The Light at Bodkin Bay
Middle Kingdom, Gull Bay, Winter:
In the last year, more ships have been lost entering and exiting Gull Bay than in living memory. Gull Bay is dangerous in all seasons, tide and storms can easily drive ships into the rocks and shoals of Shipwreck Bay. This makes hugging the eastern coast of the bay vital during foul weather. Shipwreck Bay has claimed many of the lost vessels, as out-of-season storms and sudden squalls drive ships off course into the treacherous reefs, but the majority of the ships are unaccounted for. This has increased traffic on the network of Imperial and ancillary roads.
The Coast Road from Wardhill, on the shore of the Inner Sea, to Gull Port has long been neglected and has fallen into disrepair. The weather is frequently filthy along the coast this time of year – either heavy rains or thick fogs accompany each nightfall.
More background information is available on the Runes of Gallidon website – in particular the Kingdoms and Runes will probably help fill out some detail. This adventure takes place on the North shore of the Middle Kingdom in Gull Bay, near the border of the High Hills.
Your players, honorable men & women of good reputation, have accepted a commission to act as couriers from the Baron of Wardhill to the Civil Administrator in Gull Port. Your player characters are among the people who have adapted well to the changes besetting the once stable Empire. They are veterans of multiple small conflicts and intrigues of dubious merit. Each should have a horse, some coinage, and a good-quality set of gear.
A general summary of the adventure follows:
A small band of would-be-highwaymen attempt to rob the characters on the road. These robbers will run into the surrounding fields and bogs as soon as the encounter turns against them. Any of the highwaymen taken prisoner will refuse to talk, seemingly resigned to their fate. These are desperate men, mostly farmers & fishermen, who have lost hope for a better tomorrow.
The players arrive at the Bodkin Rest inn at nightfall. The inn is busy, filled by a villainous-looking crew, with only one room (two if necessary) available for the players to share. The inhabitants of the Bodkin Rest are up to no good. They have begun deliberately leading ships onto the rocks at night by manipulating the glow from Bodkin Light, the lighthouse on the point. They kill any survivors of the shipwreck and salvage what they can of the cargo.
During the night, the players will find themselves alone in the inn, locked inside their room. A quick search reveals the men of the inn have hooded the light from the lighthouse and are using a bonfire to lure a ship onto the rocks. If the players unhood the Bodkin Light, they will save the ship and face the furious wreckers on land. If they fail to save the ship, the players will find the wreckers on the beach, killing victims of the shipwreck as the near-drowned survivors make it ashore.
The leader of the wreckers is the local lord – a noble with the gift of elemental sorcery. If he is not killed at the bonfire or on the beach, the players will find him in the ruins of his family's castle. If encountered after dark, the nobleman's great-grandfather, a wight (a decayed corpse, animated by a partially intact soul seeking to undo its death) will aid him in attacking the players.
The players will face a key choice in this adventure: whether they are agents of order OR will they “loot the bodies and move on.” Agents of order (honorable heroes) will have several issues to deal with: justice for the would-be-highwaymen, saving a ship of unknown people, punishing the wreckers, and dealing with a nobleman who has become a tyrant.
Leader of the would-be-highwaymen. Wilfred is a middle-aged man. He was a successful farmer with a sizable flock of sheep until recent years. Bad weather, poor harvests, sickly sheep and ever-increasing taxes from Lord Conri have driven him to ruin. His wife and daughter now live with their sister in Gull Port where they found seamstress work. Wilfred was too proud to “go begging in the city” and has found himself working outside the law along with many of his neighbors. So far, they've tried their hands at smuggling with little success. There have been suggestions of some sort of work with “that crew” at the Bodkin Rest, but Wilfred and his friends don't like or trust those men. This was their first attempt at robbery.
Trained NPC armed with a bow, short sword and knife.
The innkeeper of the Bodkin Rest. Large, shaggy, unkempt, but with a cheerful, friendly smile. Brocc will keep the other patrons of the inn polite and will maintain the peace. Once the players become guests of the inn, Brocc with play the somewhat addled innkeeper to the hilt. Brocc is the second in command of the wreckers.
Skilled NPC armed with a mace & knife when going into combat. He always wears a knife, even in the Bodkin Rest.
The hostler of the Bodkin Rest. Short, stocky, very strong but not too smart. When puzzled, which happens all the time, Dunn tends to scowl at everyone. Dunn handles the horses, ponies, wagons and carts that visit the inn. He is a wrecker.
Skilled NPC armed with a mace when in combat. Dunn is also a skilled brawler.
The maid & cook of the Bodkin Rest. Colette was fetching a decade ago, now she is a smiling, friendly matron. She is Brocc's sister and completely loyal to him. Her cheerful demeanor hides a bitter, rotten personality. She is also a wrecker.
Skilled NPC always armed with three throwing knives hidden about herself. She is able to move silently when she needs to.
The big, burly, official keeper at Bodkin Light, the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper is appointed by the Administrator of Gull Port. Impostor! - This man's true name is Arvin. The real lighthouse keeper, Clydog, was murdered by Brocc three weeks ago and his body was hidden in a bog. The impostor will play at being drunk as soon as the players show up to avoid being questioned by them. He is a wrecker.
Skilled NPC armed with a short sword and knife.
Lord of Bodkin Tor. Conri is the nobleman in charge of this area, responsible for collecting taxes, settling disputes and providing justice. He lives with two servants at his manor house next to the old family castle ruins. Lord Conri is the leader of the wreckers. He is strong, intelligent and charismatic. He will lend a sympathetic ear to the plight of the area commoners, but really doesn't care about them. Lord Conri seems fair, but feels foul. Lord Conri is of noble blood and a sorcerer of some skill. He specializes in fire magic.
Veteran NPC armed with fine leather armor, a broadsword and dagger.
Skilled NPC. Lord Conri's bodyguard armed with chain mail, mace & shield.
Skilled NPC armed with leather armor, a short spear & knife. He is very strong and has a frequently heard unpleasant laugh. Olcan is his brother.
Skilled NPC armed with leather armor, a sword & knife. He is very fast and has a facial scar. Marcan's brother.
Skilled NPC armed with leather armor, a hatchet & mace. He is lean & tall.
Skilled NPC armed with a mace & knife. He is a baby-faced killer.
Skilled NPC armed with a hatchet, knife & crossbow. He never shows emotion or even facial expressions.
Add more wreckers as needed depending on the size of the player's party. The odds should be at least 2 to 1.
Timeline for the Adventure
Late afternoon - the players are ambushed by the would-be-highwaymen.
Evening – the players arrive at the Bodkin Rest as a heavy rain sets in. They are reluctantly greeted, invited in, given a room, hot food and all the stout beer they can drink.
Midnight – the players retire to their room.
Lord Conri & Nicholas secretly visit the Bodkin Rest inn.
Late night – Harval & Sarai pull a cartload of tar & rope out to area B, the big rock off the coast, to help start the bonfire.
Lord Conri very quietly locks the player in their room using sorcery.
Clydog hoods the magical light at the lighthouse.
Lord Conri & Nicholas ride out across the causeway to the big rock. Conri uses fire magic to light the bonfire and lure a ship onto the Bodkin rocks.
Brocc leads all the other wreckers, all carrying their weapons, down to the shingle beach to await the shipwreck. They will kill any survivors who reach the beach, then wade out to strip the cargo from the shipwreck.
If the players don't stop the wreckers...
Predawn hours - Lord Conri, Nicholas and others take a wagon full of the night's loot back to the Bodkin Tor castle ruins for safe hiding.
The sorcerous lock on the player's door expires.
The wrecker-crew quietly returns to the Bodkin Rest to warm up and sleep.
Colette starts the fires in the kitchen to serve breakfast to the hungry wreckers.
Everyone acts innocent, comments on the night's storm, then heads out for their own business.
Bodkin Bay is protected from the worst of any storm coming off the Inner Sea. The roughest, most turbulent seas become calm within the Bodkin Bay. Lying on the Eastern shore of Gull Bay, Bodkin Bay is not as dangerous as Shipwreck Bay due to the lighthouse, Bodkin Light, which stands at the top of the headland and warns passing ships of the Bodkins, a collection of dark, jagged rocks thrusting out of the waters, extend out from the headland. Most of the Bodkins lie just at the surface during high tide, making them very hazardous. The sheltered shores of Bodkin Bay are shingle beaches: a steep beach of small, smooth stones instead of sand. Sand bars and pebble beds extend for a hundred yards out into the bay, making for shallow wading far from shore in low tide.
The shores of Bodkin Bay rise quickly, typically in twenty to thirty foot cliffs of rock and mud, to form the headland. The land itself is a mixture of odd rock formations rising out of bog – a wetland, thick with layers of peat, scrub brush, hidden streams and deep, silent pools.
The bog is dangerous terrain for horses during the daylight hours, impossible to safely travel by night. For people on foot, it is dangerous to cross at night, but safe enough when there is light and a modicum of caution is used.
The Coast Road
A steady drizzle accompanies the players for the last few hours as they have traveled the muddy Coast Road towards Bodkin Bay. Broad, rolling hills are giving way to flat marshlands.
As they are passing the last hill, the highwaymen spring their ambush. Two men with spears climb out of their hiding spot in a ditch onto the road to face the players. Several men with bows stand up on the hill beside the road. All of these men have experience hunting. They're pretty good at hiding, not so good at banditry. These are desperate men, NOT VILLAINS.
One of the bowmen (Wilfred) shouts out in nervous tones, “Give us all your money, jewels, and such and nobody needs to get hurt! Please.”
A spearman will add, “And anything ya got to eat!”
If/when any combat starts, these would-be-highwaymen prove to be fairly inept – most of the bowmen will miss due to nerves or hesitating to hit one of their friends. As soon as it becomes obvious the robbery is going badly, the highwaymen will break, running into the marshlands, no concern save escape.
If the players take any prisoners, Wilfred should be included.
The highwaymen will initially refuse to speak, resigned to their fate. If any prisoner is seriously threatened or abused, Wilfred will speak up, taking responsibility for everything and asking for mercy for the other men. They are men without hope, mostly farmers or fishermen who have fallen on very hard times. Increased taxes by Lord Conri combined with bad luck has resulted in these men taking up desperate measures in an effort to keep their homes and care for their families. This was their first attempt at highway robbery. If the players capture more than one highwayman, the prisoners will mutter and argue amongst themselves. They do not blame the players for their misfortune. Neither will they beg, plead or make excuses for themselves.
“Try our hand at being robbers. Stupid idea!”
“You went along with it!”
“I were desperate, same as you!”
“First and last time, whether we hang or no.”
They will accept whatever justice the players decide to inflict upon them and honor any word they give to the players. If asked, they inform the players that they pay their taxes to Lord Conri at the Bodkin Rest inn twice a year. None of these men actually knows where Lord Conri lives.
“He has his-self a castle.”
“It's a ruin. He don't live in that old pile-o-stone.”
“He's got the proper big house, servants and a harem of beautiful foreign girls.”
This encounter is strictly meant to be a warm-up for the players that sets the mood for the place and the times.
The Bodkin Rest Inn
The inn is on the old Coast Road at the headland of Bodkin Bay. The inn has three stories and an attached stables. The first floor is built of stone, the second and third are wood. The roof is peaked.
The first floor consists of stables, the common room, kitchen and a storeroom full of barrels of beer, salted mutton, a few casks of wine, sacks of beans, flour, oats, etc. The only truly odd thing found on the first floor is in the back of the stables. A hand cart filled with old, frayed, heavy rope (hawser) thick with tar stands in the in the shadows with old sailcloth laid over it. Next to it, also beneath the old sailcloth, is a four-foot tall leather tube, closed at one end like a huge quiver. It is constructed of two layers of thick, heavy leather. It is recently made but has no apparent purpose.
The second floor of the inn houses the private rooms of Brocc, Colette, Dunn and Clydog (the impostor). It also is home to the storage room of linens & things as well as two guest rooms that are currently occupied by other guests (wreckers). If these folk are in the inn, their armor and weapons can be found in their rooms. In Brocc's room is a stout, but cheap strongbox holding thirty gold coins worth of mixed gold, silver and copper coins. In Colette's room is a well-hidden expensive lockbox containing 300 gold coins worth of fine jewelry. These jewels are completely out of place with this setting and are actually loot from the shipwrecks.
The third floor consists entirely of guest rooms. The players will be given a room on the third floor.
At the Inn
Upon their arrival, the players will be sourly greeted by Dunn, the hostler. “Away with you, we be full up!” If the players argue, insist or show their courier packet from the Baron of Wardhill, Dunn will fetch Brocc. Brocc will smile, apologize for Dunn and welcome the players to Bodkin Rest. Brocc will order Dunn to see to the gentlemen's horses and usher the players out of the rain.
If the players have prisoners from the ambush, Brocc will offer the storage room of his stable as a cell where they can be locked up until tomorrow. Some of the prisoners will recognize Brocc, but Brocc will claim to not know any of them.
With apologies, Brocc will only be able to supply the players with a single room, but extra mattresses are offered. No one is allowed to sleep in the common room. Inside the common room, the assembled wreckers will stop talking when the players enter until Brocc makes a show of introducing the players to the room. Brocc will tell the players, “We're a quiet bunch in these parts. Don't see many strangers.”
The men in the room will not warm up to the players but if the players persist in being friendly they will hear some rumors and may take part in simple dice games. Players with intrigue-type skills will quickly realize the locals are trying to scare them.
Clydog will leave for the lighthouse, apparently drunk as a sailor, “to mind the light on a filthy night such as this.” Colette will supply the players with hot stew and very generous amounts of beer, or whiskey should they desire (drunk men sleep better). By midnight, the common room is closed and everyone retires to their rooms.
40 silver coins for a room and board – robbery by many standards, but the inn is remote and times are hard. Note: this is the price for the party, including stabling.
“Strange lights are seen at night out on the bog.”
“Some savage beast is killing the sheep, and making others sick. The beast is immune to arrows and crossbows.”
“Someone has seen dead men walking along the shore at night.”
“A beautiful woman can be heard shrieking for her demon-lover on the night wind. Some have seen her running across the road.”
“I saw my father at my window three nights back. Scratching at the shutter he was. And him two years in the grave!”
“Storms out of season, sickness, it's all the fault of the greater nobles that turned on the Emperor.”
Lord Conri, nobleman, sorcerer, and leader of the wreckers, arrives at the inn to assemble his crew. He is accompanied by Nicholas, his man-at-arms. Lord Conri orders Harval and Sarai to take the cart of tar & rope out to the big rock to add to the pile of wet wood for the bonfire. They also take the leather hood from the stable storeroom out to the lighthouse on their way.
Lord Conri very quietly uses sorcery to magically lock the players in their room. He performs the spell from the top of the stairs, never actually approaching their door. Lord Conri and Brocc quietly lead the rest of the wreckers out of the inn.
Someone in the party should discover the players are locked in their room. There is no lock on the outside of the door, no bar or mechanism. The door is locked with sorcery. The party can cut their way out through a wall easier than break down the door. Their room does have a window. An agile adventurer can easily climb onto the roof, cross to a hall window, and break back into the inn.
The inn is empty save for the party and their horses (and their prisoners locked in the stable). A storm lays over Bodkin Bay. A steady rain is falling and a gusting wind is blowing. Visibility is poor, but at least one member of the party should realize the light from the lighthouse is out.
The lighthouse is an ancient stone structure towering into the night sky. Careful examination of the tower base will reveal a collection of runes carved into the stone. Anyone who uses magic will immediately become aware of these runes as they approach the lighthouse. Ghost-fire plays around the runes to those with the vision – they are old and highly magical.
In random order are the runes of Constructs, the Elements, Conjuration and Rune-weaving. A check of the door will reveal a broken lock – someone forced their way into the lighthouse in recent weeks. The lock has not been repaired.
Examination of the ground floor living quarters, spartan at the best of times, will reveal that the lighthouse keeper hasn't lived here in recent weeks – old food, moldy cheese, dust, etc. Careful examination will reveal that none of the clothes in the keeper's personal locker could possibly fit Clydog, the man the players were introduced to as the lighthouse keeper. The real keeper was a much smaller man. His body was sunk into the bog over a month ago.
If/when the players climb the spiral stair to the top of the lighthouse, they will find a circular room with glass walls. In the center of the room stands a pillar that doesn't quiet reach to the ceiling. Over the pillar is the strange leather tube. This tube is hooding Bodkin Light. Three runes are engraved on the base of the pillar: Constructs, Conjuration and Rune-weaving.
The light is a magical construct of permanent bright light built during the height of the Empire. It is obviously magical to anyone with the ability to sense magic. It cannot be dispelled by anything short of a Grand Master Ritual. But the leather tube effectively hoods the light. It is a simple matter to pull the hood off the light, but characters will see spots when the light is revealed. It will effectively ruin the night vision of anyone in the room for several minutes.
Before the players unhood the light (if they choose to), at least one player should notice a bonfire being lit despite the storm on a large rock just off the coast. The bonfire is obviously being lit with the aid of sorcery. At the same time, at least one player should spot a ship out to sea, trying to hug the coast as it travels to Gull Port. The bonfire provides a false light that will lead the ship onto the Bodkin rocks.
If the players unhood the light, the ship will be saved
Lord Conri and Nicholas will abandon the bonfire, make their way back across the causeway, gather the wreckers from the shingle beach and lead an assault on the players wherever they can be found. They mean to kill the players – there will be no mercy or negotiation.
If the players get tricky and leave the light hooded while they go after the wreckers
It is currently low-tide. The causeway out to the big rock is passable with only the occasional puddle to wave through. The shingle beach extends far out into the waters of the bay. The footing is treacherous in the dark, but navigable.
At the bonfire
(area B on the map of Bodkin Bay)
- Lord Conri and Nicholas are watching the progress of the ship towards the Bodkin rocks. Both men are distracted and confident. Together with the weather, it makes sneaking up on them very easy.
- Lord Conri has to magically maintain the large fire of lumber, rope and tar using magical means or the rain will reduce it to smoldering embers within ten minutes.
- If attacked, Nicholas will immediately move to defend Lord Conri.
- Conri will cast a spell of immunity and climb into the bonfire. Once inside the bonfire, Conri will begin throwing flaming missiles at the players.
- If Nicholas falls, Lord Conri will seek to escape, jumping out of the fire and throwing himself off the rock into the sea. Once in the sea, he will strip off his armor, drop his sword and swim to shore away from the players.
- Once out of the water, he will make his way to his home, re-equip himself and prepare to leave for Gull Port in the morning with a wagonload of salvage from previous shipwrecks.
On the beach
Brocc and the wreckers are waiting for survivors to appear in the water. They will kill any survivors before wading out towards the shipwreck.
They have a single whaleboat, a narrow boat pointed at both ends with six oars, to get out to shipwrecks before they break up to search for small valuables (jewelry and the like). They only go out in the whaleboat once they are sure the crew and passengers are all dead.
Only the two brothers, Marcan & Olcan, and Zander are wearing armor. All the other wreckers are carrying their weapons but are only dressed in their small clothes. Oddly, Brocc and Colette look more fierce without their clothes.
The wreckers are a vicious, cut-throat bunch. As long as Brocc or Colette are up, they will not break or surrender. If they realize half their number has fallen along with Brocc and Colette, the remaining wreckers will break and run. They will scatter into the countryside without a thought of revenge. They fear Lord Conri, but their real loyalty lies with Brocc and Colette.
Bodkin Tor is a small stone hill in the midst of the bog. The modest, two-story manor house lies at the end of the narrow road through the bog on the edge of the hill.
The ruins of Castle Conri stand on the top of the rocky hill above the night mist that lays over the bog. The ruins should be played for all the creep-factor possible. Entering the castle ruins during the daylight hours is safe, but disquieting – no birds are singing, no mice or other animals in evidence, only nasty, fat flies in thick swarms.
Careful examination of the land around the manor house will reveal the tracks of a heavily laden wagon running back and forth from the ruined keep and a smaller path running around the base of the hill.
If Lord Conri is dead
The manor house is deserted. It is modestly furnished, not a lavish noble palace, but much better than anything the commoners in the area have. If a proper market could be found, the rugs, tapestries, silverware, dishes, paintings, etc. could be sold for 250 to 300 gold – a small fortune by local standards. Unfortunately, the players would have to haul all the furnishings to Gull Port to get these prices.
If Lord Conri is alive
He has replaced any lost gear, healed himself, rested, and is currently hiding within the castle ruins until nightfall. Around midnight, he will set out from the castle ruins with the wagonload of loot for Gull Port.
A wagon hidden in the ruins is already half full of loot from a previous shipwreck. Its worth to an unscrupulous shipyard in Gull Port is approximately 150 gold coins. Four draft horses are grazing in a fenced field on the opposite side of the hill from the manor house. A well-traveled path runs around the base of the hill and up to the ruins.
If the players enter the castle ruins after dark, they will be attacked by Lord Conri's great-grandfather: a wight (a decayed corpse, animated by a partially intact soul seeking to undo its death) that haunts the ruins. Play the wight for the fear factor as much as possible rather than just a combat dummy.
If Lord Conri is alive, he will act in concert with the wight – they are, after all, relatives.
The wight should be a Veteran level monster.
Several questions remain for the group of players if the game master wishes to continue the adventure: What to do with the would-be-highwaymen? How long have the wreckers been operating? Who now will own/operate the Bodkin Rest? Who will be the new lighthouse keeper for Bodkin Light. Who is in charge of the area now that Lord Conri is dead or missing? Who were the wreckers & Lord Conri fencing their loot to in Gull Port? Were they part of a larger group operating throughout Gull Bay?
A variety of high quality floor plans for inns, lighthouses, manor houses and ruined castles are widely available online. If you are anything like me, you already have a folder of them from previous games and modules. If anyone feels the pressing need to draw custom floor plans for the Bodkin Rest, Bodkin Light, or the ruins, create away. If you like your results, please share it with the rest of us!
A map of Bodkin Bay by Andy Underwood.
A map of Gull Bay by Andy Underwood.
We strongly encourage you to use whatever rules system you and your group are the most comfortable with. Runes of Gallidon isn't about rules, it is about collaborative story-telling adventures. Don't let rules - ours, yours, theirs - get in the way.
The key to translating Gallidon RPG modules to some popular systems is Skill Mastery. All non-player characters, player characters and creatures are rated by Mastery Skill Levels: Trained, Skilled, Veteran, Expert, Master, Grand Master.
In a level based system
Trained averages 1st Level.
Skilled averages 4th Level.
Veteran averages 8th Level.
Expert averages 12th Level.
Master averages 16th Level.
Grand Master averages 20th Level.
In a percentage based system
Trained averages a 35% chance of success at a difficult task.
Skilled averages a 50% chance of success at a difficult task.
Veteran averages a 65% chance of success at a difficult task.
Expert averages a 80% chance of success at a difficult task.
Master averages a 95% chance of success at a difficult task.
Grand Master averages a 110% chance of success at a difficult task.
A Runes of Gallidon role-playing adventure for 3-6 players.
This Work set in Runes of Gallidon — runesofgallidon.com.
Available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
First Published February, 2009
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