2019/07/29

OSR: M.I.R Update

The Magical Industrial Revolution is steaming ahead at full speed.

Art

The art is mostly done. There are still a few details that need to be worked out, but nothing significant. If you want to see the full cover, I've paywalled it on Patreon.
(Yes, that's very silly, because the moment the book goes up for sale the cover will be spammed all over the place, but maybe you're impatient. Or maybe you just want to sing the godawful Endonian National Anthem.)
Cover art and interior art by Luka Rejec. Map and more interior art by Jonathan Newell. Yet more interior art, including monsters, by Logan Stahl.

Text

The document is currently at the upgrading stage, where David Shugars takes my mangled and laughably distorted output and turns it into something approaching a real RPG book. The first- and second-round playtesting is done. An initial copy-editing pass is also complete.

Once the document is more presentable, it will be sent to patrons (and a few other folks; whine at me on Discord if your really really really want to test it) to make sure I haven't missed anything.

The book is currently ~150 pages, making it my largest and most ambitious project to date.


Distribution, Printing, and Other Exciting Details

I'm going to be coy, but Big Things are in the works.

Hype, etc.

Yes.

2019/07/26

OSR: One Page Dungeon Contest 3rd Place Winner: The Roving Wheel V2

I put an updated version of The Roving Wheel into the 2019 One Page Dungeon contest. Apparently it got 3rd place!

Today is a good day.

It's a fun adventure for a slightly gonzo campaign. There's a huge iron wheel rolling across the landscape. Get inside and divert the wheel before it crushes a city.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1fFhuTWa-2Ofh37rZj7kRhpIBuF-_Lni5

PDF LINK

Thanks to Abigail LaLonde (Twitter, Patreon) for the art. Be sure to check out the other entries.

2019/07/22

40k: Various Project Updates

Here are a few miniature projects I've started and/or finished in the last few months.

Terrain

Tin Can Landing Pad

Made from an old biscuit tin, some pipes, and some 40k terrain bits. Note the Xenos heads on plaques. Texture added using cut-up zip ties; an old greebling trick.
And painted. The hazard stripes really make the building stand out. It's large enough to accommodate most small landing craft.

Observation Tower

It's amazing what you can find at thrift stores. This tower was made from a broken toy starmap projector. If you're building terrain, always keep an eye out for interestingly shaped bits of plastic.

Train Segments

I've made a bunch of 1'x1' MDF segments. Here are 3 completed ones, with a mobile (and detachable) 40k-ified train. They're all modular.

Models

Cargo Hauler

This project is complete, but I don't have photos of the painted tractor and crates yet.

Rogue Trader Landing Craft

Converted from a Stormhawk Interceptor kit, some plasticard, and a lot of gap-filling compound. It's designed to look Imperial but fancy; a flying brick to show off a Rogue Trader's wealth.

Rogue Trader Ground Transport

And once you land on some inhospitable world, it's important to have proper transport. This is just a Taurox with the suspension lowered and widened. Nothing fancy, but it looks better.

Servitors

A test of the new Contrast paint line. They turned out OK, if a little candy-coloured. 2 are old metal models, 2 are converted from Goliath gangers and some leftover parts.

2019/07/14

Sci-Fi: Space 1977

It's May, 1977. For the past twenty years, there have been two kinds of space-based science fiction films:
  • The adventurous, shiny-chrome-bright, wholesome-to-horror sort (the black and white Buck Rogers serial, Forbidden Planet, Lost In Space, etc.) 
  • The philosophical, hexagon-dome near-future what-if view (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dark Star, Silent Running, etc.) 
These categories aren't exact (Star Trek sits between them), but if you're a B-movie producer, those are the two wells you're drawing from. And then, on May 25th, 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope is released. It's outrageously popular. Every other B-movie director sits up, salivates, and starts taking notes. What do people like? Spaceships and robots? Ok, we can do spaceships and robots. A princess? Got it. Some weird costumes? Grab some stuff from the Western and the Medieval section. And someone find me a distinguished British actor!

A whole slew of films took the plot elements of Star Wars, changed the order, and tried their luck.

Star Wars is a canon juggernaut today. The average character from the cantina scene has more backstory than I do. It's part of the cultural lexicon. But before canon solidifies, before Star Wars becomes a universe, other films moved in parallel.

Most nerds have thought "what if only the first Star Wars film was canon. Luke never uses a lightsaber. The Force doesn't move objects. Nobody's anybody's relative. What's a Jedi? What were the Clone Wars? Who is the Emperor?" In 1977, the facts are fluid.
Check out the "Soldiers of the Empire" article for the state of canon in 1977.
This blog article - this setting - assumes that all films directly inspired by Star Wars: A New Hope coexist in one shared universe: Space: 1977.

Film Criteria:

  • Release date between May 1977 (Star Wars: A New Hope) and May 1980 (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back).
  • Cannot be inspired by Alien (May 1979). A lot of films were; the special effects were less demanding.
  • No parodies. The film's worldbuilding has to take itself seriously. There needs to be a sense that the director hoped, somehow, that it'd spawn a line of action figures and lunchboxes.
  • Cannot take place mostly on Earth (or the moon). Earth can be mentioned, even visited, but it shouldn't be the whole setting.
The criteria are flexible. In this post, I'm going to review the potentially useful films. The next post will contain a synthesis of the ones that makes the cut, and the third post will contain some rules. I've got no particular timeline on this project. It's just a fun thought experiment.

And yes I've watched everything listed here while preparing this post and writing other content. If you want to fund my recovery, here's a link to my Patreon.

Unconditionally Canonical


Message from Space Battlestar Galactica Starcrash The Humanoid Battle Beyond the Stars Escape from Galaxy 3

1978/04 1978-1979 1979/03 1979/04 1980/05 1981/02
Sequences            
-Opening Text Crawl
x X X

-Opening Narration
X
X

-Slow Pan Under Giant Starship X X X X X X
-Diverse Rubber Alien Bar X




-Streaky Hyperspace



X
-Starfighters In Formation X X X x X X
-Trench Run X
X


Protagonists            
-Heroic Farmboy x x

X
-Plucky Smuggler x x X X X
-Furry Bear-Person





-Princess x x X
X X
-Wise Old Mentor x X X X X
-Non-Speaking Robot x X X X

-Cowardly Emotional Robot

X


-Other Robot X X X
X
Antagonists            
-Dark Helmet X x X X
x
-Emperor X X X x
x
-Faceless Goons X X
X X
-Giant Evil Space Base

X

X
Setting            
-Slightly on Earth





-Mostly on Earth





-Earth Mentioned
x
X X x
Tropes            
-Diverse Rubber Aliens X x

x
-Mysterious Mind Powers X x X X X
-Lightsabers

X


-Light-weapons


X

-Stirring Orchestral Theme X X X X x
-Leitmotifs





Texture            
-Used Future X X

x
-Shiny and Chrome X X X
X X

Capital X indicates a strong theme, small x is a dubious or minor reference.


Message from Space
1978/04
The soundtrack, in places, lifts whole stanzas from Star Wars. The costumes are excellent. Some (but not all) of the spaceships are... literally space-ships, with sails and everything. But the starfighter sequences are surprisingly vivid. The special effects artists must have had experience with miniature plane battles, because they use clouds and asteroids to create very dynamic turns and maneuvers. The non-miniature special effects, especially the green-screen sequences, are... very poor. But hey, it fits Space: 1977.

Battlestar Galactica
1978/09-1979/04
Just the first season. It prompted a lawsuit, so there are definitely similarities between it and Star Wars. There are aliens (and at least one Satan), factions, politics, starfighters, etc.

Starcrash
1979/03
  • Soundtrack by John Barry. A bumbling robot with a southern accent. Released nine months before The Black Hole.
  • A protagonist is captured and suspended upside-down in a cave. A protagonist gets frozen and has to be carefully thawed via timelapse. A protagonist's arm is injured in a lightsaber duel. A floating city has to be evacuated. Released a year before Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. 
  • A protagonist tosses his lightsaber to another protagonist, who proves unexpectedly proficient. The only way to save the day is to crash a ship into another ship in hyperspace. Released 32 years before the latest Star Wars trilogy.
Remarkably prescient, you might think. But on the other hand you've got janky stop-motion robots (both large and small), Christopher Plummer delivering some of the most ridiculous lines ever written, truly bizarre costume choices, very shoddy special effects, and young David Hasselhoff

The Humanoid

1979/04
After 3 minutes of credits, we get the opening crawl (also read aloud by an obliging narrator). The evil Lord Graal wears a black samurai helmet and commands a giant wedge-shaped spaceship. Floating landspeeders. Mysterious mind-powers (Tibetan mind-powers, no less). Laser bows.
Wait, what?
Anyway, this film is unquestionably Space: 1977.

Battle Beyond The Stars
1980/05
Seven Samurai.. in space! A plucky young hero forges a band of rebels, falls in love, flies a starship, etc. I'm going to combine this with Space Raiders (1983), which resuses most of the orignal effects and adds even more Star Wars elements.

Escape from Galaxy 3
1981/02
Technically it's outside the date range, but it's pure Star Wars inspiration. Space kings.  Planets exploding. All the miniature sequences are stock footage from Starcrash, just desaturated. Some of the props were recycled (or possibly remade). Even the protagonists have have similar names and costumes (Stella Star and Akton vs. Belle Star and Lithan).

Canon-Adjacent 


Buck Rogers in the 25th Century The Black Hole Galaxina Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone The Ice Pirates

1979/03 1979/12 1980/06 1983 1984
Sequences          
-Opening Text Crawl

X

-Opening Narration




-Slow Pan Under Giant Starship
X X   X
-Diverse Rubber Alien Bar

X
X
-Streaky Hyperspace
x
X X
-Starfighters In Formation X



-Trench Run X



Protagonists          
-Heroic Farmboy




-Plucky Smuggler

x X X
-Furry Bear-Person




-Princess X

x X
-Wise Old Mentor X x

x
-Non-Speaking Robot X X

X
-Cowardly Emotional Robot X X

X
-Other Robot
X X X X
Antagonists          
-Dark Helmet
x X x
-Emperor X


X
-Faceless Goons
X
x
-Giant Evil Space Base




Setting          
-Slightly on Earth




-Mostly on Earth X



-Earth Mentioned X X x X X
Tropes          
-Diverse Rubber Aliens

X
X
-Mysterious Mind Powers
X


-Lightsabers




-Light-weapons




-Stirring Orchestral Theme
X X X
-Leitmotifs
X
X
Texture          
-Used Future x X
X X
-Shiny and Chrome X
X


Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
1979/03
Too earth-based to qualify despite ticking a surprising number of boxes. The Draconians and their dynastic politics could be included without any issues. The political maneuvering is worth stealing. The rest, nah.

The Black Hole
1979/12
Look, I love this film. I really do. The Cygnus is one of the greatest haunted houses ever made. The score is bombastic. The robots should be corny but they feel real, not like props supported on wires. There's a chilling 3-minute-long unbroken camera flight through literal Hell. Yet, for all that, the film is less Star-Wars-adjacent and more of a sequel to Forbidden Planet. Some elements will make their way into Space: 1977.

Galaxina
1980/06
This film should be disqualified as a parody, but it's pulled out of the dustbin for two reasons: the bumbling crew, lead by Avery Schreiber's mustachioed captain in a uniform straight out of Rogue Trader, are clearly player characters, and the sets are pure Space: 1977. The film feels like someone's Traveller sessions.
C: Where did you get that egg McKinley? Is that an authorized egg?
M: I found it with the rock-eater's belongings. He probably stole it from somewhere. What do you think laid it, sir?
C: Let me have it.
M: Sure sir.
C: A real egg... you know, people used to eat these things. Difficult to imagine, isn't it?
T: It sure is.
M: I can't imagine it. In fact, the whole idea is revolting. Makes me nauseous. Turns my stomach.
T: Enough, private.
C: May I?
M: You're not going to eat it, are you sir?
C: Why not?
M: Well it makes me nauseous, turns my stomach, I really don't think you should eat it.
T: He's right sir. You don't know what kind of an egg that is. You don't know where it's been or who made it.
C: Nonsense. If people concerned themselves about where eggs came from they never would have eaten them.
[Cracks avacado-like egg, pours green goop into wineglass. Drinks. Giggles. Wipes lips. Convulses violently.]
Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone
1983/05
Alright, it's more of a Mad Max 2: Road Warrior film, and there's a grating teenage sidekick, and it's from 1983. Why is this on the list? First, the spaceships were clearly inspired by Stewart Cowley, which automatically bumps it up a category. Second, it's Canadian. Third, the sets are sometimes gorgeous. And fourth, it's got a very used-future PC-adventure vibe to it.

The Ice Pirates

1984/03
This really should be disqualified for being outside the date range, including elements from Alien and Mad Max 2: Road Warrior, and arguably being a parody, but come on! Fighting robots to combat the other side's fighting robots, repaired in the middle of combat! Piracy! Silly costumes! Ron Perlman!

Disqualified

The 4 films of Alfonso Brescia: 
Cosmos: War of the Planets - 1977/09
Battle of the Stars - 1978/02
War of the Robots - 1978/04
Star Odyssey - 1979/10 

The first of four attempts by director Alfonso Brescia (a.k.a Al Bradley) to cash in. Delightfully low-budget but, sadly, aside from the title, it's got nothing to do with Star Wars. The first film is a riff on Forbidden Planet or Planet of the Vampires; the rest are Buck Rogers in all respects. The aliens have golden bowl cuts and everyone has lightsabers.

The fourth film, Star Odyssey is the only one that even comes close to consideration. Earth gets sold to a despot, sight unseen. He turns up to collect it. Yeah, it's a Buck Rogers plot full of black-and-white stock footage, but it's got R2-D2, mind-powers, lightsabers, robots making an adorable suicide pact...

The Bunglers in the War of the Planets
(Brazilian Star Wars)

1978/12
Disqualified for being a parody.


War In Space

1977/12

Despite the name, this film has very little conceptual overlap with Star Wars. There are a few starfighter sequences, but it's almost entirely a blend of the 2 types of pre-Star Wars space films listed above: a Buck Rogers plot with 2001 space suits, with a Space Battleship Yamato twist.

Blake's 7
1978-1981
 

A classic British sci-fi series. So British. In the event of a murderous government coverup and brainwashing scheme, seek legal representation and go to your supervisor. Disqualified because despite having a rebellion and spaceships, it's really more of a slow-burn western in space.

The series has one really unusual trick. The alien spaceship stolen by the main characters is very advanced, but not so advanced that it can't be tinkered with or repaired by human experts. It's like giving Robert Stephenson a Haynes manual and telling him to change a head gasket on a modern car. Sure, it might take him ages, but he could probably figure it out. But do the same to Pythagoras? He wouldn't stand a chance. I like that... even if the sets do wobble alarmingly when the actors push buttons, and some of the panels are just gaffer tape on particleboard.

H. G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come
1979/05
Canadian, but that's not enough to save it. All Earth, all chrome and '50s robots with big pincher hands and dryer duct arms. Nothing to do with H.G. Wells' original story, and nothing to do with Star Wars iether.


Gamera: Super Monster
1980/03
Despite prominently featuring a knock-off star destroyer on the cover and in the title sequence, the rest of the film is standard giant monster fights and singing children.

Flash Gordon
1980/12
Don't get me wrong, I love the film... but it's definitely closer to a parody than to a serious attempt at worldbuilding.

The Man Who Saved The World (Turkish Star Wars)
1982/11
Disqualified for containing shots of Star Wars, sound cues from Battlestar Galactica, etc, etc, etc. It's absolutely bonkers and well worth watching, but as worldbuilding material it's got... issues.

If there are films or TV series that fit the criteria that I've missed, let me know. Some potential candidates (like the superb Kin-dza-dza! and the dreadful Space Mutiny) ended up being cut entirely. The rules can't be bent too far or every film will get included.

Future Posts

The Setting (synthesizing and tabulating the canon and canon-adjacent films).
Rules (probably based on SWN or Mothership or something).


2019/07/11

OSR: Pirates of the Merabaha, Session 10, 11, & 12


Last session, the adventure capitalists of the good sloop Magnificent visited the Isle of Dread. It went about as well as the name suggests. The survivors are:
Captain Margarita Duerte
, Tarraconese blacksmith and practitioner of the dark arts. Newly elected captain.

Thorfina von Dusseldorf
, banker and adventurer from the Ranstead League. Elected quartermaster for her financial literacy.

Celeste
, princess from the Isle of Dread, stowaway, and diplomat.

The Crew
. Yes, the Crew are a PC. Some are seasoned pirates, some are Chultan villagers.

With a hold full of rubies and assorted other treasures, the Magnificent sailed east, trying to catch the equatorial winds back to Chult. With hurricane season beginning, their journey was risky, but Thorfina seemed to have almost supernatural command of the winds and weather. She explained it as "accurate charts", yet never seemed to be entirely sure which way was north.

One week out from the Isle of Dread, the crew spotted a sail on the horizon. Tacking rapidly, the pirate sloop drew up, fired a few warning shots, and rapidly boarded the merchant vessel. It was a Ranstead League ship full of building supplies and glass trade goods. While the crew picked through the cargo holds, Captain Margarita interrogated the Venture's officers. It turned out they'd been sent to set up a trading post on the Isle of Dread,

"We were just there," Margarita said. "You don't want to go."
"Why not?" their Captain, Oris Ghant, asked peevishly.
"It's called the Isle of Dread! Not the 'Isle of Vast Profits, Women, And Palm Wine!' " 

Margarita proceeded to spin a tale of woe, assisted by the crew (and their jars of captured spiders). Giant venemous snakes. Crocodiles the size of frigates. Lizards the size of castles. Volcanoes, floods, hail. Belligerent men and astonishingly ugly women (Celeste was kept out of sight). They'd been lucky to escape with only half the crew dead, Margarita lied, and no profit whatsoever.

They'd let the Venture and her crew go free, of course, but they'd be going to an early grave. Why not take up piracy instead? The Venture wouldn't need to fight, just haul supplies and assist with deceptions. The crew would receive full shares, plus a bonus once they reached Port Nyanzaru.

The Ranstead league sailors debated for several hours, watched by a few pirate guards but otherwise free to associate and plan. On the advice of their captain, they decided to turn pirate.

A month later, the grey line of the Mistcliff appeared on the horizon. With supplies still high, the Captain decided to follow the cliffs north, as much as the wind allowed, and sail straight for Port Nyanzaru.

One cold night, when the fog was lighter than usual, the lookouts spotted lights in the fog. The charts revealed no settlement on the coast; the whole Mistcliff was one long line of ship-wrecking cliffs and false bays as far as cartographers were concerned. After taking accurate star-charts, the Magnificent moved closer to the cliffs.

They sailed, unopposed, into a broad bay. The stump of an ancient castle or lighthouse, built from cyclopean stone blocks, loomed over a small city.  

"A secret Tarraconese fortress?" Thorfina asked, staring through the spyglass.
"Could be a slaver port, but look at those docks. Small, even for our ships," Margarita replied. "No cannons on the fort. I think this is a Chultan city. Tell the crew to wash. We'll anchor in the bay and land at first light."

That night, the crew rested uneasily, their cannons pointed at the Isle of Barzon.

Isle of Barzon Mini-Review

The adventure/location is very short, just 2.5 pages. The language is evocative. There's no need to get up to speed with the backstory of the world. "So it was on the Isle of Barzon, a small island ruled by an empire not much larger..." The writing is slightly disjointed, but I supposed it has to be to describe an entire city in a few lines of text.

I'm not sure why, but this location feels so much more alive than The God Unmoving. It could be the rivalries implied (never stated) by the text: the citizens against their overlords, the ruler against the powerful merchant, ruler against the elites. It feels like it's set up to explode; almost everyone the PCs talk to has a use for some cunning rogues. It could be the little hints for adventurers: weird insects, strange drugs, powerful magic items.

I don't know. But it worked very well, especially since I needed to adapt it to a low-magic setting on the fly. Go check out the Knockspell zines.

Adventures in Barzon or The Great Wasp Caper


1. With the Venture's dozen cannons aimed at the city, the Majestic moored to one of the docks. Her crew was met by an enormous crowd: soldiers, artisans, curious onlookers, nobles under woven umbrellas.

2. In her best outfit, augmented by a few rubies and gold chains, Margarita stepped onto the dock. A Chultan crewmember acted as translator (badly; the languages shared a few words but very little else). The Captain explained that they were "peaceful traders" from "across the sea."

3. The Barzonites explained that any visitors to the city would need a military escort, and that the strangers could not carry weapons. The Captain agreed, hoping the isolated Barzonites would not recognize flintlock pistols. Though they seemed unfamiliar with gunpowder, they seemed to know what a pistol was. The crew had to content themselves with dozens of smuggled daggers, grenades, strangling wire, poison spiders, and incendiaries.

4. While official gifts were sent to the city's mysterious ruler (a certain Svanth Dorl, who remained hidden in his fortress-palace) and Margarita did her best to distract the bulk of the soldiers, a small delegation was invited to the home of the richest merchant in town.

5. Ullkmaran the Polyarch provided wine, strange mind-dulling drugs, and samples of the local tapestries and "God-Fragments". The "Gods" were giant wasps who descended on "the unworthy." Subtly, Ullkmaran hinted that the wasps might not be divinely guided, and that somehow Trademaster Dorl's enemies always ended up as wasp-food.

6. Thorfina negotiated a trade deal: glass and iron goods from the Venture for tapestries, insect parts, and a whole lot of drugs. The crew explored the city, trying not to get into any fights or steal anything. They discovered that trade with the "world beyond" was very rare, and sailing ships completely unknown. Barzon was a coastal outpost of a large and fractured empire.

7. The next day, the party was invited to dine with the Trademaster. Wary of a trap, they ensured all cannons were loaded and discreetly aimed at the castle. Margarita, Thorfina, Celeste, and two Chultan translators dressed in their finest stolen clothes and, with a few more small gifts, proceeded in grand style to their appointed meeting.

8. The half-collapsed palace of the Trademaster was, it seemed, also the home of the wasps. The Trademaster, a dumpy fur-clad Chultan and his vacant-eyed wives, greeted the traders with ceremony and reciprocal gifts. At dinner, roast meat and strange vegetables were served between courses of mind-numbing drugs. To avoid rudeness, the pirates inhaled thick grey clouds of the drug, and their ambitious plans became fuzzy and distorted.

9. With an amorous look in his eyes, Svanth Dorl invited the crew to share the "cool air" of his balcony. On soft couches, with servants bringing in plates of candied fruit and fresh drugs, the pirates attempted to put their plan into action. They fed the Trademaster rum (distilled liquor being unknown on the island), while pretending to imbibe more drugs and extra rum. Once the Trademaster was in a near catatonic state, Margarita stumbled off "to use the little lady-captain's room". She immediately started searching rooms.

10. The Captain found the Trademaster's bedroom, but was spotted by a servant. With amorous designs of his own he advanced towards the Captain. To allay suspicion, she flopped onto the bed, clearly inviting the very excited servant closer. Then she brained him with a candlestick.

11. Searching the room, stepping over the groaning and very confused servant, she found a cabinet containing some local currency, a few bottles of drugs, and a mysterious grey cube. As one familiar with strangeness and the hidden ways of the world, she immediately identified it as valuable loot, and probably the item used to control the giant wasps.

12. Hastily making their apologies, the pirates fled. They anchored the Magnificent a few hundred feet off the docks and waited for dawn.

13. The next day, every soldier in the city menaced the pirates from the docks. The Trademaster was apoplectic, demanding their immediate surrender. Margarita retaliated, saying that the gods would punish the erring Trademaster.

14. The witch-captain used the wasp control cube to draw a huge swarm from the fortress and directly onto the Trademaster. His remains were scattered into the sea.

15. The city panicked. Citizens remained indoors unless promised safe passage by a pirate. The Magnificent and the Venture docked, loaded up the last of the trade goods, and explored the city in full safety. The crew, terrified of the Captain's unnatural powers, kept their hands to themselves. They found Ullkmaran the Polyarch and his servants were already looting the fortress. A hastily negotiated trade deal saw the pirates sail away with chests full of silver and an ancient mummy in a casket, while Ullkmaran the Polyarch discreetly received the wasp-controlling cube... and a long list of gunpowder-based threats should he ever turn the wasps on the pirates.

Newly enriched, the pirates sailed north. The great Tarraconese city of Port Nyanzaru beckoned. The three terror-folk captured, hatched, and reared by the former captain were now as large and as intelligent as parrots. Many crewmembers sported scars or stump-fingers from their razor-sharp bites.

Rounding the top of the Mistcliff, the party sailed into Port Nyanzaru as fully legitimate traders. After all, Captain Margarita spoke fluent Tarraconese, and with a bit of forged paperwork the Venture could pass for one as well. Customs officers were heavily bribed.

At last, the pirates had returned to a "proper" civilization. While the crew spent money unwisely and freely, Thorfina sold their tapestries and insect parts for a tidy profit, buying ivory, gold, and indigo to trade in the Merabaha Islands.

In an elaborate scheme, the pirates sold the ancient mummy to a rich Tarraconese collector. The mummy came with an ominous black wax candle. The Captain spread a rumour that the candle, once lit, would lead the bearer to great wealth. Either the collector or one of his servants lit the candle one evening. Pirate spies reported screams and thumping from inside the mansion.

The Captain and officers raced to the scene, broke in through the kitchen, and (to universal horror) discovered the mummy had come to life! Its dried remains proved night-impervious to shot and sword. Thinking quickly, the Captain grabbed the still-lit black candle and used an ancient spell to trap the mummy's soul inside. The corpse collapsed; the Captain snuffed out the candle flame.

Note: When I wrote the Weather Witch class, I didn't have a definitive canonical use for draw out soul. The player pointed out that the target must be "dying or extremely recently dead". Since the mummy was indisputably extremely recently dead (why, it was dead as a doornail only a few hours ago), the spell should work on it.
The crew set the mansion on fire and, assisted by a few servants, hastily "rescued" all the valuables. A few days later, the Captain locked the candle in an iron chest and threw it into the sea.

After a botched ransom scheme, the Captain tested her soul-drawing powers again. This time, she bound the soul of a dead Tarraconese merchant into a "a small item that belonged to them"; the merchant's heart. The merchant sat upright, moved, and viciously attacked the crew like a rabid animal. Chopping it to fragments helped, but the individual parts kept moving. Convinced and terrified by the Captain's unnatural powers, the crew locked the fragments in a chest and stored it in the hold.

While waiting for hurricane season to end, the pirates looked for costal work. A merchant hired them to investigate a settlement on Chult's northwest coast. According to passing merchants, Port Castigliar had taken a direct hit from a hurricane. The "merchant sailors" of the Majestic and the Venture were to make a full report, recover any of the merchant's property, and return.

Before departing, the pirates picked up a very unusual passenger. Charles Derwent, Wexlish naturalist, had arrived in Port Nyanzaru while Tarracon and Wexland were at peace. Now they were at war, and the slightly distractable naturalist had languished under a mild form of house arrest. The pirates offered him a job aboard the Majestic. He was fascinated by the leather-winged terror-folk and agreed without even haggling for payment.

And so, holds lightened but purses full, the Majestic and the Venture set sail once more. What would the find on the far coast of Chult? Would the Captain's blatant witchery catch up with her?

Find out next time.