View Full Version : DM Help for a Pirate Adventure - late 17th century in the Caribbean

2015-03-31, 03:43 PM
Avast ! All hands on deck ye scurvy sea dogs !

Errm, hi,

the setting / system is "Pirates of the Spanish Main" (Savage Worlds) which takes place in a not really historically accurate version of the Carribean during the Golden Age of Piracy. And there I need help with ideas for the plot / scenes. There are 8 PCs (Wild Cards in Savage Worlds jargon) aboard our pirate ship. They are played by less then 8 players, but only about 4 PCs will be played simultaneusly while the rest usually blends in with the normal crew (Extras). These pirates are more the heroic and less the villainous type inspired by classic films like "The Black Swan" (1942, with Tyrone Power) and "The Crimson Pirate" (1952, with Burt Lancaster).

The ragtag PCs are:
Tyrone McKinnon, the captain; male Scottish-Irish, catholic; leadership and good boating skills, competent fencer
Diego Montoya, the quartermaster; male Spanish, catholic; best boating skills, good fencer
Evangeline de Moret, the face; female French former novice nun, catholic; best social skills, good fencer
Antigone Jones, the thief; female Creole-English, protestant / voodoo; thieving and social skills, good fencer
Joop van Bommel, the bo'sun; male Dutch, protestant; repair and boating skills, good fighter
Hiram van Sneijder, the surgeon; male English-Dutch, protestant; medical skills, good marksman
Salomón Bomba, the master of guns; male West African (Yoruba) former slave, catholic / yoruba; good fighter and marksman
Samuel Crow, the master of sails; male English, protestant; boating skills, best fighter

The general idea for the adventure is that the pirates board a spanish galleon (which took some damage and lost its escort during a storm) en route to Puerto Cabello with minimal losses. The plunder is good but there is a chance for more when they kidnap passenger (the bride to be of the governor of Puerto Cabello) and demand a ransom from the Spaniards by letting the galleon play the messenger. The ransom is paid on a sandbar (idea stolen from Pirates of the Caribbean 3) and the pirates escape unscathed (or so it seems).

Now here starts my problem, because I want the pirate ship and all of its crew with the exception of 4 of the PC's pursued, found and captured by the Spaniards in a way that makes sense (.e.g. they run aground on another sandbar and stuck there as a sitting duck when a superior spanish warship finds them ... but how can the 4 PCs escape then ?). :smallannoyed:

For later parts my idea is that the 4 escaped PCs make their way to Puerto Cabello to rescue their crewmates, take back their ship and also get back some plunder). Meanwhile the captured 4 PCs might try to escape on their own but it would be ok if the focus stays on the escaped ones. Solution found.

So far I have the following scenes:

Scene 1: The quite easy capture of the spanish galleon and abduction of the bride to be of the governor.

Scene 2: Getting news that the Spaniards will pay the ransom. Releasing the bride for a nice sum of gold. Of course, the pirates know that spanish ships will be waiting behind the horizon ready for pursuit, but they trust in their skill as sailors and the speed of their ship.

Scene 3: While sailing north along the coast not long after scene 3, some disaster or bad luck strikes. The ship is found in a bad position by the Spaniards and the crews only hope to prolong their life a bit is to surrender. 4 PCs can escape (best more by lucky coincidence and not in a way that makes them look like cowards or traitors).

Scene 4: The escaped PCs have some encounter with unfriendly locals (wildlife or people) on their way to Puerto Cabello (by land and/or by sea, e.g. with a dinghy).

Scene 5: The captives arrive in Puerto Cabello and learn that they are about to dance the hangman's jig in a few days, maybe with some torture beforehand. They are brought to their temporary residence (jail) and meet some fellow inmates. There should be enough inmates to instigate a prison revolt and/or to supplement losses from the crew (e.g. if the Spaniards hang a few crewman every day and the PCs are of course lucky enough to be not among the first ones to face the gallows). Already played.

Scene 6: The escaped PCs arrive at Puerto Cabello and sneak into town. There should be at least 2 among them who have a good chance to blend in or pose as persons to be respected: the quartermaster, the face and the surgeon -> the former is a native Spaniard while the latter two are the most cultured ones and can both speak not only Spanish (all PCs can) but also Latin. This might help if they try to infiltrate the prison disguised as people of the church.

Scene 7: The prison escape, triggered by one or both groups. Either way, it shouldn't raise a general alarm in the town just yet to set the stage for the following scenes. The PCs will now have a large group of NPCs (their crew and other inmates of the jail) under their command who can help in causing chaos and evening the odds against the town guard / soldiers. Their original NPC crew was 12, now they might have at least thrice that number at their disposal.

Scenes 8 and later: Here one group of PCs should try to neutralize the cannons / garrison of the fort that watches over the entrance of the harbour so that they can escape with their ship(s). The other group will do what pirates love to do ! Plunder ! They lost their ship, all they had stolen from the galleon and the ransom money and now it is time to get some some new plunder ... with interest ! The PCs should lack the manpower for a full-blown sacking of the town. But concentrating on the harbour and stealing one or even two valuable ships - maybe with valuable cargo - while setting fire to the rest seems managable.

In the aftermath the PCs should escape richer than before. But excess riches in the form of stolen ships can easily sail away to seek fortunes of their own with their crews of liberated prisoners while the PCs are only left with their old or maybe a slightly better ship.

I appreciate ideas / fleshing out for any part of the adventure. :smallsmile: The things that still need work are Scenes 6 and later, with the the final part (Scenes 8 and later - the climax).

2015-03-31, 04:29 PM
First thing I thought of was "Broken Mast" - one up in a crows nest or in the rigging, the rest in the rigging or on deck when mast is torn free. Real mast has tons of rope and rigging, and attempts to keep it from going over to save crows nest/rigging crewmember might drag the others over. If ship is still in motion and near island or shoals but hotly pursued, crew wouldn't have time to come back, but might shout warnings to hide or get to the nearby island until they can return. Makes sense that a ship with a broken mast could be captured.

This could be due to storm while pursued, or due to enemy firing chain at the ship. Or both.

2015-03-31, 05:19 PM
A couple of ideas:

Option 1: The ship grounds on a reef and cants/rolls either to port or starboard. The angle only allows the ship's boats on one side to be lowered. The boats on the opposite side can't be swung far enough away from the hull on the davits (this is pretty common).

Most of the crew can cram into the boats and row for shore, but not all. The draft of the reef doesn't allow pursuit by a larger ship, allowing the crew time to scatter into the interior of the island. The crewmembers still aboard the holed ship, however, have no means of escape and will be captured.

Option 2: As night approaches, the ship grounds on a reef and sinks. Most of the crew escape in boats in the failing light. The pursuing vessel is able to round up some of the survivors, but in the dark some sail free (yes, the ship's boats could be fitted with sails).

2015-03-31, 07:58 PM
Can't help much with plot, but if you want atmosphere, you might check out the Gene Wolfe novel, Pirate Freedom - it's the story of a parish priest retelling the tale of how he came to travel back in time to the Golden Age of Sail and become a pirate.

2015-04-01, 04:58 PM
Thanks so far, for Scene 3 I think I'll pick up the storm from Gritmonger's post and work with that.

That's my idea for Scene 3:

Shortly after they sail northwards to escape from presumed Spanish pursuers the weather changes and a storm starts that gets worse by the hour. Sticking close to the coast the lookout spots a sheltered bay and they decide to weather the storm there, hoping that the Spaniards have their own problems with the weather.

While anchoring in the bay they spot something interesting on the coaast -> a small man-made wooden shelter with light from a fire inside. Depite the storm a few heroes decide to investigate. Two of them have the 'Curious' hindrance (self-explanatory) and two others have the 'Heroic' hindrance (meaning they'll try to help people in need). So some of them and those which they persuade to accompany them (4 in all) take a dinghy to the the shore. The surf is rough and the dinghy gets holed on a rock, so they have no means to return for the next few hours / storm / night.

Well, they'll find a hermit there, who is hiding from the Spaniards (trouble with the law or with religion / the inquisition) and who has the skills to survive alone in the wilderness. Meanwhile the pirate ship's anchor looses its hold on the sea floor and they are lucky enough to drift on a sandbar in the bay without taking serious damage to their ship. And in the morning, after the storm calmed down a Spanish ship finds them lying there while the 4 pirates on the coast are either still sleeping in the hermit's hut or have just begun fixing the big hole in their dinghy.

So ... does this sound believable ? :smallredface: Solution found / already played.

2015-04-06, 04:13 PM
So, no new answers in a few days ... time for a bump. We played the first part of the adventure up to scene 5 (the captured players arrived in the prison but that it is so far for that scene).

The four characters who were not captured are the bo'sun, the surgeon and the two women (face and thief). In scene 3 they encountered a hermit who was fishing in the bay and sough shelter from strom in a ship wreck on the beach. His real self-built survivalist home is about two miles inland. The hermit is widowed sephardic jew convert who was a blacksmith in Puerto Cabello and had problems with the Inquistion. Seven years ago he fled into the wilderness after they took his daughter from him and put her into a nunnery (the chaste kind).

He'll help them when they try to find news about her daughter (who should be 18 or 19 years by now and still in the vicinity of the city) or even free her and take them to a better place (like one of the religiouly tolerant Dutch-controlled islands in the Caribbean). He buried a sealed barrel with some weapons (melee and gunpowder) and gold in the backyard of his home/smithy in Puerto Cabello which should still be there and useful for the players.

So far it looks like the escaped characters will try to free the others with the formerly mentioned idea of posing as clergy. Getting the habits shouldn't be to difficult, there are currently more nuns and members of the Inquisition in Puerto Cabello than usual (they were passengers on the very galleon that was boarded by the players in scene 1).

The imprisoned players will become more aquainted with the other inmates of the jail and maybe even accepted as leaders of a possible jailbreak. But currently I have no idea how they could escape on their own (barring extereme stupidity / carelessness on behalf of the prison guards). Any help here ?

Further steps are neutralizing the fort (e.g. blowing up the magazine, sabotaging cannons, killing the garrison) and boarding some ships in the harbour to escape. Apart from the pirate's own ship there should be 2 frigates and several merchant ships in the harbour. Luckily a ship of the line, another frigate and two galleons leave Puerto Cabello just as the escaped players reach the city.

Still, I'm not sure if the heroes and their 3 or 4 dozen NPCs stand a chance against the guards /soldiers in the town (and aboard the ships they want to enter). So here I could use some ideas too (e.g. setting fires as a diversion seems a bit too evil for the "heroic pirates"). :smallconfused:

2015-04-06, 08:45 PM
Well, do they just throw prisoners in the oubliette, or do they work them to death as labor in the tropical heat, breaking rocks, working the sugarcane fields, and so-on? How else is a magistrate supposed to make money if he can't hire out a few dozen prisoners to a local plantation owner? And if that includes processing the sugar for rum, the notion of getting the guards sopping, stinking drunk and/or lighting some moderately alcoholic rum on fire naturally follows...

2015-04-08, 09:15 AM
Negative, they stay in the oubliette.

1) They have commited an act of piracy against the Spaniards. The penalty is death, executed in a few days to celebrate the marriage of the governor with the young noblewoman who was a victim of those very pirates a few days earlier.
2) Nobody wants dangerous pirates among their workforce. The spaniards use what is left of the indigenous population and slaves imported from Africa for that.
3) If the captured group isn't in the most likely location (Puerto Cabello's prison) it would add more complications / scenes. The escaped pirates would have to find out where the others are kept and getting there (could be miles and miles away in an unfamiliar area). And more or less the reverse thing for the captured pirates (where are we and how do we get back ?).