Posts made in April, 2016
An email arrived a week before PrinceCon**, asking for help to be an ‘Emergency’ GM because a few of the regulars had to drop out with short notice. Turns out to have been a good thing, as attendance was up by a healthy margin this year. Nevertheless, I was hoping to contribute a simple sidebar to consist of two, or maybe three runs. Turned out to be five short (<4 hr) runs and a lot of fun. The basic setup is described in the first run.
** [Alex's note: it was, in fact 18 days -- plenty of time to come up with a scenario! ;-) but seriously, kudos galore to Chris and Hugh for emergency GM'ing. We lost a lot of GM power late in the game to various commitments and they delivered expeditions that had consequences in other scenarios and for world events]
Run #1: “A Three Hour Cruise”
Fri 06:30 PM – Fri 10:20 PM (duration: 3h 50m)
Elf Hero “Bushmills” (Eric Eisenbeis)
Fey Hero “Connemara” (John Cohl)
Elf Guardian “Elanthros” (Brian Rowntree)
Fey Gaia Cleric “Flitter” (David Rowntree)
Fey Mage “Jameson” (Mike Scales)
Hobbit Aru Cleric “Tullamore Drew” (Steve Brescia)
Pirates have been a problem, but this is different. Merchant ships from Nassau’s Freeport harbor, on the clockwise trade route through the Inner Sea, have had some of their cargo mysteriously disappear. No pirates, no boarders, just … gone! The apparent hijacking has been occurring somewhere on the Westerly run from Kjallaga to Bhind (yes, offshore of the North Shore, but sailing beyond sight of those lands), a voyage which takes around two weeks.
Queen’s Guard: you simply must take a cruise … and go out and see exotic lands, meet interesting people – - and when you find the ones stealing from us, kill them.
The party starts by going to the Freeport Harbormaster, to ask if there’s been any more information or pattern to this ‘disappearing cargo’. They’re told that some of lost cargo wasn’t insured by Floyd’s of London, which gets an eye-roll from party member David Rowntree, who says “Nice”. He explains to the group, “I was the Con Director for that year”. (GM’s note: and I reveal that I’m wearing “Floyd’s” T-Shirt from PrinceCon XI).
The party gets access to all of the shipping records, only to then realize that they don’t have the chops to conduct a multivariate regression analysis to wade through the data … fortunately, the high persuasion skill of Elanthros is able to convince the Harbormaster to assign a dozen clerks to go do the analytical number crunching to find the clues.
The party finds no correlation with any of the Merchant Captains or the senior crew, but does find that roughly a half dozen or so of the more hardworking second mates have been on many more runs with losses than would otherwise indicate. They work with the Harbormaster to arrange the manifest of a forthcoming Merchant ship to place three of these ‘suspicious’ 2nd Mates onboard their ship’s roster…to keep a close eye on them through their voyage. Similarly, they discover that the cargo stolen is usually the most valuable stuff onboard that voyage, and that it is always from the Port (landward) side … (GM’s note: that Port is always to landward was just a coincidence of navigation – not anything more significant than that).
They join their ship as a special guard and find it to be quite Spartan and that due to the tropical climate, everyone sleeps above decks while the cargo is below in the hot & stuffy hull. To keep an eye on things, Flitter befriends a few cats and rats onboard, which might spend more time hiding down below decks. The rats are convinced it’s an evil anti-vermin scheme to make them become easier prey for the cats.
The more pragmatic Heroes set up a lean-to style shelter to keep the sun off the party – - and also acquire a wood drill to covertly drill a hole through the deck (along with a cork, in case seas get rough), so that their Spellcasters can use the “Pebble’s Eye” cantrip to keep an eye on the cargo below decks without actually going below deck.
All goes well for the five days it takes to cross from Freeport to Kjallaga; they settle into a routine with three shifts keeping watch, glancing below with the pebble eye every few hours.
Four days out from Kjallaga, while heading west across the Gulf towards the North Shore, they notice one of their ‘suspicious’ 2nd Mates climb the mast and do something topside. They find it is some sort of voodoo/fetish doll, lashed in the topmasts. The next day, the headlands of the North Shore are sighted, and with navigation confirmed, the Ship’s Captain keeps their Westerly course well out to sea.
Finally, four nights later, the cargo theft occurs. It happens late on the 3rd shift, a few hours before dawn. All that is evident is a slight tilting to Starboard, which required a Awareness DC30 roll … and which the vigilant Elf Guardian Elanthros proceeds to make that roll (with a natural 20, no less) to definitively be suspicious and to immediately check with his Pebble Eye the cargo hold, thus raising the alarm. (GM’s note: if not for that roll, the theft wouldn’t have been detected until morning!)
Quickly, they gather then cast Waterbreathing & Darkvision on Connemara, who dives overboard to scan below their ship. He finds … sharks! And returns with a tale to tell: what looks like a giant whale shark has somehow swallowed the cargo and has headed off towards the south, swimming fast and deep such that he could just barely keep it in sight until his spells were ending, allowing its escape.
The Aru Cleric Tullamore Drew (run by Steve Brescia, whose past PrinceCon cartoons can be found at URL: http://www.keytoawin.com/steve/princcon/ ), couldn’t quite accept the Fey Hero’s mundane description, resulting in their Queen’s Guard Report back to Nassau being depicted in the adjoining illustration.
Needless to say, the veracity of this ‘eyewitness’ account will be examined in greater depth.
The Party also asked an NPC Janda Cleric to question the suspicious 2nd Mate … with the Janda concluding that he was a liar and probably an insider, but nothing quite clear enough to merit casting an Inquisition prayer … at least not until a bit more is learned.
Run #2: the inventively titled “Hugh Sat morning” (thanks Con Desk!)
Sat 10:13 AM – Sat 01:55 PM (duration: 3h 42m)
Fey Hero “Astraea” (Alison Kipe)
Human Hero “Cecil Wallis” (Mykl Sandusky)
Human Mavors Cleric “Damneron” (Michael Brokes)
Perrin Hero “Noelani” (Janine Rosales)
Human Hero “Stede Avery” (Tim DeCapio)
Fehy Gaia Cleric “Zip” (Spenser Kipe)
The party spends time doing research, tying to figure out what was going on with the cargo, such as:
Is the marking on the ship important?
Is there a reason that only land side cargo disappears?
Is there any pattern to what gets take?
(GM notes: Party hadn’t figured any of this out at this point, but: “yes, not really, yes”)
A lead from the first run was that some crew were always on a vessel when it was taken, and based on this, the Damneron, the Mavors Cleric grilled the prime suspect. The suspect, knowing that he couldn’t lie to a Mavors, answered truthfully but did so so sarcastically that the Party couldn’t quite figure out just what they were learning (GM notes: yes, he was 100% truthful!).
They also take time to search a previously raided ship thoroughly, including the hull underwater. This is where the perrin Noelani finds a very odd artifact: a portion of the hull has a round patch where there’s no barnacles nor anti-fouling paint: it is just bare wood which now has around a month’s worth of new growth and around 18” in diameter. The hole’s location is forward of the cargo, near the mast base, on the Port side (landward during the heists). Searching diligently at that location inside, they find that the wood grain doesn’t quite match and conclude (correctly) that some sort of magiking was used (GM notes: yes, patterning).
Finally, they set sail, figuring on setting a trap. Arriving in Kjallaga, the Party discovers that the cargo may have been given its final re-arrangement during off/on-loading at the port of Kjallaga. They discovered the key marker of a red label on a crate of quite valuable Allspice that happens to be first in one of the rows to landward. (GM notes: yes, that red label happened to be on the target designator for this run, but it wasn’t because it was a red label, but because spices are very valuable: all of the other first row boxes were much less valuable stuff).
Four days out of Kjallaga, the 2nd Mate attached the ‘good luck’ fetish to the ship’s mast again, as he always does (GM notes: I forget if it was the 2nd or 3rd run party, but one didn’t notice the action, but noticed the fetish being present later: when the 2nd Mate was questioned, he explained that the fetish was to keep their souls from being stolen – and that it had obviously worked).
The party decides on a trap: to be down in the cargo hold when it was likely to be taken. They divided up into shifts and spent a lot of time under dark very hot decks in tropical weather (GM: being heroes of the Queen’s Guard makes this easy to say).
Finally, on the fifth night after the crossing, what appears to be a kobold appears in the hold from the location of the hull hole: in the darkness of inside hull at night, the party first notices a scraping sound, of the Kobold depositing a box. As they all silently become alerted, a large opaque surface appears in front of the targeted cargo, the size of a door (a Dimension Door!).
Things get busy fast as the Party engages, such as a return volley of a half dozen hissing coconut grenades, which redirects two party members into a game of “Hot Potato”, grabbing & return throwing these Orb variants hopefully before they go off. In the meantime, the shimmering D-Door actually moves! (GM notes: well, it actually doesn’t move at all, as it has a Spell Modifier for its reference frame to remained fixed to the Earth, so it is the ship that’s moving past it). Thus, the D-Door begins ‘moving’ sternward, which is eating up boxes of cargo. Stede Avery jumps out of the way of the D-Door, preventing him from boarding the sub (probably a good thing).
And that kobold in the cargo hold who cast the D-Door gets jumped by two Heroes, Cecil Wallis & Stede Avery, who successfully grapple him. A coconut grenade goes off, causing NonLethal damage, and with the Party’s actions spent, the submariners still below close the hole (patterning), the first step in undocking their sub to escape.
Meanwhile topside, the off-watch shift of the party has also been roused. One had moved to the stern staircase down into the hold, and put an arrow through the D-Door, nicely alerting the submariner crew down in the sub that there was trouble.
And the Perrin Hero Noelani received spells for waterbreathing and darkvision to jump over the side to have a look – - and she found, up close and personal, a large wooden submarine docked under their ship’s hull which had been disguised to look like a giant whale shark. A hissing coconut pushed out of a small side hatch (which was how they were getting the returns cast overboard) motivated Noelani to retreat.
Again, the sub went deep, heading south towards the North Shore coast.
The Kobold D-Door caster did live, which passed along the Spell Modifier knowledge and magic items, which the party took and distributed. He was thrown in a damp cell back in Nassau and forgotten about (for awhile).
(GM note: the coconuts weren’t as plentiful, nor as effective as I was hoping for them to be: my original scenario plan was for a bigger inside-the-hold fight with more than just one kobold to have been able to come up through the access hole, to have resulted in massive amounts of the coconut bombs being thrown around. My hope was to achieve a Total Party Kill (TPK), but with all non-lethal damage – not that each Player would have known that as they’re sent from the room. Thus, the bad guys would escape, the Players would gain information, and because they would have been left tied-up … survived – - although robbed, of course. For a Friday first run party, they wouldn’t have any magic items to lose, so it would’ve merely been an embarrassment. But for a later run party who would have also had their magic items stolen – - by ‘mere’ kobolds – - it would have been a bit more humiliating).
Run 3: “You found … what??”
Sat 1:59 PM – Sat 3:59 PM (duration: 4h 00m)
Fey Mage “Alizar” (Ryan Ruzic)
Perrin Gaia Cleric “Bert” (Dave Ruzic)
Elf Hero “Karia” (Tom MaCabe)
Dwarf Hero “Lumbr, Jack” (Rich Eisenman)
A run which had to be concluded in real time by Sat 4pm so that everyone could attend Queen Nayla’s Costume ball … and yes, you read that timestamp correctly: this run started a mere four minutes after the prior run had just completed.
The group has a pretty good idea of how to go about finding a pirate submarine, and they’re pretty confident that they’re fighting “only” kobolds operating them. Their plan is to become part of the cargo to be hijacked from the hold so as to try to capture said vessel on the high seas, and return it to Nassau for the Queen.
They go about doing so, and have cleverly crafted a partial crate (its back and one side are absent) which is nearly the last (closest to the stern) box which they expect to be taken. As the submarine attack transpires and D-Door sweeps the cargo hold, they crouch inside … well, only the Elf Karia really had to crouch, as the rest of the party was short.
Appearing in the submarine’s hold, the party attacks, first with a snowball (GM notes: what, no sleep?) and a web, which immobilizes most – - thereby dodging a massive coconut orb attack…a stern steersman and two forward are still standing, who take their actions to open petcock valves to flood the sub’s interior. Why? Because these are Marine Kobolds with gills, so they can drown the air-breathing invaders. Needless to say, this wrinkle makes the Party a tad upset and even more motivated: they respond heroically, firing off a second web to immobilize the rear helmsman and a Hold Person forward, which successfully captures the last two … and the party can now secure the scene, quickly shutting off the petcocks to save themselves from drowning. In the meantime, the sub has been undocking and is getting underway by the Captain and Pilot – - who the crew now realize are not secured – - they’re in a separate compartment forward. They search for a door, only to discover that there isn’t any: they’re in an air compartment and that the wheelhouse is a wet compartment whose only access is via swimming in through the fake shark’s mouth. The Players make menacing threatening gestures for them to surface the sub, only to receive a decidedly negative reply of a single finger salute. But as they ponder their options, the helm stops the engines – - and ‘engines’ is a term used loosely, as it consists of eight undead kobolds on crank petals – - to then swim out the ‘sharks mouth’ to their escape.
Our party now has a stopped sub, which is slowly sinking in deep water, and no one at the helm. They find and man the pumps, and the sub surfaces: Bounty Secured! They search and recover some loot, including neutrally buoyant Chitonous Armor being worn by Kobold marines and figure out how to modify the helm to add an air-based compartment so that one doesn’t need gills (or waterbreathing) to drive. They question their prisoners and conclude that “Leo, Zell, Zell, and Zell” are in charge. Two weeks later – - and one minute before the Costume Ball is to begin – - they arrive in Freeport with their prize.
(GM notes: inter-GM scenario coordination called for a submarine to be captured before the Ball – - this was cutting it a bit close. One of the Suitors had been marked for assassination if a covert means was not found for then to leave Freeport after the Ball, and the sub was used to smuggle him back home).
Run 4.: “So ver iz dis ‘secret base’?”
Sat 5:26 PM – Sat 9:26 PM (duration: 4h 00m)
Human Mavors Cleric “Armond” (Bob Cook)
Human Mage “Dr. Odde IV” (Bob Peterson)
Human Hero “Harthguard” (Chris Schilling)
Human Hero “LT Frederick Von Berg” (Dave Shilling)
Human Hero “Krumbo Krumbo Krumbo” (Charlie Heller)
Perrin Mage “Len” (Colin Sandon)
Perrin Aru Cleric “Verrah Markann” (Camilla Greer)
The Party debates how to best go about finding the secret base, including if they should also attempt to capture another submarine. They settle on a plan of going out to retrieve the previously captured sub (now in a port along the North Shore), and follow behind an “innocent” merchant ship and upon it being robbed, then follow that sub without them knowing of their presence back to its base.
The retrieval task goes quite quickly and uneventfully (GM notes: since the sub was in a town in another GM’s scenario, I explained that in Meta-terms that if they try to do anything more than ‘get the sub’, we would all be flying blind. Fortunately, they made their real world Wisdom saves, and Rich Eissenman handed over the Item Card).
So, “Sub chase Sub” it will be. The Party cleverly salts the to-be-stolen cargo with Attuned objects to aid later “Locate Object” spell castings to keep track of where it may be taken. They shadow the merchant ship. They do successfully notice the night pilfering and begin to trail the raider sub in their captured sub. Oops, they discover that the patterning & rework that the prior party had done on helm modification for air-breathers leaks dangerously, so they cast patterning to fix leaks and strengthen, plus resist tempting fate by not diving any deeper. Fortunately, as dawn approaches, they have a Locate spell running at the right time, and they discover that they’ve nearly overtaken the raider sub, as it has slowed and is above them, rising to the surface. They go full stop … just before they could have run smack dab into a marine cliff, which rises from 900 feet deep to mere fathoms in but only a few dozen yards (GM notes: this is no fantasy, but actually a real place, namely the Three Fathom Wall area of the Bloody Bay Marine Park located on the northside of Little Cayman).
In dawn’s low light, they quietly surface and get some fresh air. They find that the surfaced enemy sub has proceeded, maneuvering into the shallows of an island that’s only 400 yards away. Nevertheless, because they’re still in ink blue deepwater and but only a few hundred yards away, some in the party mutter that they suspect that the shallows and the island may all just be a huge illusion.
From offshore, they quietly watch as the raider crew proceeds to unload cargo to deck and begin sorting through and inspecting the goods. One individual is pointing out stuff, which the crew works on for a movement; the Party realizes that their attuned objects, hidden in the cargo, are systematically being found and removed. Within an hour, the cargo inspection is done and reloaded, and the raider sub begins to move slowly west through the shallows; some crewmembers go for a quick swim. The party follows their same path into and then along the shallows, keeping back to avoid being spotted. Rounding the island’s western point and out of the lee of the island, three rear guards of the raider sub spot them finally, and a brief combat takes place. The Marine Kobolds are dispatched by the Heroes, assisted by electric eels summoned by Dr Odde. One guard is brought back to the submarine and revived by Aru Cleric Verrah Markann – so that they can then be pumped for information – quite effectively, thanks to an ESP Medallion. Toby reveals that the secret base is at the East end of the next island over, five miles away. The party sails home to report their success.
Run 5. “Col Mustard in the Den with Fireballs”
Sun 10:30 AM – Sun 03:00 PM (duration: 4h 30m)
Fey Mage “Alizar” (Ryan Ruzic)
Perrin Gaia Cleric “Bert” (Dave Ruzic)
Fey Gaia Cleric “Barrett” (Kelly West)
Dwarf Hero “Lumbr, Jack” (Rich Eisenman)
Cat Hero “Ushan DeLucca” (Tim Sullivan)
The Sunday final run: ‘Destroy the Raider Submarine Base’. The party first goes and questions ‘Toby’ the marine kobold prisoner, who complains about his prison cell being too warm, sunny and dry: they arrange for him to have a dark damp cell dripping with slimy water…which makes Toby quite happy and cooperative. They learn that the base is inside a large bluff on the second island, at the base of sheer 140ft tall cliffs near where a few centuries earlier, a house-sized rock fell from the cliffs broke off, forming a small island next to the island, separated by mere yards.
They head out, once again in the captured submarine – this time so as to avoid any possible encounters en route which may jeopardize their mission. They also find that Dr Odde IV had spent some time on the prior run’s return voyage improving the design – there’s now patterned portholes to Port, Aft, Starboard, Above and Below to improve visibility in all directions. They know some basics of the island that they’re going to be heading towards, including that the Marine Kobolds don’t live on the island – merely inside it. Except for a manchild who is accompanied by a huge bipedal bear, the residents are anthropometric animal forms, such as a long armed hairy orange ‘bugbear’ of sorts, supposedly created by a ‘Doctor Scott Morrow’, plus there’s a very big & nasty feline who prowls the bluff lands, preying on the many chatty monkeys that talk too much the bush. The kobolds get a few of these occasionally, when they fall through one of their secret cave’s skylights while trying to escape the Tiger (GM: scrawny, but tasty – kind of like spam). The group thinks that it is reminiscent of characters from Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ (GM: yup!).
Finding the prior landmark island, they proceed to sail East. As the island ends, just visible across a five mile wide straight is the island that they’re looking for. They search for a reef-protected anchorage and find one on its Southwest corner.
The group sinks their sub in the bay’s shallow waters to hide it, then proceeds East (up-island), towards the bluff highlands on a found path along the southern shore.
As they walk, the island’s interior to their left (North) slowly gains elevation; it is already twenty feet by the first fork in the path but a mile from where they started. They debate on if to cross to the highlands and march up through the jungle, or stay on the easier flat shore side path. They stay down on the path. Five miles later, the elevation is now a hundred feet and is separated from them by a cliff; the group starts to become concerned about how they will climb up – but they shortly find a fork in the path where the trail north goes through large, old cut in the cliffs (large enough for a horse-drawn cart) to climb up to the top of the bluff. How convenient.
The party bravely tromps up the hill without any scouting or concern of ambush.
Shortly thereafter, the party is ambushed.
Fortunately – or perhaps not – it was by a troop of the Bandar-log monkeys, a loud chattering gaggle of scatterbrained anarchy almost as dangerous as the Fox News echo chamber: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true!” Now since the two Gaia clerics, Bert & Barrett automatically can talk & understand animals, it is particularly hazardous to them, as it is enough to literally drive a sane person mad. Fortunately, they both make WIS save vs. Insanity, which motivates them to leave this growing circus of attention behind, like immediately. That they disappear (Hide Among Plants) and go silent (15’r) which becomes yet another novelty for the monkeys, attracting even more, so the group makes haste to go invisible to sprint away, which since this was hastily done resulted in a daisy-chain of party members holding onto each other without a rope.
Fortunately, they all Zig’ed when they should have Zig’ed and stay together, avoiding a Zag that would have left half the party alone with a 21 HD tiger who had come to investigate the noise. Having thus escaped from the maddening crowd (literally & literally), they cross the last few miles along the top of the bluff, and start peering over its Northern edge to try to find the ‘little island’ landmark.
Once they do, they search for any of the ‘skylights’ that they had been told was large enough for a lost monkey to fall out of. They succeed in this task as well, finding a modestly sized sinkhole that has a tree growing up out of it. The fey Barrett, with the silence 15’ and dwarf Lumbr, Jack, who has a pick which can dig through stone, proceed down the hole in order to make the passage large enough for all of the partymembers to sneak in through this route … to discover immobilization in the form of magical web traps. This also signals the silent watch to attack the topside party, which consists of some 7HD skeletons, which were also using Hide Among Plants. About the same time that the tunnelers free themselves from the web, the party has dispatched the small undead ambush.
Digging proceeds and they all descend to a pocket where they all peer down into the subterranean submarine base .. and plan their attack.
Meanwhile, those traps (GM: and Auguries too) mean that the bosses inside aren’t clueless. An invisible Wizard Eye (with auditory modifier +1) is cast to join the party, unbeknownst to them, which proceeds to listen in on their whispered final planning session specifics.
The party decides that they’ll summon two elementals (Water, Earth), for which the Gaia clerics Bert & Barrett have appropriate gifts that they had previously prepared to help in soliciting their aid. As they do so, mage Alizar will cast a two-way D-Door right at the front door to the large ‘Boss’ building (right), for Heros Ushan DeLucca and Lumbr Jack, holding their actions will combat step through and charge in.
One, two, three … cast!
The Elementals are summoned, the D-Door appears, and our Heroes charge through its opaque surface.
… oh, and the light from the skylight (behind/above them) goes out
… oh, and the Heroes don’t appear in front of the door of the ‘Boss’ building.
A heroic shout is heard from below: “Zombies!”
The Heroes are found, offset a short distance but behind the bars of the zombie paddock, with lots of friends. And they also find that ‘their’ D-Door, which they had just exited, isn’t a two-way, but an opaque one-way exit only.
(GM’s notes: thanks to the eavesdropping, the opponents cast a Wall of Iron to block the skylight exit behind them, as well as also casting a second D-Door virtually right at their intended exit. Thus, the Heroes charged through not one, but two D-Doors … and this evil schemer chose to NOT buy the option for having his Door be a two-way).
1. Heroes fight zombies in the paddock.
2. Clerics parlay/soliloquy with their summoned elementals, with Fey Barrett flying from the skylight down to be near his Earth near the cook’s station (along the ‘bottom’ of the map). This was about when Bert realized that he was now: (a) alone, (b) the skylight exit was blocked, and (c) the D-Door was a highly unsuitable means to get to the main level.
3. Three blue furred perrin are seen on a balcony over the Zombie paddock, gesticulating.
4. One black furred perrin is spotted down near the cook’s station, also gesticulating.
5. And there’s some Marine Kobolds around too .. but they quickly will break morale and just scatter in chaos, hightailing it for various exits over the next few rounds.
A snowball bursts near the skylight, also making Bert feel even more vulnerable. Bert asks, and is told it is merely a 100ft dive from the skylight pocket into the water below .. although he will need to push out, as directly below its a shallow sandy beach, not particularly deep. As Bert’s water elemental rises up to accept his Gaia gifts, Bert decides to leap, and body-surf down the body of his water elemental to descend. Just in time, as a Dispel hits his water elemental, causing that raised column of water to collapse and crash down around Bert on the beach.
The Zombies and Heroes tangle. There’s a few missile shots made at the blue fur shamen, resulting in him disappearing (GM: a mirror image dispelled). In return, Ushan DeLucca is hit with a Fear, failing his roll. Ushan will desperately grab up the magical pick that Lumbr, Jack had dropped to missile, as the only real means of escape from the paddock is to use this item to cut through the metal bars of the prison, all whilst Zombies freely attack Ushan from behind.
On the other front, Barrett and his elemental close to engage the black furball … but gets interposed by another elemental! Hey, where did that come from? (GM: the second unseen caster, perhaps?). Not to be outdone, Alizar casts Monster Summoning, for three Hydra to enter the fray.
Another missile at a blue fur .. and another poof of a mirror image (GM: really!). In retaliation, a Finger of Death is thrown at Lumbr, Jack .. who fails his save and goes down. But because of a regeneration ring, he’s not quite dead yet.
As chaos reigns, a missile does finally connect with the last standing blue … which also disappears (GM: not quite: Alizar? saw a bat appear with an arrow in it). And the hydra takes down the black fur … but the Lich’s fallen body then disappears. Rocks start falling from the earth elemental duel … and the Party retreats for the dust to settle. When things quiet down, the discover what remains of the compound empty of all living things (and unliving too), some documents of an independent corporation with just two bosses, Leo (the Grey), an occult perrin shaman, and his undead partner Zelll (the Black lich), an undead perrin lich. There were also more incriminating notes, which lead back to Queen Mare as a silent partner, and finally, one undamaged submarine, which they proceed to take back to Nassau as a war prize for Queen Nayla.
GM Notes & Wrap-Up:
The Raider’s subs were made in Vosgod, a tie-in not exploited. The enterprise was an ‘independent corporation’ bankrolled by Queen Mare to undermine Queen Nayla.
The legends in the region included occult zombie lore: locals knew that such creatures of the night were not mere fiction, which meant that totems and fetishes that some of the Merchant crews carries were based in a belief that they could help keep evil spirits away. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen to prevent them from being Attuned, so as to help locate candidate Merchant ships. Thus, there was a clear correlation to a crewmember … although if they were really an ‘insider’ remains in question.
The Marine Kobolds were from a small colony that lives on a small islet off of the southside of the island that the 4th run party had found. They were hired with an interesting insurance policy: any who die would be reanimated as Zombies, allowing them to continue to serve and earn income for their families after death.
Finally, the reason why the final run had so many opponent spellcastings was because the lich Zelll had a Thrice Ring. One was running the Wizard Eye spying, another was directly in combat and the third had summoned & controlled the elemental. When the one spellcasting in combat fell, the jig was up: its body was teleported back to the others and with Leo already also fleeing in bat-form it was time to declare the company bankrupt. In diminished form, the two remaining in the triumvirate carries his own body away, out a submerged hidden exit by the islet rock.
All in all, it was a fun scenario to sketch out and run, particularly since I’ve not GM’ed since PrinceCon37 (2012). Having short notice was actually a blessing, as it forced keeping things simple and with less complicated theme interconnects to worry about. Plus I’m thankful for the Costume Ball on Saturday afternoon, as this forced breaks, and while I did do five runs (most ever?), they were also all short, which is much more fun and less draining than to grind through a marathon session. Finally, not having months to prepare also meant that I didn’t have time to invent locations, so I used the trick of using real locations. This meant that without having to invest time to write anything down, I had a ton of depth if a player asks, which could be done without pause in game play to look stuff up: the only map I had to make at all was of the submarine base.
Wounded, a dark gray bat flies up into the jungle canopy to land, rest and wait for nightfall. Miffed, and drained of his casting abilities for the day, he watches the Party emerge with – - his belongings! Their search found everything, although they unknowingly also desecrated the last of his mother’s lovely old totems. Well, that will teach them all, for the May Cow will now be loose and it will go find them.
Out in the blue, below the cliff, a cluster of black bodies stumbling across the sea bottom reaches the edge and tumbles off of a deep drop-off into the blackness below. At 40m, there’s a shelf on which the two stop. Holding the third between them, they combine back into but one. It then finds a large lionfish, which it grabs and absorbs, both its life force as well as its venomous poisons, which it makes its own. Sleep now, to plot revenge against those living Gaia’s; it closes its eyes and whispers “Duppies is…”
Run #1: Seeking Talian Shipwright
The party met with Lady Shipwright at her shabby estate near the docks. They were tasked to negotiate the safe return of her son, Lord Talian Shipwright, from the Royal Harem of Byrsa, the desert country to the north. Lord Talian had disappeared about 15 years earlier and was presumed dead. In their teenage years, Queen Nayla and Lord Talian were courting each other and, to many, were very much in love. The party’s mission to see Shia Zaik, the Mistress of Concubines, was a secret, so the party spread the misinformation that they were hunting wedding gifts for the Queen Nayla’s upcoming nuptials. At a great expense to Lady Shipwright, she had procured a set of two glass shards that could pass along the skill of the Byrsan language and another that allowed the skill of sand sailing if you cut yourself with them.
They sailed to the northeastern corner of Shiang and then walked over the mountain pass into Byrsa. As soon as they entered the country itself, they encountered the blowing winds and grinding sands of Byrsa. They hired some guides who rode on giant mirror-abdomened spiders for passage to the closest city of Jakutru.
At sunset they heard what was later described as the Thunder Gong emanating from the capital city of Thulak Kolom. As an undertone to they heard what was described as the voice of the Dido, the ruler of the country. In the announcement, he offered good tidings to the population and he named names of citizens and their associates that needed to be captured for ‘ill thoughts’. The gong and announcements happened everyday for the last three years at sundown and sunup and could be heard all over Byrsa.
At the inn in Jakutru the windows were mortared closed. But during the night a trained spider flipped a hidden latch which opened the window. Half the party was attacked by two members of a street gang. Each of their assailants was under the effect of a dust of silence and one of them was wielding a glass shard dagger with a spider silk grip. It was a weaponized version of their memory shards but delivered jumbled nightmares. (No one told the thieves to be wary of invisible wrestling anthropomorphic horses.) They ended up killing one assailant but spared the other whose name was Thraal. They promised him safe passage out of the city if he went with them right then and there. They left before the police force arrived and rented a glass sand ship for passage to Thulak Kolom.
When they arrived at the forest of stone and glass towers known as the capital city of Byrsa, a guide was waiting for them. They were taken to see the Mistress of Concubines, Shia Zaik. She was happy that they were ready to negotiate for the release of Talian Shipwright. Of course, all promises would be null and void if it was proven that it was not indeed Lord Talian Shipwright. In exchange for returning Talian, Shia Zaik would want the person that gave Talian to the harem fifteen years earlier. That person is a much more valuable companion to the Dido. This must remain a secret especially to Talian. That person was Mare, Queen of Jum. The Queensguard explained that they couldn’t agree to that person exchange. Shia Zaik was willing to give them Talian as a sign of good faith, knowing that if the royalty of Nassau intended to bring Mare to justice, that they would do whatever was in their power as Queensguard to guide Queen Mare into the Royal Harem of Byrsa. Some were against this, but once it was explained that the Byrsan royalty does not take single spouses like most of the world’s royalty but instead strengthens peace with other countries via acceptance into the Royal Harem.
The party verified the identity of Talian Shipwright by comparing him to his portrait over the Lady Shipwright’s fireplace, and quizzing him on the name of one of his childhood toys. Once satisfied, the party and Thraal departed via glass ship back west. Talian explained that he was never intimate with the Dido, or at least with anyone who was so perfect behind their mirrored mask as to be dazed. He theorized that they were just the royalty that wore mirrored masks like the Dido’s iconic mask.
A few hours outside Jakurtra, the party saw another ship forging an intercept path. The captain believed that they were not in any danger and that they would not meet up with them. Using the memory shard of sand sailing, one of the party members realized that the captain was either mistaken or lying. Upon closer inspection with telescopic vision, the other ship was readying for battle and had archers on deck. The Queensguard started preparing for battle. Even Lord Talian was getting excited for a little battle. They told him to get into the interior compartment. The party was getting ready to plan their own intercept course, when the mystery ship started to back off. The party theorized that they too had used telescopic vision and saw them preparing and possibly saw the captain give some sort of signal for them to cease their attack.
The party stayed in Jakurta just long enough to get Thraal’s younger brother out of the city. They took a glass sand ship back to the mountain pass and escaped Byrsa with Talian, Thraal and Thraal’s brother. They set up Thraal to be a privateer in the Nassau navy.
It was told by messenger that Queen was happy to know that Lord Talian was alive and excited to have him back in Nassau. And that they should only share the secret of Mare’s treachery with the members of the Queensguards. No other outside members should know or it would alert her enemy or her enemy’s agents.
Extra Information: The Dido knew the party was coming because of his air elemental spies. (See Run #2 for an explanation)
The captain on their return trip had been bribed by the Hesperian kidnapping team on the ship preparing to attack them. The fact that they had bows showed that they were not from Byrsa. The captain fed them signals that they could see with their telescopic vision spells.
Talian had a surprise waiting in his lung (See information contained in the Run #3 description.)
Run #2: Tunnels to the Sea
PCs: Albert Alexander, Krischi Drumpf, Liam Silverbeard, Shideem, Silas Silvertear, Tim
The party of Queensguard was asked to procure the use of giant tunneling machines from the Iron council of Vosgod. Byrsans have very maneuverable glass ships that travel on sand. But less than a century ago they also travelled on water until Hesperia cut off their only access to the sea. Once the tunnelers get to Byrsa they can tunnel downward into the mountains until they reach the central sea. The glass ships could provide much needed support to the Nassau fleet.
The party arrives in Talin in Vosgod and meets with a member of the Iron Council who is a short dwarf with a magnificent beard. They soon realize the Iron Council is all about making weapons for sale to all members of the upcoming war. They care less about the dwarven citizens and more about production. The citizens are being over worked. The ale is terrible and there are signs of a secret uprising. Graffiti saying “RUST THE IRON COUNCIL” have been seen around areas of sabotage.
In exchange for the use of the tunneling machines, the Iron Council wants the backing of Nassau to root out and crush the rebellion. But for now they will allow the Tunnellers to be taken and the crews to run them released to Byrsa. The party explains that they will need to get higher approval but they will take the diggers anyway as a sign of good faith.
They load the three tunnelers and 4 dwarves in digging armor onto the three ships located in the central sea. While on their way, one of the digger operators, a female dwarf, lets a cable dangle into the water and after an ‘accidental’ surge of electrical energy, a giant squid / electric eel hybrid attacks the ships. Because of mostly quick thinking and teamwork (and a well placed weakness spell), they prevail and did not lose a single tunneller. After they checked the ropes they saw that they had been partially cut through. When they confronted the digger operator she tried to fall overboard wearing a strange glass helmet screaming “RUST THE IRON COUNCIL!!!” But they caught the rebel by the ankles, beat her up and questioned her. Her name was Elga. She maintained that the Iron Council were goblins in disguise and did not have the best interest of the Vosgod dwarves in mind. They restrained her in the hold until they removed the tunnelers from the ships in Shiang.
The party crossed over the pass and into Byrsa and after an arduous journey ended up at the digging site just outside the prosperous tent city of Carthu. During the first night, about half of the party played in the city while others were awakened by the sounds of murder. There were invisible attackers in the large tent housing the tunnelers and they had just slit the throat of one of the machine operators. The mage on duty cast a faerie fire spell and was shocked by what was highlighted. Not only did it show the three attackers but it also illuminated the hundreds of small air elementals filling the tent! The attackers, who had Hesperian accents, seemed just as shocked. Elga saved the life of her digging partner by finding a healing potion in a designated chest pouch that she knew about. When two attackers were knocked down the last one fled outside the tent but was killed by one of the party members returning from the tent city. It seemed the Hesperians were there to sabotage the tunneling devices and to kill the operators.
The battle over, their attention turned to the now visible flying creatures made of air. They watched them react. One kind similar to an ephemeral piranha spied on them them from a distance and then flew outside the tent to be picked up by the heavy winds. One of the creatures that was similar to a small squid with a human mouth was seen lingering around Liam Silverbeard’s ear issuing subaudible whispers shortly before he gave all of Elga’s items back to her and set her free to do her job. And lastly, a small shark with immensely long catfish-like whiskers seemed to cause Albert Alexander to yawn and when he opened his mouth wide to draw a breath he drew in one of the tendrils into his lung. It moved within him briefly and almost tenderly, and then withdrew.
Once the three tunnel digging machines and the four armored dwarves began and the project was underway, the party left via Jakutrau and the Shiang pass.
Extra Information: The helmet that Elga wore would have allowed her to breathe underwater as she walked along the bottom of the central sea to shore. It was of Byrsan origin. If she had escaped, her companion digger would likely have died in the murder attempt in the tents of Carthu.
The creature in the mouth of Alexander was something called an Almumradat (nurses) and was tending what was dormant inside of him. (See information contained in the Run #3 description.)
The creatures with the large eyes are called the LuyunSid (Eyes of the Master) and were the government’s little invisible spies. They reported to the palace along the fast moving winds. This lead to the general belief among the population that the Dido could hear people’s thoughts. It was a rumor that developed over the centuries that the Byrsan government was happy to foster.