25 Port City Adventure Seeds

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Photo Credit: LotharZhou

We’re here with the 4th entry into our Adventure Seeds series (check out the new Adventure Seeds link in the header to find our previous articles), and today’s theme, by popular demand, is Port City Adventure Seeds! As I tend to run my games inland, this one was a bit of a welcome challenge for me.

Per usual, I have some assumptions about the port city in question, but you should be able to adapt any of these to fit a port city of different shape, size, or other quality. Here are the assumptions:

  • The port city is a trading hub, with lots of imports and exports coming in and out and merchant setting up stalls daily
  • The government is a bureaucracy, with noble houses that hold some sway
  • People of all walks of life are welcome in the city until they commit a crime

And now here are the adventure seeds:

  1. An infamous pirate captain and his crew have recently docked, causing fear and concern for many of the merchants and locals in the city. However, they’ve never broken any laws here or attacked native ships, so the guard refuse to do anything.
  2. Someone has been stealing from and vandalizing small vessels in the night. The only clues are that the alcohol is never touched and anything red is sloppily repainted to be blue.
  3. A wizard specializing in conjuration is selling his services to any crew who will take him, promising his loyal water elementals will be in the waters behind them and will help steer the ship and save them from harm. In truth he is a master of illusion looking for an easy payday while really doing nothing.
  4. A collapse in the streets of the city reveal a hidden underwater grotto with an extensive cave network. City officials are willing to pay for the exploration of the caves after an initial search recovered some long lost artifacts.
  5. A ship coming into port crashed into two smaller boats as well as the dock, causing severe damage but no casualties. When authorities went to confront the crew, not a soul could be found on board.
  6. An old sea captain has recently turned up back in town after he was thought dead years ago when his ship went down. When asked about what happened he acts as though he can’t hear you, and continues to mutter about “The Lost Compendium”.
  7. All the well water in the city has been tainted, forcing people to use boiled seawater. This has caused merchants with clean water to skyrocket their prices, even when selling to the sick who need clean water for medical purposes.
  8. Several famous paintings and sculptures headed for the museum were stolen off a ship, and clues trace the culprit down into the sewers. Rumors of flesh-hungry, oversized sea life keep the detectives out even as the museum curators plead with them to continue looking.
  9. Large rocks float like driftwood on the waves, but have the impact of a thrown boulder when hitting ships, causing them to dock. No one has been able to figure out why or how this is happening, but the sailors in town are getting unruly.
  10. Two ships belonging to noble houses in the city had a minor collision just outside of the port’s waters, and both have returned with different stories of what happened. One claims the other simply rammed into them on purpose, the other says they tried to turn out of the way but purple waters propelled them forward.
  11. New, strange looking fish followed a vessel back into town and now populate the water. They are tasty and non-poisonous, but the rest of the marine life is being killed as a result of their overpopulation, causing alarm as semi-magical pearls that grow in the harbor are one of the city’s biggest exports.
  12. All of the wheat and flour coming into the city, regardless of ship or original port, is making people sick. Some claim that it was a curse put on captains who refused to succumb to a sea witch, while others say that they must have angered the goddess of the sea.
  13. People from a certain foreign country are being arrested as soon as they land in the city, but aren’t seen again. People have heard the guard telling them that they will be held in cells until some clarification arrives, but people visiting the cells say that they’re all empty.
  14. A dead body was found in the waters close to the port. Strangely, it wasn’t water-logged and the victim didn’t appear to have drowned or been stabbed, but rather badly burned.
  15. A debtor who loans to ship captains is looking for enforcers after his last few were “dealt with”. Says that anyone who can get his money back from Captain McGregior and his crew can take a share of 20%. Reportedly, Captain McGregior had taken an astronomically large loan from the debtor.
  16. A strange new ship has docked in port, and all seems normal during the day. However, in the moonlight at certain angles, part of the ship appears decrepit and the flag changes from that of a friendly country to a tattered flag of a long lost kingdom.
  17. After a large sea serpent that was terrorizing sailor near port was dealt with, activists have been protesting to not hurt any more of them regardless of what they do to sailors. This is causing a large rift between the seafaring folk and these activists, and the local government doesn’t know what to do.
  18. A ship belonging to a friendly crew of Frost Giants has docked, blocking off most of the port and thus blocking other ships from docking. While the city is glad to have the friendly giants and their amazing wares, people are getting worried since the giants don’t show any sign of leaving anytime soon.
  19. After docking to refresh their supplies, and ship transporting exotic animals and monsters was raided, and the creatures released! While some of them have been captured, others are still lurking about the city. The captain is offering a hefty reward for any creatures brought back safely and unharmed, while the city is offering a reward for caught or killed.
  20. A black sludge has been creeping onto the hulls of ships and into the seams. Just yesterday a sailor sleeping inside a ship was found covered in the sludge which had hardened to a cocoon, and those who found him say he his body had started to transform.
  21. An old man claiming to really be the avatar of the god of the ocean warns the people of the port city to stay out of the sea for the next three weeks, lest they bring destruction to the city. Of course, no one heeds the man and they say that he is crazy.
  22. People are woken up in the middle of the night to a small naval battle going on just off the coast of the city. Neither ship is native to the port but one ship is clearly flying pirate flags and both are reckless with their attacks, occasionally hitting other ships or buildings in the city.
  23. After being angered by a reckless crew throwing their trash into the ocean, a greater water elemental has appeared outside the port and has started pulling the water into a massive tidal wave. He says the port has 3 days to make amends before he unleashes the wave upon them.
  24. A lone merfolk has come to the city, asking for aid of the land people. Apparently their kingdom is under attack by some underwater variant of goblin, and as a people the merfolk don’t keep weapons.
  25. A ship flying the city’s flag has been set on fire and directed toward the city. It crashed into a beach just a mile south with warnings carved all over it, and the dead crew tied to the masts.

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