Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rise of the Runelords Recap # 13 [RPG]

[5 Lamashan 4707 continued]

Arnald Swiss
Having returned to Sandpoint from their first journey to the goblin fortress of Thistletop, Felix and Nedrin sell some of the spoils of war and resupply for another planned raid.  Felix sells a magical suit of goblin-sized armor to Vorvashali Voon at The Feathered Serpent, and, for a small fee, learns that the cloak taken from the body of the goblin druid Gogmurt is actually a cloak of resistance.  A journey to Bottled Solutions for healing potions leads to a hair-raising experience as a small explosion occurs amongst a concoction that proprietor Nisk Tander is brewing.  Meanwhile, experienced elven scout Shalelu Andosana walks to the harbourfront and hires a small rowboat from the Mercantile League.  While there, she notices a human wearing a steel breastplate with a greataxe strapped to his back.  Shalelu correctly deduces that the man is a sellsword and persuades him to join the planned attack on Thistletop in exchange for an equal share of whatever treasure is found within.

The adventurers reunite at the Rusty Dragon, and Shalelu introduces the sellsword, Arnald Swiss, to Felix and Nedrin.  Felix makes a joke about Oliver which doesn’t go over well with Shalelu, and she retires to her room once the decision is made to depart in the early morning hours for Thistletop.  Nedrin also retires early, but Arnald and Felix spend the evening in the Rusty Dragon’s common room.  Arnald sees Daviren Hosk, and Felix realizes that the two know each other: Arnald helped keep Daviren out of a goblin cookpot when the latter had a vendetta against Chief Whartus and the Bonegrinder tribe.  Daviren warns Felix to be careful in Thistletop and to watch out for Warchief Ripnugget, as he’s known to try to lure his enemies into traps.  Later that evening, Felix tells Arnald a humorous story about accidentally burning down an inn in Magnimar (and having to escape the city in a hurry!) while Arnald boasts about fighting and travelling throughout the land.  Arnald also hears a story from Ameiko about a legendary monster in the Varisian Gulf named Old Murdermaw that can bite a boat in half!

[6 Lamashan 4707]

The crisp autumn day sees little wind and smooth rowing for the adventurers, and in just a few hours they approach Thistletop from the west just as the sun appears over the horizon.  A decision is made to do a full circuit of the island instead of just scaling the western cliffs, and the group’s patience is rewarded as they notice a small cave on the eastern face of the island, about twenty feet below the clifftop.  A goblin in the southeastern guard tower spots the rowboat, but Nedrin reacts instantly and shoots an arrow to kill the sentry before it can sound the alarm!

Felix’s upbringing as a Shoanti of the Storval Plateau allows him to scale the damp rock face, but as he nears the cave, something up there starts to move!  Before he can react, a dark blue creature with long tentacles emerges from the cave and crawls down the cliffside towards him  One of the creature’s tentacles is pointed and barbed, and cuts into Felix’s shoulder, dislodging the warrior’s grip and sending him tumbling into the water below.  Fortunately, Felix executes a skilled dive and Arnald jumps in to assist him in getting back into the boat.  The squid-like creature continues its search for prey by wrapping a tentacle around Arnald’s neck and trying to drag him upwards until Shalelu unleashes a fusillade of arrows to kill the creature.  Arnald, in a bout of dark humour or eccentricity, hollows out the creature and pulls it over his head as a sort of ghastly costume!

Felix resumes his climb and makes it to the cave, which has a strangely smooth, polished floor and passages heading off of it in three directions, one of which ends in a wooden door; the adventurers have taken an unorthodox approach but have pierced the outer defences of Thistletop!  Felix throws down a rope which is tied to one of the slats in the centre of the rowboat, and, after the others climb up, he ties the other end to an arrow which Arnald jams into a crevice in the rock-face.  If everything holds, the adventurers have secured an escape route and have chosen a propitious time to investigate Thistletop, as most of its denizens will still be asleep.

The group begins by venturing into the southwest tunnel, noting that the worked stone passages here are clearly man-made, and that lit lanterns hang in the hallways.  The tunnel ends in a storage room full of junk obviously scavenged from elsewhere, but a wooden door to the west indicates an exit.  The adventurers instead head back to their entry point and explore the northern passage, which leads to what must be the lair of the tentacled monster they just slew.  Several seabird and even goblin corpses are scattered around the room, each consisting of just skin and bones as if their insides have been somehow drained.  A search of the goblin corpses shows that one died in possession of high-quality dog-hide armor and a skilfully crafted shortbow.  Felix and Nedrin take the former and latter, respectively.

The intruders gird themselves for battle behind the wooden door heading directly west, but when it opens, no enemies lay on the other side.  Instead, the corridor leads to a pair of large stone doors, their faces carved with images of horrific, deformed monsters clawing their way out of pregnant women of all races.  Wooden doors lay to the north and south, and the adventurers decide to try their luck south.  They find stairs leading up, which they avoid for the nonce, and a depressing chamber that passes for a nursery in Thistletop: cages along the walls containing dirty mounds of straw and three goblin infants.  Arnald callously asks the others what goblin infants are worth on the free market, but Shalelu says there will be no talk of slavery in her presence.

Felix opens another door, and the time for cautious exploration is over!  Inside, a harem of goblin females lounge while a massive, 7 foot tall bugbear mounts one of them.  Shalelu shouts “Bruthazmus!” as Felix lights and throws a smokestick into the room.  A furious battle takes place in the doorway, as Shalelu’s rival, unarmoured and taken by surprise, nonetheless gives a roar and rushes to crush his nemesis’s skull with his flail.  Shalelu responds with her blade, and both take wounds in the battle in which no quarter is given.  Arnald’s massive axe whistles through the air and lands a telling blow in Bruthazmus’ abdomen, and another stab from Shalelu’s sword is enough to drop the giant goblinoid.  She shows no hesitation in slitting his throat.  She refuses to have anything else to do with his body, but a search by Nedrin reveals four masterwork arrows with the goblin runes for “Elf Hate” etched into them; he adds these to his quiver.  The goblin females, still dazed and disoriented from the smokestick, are tied up and the door to the harem room is closed.

The adventurers decide to pause their explorations of the southern corridors and instead make a foray through the northern doors.  They find what looks like a crude goblin art gallery, filled with drawings of goblins engaging in violence against humans, horses, and dogs.  One picture is much larger and more complex than the others, and shows what appears to be a massive goblin with snakelike eyes in a chamber in the subterranean centre of the island.  An adjoining room is clearly a war room of some type, and the adventurers find notes indicating that once “the whispering beast is tamed”, another raid on Sandpoint will be launched in the space of mere weeks.  More stairs leading upward are nearby.

Just off the war room is a study, but this one is occupied.  A woman in her early twenties with dark skin and long hair braided into cornrows is sitting at a table, poring over books, scrolls, and stone fragments.  She looks up as the adventurers enter, annoyed at being disturbed, but Nedrin keeps her from becoming alarmed by cleverly making a counter-intuitive decision: he lifts his mask to show her that he’s a hobgoblin!  The woman, who gives her name as Lyrie, assumes the newcomers are reinforcements hired to replace the guards killed in the previous day’s raid, and she tells them that they’ve taken a wrong turn and are interfering with her research.  Nedrin asks Lyrie where he can find “the boss”, and she says Nualia is either in the chapel behind the carved doors or a level below.  Although the group’s deception is going well, Arnald inexplicably asks, right in front of her, whether they should tie Lyrie up, which leads her to try to cast a spell.  It fails, however, and, cornered by four heavily-armed warriors, she submits to being tied up.  The adventurers’ surreptitious entry into Thistletop is further rewarded by their discovery of a secret door that Lyrie has left ajar, on the far side of which are stairs leading down.  The adventurers force Lyrie to move into the room that served as the lair of the monster she says was called a tentamort.

The adventurers return to their search, deciding to save the chapel for last in case Nualia is there and can summon reinforcements from elsewhere in the complex.  The adventurers find a torture room with several unoccupied cells, and Shalelu suggest moving their prisoners there if they can find the keys.  Another corridor leads to several doorways, and, opening the first one on the right, the adventurers barge into a mercenary finishing his breakfast of bread and smoked salmon.  The ruggedly handsome human is heavily armored and has a shield and a bastard sword laying nearby on the bed.  Nedrin plays it cool, however, and once again bluffs the man into thinking they’re sellswords hired by Nualia, recently arrived by boat since the bridge has been cut.  The mercenary, who gives his name as Orik Vancaskerkin, says that Nualia pays well but is involved in some “creepy” things.  He offers to show the “new hires” around Thistletop once he finishes his meal.  Nedrin thanks him and shuts his door.

The adventurers have acted boldly and luck has been with them, as they’ve penetrated deep into the goblin fortress of Thistletop and, through a combination of quick thinking and luck, have caught the defenders completely by surprise.  If they can continue to exploit their advantage, they may just make it off the island alive!

Director's Commentary (1/05/2017)

This session marks the first appearance of Arnald Swiss, the new character for the player who previous ran the dear departed Oliver.  Arnald shared a lot of Oliver's quirky behavior, and in this session we see Arnald trying on the corpse of a tentamort as a disguise and alerting an NPC the group was trying to bluff their way past by opening asking if they should tie her up.  

With Bey's player away, I ran Shalelu as a DMPC for the rest of Chapter 1 so there would be 4 party members.

I remember doing prep work for this section of the adventure and reading in the forums about groups who ended up entering Thistletop through the tentamort's cave, and thinking at the time how unlikely that was since it would require a) an approach by boat; b) a conscious decision to survey the far side of the island from where the boat would come from; and c) a high Perception check to notice the opening.  And, of course, the PCs in my group did all three!  I'm just happy that I had the sub-level prepared, otherwise I would have been super stressed.

I may have talked about this before, but I often get a kick out of how the adventure path sometimes puts so much effort into developing NPC antagonists (back-stories, full-colour artwork, connections with other NPCs, etc.) and then those NPCs die in a round or two of combat and all of that work is wasted.  In this session, Bruthazmus and Lyrie were disposed of, and next session will see Orik get taken down quite quickly.

As the recap notes, the PCs really did stumble upon the perfect timing and approach to entering Thistletop, purely through luck.  Alas, their luck won't hold much longer and tragedy will be the result.

Next Recap

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