Inner Sea - Chapter 1 - Hope Islands

Inner Sea - Chapter 1 - Hope Islands

Feb 25, 2023    

Continuing our campaign diary from our Inner Sea Campain intro

Starting differently

I made an effort from the start to try a few things I didn’t do at the start of my previous Tomb of Annihilation game. With a homebrew setting, I wanted to base the world more on the characters’ backstories and give them a chance to be a cohesive party with motivations. Before embarking on the main story to save the world … they have to care about the world. Enter the Hope Islands. While chapter 2 will incorporate major elements from “Call from the Deep” the early parts of this campaign are pulled from the excellent “Dragon of Icespire Peak,” the adventure contained within the D&D 5e Essentials Kit, which I’d previously run as an Adventurer’s League series at my friendly local gaming store.

I made an effort to pack the Hope Islands with likeable characters and used the notice-board style adventure hooks to help the players explore the full island. Emptional connection to the people of Free Port Hope would be earned one adventure at a time.

Connecting to The Bronze Age Collapse

In this game the characters are pirates, which will have specific societal meaning in this flooded world.

A big inspiration for this setting is the history of the Bronze Age Collapse and the Sea Peoples. Around the 12th century BC, most civilization in the mediterranean ended within a span of only 50 years throught the invastion of the Sea Peoples.

Sea Peoples inscription
The north wall of the Medinet Habu in modern Egypt depicts an invastion of the Sea Peoples. Chaos vs Order.

In Inner sea, only a few hundred years ago the world flooded for reasons unknown, covering most land with sea. In the chaotic years that followed sea-born raiders warred with surviving flotilla kingdoms in a conflict that threatened to end all surface civilization.

The dwindling kingdoms needed protection from the most violent raiders. The more civilized of the sea peoples needed safe ports. A truce was raised between some captains of the sea and the surviving surface ports. A “Pirate Code” would enforce the truce, binding pirates to a code of behavior and the ports to afford them safe harbor. While not all raiders took on the code – becomeing the Reavers, a major campaign faction, the players will be Pirates of the Code.

The Pirate Code and the Free Ports

Surface dwellers have a developed code that ended the chaos immediately following the Flood.

  1. To sign on to a Ship of the Code is to do so until one has earned one thousand gold. In so doing a sailor becomes a Pirate of the Code. A sailor leaving earlier will be named a deserter. Loss of a leg, arm, or other important appendage releases a sailor from half that obligation.

  2. To the captain goes five shares, the senior officers three, the junior offices one share and a half

  3. To strike harm among the crew is forbidden. Disputes that cannot be reconciled will be settled onshore in a dual overseen by the ship’s quartermaster. Crossbows at ten paces are required but should both sailors miss, the dual will go to cutlasses.

  4. To desert the ship or abandon one’s station in battle is punished with death or marooning

  5. To be put out at full dark are the lights and candles: if any of the crew, after that hour still remain inclined for drinking, they are to do it on the open deck

  6. To a pirate of the code shall be allowed the Right of Parlay: safe meeting with a captain to discuss a treaty or negotiation.

  7. To a Pirate of the Code shall come no lasting harm or imprisonment while in a Neutral Port

  8. To no Neutral Port shall a Pirate of the Code cheat, plunder, raid, ravage, or raise.

  9. To a captain that keeps the ship to the Code shall be deserved the loyalty and obedience of all officers and crew.

Early pirates raided the flotilla refugees and shore communities mercilessly. Pirates became impossibly wealthy but also feared their own crews and the few ports that would allow them entry. The establishment of a Pirate Code established a new balance of power whereby Neutral Ports and Pirates behave according to a loose code for mutual benefit.

The Pirate captain’s authority, relative safety from mutiny, and the ability to put into port are derived directly from the Code. The Neutral Ports benefit by being the only negotiating parties that cannot be cheated by a Pirate. As a result, most inter-island trade flows through the Neutral Ports and their taxes. This source of taxable revenue gave the ports the power and influence to re-establish a stable and defended surface society.

Many Neutral Ports will post the eight rule at its point of entry for visiting pirates.

Hope Islands

Chapter 1 hope islands map
The revealed map for Chapter 1 - created in Inkarnate

The first eight sessions would see the players play all but the last section of Dragon of Icespire peak adapted to be played on an Island setting. The Apothecary’s Windmill, Gnomenguard, the Dragon Barrow, and rescuing a key child NPC connecting the party more to the town they’d later be called on to protect.

Chapter 1 hope islands market bar
This game was run entirely in isometric perspective using Foundty VTT. The first scene is delivering a sealed box of cigars to an intelligent giant octopus named 'Smokey'
Chapter 1 hope islands apothecaries windmill
Inkarnate was used to create this depction of the Apothecary's Windmill. The Manticore is from Drummo's excellent Epic Isometric series. While the art prep would eventually contribute to this campaign ending, I'm proud how these turned out.
Chapter 1 hope islands dragon
The dragon will have to be dealt with!

Continue to Chapter 2 - read here