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A perfect plug-in for Skull and Shackles

*****

I recently bought and read Spices and Flesh as a plug-in for my Skull and Shackles campaign. Since there are no reviews of this product yet, I wanted to share my opinion.

The adventure path plug-ins do exactly what they promise: they provide an extra encounter you can add to an existing AP without going through the trouble of adapting it. It is simple plug and play As such they use points in the original adventure path that could use something extra. Still, Legendary Games treats the AP with the utmost respect, even refraining from using original names. And of course, the adventure can serve just as well as a standalone in other campaigns.

So what about Spices and Flesh? As what follows is a review, only Game Masters should read it. It contains SPOILERS for potential players.

Spices and Flesh is an adventure for a 4th-level party. It contains 26 pages, although the adventure itself takes up only 14 of those, the rest being the cover, table of contents, full page maps, some advertisements etc. This length suits the purpose, which is to provide an side-trek adventure for an AP without derailing the original story.

This adventure fits into Skull and Shackles's second installment, Raiders of the Fever Sea, more notably in 'Part Two', the sandbox part where the PCs set out to become real pirates and try to gather plunder and gain infamy. I have always been a fan of story-driven campaigns and as such, I am not the biggest fan of sandboxes, especially when the different encounters feel too random. With Spices and Flesh Matt Goodall and James Graham give me exactly what I need: a side-trek with an intriguing little story that lifts this adventure out of anonymous randomness, but still can be thrown in at any time during the sandbox.

Captain Craw owns a run-down ship that has neither the speed to run from pirates, nor the strength to withstand an attack. As he is on a profitable mission in the pirate isles, he has come up with a clever plan to fool potential boarding parties: he carries an inferior cargo to hide his true shipment, dozens of slaves hidden in a secret hold. In come the PCs, who are out hunting for fame and fortune (or rather infamy and plunder). After a futile attempt to escape the pirates Captain Craw chooses to surrender and parley. He invites the PCs on his ship and tries to negotiate a 'peaceful' solution. Things come to blows when the PCs discover that Craw is trying to drug them or that he is lying. A nice little detail is the easily discovered hidden compartment with some minor treasure Craw had installed to avert suspicion from his real secret cargo. The authors also provide a list of clues that point to Craw's lies and throughout the scenario they give suggestions on what to do if the PCs do not follow the most likely scenario. It is all this attention to detail that makes this module so great.

The second part of the story deals with the person who ordered the slaves. Whether the PCs are looking for profit (by selling the slaves or stealing the promised payment) or for revenge against a ruthless slaver, they can follow the clues in Captain Craw's papers to a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. There they encounter a sea hag who wants the slaves to turn them into an army of merrow minions. The fact that the hag is a mythic creature drawn from Legendary Games' Mythic Monters: Sea Monsters should not pose a problem, as her full stats are provided in the adventure. Game masters who want to incorporate the mythic rules in their campaign, can use this point for a mythic tier, but the adventure also gives clues on how to translate this encounter to the Skull and Shackles' subsystem of infamy and disrepute. And even if you are not using this system, the hag is just is more powerful version of the original creature in Bestiary 1, making her a more memorable opponent.

Conclusion

Spices and Flesh is an excellent adventure, presented in a clean two-column lay-out. The art and maps are definitely decent for a third-party publisher. I based my preview on the pdf, which looks good, but is not exactly printer-friendly. Game masters who want to hold the adventure in their hands, had better order the print edition. The adventure fits seamlessly into Skull and Shackles, only adding to this AP. For anyone who wants to DM this adventure path, Spices and Flesh comes highly recommended. That is why I give it five stars.



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