Weekend of Game

This past weekend I had the privilege of being invited to a weekend of gaming. I’d had one of these before, of course, for my bachelor party and it was spectacular! And though I’ve gamed on the regular either as DM or player since, never in such a concentrated format.

One of my weekly gaming crew recently procured a house in the woods of New Hampshire, which some of them use once a year for a writing retreat. This time they were performing a gaming retreat and invited me to join along. A weekend of gaming where I didn’t even have to be a GM for any of it? Can I get a “hell yea?”

We arrived at varying times on Friday and the night was mostly spent unwinding from the day of work and travel and then watching some retro Final Fantasy VII with the spectators narrating the characters in various goofy voices. After an early Saturday morning shopping trip to stock up on foodstuffs, it was game time.

Game #1

We opened with Sixth Age, a homebrewed D20 based post apocalypse game that Sam had run for us off and on for a number of years now. The plot of the campaign by now was pretty far advanced and had effectively split into two parties separated by hundreds of miles. This weekend’s session involved picking up the pieces after an attack on Speedway, a mountain settlement built in the shadows of Vega (or, as we from the 4th age might recognize it, Las Vegas.)

A band of post apocalyptic warriors named the Sadistic Ministry had demanded the return of one of the PC’s, Kat Torres, because she was technically married to their chieftain’s eldest son. It was a bad marriage, and they were long since estranged, but the Ministry cared not. Of course, the leader of Speedway (the Racemaster) was Kat’s long lost Grandfather and he steadfastly refused to hand her over, prompting the attack. During the fight the elderly Racemaster succumbed to his failing health and both of his children (The ruthless, ill tempered Tanya and the empathetic, indecisive Angelo) were critically wounded. All the leadership of the Sadistic Ministry was dead (including Kat’s estranged husband, whom Kat blew up herself) but the leadership of Speedway was also in question.

Speedway only had two medics, Rosette (aka Orenda, one of the PC’s and a mother figure to Kat) and Patch, the medic for the race team the Fury Pistons (whom had won the last Grand Prix, a cross between a NASCAR Race and the Pod Race from Star Wars.) Unfortunately Orenda died in the battle, which left it all up to Patch to save Tanya and Angelo.

In spite of the advise from two other PC’s, “Gecko” Jack Hataskin (Orenda’s hired bodyguard) and Huckleberry Toyota (another member of the Fury Pistons), Kat steadfastly refused to take control of Speedway, even though she had the family lineage, lacked the personality defects of Tanya and Angelo, and wasn’t lingering near death.

Making matters worse, the Sadistic Ministry sent an envoy (Sezar, the twelve year old son of a man named Aleksei, who claimed to be their new leader)  inviting Kat and company to a summit. After Huckleberry, “Gecko” Jack and Kali (the Fury Piston’s driver) got in on scamming the populace a little in order to “sell” influence with Kat (whome Huckleberry decreed would be the new Racemaster) the group headed out with Sezar to the Ministry’s home: Dorum.

There they witnessed the Ministry’s deeply misogynistic society where anyone not deemed “strong” was abused, mocked and regarded as second class citizens. The PC’s were invited to a feast.  Aleksei formally “invited” Kat to marry him to secure peace, and offered him the captured Frye, a man who had screwed over and betrayed the party many, many times and whom Kat had vowed to kill.

Still, thrilled to be rid of one abusive husband from the Ministry, Kat steadfastly declined the prospect of gaining another. Aleksei then declared there would be no peace and attacked. In the terrifying, action packed battle that followed, the monstrous brute Aleksei was brought down, with the final blow being delivered by the man’s own abused son, Sezar. The instant the brute was brought down, Kat turned and executed Frye, still chained up to a post despite his best efforts, with two well placed arrows.

The group urged Sezar to claim leadership since he killed Aleksei, though they knew the timid boy would never hold power in such a society. Since the Sadistic Ministry had once been exiles from Speedway, they urged him to declare a grand re-unification and the boy agreed. It turns out that this strength would be needed, as an old and encroaching power from the east finally made its way to Speedway…

With that, Sam collapsed into a DM exhausted rest and we called it a day. Thankfully it was a holiday weekend in Boston, where we all lived and worked, so we had all day Sunday for the rest of the games.

Game #2

After breakfast the next day we dove into Powder Mage the RPG. Based on the Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan. This was basically a kickstarter backed game using the Savage Worlds system. I’d never played Savage Worlds so getting the hang of the rules system took a minute for all of us (including Shannon the GM!) but she had done her homework and set us up well. The long and short of the world is this: think 1840’s-ish Europe but with magic users. Most folk are normal, powerless folks. Some have a tiny bit of magic and can do one impressive thing and are called Knacked, and then there is the Privileged, who are full on mages with power over the elements. Last, but not least, are Powder Mages: folks who can use black powder to fuel unique magical powers, and they tend to be new variants of mages in the world.

Powder Mage Cover

Within this world is the country of Kez, and it’s deep in the midst of a civil war. The rebel side is taking all comers and is somewhat desperate for troops. Enter our PC’s: a rag tag mix of folks willing and able to fight for various reasons and gathered under the command of a Powder Mage officer named Hayward (based on a young Alexander Hamilton, Shannon informed us).

We started out in a small town where the rebel army was staging, and spent our first day performing mundane labor in the armory/stable for the troops. That night Lieutenant Hayward offered to buy his latest recruits some drinks and we made our way to the local tavern and got to know each other a little better before moving off to mingle with the other officers. After narrowly averting a fight with some fellow recruits (the Kez hate Powder Mages and two of the PC’s were Powder Mages) we took our leave of the tavern and soon heard shouts near the depot we’d worked in all day.

Running there with all due haste we found enemy Loyalist soldiers on hand. They’d clearly started a fire within the depot, which would no doubt kill the half dozen horses inside and, worse, detonate the black powder stores and destroy the rest of the supplies. Of course, we had to fight our way past the enemy soldiers and their Privileged officer first. We made pretty short work of the men, but the officer got away. The fire proved to be the real danger, but we were able to put it out and save the powder and the horses with a whole 2 combat rounds to spare. Shannon straight up told us it was basically an intro adventure, to help us get the sense of the setting and rules but it was a great amount of fun. I look forward to the further adventures of Hayward’s Hellions (as we’d named our rag-tag unit.)

I found Savage World to be a decent game system that had things going pretty smoothly once we all got the hang of how it went. On a side note the well written Powder Mage supplement for it has prompted me to want to read the trilogy.

Game #3

Last, but certainly not least, was some straight up Pathfinder. Helmed by Tim, this was a revisit to his Om campaign setting (which my other blog Journal of Wu takes place in) our PC’s were set back in the old world and 500 years before the adventures of Wu and his companions. Tim had helmed the 1st level characters into a dungeon under a frontier fort. After fighting their way through kobolds they located my PC and a deep gnome locked up as prisoners of the creatures. The gnome explained that drow were enslaving his people in the underdark which was going to result in a deep gnome geothermal generator going out of control without gnomes to maintain it. Agreeing to help, the PC’s trekked across the frozen tundra to the town of White River Junction to head into the underdark and help the deep gnomes.

The journey was chock full of fun encounters (and a great deal of hilarious bad luck for my poor PC) before we reached the town. Unfortunately for Tim (and us!) by this point it was past midnight and most of us were seriuously losing some steam. Alas, we called it a night there. The adventures in the Underdark would have to wait until next time.

After that it was just a night’s sleep and a trip home in the ice storm, even though it was friggin’ mid April.

20180416_121707
Pictured: Springtime in New England

Even without finishing Pathfinder and the winter weather all weekend (even though it’s April) this was a great weekend. It was like going to a gaming convention where you knew and liked everyone and they all bathed regularly. I don’t know if we’ll do it again, but I sure hope we do! Big thanks to everyone who helped make it happen!

 

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Episode 19: Religion and Revelations

DM Note: This entry has been written by Shannon and Tim, the players of Edella and Froderick (respectively) about their conversations, and revelations, on religion and current events.

21st of Unicorn, 1159 M.R., The Come on Inn, Roadshire

Edella and Froderick retire to her room so she can advise him on finding a particular god that he would find suitable for worship.

Froderick’s eyes light up when Edella presents him with the book. “This should prove a most stimulating conversation, please enlighten me as to the nature of the gods. I have, of course, heard of most of them but I must admit I have not made a detailed study of their particularities.”

She offers to go through them with him, and in particular point out Yotia, the deity of knowledge and magic, worshiped by many mages. Unnecessarily, she reads the entry aloud to him, right until she spots a line about Yotia: “He is sometimes called the Sage, the Learned One, the Professor, the Wise One, and the Wizard.”

She squeaks a bit and points at it, “The Learned One! Froderick, the Learned One is next! The Learned One is next!”

Once Edella gets to the Yotia part, Froderick becomes very interested. His brow furrows as Edella reads out Yotia’s portfolio. He Immediately recognizes that A) this is probably the deity he should be looking into, and B)  as Edella says “The Learned One” his eyes widen and in perfect synchronization with Edella, he says “The Learned one is next” followed by a hearty “Gadzooks!”

Froderick follows this with “Egads! Edella, can you remember what the description Edna gave of those strange figures from her vision was? I have the beginnings of a theory!!”

Froderick
Froderick Pendergast

Edella, who was thinking much along the same lines, says, “Do you think they’re other gods?” She pauses, trying to remember. “There was a man in brilliant white robes. And a woman… I think she was in a hand sewn dress.”

With a growing sense of dread, she flips to the page on Vesper and read out the line: “Vesper is depicted as kindly looking older man wearing resplendent robes reminiscent of sunshine…”

Froderick smiles “You think like a true scholar! Look here,” he says pointing to the book and reads aloud, “Guya appears as a matronly woman with a kind and gentle face who is dressed in simple and functional homespun clothing.” as he reads his speech accelerates. “And here!” he says pointing to another chapter and reading aloud. “Members of Akana’s clergy tend to dress in white robes. But also, I remember seeing mention…” he mutters to himself for a moment and flips through the pages. “Ahh here it is, Vesper teaches charity, compassion and humbleness. His clerics dress in simple robes, preferably of white or light colors” He pauses for a moment as if considering something. “Edella, do you think it’s possible the gods are in some kind of danger?”

“I don’t know what could be a danger to a god, though,” Edella says, frowning. “Except. Maybe another god. An evil god.”

Froderick nods and lets the name of the dark god out in a low hiss “Kanar.”

Edlella looks thoughtful. She may be naive, but she’s not stupid, and religion is right in her comfort zone of knowledge. “What if… what’s happening to us is somehow related to what Edna saw happening to the gods? The people who looked at us all said it seems like it’s divine magic connecting us. We all have divine powers that we didn’t have before, but they don’t feel inherently evil. So if we’re the ‘anomalies’ that occurred from a ritual to Kanar, if we were bound by Kanar’s divinity, I would think our abilities would be more, I don’t know. Harmful.”

Froderick nodded along with Edella. “Yes you have a point there, your logic is sound.” His speech accelerated as he eyes darted back and forth as he let his intellectual riff take over.  “I agree that perhaps we are not bound to Kanar but what if, and please indulge me as this is a leap of logic not necessarily supported by empirical data, we were meant to serve as proxies for the gods in some way. We were scheduled to be sacrificed, that much seems clear. Perhaps we have been tied in some way to the gods and our mortal deaths would have somehow injured the gods themselves?”  

“Oh!” Edella said, nodding. “No, Froderick, that might make some sense! Didn’t Edna say that the man she spoke to had a rotten foot? What if… what if that was the part of him bound to her? So when she died, that part did too! Which is why she’s no longer connected to us!”

Edella Montfort
Edella Montfort

Froderick was getting warmed up, he relished this kind of intellectual exercise. “YES! You could be on to something! Edna mentioned that the man was injured in several places. Now, we know we were not the first victims of that foul cult. What if each time these villains perform their foul ritual, another part of the god weakens or dies off? We must quiz Edna on the specifics of that vision again. If only we had more information! I feel that we are tantalizingly close to a breakthrough here.”  

But, those other body parts were moving, weren’t they?” Edella said. “Separate but not rotten. Didn’t she say it was the woman who had multiple rotting parts? We’ve only had one death in our group that we know of. But… what if each group of people is bound to a different god? And the next ritual might bind another group to Yotia!”

“GADZOOKS!! If you’re right, then it’s only a matter of time before they wipe out the rest of the pantheon. I wonder if clerics of Guya are having trouble connecting with her? Do their spells work? If we had answers to these questions, that would certainly lend credence out hypothesis. We must endeavor to locate a cleric of Guya, and if we prove correct, we must get to Emeron City post haste. I have powerful friends at the Wizard’s College who might be able to offer us some guidance.”

Edella looked increasingly worried. “I’m not sure that we’ll find a cleric to Guya here,” she said. “The halflings all worship their own gods. We may need to leave and get to Emeron as soon as possible. Didn’t that letter say that the next ritual would be there? Maybe we can stop it!”

“We have to try.” Froderick’s face darkened and it seemed like for once the verbose mage was searching for words. “Edella, there’s something else…The dream we all shared. I-I saw my whole family dead. My parents, my brothers and sisters, my grandmother…I still see it when i close my eyes. Edella, they all live in Emron City. According to what we heard, the Charnalite Ring is headed there. The cult is headed there. We can’t let that vision come true…” He began to tear up and turned his head so that Edella wouldn’t see him cry. “If something happened to them…” His voice trailed off as he tried in vain to stifle a sob.     

Edella bit her lip and reached out to put her hand on Froderick’s arm. “I saw my Uncle dead in that vision too,” she said softly. “But don’t worry, Froderick. Whatever this is, we’ll figure it out and stop it. It’s my duty to fight evil. I won’t let anyone lose their families if I can prevent it.” She gave him a bright, reassuring smile. “Besides, haven’t you seen what happens when we all work together? I believe in us!”

Froderick wiped the back of his hand across his snotty face in a move that made him look much younger than his 21 years. He smiled weakly “You’re right of course,” he said in a more nasal voice than usual, if that was even possible, “I’ve been such a fool. Professor Chickwood always told me that the ultimate purpose of magic was to enrich the common good and make people’s lives better. I’ve been doing nothing but focusing on my own selfish gain and physical pleasures. He’d be ashamed of how I’ve been behaving and so am I. We must focus all of our energies on reaching Emeron City and putting a stop to this madness. Together we have to convince the others of this peril and the need for unity and haste.” His face cracked a wry half smile before he  continued “You can talk to Raskin.”

Edella beamed at him, happy to hear his words. She’d been worried that Raskin might have been having a negative affect on Froderick, particularly after what had happened with the Dirty Dogs. “I will,” she said with a nod. “He puts up a tough front, but I can tell that deep down he’s got a good heart.” Raskin was another of her goals. She was sure she’d get him to embrace his goodness one day.

“Thank you Edella, your uncle would be proud. I’m glad to know you.” Froderick blushed a deep crimson. Sheepishly the young mage stood up, awkwardly extending his arms in a credible imitation of what he imagined offering a hug looked like.

He definitely got the point across, and Edella, who was fluent in hugs, stood up and wrapped her arms around him in a squeeze. Luckily, she didn’t wear her breast plate when they were settled in for the night at an inn, so he only had to contend with her nightwear – a chain shirt. “I’m glad I know you too,” she said.

The cool links of the chainmail were an odd contrast to Edella’s warm skin. He breathed deeply and though none of the party had bathed in days, he could swear she smelled of honeysuckles. Edella was a skilled warrior, but her tenderness of heart and unmatched beauty made him feel like he wanted to both protect her and be protected by her. As he lingered in the embrace Froderick’s mind reeled with a flood of contradictory thoughts and emotions. Realizing that perhaps he was holding on too long, he pulled away abruptly and sputtered “Ahem, indeed, well then, yes, very good. I uh, suppose we should, that is, I should uh, go prepare my spells for tomorrow. We can uh, that is to say, we should brief the others about our hypothesis in the morning.” Without waiting for a reply, Froderick spun on his heel to retreat towards his room, tripping over his robe in the process and overturning his chair. Embarrassed and confused, he quickly regained his feet and took his leave.

“Are you okay?” Edella asked, reaching to steady him, but he was out the door so quickly, all she could do was call, “Sleep well!” before bending over and righting the chair.  

DMs Notes: Are my players awesome or what?  This is the second of my players roleplaying amongst themselves between sessions at the table and sending me the summary. Are their theories about what’s going on correct? Well, I can’t very well say here now can I?

Episode 18: The Resurrection of Edna Maude

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. His time on the road and friendship with Raskin has him seeming to see the wisdom in morally grey options. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. May carry a torch for Edella, and always seems to support options that will line his pockets.

Edella Montfort – Female Human Paladin of Vesper. Somewhat sheltered and naïve but always out to help anyone she comes across and punish evil. The moral center of the group.

Shren – Male Ratman Alchemist. Deadpan maker of potions and concoctions always seeking more recipes to master.

Zenga – Female Human Witch. With her hexes, magic, grey morals and penchant for necromantic spells, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (whom she seems to think is her brother) Janis.

Beybulat Tasho of Tribe Abrek aka “Bey” – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar, Bey’s skill in the local language is dicey but his large size, strong muscles and fast blades more than make up for it.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. Loves combat, dislikes men, and usually only worries about healing once the fighting is done.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat and is currently rattled by his recent brush with death.

21st of Unicorn, 1159 M.R., Roadshire

Rising early in the morning Briac, Edella, Froderick, Delilah and Shren went to the temple of Arvoreen. Bey, Raskin and Zenga refused on general principle, as they all felt (for various reasons) that raising Edna was wrong.

Greeted by Guardian Maxima Banksbee, the high cleric of Arvoreen in Roadshire, the group was advised that Edna’s body had been prepared and she was ready to be raised. She offered to allow the group to observe if they wanted, and were quiet and stayed out of the way. They all agreed and Maxima lead them to a room with a small altar. Unfortunately the altar was halfling sized, so the large body of Edna was on the floor next to it, clad in plain blue robes the clerics had dressed her in.

Praying to Arvoreen Maxima held aloft diamond which slowly disintegrated into blue holy energy that surrounded the little warrior cleric. As her prayers reached a crescendo she touched Edna with both hands and the glow left Maxima to envelop the human warrior woman. As the glow faded signs of decay left Edna’s body. Then her pale flesh took on a healthy hue and her one remaining eye (the other destroyed by the arrow that slew her) opened as she took a deep gasp of air into her lungs for the first time in days.

Clambering around the newly raised Edna, the group began telling her how glad they were that she was alive. Overwhelmed, Edna asked for a moment and Guardian Maxima asked the group to leave. Edna promised to get her bearings and meet the group at their inn for lunch.

Everyone decided to do a little shopping at the bazaar and sell the possessions they’d taken from the Dirty Dogs before heading back to the Come On Inn for lunch. As promised, Edna joined them, clad in her armor and with a new eyepatch. “The spell does not replace that which was destroyed unfortunately,” Edna explained in reference to her ruined eye.

Edna
Edna Maude, post resurrection

She thanked the group for going to such lengths to bring her back, and shared what she’d seen on the other side.

“I did not go to the afterlife, as one would expect,” she explained. “Instead I found myself floating in a comfortable white void, not unlike when we pop in and out, however I was on what was clearly a harder surface, sort of like the ground. I found myself lying near a kindly looking old man in robes so white they almost glowed. He had been dismembered, but his hands and legs still moved, his chest still rose and fell and his eyes and mouth still worked. I noticed that his foot, however, was rotting. Maggots and flies had been at it even though it was still moving.

Nearby I saw a matronly woman with a kind and gentle face dressed in simple and functional homespun dress. She was in a similar state to the man, except several of her limbs were afflicted like the man’s foot.

‘You are severed,’ the man said to me. ‘But cannot ascend. Go back, if you can. Warn them the Learned One is next.’

The next thing I knew, I awoke with the little warrior cleric standing above me.”

The group did not know what to make of Edna’s journey, but when they poked her finger with a fork, they did not feel pain as they would when the rest of the party was injured. Indeed, Edna was no longer joined to them. Nevertheless, they offered for her to join them but she was reluctant. “I am not at my full self. My resurrection has left me diminished. Guardian Maxima says that she can cast spells to fix this, but it will cost 2,000 gold and take no less than a week or so.”

Neither Edna, nor the group, had these kinds of funds, but Edna explained that the church of Arvoreen had offered to cast the magic and hire her for a temporary basis until the debt was paid as a mercenary. “They believe they will be soon fighting bandits from the Bandit Woods, and could use a trained sword arm, and I do like the idea of slaying some of those who killed me.”

“Good luck with being a slave,” Raskin joked, though the others wished her well, and Froderick stated that she could correspond with them by sending letters to the wizard college care of his old professors, Sumnim and Chickwood, as they’d be heading there.

The group decided that they would wrap up their business in Roadshire and depart early the next day to continue their planned trek to Rivershire and up the Long River. As they split up after lunch to finish errands in town, Edella asked to speak with Froderick. They’d had some recent discussions on Froderick finding religion and Edella explained she’d bought a book, Human Deities of Emeron, for him in the bazaar on the various deities so he could start learning about them. They retired to her room so she could show the book and tutor him in religious studies.

DM’s Note: With the group’s efforts to raise Edna from the dead I could not possibly reward that with a “Nah, her spirit refused” just because her player was unlikely to ever come back to the game. Besides, she had important revelations to share! Still, there was no need to NPC her forever and she DID still have negative levels to try to recover, so it’s not like she’d be much use to the group right now anyway without some costly Restoration spells.

Edna’s visions revealed two things: how the PC’s can break the connection linking them, (they just have to die, though they weren’t eager to use this method) and that someone called “The Learned One” was going to be attacked next. Froderick, highly intelligent yet arrogant as ever, immediately thought that meant he was in danger. We’ll see…

Episode 17: On Religion and Recriminations

(DM NOTE: This entry was written by Heather and Claire – the players of Beybulat and Briac, respectively – during the group’s celebrations.)

20th of Unicorn, 1159 M.R., Roadshire
Every time Briac drank to excess, he’d hope that things would change. They never did. He twirled his mug of ale along the table, smiling absently at something Raskin said, and glanced to the door that Bey had just exited.

He wondered where Tumaini was.

No. Who cared? Briac needed to get out of the tavern, he needed a break from the people, from the noise, from the suffocation. Head spinning slightly, he stood and without a word to the others headed out of the tavern and into the warm spring evening.

Rollo
Briac Youngblood

——————————————————–

Bey’s own mind was reeling as he descended the front steps of the tavern. As he thought about the prospect that Edella and the others would raise Edna from the dead, his stomach churned unhappily. He’d hungrily devoured the lamb dish that had reminded him so much of his mother’s cooking, but he was suddenly unsure if it would stay down.

What he really needed was a way to find peace.

There was, of course, one way. Or at least, one way that he could try. A pang of guilt hit him, because to say he’d neglected this particular duty of his as a proper Abrek was an understatement. Maybe he even had it to blame for his bad fortune as of late. There was clearly something divine directing him and his new band of friends, but they’d been running from one crisis to another without properly thinking about it.

And besides, what Edella insisted upon doing to Edna was undoubtedly unholy. It served as a reminder that even this foreign land, despite not being as evil as Wilaria, was still not led by righteousness either, despite its many wonders.

————————————————————–

When Briac found Bey, he had planted himself upon a small grassy knoll, between the tavern and the next building, but tucked out of sight of the main thoroughfare. He was on his knees, bending forward so that forehead touched the ground, chanting lightly in his own language.

There was a moment where Briac thought the man was in trouble, maybe he had fallen ill and was in need of help. But soon he heard the soft mumblings, the beautiful chant he could not understand, and held back a few feet away, watching Bey silently.

After a few seconds, Bey straightened back into an upright kneeling position. He was about to lean forward again when he caught sight of someone in the corner of his eye. He turned and saw Briac standing there, watching him. Bey’s cheeks immediately flushed and he leapt to his feet, letting out a loud, nervous laugh.

Beybulat
Beybulat “Bey” Tasho

“Briac, my friend, I did not see you there!” he boomed in his thick accent, all smiles. He hoped the other man had not seen much of what he had been up to. “It is also too loud for you in that little person tavern, yes?”

Briac nodded, to be nice. “At least I don’t have to hunch in there, my back is killing me.” The halfling city, though quaint, was decidedly inconvenient for someone of Briac’s size.

He knew that he should leave it alone; Bey’s out of place laugh and in-your-face joviality said it all. But Briac had drunk enough that his usual worry for people’s feelings had been left behind in the dregs of his fourth ale. “What was that?” he asked, ticking his chin towards the grassy spot Bey had just been occupying.

Bey’s face froze for a moment, and his smile slowly vanished. Well, there was no denying it now. “I was just, ah… praying.” He cleared his throat; he hadn’t gotten a good enough read on Briac to say what the man’s spiritual affiliations were, nor how tolerant he was of others. But his recent argument with Edella over religion was enough to make him wary, and so he stood on guard, careful to gauge Briac’s reaction. (It did not help, of course, that the man had clearly been drinking.) “For Edna.”

The group had been talking about the woman so much lately it was surprising that it hit Briac particularly hard when Bey said her name. Taking a few awkward steps backward, he rested against the side of the building and looked up at the stars. “Praying, huh?”

Bey had no idea how to take that. “Yes.” He hesitated, absently following Briac’s gaze to the heavens. It unsettled him to no end that the constellations in this part of the world were different from the ones visible in his homeland just a few short months ago. He sighed. “Do you have god also?” It seemed like there were so many deities in these strange lands, like one could pick and choose as he liked, as if in a marketplace. This added to Bey’s unease whenever he thought about it.

“I did,” Briac found himself confessing. “It’s been getting harder and harder to find Him. I look but-” The man shrugged and looked back down to Bey. “I’m getting so tired, Bey.” He was still hiding behind Vesper, still shouting his name and agreeing with Edella’s exclamations, but it was mostly out of habit. Briac hoped he had not offended the man, it was the last thing he wanted. He liked that Bey was praying.

Bey didn’t always have the strongest grasp on his new friends’ language, but he thought he understood the sentiment. “It has been… difficult time,” he admitted. “I have barely prayed since…” Well, since he’d seen his village in flames. He took a deep breath to steady himself and joined Briac’s side. He also leaned against the tavern wall and crossed his arms. “Where you from, my friend? I do not think I ever learned.”

“A town outside the skirts of Hibbon in Imyan,” Briac answered, glancing at the man curiously. Had Bey been about to share something personal? It had felt like it and Briac wished he would. Ever since he had found himself in this strange group it had been Bey and Raskin that had caught his attention.

“Local then, yes?” Those names all sounded familiar to Bey as places they’d just been, although to be honest he had difficulty keeping track of all the foreign names. It didn’t help that he couldn’t read the script of the trade tongue, only picking up what he did through helping his father in the bazaar growing up. “Your, ah… trade. What is it you do… did? You are very good with bow. I think maybe hunter?”

“I do odds and ends to get by,” he told him. Hunting vampires didn’t exactly pay the bills. “But, yes, I hunt. Mostly, vampires.”

“Vampire,” Bey repeated, and shuddered. “We have same word in my language: vampeer. I hear terrible stories as kid, but I did not think they were real.”

He hadn’t thought anything undead was real until he’d been brought to this realm. “Tell me, my brother, why so much undead running around this land? I see terrible horrors here.” Which wasn’t to say he hadn’t seen horrors in his homeland, but at least the monsters there were all human.

Briac used to shudder, too, when he’d mention vampires, but time had turned it to anger instead. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “Maybe the gods are angry with us.” But the man didn’t really believe that. He couldn’t. “But I don’t want to live in a world where gods are vengeful.” He shook his head. “What about your God, Bey? That one you were praying to?”

Bey had to choose his words carefully. Trying to explain his people’s religion to Edella was one of the things that had led to their recent argument.

“We call him ‘Bog,’ but that is not a name, is just… same as ‘God.’ In this land, it seems you have many gods with many names.” He rubbed an eye. He was suddenly exhausted. “Before Bog, my people worshipped false god. Evil, and… what you say? ‘Vengeful’? Some Galmari still do. They are usually… bad tribes, like one we fought yesterday.” His lip curled into a sneer, remembering the disgusting words the subdued barbarian had hurled at him. “Bog is not this way. Bog is mercy… Bog wants us to live in peace.” He sighed. “But only Bog is Bog. No others – they are false, will lead you astray. That is what we are taught.”

He chanced a glance at Briac, to see how he was taking this. “But if there is only one god, I do not know what to think of the many others I see in this land.”

There was a long stretch of silence as Briac thought, running Bey’s words over in his mind, then he simply shrugged. “I don’t know, my friend,” he said and looked the younger man in the eye. “But I like your- Bog, if he is for peace, and especially if he brings you peace in your heart.”

Bey let out a small, pained laugh. “I do not know if I have this peace. I still search for it.” He looked away from the older man, feeling a pang of grief in his chest.

“What you think about Edna? To bring people back from dead must be dangerous, yes?” He hated the thought of seeing Edna, whom he admired as a formidable warrior despite only knowing her briefly, as another undead fiend. “Edella thinks it is right thing, but according to Bog, we must bury dead and carry on with life.”

Briac frowned, watching Bey as the man looked away, wondering…

I do not know if I have this peace. I still search for it.

The hunter knew that sentiment well. He had been searching for peace ever since he lost Vivienne. Had Bey, too, lost someone? Briac figured the chances were high. As soon as Bey mentioned Edna, however, it was his turn to look away. Ashamed.

“It was supposed to be me,” he said softly. “That arrow was meant for me.”

Cursing his limited vocabulary, Bey struggled to understand Briac’s words. “Meant for you?”

Briac was obviously upset about it. Did he mean Edna stepped in and took the killing blow for him? The battle had been chaotic, and Bey himself hadn’t seen what had happened behind him while he was fighting the bandit leader.

“Edna – how you say – martyred for you?”

Briac’s eyes grew haunted. Could this woman Edna have seen the arrow coming for him and decided to sacrifice herself? But, no, that didn’t make sense. “No,” he said, “Not of her own free will. At least, I don’t think so. I don’t know, Bey. I saw the arrow, it was headed straight towards me, it was right there. Then-” He shook his head. “I wasn’t there. I was somewhere else.”

Bey’s dark eyes widened listening to Briac’s description of events. “Like when we disappear?” He hadn’t yet come to terms with what happened to them periodically, like falling asleep and winking out of existence. He had to think it was the work of Bog, but he hadn’t yet understood why He would tie Bey to this band of foreigners, as nice as they (well, most of them) were.

A solemn nod. “Exactly like when we disappear.” Briac didn’t understand why the rest of the group wasn’t focused on trying to figure out what was happening to them. It was terrifying losing time like that. What if they had lost someone the last time Briac had disappeared and he could have prevented it? “I don’t like being fucked with, Bey, and I feel like we’re being fucked with.” And because of it a woman lost her life.

It was the force of the profanity that made Bey flinch. Of course he knew the word and what it meant — curse words were inevitably what he and his siblings had picked up first when working in the marketplaces — but there was something about the violence it implied that unsettled him, whether Briac had intended it or not. In his own language, one didn’t use such words unless they were looking for a fight. He’d seen blood feuds started over less.

Still, it conveyed another aspect to their predicament that Bey hadn’t quite considered: that whatever bound them together, it was not the will of Bog, but something entirely more sinister. And whatever it was, it had apparently preferred Briac over Edna. “What you think is doing this to us?”

Briac shook his head and ran hand over his face in exhaustion. “I don’t know.” There were too many things the man didn’t know or didn’t understand. It frustrated him. “But I plan on finding out.” Once again he looked up to the stars. Just liked you planned on finding the vampires that killed Vivienne? he reprimanded himself. Two years have passed and you’ve gotten nowhere.

“How do we find out?” Bey asked, his voice hushed.

He shook his head. Like everything… “I don’t know,” he said. But then he looked back down and at Bey, giving the younger man a uncertain smile. “Maybe we should keep praying.”

Bey let out a small laugh. “Maybe. But Bog rewards the thinking man more than the unthinking one. You know this land better than me. Where could we find more about this magic? Froderick says Emeron City would help us, but I have never been there. And I do not think I trust priests of other gods to tell us truth. They usually have — reasons to make theirs sound best, yes?”

Everybody wanted to believe their god was the best, just like everyone seemed to get riled up when discussing the merits of one’s hometown. “Libraries, we should start there,” he said. “There’s bias in books as well but at least a book doesn’t want anything from us.”

Bey let out a hearty laugh. “That is very true, my friend. But it seems to me I will not be able to read most books in this land. Still, I will try my best to help you.”

It felt good, to have a specific goal, instead of simply following the party out of necessity and assuming someone like Froderick would be able to figure it out for them. Like Edella, he probably had his own agenda, and while Bey trusted his intentions, it didn’t seem like the wizard had pressing matters to attend to back home.

“It is important to me that we fix curse. I must return to my homeland as soon as possible, but I do not think is fair to drag all you with me.”

Briac frowned. “Is everything all right?” he asked hesitantly. “In your homeland?”

Bey sighed sadly. “We are at war. With Wilaria.” He had never mastered the W sound, so the kingdom’s name came out with a V at the front. He made a disgusted face and spit in the dirt, as if the word itself had tainted his mouth. “Those pigs invade our lands and say it is theirs, that we are godless savages and must submit to theirs. Every time I see sign of Akana I want to…” His hands tightened into fists, but he did not elaborate.

“Last thing I remember, soldiers had raided my village, set it on fire. I do not know if my parents, and my brothers and sisters—” He broke off suddenly, not wanting to admit the possibility of their fates out loud. “That is why I must go back. My brother Mita, he joined military. I must find my family, or if I cannot, I must fight to avenge them.”

Briac blinked, mouth open but no words coming out. It was plenty to digest on a normal night but his head was still swimming in ale and guilt. Maybe words weren’t the right response anyway.

He clasped the younger man on the shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze.

Bey was surprised by Briac’s warm gesture. He inhaled deeply, fighting tears for a few long moments. He finally turned away, rubbing at his eyes with his knuckles.

“Thank you, my friend. I do not want to put this on the others. We have much problems already, yes?”

“Bey…” Briac shook his head. “You don’t need to stay with us. I’m sure the others would understand if you left.” Family was more important, family would always be more important.

Bey laughed, a little sardonically. “But how will I return home alone? I am foreigner, have no papers, not much money… and it seems they do not like Galmari in this land either. I do not think I would get far without protection.” He sighed. “And that is not considering this curse, which ties us together, insists some of us live and some of us die. If I leave, I might do more damage. No, I cannot do it yet.”

Briac nodded. “When the time comes, my friend, I offer my help.” He held out his hand to shake on it.

Bey was surprised, but genuinely touched that Briac was willing to help him get home. He took the other man’s hand and gave it a hearty shake. “Thank you. I will do whatever I can to repay your kindness.”

Once they had shaken on it, Bey’s gaze wandered to the inn’s entrance. “We should probably go back inside. The others, they might worry.”

They returned inside, and for the first time since meeting this new group, Bey felt a small sense of hope that he might one day be reunited with his homeland.

DM’s Notes: This is a story that Heather and Claire sent me after a series of email exchanges of their characters speaking. I love these sorts of in depth character roleplay moments, but with such a large group (8 players!) and only around 3 hours per session, there just isn’t a whole lot of time afforded. This is a decent and fun solution that I love to see, and all I usually ask of my players is that they forward me the results (and to include them on the blog, and for my own enjoyment of course.)

Episode 16: Reporting in at Roadshire

Our returning heroes:

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. His time on the road and friendship with Raskin has him seeming to see the wisdom in morally grey options. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. May carry a torch for Edella, and always seems to support options that will line his pockets.

Edella Montfort – Female Human Paladin of Vesper. Somewhat sheltered and naïve but always out to help anyone she comes across and punish evil. The moral center of the group.

Shren – Male Ratman Alchemist. Deadpan maker of potions and concoctions always seeking more recipes to master.

Zenga – Female Human Witch. With her hexes, magic, grey morals and penchant for necromantic spells, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (whom she seems to think is her brother) Janis.

Beybulat Tasho of Tribe Abrek aka “Bey” – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar, Bey’s skill in the local language is dicey but his large size, strong muscles and fast blades more than make up for it.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. Loves combat, dislikes men and usually only worries about healing once the fighting is done.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat and is currently rattled by his recent brush with death.

Hillend – Female Halfling peasant NPC. One of two surviving adults from the hamlet of Cliffbarrow. Being escorted by the group to Roadshire along with the five surviving children of the hamlet.

Jemmi – Female Halfling peasant NPC. The other surviving adult from the hamlet of Cliffbarrow. She seems more comfortable caring for the surviving children than dealing with the other issues of the massacre of her hometown.

19th of Unicorn, 1159 M.R., Hamlet of Cliffbarrow

The next day Jemmi and Hillend gathered the children and some supplies. Briac, who lacked a horse of his own, selected one of the Dirty Dogs’ mounts and put the halflings on the remaining horses and rode straight to Roadshire.

They camped for the night, expecting to reach Roadshire by sundown the following day.

20h of Unicorn, 1159 M.R., North of Cliffbarrow

The day was uneventful, and the children were relatively subdued even though many were excited by the novelty of being farther out of their hometown than ever before. As expected they reached Roadshire by dusk.

They discussed heading straight to Mayor Copperpot to report their findings, though Raskin advocated going to Wellsby Tunnley to collect on the reward he’d offered to bring him a first report, and then arresting him as soon as they received their coin. Ultimately, the group decided it was best to go to the mayor instead, and let him decide what should be done.

First, they decided that they should probably drop off the survivors. Hillend said they’d planned to go the temple of Yondalla to get their footing in the city, but the group decided that one of them should probably be present in the report to the mayor. Ultimately Jemmi took the children to the temple and Hillend joined the group.

At the mayor’s residence they were again greeted by Bartleby, the mayor’s butler, who invited them in and agreed to alert the mayor that they had returned. After a brief wait the mayor’s bodyguard, Arabella Goodbody, announced the mayor would see them now.

Again, everyone was escorted up to the mayor’s office where everyone had to cram in. Except for Shren and Hillend, who sat in the chairs before the desk, the group was rather uncomfortable. They provided a report to Mayor Copperpot promptly and handed over the letter found on Prinda implicating former mayor Wellsby Tunnley in hiring the Dirty Dogs to ravage Cliffbarrow and the surrounding lands.

The mayor expressed shock at the contents and stated he’d never have thought that Wellsby would perform such a vile deed. Raskin asked where the former mayor would get so much money to hire mercenaries and pay them, and Mayor Copperpot advised that his parents had been well off and that he had a bustling import/export business.

Froderick inquired about the welfare of the survivors of Cliffbarrow and if there were any programs that might be in place to help them. The mayor advised that the temple of Yondolla typically handled such things but that he’d take a personal interest in their case and do his best to ensure they had everything they needed to rebuild their lives in Roadshire or, if they chose, another town. He asked Bartleby to take Hillend to the temple and work with the survivors of Cliffbarrow to ensure that their needs were seen to. Edella also gave Hillend a pouch of gold for the survivors to restart their lives.

He then announced that he’d presumed the group would succeed, and thus had made arrangements with a gem dealer who owed him a favor to have a diamond delivered to the temple of Arvoreen and had spoken with Guardian Maxima to cover the cost of resurrecting Edna Maude.

Mayor Copperpot lamented that he’d have to have the Drezzen’s Destroyers arrest Wellsby Tunnley. Froderick offered to have the group perform this service for him. The mayor agreed and offered them 50 gold pieces each for the service.

Arabella led the group outside where she flagged down two Drezzen’s Destroyers and ordered them to help them all arrest the former mayor. The soldiers agreed and they all made their way to the former mayor’s house.

Upon arrival they all knocked on the door, and Wellsby answered. They advised him he was under arrest, and the former mayor protested vehemently but did not resist. He was led off by the soldiers, and Arabella paid the group and departed as well.

Wellsby Honorfox
Wellsby Tunnley

Left alone, the group decided to search Wellsby’s house to see if there was any more incriminating evidence. They found that they’d interrupted Wellsby’s dinner, which Raskin and Shren finished off for him.

The group split up and searched the house, finding a great deal of art objects around. In Wellsby’s office Bey and Delilah found a lockbox and a small pouch of platinum pieces and a boring ledger detailing sales and purchases of Wellsby’s import/export business.

Shren ended up finding Wellsby’s armor, sword and shield in his bedroom closet. Edella and Raskin located a second office in the attic and a hidden vault, although the lock and strange series of buttons embedded in the door proved too complex.

It was Zenga who came upon the clue to allow them access to the vault. In one of the rooms was a picture in a platinum frame of a large key floating in the air with a meadow full of of pigs behind the key. She examined the picture but all they could find was a word written in Halfling on the back of it. Fortunately Delilah could read hafling and translated it to “lard.” Zenga made for the kitchen, seeking a can of pig lard. Finding it easily she found it empty except for a key. Running the key upstairs Raskin used it to open the door, though he nearly lost his hand by a guillotine-like trap embedded above the vault’s door.

Within the vault they found three treasure chests and a huge marble statue of a halfling with several swords. Two of the chests were filled with coins and the third, smaller, chest had several gems in it.

Much of the party was excited at their vast payday, but Edella and Briac objected, stating that they were not there to steal from the former mayor and that they should leave it. A fierce debate erupted, but eventually Edella forbade stealing the money arguing that if Wellsby was guilty of the crimes he was accused of his funds should go to the community, not to them.

Edella Montfort
Edella Montfort. Not pictured: Her stern “I forbid stealing” face.

Begrudgingly, the rest of the party could not figure out how to steal from the vault without Briac and Edella seeing them and they closed the vault and departed (it was only later that Bey realized he’d accidently stolen the lockbox from Wellsby’s office, as he’d stashed it in his pack to have Raskin open it and forgotten to put back.)

As they were about to leave they found a Drezzen’s Destroyer out front guarding the place. Since they probably weren’t technically supposed to be there tossing the place, the group slipped out the back and returned to the Come On Inn to rest and celebrate their victory. Froderick and Raskin were free with the information that they’d slain the “pirates” ravaging the countryside and rescued the surviving members of Cliffbarrow. As a result the group were hailed as heroes and the free drinks flowed. Many of the group imbibed heartily, enjoying the fruits of their success late into the night.

DM’s Notes: Mostly just a wrapup adventure here. The PC’s got the poor surviors of Cliffbarrow back to Roadshire and made sure they were squared away. One or two of the players (though not their characters) suspected that Mayor Copperpot may not be as benevolent as he seemed (or Wellsby as guilty as HE seemed) but they had no proof, and no real inclination to dig deeper.

Trying to plunder Wellsby’s house proved to be entertaining, but ultimately fruitless as Briac and Edella refused to allow the PC’s to rob it. Still, the feeling of relief when Raskin managed to avoid losing his hand to the nasty trap and the feeling of group wide joy when Zenga figured out the riddle to the key were palpable.