Islands of Plunder: Spices and Flesh (PFRPG)

***** (based on 2 ratings)
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While sails on the horizon can be reason to fear in pirate-infested waters, sometimes they bring good cheer and companionship on the lonely journeys across the endless blue. A chance encounter with Captain Craw and the good ship Tamarind seems like the latter, a friendly crew of spice traders offering warm hospitality. Yet all is not as it seems, as the Tamarind trades in a far different and more terrible cargo on a dangerous course into the hands of the legendary Shayonna the Gaunt and her desolate reef! Can your heroes uncover the Tamarind's deadly secret before they become the latest prizes sent to the clutches of the sea witch?

Islands of Plunder: "Spices and Flesh" is a 26-page adventure for 4th-level PCs full of mystery and peril upon the high seas and below the waves, incorporating investigation and negotiation alongside deadly danger on board ship and among the deadly reefs below. It includes two sets of maps, one for the GM and an unkeyed set for players.

"Spices and Flesh" is the second in a series of pirate-themed Islands of Plunder adventures by superstar author Matt Goodall, collaborating on this adventure with James F.D. Graham, with amazing artwork by Ivan Dixon and Chris Smith and marvelous maps by Pedro Coelho. This adventure can be easily dropped into any seafaring campaign, though it also harmonizes beautifully with a pirate-themed campaign. The Islands of Plunder series continues Legendary Games’ tradition of bringing you outstanding content by the best authors in the business, combined with amazing art and production values and innovative layout design. We hope you enjoy using our products as much as we enjoy making them, and that you’ll keep coming back again and again to Make Your Game Legendary!

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

All right, this installment of the "Islands of Plunder"-series is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we go into the details - what is this series about? Well, essentially, the Islands of Plunder-sub-series is a part of expansions intended for the Skull & Shackles AP, providing sidetreks etc. on an island per island base - they can essentially be considered island-focused mini-adventures that work just as well within the context of a Freeport campaign, Razor Coast or Savage Tide - if it's remotely pirate/island-themed, these will work - and probably beyond that, but that I'll take a look at on a case by case basis. This Island of Plunder-module is intended to be run for level 4 characters during #2 of the Skull & Shackles AP.

Hence, since this is an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players are strongly advised to jump to the conclusion.

When the PCs board the Tamarind (fully mapped in gorgeous full color!), captain Batholomew Shaw immediately surrenders his weapons -alas, things are not as easy as they seem. While the captain sports minor enchantments, the module does mention this and provides excuses for the DM to rattle off - nice to see obvious PC capacities taken into account. Beyond the magic, astute and observant PCs can notice quite a few discrepancies in the Tamarind's make up that should make them aware of the potential issues with the craft -if they fail, though, they may very well be subjected to non-lethal poison that may knock them out and put them at a severe disadvantage.

Whether they are imprisoned and need to escape from the secret cargo (including slaves) hold or whether open hostilities break out - the PCs will have a conflict on their hands -and one that is not too easy. While it is my personal opinion that the ship's alchemist's buffed AC at 20 isn't too bad, the module does sport advice for extremely low-powered groups to prevent frustration. Searching the ship, the PCs promptly stumble across the legend of Shayonna and a hinted trade planned by the pirates; Said being, though, is now known as the legendary Gaunt. Embarking towards her islet, the PCs are soon greeted by a less than friendly merrow strike squad.

Despicable PCs may well sell the slaves for an excellent price, but more heroic PCs will have to brave coral flensing traps, ravenous urchin swarms and worse before finally facing down legendary Shayonna, who has the strange power to transform regular beings into merrow - and yes, she is a mythic threat and one that will challenge the PCs to the utmost. It should be noted that her legend can be gleaned by the PCs, making sure they know they do not have a regular adversary before them and her stats, fully provided herein, contain all required rules to run her.

The pdf concludes with player-friendly versions of the maps, including Shayonna's islet. Going above and beyond, the underwater tunnels do not show on the player-friendly map - AWESOME.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Each named NPC receives his/her own artwork, which is awesome. Even better, both island and fortress come in lavishly drawn full color maps that also sport player-friendly maps to use as handouts - kudos to the cartographer! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Goodall and James F.D. Graham have provided a neat sidetrek here - with smart adversaries, a nice, short, concise story and fitting consequences. The BBEG is neat as well, though her foreshadowing does not match that of a similar module. The cartography is neat, quite some advice is given that helps run the sidetrek and the module's gorgeous original artwork and cartography help make it a nice, unpretentious sidetrek. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it doesn't have to - easily dropped into just about every kind of nautical campaign, this one has the potential for massive expansion, should a DM choose to do so. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


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.


Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

YARRRR!!! More piratey goodness from Legendary Games! Come and get it!


Yar! I came a look'n for a fat merchantman on thee horizon, and what be me old pirate eyes be a seein? Plunder ay starboard Captain!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010

Just wanted to mention that my piratical copilot for this one, James F. D. Graham, is a RPG Superstar competitor from 2009 where he made Top 8. I like the grittiness he brought to this one and I'm hoping to see more from him in the future.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Thanks for the great review MrVergee!


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

For those of you interested in 5E, a version of this adventure for 5th Edition is almost finished in layout and will be available soon!

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