Vanthus Vanderboren is the son of Verrick and Larissa Vanderboren, and the older brother of Lavinia. He is ruthless and greedy, seeking to control Calinmport’s sea trade. He was fundamental in forming the fledgling criminal organization known as “The Lotus Flowers.” He has been plotting and scheming for quite some time, slowly gaining more and more control of the day to day business in Farshore, his family’s trading post on the Isle of Albion.
Vanthus set his plan into motion with the murder of his parents. He hired Soller Vark to assassinate them, making the murder look like a common mugging in a back alley. With his parents dead, he inherited half of the Vanderboren holdings. The other half went to his younger sister, Lavinia. Vanthus hired the Lotus Flowers to deal with Lavinia, as well. Her ship, the Blue Nixie, was sabotaged with crates of Alchemist Fire which were rigged to explode as she set sail in the Calimport Bay. With her gone, all assests of the Vanderboren estate fell to Vanthus.
Vanthus is now focused on bolstering the resources of Farshore. He has the business of many pirate crews and the small colony has blossomed. It is perched on the edge of the known world, the last stop before the endless expanse of the Isle of Dread. It is a hub of trade, a bastion of civilization in a realm haunted by piracy, disease, violent weather, and monsters.
His family vault continues to fill and soon he will have enough resources to move on to the next step of his plan. For now, he bides his time, praying to Demogorgon for wisdom and inspiration.
Many years ago, Maztica princes sailed to the Isle and claimed it as their own. They cleared vast stretches of the jungle to settle the area. The land was fertile and bounteous, perfect for farming. The settlers founded a large city on the Central Plateau naming it Thanaclan. For 300 years, the people of the Isle prospered.
Then came the Savage Tide.
Myth talks of a terrible earthquake, of a time when the earth opened and lit the skies on fire. A time when the god’s wrath cast down their ancestors from the lofty peaks. After that faithful day, the Thanclan Empire was no more. All that remained were ruins of a once great- city and a scattering of tribes destined to endure disease, famine, and monstrous predators. The people proudly point to the fact that they have survived, despite the trials there gods have placed before them. Their ancestors must have angered them greatly indeed and as a result, the people of the Seven Villages regard the ancient ruins, particularly the central plateau of the isle, as taboo. It is unwise to tread upon ground cursed by the gods. And so the Great Wall was built.
This is the Myth of the Isle of Dread.
The truth of what brought down the ancient empire is much different. In the weeks before the fall, their civilization was at the height of its glory. Its people had settled a wild frontier and constructed an incredible city atop the central plateau. This was Thanaclan. And yet the people of Thanaclan grew complacent, even decadent. When a new threat arose from the flooded tunnels below their isle, they were ill prepared to defend themselves.
The people did not realize that the Isle was inhabitated by native creatures known as Kopru, a degenerate race of heat-loving amphibians. As the Olman finished construction of a great temple to honor their gods, the koprus of the islands depths took action. Their prayers to the Prince of Demons were answered with a vile plot. For four decades, the koprus toiled in their subterranean lairs, cultivating and nurturing the largest black pearl the world had ever seen. Birthed from a fiendish giant oyster and poisoned with malign magic and liquid madness harvested from the ruined aboleth city, the koprus placed this first shadow pearl where the people of Thanaclan would find it.
Before long the irresistible beauty of the shadow pearl was ensconced within the great temple, and its fell influence began to surface. The religious leaders of Thanaclan grew wrathful and cruel, and powerful storms began to lash the island. At the height of a great typhoon, one of Thanaclans leaders woke from his fugue and realized what evil had come to Thanaclan.
He came to the chamber of the Great One, where the shadow pearl was kept on display, and smashed it to fragments to break its curse forever. Yet this act only sealed the empire’s doom. As the pearl cracked, it unleashed the first and greatest savage tide. Not only did the tide transform many of Thanaclans citizens, it also tore holes in reality between the Prime, Elemental Plane of Water, and the Abyss.
Legions of monsters assaulted the empire. The land itself rebelled. Earthquakes shook the isle, volcanoes exploded, and under the streets of Thanaclan burst massive geysers that brought scalding death. Many perished in that first night, and in a matter of months the kingdom of Thanaclan had all but vanished from the world, replaced by a prehistoric land destined to become the Isle of Dread.
Smee started his career as a smuggler. He slowly became known for an uncanny knack of finding items that were otherwise impossible to find. This is what brought Smee into contact with Solomon in the hope that the odd little man could help find the Ring of Wishes. When Smee joined Solomon’s crew, he was assigned to manage and organize the Sea Dogs. Although Smee puts on an act that he is clumsy and awkward, he is a cruel and wicked man, happliy carrying out orders for the Captain. Smee is a man who loves violence. He has made the Sea Dogs into a group of ruthless soldiers.
Smee plotted his mutiny carefully, biding his time until he could betray Solomon once and for all. After all, Smee has known the location of the Ring of Wishes for quite some time. The odd little man plans to take the Ring for himself, wishing for an item that will allow him to become god-like. With such a device in his possession, he will set himself up as the Hurricane King, master of pirates.
Smee entered into an agreement with Vanthus Vanderboren shortly after the Lucille arrived in Calimport. With the help of Vanthus’s criminal organization known as The Lotus Flowers, Smee directed Solomon to the Isle of Dread. When the Lucille set sail, the trap was set. However, Smee’s only difficulty was the hiring on of several mercenaries by Solomon to act as a Deck Crew. Smee would have to figure out how to bring them into his plan of mutiny, or eliminate them before coming to the island.
Vanthus gave Smee as the resources needed to carry out his plans. Smee believes that Solomon is dead, and his plan is in full swing. He is helping Vanthus to deal with the Crimson Fleet, a band of Fire Giant pirates from Ironslag flying the flag of Duke Zalto. Once the deal is complete, Smee will be paid with enough trade bars to retire comfortably to Waterdeep and begin to set himself up as the Hurrican King.
Active Characters: Machavelli, Tia, Daehir, Matrim, Ragnir, Quarie
Having made good their escape from the Drow, the crew of the Black Drake turned their eyes North to the Vault. As they passed over the Southern shore, they noticed two ships there and several pirates (likely under Smee’s command) setting up a base camp. Ragnir decided not to engage, and sailed directly for the Vault.
Arriving at the Vault, they discovered that it was an ancient ruined stepped pyramid, likely used as a temple of some kind before it was converted into storage for the Vanderboren family. They saw that two ships were docked on the nearby river, and men were carrying crates into the Vault. Seadog guards were nearby, indicating further involvement by Smee. They also spied a railroad track leading away from the Vault in the general direction of the Northeast.
After a vote, the crew decided to find a suitable place to set down within the river, far enough away to avoid detection. They awaited until after dark, and returned to the Vault.
They used the rings to gain entry, finding a second door that required use of a ring as a key as well. Entering the third room, they discovered that it was an apparent dead end.
As they gathered in this third room to discuss their options, they were surprised to see several dark cloaked figures enter the room and begin flying around like birds of prey.
The crew put up a good fight against the swarm of Vampires, but without coordinated efforts, the creatures were too powerful for them. The crew began to fall, one by one, until only Quarie, the Goliath, remained.
Ragnir watched as his crew dropped like flies before him. He was powerless to save them. Before he could act, he was set on by a trio of vampires. They tore his throat out, and his life seeped away. Ragnir was dead.
Quarie ran. She ran headlong into the far wall, and bumped into the pillar there. With a screech of stone on stone, the pillar moved, opening a doorway into the next room. She ducked inside, finding a room stacked floor to ceiling with crates. In the center of the room was a stone statue, depicting the Vanderboren patriarch.
The Vampires continued to focus on the crew out in the other room. Most of them were weak or dying. They were easy prey. Quarie climbed up one of the pile and knocked one of the crates down, revealing Gold Trade bars, She knocked a second down, revealing a crate of the same.
Ragnir’s eyes flew open. He gasped, returning to life. He felt strange. He rose to his feet, realizing that he was now undead. He was a vampire. He moved quickly, pulling the fallen Matrim to the other room with Quarie.
The Goliath was busy dumping over crates, each one dumping out more and more golden trade bars. Every crate, it seemed, was full of them.
Ragnir reached down to his medallion he had found earlier. It was marked, he knew, with the symbol of Demogorgon. He placed his now cold flesh on the medallion, and willed it to work. He reached out within his mind, a whisper of help to the Prince of Madness.
Suddenly the sky was black and full of demons, The air was choked with smoke. The ground was jagged with cracked stone. The crew were all there, and Ragnir stood in their center. Somehow they all knew that they were in the Abyss. They were in the home of Demons.
“No,” shouted a shrill voice. “This will not do!”
Then the scenery shifted, and the world melted around them. When it reformed, they were standing in a Underdark cavern filled with huge crystals. They stood there, clearly disoriented and confused. They had just been within the Abyss and now they were in the Underdark.
“Idiot!” answered a second voice, this one low and growling. “Not here. Not NOW…”
Ragnir knew these were Demogorgon arguing with himself. Its two heads have individual minds, called Aameul (the left head) and Hethradiah (the right head). Demogorgon’s duality is that his two personas strive to dominate (and even kill) each other, but are unable to because they are aspects of one another. Fitting for the Demon Lord of Madness.
The world swirled again, and the crew found themselves standing at the entrance to the Vanderboren Vault again. Ragnir looked at himself, and realized he was no longer a vampire. He glanced around, seeing that all his companions were unharmed and well rested. In fact … everything was as it had been a few hours before.
“What in the Nine Hells,” muttered Daehir.
“We’ve been sent back in time.” Ragnir’s voice was quiet. “The demon is allowing us a second chance.”
Tarsakh 7-15, 1491
Deep beneath the surface of the world lies the Underdark, a realm of endless labyrinthine tunnels and caverns where the sun never shines. The Underdark is filled with races and creatures too numerous to count or list, and foremost among these are the dark elves—the drow. Hated and feared even by their fellow dwellers in darkness, the drow raid other settlements in the Underdark as well as the surface world, taking prisoners back with them. Rendered unconscious with drow poison, then collared and shackled, these prisoners are eventually sold as slaves or entertainment in the dark elves’ subterranean cities.
Ragnir and his crew have all had the misfortune of falling to such a fate. Captured by the drow, they are prisoners at one of the dark elves’ outposts, awaiting transportation to Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders. alongside several others prisoners.
The drow divide their prisoners into three roughly equal-sized groups and put them to work for a third of the day, supervised by the quaggoths. Their menial tasks include filling and hauling water barrels, operating the lift, cleaning any or all parts of the outpost, emptying chamber pots, food preparation and service, washing dishes, and laundry. The prisoners are also given cruel or pointless tasks to occupy them, and for the dark elves’ amusement. Such labors include moving or stacking rocks, coiling ropes, and organizing supplies, with prisoners forced to redo work daily.
The drow and quaggoths are cruel and capricious, but also somewhat bored and looking for amusement. The quaggoths are poor conversationalists, hateful and mistrustful toward the prisoners. The drow are more inclined to talk, if only to boast of their superiority.
Somewhat unknown to Ragnmir’s crew, many of the other prisoners have been affected by a maddness-causing radiation called Faerzress which prevades most of the Underdark. This has caused a portion of their fellow prisoners to suffer from violent fits of rage as the radiation pours freely through the gateway linking the outpost to Menzoberranzan . More recently, this radiation poisoning was exacerbated by Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, who cast a foul spell intended to open a gateway to the Abyss. Instead, Lolth empowered the spell, thinning the planar layer between the Abyss and the Underdark.
Fortunately for Ragnir’s crew, only one member was affected by the exposure to the radiation. This member of the crew has been having fitful dreams and has become somewhat obsessed with a amulet which he believes is somehow linked to the Abyss. Although N has not acted out violently, the crew may have a ticking timebomb in their midst.
Although the crew were prisoners, they used ingenuity to plan their escape. Damoolah and Arlan bided their time with patience. Matrim and Daehir used their skillsin efforts to gather resources for escape. Ragnir managed to gather a rusted pipe for a weapon. N and V focused on distraction of guards and duscussion with fellow prisoners. Tia spent most of her time assisting others and pleading for their lives when things went bad.
The crew spent a little over eight days within the drow outpost. On Tarsakh 15 in the morning, the drow began to herd the prionsers towards the door leading to the gateway. They discovered that their were three ships that had gathered near the gateway to the City of Spiders. Later they would discover that two of the vessels had come from the Vanderboren outpost, and the third was Ragnir’s ship. The drow priestesses had sent for slavers from the Vanderboren outpost at the far side of the Isle of Dread, paying them to transport the slaves into the gateway. The drow priestesses had grown tired of waiting for the other drow to emerge from the City of Spiders to collect the slaves. This breach in protocol ended up being the crew’s salvation.
They were herded into a ship called “The Black Drake” which was marked with a symbol of a Black Dragon. In the cargo hold, they discovered that the Vanderboren “slavers” were none other than their allies, Solomon and two of the Sea Dogs named Morgan and Jake. Solomon explained that they used the confusion of the situation to move the arcane engine and the crew’s possessions from the other ship to this one. Solomon suggested that the heroes reclaim their things, and get ready to depart.
Clearly passing the torch to Ragnir, Solomon winked and said, “What are you orders captain?!”
Ragnir thought for a moment, realizing that Solomon was clearly establishing him as the captain of the Black Drake. “We’ll recover the Ring of Wishes, Mr. Neegan, but first let’s get out of the accursed drow outpost.” Solomon nodded, explaining that there was a egress point in the ceiling of the cavern that would lead to the surface of Albion.
Arlan took the spelljammer helm, casting magic into the ship to power it. Meanwhile, Solomon smiled to Morgan and Jake.
“Let’s give these drow something to remember us by, gentleman!” All three rushed off to prepare the cannons for a parting shot on the drow near the gateway.
Drink up me hearties, you ho!
The autoscribe is an arcane caster’s dream: a writing device that can make spell scrolls day and night. Like all devices seemingly too good to be true, though, it comes at a price in XP and materials. This device was created for “Clockwork Wonders” byin 2001.
The autoscribe resembles a scribe’s writing desk. It’s taller than it is wide, with three pewter inkpots built into the top, a sloping writing surface, and a metal-nib attached to a series of writing arms and levers. When in operation, it hums and scratches while moving the nib slowly across the paper. It can make use of gold illumination, magical inks, and even special colors and waxes to create the perfect arcane scroll. Its three arms are attached to the top and side of the writing surface and can reach a set of interchangeable quills and inkpots in its interior.
Use and Powers
To use an autoscribe, a spellcaster must use the attached metal quill to write out a fair copy of a spell scroll in the usual way, and make a successful Concentration check (DC 20 + spell level) while doing so. If successful, this process “teaches” the autoscribe that spell. An autoscribe can contain 10 spells in its internal collection at any time; if it already has 10 spells, it cannot learn more until one or more spells are removed. It can be taught arcane or divine spells, but not both at the same time. A divine caster wishing to teach it divine spells must clear out the entire collection if there are arcane spells in the machine’s collection. Casting an erase spell on an autoscribe removes one spell from its collection, while casting a feeblemind on it removes all spells from its collection.
Once taught a spell, the autoscribe knows how to make additional copies of that scroll. Any spellcaster who has that spell on her class spell list can command the autoscribe to make usable scrolls of it. The copies take 1 hour per spell level to create instead of the usual 1 day per 1,000 gp value of the scroll, and the user must spend one additional hour loading the autoscribe with the appropriate materials. The materials cost half the gp value of the scroll, as usual for making scrolls, and the autoscribe can hold enough materials to make 10 copies of all 10 of the spells in its collection before needing to be reloaded. The XP cost for the scroll is doubled (so spell level x caster level x 2), and must be paid by the spellcaster commanding the autoscribe. Spell scrolls are created at the minimum caster level for the spell in question, and the autoscribe can only put one spell on a scroll.
An autoscribe can be commanded by non-spellcasters using Use Magic Device with a successful check DC (20 + caster level of the scroll to be produced). If the check fails, the autoscribe jams or otherwise becomes damaged by the attempt and must be repaired by an artificer. The cost in XP for non-casters is twice the cost that a legitimate spellcaster pays, and the non-caster must still supply the materials if the autoscribe is out.
N did some expermimenting with the ship, learning how to effectively operate the Spelljamming helm.
Characters did some research using logbooks. Very little was known about the Isle of Dread, also called Albion. The party knows that they are on the Elmental Plane of Water. One of the few actual islands on the plane is the Isle of Dread. The island is connected to the Prime Material Plane by means of a regular storm that sweeps over the island.
The characters awoke to find that Kua-Toa were attacking the camp again. Several members of the party were captured, and being kidnapped by the fishmen. Half of the party engaged directly, killing some of the fishmen and tracking them to the cave entrance that had been previously discovered. However, friendly fire from the mortar on the ship inflicted heavy damage on Matrim, Ragnir, and Daehir. The decision was made by the captain to withdraw and return to the camp to pursue the Kuo-Toa in the advantage of dayloght to rescue Arlan, Damoolah, V, and the other captured crewmen. Unknown to the party, the Kuo-Toans were kidnapping the crewmen to sell to a colony of nearby Drow.
In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting Kuo-Toans maintain friendly relations with Drow, their Underdark neighbours. Blibdoolpoolp is the focus of the kuo-toans’ lives, and even has her own monstrous, deformed kuo-toa breed—the giant kuo-toa leviathan. They have total hatred for the Sahuagin, another aquatic race.
During the Kou-Toa attack, a misplaced shot from the mortar sent a flamming cannonball into the treehouse fort, setting it ablaze and in the end destroying it. Two days worth of food and drink was lost in the fire.
Also unknown to the party, The Three (Mindflayers) observed the situation as they had been through the use of Arcane Eye spells. The Three discussed what they might logically do in this situation.
The surviving members of the crew recovered with a short time of rest, wakking in the wee hours of the morning on 28 Ches 1491 to find that Conrad the Priest had returned to the camp with three magical box wagons and a small unit of 10 fighting men. Conrad interacted with the crew, managing to talk about the Vanderboren Colony at lot and dropping some arrogant threats towards the crew. Conrad did complete a trade allowing the crew to obtain a scroll of Contact Other Plane.
The party used the scroll to contact Captain Solomon Neegan, asking him questions to discover that he planned to arrive in 24 hours. However, his answers hinted that he might be in distress and in need of rescue. The party wisely spent the next day making plans to prepare as best they could in a known unknown situation.
At this time, unknown to the party, the captured crewmen in the oily cluthches of the Kuo-Toas were being transported to a nearby Drow outpost. Finding themselves now in the clutches of Drow slavers of House Mizzrym, they were subject to mistreatement and hard labor. The prisoners are given cruel or pointless tasks to occupy them, and for the dark elves amusement, including coiling and uncoiling ropes, feeding and care of giant spiders, cleaning and polishing of harnesses and saddles, organizing supplies, and stacking crates of mushrooms. The prisoners learn quickly that the Drow are waiting for a group of Drow to arrived through magical means from Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders, to collect slaves and supplies for transport back to the Underdark city.
Back in camp, the party plotted and planned. Finally on 28 Ches 1491, the Lucille arrived along with two other ships. They unfurled their colors, revealing the flags of the Fire Giant known as Maagerra Sutur. Unknown to the party, Sutur is working with the small folk (Smee and the Sea Dogs) under the direction of Duke Zalto in the hopes of discovering some relics on the Isle of Dread.
It became obvious very quickly that dynamics had changed aboard the Lucille. Smee seemed to be in charge now, and Solomon was paraded to the front of the ship in clear view as a prisoner. Two Sea Dogs had him manacled and held pistols ready at his head. Smee ordered landing crafts to disembark, sending four cockboats with 4 Sea Dogs each towards the beach. All the Sea Dogs were armed to the teeth, each carrying either longguns or a brace of pistols. Smee had a keen eyes (“20” on check) and saw the party laying in wait among the trees on the East side of the beach. Surmising that they intended ill towards his new crew, Smee ordered “No Quarter.” The Sea Dogs started to shout “Sails Ho!” a clear sign that they intended to engage the party as enemies.
Ragnir, Machavelli, and N remained on the ship while everyone else was on the beach. The Sea Dogs landed on the beach, and one Sea Dog ordered the party out of the woods. He demanded that they lay down weapons and line up on the far side of the beach away from their arms.
Matrim wisely tried to reason with these demands, but before he could even finish his statement, the Sea Dog leader fired a shot from his pistol, missing barely. And so the fight was on. The party did well dispatching most of the first wave of pirates, dropping Sea Dogs. However, Daehir went down due to hails of pistol fire.
Artillery fire from Boaty McBoatface landed crippling hits on the one Fire Giant ship. As it began to take on water, Captain Sutur ordered his men to abandon ship and attack the party on the beach. Although Surtur had intended not to engage the small folk unless needed, he decided that he needed to defend his remaining ship. As the Fire Giants charged the beach, Surtur joined them, wielding his huge flaming sword. He issued a parley, offering to allow the small folk pirates to surrender rather than being killed. The party did not heed the words of the Fire Giant pirate, likely assuming he was lying. However, Surtur was willing to negotiate the surrender if possible so that he might bring these extra small folk to the cause of Zalto. Instead, the party kept fighting. Surtur shouted “unleash Hell!” and the Fire Giants did exactly that. Without moments, all the party on the beach were overwhelmed, lying bleeding and unconscious on the shore.
Meanwhile on the ship, one of the Fire Giant spellcasters had not only used Quench Magic to disable the spelljamming helm, but also had cast a Mass Suggestion spell to convince N, Machavelli, and Ragnir to surrender rather than throwing their lives away needlessly. Although Smee wanted the party murdered, he had to follow fearfully what Captain Sutur said when another parley of surrender was issued by the huge Fire Giant pirate.
The surviving crew was loaded on to the Fire Giant ship, and rendered unconscious after being slapped into chains. Although Smee argued with Sutur that the party should be executed for treachery and treason, Sutur stated that the party would be sold to the local Drow slavers operating on the Southern section of Albion. Sutur hoped that this offering of slaves might yield some hints about locations of local relics for Zalto.
The party awoke to find themselves in the slave pen with their previously captured friends and a few other slaves.
We recently started playing a swashbuckling pirate themed campaign set in Forgotten Realms called “Really Bad Eggs.” Since I enjoy using random charts to hand out treasure, I created two different downloadable charts that you can add to your collection if you like.
Here’s an example of one of the charts:
LOOT THE BODY d6
My DM Toolbox Page