Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Adventure Chronicles!

One of my fabulous players has started doing sweet write-ups of our sessions.  This is from the game last Friday (2019.01.11). It is really fun to see things as remembered by the players. I'm also pretty pleased at how much gets jam packed into 4-5 hours of play :)

Teluni’s Rest…
Our party begins this installation of our adventure in the bowels of Teluni’s Rest, a brutal Gorhaven dungeon, seeking answers to the mysterious end of the Dungeon Kings, and the Cypher that may lead to a Timeless Vault. A wave of darkness falls over the party, enveloping us in a cloak of miasma and despair. As the pitch creeps in, Jacob gets a foreboding sensation from the Astral. The group hears a terrible voice beckoning from the darkness, our torches flicker, and reality itself seems to grow dim. Despite the evil lurking around us, we press on. After a few moments of traveling we notice that the physical aspect of the dungeon has been altered, with tiles and flagstones appearing bent and unleveled. We come to a split hallway, with a pile of bones covered in fungus in the center path. Freddy insists that Jerry inspect the bones, and after a few terse words, Jerry agrees. As Jerry inspects the pile, Jacob feels another dark presence, and steps into the astral. His body goes limp and falls to the ground, and Joe tries to catch him. But to the horror of the group, Jacob’s body is merely a pile of limp flesh. While in the astral, Jacob witnesses things being erased, portions of reality ceasing to exist. Things go from bad to worse as the group hears a giant metallic slam behind us. A massive, wrought iron portcullis slams shut, trapping the party. Everyone swears there wasn’t such a gate there a moment ago… Jacob reenters his physical body, and begins frantically drawing a magic rune in an attempt to barricade ourselves against the darkness. The spell attempt is successful, but Freddy and Jerry are left outside the circle’s influence, in the dark. Jacob beckons Freddy inside the ring, however Freddy instead hears Jacob mocking him viciously. Aker spots a huge shadow moving in the darkness, and chases after it. Within a few seconds the group hears his body fall to the ground. In the darkness, Freddy spots Aker’s limp body dragged away by a monstrous shadow. Igneous Fist ties a rope to Joe and runs into the darkness to rescue Aker. As Fist leaves the circle, Joe feels the rope go limp and disappear, and pulls hard to bring Fist back into the protective region. Jacob realizes a stationary circle is useless in this situation, and begins transferring the spell’s power to himself, mobilizing it. Freddy runs to Aker’s downed body, and attempts to revive him. While doing so, he hears a beast mocking him and his futility. Despite the insults, Freddy fends off the creature and revives Aker. Freddy attacks the beast, a giant shadow specked with silver. He is quickly joined in combat by Aker, Fist, and Joe. The battle seems unwinnable, our attacks pass through the creatures flesh, leaving it apparently unharmed. The creatures claws are all too real though, and multiple party members are nearly mauled to death in the process of retreat. Once the group has safely retreated into the circle, Jacob’s spell binds to him in an illuminating blood mandala. The group can now travel in the darkness. We inspect the portcullis gate. It’s thick, heavy, and embedded in the ground. After several failed attempts to open it, the party realizes we are trapped. Joe goes back to the previous room to retrieve 2 keening hound eggs, giving the squirming one to Freddy. Marching on, the party walks down a hallway resembling an ossuary, with desecrated bodies and bones sticking out of the walls. A brief earthquake dislodges a body from its tomb. It contains nothing of value. In the distance, the party hears the cries of keening hounds. Igneous Fist spots a bricked up passageway, and pries a brick out of the wall. The room inside looks to contain valuable objects, so the group disassembles parts of the wall to enter. We find a large tomb containing a sarcophagus, and a statue depicting a female guardian warrior, wielding a glaive. The tomb contains other statues of female soldiers. The sarcophagus holds the remains of a small being, resting on what look like decayed wings. After looting the room of some small silver containers, and offering thanks at the altar, a swarm of keening hound cries startle the party. Over a dozen hounds bear down on us, snarling and snapping. Freddy charges directly at the pack, but gets taken down quickly. The party defensively fights the hounds, desperately trying to rescue Freddy, who incurs great damage from the swarming bites. Jacob rescues Freddy using another blood spell, and the group retreats into the tomb. However the hounds do not back away, and press the attack. Further, a rumbling black shadow swarm begins charging down the hallway directly at us. With all hope lost, the group braces for death… But instead of our demise, we’re greeted by a rescue party of Hammers, along with a local guild (GDD chapter 645, The Pistoliers of Windward), who triumphantly lifts the trophy corpse of the creature who was impersonating Petey. The excited guild offers to purchase the contract to Teluni’s Rest, which our party accepts. Sergeant Michaelson of the Hammers approaches us, and informs us we’ve been down here for a few days, warranting the rescue mission. Also, he tells us the Serpents Eyes has eliminated the Black Leg Gang, and placed a bounty of 100 groats on our heads. Finally, our ex-henchman Jordan has gone crazy and escaped, murmuring about “the blackwater”… Licking our wounds, our party heads back to the Crossed Rapiers, which has scorch marks and boarded windows on the front. We find out that after the BLG was wiped out, Helen came to us for help. Niko’s men came looking for us, and in the ensuing fight, Helen lost her life protecting our homestead, bravely managing to kill 2 of Niko’s enforcers. She eventually fell to a bullet directly to the head. Helen left behind a note from Abby, detailing her love and heartbreak. The heartfelt note makes the party mourn for Helen’s death, but we can’t help but notice possible clues in the writing. The note contains several spelling errors and inappropriate capital letters. An odd thing for Abby, who was known for her intelligence and schooling. The party suspects this may be linked to the infamous Cypher which plagued the Dungeon Kings, and now us. Inspecting the site of Helen’s death, Freddy digs out the slug that ended her life, and hands it to Jacob. Disoriented from the recent turmoil, the party decides to address several ongoing mysteries. Jacob and Joe go to Mikhail’s bookshop and research the fairy coffins we found in the Tomb. While extremely difficult and dangerous, it is possible to leash a fairy to one’s service. We also find that the tomb we encounter was likely a follower of St. Brigit, a founding member of the Templar Order. She was a legendary warrior with untold acts of bravery and heroism. But her status earned her many enemies in the church, and her deeds were nearly wiped from history. Her tomb is now considered lost. Aker, Igneous Fist, and Freddy travel outside the city to the Chancery of Arbitration headquarters in Watcher’s Hill, seeking assistance in the issue of our Serpent’s Eye bounty. The Chancery is a fanciful place, containing strange artifacts and ornate tapestries. While Freddy gorges on delicious quince shortbread cookies and meat pies, Aker explains our Chapter’s situation. The Chancery recommends a nonviolent resolution to our conflict. Despite the danger we’re in, we cannot simply start a war in the streets against the Serpents. The party reconvenes in the Rapiers. Freddy shores up the buildings defenses, and our party hires some muscle to defend the Rapiers while we aren’t here. In his efforts, he hears a rumor that 3 Serpents Eyes members were murdered, execution style, in an alleyway last night. While in the basement, chapter 938 hears a ruckus in the bar, like a party has begun. Investigating the commotion, we discover the legendary scoundrel Killington, of the great chapter Gentlemen of Success, has graced our humble abode. A silver tongued devil, Killington enchants everyone in the bar with his stories, clever wit, and gift of fine wine. But Killington comes here for other reasons, he hints that the destruction of the Black Leg Gang has upset the balance of power in his turf. He “advises” that we fix the issue posthaste, speaking down to us in his otherwise charming way. He thanks us for our hospitality and departs. Desperate to get information on the Serpents Eyes, we interrogate Jerry in the basement for additional information. He doesn’t personally know much about the gang, but says that there’s a SE pickup scheduled in 2 days. Also, he suspects that Bebe, a foul tempered, silly-bearded SE enforcer, will be celebrating the massacre of the BLG for some time. Bebe prefers the “tight waistcoat” treatment from his preferred Seamstress, Carly. The party plans our next move, intent on battling the Serpent’s Eyes to end our bounty, and avenge Helen.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Sewer Adventures

I fucking hate sewer adventures, but as I can't quite put my finger on why, I thought I'd write this blog post to try and find out. This is some stream of consciousness and may be entirely incoherent.  Let's see what happens.

The Usual Ideas
Large fantasy cities have sewers. Fine.  I'm fine with this - we've got magic and dragons so why not a system to pipe shit right out of your home?

They were built long ago and are now infested with monsters ... whoa - hold up. This I have a problem with. If there is a city with a WORKING sewer system, then there are going to be guilds and workers and folks to maintain that system - local politicians will base entire campaigns on getting the sewers working. Maybe A monster from time to time - legendary giant white crocodile in the sewers is pretty sweet - but hordes of zombies? no way. ALso zombies are super duper boring now.

Some local criminal groups using the sewers as a base? Gross. No way. "While planning our next great heist to take down the king let us sip fine tea and ignore the large rats and eternal stench of shit wafting about." But they have magic that makes their clothes not smell ... ok ... then why would anything stink ever if that is magic you can get your hands on?

Necromancers have found an ancient ... STOP. Seriously noone should have a base of operations in shit and piss city!

I hate all of these things.

Good Ideas?
Some possible non-crappy ideas/encounters ... maybe these are awful as well, who knows?

  • Criminal or homeless population uses sewers as a means to get around unseen - there are safe zones and unsafe zones. Unsafe zones might have dangerous terrain (super slippry and you might fall into the cistern) or home to the Lurker or maintenance access points for the sewer masons so too much traffic from others.
  • A single legendary creature that hunts the waterways - that giant croc, perhaps some sort of shark that has adapted to eating garbage and poop and is infected and disgusting, a gelatinous polygon that wanders about eating up the protein and whatnot, big snake? 
  • I'm good with a wererat/skaven lair - those dudes luuuurve the sewers. but these guys are jerks who have been cursed by a witch that lives in the slums (Archeron Point, actually) and are petty and hateful bastards that blame society for their woes. They are moe about whining and complaining than fighting - they are lazy and fat and if they just had a chance of heart the curse would be lifted.
  • A group of sewer workers that are planning on fucking up the sewers for political reasons - think how much turmoil there would be if the Van Olsteele family suddenly had a crap overflow in their basement and how they would lay into the council to get more funds to resolve this and then those funds could be embezled.
  • a gang of teenagers who have found a relatively clean abandoned place and hang out there to do drugs and drink and generally think they are a gang, but they aren't a gang, but their drugs are tainted and now they think the Lord of Filth is making them steal stuff but it is actually one of the wererat bastards who have a lair nearby and are just whispering to them
  • Venomous  blood-sucking spiderbats ... and the weirdo hunters who collect them for bounties as they make great pets for creeper noble dudes. the hunters might be some of the homeless ... omg - what if they are selling the meat along with capture big-ass rats to a corrupt member of the Guild of Butchers and people start getting sick even though some chef has been making mad bank selling a specialty dish and doens't even know and they lynch him ... enter the PC crew ...
  • a blockage is causing a backup and they find like 10 dead bodies ... someone has been dumping them and they built up and caused a serious waste problem; but it turns out a vampire was doing it - or some dude/dudes who are playing at being vampires but are really just cannibals - or they are using that as a distraction to use all the blood in some ritual to summon Grertoth the Destroyer who they want to control to take out the Guild of Candle makers local 312 because they have undercut their prices.
  • big fucking rats - not "giant rats" - just big ones, which are disgusting. probably related to those wererats, distant cousins or their pitiful children and so they have big watery kid eyes instead of rat eyes and their paws are like human hands. these are evidence of something worse, not something worth fighting.
  • after a big storm the water in several of the wells around the city is tainted because the tide pushed the gray water back into he system which overflowed into the canal which supply the wells ... and in doing so it also caused a bunch of old mortar to finally give out now there are cellars that have direct - if tight - squeezes to get down into the sewers and canals. small animals are going missing like crazy because an big-ass octopus got stuck in there and hasn't left yet because the water isn't as super-nasty as it will get in about 2-3 weeks. it will die normally of living in disgusting water or maybe just leave, but until then anyone who travels the underways are at risk. maybe it gets into ta fight with the wererats and the spiderbat hunters are going nuts because they saw it fighting with the giant albino croc.

So maybe i don't hate sewer adventures, I just hate the common banality of sewer adventures. Or most adventures for that matter. I think a lot of this comes from the "scaling" of D&D ... low level characters fight low level monsters. Feh. LotFP has done a great job of kicking that in the nuts and I'm 100% on board for it.

Monsters and encounters and the like in Sorrow in Haven are somewhat scaled - this is a game after all - but not to the extent of modern D&D. I liked old 1e AD&D where a vampire could show up on the first level of a dungeon and wreck your day. It was awesome. Adventuring was frightening and a journey into the Unknown. Monsters were problems to solve, not just bags of XP. I think I was just having a nostalgia moment - uhg. Point is, don't do what everyone else has done. If you are just starting you are BOUND to have the same idea someone else had, we generally base our ideas off what we have encountered and seen before. But if you are going to publish something, don't write the same dreck we've all seen 100 times before.

I'm done.

Game on!