Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Terrinoth #14 - The Road to Damnation and The Golden Banner Part II

Campaign Diary

Our heroes raced through the abandoned streets of Dawnsmoor, as A'bomb'we in his wolf form followed the scent of the assassins south towards to dock district. Then, out of the corner of his eyes, he spotted a green glow approaching from the south. Gio, Entana and A'bomb'we hid and waited for the green glow to come closer.

(Click here for PC profiles)

As it came near, the party saw that the source of the glow was a disembodied skull, floating purposefully towards the north, at just below the level of the roofs. It seemed to be headed towards the Venier residence!

For a while the party was unsure if they should return to the residence in case the skull meant to do the people there harm, or if they should carry on to find Geldrey's girl before she was killed, but Gio made the decision for everyone when he used the magic granted by Fortuna's coin to conjure an invisible hand to tug at the skull. This certainly got the skull's attention, as it turned around and started charging at the party! Entana threw magical flames at the skull, but it seemed unaffected by fire.

"You will not find it so easy to kill me this time!" the skull cried, before it shot beams of sickly green light at Entana, who felt his limbs weakened before he fell to the ground, unconscious. A'bomb'we caught hold of Entana's robe and hoisted him onto his back, and together the trio fled down the streets, pursued by the skull.

They were able to shake their pursuer by ducking into an alley, but Entana was still unconscious and growing weaker by the minute. Faced with no other option, A'bomb'we resumed his orc form so he could heal Entana with his druidic magic; but this meant he could no longer take wolf form and find Geldrey's girl. Undaunted, Gio climbed to the roof to see where the skull had gone. To his relief, the skull seemed to have changed its plans and was now heading south! Sending A'bomb'we to return to the residence to give them a warning, Entana and Gio resumed their journey to the south, until they came to the docks, where Gio saw the skull disappear at the base of a warehouse building.

Approaching the building, they found light coming from the basement windows. Moving closer, they looked into the basement and saw the skull in conversation with an elf and a few men.

Ravik, said the skull, has failed in the mission, the skull argued, and that they should kill the girl as planned. At his order the men began to move the crates by a wall, exposing a hidden door. Despite the odds, our heroes decided to take a risk: Entana jumped through the window and summoned a gust of magical wind, throwing the skull against a wall and causing the elf and some of the thugs to fall. He then followed it up with a magical fog, and under the cover of this Gio rushed into the secret room, where he found Geldrey's girl and led her out. With their enemies still in confusion, Gio helped Entana lift the girl to the basement window, before returning to the room to grab a chest and some papers he saw on the table inside the room. Out of the basement, our heroes ran as quickly as they could back to the Venier residence, where Geldrey was reunited with her grand-daughter.

Our heroes examined their find from the secret room. The chest held several hundred Gros. One of the paper was a promissory note for the sum of 300 Gros, issued in Nerekhall to one Maczko Neihart; the other was a letter addressed to Faenwyn (an elven name), informing him that "Mondock has failed but he still serves our Undying Master", and that Ravik was now in command.

Suddenly the skull's words made chilling sense: Mondock was the name of the necromancer they had killed and decapitated several weeks ago, whose head was displayed on pike on the walls of Skydown Castle, and had subsequently gone missing!

As Gio and A'bomb'we returned to their rooms, Entana was summoned to meet with his father. The elder Venier thanked his son and his friends, and finally gave his approval for his choice of a career in the magical arts. He too had a longing for adventure in his youth, he revealed, but had been prevented from pursuing this path due to his obligations. Now, he planned to hand over business to his eldest son, and travel to the lands of Al-Kalim, where he had seen but briefly during his "business trips", but had never had the chance to explore.

The next morning, our heroes joined in the procession as the relic made its way through the city to the docks, where it was carried across the river on a barge to arrive at Kellos' Landing, and there in a pompous ceremony formally presented to the Temple of Kellos.

The party took a well-deserved rest in Dawnsmoor, and after two days they set off to Greyhaven, where they hoped to learn more of the pendant that they had found on Mondock's body.

Prepping and Running the Game

The report above covers only the first part of the session - I have broken it down into two parts for narrative purpose.

This part of the report is essentially the continuation of the previous episode. I had introduced the floating skull as a dramatic element, knowing that A'bomb'we had run out of Wildshape slots for the day, and that the party would be forced to choose between saving the girl, returning to defend the house, or else split the party. I had expected them to split the party, with Entana returning home and Gio and A'bomb'we carrying on to the docks. I had not counted on them drawing the attention of the skull right there and then, and had to improvise so they still had a chance to locate the villains' den.

I made "props" documents for this session as I thought it would be an interesting way to present the clues to the players. These were made in a rather "primitive" way: I first searched for free fonts of the appropriate type, then created the text. I then looked for png-s of wax seals, and pasted them onto the respective letters. To give the parchment look I first printed a parchment pattern onto the paper, then printed the text onto the same sheet of paper.

The use of a font type to represent the 'handwriting' and the use of a seal will allow me to present future letters as further clues to my players, which is something I plan to work into the future scenarios.

Entana's father's retirement and his acceptance of his son's career choice resolves part of the arc for the character. The choice of traveling to Al-Kalim is however not random - the player has come up with the idea that the family wealth came from trade with Al-Kalim, and as I plan for the next arc of the campaign to be a larger sandbox encompassing all the lands outside of Terrinoth, this will give me a hook to draw the PCs to Al-Kalim if the players chose to explore that region of the setting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Terrinoth #13 - Moonspike Tower Part I

Campaign Diary

Our tale opened in the taproom of The Leaky Tap, a dingy inn on the south side of Tamalir, where Whisper had made her temporary home. As she came down from her room on the second floor this evening, she heard a small figure wearing a broad-brimmed hat calling to her, or to be exact calling:"Hey, white-hair!".

The wearer of the hat turned out to be Erkiss, the kobold the party had encountered in the Blackwing Swamp a few weeks before, now disguised as a gnome, and sporting a black eye. Against her better judgement, Whisper sat down at Erkiss' table and listened to his tale:

After the events of the last adventure, Erkiss had found a ruined keep in the middle of the swamp where a dragon laired. He offered to lead a tribe of goblins to the dragon and its treasure hoard for a 10% cut. The goblins drove the dragon off, suffering many casualties, but afterwards reneged on the deal and gave him a beating before kicking him out of the keep. Now Erkiss had come to Tamalir to find his 'friends', whom he hoped will drive the goblins away and give him his 10% cut afterwards.

Time, Erkiss explained, was of the essence - the goblins have suffered many casualties, but with the treasure they have found their leader could attract more followers, and very soon their numbers would swell and they would even become a threat to the humans!

Leaving Whisper to pass the message to the others, Erkiss left The Leaky Tap, promising to meet the party at the south gate at dawn the next day.

At dawn the next day, Whisper, Giso and Tom left the city gates as they were opened and found Erkiss waving at them from behind a tree outside. The kobold led the party westward into the swamps, with the party keeping a close eye on him and Giso insulting him every step of the way.

(Click here for PC profile)

Retracing his step by the means of a series of chalk marks made on tree trunks, Erkiss led our heroes deeper and deeper into the swamp. Whisper made marks of her own, but she also found that she could sense the presence of the green cat's-eye gem (which she had gained from the last adventure) that she had left in Tamalir even from this far.

As dusk fell, our party found themselves before an ancient causeway that ran from the south to the north. Here they made camp for the night. During the second watch of the night they were woken by a deep roar in the distance, which was followed by the sound of something approaching the camp site. Giso cast a light spell on a rock and threw it towards the sound, and found a few panicked deer, which fled away.

The next day saw the party make faster progress northwards along the causeway, and by mid-morning they have arrived at their destination: a ruined fort by the side of the causeway. The design of the fort dated it to the days of the Dragon Wars; much of its walls and three of its corner towers were in ruins, but the largest, the east tower, still stood tall. There, Erkiss informed them, was where the treasure of the dragon was held. Two goblins kept watch from the top of the tower, and another two guarded the gate-less gateway.

The party planned a stealthy infiltration of the compound from one of the smaller ruined towers, dragging the reluctant Erkiss with them. One by one our adventurers scaled the tower, moving only when the vision of the goblin sentries were directed elsewhere; everything seemed to be going well, until Tom's foot dislodged a loose rock, sending it to the swamp below and making a loud splash. The time for stealth was over!

Moving to the ground level, the party ambushed the first two goblins sent to investigated, and then cut through the reinforcements, sending them fleeing back to the east tower. The party gave chase, and for a while did not notice that Erkiss had not followed them.

Climbing up the spiral staircase in the east tower, our heroes quickly despatched a couple more goblin archers. The third floor seemed unoccupied, so Whisper stayed as a rearguard while Tom and Giso continued to ascend.

Arriving at the roof of the tower, Tom and Giso found neither goblin nor treasure. Meanwhile, in the floor below, Whisper heard heavy breathing coming from behind a doorway to her right...

Before she could raise the alarm, a two-headed giant burst through the doorway, swinging a huge spiked club at her. At the same time, two goblins rushed out of a doorway on her left - she was surrounded!

Tom and Giso rushed down from the rooftop upon hearing the commotion, evening the odds in the combat, but beset on both sides, Whisper was knocked out and had to be healed by Giso.

After a hard fight, the party slew the goblins and the giant, whom they noticed was already wounded before the fight. Searching the room where the giant had emerged from, they found a chest filled with old silver coins dating from the Dragon Wars.

Our heroes limped out of the tower to find Erkiss waiting for them outside. When questioned about why he did not warn them about the giant, the kobold grinned sheepishly and claimed he had forgotten to.

Any thought of punishing the kobold for his amnesia was forgotten, however, when the shadow of a large winged form moved across the courtyard of the keep. The party ran for the gateway, but the winged form descended before them: it was a large winged reptilian creature, with... two legs and a tail with a stinger on its end - a wyvern!

It was no dragon, and it too bore wounds from an earlier fight, but it was still a formidable adversary and our heroes were still in no shape to take it on. The four scattered in different directions, yelling out an agreement to meet back at their camp site if they made it out alive. The wyvern roared - a sound which the party now recognised from the night before - and swooped at Whisper, clawing at her as it passed. Whisper turned and dodged as best as she could, until Tom and Giso, regaining their courage, halted their flight and turned to her aid. Together, the three pelted the wyvern with missiles and spells, until it decided they were too much trouble and flew away.

Erkiss emerged from his hiding, and together the party hurriedly made their way south on the causeway. When they returned to their camp site, they counted their haul: some eleven hundred silver Gros. True to their word, our heroes gave 10% to Erkiss, and split the rest among themselves. The kobold used his hat as a coin pouch, declined the party's offer to return to Tamalir with them, and disappeared into the swamp. Tired but fearful of the wyvern finding them, our heroes trekked through the night to return to the city.

Prepping and Running the Game

The planned A Team game did not materialise, but fortunately I had a B Team scenario ready, and Whisper's player was once again able to step up at short notice.

The scenario was a mash-up of a few modules and adventure hooks, but I used Moonspike Tower for the title of this session as the module was the inspiration of the main location of the session.

I got the idea of having a goblin be the quest-giver from a module I read, and decided to use Erkiss from the last session as the players seemed to dislike him for no good reason - sure he worked for a witch and taunted an unfortunate man, but he never really did the PCs any harm!

I ran him as Leslie Chow (international criminal!) from the Hangover franchise - to top it off, I told the players OOC after the game that contrary to his claim, Erkiss did not lead the goblins to the wyvern's lair, but merely chanced upon their attack and hatched up the whole plan, and gave himself a black eye to make the story more convincing.

I enjoyed playing Erkiss, and hope to bring him back in future sessions - who knows what he will do with his small fortune in the meantime?

The scenario was pretty straightforward otherwise, with just two small twists to make things a little interesting. The main fun from the session came after the game, when the players started discussing the significance of their discovery of the ruined keep and the causeway.

I had used the causeway and the ruined keep as they were an element from the Moonspike Tower module, and had earlier had some vague idea about criminal organisations using the causeway as a smuggling route, and my players saw the same potential right away.

The players asked me if they knew anyone they could sell the information to, and I pointed to Therion Lakemane, another B Team character. Whisper's player sent a text to Therion's player (in real life), offering to sell that information to him (in-game). While we were waiting for his reply, Whisper's player discussed her plans for a day job for her - there weren't really many career options for an elf in Tamalir, but she was looking for a job that had a lot of outdoor time...

Then Therion's player replied: not only would Therion buy the information, he would employ Whisper to police the smuggling route as his enforcer!

The offer was quickly accepted, and now I find myself having to plan a whole new arc to the campaign. Thankfully, it is close to winter in our game world, so any plans would have to wait a few months before they could be implemented, which leaves me some time to plot while we play through a few winter-time scenarios in the future.

At this point I am glad I have backed Matt Colville's Stronghold and Followers, which will be delivered soon. Hopefully there are enough numbers in there to help me come up with the costs it will take to refurbish the causeway and the keep, and some numbers for the potential revenue their venture will make.

There are many potential complications and therefore adventure hooks that arise from this: what if another criminal organisation wants to muscle in on their business? How will the two priests of Kellos feel about this? Will Erkiss return and try to claim a piece of the pie?

I have no idea, and I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Terrinoth #12 - The Darkness Before Dawn

The party escorts Mama Clay to Maiden's Vale

Campaign Diary

In the month of Herbist Giso Meyer and Tom Kellosson, priests of Kellos, were tasked by their superior to escort Mama Clay, an experienced (and elderly) postpartum nurse, to Maiden's Vale, a village on the edge of Blackwing Swamp that was held by the church. The wife of the reeve of the village was due to deliver, and the church wanted to reward his loyal services by sending the best nurse they could find.

Acting as guide for the party was Whisper Blackmane, newly returned to Tamalir after attending her father's funeral in the Aymhelin Forest.

(Click here for PC profiles)

It was a short two-day journey from Tamalir to Maiden's Vale, but the incessant autumn rains and even more persistent complaining from Mama Clay about the effects of the cold weather and rough roads on her geriatric frame made the trip seem longer.

On the evening of the second day the party arrived at Maiden's Vale to find it curiously quiet. As they passed through the wooden palisade that surrounded the village, they saw a thin man being locked in the stocks in the village square. As they party got closer to the stocks Mama Clay recognised the man as Solly, a servant in the reeve's household.

The party soon learned that Sir Olvar the reeve had ventured into Blackwing Swamp soon after the birth of his son, on account of the local legend, and that his cousin, one Sir Klock, had soon afterwards with the help of ten thugs who had just arrived in the village thrown his wife and newborn child out of the manor house; when Solly protested, he was beaten by the thugs and locked up in the stocks as a example to the other villagers who might dare challenge his authourity.

Our heroes, incensed by this treachery, wanted to release Solly and then march straight to the manor house and eject the usurper, but Solly and Mama Clay argued that it would be foolhardy to do so, and that their first task should be to find Lady Angela, Sir Olvar's wife, and her child.

While the adventurers considered their words, a pine cone struck Solly on the head. It had been thrown by a kobold hiding in a nearby tree. The kobold ran off before Tom and Whisper could catch it and disappeared into the darkness, cackling as it did so.

The party decided that for the present discretion would be the better part of valour, and made for the unnamed public house in the village, where they found some villagers huddled around a table, speaking in whispers. After ascertaining that the new arrivals were not more thugs come here to reinforce Sir Klock, the innkeeper brought them food and drink, and told them of the local legend.

It was said that a long time ago, the villagers of Maiden's Vale offended a witch who lived in Blackwing Swamp, and in revenge she had laid a curse on the village, such that every child born in the three days before a full moon would die upon the midnight of the full moon; Sir Olvar's child had unfortunately been born three days ago, and tonight was the night of full moon. On the same day that the child was born, Sir Olvar had ventured into the swamp, seeking to beg the witch to spare his child, or die fighting her if she refused to do so. Sadly, the legend also told that all those who tried to do so had never returned from the swamp.

The party also learned that Lady Angela had taken refuge at the miller's home, outside the palisade, and under the cover of darkness the innkeeper led our heroes and Mama Clay to the place. There the found mother and child safe, at least for now. Speaking to the miller, they learned that he too had a child born close to the full moon a few years ago, and that he too ventured into the swamp the evening when his child was born, hoping to find the witch. He followed a trail into the swamp until he scaled a cliff and saw a green light in the distance. Following the green light, he eventually came to a hill overlooking a clearing, in the middle which stood a hut. Here he was overcomed with fear, and could not continue, and so returned to the village, and his child died at midnight on the night of the full moon as predicted. Now, seeing another child in danger, he volunteered to lead the adventurers into the swamp.

Leaving Mama Clay to care for Lady Angela and her child, the party traveled towards the swamp - it was now just five hours away from midnight, and they needed haste.

The rain stopped as they entered the swamp, and by the moonlight Whisper found fresh footprints in the path before them. Scouting ahead, Whisper and Tom found three armed men hiding in ambush ahead on them. They launched a surprise attack on the three, and in less than a minute one of the ambushers were dead, and the other two subdued. Interrogating the two survivors, they learned that they were among the thugs hired by Sir Klock to take over his cousin's manor. Sir Klock had predicted that his cousin would go into the swamp to try to save his child, and had in fact encouraged him to do so, but secretly, he had hired mercenaries from outside to help him take over the manor house, in the belief that Sir Olvar would not return - possession being nine tenths of the law, he hoped that the church would make him the new reeve of the village once they had learned of Sir Olvar's fate. His plan looked to be working well, until a villager arrived earlier in the evening with news of the adventurers' arrival, and the three thugs were sent to ambush the party in the event that they ventured into the swamp in an attempt to bring Sir Olvar back.

Our heroes stripped and tied the two thugs up, and sent the miller back to the village to summon help in bringing the thugs back, and continued deeper into the swamp. Soon they came upon the cliff which the miller told them about. Whisper deftly climbed to the top, but the cliff wall, wet with rain, caused her to be covered in mud. From here, she saw an eerie green light in the distance. Giso and Tom climbed to the top with the help of a rope lowered by Whisper, but while walking down the slope on the other side of the cliff they slipped and fell, covering themselves in mud too.

The party trekked in the direction of the green light, which seemed to be at the same distance ahead of them regardless of how far they have walked. After struggling for another hour through the swampy ground, the party ascended a low hill to find a clearing at its top. In the middle of the clearing was a tree stump. Here, someone had piled tree branches and bark on the stump, making a sort of a puppet booth. As they watched the bark curtains of the booth parted, and a candle was lit. A wooden figurine, with white hair made from moss, was mimed climbing a cliff represented by a piece of tree bark - the puppeteer then smeared the front of the figurine in mud, cackling to itself as it did so. Then two more figurines, each made to resemble Giso and Tom, were shown walking down a slope and tumbling, before they too were smeared with mud, all accompanied by the shrill cackle of the puppeteer.

The party recognised the laughter as that of the kobold that had taunted Solly earlier, and rushed forward to try to catch it. When it narrowly slipped Tom's grasp, Whisper nocked an arrow and shot it through its leg. The kobold fell to the ground, howling in pain. The adventurers tied the creature up, and healed its wound. Questioning it, they learned that it called itself Erkiss, and that it had been acting as a scout for "the mistress" who lived in the hut at the bottom of the hill. It also revealed that a man matching the description of Sir Olvar had come this way two days ago, and had come under her spell.

Leaving Erkiss by the tree stump, our adventurers walked to the far side of the hill. Here they could see a hut in a clearing at the base of the hill. Green light glowed through the windows of the hut. Standing before the door of the hut were four human forms. As they got closer they saw that them seemed to be in a trance, standing still with weapons in their hands, their eyes glazed over and staring into the distance. Three of them looked disheveled, as if they had been here for ages, while the fourth looked liked he had recently arrived - Sir Olvar.

Tom walked forward and tried the door - it was unlocked. He slowly opened the door to find the interior lit in the orange light coming from a fireplace in the far corner. A long-haired woman was seated on a chair before the fire, her back towards him; in her arms she seemed to be holding a baby, but neither the woman nor the baby made a sound. Whisper joined Tom in the small room, while Giso kept close to the entranced men outside. When their attempts at starting a conversation was met with silence, Tom and Whisper moved closer to the woman. Each approaching the woman on one side, they found her face covered with her long hair, but even as the edged closer towards her, they could not catch a glimpse of her face...

Then suddenly, the woman, child, and chair vanished. And just as suddenly, another figure, this one of an old woman with cruel features, clawed fingers and ragged clothes appeared out of thin air behind Tom and leapt at him, tearing a great wound in the back of his neck. At the same time, the four entranced men raised their weapons and started attacking Giso. Giso raised the golden hammer he had won on his last adventure and fought back, trying not to hurt his attackers more than he had to, but when Sir Olvar struck him, he was filled with a blind rage, and found that he could not stop himself from striking back.

Whisper joined Tom in fighting the witch, and soon forced her into a corner in the hut. She fought back in a frenzy. Tom called down the fury of Kellos and cast flames from his hands, scorching the witch and setting the wall of the hut on fire. Maddened by the fire, the witch struck Tom a mighty blow, knocking him to the ground. Whisper called upon the aid of the elven gods, and rained a flurry of blows upon the witch, throwing her against the burning walls, which collapsed from the force of the impact.

Now the roof of the hut was also burning, and the hut itself started to sink into the swampy ground. As flaming debris rained on her, Whisper helped Tom to his feet, and together they exited the hut just as the roof collapsed. Outside, the four entranced men had stopped fighting, and came back to their senses - they were all fathers who had come seeking to save their children from the witch's curse in the years past, and had come under her enchantment until now. Giso felt his rage ebb. Now they all watched, as the witch lay writhing on the ground as fire consumed her. Soon she stopped moving, and the fire began to die down. Whisper saw a green glow inside the witch's charred body, and reached to recover it. As her hand closed around the glowing object she felt a sudden chill in her arm, as if she had plunged it into a frozen lake - but the feeling soon passed, and she found a green cats's eye gem the size and shape of a cuckoo's egg.

Our party of seven limped and staggered its way back to the village even as the full moon climbed steadily into the night sky. Erkiss the kobold had freed itself from his bonds and was nowhere in sight when they passed the tree stump. They arrived at the base of the cliff to find that several villagers have joined the miller. By the time the enlarged group returned to village it was past midnight, but even before they reached the door of the miller's house they were greeted by a happy noise - the sound of a crying baby. Sir Olvar rushed through the door and hugged his wife and child in a tearful reunion.

The innkeeper arrived soon after, bearing food and drink for everyone. As our heroes rested, they noted that despite the lateness of the hour, slowly, more and more villagers have joined them. Encouraged, Sir Olvar decided to launch an attack on the manor house to catch his treacherous cousin by surprise. While Giso was eager to join him, Whisper and Tom persuaded everyone to let them scout ahead in case there was an ambush. The crowd agreed with their proposal, and sure enough, Whisper and Tom found the manor house abandoned, apparently in a hurry, with its treasures gone - it seemed that once again, someone had tipped Sir Klock off.

Prepping and Running the Game

Due to a miscommunication, I could not run an A Team game as I had planned, but fortunately a B Team player stepped up and we ended up playing a B Team game for the evening instead.

I had a hour to come up with a scenario, and instead of learning a new one I decided to re-use the one from the 2008 edition of Dragon Warriors, which I ran for my family in April this year. The game as it was written was a good introduction to gritty, low magic feel of the Dragon Warriors world, but in my view the ending was too contrived. Still, the pdf of the whole book is available for free on RPGNow, so I encourage you to download it and have a read.

I ran the first part of the game pretty much as is, substituting a kobold for a goblin for Erkiss. The players were unnecessarily harsh towards Erkiss, I felt, so I plan to bring him back as a recurring foil, or maybe even an unlikely ally in the future.

I used the name Mama Clay, forgetting that I had used it (and the same voice) for a herbalist in an earlier A Team game - apparently she made enough of an impression to make the player remember her name! I decided that she has many sisters living all over Terrinoth, so Mama Clays will now make appearances in my future Terrinoth games.

For the villain of the scenario I used a hag instead of the 'White Lady', which I also did for my previous game. The hag in the hut in the swamp is an old trope, but there is a reason why it is a trope. In my rush to start the game I had not decided on any loot for the session, and it was only after the fight was over and the hut was sinking into the swamp that I remembered to come up with something. I went with the theme of the green glow, and told the players that I will tell them what it was they found once I have thought it over. My current plan is to make it a hag's eye, and to make the hag who was killed one of a coven of hags; with the hag's eye in the possession of a PC, the other two hags can learn of where the PC is, and will most likely want to recover the artefact, which gives me hook for future adventures.

Over all it was a fun session, which while low in combat had many opportunities for role-playing. I guess one lesson for me from this session is that I should always have an additional scenario ready for contingencies just like this.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Terrinoth #11 - Blood & Gold

Campaign Diary

Our story began in The Black Bear, a pub in the working district of Tamalir, where Tom Kellosson, Whisper Blackmane, and Risvir Teliir have been invited to lunch by a man who called himself Lazar.

(Click here for PC profiles)

Without revealing too much (or anything at all) about himself, Lazar explained that our adventurers have been invited based on their reputation, and that he had a job to offer them, with a pay of 20 gold pieces upfront, with another 20 afterwards.

He produced a small glass vial containing a small amount of red powder from his cloak. The substance, he explained, was an addictive drug called Red Mist. Its use had become widespread over the past few months, and he wanted our adventurers to find out who was producing it, and where it was being produced.

Having seen the effects of the drug on the addicts that had been taken into the care of the shelter set up a few months ago by the Order of Kellos, Tom questioned Lazar's intentions, but the payment of an additional 10 gold pieces persuaded him that they were entirely honourable.

Once the party had accepted the job offer, Lazar gave them three leads, and left them to finish their lunch and plan their first move.

It still being early, our adventurers decided to visit one Starker, known to be supplier of the distinctive glass vials that the drug was sold in. Arriving at Starker's shop, they found it closed. The view through the shop window showed the interior to be in disarray. After a brief interview with the baker across the street from the glassware shop, Whisper learned that Starker had become increasingly unhinged over the past few weeks, and that the opening hours of his shop had become more erratic, until it had altogether stopped operating for the past two weeks.

The party checked out the rear of the shop, and found that the backdoor had been left unlocked. Entering the kitchen, they were greeted by the sight and stench of rotten half-eaten food. Risvir moved to the front of the building to search the shop, while Tom and Whisper decided to explore the living quarters on the second floor.

Risviir found the floor of the shop to be strewn with broken glassware, among which were a few glass vials identical to the one shown to them by Lazar. Flipping through the ledger left on a table, he learned that consignments of 500 vials had been sold to one Kiemen every week for the past few months, until three weeks ago. While he pondered on the significance of his finding, he heard a commotion coming from the kitchen. Rushing back, he found Tom and Whisper on the stairs leading to the second floor, in a scuffle with a disheveled-looking man.

It took all three of our adventurers to subdue the gaunt man, who had the strength of a few men. When he was finally knocked unconscious, Risviir drew arcane patterns in the air with his hands, and the shadows of the banister on the walls warped and then peeled off the wall, took form, and then wrapped themselves around Starker, binding him.

A search of the bedroom upstairs revealed several more glass vials, this time with traces of red dust in them. It became clear that Starker had himself become an addict, and had succumbed to the long-term effects of drug use. The party roused Starker and interrogated him, but managed to learn nothing more than the confirmation that Kieman was the buyer of the glass vials. But Kieman was a common name in Terrinoth, so with little more to be gained at the shop, the adventurers arranged for Starker to be brought to the shelter, and proceeded to their next lead - a high-end brothel called The Pasha, where the drug was rumoured to be sold.

It was early evening when our adventurers arrived outside The Pasha, a grand building in the Terrinoth style, with an incongruous faux Al-Kalim style domed roof. Two bouncers, dressed in Al-Kalim style costume stood by the main door. Our party passed through the door to find a large, marble-clad hall decorated and furnished in the Al-Kalim style. Scantily-clad women and their clients lounged on large cushions placed on the marble floor, drinking wine from ostentatious goblets.

The presence of two elves and a monk of Kellos gained the attention of the Madam of the place, who approached them and inquired what services they sought. When our adventurers asked about Red Mist, they were told that The Pasha no longer dealt in it, and when it became clear that they were not interested in other forms of entertainment on offer, they were left politely alone with a pitcher of wine. The party refused to leave, and their obstinance eventually paid off, and they were led to the office to meet with Silas Hess, owner of The Pasha.

Tom used his position as a priest of Kellos to convince Hess that the party was working to end the widespread Red Mist trade. Seeing a possible ally, Hess revealed that he had previously sold Red Mist to the clients at The Pasha at a gold piece per dose, but a few months ago a new seller had moved into Tamalir, selling the same drug at half the price, making it no longer a viable business for him. Hess revealed that his men have found out that the new seller went by the name of Weiss, but not much else. He offered the party his hospitality for the evening, and wished them success, noting wryly that the vices of the rich are not always suited to the poor.

Tom returned to the ground floor for some wine, and tried to glean some information from a serving girl, while Whisper and Risviir took a working girl into one of the private rooms and questioned her. As it turned out Hess' staff knew more than he did: some of the working girls gained a taste for Red Mist from their clients, and after The Pasha stopped dealing in it they have found a supplier by the docks. Having learned the location of the dealer, our party headed to the river.

It was late when our trio arrived at the dock district, where they found a dealer on the street corner. Across the street, by the river, was a building with the sign 'Kieman Trading'. They were getting close to their target. Approaching the rear of the building, Whisper climbed to the rooftop and lowered a rope to Tom, and together they climbed in through the second floor window, while Risviir kept watch below. Whisper and Tom found themselves in an empty office with several ledger books, each detailing transactions that included purchase of glass vials from Starker, several alchemical components, as well as payment and delivery of food and other items to Weiss. While they debated whether this information was sufficient for Lazar's needs, the door to the office opened and a man entered to find the intruders. Whisper leapt out of the window and proceeded to climb up to the rooftop. Tom likewise jumped out of the window, but missed the rope, falling to the ground below. Things might have ended badly for the priest, had not Risviir rushed forward and broken his fall. While our heroes picked themselves up from the ground, bruised but still alive, the alarm was raised and soon a few thugs were running after them.

Whisper leapt from rooftop to rooftop, throwing darts at the pursuers to dissuade them but with little success. Tom managed to knock out one of the pursuers and outpace the others, leaving Risviir behind. Desperate, Risviir conjured up a shadowy version of himself, which proceeded to run into a side alley, while he himself jumped into the river. Under the cover of darkness, the trio evaded their pursuers.

The next day our heroes were back at The Black Bear, where they presented the ledgers to Lazar. Pleased with what they have brought him, Lazar paid each of them another 30 gold pieces, and left them to finish their lunch as before. As he exited the inn Whisper, filled with curiosity, decided to follow him, but only caught sight of him entering a carriage outside the pub, which quickly drew away. Who was Lazar really? And who was Weiss? For now, these questions must remain unanswered...

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based on Blood & Gold, an excellent module by Adventurer's Inn. I will not reveal too much of the plot as there are still elements from the module which have not been revealed to my players, and which I am hoping to incorporate into future sessions.

I ran the module pretty much 'as is', changing names and place names, and some locations to suit. It was primarily an investigation scenario, with some potential for combat. Investigation scenarios can sometimes be difficult to pull off, being either too straightforward and railroady and thus unchallenging, or too dependent on the discovery of a single clue to proceed and thus stalling when it is not found. In this module the author provided three leads, each of which gave enough information to lead the players to their quarry.

I took the premise of the story and the idea of there being three leads/locations, got my story straight, and worked backwards and placed enough information in each to get the party a step closer to the quarry, but not enough that they can get to the end after visiting just one location; in this case, I decided to give them enough information after visiting two sites in the interest of time and also to reward their role-playing.

The module itself is quite open-ended, and gave a lot of latitude in what Lazar would consider as a 'success'. In our game the party did not actually find Weiss, or what Lazar's interest in the trade was (although they did suspect he was the original dealer of the drug). This allows me to use the two characters in future scenarios.

If you are looking for an urban adventure for a low-level party, with some interesting NPCs which can become recurrent quest-giver/antagonist, I recommend you check this module out. I shall certainly be keeping an eye out for future offerings from this publisher.