The Island with No Name (1st Level Adventure for D&D 5e) – Part 1
The Island with No Name is a starter adventure for four first level characters. The adventure is set in my Seas of Vodari campaign world, but can be easily adapted to any setting. The adventure is highly inspired by Treasure Island and other classic treasure hunts, but provides enough of its own take on this classic story to be both familiar and new.
In this adventure, players follow a map to a mysterious island in search of the hidden treasure of Captain Blackheart. Along the way players will be challenged by rival treasure hunters, rough seas, dangerous monsters, skeleton pirates, a trap-filled temple, and a final showdown with a skeleton pirate captain. As an introductory adventure, the goal is to get the players a little experience with all three pillars of gameplay (exploration, social interaction, and combat).
The following is part 1 of a 3-part series that provides an entire starter adventure for DMs looking to run a treasure hunt. Part 1 provides the adventure background, a starting location and a couple of encounters. The adventure provides “the Docks”, a generic starting location with everything new players need to shop, find information and hire a ship.
Everyone knows the story of the Island with No Name. It is a favorite story told to children at bedtime and in taverns by old drunks who swear to have seen it. Many variations of the story exist and there is no definitive story, but most follow something close to this version.
Fifty years ago, the notorious pirate Captain Blackheart and the crew of the Howl of the Sea took a Taevaran galleon full of golden crowns. Blackheart couldn’t land in any port with so large a prize, so he sailed far to the west, finding a shimmering island that wasn’t on any of the charts. As they approached the island, they suddenly found themselves in rain so heavy it blinded and wind strong enough to pull a sailor right off the deck. Within minutes, the Howl of the Sea was beached on the island with shredded sails and holes in her sides. Luckily, none of the treasure was lost and Blackheart split the crew that survived into two groups. The first was left on the beach to start on repairs and the second followed Blackheart into the island’s heavy jungle to hide the treasure. Once seaworthy again, the Howl of the Sea set sail for the pirate isles with a small portion of the treasure, leaving the rest hidden somewhere on the island. As they left the island and cleared its reef, the island faded and disappeared. Some say that Blackheart and his crew spent the remainder of their days looking for the island and the lost treasure.
The version above was actually a version told by one of Blackheart’s crew when he was drunk. Blackheart liked the fame it provided and didn’t dispute it or discourage its telling, but the sailor didn’t survive the mistake. Much of the old tale contains truth, but the treasure was not lost forever.
The Island with No Name only shows itself at sunrise and sunset. When a ship comes within a few miles of the island, a supernatural maelstrom rises, crashing the ship into the shore, stranding all survivors on the island.
When Blackheart and his crew originally landed on the island, they decided to explore it to find supplies. Over the days that followed, they were attacked by dangerous beasts and killer plants. They also found ancient ruins deep in the interior of the island, where they hid the treasure and protected it with traps. Unknown to Blackheart, the ruins were actually a temple dedicated to Morto, the god of necromancy and secrets (or use a god of death from your own setting). The entire island was cursed, and Blackheart soon came under the spell of Morto’s whispers and “decided” that he could only allow his most trusted crewmates to share the treasure and know its location. The captain and his conspirators sealed their crewmates in the ruins to die. The Howl of the Sea sailed away, with a quarter of the treasure and a plan to return again when they needed more. When the pirates trapped in the tomb finally died of thirst and hunger, Morto cursed them to undeath as skeletons.
When Blackheart and his conspirators returned years later, they were ready for the storm and were able to land with minimal damage to their ship. When they arrived at the temple, they were attacked and killed by the betrayed skeleton pirates, cursed to become skeletons themselves. To this day, Blackheart is always close to his treasure, counting and recounting it, never letting it leave his gaze. The skeletons wander the temple and island, seeking out anyone unfortunate enough to land on its shores.
Blackheart’s navigator, Voyce Fayette, actually escaped the temple during the skeleton attack. He built a small ship from the Howl of the Sea which he could sail alone and even made off with a small fortune. On the sail home, Fayette recorded the details of his adventures in a journal and drew a map so he could find the island again. He also decided to avoid the pirate islands and try his hand as a legitimate businessman in the Southern Nations. This adventure is set decades later and Fayette is now an old man. The following hooks can be used to provide a push for your characters to set sail for the Island with No Name.
‘X’ Marks the Spot
One of the characters has come into possession of an old journal and map through theft, gambling or even given to them by Fayette on his deathbed. The journal tells the true version of Captain Blackheart’s tale, which none of the characters have heard before. The map shows the location of the Island with No Name, the hiding place of Blackheart’s treasure.
The characters are all trusted members of Captain Magnolia (Mags) Montrésor’s small crew of her ship, the Albatross. You have all been called together in a private room at the back of the Lucky Mermaid, before departing for what they believe is a routine smuggling run. Mags tells Captain Blackheart’s tale to the crew, which all the characters have heard before, but her version has added the part about the navigator. Once the story is complete, Mags brings out the journal and unrolls a map to the Island with No Name.
An Old Man’s Tale
A frail old man (Fayette) sits down and interrupts the characters who are seated around the table in a run-down tavern in ‘The Docks’, called the Lucky Mermaid. Offering to buy a round of drinks, he tells the true version of Captain Blackheart’s tale, which none of the characters have heard before. He slides over an old journal and map scroll, winks and gets up to leave the crowded tavern. You can have him slip away or let the players ask him more questions. The answers can be told by Fayette or are found in the journal.
Starting the Adventure
Encourage your players to create characters who are from the port city (or have recently arrived). To begin the adventure you can just assign one of the hooks or create a scene where the characters are provided a chance to grab onto one themselves.
The easiest way to begin the adventure is to use the Trusted Crewmates hook. If you are choosing one of the other hooks, at least one of the characters should know Captain Mags, most likely as a former or current member of her crew. That character could also know that Mags is a former treasure hunter and severely in need of coin.
TIP: You can choose to run a social encounter where the players hire Mags or negotiate shares of the treasure with her at the Lucky Mermaid or another location found below in “The Docks”.
Roleplaying Mags. Captain Magnolia (Mags) Montrésor is tough and sly, willing to do whatever it takes to get the treasure. Mags is a spy with the following substitutions:
- proficiency in vehicles (water)
- replace shortsword with a rapier
- Optional: replace hand crossbow with a pistol (see Pirate Adventurers)
Roleplaying Fayette. Fayette is old and frail but still has some life in him. He just wants to see someone get back to the island to get the treasure and wants to share his story, now that he is dying and has no reason to hide it. He always meant to get back there himself, but the money never ran out and his adventuring days were behind him. Fayette in person or his journal should provide some important hints and tips to share information about where the island and treasure are. Don’t forget that the players should be in possession of a map that leads the way.
The Journal & Map. Regardless of which hook you run, the PCs should have access to a map and journal. The journal clearly describes that the treasure is found in a temple that is found by following a jungle trail along a stream. The map clearly shows the location of the Island with No Name, which is not found on any other charts or maps the PCs or Mags have ever seen.
Your players can proceed right to the ship to leave or they might want to explore “The Docks” before leaving.
The following locations and the people to be found in them have been provided for “The Docks”. Please add your own locations or rename these to better fit your own campaign.
If you’d like to provide your players with some pirate themed melee weapons, flintlock firearms, and other equipment check out Pirate Adventurers.
The Lucky Mermaid. A rundown tavern in the docks, favored by the vile smugglers and criminals who lurk in the district. The tavern is owned and operated by Webster Ogdon, a male human commoner. Ogdon is gruff and no-nonsense and does not ask questions about the shady deals his establishment is known for. If slid a little gold, Ogdon can become quite talkative. Vapula, a tiefling barmaid, can usually be found working the tavern during the busiest times.
The Rosa. A century ago, a ship named the Rosa washed ashore during a storm and was severely damaged. The captain decided it would be more profitable to convert the ship into an inn than try to make the ship sea-worthy again. Over the years, additions were added and it’s now the largest inn in the docks. The current proprietors are brother and sister Corrin and Callie Greenbottle, halfling commoners. The Rosa can’t compete with the fancy inns deeper into the city, but it’s the best in the docks by a far margin.
The Golden Whale. In a market quarter. The street outside is crowded with shoppers and a crowd watching performers. The tavern is a wooden cabin, with a blue tile roof and tile flooring. A number of mounted fish line the walls. It contains several paintings on the wall and cured meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling.
Battlehammer’s Armory. Amber Battlehammer is a young female dwarf commoner. She recently took over the shop when her father was murdered, but she is a capable weapons maker and armorer. In her shop players will be able to purchase any armor or weapons found in the PHB, sold at the cost listed.
Liadon’s Mercantile. Adrie Liadon is a female elf noble. In her shop players will be able to purchase any adventuring gear found in the PHB, sold at the cost listed. Thieves who are caught stealing from Laidon will find themselves facing Henk, a male half-orc veteran who works for Laidon.
City Watch, Docks Precinct. Captain Adrik Stormhammer, a dwarf veteran, always has a dozen guards on duty. Stormbeard is interested in drinking and gambling rather than working to keep the peace in the docks. He will personally respond with a group of eight guards if someone dies in a fight or if any gunfire is heard.
Fish Market. The docks is home to a thriving fish market. If there is a nice part of the docks, the Fish Market is it. It is frequented by everyone from noble servants to fishmongers and is an excellent place to overhear gossip from across the city. For those willing to spend some gold for information, have them find Oskar Trueanvil, a gruff male dwarf spy and terrible fishmonger, who is happy to buy and sell stories.
Harbormaster’s Manor. Harbormaster Zintee Vanalan is a male tiefling noble. He oversees operations of the harbor. He is extremely wealthy and one of the most powerful nobles of the city. The manor is located on the highest land in the docks, providing a commanding view of the entire harbor. A large portion of the house operates as a public office where captains declare manifests, pay their fees and can purchase charts.
Temple of the Sun. The largest temple in every port in Vodari is the Temple of the Sun. Minori Ray, a female human priest of Tero, happily welcomes anyone with love and light in their heart willing to make an offering. She is also happy to provide healing services or healing potions. She will also offer refuge for anyone in trouble, hiding them in her temple.
Temple of the Sea. Every port in Vodari has a temple (or at least a shrine) maintained by the donations of sailors looking for safe passage to their next port. Bree Tealeaf, a female halfling priest of Okeano, welcomes anyone with coins to donate and will offer blessings. She is also happy to sell healing potions.
Lighthouse. Centuries old, the lighthouse provides the biggest landmark in the docks. It also holds some very old secrets beneath it. Be careful with this one or your players will want to explore it.
A Visit by Taggart’s Crew
At this point in the adventure, the characters should have seen or possess the map and are scheduled to set sail with Mags in a few hours (which will be high tide, sundown, or another time of your preference). If the characters hired another ship, replace Mags with the new captain.
“The Docks” is a rough part of the port city and a fight breaking out is routine and in most cases welcomed as entertainment. In “The Docks”, your players will find plenty of people and places to interact with. If Mags is with the characters, have her leave to make some final arrangements before they all meet up at the docks to quietly slip out of port.
Once the players are done with preparing to leave and decide to head to the Alabtross, you should interrupt their plans. As the players head to the ship, have a group of rough looking sailors cut them off. While most of the characters should be able to handle common thugs, this rival crew could provide a challenge for them.
As you head to the dockyards and your ship, a group of rough-looking sailors cut you off from your path. You recognize them as the crew of the Salty Serpent, a group of scum led by Captain Taggart, who are better at being thugs than sailors. In the lead is Voss, a female half-elf with an eye patch over her left eye, tanned skin, and dark curly hair. She smiles and demands ‘’Where is the map? Don’t play the fools, Taggart knows Mags is going for the treasure.”
The gang was sent by a former pirate turned gangster named Captain Theoban Taggart (human male bandit captain CR 2). Taggart has been informed that Mags is making to quickly leave town. He believes that Mags must know something about the location of a treasure and is looking to threaten her crew into revealing what they know. Taggart and Mags have a long history of being rivals smugglers and treasure hunters. The last thing Taggart wants is for Mags to find a treasure that could be his.
Taggart has sent four of his crew (bandit CR 1/8), led by his first mate Pearl Voss (half-elf female thug CR 1/2), to rough up the characters and get the map (if they possess it) and find out what else they know.
Running the Encounter
The encounter should starts out as an aggressive social encounter, but you should have everyone roll initiative. If the players are interested in avoiding combat, have them use deception, persuasion, intimidation or other checks as actions on their turn, contested by Voss.
I haven’t drawn up a map, as I used tiles when I ran this. Basically create a quick drawing of some docks with barrels and other stuff for cover. A quick Google search will provide a fine number of maps that can work or purchase this very affordable trade port map from 2-Minute Tabletop.
Voss is willing to kill the characters to get the map if needed, but was ordered by Taggart to capture them alive if possible. If Voss or any of the thugs are killed or knocked unconscious, the gang will attempt to disengage and run, leaving behind any fallen crewmates. Any fallen gang members who are brought back to consciousness and successfully questioned will reveal a few details.
- Taggart was spying on Mags and her crew and knows they have a map
- Taggart knows they are just about to set sail
- Taggart and his crew plan to follow the Albatross
If the characters are defeated, have the City Watch arrive and prevent their capture by Taggart’s crew, demanding each crew to go their own way.
In Part 2, the treasure hunters set out to the Island with No Name and really get started.
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These materials were designed to be used with 5th edition rules and can be played directly into your 5th edition favorite campaign.