In Part I of this fun little series, I outlined a skill challenge that took place aboard World Works Games’ “Maiden of the High Seas“ papercraft ship. If you don’t remember the skill challenge, take a second to go back and read it over again. Even though it’s been two weeks since you read about it, keep in mind that the following combat happens immediately after the PCs pass or fail the skill challenge.
The Combat (Level 4)
First, let me emphasize that this combat isn’t really “winnable” in the traditional sense. It has been designed to keep replenishing monsters every round. Instead of just killing everything in sight to end the encounter, the PCs have a goal (which should be made very clear to them) that has to be accomplished in a certain time frame.
Second, the combat will be far more difficult if they did not successfully complete the prior skill challenge. Before I dive into the actual combat, here is what the PCs face if they were unsuccessful at the skill challenge:
- All squares are difficult terrain
- At the beginning of each round, everyone makes a moderate acrobatics check. On a failure, you slide 2 square toward the port or starboard (random, by die roll) as a gust of wind catches one of the unfurled sails and tosses the boat violently. This forced movement can push a PC overboard.
- Both of these combat conditions can be ended by completing the skill challenge.
- Goal: Kill the two ritualists before 5-7 rounds have passed. (DM discretion, determine ahead of time based upon your party)
- Enemies: 4 sahuagin raiders, 1 sahuagin priest, 6 sahuagin guards (pg. 224 of the Monster Manual) PLUS the two ritualists who are also sahuagin priests, but do not involve themselves in the combat in any way.
- Special 1: At the beginning of every round, add 3-6 sahuagin guards to the combat, DM’s discretion. They start their turn next to one of the ship’s side rails.
- Special 2: The Arcane Ballista from Part II is in play.
- Tactics: The ritualists start the combat at either end of the boat, and the raiders are with them, as protection. The guards (minions) should run interference, making it more difficult for PCs to get from one end of the boat to the other, and otherwise distracting them. They should not all bunch up around the ritualists, making them impossible to reach. The idea is to make it as much like a chaotic melee as possible. Finally, the priest (the active one) should stand near one of the ritualists, taking advantage of the raiders’ protection, and attack the party from range with Spectral Jaws and then Water Bolt. Any sahuagin that is pushed overboard will “lose a turn” and reappear on deck on their following turn. Therefore, pushing one of the ritualists overboard will extend the number of rounds allowed for success by 1. In other words, it does not interrupt the ritual, but it does slow it down.
If you want to make the combat even more interesting, you could have some of the sahuagin start attacking the captain as he steers the boat, threatening to lose control of the boat if he is killed. If that happens, revert to the “skill challenge failure” conditions unless a standard action is spent every round behind the wheel to keep the ship under control. I would only recommend this if it seems like the PCs aren’t having too much trouble.
Of course, the “why” of the combat is up to you. Perhaps it’s a random attack, but perhaps the sahuagin are attacking that ship specifically for some reason. Maybe there’s a certain cargo or passanger aboard that they want to get at. Alternately, the attack could be a precursor to widespread attacks by sahuagin on sailing vessels. So, if you want to just drop it in your campaign as a one-off, you can, and if you want to make the combat more meaningful, you can do that too.
That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell. What’s that? I missed something? What happens if they don’t kill the ritualists in time, you ask? Let me tell you: a gargantuan water elemental shaped like a shark appears and smashes the boat to tinder in his monstrous jaws. Seriously. (By the way, if the PCs are successful, the same water elemental appears and smashes into the boat, but this time, only the sahuagin are washed off the deck, and once it’s gone, everything is mysteriously dry, the sun is out, and the storm is gone. So either way, you get to describe the fearsome elemental.)
Unfortunately for my players, they didn’t recognize the urgency of the situation, and decided to engage the minions, raiders, and priest for 7 rounds instead of really focusing their attacks on the ritualists. I know they will probably argue with that assessment, but I think the results speak for themselves. (Sorry guys) They are now adrift in the middle of the ocean, one dead, and the rest struggling for survival on whatever pieces of wood they could cobble together from the remains of the Sea Dragon. Will they survive? We’ll all find out (myself included) tonight…
One final note: I mentioned that one of the characters died. Since January, I’ve been bringing the Going, Going, Gone! Dicie award from WeXogo.com to every session, and just letting it sit next to me. So I was finally able to give that away. Here is the lucky recipient, whose Shaman died as his ethereal celestial bear wept tears made of pure sunshine, or some sentimental crap like that: