Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Terrinoth #25 - Gangs of Freeport I

Gio takes shelter under the wagon

Campaign Diary

For three weeks our heroes journeyed south, passing through Nornholt, where a banquet was held in their honour, and Tamalir, where the heard rumours of a drug called the Red Mist.

(Click here for PC profiles)

When they had at last arrived in Dawnsmoor, Percy took the opportunity to visit the Temple of Kellos there, and viewed the holy relic Kellos' Horn. It was the tail end of the trade season, but Entana's brother, now in charge of the family business, managed to secure passage on a ship to Orris, where the party hoped to find onward passage to Al-Kalim.

The 'Auspice', a Lorimor trading vessel, carried the party on the five-day voyage to Orris, during which - once they have got their sea legs - our heroes tried to learn as much of the customs and language of the country; the language of Lorimor was close to that of Terrinoth, but varied somewhat in the way certain letters were pronounced, and of course there were unique figures of speech.

On the noon of the fifth day the 'Auspice' rounded the tip of the Lorimor peninsula, and sailed into the wide mouth of the River of Sighs. There, on the left bank of the river, our heroes laid eyes on Orris for the first time - a sprawling sea port larger even than Tamalir.

As the goods were unloaded at the docks, Nott, a steel merchant on the 'Auspice' offered the party 2 Gros to escort him and his wares to the nearby warehouse, on account of the recent rise in crime in the city. Strigoi accepted the job on the party's behalf, seeing as it was it would take them closer to the merchant's district, where Entana's other brother operated the Venier family's office in Orris.

As the wagon wound through the narrow streets in the dock district, our little caravan found itself suddenly surrounded by six crossbow-armed men. Still unsteady on their feet from the long sea voyage, our heroes only managed to see off the bandits with some difficulty, during which the wagon was overturned. As they helped Nott reload his wagon, Gio felt a bump on his coin pouch. A quick examination revealed that someone had placed a scrap of paper with the writing, scratched in charcoal, "meet me at the broken mug" in Thieves' Cant.

Once the cargo had been safely delivered to a heavily guarded warehouse, Nott paid the party, and engaged a street urchin to guide our heroes to The Broken Mug, a tavern nearby.

Arriving at the tavern, they met with one Sergal, who claimed to be from the local gang called the Blackshirts. He told his tale of sorrow: of late the gangs of Orris had taken to the use of a newer, more potent form of the smoking leaves called Snake Grass; while Snake Grass was commonly used in Orris for its relaxing effect, this newer form of the leaves, called White Smoke on account of the thicker, whiter smoke it gave off, focused the mind. Curiously, the leaves were obtained cheaply, and the gangs had not begun to sell them for a profit, but had limited the use to its members. More curiously, they had stopped fighting for turf among themselves, and seem to have become allied in their efforts, committing crimes now in districts which they had not previously dared to. What is more, it seemed that the city watch was never there when these crimes occur.

Sergal had stayed clear of White Smoke, and indeed Snake Grass, but yesterday his men had offered him some, and when he refused they turned violent and drew their weapons on him. Barely escaping with his life, he found no place to turn to. When he came upon the party's altercation with the bandits earlier, he decided to seek their help. Offering up the last 50 Gros he had, he begged the party to get to the bottom of the mystery so he could regain his place in the gang hierarchy.

Leaving Sergal, our heroes made their way to the Venier family's residence, where Percy was welcomed by Entana's sister-in-law, who took an immediate liking to her. A chat with Entana's brother confirmed Sergal's story of the rising crime rate, along with the city watch's inability to stop the crimes.

The next morning the party learned that the next ship to Al-Kalim would leave in four days, which gave them time to do some shopping and investigation. Strigoi purchased some clockwork toys imported from nearby Torrue Albes, while Percy bought some amber jewelry, before visiting the local Kellos temple with the wives of the Terrinoth merchants in Orris.

Entana visited a recent victim of robbery, and learned from him that the merchants were losing their patience with the city watch's impotence, and were planning to threaten a move to Torrue Albes if things did not improve.

Gio followed the lead provided by Segal, and looked up Polov, a supplier of White Smoke, pretending to be an interested buyer from Tamalir, but was asked to return the next day for a reply. He then visited the city watch on the pretext of lodging a complaint on the attempted robbery the day before, but learned little for his trouble.

Later that morning, while making enquiries at the docks, Strigoi noticed Polov waiting by a pier. Watching from a distance, he observed a blond man with a large jaw approach the pier in a row-boat, and there he and his companion handed Polov a sack, and took from him a few crates filled with food and bottles, before rowing away again. Following discretely along the dock, Strigoi saw the row-boat turn westwards as it exited the mouth of the river.

Having learned that there was little west of the mouth of the river except for sand bars, some ships wrecked upon them, and a lighthouse, our heroes decided to hire a boat of their own and visit the lighthouse. They learned from Tobb the boatman that the previous lighthouse keeper had died some six months prior, his death only discovered when the light failed to come on on a stormy night, resulting in a ship running aground on the nearby beach.

When they arrived at the lighthouse, the new lighthouse keeper, one Garras, was waiting for them. The friendly man gave them a tour of his home and the tower of the lighthouse, from where they could see the shores of Torrue Albes, but could not tell them more about White Smoke or the crime spree. Strigoi did notice that Garras owned a row-boat that looked like that he saw earlier (but then most row-boats looked the same), and a larger sail-boat.

With still an hour before the tide went out, they decided to investigate the wreck of the ship that had run aground. Tobb beached the boat a short distance away from the wreck. Our heroes walked towards the sun-bleached hull of the ship... then suddenly, from the deck of the ship, crossbow bolts sped towards them...

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based on the Freeport module 'Gangs of Freeport'.

Now Freeport is of course a rather famous setting, and I had been looking at the various publications from the range; but it is only now that I found a city-port in the Terrinoth setting that I thought matched the city.

There was only one combat this session - the attempted robbery. The players rolled rather poorly during the fight, while I rolled exceedingly well, which we attributed to the PCs still having wobbly legs, and the effect of White Smoke on the bandits.

Much of the session was spent on lore, as the players were all very keen to learn more about the places they would be visiting. They came up with the idea of buying expensive gifts in case they needed to gain favours while in Al-Kalim, and I had to on the spot offer up some options and prices, based on the idea I had about trade in the region.

This was in turn based on what I have learned about medieval trade from the book City of Fortune, a book about Venice. I recommend this book to any GM who would like to add some realism to international trade in their game worlds.

I enjoy going into the lore of my setting when the players ask me for more information, and I often compare what I describe with what happens or happened in our own world. Occasionally we come up with questions which I have not thought of, and which the authors of Realm of Terrinoth did not reveal, like: do gnomes predate humans in Terrinoth, or is it the other way round?

A lot of time was also spent on role-playing and in-game jokes. People the party meet now almost always assume that Entana and Percy are a couple, and the line "You're a lucky man" was whispered to Entana several times during the evening. The other running gag involved gnomes (or halflings), as Orris had a large population of them, and the Freeport supplement mentioned a scam where halflings would pretend to be human children acting as guides to visitors, only to lead them into ambushes where they would be robbed.

I planned a total of three fights for the session, but due to the slow pace of their investigation we only managed to play through one and begin another.

This was due to two reasons, in my opinion. One, the players had no real investment in the situation; two, my players are generally not very good with investigative scenarios.

The module itself is actually quite well-designed, with more than one way for the investigation to progress from one stage to another. In the interest of time and to make the investigation easier, I trimmed the number of locations down to four: the Broken Mug, the house where Sergal was attacked, the shipwreck, and the lighthouse. Readers will no doubt already surmised that the lighthouse keeper is in fact the true villain behind all this - I had expected the PCs to visit the lighthouse last, but am glad they did so earlier, allowing me to roleplay Garras' deception, which will give more impact when the PCs confront him again later.

The unexpected slow pace of the session is a blessing in a way, as it will allow me more time to plan for the Al-Kalim leg of the campaign.

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