This is going to be a combination play report and review of M.T. Black’s adventure, “The Dawn Chasers“. It’s designed for a party of 3rd to 4th level, and I was able to run it in one session of play. As promised, it is a swashbuckling adventure and features a few mini-games or systems to fill in some blanks in the 5e rules, reminiscent of skill challenges.
This weekend I ran a new game that I’ve set in James Introcaso’s world of Enora: The Bound Sky. When I first read about it, I fell in love with the idea. Shortly after my boys wanted to start a new game for weekends that my daughter wasn’t there. They wanted to be pirates, so I thought, “Perfect! Sky Pirates!”. I did not want to use just regular ships in the sky. I’ve always liked the aesthetic of Spelljammer, so I’ll be using The Worst DM’s 5e Spelljammer conversions.
Our duo consists of:
Thamio, 4th level half elf swashbuckler rogue with the criminal background (pirate).
Varis, 4th level wood elf shadow monk with the prisoner background.
This is our first time playing these characters, so while setting up, I asked them how they know each other. This came up pretty much stream of conscious. They both use the same fence, and were both in the seedy part of town. Varis was running a three dragon ante scam and got caught cheating. A brawl ensued, and Varis and Thamio ended up fleeing together.
It was while hiding out in a tavern that they met up with Captain Moonlight, of The Dawn Chaser. She is looking for some extra muscle. Looking to get out of Bonport, (and Thamio is looking for a ship), they signed on. My boys missed out a bit on “The Negotiation Game”, only trying to get a better day rate. They took Captain Moonlight’s first offer on signing bonus and loot and salvage bonuses.
They set sail the next morning on the Dawn Chaser, a hammership. The first couple days are uneventful as they get to know the crew. Paige, a young human girl and one of the “cabin boys” is assigned to them to show them around and be of any assistance. They take an immediate liking to her. Varis also had trouble getting his “air legs”, another mini-game involving Constitution saves to prevent sea (or in my case air) sickness.
The third night Captain Moonlight invites them to dinner, where she lets them in on a secret, that she is looking for the shipwreck of the Fortune Son, a ship that she has a history with.
The next morning, goblin pirates attack in a run down tradesman. They swoop down out of the clouds and get above the Dawn Chaser, dropping ropes with grappling hooks down and hooking the railing. Goblins begin to rapel down onto the deck.
Here’s another of the elegant minigames in this adventure. 1d6+3 goblins board the first round. 1d6+1 arrive each round after. The crew kills kills 1d4 goblins each round, but on a roll of a 1, a crewmember dies. All that without the involvement of the characters. It’s a system for large battles that I’ll be using for my own games from now on.
The battle started off and Varis used his shortsword to sever one of the grappling ropes. The goblin rapelling down ends up falling overboard, down thousands of feet thru the black clouds below. Thamio uses his swashbuckler fancy footwork ability to dance around the deck. Eventually, he decides to climb up the rope to the goblin tradesman and finds the goblin chief with just five more goblins. He slips thru their ranks, and will a few good rolls, downs the goblin chief! The remaining goblins surrender.
In the hold of the goblin ship is a crate, full of things from the Fortunate Son. The goblins had already looted the ship! Captain Moonight claims a mysterious jagged silver triangle idol that is known as the Tunderchild.
Riders on the Storm
Unbeknownst to the crew of the Dawn Chaser, the Tunderchild needs to be kept in the temple on Storm Island. In an effort to bring it back, the spirits on Storm Island send out a terrible storm. That gives us two fun skill challenges. “Shortening the Sails” and “Tying off the Rigging”. Success means the character helped the ship ride the storm out. Failure means a member of the crew dies. If both checks are failed, there are even graver consquences.
Varis and Thamio head ashore with Captain Moonlight and Paige to check out the wreckage. Climbing aboard, they find some crew members have risen as storm zombies. A fun zombie variant that does lightning damage.
After defeating the zombies (Paige avoided combat), they checked out the cargo hold. There they encountered Pukka, a 4-foot tall spider monkey/earth spirit. They way Pukka’s dialog is written, I played him like an Empire Strikes Back Yoda.
Pukka told them that the Thunderchild must be returned to Old Man Storm.
They head back to the ship to get the Thunderchild. Paige reluctantly stays behind on ship, and Tog, a orcish crewmember joins them. Pukka leads them thru the jungle to the temple. The temple consists of two rooms an antechamber and a reliquary. As they enter the antechamber, five storm mephits swoop down from the ceiling and attack.
Varis cast darkness, and they all ran past the mephits and into the next room. In the reliquary they meet Old Man Storm, a lightning elemental. Varis, holding the Thunderchild, moves forward, only to become engulfed by Old Man Storm. Varis, lost in the blinding storm of the elemental, falls from repeated attacks. Thamio moves in and tries to find the idol, but can’t find it. Paige, who ended up following behind them, pops up, holding the Thunderchild. A suprised Thamio takes the idol, and puts it back on the altar. Old Man Storm swirls back up into the ceiling, freeing the party.
With all back into place, the spirits of Storm Island are happy once more. Pukka thanks them by giving them a conch shell that they can use to summon him. With his farewells, he dissolves into the earth, leaving only a patch of swirling dust.
Overall we really enjoyed The Dawn Chasers. It was easy to run. Sidebars explain daily life on ship, important NPCs, monster variants, and even things to be prepared for from the party are all helpful. Captain Moonlight, Pukka, Paige and others of the crew will easily become lasting NPCs in my game. “New Monsters” are simple variants on creatures from the SRD.
The Dawn Chasers also leaves some open plot hooks that can be explored.