Pathfinder Adventure Path #55: The Wormwood Mutiny (Skull & Shackles 1 of 6) (PFRPG) (based on
Paizo Publishing, LLC
Chapter 1: "The Wormwood Mutiny"
by Richard Pett
Pirates take whatever they please, whether it be ships, plunder, or people! The adventurers wake to find themselves press-ganged into the crew of the pirate ship Wormwood, the vessel of the nefarious Captain Barnabus Harrigan. They’ll have to learn how to survive as pirates if they’re to have any hope of weathering rough waves, brutal crew members, enemy pirates, ravenous beasts, and worse. But when fortune turns to their favor, it’s up to the new crew to decide whether they’ll remain the pirate’s swabs or seize control and set sail for adventures all their own.
This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path launches the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path and includes:
“The Wormwood Mutiny,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 1st-level characters, by Richard Pett.
Details of life aboard a pirate vessel and rules for becoming the most infamous scallywag to sail the seas, by Jesse Benner, Richard Pett, and F. Wesley Schneider.
Revelations on the daring faith of Besmara, goddess of pirates, strife, and sea monsters, by Sean K Reynolds.
Death and plunder in the Pathfinder’s Journal, by Robin D. Laws.
Four new monsters, by Jesse Benner, Sean K Reynolds, and Steven D. Russell
Each monthly full-color softcover Pathfinder Adventure Path volume contains an in-depth adventure scenario, stats for several new monsters, and support articles meant to give Game Masters additional material to expand their campaign. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes use the Open Game License and work with both the Pathfinder RPG and the world's oldest fantasy RPG.
This was right up my alley; I have always loved pirates; both Hollywood and real. Now I got to be one. While being a blood thirsty rogue is not for everyone, the game is well written, balanced, and delightfully exotic. Pass the rum, and read me full review here: The Wormwood Mutiny
The first section of this adventure aboard the Wormwood could almost be run with your group as one-on-one sessions. As a matter of fact, if I had it to do again, I would probably find a way to do much of it that way. Essentially the party is split for most of the first part of the game. Any effort to make the 20+ NPCs aboard the Wormwood real people takes even more play time. I think I ran as best as I could going in, but it resulted in significantly more downtime during a session for some players as their PCs were "off screen." That's not good for players you are trying to hook into a new campaign. I may have lost two players because of it. (But I gained two more, so no loss) The point is, GMs should know this AP has that weakness in the early parts and if able take steps to decrease downtime of other players. If that means having some one-on-ones, maybe a gaming lunch with dice, or something akin, it would be most helpful.
BUT...this helpless feeling that the first part of the adventure creates makes the payoff mean more. When the PCs start becoming a team and getting to do "missions" as a team, it is such a welcome return to expectations that it increases excitement among the players.
That brings me to the flavor of the AP. Who doesn't want to play a pirate? Well, one of my players actually. But it shocked me, too. As a GM I'm having an absolute ball running this AP, even though it is more prep work than I thought an AP should be. The subject matter is so great and inspiring that I don't mind it. I don't know how far my campaign will stick with future volumes. Hopefully pretty close, as it means less work for me. But if it doesn't. Even if you don't plan on running the remainder of the AP, this volume is a perfect set-up for any pirate or nautical campaign of your own design.
After being disappointed by the Skull and Shackles Player's Guide, I was very pleased with The Wormwood Mutiny, the first module in the Skull and Shackles Adventure Path.
It can be difficult to engage low level characters, especially trying to challenge them without killing them. Richard Pett manages this effectively with a timelined, sandbox environment that allows for plenty of options and danger, with visible consequences for success and failure. While the module starts off with a heavy focus on skill tests and roleplaying, combat becomes a greater focus as the characters gain experience. Throughout, the PCs possess a tangible means of plotting their success as they explore the Wormwood and interact with the other crew.
While PCs are railroaded originally, their freedom to explore the ship and interact with crew within set boundaries gives them plenty to do. That said, this module will work best with players who actively contribute to the game as opposed to those who sit back and wait to be entertained. This is further complicated by some event triggers that rely on the party to follow certain courses of action and indeed, with a suitably unreactive party, it is possible to miss whole sections of the adventure. That, however, can be the risk with sandbox adventures.
Overall, a solid adventure with some original ideas and great gameplay but could have been executed better.
Overall, not a bad AP but GMs will need to tweak it a bit beyond simply adjusting it to your party's skill level. It starts out incredibly slow. The daily skill checks are monotonous and tedious, slowing the game a great amount. They are necessary, however, for the day to day tasks the PCs will undergo during their time on the Wormwood and allow the PCs to make friends and/or enemies among the crew. Skipping over this tedious process can really hurt the party later on in the adventure unless you make allowances above the table.
The fights themselves are inconsistent. They go from incredibly easy to nearly impossible. At one point a character was killed by a giant moray eel. They were level three, the eel is CR5. The book lists it as a CR4 because it runs instead of fighting to the death, but the stat block is unchanged. The attack modifier and damage is too high. While that in and of itself is a simple fix, this is a recurring theme throughout the AP. The story is fantastic, but GMs can expect a lot of overhaul work to make it playable.
The Good: The adventurers have a nice mix of shipboard life, land-lubbing autonomy, and the NPC's detailed are fleshed out nicely and really come to life.
The Bad: The endless days upon ship splitting up tasks amongst four players can get tedious and drag on as each gets multiple interaction (separate....DON'T SPLIT THE PARTY)opportunities every day.
The Ugly: Some NPC's weren't fleshed out at all, and so it was hard to divert PC attention from some of the key crew members. Exploring the ship stealthily seemed a little contrived and farfetched for my taste.
The Wormwood Mutiny is a fun way to get the characters into the pirate way of life. I agree with the press-gang mentality of the adventure, and I basically started the PC's with little to nothing in the way of gear and everything they got was scrounged up.
There wasn't enough info on the Wormwood's magic user, Longfarthing, but the rest of the PC's were pretty well fleshed out.
The end scene was a little too much Roger-Rabbit for my likes and I had to modify the ending somewhat to make due in the interest of time.
I wasn't much of a fan with the dynamic of sneaking around the ship, it seems a little too contrived and with no where to go, anyone stealing something could be caught with a full ship health-and-welfare inspection. Also the number of days spent on sea had to be compressed somewhat as 17-odd days of doing the tasks and having each player in their own little world interacting with PC's can make for very loooong drawn out gaming sessions.
Overall I think the adventure went well and the party was excited to exact their revenge upon Plugg and Scourge, the fact that the players had such enmity against the antagonists means that the press-ganging and pirate justice had the desired effect. These NPC's were not just regarded with the usual apathy that villains usually engender.