Islands of Plunder: Spices & Flesh
All right, this installment of the “Islands of Plunder”-series is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Wait, before we go into the details – what is this series about? Well, essentially, the Islands of Plunder-sub-series is a part of expansions intended for the Skull & Shackles AP, providing sidetreks etc. on an island per island base – they can essentially be considered island-focused mini-adventures that work just as well within the context of a Freeport campaign, Razor Coast or Savage Tide – if it’s remotely pirate/island-themed, these will work – and probably beyond that, but that I’ll take a look at on a case by case basis. This Island of Plunder-module is intended to be run for level 4 characters during #2 of the Skull & Shackles AP.
Hence, since this is an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players are strongly advised to jump to the conclusion.
When the PCs board the Tamarind (fully mapped in gorgeous full color!), captain Batholomew Shaw immediately surrenders his weapons -alas, things are not as easy as they seem. While the captain sports minor enchantments, the module does mention this and provides excuses for the DM to rattle off – nice to see obvious PC capacities taken into account. Beyond the magic, astute and observant PCs can notice quite a few discrepancies in the Tamarind’s make up that should make them aware of the potential issues with the craft -if they fail, though, they may very well be subjected to non-lethal poison that may knock them out and put them at a severe disadvantage.
Whether they are imprisoned and need to escape from the secret cargo (including slaves) hold or whether open hostilities break out – the PCs will have a conflict on their hands -and one that is not too easy. While it is my personal opinion that the ship’s alchemist’s buffed AC at 20 isn’t too bad, the module does sport advice for extremely low-powered groups to prevent frustration. Searching the ship, the PCs promptly stumble across the legend of Shayonna and a hinted trade planned by the pirates; Said being, though, is now known as the legendary Gaunt. Embarking towards her islet, the PCs are soon greeted by a less than friendly merrow strike squad.
Despicable PCs may well sell the slaves for an excellent price, but more heroic PCs will have to brave coral flensing traps, ravenous urchin swarms and worse before finally facing down legendary Shayonna, who has the strange power to transform regular beings into merrow – and yes, she is a mythic threat and one that will challenge the PCs to the utmost. It should be noted that her legend can be gleaned by the PCs, making sure they know they do not have a regular adversary before them and her stats, fully provided herein, contain all required rules to run her.
The pdf concludes with player-friendly versions of the maps, including Shayonna’s islet. Going above and beyond, the underwater tunnels do not show on the player-friendly map – AWESOME.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Each named NPC receives his/her own artwork, which is awesome. Even better, both island and fortress come in lavishly drawn full color maps that also sport player-friendly maps to use as handouts – kudos to the cartographer! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Matt Goodall and James F.D. Graham have provided a neat sidetrek here – with smart adversaries, a nice, short, concise story and fitting consequences. The BBEG is neat as well, though her foreshadowing does not match that of a similar module. The cartography is neat, quite some advice is given that helps run the sidetrek and the module’s gorgeous original artwork and cartography help make it a nice, unpretentious sidetrek. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to – easily dropped into just about every kind of nautical campaign, this one has the potential for massive expansion, should a DM choose to do so. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.