OSR: Pirates of the Merabaha, Session 7

Last session, the salt-crusted pirates of the sloop Magnificent sailed to Chult, fought some horrible flying people, met some pirates, tried to hunt giant lizards, died to giant lizards, died to tigers, and returned to their ship saddened and impoverished. The PCs are:

Captain Beatrix, a Tarraconese carpenter, engineer, and smooth talking hustler. Still captain despite having "port = left" embroidered on her sleeve.

John Wex the Bastard, a disgraced sailor with some book-learning and a head for adventure.

Margarita Duerte
, Tarraconese blacksmith and (secretly) hermetic mage

The Crew. Yes, the Crew are a PC. Some are seasoned pirates, some are Chultan villagers convinced that a life at sea is better than a life in the giant-lizard-infested jungle. Owing to the law of conservation of competence, the Crew are only about as useful as a standard PC.

Having restocked their ship in Jahaka Bay, the Captain announced their next venture. They would sail north along the coast, anchor near the site of the "giant step-pyramid" they'd spotted on the last expedition, find a route up the cliffs, and avoid a long perilous trek through the jungle. The crew was unenthusiastic, but John Wex regaled them with tales of temples full of gold and gems the size of grapefruits.

The logbook, normally quite detailed, is blank for the entirety of the expedition. Fragmentary notes in later entries speak of "the trials of the pyramid" and the "great speaking serpent" who dwelled there. Most of the crew did not go ashore; those who did told of "terrible bewitchment". The Captain, Margarita, and John Wex returned unharmed but with no treasure and no wish to discuss their experience.

But after that day John Wex could always find true north without a compass and read the winds and tides like an open book. Captain Beatrix asked for charts to Yoon-Suin and pored over them for hours. And Margarita, always skeptical, was heard to mutter, "never cut a deal with something thou dost not understand".

Note: I adapted the Orolunga challenge from 5th Edition's Tomb of Annihilation module. The original challenge holds the players' hands in an insulting way, ensuring they can't possibly fail. The players solved the first step by chance (having gathered up some local flowers to act as bedding for Margarita's growing collection of poisonous spiders), solved stage 2 by inspecting some carvings, and solved stage 3 by more-or-less throwing everything they had at the snakes. Good proper OSR play. The Naga at the top granted wishes - the consequences were not explained. John Wex wished to be a good navigator, the Captain wished to "find a way to become the best pirate" and was given a vision of a treasure far away, and Margarita cut no deals and asked no favours.

Giving players an unexpected wish spell - even one with no monkey's-paw-type consequences, is always entertaining. The naga could only affect things in the room or provide information about the rest of the world.
The logbook could also be blank because the Captain's return to the Majestic was more perilous than expected. A Tarraconese frigate, weatherbeaten and low, had come alongside the Majestic and was conducting an impromptu trial of the crew. As Captain Beatrix, Margarita, John Wex, and a few hand-picked crew watched from shore, the Tarraconese began rigging nooses along the yardarms. Apparently the trial had not gone well for the pirates.

The Captain came up with a plan to retake their ship. The Tarraconese seemed distracted; most of their crew was on deck and at full attention. A few chosen crew could sneak aboard the Tarraconese ship through a gunport, find the powder store, and set it aflame. At the same time, John Wex, disguised as Satan himself, would leap onto the deck and terrify the superstitious sailors. In the confusion, the pirates could regain control of the Majestic and sail away. Margarita assured the Captain that John's disguise would be "almost supernaturally effective."

Unfortunately, but perhaps not unexpectedly, the plan went awry:

1. The pirates rowed out from shore and remained undetected. They moored alongside the Tarraconese ship.
2. The crew snuck aboard, found the powder magazine, overpowered the guards, and prepared to light a fuse.
3. The crew, in their enthusiasm, accidentally lit the entire room on fire. The gunpowder exploded immediately, killing several pirates but throwing the Tarraconese ship into total confusion.
4. Through the smoke rising from the hole in the hull, John Wex leapt aboard. His face had been painted red, he sported enormous horns, a pitchfork, hooves, and a long forked beard. He shouted, "The Prince of Devils is here to aid these pirates! Run! Run for your liiives!".
5. The Tarraconese sailors panicked. The pirates panicked. Everyone panicked. His disguise was surprisingly good.
6. Only the Tarraconese captain was able to act. He drew his sword, sprinted up to John, and slashes the capering devil in the leg. John fell, cursing and bleeding profusely.
7. Aboard the Majestic, Captain Beatrix took careful aim and blasted the enemy ship with cannonfire.
8. Margarita and a few crew rescued John Wex and killed the Tarraconese captain in a fusillade of pistol fire. 
9. Secretly, Margarita bound the fallen captain's soul to his large gold crucifix. She insisted on wearing the crucifix everywhere. The crew, thoroughly spooked by Margarita's behavior, didn't insist on dividing the spoils.
10. The Majestic fled as fast as it could.

Two days later, after taking on new crew and additional gunpowder Jahaka Bay, the Majestic sailed north again, this time to catch the stricken Tarraconese frigate. The crew had insisted on taking revenge, or at least looting something of value, and the Captain had agreed. They tracked the waterlogged frigate for a full day, fired off a few warning shots, then boarded her and stole everything that wasn't nailed down. The cannons were thrown over the side, with one tied to the ship's priest. "Bad luck to kill a priest," John Wex remarked, "but he was a bad sort of priest."

Enriched, well supplied, and properly satisfied, the crew were delighted when the Captain announced a new voyage. They were less satisfied by the destination. "We sail for the Isle of Dread", Beatrix said, pointing west."

Would the Majestic ever reach that ill-omened isle? Would they find riches or death? Would Margarita's crimes against God and nature go unpunished?

Find out next time.


  1. Have been following your pirate campaign for a time. Amazing. It is quite rare to find good content for a pirate game. In my new campaign (5e) two players are pirates, maybe it is time to let them set sail.

    Do you have recomendation on pirate OSR and not OSR to butcher for content?

  2. And Nyali was my favorite character. Really sad to see her die. Let the player that Nyali was amazing.

    1. Will do! Thanks. It's been a fun game.
      If you check out the "Pirates" or "Review" tags, you'll find a big list of modules I've reviewed and looted. There are some additional tables and resources in the "Further Reading" section of the GLOG Pirates Megapost.