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Archive for the ‘Pawns of Destiny’ Category

Pawns of Destiny Episode 13: Something Fishy

In the place which is not a place, where Hordan and Hulian play for the future of the Dominions, Hulian has a special piece on the board; a composite piece, depicting a gladiator, a monk, a thief, a lotusmaster, a sage and a barbarian on an overly large base. He has just moved it to the space on the board representing Jalizar when dark-skinned, heavily-pregnant Etu moves carefully over to them.

“I will join your game,” she says, sitting down with some relief. “I have a stake here, too.”

“You have no pieces,” Hordan points out, from her chair made of writhing demons.

Etu picks up Hulian’s composite piece, and looks at Hulian as if seeking permission. He nods slightly, and she snaps off two of the figures: The thief and the alchemist.

“These are mine now,” she declares.

Lured by Zosimus’ curiosity and Dorjee’s orders to find exotic lotus, the Pawns decide on an expedition into the sewers, and prepare with their usual thoroughness, making friends with the Temple of Etu (which is upset that something is killing the crocodiles in the sewers) and the Sewer Cleaners’ Guild (who are happy to let a fellow Cairnlander buy them drinks) and pumping them for information before tailoring their adventuring loadout to the mission and staking out the Offal Well in the Shambles, known to be the biggest entrance to the Emellan Sewers, the uppermost level.

Approaching the Well at dusk, they find a mysterious cloaked figure crouched by it, engaging in a whispered conversation with someone – or something – inside. Zosimus and Ash follow him when he leaves, but he gives them the slip when he turns invisible, strong circumstantial evidence of sorcery. Meanwhile Max and Dorjee have lowered a lantern into the Well and scared off the rats. The party regroups and enters the Well, finding a corpse wedged under a grate and a section of passageway that makes an eerie howling noise. Enough for one night, they feel, and emerge.

Next day, by a number of diverse stratagems including chatting up serving girls, bribing washerwomen, and asking Ash’s contacts in the Thieves’ Guild, they build a strong but circumstantial case against Vetranis the Apothecary, and test their theory by showing him a copy of the strange script the Cleaners’ Guild pointed out to them earlier. Since he is under Guild protection – he fixes them up when they’re injured, no questions asked, and in exchange his house doesn’t spontaneously combust – they leave this piece of the puzzle alone for the moment, and head back down into the sewers.

Here, they find evidence of someone tampering with the walls to make the noise worse, and deduce this is to scare people away. They press on and encounter a group of cultists about to sacrifice a young woman to some dark god or other, and decide to rescue her by killing all the cultists. One of these proves to be Vetranis, who casts fear in the shape of an apparition of a huge, ghastly, fish with tentacles. It doesn’t save him, although Max has a phobia about big fish (don’t ask) and flees screaming into the darkness, only to recover, charge back, and hack the cultists down to restore his honour.

They free the girl, despite protestations from Zosimus that she must be the real villain, and take her home, leaving Vetranis’ naked corpse for the scavengers. She introduces herself as Jazarah, explains that recent events suggest she needs a bodyguard, and enquires if they might be interested in escorting her on special occasions, since six heavily-armed mercs moving into her apartment would draw unwanted attention. They agree to this deal, despite Dorjee and U’wahz both recognising her snake tattoos as the sign of a sorceress.

It is several days later when Jutarkos Six Fingers summons Ash to the Thieves’ Guild headquarters, and explains that a Guild asset – Vetranis – has disappeared, and is probably dead. Ash’s mission is to find those responsible and kill them, sending a clear message to anyone else who wants to kidnap or kill people under Guild protection…

GM NOTES

This session went very well, and all I had going into it was a few random encounters in the sewers and a couple of NPCs statted out. The rest of it was built on the fly in reaction to the players’ questions and approaches. That is a good mix and I’ll do it again.

I have waited three sessions now to use the punchline “Yes, there’s something fishy going on under Jalizar,” and it did not disappoint.

I was also delighted at having lured them into a situation where their next mission is to find themselves and kill themselves to send a clear message to themselves about messing with the Thieves’ Guild.

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Pawns of Destiny Episode 12: The Cult of the Dog

After a lengthy interrogation and an even lengthier debate about what to do with their captive werewolf, or Phaedrus the carpet seller as he is known in human form, the Pawns decided by a narrow margin to kill him and dispose of the body with the other carcasses that any gladiatorial arena produces in bulk. The Monk powered up and obliged before he could transform and defend himself effectively.

After much further debate about what to do next, they agreed to replenish their potion stocks, rest up, and head back into Greytowers in search of the werewolf’s lair. This went splendidly until they stumbled upon a ruined building occupied by a nest of eight giant spiders, led by the formidable Ol’ Three Legs.

A long and complex melee ensued, with the giant spiders dividing into a webbing team on top of a ruined building, methodically immobilising anything that looked like a threat, and a melee team biting anything they could get at. By the time they had disposed of the bulk of the pack, and Ol’ Three Legs had retired in good order, the Monk was incapacitated and Dorjee was running low on potions. Max, their tracker, led them to the lair – a ruined tower – regardless, and Ash climbed nimbly up the side of it and sneaked inside, where he could hear conversation on the first floor. Satisfied they had found their prey, they retreated to heal and replenish their stores.

While doing that, they hit on two ideas: Warning Tamaria that someone inside House Talum had set her up to be kidnapped and killed (Phaedrus told them this, and they suspect the culprit is the majordomo), and talking the Amazons into coming along on their next raid into Greytowers to avenge their sister.

The raid was planned and executed with panache and precision; Ash, Max and Zosimus climbed the tower and cleared it from the top down, bursting into a room where the surviving cultists were arguing over who was in charge now the werewolf had disappeared. Max leapt onto their table, which collapsed under his weight, and made a mighty sweep attack, killing five of them. The remainder fled downstairs and out of the door, where they found five tooled-up Amazons waiting for them. Best we draw a veil over their fate.

The party is not sure they have dealt with all the cultists, but feel certain they have killed anyone who matters. Feeling no particular urgency about aligning themselves with a faction, they agreed their next move is to venture into the Sewers in search of rare and valuable lotus, in the course of which they hope to find out why Cairnlanders feel so at home down there.

GM’s Notes

I couldn’t see myself getting a full five-hour session out of the party’s plans so I re-introduced them to giant spiders. Giant spiders in Savage Worlds are well naughty and even after they had scared away half the pack with a fear potion, a combination of webbing the fighters and biting anything in reach proved highly effective. Had the Monk not had the wisdom to retain a benny for his incapacitation roll, he would have died from spider bites, and he is a combat monster the other fighters view with great respect. If the spiders had been playing with a full team, I think they might have won, even against six Heroic PCs.

Ol’ Three Legs was so named because the miniature we used has been in play since the 1970s and has lost five legs to being dropped at various times over the decades. In honour of her long and distinguished service to the group, she was made a Wild Card.

Wild Card giant spiders go beyond well naughty into out-and-out evil, and I commend them to the House.

U’wahz the Sage has decided that there is a dark side to the Great Library and is providing detailed notes on its structure and purposes, but has yet to use his superpower to make this true. Despite repeated entreaties from the rest of the party, neither did he use it to cement into the setting their idea that all Jademen are heavily into bondage. Not sure where that came from but it may be related to Dorjee learning Entangle at the beginning of the session.

So far I’m finding Jalizar and homebrew adventures much more relaxing and easier to run than adventures from any other source. I don’t think this is about the adventures, it’s more because I have decided to let things flow at their own pace, rather than trying to finish each session at a particular point in the story. Now that I should have done years ago.

Pawns of Destiny, Episode 11: Wolf Moon

“Designing adventures can be a bit daunting. The thing is, you shouldn’t bust a gut over it. The more it is planned out, the less easy it will be to play.” – Barbarians of Lemuria

Newly arrived in Jalizar, and having paid their respects to the Thieves’ Guild (Ash) and House Tankara (Dorjee Pema), and rented suitable accommodations in Loomhouses, the party repairs to the Dog & Bastard tavern to meet the neighbours. While they are engaged in this, one after the other, three groups enter and announce they are looking for a missing girl; House Jarikos troopers (who offer a large reward), off-duty members of the Serpent Guard (who offer to abstain from violence), and a few Copper Helms (who want everyone to know they are leaving no stone unturned). The girl is Tamiria, wife of Lord Crumbal of House Jarikos, who disappeared while out at night. Her Amazon bodyguard has been killed. The combination of a pretty girl and a large sum of money is irresistable to Ash, so they go in search of her at once.

U’wahz the Sage talks his way into an audience with Lord Crumbal, and thence the majordomo, who agrees to meet him later. Max and Zosimus investigate the scene of the crime, finding nothing; but when Zosimus starts chatting up the local serving maids, they discover that Tamiria regularly went out alone except for the bodyguard, and in their opinion is having an affair with Lord Perikles of House Talum. Thanks to a truly astonishing Tracking roll, Max follows the trail of four men carrying something heavy through muddy streets trampled by hundreds of feet towards Greytowers, where the tracks become mingled with those of very large dogs and even larger spiders. Dorjee Pema and the Monk check out Market Square, and by expending a few Moons learn that a group of four men were seen carrying a wriggling carpet towards Greytowers. Ash, meanwhile, contacts the Thieves’ Guild, who deny all knowledge of the kidnapping and give him permission to recover the girl, subject to their usual 10% cut of any reward.

They meet back at the Dog & Bastard, exchange information, and troop off to meet the majordomo. He is not especially interested in recovering the girl, who he sees as a worthless gold-digger with no breeding, but does allow them to look for her and is persuaded to loan the party a tracker dog and its handler. They drop in to see the squad of Amazon mercenaries working for the House, but while they gain access to the dead Amazon’s armour and weapons – from the marks on which they deduce the attackers are either men with a large wild beast, or a werewolf with henchmen – the Amazons don’t want to talk to them.

Borrowing some of Tamiria’s clothes to give the dog a scent, they march off towards Greytowers and venture inside. They note they are being followed, and wave their shadow up to join them; he admits to representing a fourth party interested in recovering the girl, and offers to beat House Jarikos’ offer. He joins them, and they move on. Shortly, they encounter a screaming girl, running towards them covered in blood, and pursued by several nondescript thugs, with what sounds like big dogs baying in the distance. Max makes short work of most of the thugs, while Zosimus toys with the other for some time (each repeatedly missed the other, which in Zosimus’ case is quite unusual).

It is at this point that Dorjee notices the werewolf flanking them through the ruined alleys, and just has time to shriek a warning before it is upon them. All NPCs flee in terror, and Ash follows them – he is unmoved by the fear check, but is concerned that if they lose track of Tamiria, they won’t get paid. The fully-armed and operational Battle Monk (he takes a while to power up for combat) now engages the werewolf, while Dorjee almost manages to smash a puppet potion over its head. A short and furious melee ensues, with the werewolf’s invulnerability protecting it until the Monk hits on the idea of improvising cesti from the silver Moons in his purse, and then it’s just a matter of time – the werewolf tries to flee once wounded, but the Monk punches its lights out, and the heroes capture it while it is incapacitated.

Catching up with Ash and the others, they learn that Tamiria is indeed having an affair with someone in House Talum, that the dog-handler is in on this and has been letting her out at night, and their mysterious shadow works for House Talum. Despite the party’s best efforts to persuade her to leave Lord Crumbal – they are hoping to trigger a war between the two Houses which will give them employment – she opts to return to Jarikos, at least for the moment.

While Ash collects their reward(s) and pays his Guild tithe, Zosimus, Max and U’wahz (who is taking copious notes) drag their unconscious captive to the arena and bribe the animal trainers to rent them a cell which is as werewolf-proof as possible.

Leaving one of their number on watch to question the werewolf when it wakes up, they place orders for silver weapons with a bemused armourer and head back into Greytowers, reasoning that they will find the werewolf’s lair, its loot, and an explanation of why the werewolf wanted this particular girl – she is hardly the easiest target.

GM Notes

Surprisingly, although I’ve been running B&B for five or six years now, this was the first scenario I’ve built using the adventure generator. I drew 4 of diamonds, 8 of diamonds, king of hearts and two of clubs, which gave me: setting – wilderlands, adversary – power lord, conflict – desire, reward – relationship, getting into the action – wrong place and time, atmosphere – hunt, plot twist – repercussions, climax – sacrifice. It took me about three days’ mulling that over to create something which more or less matched those draws and fitted Jalizar, but in the end it was an enjoyable scenario for all concerned. I imagine it will get faster and easier with practice.

However, the group found a plot hole: Why is the werewolf after Tamiria in particular? I was expecting it either to die or escape, but they captured it for interrogation instead thanks to some good dice rolls and the four attacks per turn at horrendous damage that the Monk now cranks out. So now I have to figure out who it is and what it’s up to.

The Dog & Bastard is taken from a one-page dungeon by Kelvin Green. It’s a name so cool it has to be used. I would’ve used the Headless Chicken, but as I recall that is in Thousand Chimneys.

One werewolf was a pretty good match for a party of six Heroic characters. In hindsight it should have run as soon as it was wounded, and become a recurring nemesis. If Dorjee had managed to nail it with the puppet potion, things could have become very interesting; I must remember he can do that now.

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