One of my normal players, Liam, offered to run a GURPS game while one of my eldest son’s friends was up which gave me a rare chance to spend time “the other side of the screen”. Knowing that GURPS had a lethal and unforgiving combat system we were possibly slightly more paranoid about engaging in fighting than normal but the game was lots of fun. The pirate setting was also something I’ve not spent much time considering, I think this might change in the future. Given the choice between playing a 6′ 9″ giant with hands the size of butter pats, a large axe and propensity for violence or the female ships surgeon who is a crack shot when she remembers her glasses I chose the latter, choosing to model her on the Stephen from the Master and Commander books.
A stop off in port after an uneventful voyage gives our heroes a chance to stretch their legs, take in the local colour, flavour, beer and let off a little steam. As our story starts Mary, the surgeon of the Leveret, is sharing a beer with Adam, John and Lars in the Silver Unicorn, one of two public houses in the small port of Gratel Bay where they’ve landed and that favoured by sailors and out of towners. Adam, John and Lars double up as general labour on the Leveret when they’re not acting in their primary capacity as hired muscle on board. John is a mountain of a man, standing at 6’ 9”, Lars who lost his hand several years ago relies more on his athletic abilities and stealth where Adam is a fast talking, quick thinking swordsman who is more than capable with a flintlock or musket. While trying to work out how to best spend the couple of days of freedom in port, as none of them are watch standers, Adam is surprised to suddenly see a childhood friend, Billy Hobbs, who is as far from home as he is. Calling him over the conversation soon turns to family when Billy gives the unhappy news that his brother Michael has been arrested on trumped up charges of piracy by the troops at the Bastille on the hill. Billy admits to the group that, like many in port, he may have been involved in some small scale smuggling but feels that his brother has been targeted because they aren’t locals and their import/export business has been enjoying a reasonable amount of success. Adam is horrified that to satisfy purely political motives one of his oldest friends relatives should soon be swinging in the town gibbet and talk soon turns to the possibility of rescue. Billy has a boat that he can get to see in at a moment’s notice and promises that any help they can give will be more than handsomely rewarded.
While the boys continue to discuss plans Mary hands her flintlock to her comrades and leaves the Unicorn to see if she can find useful information at either the town gaol or possibly at The Queen’s Skirts, the tavern opposite the gaol where the local militia normally socialise. At the gaol Mary gets chatting to the guard, checking that they don’t have too many of her boys detained and that there haven’t been any injuries. When asked for a drink by the guard who has a lunch break shortly Mary accepts, briefly returning to the Unicorn to inform the others and give John instructions that if she isn’t back in half an hour he is to arrive with a “message from the captain who needs to see you on board straight away”.
Buying a couple of beers for the guard and flirting with him a little she soon uncovered many details of the town that she felt would help to make an attempted rescue on the Bastille high on the cliffs more feasible. Of primary importance was that the garrisons of the town and fort were completely separate and that the Bastille was not only undermanned but that reinforcements would take a long time coming. Retiring to the Unicorn before John needed to intervene the group continued to plot.
After considerable discussion it was decided to spend the afternoon trying to carry out reconnaissance of the Bastille. John and Lars were to sneak up near to the guard house, standing on the road to the fort, with a bottle of rum (not for drinking) in case there was trouble while Adam and Mary walked up the road to try to bluff their way into meeting Captain Paige and beg him to let them spend some time trying to watch the “rare Greater Crested Sea Greebes” they claimed to believe were nesting in the cliffs. A mixture of Adam’s fast talking and Mary’s more physical assets surprisingly allowed them to bypass the guardhouse and walk straight up to the fort. Here they met Montgomery who was evidently the second in command, after touring the cliffs with them and failing to see any Greater Crested Sea Greebes they were invited in for supper before they returned to the town.
In many ways the trip was far more successful than anyone expected and they not only understood the layout of the area but had actually spent time inside the building housing the cells and had a good idea how large the garrison was (around seven). It was disappointing that it seemed unlikely they would be welcome back the next day and they had not managed to meet Captain Paige. Walking back to the guard house Adam and Mary quickly discussed the situation and decided to strike while the iron was hot (as well as while the sun was sinking).
Mary quickly rearranged her “assets” to best effect and kept the guards attention firmly focused while Adam quietly dispatched him. While Adam then changed into one of the spare guard’s tunics in the guard house Mary attracted the attention of John and Lars. As they finished stripping the dead guard the sound of footsteps on the path announced the replacement guard earlier than planned. John, Mary and Lars quickly hid themselves (and the body) out of sight while Adam splashed some rum on himself, pulled his hat down and sagged in the chair. Barely were they in position when the replacement guard arrived and immediately berated Adam for being drunk on duty. Adam already had his knife in his hand as the guard entered the room and between that and Lars’ sudden and brutal attack from behind he didn’t stand a chance. Having disposed of the bodies over the cliff the party all changed into the brown tunics of the garrison, a challenge for the gigantic frame of John, and prepared for the next stage of the plan.
As the rain pelted down on a horrible night Adam walked up the road while the other companions crept through the undergrowth. Judging the wall by the main gate to be out of the way from any likely sentries the group waited quietly out of the way while Adam tried his drunk guard routine for a second time. This time while the guard opened the door to him he caught sight of Adam’s knife and managed to defend himself. Lars and John ran to Adam’s aid while Mary made sure the fight was not overlooked. The gatekeeper was quickly overcome and the party ducked back outside with the body to finalise their next step.
With three guards out of the picture the companions reckoned with four garrison members, including the Captain, still at large. The shadowy outline of one could be seen manning the walls by one of the cannon and it was a fair bet that another would be guarding the prisoner while a third kept watch over the town from the watchtower. This however left various possible locations for the last if he wasn’t already asleep. Luckily the night was dark and only two torches burned in the courtyard giving more shadow than light.
Creeping through the compound they reached the watchtower that housed the alarm bell unnoticed and crept inside. Lars and John silently ascended to the first floor and took out the guard soundlessly before removing the bell rope to disable the alarm.
It was decided that the best option was now to simply see if they could get Michael out without continuing to increase the risk through actively seeking unnecessary combat. Mary and Adam had been inside the largest building in the fort, which doubled as canteen and jail house, and knowing the layout made the entry a lot less stressful. Nobody was in the main room so Mary and Adam kept the various doorways covered while Lars and John approached the jail area in the hopes of taking the guard by surprise and releasing Michael. The discovery that the guard post by the cells was empty came as a shock to everyone although not as much of a shock as the guard received on meandering out of the kitchen with a mug of tea to find Adam and Mary pointing no less than four flintlocks at him. Gesturing him to a bench both realised that if he lived he would be able to identify them before they could leave port. There was only one option and Adam took it but as he pulled the trigger on his hapless victim he realised that the sound of the gunshot would raise the alarm to the few remaining guards far more clearly than even the disabled alarm bell.
Throwing the keys from the guard’s corpse to Lars, Mary and Adam unshouldered their muskets and ran to cover the main door to the building. Cracking the door open a fraction it was quickly obvious that the guard on the wall had vanished. While it was dark and shadowy outside John was so huge that even if they made it out of the fort alive anyone spying him in the gloom could identify him later. Michael was surprised but understandably pleased to find that he was being rescued and recognised Adam almost immediately.
Mary decided that she needed to extinguish the nearest torch, which was housed right next to the door. Unfortunately it was the hinge side of the door and therefore would require exposing herself to any outside. Her sudden lunge resulted in the torch being grabbed, plunging the courtyard even further into darkness. As her hand closed on the torch the retort of a musket rang out loud in the night and a spray of stone chips showered on her. Although a shock Mary caught sight of the gunman out of the corner of her eye. Pulling their muskets hard into their shoulders Adam and Mary gestured to Lars to open the door briefly and both discharged their weapons at the spot to the right of the main gates where the guard stood reloading. Miraculously given the lighting one of the balls went home and as the door slammed shut again both saw their adversary fall.
Quick calculations still left at least one member of the garrison at large, probably Captain Paige. While discussing how to extinguish the final torch, located on the far side of the courtyard, so that John wouldn’t be identified Lars decided to take it on himself to simply sprint for it. Again a musket shot rang out, this time from the watchtower, missing probably only because of the low light and the speed at which John was moving. Adam spun around the corner of the building with a second musket his shot going wide, Mary took a fraction longer before firing and having taken a bead on the silhouette on the watchtower saw her shot hit. Lars extinguished the final torch and he, Michael and John sprinted for the gate. Adam and Mary backed away keeping the watchtower covered until their companions had escaped the courtyard when they to turned and ran.
Skirting the town by making their way through the woods Adam went to contact Billy and tell him the news of his brother. John and Lars returned quietly to the ship while Mary waited with Michael. Billy and Michael were overjoyed to see one another and wasted no time in leading the way through the woods to a secluded cove where they had a small boat moored.
Adam and Mary were happy with the small chest of coins that Billy gave them to say thank you for rescuing his bother. Both were far less impressed to see, as the boat slipped out to sea, the jolly roger being raised to fly at it’s masthead.