Sunday, 1st April, 2012, 04:24 PM #81
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
This session was one of those sessions where a player could not make it, but it is almost impossible to explain their absence. Handling that situation can be the bane of the DMs . Normally, if the character is simply ‘off-stage’, I run the character as an NPC in the player’s absence: Uru ‘going native’ in the swamps last week; Leon approaching Gale in secret during Skyseer (but being spotted by one of the other characters) were two interesting examples of how you can move the story on, or have something interesting happen to the character which the player might not have thought of. But here, there was very little I could do with the absent Rumdoom, other than leave him behind to guard the entrance. This ended up having far more dramatic consequences than I’d anticipated (as will become clear in my next session report).
Here’s the session report:
- Leaving Rumdoom and the Stoutly brothers to hold the exit, the rest of the unit pressed deep into the lizardman lair, meeting with occasional resistance.
- The lair was much more complex than typical lizardman dwellings and contained many trappings that were 'civilized' in nature: crude furnishings, and the like.
- The unit discovered a 'banqueting hall', kitchen and larder (where various humanoids, including a dead dwarf – one of a team of adventurers who had been hired by Saltmarsh Town Council and had disappeared – were being cooked/stored).
- In a throne room they spotted a secret passage that led to the chambers of a high ranking tribe member.
- Uru and Leon found and examined a puissant jade idol which both fascinated and unnerved them.
- A harem was discovered, and its inhabitants massacred. A hatchery was left undisturbed (though Lord Blackthorn toyed with using some alchemist’s fire on the eggs).
- A meeting room was found to contain shipping charts and dates. This led the team to conclude that the lizardmen had been involved in sinking the missing ships.
- The unit then discovered a temple, and engaged the shamans (first time I ever used the plural form - had to check it wasn't shamen) and their crocodilian pets.
- They killed the high priest, took his powerful staff, and forced his subordinates to talk.
- The shamans blamed 'the forked-tongued one' for the misbehaviour of the lizardmen, and bemoaned the death of Selethsesh (their leader). When asked about a huge marine creature Oolsholeel had seen entering the lair through the sea cave entrance, they talked of the 'outsiders invited by the fork-tongue'.
- The unit decided to move on, aware that more lizardmen were closing in on their location. Uru forced one shaman to ingest an opiate poison to keep him from troubling them again, and they took the other along with them to confront the 'fork-tongue'.
The unit handled their explorations quite differently to my expectations. I had been at pains to describe relations with the lizardfolk as very analogous to the experience of native tribes people throughout the world. I wondered if this would elicit some sympathy for them. In particular, I assumed that when the group saw that the lizardmen were more ‘cultured’ than anticipated, it might encourage them to stop and ask questions.
The original ‘module’, Danger at Dunwater was notorious for the fact that the entire adventure is avoidable. If carefully handled, a cautious, diplomatic party can quickly establish that the lizardmen have only strayed out of their range and begun to arm themselves for fear of further attacks by a sahuagin raiding party who have overrun their original lair.
I put very little effort into converting the original AD&D adventure because I felt sure that the party would talk to the lizardmen and quickly cease hostilities. One of the reasons for introducing the ‘cameo character’ of Lord Blackthorn was to provide at least some motivation for physical conflict – again, on the assumption that the other players would want to restrain him, and prove him wrong.
Instead, the players very much embraced the view that ‘these are just lizardmen’ and began a wholesale massacre which I worried might be very difficult for them to excuse when the opportunity to negotiate arose...
Last edited by gideonpepys; Sunday, 1st April, 2012 at 09:33 PM.
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The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Hurray for 19th century cultural sensibilities. "Eh, sure it can talk, but it's got a funny accent and I want its land. Kill it!"
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
But they do like a good fight. In this case I think their blood-lust got the better of them.
In their defence, they didn't kill two lizardfolk children that were playing in the throne room. And when they slaughtered the chief's harem their view of what they were shooting at was occluded by steam...
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
- In an attempt to link back up with Rumdoom and the Stoutly brothers, the unit found itself beset on all sides by lizardmen.
- Blackscale bruisers proved to be tough opponents, and things went badly for the unit.
- More lizardmen joined the fray, led by a one-eyed, hook-handed chieftan. Will Stoutly went down under a hail of gunfire, and Lord Blackthorn was also felled.
- Realising their situation was hopeless, the unit sued for surrender, but had to restrain Rumdoom, who feared a potential 'bad ending'.
- The lizardmen led their captives to the throne room. The chieftan told his men to beware of harming the group, led as they were by 'one of the Fey Lords'. But they were angry, accusing the unit of advancing with weapons drawn, and refusing to accept that they had come to investigate the disappearance of ships. The tribe denied any involvement but said they thought they knew who might be to blame...
- Negotiations were led by an incredibly old, and unusually intelligent lizardman minister, who admitted to being the 'fork-tongue' the shamans had spoken of. (The shamans were opposed to the advancements the tribe were making - the purchase of guns, and the use of doors and furniture in the lair, and were inimical to his council of the chieftan.)
- The minister explained that they had been buying guns to try to defend themselves from an incursion of 'sea devils'.
- It turned out that the tribe had only moved out of the deep marshes because their island lair had been invaded by these ferocious creatures. It seemed they were in pursuit of a man who had fallen from the sky.
- This man turned out to be a Risuri named Silas Fennac, whom the lizardmen held prisoner. He was gaunt and unshaven but very grateful and relieved to see the unit. He told them ian incredible story. He was an explorer, who had found his way to the deep sea stronghold of the 'Deep Ones' - creatures who the 'sea devils' served. There he had witnessed their invasion strategy and - stealing the jade idol the unit now possessed - had fled back to Risur to warn the RHC. This long journey had seen him taken by pirates and finally escape in a dirigible which had crashed over the Hool Marshes. And so Silas Fennac had fallen into the hands of the luckless lizardmen.
- The surprising thing was that the sea devils had somehow followed him thousands of miles, and invaded the lizard man lair in attempt to reclaim their stolen idol. The lizardmen had tried but failed to sue for peace, and were now in the process of attempting to form an Aqueous Alliance with the local aquatic denizen - locathah and koalinth and tritons. But none were too keen on tangling with the sea devils. The unit were led to a deep pool (the sea cave Oolsholeel had glimpsed earlier) where they were greeted by these aquatic ambassadors. The triton in particular was courteous to Oolsholeel.
- Korrigan then offered to help the lizardmen in exchange for their release, but the chieftan was cunning: the sea devils were as much a threat to Risur as to the lizardmen. Yes, the tribe would be grateful for such help and would ally themselves with any who sought to drive the devils away, but such action would not serve as recompense for the wholesale slaughter the unit had wrought.
- Fortunately, the lizardmen did not share the warmblood's emotional attachment to their fallen kin, but nontheless demanded reparations in the form of weregild - payment for each fallen warrior. But the unit could not afford the huge sums in question. (Normally, they would eat their defeated opponents, as they had done the adventurers who had been sent by the Saltmarsh council. Hence the dwarf on the spit in the kitchen. But the minister advised against this.)
- So the minister and the chief arranged a compromise. As they were preoccuped defending their new lair, the lizardmen could not afford to deal with a seperate problem: a giant crocodile that had crossed over from the Dreaming had taken up residence in some prime hunting grounds. If the unit could deal with that threat, the lizardmen would consider the weregild paid.
- They insisted that one person remained behind. Leon volunteered, as he was keen to investigate the jade idol he now had hidden on his person. (And his player is absent next week.)
I have woven a subplot into the original adventure, the story stolen wholesale from the Scar by China Mieville: The fallen dirigible pilot, the jade idol, and the motives of the sahuagin are all additional elements.
Last edited by gideonpepys; Sunday, 1st April, 2012 at 09:42 PM.
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
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ø Ignore Colmarr
The dirigible sounds like a story Rock Rackus would tell. Are you planning to combine the two characters?
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Waghalter (Lvl 7)
@ Colmarr: No, I wasn't planning to do that. Rock Rackus is going to be too much fun, while Fennac is an out and out villain. His story of a planned invasion is a total fabrication. The journal and maps nothing but details of the Deep One's defences to facilitate a preemptive strike by Risur. Black Star Mining want to be able to bypass the area of southern seas held by the Deep Ones in order to trade more effectively with distant lands beyond Elfaivar, and Fennac is their agent.
Whether this subplot advances any further than these early buffer adventures depends on the reaction of my players. (One at least should be fairly interested as it revolves around one of his contacts and may or may not involve rumours of the Stone of Not, an item greatly coveted by the fanatical Heid Eschatol cell of which he is a member. Some ideas of how that may play out are discussed above.)
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
- Without Leon - who along with the injured Will Stoutly remained behind as hostage - the unit performed a service as weregild to the lizardfolk chief:
- They engaged and defeated a great fey crocodile that had somehow passed over from the Dreaming.
- The crocodile's death enraged its mistress, a Briar Hag, who attacked the unit, but fled when injured.
- Returning to the lizardfolk lair, they were thanked by the chieftain and his minister. Leon, Will and Silas Fennac were released and the group returned to Saltmarsh.
- On the way, Leon told them that the lizardman minister had taken the jade idol before he could investigate it.*
- Before they reached Saltmarsh, Lord Blackthorn suddenly announced his departure. He was unhappy, he said, at having been forced to capitulate to the lizardmen, and wanted nothing more to do with the unit.
- In Saltmarsh their story about the Sea Devils was greeted sceptically, except by Wade Kenavon, a merchant who claimed friendship with Khaled Valcheck (Rumdoom's patron and boss of Black Star Mining).
- Silas Fennac was frightened to remain in Saltmarsh and keen to return to Flint. However, they spent the night there - a night broken by an alarm in the streets, talk of 'fish men' prowling about outside, and the disappearance of a pet cat...
- Back in Flint, Stover Delft criticised the unit's approach to dealing with the lizardmen, and warned them to be more cautious in future. He did not think the RHC would countenance any kind of action in respect of the 'Deep Ones'.
- Better news was the arrival in Flint of Matunaaga (otherwise known as Caji Dobra), who had previously turned down the unit's offer of membership - he was waiting for them at the Battalion, having changed his mind. He came to dine with Korrigan, Elizabeth and Bernard of Glenwade and told them that his wife had been visited by ancestral spirits, who had blessed his decision to join.
- Rumdoom soon discovered a connection between Silas Fennac and Khaled Valcheck. Fennac had been prospecting for Valcheck's company when he had found himself in the Deep One's clutches. Fennac soon took up residence in Valchek's manse, and the industrialist began using his influence to encourage a strike on the 'Sea Devil Lair'. This, he said, would be preparatory to an assault on the Deep Ones in the Cold Claw Sea: Having learned of their intentions and read Silas Fennac's carefully guarded notebook, he was greatly troubled by their warlike intentions.
- Others in the city were more sceptical. They likened the unit's report to the talk of 'Crazy Krauss' - a man who, by all accounts, talked about the creatures incessantly. But when the RHC gave orders for the unit to lead the strike force Valcheck had demanded, it was this very man whose expertise was recommended. (According to Isaac dan der Grimnebulin he was the only man in Flint who had encountered the Deep Ones - or their Sea Devil minions - and lived to tell the tale.)
- Korrigan & co. tracked Krauss down to his compound in Parity Lake. Krauss was hostile at first, but invited them in when they explained their purpose...
*Unbeknownst to the rest of the unit, the lizardman minister held secret talks with Leon while they dealt with the feymire crocodile:
- The minister beckoned Leon's pseudodragon pet to him and it slinked and purred around him. He told Leon he had raised it from a hatchling and that its name was Rahu Ketu.
- He had given Rahu Ketu to the only lizardfolk shaman he trusted: a female (the one killed by the unit aboard the Sky Ghost:
- Her death set back his cause within the tribe, but he did not hold it against Leon. Lizardmen are not sentimental.
- The reason he summoned Leon before him - and the reason he insisted he remain behind - was to tell him that they served the same master: the minister was also pact-bound to Avagdu (the entity from whence Leon derives his fey pact).
- The creature the unit went off to face was also a servant of this entity (the briar hag, that is), so the Minister thought it best that Leon did not get involved, in case he inadvertantly crossed the 'swamp lord'.
- As fellow servants of this exarch of The Voice of Rot, the Minister was prepared to trust Leon and share power and information:
- The Jade Idol, he said, was an artifact-level item which he was too old and weak to deal with. He left it with the chieftain for he is 'strong-willed' and 'too slow-witted to do much harm with it'. But it frustrated him to have such an important item in easy reach and be unable to deal with it.
- The Sea Devils must value the idol very highly to have pursued it from the Cold Claw sea (to the South East of Ber where their stronghold lies), so it could not remain in the lizardman lair, or they would continue their attacks.
- But the minister wanted to know more about it, and knew that Silas Fennac would demand its return when he is released.
- So he proposed that Leon claim it was taken from him by the Minister and remained in the lair, but instead keep it and study it.
- His bargain was as follows: "You must tell me what you learn about the idol, and use it to defeat the Sea Devils, or return it to them if they cannot be defeated".
- "If you agree, and take the idol, but do not do these things, I will call upon my compact with Avagdu."
So when Leon returned to Flint he slinked off to study the idol and discovered just how powerful it was...
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
The reintroduction last week of the character of Matunaaga, and the unit's meeting with the paranoid Karl Krauss sees a major line-up change for the group.
One player, who joined us in a hurry before Christmas (when I had to end another long-running campaign due to time constraints) finally brought in his full-time character. He had played Saaladoor Saan - an NPC I introduced to provide the unit with a link to the Dockers and who turned out to be an RHC agent; then he played Azure Lord Blackthorn, simply to have some fun playing a pixie berserker.
His new character first came into the story when Korrigan went recruiting to replace El Perro. We decided it would be fun if the coolest candidate turned Korrigan down, only to show up later having had a change of heart.
Matunaaga is an assumed name. His real name is Caji Dobra, and he is a member of an elite fighting force known as the maustin caji - similar to the gurkha - who live in the eastern Anthras mountains.
The maustin caji served the Kings of Risur until the last Yerasol campaign, when King Aodhan's adoption of modern warfare caused them to withdraw to their ancestral home. (They believe there is no honour in aerial bombardment or gas attacks and happily fought against the Danorans because they employed such tactics, but were horrified when Risur did the same.)
The man now known as Matunaaga remained behind because he had fallen in love with a Risuri woman named Ayasha - one of the tribespeople of Cloudwood who had travelled to Yerasol voluntarily to heal the sick and the wounded. (Contrary to expectations, she is a powerfully built and maternal, not some slinky fantasy maiden.) Together they have had six children and the ex warrior now spends his days fishing with cormorants beneath a beautiful waterfall.
He politely declined Korrigan's offer to join the RHC. But his wife (a skyseer) had a vision when the unit had left, in which Matunaaga's ancestors confirmed that Korrigan was worthy of his service. And so, with her encouragement, he came to Flint.
The second addition to the party will not be a full unit member. An old player returned to the UK from LA quite unexpectedly. He had been a core member of our group for years, so we were all keen to involve him.
So we came up with this paranoid survivalist type called Karl Krauss, a man who believes that the upper echelons of Risuri society are involved in a conspiracy controlled by the Deep Ones. (He came up with that himself. I like the fact that it will provide a total red herring when the Ob is initially revealed.)
His involvement in the buffer adventure is fairly straightforward, but his knowledge of aberrant creatures will see him called in by the unit once again when Digging For Lies unfolds.
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
- Krauss turned out to be an expert in the Sea Devils and their masters the Deep Ones, having managed to escape imprisonment at their hands many years ago. Korrigan invited him to join the unit for the assault on the Sea Devils' lair.
- While preparations were made, Uru took Krauss' advice and created an arachnid model of the clockwork pet he had been working on. With Tinker Jack's help, he used witchoil to infuse the spirit of Little Jack into the mechanism.
- Little Jack told Uru that some of the ghost children who he played with were frightened by the evil spirits that now ranged far from the summit of Cauldron Hill, now that Macbannin's Manor had been destroyed. Uru called on Malthusius to help, as he would have to leave Flint very shortly. Though up to his ears in an ongoing investigation into fey pepper smuggling, Malthusius felt duty-bound to do something and promised that he would try.
- Uru also undertook an expensive ritual to bind the three spirit children to him, so they could leave Flint and help him on his adventures.
- Korrigan met with Carlao, leader of the RHC unit charged with continuing their investigations into Macbannin. Carlao was frustrated by his own lack of progress. (There had been a schism in his team, leading to two members departing.)
- Rumdoom took part in another demonstration of his Icy End power on behalf of the Eschatology movement. He couldn't help but notice that these events seemed more about fund-raising for Black Star Mining these days.
- Something very strange happened this time, too: the power not only caused the space around Rumdoom to freeze, but caused objects around him (the podium, lectern and wall) to become insubstantial. The audience was thrilled. While Khoomrung, Thered and Thangir discussed the philosophical implications of this new development, and Khaled pressed the flesh of various business contacts, Rumdoom was approached by a young Drakran dwarf maiden named Hildegaard who seemed very much in awe of him.
- The Summer Solstice saw the annual carnival in Flint. More trouble flared in Parity Lake.
- Oolsholeel arrived in the city with aquatic rituals granted by his people.
- Black Star Mining lent funds to equip the unit with a fast ship, the Rosinante, helmed by Captain 'Red' Lambert.
- The unit returned to Saltmarsh where they were joined by a unit of marines, including the Stoutly brothers and a moronic giant called Jerome. Krauss equipped them all with carbines.
- They headed for the lizardfolk lair where the lizardman minister gave them some maps of their old home, where the sahuagin now dwelt. The chief agreed that seven lizardman warriors should accompany them (so they had matched the commitment of the RHC and Saltmarsh). There might have been more, but the unit killed too many...
- They promised that if the unit succeeded in proving that the sahuagin were a threat, the Aqueous Alliance would join with the forces of Risur in drving them from the Avery Sea.
- The Rosinante set sail. After about half a day, they were nearing the small island where the sahuagin could be found when the ship came under attack by a giant octopus.
- The unit succeeded in driving the creature away, but the ship was damaged.
- Oolsholeel realised that this was not natural behaviour for such a creature, and that it may have been responsible for the disappearance of other ships.
- They headed away (as if fleeing), but the unit and their strike force slipped ashore in three longboast, and made their way towards the island through the Hool Marshes.
During this session, the unit levelled up to 5. I tried to weave their theme-related bonuses into the story and made their aquisition seem as organic as possible. (Some characters won't feel the effects of their bonuses until mid-combat: Korrigan will suddenly earn an action point he wasn't expecting; Leon's reanimated hand will take take matters into its own... hands... and punish an enemy for missing him.) I use these approach where possible to all newly aquired feats and powers, encouraging the players to celebrate their aquisition.
We played out the encounter with the giant octopus without a grid. I wanted the encounter to be dramatic and memorable and so relied on description for the first time in a very long time. Some players found this frustrating, but I plan to use the technique fairly frequently from now on.
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Wait, what's Leon's theme? Or is the reanimated hand a separate thing?
I'm curious if you're using these adventures to set up some events of your own design later on. Like who's Hildegaard? Is the Deep One scenario just a one-off, or will it be a recurring plot between the Zeitgeist adventures?
Last edited by RangerWickett; Saturday, 14th April, 2012 at 04:57 PM.
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