Wednesday, June 6, 2018

D&D RC Campaign Summerbreak Summary Part 1: It's a Heist, Baby!

Hey there, friends! It's been a while. I have been so busy, it's not even funny anymore (somewhat gaming related, just not yet blog related). Didn't have much time to do anything with Lost Songs in the last couple of months either (it's been months! damn). What I kept doing, though, was playing. So when I decided to take a break from Lost Songs, we got back to playing more D&D! Here's the first part in an attempt to summarize those sessions ...

Prelude: This is how we roll

A couple of words about our game. We play a heavily house-ruled D&D Rules Cyclopedia, with a huge dose of HackMaster 4e, some Arduin and all kinds of little things I came up with in the last 7 years or so. Check out the last 3 posts to get an idea about the combat and parts of the character generation. Players are usually pointed towards Labyrinth Lord for reference.

By now the game features roughly 23 classes and it is all over the place. There are barbarians, strangers from different worlds, pixies, charming princes, dwarven snipers and many others added to the core classes (every player can build characters, I write about our process here).

It's also a rather vanilla affair, with huge doses of anime and (happy) gore: a peaceful valley under feudal reign some 100 years after the fall of "The Empire". Riddled with dungeons and mysteries, of course. You can read a bit about the setting Schwarzaarlen and its main city Deverron here.

As vanilla as it gets ... [source]
Books I use at the table are the Dungeons and Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (the book of books, I say) and the Expanded Petty Gods (because: fun). I also heavily use the Random Narrative Generator.

We play it as a sandbox, which means the players and I take turns in not knowing what's going to happen next as the story emerges from random encounters (with random encounter reactions!), the setting and random narrative twists. I didn't know what kind of story we were going to tell. Which is a good thing. Keeps me on my toes.

Trouble follows you ...

The group consists after the first two sessions of a fat wizard, a moping princess, a melancholic barbarian, a prince charming, a fat cat humanoid and a rogue. They just arrived in town for the annual cider festival. Most arrived with a caravan that just hit town, the prince charming came from the elven woods in the north.

It's perfectly shitty autumn weather when the characters start exploring the city: a little cold, a little wet, a little gray (a d12 for the month, a d20 for the weather). Not very inviting, but the mood is good and Deverron does its best to be festive and busy. Things take a dark turn as the group makes room to let a heavily armored wagon pass, only to witness its robbery (random narrative generator, RNG from now on).

Well, they don't see that much, since the street just disappears under the wagon. The rest is screams and damage spells. The only thing they see when approaching the gap where the road used to be, is a giant spider vanishing in the canalization, the wreck that'd been the armored wagon and the corpses of those who protected it.

The city guard shows up and takes the characters into custody for questioning. They don't seem to believe that the characters had been that close without being somehow involved (RNG and Encounter Reaction Table, ERT from now on).

The characters are no happy campers at that point, feeling a bit helpless, being new in town and all that. But they'd been good friends with the chief of the caravan and as their way leads past the market place where the caravan is being off-loaded, their friend sees they are in trouble, calls a couple of his handymen and intervenes on the groups behalf (a random roll where they are headed and the RNG doing its thing).

A bribe later they are free to go. One thing they'd learned while talking to the guards: that armored wagon was a cider delivery from the Oldinges family, a local political entity.

Busy medieval streets and a castle in the distance [source]
A Feast is a Feast

Tired of walking around aimlessly, the characters ask around where the eating is good and where they also might crash for the night. The caravan leader has connections and gives them directions to a tavern that always keeps some room for people arriving with the caravan. Off they go.

That tavern is huge and business is humming. The characters are lucky to find a table to sit and the fat wizard casts a cantrip to highlight their position for the waitresses to see (a giant red arrow floating in the air, pointing at them). Turns out that's about as much magic as is allowed in here. They have magic blockers here to hinder fat wizards from skipping out on the tap.

Anyway, a waitress turns up and takes orders. As they wait for that, they are approached by a bland young priestess of the Goddess of Boredom (Expanded Petty Gods, from now on EPG). She tells the group that she knows about their involvement with the heist and asks them for help. The delivery that got stolen was a bottle of the legendary cider called "Goldspritz", worth a five digit sum in gold.

The offer is, if the characters help the temple to find the missing bottle, they get room and board and, far more important, protection from other groups that are also involved in this affair and don't believe that the characters had just "been there by accident". It's an offer they won't refuse and they agree to come by the temple later today. As she leaves, the characters notice she passes a sinister figure that looks angrily at the priestess and the group ... (all RNG).

Their order arrives. Prince charming has the brilliant idea to tell the waitress that they are with royalty, pointing at the princess. The princess smiles and waves her hand. The waitress is impressed enough to inform the owners and it turns out that they actually know that old noble bloodline from songs and stories. They have some really romanticized ideas about the old empire and make lots of fuzz about the whole affair.

It might have helped that the princess's last name literally translated to "from the money", but the owners acted fast and gave the group a private room and all kinds of courtesies, including a meal with several courses and all kinds of luxuries.

As the innkeeper seems to believe that prince charming is the princess's spokesperson, he takes him to the side and asks him how they intent to pay for all that. His reasoning is, they can't do something like that for free, but since she's a princess, money shouldn't be an issue. Right?

Prince charming is the first to sneak out of the tavern, with the rogue close on his heels. The wizard tries to negotiate terms and almost succeeds to talk the keep into reducing the price to half. However, half of 1400 is still too much (D&D RC, 3d6x10 gp for level 1 characters).

The innkeep gets wind that something is up and posts a polite henchman at the entrance. Among the last of the group to realize that they are in trouble is the barbarian. She really doesn't take kindly to the idea that they are not invited and have to pay, so she cranks up the foreigner and escalates towards the guarded door with enough gusto that she takes out both door and guard.

They make a run for it through the inn's busy main room. The innkeep didn't have enough time to get all his ducks in a row, so there's actually an opening for them to use. The fat cat is the slowest of the bunch and one of the innkeep's goons actually manages to catch her tail as she jumps through the window to make her escape.

A busy tavern! [source]
The rest already made it out, only the cat woman is in dire straits. But the rogue comes to the rescue, dagger in hand. The henchman backs of immediately as he sees that weapons are in play, mumbling something like "They don't pay me for shit like that."

It's almost dark outside and Devorra doesn't have any street lamps, just the light people carry and the lampions they put up for the festival, so the group has it easy to disappear in the busy and dark streets, heading towards the temple district ...

Next: The Temple of Boredom

And that's roughly the first two sessions. It's been a bit awkward to start the game with the RNG, as things kept happening to the characters without them being able to do a lot about it, but it actually made for a vibrant and complex setting. No fights at all in the first two sessions. The RNG throwing curve balls all the time seems to be the cause of this, another interesting side effect.

Took me totally by surprise that it turned out to be a fantasy noir story a la Garrett P.I.. D&D is good for that kind of story, it turns out.

Next time the group will meet some rivals and I walk a thin line trying to make bored characters interesting for the players. And the guard gets involved ... Read Part 2 here!