Friday, May 17, 2024

Random Ship Encounters on the Sea of Fish

So over 10 years ago I said I would write a follow-up to this blog post and I never did.  So this post is dedicated to DM_Lazenby who brazenly called me out on it last week.  

You're correct, Lazenby.  It's time to make good.

Since this is a follow-up to a 10-year-old post, I'm just going to speed-write it the way I used to.  No editing/rewriting!  Just stream of consciousness.

The Sea of Fish is probably the most well-traveled ocean in Centerra--part of the reason why it can get away with such a boring name.  Here are some things you can run into:

Roll d12:

1-5    Merchants

6        Other

7-12   Pirates

Here's how I'm currently doing reaction rolls.  Roll 2d6 and look at the table.

For Villainous foes (like pirates) roll 3d6 and keep the lowest 2d6.



Worst 2 of 4d6


Worst 2 of 3d6




Best 2 of 3d6































Merchants (d12)

On a Poor reaction, they'll gently attempt to scam you and rob you.  On a Horrible reaction roll, they'll be determined to rob you and/or kill you.

1. The Jingtown Flotilla. A bunch of floating weirdos who float around the ocean buying and selling stuff. Everyone is amazed that they haven’t fallen off the edge of the world yet. They sell a lot of fish-based clothing and food, including “ocean apples” which taste like nuts. No one is sure what they are. They never have any magic items. 50% chance of having someone who is interested in being hired. Accept payment in gold, spices, and impregnation (if they like the cut of your jib). 2. Balakurn, also called The King of the Sea. Some sort of ancient, colossal corpse that floats around in the ocean. Crewed by a motley population of parasites and giant insect-things. They’re disgusting to look upon, but friendly and honest. Their traditional greeting (and way to honor new friends) is by eating a piece of the other person. It’s fine if you don’t want to! They’ve heard that human fingers don’t grow back after being severed (and some of them even believe it). They sell goods made from Balakurn’s corpse, including some really good bone armor and bloodwine. They need wood, in order to refresh their forest of masts and tangle of rudders. Led by Turrak, a 8’ flea. A devout member of the Church. If you would like to attend church, or need to perform confession, they have a priest available (a giant hookworm) in a beautiful new chapel. If you hang out with them, they’ll tell you how there used to be a horrible death cult on the body of this dead titan, but they got tired of having their children sacrificed, and the horrible paladins that came to kill them every couple of years. The revolution against the cult was led by an insect-thing named Transhak, who was actually Turrak’s father. After Transhak’s martyrdom, the inhabitant of the titan decided to honor him by eating him. Giant Insect-Thing: Lvl 3, Def chain, Claw 1d8. As merchants, they’re especially interested in a thing called “music” (which they will love) and this thing called “spicy food” (which they will hate because it hurts too much–they will suspect you of poisoning them), and a thing called “cat” (which wild delight and frighten them). Bringing them these things will earn you plenty of supplies and some creepy ex-cult stuff. Creepy ex-cult items:
  • Claw of Arbitration (+1 dagger, +3 vs known liars, twitches uncontrollably when the player discusses violence)
  • Lance of Goxlagog (+1 spear, +3 vs liches, if you spear it into the ground, everyone in 20' must save or become anchored to the ground--you always fail your save)
  • Penitent's Journal (sentient, you can talk to it by writing in it, it can eavesdrop for you, create fake entries)
  • Lazarus Oil (pour it on a corpse, set the corpse on fire, and it will stand up and talk to you as if it were alive and you were its friends, it will believe that it is save at home, if they realize that they're dead they will attack you, good for interrogation but you have to be subtle, lasts 3 mins or until the fire goes out)
3. Tilly Scoresby of the Popinjay. A ship full of halflings. Sells magical food. Tiller herself is also a fortune teller for hire, but what she really dispenses is advice. Pay her 10s, tell her your problems, and she’ll tell you what she thinks you should do–after consulting the cards of course. It’s a great deal–her advice is often invaluable. Rudeness is unforgivable, though, so watch your language. Tilly wears a fun blue dress over a breastplate, and her fur floral hat hides a metal helmet. 4. Captain Mormont of the Blistering Poltroon. Pirates who narrowly escaped a horrifying battle. They need men–their ship is woefully understaffed, with only 8 pirates on it besides the newly-minted captain. They also need a new mast–theirs is broken (and your ship probably has a spare mast, right?) Will trade good money and weapons for it. (You could probably also kill them and capture their ship. They’re aware of this, but their ship is too fucked up to flee, so they have little choice.) Unsavory, nervous men trying desperately to appear friendly. Captain Mormont has a new limp and just lost his hand yesterday. 5. Captain Bildred of the Hearthstone. Bildred tyrannizes her husband (Orag) and crew, all of whom are related to her. (She’s the mother of half a dozen crewmembers already.) They sell high-quality weapons and food at high prices. Among her and the crew, arguments erupt every few minutes–the family settles everything by shouting. Captain Bildred distrusts people until they are demonstrably “decent family folk” like her. Has a treasure map to sell you–she can’t risk her family on stuff like this, but you’re free to chase it down once you pay her for it. 6. Macklemee and the Bird’s Blessing. Captain Macklemee is a short, fast-talking woman who has 1d6 parakeets on her at any time and another 1d4 in her pockets. Her ship is infested with birds of all sorts, as she is sworn to the Simurgh. Trades in healing. Has 1d3 random potions for sale. But in all transactions, you must accept a bird as part of the trade. Whenever anyone steps up to talk to Macklemee, roll a d6. On a 1-2, the birds don’t like you, and Macklemee will ask to talk to someone else. Captain Macklemee has a missing tooth and does fingerguns. 7. Isaac Bogglewood and the Brightest Jewel. A broadshouldered man with chiseled good looks. Wants to sell ship supplies (including his spare wood, masts, rope), some costumes (good for disguises) and his spare weapons. Will offer to trade ships. He has a good ship, probably better than yours, but he will come up with a reason why. (His ship is too big and slow–he wants a faster one, his ship is too small and he wants more cargo space for trading, etc.) In truth, he stole this ship, and your next encounter will be with the First Labragos of the Whitestone Labyrinth, pursuing the Brightest Jewel in a stone ship that has no sails. The Brightest Jewel is stolen, of course, and belongs to the Labyrinth. 8. Saint Pombo and the Reliquary. 35 priests and nuns who guard the corpse of Saint Pombo. The corpse is kept in a glass case and is incorruptible–it does not rot, except for one hand which is now completely skeletal. The crew interprets the will of Saint Pombo by rolling his knucklebones. The Reliquary sells healing, curse removal, divination, and a variety of blessings: good weather for 1d6 days, lose all of your gambling bets for 1d6 days, make a new friend at the next port. First Mate is Brother Ambrith, who wears yellow-tinted spectacles, looks everyone up-and-down whenever he meets them, and eats paper to calm down.

Other (d4)

1. Castaway. Iqbarra, a Marinel castaway in a rowboat with a handmade sail. (Marinels have monkey tails and are afraid to walk on land.) Escaped from the Whitestone Labyrinth with her memories stored in a sapphire-eyed doll head. (The Whitestone Labyrinth claims that it can answer any question, but at the cost of 1 year of service. During this year, the Labyrinth holds on to your memories to guarantee the deal.) Iqbarra is looking for someone who can restore her mind to her. During her time working for the Labyrinth, even demons seemed to show her deference, so she became convinced that she is actually someone special--a princess or perhaps a demon herself. Once her memory is restored, she will be heartbroken to discover that she was just a stupid village girl who wanted to know where she would meet her perfect husband (and was told to be at a time and place that has already passed). There’s nothing special about her, and all of her confidence will vanish. She’ll want to have her memories removed again, and if left alone, will eventually drift into alcoholism and despair. 2. Abandoned ship, the Yellow Flag. In the hold is a black pudding. Nothing of value. 3. Giant turtle island, half a mile long. Has some palm trees and sand on it, but is otherwise abandoned. The giant turtle is curious and could be tamed with enough effort, but if you coax it from its regular feeding grounds it may starve. 4. Lykoran Hydrofoil. Stationary, looks like a silver, disc-like UFO. At speed, it lifts out of the water on hydrofoils, leaving two huge arcs of water behind it like pheasant tails. On board is an incredibly old man (Uzzik) and his granddaughter (Ayla) are searching for the Lykorans*. A dying Lykoran gave them this boat and charged them with returning it to his people. Since Lost Lykorum was raised into the sky centuries ago, Ayla believes that this is an impossible quest, and that the dying Lykoran merely gave them this mission so that Uzzik would go see the world. Uzzik, who still mourns the death of his shaggy friend, believes that the Lykoran would never send them on a wild goose chase. They need food and water, and have little to trade. In exchange, they can carry messages and cargo with extreme alacrity. They are both aware that the ship is a prize that is worth far more than their lives, but they believe that they can simply speed away from any danger.

Pirates (d12)

1. Iceberg Ship of the Frost Giants. Frost Giants bring their own weather when they travel, so they’re always preceded by snow. Led by Lorgran Skybrow, who hurls frozen lightning bolts. (In the coldest parts of the world, lightning freezes when it hits the earth. The frost giants know how to collect them safely.) Accompanied by 6 other giants and a female bard name Surlixia (who is Tambru’s consort/employee/hostage). 2. 1d4+1 Charcorran Serpent-Riders. Riders are lvl 3 fighters. Sea serpents are Lvl 5, chain, Bite 1d6+3. Capable of speed only in short bursts. Want gold, women, and cute pets–these are all intended to be gifts for their wives. 3. Merfolk Semi-Sub. From a great distance, it resembles a regular ship. It may even pursue you like a regular ship. But their usual strategy is to get in front of you, and then do a barrel roll. With most of the ship underwater, it becomes difficult to see and difficult to attack. 4. Merfolk Spire. Wooden structures that mostly sit underwater. When a target approaches, the ballast is loosed and the spire emerges from the water, creating an artillery platform for their fire-throwers, poison-breathers, and flying mantas. 5. Ghost Pirates. Captain Abrigo of The Stained Angel. Only ever appears at night. Sails alongside your ship, singing a song. Every hour, someone is possessed by Abrigo and jumps ashore (or attacks people, if restrained). Only way to escape is to outrun them (difficult without supernatural aid) or climb on board and kill the singer. Ghost pirates look like balls of St. Elmo’s fire, but you can see their outlines when the moonlight hits them square. Difficulties include possession, doors that slam shut on your party, animated ropes that keelhaul you, animated swords. There are skeleton pirates too but they just sit on the floor and watch you. The singing is coming from a woman with coins for eyes and coins sewn into her skin. If you kill her the song ends. If you take any treasure you can’t leave the ghost ship (your old ship and friends now feel incorporeal to you).

Leviathan by Jason Stieva
6. Captain Icellus of the Heart of Gold. 22 pirates and 2 ogres. Harpooners and whalers, all. If you fight them, there is a 50% chance that halfway through the fight, the Heart of Gold is attacked by Bartleby (a huge whale and Icellus’ nemesis). Captain Icellus has a glass eye and a beer gut. 7. Captain Rygar of the Merchant’s Purpose. 34 pirates and 1 dire hawk upon which a trained monkey rides (trained to fuck up your sails). Lures you in by lowering his sails, adjusting his ship’s angle of list (making it lean to the side), and acting like his ship is slowly sinking. 50% of the pirates are infected with mock pox. Captain Rygar is covered in scars and piercings. 8. Captain Mischa of the Fox’s Fang. 40 pirates, 6 wardogs, and 1 grave-bear spirit. Because of a convoluted prophecy, Mischa needs to marry pirate-king Sunjack, which is impossible without a large dowry (which is nearly the only thing that Sunjack cares about). She is assisted in this by a grave-bear spirit named Moktar, who mostly just sits behind her, influencing her actions. She wishes she could be rid of Moktar, but she isn’t sure how to kill the damn thing. Also she’s pretty sure that it’s her grandfather or something. She’s tall and wears a tasseled cap, and is magically good at firing her bow. 9. Captain Oolabel of the Falling Sky. 27 pirates, 2 dragoons, and 1 sky-cleric. The dragoons can jump a quarter-mile in a single hop, but they usually don’t use this ability to attack (too risky to attack a whole ship with just the two of you, plus they can’t swim in their armor). The sky cleric is Abradam, who is in love with Oolabel but hates the two dragoons. Captain Oolabel has cartoonish boobs and a belt made of bells. They claim to be gathering money to build a paradise akin to the Sunjack Vista (a floating, mobile pirate haven). 10. Boggerpaw and the Imperial Prison Hulk. A former prison ship. Anyone who lives there long enough is poisoned so that they can never leave the ship without falling ill and dying. After killing their jailors, the prisoners turned it into a three-story-tall trireme. They sail around, kidnapping people to refill their ranks, and making their boat bigger by adding more boats. Because they can’t leave the ship, the lieutenants enjoy a few luxuries: a bowling alley, a brothel, and brewery. 127 pirates, 4 dire rats (semi-tame, Boggerpaw’s pets). They’re all fucking mad. 11. Ollerganzu the Zoravel (a.k.a. zaddhu, a living ship made from a living tree–it has leaves instead of sails). Has 34 loyal sailors and 1 (half) elf treesinger. The wood elf is Naftiesh; she speaks for Ollerganzu. Without her there, Ollerganzu can only communicate by shedding a leaf when he is sad, or creaking ominously when he is angry. Despite being a tree, Ollerganzu is entirely motivated by greed and drugs. 12. Captain Laribo of the Lucky Smell. Captain Laribo is a marinel, a monkey-tailed subhuman from Worthless Zyro. Claims to need ransom money in order to save his king from the merfolk (who are asking for 1000 head of cattle in order to feed Dagon’s wives). The captain himself is friendly and playful and will try to rob you in the gentlest way possible, even insisting that he is not “robbing” you as much as he is “selling” you some things. After a bloody fight where they take everything valuable you own, they’ll leave behind the things you “bought”, some delicious homecooked food, a fancy lute, and a puppy. You can see some of these places on the map.

*Lost Lykorum

A hyper-advanced island nation that once reigned over the Sea of Fish. For their hubris, a prophecy was made that they would all die from want of air, and their island would be removed from beyond men's grasp. After a series of earthquakes, the Lykorans prepared for their island to sink into ocean, and developed many new technologies. The all died when their island was lifted many miles into the air atop a new mountain chain.


  1. So many brilliant minor details here, but I personally love the implication that most of the Balakurn's crew believe human fingers grow back and we're just superstitious about it or something. "Oh, of *course*, of *course* it's a permanent injury. Clearly. [makes get-a-load-of-these-guys gesture to other horrid bugperson]"

    1. Yeah, I try to bake little bits roleplaying in there for the DM.

      "Well, I've never seen humans with missing fingers."
      "They probably eat fingers with each other, just not with us."
      "There was that one guy who was missing a hand."
      "Oh yes, he was very polite. It'd be rude to offer him a finger when he was still growing back a hand."

  2. This is great stuff, and good to see you’re posting again. Also wanted to say that your blog got me in gear to finally start running my own campaign; first session went great (and also featured a tweaked Piabon)! The wealth of creativity in here is a balm and a tonic

  3. Writing a follow-up to a post over a decade later? Certified mad lad behavior. I love this blog, I love this post, and I especially love this line: "Despite being a tree, Ollerganzu is entirely motivated by greed and drugs."

    Ha. I'm particularly inspired by the idea that this was all written in a single stream of consciousness. I think I would post more if I weren't such a perfectionist. I should try writing like this more often.