Pirates of the Shackles

Into the sunset we sail!
Literally and figuratively, of course

Three months later…

The crew of the Sloppy Drunk had some interesting adventures in their first months together and under the command of Cap’n Grims. The ship was squibbed; more crew were recruited; Flynn had it out with the captain, tied him to a sack of rocks, and after he was stripped of all his stolen loot, Grims was then heaved overboard by Jaigo; and they’d captured two ships laden with cargo and booty.

Mal settled well into the role of Captain, and the aforementioned bocor did a fine job as First Mate, keeping the crew in line through the combination of a great work ethic and his creepy smile & laugh.

Word eventually got back to Captain Barnabas Harrigan, of the Wordwood, that his prize ship had never made it to Port Peril or been sold, and he started a search for what he saw as his property. Word also slowly made its way around the Shackles of a new pirate crew, intent on making it big, and willing to take on daring challenges and foes in order to do so.

And the crew sat around at night and mocked Grims’ awful singing, pedestrian rhyme schemes, and sophomoric sense of potty humor.

Aye…a pirate’s life for them all…

The Votes are Counted
and a captain named

“The first vote is for…Mal!” Sandara shouts, showing the slip to all, and then depositing it in the empty bucket. She reaches for another slip.

“Mal…Grims…Grims!” she continues the process, pulling out one slip at a time, taking care to show everyone that she is only drawing one, reading it, showing it, then depositing it in the other bucket. This continues, with the count being kept by Fishguts Kroop, who records each vote as a mark in charcoal on a scrap of wood. There are 14 voting crew members, and shortly there are 6 votes for each man, leaving only 2 remaining slips. Will it result in a tie?

The tension in the air is palpable. Sailors share nervous glances. Conversation stops, leaving only the sounds of a light breeze and the ever-present lapping of water against the ship’s hull. Sandara reaches for another slip, unfolds it, and speaks as she displays it to the crew – a jagged ‘X’ is clear for all to see.

“Grims!” she states firmly, and then places the slip into the formerly empty bucket to her right. Only one slip remains, and will result in a new captain, elected by the slimmest margin possible for this crew, or a tie, and the uncertainty of another round of voting. The former promises an answer, albeit one weakly ground, should those who voted for Mal choose to not support Grims as completely as a new captain needs. The latter would result in another round of voting, and possible gridlock, which among pirates often led to a fight.

“May Besmara’s wisdom and boldness guide us as we draw this last slip,” Sandara intones, the weight of her words washing over everyone. She reaches into the bucket again, drawing out the last slip, and before opening it lifts the bucket with her other hand, displaying its empty bottom to everyone present, honoring tradition as the final vote is to be read.

Unfolding the slip she takes a moment to look at the mark on it and nods, a serious, perhaps stoic look on her face. The left side of her mouth turns up in a mischievous semi-smirk as she turns it around to show the crew: another X.

“Grims! Captain Grims!” she shouts, to uneven cheers from the crew. Some appear genuinely happy in the result; others seem happy that a decision has been reached; and a few look a little deflated. None show any negative response, but the small, closely divided crew cannot provide its new captain with the groundswell of support he might have wanted.

Sandara, in her last official act as the unofficially most-trusted non-officer member of the crew, silences the crew with a wave of her arms, and turns to Grims as he approaches.

“The ship is yours captain…” she begins, and is then suddenly cut off by the shouts of Arreta Bansion, still tied naked to the forward mast, and all but forgotten by the crew.

“Wooo!! Wooo! You gotta hotta cap’n! I swear myself to him too! Plugg’s dead! Harrigan’s gone! I’ll sail under yer banner, cap’n!” she yells, twisting around the mast as much as possible in order to see the others. An awkward moment passes before the crew begins shouting again – some laughing, some calling for her head, others urging her release.

A Pirate Conclave
tradition must be followed!

Although some crews will break from the norm from time to time, it is a long-held tradition in the Shackles that a Ship’s Conclave be held when a new captain is to be chosen. Of course, if a mutiny takes place and a group seizes a ship, it can attempt to enforce its will on the group, and then the tradition is cast overboard. And it is hinted at that if someone did something as odd as to buy a ship and set himself up as captain and then…recruit a crew, well, then, it would stand that such a merchant would be captain – not a man…a merchant.

Real pirates, however, seek the consent of the crew when replacing a captain who’s been killed, left behind, or cast overboard by the majority of that crew. The process is simple: each who is interested will present his case to the crew. It is considered very bad form for a contender to say or do anything while the other hopefuls speak, although the rest of the crew typically will ask pointed questions and heckle each would-be captain as they speak. This is the only time when opinions are to be made public. Sure, it’s impossible over the long term for the crew to hide opinions; however, this is the time when they’re supposed to be public.

And so the speeches take place; the crew grills each contender; and then parchment is distributed, on which a simple symbol is inscribed, representing one of the contenders for captain (each man chooses a simple symbol to represent him, like a circle or a + or something simple and obvious). The crew then separates on deck (not below! everyone on the weather decks!) and each member votes in secret. The slips are collected in a bucket, and a single member, chosen by public acclimation on the spot, counts the totals out loud. The top two contenders given one more opportunity to make their cases to the crew, and then a second round of voting takes place. The winner is the captain; he who comes in second place is typically first mate.

Sandara, being widely respected among the crew, steps up to see that the tradition is followed, and the crew readily follows her lead. Obviously, Grims jumps up and makes his case. Who else will make a go at it? Will Mal step up and make his case?

A ship of our own!
...now what?

Besmara had put a tailwind at their backs, many among the crew agreed, when Grims told the tale of how they fought across the island and rescued Sandara – no other explanation worked. Ghouls, vine ropers, and a pod of grindylows had been destroyed…treasure was found…and now the Man’s Promise was free of Mr. Plugg and his cronies. Surely the blessing of the goddess was on them.

The ship had already been repaired, and a celebration was held to mark the new beginning for it and the crew. Lacking a great deal of food and/or alcohol, however, it consisted more of dancing, singing, storytelling, and various feats of strength and skill than the normal share of puking. Some of the crew actually agreed that this might be a better way to celebrate – but not too loudly lest they risk being mocked by others.

Taking stock of the ship and its supplies, as well as what was left of the crew, yielded the following:

  • The crew consisted of 13 – an unlucky number! – and one prisoner, Arreta Bansion.
  • There was enough food and other supplies to last maybe 10 days, or longer if reduced rations were enforced. This takes into account daily fishing.
  • Although the crew was small, and running the ship would be a significant challenge, there were enough with the various skills needed to get it somewhere close if the weather held out
  • Booty left from the dead crew comes out to about 1400gp worth of coin and items
  • Master Scourge had a Potion of Blur and a Potion of Cure Disease, as well as about 200gp worth of various items and coin
  • Mr. Plugg had the following: +1 Tidewater Cutlass (see Items tab), +1 Amulet of Natural Armor; +1 Bracers of Armor; Shackles of Compliance (see Items tab); masterwork cat o’ nine tails; 200gp; 100sp
  • There are enough weapons – mostly cheap blades and crossbows – to outfit the entire crew, and pieces of light armor for a few, as well

Sandara recommends that the ship continue on its way, to the hidden squibbing facility, as Plugg had intended. She is confident, given the heading they’d been on and bit of information she picked up over the last few days, that she knows where it – “Rickety’s Squibs” – is.

During the celebration a single topic of discussion quickly pushed out all others: who would lead the crew? Who would be captain, the first mate, the bosun? These were important questions for sailors. Tradition, practice, and logic held that there must be one final voice, one set of shoulders to bear the burden of command…who would be the new captain?

You folks need to figure out a few things, probably in the order presented below:

  1. Who will be captain?
  2. Who will be First Mate (the XO)?
  3. Who will be the Bosun’s Mate (essentially the chief NCO, chief overseer of the crew)?
  4. Where will the ship go?

These questions need to be answered within the first few hours after the mutiny – there’s simply no way a pirate crew is going to be able to function without a clear hierarchy. And sure, there are other questions that you will likely bring up and deal with…but those are the ones that your characters know are either being discussed or thought about…as each member of the crew eyes the others, looking for signs of weakness and opportunity, strength and a plan.

Also, you can see a list of the current crew here.

Grindylow Grotto
not a nice place to visit

Sea caves 02

After descending the cove’s walls, the four pirates swam across the cove and into the series of caves – which actually turned out to offer only one true tunnel, heading into the depths of the island. Sometimes swimming, sometimes walking, slipping, ducking – they moved deeper into what quickly turned out to be a confusing jumble of twisting tunnels, offering multiple left and right turns, and initially little evidence of habitation. Soon enough, however, they discovered the first unpleasant proof: a zone of fish hooks, attached to chunks of cork, floating beneath the surface of the entry into a larger cavern, obviously meant to slow an intruder’s progress. Just as they untangled Jaigo, a group of eight grindylows attacked from all directions, coming stealthily out of the water.

The fight was vicious and quick, with both Red and Grims being knocked briefly unconscious. Mal’s quick thinking and even faster moves brought down more than half of the wretched beasts, the party used what healing magic it had, and they moved on, but not before discovering Sandara’s tricorn floating on the surface of the chambers’ waves…emanating an aura of magic they’d not before sensed.

Moving deeper into the complex of tunnels the pirates could occasionally hear what sounded like screams – or maybe tricks of the air, as it was drawn over rough and winding surfaces by the wave action. And the tide was slowly coming in, promising to fill the caverns – possibly even to the ceiling.

Grindylow 2

Moving into another larger chamber, the team found itself facing a large, tentacled beast, quickly rising out of the water to attack. The devilfish, with its long tentacles and toothy, gaping maw, spewed a black mist into the room, causing some to choke and sputter, while others shook off the effects. This fight was worse than the first, with some again being knocked out and bloodied by the powerful blows of the creature’s tentacles and nasty bites. Mal, again, proved to be the hero of the moment, felling the thing with several well-placed thrusts.

It seemed that Besmara herself had smiled on the team’s daring efforts, as a skeleton laying under the surface was found to have on it an ornate pair of Bracers of Armor (+1), and a small chest, still airtight, was found to contain five potions of healing. Just as the team finished off all the healing potions, and Jaigo put on the bracers, a scream was heard from a nearby chamber – down that slimy tunnel to the left! – was it Jack? The awful, pained sound was quickly joined by another – Sandara!

May fortune favor the foolish!

Remember our replacement for APs: Story Advantage. You guys are low on magic, a little banged up, and have nothing to fall back on for healing, right? But you do have Story Advantage, and you’re the heroes, so use it!

We will definitely finish this book during our next session. The clock’s ticking on how much longer the ship will stay, and obviously your friends are in immediate danger, and so you’ve got two issues that need to be resolved quickly. We’ll get through this encounter in the caverns right away next week – so be ready to jump right in – and then it’ll be up to you to determine how you’ll get back to the ship and what you’ll do once there.

"...don't eat me!"
Like that tactic ever works

Jack’s screams echoed off the cave walls as Sandara tried to reach him with whatever power Besmara had provided her. The wretched grindylows had spent the last few hours nibbling on the teen, enough to make snacks for themselves, enough to make him bleed, but never enough to immediately endanger his life. Sandara could tell, however, that before long they’d run out of fingers and toes and leg muscles to eat and they’d begin taking him apart.

She tried to pray to the pirate goddess through her gag…tried to speak the words of the prayer-spells she knew…but the filthy rag and her bruised face prevented anything intelligible from coming out. She turned her mind to other things as she tried to block out the horror of her surroundings, about which she could do nothing. It was likely the ship survived. Perhaps there’d be a rescue. Maybe Plugg recognized her value to the crew and would send a party after them.

Perhaps. Only time would tell.

Jack began screaming and crying again as the beasts cackled and pointed, mocking his suffering.

Soon it would be her turn.

Redrum's March to the Sea
or how we shanked those lousy...

ThRed was a madman with his sneaking ability. Down to the coastline he went…

Red headed out first to recon the approach and report back. Meanwhile everyone else is healing, resting, and bandaging for the coming assault. Hopefully, Red will come back with some useful information to preserve our element of surprise and maybe even the location of our shipmates.
What kind of pre-planning to we want to do prior to the assault? What will be the marching order, etc.

Lets get some ideas and plans going here so we’re ready for next time. Remember…our friends are depending on us!

Last Will and Testament of Aaron Ivy
Lieutenant, Infernal Chelish Marines

The note displayed below is found sitting on the writing desk beside the hanging body. It has a few small rocks on its corners to hold it in place. The logbook mentioned is indeed inside a drawer of the writing desk, and its contents are summarized below the letter.

15 Calistril 4712

To Whomever May Find This:

The flies, and the disease they carry, have finally gotten me. All my precautions and luck have run out, and now I am faced with being transformed into one of those things, as the rest of the crew already has. Perhaps by choosing my death I can avoid that fate, and thus move on to my eternal reward in the hands of our Diabolical Masters. I can only hope that my work has been adequate to their standards.

Beware of the flies and the ghouls. And be watchful of the sea goblins – creatures I’d thought were only sea stories before finding myself marooned here. The chronicle of our plight is recorded in full in the logbook in the top drawer of the desk. If you are an honorable sailor, you will see that it is returned to an officer of the Chelish Navy. If you are disinclined to see to this final request, then may you rot on a spit in the torture realms of the seventh depth of the Abyss! May our Infernal and Diabolical Masters feast upon your pathetic soul as they roast your flesh and flay it, over and again, from your shattered bones! I spit at you from my grave!

Diabolically Yours,

Aaron Ivy
Chelish Marines

The logbook indicates that the ship – the Infernus – ran aground during a storm on the north side of ‘Bonewrack Island,’ as the log refers to it. Sailing around the west side looking for a place to beach the vessel, they took on too much water and had to abandon ship SW of the island, not far off shore. Six sailors, including the captain, were lost, and 27 made it to shore. The sinking happened almost two years ago, and the survivors were able to salvage a good amount of supplies and materials from the sunken ship. They were apparently carrying several ghouls on board, in a cage, and at least one got loose, attacking them about a week after the sinking, infecting one man and killing two others. They also encountered and fought the grindylows – what they refer to as ‘sea goblins’ – and lost a man here and again to them. The big problem for them over a period of months was that it seemed that the large, biting flies and mosquitoes on the island became carriers of the ghoul’s disease, having fed on the living who were infected.

Ivy was alone on the island for almost five months before he threw in the towel, as indicated. The rest of the crew was dead either from attacks by the grindylows or after having been felled by ghoul fever. Ivy also indicates that there are stretches of the eastern beach that are home to giant crabs.

The faint magic aura is actually two items, sitting together in a drawer, wrapped in a shirt: a Ring of Swimming and +1 short sword with an inscription across the hilt reading “Infernatus Eternius” and a leering devil face with red ruby eyes on the pommel.

Additionally, there is a suit of leather armor in good repair, six spears, several finely-tailored outfits, two sealed bags of pepper, a silver tankard, and a locket bearing the image of a oddly familiar-looking woman. Beyond that there are only dusty, worn clothes, mostly uniforms, and some other personal items of no monetary value.

The Island is Trying to Kill You
and your friends, too; 28 Abadius 4713

The five sailors explored the abandoned village, finding no evidence to indicate why it was left, only that it had been left decades ago. Making their way deeper into the jungle, Caesar was suddenly attacked by a swarm of mouse-sized mosquitoes, which by their size posed a threat to his life. The others tried to intervene; Caesar ran; and out of nowhere a sheet of water appeared above the flying vermin, soaking most of them through and causing them to disperse. A little down time and healing later and the crew was back to work.

Continuing along the path they came upon the ruins of an old foot bridge that used to stretch across an extensive mire. All that was left were rotted pilings. Everyone but Grims decided that moving through the canopy of trees offered the best opportunity to cross, while the young pirate tried to find his way directly through the muck, using a stick to check for depth as he moved forward.

1.1255158296.2 the jungle trail

Moments into their crossing, Grims was attacked by two giant frogs, that pounced at him from different directions. Using his stick and cutlass he did his best to fend them off, and was assisted by Mal’s sudden descent by rope out of the trees, sword in hand. Although the frogs put up a fight, one was killed and the other chased off shortly, leaving Grims to reconsider his crossing – he ended up in the trees with everyone else.

Moving down the path southward, the group finally reached what had looked like a structure from the sea: a large tent, or possibly ship’s sails, lashed around a massive tree, creating a shelter. Painted on the outside were lurid images of faces and people, and from inside wafted a faint smell of decayed flesh. A raspy male voice welcomed them and ask that they help him. Cautious…and paranoid…after their activities that morning, they approached the tent carefully, with Mal and Grims moving directly toward it, Caesar moving around to one side, and Red and Mongangwa staying back to survey the scene.

Red’s vantage point enabled him to see another figure – a decayed woman in an evening gown, her long black tongue wagging eagerly below her chin – as it tried to sneak up on Caesar. The fight was on!

Using a combination of spells and weapons, the pirates fought off three undead: one man and two women, who were all dressed in the stained remains of evening wear and smelled of a combination of rotten flesh and cheap perfume. When struck their flesh resisted, and then finally broke open to release gobs of putrid innards. Mal was the first to fall, but Grims’ quick moves prevented the beast from making a meal out of him. The bocor’s power momentarily dazed another attacker, giving the men enough time to dispatch her. A quick, brutal fight, with significant damage sustained by the party, and the beasts were dead, again, and for good.

For their troubles the men recovered some coin, a few gems, a potion of some sort, and six vials of a different, likely alchemical, compound, as well as some other mundane but potentially valuable clothing items.

Taking a view of the island from the top of the tree, Mal saw the continuation of the trail to the south, leading to what looked like a farm field, and then to the west up into the hills and ridge that separated the island into two halves, east and west. To the south they went, using up a good amount of the afternoon getting to what they determined to be a now-wild field of corn, possibly planted by the villagers or some others, but now left fallow. Severed humanoid heads were affixed on top of poles around the perimeter, decayed and swarming with vermin and the massive mosquitoes that had attacked them earlier. Deciding that corn wasn’t to their liking, they backtracked and headed over the ridge on the trail.


The trail led directly to a stockade, constructed from local timber and itself surrounding a small lodge. Inside was also a bubbling freshwater spring and creek – clearly, this was a good place, if not the best on the island, to set up shop. Reconnaissance around the wall didn’t help them as they entered, as the two vine chokers were well-concealed in the canopy, and surprised Mal and Grims with their long, sticky arms that grabbed the halfling right away and swatted at Grims. The team attacked, attempting to free the halfling from another foe, struggling to get free as the thing strangled him into unconsciousness. Mongangwa grew large and skewered the other beast while the others hacked and pulled at Mal’s attacked, with Grims finally pulling the thing out of the tree, landing it hard on the ground.

Faced with a group of attackers and no longer hidden, the thing decided to run, but was staked to the ground by the laughing bocor’s spear. Mal and the others were checked over by Red, who fumbled through what looked like a poor imitation of doctoring…and yet they all agreed that they felt much better once he finished, and Mal began breathing again.

While Red did his work, Grims and Mongangwa surveyed the rest of the stockade, with Grims finding a weather-beatenn spyglass lashed to the palisade above a set of stairs, and pointing directly at a cove about a mile directly south of their location. Looking through the glass Grims watched…and saw grindylows bobbing around in the water of the cove. Whoever had lived here had obviously been interested in or concerned about the wretched aquatic beasts, and had wanted to keep tabs on them.

“I sense a single aura of magic, coming from inside…” stated Mongangwa, motioning toward the lodge, its door about half open. Finding a rock and encasing it in a glamer of light, he was able to see what was inside: ship’s furniture crowded along with other supplies and equipment – the quintessential hovel of the man stranded. And the man, it seemed, was still here, hanging by a leather collar and chain from the center of the ceiling, decayed and stinking in the small room, seemingly the victim of suicide.

Pirate zombie

The dead man was wearing what could be a fine sailor’s coat, if cleaned, and Grims could not resist the lure of it. Entering the room, however, proved harder than he’d thought, as the stench momentarily overwhelmed him, chasing him outside again, seeking a place to vomit and then something to cover his mouth and nose…the coat was just such a find!

Upon entering the room again, Grims reached up to turn the hanged man around so as to find a way to either take him down or remove the coat, and was surprised to have the man reach for him – no, grab for him. The dead thing’s eyes blazed with a malevolent hunger and its bloated tongue wagged at him as it began thrashing, arms and legs in motion, trying to grab hold of the young pirate, whose sudden screams made clear to the others the dire situation in which he found himself.

Grims, held in the grasp of the undead sailor, is lifted off the ground, towards the thing’s gaping mouth – open obscenely wide and arrayed with sharp teeth. Lifting his knees to his stomach, the young pirate kicks at the thing, causing both of them to swing suddenly. That, along with Grims’ own thrashing, causes the thing to drop its prey.

Thrashing wildly, with legs kicking and arms flailing, the thing rasps unintelligible shouts as it swings back and forth. Grims, hitting the ground, scoots backward out of the lodge.

“Jaigo, can you do something about that thing? It has a fine coat…”

Landfall on the island
28 Abadius 4713


Landing the two ship’s boats was easy, given the deep beach at low tide. The sailors were able to drag both boats onto the shore and secure their small anchors on a heap of rocks sitting near the mid-tide mark.

The beach itself was about 50 feet deep from the high water mark. The canopy of trees was dense and little was visible beyond a few feet into the jungle. Aside from shattered shells, kelp, and some dead fish, there was no evidence of any life on the island or in the trees. No birds chirping, no monkeys or other animals making noise – the island seemed, other than the plants, to be entirely devoid of life.

A trail, about 5 feet wide, provided the only easy access into the jungle, and opened onto the beach a short distance to the west of where the four sailors had stepped ashore, their pants wet to the knees and remaining clothes still damp from the night’s storm. A moderate breeze blew from west to east; the sun was warm, and the air was a cool 70 degrees.

The gig held several barrels, seemingly sturdy enough to be rolled, for whatever freshwater could be found. There was also about 100 feet of stout rope and a few shorter sections, brought along as tools.

Surveying the scene, the four men could see the hilltop, about a mile to their east (left), the trail opening, and a low ridge to the south/southeast, about a mile inland. The canopy of trees was upwards of 30 feet high, dense, and with additional branches at lower levels on most trees.

Looking back, The Man’s Promise was sitting about a mile offshore, listing every so slightly to port, its sails furled and both anchor lines out, holding the ship steady while the crew, no doubt, worked hard to repair the hull breach.

It’s about 8am, meaning that you’ve got about 10 hours of sunlight today. Based on the tide right now, it looks like high tide will come somewhat before dawn on the day after tomorrow – maybe an hour or so.

All I need in the comments on this post is the direction you’re going to go and what you’re bringing with you and how, as well as a marching order for once you enter the jungle, whether you’re on the trail or not (since you have no idea if the trail heads to wherever you decide to go).

Of course, any other issues or banter can be taken care of here. All I need are those things so that I can plan for exactly where we’ll start on Saturday. Since we’re playing this again this week, and then taking at least one week off from it, I want to make good progress during this next session.


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