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Piratecat's Story Hour

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Moving stuff over, including updates, now. This process will continue over the weekend, as I'm adding detail and fleshing out a bunch of the early posts. I'll end with the new updates!
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Better sit down. There's a lot here.

What you're looking at are my run summaries from the last two years or so of my almost ten-year-old campaign. We playtested the 3e core rules, along with Psionics and a few other supplements, and you'll probably see echoes of that in here; by the time these logs start, we had fully switched to 3e, although the core rules weren't out yet.

These summaries recount my attempt to create a particular type of decadent, political city which the PCs had never encountered before. I think it's fairly successful. Warning: these suckers are long, with a lot of (explained) back-story. If you're reading them for the first time, always remember that you can come back whenever you feel like it. They aren't going anywhere!

We’ll start with character summaries for the active PCs (known as the Defenders of Daybreak) in the game, followed by what caused the PCs to travel to Eversink. These descriptions are correct for the point that the PCs enter Eversink. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.


Description of the Player Characters:

TomTom Badgerclaw (halfling rogue 4 / psion 12): TomTom is not exactly your typical halfling. He's always worn boots, much to the chagrin of his more normal relatives, and he prefers to dress is an astonishing array of bright, clashing colors. As a result, he is often mistaken for a jester, or at least underestimated. That's a very bad mistake to make; while some thieves steal treasure, TomTom is more likely to try to topple an economy, as he uses a combination of native cunning and powerful psionics to get what he seeks. Back home, TomTom is the only halfling knight in the mostly human kingdom (a result of helping prevent a civil war), and is the trainer of the King's secret psionic elite guards and spies. For a weapon, he tends to use a +3 magical jambiya of sharpness that returns when thrown. Sadly for Squirrel Nutkin, TomTom has a severe hatred of squirrels, and enjoys slicing them down out of trees at every opportunity.

--> TomTom's player is a brilliant strategist. Everyone loves TomTom; he's a combination of good luck and good strategies. TomTom has been played since Day One in my game, and is the only remaining original character who has never died.

Velendo of Calphas (elderly human cleric 15): Velendo is frail and balding, with a fringe of gray hair, and he dresses in simple brown robes over chain mail; his holy symbol is a large, solid stone shield carved with runes. He used to have a very peaceful life. Until his mid-50's he had never left his small fishing village of Hunnerstide, running the local temple (as did his father before him) but never especially espousing true faith. Then one day, he had a vision from his God that he should leave the village. His horrified him; deep down, he didn't really believe that his God knew he existed, and this made him re-examine his entire faith. The ship Velendo took was seized by minotaur pirates, who took the cleric back to their island fortress and made him a slave. After escaping through a teleportation device to the mainland, Velendo fell in with the Defenders of Daybreak. Three years ago, Calphas selected Velendo to be his proxy for a Holy mission, and this has inadvertently catapulted Velendo to fame and recognition everywhere within his church. Much to his disgust and embarrassment, he is now considered a prophet and living saint, and churches are queueing up to take pieces of his body as relics when he dies.

--> Velendo tends to argue with his God a lot, similar to Tevya in "Fiddler on the Roof". Velendo has a reasonably low charisma despite all of his fame, and so tends to be brusque and snappy at people who annoy him. These idiosyncracies are typically written off by fervent believers as mere eccentricities.

For a long time Velendo wore banded mail under his robes, but after his STR was drained down to 6 a year or so ago (while locked in a mano-a-mano struggle with an evil Proxy counterpart), he ditched all armor and spent much of his acquired loot on a pair of +6 Bracers of Defense. Between those and his +3 Stone Shield (light as balsa wood for him, as are all shields to Clerics of Calphas), along with a decent Dex, his AC is pretty good. For the record, he still has a 6 Strength; the drained points were restored, but then he suffered the "old age" penalty, and his STR dropped back down. Needless to say, it's been a long time since he meaningfully engaged in melee combat.

Nolin Benholm (half-elf bard 17): Nolin, loosely based on an old friend of the player, is a complex individual. He's full of loneliness and self-hatred, but he presents an astonishingly engaging front to the world. Despite deep anger that his elven father deserted his mother after getting her pregnant, he started adventuring while running away from a girl he got pregnant himself. He tends to want what he hasn't got, and he goes through mood swings that range from near-suicidal moping and depression to ecstatic happiness and satisfaction. He's founded a bardic (and spy) academy on the estate of a former adventuring companion, and is now internationally known for both his exploits and his performances. Nolin's instrument is a lute of legendary quality, bought from a strange man in a tiny store in a bad section of Sigil. He knows that he still owes a price for the lute that can't be paid in coin, but he doesn't yet know what the price will be.

--> Nolin got a bit less lonely after he died (killed by inch-tall goblins in the Dungeon adventure "Chadrathar's Bane"); he was wearing an item called a "phoenix cloak" at the time, and found himself reborn and sharing his body with the soul of an imprisoned phoenix. He has since reached an understanding with the phoenix, and can access some of its powers. Unfortunately, his hair has been made of fire since that day, which (despite looking cool) makes sleeping on pillows really, really difficult.

Kirisandra Kulberg
(half-elf rogue 4/sorceress 10): Kiri is Nolin's half-sister (by their unknown elven father), and met him mostly by accident. She is something of a dilletante; moving from religion to religion, from lover to lover, from place to place, until now she's never really settled down. Her patron is a mysterious woman named Miranda, for whom Kiri steals and delivers certain objects. Kiri's familiar is a drunken and willful pseudodragon named Tipic.

--> Kiri is really at a low point right now. Years ago, she stole the membership roster from the Eversink's church of Yorrine. As you'll see, this is really going to come back to haunt her.

Tao Camber (half-elf ranger 9/cleric 5): Tao (pronounced TAY-oh) has become a Knight of the Horn, an almost-extinct order of Holy warriors of her nature Goddess. As such, she has the ability to shapeshift into a unicorn, and she works to organize the order once again. Originally a giant-killer, Tao now spends less time at her ranger academy and more time with her priestly duties. She has a variety of pets, including a riding lizard, a ferret, and a war-dog. She usually resents being the party's front-line fighter (or "damage sponge"), but she tolerates it with good grace. In another shocking display of squirrel bias, Tao's father was killed by a diseased squirrel bite, and she still harbors somewhat of a grudge.

--> Tao really started out as a combat-oriented character, but her whole focus has changed. In the intervening years, her player has become more interested in spell-casting, so we've worked to stress her clerical side instead of her ranger abilities. It's been a really nice shift. She's also had it tough: two deaths, shaving and branding by an enemy (who stole all her magic items and gave them away to the poor), and the breaking off of a proposed marriage by her much younger fiance'.

Raevynn Icewing (elven druid 12): Raevynn's been dead before as well, killed by a delayed blast fireball shortly after joining the party. Her Goddess did not take her, however, and made her a spirit capable of possessing people and animals. When Raevynn finished the holy mission that had been assigned to her (destroying a dracolich who worshipped the God of Abominations), she was spontaneously reincarnated - but into the body of an evil elven sorceress. She's pretty sure that the sorceress' personality is gone, but she still retains some of the physical mannerisms, such as flicking her long nails against each other when irritated - which is often. Raevynn is a member of an elite druidic troubleshooting group, working directly for the archdruid to combat threats to the balance and the wilderness.

--> Raevynn REALLY hates Eversink. She dreams of the day when she can summon a storm to sink it, or create elementals to smash apart the carefully maintained avenues between the canals. She's managed to control herself so far, but being made a slave to Eversink's council for 5 years hasn't improved her disposition any.

Palladio of House Roaringbrook
(human rogue 5/fighter 7): Palladio (Pa-LAH-dee-oh; if it sounds like PlayDoh, you're saying it wrong!) works directly for House Roaringbrook, the druidically aligned Great House that supplies much of Eversink's produce. His role is that of an investigator and detective, protecting the house's interests and watching for threats. He tends to dress subtlely and keep his eyes open, but with whirlwind attack and tumbling he's a demon in a fight; he's been known to tumble into the middle of a group of enemies, and attack all of them at once. Palladio tends to be blunt (he once told an informer "You're scum, but you're scum who stays bought, and I respect that").

--> Palladio is a good example of using skills to max out a character's strengths. He has an astounding spot and listen check - and I mean astounding, like +20 or so for spot - and has a high enough sense motive to tell whether anyone is charmed by chatting with them for a few minutes and taking 10. The character was inspired while reading the Fu Manchu books, with the role of the two-fisted detective. One of his more unusual magic items is the skull of his former mentor, a diviner, which prophecises for him when called upon.

Former PCs whose players have moved away:

Sir Valdek Nurin (human fighter 10): Valdek was a red-haired, quiet swordsman and horse farmer. Early in his adventuring career, he managed to get ahold of a Sephanic warhorse (the best known horse stock, tightly controlled by the tribesmen on the planes of Sephane) for breeding stock. As a result, he went into semi-retirement to breed horses and practice his riding skills. He also was one of the Defenders' representatives in Court, training the King's knights in horse skills.

--> Valdek and Kiri started to "keep company" about half a year ago. It was Valdek who was slain by the trillith further down the thread, and who had not wished to be raised.

Lady Sharala Clearwater (human wizard illusionist 13): Shara is gorgeous if you like the type, with long tumbling blond hair and perfect pale skin an "active" figure. If Nolin claims that her lips go all bloodless when she tightens them in disgust at his attention, well, perhaps he's prejudiced by her dislike of him. Born some 73 years ago, Shara was the 4th child of House Clearwater, and her tyrant-like grandfather who ran the family sent her off to study magic with tutors instead of paying any attention to her. When she was finally affianced to a repulsive patriarch from House Meridian, in an engagement she couldn't get out of, she rebelled; her charmed and illusioned handmaiden went to the altar instead of her, and she fled the country. Months later, she was at a dance when everything went black, and in an eyeblink she found herself in Sigil: 50 years later and a long, long way from home. It turns out that an assassin sent by her grandfather (Spider Nick) became obsessed with her and couldn't bear to kill her, so he sealed her into a bottle and sent her off. She decided to regain her equilibrium, check out the political climate in Eversink, and perhaps make a bid for her House on the basis that she is the eldest member.

--> Shara's player has since moved to LA to go to film school at USC; he claims that it wasn't to skip the political ramifications of what he did in his last game. Shara has a fierce temper, combined with a high charisma, and that makes her quite memorable. In her absence, she was turned into something of a martyr and a folk hero; she is now playing on that sympathy to garner support in the Council.


Now that you’ve been introduced to them, here is the PCs' original dossier on the city of Eversink, as supplied by their King's chamberlain (who does not especially approve of them, as you may be able to tell!) You might find this interesting, because it'll tell you about everything that the PCs knew when they arrived at the city.


During the winter, a sealed official message arrives for Nolin et al. Since he is in Oursk, another member of the Defenders open it, and it turns out to be a message and detailed report from Montague (your least favorite King's Chamberlain) regarding your upcoming voyage to Eversink. It reads as follows:

  • FROM: Montague, Chamberlain to his Royal Majesty Josric, King Kindric XVII, may he live long in the Hands of Eris

    TO: The Defenders of Daybreak and priviliged adjutants

    Re: His Majesty's wish you represent our country in Eversink

    His Majesty wishes me to inform you that your travels as good-will ambassadors will be post-poned until early spring, when the rivers are again navigable by boat and Eversink sends an escort to accompany you on a formal journey. I will be giving you a specific briefing at that time. In the meantime, however, you would do well to familiarize yourselves with this background information I have gathered for you. This is quite important, you realize; despite his Majesty's assertion that you "be yourselves", you assuredly understand that we can not afford to have our country embarrassed while our Ambassador negotiates for favored trading status. Thus, I trust you will treat this information with the gravity it commands, and communicate to those of your members who have not found it necessary to become properly literate.

    I will contact you in March for your departure and formal briefing, as duty demands.

    <><><><> <><><><> <><><><> <><><><>

    - Eversink's gold pieces are called tails, silver pieces are called scales, and copper pieces are called fins. This is a holdover from the city's past as a fishing town. If you hear a reference to a "clipped tail", it refers to shaved coins.
    - When greeting people, shaking hands is less common than turning both hands upwards (almost if you were carrying a tray). It symbolizes that you are not carrying the payment of a rival, although many foreigners take it to mean that you have no hidden weapons. Do not offer to shake hands unless they do so first.
    - Most laws are straightforward, and some people (who are not diplomats) feel that they are optional as long as they do not get caught. That is certainly not an attitude visitors can afford to take. Many offences are punished by slavery, and foreigners are punished as readily as locals. The one exception to slavery is for those who have any current or past relationship with the church of Yorrine (God of Disease and brother to Toraz and Orthyss), This crime is punished by Bloodleeching.
    - Amongst the upper classes, large fancy dress balls are common, especially during festivals. Skill in dancing, and small talk, is considered de rigeur. People claim that more politics are conducted at these than in council meetings. Be prepared for this, in wardrobe and in manner, as you will certainly be thrust into the local social scene due to your position. We do not wish to be seen as poor-mannered louts, as I'm sure you realize.

    - Eversink sits on the eastern edge of the great inland Sea of Mist, also called the Sea of Holes, what the elves call Mistrinith. According to legend, Mistrinith is bottomless in several places. Its waters serve as the primary route of trade for many inner sea cities and landlocked countries. There is some pirate activity, which our forts keep from coming up-river into Gaunt proper.
    - Eversink sits in the strangulation point for trade between the seacoast and the inner kingdoms, as it blocks the river that leads from the sea to the ocean. Although considered odiferous, fetid and disease-ridden in summer (especially for the poor) the city holds a lock on all river trade coming to and from the sea, and is the trading capital of the inner kingdoms. Its population thus swells in trading season to over 40,000 inhabitants.
    - The city straddles the Great River Alaria, which stretches eastward from the Sea of Mist all the way to the ocean, emptying quite near Oursk. Eversink is built on islands and swampland on both sides of the river. Bridges and canals are everywhere, and most bridges have houses built off of their sides.
    - It is obviously known for its sinking buildings, which descend a bit farther into the swamp every year. It is a city of moss-covered stone, shallow canals, and exquisite architectural art. Be prepared to appreciate it, verbally and in clear earshot of locals. Interestingly, as the city's buildings slowly sink into the ground, masons work to shore up buildings and add new stories.

    - Eversink has maintained its neutrality as a city-state for hundreds of years, although alliances have shifted rapidly as ruling families have changed. It is commonly known that a country that is allied with Eversink enjoys economic power, as well as trading and reputation benefits throughout the area of the inner sea. Ever since an unfortunate diplomatic incident fifty years ago, we have not been so favored, and in fact have had to endure substantial tariffs.
    - Social status is determined by money and power, including political power. Belonging to the Upper Class, which has more to do with status and wealth than anything else, requires a net worth of 50,000 golden Tails. Merchant houses often "adopt" citizens who buy their way into the upper ranks.
    - Household slaves are quite common. Individuals are most often enslaved for debts, although other crimes are usually punished by less pleasant slave tasks, such as swamp-clearing. In theory, a slave can buy their freedom after they have paid off their debt, but this is not very common. While slaves are illegal in Gaunt, I wish to stress that taking it upon yourselves to lead a slave revolt would be a very poor way to conclude your diplomatic career.
    - Although the city's ruling council is technically run by a Doge elected from the Council, in truth the city is controlled by a series of Greater and Lesser families, each of which controls most or all of an industry. The council consists of members from each of these houses. The Greater Houses (and their affiliations) are:

    House Meridian: controls all stonework, masons, and construction in the city. With a beautiful, huge estate on the west end of the city, House Meridian is socially prominent both on and off the council, which it currently leads. Their symbol is a stone arch, and they are led by the elderly Matriarch Althea Meridian.

    House Clearwater: controls shipping, docks, shipwrights. Led by Patriarch Griggan Clearwater, who is in his mid-40's. Its symbol is of a gold chain encircling a blue fish, upon a circular white field. The Clearwater estate is a huge ornate stone palazzo on a low hill overlooking the sea.

    House Jeltos: controls the spice trade up and down the inner sea. Sir TomTom, you have House Jeltos to thank for your infatuation with cinammon. Their symbol is a white compass on a red field, and the smell of spices from the walled estate spreads throughout the inner city on windy days. They are led by Patriarch Ilirius Jeltos, a clever and educated man.

    House Tillinghast: controls textiles and dyes. Allied with Roaringbrook and Jeltos, Tillinghast has substantial power for a relatively small house. The Tillinghast estate is on the east of town, in an area known for relatively rapid sink, and its symbol is three purple drops of dye on a pale yellow field. With her Patriarch husband Orlus badly ill, the House is led by his socially astute wife Biala Tillinghast.

    House Bariman: controls herds of livestock which feed the city, and which are traded from huge stockades near the docks. Much of the Bariman property is farther inland than the city proper, and thus they are commonly looked down upon by better families. Their symbol is a red bulls' head, and they are led by Patriarch Doxix Bariman, man not known for his subtlety.

    House Roaringbrook: controls wheat and other crops grown in and around the city. This house is known as negotiators, as the druidic patriarch has significant diplomatic ties with nearby countries. Their symbol is a shaft of golden wheat on a green field, and their estate is on the far inland side of the city. They are led by Heldrake Roaringbrook, and they lead an informal alliance of Houses Jeltos and Tillinghast.

    House Coskeep: the least prominent of the Greater houses, Coskeep controls the brewers, vintners and many of the taverns. Its symbol is a silver beer stein on a barrel-shaped brown field, and the estate in the south of the city has an excellent view of the city's center from the towers. This is a very popular house, despite its lack of political influence. Its Patriarch is Brontus Coskeep.

    - Other centers of power and influence include:

    The Children of Lethe, the city's rumored assassin's guild. As you know, Lethe is the enigmatic Goddess of Night. Stories of "Night's Children" are embedded in the verbal history of the city, as their actions are supposedly linked with changes in the local power structure.

    The Arcanus Mysterium, the mysterious Sorceror's Guild. They are paid by the city to stabilize weather, moderate temperature extremes, keep flooding down to a minimum, and ward the swamp's insects out of the inner city. They work out of a doorless tower rising from the water in the middle of the Grand Canal.

    The Stormcrowns, a former adventuring group and mercenary organization. They provide guards, bodyguards, and muscle for many of the upper class. They are not known for their tolerant and gentle nature.

    The Sparkling Harbor, the name of the Psorgan temple, on its own island, where priests of the God of the Waters administer to rites that ensure safe sailing. Not attending religious services on at least a weekly basis is considered to be a sign of moral decay, and is said to affect a family's fortunes. It may also affect a family's view of foreign diplomats if they miss services.

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