Down at the Docks

On March 1, 2006, Posted by , In Campaign Workbook, With No Comments

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Though they may have a reputation for danger, filth, and seediness, the docks district is often the heart of a thriving city. Here trade goods flow in and out, and people from distant lands meet for the first time.

Old ships are repaired, and new ships rise from freshly joined keels. All this demands the efforts of craftsmen, businessmen, and professional sailors, and wherever trade goods and money change hands there will also be swindlers and thieves nearby. Use the following NPC encounters to spice up the docks of your city or to send your PCs off to an adventure on the high seas.

Court Mage

A rigger working high atop the main mast of one of the ships in port spots a storm on the horizon and shouts a warn: ing to the workers on the docks below. Word spreads quickly and suddenly all of the sailors and dock workers stop what they’re doing and begin furling sails, stacking lumber, coiling rope, and adding extra mooring lines to the docked ships. A white-haired old man with his robe tied up at his waist approaches the PCs with a look of desperation and asks if they will help him move crates off of the quay and into a warehouse before the storm hits. The old man is Phentos (NG male human sorcerer 7), the court mage ofa small island kingdom that has been overrun by an army of sahuagin. The crates contain what records of the kingdom he could save. Phentos doesn’t know what has become of the island’s royal family.

Lost Ship Con

Four worn-looking sailors (human rogue 3, Bluff’+7) stand in a group. One shares what he’s heard about the recent loss of a trading ship named the Bellerophon. A well-dressed tradesman named Aghas Lamm (NG male halfelf aristocrat 4) overhears the conversation and asks for details, Aghas is interested because he owns some of the now worthless shares of the Bellerophon’s voyage. Another merchant appears, introduces himself as Guy Whuth (CN male halfling rogue 5, Bluff +10), and tells Aghas he should pay no attention to the stories sailors make up. Aghas still appears concerned, so Guy offers to buy his shares for half the price he paid for them. The entire scene is a con. The sailors and Guy Whuth, whose real name is Hald Backbiter, are working together. The Bellerophon is fine and will arrive in a day or two, loaded with expensive cargo.

Menagerie Keeper

The boisterous, singsong voice of Alomann Ghi (CN male gnome bard 9) carries across the docks, announcing the arrival of his latest catch. The sailors of the cargo ship Jade Anchor are busy turning the wheel of’along wooden crane to offload Alomann’s cages of exotic animals, including an otyugh (38 hp, Monster Manual 204), a pair of stirges (5 hp each, Monster Manual 236), and a sea cat weakened by weeks out of the water (35 hp, Monster Manual 220). Alomann plans to transport the beasts to the menagerie he keeps for the local ruler, but he doesn’t realize that the latch of the sea cat’s cage has slipped open. Navigator Mages

A man and a woman look down at the docks from the deck of an ornately detailed golden galleon. They both hold staffs of gnarled and mossy driftwood and wear necklaces of large seashells. The woman is Toa Sheleaf(NG female human druid 13) and the man is her initiate, Fareye Ghalor (NG male human druid 7). They are both Guardians of the Crossing, druids charged with helping important ships cross the ocean without incident using spells like know direction, speak with animals, summon nature’s ally, commune with nature, and control weather. Over her years of service, Toa has cast awaken on many sea creatures and befriended tribes aquatic elves that now seek her out to provide aid and information.


Four young boys armed with small clubs run back and forth along the docks, shouting to each other. They are ratkillers, orphans and castoffs hired by Oakum Jinn (N male human commoner 6, Profession [sailor] +8), the master of the quays, to live at the docks and hunt down rats before they can board the ships. Ratkillers have a better life than the typical street urchin, so their numbers are limited to prevent every poor child in the city fom running through the docks with clubs.


Sellene Weaver (NE female human commoner 8, Profession sailor +10), the first mate of the four-masted military barque Ambeon, sits on a barrel beside the gangplank wearing a wide-brimmed hat. In front of her is a table made from a short deck plank and some barrels. A small group of dirty and poorly dressed men, women, and boys waits in line to talk with her. Weaver has lost much of her crew and is recruiting new sailors for a long, cold,and dangerous trip. She lies to the applicants, claiming to be headed toa warm island to the south. They, in turn, lie to her about their qualifications. If Weaver doesn’t make her quota soon, she sends three of her roughest sailors (CN human warrior 4, hp 26, Atk +6 melee, 1d6+2 club) to comb the back alleys of the docks and conscript any drunk sailors they find.


About a dozen men and boys spin handies on large wooden frames to twist strands of hemp into larger and larger ropes. A master rope maker, Eron Rigger(N male half-elf experts, Craft [ropemaking] +9, Use Rope +8), supervises a small team of men working very carefully on a single rope. While the men spin and Eron judges the tension, a long-haired wizard named Zydiff (N male human wizard 4) sprinkles powder along the length of the rope, gestures and chants. They are in the final day of the creation of a rope of climbing, and any interruption may spoil their work.

Traders and Translator

Four wealthy traders (N human aristocrat 5, Bluff +9, Diplomacy +9) dressed in dark velvet coats, billowy pants, and large hats walk along the docks, complaining in a foreign language and waving thin walking canes at the ships under construction. They use a jovial hunchbacked translator named Ranmos (NG male human bard 6, Diplomacy +12, Sense Motive +10) to talk to the dock’s muscular master shipwright, Kallik (N male half-ore expert 10, Craft [shipmaking] +16), who walks with them. The four traders are funding the construction of a new cargo ship, the Coffee Witch, and Kallik is explaining that he is behind schedule because the carpenters sent to cut timbers have been driven out of the forest by wood spirits.


Two dozen barrels are lined up on the quay, ready to be loaded onto the Hellcat, a well-trimmed black schooner. A dwarf with long, ill-kept hair and a stained apron moves along the line, pulling frogs from a dripping sack and dropping one into each barrel before placing the barrel’s top on and hammering itin place. The dwarf is Thonnil (N male dwarf expert 5), a local victualer supplying food and water to the Helleat. The barrels contain water for the trip, and the sailors believe that as long as the frog stays alive, the water is safe to drink.