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Pearls Beyond Price
A Run out the Guns! Scenario

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell ©2001-3

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

Introduction

Pearls Beyond Price was initially designed as a short scenario to demonstrate Run out the Guns! (RotG) and introduce new players to role-playing. It is a vague sequel to A Fistful of Doubloons and O My Island in the Sun. It could be adapted with minimal effort for use in an ongoing RotG campaign.

Prerequisites

Pearls Beyond Price requires that the gamemaster have access to the main RotG boxed set. It does not require access to Written in Blood or All Hands on Deck. The latter book will be useful to provide a greater variety of characters.

Background

Pearls Beyond Price takes place in the Eastern Caribbean starting on 1st October 1666.  It can be easily be adapted to any year during the mid to late seventeenth century.

Adventure Overview

The officers of the Bonaventure, a pirate ship normally based in Port Royal, Jamaica, have acquired a treasure map. This purports to provide the location of a treasure trove looted from the Spanish town by a now deceased French buccaneer. The treasure has been buried on the island of Bequia, a small isle south of St. Vincent. The Bonaventure has sailed to the Lesser Antilles in preparation for the final leg of their voyage. Bequia is inhabited by a tribe of cannibalistic Carib Indians newly arrived from St. Vincent, and they will violently oppose any landing by Europeans. In addition, the Spanish governor of Hispaniola has sent the notorious Capitan Don Pedro Gravina in the heavily armed pinnance, San Alfonso, to recover the loot and eliminate any pirates en route.

The Tale

The French buccaneer turned privateer, Jean-Luc du Motte, raided the Spanish port of Cumana in 1665, acquiring substantial treasure in the form of pearls (harvested from the nearby oyster beds) as well as gold and silver. As a relatively loyal Frenchman and holder of a letter of marque and reprisal from the French governor of Guadeloupe, he joined the French squadrons in their attempt to capture St. Kitts and St. Nevis from the British in late 1665 and early 1666. However as a buccaneer, he stopped at Bequia in the Grenadines first where he and a small number of his crew buried most of the loot—then they joined the blockade.

Unfortunately for du Motte, his ship was badly damaged during a battle with an English privateer and forced aground on St. Nevis. Du Motte and most of his crew were killed; a few survived to become British prisoners. Among the effects recovered was a map of Bequia with the location of the hoard marked upon it. This map has now come into the possession of the Bonaventure pirates.

Meanwhile the Governor of Hispaniola, having suppressed the revolt in the interior of that island, has commissioned Don Pedro Gravina to hunt down and destroy pirates of any nationality. (If the players have played O My Island in the Sun and succeeded in relieving Santo Domingo of merchant ships and/or the contents of the treasury, then Gravina has particular instructions to exact maximum revenge on the Bonaventure.) Despite the hurricane season, Gravina has already captured or destroyed six pirate vessels and his reputation is growing among freebooters as a deadly enemy to be avoided at all costs. A spy in the pay of the Spanish on St. Kitts has already passed on information concerning the supposed hoard on Bequia. Though Gravina does not know exactly where it is, he intends to sail there in the San Alfonso and search the island. Fortunately for Gravina, he will learn of the presence of the Bonaventure and decide to pursue them in the expectation of letting the pirates find the treasure and then capturing the Bonaventure

In addition, a tribe of cannibalistic Carib Indians from the neighboring larger island of St. Vincent has rowed over to Bequia with the aim of settling. They have found the treasure trove and set a series of traps around it to discomfit any curious visitors. They will react violently to any Europeans landing on Bequia.

 

Joining The Story

If Pearls Beyond Price is being run as a one-off scenario, the players should simply be given their characters, allowed to select a captain from among their number, and told that they are currently in the Lesser Antilles and must purchase more food supplies at one of the English ports.

If Pearls Beyond Price is being run as part of a continuing campaign, the player-characters will already be established and the scenario should be inserted within the story arcs of the campaign at the discretion of the gamemaster.

The Adventure

Event #1—Another Storm

The voyage from Port Royal has taken two weeks, significantly longer than expected, owing to the need to dodge tropical storms. (It is after all the hurricane season.) Unsurprisingly they have encountered only a couple of other ships en route and these kept their distance. At the moment, the Bonaventure has encountered another storm, and the crew will be busy trimming sails and attempting to maintain their eastward course. The ship should survive the storm relatively undamaged but the experience may encourage them to seek landfall at St. Kitts or St. Nevis rather than sailing onward to Antigua.

Event #2—Landfall

The Bonaventure has barely a week's worth of supplies left, enough to reach Bequia but not to return to any safe harbor in the Lesser Antilles, let alone Jamaica. The officers must choose a suitable port and sail the Bonaventure safely there. Food supplies (in terms of salted beef and pork) will be expensive to purchase on either St. Kitts or St. Nevis. Antigua would be much less expensive but St. Johns (the main port of Antigua) is another full day's sailing.

Whichever they choose, once they arrive, the purser (or other PCs) must find local merchants and purchase the needed supplies of beef, pork, vegetables and rum. The Bonaventure needs at least one week's worth of provisions. Three week's worth would be sufficient to get them back to Jamaica. The ship is carrying 1,000 PoE for such purchases. Haggling will be essential to keep the prices down.

Some of the crew will want shore leave. If the officers have told them about the aims of this voyage, it is likely that inebriated sailors will let slip valuable information to interested parties (such as spies in the pay of the Spanish or French). Even if they haven't, the sailors may have their own theories as to why the Captain and the officers have decided to risk the hurricanes. Rumors will spread. If time permits, retrieving some sailors from tavern brawls may make for an interesting interlude. Sailors returning from shore leave will bring news that a Spanish ship, reputedly commanded by Don Gravina from Hispaniola has been hunting buccaneers with much success: one ship taken, another run aground in the past fortnight.

The Bonaventure should spend a day or two at most provisioning before sailing southwards to Bequia, avoiding French-held islands.

Event #3—A Strange Sail

At dawn of the second day, the lookout should spot a distant speck astern that may be identified by really sharp-sighted observers as a ship, possibly on the same course as the Bonaventure. It will not attempt to close (and is too distant anyway) and will be lost to sight within an hour.

This is the San Alfonso under Capitan Don Pedro Gravina. He is content to bide his time and will simply follow the Bonaventure, approaching only as close as is necessary in the early mornings for his lookouts to locate the pirate ship before trimming sails to ensure his ship stays out of Bonaventure's sight.

Aggressive pirates may seek to engage this mysterious sail: this will necessitate a change of course, much tacking and beating to turn the tables on their pursuer. The San Alfonso will have the wind-gage in any such maneuvers; Gravina will be only too happy to bring the encounter to a close. Once it becomes clear that the pirates' quarry is a heavily armed pinnace flying the Spanish flag, the Bonaventure might attempt to flee. A stern chase is a long chase but the San Alfonso is a faster sailer, so if the pirates got too close, they will come within range of the Spanish cannon before nightfall. If the pirates have a longer lead or survive to nightfall, they may attempt to slip away after dark, perhaps by setting out a lit decoy boat while sailing without lights in a different direction.

More cautious pirates will simply try to lose their pursuers by changing course (best done at night). This will appear to work—mainly because Gravina is more interested in reaching Bequia than chasing pirates at this point.

Some may prefer to do nothing. In which case, they will briefly sight the strange sail at dawn on the next two mornings. It will be absent on the third morning and by the noon of that day, the Bonaventure should have sighted Bequia. (Unless their navigation has been atrocious!)

Event #4—Treasure Island

On arriving at Bequia, the pirates must locate a suitable anchorage; the most suitable is Admiralty Bay on the western part of the island. Nevertheless even here, they will have to work their way shoreward with caution as the waters are relatively shallow and conceal a number of sandbars and reefs. The latter could rip the keel off the Bonaventure. A sensible approach will have the depths tested by casting the leads and anchoring the ship some ways from the beach.

A shore party should be landed on the beach using the ship's boats. As the pirates expect significant loot, this party should consist of at least twenty officers and men.  Some NPC officers should remain with the ship and be given orders in case of an emergency arises. The boats may or may not be left at the beach.

According to the map, the treasure is at the "Chateau du Motte" on Mount Pleasant (marked with an X on the map The shore party will easily find one of a number of trails which will enable them to reach the "chateau". Even using the trail, there will be areas where the undergrowth needs to be hacked back. As they hike through the woods, biting insects, occasional snakes, and noisy birds will be encountered. PCs with a knowledge of plants and herbs will be interested to note the copious amounts of arrowroot plants—a remedy against poison used by the natives.

After a couple of hours of walking, the landing party will reach Mount Pleasant. There is no chateau; however, there is a small wooden farmhouse constructed in the French style. This is "Chateau du Motte".

Unfortunately since du Motte's last visit, a tribe of cannibalistic Carib Indians has emigrated from the nearby island of St. Vincent. They have since helped themselves to du Motte's herd of pigs and thoughtfully constructed several pit traps (with sharpened wooden stakes (attack as 1–4 Daggers) at the bottom) on the approaches to the farmhouse. Unobservant pirates may be in for an unlucky fall ...

The farmhouse itself is relatively easy to enter. It is minimally furnished with a couple of chairs, a table, and a cooking pot. (Du Motte had plans to set up a plantation on the island eventually.) Modestly alert pirates will clear the dirt floor and locate a trap door into a roughly hewn cellar, where the treasure has been stashed. Du Motte has also left a talking parrot behind—this rude and offensive bird may provide some comic relief.

The cellar contains six chests.

1. One chest containing several bags of pearls sorted by size and color. About 600 pearls, value 30,000 PoE.  (Weight 80 pounds)

2. Three crates containing silverware—about 100 pieces, value 10,000 PoE. (Weight 100 pounds)

3. One heavy chest containing mixed gold doubloons and gem-studded gold jewelry—about 2,000 doubloons (32,000 PoE) and fifty pieces of jewelry (value 8,000 PoE). (Weight 200 pounds)

Event #5—The Restless Natives

The local cannibals have become aware of the presence of the European interlopers, especially if anyone has discharged a pistol or a musket (to rid the world of that turbulent parrot or when falling foul of a pit trap). Having located the tracks of the pirates (who are extremely unlikely to have made any effort to conceal their passage), the cannibals will prepare an ambush about midway between the "chateau" and the beach, hiding themselves in the trees and the undergrowth.

If the PCs are really alert, they might just spot a native or two hiding in the undergrowth in time to call out a warning and rob the ambuscade of the element of surprise. If not, the first warning will be a volley of poisoned arrows from all around. (If a pirate fails to resist the poison, the effects will depend on how by badly the resistance roll failed: 01–25: 1–10 extra hits; 26–50: 1-10 extra hits and falling unconscious for an hour; 51+: 2–20 extra hits, unconsciousness, and death in an hour). This poison is treatable with arrowroot.

Once the pirates are in disarray following the missile attacks, the bloodthirsty natives, clad only in loincloths, will charge at them, whooping their war cries and brandishing an eclectic assortment of flint knives and rusty cutlasses. Pirates will note the sharpened teeth of both male and female natives and hopefully draw the right conclusion.

(GM Note: The number of natives should be thirty at most. If the landing party is small, reduce the number of natives to be twice the number of pirates.)

Superior technology and firmer discipline should ensure a pirate victory over the cannibals. Once half of the cannibals have been killed, the cannibals will rout—unless they have inflicted equally severe casualties on the pirates. Having routed the cannibals, the pirates would do well to make haste back to their ship—after all, there might be more natives.

In the unlikely event that the pirates lose the fight, PC pirates will awake in a native settlement, securely bound, while the cannibals prepare some of their erstwhile shipmates for participation in a banquet—as main course. The pirates must escape or face a similar fate. Smoke from the cooking fires might be spotted from the Bonaventure -whether this would lead to an exploring expedition and potential rescue is a different matter that depends on the orders given to those who remained behind.

Event #6—The Pirate Hunter

Meanwhile the mystery ship (the San Alfonso) has arrived off Bequia and is making its approach into Admiralty Bay (or wherever the Bonaventure is anchored). It will run up the crimson and gold flag of Spain and ready itself for battle.

As the Bonaventure clears for action, the landing party should be racing back to the ship, then quickly loading the treasure aboard, and organizing themselves to deal with the new threat.

Gravina will have his gun crews target the masts, sails, and rigging of the Bonaventure first to prevent the pirates escaping. He will then concentrate his fire on clearing the Bonaventure's deck of crew. He will have observed the hasty loading of crates aboard the Bonaventure and so be unwilling to sink her (and risk losing the treasure). Once he's satisfied that the pirates are sufficiently weakened, he'll order the San Alfonso in closer to grapple and board.

That's his plan.

The Bonaventure's best opportunities depend on luck, gunnery, and sailing abilities.

Lucky or skilful gunnery might dismast the enemy, allowing the Bonaventure to reposition to achieve raking broadsides upon the San Alfonso, which will reduce the effectiveness of their broadsides once they become maneuverable again.

An alternative option is to risk the reefs and sandbars, tempting the San Alfonso to follow them round.  The Spanish pinnace draws an extra foot, which might make the difference between safety and running aground (with a mast or two coming unstuck or even the keel being ripped off). The Bonaventure could then either run for it or turn and fight while the Spanish were distracted by the need to save their ship.

The final option is an all-out attack, closing and grappling with the San Alfonso with the aim of taking her by a vigorous boarding action. The pirates need to eliminate the crews of the Spanish deck swivel guns before they board—otherwise they'll be shredded by well-aimed grapeshot. In turn, they should use their swivel guns to thin the groups of Spanish marines and sailors ready to repel boarders. The action is likely to ebb and flow across both ships as each side (temporarily) gains the upper hand.

Event #7—Aftermath

The scenario can end in many ways. Hopefully the PCs will be victorious, gaining the buried treasure of Bequia and capturing the San Alfonso. The latter, once repaired, would make a fine warship for any colonial power, and the non-Spanish governors would be willing to buy in the pinnace. Alternatively the pirates could sell the Bonaventure and keep the better-armed San Alfonso as their ship. Equipped with the San Alfonso, the erstwhile Bonaventures would easily overwhelm the average merchant ship.

As for any Spanish prisoners, the easiest option is to maroon them on Bequia and let them and the cannibals fight for supremacy.

The Ships

Bonaventure

The Bonaventure is a 140-ton Barque (see page 14 of Ships Booklet) equipped as follows:

Cannon:

On the gun-deck: seven 6-pounders on each side

Swivel guns: 1 mounted at bow, 1 at midships, 1 at stern (3 per side)

Bow chaser: one 6-pounder

40 sponges and rammers, 50 long powder ladles, 50 priming powder horns, 100 lintstocks, 120 handspikes, 60 vent auger and priming wires

Small Arms:

100 flintlock muskets, 30 matchlock muskets, 10 flintlock pistols

200 pouches for smallshot, 200 small priming powder horns

200 bandoliers having twelve wooden cartridges each

200 bolts of linen for wadding, 300 flints suitable for replacements

Side arms:

2 rapiers for colourguard, 150 cutlasses, 50 boarding pikes, 50 boarding axes, 10 grappling irons

Shot Locker:

600 6-pound shot, 100 bags of grapeshot for 6-pounders

2000 musket shot, 500 pounds of lead for the making of musket shot

Powder Magazine:

24 casks of coarse powder, 2 casks of priming powder

20 quarter-casks of coarse powder, 10 quarter-casks of priming powder for muskets

300 slow-matches for cannon, 300 slow-matches for muskets

Ship's Anchors

One 10-man standard bower anchor secured at bow (+10)

Two 4-man stream/kedge anchors for light anchoring (+0)

Bosun's Stores

500 pounds of fresh laid cordage, 300 pounds of twice laid cordage, 400 pounds of uncut canvas, three mainsails, 300 pounds of replacement blocks, tackles and chainplates

Carpenter's Stores:

2 cask of tar, spare lumber (750 pounds), unworked iron (500 pounds)

nails and spikes for repairs (200 pounds), tallow for hull repair (200 pounds)

Provisions:

20 casks of water (7 days for 140 crew), 2 casks of rum, 1 quarter-cask of French wine

2 bales of ship's biscuit, 2 casks of salted pork, 1 cask of salted beef, 3 casks of salt, 1 cask of pickled cabbage (no fresh fruit or vegetables)

Ship's Boat:

Two 16-man (8-oar) skiffs, lateen rigged, rowing speed of 6 knots (towed aft)

6-man (4-oar) jollyboat, (not rigged), rowing speed of 4 knots

San Alfonso

The San Alfonso is a 300-ton pinnance (see page 1 of Ships Booklet) with the following crew:

Captain Pedro Gravina (Officer stats)

14 commission and warrant officers (Officer stats) —all armed with swords and pistols

165 sailors (use Sailor stats)—all armed with one of cutlass or boarding axe, pistol or musket

50 marines (use Soldier stats)—all armed with cutlass and musket

The ship is armed as follows:

12 12-pounder cannons on each side

2 6-pounder bow chasers plus 2 swivel guns at bows

2 6-pounder stern chasers plus 2 swivel guns at stern

In terms of powder and shot, the key statistics are:

1440 12-pound shot, 400 6-pound shot, 240 bags of grapeshot for 6-pounders, 80 bags of grapeshot for 6-pounders, 3000 musket shot

50 casks of coarse powder, 5 casks of priming powder, 20 quarter-casks of coarse powder

8 quarter-casks of priming powder for muskets

Additionally the San Alfonso has enough food and water to supply its crew for 20 days.

Game Statistics

Bonaventure Crew Statistics

Petty Officers (15)

1-Handed Edged

56

Defensive Bonus

12

1-Handed Firearms

41

Awareness

50

2-Handed Firearms

45

Body Development

66

2-Handed

38

Climbing

50

Ambush

19

First Aid

32

Boxing

11

Rowing

42

Brawling

33

Sailing

57

Cannon

52

Sea Legs

75

Disarm Foe

28

Stalk/Hide

39

Polearm

41

Swim

22

Thrown

40

Initiative

4

Sailors (120)

1-Handed Edged

53

Defensive Bonus

9

1-Handed Firearms

39

Awareness

40

2-Handed Firearms

34

Body Development

62

2-Handed

38

Climbing

55

Ambush

31

First Aid

39

Boxing

28

Rowing

39

Brawling

45

Sailing

59

Cannon

45

Sea Legs

70

Disarm Foe

45

Stalk/Hide

36

Polearm

33

Swim

14

Thrown

34

Initiative

3

Bequia

Cannibal Carib Indians (up to 30)

1-Handed Edged

71

Defensive Bonus

15

1-Handed Firearms

0

Awareness

53

2-Handed Firearms

0

Body Development

76

Missile (Bow)

55

Climbing

51

Ambush

62 (8 ranks)

First Aid

29

Boxing

21

Rowing

45

Brawling

41

Superstition

52

Hunt/Track

40

Sea Legs

20

Disarm Foe

36

Stalk/Hide

62

Polearm (Spear)

56

Swim

60

Thrown (Knife)

55

Initiative

5

Each Carib Indian is armed with two flint knives, a bow and 20 wooden arrows. Six of them have cutlasses acquired from unlucky shipwrecked sailors.

San Alfonso Crew Statistics

Officers (15)

1-Handed Edged

75

Defensive Bonus

6

1-Handed Firearms

74

Awareness

52

2-Handed Firearms

54

Body Development

62

2-Handed

55

Climbing

32

Ambush

37

First Aid

30

Boxing

45

Rowing

33

Brawling

44

Sailing

55

Cannon

47

Sea Legs

49

Disarm Foe

39

Stalk/Hide

32

Polearm

55

Swim

28

Thrown

49

Initiative

2

Sailors (165)

1-Handed Edged

56

Defensive Bonus

9

1-Handed Firearms

40

Awareness

43

2-Handed Firearms

45

Body Development

70

2-Handed

41

Climbing

52

Ambush

34

First Aid

33

Boxing

21

Rowing

43

Brawling

39

Sailing

58

Cannon

44

Sea Legs

70

Disarm Foe

34

Stalk/Hide

39

Polearm

36

Swim

18

Thrown

41

Initiative

3

Soldiers (50 Marines)

1-Handed Edged

68

Defensive Bonus

0

1-Handed Firearms

53

Awareness

48

2-Handed Firearms

68

Body Development

74

2-Handed

43

Climbing

37

Ambush

64

First Aid

30

Boxing

23

Rowing

–30

Brawling

56

Sailing

–30

Cannon

45

Sea Legs

20

Disarm Foe

36

Stalk/Hide

30

Polearm

48

Swim

15

Thrown

58

Initiative

0

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