Demonsea: Ships of the Demonsea
Avast maties! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day! To celebrate we be postin’ a piratical article about the colourful characters ye be likely to meet if ye be so bold as to venture into Haulshore: a treasure-hunter’s paradise in the Demonsea campaign settin’. We’ve even got a big campaign seed for ye, and hooks for each o’ the captains. Ye could also use this here article for some other world, but if ye arrren’t privy to the secrets o’ the Demonsea, cast ya eyes yonder to read of a world of demons, pirates and adventure on the high seas!
Haulshore is a sunny bustling seaside town in Darbrin. It has auction houses aplenty that pay good coin for all manner of exotic artefacts brought in from the sea and far away lands. Pirates, explorers and adventurers consult maps at taverns such as the Jolly Dagger and recruit crew members here for daring expeditions. Such crews often bid on items at the auction houses too, as many of these artefacts – be they engraved shields, horned skulls, battered journals or what have you – also serve as maps to even greater treasure for those who know what to look for. You won’t always find the same ships at Haulshore – they’re usually off on adventures – but it is a frequent port of pirates.
Right now, some very notable captains have docked in Haulshore and are looking for new crew members. Everyone seems interested in a secret auction in the back rooms of the Jolly Dagger – something too precious to be shown in the auction houses. It is an ornate shield known as Sarrek’s Voyage. Engravings and threads of gold depict the ancient hero Sarrek at various stages in his epic voyage: the Battle of One, the Battle of Many, Respite, the Ascendancy, the Stranded and so on.
Exact locations of the events depicted on Sarrek’s Voyage are unknown, but it is said the ancients built a temple at each point. Rumour has it that taking the shield to each temple will show the way to the next location and ultimately, the final resting place of Sarrek: a mythical holy city of treasure and wonder lost for thousands of years!
Captain Hodric ‘Red’ Bragg is a ragged portrait of a cutthroat pirate. His gut is heavy with grog, his thick black beard full of lice, his teeth yellowed or replaced with gold and his reddened skin leathery from sun. His crew is a bunch of murderous criminals with nowhere else to go and no moral compass to guide them.
Very few women ever join his crew and those that do have to be tough as nails to survive, and even then the Broken Shackle is not an inviting place for females – or for civilised males. Below deck, the three-masted black and brown galleon smells like grog, piss, blood and sweat. It has a large filthy brig for any foe who survives an onslaught from the ship. On deck there perches a black cannon that has obliterated more than a few enemy ships.
Bragg’s crew has some good divers who quickly loot their sinking foes. The crew also contains one incongruous man named Lorne. He is well-dressed, well-spoken and seems very out of place here. Whispers say that he may have once sailed with the Fierce Sharai, but there is bad blood between them now and Lorne is the recruiting officer for the Broken Shackle.
The Broken Shackle’s crew pillage and plunder. Their average missions include raiding unfortified towns, scuttling or capturing courier and merchant ships and generally causing havoc that reaps rewards of gold, grog or women. Lately, though, Bragg has been sending his crew on more and more raids against smugglers. What do they have that he wants so badly? The Red Captain has been getting redder recently, it seems – some say it’s not the sun at all, but that Bragg has been hiding an addiction to Ambrosia – the red liquid rumoured to be made of demon blood – and has fallen off the wagon. Perhaps now is the perfect time for mutiny?
Captain Jenny ‘Fishnet’ Shemmer is a strikingly beautiful woman. Her lustrous red hair, long legs and good looks are the talk of the town whenever she comes ashore. However, she is as dangerous as she is pretty. It is said that Fishnet got her nickname when she strangled to death the former lascivious male captain of the Seventh Chance with her stockings.
It is well known that Shemmer sails both ways and seems to only recruit attractive and alluring people. Because of this, her entire crew consists of beautiful men and women who are also deadly in combat – if they weren’t before joining the crew, they quickly learn to be under Shemmer’s harsh and domineering rule.
Shemmer likes control and hates being showed up. She holds a grudge like no other and will commit considerable resources towards vengeance. She loves her ship, the Seventh Chance, and since winning it from the previous captain she has made the two-masted galleon into a work of beauty. Polishing and painting the ship are common chores for the crew and the vessel is flawless, save for one massive scar down the side of the ship that reaches so high it mars the railing on the bow itself. Shemmer sometimes sits and strokes the splintered wound on the railing, thoughts of revenge dancing behind her eyes.
The Seventh Chance favours bounties of jewellery, artwork and other beautiful things. Whenever they can, these are the prizes they seek. Beautiful new crew members are also sought out and any ships or even towns that strike Fishnet’s fancy will often become the target of ruthless and relentless attacks until she has what she wants. Most of the rest of the crew’s time is spent tending to the ship and tracking down those who have wronged the crew and captain.
Captain Seth ‘Breezer’ Tallow is a lanky young man, spry and full of wit and good humour. He is incredibly laid back for a pirate captain and other crews sometimes call the Freerunner the ‘Party Ship’. His people are relaxed and spontaneous, making them unpredictable in combat and allowing them to excel in unexpected situations. However, their attitude means that they don’t plan ahead a whole lot and just ‘breeze’ through life taking advantage of opportunities that come their way.
Breezer’s crew could probably achieve great things if they put their minds to it, but few of them ever bother. Most are highly intelligent, but bored with lives of discipline. Breezer offers a life with hammocks on deck and tropical drinks and card games most of the day. Because of Breezer’s lax policies, his ship is a haphazard vessel patched together and barely staying afloat. It is one of the fastest ships on the waves due to it’s design, but after even a short skirmish there is a chance of sinking.
Being an opportunistic captain, Breezer has made a lot of enemies. He’s avoided many more thanks to the quick thinking and glib tongues of his crew during short cons. Breezer’s even pulled one over on Shemmer a few times – he doesn’t think she’s on to him, but he can’t be sure. Whether Shemmer is involved or not, one particular mark Breezer struck at long ago has teamed up with a more recent mark, tracked him down and is about to start some trouble. Meanwhile, the ship is in desperate need of repairs.
Captain Dasharah ‘Ransom’ Kalkaran is a fit, bald Kalrashi man in his mid-thirties, lean, tall and looming. Dasharah is a serious but friendly and reasonable man who understands the importance of structure and discipline, but also knows that people need to cut loose every now and then – especially when hunting demons. The Fierce Sharai – meaning Fierce Queen in Kalarashi – is dedicated to protecting the world by hunting down demons, cultists and artefacts that could be used to strike back against the demons in the Burning War back in Kalarash – or securing those that could be used by demons.
Because the captain is Kalarashi and the ship’s cause is close to his people’s hearts, many other Kalarashi are drawn to this multicultural crew. Dabrish are the minority aboard the ship, but not by much. Generally, the crew is very accepting and there is little racial tension as everyone has much greater threats to contend with, in the form of demons. Criminals find their way onto the Broken Shackle, but many outcasts have a home on the Fierce Sharai, as the captain has a soft spot for these people, being an outcast himself.
Dasharah’s nickname, ‘Ransom’, comes from the fact that he is more likely to ransom prisoners back than kill them. Some say, however, that the true origins of his nickname are much more intriguing. The Fierece Sharai, golden in colour, was originally a royal Kalarashi treasure ship and rumour has it that Dasharah stole the large swift vessel – laden with a sharai’s ransom in valuables – and fled his homeland. It is unclear what drove Dasharah to this course of action.
Perhaps he was banished for committing some horrible crime or maybe he discovered a dark secret during his time as a royal guard and could no longer bear to serve his sharai. Whatever happened, everyone – especially rival captains – have their own opinions of the event and scandal surrounds his departure. Regarding nicknames, it is said that Shemmer finds Dasharah quite appealing and has given him a second nickname: ‘Handsome Ransom’.
The Fierce Sharai’s missions are much more dangerous and exotic than some of the other crews, due to their frequent encounters with the demonic. In Darbrish waters, they are more likely to come across cultists or demonic artefacts than true demons, but they have sighted a hellship or two in their time.
One member of the crew, a waif of a woman named Esmala is demon-touched and receives prophetic visions, though some say the demons can see through her eyes. Sarrek’s Voyage supposedly leads to a place that holds a mighty weapon that could be used for or against demons. Dasharah wants to get there first to use the weapon to fight against the demons, but he knows the other captains have their eyes on Sarrek’s Voyage too.
Captain ‘Bloody’ Bertha Harding is a hardbitten fearsome woman who makes Shemmer look like a kitten. Bloody Bertha is burly, battleworn and stout. She is not short, but not towering. She is middle-aged at least, but her exact age is hard to determine and anyone who has dared ask is now dead. Bertha is widely known to be heartless and ruthless. Her crew are crazy, bloodthirsty monsters too, and she is the only one who can control them. Nobody messes with Bloody Bertha.
Her ship is a massive cannon-laden heavily-armoured vessel, painted red – rumours say that the paint is the blood of her enemies and “Bertha will paint the ship with you!” is a common warning to fellow crew mates or a threat to enemies. The Bloodwave is so well armed and armoured that ramming other ships is definitely an option and the scars on its hull are testament to the battles it has won.
Nobody knows how new recruits are chosen for the Bloodwave, but what is common knowledge is that the ship’s recruiter is also an infamous and effective torturer, possibly an outlaw inquisitor wanted for treason. Rumours told by men now dead at Bertha’s hand proposed that one of her rival captains was actually her child. Dasharah is out of the question, but could Bragg, Shemmer or Breezer really be related to Bloody Bertha? If so, nobody is letting the secret out and they all seem just as terrified of her as anyone else. Or is that just a show? Could one of them be working with her? Or is their relationship even more fuel for the fires of rivalry?
Bloody Bertha is a woman obsessed, it seems. Her ship, the Bloodwave is the toughest ruddy ship on the sea, but she isn’t satisfied. Word has it that Bloody Bertha is looking to capture herself a Hellship. Only she would be crazy and ballsy enough to try to board and take a hellship: these ships sailed straight out of Hell, lashed together from flesh and bone, leaving a trail of sulphur-smelling steam in their wakes.
Some believe the hellships are colossal demons themselves, and more than one half-drunk half-insane sailor has told tales of catching a fleeting glimpse of a hellship through a thick blanket of steam and swearing that a huge yellow eye peered back from the bow. How much of this is true is unclear, but it’s all damn scary and Bloody Bertha doesn’t seem phased in the least.
PCs starting off in Haulshore have plenty of opportunities for adventure. Which crew will they join? Do they admire the ship’s captain or share his or her goals and desires, are they just there for the riches, or are they joining as spies or so they can mutiny? Do they have any ties with the other ships’ crews? What trouble and advantages will this lead to? How interested are they in Sarrek’s Voyage? Do any of them have connections to demons? Maybe one has seen a hellship before or perhaps they are inquisitors or demon-touched.
You should make sure to let PCs make knowledge checks and talk to the ships’ recruiters, because whichever ship they end up on, it will make quite a difference – even if all the captains are after Sarrek’s Voyage. Pirate ships are great, because they are mobile adventure locations. Don’t think of them just as a means of transport from one adventure to another. Lots of exciting things can happen in the middle of the ocean, thanks to the variety of interesting NPCs stuck together in a relatively small area.
The descriptions above talk about the crews in general, but there are always crew members who break the mould - there might be some nice people, like Lorne, aboard the Broken Shackle, surely Shemmer can’t be a task master all the time (right?), maybe there are a few really dedicated long con grifters on the Freerunner, there are definitely some nasty people on the Fierce Sharai amongst all the other accepting crew, and who knows what really goes on behind the fortified hull of the Bloodwave?
Remember, too, that pirate crews are large and the PCs might not meet everyone straight away. That allows you to introduce new NPCs later, even in the middle of a voyage. Pirates die too – especially in Savage Worlds – and recruiters will need to gather more crew, meaning new NPCs – good and bad – will be joining the established crew from time to time. Connections with other ships also make for interesting hooks when you inevitably run into a rival pirate crew.
Whatever you do, make it fun and exciting! That’s the spirit of adventures on the Demonsea!