Monday, April 4, 2016

Nightmares of the Black Goat [ACR-004]

... in which the Truth is Revealed ...

The Party
  • Boreas, 6th level Winter Mage
  • Pendergast, 5th level Dusk Mage
  • Alois, 5th level Cleric of the Unfettered Raven
  • Cairn, 3rd level Dwarf Fighter Anointed of Narkul
  • Ichabod the Lucky, 1st level Fighter 

A much better mix than last time ... let's hope this goes well for them!

Session Highlights

  • The characters spend much time going over the clues they have gathered; identifying rumors vs. facts; and postulating theories to determine a course of action.  This alone blows my GM mind.
  • Fritz Oon's establishment was attacked by the Goat-Man which caused a huge fire in the Guildhall Warehouse district.
  • The party got a lead on a witch in Callistown and discovered the family of Aggie Penwith
  • Aggie was killed by the nightmares.  Her Cousin Braget dies the sam way three days before.  She used to work for Marlowe VonManx!
  • Braget, it was discovered, was a serial killer/rapist in addition to being a devout worshiper of the Black Goat!
  • There was a mighty fight with an Unholy Golem of the Black Goat.
  • Meeting with Jasmine, steward of VonManx estate they found out Aggie was fired and went to work for Hagren of House Orzin.
  • The party then found out that there was a price on Boreas' head!
  • Using some clever tactics and god awful good die rolls the party captured their would-be assassins, charmed them, and using some awesome magicial illusions delivered the head of Boreas to Jackie the Blighter.
  • Not surprisingly, that turned into a fight, which the party won.
  • Turns out that Hagren never meant to kill Tyrna - that was an accident.  Everything after that was just cleaning up loose ends.  Braget because he introduced the Black Goat magic, Aggie because she introduced Braget, Micha because he failed to plant fake love letters (before Tyrna's death), Edmun because he planted the nightmare under Micha, and Oon because Hagren had gone mad with power and was now just trying to kill everyone on his "list".
  • The party encountered the Sword Wraith of the Black Goat - a form of pure shadow, great goat horns, and red pinpoints of hateful light.
  • Alois' mighty faith held the thing at bay while Pendergast and Boreas used their arcane knowledge to use the summoning circle it was nesting in to actually banish the creature.
  • Moments later Hagren came rushing in and was summarily beaten down.
  • The party turned Hagren over to VonManx and the list of cult members to the Praetoria.
  • Heroes again the party recieved full recognition of ther valorous deeds
  • They now have the loyalty of the Penwith children (all 12) - contacts in Callistown
  • The admiration and patronage of the Noble House VonManx - useful for getting cool adventures and jobs
  • Favored Status among the Tower - giving them some minor authority and the occasional "free pass"

GM Notes
This was a tough adventure, but I took a new way of writing it up.  Mystery adventures are notoriously crap in RPGs, but using a few clever tricks, I think I nailed it.

1) The plot was actually very simple, but not revealed.  The party was thrown into the middle of a plot that was under way.  Half the adventure was figuring out what was going on and the other half was stopping it.

2) Locations, and NPCs.  Each location of the adventure and each NPC in the adventure got a 4 bullet point write-up. This forced me to keep things simple and efficient and keep the adventure focused.  It also left room for improvisation which is important in these things.  Each note also referenced at least one other location or NPC, creating a web of activity.

3) Clues are the meat of a mystery.  I made sure that there were multiple ways to find a particular location or NPC, but only a few clues as to the specific situations.  This gave the PCs a mind map to work from - they know House Orzin was involved, but not exactly how until they talked to NPCs and poked connected events.  I tried to avoid "required clues" - and at no point did I need to feed or railroad the party - the players were awesome.

4) Red Herrings  ... I made none.  There were some ambiguous clues and the Players gathered some irrelevant information but, much like I expected, they created their own red herrings to follow.  I think in an RPG red herrings are a waste of time to prepare as they will crop up on their own.  Players tend to latch onto crazy ideas and run with them.  I let the players do this a few times but made sure the distraction was short lived - as adults we only have so much time to play games and spending an entire session investigating something that turns out to be useless would be a real bummer.

5) Timelines and Action were super important to keep things moving forward.  I had a timeline of what happened before "Day 0" when the party was directly involved and I had what the next 2 weeks would look like if the party did not get involved.  Of course they did get involved.  A great examples is that Fritz Oon was going to be the next victim.  But the party identified Fritz as an NPC to talk to earlier than that and warned him that there was some shit going down so Fritz beefed up security and wasn't killed.  The action keep the tension up and the party moving to resolve the issue without spending a "week resting" or any of that nonsense.  It worked out great.

This ended up being one of the most exhausing games I've run but also the most satisfying.  Thanks to my players for making this great!