SPOILERS BELOW for Ghosts of Saltmarsh Chapter 2 "The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh".

I'm preparing to DM the Saltmarsh campaign, including the overarching campaign theme involving the

Scarlet Brotherhood.

But I'm confused about the motivations and suggested actions of that version of NPC Ned Shakeshaft.

The suggestion on p. 28 is that Ned "makes an attempt to foil the characters, but his true intent is to surrender and implicate Gellan Primewater as a key villain." But given that the house actually is a base for Gellan's smuggling and slave trading operations, wouldn't it be more effective to assist the PCs a bit, especially watching for evidence from the Sea Ghost?

I do have some ideas:

  • Does it somehow harm Gellan a lot more to make it appear he sent someone to try to scare off or kill the PCs? But how or why?
  • Ned just wants to get the name Gellan in front of the investigators, to encourage them to follow up?
  • The Brotherhood knows about the smuggling, but not the slave trade? But how would this change things?

So basically, I'm trying to figure out what NPC Ned will do, beyond the given actions, and once my/his plans don't survive contact with the PCs. I know his goal, but his reasoning would be more useful. Does anyone have a good experience running or playing in a game with this sort of Ned? Or a similar situation where some NPC appears to oppose the PCs but really wants to point them toward some truth?

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ While opinion-based, this question is asking for answers backed up by experience, which is pretty much the definition of Good Subjective. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage granted, however, it’s too broad because it asks too many questions \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 22:25

2 Answers 2


I'm playing the adventure with the same angle (Ned as a Brotherhood Spy). Here's how I'm playing it:


  • 1-2 years ago: Skerrin and the other Brotherhood agents in Saltmarsh have found out that Gellan Primewater secretly does business with the Sea Princes. They start hatching a plan to reveal this to the public without bringing any attention to the Brotherhood.

  • some months ago: Skerrin finds out that Sanbalet's Gang (who have dealings with both Gellan Brimewater and the Sea Princes) have established their base of operations in the haunted house. He sends Ned in as a spy to infiltrate the gang.

  • Ned joins Sanbalet's Gang (basically in deep cover), waiting for a signal from Skerrin.

  • Meanwhile, the other Brotherhood agents in Saltmarsh manipulate the poacher to check out the house by mentioning the treasures that are surely to be found within.

  • Some days ago, the plan finally pays off. The poacher checks out the house, is scared off by Sanbalet's magic (just like the Brotherhood expected) and returns to town to tell the authorities about this (also just like the Brotherhood expected).

  • Skerrin manipulates Anders to hire some adventurers to vanquish the evil undead in the haunted house, then he contacts Ned (through whatever means of communication they have) that the time has come.

  • Ned, volunteering for watch duty on the upper floor waits for the adventurers to show up, then drops his belongings in the storage room, locks himself in the bedroom, gags himself and ties himself up (which is something he can do apparently). Then, when he hears the adventurers enter the house, he makes some noise to draw attention to himself.

Ned's fake story is the same as the one described in the book: He's a traveler on his way to Saltmarsh who was knocked out by unknown attackers in this house. But his goal is to make sure that the adventures find out about Gellan's involvement with Sanbalet and his gang. So unlike what it says in the book, Ned will not try do dissuade or hinder the plays, he will actually help them along, giving subtle hints and making sure that they find all the necessary clues (without giving away the game of course).

So he will want to tag along, but at the same time he needs to make sure that none of Sanbalet's gang see him (because they would of course recognize him and thereby tip the players off that his story about being a traveler is a lie). And the answer to how he does that is the answer to how I play him:

He acts like a coward. He refuses to leave the players because he's too afraid to continue travelling to Saltmarsh by himself. And he won't join the players in any of the fights because he doesn't know how to fight. So while the players take out everyone of Sanbalet's gang, he just stays behind and only shows his face again after the fight is over.

It's stupid, it's convoluted, but hey, it sounded to me like a lot of fun. :)

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    – V2Blast
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 2:37

I dont know the exact story of that campaign but I'd say you could rule play him as a annoyed/demanding person. He's tried of the PC's not going where he wants them to go so he messes up their plans to get their attention.


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