Campaign's climax off the rails, could use inspiration

Skull & Shackles

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Hey all, I've mined some great ideas from these forums over the years and hope people could help me brainstorm.

My group has made it through almost the entire adventure path, have recently killed Harrigan and returned to their town of Rumhaven on the Isle of Empty Eyes where they fought the remainder of his forces who had attacked the island while they made an early beeline for Harrigan's base directly. So their town took some damage and they lost a portion the small fleet of ally's they'd built up.

Upon learning of the oncoming Chelish invasion fleet, they sent a magical message warning the pirate council. I had Tessa respond saying that the Hurricane King utterly disregarded the warning, trusting in his might and the power of the Eye. Instead of setting sail in a rush to Port Peril, their Capt. convinced the other PC's and crew to sit tight and let the Chelish Navy attack Port Peril and take out the Hurricane King, who they have little respect for. They're not full on evil, but are pretty ruthless and amoral, and don't care much about Port Peril, having preferred to focus on their own island, which they've invested a lot into building up.

So, right now it looks like the invasion will pretty much succeed. I guess Kerdak gets taken out and the fight is with the Admiral.. wish I'd kept Harrigan around, they had more of a connection to him. What does a conquered Port Peril look like? Is the navy just gonna wipe most of the population out? I guess the admiral's ship will have cannons now, but we haven't been using the ship to ship combat rules and I suspect they'll attack by air so I don't know how to make that seem scary. I was thinking that the Ilizmagorti pirates might show up at the PC's island with a fleet and offer to strike with them while the Navy's resources are expended, I doubt they'd want Cheliax to have too strong a foothold in the region.. maybe have them extract some future favor from the group, but what? Maybe Besmara's priests with their old (mostly forgotten) shipmate Sandara Quinn can make a last minute appearance, along with the other surviving pirate lords?

The group have 2 main vessels and a handful of other ships, their flagship is their quickest ship w/ the most upgrades, they recently acquired a second ship that can fly, though without too much speed or agility. But neither I nor the players were much interested in the ship combat or fleet combat rules so I don't know how to make this stuff feel relevant.. I guess I can narrate the battle and handwave stuff as they fly into the admiral's ship to confront the enemy. The group is mostly rogues and fighters with one bard and not much magic utility.

I think I'm just feeling a little burnt out but want to have a satisfying climax and could use some suggestions or any ideas you guys might have to help craft a cool ending.. thanks in advance!

If they want to let the Chelish Navy and Hurricane King beat each other down and then stab the victor in the back, that seems in line with pirate operating procedures . . . .

I doubt the invaders are going to wipe out the population of Port Peril, but they probably are going to start executing lots of pirates.

If neither you nor your players are keen on ship combat, then narrating the battle seems the way to go.

Assuming the PCs have told Tessa Fairwind they're not rushing to help the Hurricane King, she might rally a few of the other pirate lords to escape the Chelish fleet and group up with the PCs for a counter-attack. Then the PCs can have a big melee with the Chelish admiral and her allies on one or both flagships, and whoever wins that fight wins the battle.

If the PCs have a flying ship, I'd be wanting to do something big with that in the climax. Try to get them to fly it into the enemy flagship or something. :) Or maybe give the Chelish fleet a flying flagship, so the final battle is in the air!

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The chelish armada conquers most of the shackles as described in the book. Once they have taken port peril they will spend some days executing pirates and declaring themself the new rulers. Eventually they will obviously start attacking the other isles, including that of the PCs. Their fleet size isn't really impacted by the previous battles, as they replaced their losses using defeated ships.

In essence the PCs have limited time to gather the remaining pirates (shouldn't be complicated, those who don't flee are basically looking for some leader to gather behind so this part can be mostly glossed over) and form a new fleet in a last ditch effort to stop the chelish threat. As there is no hope to beat the chelish armada in a fair fight after the devastating defeat at port peril, the PCs are supposed to attack Druvalias flagship directly while their allies keep the fleet occupied as long as they can. You can play the fights as written (some devils try to stop them from reaching Druvalias ship etc), simply ignoring the fleet battle itself.
Make sure Druvalia mentions her uncle, who is currently residing in the lucrehold, coordinating the regular troops.

If they manage to beat Druvalia, the chelish fleet retreats to reform itself, giving the players some time to get rid of Druvalias uncle as well (forgot his name). Druvalia will readily offer advice in case she survives (as she knows her uncle has to die before her if she doesn't want to lose her soul) and the players should know about the secret entrance from Harrigans notes. They could either use the remaining fleet as a distraction again or sneak in at night.

Replace the hurricane king with Druvalias uncle and some of the piratey enemies with more fitting chelish stuff/devils and you can run the fortress part without too many changes as well. Just describe how this place obviously got raided and is currently redesigned to be a chelish outpost. The final boss is Druvalias uncle, who is planning to use the hurricane crowns power to reclaim the sargavian colonies after executing every pirate he can get a hold on.

If the PCs manage to stop him they would obviously be the ones to fill the power gap (with most of the other pirate lords being dead).

In case you feel particularly burnt out you could skip the fleet part completely of course. Just make sure the PCs know where to go (lucrehold). In this case they arrive while Druvalia is still there.

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Ah, I like the suggestion to use uncle Ezaliah, I almost forgot about him and he screwed over one of the PC's in his backstory. Maybe he could have Harrigan or Kerdak's bound spirits fight for him in the final battle, as he didn't sound like much of a combatant himself.

Anyone have an idea for what the Ilizmagorti pirates might want for their aid? It feels like Red Mantis run pirates should have some sinister side motive but I might be overthinking it. Building a temple to the Mantis God maybe, though secrecy is more his (its?) style. Thanks for the ideas

Hey, just wanted to say thanks for all your ideas. I ended up running the last couple sessions mostly as Lintecarka suggested, with them first taking out the Chelish navy then infiltrating Fort Hazard and killing Ezaliah before he enacted a ritual that would have sacrificed the population of Port Peril to Asmodeus (needed to put a timed element of danger in so they didn't just starve out the invaders in the fort). Now that he's Hurricane King, their Capt. started restricting access to black powder and becoming appropriately despotic.

I thought we would be done the campaign, but everyone still seems attached to their characters and wants to hit higher levels so I'm gonna take a break and let someone else DM for a level or two before delving into the 'continuing the campaign' hooks and coming up w/ some of my own high level adventures. Might have the dragons from that one dragon isle invade or maybe adapt the tomb of horrors as a 'ultimate treasure' dungeon lure. If anyone had any good high level pirate exploits to share let me know.

Despite flagging a bit in the home stretch, I had a great time w/ this adventure path, second only to Curse of the Crimson throne. The first 3 adventures were particularly good and its been fun watching the group rise in power from press ganged to pirate lords.

BTW: A thought. What if your players become planar pirates?

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