Skull and Shackles – Death of a Thousand Cuts 2nd Week in a Row

Last Tuesday night in my in person game the crew of the Blackheart were reunited with their little Mwangi Halfling Captain Lem for the first time in a couple of games as +Cam Mcloughlin decided to return to the game.  I had set everything up, latter part of the Raiders of the Fever Sea module and there was one encounter I was excited to see how it played out.

They are very close to ending the module and the group are on the trail of the legendary pirate Captain Cyrus Wolfe’s hidden treasure.  They believe they have a treasure map that was tattooed onto a pirate captain’s back and they have found the archipelago and the cove where the Beast of Mancatcher Cove resides.

Now it so happens that it was the encounter with the so called Beast that I was excited to see how it played out.  It was a difficult encounter in a lot of ways in fact and in reality I was not sure if the party would actually encounter it in the long run with the way they approached the cove.

See, there is the map on her back!

The cove is covered over with a huge series of vines making it more like a cave than an actual cove and the look of the waters and the tale of the Beast made the Captain a little wary on the first night so they anchored outside the cove and watched.  In the morning there was talk about going in and discovering the treasure but they then realised that they needed to be in the cove just as first light arose so they went into the cove and anchored there just prior to sunrise.

They found all the tell tale signs that had been alluded to in the poem on the map and were excited that they had actually found Mancatcher Cove.  But the boat was plagued with a Sahuagin attempt at fouling their rudder but the party soon put a stop to that and also started to thin out the herd of sharks that literally teemed in the cove.  Night fell and the crew had decided that they were going to attempt to scale the cliffs after a few hours of darkness.  This allowed me to bring out the Beast so to speak.

Had the party decided to take to the cliffs in the early morning and had a good run in finding the treasure they may have been out of the Cove prior to nightfall and the Beast is a nocturnal creature so they would never have had to face the creature that had killed so many before it.  OK, so the next little bit is going to be all about the Beast so if you are a player in this Adventure Path, BUGGER OFF!

The Beast was in fact a plant that had made its home in the vine canopy.  The creature is called a “Canopy Creeper” and in essence it hangs above (in this case it was around 90-100′ above the players) and uses vines to reach down and grab hapless victims.  It then raises them thirty feet into the air and slowly sucks the juices out of them through the vines and sapping their strength at 1 point a round.

To start with, the Beast is a CR 8 creature and that is a big ask for a party of five 6th level characters.  But throw into the mix that the Beast is suspended out of easy melee attack reach and they do not really have a ranged expert?  Wow!  The new cleric (“Salty Strawfoot”) called lightning which to me was an inspired move, if only the creature was not immune to electricity.

First off four of the regular crew got targeted and then in the next round the Barbarian got taken.  The Necromancer levitated the Barbarian up to the Beast but then they found out how nasty the Beast’s bite attack was.  The battle was looooooooooooong.  It came in at around 20-25 rounds of combat where I am pretty sure a lot of the players were thinking they were doomed.  It was a war of attrition and I had to even throw in crew crossbow attacks to see if there could be a conclusion to this encounter.

I will say that I think I made one error in the battle, but I am not sure if that error actually helped the players stay alive or if it made it harder for them.  The vines the Canopy Creeper uses to grapple the victims and feed from them are not actually a part of its physical body, rather a part of the vine network that it lives in.  I was making the players roll the AC of the Canopy Creeper to hit the vines whilst grappled when I think the intention is that it was an automatic hit now I look at the statistics in the light of the next day.

The mean old Canopy Creeper rips the party to pieces

I am not too concerned about this error for two reasons.  In most cases, had the party cut the vine they would have fallen 30 feet to the deck of the ship or into shark infested waters.  Damage and difficulty combined I think this may have killed the party quicker than the 1d8 feed damage and the 1 point Strength drain.  Secondly, as a way of making the combat go quicker I was actually attributing the damage that the players did to the vines (up to 10 points anyway) to the Canopy Creeper itself which is technically probably the incorrect application as the vine is not a part of the beast.  On the way home I thought about that and if I had not done that the players could have expected roughly another 10 rounds of combat and it would likely have ended in a TPK (Total Party Kill).

Five regular crew dead, two player characters (the Captain and the Barbarian) with 0 Strength and a frustrated Tengu and Human archer later and the battle was done.  The players were victorious but it looks as though their stay in Mancatcher Cove is now going to be extended so they can recover their Strength and dignity before they make the climb up to the caves to see if they can find the legendary treasure.  A fun game though and the role playing was good.  +Michael Tokarski is fitting in well and the crew seem to be back in the mix!  Keep rolling.

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