PCs Present & Played:
Barthelm Schade, Specialist 4 (James)
Caleb, Fighter 1 [farmer kit]
Suzie, a stubborn but loyal mule
Claus Drexol, Magic-User 3 (Vegas)
Jewel, Really Good Dog 1 (Rudy)
Tenkos, Cleric 1 [plague doctor kit]
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 1 [bounty hunter kit]
First, to address the elephant in the room: Hommlet. This game / campaign has nothing to do with the Temple of Elemental Evil. I needed a name for a town for the very first (originally one-shot) session at the first IntroCONso and that's what jumped out of my brain. Now nine sessions later it's too late. I'd say it's about on par with when I asked Vegas to name the university city and he just named it "University City" in German ("Universitätsstadt"). At least we'll never forget what's important about it.
The last session ended with the party holed up in bottom of Captain Skovgaard's ship heading back to the port city of Letath, their entry back onto the continent from the Wandering Isles. During the downtime, Viggo once again began inquiring about Heidi, deceased former party member. The bounty hunter pressed Claus for more information about the woman because he's hunting her father, Einrich Fassbinder.
Claus and Heidi's players did a bunch of work for me, coming up with some relevant details. Turns out that Claus knew that she had three brothers and reminisced very fondly of her time with them and her father during her childhood. He did recall that she brushed off any talk of recent events and hadn't seen her family for a long time.
Claus didn't tell Viggo any of this though! Nope!
"You don't know anything about her? Nothing? No letters or journals or missives from her family?"
"Heidi? Oh, I don't even think she could read! Maybe? She was pretty good with a spear, at least."
As far as Viggo knows, Claus apparently picked up Heidi for protection when he was passing through the capital city of the kingdom, never getting very close to her. Oh, the seat of the kingdom's name? Didn't pick one yet... Hey Vegas, you want to come up with something?
|Note to self: Vegas' naming privileges are revoked|
Claus (or maybe Barthelm, he's kind of a bastard) asked about how much the bounty on Heidi's father is. The only answer that Viggo gave was that "if I ever find him it'll be my last bounty before retirement."
Sidebar: This just means we don't really know because we have to figure out how much money Viggo would need in order to retire. Huh.
Around this time the party remembered that hey, some people really hate them in the port city of Letath! Specifically, the crew of the first ship they chartered into the Wandering Isles, the Purple Marigold. Their captain was taken, screaming, by the wizards on the island of Wilhelm the Wily AND the party never paid the second half of the agreed upon fee. Claus, wearing a magenta cloak and pants, suggests that they wear disguises, do their business, and then make haste. They just needed to figure out a suitable disguise from what Captain Skovgaard had on her boat. Barthelm scrounged a top hat and Claus...
|No one could figure out why Captain Skovgaard had this.|
At this point the players, being in a town and all together for the first time since the beginning of the campaign, decided it was time to go shopping. They especially wanted to get some armor for Caleb, their new hulking warrior farmer, and Jewel, their cuddly wuddly little murder-dog. They didn't know that last part yet, but soon. We rolled some dice and figured it would take a week for someone to fit some leather armor for Jewel and about the same to fit a suit of plate for Caleb. Someone also wisely mentioned that they should get a carrying strap built into Jewel's armor so that they could more easily haul her up ladders and cliffs and whatnot. Because dog.
They found a not-to-nice not-too-crap inn to stay in and got to waiting. Caleb shared in confidence that he really joined up with them because he's hoping to find a powerful wizard that can bring his boy back to life. Non academic magic is heresy, scandal! Viggo visited an information broker that he's known for a while to drop off some payment and see if they had any extra information on his bounty, Einrich. Tenkos popped out during one day to find the local postmaster and sent some letters. While there, he noticed a sketch of a wanted man that looked very suspiciously like Barthelm. The poster said that "Hans Grubermeyer" was wanted for attempted murder and that there was a 400 sp reward for capture.
During this time, they collected some rumors, I rolled for random encounters. They didn't even ask about rumors but this is the first time that they've actually slept in a place with other people to gather them and I'll be damned if that rumor table is going to waste. Even the dog got to roll for rumors, which were going to be secret until we said that was too complicated.
Sidebar: This was when I started to realize just how much extra complication having a Really Good Dog in the game was going to potentially add, especially with someone as on point as Rudy. First thing he had Jewel do when they got to town was strike up conversations with some strays to get the local news. I was caught off guard and realized that I probably need a parallel Canine rumor table. This is hard.
Anyway, here's what they heard, dog included:
- The Princes of Ghallia have been secretly plotting a return to war with King Heinrich IV.
- To kill a dwarf you have to cut off their beard. Even the women!
- Lots of wizards had to leave tons of valuable magic and knowledge behind after the end of the war.
- Some of the Ghallish princes created the plague as part of a deal with the king of Teutonia to sell out their country for riches and influence.
- The King got the Church to decry most magics as blasphemy so that none would challenge him after the War.
- The plague spread so quickly through Iberika and Ghallia-That-Fell that hardly anyone made it out. Whole towns of rotten bodies and tons of valuables are waiting for enterprising individuals.
On the fifth night in the inn some travelers showed up claiming to have a specially trained lizard from the far south. They had collected quite a crowd of onlookers as they ran the creature through a variety of tricks with coins. It seemed like they were doing this to attract a buyer but those hopes seemed dashed when Jewel got jealous of the attention and started to perform the tricks better than the lizard was, even jumping up on the table and swatting at it. Everybody love a furry smart cutesy dog so the pair trying to sell the lizard lost their audience and the night continued.
Sidebar: This was my a dragon on the encounter table. You should go read Beloch Shrike's excellent post on building encounter tables. On this night I rolled a dragon and needed to figure out something that would fit in with that. Tricksy lizard that has an affinity for gold? Seemed like a good fit. Did that thing actually have any special powers? Guess they'll never know.
The week passed without obvious incident, although a fair bit of time was spent in real life shopping and calculating and figuring. When your players are discussing wagons and horses and food and encumbrance and one of them says "It's the getting-to-space problem!" you know that there might need to be some tweaks made. I want encumbrance and movement rate to matter but I don't want them to need a logistics specialist just to go from place to place. It's in the hopper for a closer look.
During the trip south to Hommlet they heard some really ominous wolf howls at night. This put the party on edge, especially the three that had been to Bottenburg, until Jewel listened in on the conversation. That's right, party member that speaks Canine! Jewel realized that the wolves were just doing normal wolfy stuff, nothing sinister, and calmed down. When she relaxed, everyone else did too.
The last night before reaching their destination, the last watch of the night, Caleb heard something outside the edge of his firelight. He didn't have much time to warn his party before four yelling figured charged out of the darkness and four more started peppering him with arrows. Two of the four charging in, however, ran straight into the party's bear traps! Because yes, they always setup bear traps when they camp for the night. At this point, they almost have enough bear traps for everyone to carry one.
Caleb's new plate mail deflected almost all of the blows but a hit from one of them charging nearly killed him outright, dropping him to zero. There's a lot of missing going around everywhere on both sides of the battle until Claus steps up and fires his pink lance magic missiles into Bernhardt, popping his head like an overripe pimple. Bernhardt was the first mate of the Purple Marigold and the rest of their assailants were crewmembers. However, with their new boss dead the rest of the crew tried to flee. The four archers got away with only a few nips from Jewel but the two surviving melee combatants were not so lucky.
Sidebar: I did the morale check backward, only one of the assailants should have failed. Will get it right next time, probably. This ended up pretty sweet.
The party didn't waste much time interrogating their prisoners before Barthelm callously murdered them. Claus got busy smashing up Bernhardt's head so that it looked like a mace killed him rather than anything magical. They cleaned up a bit and quickly left the scene, started the day's before the dawn had even fully come.
Sidebar: I used the treasure tables from Low Fantasy Gaming again to roll the carry loot for this crew. Wasn't going to give them anything special but then I ended up with a "curio" result again. They found a pouch of cold iron caltrops. The party is getting rich with random trinkets.
As they approached Hommlet Polde began to get more and more excited. When they finally arrived, he ran up to his home, shouting for his wife and child to come out. Instead the town blacksmith opened the door, shocked, and said "What the fuck are you doing here?!"
Addendum: This is that first interaction in Letath between Jewel and the local strays. It's technically got things the other players wouldn't know in it. I don't care about meta knowledge, my players seem to, so y'all don't read this, okay?
The important part of this conversation is that Rudy is killing it and I seriously need to step up my game.