Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rise of the Runelords Session # 0 [RPG]

22 Rova 4707

On the eve of Sandpoint’s Swallowtail Festival, four adventurers arrive separately in the harbor town, little realizing that they have been destined to play a role in the fate of all of Varisia!

Bey Lin
Bey Lin, a seer of some skill who is loosely affiliated with the Church of Desna, arrives in Sandpoint wearing her trademark armor.  The armor, which at a distance appears to be torn and ripped, is revealed to be exquisitely crafted when viewed up close.  It draws strange looks towards the dark-haired woman in her thirties who makes her way down the streets of Sandpoint to the base of Old Light.  This crumbled tower testifies to the existence of an ancient culture thousands of years old that long predated the settling of Varisia by the Chelaxians just three centuries ago (with the concomitant displacement of the indigenous Shoanti and Varisian peoples).

Bey knocks at the front door of an old stone building, haphazardly repaired, that sits near the base of Old Light, and is greeted by a balding, cantankerous old man named Brodert Quink.  Quink welcomes Bey inside, as the two have been corresponding for a few years now about the history of Thassilon, the ancient empire which used to rule the land now called Varisia.  Little is known about Thassilon, but Brodert Quink is a self-proclaimed sage and historian, and has recently taken to speculating about the purposes for which Old Light was originally built.  His promise to reveal his theories to Bey is one of the reasons for her travelling to Sandpoint (the other is a meeting scheduled with a reclusive Varisian mystic named Madame Mvashti for 10 bells on 24 Rova).  After some small talk, Quink goes on to share his theory about Old Light with Bey: he says it was never a lighthouse, like most scholars think, but in fact a weapon capable of hurling balls of fire hundreds of miles!  He suggests that the power source for the weapon could be buried deep below, but he has no concrete evidence for his theory.

Nonetheless, he leads Bey outside so she can see Old Light up close.  He leads her to a particular stone block that is, like the others, surprisingly intact given its thousands of years of exposure to the elements.  Here, the runic language of ancient Thassilon provides the only real clue to Old Light’s purpose.  Most scholars translate the runes to say “When risk is at its highest, the light shall shine”, but Bey realizes the passage could alternatively be interpreted to say “When danger is at its height, the fires of heaven shall be unleashed.”  So intent are Bey and Brodert on translating and discussing the runes, they have no idea that a pack of dire rats (filthy rats the size of small dogs) have emerged from somewhere within the rocks and are about to attack!
Oliver Turn

Meanwhile, just down the street, a professional bounty hunter and wilderness scout named Oliver Turn has arrived at the Sandpoint Garrison, a stone fortress that serves as the headquarters for the Town Watch and Town Militia.  Oliver, a weather-beaten ranger in his mid-30s, has come to Sandpoint for work; the sheriff of Sandpoint, Belor Hemlock, has quietly circulated word that the city is temporarily hiring freelancers to help patrol the Swallowtail festival, and is paying 5 silver pieces a day and providing free room and board at the Garrison.  After waiting in line with many other freelancers for several minutes, Oliver is taken to Sheriff Hemlock, a grim Shoanti man.  Hemlock asks each recruit to demonstrate why they deserve a job, and Oliver decides to show his skill with the crossbow by firing a bolt almost dead centre into a distant target.  Hemlock gives his approval with a nod, and instructs Oliver to familiarise himself with Sandpoint before going on duty in the morning.  When Oliver leaves the garrison, he hears shouts of alarm coming from just down the street in the direction of Old Light!

Dire Rats!
At the base of Old Light, four dire rats have surrounded Bey Lin and Brodert Quink.  Quink shrinks back in fear, but Bey readies her quarterstaff and prepares for a fight.  The two are bitten multiple times by the strangely aggressive rats before help suddenly arrives as Oliver Turn charges into the battle bearing a massive greatsword!  His blade quickly cuts three of the dire rats in twain, leaving only one left.  Bey’s eyes go black as she intones “the darkness is coming, you must be prepared” and magically gifts Oliver with even more fighting prowess.  He kills the remaining dire rat, but not before suffering a vicious wound himself.

Bey and Oliver decide to seek help for Quink, who has been badly wounded in the attack.  He sends them in the direction of the new cathedral in the hopes of finding Father Zantus.  But before the pair of newcomers arrive, they’re distracted by shouts and the sound of breaking glass and splintering wood: an untamed bronco is bucking madly down the street, smashing barrels and windows with its hooves, dragging a poor teenager whose foot is caught in the horse’s saddle harness!  Oliver runs and tries to leap on the back of the horse, but he catches a hoof right in the ribs for his trouble.  Bey manages to dash in and free the teen’s foot just before the horse dashes further down the street and out of sight.

The teenager, who is shaken but not actually hurt, gives his name as Bimmy Bean and says the horse was a new acquisition by Daviren Hosk at the Goblin Squash Stables.  Bimmy says he actually hates horses, but his father, a farmer, made him try to find work in town since the surly teen doesn’t enjoy life in the Sandpoint hinterlands.  When asked, he does point them in the direction of the newly-built cathedral, the dedication of which will be the highlight of tomorrow’s Swallowtail Festival.

When Bey and Oliver arrive at Sandpoint Cathedral, they’re quickly directed to the town’s high-priest, a pleasant man named Father Abstalar Zantus.  Father Zantus promises to send help to Brodert Quink, but he also diagnoses that one of the bites Oliver suffered from the dire rats may be infected, and that a mild disease known as “filth fever” can be carried with such bites.  He tells Oliver to monitor himself closely over the next 24 hours and to return if symptoms set in.

Xeveg Kishalq
That same afternoon, elsewhere in Sandpoint, a seventeen-year-old named Xeveg Kishalq arrives in front of Turandarok Academy.  Xeveg has developed a keen interest in history and archaeology for one so young, and in recent months has been exchanging letters with Ilsoari Gandethus, the Headmaster of Turandarok Academy.  Since it’s a Sunday, classes are not in session at the institution that serves Sandpoint as a school and orphanage, and Xeveg is soon led by the Head Mother, Dorienne, to Ilsoari Gandethus’ study.  Gandethus, a stern-looking man in his 60s, is widely known as a former adventurer and dabbler in the arcane, and has promised in his correspondence to show Xeveg his collection of unique artifacts held in the Academy’s basement.  As the two sip tea in the study, Gandethus tells Xeveg that western Varisia holds several sites of historical significance, and perhaps even ancient treasure!  He mentions Sog’s Bay, where ships have been shipwrecked on the rocks for countless years, and the Whisperwood, rumoured to hold ancient ruins of old Thassilon.  Gandethus is about to lead Xeveg to the basement when he’s called away by Dorienne; one of the boarding students has been injured in an accident.

Zombie Rabbits!
Left to his own devices, Xeveg looks around Gandethus’ study but soon hears a crash followed by a strange thumping sound.  When the youth goes to investigate, he sees the sound is coming from the stairway to the basement—and the thumping sound is a rabbit, clearly dead but somehow still animated, hopping up the stairs!  In moments, a second such abomination appears.  The creatures quicken their pace and hop towards Xeveg, clearly intending to sink their teeth into him!  Fortunately, Xeveg had prepared a minor incantation against the undead, and his magical rays are able to slow the beasts.  One is blinded in the battle and ends up falling down the stairs, destroying itself.  The other leaps for Xeveg but the spritely lad jumps out of the way, and the creature crashes into the wall and lays still.

Seconds later, Gandethus and the other residents of the Academy arrive on the scene.  Gandethus apologises for the attack, saying he recently obtained a strange coffin that displayed necromantic auras, and that he had placed the rabbits inside to see what would happen.  He promises to show Xeveg his basement collection the day after the festival, when he’s had a chance to clean everything up.  Xeveg gets directions to a nearby inn, the Rusty Dragon.

Felix Bloodrider
Sandpoint’s other inn and tavern, the White Deer, is crowded as merchants, tourists, and farmers have come to Sandpoint for the festival.  It also serves as the destination for another newcomer to the city, a rugged-looking Shoanti man wearing hide armor named Felix Bloodrider.  Felix, a wanderer by nature, has come to Sandpoint for supplies and has stopped at the White Deer specifically because he’s heard it’s an establishment particularly friendly to his people.  The proprietor of the White Deer is a Shoanti man named Garridan Viskalai and he’s said to offer cut-rate prices to Shoanti who are willing to share news with him of the culture he’s had to cut ties with in order to live in Sandpoint with his wife and family.  Felix makes his way through the crowd and takes a seat at the bar.  He’s greeted by Garridan with a tankard of ale, and the two start to converse but are quickly interrupted by Garridan’s wife, Lartie.  Lartie pleads with Garridan to call the Town Watch about a pair of drunken Chelaxian merchants from Magnimar at a corner table who are harassing the servers and shouting racist comments about Garridan’s Shoanti heritage.  Garridan, however, refuses to call the Watch, stating that it will only bring his brother and he’d rather endure the insults of fat foreigners from Magnimar then have “Sheriff Hemlock” set foot on his property.

Felix decides to take justice into his own hands.  When one of the merchants, a portly man named Nefus Dobiggle, heads to the latrines, Felix bribes Dobiggle’s bodyguard to go “check on the horses.”  Felix then enters the latrine and with two quick punches knocks him out cold!  The fat merchant’s unconscious form crashes through the door of the latrine and into the common room and full view.  The other merchant, Tamsyn Hollirock, and his bodyguard make for the door, but Felix continues his assault.  He dodges the shortsword thrusts of the guard and pummels him to the ground, and when the fleeing Hollirock vows revenge should Felix ever come to Magnimar, the crusader chases him down and lands a vicious two-handed punch to the back of the man’s neck!

When Felix re-enters the White Deer, he’s greeted with applause from the other patrons.  Garridan offers Felix free room and board for the night, and a promise of a gold piece if he’ll attend the Swallowtail Festival tomorrow and keep an eye on his wife and kids, who will be running a lemonberry juice stand.

Four adventurers from disparate walks of life have thus come to Sandpoint on the eve of the Swallowtail Festival.  What happens in the succeeding weeks and months may very well become the stuff of legend . . .
Director's Commentary (18/01/2017)

This campaign started in July of 2016.  I thought it might be a good time to start posting the weekly recaps I prepared for each session.  For this very first session of the campaign ("Session 0") I did something a bit unusual.  I had a short, one-on-one session with each player (or a join session with two of the players since they were a couple) consisting of a single RP encounter and a single (easy) combat encounter.  The idea of this Session 0 was to give the players a chance to get acquainted with their PC (both RP and mechanics wise) and to give me a chance to get a little more familiar with Sandpoint before the "real thing" started with the official beginning of the adventure path in Session # 1.  This was everyone's first adventure path and first time using Golarion as a campaign setting for playing Pathfinder.

The PCs for the beginning of this campaign were:

Bey Lin, Human Oracle (Apocalypse Mystery)
Felix Bloodrider, Shoanti Brawler
Xeveg Kishalq, Human Wizard (Necromancy)
Oliver Turn, Human Ranger

Come back every week or so to see what happens next!

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