With the release of Spelljammer for D&D 5th Edition, I decided to break out the second AD&D Spelljammer module Skulls & Crossbows. I'm looking at it particularly with quick conversion in mind, but also for story and general usefulness. The eighth adventure in the book is called "Violent death." No, wait, that's wrong, it's called "Forgotten but not gone." Or is it? I'm confused. Read on to find out why!
This adventure deviates from the formulæ so far. While it does start with the same vague story hook that the PCs "find out about some piracy in some region of Wildspace", the actual hook is a shipwreck, and most of the adventure is essentially a dungeon crawl through an abandoned...
If this is sounding exactly like the previous adventure, that's because it's exactly like the previous adventure. Well, technically not exactly like it. Instead of a Tradesman (a Flying Fish Ship in 5e), it's a Nautiloid. That's the only difference.
I don't really know what to write about this one that I haven't already written about the previous adventure. Player characters board the abandoned Nautiloid. Some rooms are empty, so those are skipped in the adventure, but the Nautiloid of 2e is the same as the Nautiloid of 5e, so there's really no conversion to be done. There aren't many actual threats on the abandoned ship, so you don't even have to look up that many monsters, and the ones you do are in the standard Monster Manual.
The mystery of the ship is the driving force in this adventure. Your players are going to try to piece together how the ship came to be in such a state, and while not many clues are officially provided, there is one specific clue that you must ensure the characters find. They aren't likely to know anything about the clue itself, but there are NPCs on the Rock of Bral who can help. I also think I'd let anyone with a Spelljammer-specific background (Astral Drifter or Wildspacer) attempt a History (Int) check themselves. The clue item establishes the big bad of the book, so it's pretty significant, and you're going to want to ensure your players find it, and ideally not forget about it. I'm not saying the clue is essential to the success of the book, I just get sad when players miss something that unlocks story and lore. I've run so many games where the descriptions of places and events never get revealed to players because they miss a detail or because they never bother to do a perception check in the right place, or because I mean to reveal something to them but then get distracted by some fool halfling throwing pebbles down a well. So I want players to find the clues that let me tell them the cool backstories and lore that's driving the story around them!
This adventure is good, I guess, but you couldn't run it right after the previous adventure. Because this book is clearly not intended to be sequential, it's highly likely that you'll be able to fit two salvage missions into your campaign. Both adventures boil down to investigating a shipwreck, but this one is the important shipwreck. Without this shipwreck, an adventure later in the book loses signficant context. Unfortunately, if you have to choose between the superiour "Violent death" adventure and this one, you should choose this one. After all, you can't risk your players shrugging off this shipwreck adventure, nor would you want to scare them away from all shipwrecks, under the assumption that where there's a salvage mission there's also Manara.
And no, you cannot combine the two stories. They both have pretty major baddies, one of whom is the big bad of the book, while Manara from "Violent death" is just an incidental monster.
So spread the two salvage missions apart, and start with this one rather than "Violent death." Lure them to nice relaxing salvage missions with this adventure, and then spring the trap in "Violent Death." Put that way, it actually makes the two adventures work together nicely. One wonders why TSR got confused and published them out of order.