Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Saltmarsh - Session 1

We started a new D&D campaign, with a nautical / pirate theme, loosely based on the Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventure book. The characters are:
  • Bubu, a tabaxi, who in consequence of trying to eat a golden fish that granted wishes was cursed to shrink to half the usual size of a tabaxi. He is a wizard with an unhealthy obsession with fish.
  • Gris, a sea dwarf who has lived for years alone on a deserted island after a shipwreck. He is a cleric of nature, and fey-touched by the faery that helped him survive all alone.
  • Nordak, a dwarf, and captain of the crew. He is a bard, and his instrument of choice is the drum. That works well on a ship, but frequently not so well when trying to perform in a tavern.
  • Shayla, a kalashtar, a human whose body is also inhabited by a spirit from the plane of dreams. She is a cleric of life. Shayla is looking for the Guardian's Tear, which was shed by her god, Helm, when he had to destroy Mystra, the goddess of magic, during the godswar. The tear crystallised into a large elongated gem with strong anti-magic powers, but was lost at sea.
Through various circumstances these four characters have found themselves as minor pirates in the pirate realm Hold of the Sea Princes, in the capitol Monmurg. During a sea battle against a merchant ship (which we played in session zero to explain the sea battle rules I am using), Shayla saved the life of Edgar 'Four-Eyes' Keetes, the scribe of Admiral Arjan Mon. After their return to Monmurg, the players are called into the Sea Princes council chamber and told that they "earned" a special mission. One of them is named captain of the keelboat "Insinkable II", with the other players acting as the crew. They are given orders by the Prince of Monmurg himself, Admiral Arjan Mon, to sail on the next day to a location 80 miles northwest, north of Jetsom Island, and wait there in the vicinity of a small island with a lighthouse for another ship that will bring them a chest of goods to transport back to Monmurg.

However, before they set sail, they are contacted by Four-Eyes, who warns them that the mission is in fact a trap. Admiral Arjan Mon has made a deal with the Krakolich Slarkrethel to provide him with the group as a human sacrifice, so that Slarkrethel would leave the other pirate ships alone. Four-Eyes recommends that instead of sailing northwest, they should sail northeast, remove their pirate flag, and find refuge in the town of Saltmarsh in the kingdom of Keoland, because King Skotti of Keoland is an enemy of the Sea Princes.

So they set sail from Monmurg in a small keelboat. At sea they encounter a group of sahuagin, riding sharks, but manage to defeat them with the help of the ballista on their boat. The sahuagin carry wooden shields with a holy symbol and some writing on it, which suggests that the Guardian Tear of Helm is resting in their underwater city of Akriloth. Sahuagin hate magic, and they worship a lawful evil aspect of Helm as slayer of Mystra and defender against magic.

With the help of a map provided by Four-Eyes, the group makes it to the small fishing town of Saltmarsh. The map also shows a building 7 km further on along the coast, marked with a gold bag, but the group doesn't know whether that indicates a buried treasure or just a business. In Saltmarsh the boat is searched by guards for contraband. Apparently King Skotti of Keoland some time ago introduced a tariff on alcohol and tobacco, and now some people are smuggling these goods.

In Saltmarsh the group rents rooms in The Wicker Goat, a tavern frequented by dwarven miners. There they meet the wizard Keledek, who lives in a nearby tower. They learn that the building on their map is an abandoned mansion, which is said to be haunted, with lights and spooky white ghosts having been seen around it at night. They visit the haunted house and find that the "ghosts" are giant weasels, who apparently have been dunked into white paint. They search the house and find mostly vermin, like swarms of spiders and stirges. They find an upstairs room, with signs of a lantern having been used to send light signals from the window. They also find a man locked in a room, bound and gagged in his underwear. This is Ned Shakeshaft, who tries to persuade the group to escort him back to Saltmarsh immediately. But the group insists on continuing to search the building, so Ned joins them. However, at the next fight (against the stirges in the attic), he tries to backstab Bubu, and then escapes. Having searched all of the upper floors of the house and being seriously wounded, the group retreats back to Saltmarsh. [There they level up to level 2 between sessions.]


I had a lot of fun playing in that adventure. The DM modified it a lot and we couldnt really find what was homebrew and what wasnt. We sadly ended it before the end because the DM work schedule changed and we couldnt get the groupe to play together.
Sounds like a fun setting. You mentioned that you have sea battle rules. What's the difference between a regular battle on land and sea battles?
I’m using the Great GM Complete Guide to Nautical Campaigns for sea battles. It abstracts time and distance, because in regular D&D rules one combat round is just 6 seconds, and two ships chasing each other don’t get very far in 6 seconds.
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