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Recap / Return of the Obra Dinn

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A recap/walkthrough of Return Of The Obra Dinn.

WARNING: Any text on this entire page past the prologue are spoilers! As such, anything within the folders below will be unmarked to avoid redundant spoiler-tags. Do not read this page unless you have finished the game or don't care how you finish it.

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In 1803, the Obra Dinnnote  is declared missing after it fails to meet a rendezvous at the Cape of Great Hope. The undermanned ship, 51 crew + 9 passengers, set off to the Orient a few months ago with the expectation it would be back within two years.

It instead returns in five.

You, the Chief Inspector of Insurance & Claims of the East India Company's London office, are immediately sent to Falmouth to prepare an assessment with a mysterious package in tow. An oarsman rows you to the seemingly-deserted vessel, grumbling at the late hour. You tell him to bring the package aboard while you examine the main deck. There appears to be no crew on board, the ship untouched except for torn sails, impromptu repairs of the mizzenmast, and a skeleton in front of the captain's cabin. All the hatches and doors leading below and off the deck are locked or shut. The oarsman shouts that the package is too heavy, forcing you to open it yourself on the rowboat.

Its contents are a book (Return of the Obra Dinn: A Catalogue of Adventure & Tragedy) and a pocketwatch. The watch, labeled the Memento Mortem, allows for someone to relive the exact moment something died when it is opened around any part of their corpse. The preface for Return of the Obra Dinn, written by one Henry Evans, claims that his failing health prevented him from using the Mortem to catalogue the fates of each crew member and asks you to finish his work while making your assessment. Although you already have the crew manifest and deck plans on hand, all the book provides are hints and chapter headings...


     I. Loose Cargo 
The first omen for the Obra Dinn came before its ill-fated voyage even began: while lowering cargo below deck, seaman Lars Linde loses control of the pulley rope, causing the loaded pallet to crash down on unlucky seaman Samuel Peters. For most of the crewmen present, it is clear that it was an accident...

Unbeknownst to her crew, the Obra Dinn also had an unidentified stowaway as collateral to the accident, the barrel they were hiding in crashing to the ground and killing them. Their impromptu coffin is stored away as cargo, despite the obvious damage.

     II. A Bitter Cold 
Not long into the voyage, a sudden cold spell sweeps through the Obra Dinn. One night on the crew deck, as the other seamen and topmen sleep and the Russian crewmen play cards, Soloman Syed suddenly breaks into a coughing fit. The other Indian seamen are roused, William Wasim begging him to wake up and drink something. It is no use. Syed dies in his sleep.

Ship surgeon Henry Evans discusses the situation some time later with his steward and Third Mate Martin Perrott. He assures them that all hands are healthy: whatever lung disease Syed had is non-contagious, exacerbated by the cold, and was probably picked up at the lascar house. He hopes that with this knowledge, he can stabilize seaman Renfred Rajub, who is lying on the surgeon's bed with what appears to be the same condition. Unfortunately, Renfred succumbs as they speak.

Henry sadly asks the other Indian seamen to take their bodies over to the carpenter's for wrapping and last rites while ship butcher Emil O'Farrell teaches the midshipmen how to properly and promptly slaughter a cow for their meat supplies. Charles Hershtik vomits from the casual brutality, much to his fellows' amusement ("Never been on a farm, Charlie?").

     III. Murder 
Among the passengers of the Obra Dinn are two members of Formosannote  royalty, It-Beng Sia and Bun-Lan Lim, and their guards, Hok-Seng Lau and Chioh Tan. They bring with them a mysterious chest that they make sure to guard against prying eyes, rousing the greed and curiosity of Second Mate Edward Nichols. Late one night, he knocks out Lau and breaks into the chest, revealing a conch shell that glows with an odd light. Passenger Nunzio Pasqua ventures to the cargo deck to investigate the noise, becoming concerned at Lau's unconscious body. Nichols reassures him that all is well before stabbing him in the chest.

Without any other evidence or witnesses, Hok-Seng Lau is blamed for his murder. Captain Robert Witterel, in accordance with maritime and English law, proclaims him guilty "by self-confession"note  and sentences him to death by firing line as most of the crew gathers on the main deck. Bun-Lan Lim proclaims his innocence as It-Beng Sia quietly tells her that it's too late. Artist-in-residence Edward Spratt takes a sketch of the proceedings while steward Davey James looks away. Of the impromptu firing squad, only seaman Henry Brennan's shot hits its mark.

Nichols mutinies along with his steward and a group of seamen by pushing off on the lifeboats in the middle of the night, the royals and their chest in tow. He doesn't leave quietly nor peacefully; Lars Linde and midshipman Peter Milroy are beaten as they alert the crew, helmsman Finley Dalton gets his leg impaled for his troubles, and topman Timothy Butement is shot dead by Nichols himself. Timothy's body apparently dangles in front of the First Mate's cabin's window until only the bones of his leg remain.

     IV. The Calling 
Edward Nichols relays his plan to his cohorts on the open sea; they'll row east until they hit the Canaries in three days, staying downwind and using their packed stores to keep ahead of the Obra Dinn. It-Beng Sia asks Bun-Lan Lim if she is all right. She responds that she is, and tells him that the chest must not fall into the water. Beng tells her that she must hide if "the monsters" come. Topman Li Hong nervously relays this to his fellow mutineers just before he is impaled by a thrown spear.

Chaos reigns as the mutineers try to defend themselves from their attackers, mermaid-like creatures that wield barbed spears and have long spikes on their backs. Nichols demands that they keep rowing as seaman Patrick O'Hagan gets speared through his head. Beng takes advantage of the spear impaling Hong to cut his bindings, aiming to get to the chest.

Nichols resorts to cowering in his boat as the two Russian seamen, Alarcus Nikishin and Aleksei Toporov, are dragged overboard by the mermaids. His steward, Samuel Galligan, begs him to shoot at the mermaids while trying to keep order. Beng charges Samuel and stabs him through the neck, the chest within his reach.

Beng grabs the shell, opens the chest, and plunges it inside. Pillars of light shoot out, knocking the mermaids unconscious and burning his hand to the bone. He is too late for his ward; Bun-Lan Lim has already had her throat cut by a mermaid.

Some time later, It-Beng Sia succumbs to his wound while asking Miss Lim if she is all right, to no avail. Nichols has been busy; he has tied the lifeboats together and is currently dragging the mermaids onto the boats, preparing for a lonely voyage.

The bodies of his captives in tow, Edward Nichols catches sight of the Obra Dinn, hoping to placate the murderous crew with talk of surrender and treasure. Fourth Mate John Davies quells their anger with practical concerns: inform the captain, retrieve the boats, hold their fire. It does not reach the remaining Formosan guard, Chioh Tan, who shoots Edward in the chest without hesitation.

     V. Unholy Captives 
The following morning, the crew raises the boats back on deck, the bodies of Nichols and the royals laid out while the chest and supplies are being moved to the cargo deck. The mermaids are wrapped in a separate net, raised high above the main deck. The captain presses Chioh Tan for an explanation, restrained by seaman Hamadou Diom and translated by topman Huang Li. Chioh blames the crew for what has happened and warns that the shell must be protected, lest they all die. Huang has only partially translated the warning when the mermaids begin to stir; they somehow shoot spikes from their restrained position, missing every crew member except Chioh and Hamadou.

As Henry Evans investigates the spike that pierced both men, the remaining officers discuss what to do next, the crew on the main deck throw the bodies overboard and move the boats back to the stern, and the crew on the gun deck begin to move their cargo, the restrained mermaids, down the stairs. Cook Thomas Sefton sees the mermaids as strange fish and jokes that they would make a good meal. He notices a bright, glowing shell held by one of the mermaids and, against everyone's warnings, reaches for it. The mermaid's tail suddenly whips up and smacks him in the face, breaking his neck.

The sudden movement unbalances the procession downstairs. William Wasim stumbles forward, falling towards a barrel headfirst and breaking his neck.

The ship's carpenter and his mate, Winston Smith and Marcus Gibbs, go to get another stretcher when a sudden commotion is heard downstairs. Captain's Steward Fillip Dahl has suddenly attacked seaman John Naples with a sword, cutting off his foot. John manages to limp away from his post by the lazarette to the opposite end of the cargo deck, where he receives medical attention as Fillip is restrained. He explains to his captain that the demons they have brought aboard carry a curse and must be released. As Gunner's Mate Olus Wiater wards off bystanders, the captain commands that he be brought to the lazarette where "he may yet find his senses." Henry assures John that he'll be fine, his patient passing away as the doctor asks his mate to find the rest of his leg.

     VI. Soldiers of the Sea 
A sudden storm prompts all hands on deck to lower the sails. Leonid Volkov warns his fellow topmen to work fast, as "the wind is alive." His point is proven, not when a bolt of lightning suddenly strikes Huang Li, but by the monsters climbing on deck, two humanoid figures covered in dark, shaggy seaweed, with glowing white eyes, riding on gigantic spider crabs.

The crew works as Huang's body falls, becoming aware of the devils only when one spears topman Nicholas Botterill. The topmen scramble down the rigging as the seamen go below deck, hoping to evade the strange crab-riding creatures, armed with spikes and spears like the mermaids before them.

One of the crab-riders climbs down the stairs to the gun deck as Winston Smith and Marcus Gibbs arrive on the scene, the alert spreading throughout the ship. Seaman Nathan Peters warns them about Nicholas's demise as the crew prepares their counterattack on the orlop deck. Marcus disregards his boss and Nathan, throwing his axe at the crab-rider. It deflects it and fires three spikes at his chest, pinning him to the wall. Winston's attempt to pull him back has only gotten him a spike in the shoulder.

Guns and swords are taken to the crab-riders. First Mate William Hoscut takes aim at the monster on the main deck while the midshipmen swarm the one on the orlop deck. They quickly understand by the creatures' effortless reprisal that normal weapons will do little against the crab-riders. Bosun Alfred Klestil opens up the cargo deck in an attempt to herd the main deck crab-rider downward (and retrieve a special weapon). Charlie Hershtik finally foils the crab-rider crossing the orlop deck with a flaming lantern, too late to save surgeon's mate James Wallace and topman Jie Zhang from being decapitated.

The crew is taking heavy casualties; Emil O'Farrell is pinned to a wall by spikes while Ship's Steward Zungi Sathi crawls towards the stern, bleeding profusely from a spike jutting through his midriff. Charlie understands what he must do and jumps on the burning monster to hold it in place while Peter Milroy stabs away at the burning wretch. Winston and Nathan come down the stairs just in time for Charlie and the monster to succumb to the burns.

Henry Evans reassures Emil with his impeccable bedside manner that he'll be fine, even as he quickly bleeds out. Peter puts out the fire as Zungi gets to his feet in the port walk. Winston asks Alfred to give him the hand mortar he brought up from the cargo deck.

The other crab-rider reaches the orlop deck, smartly going around to the cargo deck stairs rather than trying to cross it. The officers realize that it's heading for the lazarette and surround the creature to find an opening, while the previous group of survivors take notice of the fight fore-ward. Bosun's mate Charles Miner takes a shot at it; it not only misses but pierces the wall and hits a slumped Zungi, his body never to be found by the crew.

The crew tries to ensnare the crab-rider as it descends to the cargo deck: topman Omid Gul and Charles hacking away on top of it, seaman Alexander Booth and topman Maba slicing and stabbing in front, Nathan protected by the stairs as he spears the creature's underside and Winston in its reach, armed with the hand mortar. Even being pierced by two of the creature's legs and its spear doesn't prevent him from taunting, then firing the mortar at the crab-rider.

     VII. The Doom 
Purser Duncan McKay has had enough of hiding in his cabin from supernatural threats. He gathers some of the remaining seamen, Lars Linde, Nathan Peters and Alexander Booth, and prepares to depart with a lifeboat in the dead of night. Nathan blocks Lars from getting on; he growls about Lars killing his brother when he lost his grip on the cargo ropes at the beginning of the voyage. Both Lars and Alexander try to convince him that it was an accident and drop the matter, but Nathan simply declares he shouldn't have waited so long for revenge. He clubs Lars over the head, killing him in one blow.

John Davies and his steward investigate Lars' dead body while Omid Gul scans the waters for the missing lifeboat. Meanwhile, Edward Spratt is making use of the head when a large tentacle silently rises from the sea. It quietly crushes him to death against the railing, no one the wiser except for First Mate's Steward Paul Moss.

Some time later, the tentacles have gone from a quiet threat to a loud one: Gunner Christian Wolff is rallying whatever men he has available to load and fire the cannons on the gun deck at the appendages, the ship tilted at a dangerous angle. The cannon that seaman Abraham Akbar mans is snared by a tentacle, unfortunately crushing him against the side of the deck as Wolff and seaman George Shirley try to get the cannon out of its clutches.

Wolff sees that, terrifyingly, the cannon's fuse has somehow been lit. The misaimed cannon fires, propelling George through the window and smashing Wolff's headless and armless corpse against the cabin wall. The recoil causes the cannon itself to smash through the nearby beam and knock another cannon out of place.

Third Mate's Steward Roderick Anderson attempts to get the loose cannon secure while Leonid Volkov checks on Wolff's body. Martin Perrott, Roderick's direct superior, storms onto the deck to check on the situation when the Obra Dinn starts "heeling over," knocking everything off-balance. Martin screams at everyone to find their footing as the cannon flattens Roderick against a column, midshipmen Thomas Lanke and Peter Milroy dropping some of their gunpowder as they climb to the main deck.

Their plan is quickly revealed: they would tie themselves to the main bitt and throw lit gunpowder at the beast's limbs, staying anchored no matter how the ship tilts. Everything is going smoothly until a tentacle grabs Peter himself. Thomas tries in vain to pull him back before yelling at him to throw the powder before it explodes. It's too late; Peter is blown to bits as Thomas watches in horror. Olus Wiater and Davies climb to the main deck with all the guns they can carry. The explosion rocks the boat wildly, causing topman Omid Gul to fall to his death from the rigging into the sea.

It's a madhouse above deck as crew cohesion breaks down. Alfred, Davies, Martin, and Olus shoot at any tentacles in their sights as Leonid and Charles Miner use makeshift spears to ward off the beast's limbs within their reach. Maba pierces a tentacle with his own sword; it scoops him up and rips him in two with another of its arms. A lifeboat is seen being up-ended in the distance, its occupants (Alexander, Duncan, and Nathan) falling to their doom into the waters below.

The end of the Obra Dinn looks inevitable. Paul desperately tries to keep the last three passengers inside their rooms, but Abigail Hoscut-Witterel isn't bothered. Despite seeing Finley Dalton and topman Wei Lee getting pulled overboard, she runs to the middle of the main deck in the midst of the chaos. She demands to see her husband the captain from an understandably incredulous Martin, who screams back that he's below deck and to get back inside. The kraken breaks the mizzenmast and brings it down on her head, killing her instantly. Meanwhile, topman Lewis Walker drags the top half of Maba's body away, Olus takes aim with the last pistols he has, and Charles Miner tries to stop a tentacle wrapped around Alfred's arm from doing its grisly work, being torn apart for his trouble.

     VIII. Bargain 
Note: Part of this takes place before and during Part VII: The Doom.

Whilst locked up in the lazarette, Fillip Dahl breaks free of his restraints, choosing to look inside the chest. He spies what he thinks is "quicksilver" and dips his hand in it, pulling out the shell and subsequently melting his arm off. He expires from his wounds. It is believed that this is what causes the Kraken to attack.

Captain Witterel seems to believe so too, storming into the lazarette and killing two of the mermaids locked in the cages, one with a spear and another with a gun, ordering them to call off the Kraken. He notices that each of the dead mermaids is carrying a shell and, remembering Chioh Tan's last words, decides to dispose of the dangerous objects by tossing them overboard. He fails to notice a third shell being clutched by Fillip.

A while later, Third Mate Martin Perrott, accompanied by Paul Moss and Davey James, enter the lazarette. They spot the third shell but are more preoccupied with the remaining mermaid. The creature is hostile, hurling a volley of spikes at Martin as soon as the cage is opened. Reeling from his wounds, he assures the mermaid that they intend to set it free. He then tells Paul and Davey to give the last shell to the mermaid, toss it overboard, and lock the lazarette door as they leave. In return, he asks the mermaid to see the Obra Dinn home safe. He succumbs to his wounds.

Even later, the ship's surgeon, Henry Evans, is caught by Paul attempting to enter the lazarette, only to be told that the key to the door is gone. In pursuit of knowledge, Henry ties his pet monkey to a rope and puts it into the lazarette. Paul asks him what he's doing and Henry replies that it's "nothing good," shooting the monkey and retrieving its body with the rope.

     IX. Escape 
The crew of the Obra Dinn has somehow driven the behemoth back. Olus Wiater and John Davies carry Alfred Klestil, minus one arm, into the gun deck's lounge while ignoring his protests. He asks where Charles Miner ("his Frenchman") went, and how they killed the beast. Davies replies that the captain somehow chased it off, the man himself climbing to the main deck behind him, and also bluntly informs him that Charles was ripped apart. A leery Alfred simply responds that this sort of curse "does not lift for nothing" before succumbing to his wound.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing on the main deck as Henry Evans, Davey James, Paul Moss, and the two remaining female passengers prepare to board the last lifeboat of the Obra Dinn. Leonid Volkov roars that they won't take the last boat and gets in a sword fight with Paul as Robert Witterel, William Hoscut, Henry Brennan, and topman Lewis Walker all try to stop him. Despite having the support of the passengers and the moral high ground, Paul loses the duel with a quiet "Damn."

Leonid then attempts to board the boat with William and Brennan closing in and Robert taking aim. He is stopped short by Emily Jackson picking up a gun and shooting him in the chest. Thus do Jane Bird, Emily, Davey and Henry sail off to the closest landmass, Africa, alive and well.

As this is happening, Olus and Davies consider their bleak situation. Olus proposes that they take the ship from Robert, sail east, and "trade wretched fish and shells for gold," but suddenly notices Thomas Lanke eavesdropping. He runs up and stabs a panicking Thomas in the back before Davies can stop him, and the two wrestle for Olus's pistol. As Robert holds his head in shame, Henry and William go to investigate the commotion below deck. Davies forces the gun to point at Olus and pulls the trigger, blowing the top half of his head off.

Sadly, Henry only sees Davies shooting Olus in the head. As William sees Thomas crawling for the midshipman's room, Henry breaks Davies' neck with a single swing of his club.

William despairs at seeing Thomas's condition. Thomas tries to have him promise to apologize to Peter's mother for failing to save her son for him, but William declares that he will tell her himself. He vows to stay with him and yells for Brennan to bring him the surgeon's kit. Thomas bleeds out in his own room as Lewis Walker comes below deck to see the commotion.

     X. The End 
The last four men on the Obra Dinn confront each other. William Hoscut demands that Robert Witterel open the door to his quarters so that they may take the cursed shells, and his life if he resists. A shirtless Robert responds by throwing open the door and shooting him in the chest. Henry Brennan charges over his body while Lewis Walker climbs up the stairs to the upper deck.

Henry demands that Robert tell him where the shells are. Robert claims that he already threw them overboard. Henry says that he's lying and manages to drive a spear through Robert's shoulder, but gets his throat cut.

As Brennan chokes on the blood filling his throat, Lewis bounds over the upper railing and swings onto the balcony outside the captain's quarters with a knife between his teeth. He charges Robert while he is distracted and plunges the knife into his side, to no avail; he gets his head caved in with the spear.

The captain of the Obra Dinn sits on a chair facing the body of his wife, Abigail Hoscut-Witterel, exhausted and shaken. He tells her peaceful body, lying in bed as if asleep, that he killed her brother William and that he'd be with her soon. Robert shoots himself, begging forgiveness from her for everyone he's wronged.

Note: The package only arrives if all of your fates are correct.

A storm begins to brew deep into your investigation. The oarsman makes it clear that you should definitively finish your business, because no-one will be taking you back to the Obra Dinn once you get on the boat. You make the final call and leave the corpse of a ship behind to be sunk by the storm.

One week later, you are sent a preliminary assessment based on your recorded findings that, pending your signature, will verify all of the death certificates. The crew's estates, pensions, and other expenses are fined or awarded based on your records and the legal standard of the time (Robert's estate is seized by the crown due to his suicide, Nichols receives the most fines to his estate if you are truthful, criminal charges and causes for merit and demerit are listed as you wrote them...). You keep the Memento Mortem and send Return of the Obra Dinn back to Henry, as promised.

One year later, an envelope/package arrives for you late one night. Your housekeeper brings it to your study where you are enjoying a cup of tea, complaining about the package's "dreadful" smell.

When you open it, you find a letter from Jane Bird explaining Henry's fate, depending on the accuracy of your assessment; no matter what, she requests that you don't write back. Aside from the letter, the package also contains another wrapped item and Return of the Obra Dinn, with a small note from Henry declaring that it is your tale now. The Bargain chapter is still unfinished.

You understand the smell when you unwrap the item: it is a rotting monkey's paw, blackened and pungent. You understand the situation and pull out the Memento Mortem...

When you have filled out the Bargain chapter to your satisfaction, you slide Return of the Obra Dinn onto your trophy shelf, each of its neighbors having their own story to tell, as interesting as the one you just finished.

The End


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