Friday, April 12, 2024

Session #12 & Adventure Sites Compilation

Firstly, I wanted to let everybody know that Adventure Sites I by Coldlight Press is now available as a free download on DriveThruRPG. It includes my own "St. Durham's Home for Wayward Youths" which is set in the same area as Melonath Falls and Brink of Calamity (but will not be included in the latter work, only by reference to this compilation) along with seven other old-school D&D-compatible adventure sites each designed to be inserted with minimal effort into an ongoing campaign and to provide one or two sessions' worth of entertainment (there was a strict size-limit of no more than 2 pages of text plus one page of maps per site). I'm honored to be included among the other authors as one of the top 8 entries in a recent contest, and the price is right so there's no reason not to grab a copy of this and see what you might be able to use in your own games.

On to other business, session #12 of my ongoing Brink of Calamity playtest was held last weekend. Because two players canceled at the last minute and the remaining players were hesitant to engage in any heavy exploration short-handed I shifted gears a bit and decided to lean heavily into Grain the thief's wedding (which had been set up by a random "character catch-up" roll a few sessions back) and use it as an opportunity to introduce a bunch of the NPCs and plot-hooks that I had tied to the Casino chapter of the book, which the players had heretofore been utterly uninterested in engaging with. We had already determined that Grain's spouse-to-be works in the casino as an "elvish impersonator" (whatever exactly that means), so since the casino is also/technically a Temple of Boreon (god of luck and chance), it made sense that the wedding would be held there and some of the casino regulars (i.e. my detailed NPCs) would attend.

PCs in attendance:
Grain - gnome thief 4
Thron - half-orc fighter 4
Thorn - half-elf ranger 3
Tares - elf cleric of Boreon 4
Eldin - human magic-user 4
Glyptus - human fighter 1 (henchman of Eldin)

Among the attendees were the following:

The casino proprietor and Boreon priest Bix Grimaldi, his assistant Carlos, and second assistant Elayne. Elayne is the cleric who who already serves as mentor/trainer to the two cleric PCs so she was already familiar. Through observation of Bix, they noticed that he doesn't actually seem to do much priestly stuff, leaving all of it to his two assistants, which came to a head when he was performing the wedding ceremony but fumbled the vows and had Carlos step in to complete the ceremony. Since prior to the session starting, while waiting for the other players to arrive, I had rolled up stats for Vylma the bride-to-be and determined that she is a mountebank (as per The Heroic Legendarium) and the players learned about the class and that one of their abilities is "impersonation," the players have begun to suspect Bix may also be less than he appears...

Boss Taggart, his half-ogre bodyguard, and a friend Franciscus, a visiting merchant. Taggart is the extremely wealthy proprietor of the lumber mill in the village of Veirona and is considered a VIP around the casino. Rumor says he is at least partial owner of the casino, which is why he was able to just show up at the wedding uninvited. Franciscus the merchant has recently arrived in town from the nearby town of Haven ostensibly to arrange a large purchase of lumber, but Thorn the ranger thought he looked familiar, and eventually recognized him as one of the men seen leaving the Perlammo Salt Mines in the last session. These three mostly stuck to themselves, whispering to each other.

Geromini, the curio-shop owner and mentor/trainer to the PC magic-user. He was revealed to be a sloppy drunk and compulsive gambler.

Sheilah, a warrior-princess from the town of Amazona, accompanied by several servile bondsmen. She was there mostly to cause trouble for any PCs who attempted to flirt with her but nobody took the bait so she ended up getting into an altercation with Geromini instead.

Loras Flaxentop, halfling professional gambler, with his pet spider-monkey. The monkey caused assorted mischief including at one point almost making off the with the wedding rings.

Mr. Stearns, distinguished older gentleman traveler from "the west" accompanied by his two adult daughters, Giuliana and Rafaella - the former of whom is plainer but friendly, the latter beautiful but cold. Mr. Stearns took immediate interest in Tares the cleric'c glowing blue crystal staff and wanted to know where he had acquired it, which they did not tell. He warned them that he was sensing an aura of evil from it. At one point a waiter spilled a drink which Mr. Stearns immediately caught, displaying amazingly (superhumanly?) fast reflexes. He also inquired whether the party had been doing any exploring in the elf-woods and when they shared the rumor they had picked up last session about the village of man-eating elves he became very intrigued and was seen flashing a sign to his daughter in Rafaella in thieves' cant telling her to watch this group.

Despite the party having left an invitation in his erstwhile lair within the Salt Mines, they were disappointed that their ogre pall Lumph did not show up. Glyptus the henchman also declined his invitation, stating that he prefers to steer clear of the casino and has had some run-ins with the people there. The party has heard rumors about an underground fight-club at the casino and are pretty convinced both that Glyptus was once a fighter there and that Lumph is there currently (but don't seem all that interested on doing any sort of follow-up investigation).

Midway through the ceremony there was a brief interruption by Boss Taggart's factotum MacDougal (who the party had previously met) who hurried in and whispered something quickly to his boss, who showed some alarm at the news. He quickly shared word with his bodyguard and guest and all four of them quickly departed. Later in the evening rumors began spreading through the crowd that a party including Lord Mayor Bowlton's daughter Liesl was en route to Taggart's manor in the village of Veirona but has failed to arrive, causing considerable distress to the Lord Mayor and his confidantes.

Grain the thief was disappointed to learn that the ring of invisibility she found last week has the unfortunate side-effect of draining away her strength and constitution, and was forced to pay almost the entirety of her savings to date (including her bridal dowry) to purchase a remove curse and dispel magic combo from Carlos the priest, even at "friends and family" rate. However, she decided to keep the ring anyway, figuring that once the PC clerics (both currently 4th level) hit 5th level and are able to cast those spells that it will still be worthwhile to have the invisibility option, especially if she only wears the ring for an hour or two. 

Thorn the ranger, who has a Quirk allowing him to speak with birds, also took delivery of a trained hawk that he had ordered several weeks back.

Asking around the next morning if there was any news of the mayor's missing daughter and learning that a search was underway but no news had been heard yet, they decided to go back to the familiar Salt Mines to continue exploring around the blank areas on their map. [Some of the players were surprised that they weren't being asked to help with the search, but other players reminded them that they have gone to great lengths to keep their adventuring career on the down-low and that only a handful of people in town - mostly their mentor/trainers - have any knowledge that they are adventurers at all.] During the trip there (the mines are about 3 hours' walk from town) the hawk informed Thorn that they were being followed by someone, who they suspected and then confirmed was Mr. Stearns' daughter Rafaella. Great pains were taken to shake her off their tail, during which they learned that she also has preternaturally fast reflexes like her father. One of the players wondered aloud if perhaps they're some kind of cat-people.

Making a very roundabout way to the mines, they first checked Lumph's old quarters and found no sign that he had returned but that the wedding invitation they'd left for him was gone. ["Do you think maybe the smuggler guys found it and that's why the smuggler boss showed up at the wedding?"] Shortly thereafter, still on level one, they ran into a wandering band of janussarians who immediately attacked. Between their removable and interchangeable heads (which they also use as missiles), their unshakable morale, and damage resistance to blunt and piercing weapons, they were reminded why they had such a hard time with these guys the first time they met them down on level two. They eventually wiped the whole group out but used up so many resources doing so that they decided to make a quick retreat out of the dungeon. Instead of returning to town they decided to find the farmstead south of the mine that had been rumored to be under attack by werefoxes. Showing off the tails of the gopines they had slain in the dungeons they confirmed that the werefox attacks had stopped and were treated to food and hospitality by the grateful farmers and the session ended there. In about 5 hours of play the total net treasure haul was 0 and the total XP haul was 66 apiece, but they met a lot of new people and picked up a lot of new hooks and rumors that they will (hopefully) begin to follow up on in the next session on April 28th.

With the smaller player group and gathered around a smaller, round table which allowed us to be closer and more easily communicate it was a nice change-of-pace session with a lot of talking both in and out of character. Grain's player was especially thrilled by all the attention and extra detail she got (which included, among other things, detailing her entire family including 9 older siblings of gnome turnip farmers) and after several combat-heavy sessions I think it was a nice reminder than there's more to the game (and, specifically, to this adventure) than just fighting and looting.