Ship of Horrors
Authors: Anne Brown
Level 8-10, Domain: Sea of Sorrows, Nebligtode
Summary: The players find themselves on a ship cursed with a grave robber captain whose unrestful victims assault him before the players help him lay them to rest. Later, they find evidence of necromancers shipping corpses to a terrifying island ruled by Meredoth the Dark Lord.
The Grand Conjunction series is a great idea for Ravenloft and I honestly think that it is one of the few 'meta-plots' ever successfully pulled off in a series. The Prism Pentade and Faction War ended the Dark Sun and Planescape lines effectively while the Time of Troubles were well done but the modules relied too much on NPC leadership. There is a frustrating element to it sometimes in the randomness of the adventures to it. While I certainly can understand that the modules are where the signs should appear. Touch of Death, Night of the Walking Dead, and Ship of Horrors aren't exactly apocalyptical. Feast of Goblins has nothing to do with the Modules Roots of evil and From the Shadows but it's certainly overthetop enough to be demiplane changing. I also use it for the "ending" of the adventure to be the PCs killing Duke Gundar since the Death of a Darklord is a wonderful start.
Ship of Horrors typifies pretty much every problem with Ravenloft's early years while also strangely showing some of the signs of greatness. I couldn't be paid to run the module as is but there's at least two halfway decent adventures involved in the storyline and possibly three. However, linked together they're practically nonsensical and requires incredible railroading (a common enough complaint).
The first complaints about the adventure is the fact that the PCs have some reason to sign up as Seamen. My players have never played Seamen, they're likely not interested in becoming Seaman, and they have no sea experience. The next fact is that it is one of those "and you find yourself trapped in Ravenloft" moments. Most PCs I think are natives now so the threat of being stuck in Ravenloft is not a large one.
The next complaint is the fact that the PCs have found themselves onboard with a grave robber whom is haunted by some fairly righteously ****ed off spirits. My PCs are as likely inclined to dump the fellow over with the disgust grave robbers elicit in my games (it's ironic that the opener of the game encourages the Pcs to take over Meredoth's domain and loot the necromancer's location afterwards!). Nevertheless, the assumption is the PCs will spare the sniveling little man and furthermore help him resolve his curse by the various ghosts. There's some rather bizarre encounters interspersed as well like an attack by a pirate ship of Ghasts and Skeletal sharks that appear for no real reason.
However, ironically, the ghosts are all well described and sympathetic. If I had to modify this material, I'd probably just have the PCs have a reason to get on the boat and make the captain more obviously a victim haunted by the various ghosts with also some halfway decent courage/honor to his names. Thankfully, I'd just seen "Pirates of the Carribean" and I made the Ghast Attack that much more terrifying with the crew mostly slain and turning on their captain to kill him (which the PCs endeavored to prevent). The PCs in my game were forced off the ship and onto a life raft as the Ship drove off to its almost doom (I made Meredoth's domain alluded to with it being the Ravenloft "Bermuda Triangle").
The PC's cleric performed some simple blessings to suspend the disbelief of recovering bodies at the bottom of the sea and the adventure ended with them being able to escape the ghost's curse.
The plotline of Necromancers shipping bodies to Meredoth is well done as well and stopping them at their activities is entirely salvageable for the PCs. You don't need any of the tie ins to the adventure to use the villains or their activities but just can. It's almost usable as is. However, at the end, and I stress WHOSE IDEA IS IT TO CAUSALLY INSERT A 20TH LEVEL NECROMANCER INTO RAVENLOFT? The modules of Ravenloft's worst problem are the assumption such ridiculously high level people must be stupid if they can't defeat nearly ANY level of adventurer at that level.
I kept the Island of the Undead largely (I more or less wholesale inserted Keening into the Domain) and had Meredoth living in a Lighthouse (why? Because Lighthouses are cool) while lowering him to 13th level. I also gave him the tragic background that he made the city of the undead he ruled over because he wanted to build a truly static society since his family had all left him as an old man (it made sense in the game). I also made it clear he wasn't a Dark Lord.
Some good stuff here.
1.5 Blood drops. Needed SERIOUS reworking.
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