Decaying Lands 19: Digging at the Crossroads

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
  Wiebke Bott, linklady and magical initiate
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Sidebar: I don't know what's up with the text in this post but some of the sections came out looking all weird despite being set to the same color as everything else and this is the best I could fix it.

Last time the party picked up a new PC, rescued and returned an errant farmboy from a den of gladiatorial combat, met a big ass wolf that could understand them, and stole a ton of money from the aforementioned fighting den.

Sidebar: I am 100% stealing this idea from Skerples over at Coins and Scrolls. I like the short summary and link back to the previous session's write-up to make it easy to walk back when you miss a post. Well done.

Slow start this session, some wrangling required of players and not enough decisive starting from me. Claus and Karl made some noble small talk over Claus' fancy gun that he stole from the Bremmlecht wizard tower. Jewel took her 700 sp share from the fight club beatdown, wanted 100 sp (!!) for some kind of ridiculously fancy hat (picture forthcoming it seems), and distributed the other 600 sp to her friends.

Jewel convinced Buddy to come with her, and Claus was able to persuade Wiebke as well. The ratter was happy to get out of the city with a boss who so far had treated him better than his other pack alphas.

The curious linklady had spent the last four days getting an introduction from Claus on some of the mysteries and principles of magic and needs the barest suggestion of adventure to come along. When he told her that they were heading to Ghallia, potentially even Ghallia-That-Fell, she leapt at the opportunity. After a small advance to help convince her family that Claus was a legitimate sort of fellow who would be training her in some unspecified craft as an apprentice. Lies and magic!

They gathered up and headed out after considering a few different routes to get to Ghallia. Their goal was the town of Frissen five or six days north of Bremmlecht.

This is really the map of Teutonia that I use. Why yes, I am quite embarrassed, now that you mention it. I made this in Hexographer when I had no idea about distance or anything at all. Maybe one day I'll redo it in HexKit.
Two days of travel north got them to The Crossroads, a collection of inns, supporting houses, and farms at the intersection of the main road north/south and two ports roads. They camped at one of the average inns, the Crossed Candles, and got to drinking! They heard a bunch of fun rumors but then Jewel needed to decide if she wanted to hear people rumors or dog rumors. Rudy opted for doggie rumors and boy howdy did we get a fun one!

"The bodies in the graveyard are digging themselves further down every night."

Sidebar: Thanks once again to the folks that helped me fill up this rumor table over on g+ and an extra special thanks to Scrap Princess for this particular rumor and the adventure that will probably ensue. Go check out her blog and blow your mind out. I will be sure to shoutout other folks as their entries come up but probably they are already in that blog list to the right.

Everyone wanted to go investigate except for Viggo who was more cautious: "Generally poking a hornet's nest is not the best idea, but if y'all think there's some kind of valuable outcome for us, I'm not one to oppose it." He then worked to convince himself that, despite his better judgement, pursuing these kinds of things has been to his material benefit so maybe it's worthwhile to go along with the idea.

They walked down the road a bit to talk to the local priest, Mother Lanega. Her house was poor, and ramshackle, but the outside was maintained and had a small garden on the side. On the side away from the graveyard there was a lectern with a number of stumps and a few benches arrayed before it.

Sidebar: I originally called her "Sister Lanega" out of habit but that wouldn't be the right title for a priest, even a young one, so I've changed it to "Mother" throughout.

Mother Lanega was thrilled to have someone arrive at her house with two exceptions: Jewel the dog with the crazy hat and Tenkos the m├ędecin sans visage from Ghallia. Jewel just seemed strange and not like a normal dog to her while Tenkos' borderline heretical beliefs (assumed, based on his profession) were not welcome in a true believer's house. Karl smoothed things over with some pious words and they got to talking. Unfortunately the priest had not heard or seen anything out of the ordinary and the party didn't want to show their hand too much so they decided to try and investigate things themselves.

Karl distracted her by being interested in the sermon while the rest of the party circled back around to the graveyard. They didn't see anything out of the ordinary so Jewel just started digging! Claus was standing near the most recent grave (a casualty of that Cold Winter LINK from a few years back) so she got to work digging it up. After 20 minutes Jewel was maybe 4-5 ft down and hadn't found a body yet, which was strange, but she also didn't hear anything either. She hopped out (girl can jump!) and went to work on an older looking grave while Viggo, Claus, and Wiebke tried to discreetly kick the dirt back into the first hole. They had a similar result for the second grave and decided that something was definitely weird here and it bore investigation at a more discrete time. They cleaned up and went back to retrieve Karl from the sermon.

Karl entreated the priest to keep up the faith and they all headed back to the Crossed Candles to figure out their next steps.

Feedback & Improvements

I'm always asking my players for things that I could do better and I actually got some feedback this session, which is great! I'm thinking about asking everyone for a "best thing / worst thing" at the end of each session. I want to make this game boss for them and I need help!

Anyway, two things: first was that it took us a while to get started. I can help some of that by being a lot more decisive in terms of getting the action rolling and will try to work on that.

The second comment was about "why are we roleplaying out six days of travel." The impression they had is that most of the time travel is handwaved and you arrive at your destination. I wonder about this too sometimes, and have certainly played in games where that was the case. My internal rubric is to look at the travel time and run it based on the order of magnitude. A trip that lasts 5 days gets a check every day, one that lasts three weeks gets one every week, etc. I've done that in the past in this game but never explicitly stated it.

I generally like a little more detail than just assuming they get there easily; there have been several random encounters that have been a lot of fun but also have built into the campaign in ways that the players are already seeing, even though they probably haven't realized it. I do have a tendency to get caught up in enumerating every single detail (which comes out in these summaries a lot of the time) so I do need to be careful not to overdo it. Hopefully stating my guideline helps to make it more clear and can be a discussion point if folks feel like we are too much in the weeds. Ironically this particular piece of feedback was immediately followed by "but then we got this cool rumor that turned into a mystery and who knows what will happen!" so thanks again to Scrap (and everyone else) for the awesome rumor.


Decaying Lands 18: Ralf's Return

PCs Present & Played:

Boris "Iron Guts", Fighter 1 (Vegas)
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 2 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 2 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Karl Gelt joined the party along with his brand new player!

Turned out that Karl was conveniently in the next cell down the hall from Ralf, he was just being super quiet when the party was talking to their rescuee last time. Karl is an Exiled Prince from the Principality of Altdorf in Ghallia-That-Fell. Ghallia-That-Fell is the southern half of Ghallia that was abandoned to a horrific plague during the last big war 50 years ago in a "human firebreak" type strategy. Karl would eventually like to get back to there and restore his kingdom but for right now he just wants to know what the heck is going on. The last thing he remembered was being close to the Ghallia / Teutonia border which is something like 100-150 miles from where the party encountered him.

With that retcon out of the way we jumped back to Boris opening the cage door for the large (100+ pounds, bigger than a great Dane) wolf that had been sitting there calmly regarding him.

Boris spoke to it and it nodded and responsed as though it understood him, even directly nodding its head when he asked if it understood talking. He elicited a sharp growl when he asked "Smart like my dog?", however, and the wolf responded with a shake when the bounty hunter asked if it wanted to go with them. He gave the creature a bit of meat from his pack and told the wolf it was free to go. The meat had barely hit the floor before the wolf scarfed it down, howled a quick thank you, and trotted past him out of the basement.

Karl wanted to go up and interview his captors but there was a bit of a hitch there. "Oh hey we killed everyone on the way down. Oh and we burned their house down too. Yeah." So instead he went looking for a bill of sale or something similar and took all the papers from their footlockers to evaluate later.

Dilemma: What do we do with the bodies and the money? Should we bring the bodies up and burn them? Discussion about how this fighting ring had guards and nobles involved. Could the party stay because the ring was on the down-low or should they get out quickly? They decided that they should just leave everything where it was, transfer the money from the chest to sacks, and try to get out of Bremmlecht as soon as possible.

On their way out of the underground complex they tried to get some more information about the cows from Ralf. The young man is incredibly simple, but he said good cows made him happy when he came back from Stilton. Then one day bad cows came so he had to stop them. Said that he didn't kill his own cows, just the bad cows. The party wasn't sure what to make of that but he was very convinced that he had only killed bad cows and not his own. 

They rolled up to Frau Esther Wegener, Ralf's aunt, and initially didn't want to tell her anything. Viggo tried to warn her not to talk about what happened to her "for her own good." This came off threatening, so he tried again saying that if she didn't then he couldn't guarantee her safety or similar. This only made her more upset so Viggo decided to spill the beans a bit and describe where Ralf was held. Wegener grasped the gravity of what they'd done quickly enough.

Frau Wegener's (older) kids came out, and the twins blanched at the realization that Ralf was back, bit of an awkward moment where the party questioned if they were involved in his capture by the fight organization. I think Wegener sort of shooed them away back into the house. Her main desire was that Ralf not cause the family name any more trouble and the PCs mostly succeeded at that, so she paid up. It's unclear what possible repercussions will visit themselves upon the Wegener dairy farm after the forest massacre is uncovered, if any, but the party will certainly not be staying around to find out.

It was around this time that Ralf's parents came running from their home, overjoyed at the safe return of their son. They presented a small vial, saying that it kept their grandfather safe during the war with Ghallia (spit!). He would tell stories of how the opposing soldiers couldn't tell which one of him was real to hit. The party was surprised, but grateful, and headed back to their inn.

Sidenote: It's a potion of mirror image, woo! This is the third potion that the party has received. They still haven't used their spider climb (ouch for Helga) or comprehend languages potions so I'm not expecting this one to get much use either. They've got a scroll of mending and continual light too that I'm thinking will never see the light of anything either. Probably all get lost in a river and ruined or smashed. At least Sugarplum / Tenkos is ALL about throwing those fire bombs.

Karl went through the letters, found
  • Names of people who participated in the fights voluntarily
  • Betting odds sheets
  • Letter to the people in the fighting pit talking about a proposition for them, new produce for their market
He burned everything except for the letter after transcribing it all into code. While looking through the letters Karl saw the current date on one of the letters and got real quiet. Karl also went to the post office to send a letter into Ghallia to a former retainer and ended up picking up some letters for Viggo and Tenkos (which I still need to write...)

Overall, between rumors of riches to be had in Ghallia-That-Fell, an uneasy stink of trouble from this fancy cheese place Stilton, and an honest to goodness exiled prince the group decided that there were enough hooks to head west to Ghallia! It's good to have something of a firm direction again.