Monday, July 6, 2015

Realms Toowoomba Session # 53 [RPG]

[30 Kythorn 1372 continued]

Inside Terrigo Multivar's house, Ralkin asks if anyone would like to join him for an evening walk. All present refuse, however, as Fargrim is quite drunk, Myst is busy trying to discern the properties of magic items, and Mellia and Dolcetto have their noses constantly in books. Undeterred, Ralkin heads to the riverside on his own and begins searching for the telltale signs of a kenku collective. A few hours' searching leads him to an ancient, abandoned warehouse full of scurrying rats. Several kenku are waiting on a high catwalk, and their chattering reveals that they were hoping Ralkin would find his way to them. The leader of the group, a kenku elder named Talrin Blackfeather, explains that Ralkin is just in time to participate in a holy ritual to Quorlinn: they plan to steal something completely worthless in the most spectacular way possible!

Elder Blackfeather then explains a complicated plan involving luring the driver of a specific cartload of hay onto the Moonbridge, stalling the cart and blocking both ends so that only the cart is present, uncoupling the cart's horses so that the driver chases after them and off the bridge, then deactivating the magical structure so that the cart and hay will fall onto the waiting nets of a boat waiting below! The hardest part of the plan, he explains, is stealing the necessary ward token to deactivate the Moonbridge. The kenku have identified High Mage Taern Hornblade as their best chance, and know that he lives in the High Palace and plans to give a speech to incoming students at the Lady's College the next day. Ralkin volunteers for this crucial task, only to be mocked by a kenku emerging from the shadows: his old nemesis, Karin Whitefeather! She tells the others that Ralkin will fail utterly, but he remains determined to try.

[1 Flamerule 1372]

The day begins with the adventurers focussed on getting ready for a planned journey to Thay. Dolcetto and Myst spend a few hours magickally delving into the functions of the items obtained from T'Klack's complex, while Mellia works on transcribing into her spellbook a spell that conjures a phantom mount. Fargrim sorts through his equipment and decides to lighten his load by asking Multivar if he wants the sword obtained from the half-orc Iskenvar that seems to burn everyone who touches it. Multivar isn't interested either, but offers to dispose of it the way he disposes of all of his trash: by throwing it through the mirror-portal. Dolcetto overhears the exchange, however, and offers to hold on to it herself.

Daisy spends the morning drawing pictures for everyone, and after receiving her share of the party's treasure heads into the birch tree forest of Silverwood with Binky to say goodbye to Syd and Garry. She has no luck finding them, but coincidentally Syd has decided to scry on Daisy's location and recognizes the area of the forest where she is walking. The adventurers and their animal companions are reunited. Syd explains that he still hasn't decided whether to journey with Daisy back to Startop Mountain to seek adventure or to journey with the others through the mirror-portal to rescue Cain in Thay. He says he promised to give a decision to the others by sundown tomorrow evening. The two camp at a sheltered spot in Silverwood, having never found danger within its borders.

Back at Multivar's house, Mellia magickally sends a message to Hestia to check on Gideon's status. The old crone reports that Gideon should recover eventually and keeps saying "Darkhold" over and over. Myst, seeing Mellia look concerned, posits she is thinking about Cain and asks her to describe what the cleric is like. Mellia replies that Cain was loyal and helpful, and that it's her own fault he was kidnapped. She tries to draw a picture to show Myst what Cain looked like, but her artwork isn't much better than Daisy's! Using the description and picture, Myst later tries to scry on Cain's whereabout, but the spell fails. Mellia asks Multivar if he knows anything about "Darkhold", and the old wizard gives a confusing answer about it being a castle maybe occupied by Zhentarim. Mellia sends Fargrim to the Vault of Sages for an answer, but the dwarf is told in no uncertain terms that the topic can be found only in the forbidden section of the library.

That afternoon, Ralkin walks to the Lady's College and hears High Mage Hornblade give a speech that terrifies the incoming pupils. Hornblade, a stern, older man with white hair and bushy eyebrows, leaves before Ralkin can approach him. Ralkin then visits one of Silverymoon's many open-air markets and sizes up a likely mark. He finds a farmer chatting with saddlemaker and, with perfect timing, distracts the farmer and makes off with his coin purse. Next, the kenku journeys to the High Palace, a soaring, many-spired castle of thick stone clad in white marble. He examines the structure carefully, noting the patrols of the High Guard in their distinctive silvered armor while formulating a plan. He returns to Multivar's house and persuades Mellia to come out with him later that night because he needs her help in winning a "race against his kin."

Elsewhere, Markus finishes reforging the magickal link he holds with his familiar and then visits the academy of Blademaster Isobe Noboru. Less than a tenday before, Markus had defeated Noboru's fifth best student but failed in a duel against his fourth-best student, El Capitan. Because the rules of the academy require challenges of the top five duelists to take place in sequence, Markus issues a challenge to the current holder of the fifth rank: a woman clad almost head to toe in a thick robe and named Sister Demuria. The challenge is accepted, and a duel planned for the next day.

In Multivar's kitchen, the assembled adventurers make themselves a meal from the provisions in the wizard's pantry. Mellia reminds everyone of the plan to leave through the mirror-portal tomorrow evening at the stroke of eleven, but Dolcetto says they may need to delay departure to give Syd a chance to arrive and dispose of his share of the treasure, a task that will be difficult because the halfling promised to arrive at sundown and Silverymoon's shops will presumably be closed by then. Mellia insists that the plan should be followed as she wishes no further delays in rescuing Cain, but Dolcetto replies that a commitment has been made to Syd and must be kept. An argument ensues until an angry Dolcetto stands up abruptly and leaves! Myst, Markus, Fargrim, and Ralkin chase after her and try to persuade the loremaster to return. Markus says the dispute is over a misunderstanding, and if Syd doesn't returned in time, they could hide his share of the treasure in Multivar's house for him to collect later. Dolcetto doesn't approve of that idea, but Myst persuades her to return nonetheless.

However, upon returning to the kitchen, another dispute about Syd breaks out between Dolcetto and Mellia! Mellia says there is no way she's going to allow a massive dinosaur to blunder through Thay on a mission that may require subtlety and careful negotiation, but Dolcetto replies that, even without the dinosaur, Syd's proficiency with the divine healing arts may be essential to their task. The two clash further over Dolcetto's idea to speed their journey through the creation of phantom mounts for everyone, a move that Mellia condemns as wasting her most precious defensive magickal energies. Dolcetto gains Myst's agreement to cast the spells instead, but concludes that, if necessary to provide Syd with his share of the treasure, she will stay behind another day and then catch up.

Concerned about a potential splintering of the party, Mellia tries to shore up support. She gets a commitment from Fargrim and Myst to go through the mirror-portal as planned, but Ralkin is noncommital and Markus equivocal. Mellia tries to persuade Markus by reminding him that Cain is one of his best friends and about how his absence seemed to drive the swordsman into a state of extreme denial, but Markus responds that death has changed him and has given him a new perspective on things. After hearing about Bettina having been told of his death, Markus arranges for a note to be left at Wayward House should she ever return. The note reads: "I am not dead. Markus."

Late that evening, Ralkin and Mellia journey down to the docks to "sign up for the race." Mellia is suspicious, and insists that Elder Blackfeather sign a disclaimer absolving her of responsibility for any actions taken by Ralkin. Upon receiving the signed parchment, she agrees to Ralkin's request and casts a spell that allows his hands and feet to stick to walls. She then journeys back to Multivar's house. Earlier, Ralkin had explained in the kenku language to Elder Blackfeather that deception was necessary. He also requests the assistance of a spell-thief to aid him in his venture. Elder Blackfeather agrees, and dispatches a young kenku mage to journey with Ralkin to the streets adjoining the High Palace. There, upon request, the mage casts an invisibility spell on Ralkin and then departs. Whether out of ignorance or malevolence, however, the mage fails to disclose that Silverymoon's mythal prevents such spells from operating normally within the city! As Ralkin approaches the High Palace, his shroud of invisibility slowly fades away.

Although thinking himself invisible, Ralkin still proceeds with his plan cautiously. He darts to the outer wall of the southernmost tower and begins to ascend quickly thanks to Mellia's spell. The kenku is careful to avoid windows and arrow slits, and eventually reaches the upper portion of the tower and a window that very well could lead into the High Mage's quarters. Ralkin decides to test whether the window is locked, but his attempt sets off a fire trap ward! Fortunately, he manages to avoid the gout of flame, but the blast alerts guards somewhere inside and an alarm gong begins to ring. Ralkin hurriedly climbs down to the ground and huddles in a nearby doorway, disguising himself as a vagrant. The hasty disguise is excellent, as a member of the Spellguard looks right at Ralkin and decides to move on!

After waiting for the general alarm to subside, Ralkin decides to try again. This time, however, the upper ramparts of the palace are periodically swept by High Guards with enchanted stones that cast bright light. Ralkin has to carefully time his ascension to avoid being caught in the light, and a second's delay proves costly! The kenku is obviously not invisible, as a guard spots him and lands a well-aimed crossbow bolt in the kenku's shoulder. Ralkin retreats back down the side of the tower and manages to lose any pursuit in the winding streets and glades of Silverymoon.

[2 Flamerule 1372]

The next morning, Mellia notices at breakfast that Ralkin is slightly wounded. The kenku says it was an injury incurred in the race. Dolcetto finishes enchanting Markus' rapier to make it sharper and faster. Along with Fargrim, Dolcetto travels to a huge shop in Silverymoon's Northeast side called the Emporium Arcanum. Inside, they find a well-lit and well-stocked display of enchanted objects of every description, all arrayed under a hovering and rotating banner that says "If you can imagine it, we can provide it." The two receive offers on several magic items in their possession, and a promise that the store will still be open well into the evening if Syd decides to visit.
Director's Commentary (May 22, 2018)

Regarding the kenku subplot, I don't really remember its genesis.  I know Karin Blackfeather was an NPC from the player's background for Ralkin.  I had to improvise most of the tower climbing sequence, which isn't easy to do in a game as crunchy as D&D.

The stuff with Gideon leads to the first mention of Darkhold--the place where the campaign's big bad was based!  They never ended up getting there, however.

This session was a good example of the joys and perils of sandbox adventuring, as the PCs couldn't agree on anything to do so there was a ton of jumping back and forth in a really choppy way with little plot advancement.  It was definitely a lesson learned for me, and in future campaigns I've steered away from sandboxes.  They have their place, but I far prefer something with more story.

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