Where the adventuring party follows a magic treasure map at the behest of young Jim Clocks, a pirate.

If this is your first time checking out our little D&D Adventure Blog, you might want to check out this post that explains the setup and format of the game. As always, I’m in black and Jon’s in blue. Our last adventure was “The Fancy Party“. You can check out all “Big Fish” content on this nifty landing page.

At the end of the terrible trouble a few adventures back, my character pocketed a magical treasure map. It would be the focus for the adventure that Jon was catering to my character. This session would be the first time for my character  in the  “starring” role and I thought that going with something treasure map related would be sticking to the piratey roots of the concept.

Right off the bat, I will mention that I was a little stressed out about calling the shots in the adventure. It’s a weird thing to balance. You want to be true to your character, but there’s also kind of this meta element where you don’t want to spoil everyone’s time. It’s kind of nerve wracking.

It is nerve wracking to write stories for one person in particular.  Will they get it?  What if I misunderstand the character?  In some ways, it’s a little simpler.  I know Jim is a coastal ranger so we’re for sure going to have a piratey adventure, but past that?

This session started off a little differently because as I said, we already the map from a previous adventure.

Instead, we found ourselves just drinking in a bar I like to call “The Rusty Something”. It’s got another name, but that’s the name that I (and therefore Jim) remember. My character is just about to pitch his plan to the group that we should follow up on this treasure map when we are rudely interrupted. A human man (sporting the colours of one of the major pirate crews) is threatening to kill a half-orc (sporting the colours of another) because the half-orc killed his brother. I know that Scott helped Jon develop a lot of these pirates and their crews and I love the continuity of the Sword Coast pirate community kind of unfolding around us.

This was a little troubling for me right out of the gate. On the one hand, ain’t nothing more that Jim Clocks likes than mixing it up in pirate biz. On the other, this had “huge waste of time” written all over it.

This whole encounter was a puzzle. The answer to the puzzle was “take the map out and start adventuring”.  It was a puzzle special for Jim, because Jim has the map, and Jim loves pirate fun.  It was also sort of a puzzle for Keith, because Keith has a lot of trouble letting things go, and the pirates were delicious bait.  Basically, the whole thing worked as intended. There were rewards possible as well if you followed the red herrings further, but the end of it was inevitably “ok now what, oh yeah, I take out the map…”.

Jim relied on his ridiculous Persuasion and prevented the pair from immediately killing each other and keeping the peace in the bar. Then promptly gave them both a solid “heads up fellas” about the other one probably trying to kill them and allowing the Giddeon the Sailor to parlay us a boat ride to the destination indicated on my magic map.

A little aside about the map. The map seems to track where the bearer is, with an “X” marking the spot of the (presumed) treasure and a little dotted line connecting the current location. It also seems to magically zoom in when the bearer gets closer to the treasure, providing more and more detail.

I consider it a failure of the party (but not my character, he’s dumb as bricks) to not even suggest further inspection of the map. More on that later.

Haha yeah, I ran the concept by my girlfriend and she was like “wait they have this glowing map thing leading them and it’s a living trap and they will just follow it?  What if they inspect it closely?”  I was pretty sure you guys wouldn’t.  You didn’t.

Giddeon maintains that he asked repeatedly for the map. I maintain that Jim Clocks hates Giddeon for wholly superficial reasons.

Because we didn’t sail with pirates we have a wholly boring boat ride down the coast towards the X. There is brief talk of making crocodile boots out of crocodiles but thankfully that didn’t distract us too much.

Jon rules that the whole trip exists in “Coastal” area, which means I’m just rolling in bonuses as this is my preferred environment from my Ranger multiclass. It’s great. Can’t get lost, ignore difficult terrain, roll twice on Intelligence and Wisdom checks, can’t be surprised. I could go on.

Marc (L’eau D’ur) said something amazing that made everyone laugh their heads off and was a high point of the session. I should take better notes.

This whole dungeon was written by Moorguard Studios and included for free in a 1 page dungeon anthology I found on SageAdvice.eu that was part of the “One Page Dungeon Contest“. It was called “Hettie’s Crag” and here it is.I bet they would get a kick knowing we played it out.  Maybe we should tweet at them?

We’ll do that. (We did that!)

Anyways, we hoof it from the shore up to a cave where we encounter “The Witch of the Woods” who has “hag” written all over her. She tries (and succeeds) at selling the party on some creepy love potions (stay tuned for the hilarious payoff of this transaction in the next installment) but she really doesn’t want us to head into her back room (when the map is pretty clearly indicating that we press deeper into the caves).

We call her bluff, she disappears and we scoot into the back room to see her gross hag lady nesting situation. Jaxxo and Giddeon (Lizardman Monk and Sailor Bard) stealth their way down a hidden passage that we found and get jumped pretty badly by a trio of hags.

Them stealthing up ahead and my character being cool with is one of my favorite subtle character choices. My guy is stealthy. Quite so. But when other people are just up and volunteering to scout up ahead for danger he is just very willing to be like “man, you do you, go on up ahead.”

They got the jump on us pretty handily and even managed to drop Giddeon before the party got the combat under control.

We killed one of the hags and said “back off ladies, we just want your treasure” and they decided they would rather live then be killed like their sister. I can respect that.

We dig up the spot the “X” marked and root around in the hags’ little horde. We also free a little Drow boy from being kept in a cage. I guess this was to tie the story in to the Terrible Trouble in Tragidore?

Yeah man it rhymes like poetry and like Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.  Drow had the map. Kidnapped Drow children.

*Chef kiss*

The trick to the Hags was that their creepy crawlies on the wall could report back to them, so they would leave you alone on purpose to see and hear what you would do.  They also had a special form of invisibility which muffled their sounds as well.  So when the first one “disappeared” she actually was just chilling there spying on you.  

They would have been pushovers if you had just rushed them, as you normally do.  What a twist!

I mean, Giddeon kind of did his “I rush in” thing with the quick stealthy approach with Jaxxo. Just instead of going in as a party, they went in as a duo without waiting on a consensus while the rest of hung back and said “ok then”. I will laugh heartily when Giddeon dies from that behavior.

The treasure we get isn’t bad (a magic feather that will stop a boat from being able to move and a pretty fresh set of chainmail) but get this: the treasure map now indicates that we should go to a new location, just off the coast that we landed at initially.

This was kind of fun, because I was pretty sure something was up. But I also was sure that my character was just having a great time on a treasure hunt and didn’t care. As a player I was kind of thinking the map was just trying to get us to free that little Drow boy, as a character I was kind of thinking “TRREEEAASSSSUUURRRREEE!!!”.

There was a whole other dungeon planned before the end.  Even better treasure.  I axed it to give you a chance to get to the end.  Was about the same size as the Hag cave but would have been way too much.

When we get back to the coast, we see the pirate ship of one of the crews from the tavern at the start of the adventure. It seems that we were likely followed. The pirate ship separates us from a little rocky island that the map is now marking with a big ole’ “X”.

4 out of 5 of us have swim speeds and we’ve got a Ring of Swimming kicking around so we decide to sneak it up. We make it look like we’ve set up camp for the night, and under the cloak of darkness we all jump in the water and just swim around the boat with nobody being the wiser.

This was so cool.  Even more than the team changing like a navy seal stealth squad: most parties will have 1 guy with a swim speed so any time you want to include some water scenes you know only 1 PC will really be able to participate.  However with this team you guys can pull stunts like this off.  There will be water in every game I can squeeze it into, just to be an option.

Inside the rocks, we find an ornate little shrine/temple type area covered in all the fixings of spiders and Drow and a big swinging double door. Hallways extend down to the left and right and there are two keyholes. Classic level design.

I’d be a shitty Rogue if I didn’t at least try to pick these magical locks, right? With Bardic Inspiration and Guidance both washing all over my nimble Rogue fingers I roll a 32 on my Thieves’ Tools check… Those locks ain’t shit. I’m pretty sure they would have hurt me pretty badly if I had messed that up.

We get to the inner chamber and there’s another treasure chest. Success!

Oh right, the map comes to life and tries to smoosh my face off because it was some kind of Mimic the whole time. Nobody (except for Giddeon) was even remotely suspicious of the map the entire time.

I mean… assuming it was a mimic would be a bit of a stretch but you guys didn’t go past a single arcana check on this glowing, updating, golden-hued treasure map.  “Oh hey… this thing says we should go in here!  Let’s!  We’re level 5!”

A mimic for lack of a better name. We manage to kill the mimic, get the treasure, sneak back to shore and make off into the night like bandits.

If you remember, Jon kind of employs a 3 star system of reward for each session and he graded this one as a 2 star. Which means we all gain a level, and the hero (me) gets a special reward. Not bad. I asked Jon what we could have done to get a 3 Star and he said it involved confronting my nemesis Kenku on the pirate ship towards the end of the adventure.

So let me get this straight. We cleverly avoided a run in with our enemies and we get penalized for it? Thanks Jon.

There was a lot more to that Pirate Trial.  Remember I even foreshadowed Pirate Law in the tavern?  Was going to be a lightning round.  Have we talked about Lightning Rounds?  I’m disappointed too.  I really despise that some people got lightning rounds and some didn’t.  This is still a puzzle for me, to try and balance these things and keep them fresh and intense.  

I think this was a lot of fun. As a player I think I handled being the star-player pretty well, kept pushing things forward and avoided bogging down the action with uncertainties. I think Jon did a good job catering the adventure to my guy. Treasure maps and pirates all over the place, and setting up the thing to play out in my preferred environment gave me a chance to shine.

I will say that I found this session to be a little too rushed. I felt like we were doing things almost as quickly as we could. There’s kind of a fine line between rushing and having no room for fun D&D dickarounds and keeping things brisk.

Sometimes you guys like to spend an hour talking to pirates and sometimes you keep your eyes on the prize.  I’m settling, kinda, on having enough modular scenes that the game still makes sense when you skip one or overindulge the other, but this was indeed a symptom of me still sorting this all out.

Yeah, I’m fully aware that we’ve only had a handful of sessions using this approach. I’m just a little worried that we’re going to get to the point where we just steamroll through games in order to try and 3-star. I’m sure you’ll find the balance.

We started on time and ended a little late and I don’t think we got overly tripped up on anything for more than a few minutes. That said, we skipped over what may have been a second dungeon in the Drow temple and certainly some kind of encounter on the pirate ship.

It kind of felt like getting everything in under the time limit was impossible. Jon’s still finding his stride.

One thing I was thinking of in the next round of stories would be to potentially incorporate (players willing) a “that’s OUR story” moment where we could do two-parters that covers the story of two players. Just a thought.

I am still finding my stride for sure.  Like I said there was a whole 3rd dungeon I wrote out on the fly.  That said this session in particular was more or less exactly what I was going for when I started this game.  High speed adventuring, maximum shenanigans,  no downtime.  Aces!

Check out our next adventure in the campaign: The Time L’Eau Dur Messed Up Real Bad (Part 1).

Old Witch image from KillerBe’s DeviantArt page.
Pirate Ship image from deskridge’s DeviantArt page.

Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.

Jon is a Master of Dungeons of the highest caliber. He podcasts with me over on 9to5 Entertainment System and occasionally blogs here in Jon’s Junk.