Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Sorcery! #3 - The Necropolis

Khare - the Cityport of Traps
Campaign Diary

As the party stepped through the gates of Khare, they came upon a market fair in the square just beyond. Their senses were overloaded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the city: stall owners hawking their wares, minstrels and town criers trying to grab the attention of passers-by, a myriad of colourful clothes and spices on sale, and the mixed odour of animal dung, roasted meats, and too many people in the same space.

Forgetting their mission for a while, the party spent some time wandering the fairgrounds, eating skunkbear meat on skewers, trying their luck at "Honest Hanna's Cabinet of Fortune", and Valerian took part in the fighting ring and (with the help of some magic from Morgana) won against the reigning champion, which gave the party some more gold to spend.

Having had their fill of food and fighting, our heroes turned their thoughts once more to their quest. To pass through the North Gate, Goncol told them, they needed to know the four spell lines that would unlock it. The only person who knew all four lines of the spell was Sansas, the First Noble of Khare, while the remaining Nobles, the identity of which were secret, each knew one of the spell lines. Goncol now revealed that he did not in fact know the spell lines as he claimed, but he knew that a book containing the spell lines was hidden in a crypt in the city's necropolis, which he proposed they go to.

Traveling north to the bridge across the Jabaji river, they took a brief halt at the Wayfarer's Rest, a large inn and tavern by the docks area, where they met Flanker. From Flanker the party learned that Lortag the Scholar was possibly a Noble, and that they might seek his help if they wished to learn more about the spells.

It was near sunset when they came to the gates of the necropolis. The party waited for the few people around the grounds to depart, and then Goncol guide them to a mausoleum. Pushing open the stone door of the mausoleum, they descended a flight of stairs to a large crypt underground. Goncol approached once of the sarcophagi in the centre of the crypt, and pushed open its lid. After a few moments of searching, he realised that what he sought was not within the sarcophagus. Confused, he nevertheless asked the others to search in the other sarcophagi and niches within the crypt. While they were busy searching, the door to the crypt sudden closed with a loud noise. Their candles and lanterns went out, and a rattling sound was heard as some of the bones within the wall niches knitted themselves into skeletons, which then came to life and started to attack them.

After a short, sharp fight, the party destroyed the undead, but Valerian and Glowulf were wounded. Goncol finally conceded that the book he came to find was no longer there, and the party headed out of the crypt... to find a dozen armed men waiting for them outside.

A pale, cloaked figure stood at the centre of the line of men; in one hand he held a book with a midnight blue cover - the book that our heroes had come for. The man revealed himself to be Darius, the Third Noble of Khare, and expressed his surprise that the party had survived the "reception party" he had prepared for them in the crypt. Goncol, he declared, had stolen the book from him several weeks prior, and had hidden it in the crypt before he skipped town; his men had trailed Goncol to the crypt and recovered the book, and Darius had laid a trap for the thief for when he returned to collect his loot.

Outnumbered, surrounded, and already wounded from their earlier fight, it was clear our heroes could not fight their way out. Goncol started hurling insults at Darius, hoping to distract him. Valerian and Morgana denied being Goncol's accomplices, and stated that they only wished to exit the North Gate.

Hearing this, Darius made the party an offer: he would let them have one of the spell lines, if they would "recover" a box from a warehouse in the docks for him before daybreak; in addition, they would have to leave the city within two days, or his men would kill them on sight. With no other choice, our heroes accepted the offer, and made their way to the docks.

Arriving at the warehouse late at night, our heroes spent the next two hours observing the guards' routine. When two of the guards had left to procure a midnight snack for the others, Goncol picked the lock to the gate, and broke into the warehouse with Morgana while Valerian and Glowulf kept a watch outside.

Inside the warehouse, Goncol and Morgana was surprised to find that two masked figures had entered the warehouse by removing the tiles on the roof and climbing down a rope. One of the figures took a small box from an opened crate, and together the two men climbed up the rope before Goncol and Morgana could stop them. Outside, Valerian heard a sound on the roof of the warehouse that told him something had gone wrong. Goncol and Morgana rushed out of the gate and informed Valerian and Glowulf what had happened, and together the party started to run out of the warehouse compound, hoping to catch the two masked men before they could get too far... and ran right into the two guards who had returned from their break...

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was based of course on Book 2 of the Sorcery! series, or rather the Myriador and Arion Games conversion of the book. Unlike Book 1, this part of the adventure had more branches, which meant that the party would bypass some of the encounters; yet at the same time, they needed to collect all four lines of the spell, which made things difficult for me as the GM.

My solution to this was to make a list of all the encounters in the modules which I found interesting, and then placed them in parts of the city which I thought they fit. I then let them know what the various districts of the city were and what they could expect to find there, and left it to them to decide where they would like to visit. These were the "flavour" encounters, which would allow the PCs roleplaying opportunities, as well as a chance to make some money and to buy or gain equipment and spell components.

For the spell lines, I decided to let them to associated with mini-quests. To avoid having the campaign grinding to a halt due to a single failure, I decided that there will be more than four Nobles who know the spell lines, which will allow them more than one chance to obtain each of the spell lines.

This session also dealt with Goncol's backstory, and introduced the campaign's theme of deception. Unfortunately for me, my players have a rather light-hearted approach to the game, and did not react as strongly to Goncol's betrayal as I had hoped for; fortunately for me though, this will not be the first deception they will encounter...

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