Inner Sea - Chapter 4 - Crater Island

Inner Sea - Chapter 4 - Crater Island

Apr 30, 2023    

Spoilers for Lost Laboratory of Kwalish Ahead

Spoilers for Call from the Deep Ahead

Chapter 4 of the Inner Sea campaign covered Sessions 25 through 38 and saw the party go from level 5 to 7. I used this chapter to spend time on Crater Island and its main city Free Port Springs and also to introduce larger world elements that would play out in Chapters 5 and 6 . Along the way, I snuck in an adapted run of “The Lost Laboratory of Kwalish”

Crater Island
Crater Island saw major exploration in Chapter 4

Free Port Springs takes the place of Neverwinter in “Call from the Deep” and the players start Chapter 3 knowing that it’s next on the hit list of the Black Fleet and Kraken society. Free Port Springs is also home to the scholarly institution they’ve aided known as the Cartographers. A lead from Isabella Stone of the Cartographers points them in the direction of an archeologist and cult researcher known as Keros who was last seen mounting an investigation into the shallows town of Coral.

In this world, the Shallows is the term for the society that lives in shallow water. Coral is an example of a town that has a permanent magical air bubble powered by an artifact. When the party arrives they are being attacked by Reavers, a faction that will become important in the next chapter.

Following clues at Coral, the party proceeds to a volcanic island that hides the Monastery of the Distressed Body. This 1st edition throwback adventure is taken right from “The Lost Laboratory of Kwalish” from D&D Beyond which I enjoyed adapting into 3D art.

Monastery of the Distressed body
Everything is more dramatic when you put it inside a volcano

From their fight with the Grand Master of the Monastery, the party recovers several “brain in a jar” NPCs including their lost researcher Keros. Returning to Free Port Springs they find Captain Tholiver Green acting interdicting ships arriving searching for infiltrators of the Black Fleet or those infected with the mind-controlling ‘misty eye’ from Chapter 2.

Inspiration for Tholiver
Homebrew sometimes means searching for inspiration. Tholiver Green's token art was based on Sergio Calvo Miniatures paints on Facebook

The party suspects they have time to kill before the Black Fleet arrives for a second ‘defend the city’ showpiece battle but first they can connect Keros to Cartographer’s research library and he discovers this passage about the Kraken society:

The Kraken Society was last cataloged by a researcher 25 years ago. They meet by the Purple Rocks on Swamp Island.

Sadly, we’d never follow up on this clue as the campaign would end. Back at Free Port Springs, the party took stock of remaining quest hooks and decided to take a paid mission to escort Fire monks to a monastery through the jungles of Crater Island. There they’d discover more of the history of the world - connecting the Reavers to the events directly after the flood, and getting a better understanding of the enigmatic deities of the post-flood world. Importantly at the fire monastery, the characters would learn that the Reavers are constructing something on the island.

Fire Monastery
After several 3D preps, going back to Drummo's Epic Isometric tiles matched the lower key story beat.

The party learned the following important world secrets:

  • There was a climactic battle on the surface after the flood with the “Sea Peoples”, and armies of the four storms (the 4 major storm deities)
  • The Rift Monks see themselves as an inevitable and mostly neutral force in the universe. Reborn like the phoenix when destiny calls
  • Before the flood, the Gods were killed by outer-planar beings, possibly for breaking the code amongst immortals.

Returning to Free Port Springs, we jump into another setpiece epic battle to defend the city. We meet a new villain Bartholomew Blackdagger, who now captains a ghostly version of PC Knucklebones Jonny’s old ship the Reliant.

Ghost ship fight in the cemetery
The ghost Reliant attacks the cemetery to raise an army of the undead. A Fireball explodes!

In the multi-part battle, the party discovers that the attackers’ goal is something in the basement of the Cartographer’s Cathedral of Knowledge. That’s a pretty big spoiler for Call from the Deep so I won’t go into too much detail, but it was the most intense 3D map I’ve made and the most advanced use of new features in Foundry VTT’s grapejuice isometrics plugin.

Defending the Cathedral
This cathedral set pushed the limits of Foundry VTT. I'm proud of it, but it burnt me out.

Chapter 4 comes to a close with a Pirated Council to decide how the Pirates of the Code will respond to these attacks from the Black Fleet and Kraken Society. Chapter 5 would be the last chapter of the campaign before I had to admit I was burnt out from 2 years of high prep games and nonstop Zoom calls. I’m glad I backed up the entire environment in Foundry, but I’m realizing now I need to archive higher-resolution copies of the encounters in-engine. My Instagram screenshots don’t do them justice.

At this point, the world holds together as a more immersive and cohesive place than the average WOTC adventure, but I’m falling into some bad habits of too much of the story and world-building occurring in my head. Ideally, the story of the game is emergent from what happens at the table. One of the consequences of this high-prep style is that I have to start prep for the set piece battles months before the game occurs, which locks the story into a path. That’s part of the social contract with players when you let them know the campaign pulls heavily from a mega-book like Call from the Deep or a published WOTC 5e campaign.

Continue to Chapter 5 - read here