Campaign Diary: Sky Pirates 1

We finally had our first session of the online campaign two Sundays ago, and man was it a blast. We played for six hours, and virtually none of it was introductory work. All of what we might call session 0 was taken care of in the discord chat. This, for the record, was convenient as could be imagined. We essentially just jumped straight into the game!

First off, I explained the plight of Alistair Black and Gloridrod, the captain and chief gunner/quartermaster of a pirate gang, respectively. While on the border of Brestrel (which some of you may remember is the nation of the hobgoblins in my setting), a supernaturally sudden and powerful storm appeared, threw them off course, crashed their ship, and left the survivors in an unknown locale. The pair had their remaining 20 crew members pillage the wreckage for any supplies they could salvage, and began to head off in a random direction. I explained the ongoing downpour (along with this happening at night) was covering any visual indications of where the crash happened. They got the message; if they wanted any chance encounters with friend or foe alike to occur on their terms, they’d need to act fast.

I had them roll perception checks; they managed to spot a light off in the darkness, past the foliage and rain. Hardly difficult to see, given their surroundings, but they need to get closer to glean any more details. They instruct the crew to stay behind as they creep up, and see two hobgoblins next to a horse-drawn cart, apparently stuck. Some clever RP gave Alistair and Gloridrod a surprise round, and during the brief combat, the cart’s contents are revealed as the final PC, Braka Whitefang, is revealed as he uses his manacles to restrain a guard that got too close to his cage. A brief interrogation of the guard and Braka reveals a resupply airbase down the road, and Braka to be a friendly addition to the party. They collect the crew, and make their way down.

It’s still thundering outside, but the rain is ever so slightly lessening, and there’s a bit of ambient light. I explained the configuration of the base. To the south is an obvious guard tower, and a similar (but not identical) tower lies opposite of it on the northern end of the camp. To the east is a single story barracks. To the west is a pole barn of immense size, with large sliding doors on the side they can see. Smack in the middle of the camp is a don jon or administrative building. There were two patrols of guards, moving in a clockwise fashion but in irregular intervals (trying to take shelter from the heavy rain). The players discuss possible approaches for a little while, spending enough time I saw fit to change the state of the camp. I informed them a single deck medium-size ship and a small ornithopter pulled to the side of the pole barn they couldn’t see, and they spotted a small troop of soldiers run out to the double doors they could see. After a minute, they exited with another 40 soldiers.

It had the effect I was hoping for; the players immediately sprung into action. Alistair and Gloridrod would take care of the guard tower, while Braka and the crew would head to the far west side of the base to secure an airship. Here I switched back and forth before the characters, preemptively having them roll initiative. Braka successfully stealthed along with the crew to the west side, while Alistair approached and nearly detonated a trap on the door of the guard tower. They instead elected to climb, and disposed of the two watchers within (nearly alerting the entire camp in the process).

In the meantime, Braka assaulted the two guards who’d made their way to the west end of the (now identified) hangar. One of the guards actually managed to escape around the corner of the hanger. Gloridrod, the Warforged Artificer, was already lying in wait, as Braka had only attacked on Alistair’s signal. He took the shot, killing the guard. At this point, there’d been sufficient motion to warrant the other patrol approaching the guard tower. This resulted in a somewhat louder battle ( firearms are of course a feature in my campaign), in which Gloridrod fired a revolver. The party quickly regrouped, pillaged the hangar, set an explosive trap, and fled just as a daylight spell was cast over the administrative building. The party flew away on a hobgoblin-pattern medium ship and a gnome/hobgoblin pattern small ornithopter as the hangar burned behind them. Don’t worry if those terms sound confusing, you may well get an explanation of them at some point. Not now though, we’ve a story to tell!

Alistair at this point received a sending to head north from an unknown voice, promising him safety. He kept this from the party, but acceeded, and began their trek northwards. They reached the poorly-defined normal border, whereupon two combat skiffs began moving parallel towards them, each poised reach either side of the medium-sized ship. The players debated what to do, and after clarifying that diplomacy was probably not an option for hostiles behind enemy lines like themselves, the party began combat. Through clever maneuvering and use of the ornithopter, they kept fire off the main ship while focusing down one of the skiffs. The failing skiff attempted to flee while the relatively undamaged one covered its escape. The ornithopter flew past the defending skiff, however, and dealt the final blow, sending many Brestrel soldiers to their doom. The two ships then focused down the remaining skiff, which quickly met the fate of its companion ship.

The players first impulse was to loot the crashed ships, and sent down the medium-size ship to carry out the task. They wisely left the ornithopter in the air; Alistair noticed six combat skiffs and a dreadnought heading in their direction. He quickly signaled to the crew below, and they hightailed it north. After about three days, they came across an unidentified outpost. The players (wisely) pulled down the Brestrel colors they were flying on approach, and to skiffs approach them from behind to board. After brief introductions, the players were greeted and welcomed into the outpost, at which they landed.

They met a high mage named Arales upon landing. He congratulated the group on their daring escape, and offered them a deal. The outpost was well defended, but couldn’t proactively engage in assaults or remove threats preemptively without exposing themselves to danger. He suggested the party build a fleet to ferry their beanbag-sized balls around, and in exchange for harassing Brestrel forces and bringing back pillaged goods, they’d receive certain discounts from shipwrights and a safe place to stay. The party gleefully accepted, and spent some time carousing around town.

Before heading out, they wanted to visit the end and see if anything special was going on. I mentioned that’s were being placed on which of two hunters would slay a local drake first. The players sized them up as the two taunted one another and bragged. The first Hunter wielded a greataxe, and clearly had the brawn to move it around as easily as he would a knife and fork. The second Hunter had a crossbow, and the players managed to notice his bolts were covered in poison. Braka Whitefang, the were-tiger Barbarian, decided to take on the contract himself, and Alistair put some gold down on him.

They set out the next day; both Braka and the axe-wielding hunter failed their checks to track. They had no clues as to the Drake’s location until roars and the sound of battle reached their ears. Braka took the opportunity to shift into the form of a tiger, quickly outpacing the first hunter. He arrived to see the wounded drake attempting to pin the crossbow-wielding hunter. Braka leaped into the fray, claws and teeth raking and puncturing the draconic serpent’s hide. The crossbowman took the opportunity to take more shots at the creature, while the drake vomited acid upon Braka. The fight was extremely close; had Braka taken another round, the crossbowman would’ve gotten the killing blow. Luck was on his side, however, and he ripped the creature’s heart out.

Brutal.

I gotta hand it to the players, each time one of them does something on their own, they’re all respectful, patient, and engaged besides.

The players reconvened at the tavern, and debated on their next course of action. The first craft they built with the outpost’s shipwrights would have a hefty discount, and so it was decided they would gain more assets before having their ship built. “What better way to get more funds”, they asked themselves, “than privateering?”

I explained to them the situation of Brestrel’s advance line and border, the difference between the two, and what their characters would recognize as soft targets, more risky but potentially lucrative enemy units, etc. The crew decided to land and hide their ship behind the advance line of Brestrel, waiting for potential targets to ambush. A few passed by, but nothing particularly enticing; until a huge ship with a small escort was spotted. Alistair’s a bit of an odd mix on class features; he’s got two levels in fighter, one level in rogue, and the Magic Initiate Feat. Pretty cool character build! He’s got a Familiar from the feat, (a hawk if I recall), which he sends over to the Brestrel ships. Looking through its eyes, he sees supplies being loaded onto the smaller ship. As the hawk flies further, he can see the pair of ships actually lie between the party and a camp of Brestrel soldiers. By the time the hawk returns, the small ship departs from the larger of the two, towards the camp.

Here, the party puts their plan into motion. They hoped to use a flare to lure a ship in, but hadn’t come across any travelling alone. They expected the smaller ship would close in. On the spot, they decided they’d engage, pillage the small ship, and hightail it out of there before the huge ship came over.

Not quite how it went down. See, the small ship was already en-route to the camp, and was heavily burdened with cargo besides. The huge ship, being more heavily armed and prepared to assist smaller ships under attack, began lumbering on over. The ornithopter, holding Braka and Alistair (along with a few other crew), had be stationed in a different location, and a bit after seeing the flare fired, the huge ship passed over them.

Here’s where the action started; Gloridrod wasn’t about to give the larger, better equipped ship the first shot. As soon as they were in range, he ordered their crew to fire. The Brestrel ship, not expecting a distress call to immediately turn to combat, was surprised. All of the men they’d armed began taking position, and it was time for battle. The ornithopter was speeding up behind the Brestrel ship, and anyone on the ship was too scrambled to do anything that round. It’s worth noting as well that the Brestrel crew was understaffed, as many of their men went down to the Brestrel camp. Braka and Alistair swung down to the ship’s helm to fight while Gloridrod directed the crew.

Initiative was rolled; the players and the single enemies went first, then the various crews went (and there were some interactions between the two). The Brestrel ship’s weapons were powerful, leading Gloridrod have his crew focus the enemy weapons. Now, ship armaments are not made to target individual people. Howitzers make for poor marksmanship, unless fired against structures (or creatures of similar size, spoilers). What the party’s crew does succeed in doing is damaging the panels and deck near the Brestrel ship’s weapons. Combined with some clever target practice, the enemy ship’s siege howitzer fell into the second deck before it could be fired. Meanwhile, Braka flexed his abilities as a lycanthrope; being immune to nonmagical or non-silvered weapons, he let the Brestrels crowd around him, giving Alistair time to focus down the ship’s mage. It worked (mostly)! The mage did manage to pop off a Lightning Bolt before they could take her out, and to 3rd level characters? That’s a lot of damage (editors note: this blog is not sponsored by Flex Tape ).

The bridge was cleared out, and I informed the players that the rest of the crew would be attempting to re-take it. My question to them; how was Alistair going to survive, seeing as though Braka couldn’t take damage from them (not their weapons, anyways; I had another plan for that). Alistair literally tied a rope to the back railing and clung for deal life to the back of the ship as 40 of the crew bull rushed Braka. They overwhelmed him, pinning him to the deck; I had him make strength checks (easy enough, raging barabarian) to keep them from literally tossing him off of the ship. We’d already had a brief discussion earlier on “Is falling damage Bludgeoning damage? Because I’m immune to that.” He knew quite well being thrown off a ship 300 feet up would result in his death (always a way to challenge your players, no matter the circumstance). Gloridrod in the meantime had the crew fire down on the mass of Brestrels crowded around Braka, luckily not needing to worry about friendly fire.

With the enemy crew dead and a good reason to split, the party had a new idea; why not take the entire ship back to trade in? So they did!

We spent the last part of the session going over how we’d track ammo for the crew’s weapons (spoiler, it’d be rolled into the crew’s upkeep) and the design of the new ship/stronghold that’d be built for them; The Hurricane.

Our next session is literally tonight right after my buddy Caleb’s game and we’re adding a new player; I can’t wait!