Chaotic evil worshippers [Spoilers].

Skull & Shackles

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

After a rolled random encounter resulted in three members of the party becoming weresharks, the party flew off of every rail in the book and used their newly discovered monstrous forms to impress the grindylows of Bonewrack Isle. As the party could easily communicate in Aquan and had just slaughtered the Brinebrood Queen in less than two full rounds, the grindylows began to suspect that the party, obviously deformed in their own right, had been sent by Lamashtu to strike down a false priestess. Throw in a few truly stellar diplomacy and bluff checks, and the Grindylows are now following the party's ship as it moves through the shackles.

Given that the party has never explicitly stated they were working for the mother of monsters, nor dissuaded the notion, I'm allowing the grindylow's attitude towards the party to be based solely on the party's actions. Amusingly, the party has appeared to the grindylows to have embraced deformity at every turn. The party has even begun to hold mandatory Aquan lessons for the remainder of the crew so that they can speak more clearly with the grindylow's following. Should this change, however, the grindylows, now with class levels from their time working with and studying alongside the remainder of the crew, will quickly turn on the party. I'm not exceptionally worried about combat balancing at the moment, either. There have been enough easily scaled encounters to keep the party challenged, and I'm sure there will be plenty more.

Barring this sudden but inevitable betrayal, I'm having a hard time figuring out what a chaotic and evil cult would do to attempt to earn favor in the eyes of the living powers they're following. I assumed there would be the occasional living sacrifice, militant defense, and some word of mouth stories, but considering grindylows are something akin to goblins. I've been debating taking it further in that direction and leading to screeching choirs singing hymns that sound like the christmas caroling of gremlins, grindylow sorcerer's claiming to be oracle's receiving divine power from the party, grindylow parents overheard telling their children about the wonderful carnage that the party has caused, etc.

In summary, a tribe of grindylows are worshiping a relatively indifferent party as divine soldiers of Lamashtu. What kind of things could this tribe be expected to do to show their devotion?

If you want to reward the players, the Cult could bring them treasure found beneath the waves. This could perhaps be a double-edged sword, as these gifts could be tainted by Lamashtu.

Lamashtu is the Mother of Monsters, and is often in conflict with Besmara regarding the supremacy over sea monsters. Some of the more religious pirates among the crew could take offense and begin making trouble or just speaking out against the alliance. The Grindylows could decide to 'help' by silencing these troublemakers...

An ambitious young Grindolyw could decide to actually challenge the Prophets in order to take over leadership himself.

The Cult could decide to assist by attacking ships and captains the players are negotiating with. The Cult assumes that the negotiations are just a prelude to betrayal, and is convinced they're acting in accordance with the Prophets orders.

Grindylows could decide to serve the Prophets directly, as crewmembers aboard the ship... they're proparbly horrible sailors.

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I really enjoy that idea of them sabotaging negotiations by trying to defend their prophets, and there will be some fantastic opportunities to slip in weapons and armor that have been cursed by Lamashtu. Perhaps one of those items could be a bone club which grants the Fleshwarped template (with predetermined ability adjustments, of course) on anyone who attempts to wield it in battle.

Perhaps after some time and a few class levels, one of the grindylows may begin replacing the water in the ship with Waters of Lamashtu or mixing in potions of Monstrous Extremities?

I've also been planning some sort of confrontation between Sandara and some of the original Wormwood crew against the Grindylow, as they haven't taken too kindly to the kidnapping or raids against the ship prior to the current arrangement.

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Maybe take a look at the Legacy of Fire AP (And some NPCs of RotR, part 1) , where there actually are some lamshtuan worshippers and some hints as to kust how the proceed (regarding fleshwarping) in their cultish ways.

Generally : if they can get away with it, the Grindylows will attempt to create new monstrous mothers, by impregnating females with more revulsive bloodlines (which might make the payers fidget or revolted, depending upon temper. It should certainly affect female NPCs ). Or even wish for the party's females to participate in the "act of creation". Tripanation for gaining the Third Eye i also is a fun staple of the cult (and I had wondered why it was not practised on the Grindylow Queen, as a priest)

Also, if the players sail into smaller harbours or coastal places, the Grindylows might see this as wonderful opportunity to raise some hell, capture more viable females and cause general chaos (and demonstrate how the players as their mighty guardians support them !).

Overall : many females on board (Rosie, Sandara etc.) should be more than spooked (or as in the case of Besmara, even antagonized) , since the Lamashtuans will basically regard them as breeeding mares or whatever term you use. This may very well lead to mutiny or sailing of with the unlucky ship while the characters are onshore . Hopefully on some unsettled and dangerous island.

Lamashtu's cults are pretty proactive, and will try to enact their ways of seeing the world on others. Which might not be to many females liking. Unless they are utterly and raving mad. Nevermind that many people do not really like strange religions intruding on their life.

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Have your Grindylows try to "Help" their divine patrons by bringing them useful things. Like viable dragon-turtle eggs or baby Kraken. Of course given their divine connection to Lamashtu they'll be able to raise the monsters as powerful allies of the tribe, right? Right? Oh, and did they mention that the Dragon Turtle they stole the egg from maybe kinda sorta could have possibly followed them home?

Yeah, the idea of having a bunch of sociopathic monsters with the mindset of six year old's trying to impress their beloved big brothers/sisters just tickles me in the cold, twisted, burnt parts of my heart.

I'd probably play it for laughs in a kind of scary way. The Grindylows are really enthusiastic about helping their new prophets and are always trying to outdo each other to be useful. Their idea of "Useful" includes

- Capturing feral monsters and leaving them lying around the ship or the hero's living quarters as gifts

- Helping to recruit "Crew" without any concept of what a ship's crew does, leading them to pressgang small children, animals, and bits of driftwood.

- Waging bloody war against their hated enemies - Various totally inoffensive species of squid. Nonetheless they treat what are essentially fishing expeditions as major military efforts requiring provisions, leadership, blessings, and so forth.

- Taking initiative to stage raids against various ships and settlements. Of course if captured the poor grindylow will begin calling for help from their prophets. By name. And if pressed will gladly lead the heretics back to the prophets confident that the prophets will easily dispatch the unbelievers.

- Taking it upon themselves to decorate the PCs ships to make it suitably fearsome in Grindylow eyes.

Basically - They have a warped view of the world. They want to help. And aside from a genuine and heartfelt desire to aid their beloved prophets they are hilariously sociopathic. They'll gladly and enthusiastically try to help with everything. If they don't understand the thing they'll just try that much harder to make up for it.

pressgang small children, animals, and bits of driftwood.

Thanks, snorted drink. Nicely done.

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A few updates. The crew has fully embraced the idea of a floating menagerie, going so far as to name their ship The Aberrant. The party is The party has instituted mandatory daily language lessons for every member of the crew. Grindylows must practice common, which they are failing at pretty badly, while other crew members must practice Aquan. They've also begun using a "buddy" system, where each crew member has a grindylow that is supposed to be following them around and attempting to both help them with their job, and learn the basics of it. Attempting being the key word here. The grindylow have been largely content as the party is keeping them exceedingly well fed, as well as allowing them to consume the bodies of enemy sailors that fell in battle.

vikingson wrote:
Many Good points

There have already been a few complaints among the crew about the grindylow's antics. Most of these have come from Sandara, who very much resents both having been kidnapped, and the fact that one of them has been attempting to woo her by mimicking songs it hears from Conchobar and the party Bard. Nevermind the fact that nothing will come of it as, given their fishy posteriors, I've ruled that Grindylow reproduce via roe. The grindylow doesn't understand this, all he (she? it? Schlim?) understands is that the party is enforcing a rule of nonviolence among people on the boat, and that other people have been nice to Sandara. So, in the spirit of attempting to behave properly, it's mimicking Conchobar's attempts to woo Rosie, just on a different subject.

On the subject of Roe, I have to think that given their normally short and brutal lives, they tend to have lots and lots of children. Given that the party has been trying exceptionally hard to keep the grindylow in check, there should be far fewer deaths due to violence or accident. Which means they will very quickly be overrun with far more of the little rascals than they can rightly control. After assigning a half dozen grindylow to work the bilges, the players recently found that not only where the bilges left remarkably clean, they were full of eggs. Every few days or so, when they pass the area, they'll hear a grindylow telling stories to the eggs about the party, the island they left, or the promised land of "The Island of Lots of Smart Meat". I'm thinking that the larger the grindylow population gets, the harder they'll be to control, with a few small exceptions of older grindylow or grindylow that were specifically trained to the point of obtaining class levels. The temptation to have a 'throwback' grindylow start growing in the bilges is becoming overwhelming.

FrankManic wrote:
Things that made me choke on my breakfast

I am stealing these. It's as simple as that. The grindylow antics are about to become several degrees more ridiculous, and far more eventful.

Please update this, I am dying to hear what is happening.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32


We are now approaching the end of book two and the group has gone out of their way to recruit as many monstrous creatures as they can. They've been recruiting them partially via diplomacy, partially via gold, and largely by sailing into every location where they think monstrous types might feel "oppressed" and "freeing them from their slavery". When confronted with actual slavery, they reacted much the same way, the slavers were all fed to the grindylow, those slaves that wanted to crew the ship were allowed to, and the rest were given a ride to port and a few gold to hire a ship home. They have tolerated or condoned torture, cannibalism, intense psychological torment, mass and serial murder, and all manner of thievery and violence, but if anyone even hints at slavery or magical enchantment of a sapient creature, they subject them to all of the aforementioned brutalities.

The grindylow are breeding. This started with the Grindylow shooing the rest of the crew away from the bilges, and putting great effort into "decorating" the area. Further investigation revealed the bilges to be full of roe, which began to hatch several weeks later. The Grindylows took to carrying their infants around in buckets full of seawater, but due to their general attitude of neglect, many of the young dried out and died, or were eaten by their siblings, seagulls, or their parents. Additionally, both the bard and the barbarian have been attempting to train the grindylows in their respective class skills, leading to regular mosh pits as a select few Grindylow Skalds now lead the rest into practice combats, which generally devolve into a multitude of screaming, tentacles flailing, and grindylows headbutting each other unconscious.

Shortly after leaving a trip to Sargava, the crew awoke to the night shift laughing their backsides off at the sight of the Grindylow. Having stolen the captains favorite coat, and a large number of javelin, harpoon, and unloaded crossbow, the Grindylow had lowered a rowboat and were chasing after a Giant Squid they had seen off of the port side. Despite their ability to swim, they decided to show their aquatic superiority by... not being very aquatic. They sailed haphazardly into the distance while the party just stared, expecting them to turn back. The next day, the party awoke to a bellowing roar, the boat rocking with a sudden wave, and the grindylow proudly standing over a large pile of very large eggs. The party quickly rounded up the eggs and attempted to take them back out to sea, to find themselves attacked by the mated pair of Dragon Turtles that the Grindylow had stolen them from. After narrowly defeating the dragon turtles, the crew nailed tow lines into them and dragged them to the nearest shore, where they were stripped to the bone. The meat was packed in salt obtained by boiling seawater, the bones were boiled clean and placed in boxes, and the shells were scraped clean of barnacles and flesh and dragged on deck for transport. After a quick stop at Rickety's Squibs, the crew has now split the shells in several places and mounted them to the ship just above the waterline, plating the ship in spiked bone that they have been using to ram enemy ships.

Not long after this, the crew rescued a pirate crew from a group of Chelish pirate hunters. They promptly set about recruiting the pirates, along with their first mate, a Gargoyle Wizard. The gargoyle, being fond of overlong stories, decided to put on a saucy puppet show with the grindylow about the progenitor of their race, Dagon. Combined with a prostletizing Kappa Cleric the group encountered, and several of the grindylow taking a shine to the idea of worshipping Gozreh, the grindylow are now in civil war with each other over which god the party is supposed to be avatars of. They have, so far, neglected to bother asking the party about this, save for the monk. The monk responded succinctly, precisely, and correctly, but none of the grindylow could wrap their mind about it, so all three factions declared that he supported them and went right back to fighting.

Sandara protested the buddy system with the grindylow, having been rather thoroughly bothered by the kidnapping at Bonewrack isle, and was allowed to opt out, provided she still learn Aquan. Gorgolo, her previous grindylow buddy, as well as the specific grindylow that pulled her off of the boat when she was kidnapped, has had a hard time adjusting to the fact that she didn't want to be his partner, and has gone out of his way to attempt to befriend her so they can be buddies again. He attempted to talk to Conchobar about this, who in his misguided understanding of Aquan, believed that the grindylow was trying to woo Sandara. This has led to a fish heads being left in her bed as presents, Gorgolo fighting to pre-chew her food for her to make sure it's not poisoned, a broken fiddle and a lot of wailing as it attempted to sing to her, etc.. Sandara is rapidly becoming more and more concerned as she thinks these are all threats or acts of aggression, while the party mostly just laughs.

A small offshoot of the standard Skull and Shackles campaign occurred when the group sailed into Sargava with the intent of purchasing land and landed titles to help launder their gold. They've hired another team of adventurer's to clear their land of hostile creatures and have been advertising it far and wide as a colony for all those who don't fit in to polite society. Beyond the standard fare, it's attracted a colorful bunch of miscreants, including up-and-coming necromancers, vivisectionists, changelings, lizardfolk, hobgoblins, gargoyles, gnolls, tieflings, undines, and even a bugbear werebat which they've been running as a side campaign to keep track of progress on the land. Three weeks have passed on the land and they've recently finished building their basic walls and barracks and have been fighting off the remnant's of several warring clans of ghouls and morhg, the Mbaiki from Heart of the Jungle, and a series of devastating magical traps and creatures left behind by a lich that was defeated years prior. The death toll has been catastrophic, but they have been pouring their time and spare crew into the venture nonetheless.

Crimson Cogward, an adamant Pharasmin, has raised concerns about the number of Juju zombies and Ghouls the officers have allowed to crew both the ship and the camp. After a somewhat heated debate with the captain and the bard, he left ship in Eleder to seek fortunes elsewhere. He returned not long later to the camp in northern Sargava, doggedly following an Inquisitor of Pharasma. The inquisitor had heard his tales and quickly head to the camp to clear out all of the undead in the area, first outside the camp, then within it. Both of them died in a raid against the camp shortly thereafter and were raised as Juju Zombies, as was standard practice at the time, and their specific preferences regarding death were unknown to the rest of the camp. Cogward, while distraught, was willing to let the act slide as misguided good intentions, but the inquisitor flew into a rage, attempted to assault the camp's patron, verbally assaulted everyone she could see, and sulked off. She's currently debating whether the holy and righteous thing to do would be to destroy the other undead first, or off herself instead.

By the time Inkskin arrived, the crew had already taken to using Create Treasure Map by skinning the backs off of the officers of enemy ships to track down their illicit goods. The shelves where charts are kept has become a grisly affair. They were excited at the idea of Mancatcher cove that they sailed there immediately. When the sahuagin attempted to sink the Aberrant, the retribution of the party was swift and brutal, and only got worse once they discovered the locathah matriarch in her cage. They have since paid for the necessary spells to restore her severed legs and offered safety and provision for the entire tribe, recruiting them into the camp near sargava, where they will be less likely to be attacked by the other local tribes of Sahuagin.

I have made them fight all manner of horribleness and quell several large battles between factions of the crew, split via racial, ethnic, religious, or simply circumstantial lines, but they have responded splendidly each time. They have now gathered enough ruffians and fiends to crew their four ships: The Aberrant, The Gilded Fiend, The Good Night, and the Hellspawn. Armed thusly, they are on their way to seeking titles as free captains, and all the glory that it entails.

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