Savage Tide #3 – The Sea Wyvern’s Wake
Two notes of addendum to the previous entry: The corresponding Dragon Magazine entry for the adventure path dealt with the surrounding area near Sasserine (some of which dealt with references to Shackled City, which was set in the area as well), but none of the interesting stuff is built out very much. There’s the impression that a good portion of these adventure hooks were meant for flavor, as there’s a bit more of an imperative to follow the threads within the adventure path itself. Were there a longer game set in Sasserine, these would be great to work with and follow up on for the sake of a campaign. As it is, the characters are supposed to be gearing up and getting on a boat at the outset of this module.
And that’s the second addendum. The characters found a boat in the last adventure.
The boat in question was one of the spare pirate ships that was salvageable from the flaming wreckage of Kraken Cove once the Savage Tide Pirates had been dealt with. This was one of those strange points where I ‘suggested’ that one of the player characters invest in the relevant skills for sailing, as it would otherwise have been left behind when they had to flee back to Sasserine to save Lavinia. So, at about third level, the player characters have their own boat, the Sea Wyvern. Which brings us to the name of the module.
By and large, this is an exploration module, with what amounts to be only one dungeon in the midst of it all. As it went, I really liked this as a change of pace, having dealt with fairly tedious dungeon crawls in each of the first two modules. The characters are more or less stuck on board their ship, navigating about 3,000 miles over the course of nearly three months time and stopping occasionally for supplies and to investigate strange happenings.
The module comes with a stock of NPC’s whose purpose is mainly to inconvenience the characters with their wacky shenanigans, including the overprivileged noble who insists on bringing his horse, the optional NPC captain if none of the player characters can sail, the annoying Gnome archetype who serves as comic relief and so on. There’s also a continuing subplot concerning the former leader of the thieves’ guild that the characters destroyed at the end of the first module. She’s stowed away on the ship and starts vaguely sabotaging various things on the expedition.
This was a weird sort of thing, to be honest. I’d thought about playing up this particular idea, but the more I tried to implement it in the scope of the adventure, the more pathetic it seemed. The last time the characters had seen the NPC in question, she’d been canny and prepared, able to escape from what seemed like a dead end trap. There had been a vague sort of reprisal in the second module, when assassins had been sent after the characters on their way to save Lavinia, but that ended up being more of a distraction than anything else.
So, to have the NPC master of the thieves’ guild show up, broken and ruined by the efforts of the player characters and seeking some petty sort of revenge… it just seemed sad. There’s also the implication that the characters can just toss her overboard once she’s discovered. As far as recurring villains go, she honestly could have played a much more interesting role in the further adventures, but as she was presented here, I didn’t even bother. I’d already been too disinterested to make the raid on the thieves’ guild much more than a by-the-numbers dungeon, and having this character return this way was a bit of a waste of time.
The various encounters along the voyage are pretty simple and straightforward, including a pirate attack, a single ruins exploration (a callback to the AD&D module, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan), and a couple of monster attacks. The dungeon isn’t anything terribly complex, and along with adding flavor, it offers a bit of foreshadowing and some amount of puppet mastery on the part of as-yet hidden manipulators.
There were two encounters that stood out in the course of the adventure, one of which was intentional on the part of the module writer, and one that strangely appealed to my players. The bigger one amounts to being the end set piece of the module, a sort of ghost story setting in a haunted sargasso where the players end up trapped with their ship for the foreseeable future. The sargasso is the result of a massive intelligent plant that has drawn in ships over course of apparent decades. The characters investigate the various wrecks, even as zombie-like plants animate and attack them, whispering over the green stillness in the dead of night.
So, yeah. Horror sidequest. I was a huge fan of it.
The other encounter was an island shortly before the Sea Wyvern is forcibly separated from Lavinia’s ship, the Blue Nixie, by a storm. The two ships happen upon a sizable rock in the middle of the ocean, some 150 miles long and given to 1,000 foot cliffs. The text of the module states that there’s very little of interest to be found on the island interior, but it’s home to Terror Birds, Rocs, and Monstrous Vermin. For my own purposes, I framed it as a sort of Monster Island type Kaiju encounter. From their ships, they saw what appeared to be normal sized birds circling the cliffs, along with normal seeming crabs, until such point as one of the scholars pointed out the massive height of the cliffs themselves. They ended up scaling the cliffs, fighting a flock of Terror Birds and a giant crab roughly the size of a minivan, and returning with all manner of food.
Speaking of which… there was a strange sort of mechanic that had been suggested for inclusion within the module, where the characters had to track their food supplies over the course of the voyage. This would have added tension with the NPC that insisted on bringing along his horse, as well as any sort of delay for exploration, but for the most part, there are plenty of opportunities to replenish both food and water, so the whole thing seems like an exercise in pointless accounting. And when the characters can bring down a herd of Terror Birds and a Giant Crab of legend and note, there’s not much incentive.
Once the characters are free of the weird horror of the sargasso and have reoriented themselves towards the distant horizon and the Isle of Dread, it’s pretty much straight narration from that point on. They manage to run afoul of another massive tropical storm, having been separated from Lavinia’s ship with the first one, and finish the module shipwrecked off the shore of the Isle. All in all, it’s a pretty dramatic end to their trip, and with the opening of the next module, they drag themselves ashore, untold miles from their destination.