Pirates Campaign: The Flying Valian
A fantasy RPG campaign for Rolemaster and Midgard set in a pirates scenario.
Copyright Robert Wenner ©2001
Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion
This scenario also "appeared" in the German E-Fanzine
Nr. 58 and is to be printed in the German Fanzine Dausend Dode Drolle
The Flying Valian is the name of a ghost ship (or its captain)
haunting the sea between Elhaddar and Huaxal's eastern coast. This
scenario may be used on any journey by ship.
What People Say
"For two days there was no wind. The sea was just like a mirror,
with no breeze to touch the sail. Unable to do anything, we just
drifted along, way too far to the north. We weren't able to move
on this sea without wind, so it seemed.
"But then came this fogóone morning it just was there, lying around
us like a thick, wet cloth, forming a circle around our ship. While
the fog was eerie, it was nothing compared to what we saw that eveningówithout
a sound and moved by invisible forces it came straight towards us.
This was a shock for every brave soul, as anyone could see Alaman in person
was sailing this ship. Its sails hung in shreds and tatters, dark
holes dotted the hull and behind the steering wheel stood a demon from
the very depths of Hell! It didn't need no wind to move and no living
being to run it. Now we were sure we had fallen from Ormut's grace,
as this was the Flying Valian coming right for us!
"As soon as we could move again, we hurried to hide under deck, getting
in some empty caskets and praying for our souls. And when he
finally came aboard, we felt his chilling grip of the grave reaching for
our hearts. Like a madman, he rummaged through our ship, collecting
every single coin, all jewelry, everything magical, and anything of even
the smallest value. For three nights and three days we prayed to
Ormut for the demon to leave at least our souls. When we came back
on deck, the fog was gone and we could not see no ghost ship at all.
And finally wind blew, so we could sail back home.
"But from that very day, I tell you, I will never ever take a trip without
sacrificing, as that is for sure! Without Ormut's help we would never
That is just one of the stories told all the way from Elhaddar to the
Coast States and Huaxal's ports. The Flying Valian, who haunts
the sea between Elhaddar and the eastern Huaxal coast, a ghost captain
always in search for money, gold, magic items, jewelry, and (of course)
souls. The unholy captain commands his Undead crew, controls the
weather with wind and fog, and may even raise his wrecked and possibly
invisible ghost ship to sail through the air at will.
Some decades ago the Valian captain Tacaodano left home for the famous
Gold Coast to the west, Nahuatlan. Old maps had told him of many
small islands harboring hidden pirates' treasures and dangerous cliffs,
where many ships burdened with gold and silver had sunk. Tacaodano's
goal was to retrieve these treasures of unspeakable value and to return
as a rich man to his country.
Besides his crew, Tacaodano had hired the experienced navigator Prean
and his pupil Dama. Prean's task was to guide the ship through the
unknown seas, as Tacaodano was a simple merchant, not a sailor. So
they cruised the sea for days and weeks, but Tacaodano's maps proved to
be wrong: islands didn't exist as they should, star descriptions
were inaccurate, and those islands they found had no treasures at all.
But Tacaodano was mad for his search. He had spent way too much
money and effort on this journey and he was sure to find at least some
treasure and wouldn't turn back with empty hands. So they sailed
further to the north; and in his mania, Tacaodano didn't even realize that
they had run out of food and water. The whole crew distrusted the
captain. One evening, Prean talked to Tacaodano and tried to convince
him to turn back, but the captain didn't move on this point. After
the navigator went to bed, the captain followed him and murdered him while
After the navigator had died, the captain could rule without any contradictions,
and without any care, he went straight on. Dama, the dead navigator's
pupil, despaired. Because of the captain, he couldn't get the ship
onto its proper course to portóbut his guiding principle as a navigator
was to always guide the ship safely back to port. Right now,
he had no chance in doing so, and getting Tacaodano to court for his crimes
was also hopeless.
Soon the captain's stubbornness claimed its victims. As they ran
out of water and no rain fell, it grew too late to get to an island.
Flogging the rebellious sailors didn't bring them back to life. As
Tacaodano and Dama at last stood among the fallen bodies of the crew, they
found they could not die. The captain's greed for gold was
too great, as was the drive of the young navigator to fulfill his principles
and bring the ship to any port. And from that day forward they are
cursed to sail the seas eternally, with a crew of zombies.
Meeting the Flying Valian
Most times, the Flying Valian is accompanied by a long lull, which
disables ships without oars. As the ghost ship doesn't require wind
to move, it can catch up to its victim without problems. The other
option is leaving the victim ship blind in a dense fog, and after some
time the ghost ship appears in the mists. However the Flying Valian
comes closer, anybody seeing the ghost ship for the first time has to make
an RR against Fear or be unable to move for D20 rounds.
Aboard the Ghost Ship
The ghost ship is a large merchant vessel without oars, made in an old
Valian style. It is damaged beyond belief with man-sized holes in
the hull, missing ropes, broken masts, and shredded sails.
The storing room in the middle of the ship is filled with the captain's
loot: jewelry, gems of any size and color, finely made weapons and
cups, armor of any kind, and various magic items lie in the storage room
as they have been tossed inside. (This blocks the passages to the
carpenter's room in the front and the crew's room in the back of the ship.
These rooms may be opened by digging in 3 man-hours.)
The ship consists of three levels: the storage room filled with
the loot, the decks where the zombie crew works and which carries a small
house at the back of the ship (containing the captain's and the navigator's
cabins), and the steering deck above the cabins.
The cabins are almost unfurnished; all textiles are rotten by now.
Chests contain decaying cloth; a logbook doesn't exist. The ink on
top of the captain's table has dried out, and the paper is gone with the
Some zombies are the crew, working all day and night on deck. Without
noticing their surroundings, these decaying figures slowly do their work.
The zombies repair ropes, sails, or other things and do not take notice
of anybody around them, except when they are attacked. They will
fight in self-defense only and do not continue combat when they are not
attacked. When zombies get killed, Tacaodano will replace crew members
the next night and will get the next available humansóthis will be people
from the PC's ship for sure. New crew members won't be killed by
the captain; time will take care of that matter. After their deaths,
the curse will animate them as zombies.
The captain seems to exist only during the night. When the sun sets,
he materializes in his cabin and comes up to the deck. He will take
the steering wheel to guide the ship according to his wishes. His
courses are usually aimless, so at night the ship usually doesn't follow
a specific course. Once Tacaodano finds a victim and gets close enough,
he has himself rowed to the other ship by two zombies using a small boat.
The captain will grab any treasures he can find from the other ship and
toss them in his storage room. If necessary, the captain will "recruit"
new crew members.
Tacaodano doesn't care about other people on his victim ships, unless
except they carry gold, silver, or any other thing of value. Tacaodano
smells his prey, and nothing can be hidden from him, neither gold nor magical
items. When talked to, the captain seldom seems to notice the talker.
When he speaks, he asks for treasure maps or enthuses about great treasures
he will find. He will get violent if anybody tries to hide treasures
(or anything Tacaodano considers valuable) or if someone dares to take
something from Tacaodano's loot in the ghost ship's storage room.
Damage to the ship doesn't matter to him as long as there is no danger
of losing his treasures.
Tacaodano fades out of sight when the sun begins to rise.
Editor's Note: For combat purposes, treat Tacaodano as
an above-average Greater Ghost (level 20, 190 hits, OB 135We/115LBa).
Only removal of the curse can kill him permanently.
Opposite to the captain, the navigator can only be seen during the sunlight
hours. He fades when Tacaodano comes at sunset and returns when the
captain disappears. Dama spends the whole day behind the steering
wheel and tries to set course to the next harbor, preferably Amarija, from
where they originally sailed. If someone talks to him, he will ask
for maps to Amarija or nautical tools. He already has a whole bunch
of maps, but as the captain will change the course at night, Dama won't
get along with even the best equipment. Dama likes to follow other
ships, hoping for guidance; because of this, people think of the
Valian following them. Sometimes he also uses fog to prevent
the other ship from escaping. Dama won't act in an offensive manner
by himself, but will fight back when attacked. Now and then he approaches
other people, shaking them wildly and asking for mapsówithout knowing that
the cold of his very touch may be deadly. Dana keeps talking to himself
("We have to get to Amarija!"; "Now going home.") but will not start a
real conversation (except for asking for maps as mentioned above).
Editor's Note: For combat purposes, treat Dama as an average
Greater Ghost (level 15). Only removal of the curse can kill him
The Ghost Scene
At midnight under full moons, the scene of murder appears again as a creepy
shining vision of what the ship looked like long ago. The scene starts
in the captain's cabin with Tacaodano and Prean sitting late at night at
the table. Prean tries in vain to get the captain to change the course.
Two phantasmal men are sit at the table and drink. One of them
is wearing a robelike gown in plain blue with its collar adorned by some
water lines. Over the heart, the gown shows a ship's steering wheel.
The other man looks like the captain, but his clothes seem more intact.
"We got way too far to the north. We have to return; otherwise,
we will run out of food and water."
The captain's fist crashes onto the table. "Never! Just
two more days to the next islandóa rich island it will be!"
"We should have reached this island three days ago. I think this
map is a fraud. And I tell you: we will return tomorrow or
we all will die from thirst."
With these words, the man in the robes stands and leaves the room.
The captain keeps sitting, staring at the bottle. Finally, he also
gets up and steps over to a small chest beside the desk. He opens
it and takes out a small box, from which he takes a dagger. A cruel
smile shows on his face as he silently steps out the door.
With the dagger in his hand, the captain enters the other cabin and
sneaks over to a figure lying in a bed. He bows over the sleeping
man and, with a quick turn, stabs him. Awakened by the victim's tortured
breathing, a young man comes from the other bed in the room and kneels
down by the dying man. In a flat voice, he utters his last wish:
"Get ... the ship ... home!"
PC's watching the scene cannot interact with it or influence it in any
Breaking the Curse
The curse will be broken when the ship comes to port. Even while
entering port, the ship will break apart; by reaching its goal, it will
be almost sunken.
There are many ways to try to get the ship to port. The captain
may be beaten in combat and thus be banishedófor the rest of the night.
Next night, the captain will reappear and will be quite angry at the previous
night's opponent. Turning magic by Clerics or Paladins can only dispel
the captain for the rest of that particular night. (This is also
true for the navigator, who may be banished for the rest of that day, though
unlike the captain he will not act aggressively towards those who banished
him the next day.) Depending on wind and position, a port may be
reached by disabling one or two ghosts in consecutive rounds.
A better way is to offer a false treasure map to the captain that leads
him to Amarija. At the same time, the navigator also gets a map (this
time a correct one, as he will go for Amarija by his own will).
The reward for the PC's for breaking the curse is determined by what they
can carry from the storage room before the ghost ship falls apart.
Besides gold and jewelry, they may also find magic items in the loot as
well. But the harbor basin is deep enough to prevent diving for the
rest of the loot.
Suggestions for magic items to be found:
Herb Cup: A big, golden cup adorned with pictures of the Valian
fertility goddess Alpanu and other minor deities of curing and tending.
On the top is written "Alpanu, we hail you, as you are life." Another
script a little deeper says, "I trust in you, so I drink." Speaking
the first text as a toast turns any liquid inside the cup into a level
10 universal antidote. The second toast will neutralize any poison
in the cup. Followers of Alpanu (or similar deities) will also get
an additional RR to any poison RR rolls they must make while carrying the
Starlight Dagger: A magical dagger with a faintly glowing
blade (like starlight not blocked by clouds).
Leather Collar Band: 2 cm (3/4") broad and closed by a leather
strip. Carved in the band are symbols depicting fishes, water, and
ships. Once per day, a wearer may breathe water while wearing the
collar when he concentrates on water and diving.
If the PC's cannot or do not want to break the curse, they may escape the
Valian with some luck (and loss of all valuables). After Tacaodano
has lost interest in their ship, he may restore the normal wind and weather
and Dama will follow the ship with a 20% chance.
Tacaodano has a 95% chance to find any valuable items in a 100-m (110-yard)
radius. He can track items stolen from his ship (storage room) for
up to a 50-km (31-mile) radius. He pursues any thieves using his
powers over the weather to prevent the thief from fleeing.
Tacaodano and Dama both may control winds and mists. They have
an 80% chance of summoning mists or lulls that affect a 5 km² (2 mi²)
area. The ghost ship is always in the middle of fog or lull, which
both last 24 hours. Both ghosts have a 30% chance of levitating the
ship and traveling through the air. None of these effects require
power point expenditure. Tacaodano uses the ship's flight for hunting
thieves. Both ghosts use its lull for stopping other ships.
The captain sometimes creates lull and fog just for fun.
The ghost ship moves very slowly in the water, but gains the speed of
a normal warship in the air.