that count as a comment?
October 29, 2004, 9:14
That is a problem we have. We don't comment on good plots. We might vote, but not always. Yet if it is a bad post. Everyone comments on how bad it is and votes it a 1. I have found minimumal comments is a good sign if that makes you feel any better.
October 29, 2004, 18:13
It's nice and well-fleshed. With potential for combat and for intrigue it caters for a large range of party-types. As Moon says, people not commenting isn't a bad thing...with a posting as comprehensive as this it's hard to think of anything constructive to add. It's well-structured and sufficiently general that it could be used by anyone in almost any setting.

October 31, 2004, 18:40
Thank you all. I had gathered that bad plots got several responses (sometimes rather vicious), extraordinarily good and/or original plots get several comments, and those in the middle get few comments. Of course, if the point of the review is improvement, we ought to be doing just the opposite. ;-)

My own take on this is that it should work well as a subplot in developing a broader politically-motivated setting. It's not much on it's own, but it is decently structured: Opening fireworks, then some background explanation that actually seems to work, then some decent role-playing opportunities. I just don't know what would happen once the pirate ship is discovered: The PC's might flee for home and cause a war, or try sabotage - and likely get themselves jailed or killed.

This plot never came to fruition in my campaign - the party quite literally self-destructed while following the Zellin up the coast, and we reset to a different set of PC's in a different part of the world to minimize the fallout. Two years later, my players started asking "whatever happened with the pirates". Sigh.
Dragon Lord
March 21, 2005, 10:36
Nice plot - the PCs will have to think about this one - if they don't think about they are liable to muck it up completely (I wonder esaquam, is that the mistake your players made).

Moon and ephe are quite right - you don't get many comments for good plots, often because it can be difficult to think of something that would improve them - and this fits neatly into hat category.

However, since you specifically asked for comments, I'll give it a go.

The pirates themselves are bit cliched but that's forgivable in this case since they're not the primary thrust of the plot, instead they serve mainly to create the situation. Even at that I like that they are realist pirates (they're after loot and not particularly interested in killing people).

What I like most is the fact that much of the PCs trouble comes from their allies. Of course, such behaviour from allies requires a believable motive, and the Zellins have a good one. I also like the fact that the Zellins are forced to move before they are completely ready, and that this goes a long ay to explaining their paranoia.

One suggestion, the politics might work better if the Zellins were a lot more friendly towards the PCs (at least openly) but remained as secretive as possible about their captured ship. Maybe even supplying a few troops to aid the PCs in defending their village - after all if Zellin troops are defending the villages while Agnarian troops are unable to help, that in itself adds weight to the Zellin claim for control of those villages.

A good plot - definitely a solid 4/5
Voted Mourngrymn
March 17, 2012, 20:25

I echo most of what has already been said. This is a round and round good throw in plot for any scenario. It can even work in a sci-fi setting like Firefly, Fading Suns, Babylon 5, etc with minor modifications. Such is the role of a good sub and plot. (just for thinking that I threw in another .5 for its functionability)

To me what makes this such a good plot is not that it is a basic, enter bad guys, thwart bad guys, find out good guys could be actidental bad guys due to motives but that it could be a one or two shot side plot thrown into a much larger game or it could turn into a grand scenario when the players only intended to stay for a few days in this waylaid town. Kudos.

Voted PeteBain
February 2, 2014, 13:44
I have to say, I quite like this. I'm currently running a game specifically for pirates and privateers in a fantasy setting and this scenario is ideal. I think it could fit in nicely as a distraction from the main plot, with the PCs being dragged in if they're pursuing the main MacGuffin a bit too quickly.
Voted valadaar
March 21, 2016, 21:30
Love the intrigue. This could go a long way. Apart from lack of bloody violence past the initial encounter, it feels like good, gritty fantasy.

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