Groggy, cold, and sore, Torlan Kolladron slowly opened his eyes to find himself in a small, cramped cell. The ship was unfamiliar, but he could tell from its rocking and creaking that it was clearly at sea. Hearing footsteps start to approach, Torlan looked over to see his goddaughter, a human woman, slowly coming to on the floor beside him. Beside her lay an unfamiliar dwarf in shackles, fast asleep.
“Where are we?” Torlan rumbled. “Last thing I remember was drinking with you and then — Daina? Are you awake?” Stirring at the sound of Torlan’s voice, confused, Daina opened her eyes as the footsteps grew louder. “Torlan? Are you hurt? Are you okay?” Reassuring her that he was fine, satisfied that neither was in immediate danger, Torlan looked around again and took stock of their situation.
The previous night in Regalport had been one full of promise. Torlan had gotten a lead on an old crewmate he’d been looking for, and his search —and Daina’s single-minded quest to build a true New Cyre in the Lhazaar Principalities — had taken them both that evening to the Salty Dog and Baron. While Daina met with a man whose promise of financial resources seemed to be the most genuine offer she’d had yet, Torlan settled in at his own table to keep his ears open and hope that Hershen himself might yet walk through the door. As Daina drank to a new partnership, Torlan enjoyed a few drinks of his own, but she never drank to excess, and Torlan knew it would take much more than he’d consumed last night to put him down. He felt fairly confident that he knew the nature of their predicament, as he’d found himself in similar straits before…
Down in the bilge, Ruskel awoke to feel water sloshing around his feet, and his hands shackled. Next to him lay a slender shifter with spotted grey fur, out cold or fast asleep, and shackled as well. As the hatch in the ceiling banged open, Ruskel saw flickering torchlight and the shifter awoke with a start. “I didn’t start shit!” he shouted. As Ruskel tried to calm him and urged him not to make any sudden moves, his outward steadiness belied his swirling thoughts. “Let’s start real slow,” he said, keeping his voice level. “I’m Rus.” “I’m Trucco” the shifter replied.
Becoming more aware of his surroundings, Trucco remembered very well that he had, in fact, started shit. He’d been looking to get drunk, wound up finding himself trying to avoid two familiar faces with bad intentions, tried to create a distraction that had morphed into a bar fight, and his attempt to escape the fray had ended with him getting knocked out cold before waking up here, with Rus, in shackles. He declared that there was a second time for everything, and they’d been put into service on this ship. “Press-ganged”, Rus corrected him with a sigh. “You mean we’ve been press-ganged.”
Rus, for his part, had been having a drink at the Salty Dog and Baron and trying to sort out his rapidly dwindling finances when he heard a scream from outside — a scream that sounded an awful lot like Kayte, the shopkeeper he’d befriended during his brief time in Regalport. Running out the door, he turned down the alley beside the tavern…and the last thing he remembered was a sharp blow to the back of his head.
Three pirates made their way down the ladder and ordered the two captives to their feet. Making sure Trucco was able to stand, Rus got up himself, and Trucco asked one of the pirates for his name. He was met with disdain, and he and Rus were hurried out of their cell and up the hatch.
Back in his own cell, Torlan chuckled at the realization that of all his possessions, he’d managed to hang onto a small holy symbol of Kol Korran which had fallen into his bird’s nest of a beard. Though she’d been relieved of her sword, knife, and satchel, Daina’s panic turned to a sigh of relief as she felt the familiar shape of her locket through her shirt. Of all the things their captors could have missed, that was the one that mattered the most. They quickly quieted down as three pirates came filing into the room — an orc, a dwarf, and the skinniest, scrawniest half-orc either Torlan or Daina had ever seen. The half-orc ordered them to get on their feet and up on deck, unlocking the cell as he did so. Standing up, Daina gestured to the shackled dwarf. “What about him?” The half-orc snarled that the dwarf had a date with the Keeper that night. Understanding his meaning, Daina asked what the dwarf’s crime was, and was ordered to shut up as the pirate raised a belaying pin to strike and Torlan urged her to obey. He exited the cell and fell in line in front of the half-orc, and Daina quickly followed him.
As they made their way up to the next deck, they were joined by more guards, escorting Rus and Trucco. Both stood out in their own way. Trucco’s red jacket was open, exposing a golden navel piercing that complimented the two more dangling from one ear, and his loose, yellow woolen breeches swished as he walked with unusual confidence for a man in his predicament. While he was truly a sight to behold, it was Rus who caught Daina’s attention. An otherwise unassuming human man with fair skin, messy brown hair, and a five o’clock shadow, he was wearing the royal blue coat of the Cyran military — and insignia that denoted him as a Skyknight of the Order of the Northern Cross, the Queen’s own. Beneath his coat, empty bandoliers crossed over his shirt, and he wore a rather plain necklace that had presumably not seemed valuable enough to their captors to take from him. For their part, Rus and Trucco found themselves looking over an old, particularly short dwarf with weathered skin, his long hair and beard slicked with dirt and grease. Half his scalp was bald and scarred, and he was dressed in nothing more than tattered underclothes. Standing over him protectively was a human woman, pale and red-haired, dressed in a simple shirt, vest, and trousers tucked into plain boots. Her clothing was obviously old, but well made and well cared for, and she carried herself with a military air. Still kept largely separate and urged along by their captors, with some occasional shoves and nudges here and there, the four of them could do little more than acknowledge each other with a glance and keep moving.
Ushered up yet another ladder, they passed by a set of open doors leading to a mostly empty cargo hold from which they could hear the sounds of pigs, and from which Trucco thought he heard a quiet whimper. Next up was the gun deck, an impressive affair with five ballistas lining the port and starboard and the even more impressive prize of a siege staff mounted in the bow. “What a beauty!” Trucco marveled. From behind him, the orc who was nudging him along declared that the Storm Reaver was one of the best on the water.
Torlan immediately recognized the name. The Storm Reaver wasn’t just any ship — it was the flagship of the Cloud Reavers, captained by Prince Mika Rockface herself, and the ship’s reputation was every bit as fearsome and ruthless as that of its crew. Whispering to the others, Torlan told them that he’d heard of Cyran ships escaping the Mourning being commandeered by the Cloud Reavers, and noted that it was unusually bold of them to press-gang anyone from Regalport, the capital city of Prince Ryger ir’Wynarn’s Seadragons.
Emerging into the morning sun, the captives heard a cruel voice call out from the quarterdeck. “Glad you could join us at last!” They looked up to see a huge, hulking orc woman, dressed all in red and standing on the railing. From behind her, a dwarf appeared. Set apart by her ostentatious armour and rings on every finger, she strode to the edge of the quarterdeck and welcomed the new crew members to the Storm Reaver…and introduced herself as Prince Mika Rockface. She declared that she only had one rule: none of them were to speak to her. Ever.
Trucco couldn’t resist. Immediately trying to ingratiate himself to Rockface, he earned himself a sharp rap on the head from the orc standing guard behind him. The Prince smirked and remarkedd that it looked like they had another one for the Bloody Hour. Without elaborating further, she announced that the ship remained short-handed, and anyone who killed a fellow crew member would be keelhauled. After she was satisfied that the new crew understood her orders, she gave them over to the orc in red — Mister Lagraa — telling her to make pirates of them.
Hopping down onto the main deck, Mr. Lagraa declared that she needed a new rigger. As she ordered them to climb to the crow’s nest on her mark, Torlan counseled Trucco to save his strength for more important things, and he responded by beginning to call on his beast ancestors as his claws began to grow. Daina, for her part, suggested Rus remove his coat so that he wouldn’t get tangled on it, advice which he flatly refused. Stretching, Trucco loudly announced that he was an excellent climber and that no one should be ashamed of their own inferior performance, and introduced himself to his fellow climbers with a flourish.
Still a bit groggy and unsettled, Daina’s leadership instincts kicked in, and she launched herself into the rigging before Mister Lagraa started them off. Taking that as his cue, Rus shed his jacket after all and scrambled up after her. Seeing an opportunity, he kicked a large crate down from where it was being held aloft by a block and tackle and, grabbing the rope for himself, rode the ensuing momentum high into the air. Seeing Rus get the best of him, Trucco decided to forgo the rigging in order to scramble straight up the mast, quickly gaining on his human opponent.
Still on the deck, Torlan turned to the skinny half-orc and commented that he knew his way around a ship, but the pressure was making him topsy-turvy and shouldn’t be held against him. The furious man screamed at him to get climbing as the crate Rus had used as a counterweight came crashing down, barely missing him. Stumbling out of the way, Torlan told the half-orc that there was no way he could catch up with the others, but they could make the contest interesting. If he pulled the other side of the rope Rus was hanging from, it would throw him off-kilter. Without looking up, the half-orc snarled that he was one step ahead, and threw his belaying pin high into the air. As Rus reached out to transfer from the rope to the rigging, the pin smacked his hand away. Clinging to the rope, he felt his momentum shift and he began to descend.
Giggling to himself, Torlan began climbing the rigging at last, and quickly caught up with Daina. Though an experienced sailor, this had never been one of her roles, and while she was able to hold her own she remained far behind Rus and Trucco. As Torlan passed her, she admonished him not to strain himself and continued to scramble after him. He called back that he’d been a rigger while she was still in swaddling clothes, and then shouted up to Rus that peacocks didn’t fly very well. The younger man retorted that they flew very well in the autumn when they shed their tail feathers, and continued to climb. Trucco wondered aloud if there was a prize, and if not, there should be, for he was about to win! Pulling himself into the crow’s nest, he found himself face-to-face with a human man with a huge head of wild, curly hair and a beard to match. He ordered Trucco to get out of his crow’s nest, to which the unflappable shifter replied that he was just visiting.
As the others returned to the deck, Mister Lagraa lined them up again and asked Rus if he could cook. He replied that he had lived most of his life on military rations. Sneering, she barked the same question at Daina, who cautiously replied that she could cook well enough. Putting the same question to Torlan, the dwarf replied that with nary a tuber or mushroom in sight, he was out of his element. Turning back towards Daina, Mister Lagraa shoved a finger into her chest and ordered her down to the galley to serve as the cook’s mate. Unwilling to be separated from Torlan, she hesitated, earning her another shout from Mr. Lagraa and a reassuring look from the old dwarf. She went on her way, and Mr. Lagraa informed Torlan and Rus that they were to report to the skinny half-orc — Master Scourge — as his new swabs…whatever that meant.
Behind the Scenes
- The contest to climb the rigging was run as a Dramatic Task…with a few twists. Successes were individually tallied instead of accumulated as a group, and Michael (as Torlan) threw a monkey in the wrench with the Turncoat! adventure card that led Master Scourge to take Rus down a peg on his behalf. The belaying pin thrown at Rus imposed a -2 on his next roll. Do I sense a rivalry brewing?
- Daina and Torlan both kicked off the Dramatic Task drawing clubs, which impose a -2 penalty on the roll as well as a complication of the DM Phillip’s choosing. We could have spent bennies trying to get better cards to make things go more smoothly, but where’s the fun in that?
- Rus, on the other hand, began the Task with three raises. Kevin is new to both Savage Worlds in general and this table in particular, but he had no problem embracing both everything SWADE has to offer and our table’s flair for the dramatic as he described riding a block and tackle up the mast to express that fantastic roll.
- Phillip allowed me (Daina) to treat the Dramatic Task as an encounter, which allowed her to make use of her Martial Flexibility skill. We are using the bones of the class edges from Savage Pathfinder with some adjustments, and Daina is a Fighter. She chose to claim the Free Runner edge for five rounds, which added a +2 to her Athletics roll for climbing and also allowed her to negate penalties associated with difficult terrain, which the rigging was considered.
- Speaking of adventure cards, we’re trying something different this time around. In Seekers of the Ashen Crown, there were only two adventure cards in play per session, doled out to the players who rolled the highest on a d100. This time around, we’ll each be receiving one card per session. We’re free to give our cards to other players, but can only play one of them.