DESIGNER’S NOTES – Part 2.
By Kevin Ross
Hi all, here is second part of my overview to the upcoming Waves Stained Crimson sourcebook. Let’s pick up exactly where we left off last time (if you missed the previous past, you can check that out here.
The next chapter is the longest in the book, and I think one of the highlights of the campaign. I’d always wanted to write a scenario recreating one of the famous buccaneer raids on the port cities of the Spanish Main in the 17th century (e.g., Henry Morgan’s raids on Portobello, Maracaibo, and Panama). What could be more fun than leading a pack of sea-dogs on a full-fledged assault on a port city fat with riches? Of course, when writing about pirates one always has to find a way to justify the thievery and slaughter, and here I hit upon the idea of a raid on a city of slave-traders. Not only that, but a raid planned and led by a man who had once been a slave himself. There’s considerably more here than meets the eye, however, as several parties have ulterior motives, a number of deceptions and some bad blood (literally) are about to be revealed.
With all of its many moving parts, this can be a tricky adventure to run, but one that should be quite memorable. It harkens back to the “Raid on Innsmouth” adventure I assembled for Call of Cthulhu’s Escape from Innsmouth book, with a lengthy adventure divided into different “missions”, each potentially led by a different player character. Here the action includes freeing slaves, piloting a fireship, fighting the slavers, cutting off the city’s defenders, and fighting through the chaotic streets of the city. The fighting is frenzied and non-stop, as the freed slaves take a bloody and fiery revenge on their former captors. Above it all, there are mysterious hints of black magic brewing... I think this adventure has a really strong Savage Sword of Conan vibe to it -- heck I can even picture the cover painting by the late great Earl Norem!
This scenario in many ways seems like a climax to the campaign, as here the player characters finally catch up to their piratical nemesis, Captain Daimos, and a duel to the death ensues. But this isn’t really the end, as further deceptions are revealed, and another villain -- the sorcerer Maledict Mer -- has escaped, having partially succeeded in a desperate plan to release his foul R’lyehian god upon the world.
Thus, our true finale finds the adventurers sailing into weird, storm-wracked seas, where the mad wizard has raised the sunken islands where his god sleeps. The weird atmosphere and encounters here were largely inspired by Lovecraft’s description of the island of R’lyeh, where the great alien god Cthulhu slumbers; as an old Call of Cthulhu hand, it was fun bringing some of that eldritch flavor to Conan, of course suitably amped up for the sword and sorcery audience while still maintaining some degree of sanity-blasting horror as well. There are many different perils here as the adventurers navigate the black islands, culminating in their final meeting with the sorcerer Maledict Mer and something much MUCH worse. Whether or not they succeed in stopping the sorcerer’s summons, the adventure ends in a cataclysm from which they’ll be lucky to escape with their lives.
There will still be a few loose ends left to tie up after the final scenario, and these are discussed in the final chapter, along with a few thoughts on sequel adventures. There’s still a bit of intrigue left as well, and a pretty good heap of loot to split up and spend. Plus, if the adventurers were lucky, they may have ended up with multiple ships with which to continue their piratical pursuits with their own small fleet!
I bookended the Afterword with another couple of quotes from Howard’s “The Pool of the Black One”, where Conan is rousing his new pirate crew to their revels after a particularly gruesome and harrowing adventure. These seemed pretty appropriate for the book, given the player characters will have just finished an even more harrowing series of adventures.
I hope you’ll enjoy Waves Stained Crimson. There’s a little bit of everything in it: brawling, drinking, survival at sea, swordfights and duels, black magic, monsters of all shapes and sizes, pirate allies and foes, spies and assassins, and eldritch horrors. I hope readers and players will be reminded of those great old Savage Sword comics, and of course Robert E. Howard’s superb pirate tales of Conan, Black Terence Vulmea, and Helen Taverel. Most of all I hope you have fun playing through this campaign of swashbuckling adventure, intrigue, grim battles, and eldritch sorcery.
Come on, ye bullies, drain those cups! ‘Tis time to set sail and stain those blue waves crimson!