The party wait on a rocky shoreline for the arrival of a smuggler’s or pirate vessel. It carries several items they need to recover and its crew hold information that unlocks the next stage of their investigation. Fortunately the crew is expecting to meet their contact and the vessel anchors offshore. Unfortunately the wind has risen and waves are crashing into the shore.
The PCs must now row out into the gale, board the ship, capture it, obtain the items and information they need and then survive as the ship is wrecked on the rocks.
DMs should play up the raw power of nature with howling winds, breaking waves crashing onto rocks, spray dousing the PCs, boats being tossed around all being emphasised to establish the mood and background to the PCs actions.
This series of challenges was designed for five 2nd level PCs.
Rowing out to the Ship - Phase 1
Complexity 2 – 6 successes required (special failure conditions)
Main Skills - Nature, Athletics, Endurance
Additional Skills – Perception, Diplomacy, Intimidate
The PCs need to row out several hundred yards to a longboat, fighting against a strong current, in the dark. One PC must take the helm, the other 4 must row the boat.
Nature DC10 – Only the PC at the helm may make this check. Aid another is not allowed.
Success and the PC identifies the most appropriate way to steer the boat against the tide and waves.
Fail and the PC misjudges the tides and increases the number of Athletics checks required to succeed in the challenge by 1.
A check must be made prior to each Athletics check.
Group check, 3 of the PCs must succeed to pass.
The PCs manage to make headway against the waves and wind.
After every 3 Athletics checks each rower must make an Endurance check or lose a healing surge due to the tiring nature of rowing in rough seas, or the effects of seasickness. Increase the DC by two for each check after the first.
You can see the longboat in the dark +2 to your next Nature roll to steer. May be used only once.
Diplomacy/ Intimidate DC15
One PC may make a check to inspire, cajole or berate the other PCs into rowing harder.
Success adds +2 to the Athletics check, failure adds +2 to the targets next Endurance DC.
May be used only once.
Three successful Athletics checks will get the party to the longboat. If more than 3 Athletics checks are required this increases the chance that the PCs will be detected by those on board the longboat in Phase 2.
Boarding the Ship - Phase 2
Complexity 1 – 4 successes before 3 failures.
Main Skills - Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff
Additional Skills - Nature, Stealth
Group check for the rowers, 3 PCs must succeed.
Brings the rowing boat smartly alongside the longboat.
For each failure the ~DC of the Bluff increases by 2.
Counts as a success or failure in the challenge.
Grants a +2 bonus to the Athletics check to bring the boat alongside. Useable only once.
Group check, 3 PCs required to succeed, to hide effectively the PCs kit and true nature. Grants +2 to the Bluff check. Failure adds 2 to the Bluff ~DC. Useable only once.
To answer the hail from the longboat without arousing suspicion. Add 2 to this ~DC for each additional Athletics check after 3 required in Phase 1 to reach the longboat.
Counts as a success or failure in the challenge
Athletics or Acrobatics DC10
Each PC must succeed on a check to climb on board the longboat.
Failure by less than 5 has the PC remain in the rowing boat, failure 5 or more indicates the PC has fallen into the sea - subsequently they must make Athletics DC10 swim checks to stay where they are, DC15 to be able to climb back in the row boat. Failure indicates they are swept 2 squares away from the boats.
Counts as a success or failure in the challenge.
If the party achieves 4 successes before having 3 failures (Athletics, Bluff and Athletics/ Acrobatics) they achieve a surprise round against the sailors. Failing the challenge means the sailors gain a surprise round against the PCs. Note PCs still in the rowing boat at the end of this challenge must still make Athletics checks to board the longboat.
Battle for the Ship
No lights are lit unless the PCs bring one or the sailors take an action, in which case a lantern is uncovered.
In the first round the minions act the anchor ropes will be cut. Thereafter each round anyone without a nautical background who spends a move action and a standard action in the same round must spend a minor action to make a DC10 Acrobatics check or fall prone due to the rough and unstable conditions. PCs still in the rowing boat must make an Acrobatics/Athletics check DC15 to get onto the ship. The rowing boat is tossed against the ship by the waves and starts to break up. Each round a PC remains in the rowboat they are attacked on Init 10, +5 vs Fort, 1d4+4 damage.
There is plenty of opportunity on board the ship for PCs to climb rigging, swing from ropes and leap heroically into battle. I recommend lower DCs for these checks to encourage PC inventiveness.
Sea Captain Elite Soldier
Lieutenants x2 Standard Skirmisher
Sailors x8 Minion Skirmisher
The sailors are all human and therefore require light to fight effectively. The first action of any of the sailors adjacent to a covered lantern will be to spend a minor action and uncover it to provide light. The minions at the bow of the ship will use their first standard actions to automatically cut the two anchor ropes.
The captain will try and tie down the PCs by marking as many as possible.
The lieutenants will work with him to flank.
The remaining sailors will throw hand axes and then move in to hand to hand.
The captain and the two lieutenants will fight to the death, the minions will accept any offer of mercy once the three principles have been dropped.
Searching the Ship – Phase 3
Complexity 5 – 12 successes (special failure conditions)
Main Skills - Perception, Intimidate, Diplomacy
Additional Skills - Bluff, Insight, Athletics, Nature
The longboat, adrift and unmanned is now being driven, by tide and wind, towards the rocks and cliffs. The rowing boat they arrived in has been smashed to pieces against the ship. The PCs must quickly hunt for information or treasure. It is clear that it will be survival of the fittest once the boat is wrecked and that there are insufficient people on board to sail or control the boat.
Each PC can attempt one of 3 things in each turn
Search for treasure
Try and delay the ship being wrecked
The vessel will hit the rocks after 4 turns. This can be extended to 6 turns if the PCs are successful in delaying the wrecking. Once the ship hits a rock the skill challenge is over and any undiscovered treasure or information is lost.
Perception DC variable
See Treasure below
Identifies an item in the list of treasure the PCs can obtain.
Single check required to open up Diplomacy on any captured sailors.
Well aware the ship is about to be wrecked they need to be snapped out of their stupour or threatened to react.
Required to obtain one piece of information out of a sailor.
Restore an unconscious sailor to consciousness.
To identify the Intimidate/ Diplomacy combo
To add a +2 to perception checks to find hidden treasure
To improve an Intimidate or Diplomacy check by +2
Identify a way to avoid the rocks for another turn opening up an Athletics check
Hold the wheel or steering oar to pilot the vessel away from danger.
Max two successes
These can either be treasure parcels or the Mcguffins the PCs are seeking. The players should be aware that they need to search the whole ship, and not one small area. If the PC’s choose to search during combat increase the DC’s by 2.
Item 1 - Perception DC10 on the captain’s body
Item 2 – Perception DC15 In the captains cabin
Item 3 – Perception DC17 in the main hold
Item 4 - Perception DC19 in the forward hold
There are 4 pieces of information the PCs will find helpful. No sailor will reveal more than 2. You can vary the detail dependant on who the PCs capture – with the captain and two lieutenants likely to know more.
Snatched glimpse at a map/ chart
Description of the person that hired the ship
The Shipwreck – Phase 4
Complexity 1 – 4 successes (special failure conditions)
Main Skills - Acrobatics, Athletics, Endurance
Additional Skills - Nature
The longboat is thrown violently onto some rocks. Each PC must make a check to avoid being thrown down and hurt by falling debris or flying gear. Failure and the PC is attacked +9 vs Ref for 1d4+3 damage.
As the boat breaks up the PCs must swim to a large rock nearby. Group check, 3 PCs must succeed. Two successes required.
Athletics or Acrobatics DC15 Each PC must succeed on a check to climb up the rock. Failure by 5 indicates the PC has been pummeled by the sea and crashed against the rock. +7 vs Fort for 1d6+3 damage. PCs can aid but only if they are in the water.
Succeed and gain a +2 on the check to jump onto the rock by judging the rise of the waves accurately. Fail and -2 on the check as you judge the waves badly.
Endurance DC10 + the number of checks made whilst the PC was in the sea.
Failure indicates the loss of a healing surge or 1d6+3 damage due to hypothermia.
The PCs are able to watch and hear the breaking up of the longboat as the sea mercilessly smashes it to pieces on the rocks. The bodies of the sailors can be seen floating by along with other assorted flotsam and jetsam.
Shortly after dawn, about an hour later, a fishing boat arrives and rescues the PCs.