Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crimson Throne D&D: A City Gone Mad

[SPOILER: Members of my RPOL "Pathfinder: Journeys of Golarion" game should not read this post as it contains information as to the adventure you are currently playing.]

This series is a session-by-session recap of the Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign over the course of the school year.
Enjoy! The current party:

- Lowen, Half-Elf Cleric of Irori
- Ramius, Human Swashbuckler
- Tulia, Human Sorceress
- Einkil, Dwarf Fighter
- Ziaphas, Human Wizard

So passes Eordred II, second of his honorable name, and as his last breath faded the position upon the Crimson Throne fell to the lovely Queen Ileosa, his lady wife. Such a surprising shift in power however is never without a ripple amongst the populace. This ripple however tore through Korvosa like fire through kindling.

Korvosa
was burning.




Over the past hour or two while our heroes fought past Gaedren Lamm's henchmen and freed his enslaved orphans, Korvosa had been tearing itself to pieces. Sable Marines flew at breakneck speed towards Castle Korvosa while Korvosan Guardsmen ran headlong through the streets trying to maintain order. Even the occasional Hellknight could be seen chasing down a rather unfortunate looter or two. It was chaos.

"My family! They might be hurt!" Tulia shouted this half-crazed and half-terrified. Before her newfound companions could stop her, the young girl was running headlong through the streets - quickly disappearing into the chaos.

The party agreed they needed to get out of the streets and made for Zellara's house to try and put the pieces of this mystery together. As they rounded the corner however, the cries of a nearby mob caught their attention. A young intelligent-looking man, perhaps a graduate of the Acadamae by the look of him, was currently surrounded by six men wielding shovels, table legs, and broken chairs.

"Look at yeh skinny boy!" One of the men called at the scrawny scholar. "Betcha never worked an honest day's labor in your life, eh, Queen's Man maybe? M'brother had his arm crushed by a barrel on the docks when he was younger then you. Never raised a mug of ale with that wrist again. Wanna know what it feels like?"

As Ramius and Lowen leaped into action to save the man, Einkil simply grinned as the fight brewed, seeing the skinny man as just as much of a target. Before the dwarf could get the drop on him however, the man fell unconscious to the ground as a shovel knocked him upside the head. The battle was joined as Ramius, Lowen and Einkil made short work of the shovel-toting commoners.

There was some debate about what to do with the scrawny gentleman whose life they'd saved, as Einkil thought they should simply leave him be. As Ramius spied a bottle of wine in the man's backpack however, he quickly said they should bring him to Zellara's with them. The group finally agreed.

When they returned to Zellara's home, the found the fortuneteller's abode abandoned and empty. The dust of several weeks laying thickly on the broken furniture. But how... when this room was fully furnished only hours ago... That was a mystery for later however.

After tying the man up the brought him to consciousness. The bound man introduced himself as Ziaphas, indeed a man of the Acadamae. He'd gone out into the streets of Korvosa only minutes before the chaos hit. He was trying to get to a safer district of the city when the men had accosted him. Having no reason not to believe him, along with his suggestion of a glass of wine, the party released him and contemplated their current situation.

After a little bit, the heroes decided it would be best to ask a guardsmen what had happened. Heading out into the street as they saw one walk by, the unknowingly approached one of the Watch Sergeants, a man named Grau Soldado. The man however, from his slurred words and stumbling, was clearly drunk.

The man, in his stupor, cried out in happiness when he saw Ramius - mistaking the man for a fellow guardsman that had apparently worked along Grau's side in Sandpoint many years ago named Neffi. He insisted on buying the whole group a round of beer at the nearest tavern.

There Grau tried to answer the party's questions as best he could in his state, saying that the King had died, and even though his health had been declining, no one was expecting it so soon. Without the King to pass his orders down, Grau said, the whole of Korvosa had just broken apart. Especially since Eordred had been such a fantastic King.

Since the riots had started, Grau seemed to have just lost it, after seeing some of his fellow guardsmen as well as some Sable Company Marines die from angry citizens. He found the nearest bottle of liquor and started drinking, saying that he had failed. He'd lost his King, lost his honor, and lost his love.

As Grau passed out on the table, the group decided that they needed to go and see what was what at Citadel Volshyenek. Einkil picked up the unconscious man, and they headed out in the direction of the Citadel.

About halfway there however, the group was met with another challenge. Four Imps flew from rooftops around them and assaulted the party, stinging at the heroes with their barbed tails. For a little bit, the imps seemed like too much of a challenge, but luckily a pack of Pseudodragons quickly joined the fight. With the help of the Pseudodragons, the battle proved victorious.

For the entire battle, Ziaphas seemed a little nervous. He explained that he was concerned that the imps might have been familiars of powerful Acadamae mages, though it was entirely possible that they were just part of the stray Imp population that lived throughout Korvosa as a byproduct of Acadamae graduation rituals.

Thankfully, the native Pseudodragon population kept the imps in check, but still the group determined that the Imps probably wouldn't have been brave enough to attack had it not been for the chaotic nature of things in Korvosa.

Arriving at Citadel Volshyenek, they found it's doors open, as the guard was welcoming in nonviolent citizens seeking shelter and safety for the evening. The group found refuge here as they deposited the drunken Watch Sergeant. They could learn little from the guards about what had happened above and beyond what they'd already learned. The group eventually decided it would just be best to get some sleep.

As the following day came, things seemed to be slowly getting back to normal. The fires had at least subsided, though the streets were still thick with looters and ripe with chaos. It was made clear that the streets were not safe, so it seemed that for the meantime our heroes were stuck together.

Hearing of a pawn shop that had hesitantly opened up business, the group made their way to a nearby alleyway within which a halfling had set up shop. The halfling was a rather eccentric fellow and brave, though not without reason, given the half-orc guard he'd hired for himself. The group parted with the treasures they'd gained from Gaedren's lair, making a fine profit. When they reached the fancy brooch, the halfling's eyes went wide though he tried to hide his surprise, offering the group a paltry sum of 100 gold for it.

Sensing that something was off, the group pressed the matter, until both parties were on the verge of drawing swords. One stern look from Einkil however, set the halfling to shaking in his boots. The shopkeeper confessed that he didn't even want to buy it anymore! It was stolen property, he claimed, of the Queen! It was her brooch, and he didn't want to be caught with stolen property. There was rumored to be a reward for it however, so the man suggested they return it to the castle.

Making their way to the castle, the party found it under heavy security. Showing the brooch hurried things along however, and it was mere minutes before they met face-to-face with the Queen's personal handmaiden, bodyguard, and rumored lover, Sabina Merrin - a stunningly gorgeous swordswoman. She took each of their names, and ushered them into the great halls of Castle Korvosa.

After introducing them with a flourish, the party was allowed to approach the Crimson Throne, upon which sat Queen Ileosa. The Queen was a vision of celestial beauty, despite the black mourning dress and veil she wore in honor of her husband's passing. A small silver coffer sat in her lap. The queen spoke...

"This brooch was stolen from me some time ago - I had not expected to see it again, truth be told. And yet, here on my darkest day, you come before me with kindness. The return of this brooch is much more than an honorable deed. It is inspiration. It is hope.

I love Korvosa, as my husband did before me. His death has shocked the city as it has me, but I will not see his legacy destroyed in death, and I shall not see my city torn apart. All Korvosa stands at the precipice of a disaster wrought by her citizens - these riots simply cannot continue. You have already done by heart a great service in returning this bauble to me on this dark day, and you shall be rewarded. Yet, perhaps you can serve your city more.

If you so choose, I shall have Sabina see to it that you have an escort of guards when you leave here - they can see to your safe journey to Citadel Volshyenek. I shall send word ahead of you to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft to let her know you are on the way. The Korvosan guard is stretched thin, and it can certainly use the aid of such heroes as yourselves.

Now, I need to retire to my personal quarters - my grief has drained me. Again, I thank you for your kindness, and I hope your days of serving the crown are only just beginning." The Queen granted them 1,200 gold pieces worth of Korvosan Metal Ingots and bid them farewell.

Upon arriving at the Citadel, the party was ushered before a very exhausted Field Marshal. She spoke shortly and curtly, explaining that if the party wished, they would be offered a temporary membership into the guard so that they could help keep the city under control. The woman glanced through her notes and then to Ramius. "It seems that some of you have... a record with the guard. But as far as I'm concerned, if you're willing to step up to the challenges now, then I'm happy to have you on board." The woman crumpled up Ramius's former record and tossed it to the side, as the swashbuckler smiled and thanked her.

Cressida laid out the mission. A man by the name of Verik Vancaskerkin had defected from the guard and taken a group with him. They were held up in a butchery called "All The Worlds Meat". She wanted to know why he left, but most of all, she wanted him back. Dead or Alive. Cressida wished them luck, and sent them off.

- - -

DM Notes: (These are player-safe, no spoilers)

What the party seemed to enjoy
- Being able to bash down some unruly commoners seemed like it was a little too enjoyable... It was played off as a pretty humorous encounter though, which I think went well.

- The introduction of Ziaphas worked a lot better then I thought it might. Bringing in a new player, even in the second session, is always hard. This went pretty seamlessly though, and I was able to put it right at the beginning of the session.

- I think the group loved Grau and his drunken antics. I had him somewhere between plastered and stoned and he was fairly ridiculous. Sadly, I can't remember any of his drunken quotes right now. Players - can you help me out with some of Grau's more humorous moments? I just remember it being pretty hilarious.

What I could have done better
- I should have saved the Imp/Pseudodragon battle for a session where there was more combat, since the group was relatively ineffective against them so they could have had more of a sense of accomplishment.

- I forgot to make them bow before the Queen. That could have led to some interesting party dynamics...

- I forgot to do something important when they got back to Zellara's house, but it's an easy fix next session.

- I should have had the Grau encounter later in the adventure so that he would have had more time to grieve. I was just too excited for the encounter!

Spotlights

I think it's important every game to let one or two characters take the spotlight. Every session, I try to give someone a chance to shine. I try not to spread myself too thin, and try to focus on a different player or pair of players each session. All of the players have a chance to strut their stuff during each session in different ways though, even when they may not realize it.

- Ramius had the most backstory-centered plot this session. His transgressions in the guard have essentially been forgiven, and he's been granted a second chance to redeem himself. He also had more then enough opportunities to shine in combat, and in his valiant rescue of Ziaphas. Ramius was also given a contact to speak with at the Citadel when they first arrived.

Picture from Pathfinder's Curse of the Crimson Throne Player's Guide.

6 comments:

Ziaphas Sa'DiThanatos said...

"Shut up Sephahilarix, I am in no mood for your snide comments." Ziaphas shook his head, dislodging the small snake off to fall down into the back of his robes. He shifted his weight, allowing him to slighter down his back and out his sleeve to peer down at the words he was writing.

"....so that pretty much sums up the rest of my party. It would appear I have become a common adventurer, but at least it should protect me from the wrath of the Acadamae. After all, they wouldn't dare move against a Krosian guardsman and his allies--even a temporary one--would they? I know not. I suppose I'll just have to wait with these, my new friends, so to speak, and hope. Afterall, if nothing else that bedamned man with the shovel proved I will not be able to survive by myself."

Ziaphas rubbed the side of his head, perpetually sore, and winced.

"Mother, though, would be proud. I still believe I am living fully in her memory, and if these men (and women) can be proven trustworthy, I shall protect them with my life. It...well, it is the least I can do."

He looked over at the cleric and sighed.

"At least, I shall try."

He smiled wryly, scratching Sepha'. "What do you think?" he asked the snake, who promptly wriggled out and across the floor to the Swashbuckler. Ziaphas smiled.

"And of course, Sephahilarix seems to have taken a liking to a certain party member...we shall see how this turns out.
As Always,
Ziaphas Sa'DiThanatos"

Storyteller said...

Great post man! I'll be in touch with XP bonuses.

ery (lowen) said...

(Despite her education, lowen cannot spell because ERY cannot spell...)

Tulia has run-off to the aid of her family. the town has lost all sense of reason. we decided to make our way to Zellara's residence to seek shelter until the chaos died down. but we were distracted by an angry mob attempting to harm a skinny young man in a cloak. Ramius asked the mob why they were after this man. Einkil and i would have preferred to stay out of the whole thing, but when they suddenly turned on us, we had no choice.

we made short work of them, but the young man is very weak and was knocked unconscious with a table leg. we took him with us to Zellara's to heal. This young man, Ziaphis, was polite and grateful, if not a bit suspicious. he appears to be a mage of the acadamae and has a binge-drinking snake as a companion. while i was healing him, he showed a particular interest in my faith. when i revealed my vow to Irori, i inquired about his own. it was something he beleived in during his youth, but has since abandoned. his reasons for asking me are not suspicious...they're merely puzzling. what is suspicioous is that he is constantly anxious.

after all this, we made our way outside and stopped a sloppily drunk korvosian guard to try and get some news. we ended up in pub, with him spouting gibberish. the most eloquent thing he managed was:

there's no king!
so there's no orders!
so there's no order!
so...there's fire!

we still don't know how the city spontaneously burst in to flame. i was so sure that the king had been murdered by outside forces, but i suppose not. we took the unconscious guard with us to the citadel, hoping for a more detailed answer. we had a run in with some imps and pseudo-dragons, but it was hardly worth mentioning.

we arrived at the citadel, thankfully Ramius was not refused, and we healed and rested for the night. in the morning, we made our way to a pawn shop to have our treasure appraised. we turned a good profit, and only kept a few things that were of particular use. we set aside a share for Tulia, and shared (quite freely) with Ziaphis. the broach, we earned, belonged to the queen and we decided to return it to her for the advertised reward.

in court, when asked for my name and title, i called myself a half-elf cleric, which was a mistake. i had them correct it, but it was still a shameful experience. i did not wish to hide anything from the queen, but regardless, my type could still be an unwelcoming sight to her. perhaps she would have trusted me less. as it turns out, she is so trusting that we have been enlisted in the korvosan guard to help maintain order. Ramius (for having his record erased) and Ziaphis (a child hood dream perhaps?) seem particularly happy with this development and eager to help.

to be honest, i would rather not. my name in this city will be cleared, or better yet, forgotten. i have no loyalty to, or any particular fondness honestly for this city, and i'd prefer to be on my way as soon as possible. however, i am needed. my honor demands that i give aid to anyone who asks it of me. so it seems i will be in korvosa for some time.

our first mission is to track down Verik Vancaskerkin. a rogue guard leading forces against the queen.

it appears Tulia will join us.

--Lowen

Ryan said...

Reflections:

There lies no doubt in my mind now. This strange band has been formed to serve a greater purpose. I know not what—yet—, but upon viewing the gypsy’s strangely deserted house I immediately realized, even amongst the insanity of a Korvosa undergoing an abrupt transition of rule, that some form of…divine intervention…has served to bring us together. It began with Gaedren, but who knows where it will end…

We have added another to our party: a tall, fragile young wizard of the Academae who seems knowledgeable, yet wary to tell us too much. Upon seeing him beset by a mob amidst the chaos, I took pity on him and stepped forward. This proved to be both noble and foolish, for they immediately turned on me. The wizard collapsed after a blow from a shovel, but we subdued the commoners and revived the man—though Einkil seemed content to simply leave the man for dead in the streets and loot our attacker’s bodies.

I was astonished, upon carrying the drunken Korvosan Guardsman we found back to the Citadel, to find my former trainer. He seemed…confused by my appearance, as if he was expecting me to be in far worse shape than I was. If I were in no shape to be a Guardsman, I never would have tried…but I digress. If he was astonished by the fact that I seemed clean, he was even more surprised when I told him how Lamm met his untimely demise—and then commended me.

Sometimes I wonder if I am too reckless. Where is the line between confidence and recklessness? Will I ever know, in the heat of the moment, if the line is there and if I’ve crossed it? I say this after I carried my dagger directly into the throne room of Castle Korvosa. It seemed a fair idea at the time—the king is dead, there are rumors that the queen murdered him, and we were forced to leave our weapons at the door—and yet, in retrospect, there is no reason to have done it. What threat did I possibly pose to the queen in her own castle? I must make more certain to consider the ramifications of my actions before I take them.

The most astonishing thing is…I have been given a clean slate. The wondrous Cressida Kroft has wiped my record of, as she phrases it, “past transgressions” and given me a post in the Guard, albeit temporary. I truly have the opportunity to make something of myself now…and since Cayden Cailean has presented me with such an opportunity, I must be sure to make use of it to the best of my ability. I will not fail this time. I will not.

Affectionately,
Ramius Lightfoot

Storyteller said...

Ah, there's Grau's quote! Thank you Ery!

Sage said...

I know that life is scattered, disordered, illogical, chaotic. I know that secrets stream between the threads of reality, bursting if not properly controlled. That's why I've never trusted authority, the Korvosan guard, not even the crown, really, and why I cling to the Varisian supernatural.

But never did I believe that my reality could fall apart so quickly.

When the chaos broke out, only one thing was on my mind -- my family. It was fear for my brother that sent me running, although my parents kept me going even after I remembered that he has disappeared. I may not get along with my parents, but they are my stability, my nest. And they are so trusting! I pictured them sitting in a collapsing building, waiting for the Guard to save them. I had to go.

Darting through the chaos as best I could, I made my way to the shop, finding one of the most heartening sights of my life.

In the chaos, looters and revelers were making drunken attempts on the shop. But standing in front of it were Mom and Dad, shouting, swinging their fists, Mom with a broom, Dad with an awl in either hand.

Sure, it looked ridiculous. But my parents had SPUNK.

The two saw me and stepped apart, allowing me to run over and stand between them. I did a simple spell, summoning light, but made it look like I was growing a fireball with my words and motions.

The attackers grew fearful of the "witch" and ran off, like the ignorant sheep most Korvosans are.

My parents barred themselves in, with provisions I scrounged from the streets during the chaos (yes, I stole ... from the shops of those who threatened by parents). I feel relatively certain that they are safe now. I could be safe, too. But I can't stay. I have to go find the others, find my brother, help end this mess. The only thing I can do for my parents is pray. Perhaps to our family god, this time. They'd appreciate that.