This is not going to go well....

Skull & Shackles

Well, let me start off by saying: "Long Time Lurker, First Time Poster!" /wave

Now, that out of the way...

My PCs have done something I'm sure many of you have dealt with and I need some advice since this is the first AP I've ever ran.

~ My group has totally forsaken ship type skills. Yes, none of them are putting points in Profession: (Sailor). Not.One.Point.

~ Yes, I've warned them many times about it.

~ They've only preyed on easy fishing/merchant ships with the help of NPC Crews.

~ They've just entered and LOST the Regatta. Yup, not even close. Harrigan won and now has the Island.

~ They don't care and have decided to just land on the Island after it's pacified and raid it with hit and run tactics till he just leaves, if they can't destroy his ship while at anchor.

So, should I just go freestyle and give them dungeons to crawl through after they sail to them?

Should I just have the other Pirates sail them down and end them?

Should I give them an island and force them to do the 'Grand Ball'?

~ I mean, it's gonna be tough to keep them in the AP with the way they're going.

Shiver me timbers, I"m stumped!!!

Thanks Maties!!!!!

I... doubt it came as a surprise, though?

Harrigan should win but be out of the game then because of playing dirty, if you run the AP as written. But I can see how you could want to be realistic with then for not invest in the appropriate skills when it's so clear that they need them.

Maybe you still have some options to get them back to the track. I have some ideas but no time now. I'll share later.

~ Yes, no surprise 8)

~ They didn't even come close, they got all twitter-paited with the Big Critter they bumped into an decided to try to find his home and see what he had collected.

~ They finished but by the time they got back, the only person on the Docks was the Master of Gales, who does NOT like the PCs. Way too many "Squid Love' jokes. So, no dispensation was available.

~ One option I've toyed with is to convince them to let an NPC take the Captain-ing over and get them back onto track but I think that will go over like lead water wings.

~ I let Harrigan have the win because it made no difference to the PCs if they won or another Crew. They at least have a history with Harrigan so they would show 'some' interest. I might switch it over to another Captain as written and see what happens.

~ Gonna be a barnacle buster (As Rosie likes to say!) that's for sure!!

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From what I'm reading it sounds if the players are just not interested in the Adventure Path. It happens friend of mine told me pirate sailing type adventures bore him as well as anything involving future tech. So even if I could get all the books for Skull and shackles or Iron Gods he wouldn't play in them. This may be the case with your group.
I'd suggest talking to them out of game. They may not want to play this adventure path. I get the feeling this is the case. There are several other modules out plus writing your own if you have the time.

Derek Dalton wrote:

From what I'm reading it sounds if the players are just not interested in the Adventure Path. It happens friend of mine told me pirate sailing type adventures bore him as well as anything involving future tech. So even if I could get all the books for Skull and shackles or Iron Gods he wouldn't play in them. This may be the case with your group.

I'd suggest talking to them out of game. They may not want to play this adventure path. I get the feeling this is the case. There are several other modules out plus writing your own if you have the time.

~ I may have to do just that although, they were the ones that wanted to do the AP. I think they may just not like the details of the sailing, not being sailors themselves or nautical in any ways.

~ Man, I hope not though, tons of time and effort in the game! Built that cardboard ship that was mentioned in the early books. Not to mention maps for 'random encounter islands' and NPC Generation.

Here's to positive waves!!

I hope so. Some themes are not popular at all while others are a huge hit. Me I want someone to run that adventure path.

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Another option for you, if they really are interested in this AP, is to forsake the sailing rules presented in the AP and Guide. Perhaps the party is the Away Team and Advanced Boarding party while they allow the rest of the crew to handle the day to day running of the ship?

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About the story, maybe you can have them fighting against Harrigan's people to defend their island. Don't make the most relevant people from his crew appear: they are already busy in further events, and have the players wonder why is Harrigan not coming in person.

Maybe you could even make Riaris, Kipper, etc. enemies in that part instead of the fleet battle in the next book.

The pirates lords could reluctantly agree that even if the PCs didn't win the island they have conquered it from Harrigan, and if he doesn't conquer it back it's his fault. The PCs have claimed the island but they have to prove they are worthy of it by impressing the pirate lords anyway.

When Harrigan sends his fleet on the next book he is trying to claim what he has earned by winning the regatta.

What do you think? Might this work?

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S&Shackles has many ways out of every part of the story. Support somebody else as Hurricane King, side with the Chellaxians, Blood Cove, Rahadoum, any faction within the Shackles, the old gods..

As for no skills in sailing, the Ap throws a tonne of npcs with these skills, and if not the party should make a point of recruiting npcs. If they dont, perhaps someone that knows how to tell a left lay from a right could turn around and say "you guys..have no idea what you are doing.." and help them. NPC creation time!

As to Harrigan and his island. Harrigan at this point of the AP is very very powerful and should be made obvious. It could be fun to send the stuff he has in his fortress as an advance expedition to the Island of Empty Eyes, and run a sort of "race" to the ruins of the cyclops. There are some fun NPCs of Gannet island that dont get half the screen time they should (Luccaria, Tongue, the tengu..).

Also, you can alter the pace to whatever you want it to be - while the impending Chellish fleet is on the way..could be a month could be three. Dont stress it there.

Factions in the Shackles: If you like the setting consider purchasing Isles of the Shackles it is a -fantastic- book, and there you can thread out a gazillion stories and find a lot of adversaries, both to Harrigan and Kerdak and to any you think of.

Good luck.

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Here are my thoughts:
Find out what motivates your players or their characters to do stuff. Are they having fun? That is the most important question. I can't tell if your players are just having fun by being unpredictable or basically try to sabotage your plot. If it is the second one the problem will come up again. The players guide spelled out that the characters should -want- to become pirates and it doesn't seem like your players put in a lot of effort in that regard.

The story up to this point should be easily redeemable, even if you don't want to put in too much extra work. Your players lost out on experience due to losing the regatta, so send them on some small side quest. That sidequest may conveniently offer a headband of intelligence with profession (sailer) as the boosted skill or something like that, but most importantly some time passes. While they are occupied Harrigan gets disqualified and another free captain is the next in line to get the island. That free captains name is Bikendi.

As he seems to disappear shortly after reaching the island some powerful NPC (Tessa should work best if the master of gale hates them) asks them to investigate what happened. You can play book 4 mostly as written, but the chelish fort was reclaimed for a much shorter time of course, so it would have an improvised look.
Bikendi finished most of the ritual before he even entered the regatta, but he realized he needs a powerful focus to finish it.

If the PCs successfully reveal the story of the island Tessa will either try to get them promoted to pirate lords (if they have done anything to earn it before) or at least make sure they get the islanf (if they are still rather low profile) as long as they can convince a delegation they have stuff under control there.

Lintecarka, I love your suggestion, specially your way of introducing Bikendi to the plot! (Btw, I still think that Bikendi is more interesting as a witch)
The bad part is that, from what the OP said, I think the PCs are already exploring the island so I don't know if that could be done.

Sorry I've been gone so long, work stuffs!

~ Great Ideas! Thanks Everyone!

~ NPCs are carrying the load on sailing but during the Regatta, the PCs got their teeth locked into a certain turtle and took way too much time looking for a lair to loot. The NPCs just had to wait them out.

~ Rosie likes to call them "@&%#*)% Barnacle Lickers" when it comes to sailing!

~ Kileanna and Lintecarka, I like your ideas on both them taking the island from Harrigan's second team and using the Bikendi Story line. Now to figure out which will work better for the PCs.

~ They haven't hit the island yet, that is their plan once Harri get's it cleared for them. So, it 'could' work if I can get them to the island before the Wormwood crew can clear it and get them back on the path.

~ We roll out tonight and they are in the wake of Gortus Svard, settling old scores, it's a thing! It will be a good fight, they should win but not sure how much of a pounding they'll take in the process.

~ Calm Seas never make Skilled Sailors! We can't control the wind but we can adjust the sails!

~ Errant Mercenary thanks for the tip on the Isles of the Shackles, just bought it. Nice amount of stuff to flesh out the area! Very handy indeed!

~ "If I have to tell you ONE MORE TIME, what hole the rabbit comes out of... You WON'T like the hole it goes back into!!!" ~ Rosie commenting on several failed rope handling events by the PCs. Or as they like to call them, 'Rosie Pearls of Wisdom'! Need to make a list of these and number them.... sooooo many though! 8)

In my game the pearls of wisdom/witty comments from NPCs usually came from Sandara and Isabella and I really had fun roleplaying them xD

If you want my advice, follow Lintecarka's advice, I really liked it (more than mine). Bikendi was a great character. My PCs got rid of him too quick, so I couldn't give him enough relevance, but at least they recruited Ederleigh (who I made a hexcrafter magus, but that is another story).

Btw, Sturm comes from Dragonlance's Sturm? Curiously, my S&S campaign took place in Dragonlance setting.

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~ Thanks Kileanna!

~ Sandara in my games really got pushed to the side early. Unfortunately the PCs didn't befriend her early on and were thinking she was being 'Too Nice to Be Trusted' in Part 1. They thought she was a plant by Scourge and Plugg and kept her at arms length till the inevitable came about. So, she tends to crew morale and keeps in the background. Well, that is till the 'Seagull $%&@ hits the Sails' (Rosie Pearl) and then she is ready to spread the word to the Faithful!

~ Yes, Sturm is from Dragonlance it is also the word for Storm in German. Gheist is a knock off on the word for Ghost in German, just drop the 'H'. Both are reasons I chose the name.

~ I like the Bikendi character also and was looking to change him up a bit to make him fit the campaign.

~ After last night I gave them a Headband of Intelligence with Prof:Sailor to help them out aaaaaand they gave it to the NPC who drives the boat! Yup, drag the horse to water and all that.

~ I chatted with them after the game, it was a good game last night, and they all agreed that they just have no, repeat, no desire to sail. They just want to be a part of the story so they have picked one Cohort from the Leadership Feat to be the Captain and they are his 'Council'. So, that problem is out in the open and smushed.

~ They have heard of Harrigans DQ and that Free Captain Bikendi on his sloop 'Dreaming Mist' have been granted the Island.

~ Let the AP Roll on! You guys ROCK!

~ "Storm along, drive along, Punch her through the rips. Northeast gale's a blowin', And we'll take all that she gives." (partial lyrics for "THE MARY L. McKAY by Frederick W. Wallace / Arr. & Adapt. Schooner Fare off their Live Album... check it out!)

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If you want I might still have the changes that I made for Bikendi to make him a Witch. I might not, as I tend to lose my notes after I have used them xD

They didn't thought Sandara couldn't be trusted because she made clear from the beginning that she was approaching them partly because she needed some allies in the ship. Plugg (on the original story it was Scourge but I messed up xD) had tried to abuse her and she had only been able to get rid of him by threatening with invoking her godess fury (all bluff) so she feared that he could try to harm her later as a revenge and needed some allies.
In part she was responsible for Plugg hating the PCs so much as they were Sandara's allies.
And when the Undine and her started kissing in public just to annoy him they made it worse xD

Rosie was our Undine partner in crime, as the Undine was a bard and they played together. Our Rosie was a half kender but her personality was mostly the same.

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Its pretty fascinating how different some groups approach the whole thing. In my game 2 out of 4 characters skilled profession sailor, one of them going as far as adding a skill focus. Another one bought himself a headband of intelligence once I explained the fleet combat rules during book 5. All 3 of them purchased a masterwork tool as well.
But if its only sailing they are not interested in that is fine. You might consider just dropping the ship combat rules.

Interestingly enough the slight changes to the story provide a very good reason to explore the chelish fort first, which is a good thing. My own group used the northern coast to enter the island and went straight to the way more dangerous cyclops ruins.

My group explored the Chelish fort first (with hilarious results thanks to the animate dreams). Well, not Chelish in My story, but the equivalent.

The one that had the best Sailor skill was Kiani, the captain. As she was a Bard she had a lot of skill points. The other 2 realized soon that they couldn't have their professions maxed because they needed another skills, as spellcraft, knowledges and similar stuff. The swashbuckler was able to take some profession skill but the sorcerer had to drop it.

As I added Sandara as the fourth member of the party I made sure to gave her some profession skill to be able to relieve them from some work.

When they got into the Regatta, they used all the enhancements of the ship, elixirs of vision (I think that's the name at least) and some spells (some of them from scrolls) to increase their skill checks. Kiani ended having a Sailor check of +30 more or less. They also spent disrepute to cast some heroism spells.

In the end they reached the goal with so many points that Harrigan was behind them for so many miles.

My players are just too perfectionist xD

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~ If you do have those changes, I'd love to see them!

~ Love the Undine and Sindara smooching to piss off Plugg, awesome!

~ I'm thinking of ditching Ship Combat all together, just slows them down and just not their cup of tea.

~ Looking forward to next game and getting this story line humming again!

~ Once again, ROCK STARS the both of you!

~ "A ship is always safe in port but that's not why they're made. Set your sails and see what the Horizon Brings You!"

We didn't use a lot of the ship combat system. The system for fleet battles works great but the one for ship combat is annoying. So I just let them roll some opposed checks for a persecution, another one for ramming, and took them to the real battle.

I have looked for Bikendi's sheet but I might have erased it to create another character or something. I'll try to recall the specifics about the changes I made. I remember giving him Nightmare hex and Scar hex so he could brand Ederleigh as his own and cast Nightmare on a distance. The offside was that Nightmare hex didn't have enough reach normally. I also gave him the Deception patron so he could still cast some illusions and Invisibility.

Giving him the Slumber, Evil Eye and Cackle hexes also made him a bigger threat.

Now I have to remember more of the specifics. I'll write them down and tell you. With all the flavor with Hags I thought he should be a witch.

Ah,another change. As I said, I made Ederleigh a hexcrafter magus, and gave him a trait so he could have sleight of hand as a class skill. But as he didn't have a familiar and Bikendi did, I gave Bikendi a parrot who was the one that took some food to Ederleigh so he didn't starve. Ederleigh didn't trust the parrot but he didn't want to die either.

The PCs had some interesting encounters with the parrot before meeting Bikendi.

~ Sorry, it took so long to get back to you... work stuffs again

Thanks for the info! Gonna be awesome!

Oh, I know about work stuff. Work stuff is evil and killed my Way of the Wicked campaign (if it killed an evil campaign maybe it is good?)

Good luck with yours! If you need more advice feel free to ask!

Sturm_Gheist wrote:

Well, let me start off by saying: "Long Time Lurker, First Time Poster!" /wave

When I ran the AP, I allowed everyone to have 2 bonus skill ranks at each level, but they HAD to be spent on the following skills:

Profession: Sailor
Craft: Shipwright
Knowledge: Geography
Knowledge: Nature

It was an easy fix to the issue.

In your situation now I'd really be torn. I'd want to penalize the players for ignoring repeated warnings and foolishly refusing to take sailing skills in an AP that is overwhelmingly about SAILING... but by the same token, I wouldn't want all my hard work to be wasted by a failed campaign... maybe retroactively grant them a bonus skill rank per level with the above restrictions? Me, I'd have them get stomped, and then instead of having them killed, have them imprisoned... they lose their gear but if they manage to escape the AP continues - and THEN make the bonus skill rank offer.

I have the opposite problem - the party have gone overboard with getting AP relevant skills, so they all had (*) swim speeds, the navigator has a prof sailor skill in the 20s and so forth. It makes a lot of the environmental hazards in the AP irrelevant.

(*) The ship's captain, as of last night's session is a rabbit, and therefore unable to swim. It doesn't seem to have affected his damage output or tendency to attack the largest thing in the room.

A rabbit? How is that?

Kileanna wrote:
A rabbit? How is that?

Baleful polymorph

There are two PCs who might be able to shift it, but one is under a Mass suggestion to kill the other "before he turns on you". So I suspect he's going to be a bunny for at least another day or two.

D'oh! Did he at least get to retain his own mind?

My party also had very good skills that allowed them to do awesome performances on sailing checks and to easily get infamy and disrepute. The regatta was kinda easy to them.

But as long as they were enjoying and some of the encounters remained difficult and interesting I didn't care a lot. I thought that it was a good reward for them for having their skills were placed.

Also, with 2 aquatic sorcerers (one of them a NPC), an undine, a helm of underwater action and a cleric casting water breathing, freedom of movement, etc. the environmental hazards were only relevant on the first book. But I guess a well balanced party usually does that.

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ROFL, Captain Fluffybutt! Too.Damn.Funny.

My PCs got into a nasty pier fight with a pack of casters and the Sea Witch in the group got Baleful Poly'd into an armadillo. He also kept his mind intact.

Nothing smells worse than a wet opossum on the half shell!!

They went and begged Tessa if she could help shift him back, which, was perfect to get them back to following spies as payment for the service!

To the OP: I know this is late but I hope your group works out and that your hard work is not ruined. My group is pretty well set for sailing although they have no desire to use Infamy and Disrepute mechanics. I mentioned them several times and they are always a bit confused when the bad guys use them and get small advantages. *shrugs*

I love the ideas here and may have to use some as my PCs are coming up to the Regatta, as soon as they finish stompin the guts out of a bunch of Sahuagin that so richly deserve the beat down. They should do swimmingly as they have upgraded their main ship with all the bells and whistles and with the magic wheel (Jalhazaar's?) they should win going away. I hope so anyway! If not, I am SO using these!

That's how my players did.
TL,DR: They were so paranoid of making a bad performance that they ended doing way too good xD

There is not such a thing as "too good". There is the way we do the things and the way losers do them.

We like to have something to celebrate, so we do things the right way!

Kileanna wrote:
I have looked for Bikendi's sheet but I might have erased it to create another character or something. I'll try to recall the specifics about the changes I made. I remember giving him Nightmare hex and Scar hex so he could brand Ederleigh as his own and cast Nightmare on a distance. The offside was that Nightmare hex didn't have enough reach normally. I also gave him the Deception patron so he could still cast some illusions and Invisibility.


The scar hex lets you target the scarred creature with the nightmares hex.
To make this work, you need the feat Split Major Hex. This allows you to target a second creature within 30' of the scarred creature.

This assumes you want to use the nightmares hex against someone other that the scarred creature.


Nope, I just used Nightmare against Ederleigh, not against the party. For how well I knew my players I didn't thought that I needed him to have the ability to use Nightmare on the party. It might have been cool but not necessary and I also doubted that he would end doing it even if he could. In the end they made a deal with him for recovering the dreamstone so he stopped harassing Ederleigh and then they just destroyed the stone and defeated Bikendi. So as I guessed, it wasn't needed that he was able to cast Nightmare (as Bikendi thought the party were his allies).
Having him being more efficient in combat was theoretically more useful... but as they went against him with Anti-incorporeal shield, protection against law and Deathward he couldn't do too much.

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