Monday, May 12, 2014

Realms Toowoomba Session # 45 Recap [RPG]

[22 Kythorn 1372]

In Mirabar, Fargrim awakens tired and drawn. His sleep was once again plagued by nightmares of terrible unliving abominations covering the land, but a new vision stood out from the rest. In it, worshippers of Myrkul performed a dark ritual involving unspeakable horrors. When the ritual was finished, the leader of the unholy congregation proclaimed that "The rites of transference are almost complete! All Faerun will reap what they've sown on Highharvestide!" When the others realize Fargrim is unwell, he explains what he saw. Dolcetto takes a particular interest. Soon thereafter, the adventurers leave the city and walk to a glade to the south. Dolcetto leaves a small doll in the crook of a tree to help him remember the location, and Mellia teleports everyone to Tunak's campsite.

When they arrive, Tunak explains that Cammy stole Mellia's horse and rode off to the east. Mellia says she and the others need to reach Silverymoon quickly, so that they can find a magical means of transporting themselves to Thay to rescue Cain. She would teleport them to Silverymoon, but she has never visited it before and thus is unfamiliar with it. Tunak offers to take the travelers on his carriage, but the others are reluctant due to its slow speed. After introducing herself to Tunak, Dolcetto suggests another option, this one involving magickally conjured steeds. However, the plan will have to wait until tomorrow to be put into effect as she needs time to memorize the spell. She notes that travel will be speedier if the group can cross the river and follow a trail into Silverymoon instead of travelling through wilderness.

Mellia notices that Bettina seems moody and withdrawn. After a brief inquiry, Mellia realizes that Bettina is upset with Markus for being so tardy. The spellcaster explains that Markus is somewhat addlebrained from his friend's sudden disappearance and needs time to heal. She persuades the reluctant ship's mistress to travel on foot with Tunak and wait at an inn in Silverymoon until contacted. Then, Mellia flags down a passing barge and bribes one its pilots to ferry herself, Fargrim, Dolcetto, and Markus across the river to the small village of High Hold. There, the group find rooms at an unremarkable inn. Mellia and Dolcetto bury their faces in their respective spellbooks, while Markus continues to talk to the "Cain" bucket and Fargrim talks to an obese merchant named Torrick about the terrible nights' sleep the dwarf has been having. Torrick says that if there's anywhere in the North where someone will find a restful slumber, it's in Silverymoon.

[23 Kythorn 1372]

In the morning, Dolcetto mouths an invocation and two beautiful horses appear out of thin air. Markus and Fargrim try to ride together on one of them, but the steed stumbles under the weight of the two males and all of their gear! The decision is made that each of the males will ride with one of the females. The four adventurers make extraordinary speed heading east, as they push the conjured steeds hard and replace them periodically with magickally-created fresh ones. In just hours, the group see Rauvinwatch Keep in the distance, a sprawling castle and watchtower on a great spur of rock overlooking the river and the road into Silverymoon. The four adventurers are stopped by a patrol of the Argent Legion, and Dolcetto comes under particular scrutiny for her obvious planetouched-features. The guards are friendly but cautious, and warn the group that evildoers will find no refuge in Silverymoon.

The adventurers enter Silverymoon via the west gate and are immediately treated to a beautiful sight. The bustling city is dominated with trees and exquisite stone architecture. Balconies and curving stairways flow alongside many of the buildings, and in the distance to the southeast is the gleaming silver Moonbridge connecting the north and south banks of the city. An atmosphere of peace and tranquility envelops the city, and Fargrim feels that the constant nightmares that torment him would be held at bay as long he remains within its walls. The adventurers make their way to the inn mentioned by Bettina, Wayward House, and find it to be a place of quality decor and quiet, efficient service. The adventurers look askance at the price, but soon find that Silverymoon is simply an expensive place to visit all around. While the others check in, Dolcetto returns to the west gate where she had seen a hired crier saying something about adventurers being wanted. Dolcetto talks to the youth and hears that a strange old wizard named Terrigo Multivar is seeking sell-swords to perform a task for him, and that he offers payment in either gold or transportation across Faerun. Dolcetto finds out that two adventurers have already accepted the deal, and are spending the night at Wayward House before setting out on the task in the morning.

Dolcetto returns to the inn and tells her companions about the opportunity. Markus and Fargrim seem interested, but Mellia thinks the group should focus on a more direct way to get to Thay. Nonetheless, the foursome ask the chamberlain for information about other adventurers staying at Wayward House, and he leads them over to a table in the common room where two men are sitting. One of the men is wearing robes with the cowl up, while the other is a burly fellow with a shovel nearby. Conversation reveals that the first man is named Myst, and Dolcetto realizes that he may have the same heritage she does. The second figure, who is quieter and focussed on drinking, is named Gelkar. The two adventurers have known each other for some time, and acknowledge that they've already accepted Terrigo Multivar's offer. 

Following the directions given by the crier, Dolcetto leads Mellia to the ramshackle house of Terrigo Multivar. Inside, they find the rooms covered with books and arcane paraphenalia on every conceivable surface and apparently in no particular order. Dolcetto is fascinated and soon finds herself lost flipping through tomes, some quite rare. Mellia makes her way through a series of rooms and finds Terrigo, who appears as a slightly befuddled elderly wizard with long droopy mustaches but a very short beard. Terrigo leads Mellia to another room and pulls a dropcloth away from a full-length mirror built into a standalone frame. Images appear in the mirror in succession, many of landscapes but some of rooms or city streets. Terrigo explains that he found the mirror as a young adventurer buried in the sands of Anauroch and that it might be an artifact of ancient Netheril. According to the old wizard, the mirror serves as a magickal portal to the place shown in the mirror. The image changes every thirty seconds, but in a predictable pattern that repeats every 24 hours. Those who step through the mirror are automatically drawn back after a period of time has elapsed, but there appears to be a random range of duration that varies from place to place. Terrigo says he had spent years of his life exploring the different places depicted in the mirror and recording the results, but that as he grew older he'd taken to hiring adventurers to do the exploring for him. Presently, he explains, he's hiring sell-swords to help him retrieve one of his prized possessions (an amulet) stolen by an intruder just this morning. Terrigo says he returned home early from a lecture at the Lady's College to discover the intruder, and after a flurry of spells the burglar was revealed to be a drow—--which the city's mythal should have deterred! The intruder jumped through the mirror and has yet to return. Terrigo promises that adventurers who assist him will be rewarded with gold or travel to any place the mirror allows, and at Mellia's request he confirms in his notes that Thay is a possible option. He says he knows little about the place the drow jumped to, as the last explorer he sent there in 1361 never came back. He suspects the drow itself didn't know where it was going, and sought only to escape. He cautions that Mellia should not think about his offer too long, for the location the drow fled to will appear again in the mirror tomorrow at mid-morning.

After leaving the house, Dolcetto and Mellia talk about whether assisting Terrigo would be a wise idea. Mellia remains skeptical and expresses concern that the group could spend days or weeks wasting time wherever the mirror will take them to instead of rescuing Cain. Dolcetto suggests the group is unlikely to find a faster way, and certainly will not find a cheaper way. She raises the idea of using a Candle of Invocation to bring Cain to the group, but the plan involves several complications, not the least of which is coming up with the funds for the candle to begin with. When they reach the inn, Markus and Fargrim remain in favor of taking up Terrigo's offer. A frustrated Mellia stalks back to her rooom.

That night, Fargrim joins Myst and Gelkar in the common room. Gelkar is reticent to talk about his past, but it becomes clear that he has given his shovel a name! Elsewhere, Dolcetto decides that the group could use guidance, and visits the Temple of Silver Stars, a beautiful structure of curving stone that is devoted to Selune, Goddess of the Moon. Inside, a priestess agrees to perform a simple augury about whether the group should go through the mirror: "there will be great risk, and great reward" is the answer. Dolcetto returns to the inn and conveys this message to Mellia, but the latter is still not fully convinced. 

Markus, meanwhile, has been meditating and has decided to take another try at winning the sword of the legendary Blademaster Isobe Noboru. He travels to Noboru's academy and, following protocol, challenges Noboru's fifth best student to a duel. The student, a large half-orc with pale skin and a greatsword, accepts immediately. Markus and the student, Kronk, enter a specially-enchanted dueling chamber designed to test combatants' ability to fight in less-than-ideal circumstances. In this duel, the room throws up great fountains of fire, but, as with all duels in the room, actual death is quite unlikely as wounds are simulated. When the fight begins, Kronk charges into battle and lands a powerful slash on Markus' torso. The adventurer quickly responds, however, by knocking Kronk's sword out of his hands and jabbing him with several quick rapier thrusts. Kronk tries to recover by swinging wild fists, but Markus easy dodges the lumbering half-orc's attacks, and the duel is soon resolved in Markus' favour. Markus then challenges Noboru's fourth best student, a handsome cat folk duelist nicknamed El Capitan. The duel is set for the morning.

[24 Kythorn 1372]

In the morning, Mellia sets out to find alternative ways to get to Thay quickly. First, she visits the Lady's College, a well-reputed wizardry school in the Conclave of Silverymoon. A tutor explains to Mellia that teleportation spells are barred within the city due its magickal wards, and that most wizards with the power to travel great distances quickly are too focussed on other endeavours to spend their time earning money providing others with transportation. The tutor goes on to say, however, that as a Fellow of the College, Mellia could gain access to every spell in the library's vast repository of books and gain other advantages as well. The entry fee is steep, however: 5,000 gp. Mellia asks instead for the name of a shop specializing in scrolls or spells-for-hire, and is directed to a building in Northbank called The Shining Scroll. Inside the long, narrow shop, Mellia encounters a woman with short blue hair, sparkling green eyes, and strange tattoos. The woman introduces herself as Xara Tantlor, the store's proprietor. Although she has various scrolls and potions for sale, she does not have the Scrying spell Mellia is looking for, and although she will Teleport individuals for a fee, she lacks access to more powerful magickal travel spells. Mellia is frustrated, and when she complains and then asks for a referral to another shop, she is quickly shown the door.

Markus returns to Isobe Noboru's training academy for his duel with El Capitan. The top student announces that the victor in this duel is the first duelist to score four hits on his opponent. This time, the enchanted dueling room creates a series of small platforms that appear and disappear at random intervals. The platforms have little effect, however, as a glitch in the magic makes the same ones disappear and appear repeatedly. The duel between Markus and the charismatic El Capitan is an ugly one on both sides, full of poor swordplay and awkward parries. Markus' rapier is heavily damaged in the duel, but El Capitan is dazed for several seconds after catching a glancing blow from the hilt of Markus' blade. In the end, with each swordsman tied at three hits, El Capitan succeeds in landing the fourth, winning strike. Markus returns to the inn, dejected.
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Director's Commentary (9/06/2017)

Fargrim's nightmare at the beginning of the session, referencing Highharvestide, was my not-so-subtle sign that the PCs need to hurry up.  It also set a fixed point at which the campaign would end, something that gave me some peace of mind.  It was still months away on the in-game calendar, however.

The PCs reach Silverymoon in this session, a city with a *lot* of lore and an entire sourcebook devoted to it.  I did the best I could, but it's really hard to "accurately" portray a city with so much written about it.

Terrigo Multivar, the somewhat senile old wizard in possession of a magic mirror to other places & planes, was an addition to the campaign I really liked and would use again.  Indeed, he could serve as a sort of "patron" for an entire campaign devoted to exploring strange, unknown places, allowing the PCs to experience new adventures without tremendous travel time involved.  His presence in this session was because I needed an adventure hook to introduce two new PCs and (hopefully) get a traditional adventuring "mission" in--for far too many sessions, the PCs had wandered here and there without a lot in the way of encounters.  Mellia has an understandable reluctance to getting side-tracked on her personal goal of rescuing Cain, which is an issue I've experienced myself as a player in a sandbox campaign: it's hard to align a character's personal goals with the goals of a group of disparate individuals.

The new PCs introduced here are Myst (the back-up for Cain's player) and Gelkar (the back-up for Ralkin/Tunak's player).  We'll see a lot of more of each.

I made plenty of mistakes with the campaign, but one of the things I did that I thought worked really well was getting the other players to secretly make up and run NPC sword-fighters to battle Markus in the arena.  The catfolk El Capitan was the NPC created by Fargrim's player, and he gave the character so much role-playing personality he really stole the show and would introduce the character again later as a PC.  I may have mentioned in a prior commentary that I put a lot of thought into having different configurations for the arena and different victory conditions so that each duel was fresh and different.

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