Friday 9 June 2023

South of Kambyra: The Cowdray Shoals Hex 1

By way of apology for yet another lengthy absence, I've had quite the month: I'm now managing my department, and am still only about midway on the learning curve, so time has been an issue, as ever, only moreso...anyhoo, as promised, here's further material regarding the archipelago that lies WSW of the Isle of Kambyra (although the hexes start at the far southern end of the island chain, so we're a long way from Kambyra, in the chilly coasts off Verkhun's southern landmass).

Note that the material below is for Blood & Treasure.





The Cowdray Shoals (SW)

The Cowdray Shoals, a region of dangerous reefs, bleak islets and generally foul weather occupies an elliptical area some 30 miles in length, running SSW-NE. It is no wider than ten or twelve miles. It begins approximately 36 miles NE from the port of Khonoy in northeastern Kanthé and merges with the Malstedt Islands.

The Shoals are the last remnant of a peninsula that once stretched from the now mostly-sunken island of Melzeth (the Malstedt Islands are the shattered ruins of that once mighty land). Few vessels dare the Shoals – they are simply too treacherous, despite the ample rewards for the brave soul who fishes the rich waters. Even the Sea-Grymne and Truk raiders seldom bother with the Shoals. This, of course, has made the Shoals an ideal place for ne’er-do-wells and those who have cause to hide.

Several of the islets provide shelter for smugglers and pirates, although they are not permanently occupied Рrather they are refuges or drop points for purloined goods. There is also a pair of islets where a small group of Lannite exiles dwell, in hiding from the persecutions of the Mardicene Church that dominates the Kanth̩an mainland. Finally, there are a few wrecked ships written off as high-risk and low-reward - perhaps wrongly - by other adventurers that may tempt the desperate or impulsive adventuring party.



This small - less than 1 square mile - hump of guano-covered rock is not particularly noteworthy unless one draws to within 50’ of the northern side, and only at low tide. In such cases, anyone scrutinising the isle has a 1-in-6 chance of spotting three piles, barely showing above the water, each with a ring and short length of rope to allow dinghies and coracles to moor there. In the weathered rock above the piles can be seen a crudely-chiselled symbol: a glaring eye within a maelstrom, the mark of the pirate Algot Stone-Eye (see Hex 8), who - very occasionally - uses the rock to store small quantities of plunder. In a fold of the rock at the summit of the islet, water and wind have created a small but surprisingly deep pool where the brackish water hides several large leather bags, one black, one white and one brown.

At any given time, there is a 5% chance that a small amount of treasure has been hidden here by Algot or one of his lieutenants, if they have been forced to steer clear of rival pirates or customs officers operating out of Khonoy. The treasure is held in two of the leather bags, whilst the other one is trapped: it holds a Bright Ferryman, a strange crustacean whose soft shell is coloured to provide camouflage on guano-stained rock. They prefer to eat small birds and fish, when they can get to them, hiding in plain sight before darting forward and catching their prey in powerful claws and injecting them with a swift-acting venom that induces a brief paralysis and causes a long-term necrosis. The pirates feed (and transfer from bag to bag according to a sequence determined by Algot himself) the Bright Ferryman every few days. This small nuisance weighs about 1 pound, and is generally inert unless its bag is opened. It doesn’t really feel that much like coins - anyone not in a hurry has a 4-in-6 chance of noticing the discrepancy, whilst those taking less care still have a 1-in-6 chance of an early warning. The Bright Ferryman’s poison paralyses a medium-sized creature for 1 round should they fail their Saving Throw (this increases by 1 time increment with each decrease in size). The associated necrosis takes effect within 1d3 hours, causing fatigue and the loss of 1 CON per day until death or a cure. Bright Ferrymen are sought after by assassins and alchemists as a source of poison and an ingredient in potions and the ink to scribe scrolls.

Any treasure left here will be in small, portable form - usually coins and baubles, with a value of 20-120 gp split between the two treasure bags. 

Bright Ferryman Type: Vermin; Size: Tiny; HD: ½; AC: 12; Attacks: claw (1d2), stinger (0 hp + poison); MV: 5’ (10’ swim); Save: 17; INT: Non; AL: N; NA: 1d6; XP/CL: 100/1; Surprises on 1-3 (intertidal rocky areas)


The not-so-good ship Hadmond’s Joy lies half-submerged up against a nasty reef. It has mostly succumbed to the action of wind and wave, with only the framework of the hull and the stub of the topmast surviving. It has long been picked over - only a few coral-encrusted bones remain. The ship was the first ship of the smuggler Hadmond (see Hex 4), and it was blown into the reef by a brutal storm. Hadmond, a scoundrel of some note, murdered the few crew that survived the wreck unharmed and let the wounded perish, in order to conserve food and water for his own survival. This heinous species of self-preservation has left the wreck site with a palpable aura of metaphysical and spiritual evil that provides a small but tangible benefit. Any Chaotic spellcasters preparing spells within a 500’ radius of the wreck may add 1 to any rolls when preparing Advanced spells, although the effect will only work if passing a Saving Throw. Lawful spellcasters preparing or casting spells in the same area must pass a Saving Throw or be sickened for 1 hour.

This patina of vileness also attracts periodic undersea visitors (roll 3d6 on any given day the site is visited and consult the following table):




Khaetos (50% chance + 2-7 Sea-Grymne)


Shark-Man (Beastman Template), Monsters I, p.186


Sahuagin, Monsters I, p.146


No encounter


Skum Raiders, Monsters I, p.155


Criderian, Monsters II, p.35



Khaetos - this Sea-Hag is one of Zirakghir’s chief servants, and occasionally sojourns to the wreck in the hope of catching her enemy Hadmond. She is usually accompanied by a small group of her Sea-Grymne minions (see Hex 3 for more details of this unpleasant individual and her thralls).

Skum Raiders - these 8 Skum are led by a particularly cruel disciple of Ghenjaeru, who comes here to savour the spoor of murder and prepare spells. Ghrennek has the statistics of a normal Skum, but for his 15 hp, and has the following spells prepared:(1st level) cause fear, command, doom;  (2nd level) hold person. Ghrennek particularly enjoys casting hold person on those who have no capacity to breathe underwater then sitting back to watch them drown. Ghrennek also wears a swiftstriker amulet (a necklace of shark’s teeth that grants +1 to Initiative - if using Individual Initiative rules).


These two small islets, low-lying and wind-scoured lie just a half-mile apart from each other. The north-western isle is larger and mostly low-lying dunes whilst the southern isle is, for the most part, a slightly glorified reef rising to a high point at its northern end, wherein a small cove has formed between two outflung arms of rock.

The larger isle presents the unique - for the Cowdray Shoals - prospect of nine ramshackle huts, built from scavenged timbers and roofed with whale hide. These huts are home to twenty-one malnourished and miserable Lannite refugees, driven into hiding in the shoals by persecution on the mainland. Most are humble types, farmers turned fisherfolk. They possess little of note - even their holy Lannite ikons are carved from driftwood. Even the local pirates do not consider them worth raiding - although the smuggler-turned-blackbirder Hadmond occasionally toys with the notion of snatching all the refugees, but is wary (not that he will likely admit it) of the risks of taking on a community of such holy folk, potentially possessed of unknown powers. 

In fact, all but three refugees have no gifts other than their courage, piety and loyalty. Only three of the Lannites have any ‘powers’ beyond the norm. One of these is Rhoedos Mhag Murdri, a former hired killer (Assassin 4/Prophet 1) who has repented his past and has submitted to the discipline of the leader of the community, the Half-Elf Mazir Mahathron (Cleric 4). Mazir has led his pitiful band of followers to the apparent dead-end of dubious safety in the Shoals, although he has been able to forestall any dissent (in truth, his flock are so weary of persecution that they are mostly grateful for the opportunity to practice their religion in peace, even in such an out-of-the-way location). He himself is uncertain how best to proceed, and is waiting for some sort of insight or divine grant to guide him. He spends much of his time in fasting, prayer and meditation, leaving the running of the community to his deputy, Morsinta Rhago (Cleric 2), a pragmatic, blunt sort, who is quietly despairing of the viability of the little congregation. It is she who deals with any who seek to communicate with the refugees. Although she presents a facade of dogged confidence, she will certainly look for aid or even just goodwill from any adventurers who come upon the Lannites.

As to what such happenstance encounters might lead to, Morsinta hopes that a more sustainable dwelling might be located: if depopulated, the caves on the isle of Zaar might fit the bill, given their small but safe anchorage, the temptation of the magic spring there and the secret garden in the hillside behind the caves (see Hex 6), or the people of Horn (Hex 5) might invite the Lannites to join them on their sparsely populated island, hopeful that the holiness - putative or real - of such folk will protect them from their unpleasant - and Undead - fellow islanders.


Verenay of Gell was a popular merchant prince from Khonoy - he himself had far more vices than virtues, and was primarily interested in gaining and holding political power, but he said many things the commonalty found appealing before he was accused of blasphemy, stripped of his titles and wealth and sent to moulder in the hinterlands. This was not a congenial outcome for Verenay, who raised the standard of revolt only to be ignored by his former followers. Fleeing for his life, Verenay found himself in the ungentle hands of the pirate Grebbeth Gallord, captain of the not-so-good ship Brute. Grebbeth, after stripping the unhappy rebel of the last of his worldly goods dumped him to die on a small, marshy islet in the Cowdray Shoals, some eighteen years ago.

Verenay died of exposure and starvation within a few days, but his has not been a quiet repose: his soul, blighted by his pride and twisted to evil outright by his experiences, reanimated his bones a month or so after his death, and he now waits on his dismal isle for the unwary to come within range such that he can begin to avenge himself on a world that gave him such scurvy treatment (and worse, failed to elevate him to his rightful station).

Verenay is in most respects a normal Skeleton (Blood & Treasure, Monsters, p.154 - a fairly puny foe, but for his ability to cause 1d3 Charisma damage when he successfully strikes a foe with his driftwood club (1d3 damage, normal Saving Throw rules apply). Should he manage to inflict 3 or more Charisma damage (this may be spread across more than one foe), he gains +1 to AC, hit, saving throws and damage, 1d6 hit points and increases his Intelligence by one level (e.g., from Non-Intelligent to Animal, Animal to Low, until he reaches High Intelligence, beyond which he cannot progress). This process is repeated for every further increment of 3 Charisma damage he achieves. Verenay is empowered by reducing other’s pride, confidence and attractiveness. He can reach as much as 5 HD from his vampiric absorption of self-esteem. Once he achieves Low Intelligence, his previous alignment, Neutral Evil, will assert itself. He will also gain the power of speech - using a reedy, rattling whisper that deepens as he becomes more powerful. Whilst at his apogee (5 HD, High Intelligence), Verenay can cast the following spells once per day: cause fear, ill omen, mind thrust and ray of enfeeblement.

However, this boost to his abilities is impermanent: he loses 1 HD (and 1 point of bonuses) each week until he returns to the standard Skeleton profile (he retains his Charisma damage ability), unless he manages to somehow leave his unpleasant resting-place (he cannot enter the water, but could, however, commandeer a boat in some way, or even bargain for passage back to the mainland, promising some nebulous 'reward'). If Verenay manages to achieve this aim, he will - if he has not already done so - reach his full power, and remain 'locked in' at that level (his Charisma drain ability will remain, but only as long as he wields is trademark club, and he will no longer benefit thereby). His aim is to return to the mainland and revenge himself on as many of his former foes as possible - with a probable side trip to visit Grebbeth Gallord along the way!

To find out if any unfortunates have recently boosted Verenay’s abilities, roll 1d12 and consult the following table:

Roll (1d12)



1 HD, no bonus, XP/CL: 100/2


2 HD, +1 bonus, XP/CL: 150/3


3 HD, +2 bonus, XP/CL: 200/4


4 HD, +3 bonus, XP/CL: 250/5


5 HD, +4 bonus, XP/CL: 300/6

Verenay has no treasure, but if he is successfully destroyed, his bones will fetch quite a high price from the more discerning and unscrupulous spell caster; if ground to a powder, liquefied and then used as ink to create a Scroll of charisma, the bones will increase the potency of that scroll, extending the duration by 1 hour per the number of Hit Dice Verenay had when he was destroyed. However, the one who reads the scroll must pass a Saving Throw against magic or have their Alignment changed to Neutral Evil for the duration of the spell (if it is not already). Verenay's bones create enough ink for 2d8 scrolls, and the scrolls are worth double their usual cost.

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