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Pirates Campaign: Pirates' Island
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 describes a small island far away from usual trade routes.  It is the secret base of a pirate gang.  The scenario is the beginning of the end of the Pirates Campaign, but may also be used as a stand-alone adventure.

Kharadat is a small island far away from the usual trading routes and thus an ideal hiding place for the "Old" and his pirate gang.  Kharadat's area is about 200 km² (78 mi²) with a maximum width of 30 km (19 mi).  In addition to fishing, some farms scattered all over the island provide enough food for some hundred people.  The only village on Kharadat is a nameless collection of huts at the port, the only cove with both a beach and water deep enough for ships.  The other parts of the island's coastline cannot be used for ports because they sport dangerous cliffs.  On top of the highest cliff rests the Old Villa, the Old's headquarters.  Other pirate captains also live here during their visits.

History of the Island

Nine hundred years ago, the island had other inhabitants.  Darain, a Valian mage, built the villa and lived here with his family and some servants.  He chose to live in this place instead of within a great city so he would be undisturbed in his magical experiments.

Darain's main field of research was summoning, and finally he tried to control a very powerful demon lord called Zurul.  This demon lord was very upset about this involuntary summons to the human sphere, and his angry outburst was brief but impressive.  He killed all humans on the island and finally struck the island and made it break apart.  By this blow the cliff was formed and the rocks in the water still make it essentially impossible for ships to get close to the island from the north.

Ten years ago, the Old, a pirate from Eschar, came upon the island while sailing around a storm.  He decided to use it as a hiding place and named it Kharadat.  He moved to the Old Villa, repaired and replaced the house where necessary, and founded the village at the port and the farms.  The farms are run by former oar-slaves.  Most people in the village are also former slaves.  The slaves lead a relatively secure life now, without heavy work at the oars, so most of them view living on Kharadat as a reward.

The Village

About 100 people (former slaves) live in the nameless village at the harbor.  Most of the time, some 10 to 60 pirates, depending on the number of ships in the port, also have quarters there.  Most of the villagers work as fishermen and will go fishing with their small boats at night.  The village also has a woodworker, four pubs, a healer, and another shop selling various goods like tools.  These shops are almost only for pirates; the normal villagers do not have any money.

The houses in the village are mostly made of stone and wood.  A stone foundation and wall of 30 to 100 cm (1 to 3 feet) in height supports the upper part of the house, which is made from wood.  The roofs are generally made from thatch.  The village's biggest house is a storehouse near the port where stolen wares are stored up under the 4-m (13') high ceiling.  Other houses do not have more than the ground floor and the space under the roof is used as sleeping room.

Like the pirates, the villagers are a motley group with people from Eschar, the Coast States, Nahuatlan, and even dark-skinned people from the Ikenga jungles.  Almost all speak Scharidisch, the language from Eschar; some speak New-Valinga, which is common in the Coast States.

Fearing a revolt by the villagers, the Old forbids many things.  No one except his guards may carry a weapon (this is also true for visiting pirates, as their weapons might be stolen when they are drunk).  The guards have no mercy and will punish any disobedience without consideration of the situation.  For the villagers, this is accompanied by the constant fear of being forced back to the oars again one day, or of being imprisoned in the Old Villa and left to rot in its dungeon.  Tools made from iron also attract the suspicion of the guards, so in most cases the villagers use tools made from wood, bone, stone, or bronze.  Use of magic in any form is prohibited and may very well be punished by death.

The Farms

Four farms support the fishermen in delivering food to the Old Villa.  Each farm is run by a big family of 6 to 10 persons (if the family is too small, other people from the village are assigned to the farm).  The farmers have to work on the fields as well as care for pigs and sheep.

Running a farm is a hard job, as the Old likes meat more than fish.  Crop failures or lost animals are interpreted as betrayals subject to cruel punishment.

The Old Villa

Now dangerously close to the sheer cliffs, the Old Villa on the highest point of the island looks somewhat like a stronghold, and in fact it is a stronghold.  Heavy doors block the entrances, and the guards in the villa are well armed.  All carry light crossbows, clubs, and shortswords, and wear leather armor (AT 10) in combat.  The windows are blocked by wooden bars and may be secured by additional boards, which are placed in the window and leave only a small embrasure.  The house itself is made from heavy stones, the windows at the ground floor are 50 cm (20") broad and 70 cm (27.5") high, in the first level only 50 cm times 50 cm.  In the first level's windows, fragile wooden adornments form grilles.

Ground Floor

Map of the ground floor

1.  Main Entrance:  Three steps lead to the mighty double doors with a heavy bronze door knocker.  Over the door is engraved the year when the house was built, 1537, but it is hard to decipher.  During the daytime, two guards wait in front of the door, most times sitting on the stairs.

2.  Garden:  From the main entrance, visitors pass into the garden, which once formed the center of the house.  Nowadays it is unkempt and weeds grow everywhere.  It is no longer used, as it seems quite dangerous to step too close to the edge.  Three steps lead down to the staircase.  In the wall to the right are two doors.

3.  Corridor:  This corridor connects the garden and the kitchen.  Heavy boards lean on the wall besides the windows.  They are used to block the windows at night (or when defending the villa).  The boards are hung on iron hooks in the wall and secured by bolts at the lower ends.  Their main purpose is to prevent monkeys or birds from entering and maybe stealing food.  Four doors lead on from here; at the door to the garden, four steps are required to reach the higher garden level.

4.  Kitchen:  During daytime, two women work here.  A big chimney at the back wall is open and can be used from the room behind as well.  On tables are various cooking tools, bowls, and pots.  The cupboards and closets hold dishes and some more tools.  The dishes are made from wood; valuable dishes are stored on the first floor.  A big iron cauldron hangs in the chimney.  A heavy door secured by a strong bolt leads outside; three other doors lead to other rooms.

5.  Washhouse:  Some big tubs fill the room and dirty clothes lie in a corner.  On a shelf rest some pieces of soap and brushes.  The chimney from the kitchen can also be used from this room.

6.  Workshop:  This room is a workshop with a workbench.  Most tools are for woodworking.  New bolts for the guards' crossbows are made here.  Nobody works here regularly.

7.  Storeroom:  This room without windows is the coolest room on ground floor and thus it is used as the storeroom.  On the floor stand bags of flour and grain; salt meat and sausages hang from the ceiling.  Two beer barrels rest in a corner.  Stairs lead down to another storeroom (room 37) and a door leads to the kitchen.

8.  Quarters:  In this former servant's room now lives Sansul, the guard boss.  A bed stands in a corner, beside a desk, and a closet is next to the door.  On a wooden stand rests Sansul's adorned leather armor.  The closet contains various clothes from Eschar.  On the desk stand ink, parchment, and a quill.  Sansul has some problems with reading and writing, but he would never admit this.  A chest under the bed contains another pot of ink with a ruby and a golden ring hidden inside.

9.  Latrine:  A simple board and a hole leading down to a grotto (room 35).  This grotto is flushed by the flood tide in certain intervals, so manual clearing is not necessary.

10.  Hall:  The big room was the former feasting hall for great ceremonies.  Today it is the common room for the guards, who spend their time gambling and/or drinking.  Banks stand at three tables and decorative weapons hang on the walls.

11.  Old Shrine:  This now half-open but inaccessible room was the shrine of the house and could be entered via a door from the garden.  After the destruction of the house, the garden part broke away and nobody has entered the shrine since.  The shrine was dedicated to Notuns, the Valian sea-god, which can be discovered by clearing the altar from dirt, weeds, and broken stones.

12.  Unused Space:  As this part of the house is exposed to the elements and also doesn't seem very stable, this room is not used anymore.  The only exception to this is that it is sometimes used by guards from room 14 who don't want to walk over to the latrine at night.  Darain used the room to keep some animals in cages for his experiments; some pieces of iron bars may still be found in the rubbish.

13.  Staircase:  Stairs lead up and down here.  Four steps lead to the garden.  The corridor ends at two doors.  Next to the stairs is a hidden secret door (–50 to Locate Secret Opening).  It is not secured or trapped and may be opened by lifting some stones.  From the other side, there is a door handle and no concealment.  Behind the secret door a small spiral staircase leads down.  It seems as though the pirates have not yet found the secret door, as the air is stale and thick dust covers everything.  The stairs end at the corridor (room 29) which leads to the secret lab (room 30).  The door leading outside the villa is heavy and can be bolted from the inside.

14–15.  Quarters:  These big rooms are the guards' quarters.  Some beds line the walls, each with a chest containing the guards' private possessions (cards, dice, weapons, money, jewelry, etc.).  Rooms 14 and 15 contain 15 and 12 beds, respectively, although at present there are only 20 guards.  As some guards may work at night, at almost any time some guards will be sleeping here.  Room 14 was originally Darain's training room.

16.  Equipment Room:  This room is used to store weapons (clubs, shortswords, crossbows, and bolts) and armor (rigid leather armor) for the guards.  Whetstones, rags, and other tools for weapon and armor care are also stored here.

17.  Shed:  The slowly rotting shed is not used by the pirates.  It was formerly a workshop; some of Darain's servants once lived here.

First Floor

Usually there are no guards on the first floor; it is reserved for such important persons as pirate captains.  Exception to this are servants, emergencies, or an order to come up.

First level map

18.  Staircase:  The first-level staircase is as unadorned as the ground level's staircase.  From up here the garden can be watched and the Old uses this place for meeting people he doesn't trust.  In that case, some guards with crossbows will stand in this room, aiming at the visitors and ordered to shoot at the first sign of aggression.

19.  Rubbish:  A small, unused room littered with rubbish and stones.  A skilled climber could be able to get onto the roof of the lower house part from here.

20.  Corridor:  This corridor is adorned with carpets on floor and walls showing great sea battles.  The doors are finely carved with great skill, showing intricate patterns.  Usually in this corridor always waits a guard—not functioning as a guard, but as a servant.

21–22.  Guests' Quarters:  In these rooms reside such important guests as pirate captains and other friends of the Old.  The rooms are decorated as is usual in Eschar with a great bed, colored lamps hanging from the ceiling, a coal basin, and a water pipe to complete the inventory.  Lockable chests and cupboards offer the opportunity to store valuables.  Many elegant clothes hang in the closet.  Darian used the room for one of his children.

23.  Corridor:  This narrow corridor connects two rooms to the latrine (room 24).

24.  Latrine:  This room is connected to the ground-floor latrine (room 9) by a pipe.  Periodically, a guard flushes the pipes with fresh water.  A small dish of fragrant herbs is placed here to get rid of any bad smells.

25.  Old's Quarters:  This room is the most splendid room in the house.  The Old has collected the best pieces of his pirate career from years of piracy.  The floor is covered by deep, soft carpets, some with gold threads sewn into them.  All chests, cupboards, shelves, and chairs are made by the most skilled woodworkers and show intricate patterns.  Lamps of pure gold and crystal shine multicolored light around the room.  The finely carved wood at the windows is fragile and looks as though it could break even from the faintest draft of air.  Pillows made from fine silk lie on the big bed and the floor.  A luxurious water pipe rests next to a coal bowl made from silver and a tobacco case set with diamonds.  In the patterns on the room's door is imbedded a rune with a Magic Lock spell (as Magic Lock on the "Unbarring Ways" list except for permanent duration).  Thus, the door will only open if someone says, loudly, "Come in!"  Another rune on the water pipe will Teleport the Old away from trouble.  Both runes are hidden in the intricate patterns and can only be found with a Very Hard (–20) Perception roll.  A chest contains a double bottom hiding a treasure map.  As this secret compartment is very thin (just the height of a parchment), it is very difficult to find (Absurd, –70).

26–27.  Guest Quarters:  As rooms 21–22.

Cellar

The cellar consists of four independent parts.  The secret lab is unknown to the pirates.  The grotto system can be accessed from the latrine and the "normal" cellar rooms.

Cellar map

28.  Corridor:  In the corridor are some torch holders attached to the walls, but they are empty as the cellar is not often used.  A door and a corridor lead onwards.  A secret door, which is known to only some guards (they keep this secret to have a escape tunnel in case of a revolt from the villagers) leads into the grotto system.  The secret door is quite easy to detect with a fair light source (Medium, +0).

29.  Secret Corridor:  Behind the secret door some steps lead down and after some meters the sea can be heard.  The tunnel leads to room 12 in the grottoes.

30.  Secret Laboratory:  In this secret lab, Darain made his last summoning.  The shelves in this musty room contain rotten books and parchments; bowls with strange contents rest on the table.  On the floor some strange circle patterns and other symbols are drawn with colored chalk (protection circles of various kinds).  Nothing useful can be found here, as most things are rotten by now.  In the floor under the table is a trapdoor, which is barred from the other side.

31.  Torture Chamber:  Next to the stairs is the torture chamber.  The walls are lined with various mean-looking pliers, pointed irons, thumb screws, and other tools.  The main part of the room is used by a bank for the delinquent.  Here the pirates try to make captured rich-looking people speak, and most times the sight of the tools is enough.  This room is the villagers' main horror, as nobody will pay ransom for them, so their lives are worth nothing to the pirates.

32.  Corridor:  This narrow corridor leads to four cells.  It looks newer than the other rooms, and in fact the pirates made this corridor and the cells.  Four thick doors with small barred windows lead to the cells.

33.  Cells:  Each cell contains a bag of straw to sleep on, some rotting straw to cover the floor, and a mug of water.  Hostages and sometimes villagers are imprisoned here away from any sunlight to demoralize them.  A villager in the last cell might help them.  He was imprisoned for a small theft and now has not seen the sun for almost one year.  From the lonely time in complete darkness, he is nearly blind and insane, and keeps talking to himself, sometimes screaming for freedom.

34.  Secret Escape Tunnel:  This tunnel was created by Darain long ago.  It leads several steps down and far under the sea, finding its end below a small island.  When Darain built the tunnel, it didn't end below an island, but inside a cave in a forest.  The tunnel enters the grottoes at Room 12.

35.  Latrine Grotto:  This cavern (2.5 m [8'] radius) has a drain of about half a meter (20") leading to the sea, but its opening is normally over the water surface and water only flushes the cavern floor at flood tides to wash away the dirt with the returning water.  PC's may climb into the cavern from the sea (room 10).  There is no unusual danger of drowning even when the water fills the cave, as the ceiling is high enough.  It is essentially impossible to enter the Old Villa through the latrine, as the shaft is 7 m (23') long and only 30 cm (12") wide.

36.  Storeroom:  This second room is also used to store food, especially those foods that could go bad in the heat as this room is cooler than the ground floor's storeroom.  A locked door leads to the wine cellar (37), the stairs lead to the upper storeroom (7).

37.  Wine Cellar:  In this room, the Old stores his valuable wines; only the Old himself and Sansul, captain of the guard, have a key to the door.  Along the wall rest barrels and shelves filled with bottles of various whiskeys, grog, and other highly alcoholic drinks.

The Grotto System Under the Cliff

Under the cliff and the sea, some small tunnels form a natural labyrinth, which was formed long before the demon lord Zurul created the cliff.  It was used and adopted by Darain but is still unknown to the pirates.  Some of the tiny islands in front of the cliff also offer entrance to the grotto system.  These islands may be reached by swimming or using a small boat, although with the danger of being spotted from the Old Villa.

Walls, floor, and ceiling in the grotto system are natural, with virtually no signs of artificial work.  Fungi and seaweeds grow on the walls close to sea entrances.  Normally, the ceiling is 1.5 m (5') high.


Map of the grotto system

1.  Island with Entrance:  Behind some bushes an entrance to the grotto system is hidden.  After entering a cave, a tunnel leads on below sea level, finally reaching a small grotto and a tunnel running parallel to the cliff.

2.  Door at Tunnel's End:  This carefully sealed door leads to nowhere except the sea floor.  It was originally made by Darain as a fake escape route leading to a cliff; a pursuer breaking through the door would have fallen down the cliff.  Nowadays, this trap is even more deadly—if anybody opens it (with force, as it is barred/locked), water will flow in, flushing the whole labyrinth in a very short time.  The right exit is at Room 3.

3. Trapdoor in the Ceiling:  Finding this hidden trapdoor requires a successful Very Hard (–20) Perception roll, though the difficulty drops to Medium (+0) if PC's explicitly search the ceiling.  The trapdoor is not secured or locked and may be opened without any problems.  It leads to a grotto, where a tunnel leads to the final exit on another island.

4. Island with Dead End:  The grotto below this island is a dead end.

5.  Entrance:  On this slightly larger island, a shaft leads down (10 m [33']) to a grotto that connects to the labyrinth.

6–7.  Grottoes:  These grottoes (7 m [23'] and 10 m [33'] in diameter) are empty.

8.  Fork:  Here the floor is quite slippery, as water drips from the ceiling and forms puddles on the floor.

9.  Entrance:  This island has a specially hidden entrance to the grotto system.  A hollow piece of rock overlaps some water; only by diving under the rock can the entrance be discovered.  Inside the rock there is a shaft (over the surface) leading downwards.

10.  Drain:  This 1-m (3'3") diameter artificial drain carries the wastewater away from Room 35 in the cellars.

11.  Former Cellar:  This artificially made room was once planned by Darain to be used as an escape tunnel, but he found the other tunnel and gave up this room.  It has no connection to the Old Villa.

12. Secret Door to the Cellars:  Coming from the labyrinth, this door is not concealed, so after some steps PC's will reach the door.  There is a 20% chance of hearing screams from the prisoner in the last cell; this may indicate their location to the PC's.  The door may be opened from this side, but there is a 10% chance of guards being in the floor.  This chance may be higher, if many or important prisoners are kept in the cells or the torture chamber.

13.  Storage Grotto:  This storage room is filled with chests and large boxes.  Darain used them to store components for magical experiments.  Organic materials rotted long ago, but the PC's may find some magical items here (GM decision).  From an almost collapsed corridor to Room 15 the garbage may be removed in 2 man-hours.

14.  Cave:  This cave is accessible from the sea, but nevertheless it is a dead-end.  PC's may get the idea to look for further entrances.

15.  Second Lab:  This was Darain's second lab for particularly risky experiments (such as his last, the one that failed in Cellar Room 30).  As in the cellar lab, many (protection) circles and runes are drawn on the floor, while books and scrolls rot on the shelves.  The room is still guarded by a demon that will attack everybody except Darain.  It takes the demon 5 rounds to materialize.  It looks like a 2-m (6'7") high insect-like beast with six arms (it may use only two of them in combat).  The demon will follow fleeing people and attack any living beings.

16.  Ladder:  A ladder leads up to the trapdoor under the table in the other lab in the cellar (Room 30).  The trapdoor may only be opened from below, as the floor square must be pushed aside, which is not possible from above.

NPC's

The Old:  Former pirate captain who has retired to this island and now heads a pirate gang.  He commands five ships (or better, commands their captains) and has his spies in various ports.  Thus, he is a very powerful enemy.  He is about 45 years old with black hair (somewhat bald at the forehead) and a beard.  He comes from Eschar and has decorated the Old Villa in styles from home.

Sansul:  Captain of the watch, a fighter from Eschar who has been working for the Old for 12 years.  He is absolute loyal to the Old and very content with his own position.  In his mind, this job is much less dangerous than sailing for prey and risking his life daily.  Sansul is dutiful and the other guards like him, as he still is "one of them."  He wears the same clothes and drinks with them, and although all obey his orders, nobody feels oppressed.

Ali Shabal:  The village's carpenter has a higher rank than the other villagers, as his experiences in woodworking and marine carpentry are valuable to the pirates, as he might best repair their ships.  The Old has intimidated him to ensure his loyalty.  Ali Shabal's wife Abala wears a magic collar around her neck.  The Old does not know its real purpose (it will increase the wearer's strength when the wearer says, "Give me power!"), but he has told Ali Shabal that he can close the ring with a simple command and make Abala suffocate.  Ali Shabal believes this, and thus will never (openly) conspire against the pirates.

Haxuptli:  A native of Nahuatlan who runs one of the farms.  His three sons take care of the pigs, while Haxuptli and his wife work with two helpers in the fields.  One year ago, a young pig ran away and the Old punished the poor boy, Haxuptli's youngest son, very cruelly.  The Old wanted to kill the boy; because of the parents' pleas, he had the boy "only" whipped.  The boy survived this punishment after a week-long fight against death.  Since that day, Haxuptli has hated the Old, but has not found any chance for revenge.  He has hidden a dagger in his hut's floor.

Jussuf:  The barkeeper from the biggest tavern in the village, which has no name shown outside (most people here are not able to read anyway), it is just called Jussuf's.  This inn is meeting point for many sailors exchanging messages to other pirates by the help of Jussuf.  By this way, he always knows the latest gossip.  Should no guest want to tell a new story, Jussuf will tell one from his great repertoire.  Jussuf is quite content with his life; he almost always has guests and pirates and villagers as well respect him.  In case of conflict, he is not too stupid to chose his side early, but he will to see who will win and support that party.
 
Rolemaster NPC data
Name  Lvl Hits AT (DB) Sh Gr Melee OB Missile OB Mov
The Old  15 150 1 (15) N N 115sc, 80da 80da 10
Sansul  9 88 10 (10) N N 90ss, 60da 55lcb 15
Guards  3 45 10 (5) N N 60ss, 40cl 50lcb 5
Type  Lvl Base Rate Max pace / MN Bonus Speed MS/AQ Size / Crit Hits AT (DB) Attacks
Guardian demon 6H 70 FSpt / 10 MF / FA L / II 135F 4 (45) 100We / 60LBa / Spells
Usually the Old doesn't wear armor. When he has to fight he will wear a +10 leather vest (AT 5).  The guards are Common Men fighters.
The demon may use 25 PP daily for spells from the "Insect Mastery" list (Druid Base, RC5).

Adventures

The PC's may come to Kharadat for many reasons, including personal revenge (as in the Pirates Campaign), hope for treasures in the Old Villa, to free a prisoner from the pirates' cells, or on a quest for magical artifacts from Darain's old lab.  In all these cases, the PC's have to be very careful, as the Old will never be their friend.  (Other cases might make him more favorably disposed to the PC's.)

In the village and the farms, the PC's might find help.  If they have a good plan to end the Old's oppression of the island, they might find some fighters (e.g., Haxuptli) for a revolt against the pirates.  In such a scenario, the PC's need to gain the people's trust (maybe by saving a villager from his death penalty).  Then the time for the revolt has to be chosen; no ships should be in port (to keep the number of enemies low), and a celebration would also be helpful as some guards may be drunk.

If the PC's just want to get a special item (e.g., the treasure map from the Old's chest), or if they want to take revenge, entering the Old Villa via the grotto system is easier.  On their way through the lab, they may find other "help," because the demon can be drawn up the stairs by fleeing players to attack the guards.

These actions may also be combined:  in the chaos caused by the revolt, the PC's enter the villa via the labyrinth, kill their old enemy, and steal the treasure map.


Robert Wenner.

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