Posted on July 19, 2013
Castaway Diary, Day 7 cont.From the GM point of view, playing in a sandbox like Smuggler’s Shiv can look like no progress is being made. It is a big island, full of stuff, but that is being revealed to the players slowly. From my side of things it seems like progress is being made at a glacial pace, but that’s because I know about all the stuff beyond their current knowledge of the island. I hope the reveal is fun, but that’s a pacing issue that I can’t get a handle on. Matt summed up his experience with it as we were chatting last night (I hope I paraphrase this properly); that this is a period of preparation before the ball on this island really starts rolling. I hope that’s the feeling most people get, because last night’s session didn’t really impart a whole lot of new knowledge and on a mystery island, knowledge is kind of the treasure you are looking for… so it feels like I wasn’t handing out treasure. Even though, as it turns out, there was quite a bit of treasure. Playing at low levels again is funny. On one hand the action moves quickly from one person to the next. On the other hand, everyone is inept, so not much actually gets done. Also, party roles aren’t as cut and dried as they are at higher levels – when characters continue to be inept, except for the one thing they are super good at. So there is more milling around, more filling in, more experimentation. That’s fun, I think. The roles of (almost) everyone last night were quite fluid: Victor’s Role: Valiant defense of the fallen, hard smiting, evil detection, offhandedly offensive comments. Percy’s Role: Utility Cleric played to the hilt. Blow-absorbing, sword-swinging, comrade healing. Nobody’s Role: Shoving his gun right up against his enemy, missing, using his back-up handaxe to good effect, impromptu linguist. Orny’s Role: Move Action: Stay out of the way, Standard Action: Cast Guidance, Free Action: Wish his opponents needed to sleep, so he could hex them. Floki’s Role: Did you know Rolland now rolls two dice to disappoint himself with? Nah, I’m kidding, he hits hard. Malicia’s Role: Discover how great being a rogue is… Flip crucial vertebrae out of Skeletons like a Hibachi chef skimming prawns onto plates. Find the shiny. We left the exploration party (does Jask think of you as his Away Team?) crouched among the volcanic rocks, looking down onto a short beach upon which lay the upturned hull of a wrecked ship. What had given the team pause for thought were the two swaying skeletons, standing on the beach as though guarding the wreck. At this point Rolifson and Uun tagged out and Victor and Malicia tagged in. Floki tied a rope to some rock in preparation for a fast descent down the rocky ledge and onto the beach. The skeletons did not seem to notice this. Some of the party slid down the rope and a few just leapt from the ledge, Malicia landing awkwardly. They advanced on the skeletons and the skeletons advanced right back at them. The skeletons were quickly dismantled with a few good hits, Malicia discovering how good it is to stab something that is trying to pay attention to two directions at once. It’s real good. The Tengu… Tengess? Tengette? …went over to examine the hull and found a small gap between rock and hull where sand had been channeled away by the tide, creating a small entrance into the exterior of the upturned ship. The party ventured in en masse, Floki covering the rear. They found themselves in what had been the cargo deck of the ship, now inverted. The surface they found themselves standing on was cluttered with the broken and soaked former cargo of the ship, strewn amongst the many structural supports that had never been intended as a walking surface. In the center of the now-deck, was the open loading hatch through which was visible sand and water. They began picking their way through. Victor used his Iomedae-granted ability to Detect Evil, scanning the surrounding area and picking up a trace of evil so no-one was too surprised when at the far end of the room, some skeletons assembled themselves in a fighting stance and advanced on the party. Forming a protective barrier around Orny – did they do that by accident or had they been, gulp, bewitched! No, they just all rushed to the fight and Orny stayed out of harms way – they fought off the skeletons, for the second time Nobody’s gun acting as a starter pistol to let everyone know that they were fighting now. After defeating the wobbly, not very tough skeletons, they began picking around the deck, at least Malicia did, while Voctor detected further Evil lurking behind the double doored hatch leading to the stern. Floki and he went over to expose this evil but neither could budge the door. Calling in Malicia from her scavenging, she determined the door had been barred from the other side, but could probably be jimmied loose. She jimmied it loose. Through the door burst an armoured skeleton (in 3d!) and it cut the intruding Tengu down with a slash of its shining longsword. Victor rushed in, standing over the fallen rogue as Percy and Floki met the armoured skeleton and his two wobbly skeleton buddies in combat. Nobody let everyone know that another combat had started. BANG. Percy healed Malicia, who rolled out from under Victor and away from peril. Percy moved in to engage the skeletons. After two solid strikes, from Floki and Victor, the armoured skeleton collapsed in an armoured heap and it didn’t take long to dispatch the other two either. The party now had the run of the upside-down shipwreck. Victor took the breastplate that the skeleton had been wearing and put it on and someone took the longsword and heavy steel shield as well. Can’t remember who, I just remember everyone was terrible at Appraising. Orny turned his attention to the ceiling, which having been a deck at one point had hatches leading to the bilges. Climbing up, and poking his head through, he found an almost intact hull, save for a missing section at the stern. He checked it out and got a view of the beach to the south. Malicia and Nobody went exploring the cabin to the bow of the ship and found a shelved area that had protected its contents much better than the rest of the cargo hold had. It also had the benefit of not being near the sea and so most things in here were not spoiled. A circular hole had been cut in the deck leading to the bilges and another circular hole had been cut in the hull above that. Nobody noticed sawdust underneath where the holes had been cut. They found a pair of saddles… so that should come in handy. A suit of padded armour, a shield, a vial of Ink and a Potion which claims to be a potion of Reduce Person. Floki set to exploring what would have been the decks above the cargo hold but below the Quarterdeck (the answer to last night’s trivia that no-one could remember) , now below the water. Slipping under the water that was accessible from the cargo hatch, he made his way deeper and found several useful items on his dive. An intact and undamaged sextant; a telescope, unfortunately full of water; was there anything else? I don’t recall now. Having picked the wreck for useful stuff, the talk turned to spending the night there. The bilge deck was a defensible location, with few access points, so they resolved to camp there for the night. Floki wanted his rope back from the ledge on the northern beach and Malicia was nice enough to go get it for him. Stepping out onto the beach through the hole from which they came, she saw a man crouching by the jungle’s edge, who turned to look at her as she stopped and looked at him. He was mostly naked, save for a pelt loincloth and some leathers. She approached and made some initial overtures of friendship. He gabbled something back to her in a harsh tongue and beat what looked like a crude axe against his torso. Malicia saw in the darkness of early evening that his skin looked marked or patterned and he stood with a kind of studied nonchalance. Not truly relaxed, but certainly trying to appear that way. Malicia called back in to the ship that there was somebody there, and Nobody and Percy exited the hull. At these arrivals, the man mumbled more in his guttural tongue, of which Nobody was able to discern a few words. The tiefling is as good an authority on matters infernal as anyone in the party can claim to be, and he reckoned the man was mumbling something in a kind of corrupted, pidgin Infernal. It wasn’t the clipped, precise evil-sounding Infernal you’d find spoken in Chelish courtrooms, but it had certain things in common. Nobody made out that the man was introducing himself and that his name had the prefix “One who is eating”-something-something. That’s about as far as it got, as the man opened his mouth as wide as it would go, revealing a bristle of long, sharp teeth that glistened in the waning light. He emitted a ear-splitting shriek and ran into the jungle. No-one followed him, but they retired to the wreck of the ship (now discovered to be the Golden Bow) and made absolutely damn sure those points were defensible. Malicia piled up broken boxes in front of the gap to alert them to intruders. As they established their first watch, they spotted a pole sunk into the sand on the southern beach. Festooned with feathers and bones, it was topped with a human skull. On checking, it had not been there just a while earlier when Orny had looked out along the southern beach. A warning? A marker of territory? A lawn ornament? Nobody knows. Not Nobody, but nobody. Orny doesn’t think it is tied in with the worship of any god but – and I should have told Orny this last night – isn’t dissimilar to certain witchcraft totems, although the meaning of this particular fetish would depend much on the witch in question. As they settled in to sleep, the same screeching cry sounded again, further off in the jungle, setting off all manner of animal territorial and alarm cries. But piercing this jungle noise from other parts of the dark green expanse came two or three more screeching cries, as if in answer. Happy first week on the island!