Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rise of the Runelords Session # 1 [RPG]

23 Rova 4707

When the dawn bells ring in Sandpoint, the day holds the promise of clear weather, the excitement of an upcoming festival, and the solemnity of the dedication of a new house of worship. 

Bethana Corwin
 Bey Lin awakens suddenly in her room at the Rusty Dragon just after daybreak, covered in sweat and shouting incoherently about “blood and flame in the streets!”  The ruckus startles Bethana Corwin, an elderly halfling maid at the inn, who had been across the hall serving Xeveg Kishalq freshly-baked bread and tea.  After Bey opens her door to Bethana’s concerned knocking, the adventurer explains matter-of-factly that “the apocalypse is coming soon upon us all, but with luck you may survive.”  A sleepy-eyed Xeveg does not seem impressed, nor does the reptilian bird that perches on his shoulder.

At the nearby Sandpoint Garrison, Oliver Turn awakens to the sound of morning reveille.  He gets dressed and pins a cloth badge to his tabard identifying himself as an auxiliary member of the Town Watch.  As he waits to hear his duty assignment, he sees Sheriff Hemlock receiving upsetting news.  Hemlock motions for Oliver and another freelancer to follow him and they head towards the North Gate, stopping at a relatively new three-story building whose entrance is flanked by a pair of carved deer made from white birch.  Hemlock strides right into the White Deer Inn and starts up the stairs (after speaking briefly with a maid), much to the surprise and anger from the inn’s proprietor, Garridan Viskalai. 

The argument in the hallway between Hemlock and Viskalai is loud enough to wake Felix Bloodrider seconds before there’s loud pounding on his door.  Hemlock, flanked by Oliver and another watchman, with Viskalai looking on angrily, confronts Felix with the news that word quickly spread of his assault on the Magnimarian merchants and their bodyguards last night.  Hemlock says that if the victims hadn’t already fled and could swear out a statement, Felix would already be in a jail cell.  Felix isn’t intimidated in the least by his fellow Shoanti warrior’s imposing presence, and makes the fact clear to Hemlock.  The two look poised for an altercation until Hemlock declares he doesn’t have time to deal with Felix, and appoints Oliver to keep a close eye on him all day to ensure he stays out of trouble.

Mayor Deverin
The Swallowtail Festival starts on time with a series of speeches by town leaders.  Mayor Kendra Deverin thanks everyone for attending and says that the construction of a new church shows that Sandpoint has heart.  Sheriff Hemlock asks for a moment of silence to remember the lives that were lost in the fire that claimed the previous chapel five years earlier.  As Lonjiku Kaijitsu is ill, theatre-proprietor Cyrdak Drokkus takes the stage and tells a few jokes before introducing Father Abstalar Zantus, Priest of Desna.  Father Zantus declares the Swallowtail Festival officially underway.  Attendees scatter for food, games, trinkets, and more.

Xeveg makes the rounds of the local vendors, hoping to stumble across anything of historical interest.  He notices a dull gray ioun stone, but the price is too high for him to afford it.  Felix sticks close to the lemon-berry juice stand run by Garridan Viskalia’s wife and daughters before being asked to escort the youngest daughter, nine-year-old Mantha, to the games area.  There, Felix tries “The Devil Hunt” (firing arrows at a wooden rendering of the legendary Sandpoint Devil) and “Raise the Shipwreck” (hitting a bellows so hard it knocks a bucket full of coins and candy off a pole).  He doesn’t have much luck with either, and grouses about it loudly.  For his part, Oliver keeps a close eye on the festival-goers but doesn’t notice anything suspicious.  Bey shares her matter-of-fact confidence that the day will end in flames and death, leading most people to steer well clear of her.

Father Zantus
At midday, the festival-goers assemble before the Cathedral again, where Father Zantus and his four acolytes have arranged for a covered wagon to be brought into the square.  Father Zantus delivers a parable about how Desna, goddess of luck, beauty, and travel, fell to earth after being defeated by the vicious demon-goddess Lamashtu.  Desna was befriended by a young blind girl who nursed her back to health, and in gratitude the goddess turned the girl into a Swallowtail butterfly so she could see the world of Golarion and explore it for all eternity.  After the story is finished, the cover on the wagon is pulled back to reveal thousands of Swallowtail butterflies; the freed creatures fly up into the sky in a beautiful spiral of color.

Lunch is provided free to all by the proprietors of three local kitchens:  Garridan Viskalai, Shoanti owner of the White Deer Inn; Jargie Quinn, peg-legged owner of the Hagfish; and Ameiko Kaijitsu, well-liked owner of the Rusty Dragon.  Felix and Bey end up sitting next to one another, and Bey shares her belief that the streets will soon run red with blood.  Felix is enthusiastic about the idea.  On the other side of the square, Oliver cleans his nails with his shortsword while Xeveg tries various exotic foods and then plays chess with his familiar, much to the daylight of nearby children.

After lunch, Bey spots her recent companion in battle and asks Oliver how he is feeling.  She observes that one of his wounds seems to be infected, and that although he may die, she hopes he’ll live long enough to join in resisting the doom that will soon befall them.  In turn, Oliver expresses his confidence that he’ll be fine.  The ranger continues to trail Felix at a distance, leading the heavily-muscled Shoanti man to introduce himself.  When asked “what his quest” is, Felix replies “beer, food, and wenches!”  Xeveg continues scouring merchant and junk stalls, and has a stroke of luck: mixed in with a pile of homemade jewellery and old war medals is a medallion depicting a strikingly beautiful but enraged human woman.  Xeveg instantly realizes the medallion is both ancient in creation but relatively unmarked by the passage of time, and that it depicts one of the rulers of old Thassilon, the Runelord Alaznist.  He can’t afford the initial price asked for, but negotiates a deal to buy it at a cheaper price if it hasn’t been sold by the end of the day.  Bey Lin takes a break from the festival and visits Brodert Quink to see if he’s recovered from his wounds; though laid up in bed, Brodert says he’s getting better.  The old sage is annoyed, however, because he’s lost his brass spyglass.

Goblins Attack the Swallowtail Festival!
At sunset, it seems like the whole of Sandpoint has turned out in front of the new cathedral to witness the dedication ceremony.  Father Zantus throws a thunderstone on the ground to get everyone’s attention and starts to speak, but his words are cut off by the sound of a woman’s scream, and then the sudden surge of strange, high-pitched voices chanting a crude song.  The crowd parts as a dog stumbles through, its throat cut from ear to ear and spraying blood everywhere.  Felix and Oliver spot a three-foot tall creature with a scrawny body dwarfed by a wide, ungainly head.  A goblin!  It licks the blood from the blade used to slit the dog’s throat and cackles in obvious glee.  Other goblins are spotted all around, and people begin to panic!

Xeveg reacts instantly, magically blasting a goblin off a nearby cart and into a water trough to drown.  Felix literally punches a hole in the skull of another goblin, while Bey and Oliver corner a goblin in a nearby residence.  The giggling goblin hurls plates and silverware at the adventurers, dodging Oliver’s attempt to catch it in a blanket and Bey’s attempt to magically shatter its weapon.  Seconds later, Felix reaches the scene and, learning that Oliver wants a prisoner to interrogate, gathers the goblin up in a chokehold and slams its forehead into a table and unconsciousness.  Oliver quickly binds the prisoner with fishing line.

But the raid on Sandpoint is far from over!  As shouts and screams and the sound of battle can be heard everywhere, the adventurers realize that a cart full of wood, intended for an evening bonfire, has been set ablaze by another group of goblins.  They’re so busy dancing and singing that they don’t even realize they’re being watched, which gives the adventurers a chance to advance.  Xeveg slips into the tent holding the Thassilonian medallion and stuffs it into his pocket; he starts to run away, but then changes his mind and returns to the battle. He and Bey work together to stop an emerging threat: one of the goblins has grabbed a brand from the blazing wagon and is trying to set the new cathedral on fire!  Xeveg conjures ice and Bey conjures water to put out the goblin’s torch.  The ensuing fight is a difficult one, as Felix and Oliver get surrounded by goblins and their warchanter before turning the tide and emerging victorious.

Goblin Commando
There’s scant time for celebration, however, as one last challenge remains.  To the north of the cathedral, near the city gates and the White Deer Inn, a nobleman has been cornered by a goblin commando mounted on a goblin dog.  Three goblins who had been hiding emerge from cover to cheer and caper as the commando decapitates a dog.  Oliver fires a crossbow bolt into the commando’s leg, distracting the attacker long enough for Bey to run into position and use her bardiche to defend the nobleman.  She’s left fighting the commando one-on-one for several moments as the other goblins charge Felix, Oliver, and Xeveg.  Xeveg gets stabbed in an unfortunate place by a goblin “dogslicer” and drops to the ground, bleeding.  But Felix is a one-man army, using elbow smashes, jump kicks, and roundhouse punches to quickly fell the attackers.  He and Oliver then run to join Bey in fending off the commando.  Felix does a flying double-elbow strike to dismount the commando, and Oliver’s greatsword takes off his head!  Bey Lin sees to everyone’s wounds, and Xeveg regains consciousness.

Aldern Foxglove
The cowering nobleman, who gives his name as Aldern Foxglove of Magnimar, thanks the adventurers profusely.  He says he’ll be staying in Sandpoint at the Rusty Dragon for a few days and he’ll reward them for saving his life if they come by before he departs for his townhouse in the city.

As the adventurers head south back into Sandpoint, they see that the goblin raid is over, with the attackers having been killed, captured, or driven off.  The Swallowtail Festival has come to a perilous end and most residents of Sandpoint have locked themselves in their homes.  The Town Watch now patrols in force.  Ameiko Kaitjitsu is seen cleaning her rapier of blood, and when she sees the adventurers, she praises them on their heroism in driving off the raiders and offers them a week’s free stay at the Rusty Dragon.

For a new group of adventurers forged in bloodshed, questions still remain: how could such chaotic creatures have mounted a coordinated raid?  What were they hoping to achieve?  Is Sandpoint truly out of danger?  The coming days promise answers and dangers alike.


Director's Commentary (22/01/2017)

I always try to put a lot of thought into how a campaign begins: I want it to be organic, interesting, and memorable.  Apart from "everyone is in town for the festival," the adventure path didn't provide a lot of information so I tried to work every character into the session and trusted that the heat of combat would provide the needed bond.

I used material from the official forums to flesh out the speeches at the beginning of the festival and for the games.  The PCs didn't make much use of the games, but I was glad they were there.  I wanted the festival to be more than just something that passes by in a couple of lines of narrative, so I had each player tell me at least one thing their character was doing in the morning, and then again for the afternoon, and we role-played it out.

You get a glimpse of Bey's personality as an Oracle with the Apocalypse mystery: it comes across as almost bizarrely calm.  The person running Oliver was brand new to gaming (not just Pathfinder), and we'll soon see how much fun that is.

The battles against the goblins went quite well and the PCs were impressive (especially Felix as a Level 1 brawler, tearing everything up).  Poor Xeveg got caught with a crit and fell into negatives, but wasn't seriously close to death.

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