Sunday, February 5, 2017

Rise of the Runelords Session # 3 [RPG]

24 Rova 4707 (continued)

Having successfully retrieved Brodert Quink’s spyglass, the adventurers make their way to the sage’s residence near the base of the ancient crumbling tower known as Old Light.  Inside, Quink gives the group a sizable reward and explains his theory about the true purpose of Old Light to a sceptical Xeveg.  He also mentions to Bey that he suspects there may be an underground chamber below the tower that acts as its power source, but she convinces him that if there is one, he must not explore it alone.

Next, the adventurers travel to the Goblin Squash Stables.  They notice the dozens of goblin ears nailed to the rafters, each with the goblin’s name branded into the dried leathery skin.  The surly teenager Bimmy Beems, rescued a few days previously from a wild horse by Oliver and Bey, motion the group to the rear of the barn when they ask about the horses promised them by Aldern Foxglove for the next morning’s boar hunt.  They pass by a large jar on a pedestal containing the preserved corpse of goblin chief, and then come to the owner of the stables, a retired ranger named Daviren Hosk.  Hosk speaks dismissively of “that fop” Foxglove, but says his coin is good and that the adventurers can choose from the mounts he has available.  Bey ends up with a horse who bites but that Daviren promises will be good on a boar hunt.  Felix chooses a horse that nuzzles him as an act of submission, while Oliver settles on a heavy draft horse.  Xeveg leaves suddenly and waits for the other adventurers outside.  They remember to turn in the pairs of goblin ears they’ve collected for Daviren’s promised 5 gp/pair bounty, and find a glint of pleasure in the man’s eyes for the first time.

As he drops off some of the group’s captured equipment in his room at the Rusty Dragon, Xeveg notices two teenage girls slipping a note under the door to Felix’s room.  He uses a minor incantation to retrieve it and then shows it to the Shoanti man, who uses the note expressing affection from “secret admirers” to wipe goblin blood off of his boots.

Next stop is Deverin Manor, reached by crossing Sandpoint Bridge and then following along a road overlooking Sandpoint Harbor.  A groundskeeper who neither asks nor offers his name directs the trouble-shooters to a well on the estate grounds that has been befouled by a snake.  Oliver ties one end of his rope to the wood-and-metal frame that supports a chain and bucket, gives himself about 10’ of slack, and then dramatically jumps in!  With an everburning torch in one hand, he drops a bundle of bread and ham into the bottom of the well with his other hand and is rewarded for his efforts by seeing a serpentine head emerge from the water to snatch it!  After Oliver is pulled back to the lip of the well, the adventurers discuss what to do.  Xeveg can tell from Oliver’s description that the creature at the bottom of the well is a goblin snake, a cruel and impulsive sentient creature that cares for little besides its next meal.  Bey volunteers to be lowered down since she can see surprisingly well in the dark and trusts her bardiche to keep her safe.  The plan works almost to perfection, as when the goblin snake springs from the water to bite her, she lops off its head with a single slash!  But the serpentine menace had just enough time to belch a poisonous gas in Bey’s direction, leaving her feeling sick and nauseated as she’s raised to the top.  Her illness soon passes and Oliver cleverly uses the camouflage netting from his pack to scoop out the body of the goblin snake.  Witnessing the Deverin Manor well problem solved in an unorthodox but speedy fashion, the pleased groundskeeper distributes five gold pieces to each adventurer.

Shayliss Vinder
Felix finds an enticing opportunity waiting for him outside the Rusty Dragon when the group returns.  A voluptuous, red-haired beauty named Shayliss Vinder introduces herself as part of the family that runs the town’s general store and says there's a problem with giant rats in the basement that only Felix could solve.  Felix doesn’t hesitate to go along.  The general store has a handwritten “Closed, Back in Five Minutes” sign on the door as Shayliss leads Felix inside and down into the basement.  There, behind several barrels of grog, Felix finds not rats but a cot!  One thing leads to another until footsteps are heard on the stairs.  Ven Vinder, Shayliss’s father, comes down the stairs with a box of empty bottles in his hands and is stunned to see a barbaric outlander seducing his "naïve, virginal" daughter! He shouts for Shayliss to go upstairs and hurls the box of bottles at Felix, who dodges adroitly.  Vinder promises to give Felix a beating he’ll never forget and takes wild swings at the interloper, but Felix keeps his cool, dodges, and calmly heads up the stairs to impotent shouts of rage from below.  On the street outside, Shayliss says she’ll try to sneak out some night soon to see Felix again.

The rest of the evening passes uneventfully in the common room of the Rusty Dragon.

25 Rova 4707

Dawn sees the adventurers assembled early for a boar hunt with Aldern Foxglove and his three manservants.  Everyone receives a specially-crafted boar spear and instructions on its use.  Xeveg asks Aldern if he can ride tandem behind him, and although the nobleman’s horse shies away at first, Aldern manages to calm his mount and pulls Xeveg up.  Aldern leads the group north and then east across Tanner’s Bridge to trot on the Lost Coast Road.  To their left, the Varisian Gulf sparkles before them, with small fleets of fishing vessels already plying their trade.  The group see a ragged range of broken hills to their right (Ravenroost) as Aldern, who is clearly a morning person, makes sure conversation continues to flow.  He alternates between being astounded and amused by Bey’s talk of a coming apocalypse, tells Xeveg about the hundreds of books he has in his townhouse (purely for decoration), asks unknowingly ridiculous and condescending questions about Felix’s Shoanti heritage, and offers to assist Oliver in becoming Sheriff of Sandpoint by using his pull with the Justice Court of Magnimar to make it happen.  He invites all of the adventurers to visit him in Magnimar as his personal guests to experience the city’s art galleries, theatres, and sparkling soirees.

The travellers soon find themselves with forestlands to their left and their right.  To the left lies Shank’s Wood, which Aldern says is full of goblins and a notorious highwayman.  To the right lies Tickwood, a perfect place to catch boar.  Oliver puts his wilderness lore to good use, expertly finding the tracks of a boar and leading the group to a thicket of bushes.  He scares it out, and the hunt is on!  Felix tries to stab it with his boar spear but misses, while Oliver wounds it slightly with a crossbow bolt.  Bey tries to spear it but is unused to fighting from horseback and ends up stabbing herself in the leg!  Aldern gallantly ties his own silk scarf around the wound to try to staunch the bleeding.  The boar sprints away but Felix gives chase and stabs it hard, only to find his upper thigh gored in return!  Aldern, Felix, and Xeveg manage to finish off the hardy beast, and the nobleman’s manservants hog-tie the body for the return to Sandpoint.  Aldern is clearly elated with their success and invites everyone to dine with him that evening at the Rusty Dragon, promising that Ameiko Lonjiku is an excellent cook.  The hunters make it back to town well before lunchtime, and Aldern excuses himself to freshen up.

The next few hours pass quickly with various errands taking up most of the group’s time.  Xeveg uses divination magic to discern that the black robe found in the stone vault at the cemetery is a robe of bones, presently exhausted but in the past capable of magically conjuring undead creatures.  He likes the look of it and decides to wear it.  A journey is made to the local armory, Savah’s, to sell some spoils of war and buy new ones.  The eponymous owner is ecstatic to see Sandpoint’s newest heroes in her store and she offers substantial discounts on her wares.  With their coin purses jingling, Bey and Oliver visit the town’s bank (underneath the Town Hall) and are assisted by Sister Arva, priestess of Abadar, with exchanging silver and gold for platinum.

Goblin in the Closet
As everyone is on their way back to the Rusty Dragon, they witness a middle-aged woman running frantically down the street, holding a baby in one arm and dragging a little boy behind her in the other.  She shouts that her husband is alone in the house fighting a vicious goblin!  The woman, Amele Barrett, hurriedly explains that each night after the goblin raid her son Aeren has awoken in the middle of the night screaming about a goblin in his closet.  And each time, her husband Alergast went to investigate and found nothing awry.  Today though, when Aeren was taking a nap, he woke up screaming and when Alergast and Amele went to check, they found a goblin chewing on his arm!  Amele dragged Aeren to safety and grabbed her infant while Alergast attacked the goblin.  The adventurers immediately rush to the house and to a child’s room on the second floor.  There, they find the legs of a man sticking out of a dark closet.  Felix flips the body over to reveal that Alergast’s throat has been slashed and that his face was being gnawed on!  The distraction allows the goblin, who had been hiding in the back of the closet underneath some pried-up floorboards, to leap out and attack.  Oliver’s greatsword and Felix’s fists are too much for the starved, crazed goblin and it collapses to the ground.  Xeveg decapitates it with his shovel.  On their way out of the house, the Town Watch arrive and take over the scene.  One of the guards says that Sheriff Hemlock was looking for them, so the adventurers head for the town garrison.

A tense meeting is underway when the adventurers arrive.  Mayor Deverin and Sheriff Hemlock are hearing a report from an elven ranger named Shalelu Andosana.  Shalelu, who happens to be an old friend of Oliver’s, spends months at a time in the wilderness of Western Varisia working as a scout and bounty hunter for various small towns.  She says that she’s hurried to Sandpoint with ominous news:  there are multiple reports of goblin raids on farms and caravans in the area, and, even worse, it seems that several goblin tribes are working together.  She explains that usually the various chaotic and short-sighted tribes keep each other in check through infighting, and that only a powerful leader could succeed in getting them to act with unity.  Shalelu says she plans to set off again in the morning to try to gather more intelligence.  Sheriff Hemlock receives Mayor Deverin’s approval to set off that very night for Magnimar to press for a contingent of soldiers to help protect the town against a further raid.  After hearing about the goblin attacks at the Barretts’ and Junk Beach, Mayor Deverin asks the adventurers if they’d be willing to stay in Sandpoint and maintain a very public presence for a few days to help reassure the citizenry that everything is under control.  The adventurers agree, with Xeveg advising house-to-house searches to ferret out any remaining goblins and Bey suggesting that any goblin sightings, however unlikely, be followed up on immediately.  Mayor Deverin agrees.

Before going to ready his mount for an overnight ride to Magnimar, Sheriff Hemlock stops and talks with Oliver about the altercation with Lonjiku Kaijitsu at the Rusty Dragon on the night of the raid.  Sheriff Hemlock says the locals seem split on whether or not Oliver acted appropriately, but that Lonjiku himself has surprisingly kept a low-profile and is apparently working on a secret project at his glass factory.  Hemlock says that a member of the Town Watch, even a provisional one, must walk a fine line between avoiding excessive force and not backing down when the law must be upheld.

After the meeting, Shalelu asks Oliver and his new friends if they’ll accompany her for a seafood dinner at the Hagfish, promising to fill them in more on the goblin threat.
Director's Commentary (6/02/2017)

One of the brilliant things about this part of the first chapter of the adventure path is how there are various encounters provided for the GM to integrate into the game, but there's a lot of flexibility on exactly how and when.  It allows for great customization to take into account the PCs actions, and makes it easy to fit the encounters into the game in an organic way.  I much prefer this to some campaigns I've seen where the PCs launch into a huge mission from the very beginning and get very little time to get the feel of their surroundings.  Perhaps my favourite of these early encounters was the business with Shayliss.  Hilarious, but also potentially sowing the seeds of future plotlines!

The adventure path treats goblins in an interesting but occasionally confusing way.  They're treated as both comical and murderous.  They're sentient creatures, but bounties are offered on their ears with no questions asked.

The goblin snake encounter was one I made up, and it turned out quite well.  I think it's good to give the PCs some easily-achievable mini-quests early in the campaign to build up their teamwork and sense of accomplishment.  After all, things will get much harder down the line!

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