Thursday, December 20, 2012

Isla del Diablo, From the Journal of de la Torre

The idea behind the Spanish Main campaign is to put the players in possession of a large number of leads, in the form of excerpts from the journal of a deceased monster hunter, the Spanish priest Luis Diaz De La Torre, a Solomon Kane figure in Catholic garb.  The Spanish Empire has exploited the Caribbean for 150 years before the start of the campaign, long enough for there to be ruined castles, lost colonies, and dark secrets littered across the turquoise sea.  De La Torre encountered both monsters and vast wealth during his decade in the Caribbean.  As I accrete material for the campaign here on blog, I'll also sprinkle in excerpts from De La Torre's journal.  It’s a pretty interesting approach to providing plot hooks for a sandbox game.

July, 1636, Off the Mosquito Coast
Today, I caught sight of the Isla del Diablo from starboard, but the superstitious captain would not lay to and launch a boat.  We continue on towards Campeche and then Vera Cruz for my "appointment" with Senor Gomez.  I've marked the place as 12° 12' north, 81° 40' west, nearly 100 miles off the Mosquito Coast.  It is an ominous place, with an ill and foreboding look.

I had heard rumors about Isla del Diablo even back in Madrid, from Cardinal Anaya.  Unable to quell an outbreak of demoniacs appearing in the highlands around Seville, the holy church endeavored to exile them with the annual flotas to New Spain.  This forsaken island was chosen to be a kind of prison - it was believed the demons would be trapped on the island, ringed as it were by hundreds of miles of trackless ocean.  I'm thankful the practice ended decades ago, and we now have humane treatments for folk afflicted with "evil spirits".  The cardinal's records indicated a church was built on the island back in the time of Phillip II, and I hoped to visit such a ruin, give it what blessing I could, and bear witness to the many deaths on the island during those less enlightened times.  It’s unlikely any could have survived the decades of deprivation and tropical disease.

Unfortunately, the captain informed me that all ships of the flota chart a wide berth around the place, and he is forbidden by his contract to pass nearer to the island - he only dared to come this close out of respect to my station.  The fear stems from an incident in 1627.  During that summer, a galleon foundered on the eastern shoals of the island while making the trip from Cartagena to La Habana.  A survivor claimed they were drawn by lights in the dark, appearing like the stern lanterns of the ship they followed, and the helmsman steered the galleon directly onto a reef.  150 men were lost, and tons of Venezuelan gold and emeralds must still lie among the wreckage in a few fathoms of water, for no salvage was mounted.   Landing parties were sent to explore the island for survivors, but it's unclear what they discovered; the captain told me that some of the explorers were driven mad on the island, and came to reside in the monastery at Vera Cruz.  Perhaps they're just sailor stories, for these men are a superstitious lot.  But fear of the place runs very deep, and it was even stricken from many charts.

For now, my investigation into the practices of Senor Gomez, and the cloud of suspicion that surrounds him, is of paramount importance, so I will have to delay any further inquiry into the mysteries of Isla del Diablo until such time as His Grace and the will of God allows.

Wow, that little excerpt ended up as more words than I hoped.  Perhaps brutal editing can winnow it down to something more manageable for the players.  Let me know if you agree.  The meat of the rumor is meant to convey a lost island, possible inhabitants abandoned for decades, and a sunken ship full of wealth waiting for someone with a stiff backbone.  Are there actual demons there?  Maybe the exiles were just insane folks, mishandled by ignorance, and now feral and hostile.  Or perhaps there were actual possessed people, but the spirits are like the alien Yithians from Lovecraft, and not demons at all - inimical star creatures.  Or just maybe the Church was right, and the island is now a demon-haunted waste, while the larger world is just a bit safer.  (If so, stay away from the wild pigs, oink oink).  It's wide open.  Players with a ship are free to mount a salvage operation, hiring divers, and standing off the coast of the island while recovering sunken loot.

But the lure of clean water, firewood, game animals, and fresh fruit is probably too great to resist sending at least one landing party to look around, am I right?  It only takes a little opening to let the horror in.