Thursday, November 7, 2013

Flight of the Bumblebee

Bruce Heard—Lucca Game Fair 2013, Part One of Four.

H.H.M.S. Bumblebee is the party’s skyship, a vessel recently purchased by King Qissling of Floating Ar for his air fleet. Pre-generated characters are randomly distributed to the players, along with player handouts depicting the skyship’s deck plan and key. Player characters should be top-ranking officers: Captain, First Mate, Master, Captain-at-Arms, Master Artificer, Master of Engines, etc. Include the Purser in the initial party to make sure a character with thieving ability is available. Additional NPCs can replace eliminated PCs. The adventure is intended for a party of 5-7 adventurers, levels 7-9.

Plot Setup

To the players: You are skyship officers in Floating Ar’s air fleet, currently assigned to the H.H.M.S. Bumblebee. Your standing orders are to patrol the skies of Floating Ar for smugglers and other intruders, and actively pursue them. Your vessel is presently moored in Skyreach, awaiting resupply.

To the Captain and First Mate: You have been invited to a reception at Prince Qirklin’s residence. You know he was an illustrious peer of yours from your time at the Skyship Academy, so you do trust him. While you attended the reception, the prince spoke to you privately, asking for a favor, one with a good reward for all among the crew and officers of the Bumblebee. He requested your ship quietly make for the floating isle of Windstone, just a few hours away. Your secret mission is to secure its owner, Belsaphet the Sage, as well as a magical mortar carved out of malachite and a large silver flagon full of a refined oil bearing strange properties. All must be brought to Skyreach as soon as possible as treachery may be in the works. The sage’s research is critical to the kingdom’s security. Should the sage meet an untimely end, his complete remains must be brought back as well so he may be revived to continue his work. The mission is secret but should not interfere with the Bumblebee’s current standing orders.

Plot Overview

Prologue: By the time the party reaches Windstone Tower, the Heldannic warbird Talons of Faith hides in a bank of clouds, waiting fort the Bumblebee’s crew to explore the tower. The knights will ambush the party’s ship when she attempts to set sail from the tower.

Windstone Tower: Heldannic Knights already stole the malachite mortar and decapitated Belsaphet. The oil is still hidden in secret vault with a few other valuables, which the party may, or may not discover at this time. If questioned, the sage’s raven companion, Nevermore, will reveal clues about who committed the crimes: Craak! Men on a big eagle in the clouds killed Master. Took Master’s head. . . took Master’s head. It agrees to join the party—useful since it can talk to other birds in the area which will help the party track the escaped skyship (there are plenty of other ravens, hawks, seagulls, and geese to be found if one looks for the knights). If the game bogs down, Nevermore can help get the party going in the right direction.

Mystara Heldannic Knights Warbird
Ambush: Soon after the Bumblebee’s departure from Windstone Tower or as the crew attempts to set sail, the Talons of Faith ambushes the party. After a short aerial battle, the knights board the Bumblebee and fight to the death. The knights will try to make a run below deck. While some stay behind to block access to the companionways, the others seek to destroy the Bumblebee’s steering mechanism, after which they will look for the silver flagon in the captain’s quarters. If the party gains the upper hand during the battle, the knights’ commander retreats to his quarters and sends a message to the Heldannic Order’s high priest. When the party finds him, he burns his magical communication scroll, seizes his sword, and fights his ultimate fight.

If the party captures the Talons of Faith, they find the malachite mortar stowed in the commander’s cabin. The sage’s head and the oil are missing. The commander’s log relates the following information: "On this day, secured the Mortar of Souls as ordered but failed to discover the oil. Handed the head of Belsaphet the Sage to Lady Moriluna, as previously agreed. She set sail aboard The Spirit of Rymskigrad after the exchange. Now awaiting another opportunity to acquire the oil from someone else, if Our Most Holy Patron wills it."

The knights had hoped the approaching party would find the oil in the tower, and decided to ambush the Bumblebee to retrieve it. If the party did not secure the oil either, then they can learn about its hidden location from Belsaphet’s head, now in Moriluna’s possession. Nevermore will suggest the following if the party dithers: "Master’s head. . . very valuable. Craak! Many things inside master’s head, many dangerous things. It should not be forgotten. Must get master’s head back."

Mystara Hedannic Knights

Moriluna: She was Belsaphet’s "loving" companion, whose affection he’d so unwisely spurned. She knew about his magical mortar but not the true nature of his research. Since she’d had prior dealings with agents of the Heldannic Knights, she bargained with them. In exchange for Belsaphet’s head, she divulged the existence of the mortar to the knights who’d been looking for it. True to their agreement, the knights beheaded the sage and gave her the head. She plans on mummifying the decapitated part and turning it into a lamp for her laboratory, at Shadowfall Manor, just outside Rymskigrad in faraway Boldavia, in the Principalities of Glantri.

Spirit of Rymskigrad: Moriluna’s airship can be tracked down to the skyport at the capital city of Boldavia, or intercepted somewhere between Alphatia and the Known World. Moriluna had hired the small Boldavian vessel just for this occasion—a smuggler used to fly forbidden skies. If the Bumblebee catches up, Moriluna casts a fireball at the sails, setting fire to the skyship, and teleports home with Belsaphet’s head. Survivors of the Spirit of Rymskigrad will readily surrender and reveal Shadowfall’s location if captured or cornered in Boldavia’s capital city. Though the ship’s name has been scraped off her stern, anyone aboard can plainly see it engraved on her bell.

Heldannic Knights: The high priest at Vanya’s Rest communed with the order’s Immortal Patron some years earlier and determined that the Mortar of Souls and Oil of Memories could greatly improve the knights’ war capabilities. She didn’t know where to find them, until agents in Glantri reported a lead (Moriluna.) The Talons of Faith was immediately dispatched to the sage’s hidden whereabouts in Alphatia, located with the help of Moriluna’s Spirit of Rymskigrad. The Boldavian vessel waited in the clouds above Windstone Tower until the Talons of Faith returned. As soon as Moriluna received Belsaphet’s head from the knights, she set sail back to the Known World, leaving the knights to ambush the Bumblebee, as described earlier.

Head of Belsaphet the Sage: it was initially sought after by vengeful Moriluna as a personal trophy. It is now in her possession in Boldavia, at Shadowfall Manor. A speak with the dead spell will enable a lawful cleric to learn from Belsaphet’s spirit about the purpose of his research. He will tell the cleric what the mortar does—captive spirits can be made to blend with the specially prepared oil used thereafter to travel the universe. Whether or not the party has found the oil, Belsaphet reveals its location and the need to study it very closely, for it holds many secrets. If asked, he reveals he was a cleric of Noumena.

Mortar of Souls: the sturdy malachite vessel attracts and imprisons evil souls (incorporeal monsters and undead creatures, including vampires in gaseous form) within a 100 yard radius. Once per hour, it can Turn Undead like a level 20 cleric. Whenever the turning ability succeeds, the all HD affected by a "T" or a "D" result are immediately pulled into the mortar. These souls can be used as a pool of energy for a lawful cleric to cast additional spells at the rate of one spell level per trapped HD. All spells originating from the mortar are cast at level 20. Maximum spell level of any single effect remains limited by the cleric’s own experience level. Specific spells are those the cleric feels are needed at any given time (and therefore may change depending on circumstances). A DM might use this as a way to provide a discreet clue to a cleric PC.

Oil of Memories: it has the ability to copy and preserve thoughts, words spoken near it, or spells cast within 30’ radius. Anyone touching or sniffing this oil should make a Wisdom check. If it succeeds, they should hear random stored sentences, thoughts, or even gain recorded spells (cleric only). This is another way the party can acquire missing clues about the oil, the mortar, and the sage’s head. If the Wisdom check fails, the victim is confused (as the confusion spell) and cannot try again until the following day. If players get paranoid and keep the silver vessel corked, use Nevermore to suggest sniffing the stuff a bit more: "Craak! Master’s oil speaks! Holds many secrets. Holds many secrets." Those who did get a whiff earlier might need to make another Wisdom check at night. If they fail, they sleep-walk to the vessel and take another deep breath. Important clues are listed below in blue.

Random Effects Table
Roll 1d10, skipping results already rolled.

  1. "By the Stars! The souls of the dead stick to this mortar like flies on honey." (Belsaphet’s apprentice).
  2. "They rest uneasy within its stone until summoned or made into soul blood" (Belsaphet, as he studied the mortar)
  3. "Thought, magic, mercy to the dead—they all connect through the mortar." (Belsaphet, as he studied the mortar)
  4. "Craak! Nevermore happy to serve Master."
  5. Spell: detect undead (senses the greatest concentration of incorporeal undead within a 24 miles radius).
  6. "That Oil of Memories—a truly odd thing, for it will preserve all that is spoken or thought nearby." (Belsaphet, as he studied the mortar)
  7. "This old windbag is more interested in the links between the mortar, the oil, and travel across the Great Vault than me. I hate him! I’ll have his head for that." (Moriluna)
  8. "Uncork the flagon close to the mortar, and they will leave one for the other." (Belsaphet, as he studied the mortar)
  9. "Go now, my good Nevermore, and take this message at once to Prince Qirklin." (Belsaphet dispatching his raven companion to Skyreach).
  10. Spell: enchant an engraving (enables a cleric to engrave a perfect replica of the Bumblebee on her deck; it confers the consecrated engraving a permanent protection from evil 15’ radius)
  11. "One soul for a measure of blood, three measures to journey among the dead, one journey to conquer the stars." (Belsaphet, as he studied the mortar)
  12. "One must carefully engrave upon the deck a foot-long outline of the ship." (Belsaphet, as he studied the mortar)
  13. "Anoint the engraving’s grooves, three measures should do, and perform the Blessing of the Stars." (Belsaphet, as he studied the mortar)
  14. "Craak! Nevermore is hungry. Nevermore has been flying all day."
  15. Repeat a memorable PC quote spoken within the oil’s area of effect (15’ radius).
  16. Spell: Blessing of the Stars (releases the dead trapped inside the device and opens a gate into limbo)
  17. "That Moriluna, she’s mad and evil, I tell you. I wish she returned to Shadowfall and forgot we ever met." (Belsaphet to Nevermore)
  18. "Fine. Let it be a trade, then. His head for the mortar and the oil. And I’ll tell you where his tower stands." (Moriluna whispering to the Heldannic high priest through a magical scroll)
  19. "Oh no! They’ve found me out! I must hide the oil." (Belsaphet)
  20. "Argh!" (Belsaphet’s infamous last word)
  21. "Craak! Nevermore is hurt. Nevermore must hide."
  22. "Just wait. Someone else will find the oil, and then we’ll seize it from them. We’ll bide our time in the clouds. Take the mortar and the head aboard." (Heldannic warbird commander, failing to locate the oil)
  23. "With this mortar and oil, the Heldannic Order shall rule the world!" (Heldannic warbird commander on his way out of Windstone)
  24. Repeat a memorable PC quote spoken within the oil’s area of effect.

Soul Blood: If the Mortar of Souls is brought within the oil’s area of effect and its flagon is uncorked, all trapped souls transfer to the oil at once. If so, the Oil of Memories transforms into soul blood, dark red and animated with a eerie energy of its own. Soul blood is produced at the rate of 1 measure per HD transferred, which floats on top of any remaining Oil of Memories. The flagon contains up to 20 doses (six initially).

Using Soul Blood: used with the Blessing of the Stars and the appropriate carving on the ship’s deck, soul blood enables a vessel to turn incorporeal (with everyone and everything aboard) and enter "limbo," a demiplane of the dead. The skyship will travel at "warp speed" while in limbo and reappear in the Prime Plane, as stipulated in the Blessing of the Stars. Each measure of soul blood affects up to 50 Hull Points. If insufficient soul blood is available, the blessing will not work.

Blessing of the Star: when a clerical PC learns the spell from the Oil of Memories (see Random Effects Table earlier, #16), its actual wording becomes clear—"One soul for a measure of blood, three measures to journey among the dead, one journey to the place I seek." If spoken this way, the skyship will emerge from limbo wherever desired in the Prime Plane or elsewhere. The alternate ending ". . .to conquer the stars," listed in the Random Effects Table, was a parable spoken by Belsaphet, rightfully anticipating he could use the blessing to visit other worlds. It is critical that the party acquires this spell. If they fail to do so, the party’s cleric receives dreams suggesting he/she taste or smell the oil.

Adventure’s Conclusion: As the party flies back to Skyreach (either from the Known World or from Windstone Tower if the party returned to get the oil), several large warbirds intercept them (having been alerted by the late commander of the Talons of Faith), intent on recovering the mortar and the oil. The only escape is to use soul blood and perform the Blessing of the Stars. As the Bumblebee drops into limbo, any attached warbirds are dragged in. Since they’re not in a ghostly form, hordes of spirits attack the intruders and soon overwhelm them. Meanwhile, the Bumblebee reappears as directed by the special blessing.

Adventure Summary

  1. Setup & Reception at Prince Qirklin
  2. Fly to Windstone Tower (recover oil, maybe)
  3. Heldannic Knights Ambush (recover mortar)
  4. In search of the Rymskigrad (in the sky or in Boldavia)
  5. To Shadowfall Manor (defeat Moriluna and recover Belsaphet’s head)
  6. Back to Windstone Tower (if oil wasn’t found during the first visit)
  7. Warbirds intercept the Bumblebee
  8. Use soul blood to escape and return to Skyreach

If the party secured the Oil of Memories during their first visit of Windstone Tower, then (if they think of it) they can use the soul blood to warp straight from Shadowfall Manor to Skyreach and accomplish their secret mission, avoiding entirely the encounter with large warbirds. Belsaphet’s head or Nevermore can suggest using soul blood in the nick of time.


Heldannic Knight: AC2-4, F4-6, hp 18-27, MV90’(30’), AT1, Dmg 1d8+1, ML12, Save F4-6, Int11, AL N. Special Abilities: double damage when rolling an unmodified 18 or better to hit; immune to fear, charm, and other mind-affecting powers. Equipment: chain or plate mail + shield & sword.

Fra Zog, Heldannic Commander: AC0, C12, hp 44, MV90’(30’), AT1 or spell, Dmg 1d8+2 or by spell, ML12, Save C12; St14, In11, Wi16, Dx13, Co15, Ch14, AL N. Special Abilities: double damage when rolling an unmodified 18 or better to hit; immune to fear, charm, and other mind-affecting powers. Equipment: plate mail +1, shield +1, sword +1. Appearance: tall, clean-shaven head, brown eyes, dark-red Klingon-style beard; black plate mail, white shield and surcoat with black lion rampant, helm with lion head crest.

Common Sailor: AC8, F1-2, hp 5-9, MV120’(40’), AT1 sword or crossbow, Dmg 1d6, ML8, Save F1-2, Int10, AL N.

Alphatian Boltman: AC8, MU1, hp 5, MV120’(40’), AT1 or 1 spell, Dmg 6d6 bolt or by spell, ML9, Save M1, Int13, AL N. Special Abilities: shoot up to six broadsides of lightning bolts when ordered; one magic missile spell for self defense; retreat into the riggings to throw darts afterward. Equipment: boltman’s wand & darts. For officers, see pre-generated characters and NPC listing.

Illustrious Skyships of Mystara

Light Warbird: AC8, HP90, MV 120’/round or 72 miles/day, #AT see below. Crew: 1 commander, 12 knights, 10 sailors. Due to crew limitations, only two main deck weapons can be used simultaneously, or three ballistae; sailors and knights are trained with these weapons. Special Abilities: blight belcher attack once per day. Armament:
  • 1 blight belcher (300’ range cause critical wounds spell 15’ radius)
  • 6 ballistae: AC4, HP9, #AT 1/2, Dmg 1d10+6, Range 100’/200’/300’
  • 1 light catapult (forward): AC6, HP18, #AT 1/5, Dmg 1d8+8, Range 200’/250’/300’ min 150’
  • 1 heavy catapult (aft): AC8, HP 27, #AT 1/6, Dmg 1d10+10, Range 250’/325’/400’ min 175’

Heavy Warbird: AC7, HP140, MV 120’/round or 72 miles/day, #AT see below. Crew: 1 commander, 25 knights, 30 sailors. Special Abilities: blight belcher attack once per day. Can produce a cloud cover 300’ across, once per day. Armament:
  • 1 blight belcher (300’ range cause critical wound spell 15’ radius)
  • 6 ballistae: AC4, HP9, #AT 1/2, Dmg 1d10+6, Range 100’/200’/300’
  • 2 light catapult (forward): AC6, HP18, #AT 1/5, Dmg 1d8+8, Range 200’/250’/300’ min 150’
  • 2 heavy catapult (aft): AC8, HP 27, #AT 1/6, Dmg 1d10+10, Range 250’/325’/400’ min 175’

H.H.M.S. Bumblebee: AC7, HP120, MV 120’/round or 72 miles/day, #AT see below. Due to crew limitations only two main deck weapons can be used simultaneously, or three ballistae; boltmen are not trained on these weapons. Crew: 1 captain, 6 boltmen, 20 sailors. Special Abilities: can sail at double speed for one game turn, once per day. Armament:
  • 6 ballistae: AC4, HP9, #AT 1/2, Dmg 1d10+6, Range 100’/200’/300’
  • 4 light catapult (2 each, starboard & port): AC6, HP18, #AT 1/5, Dmg 1d8+8, Range 200’/250’/300’ min 150’
  • 1 heavy catapult (aft): AC8, HP 27, #AT 1/6, Dmg 1d10+10, Range 250’/325’/400’ min 175’

Spirit of Rymskygrad: AC6, HP90, MV 150’/round or 90 miles/day, #AT see below. Crew: 1 captain, 15 sailors. Special Abilities: none. Armament:
  • 1 light catapult (aft): AC6, HP18, #AT 1/5, Dmg 1d8+8, Range 200’/250’/300’ min 150’
  • 2 ballistae (bow): AC4, HP9, #AT 1/2, Dmg 1d10+6, Range 100’/200’/300’
Mystara Alphatia Skyship
The Bumblebee Map Key

Top View & Stern Deck
1. Forecastle
2a. & 2b. Gangway
3. Upper Deck
4. Officers Mess
4a. Officers’ Privies
5. Captain’s Cabin
5a. Captain’s Privies
6. Quarterdeck
Main Deck
1. Open Area
2. Crew Quarters
2a. & 2b. Midshipmen Quarters
2c. & 2d. Roundhouses
3. Crew Heads
4. Chapel
4a. Armory
5. Stern Walkway
6. Captain at Arms’s Cabin
7. Ship Master’s Cabin
8. First mate’s Cabin
9. Master of Engine’s Cabin
Lower Deck
1. Steerage Chamber
2. Brig & Stowage
3-4. Mates Quarters
5. Carpenter’s Cabin
6. Carpenter’s Workshop
7. Bosun’s Quarters
8. Marines Quarters
9. Purser’s Cabin
10. Master Artificer’s Cabin
11. Laboratory & Stowage
12. Forward Passageway
12a. Stowage
13. Galley & Cook’s Quarters
13a-13b. Stowage
Ship’s Hold
1. Hold
2. Sail Stowage
3. Ropes & Munitions Stowage

Officers (pre-gen PCs or NPCs)
  1. Captain Dalmeran: Class/Level MU7, hp 25, AC4, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 rapier, Dmg 1d6+3 or by spell, Save MU7, AL L; St14, In17, Wi11, Dx16, Co13, Ch15. Equipment: rapier +2, ring of protection +3, scroll of communication, potion of super-healing.
  2. Loreane Tiggart, First Mate: Class/Level F8, hp 52, AC0, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 sword, Dmg 1d8+2, Save F8+2, AL N; St15, In14, Wi11, Dx16, Co17, Ch13. Equipment: normal sword +1, chain +2, scroll of communication, displacer cloak, potion of super-healing
  3. Arabesque Starward, Ship Master: Class/Level C8, hp 36, AC3, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 staff, Dmg 2d6+1, Save C8, AL L; St13, In11, Wi17, Dx15, Co14, Ch16. Equipment: staff of striking (13 charges), chain mail +1, ring of safety, potion of super-healing
  4. Setho Hounsteel, Captain-at-Arms: Class/Level E7, hp 32, AC1, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 sword, Dmg 1d8+3, Save E7, AL N; St16, In17, Wi11, Dx15, Co14, Ch13. Equipment: normal sword +1, bow +1, plate mail +1, potion of super healing
  5. Tellias Tugsickle, Purser: Class/Level T8, hp 28, AC4, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 sword, Dmg 1d8+2, Save T8, AL N; St14, In13, Wi11, Dx17, Co15, Ch16. Equipment: normal sword +1, leather armor +1, ring of invisibility, potion of super-healing
  6. Torwik Boulderborn, Master of Engines: Class/Level D8, hp 52, AC3, MV 90’(30’), #AT 1 battleaxe, Dmg 1d8+4, Save D8, AL L; St17, In13, Wi14, Dx15, Co16, Ch11. Equipment: battleaxe +2, chain +1, bag of holding, horn of blasting, potion of super-healing

NPC: Wassor Barromble, Master Artificer: Class/Level G7, hp32, AC5, MV 90’(30’), #AT 1 short sword, Dmg 1d6+1, Save MU7, AL N; St11, In16, Wi15, Dx17, Co14, Ch13. Equipment: short sword +1, ring or protection +2, boots of traveling & leaping, potion of super-healing
NPC: Philbur Thornegate, Bosun: Class/Level F6, hp 39, AC5, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 sword, Dmg 1d8+2, Save F6, AL N; St15, In13, Wi16, Dx11, Co17, Ch14. Equipment: normal sword +1/+3 vs. undead, leather +2, potion of super-healing
NPC: Beaker Buglehorn, Helmsman: Class/Level F5, hp33, AC6, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 sword/crossbow, Dmg 1d6+2, Save F5, AL L; St14, In13, Wi15, Dx17, Co16, Ch11. Equipment: light crossbow +2, short sword +1, ring of protection +1, potion of super-healing
NPC: Jambaya Moffeecot, Cook: Class/Level H6, hp33, AC5, MV 90’(30’), #AT 1 frying pan, Dmg 1d4+3, Save H6, AL N; St11, In13, Wi15, Dx14, Co17, Ch16. Equipment: frying pan +2, light crossbow +1, leather armor +1, wooden leg of death, potion of super-healing
NPC: Hamfers Cobbletack, Carpenter: Class/Level F5, hp33, AC5, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 hammer, Dmg 1d6+3, Save F6, AL L; St17, In14, Wi13, Dx15, Co16, Ch11. Equipment: warhammer +1, leather armor +1, potion of super-healing
NPCs: Fastickle, Rhymewise, Floggett (midshipmen) – Part Four of this series will provide filled out character sheets.

This concludes Part One. The next installment will detail Windstone Tower.

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