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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Crawlin'

Everybody is excused from commenting on this one. Hell, you're all excused from READing it. There are few things more boring than watching other people roleplay, but one of those things is doubtless reading about it.

Okay. Because the greeks don't want no geeks... or... something... Dungeon Run Blogging --

I've been running my World of Empire campaign again sporadically since Nate moved down here, for a very small family party that always consists of Nate and SuperWife's characters (Gory and T'Cheyne, the last is pronounced like 'machine' if you sub in a 't' for the 'm'), and that often or even usually includes one or sometimes both of the older two SuperKids' characters (whose names I cannot remember right now -- well, Super Dependable Teen's is something unpronouncable like S'Keeaaa, and she's on this kick of sleeping with every male NPC she runs across because she knows it aggravates her mother, so the rest of the party all just call her 'Skank', and Super Drama Teen's is something like 'Gara', but as the other PCs are members of a very dark skinned race known as Northarks, and Gara is a very paleskinned Sothark, she's mostly known as 'Token' -- hey, we're all SOUTH PARK fans around here, deal with it and move on).

I tried to set up a 'get your feet wet' scenario that would be simple and straightforward, without the choking layers of political intrigue and behind-the- scenes machinations I normally plaster every adventure liberally with, all of which is usually pointless anyway, because none of my players ever pay any attention to any of it. To that end, I contrived a way for the party to come into possession of an old stone tablet that supposedly contained a vital clue to a centuries old, long hidden pirate horde.

The gimmick was, the stone tablet was actually magically preserved by a stasis spell, and inside it, there was a scrap of vellum on which was written a detailed map. The party had to (a) figure out there was a stasis on the tablet, and then (b) get it removed, after which they would have to (c) figure out that there was something hidden inside the tablet and get it out. (With the stasis off, that last could be accomplished as easily as dropping the tablet onto a hard surface from a few feet in the air.) Then they'd have a treasure map, which would lead to a big horde of goodies guarded by a fairly low level monster (for my campaign, anyway; basically, a giant worm, called, in a fit of brilliant dungeon master originality, a wurm).

As always, nothing went as planned, but eventually, the gang managed to access the map and with some backing from the Temple of Silver and Gold (in exchange for a 50% cut of any eventual loot) they headed out of Sottli Ban to a nearby city/military base called Safeharbor. Now, Sottli Ban is a pretty wide open town, at least, in the outer area where the foreigners all live it is. (The inner area, known as the Secret City, is something quite different, but only high caste Sottles get to go there, so it doesn't much matter to the vast majority of player characters.)

The Sottle Merchant's Council handles all interactions between the Sottle race and non-Sottles; they prefer to hire a crew of non Sottle mercenaries to handle the dirty work of actually patrolling the outer city streets and keeping the thievery, arson, rape, assault, and murder to a reasonable minimum (mostly because thievery, arson, rape, assault, and murder tend to interfere with the orderly collection of tax revenues and trade tariffs). To be honest, I'd have to check my notebooks to see who the current mercenary captain "King" of Sottli Ban is, but it didn't matter, as the player characters didn't interact with anyone on that social level.

The thing of it is, is, this basically boils down to one law in Sottli Ban -- don't fuck with a Sottle under any circumstances, and don't fuck with anyone who has more money than you if there's a chance you might get caught doing it.

After the freewheeling near-chaos of Sottli Ban, the players found the rather more disciplined atmosphere of Safeharbor (which is, essentially, a military outpost of the very lawful Kingdom of Ona-Tengu) to be a real buzz-kill. Having to be rigorously questioned by Tengish Knights before they could even enter the City Gates was a bummer for the PC gang after the 'anything goes as long as you've got bribe money handy' ambiance of their previous base of operations. Once inside the city, the party's search for a ship that would take them to the little island in Lake Safeharbor where the hidden pirate horde lay ran into a snag when T'Cheyne stopped a very well dressed Sottle and his equally well dressed male offspring to ask for directions.

Sottles are a race of prickly bastards under the best circumstances. Short, fat, hairless, and possessed of bright yellow, always oily looking skin, Sottles know full well that they are the laughingstock of the River, even if few are foolhardy enough to ridicule one of them to his or her face. T'Cheyne, however, had little experience in my RPG, and wasn't up on the niceties of social intercourse with the annoying, but generally very powerful, little butterballs. Plus, she completely ignored my wise DM cautionary advise about taking the negative attribute Smart Ass ("you'll die if you do"), all of which led to the following exchange on the Safeharbor waterfront:

T'CHEYNE: Say, can you tell me how to get to the local Temple of Silver and Gold?
SOTTLE: Certainly. My price for that assistance will be ten pieces of gold.
T'CHEYNE: WHAT? Ten GOLD?? Are you and your monkey going to carry us there on your backs?

The 'your monkey' reference accompanied by a hand gesture indicating the Sottle's son, of course.

Now... well, where do I start? Sottles think of themselves, with no irony or sense of humor at all, as 'the Great Race', because for all their inborn physical inferiority to every other human subrace, they tend to be extremely intelligent, intuitive, and strong willed, which they think is more important than simple brute force. In addition, Sottles are all born with the otherwise expensive Magical Talent attribute, meaning they all have at least some measure of natural ability as mages. This makes them bad people to offend, although, as noted, every other race on the River laughs at them relentlessly behind their fat greasy yellow asses.

In addition to this, Sottles feel they themselves are 'the brains' of the human race, and as such, are above all physical labor -- such tedium is for the lesser races, of course. So, you know, in addition to the sheer effrontery of daring to talk back to a member of the Great Race, T'Cheyne had also added in (a) a direct racial insult (the monkey reference) and (b) the implied insult that this Sottle would stoop to do manual labor, as a non-Sottle's beast of burden.

Naturally, this Sottle immediately tried to blast T'Cheyne (and everyone around her) into carbonized fragments with a pretty impressive fireball; fortunately, doing spells quickly in my magic system increases the difficulty significantly, and takes its toll in other ways, as well. The Sottle fumbled the spell, and then failed his succeeding pain roll, collapsing to his knees.... which gave the party time to hastily beat feet. (Nate was very nearly paralyzed with laughter, having never in his life seen a player character hand such a grievous insult to a Sottle, but he managed to sputter out instructions to the effect that he was running away with the rest of the party, so I let him retreat with the gang.)

Of course, the Sottle remembered where they had asked for directions to, and by the time the group finally made their way to the Safeharbor Temple of Silver and Gold, there was a pretty big party of heavily armed mercenary retainers waiting for them outside. Fortunately, the Temple wanted to protect its investment to date in the loot-recovery mission, so some priests snuck the PCs in through a secret tunnel.

Then the politics started. Sottles have their own weird religion, precluding worship of any of the 'pagan' gods (like the Goddess of Silver and Gold) which was a break for the PCs, since the Temple would not have been inclined to turn worshippers (the PCs are all baptized to the Goddess of Silver and Gold, natch) over to heathens. However, the Temple of Silver and Gold does a lot of business in Sottli Ban, and they like money a lot (go figure), and T'Cheyne's brazen insult had started attracting high level pressure from the Sottle Merchants Council. So, first the priesthood of Silver and Gold offered the party the opportunity to become martyrs to the Goddess, guaranteeing them very high, very cushy spots in heaven. Astonishingly, the party turned this opportunity down, after which, the Temple hired a boat to take them off to the treasure island, and smuggled them on board it.... while noting that all of these additional expenses would have to be taken off the top of any loot recovery, before it was divided into shares.

Thus and so, hi ho, hi ho, it's off the party goes to Wurm Island.

Where, after various misadventures and malfeasances, they managed to get into the underground loot chamber and fill their backpacks with goodies and get back out again without ever laying eyes on the big guardian monster itself. (Figures.) Eventually, they made their way back to the Temple of Silver and Gold in Sottli Ban (there were other complications intended to make this difficult, like a rival mercenary group working for the Temple of War waiting out in the bay on a ship of their own, but the PCs used up one of the major magical items they found in the horde to bypass all that crap -- again, it figures) where after expenses and the Temple taking its share, each party member ended up with around 50 silver pieces ($500,000) and one fairly powerful magical item each.

T'Cheyne also discovered she had a 25 silver piece bounty on her head, while the rest of the party had 15 silver apiece on theirs, simply for standing there and watching a Sottle be grievously insulted. As someone or other once noted, it's hard to live with a death mark, but, fortunately, the Temple of Time needed a group of idiots to go on a mission several thousand years into the past, to straighten out some kind of temporal disruption that was threatening to wipe out all of reality. The player characters were advised that if they would undertake this little errand, well, the Temple of Time would be happy to clear up their misunderstanding with the Sottle Merchants Council. Otherwise, they were on their own. Since nobody much liked the idea of being hunted to the ends of the earth by every bounty hunter in existence, they decided to do the time travel thing.

After a mad 72 hours of shopping, during which Gory pissed off, and then slaughtered, about half a dozen local Ulvane (a feral, somewhat wolflike human subrace), the party strolled up the street to the Temple of Time. On the way, several more Ulvane, along with their pet wolves, ambushed the party, and got killed for their trouble just like their friends. In the battle, Skank's dog, whose name I can't remember, but everyone called him 'Meat Snack', ran off, never to be seen again.

After all this, the PCs, accompanied by an NPC Priest of Temporos (who would have no clerical powers in the past, for reasons too complicated to go into here) all got sent hurtling back several millenia into the heyday of the Second Kingdom, sometimes known as the Age of Antiquities. Here they were promptly captured by the Council of Hierarchs (a religious predecessor to the modern day Merchants Council). Being powerful mages, the Council had detected some kind of disruption in the fabric of time and had assumed it must be the player characters (in fact, it wasn't; it was the time traveling Priests of the Samaqel that the party had come back in time to stop). Being unsure just what effect it would have on the pattern of space/time if they killed temporal travelers from the distant future millenia before they were born, the Council decided to put the entire party into stasis. After which, the time traveling Priests of the Samaqel went ahead with their plan, which involved using various stolen necromantic magic items to, basically, kill every living being in the entire campaign area. One particular Priest of the Samaqel escaped death by putting himself into stasis immediately after initiating the mass destruction effect.

Thousands of years in the future, the Samaqel (a huge, godlike, and very dislikeable dragon-creature) discovered the PC party, and one of its Priests, preserved in stasis, amongst the otherwise vast, lifeless wasteland that was the entire River area, and brought them all to an audience with It, to find out what the hell was up with them. Once out of stasis, the Priest claimed that he had orchestrated the entire holocaust, thousands of years in the past, because otherwise, the Samaqel would have been killed through the machinations of other player characters. Said event which is a large part of the relatively recent history of my campaign area, and this isn't the first scenario I've done where aggravating Priests of the Samaqel have tried to alter time in such a way as to prevent the big goddam lizard's death. They're always trying to pull some shit like that... although this was the first time I depicted one actually pulling it off.

The Samaqel found the priest's tale... well... dubious... but sure as shit, something had happened a few thousand years ago that had sucked the life force out of every other living creature in the entire Ancient Lands, so It opened up a wormhole through time in order to observe first hand this Priest in action.

At this point, for reasons as yet unknown to the party, they woke up from their own stasis, and promptly jumped down the wormhole leading thousands of years into the past to the very crucial actions/moments they had originally been sent back in time to prevent. Which they did, and in so doing, they erased the entire future timeline in which they had been put in stasis and the Priests had wiped out all life on the River resulting in them being taken before the Samaqel, thus restoring the original history in which the Samaqel had died. (Whew.)

With that wrapped up, the PCs had fully expected they would pop back into their present day (thousands of years in the future) -- the Temple of Time had indicated that according to their calculations, this should happen, or was likely to happen, if the original historical disruption was undone.

However, this did not occur. The PCs remained in the Second Kingdom, thousands of years before they were born. Even more interestingly, T'Cheyne discovered she seemed to have two sets of memories... one of a present day existence under the name 'Zara', and another of her future life as T'Cheyne. And her current incarnation seemed to be a pretty historically significant personage, as there was a well known 'Zara' who was a legendary Northark Queen from the Second Kingdom. (The Priest of Time NPC helpfully advised the party of this; he was chosen for the mission due to his comprehensive scholarly knowledge of the First and Second Kingdoms.)

After this, the PCs used up another powerful magic item escaping from some murderous vines in a ruined city, traveling by supernatural means to the Second Kingdom's Sottli Ban, which they found to be very different from the city they remembered in the far future. Wandering around aimlessly, gaping at the sights, they encountered a member of the High Guard, a sort of magical city patrol that flies around ancient Sottli Ban on mystical metal discs seeking out lawbreakers and other public nuisances.

Detecting an 'unauthorized' magic item on Gory, this High Guard rotter promptly confiscated Gory's glow-wood torch (a relic of the far future). At that point I made the players all roll dice to see if the Guard wanted to scan any of them for magic items (if he had, he'd have most likely set off every magic detection alarm in the city) and Super Drama Teen rolled very badly. She would almost certainly have had all her magic goodies confiscated (or, alternatively, the party would have had to fight a High Guard, which they did not want to do), so instead, she burned most of her luck points altering the result of the dice roll just enough to avoid a pat down. (The very real panic on Super Drama Teen's face when she rolled poorly and realized she might be on the verge of losing all her stuff was absolutely hilarious, although I realize it's very much a 'you had to be there' kind of thing. In fact, I suspect this entire entry could be described that way... but... anyway...)

The PCs had already realized that in this bizarrely and unpleasantly structured historical era, simply walking around on the streets in armor with weapons was enough to draw unwelcome attention from the Watch. Now, discovering that magic items were closely regulated and that any 'unauthorized' ones were subject to confiscation, they became pretty desperate to find some place they could lay low and make plans. So they ended up in a fairly crappy section of town, staying in a sordid little dive, trying to figure out what they were going to do next.

The PCs had also previously realized that in this historical era, most of their money wasn't worth very much (silver coins are muy valuable in my present day campaign area; not so much in the Second Kingdom, where silver is much more commonly circulated as coinage since most of it isn't being used for weaponry to fight Undead).

So I decided to help everybody out with another fairly simple mission -- if they'd rob a local warehouse at the behest of their new innkeeper, he'd let them keep anything they got other than a few specific items that he wanted. I figured this was fairly foolproof, as the warehouse didn't have a lot of security on it,and would probably lead to further adventures, since the loot in the warehouse belonged to the local equivalent of the Thieves Guild (known as the Eighth Guild in the Second Kingdom, although in the future/present day campaign area, the same outfit calls itself The Kinship).

For reasons that still perplex me, the group decided to trail around behind a couple of Eighth Guild enforcers who were out with a cart collecting protection money from all the local businesses. I think the PCs had some vague plan of trying to bribe or seduce one or both of these guys to get information on the warehouse's security. Whatever the plan was, it all went spectacularly pear shaped when the insanely overconfident Gory (DM Tip #2 when setting up characters in the World of Empire -- the Negative Attribute Overconfident will also kill you, don't take it) decided to walk up to these guys, and...

Well, here's how it went:

GORY: Hi. I'm from the 9th Guild. I'm collecting tribute. Pay up.
8TH GUILD GUYS: ::staring at the raving lunatic in amused disbelief:: WTF?
GORY: Okay, then. ::quickdrawing weapon, cutting a giant chunk of meat out of one goon's upper thigh::
CUT GOON: AAAAAAAAUUUUUHHHH HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK AAAAAAUUUUUUUHHHHHHH ::falls to ground rolling around trying frantically to staunch the geyser of blood fountaining from his femoral artery::
OTHER GOON: WTF!?! ::unable to believe anyone is this fucking insane::
GORY: Right! ::slashing again, cutting a huge gash across the other goon's chest::
OTHER GOON: GYAAAAHHHHHH MotherFUCKER AAARRRGGGGHHHHH ::falling to ground bleeding profusely while screaming in pain::

All this, while the other three player characters, whose players had been under the impression only seconds prior to this that Gory's vaguely described plan of action had been something, you know, less completely fucking demented and/or retarded, stood there staring in appalled incredulity.

So then Gory drags both goons and their cart full of loot off into an alley. Apparently he was planning to torture the thugs for information, after which, he was going to run off with all the loot. The rest of the PCs were all standing around wringing their hands and going "Dude, what the hell are you DOing, you're going to get us all KILLED", at which point, an Eighth Guild archer on an adjoining rooftop shot Gory twice, once in the thigh, and once in the face.

This prompted the entire party to run like hell down the alley (well, Gorey was limping like hell, but, still, he was moving as fast as he could) where they emerged into a large open area behind several adjoining buildings... each of which has a currently undetermined number of Eighth Guild archers on it, ready to make a very dead example of my dumb ass player characters.

Which was where I said "To Be Continued" and ended the roleplaying for the evening.

Things aren't necessarily as bad as they look. A lot of how this comes out will depend on dice rolls. I've drawn a map and there are six rooftops, each of which has 1 to 3 Eighth Guild archers on it; the exact number on each will be determined by dice rolls. If the party manages to roll very low, well, there could be as few as six archers shooting at them. (Not likely, but, still, there's a chance.) After we determine the number of archers, then the PCs will start making Luck rolls to see which of them each archer is shooting at. (I don't assume that a group of NPCs possesses some ant-like collective consciousness; chances are, however many archers there may be, they're going to be picking their targets individually. Which could mean every player character gets a few arrows shot at them, or, one PC doesn't get any arrows shot at him/her at all, or one particularly luckless PC ends up attracting ALL the arrows. It's just how the bones roll.)

I've also set up a table to randomly generate the skill level of each archer, and what size bows each archer has, all of which will very much factor into the outcome. (If you have to get shot at, it's best if the guy shooting at you is using a short bow and isn't very good with it. On the other hand, you roll up a master archer using a recurve longbow, well, you'd better hope he's shooting at someone else.)

Personally, I think if the PCs just put their heads down and run like hell straight through it, nearly any of them have a measurable chance of surviving.

Well... maybe not Gory.

3 Comments:

At 7:59 AM , Anonymous X said...

Not a bad little yarn.

 
At 10:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I waste him with my crossbow!"
I always wanted to say that, especially reading about the best laid plans of mice, men and GM

Tony C.
http://mahtwocents.blogharbor.com

 
At 6:23 PM , Blogger The Bunnyman said...

X,

Thanks.

Tony,

Everybody would prefer to just shoot the bad guy. It rarely works out that well, though. (And when it does, it's usually bad DMing.)

 

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