2019-03-14

Decaying Lands 40: Rain Rain Go Away

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist (James)
Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Pyreborn, ?? (Peanut Butter)
Teake's Teeth
Tinslee & Therese, Teamsters



big hexmap with a red route line cutting south west through it
Expedition into Ghallia-That-Fell Day 4
Travel Summary
Expedition Day; Season Day; Weather; Hexes; Expenditures; Notes
Expedition 4; Fall 56; Incredible Winds ; 0821, 0722; 1ea ration/feed; half speed from wind

Sidenote: I've already removed the rations/feed listed out above (1ea) from all character inventories. Additionally removed 1 ammo from Joseph (A1), Agatha (A2), Claus, Tenkos, and Barthelm.

Next Watch Sequence
Finish Expedition 4 night: D A B C
Expedition 5 nigh: A B C D

Marching Order
1/2 of Teake's Teeth
PCs + teamsters
1/2 of Teake's Teeth

Watches
A. Tenkos, Timothee (I1), Indira (I2)
B. Viggo, Yvonne (I3), Basile (I4)
C. Barthelm, Joseph (A1), Sacha (I6)
D. Lucien (for Claus), Rosaline (P1), Cyril (P2)

Camp Setup: Horses gathered in the center, tied to trees or stakes. Rest of camp arrayed in a circle around them. Light discipline, no campfires or other lights.



Last time the party began their expedition into Ghallia-That-Fell with a large entourage, declined to be tempted away from their path, got passed in the night, and lost a bunch of food (but no people!) to an awful thunderstorm.

Two players had to run a little late today which meant that the party direction was swapped decidedly around from last session. With Tenkos and Claus in control there was no telling what buttons they'd push and levers they'd pull! Unfortunately Barthelm came back before they could really start poking...

(-_-)

They were getting set to pack up for the day after long hard progress through the wind hammered woods when the rearguard sent up a shout of warning. Four thick, muscled creatures came bounding out of the woods behind them on all fours. Their jaws were extended and full of teeth and their blood vessels nearly burst from their flesh. Muscles bulged and strained as the four hurled themselves towards the nearest members of the expedition.

hasty pen sketch outline in blue with purple veins
roar claws and teeth and veins and horns
They were close despite the party's vigilance because of the press of trees all around. After a quick look at the creatures, Barthelm asked if Edmond was yelling in recognition. He surely was!

Sidenote: I initially said they'd have to ask Edmond's player, then figured they'd just confirm after the fact so gave the immediate players the info. This was wrong because it assumed that Edmond's player would definitely have shared that information. Shouldn't have done that. Sorry :(

Normally we'd do initiative by sides and re-roll every round but with 20+ in the PCs party that was a little unwieldy. We did by group with no re-roll and came up with:

Enemy / monsters -> personal retainers (Lucien & Phillip) -> PCs -> teamsters -> Teake's Teeth

All four went after Margot and her horse as the closest of the three rearguard infantry, killing her immediately in their initial assault and severely wounding her horse. Teake's Teeth collectively roared in hurt but Margot's partner Cyril was utterly consumed by rage and devastation.

Phillip immediately lost his shit and bolted for the woods. He would have been lost to the party if not for Claus' timely warning that the creatures were hunters and would chase him down if he were alone. Score one for quick thinking. Lucien on the other hand went in swinging, albeit unsuccessfully.

Claus exploded one of the creatures with a tremendous magic missile, pink rays arcing from his hands to blast a hole through its torso. Where it landed the fluids leaked out and sizzled the leaf litter. Tenkos tossed some holy water, hoping to get lucky, but couldn't connect. Barthelm was hesitant to fire into the melee given the high potential for allied collateral damage.

Sidenote: James described the creature to Viggo's player, who had just joined the session, as "lickers from Resident Evil but with a Venom symbiote and acid blood."

licker from resident evil
LICKATUNG
When the Teeth got their turn they swarmed, killing another of the creatures and wounding a third. One of the remaining ones grabbed Margot's corpse and started running. The other bit her horse's neck clean through, dropping the head on the ground and chewing what it could. Almost everyone bum-rushed the closest one and whoever was left took pot shots at the fleeing monster (two 1s for damage), including a shot from Claus' pistol that erupted with a crack and scared off all the birds for half a mile. Finally they caught it on their horses and finished it off.

Sidenote: I screwed up when I rolled this and only rolled 1 HD of HP. They should have had more. This may have gone quite differently if that were the case, so fair warning to the players it should have been harder.

Barthelm mused that at this point he was probably the most responsible party member and that fact gave the party pause. They discussed how prior to dying Viggo was probably the most practical and responsible but now? They don't quite know what to make of him yet.

"Original Viggo very trustworthy, new Viggo oh my god." - Claus

They regrouped. They considered pressing on but the dark was coming fast. The Teeth gathered up bodies and Viggo started building a pair of pyres. No one who was still alive had been injured so they were still unsure what effect the creatures might have.

Tenkos approached the most intact creature and began to methodically cut into its flesh. It's bones were sturdy, thick, and wrapped in powerful muscles. None of the cuts into the flesh produced any acidic sizzle but his dagger did get blunted a bit in the creature's mouth.

Someone asked if it had teeth like a baboon and you know what? Baboons have awesome teeth. Kind of like that, but way more canines.

baboon with its jsws wide open and four big pointy canines
OMNOMNOMNOM
When Tenkos got to the creature's abdomen he started having problems with his makeshift autopsy tool. It looked like there was some kind of caustic, viscous liquid in a sack connected to it's throat. The faceless doctor's dagger was useless at this point, pitted and dull.

Sidenote: Vegas (Claus' player) shared his theory during combat that these creatures (and Edmond) are dnd-ified versions of the Abomination from Darkest Dungeon. The autopsy apparently only made him believe it more. As a rule I do not comment on player theories but it always brings me joy when they have them.

Tenkos gave Sergeant Teake the go ahead after he had finished his examination (Claus furiously scribbling notes over his shoulder) and she solemnly began removing canines from the creatures and distributing one to each of her soldiers.

They reverently placed Margot's body on her pyre and dumped the creatures onto the other one (with Margot's horse). Barthelm was concerned about the noise they made and the light of a funeral pyre but they figured anything and everything would already know they were there. He tried to find somewhere they could be a little more concealed but had a hard time in darkness so they setup camp a bit away from the pyres.

Cyril kept a vigil over Margot's pyre from the moment it was lit. Viggo appreciated the massive flames from both pyres at a respectful distance. The heavy winds and wet wood combined to create an awful lot of smoke, obscuring visibility.

D. Lucien (for Claus), Rosaline (P1), Sgt Teake
A. Tenkos, Timothee (I1), Indira (I2)
B. Viggo, Yvonne (I3), Basile (I4)
C. Barthelm, Joseph (A1), Sacha (I6)

It was during the third watch that Viggo heard a rustle in the bushes beyond his sight followed by hushed whispers in an unknown tongue. LINK went about it waking everyone up while LINK kept their bow at the ready. Viggo waited, unsure of what to expect, when a high-pitched voice issued hesitantly out of the woods in Ghallian:

"P-p-parley? No hurting, no murder yes?"

Viggo did his best to assure the voice that yes, there need not be any murder or hurting. It said it was going to approach and once more entreated Viggo to "no murder". Viggo could hear it rustling closer but also caught several flashes of eye shine as the being moved between trees.

Finally it came into the light, a half-size humanoid covered in fur, its whiskers twitching side to side and its hands all the way up. Yup, ratfolk. Claus and Barthelm exchanged a knowing glance, "Here we go again."

very rough pen sketch of a humanoid rat
suffer my mediocre sketch after not having time for ms paint
Sidenote: There was a brief debate about which character would know Brian the Ratman from way back. That was the adventure that Heidi and Helga both died in way back in Session 6-7, a full THIRTY-THREE sessions ago. So yup, just Barthelm and Claus left. Mad love to Brian the Ratman's player for the two hour conversation we had hashing out their culture and motivations.

2019-02-27

Decaying Lands 39: It's a Hexcrawl Baby

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist (James)
Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Edmond Renault, Fighter (Skarne)
Jehan, Woodsman [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
  Walter, poacher
Teake's Teeth
Tinslee & Therese, Teamsters


Sidenote: Trying something new with this one, going to put a high level summary up top to be more immediately useful and then the narrative summary with more details to follow.

Large hex map of land split by a river. There is a line marking the party's path into the southern half of the map, ending in hex 0 8 2 0.
Expedition so far into Ghallia-That-Fell.
Travel Summary
Expedition Day; Season Day; Weather; Hexes; Expenditures; Notes
Expedition 1; Fall 53; Sunny; 1517, 1418, 1419, 1320, 1220; 1ea ration/feed; white wisps in 1419
Expedition 2; Fall 54; Heavy Fog; 1120, 1020, 0920, 0820; 1ea ration/feed; group passed in night 0820
Expedition 3; Fall 55; Thunderstorm; 0820; 1ea ration/feed ea, 6ea ration/feed lost to storm

Sidenote: I've already removed the rations/feed listed out above (9ea total) from all character inventories.

Next Watch Sequence
Expedition 3 night,  C D A B

Watches
A. Edmond, Timothee (I1), Indira (I2)
B. Jehan, Yvonne (I3), Basile (I4)
C. Barthelm, Margot (I5), Sacha (I6)
D. Lucien (for Claus), Rosaline (P1), Cyril (P2)

Camp Setup: Horses gathered in the center, tied to trees or stakes. Rest of camp arrayed in a circle around them. Light discipline, no campfires or other lights.

Chain of Command (as suggested by Barthelm)

  1. Tenkos
  2. Edmond
  3. Jehan
  4. Claus
  5. Barthelm
  6. Jehan's Horse
  7. All other horses
  8. Viggo


Last time the party bought a house, outfitted it with lab & library, and planned out what retainers and gear they would need to head into Ghallia-That-Fell.

We opened up with the return of Jehan after his disappearance following the chaotic events in a certain Stilton basement. He accompanied the rest of the party to Prince Fabian's residence to air a grievance of Edmond's.

Edmond was offended that he was not provided with chainmail in order to be properly equipped for the upcoming journey. Majordomo Antens, stuttering more and more as he grew angry and flustered, countered that the prince had already expanded incredible sums equipped the party with a score of horses and a month's worth of supplies. In the process, he let slip that he considered this a hopeless errand and was trying to minimize the prince's outlays.

Unfortunately Antens' indignation combined with Edmond's dogged persistence was enough to draw the attention of Captains Robineau and Lajoie as they passed by. The prince's insperable spy masters merely had to raise an eyebrow at the situation for Majordomo Antens to acquiesce to Edmond's demand for chainmail before quickly scurrying off.

Barthelm took the opportunity to press the captains for any information on the disappearances in the Dwarfgrave Mountains, specifically the presence of any worms. Captain Robineau (or was it Lajoie?) confirmed that the disappearances were indeed confined to the northern pass but did not know anything more because none of their agents have yet returned from investigations deeper into the mountains. So far none of the attacks have left any trace of bodies or survivors but have left everything else.

Jehan then asked about any possibility of resurgent death cults in the area. Robineau and Lajoie each raised an eyebrow but didn't know anything specific. They asked Jehan for anything else he could share and when he said that the name he knew was "Duvan'Ku" both of their eyebrows shot up. They had only heard the name as a bogeyman from ages past but Jehan's suggestion that they may be resurgent was very alarming. 

"Unfortunately we do-
-not have many assets left in Teutonia.
-Especially after our losses in the Dwarfgrave Mountains and-
-sending word to pull back to Prince Florent's domain-
-for monitoring. However we will see-
-what we can do." Captains Robineau & Lajoie

They arrayed themselves in a column on the parade ground the next morning. Sergeant Liliane Teake, leader of Teake's Teeth mercenary company, introduced herself and her soldiers to the party. The sergeant herself was missing quite a few teeth but she made up for it with a necklace strung full of them. Mostly the teeth were animals but there were a few notable human teeth. The rest of her squad bore similar necklaces (although were not as bereft of teeth).

The crew decided that Tenkos would in charge of the new retainers and setup an overall chain of command for when his player couldn't make it. That put Edmond at the head for this session, and they rolled out (after much glaring and side-eye from Edmond to Majordomo Antens).

Departing the castle was a serious production. Prince Fabian gave a short speech expressing hope for a successful return but emphasizing a return. Archers lined the battlements above the gate as the drawbridge lowered slowly to extend across the gap, finally reaching the bridge. A double line of pikes preceded another double line of crossbows as they slowly advanced onto the bridge. The party could smell the heavy scent of boiling oil on the rampart above as they passed through the gate. They also noticed that as the advance party moved on the bridge about half of them focused their pikes and aim towards the water rather than the ashen shore ahead.

When the bridge guards reached the other end they spread out into a semi circle, split between watching the distant treeline and the water behind them. Edmond saw their caution but made a point of spurring his horse Devoi through the narrow gap they left and leading the entire expedition confidently ahead. He made sure to continue this pace until they were past the treeline. The advance guard, for their part, started to work their way back across the bridge as soon as the last party member had past their ranks.

Once they had entered the forest proper, Edmond called a halt. He made it clear to everyone that if things were to go south that they should leave him behind. Barthelm countered that they do whatever it takes for their friends, but Edmond was insistent.


Edmond flashed the chains circling his waist and noted that "I'm a little bit attached to mine."

For all the talk of Ghallia-That-Fell being an awful place the first day was sunny and easy. They noted the normal woodland animal sounds and headed generally south. Daily travel procedure is:

Check weather (Pocket Dimension)
Determine Travel Distance
Decide travel direction (players)
Event check per hex (d6)
Camp Setup
Event check per watch

Sidenote: I opted not to bother with "getting lost" rolls because I didn't want to have to track where the party actually was versus where they thought they were. It seems a shame to lose that potential for lost time and shenanigans though. Maybe I can add it in as a "you wander around the hex" instead of "you go the wrong direction."

Their travel was uneventful for the first few miles (Hex 1418) but they came upon some sort of wispy gunk attached to the pines above the gully they were traveling through (1419), flapping in the breeze. It was hard to tell at the distance exactly what was hanging off the tree other than it was white and lightweight. A prominent theory was that it was ghostly related.

Claus immediately wanted to investigate shit and bring stuff back!  Edmond's clearly defined position since before the beginning of this expedition (that he opposed in the first place) was that bringing back anything extra from the plaguelands is a terrible idea. Terrible! Claus sputtered and fumed! Barthelm brokered a compromise whereby they don't worry about finding additional treasure until AFTER they have secured the means to save Prince Fabian's niece Noëlle. They pressed on.

They circled the camp up around the horses, tied to trees or staked to the ground after finding a somewhat raised area that would hopefully give them more of a  warning if something approached. They debated whether they should use lots of fires to "light this shit up" or try to keep a minimal presence. "We've got too many people to hide", but Barthelm also liked the idea of not drawing a lot of attention. It was at this point that Edmond revealed his horrific scar from his previous venture into the plaguelands.

"Is that a bite?!" - Barthelm
"It is." - Edmond

From this point on Barthelm decided that Edmond was definitely a werewolf but also was bit by the chain so must be a werechain. They've got ~20 days until the full moon before they can test that theory.

They debated whether the possible threats were intelligent or not as the decider for whether they should make a bright camp or not. Barthelm questioned more into Edmond's story and the former soldier described how his party had crossed the ashen shore into the wood. The creatures that attacked fell upon them suddenly during the night and their fires and sentries did not seem to deter them. The battle was such chaos that he couldn't even tell how many of them there were, only that they were wild and lethal.

In the end they went for a blacked out camp. Teake's Teeth volunteered to take the watches, two per watch. The party decided that one of them would also stand watch, just in case, and came up with the following:

A. Edmond, Timothee (I1), Indira (I2)
B. Jehan, Yvonne (I3), Basile (I4)
C. Barthelm, Margot (I5), Sacha (I6)
D. Lucien (for Claus), Rosaline (P1), Cyril (P2)

Sidenote: I = Infantry, P = polearm, A = archer, T = teamster.

The Teeth went about pitching tents and setting up a basic perimeter. One of the players said "I get my tent out too" and I had to remind them that I gave them a heads up about the Teeth having tents and not to be surprised when the party had none. Barthelm opined that it was better not to be locked into a tent with only one way out anyway.

Their first night in Ghallia-That-Fell was uneventful. Edmond spent his watch getting to know Timothee and Indira. Not only were the pair the cooks for Teake's Teeth, but they had joined the sergeant at the same time as their sister Rosaline.

The dawn of the second day (start 1220) brought with it a heavy fog, obscuring vision but thankfully not causing and navigational delays. The party progressed doggedly west after packing up camp, moving from 1220 four hexes to 0820. They rotated watch the second night so that everyone would get a chance at uninterrupted sleep, with the order as:

B. Jehan, Yvonne (I3), Basile (I4)
C. Barthelm, Margot (I5), Sacha (I6)
D. Lucien (for Claus), Rosaline (P1), Cyril (P2)
A. Edmond, Timothee (I1), Indira (I2)

During Claus' watch he heard sounds of a group of things moving thru the woods nearby, probably no larger than a person but a number of them. Rosaline and Cyril quietly woke up the rest of the Teeth while Claus sat still, eyes closed to better follow the sounds.

After determining that the creatures were continuing on their path away from the camp Claus resumed smoking his pipe. In the morning Edmond had a nice chat with Claus (and everyone else) about maybe waking EVERYONE up next time instead of filling them in after the fact.

The third day barely dawned as the heavy fog gave way to lashing, thunderous, rainstorm. All thoughts of progress were replaced by a pressing need to find shelter before the driving wetness worked its way into their rations and spoiled it with mold and mildew.

They lost the whole day wandering around trying to get out of the rain and failing (despite two woodsmen at 5/6 and 3/6 skill). Everyone lost a whopping 9 rations and 9 feed for the horses. They avoided being struck by lightning and managed to take advantage of a couple of downed trees and branches to put together a makeshift shelter going into the night. We will see if they fare any better during the night next time. Next session will start at the beginning of the night in 0820, storm raging.

Sidenote: I've been running weather off the seasonal weather tables in Daniel Sell's very handy Pocket Dimension because I haven't gotten my stuff together enough to make a proper hex weather table, also by Daniel Sell. Maybe the results I roll as they go can feed into the generation of a hex weather table.

2019-01-06

Decaying Lands 38: Accounting Homework

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist (James)
Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Pyreborn, ?? (Peanut Butter)



Last time the party met with Prince Fabian, heard an unexpected offer, and decided to (eventually) head into Ghallia-That-Fell.

This time we spent the whole session trying to figure out how that would work. We emailed a bunch beforehand, I made a sheet to help figure out lab, library, and retainer cost, and I grabbed James Young's tracker for his game (can't find the original link sorry) to tweak to make encumbrance a snap. Still wasn't quite enough.

Seriously we spent the whole session planning, I have no events to relate because we did very little in character. I didn't even describe any local cuisine specialties!

That's not to say there wasn't progress though. Encumbrance tracker is filled out for PCs; they bought a house with rooms for everyone, a lab, and a library; and they figured out how many retainers they were going to bring. I was surprised because it was a lot! They are going with:

• (2) Archers
• (6) Infantry
• (2) Polearm Fighters
• (1) Sergeant (Cavalry)
• (2) Teamsters

Total cost is around ~1700 sp a month (paid in advance), so it's a very good thing they stopped in Stilton on the way.

I missed the part in LotFP Rules & Magic that said the minimum for mercs to come with equipment was 20 and said I'd they got 10+1 Sergeant that it would be an established merc squad. Having the minimum for a preformed company be 20 but needing a sergeant at 10 doesn't sound good to me anyway.

Vegas commented that getting all the hirelings made him feel more like the bad guys because now they've got this big retinue of mooks. "It makes me feel more like an imperial officer." Add to that the fact that they will all have horses courtesy of Prince Fabian and damnnn that's a lot of noisy tromping in the forest. Despite the horses, Edmond was upset (over email) that when he asked for arms and armor the Majordomo only gave him leather. I am very much looking forward to playing that conversation out!

Once they had retainers and house sorted, Tenkos and Claus for down to the business of crafting useful consumables. That's when we realized it's horrible. Unless I misunderstood, this is how it works for potions:
  1. Have a lab of minimum 1000 sp * Spell Level (SL) value
  2. Potions take 1d6 * SL days @ 50 sp a day
  3. Decide how many days you will spend before rolling how long it takes, spend that money
  4. Roll to see the actual days required
  5. If you spent less than that, you fail everything is wasted. This is all fine with me so far, except the part where failure has a 10% curse chance but close enough.
  6. Roll a save vs Magic if you were successful
  7. If you SUCCEED your lab loses 1d20 * 100 sp value
  8. If you FAIL your lab loses 2d20 * 100 sp value.
  9. If you roll a 1 there's an explosion (this is fine)

Look at 7 and 8 again. Tenkos / Claus spent 3 days (150 sp) to make a potion of cure light wounds and then lost 400 sp of value from their lab that was only worth 1000 sp to begin with. 550 sp for a cure light wounds potion and that's a pretty optimal outcome considering the dice.

Like I said, maybe I did this wrong but it reads wonky as hell. I changed the d20 to a d6 (or something) at the table but still didn't like it. Got some more drastic tweaks in mind for another post.

Noticing that the amount in 7/8 doesn't scale it seems like the intent is that it's not worth it to create low level items and it's only really good to make high level stuff when you are a baller. It seems like active punishment to craft lower level items and only barely worth it for higher level stuff. Maybe I am being too stingy with treasure?

Regardless, as written this isn't the feel I want. I think it would be cool for the players to have some roots (even in several places). I want them to feel like they can invest their treasure in magical creations to help them overcome the next challenges and I want them to feel like spending time to do that is appealing (because time is a valuable resources). I had some after session chats with Vegas and Sugarplum about my ideas to change it and think I have something I'll be happy with. We'll see.

Next session will feature our party venturing across the river into Ghallia-That-Fell, a place that hasn't been explored for 50 years.

And if it doesn't then I'm going to blow up the city, rocks fall everyone dies, and we're all going to play Troika!.

2018-12-30

Decaying Lands 37: A Princely Request

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm Schade, Specialist (James)
Edmond Renault, Fighter (Skarne)
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Pyreborn, ?? (Peanut Butter)



Last time the party made a new friend (Edmond!), traveled through Prince Fabian's domain a bit enjoying its particular culinary delights, and arrived at the prince's manor.

Barthelm was able to make this session so we retconned some travel chat of him inquiring more into Edmond's past. Edmond expanded on his tale, describing how he rescued Prince Florent's general from an overextended expedition into Ghallia-That-Fell. When pressed with more details he only offered up that "The Plaguelands are dangerous."

Sidebar: This session was mostly talking, especially a lot of talking from Prince Fabian. I felt weird to be talking so much (this is the party's show) but then Peanut Butter reminded me not to apologize so damn much. Also meeting with a major player NPC who is also one PC's patron and rival to another PC's former patron... probably worth having a lengthy conversation?

Description: A walled city cut into halves by a mostly east-west road. Farms ring the outside and a third leg breaks south.
City of Lenticot, capital city of Prince Fabian. Prince's manor circled at #1, Ribald Moose at #2.

Their escort took them straight to Prince Fabian's manor in the center of the city. Barthelm still had enough time to request a smithy recommendation from the guard captain riding with them. He was specifically looking to replenish their supply of bear traps after losing two in Viggo's melty burny after-death. Initially offended that Barthelm might be thinking of raiding the Prince's hunting lands, he gave an appreciative head nod when Barthelm clarified that their prey was typically two-legged rather than four-legged and promised to help after their meeting.

Description: Vertical rectangle with a dark blue background. Ropes run diagonally with knots where they cross.
Flag of the Unified Principalities of Ghallia. The blue is for the seas and rivers that Ghallians are famous for traversing and the ropes represent the bond between various princes. A single flag can be joined on any side with another of the same when princes muster their resources together for a common purpose.


Sidebar: My players asked first what Prince Fabian's flag was (and gave suggestions) and then what the flag of Ghallia would be. This is what I came up with. The tiling aspect of the flag is probably cheesy but I like it. They also asked for Fabian's sigil but my first attempt sucked so that's going to have to wait.

Prince Fabian's flag flew above the manor, with the Flag of the Unified Principalities of Ghallia on one side and their sigil on the reverse. The Prince was in residence, waiting.

The furnishings in the manor were luxurious without being ostentatious. Their wagon was secured and they were quickly ushered through a set of double doors, announced as "Tenkos, faceless doctor in the service of our prince and his companions." The room was a small side eating chamber, not the main dining hall, and Prince Fabian was seated with an assortment of supper options. They rose, greeted the party, and invited them all to sit and relax.

Tenkos opened up about their experience in Stilton. Prince Fabian confessed that they hadn't had a chance to fully examine the latest information but very much appreciated all of Tenkos' prior missives. They began to pick and pull snippets from the party's previous adventures, calling out the members present by name and exploit. Prince Fabian expressed their extreme appreciation for Tenkos and his continued loyalty, truly a faceless doctor dedicated to the cause of Ghallia.

The only one who the Prince did not recognize was Edmond, but they did recognize the tattooed insignia of Prince Florent on the soldier's wrist. They also noted the manacles on his wrist with an arched eyebrow. Edmond shared with Prince Fabian his recent stay in Prince Florent's jail after a highly unusual, and overextended, foray into Ghallia-That-Fell. The Prince's other eyebrow shot up and they looked from Edmond to Tenkos and back again.

Prince Fabian immediately summoned their majordomo, Antens, as well as Captains Brice Robineau and Pascal Lajoie. They quickly retasked the captains to reallocate appropriate assets into Prince Florent's lands to acquire further evidence of their cousin's activities during Edmond's reported forays into Ghallia-That-Fell.

The Prince then presented a problem of their own that involved the abandoned plaguelands across the river. Prince Fabian's niece, Noëlle, had fallen ill and none of the faceless can do anything to help her. She will die. She is not only the Prince's niece but also their heir. This cannot be.

Prince Fabian explained that though none of the faceless have been able to help they have been able to uncover some whispers and fragments of information referring to a wizard who lived in Ghallia prior to the Fall who had dabbled in rituals of resurrection. Prince Fabian's resources were not able to uncover an exact location but they believe the possible laboratory location to be deep into the plaguelands. Prince Fabian stressed that they sought only volunteers and were not in any way commanding Tenkos to undertake this journey.

Edmond got up and walked out, disgusted at the thought of another prince suggesting further forays deep into Ghallia-That-Fell. The doorman on the way out suggested that he wait for his friends at the Ribald Moose and enthusiastically recommended that he "ask for Frances."

Tenkos wanted a private audience, so Majordomo Antens took Barthelm and Viggo into the next room. Tenkos explained about how his magic brought Viggo back from the dead and, although Tenkos isn't exactly sure how yet, perhaps he could help Noëlle. The Prince again expressed their gratitude for their loyal servant, appreciative of any and all assistance. They also hoped that Tenkos would be able to convince his friends to help if he was indeed interested in volunteering.

After Tenkos rejoined Barthelm and Viggo they got some more information from Majordomo Antens. The majordomo was not thrilled with Prince Fabian's plan but explained that the prince would be be willing to offer aid of material and influential significance in preparation for an expedition and substantial monetary recompense if they returned with the ritual. If they returned with a ritual and it worked?... Even more so.

Tenkos, Barthelm, and Viggo departed Prince Fabian's manor after Barthelm found out where Edmond went (with the same elbowed recommendation for the "horny moose" and to "ask for Frances"). After they all echoed Edmond's disappointment that it was Frances' night off, they discussed the options before them. The party's latest addition gave an impassioned speech, paraphrased:

----
I spent my whole life dedicating myself to the leadership of this land and now in short order have seen two princes suggest lunacy. The concern isn't the motive, the concern is the repercussions. A leader's role is to make the call that is for the good of the nation, if that is to lose a loved one that is what must be done.  "If Fabian wants us to go into the Plaguelands, how do you know that won't be the root of the downfall of Ghallia?"
----

Barthelm told Edmond that there's no way to know whether there will be more trouble staying or going, but to know that if if did go with them they would have his back.

Sidebar: Yeah I made that joke in my head but didn't want to disrupt the flow. Then one of them made it out loud. Not my fault.

"Are you so hungry for coin you would risk an entire nation?" - Edmond
"It's not the coin, it's that I WOULD risk an entire nation to help my friends." - Barthelm

Edmond contemplated staying in the Ribald Moose as a bouncer but realized that he would regret not going with them, probably for the rest of his life. Barthelm felt somewhat guilty that Edmond acquiesced to his argument, but they downed their Meisterbrau as comrades and began to discuss preparations for the expedition.

Sidebar: Apparently Meisterbrau is a real, discontinued, beer that one of my player's fathers used to drink. It is also apparently TERRIBLE.

Sidesidebar: This has opened the door for potentially the second EVER intentional downtime of this campaign as they prepare for travel. First downtime was maybe two weeks? Maybe third downtime, Jewel advocated for a week off to train Buddy to level 1 in a class I suppose. 37 sessions over 2ish years...

Endbar: These summaries take me too long to write for how effective they probably are. Part of that is a predilection to distraction but part of that is that they may not serve much purpose. Even as a player / me reference they seem lacking. Not sure what to do though.

2018-12-14

Decaying Lands 36: Gastrotourism

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Edmond Renault, Fighter (Skarne)
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)


Last time the party took a huge chest of silver and half of the library from Cooper Thornhill's basement of horrors, told everyone about what happened, and finally made it back to Tenkos' patron's domain. Oh and Viggo is not dead but not the same, either. Edmond joined the party! They caught up to him when they rode their wagon into Meilleur, the first town within Prince Fabian's domain, after two days of breakneck travel. Fabian is Tenkos' patron prince so it was a mad dash to get from Stilton to somewhere a little friendlier. They arrived in town right after another traveler who looked even more haggard than they were. They went straight to the nicest inn they could see, The Maiden & Chariot, and invited their new friend along. The military insignia on Edmond's right hand as he shook Tenkos' indicated membership Prince Florent's military. He looked beaten and road-weary, with a thick cloak and heavy iron bracers around his wrists. He was certainly grateful for the hospitality.
Appearing as a fleur de lis with five petals instead of three.
Perhaps if I use gimp more I will not hate it so much and simple things like this will not take me FOREVER.

Claus noticed all this but was more focused on the part where Edmond addressed TENKOS before CLAUS. SO RUDE. This was only underscored when they actually entered the the inn and the host, Mara, directly addressed Tenkos and ignored everyone else. She showed him great deference as she guided them to a choice spot near the fire and explained what culinary delights awaited them in this fine establishment.
For breakfast, roasted pheasant stuffed with its own deviled eggs and hot spiced cider (Edmond detected a hint of cardamom and felt warm and whole for the first time in DAYS). Supper would be smoked lamb, fat charred on the outside but stuffed throughout with morsels of garlic. I was going to get into breakfast after they had woken up the next day but aaaaaah it was fresh crawdads from the river. With luxurious butter sauce, creamed up. Dammit. Sidebar: I was told at one point that I should consider starting a food description ASMR channel. Perhaps I have found my true motivation in RPGs! Through all this food description Tenkos and Claus shared their story about what had happened in Stilton. Edmond confessed that he had been imprisoned in Prince Florent's stronghold wrongfully and, although he had not seen the prince involved himself, suspected some kind of deviation or corruption in the chain of leadership. He thinks it may have been related to his revelation that Prince Florent's soldiers were making possibly unsanctioned forays into Ghallia-That-Fell for purposes other than keeping the riverbanks clear. He managed to escape but kept the manacles around his wrists and the heavy chain links around his chest as a reminder. Sharing is bonding and they spent the next day resting and cleaning up from their travels, making their way deeper into Prince Fabian's domain and arriving at the town of Pastow. Edmond wanted to give something back to his new friends after their generosity in Meilleur so went looking for some general labor he could perform to earn some scratch. He quickly assessed the other patrons at the Drunken Fool, calling out one patron who was on the edge belligerence and another who was concealing a knife. The bartender hired Edmond on the spot for the evening! Edmond got the drunk to excuse himself, passing along a flask of cider and some whispered advice that, "The secret is a bit of cardamom." The man hiding a knife turned out to be a coward, and overall Edmond was able to easily manage the room and prevented any trouble from breaking out. Ransa Refont, propriertor of the Drunken Fool, was so appreciative that he paid more than the general rate (10sp), gave a bonus on top of it (another 10sp), and told Edmond that he was welcome any time he was in town. Sidebar: Pastow was about to be an eyeblink. This whole sequence all came off a "Hey is there anything else you want to do here before you travel on?" prompt. Hell of an opening play from Edmond! An entertaining sidebar and a friendly contact to boot. Tenkos, inspired, went about searching for some cardamom to buy for his new friend. "Isn't Cardamom from India?!" Turns out in real life, yes, yes it is, which is good enough for our "use real world geography as a very loose model because games are hard" campaign world. Luckily Tenkos' prince encourages living well so he was able to scrounge some up (at a not insignificant cost) and gifted the spice to Edmond. Now well seasoned, the group finally traveled on to Lenticot, Fabian's manor town near their fortress. I asked the party to be on the same page with what they want to tell Prince Fabian, figured travel time was a opportunity. Claus asked if there was anything they wanted to get out of Prince Fabian and nope, not really. Tenkos just wanted to execute his duty to his sworn prince! Claus was down to tell them in detail about all the stuff they found out in Ghallia with an eye towards portraying themselves as the heroes! Probably close enough, this time. Edmond wanted to try and get a private audience to discuss his concerns about Prince Florent and potentially illicit forays into Ghallia-That-Fell. Tenkos just wanted to go home for a bit and fill in prince. They entered the city proper and the guards at the gate immediately recognized Tenkos, first as one of the faceless and then called out by name. They dispatched a runner to inform Prince Fabian while two other guards began to escort them through the city toward Fabian's manor. In the distance they could see the prince's stronghold on the banks of the River of Thorns.

2018-12-05

Decaying Lands 35: Stilton Escape

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Pyreborn, ?? (Peanut Butter)


Last time the party reunited with Barthelm, killed all of the guards of Stilton, pulled down the cow cult arch, and lit Cooper Thornhill's cheese barn on fire.

Claus was lost in his books and fell asleep reading and missed all the craziness of the last session. Claus and Tenkos were discussing what to do in the basement library when they heard a horrific wrenching scream come from the central room of the basement. They tried to ignore it and keep talking but the sustained scream turned into ragged breathing. Finally Tenkos cautiously poked his head around the door and saw...

Viggo! Kind of. He was naked and charred and dazed and somehow still alive. The two awful cuts that ended his life were scarred over, sloppily, like a bad weld. His flesh was charred and had chunks of his chainmail melted into it. It was around this time that they noticed that the two bear traps Viggo usually carried had been melted and destroyed by the blackfire as well. It was a tough moment.

"Check to make sure he's not an undead monstrosity!" - Claus

"They got me and everything went black and then I felt fire in my soul, fire like I never felt before. Light, beautiful, burning light. And then you!" - Viggo

Claus hypothesized that Viggo could be some kind of human phoenix! Viggo didn't remember any of his family members dying and coming back. He remembered everything up until getting chopped down and standing back up again, somehow alive. Claus tested him with his iron-tipped cane (with no reaction) after Viggo began picking out the chainmail chunks and hurling them away with disgust.

Viggo was still naked which didn't bother him much but did seem to perturb his comrades. He acquiesced, grabbing a pair of trousers and boots from Thornhill's pile of discarded clothes and some leather armor from one of the dead guards. He considered taking a sword or shield but found that he no longer had any desire to use those kinds of weapons. His magic hunger boots survived the blackfire, so he fashioned a sack from old clothes and stuff them in along with his melted pile of silver.

Their friend somehow returned (though Claus was still suspicious), they turned their attention to the problem of getting out of the burning barn with all of Cooper's silver. Their first idea was to make more sacks from clothes, stuff them half full of silver pieces, and then pile body parts on top. They would then claim that they needed to study the parts for... plague science reasons? Then they thought they could just stuff a dead body full of silver! Then they mostly abandoned this line of thought.

Claus found a magic scroll in the library! He won't know what it's for until he takes the time to cast read magic on it but he tucked it safely away.

Discussion about what to do immediately, in Stilton, turned into a discussion about longer term goals. Tenkos wanted to go farther south into Ghallia and report in person to his prince, Fabian, with an eventual goal to head into Ghallia-That-Fell.

"If there was some way we could prove there were mutant cows down here... let's rebuild the arch!" - Claus

They could tell the fire upstairs was burning out. Claus dragged a bookshelf across the library entrance in an attempt to hide the rest of the books and they got ready to go up.

Tenkos went full on faceless (plague) doctor as soon as they got topside, mask and everything. He was trying to fake a minor outbreak and get everyone to go back to their homes. He had told the rest of the party to fashion makeshift facemasks (like bandanas) to help sell it, and it was kind of working, but there was also a building sense of panic. On top of the general fear of plague outbreak on this side of the river there was a sense of confusion and concern over the fact that Thornhill's daughter, who was supposed to be dead 9 months ago, looked very recently deceased.

Tenkos saw the local priest approaching in the crowd and called out to her. Auntie Mildred helped to corral everyone and send them back to their homes until the local prince's own faceless doctors could arrive. She also helped to emphasis that no one should bother the poor Thornhills and picked a messenger to dispatch to Prince Florent.

Sidebar: Since the priests are Father and Mother in stuffy oppressive Teutonia I threw out off the cuff that maybe priests in Ghallia are Auntie and Uncle. It was well received enough to keep it.

Mildred offered to take the party over to the church and house them while they waited for Florent's men since the inn was off limits. Claus' hirelings stayed behind at the barn, ostensibly to guard it but really to start loading as many books from the library as possible into the party's wagon. They had to dump almost all of their massive food stocks but it was a good trade in their eyes. (Mine too, they got a fair amount of XP and potential library value off those books).

Once they got to the church with Auntie Mildred they started laying it all out for her, what really happened. Tenkos was a little reticent at first until the Auntie started talking about her own research into the barn. She was the one who originally sold Thornhill the barn; for some reason the church owned the dilapidated building. Thornhill's sudden success and familial changes prompted her to investigate more and it seems like the church may have stamped out some kind of pagan cult 400-500 years ago. Claus asked if the church had many such seemingly abandoned properties on its books and Auntie Mildred got real quiet and just stared into the distance as the possibilities dawned on her. Horrifying realizations all done for the evening, everyone made to retire.

Except the party of course! Tenkos left a note with 100 sp explaining that he wasn't really here to investigate and that Prince Florent's people would be here soon enough. Claus' hirelings were done loading up the wagon by now and had swung it round to the church. They attempted to sneak their way out but woke up their host. Auntie Mildred sleepily caught them and tried to call after them but everyone just hopped into the wagon and sped off!

The passed near to Dourdain and felt the pull of longing and possibility from their dreams stronger than ever. "Hey let's stop and check it out JUST KIDDING."

They continue on through the night, not resting until the came to the very edge of Prince Florent's domain along the Great Cheeseway. They stopped in the town of Sortie just long enough to rest the horses and give everyone a chance to sleep. Tenkos did take the opportunity to send letters to the neighboring principalities describing what had gone on in Stilton under Prince Florent's nose as a way to shame the rival to Tenkos' own Prince Fabian. They also enjoyed the local Sortie specialties, spiced dried peas and fig pies!

Sidebar: donjon is the BEST.

They rode on as soon as they thought the horses could take it, finally crossing over into Prince Fabian's lands at the town of Mellur. End of session.

Sidebar: Given how Viggo's corpse got terribly melted by blackfire I approached Peanut Butter with an option to test out a class I've been marinating on for a very long time. He was very enthusiastic about the inspiration and possibilities and added that he'd like to play it close to the chest. A slow reveal sounds awesome to me, so it'll be cool to see how he shows his hand.

Sidebar: From an XP perspective the party killed it this session! 2k+ each, enough to immediately level Viggo Pyreborn to level 2. The pickings before that had been pretty slim, with only 3 out of the last TEN sessions netting more than 100 XP per PC. Then 11 sessions ago we had another 2k+ haul (11k total though, more PCs then), so it really seems like feast or famine. I wonder if this is typical for gold for XP games? Or is this partially because of my hands off approach towards refereeing and a generally slow pace?

2018-11-04

Decaying Lands 34: What Is Happening In This Basement

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm, Specialist (James)
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)


Last time Tenkos, Viggo, and Claus returned to the horrific basement of Cooper Thornhill's Stilton cheesemaking operation, slew (and dissected) the über muscle cow, and began investigating the library.

Barthelm rejoined the party! After getting his construction projects rolling back in Hommlet and making sure Polde was not in any danger after his return, Barthelm set out to catch up to his friends. 

During his time in Hommlet he learned that there has been far more traffic through the southern mountain pass due to an increase in disappearances along the northern roads. No bodies were found, just ransacked wagons. Even for folks who eventually needed to head back north there were still many opting to take the long way around through Hommlet and the southern pass.

On the way after them Barthelm passed through the Crossroads. His companions asked if he had seen any giant wandering armies of the undead but the only thing he noted was a number of folks who had fled without explanation, especially after being seen with the party. It was hard to tell if the rest of the group was relieved or disappointed about the lack of skeletons.

They talked about how they could delay discovery of the barn's basement while they tried to remove as much of the library as possible. Idea to have the faceless doctor (plague doctor) quarantine the building to give them time to clear things out. Debate about whether to notify the authorities or not.

"Are we concerned about the arch at all?"
"It does seem pretty powerful, but we do like to run away from incredibly powerful things and just leave them."

What if we just holed up in the basement for the day? Would we just have a ton of people looking for Cooper later? Let's have a rotation for anyone that comes down. If they come down into the basement, they are definitely guilty, so we can kill them with no remorse. What do we do with our wagon? What about your drug dealer friend? He would definitely betray us. Let's just go kill him and stay at his house!

Started to come up with a plan where Barthelm impersonates a plague / faceless doctor and all this stuff but then just decided for Barthelm to get a room at the inn with the party's cart. On the way out he encountered someone claiming to be the night watchman for the barn but was able to avoid confrontation.

The "night watchman" made their way down the stairs but fortunately Viggo was waiting for him. The bounty hunter immediately recognized Stephen Miller, the town's miller and pusher of various illicit and addictive substances. 

"See if he'll walk through the arch!"

Viggo got as much info as he could from Stephen Miller the drug dealer before showing him all of the horrible things in the basement. Miller threw up everywhere and begged to just go tell the captain of the guard about this place. Viggo dumped him in the corner with a threat to be quiet.

Barthelm met Cooper's wife, Mary, and procured some breakfast and a room after some incredibly difficult conversation. He was initially concerned but decided to sleep in case shit went down, propping a chair against the door for security.

Then Tenkos stabbed Stephen Miller! This was predicated by shouts and bangs from above as the sounds of a search party filtered down and it became clear that someone was going to be coming down into the basement. Tenkos' original plan was to setup Miller and Cooper like they had killed each other, so he started to drag him deeper into the basement but stopped when he started bleeding all over the place. Viggo took his manacles and they both retreated to the archway room, setting up some beartraps at the entrance just in case the guards were in on the whole operation.

Well and how! Captain Cuthill was calling out for Cooper the whole time but didn't get any response. His two lackeys seemed disturbed but the captain was not, and he rallied them. Cuthill began to call out for anyone else down here, saying that there didn't need to be bloodshed, until he got to the pens. Once he saw that all of the cow / human creatures were dead, especially Cooper's daughter Heather, he changed his tone. He sent one of his men ahead to check out the archway room and then 

OH GOD THE SPIKES

Guard failed his saving throw and took the full force of fancy spikey bear trap and regular toothy beartrap. He died pretty quickly. Viggo leapt out to get the drop on Cuthill but wasn't able to connect. Tenkos tried the same to no effect (after realizing he didn't want to shoot into melee), and everyone spent a round swinging around and not hitting anything. Tenkos and Viggo backed off to give Tenkos room for a sticky fire bomb but Viggo hung back to put himself in between the faceless doctor and the attacking guards, shouting "Light 'em up!" back to his comrade.

It was unfortunately the last thing he would do. Cuthill and his remaining croney rushed up and BOTH hit crits on our poor bounty hunter. 20 damage later and Viggo was no more.

Sidebar: What are the fucking odds here!? Peanut Butter was surprisingly okay about it, opining that it was better than getting murdered by a murderous meat pyscho cow. We chatted after the session about some intriguing next PC ideas and both got pretty pumped about it.

Tenkos switched from sticky molotovs to one of his two remaining blackfyre bombs and blew them up with purple fire... and rolled TWO damage. Luckily he got it to burn for four rounds, so some potential for them to get burned up. Viggo's sliced up body was also engulfed in the burning purple flames.

Tenkos won initiative again (players opted for "roll every round" as opposed to roll once and alternate) and fled out. He ran up the stairs, got the drop on the hungover guard at the top (the one from the jail earlier that evening), and dispatched him in one blow. The remaining guard burned to a crisp before he could even give chase and Cuthill died horrifically from blackfire just steps away from Tenkos.

Barthelm meanwhile was awoken from his early morning sleep by a strong feeling of something being wrong. It broke him out of the dream he was having, full of a terrible sadness and longing to somehow bring his mother back from her early grave. He rushed out of the inn in the same moment that Tenkos came running out of the barn. Seeing Tenkos come out of the barn, Barthelm quickly started shouting about how there was a plague inside and how everyone needed to stay clear!

Tenkos' plague mask and their presence in Ghallia was enough to convince most of the crowd that at least something horrible was going on but Cooper's son James was not deterred. He ran up to Tenkos, cowbell still around his neck, and asked (in his stilted fashion) about his father and sister. Once he realized they were inside still, he bolted into the barn. Tenkos and Barthelm followed him, dashing through the now burning barn into the basement (taking some heat from the flames as they went).

Their primary goal was to destroy the arch. James was fully occupied in grieving over his dead sister, giving Tenkos and Barthelm the opportunity to pull down the arch with a rope they had set up earlier. The magic went out with a bright purple flash as all of the human/cow hybrids and the über cow reverted to their natural forms. Now, instead of disgusting mutants, each stall was occupied by a human woman chained to the wall, and James' cries reached a new height as his sister returned to how she used to be.

The duo took the opportunity to secure their second objective, the chest of silver, and retreat to the library with some bear traps for security. James ignored them both, dragging his sister's corpse back towards the stairs and throwing down the cowbell he had been so protective of previously.

Their position momentarily secure while the fire raged, Tenkos wrote up a letter to Prince Fabian detailing what had happened and Barthelm (I'm guessing) spent some time counting silver pieces in the chest. They also had the time for a couple of hours of proper planning. It was late, so we cut the session there.

Mood: