OR in this case, enter the Dragon Turtle! This is a scenario that can be plugged into any RPG game system, but was specifically concocted (on the fly!) for D&D 5e.
The Party was left stranded on an island after a ruthless attack by a Dragon Turtle, pulverizing the ship they had booked passage one. The island they washed up on is home to the Devil’s Brand Pirates. A surly lot for sure, but not the most aggressive. The Pirates found the Party bleary eyed and stumbling on the beach and after some initial posturing, ultimately the Party befriended the Pirates. The Pirates were short handed thanks to an encounter they narrowly survived against the same Dragon Turtle and needed some extra deck hands. Everyone has a common goal: get the hell of this forsaken island. This arrangement being of mutual benefit, led to the Party and their new Pirate comrades striking out against the ship crushing scourge of Byfox Bay!
As the Party and Pirates sail towards the mainland, the Turtle rears it’s ugly head and attacks. This big beastie could be one of many different creatures, whatever best fits your narrative.
Here is how the scenario plays out. All rules listed below are a baseline and can easily be modified to fit your needs depending on how challenging you want this scenario to be:
- The deck of the ship is lined with kegs of gunpowder. The crew and Party will attempt to light and throw these kegs at the attacking beastie.
- The Pirate crew will take one turn to light a keg and one turn to throw the barrel at the turtle. They have a place in the initiative order and act as a whole unit.
- The Party being heroes, can react more quickly than the Pirate crew. On each player’s turn, they can take any of the actions normally afforded to them by the game system, or they can light a keg for an action or throw a keg.
- The player can only light a keg or throw a keg on their turn, they can’t do both in one turn. Takes a bit of time for the fuse to be lit and burn off a bit.
- A player could light a keg then the next player up could throw that keg, that is permissible. If the players had a means of igniting the barrel using magic of some sort or a projectile, they could choose to do this instead of igniting the fuse!
- If the player who initially lit the keg does not throw it by the end of their next turn, it explodes on the deck and causes chaos appropriately (consult the rules for your game system on handling explosions).
- When a lit keg is thrown, roll a d20 (or if the keg is in the water and ignited by other means):
- A result of 10+ successfully hits the big beastie. Using the D&D 5e rules, I rolled HP for the Dragon turtle and used the rules for a keg of gunpowder which wound up being around 6d6 worth of damage per successful keg toss.
- A result of 9 or less results in a miss. If the keg misses roll a d20. If the result is 10 or less mark a damage token for the ship.
- At the end of the round the beastie attacks and does damage to the ship (mark a damage token). It can’t miss because it is a legendary nightmare of a monster.
- When the ship is damaged by the beast (or a keg if you are feeling extra devious) have each PC as well as the Pirate group roll 1d20 to see if they lose their footing and fall prone on the deck. I set the DC for this around 5 because I wanted the odds of a fall to be around 25%.
- If the ship is attacked by the beast or damaged by an errant keg a total of 10 times (10 tokens), then the ship goes down and the scenario is lost. How this plays out is up to you.
What I love about doing a scenario like this is that it allows a lower level group of characters to face off with an epic beastie and have an EPIC fight. Sure, I could just wait until they are higher level and do battle with an epic beast and slaughter it with 1,000 paper cuts but this was far more intriguing. The way the Turtles HP total balanced out against damage done, the Party managed to take out the Turtle just before the ship was demolished.
The Party and the Pirates talked through their plan before setting sail, so the players understood the mechanics. They still tried using some normal attacks and abilities first, and quickly moved to solely using the barrels. It became a tense race against the clock as they were being tossed around the boat like rag dolls.
How you reward XP is up to you. Taking out a Dragon Turtle could reward way too much XP to a low level player and jump them ahead a bit too fast. I use a milestone XP reward system which ensures steady growth and gives bonuses when the Party does something incredibly clever or does an amazing bit of role playing above and beyond the norm. The beastie used can be totally interchangeable depending on your game system or narrative.