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Errant Mercenary's page

521 posts (525 including aliases). No reviews. 1 list. No wishlists. 1 alias.


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Vikings. You shouldve stopped explaining there because...DEATH OR GLORY!

Havent run many APs (still through our second one, S&S which we've fluffed up and added stuff to and enjoying thoroughly, yet never finished our first RotRL...which was very boring).

What is for me a killer when I read through the APs is that the setting placement and story developing are generally a lot of fun (books 1&2, though I have read that some do drop the ball here) and then the rest of the books are extended dungeon crawls. For our group, that is very boring. We much prefer the exposition, interesting npcs and then some relevant and to the point combat.

In general, Paizo likes these humongous dumgeon crawls, with 37 rooms with a APL minus CR7 encounters. We as a group grab these rooms and make 5 out of it with some better, more relevant combats. This helps shorten certain things about the AP. "You go in the room. It has 3 doors, which do you take? Ok the North. You go in, it has 4 doors, which..." At the 20 minute mark we've lost interest.
When half of the AP devolves into this, I understand why no one can finish it.

Things that make some APs fantastic for us, and eager to get through them, are things like the S&S captains Regatta, the Council meetings, and staged events, with fast, simple rules to get through them and add a tonne of environment, without it being a succeed or die scenario.

In short, if the AP is about having a big dungeon crawl in books 3-6, yes, the AP is too long because there obviously wasnt enough relevant content to make an interesting story for so many books.

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Corsets. High heels. Leather. Whips.

Erm, devils and their pacts?

That was very interesting, I think the Hurricane King's handling was superb and well within lines, good stuff.

You mention they deal with book 6's with scry and die. Here is where I think you might have made it a bit too easy. The Thrune people have powerful scry stuff themselves (like the fountain), employ very high caster level people (Norgorber priests, demons), so I think this tactic wouldve been thwarted or prepared for. If it was my party, they might have landed in some trap, since they'd have been scryed too at some point or there wouldve been spying agents.

Ah, very cool to read, always fun to know how something can twist and have fun results, thank you!

I was also worried about this when I ran it. However, they were smart, sneaked in and surprised Plugg. They then took the main deck with a mixture of a fight and some diplomacies, dealing with a few of the opposition fast and then trying to get the rest on board.
Basically, the pcs came with Plugg's head in hand from the cabin, which did a lot to chill down everyone.

Then I had the storm hit them.

However, I wouldnt actually worry too much about whether if it is a challenge or not. We are in book 4..and this AP is murderous at every corner, the island they're about to embark on included. IF they are smart, do yourself a favour and roll with it.

As for the map parts, I printed out the deck of the Mans Promise and put some small die or pieces of plastic/wood to symbolise the crew, and pointed to a few who were "opposed" npcs, which they were sure would support Plugg.

FedoraFerret wrote:
I rebuilt the Sahuagin Matron into a Shaman (which was lucky, she had her spirit animal to wake her up when the Witch put her to sleep on the first round... rassaafrassin Slumber), and more recently have rebuilt Druvalia Thrune (who I introduced much earlier) into a gunslinging Hexcrafter/Eldritch Archer Magus (along with her entire crew, which I built from the ground up to be counterpoints to the party). Makes for a fun time.

I would love to see these builds, if possible?

Milo v3 wrote:
Errant Mercenary wrote:

This is such a stupid rule. 30 metres doesnt deal pressure damage to a human being.
Considering the fact that the water pressure form being in 3 metre deep water is enough to rupture some of your body parts, 30 m isn't a giant stretch. Still a stretch, but not a giant one.

If it is involuntarily and you have no ranks in swim, yeah, then it can hurt (your ears) and I can see the rule working then. Humans can and have gone beyond 100 metres without any pressure damage. Most depth related damage is due to oxygen/gaseous intakes etc.

Milo v3 wrote:


"Very deep water is not only generally pitch black, posing a navigational hazard, but worse, deals water pressure damage of 1d6 points per minute for every 100 feet the character is below the surface. A successful Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) means the diver takes no damage in that minute."

This is such a stupid rule. 30 metres doesnt deal pressure damage to a human being.

You cant charge through your allied squares. Reach weapons are subject to cover from people in the battlefield, including your allies.

Nice list, liked the catching one, the rest I knew..especially the 5ft step one, I plan on handing my group their asses with that particular piece of information, to see if theyll learn readied actions once and for all.

2 druids and a witch. Healing should not be in that sentence. As mentioned above, use control spells, which will prevent the party from taking damage. For example, Wall of Thorns.

Another way of doing it is having them face opponents with these spells (Entangle, Fogs, Sleet storms, Pits) in a very -non- deadly encounter, where the caster is played very stupidly (any caster I play by definition..I'm terrible at them). They will feel how powerful these things are, and when they roll Spellcraft, you can tell them "it's a wiz/sorc/druid/witch spell of 2nd level" and they will "oooh- aaah!".


When I Gm I wear a metal gauntlet on my left hand. When my decree is questioned, I back-slap that heretical mouth back to the floor where it deserves to lie and bleed.

Theatricals aside, when I started gming I wasnt that good at rules yet, and if something comes up that can be delayed, I assign someone at the table to look it up while the rest of the round happens.

When it is a pressing matter, we all look into it. I ask for a minute if I need to read something to be 100% clear, otherwise i'll bank on someone's knowledge or search.

If your table wants to have that 10ft pole up their arses about your rulings (which are always right, period, for pedantic know it alls) when they've been made together, someone else can gm.

Player character deaths can and often result in some awkwardness with some players, it's how it is (jokingly, I suggest you nurture that feeling deep inside and savour it from time to time).

Paulicus wrote:

Perhaps this would help, Errant?

Some of these splat books have some nifty bits in them.

Gold, thanks!

All this is from Weapon Masters Handbook. I read it yesterday and I have to say, it is an amazing book for martials. If you're in a house game, perhaps obviating some of the prerequisites is possible too (f.u. combar expertise). Highly reccomended.

Star Toss (3 feat chain style) lets you Vital Strike on first hit and then ricochet your hit up to your Bab.

SheepishEidolon wrote:

Well, it's primarily about having fun. Given they have a blast, your campaign is fine (as Hmm already pointed out).

I started GMing this Summer. The official Game Mastery Guide was an amazing help, and I felt more confident when I knew I keep to the guidelines. I learnt quite a lot:

* Give everyone a chance to shine occasionally. That's one major reason why players actually play such games.

* Encourage them. If they try something weird, don't say 'no, that doesn't work' - unless it's totally implausible. Ask them how they want to accomplish it, let them work for the details. Give them a fair chance to succeed, even if it means bending the rules. Finally, NPCs should cheer the PCs sometimes - honor where honor is due.

* Give them choices. I try to build in a nonviolent solution to all encounters (intimidation, bribe, diplomacy, disguise, stealth etc.). Sometimes it's not possible, but some diversity to 'roll initiative and fight!' is already a huge plus.

* Be careful with events which makes players feel out of control. Effects like fear, stun, confusion etc. tend to be fun killers because an affected player can't do anything. Use them rarely and probably only if your party can do it as well.

* Players want fun, not your effort. Don't spend hours on details your player won't even notice - unless it's fun by itself for you. This mainly applies for NPCs in my case - e.g. who cares what cantrips this level 5 caster has.

* Sometimes it's enough to give players a situation and let them roleplay. For instance my group had a long discussion about morale a while ago, so I just leaned back and listened for an hour or so. When it runs dry, send in any NPC.

* Burnout is a real danger. Better continuously 90% of perfect than 99% and stopping the campaign because you can't do it anymore.

* A set time of the day (and probably day of the week) helps to avoid confusion. Remember that players have other things on their plate also.

* Try to figure out the best tools for you. For me books, printed...

Well solid advice. Specially the first point of letting everyone in the spotlight from time to time. Find what that character is about, what the player likes, and throw something. Doesnt need to be big, a couple minutes of "hey this is for your Profession: Hatter that you insisted on taking, you recognise that the villain's wearing a hat from this area" etc.

Another, is about pulling punches or not pulling punches. Find out if your group likes it or not. Find out if they are ok with losing characters or not. Also, decide what YOU prefer, and INFORM your players if they're ok with it too.

As the data has been gathered for all healing done in every pathfinder game, here are the results*:

- Cleric Spells: 19%
- Channels: 13%
- Other Class Spells: 17%
- Regeneration: 2%
- Wands of Cure Light 49%

As you can see, NPC companion Cure Light Wounds is the best healer amongst them.
For the purpose of this study Infernal healing was counted as Cure Light Wands.

*this study is entirely fictional

pavaan wrote:

Gming had my party send out invites for the party in the last book. The sent some to Harrigan pepper and others. Had those two refuse peppers refusal in his hand writing. They scryed her and saw her condition. The party was a few days away, so after it they scryed her and found Harrigan talking to her. So they used find ship with some wood from the wormwood they got earlyer. Got to the island to rescue pepper. Changed the plan and killed 5 different encounters within one turn the foes not getting a single action, then did in Harrigan with him not able to act.

So they basically jumped to the end of the book took out the threat before they even saw it as one. That is all before the pirate counsel meets. Taking the party one day of travel.

I know a far amount of that is on me for allowing it. But I wanted to share, and show how far things can go off with this book.

That is pretty cool. Did you run the encounters as written, stat wise? What pointbuy/wbl do you guys use, and what level were they when they jumped to this?

Sayer_of_Nay wrote:
Shifty wrote:

The advantage is that you get to thwack them first.

Once they get past that thwacking you now have a disadvantage - but you can always 5' step and thwack them again.
Which weirds me out, to be honest. Why does the dude with the long spear find himself getting backed into a corner by someone with a short sword? It should be the other way around.

In a duel, someone with a shield and sword would generally eat the one with a spear.

Hubris incarnate. With the actual backing-up for a CR Ouch encounter.

I generally agree, DM_Blake, and perhaps some are capable of a little of that dangerous consistency we all fear :P
The problem to me is this example to me is a very uninteresting challenge that provides 0 flexibility in solving it (painting one).

Missed perception? Carry on. You missed the trap door to continue the whole adventure, sort of challenge. Better start a shop or something instead. The turning the anvil itself is more interesting, in that you could give them Knowledge: Engeneering as an alternative or something they come up to, to actual surmount a challenge they know about using their imaginations and their tools.

Scaling Walls of Doom
Scaling DCs is something I've come across as we all do - for example acrobatic checks to board a ship. The rules state that you become flat footed no matter what when boarding a ship this way - but when my group's swashbuckler is landing with 40s well, I obviate the rule. Which is kinda the opposite to the unscalable walls.
I wish your example included a sentient wall that would actively build itself higher and more slippery as a genuine encounter!

MendedWall12: That could be the start of a dreamscape adventure, as they walk through the place and see gradually weirder things, at the beginning subtle an ending in such deranged art-deco choices as anvils and frescos, the signs of a truly demented mind behind it all!

Like a teenage pregnant with Lamashtu's child who is actually an aasimar psycher.

Hm how about giving people the "gift" of undeath via a spell or bloodline power and be a little surprised about the ingratitude?

This is ridiculous. Who has a fresco and an anvil in the same room? Nonsense. Handwave it by all means, but obviously this module is beyond believable.

PS. On topic, I would actually give the challenge that is appropriate for your group. If they all have the perception of a lemon sole perhaps make it low. If not, a moderate. DC 20-25.

To move the anvil, I wouldnt even require a STR check. If youve ever moved an anvil you might see that you can move it by turning it on its base. So several characters with a score of STR -1 is still reasonable.
To turn the mechanism..I dont think these are very interesting checks. A guy with 20 STR can fail at this while a guy with 9 STR can excel, because dice.

I would just say that if the others were to try, they couldnt do it, only when Mister Strong Party Member gets on the job do they see a chance and then they can help to turn it.

I.e. Handwaved in my case.

Lemmy wrote:
Ghufufin wrote:
Picking up Martial Flexibility can add a lot of decisions and potentially change how you fight each combat.

Yeah... I thought about playing a Brawler... But that class gets boring for the opposite reason. It can't do anything meaningful out of combat.

Is there any way to get that ability without being a Fighter or Brawler?

On Rogues and Fun - I started playing a Scroll Scoundrel with the Circling Mongoose feat. Wow, it's a lot of fun - getting off a full attack is something I look forward to, mostly because I've invested in Mobility and similar feats so I can take a risk.

I identify the target I want dead, I move and take a risk and then do that full attack. If everything worked well, the target is dead. If not, well it wont be another round but it might not be for me either. It's a bit of a gamble. Nothing exceptionally new here, except that you can do it with a rogue (without relying on invisibilities) and playing a little on the edge. Short lived.

Eldritch Raider archetype brings a lot of versatility to rogues too, if youre allowed to play one. Similar with the wand archetype and a couple others.

I think this boils down to giving yourself options: You can choose the Full Round Attack but you should also invest into something that's worthwhile doing in combat. One trick ponies get old real fast.

Well there was an NPC which I started with "Imagine Thranduil, he talks like him and..." that's all I had to say, the diplomacy was over and initiative was rolled...

Corvino wrote:

If you really build toward it you can turn channelling into something useful. Quick Channel, Selective Channel & Fateful Channel/Beacon of Hope is a solid combination. However it comes at the cost of three feats that could give you as much or more spent elsewhere.

Honestly, I'd like more Cleric Archetypes that trade out Channel Energy entirely.

Those are two very amazing feats for a Vital Strike/Reach cleric I had cooked up, thank you!

Probably an Occult class could work better for this concept, for example an Occultist.

Zwordsman's ninja is strong in him.

Hello, I came to discuss a topic around TPKs, the much dreaded, much debated campaign ender/betrayer.

I am interested in hearing if someone took the route of continuing the campaign after a TPK but all starting in some other plane/underworld to make their way back to the current campaign.

I myself have a little back up plan for when this happens, and I am debating whether it is a good idea at all. Of course, it'd have to be well done but it'd basically add another chapter to the campaign.

As for reasons, many campaigns do end up dead in the water if the current party doesnt make it. We run a pretty gritty-no res campaign and I absolutely loathe deus-ex-machina unless they are done very skillfully.

This also gives the opportunity to change the pace/flavour of the campaign, going through the realm of the dead and facing perhaps the crimes theyve done before, or even change it to a more whimsical thing if it's appropriate.

So, ever done it? How did it go? Think it is a good idea?

LazarX wrote:
If your GM wants to run a silly type anime style game the sky's the limit. For anything more serious, or with more verisimilitude than that, the answer is no.

Yeah, but if you want a serious game you better stick to fire ball shooting robe-wearing geezers battling come-back-from-dead monstruosities and earning the trust of the God-Princess of the Moon (who actually has something going with the main character).

Gaming is serious business, y'all.


I would imagine re-skinning any extra attack would be easily done to fit with this theme. Say, if your Ninja takes a swift action (ki) to make an extra attack, this could be from a sword in his mouth (Roronoa). Or if you have a Bite attack, ask your DM if it could be a weapon instead.
I agree with DM_Blake that you dont need a mechanic for it - the mouth-knife/sword is generally an extra attack of some sort, so the mechanics are already there.

Hey at what level are you going into Shadow Dancer? This will tell us how much we can play with it.

If you go for a class with a (Su) ability that's touch/melee, you can buy a Conductive weapon and use 2 charges of it to discharge it on your hit.

1. A CR 7-8 is easy for a team of APL 6 that knows how to play

2. Single enemies are always at a disadvantage vs a party of many. Action economy.

3. HP tanks such as bears and giants are easy for a team, they have no way to turn the fight around and are very straight forward.

About their composition:

They have reduced casting (just the summoner), they have a strong numerical advantage, they -need- flanking and they are highly dependant on team vision and have little melee abilities.

So...flying enemies, several, who use Fly By Attack, could soften them up a bit.
Use terrain and spells that create difficult terrain. Hail Storm/Tar spells/spike growth/grease/etc. Use AoE spells...the summons will probably not have a great save. Use Will spells on the rogue. Use things with Mirror Images. From the looks, they all do many attacks but with low damage - use something with a high DR, such as a golemn which are also immune to some magic.

Good luck, and come by to tell us how it went!

Garion Beckett wrote:
...has done everything with in the rules to start raising undead to do his bidding. I used Animate dead and ...

Just cause something is in the rules doesnt mean you should do it. There are plenty of ways to screw this system. However, the GM will, can and should screw with you, should you decide "hey it's within the rules", especially if your GM is already having troubles.

If you were at my table, I'd first politely ask you to not bring certain things to the table. If you ask why, it's within the rules, the GM still has the right to tell you "because I find it difficult to cope with" "im not ready" "I dont like it" or any other response.

As far as I can tell, it is within the rules for the GM to throw a Tarrasque at you. So if you want the GM to be considerate for you, perhaps you should do the same. Most likely it's a two way thing and you should both sit down and town stuff down.

In regards to Spellcraft, I dislike that everyone and their grandmother can know what is being cast, regardless whether you can or cant cast spells, if you are arcane or divine, and that the DC is so low.

Spells > Anything.

Mechanically a rogue that can cast Fogs and see through them is a terror, especially for unprepared praties.

Diffan wrote:


I hate the full-attack action. With a blinding hot passion. I find it unfathomable that a highly trained warrior that can survive dragon fire, liches spells, takes on giants and trolls, and can be an overall awesome warrior cannot move and swing his weapon 2, 3, 4 times. Completely ridiculous.

And this, Unchained is a little better in general.

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The DC mechanics. Either you suck or you're totally fine.

Hey I'm glad you used it and that you enjoyed it! I'll be writing up the rest of the extra stuff we did with enough detail to run it. Though it'll be in a couple of weeks.

As for Scrimshaw and Anna they havent played a strong part since, I've had Long Nose be a possible campaign-continuation persona, akin to Endymion, Tessa and the Master of the Gales. Anna did make another appearance when the group..erm, spent a couple sessions in the Fey World going through some very weird moments, where she actually guided them a little.
We wrapped up Zheng's/Senchuu Bay story recently infact, it has been as rewarding to kill him as it was to kill Plugg. Or more.

Tidewater Rock is indeed tedious, or at least wouldve been for my group cause they'd have probably sacked and pillaged the place proper and move on. I actually ran an encounter with the Dominator which they ended up taking (there is a thread somewhere in these boards that helped me much in deciding how hard it'd be...).

I would use a Cleric with the Animal subdomain, in fact. Or a druid if dont mind playing one instead.

Clerics are also more versatile in the role-filling department...fight or cast comes more naturally as an option to them is what I mean.

Yeah all mysteries are good. The more obvious are Flames..putting ships on fire is wonderful. Wood, since you spend your time on ships. Battle always great since you want fighty..same for metal.

Waves and Flames can see through fog which is a very commonly used tactic in this AP and one that can reliably shut down many encounters.

If your GM plays meaningfully with your choices, Ancestor can lead to quite interesting stuff. There are many pirates of legends, old mariners lost at sea and tales of the dead to be had from this mystery, as you channel dead relatives. It could be a great way for him to expose some of the setting to all of you.

Juju, while a little amoral (S&Shackles...allowed!) is great and very fitting. City of Seven Spears AP 3 of serpents skull has a gazeteer on general Juju stuff. The Shackles AP has itself the Juju mystery - if you chose it have your GM let you read it!

Lunar oracle is well fitting too. Tides are ruled by the moon. Not only that...there is a very strong faction that would tie this mystery well into the story, again if your GM wants to play a bit with it.

All of Solar's abilities will work well, since all the day can be spent on ship's decks.

Seannoss wrote:
Skull and Shackles is the obvious one, and also the AP where siege equipment may appear in all 6 parts.

Good AP for it, just talk to your GM and work with him to make Siege a bigger part of the game. This means make sure you know the rules inside out. It'll take a little work to get the siege going but there is a lot of it, and this AP will improve tremendously if you manage to get this going.

Hm just one thing, have a look at the S&S forums to how to deal with damage to ships, since at the moment it is piddling. (I.e. x3 damage to ships, no Hardness, or use Fire As She Bears).

Just a suggestion, have you seen the Freebooter ranger? Similar to a Slayer in play, but quite a lot more flavourful for pirating. Of course, mechanics are not necessary to make a pirate pc.

Use cutlasses, or a Cutlass/Whip/punching dagger/brass knuckles combination.

Have you considered Variant Multiclassing? You give up some feats in exchange for some other classes' abilities. For example, Wizard will give you a familiar and interesting school powers. Similarly the Magus can too and give you +hit off-setting TWF penalities.

Familiars help with action economy and could cast a spell for you at the start of combat, for example.

Use a prewritten story - an AP. Then you both know what you are getting into and if well picked can be very satisfying. They allow a lot of tweaking. They are also fantastic for GMs with unreliable preparation times...sometimes you may add a lot of personal things, sometimes it's easier to run it from the book.

Otherwise, formulate a question using Weirdo's words.

lutzsd wrote:
We just had this fight two weeks ago. In the second round of combat, the Bard/Captain cast Hold Person and succeeded. Isabella made her save at the end of her turn, but that was still one turn without an action. The next round, the Bard cast it and again succeeded, this time allowing the rogue to coup de grace and that was that. It was a little anti-climactic for me, but the player's love steam-rolling over the bad guys. They had more trouble versus four Great White sharks than they did versus Isabella and her cronies.

It is sometimes very weird how you imagine things will go and how they turn out..specially when they struggle with low cr encounters with a little terrain-quirk vs a straight out slug fest with a tough cr.

Isabella didnt manage to kill any of the party, mostly because I suck at using casters, they have the "mortally stupid" feat. She did some damage but pissed them enough they killed her off once they were done talking to her.

Council of Thieves or Legacy of Fire. Though I would prefer if LoF had less dungeon crawling from the latter modules (from what ive read).

I believe this comic is very apt - the Genie has different values about what you actually NEED. Need to live? water, food, etc.

In an extreme case "I wish to have all I need" could easily mean being teleported to a gibbet in a prison where you are fed all your life, forever to rot.

Reinforcing the above - Cerulean seas provide a whole campaign setting. Many rules to make underwater campaigns viable.

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First part! We ran the first module of Skull & Shackles almost as written - no rum rations though. Plugg & Co got murdered before they got on the island - as they were hitting bad weather, a rather delicate moment but they got out of it. The island proved deadly as many on these boards mention, but none died.

At Rickety Squibs they renamed their ship as The Aberrant, decorating it with tentacles and kraken motifs. At this point I threw them the first side quest, considering that I would not run them through "breaking he Rock". Being the first self made content I had them do, I did give them little choice in whether they did it or not - however it was open after that. I also wanted to make them understand that there are still bigger fish in the Shackles and to beware. This has brewed a rather paranoical way of running crews and a "Bucket List" in which most NPC captains have found themselves in...

ZHILONG'S ENCLAVE aka How to make even more enemies


Just after Rickety Squibs a seemingly powerful captain offers them a collaboration with a strong taste of black mail. They are to infiltrate a sea fortress at the Tian Xia domain of the Shackles
Function: Introduce a little plot into the very sandboxy Fever Sea and establish some Pirate Captains early.
Result: This spurred a hilarious battle at the fortress palace and the birth of a new nemesis, Zheng, who would be a middle step tie-in between them and Harrigan.

The Crew:

Captain Bismark, Gillman Bloodrager
First Mate Kaelmourn, Drow swashbuckler
Chaplain Cutty, Undine Shaman
Carpenter …. Undine Warpriest of Besmara
Quatermaster Zadiuq, Svirfneblin Investigator/Rogue
Cook Quidaz, Svirfneblin Monk/Rogue

The Story

Fresh out from Rickety Squibs. Ready to tackle the fever sea, in control of their destiny at last.

Well, that was to be short lived. Someone’s in the captain’s quarters of what used to be the Man’s Promise. A figure standing by the window, clad in a black cloak (perception: feathers) behind a bird’s mask (Nature: Black Kingfisher). Another is seating on the newly upholstered sofa, a languid man, with a characteristically long nose, dressed in expensive clothes and with his boots on the table drinking a liquor (which he invites the PCs to when they come in). They want to talk.

Introduce themselves as Long Nose and Scrimshaw (knw Local: Crimson Quills crew). They want the PCs to do a favour for them. The catch: They know exactly who this ship belongs to (note, scrying, monitoring, rickety sending message, whatever works) and could throw the information to whom it might concern, however they are actually not in good terms with Harrigan and therefore prefer to call this a mutually beneficial deal. (sense motive: pile of parrot droppings it’s a straight black mail). They mention the PCs can help themselves to whatever they find, plus Long Nose will throw in a couple thousand gold as reward, since he’s keen to have them as allies should they make it in the Shackles.
Long Nose himself is an Illusion being cast by Anna while insivibly flying outside. When leaving, he jumps off the window, disappearing. If attacked, the illusion becomes apparent. Scrimshaw shapeshifts to a large Kingfishers as he jumps out of the window, flying away. If at any point the PCs attempt to fight these NPCs they will avoid conflict and flee, becoming hostile to them for future events.

After explaining their proposition the PC’s have little chance but to accept
The target is Zhilong’s Enclave, a trading outpost smack in the middle of the Shackles under the influence of the Wise Council of 3 (the Tian Xia faction). In this case the enclave is overseen by a greedy war merchant known as Zheng. The fortress is a fortified palace with a few watch towers. The PCs are asked to get there, infiltrate it and steal an item stored at the warehouse. How is up to them, but they are provided a map.

Zhilong’s Enclave and the Map

Everything is depicted with an asian (mainly Chinese) theme, think the harbours of Macao in the age of sail. White walls, red tile rooftops, wooden structures cliches.
Zhilong’s Enclave asks them for one plunder to use their harbour and protection in the viccinity. (Note: The PCs do not yet have a Shackles Ensign so therefore it is dangerous when sailing in these waters.) At the harbour there are two huge Turtle Ships (inspired from the Korean turtle ships), formidable and rare war ships. At the harbour master’s office they have the chance to meet with Zheng, the overseer of the enclave. He is a shrewd man, good memory and keen perception. He asks them of their business here but buys none of it, he recognises new pirates when he sees them, having been a prolific one himself.
The PCs dont need to visit Zhilong’s Enclave, merely optional. It is also a good place for trading (selling plunder) and bragging (try out the notoriety rules).

The fortress castle stands atop a sharp rise overseeing the bay, sheer cliffs on the water side and steep slops towards the town. A path leads up to the main gates. There is also a back entrance, which leads down to a beach outside of the main bay, which passes by a shrine to Hei Feng.
The fortress is more of a walled palace, with carefully cared for gardens, with a stream cruising through, ending up in a waterfall into the cliffs. There are two watch towers, always manned and lit. The warehouse is in the centre of this complex, a long wooden building, in front of some barracks. The back gate to the complex goes through a large garden in which the stream crosses.
The Watch Tower makes perception checks to note ships and approaching threats. There is also a patrol through the complex and a set of 2 guards at both entrances. The warehouse is locked and with a low level alarm trap, but can also be accessed through the roof where a plank can be loosened. Inside there are amassed crates and bags (presumably rice). Two large bulks have cloth draped over them. They are Heavy Bombards, siege engines so valuable only a handful of pirates have a single one – this is the first advent of gun powder in this campaign which would later become more prevalent. There are many crates around which when inspected are revealed to be black powder and another substance (alchemy: Taldorian Fire – akin to the mysterious greek fire of our world, something that would even burn in water ferociously).
The implications of what this equipment means in the Shackles is not difficult to imagine, the amount of powder and the power of these siege engines would quickly make any captain a mayor threat and an influential person in the Shackles.
A perception check reveals a small, brass chest with a mark which Long Nose requested.

Guards: 2 weak guards of each gate. They can be assasinated since they have an abysmal perception (snoozing). The watch towers mostly looks for threats outside of the fortress.
Garrison: Soldiers will come out in force once the alarm is risen. However this is something Zheng will do himself or send someone to do (as the second warehouse alarm goes directly to him not the garrison).
Patrol: 2 soldiers patrolling, can be disposed of any way they want, being careful of the watch tower.

There is a trap alarm of high level inside the warehouse, after the locked door. This is alerts Zheng directly, who will summons his personal guard and try to locate the PCs in the complex – appearing at the back gates from a pass in the hills, where he was meditating at the temple of Hei Feng.
Upon trying to escape the PC’s meet with Zheng and his patrol. These are comprised of 3 long spear soldiers (level 2 each) and 3 Zen Archers (level 3 each) plus Zheng (level 6 Sohei Monk with 10 ring sword). This is a difficult battle.

Confrontation: While difficult, it is possible to beat the patrol. The fortress palace allows for clever use of corridors, rooftops and terrain to fight smart.
Diplomacy: While most encounters I’ve added do have a talk option, Zheng is not interested in actually giving them quarter or to strike a deal. He just wants information before he executes them for thinking they could fool him.
Escape: The most obvious and achievable in a myriad of ways. 2 gates, the town, the path leading to the beach, the cliffs and waterfall, etc.


When they reach their ship Scrimshaw and Anna are waiting for them. Anna, a smaller figure wearing a carnival red owl mask and a fluffy colourful feather coat, hands them over the gold and an item in thanks (A permament Anchor Token: Feather Fan, in the shape of a long feathered red fan), and take the chest. Scrimshaw says little to nothing, then they both shapeshift and fly away. This is meant to introduce some characters that are a little annoying since they are obviously higher level than the PCs but that will be used later on in the plot.
If the PCs try to open the box, it proves difficult to do so without damaging it (mending?) and it is trapped. Inside, you may insert any of the treasures from the back of the AP module…I never had to, but you can make the item relevant later in the campaign. The PCs should not have much reason to not go along with the exchange, since the possibility of having their newly squibbed ship and whereabouts relayed to Harrigan is a big threat for them at this stage.

What the players did!
AKA How my players did everything I did not expect

The players decided to head to Zhilong’s Enclave and sell their plunder, since they did not have a chance yet (there are notoriously few places in the Fever Sea to do so that arent far far away, and Bloodcove, Senghor, Quent and Port Peril were too big for them at the moment) with the nasty surprise of the 1 plunder tax (in return, I let them sell all their plunder at once, something we later introduced anyway). That was the first strike for them!
Then they meet Zheng, a bit of a bully and an attitude of being superior – he smells they have other reasons to be in Zhilong’s, a mostly merchant port for TIan Xia trade. Plugg is dead, we need someone to be an arse in his stead. Strike two!

Then they set sail, letting their ship anchored a couple of miles north of the bay and climbed/levitated the cliffs and waterfall. They came in a small boat, and also had Sandara’s hat. They came up the back gate, the Svirfneblins murdered the guards without a sound and they all proceeded to sneak up to the warehouse without alarming the watch towers. There they opened it successfully and found the first trap, but not the second (this is mean, it’s pretty much impossible, but Zheng must be brought for the setting to advance). There they recognised the gunpower and Taldor Fire and took a bit..very carefully (good alchemy check) and decided that if they couldnt take those cannons for themselves, well, they’d blow them up! So after some damn good alchemy and engineering checks they set up a delayed explosion for 3 minutes or so, then proceeded to get the hell out of there the same way they came out.

They found that at the back garden there was Zheng and his guard waiting for them. There was an explosion with a warehouse full to the brim with gunpowder and even more dangerous alchemical substances about to be set off and these guys ready for a showdown. Suddenly the players decided that it was every man to himself. The fight devolved into a very strange combination of attacking and moving towards the exit – but everyone chose a different one! The Undine Warpriest, the Captain GIllman and the Svirfneblins made for the wall towards the cliffs, attempting to climb over the wall and jump – at 300 feet it was quite a fall. Zheng came in to block their path as they got peppered with arrows from the archers. The Warpriest jumped first..without levitate. Then the captain. The twin Svirfneblins turned around and attempted to escape through the gate instead with the First mate Drow duelist and the Chaplain Undine Shaman, who were having troubles at the stream bridge with the soldiers, and later Zheng. The Undine got dropped and carried by the rest as the Drow threw a Darkness, running out of the gates and jumping out of the cliff when they had prepared their levitate or lowered altitude. At that point, the warehouse lit and the explosion lit the fortress ablaze, a huge thundering sound to which even the ground shook, as they were jumping out into the dark sea.
Back to the Warpriest, who was by now done calculating fall damage at that height into water..found out that put him in negatives at only 4 hp from dying. The Captain eventually reached him with his levitate, finding the warpriest sinking (thanks to Besmara’s tricorne hat which floated above…just over the warpriest’s location, Besmara’s first help in all this mess) and managed to swim him up to the surface and administer healing potions.
They summoned their hat boat and rowed to their ship to make the first escape of many that would follow, when they’d be rowing away from a town in flames and with a desperate urge of get-the-hell-out-of-here.

As a result

Zhilong’s Enclave suffered a large fire as the lit debris fell from the frotress…the latter just a scorch mark on the hill. They would later learn that one of the Bombards had flewn so far as to land on one of the turtle ships, being one of the few people in history who had managed to actually sink one with siege. Zheng and his archers survived..but launched him into being condemned and exiled from Council of 3. Zheng, being the ambitious man he is flipped the coin, butchering 2 of the Council and claim a seat for himself, exiling the surviving council member Half Elf (renamed Chan in this story) and appointing himself controller of the region by forge. He would then begin an ardent search for the PCs in revenge (with very little information) which would lead him to ally with Barnabass Harrigan and help him put in march the Chelaxian invasion of the Shackles.

The battle map
So I love drawing battle maps for my players, colourful and visual. We play with small magnets (a capital letter of their PC name on it) on a white board laid horizontal, with the paper map on top. The fortress was laid out and luckily the showdown happened at the gardens, of which I had drawn a rather detailed map.

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Hello, I've posted from time to time in this subforum and was hoping to this time contribute a little with extra content that I've used in our Skull & Shackles campaign. I will be adding the quests and sub plots that our group has been going through and the things of the AP that got heavily modified.

I started GM'ing with this AP. I had the idea to make it more sandboxy than it is since the Shackles provide a fantastic setting and a great chassis. I also love the age of sail/pirates/anything nautical so that helps in getting into S&S, an AP I strongly recommend.

Rule modifications:
Any race, any class, no resurrection easily available (wish/miracle/gods/very high levels). No long range scrying nor teleporting. Gunpowder/Guns allowed..will be few at start and will become more prevalent as the campaign goes on. Crossbows target Touch AC when using a single Attack Action. Siege does double damage to ships. Cannon does tripple damage. Ships have their hp divided in sections.

I introduce self made content within the story. Generally I dont tell the players what is and what isn't but they know it's so.

I must also admit to have influences from some external sources. First to mention would be One Piece..the idea that each crew has a theme and the officers have quirks or are memorable really appeals to me and I believe makes the game a little more interesting. A combination of the gritty sailing and the exaggerated themed crews. Another is my personal experience, I spend a lot of time sailing traditional sailing ships so I'll throw some fun details here and there. Add pirate tropes, novels and games of course.

Tools used:
Fire As She Bears (only as guidelines)
Isle of the Shackles (fantastic)
Ships of the Inner Sea (another pearl)
Rival Guide
Razor Coast
Plunder and Peril
From Sea to Shore
Heart of the Jungle
Cerulean Seas (some items)
City of the Seven Spears (Serpent's Skull part 3)
Wayfinder #8 Mass Combat
Treasury of the Fleet
Tarin's Crown
Raid on the Emperor's Hand
Pirate Codex
Many of the posts in this forum, great ideas!

Music played on the background..mostly youtube stuff

We dont use figures but we use a white board on which we draw with markers. The PCs/NPCs are represented by small 1cmx1cm magnets (each a colour/letter). When more detail is necessary we use a paper grid on which I've generally drawn a map on. here it is, note that I have written a sort of "planned" event and how it turned out. Not all the details are written, especially the personalities of NPCs etc wont always be described.

Ellioti wrote:

according to a recent statement you will get 1.5x DEX to damage, so that is good.

Combat Reflexes, because reach and dex.
2 levels of Slayer or Ranger for the Ranger Combat Style (Two-handed weapon) for picking up Power Attack without the need of 13 STR.
Gang Up might be a nice addition so you can flank from behind your first-row melees.

Avoid dipping with rogues if you can help it. Level 10 Talents are amazing, specially if you can pick Ninja ones.

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Use a SLING instead.

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