My players have just completed the first adventure and it looks as though they have decided to return the Man's Promise back to Harrigan in Port Peril (I was in the loo at the time of these brief discussions, after the session ended, so it was all down to the players' decisions based on their adventures so far). Unfortunately I may have done too good a job impressing on them the deadly nature of the Captain with his killing of the Giant Octopus and stories of him hunting down former crew members.
At the start of the next session I will have Fishguts pointedly ask if the PCs are simply returning to Harrigan out of fear, and that the old cook understands after having done the same thing several times because of his own self-loathing, but I'm not going to press them into going against the decision if they feel strongly enough about it.
To roll with this, what I am think is having a slight turn around and Harrigan becoming an invisible patron to the PCs; with a quick story change he has tried many times to join the council in order to give it a bold, decisive level of steering, being aware of the stagnant nature of its lead, but someone has always blocked/foiled his attempts and even set Harrigan up to get captured by Cheliax. Luckily Harrigan managed to escape, but lost most of his crew in the process and now wants to find out who could be playing with him and curtailing his ability to become a bigger player in the Shackles (giving Harrigan a smaller fleet and only a humble abode later in the path)
Meeting discreetly, Harrigan could quickly push the PCs on their way to get their ship squibbed and become faux captains so they can carry on with the next few adventures, build themselves up and possible gain a position on the council which Harrigan was never able to do. Once there they might then be able to find out who the traitor is on the council. In a way Harrigan will replace Tessa Fairwind, keeping his distance and communicating via spells until he gets hit by the mysterious foe at the end of the fourth adventure and the PCs then have to fend off this foe in the fifth adventure, storm their abode and rescue Harrigan or his crew.
To this end, does anyone have any suggestions with either the handling of trying to discreetly get the players back on track at the beginning of the second adventure, or have any suggestions on how and who to build up as the bad 'guy' for the fifth adventure? Is Tessa too obvious a replacement - having her try to recruit and influence the PCs in the third adventure but with darker hidden agendas? I would prefer to keep Arronax as a red herring would could turn against the PCs if they accuse him of treachery and become recruited by their enemy. It might also be worth my while setting up a rival new group who are also rising stars and trying to become Free Captains who can compete against them in the regatta.
Any comments, suggestions and ideas for changing set pieces to keep in line with the possible upcoming change would be gratefully appreciated.
What if you make it the Hurricane King himself? He’s been the Hurricane King for so long that his paranoia could easily be causing him to sabotage those he sees as potential threats, using loyal free captains to guide events, and if he sees his loss of power on the horizon, why not ally with Cheliax in order to maintain his position?
You can easily replace Harrigan with another free captain (one of the ones detailed in Isles of the Shackles perhaps), or even several different free captains who are all known for their support of the Hurricane King, and drop clues directing the party to Bonefist.
A triumvirate would be nice, especially if they could then work to throw the scent off of one another, especially if people thought they hated each other.
I will need to read up on all the captains again - the Halfling anti-slavers was my initial first thought but their stance against slavery is a strong characteristic that I don't think I want to tamper with.