Grave Undertakings: The Ship of Fools (PFRPG)

4.40/5 (based on 5 ratings)
Grave Undertakings: The Ship of Fools (PFRPG)

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“If nautical nonsense be something you wish...”

Then hop on the deck and... explore the Ship of Fools! Despite its release in time for April Fool’s Day, this adventure is no joke!

The Ship of Fools

Written by TPK’s titanic tag team of former RPG Superstar™ challenger Richard A. Hunt, and current RPG Superstar™ challenger “Mr. Threepeat” Tom Phillips.

A strange seaborne adventure designed for the Pathfinder RPG, with scaling options for 4-6 characters of 5th-7th level.

Welcome to the weather-beaten deck of the Green Lady, a galleon adrift on the blue-green waves... but where is her crew? Where is her legendary captain, the self-exiled wizard, Vossian the Green? Set sail 'lubbers and find out in this, our very latest Grave Undertaking starring your characters as the daring scallywags destined to solve the mystery of The Ship of Fools. You're sure to enjoy this excellently weird horror-trip written especially for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and delivered in true TPK Games fashion. Brave deadly zombies, mind-control slimes, suicidal haunts, sharks, swarms of eels and maybe your own crew (!) amongst other delightful deadlies in this rollicking good time!

As a bonus, this three-hour-tour also features a wonderfully detailed 13-page, full-color battlemat of the sinking ship herself—The Green Lady! Print it out, put it on your game table and you're ready to set anchor!

This adventure can be dropped into any campaign setting as a dangerous one-shot session, or as part of your bigger ongoing plot. Hooks are provided to get your group into the action as soon as possible, whether your campaign is already happening at sea or in port.

This adventure features high-quality horrific original art by Michael Fall, a detailed, full-color map of the Green Lady (plus 13 pages of battlemats!), a captain's log player handout and uses the Open Game License to work with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules.

The PDF contains full bookmarks, a hyperlinked table of contents for easy navigation while running, and full hyperlinks to the award-wining web site so that everything you need to run the adventure is right at your fingertips! This adventure is sure to float your boat.

You asked for it—your players can blame us.

RPG Superstar is a trademark of Paizo Publishing, LLC.

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4.40/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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An entertaining, well themed adventure marred by some problems


This module drips theme. A seemingly empty ship that turns out to be infested by zombies, which are particularly effective at this level in the confined quarters of a ship. Boss zombies. Fun ways to try to kill the boss zombies. A mad scientist's lab in an extradimensional space. A related, very nice magic item the players will love to have.

The module includes a battlemat of the ship, allowing you to print out the whole ship for miniatures use.

Unfortunately, there are problems that need fixing.

Vossian's suicide makes no sense. Why would he leave crew members in the adjacent cabin to commit suicide in his cabin - a room which contains a wand of 9 10d6 fireballs and an exit to an extradimensional space where the olive slime couldn't get to him? Worse, the extradimensional space contains the green slime Vossian knows harms olive slime along with alchemical items his crew could have used on the slime creatures. Essentially, the PCs are expected to find and use these items against the slime creatures whereas the wizard, who is an expert on plants and oozes, decided suicide was a better option.

Stat blocks are not accurate, to put it kindly. There is a rogue 4 / assassin 2 with +6 BAB and +4d6 sneak attack. A CR6 Shambling Mound with +11 attack and 67hp has been advanced to a CR8 slime version with +20 attack, 144hp, DR 15/-, spores that release when struck causing 1d3 Con damage with Fort DC 17 to resist, plus slime abilities. Smaller errors can be found in other stat blocks.

Two areas are said to have been looted, but there is no indication where the items ended up. Vossian's quarters were not looted, but his spellbook is not listed.

There is no template for creating a slime zombie. There are no details on the magic item players will be most happy about acquiring - the wardrobe.

The problems are enough to lower my rating to 3 stars, but still recommend the adventure because the ideas are fun.

Well sit right back.....And you'll hear a tale....a tale of a fateful trip....


Weighing in at 52 pages, with 6 pages going to the basics (cover/OGL/etc.), 1 page going to a fully linked TOC, which I love to see, as sometimes I don't want to waste my screen space with the bookmarks (which this PDF is fully stacked on as well by the way) dashboard open. One nice touch added throughout the PDF is a link BACK to the TOC, so that if you are using it in-place of the bookmarks, you actually can navigate via this method. So, counting with me? We're down to 45 pages currently, from there we have 15 pages of maps...yes, 15. Two of those are the same full ship, dissected by levels (with a style that reminded me of Dunjinni) Why there are two I'm not entirely sure, as they are the exact same map. One is roughly a half page version with a full key, the other is a full page, but all of the numbers are still on it, making it still not entirely Player friendly. But, the 13 remaining map pages make up for it, by giving you the ship in battlemat form...that's right, you can print out the entire ship and rock it with the minis. Other than my not being a huge fan of the cartographic style, my only complaint regarding these battle map sheets would be that the upper most tiers of the boat are still laid against an ocean background....even though they would have boat under them. Arguably you could Photoshop out the water if you don't want to waste the ink, but if you are planning to stack the levels on your table, then the water will have to go for the top two sections of the ship. Small thing though, as there are groups that would run it as is, and that's cool, it comes down to how you would use the maps....Me, I'm planning on mounting them to thin craft board that I will then stack with risers in between layers so that my players can truly “explore” the ship...

OK, enough about the maps...maps are all fine and dandy, and an integral part of the package, but you're waiting to hear about the adventure, so let's do this shall we? Players....rule mongers and cheats that ya are....the door, feel free to use it...time for grown folk to talk.....OK, sorry, pesky players, always trying to sit in on adventure conversations. Now, where were we?

Vossian Velsurian is that type of mad scientist/wizard I love to unleash on the world, and I mourn his passing. Luckily his passing, and the untimely circumstance that has befallen what is left of his crew are going to present to many an adventurer a chance at some thrilling encounters aboard his sinking vessel, the Green Lady. Presented with several options to hook your play group, everything from needing to salvage the ghost ship for material to repair the vessel they themselves are on, to a “rescue” attempt as there's a sailor on the sinking vessel who owes a player money, to a psychic connection to something warning of danger that will give a nice creepy sense of madness and horror to the entire adventure. Point being, there's quite a few options for getting your players on this boat, where they will discover that the previous crew aren't quite as gone as they may have seemed.

Vossian had a penchant for fauna, the deadlier the more he was intrigued, and wanted to experiment with it. It was that fascination with killer organisms that led to the predicament that is the basis for this adventure. A crew enslaved by an olive slime working with a hive mentality to protect and feed the collective growing in the lower decks. Along with the infected crew is a variant shambling mound that has befallen the charms of this deadly slime. Adding to the level of distrust and creepiness aboard the sinking ship are the fact that the initial boarding party were possessed via the slime shortly after arriving, all save one (who is in fact an assassin in hiding waiting for her chance to strike at her chosen target). Water churned with sharks, skin eating eels, slime zombies and an insane Cerebral Fungus all await the group at various different points throughout the vessel, up to and including an extra-dimensional space...which had me wondering oddly, when the boat finishes sinking, if the water gets through the door of the closet , will it flood the laboratory? Or, if the door is closed, is that enough that the portal is not open.....hhmmmmm...

Each page is done conveys an aquatic theme as they bear a stylized blue background, with text boxes having a gradient background of blues (that are a little to dark at times to clearly read the text without straining). The coolest text base thing has to be the font used for the stat-blocks, not sure why, but I really liked it...except for when it was done in white, on a black background...I can barely read it when its like that.

The handout of the journal entry is visually gorgeous, I would of liked to have seen the chosen font perhaps a little more legible, and perhaps a slight bit more attention given to making sure it looked like it was written on the parchment. There are letters over the rope, and over a tears in the page. Still, if you're not as nit picky as I am, it is very cool looking.

Art wise there are an assortment of zombiefied sketch style drawings, some better than others, all B&W. Formatting sticks to the two column approach, and editing was top notch. I saw no spelling or grammatical errors other than some odd spacing concepts on the TOC, but that was minor, and not an issue. The entire PDF is hyper-linked to the extreme back to the SRD, a GM would be hard pressed to run this adventure and not know what something is or does, its all at your fingertips. The draw back to that though, is it adds that much more blue, on a blue background, with blue text boxes....there starts to be a little to much blue, lol.

So, final thoughts......this adventure has the potential to keep a party running...literally. A sinking ship, a crew zombified by a slime that is seeking more food/slaves....oh, and the excellent inclusion of the slimes natural enemy (green slime) presented in what one can only take, as projectile weapon form.....the various concerns that come from whichever hook you as the Gm used to get them aboard, oh, and all those hungry sharks circling the sinking boat...yeah...this is going to be a fun evening...I can't wait to get the boat

Negatives....well, there's the fact I have to do my own Photoshopping to the battlemat..but I can understand why the water background is there, in case a group is looking to run them as separate levels entirely it would look really barren to only have that little nib of ship at the bottom of a huge page, lol. The darkness of the text boxes also bothered me, but it is still readable on screen, so I'm probably not as upset as others. The print crowd however, I doubt will be happy with the text boxes, as you can turn off backgrounds and graphics before you print out of Adobe, but you can't get rid of things like text box coloring, only grey scale it.

So, I'm giving it a 5 star rating, as the adventure reads as a fun time, and it's got me wanting to start building a 3-dimensional map for the ship. If you are of the print camp, be forewarned though, the text boxes are going to be dark at best, unreadable at worst. But, if you run your PDF's strictly via electronics, you should be fine.

4.5 stars - A stellar adventure that needs a printer-version/layout-adjustment


This pdf is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisements and 1 page SRD, leaving 45 pages of content - not a bad deal indeed!

This being a review of an adventure, I encourage potential players to skip to the conclusion. From here on reign the SPOILERS.

All right, still here? Vossian Velsurian is a scholar and enthusiast of all things botanical or fungous - especially the more lethal varieties. It is said passion and experiments with his beloved specimen that has driven him to aquatic exile aboard his vessel the Green Lady. Now, though, something is amiss. Either because the players have previously encountered his creations, are on board of a slowly sinking ship, receive disturbing, ominous and imprecise telepathic cries for help or any combination of 5 sample hooks and any you come up with, they draw nearer to the vessel - which seems to be bereft of crew-members. The landing crew sent to gather info fails to return and it's up to the PCs to board the Green Lady and find out what fate exactly has befallen the ship, hopefully avoiding the shark (or if you're particularly cruel, hammer shark) -infested sea. While exploring the 4 levels of the ship, it becomes quickly apparent that Vossian has found something truly vile - the olive slime. An intelligent colony of slime that takes over hosts without them even noticing it and transforms them into slime zombies has taken over and transformed the whole, slowly sinking ship and is one course for the main land.

Via cryptic and ominous hints of the handout (which is beautiful!) and a particularly deadly haunt, the PCs may find out that Vossian, as the last survivor, committed suicide rather than joining the oozing collective. In Vossian's laboratory lurks another strange threat or potential ally, the brilliant, enslaved Cerebral Fungus that served as Vossian's slave/help and has been sending out the cries - whether the PCs try to kill the insane creature or coax information out of it - they're in for a disturbing and interesting encounter. They may also find ye olde' green slime, which might prove to be their only chance - turns out that green slime loves to eat olive slime and the zombies and thus would make for a formidable weapon. And come on - who wouldn't want to fling green slime at foes? The slime zombies, linked telepathically and controlled by the aberrant intellect of the collective make for a formidable force to battle and their fluid tactics and responses make the sojourn to the Green Lady one that will have your players shiver, even before you add the complication of an assassin and the other specimen Vossian has secured - a spore-studded slime zombie version of a shambling mound would be one example of the deadly and challenging things at the disposal of the collective.

Now, as written, the adventure is hard and cool, but if you're a mean DM (like me), you can easily use the Olive slime to use some turncoat ploys - infect a PC and have him turn on his allies when fighting the collective. Add the telepathic cries of the mad cerebral fungus and perhaps a kind of mental static from the colony and you're in for one scary as hell horror scenario par excellence. You could also run this more like an extermination, of course and this variability makes the module even better. It also practically lends itself to the "It's not over yet"-twist with the potential for a wide array of olive slime infections: Rats, sea gulls, familiars, animal companions...the mainland awaits...

The adventure is intended for 5th level (and is deadly), but if you have a higher level party or want to truly make them suffer, CR 6 and 7-scalinga advice is part of the deal.

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to TPK Games' 2-column standard, this time with a distinct aquatic blue-tinge, which is also one of my problems: The boxed text starts off as light blue at the top and turns very dark blue at the bottom. I print out all my adventures and usually only print out handouts in color, the rest in b/w. Well, my b/w-print makes about 1/3 of the boxed text illegible, as the dark blue and black is indistinguishable in b/w and I have a good printer... The lack of a printer-friendly version does hurt here and remains my one true, but sadly major gripe with the otherwise stellar module.

The pdf is fully hyperlinked to and fully bookmarked. It should be noted that the whole ship comes not only with a DM-map in full color, but also 13 whopping pages of battle-maps in full-color, so you can essentially play the whole module with miniatures without problem. Even if you don't - full color handout-maps sans secret doors and numbers - what more could you want? Oh yeah, there's a beautiful log-hand-out as well. This module is a joy to behold: Creepy, smart, deadly, lending itself to a plethora of gaming styles and coming with massive map-support as well as at least two creatures I absolutely adored. This haunted ship offers a lot of fun and is a vast step forward from the first Grave Undertaking - this is a full-blown adventure, and a great one at that. Richard A. Hunt and Tom Philips have written a neat take on the ship of horrors-trope and made this a joy to read. In fact, I'd immediately give this 5 stars plus seal of approval, were it not for the problem with the blue boxed texts and the lack of a printer friendly version. As soon as these have been added, I'll revise my review accordingly. For now, my final verdict will "only" be a 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.

Fantastic high seas adventure!!


Total Party Kill Games has another winner on its hands with Grave Undertakings: Ship of Fools. It is set upon the high seas and promises high adventure.
The overall product lay out is good, keeping in theme with their other adventures. I like very much how they link monsters and items to the SRD site; it makes for easy reviewing with just a click of the mouse. The included printable battle maps for the ship are also great, makes less work for the DM not having to draw or re-draw each section as the PCs will inevitably travel back and forth to various decks and rooms.

The adventure is easy to run as a stand-alone or as part of a current campaign; they introduce several plot hooks that would get any adventuring party involved. The pace of the adventure is epic, a wrong turn or lack of tactics and it can get ugly for the PC’s very quickly. Grave Undertakings is a great title to give as it can be very lethal. The traps are well placed and well done; the haunt they put in is very well done and adds to the mystery surrounding the ship and should help keep the PCs on their toes.

Overall I enjoyed the module very much. The writing is good and keeps the Dm interested in seeing how this plays out. The read aloud text is great and should give the players a sense of dread as intended by the author. When reading it I was easily able to picture the rooms and items that set the scene. The loot awards perfectly match the tone of the module, working well with the creatures encountered.

Ship of Fools is also written in a way that lets the DM have some free reign when dealing running the encounters, also suggesting tactics and combat suggestions for the various nasties aboard. So impressed am I with this module I plan to run it in my homebrew Pathfinder campaign. Well worth the very modest price.

An RPG Resource Review


Opening with a truly beautiful plan of the ship itself, and detailed background that explains how The Green Lady came to be drifting empty, Marie Celeste-style across the face of the ocean, we continue with little ado into various ways in which your characters can be enticed to explore, to risk the unknown dangers that await... Perhaps the ship they are on is sinking? Or someone aboard the ship owed one of them money? Or they heard a rumour about treasure concealed aboard? Or... maybe you have a better hook, you know what intrigues and attracts them, after all. There are even ideas to deal with the minor hindrance of the group not being at sea when you want to run the adventure!

So, once you have got the characters there, the adventure can unfold, redolent with atmospheric descriptions for you to read aloud. The default situation is a meeting on the high seas, with the characters as passengers on another ship (NPCs provided), but it is straightforward to modify that to suit your needs. Once you've got them aboard, everything is described concisely yet with sufficient detail for you to make it all come alive. Sidebars explain references that you may not know or have considered - for example, the use of arbelests, very large crossbows, as ship-to-ship weapons (especially if your world does not have gunpowder and cannons). There's plenty to explore, things to find, with appropriate checks to ask the players to roll right where they are needed, and that's before they encounter...

Suffice to say, they are not alone. The ship is not quite as deserted as it appears. In figuring out what went on, in merely exploring, they may unloose terror upon themselves, as well as discover interesting things. There are clear notes on how and where attacks may take place and on likely tactics to be used by the opposition.

There is no real 'end' to the adventure apart from the challenge of clearing the vessel and maybe even finding out what happened aboard. A few suggestions for how to make it even more difficult are given, but once the ship is safe once more it will be up to the survivors to decide what to do next. The detailed description of vessel and contents is followed by an NPC Gallery with full stat blocks and role-playing detail for everyone mentioned in the text. Then come detailed notes for scaling the adventure depending on the numbers and levels of the characters who are to enjoy this little salvage operation. Finally there is a player handout in the shape of a page from the ship's log (which quite looks the part) and full plans - and battlemap tiles - of The Green Lady in all her glory!

Presentation is excellent, with some neat techie bits. Not only is there a properly hyperlinked Table of Contents, but from every page there is a link to take you back there, something rarely remembered! There are lots of links to apposite pages on the d20pfsrd website as well, particularly in things like stat blocks, so that you can check a rules reference without hauling your rulebooks out.

It's a cracking 'ghost ship' adventure, with enough going on to keep characters busy and on their toes - if they do not wish to end up in Davy Jones's Locker! Yes, it's dangerous, but ought to provide excitement and enjoyment for players, if not for their characters. Stories to tell in portside taverns for many a year to come.

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Yes, I think so. While it does not feature naval combat, it's a great horror-themed ship adventure. And hard. So yes, Skull and Shackles and Razor Coast benefit from having this one added.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Endzeitgeist wrote:
Yes, I think so. While it does not feature naval combat, it's a great horror-themed ship adventure. And hard. So yes, Skull and Shackles and Razor Coast benefit from having this one added.

I've heard some complaints about the "navel combat" system in Skull & Shackles, so that might be a good thing ...

... unless I can get my GM to invest in Fire as she Bears.

Lord Fyre wrote:
Endzeitgeist wrote:
Yes, I think so. While it does not feature naval combat, it's a great horror-themed ship adventure. And hard. So yes, Skull and Shackles and Razor Coast benefit from having this one added.

I've heard some complaints about the "navel combat" system in Skull & Shackles, so that might be a good thing ...

... unless I can get my GM to invest in Fire as she Bears.

A friend of mine is running Skull and Shackles. I gave the group a copy of Fire as she Bears, but they decided to go with the system as written in the AP. I have not heard any complaints from them about it.

I am not a player in that game, and I have not read the AP yet, so I cannot comment on the quality of the system.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Itchy wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Endzeitgeist wrote:
Yes, I think so. While it does not feature naval combat, it's a great horror-themed ship adventure. And hard. So yes, Skull and Shackles and Razor Coast benefit from having this one added.

I've heard some complaints about the "navel combat" system in Skull & Shackles, so that might be a good thing ...

... unless I can get my GM to invest in Fire as she Bears.

A friend of mine is running Skull and Shackles. I gave the group a copy of Fire as she Bears, but they decided to go with the system as written in the AP. I have not heard any complaints from them about it.

I am not a player in that game, and I have not read the AP yet, so I cannot comment on the quality of the system.

The system in the AP works quite well. The problem is that it becomes a duel between one player and the GM.

Fire as she Bears, does a much better job of involving the entire group in the action.

That is why I was look for this to suggest as a plug in, as it is a group adventure.

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