Archives Fellow Travelers Voices of Reason Where am I? Making Fantasy a Reality The Guild Companion Please vote for us once every day by clicking here!

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.

Starting Out

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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!
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 should do.

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 power level).

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 kidnappers.

Other Stuff

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.

Robert Wenner

Where am I? Archives Voices of Reason Fellow Travelers Vote for us on the RPG 100 Sponsored by Mimic Media & Data Systems