Pirates Campaign: The Merchant's Daughter
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
In this scenario, the PC's task is to organize a blackmailing operation.
They have already kidnapped someone and now have to find a way to get some
ransom money for their victim. However, money may not be their only
goal—for example, maybe a friend of the party is imprisoned and could be
exchanged for the kidnapped person.
In the beginning of this scenario, the PC's already have their kidnap victim—it
is Madjama, the 17-year-old daughter of the rich merchant Ali Canar.
The PC's know who the girl is and that her father has lots of money.
Madjama is in shock from her capture; in the last few days, she has seen
more action than ever before. She will not resist her kidnappers
as long as she remains unhurt. As the PC's caught Madjama on a journey,
they can easily guess that Madjama will not be missed at home. This
is important—the PC's have time in this scenario. Ali Canar gets
to react only after he learns that his daughter has been kidnapped.
So, the first letter to Ali Canar should be written after all plans are
made, as this will leave him the least time for reactions.
First, the PC's should find a hideout from which to operate. This
may be a run-down house, an inn, a camp in the forest, whatever.
It should have more than one exit and should have an appropriate place
to hide Madjama (who may be bound and/or gagged). Transporting Madjama
to the hideout will not be a problem because in the local Arabic culture
she may wear a veil, she can be disguised in another way, or she can even
be carried along in a sack.
After the hideout is ready, the party must take care of making payment
possible for Ali Canar. Nobody has 5000 gold pieces (or whatever)
just lying around in his house. Offering a good deal on some wares
or a magic artifact may be a good way to make Ali Canar get some money.
This trick is not necessary to complete the blackmail, but raises the chances
of success. It also prevents Ali Canar from making the lame excuse,
"I got not that much money, I need more time!"
The place for exchanging the money should be chosen carefully—find a
place that is easy to watch over but also offers ways to get away (also
when carrying a sack of gold). Pursuers should be easy to detect.
For this reason, a clever group of players will send Ali Canar with the
money from one pub to the next; anybody leaving the third inn after two
minutes has not been there for fun. The final place must have easy
access to a way out, e.g., a stairway to the sewers with a lockable
trapdoor. A nice route would be first passing two or three inns (always
have to ask the barkeeper for something and the barkeeper sends Ali Canar
on). This pub switching should occur at times when only few guests
are at the inns, so possible pursuers are easier to detect. In this
route, Ali Canar should have to pass through a crowded market; this will
help in getting rid of some invisible pursuers, and even bird familiars
would lose Ali Canar when he passes under great tent roofs. Checking
Ali Canar for magical tricks should also be possible in one of the bars.
Note that meeting points are traps if Ali Canar knows where to meet the
kidnappers: in cities, he will have many helpers/guards in that area;
on water or in the forest, he may carry a signal horn and sound an alarm
to call his helpers.
On the letter to Ali Canar: There should be only one or two letters,
the first one including the demands and proof that Madjama indeed has been
caught by the players (e.g., some hair, or Madjama has to write
the letter). The letter should also give a timetable. Letters
like "We got your daughter. Further instructions follow" are fatal,
as they only give Ali Canar time to plan the rescue of his daughter.
Delivery of letters can be done by the little boys which hang around in
almost every city. For a copper coin, they should forget the face
of the sender very fast.
The PC's must protect themselves against magical detection! They
should remove every significant piece of jewelry from Madjama, as any Seer
may find it by peering in his crystal ball. They should drop the
jewelry in a river or give it as a present to a sailor planning to leave
town the next day. Hiring someone to provide protection against scrying
attempts is also recommended, depending on the campaign's power level.
When meeting Ali Canar to get the money, things will show whether the
players have done a good job preparing their blackmail operation.
Last but not least, a secure escape route is important. Maybe Ali
Canar could be sent to bed by a Sleep spell or the route could be
blocked some way. For example, in forests, along come some people
hunting with dogs; in the streets, a cart breaks down and blocks the road;
another possibility for the forest is a fire. When using the sewers,
the party should be the only ones having a boat (if required), and should
be able to block their sewer exit. Placing an anvil on the trapdoor
To avoid guards hidden at the meeting point, try stopping Ali Canar on
his way. To do so, the way Ali Canar will take has to be known.
Maybe a quick thief can steal the ransom from Ali Canar while he goes to
the meeting point. (This is a good idea if the ransom is something
small, say, a magic ring.)
The sewers may be used here, too: While Ali Canar waits with the
sack of gold placed on the sewer, a adventurer in the sewer may cut the
bag and get the gold and escape—be careful with single coins in the sewer!
Information is everything! Most people in town know about Ali
Canar and his wealth. Many people will know or suspect that Ali Canar
does some illegal business. That he loves his only daughter is no
secret in town. Clever players will try to think as Ali Canar would.
This can help in anticipating his actions and taking proper reactions in
advance. If the PC's learn that Ali Canar looks for some adventurers
to look for his daughter, the PC's could even try to get one or more of
them into this group to spy.
Ali Canar's Actions
Ali Canar loves his daughter and will do anything to avoid her being harmed.
He has lots of money and is willing to spend it for his daughter's life
and health, either by paying the blackmailers or by hiring people to free
his daughter by force.
The GM should remember that all actions described in this section may
take place only after Ali Canar knows that his daughter has been
kidnapped. The GM should also consider carefully what actions Ali
Canar takes; he may not have the time, care, or nerves to use all possibilities.
Ali Canar may hire adventurers (the GM should create some NPC's according
to the PC's abilities). These adventurers start looking around in
the city, talking to (and bribing) barkeepers and sailors, looking around
the local scenery, talking to the usual suspects.
In high-powered campaigns, in all cases Ali Canar will use magical help.
He will consult an oracle for general advice and hire a Seer for scrying
attempts. Madjama might be wearing an old, unique ring which can
easily be found by magical means (GM's decision, depending on campaign
Regardless of whether or not he hires adventurers, Ali Canar's guards
will search all inns and taverns in the city for the hiding place.
The PC's should be careful when choosing someone to deliver their demands
or letters. Ali Canar will try to interrogate anybody he deems might
know anything about his daughter. If the messenger leaves Ali Canar's
home after interrogation, Ali Canar will have him followed by guards and/or
hired adventurers in the hope that the messenger will return to the real
sender of the letter.
Ali Canar's next clue is the letter the PC's may send. He will
analyze paper quality, writing, grammar, etc.
When it is time to deliver the demanded ransom, Ali Canar will have
the messenger carrying it followed by someone Invisible, or may
have a spell-caster with a bird familiar spy on the money. If the
place to deposit/trade the money is known in advance, Ali Canar will place
some disguised guards around that place.
At the end of all his chances, Ali Canar may also offer a reward to
anybody returning his daughter or even the heads of her kidnappers.
This is Ali Canar's last resort; he will not take this method until pressed,
because he loves his daughter and won't risk her being harmed. Ali
Canar may choose this method if the demand is unrealistic or he must assume
his daughter is dead.
If the GM so decides, Ali Canar may place a magical time bomb in the
ransom money. This may vary from a disguised sigil which will break
when the money bag is opened to some easy-to-track item included with the
loot, which may allow a spell-user to Teleport the ransom back to
Ali Canar. The intensity of such vengeance depends upon the damage
done to Ali Canar; he may well leave the loot to the kidnappers if they
return Madjama unhurt and do not charge too much. In this case, Ali
Canar won't pursue the kidnappers, though if are ever arrested he will
have them flogged (and maybe worse). However, if Madjama is badly
hurt or even killed, Ali Canar will swear eternal revenge and will neither
rest nor shave his beard until he has painfully killed the last of her
If the GM believes that this adventure is too easy for the PC's, he may
increase the difficulty by playing Madjama appropriately. For instance,
she may not want to cooperate. She could refuse to write a letter
to her father, deny being able to write at all, deny having characteristic
jewelry to send as proof of her being kidnapped, try to send a secret messages
in the letter, etc. She may also actively work to escape from her
bonds, scream for help, get a weapon of some sort—in short terms, she might
do everything the PC's would do in her place. Madjama is supposed
to be a level-zero no-profession without any special skills, abilities,
or spell lists, but the GM could vary her level and profession also.
Usually, this adventure is difficult enough without Madjama being more
than a frightened little girl, and even those problems may lead to the
PC's just getting away with there bare lives.