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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 Midgard-Digest Nr. 58 and is to be printed in the German Fanzine Dausend Dode Drolle (DDD).


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 have survived."

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.

Background

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 he slept.

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 wind.

The Crew

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

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.

The Navigator

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 Flying 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 permanently.

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 way.

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).

Rewards

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 cup.
  • 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.

Escaping

If the PC's cannot or do not want to break the curse, they may escape the Flying 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.

NPC's

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.


Robert Wenner.

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