Saturday, September 6, 2008

Crimson Throne D&D: Haunted Fortunes

This series is a session-by-session recap of the Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign over the course of the school year. We've just begun the game for the semester, with this having been the first session. Enjoy! The current party:

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

Storyteller: "Visit beautiful Korvosa! They said. Join the guard. Raise your family. Be happy. What a laugh…

Under the kind rule of King Eordred the Second, Korvosa is actually seeing… happy days for once. The city is beautiful, truth be told, as it seems every tower, street corner, and building proudly bears Korvosa’s coat of arms, portraying the city's Cheliax heritage boldly.

The spires of the Academae glint in the sun’s glow, signaling that sunset is only a couple of hours away, while Castle Korvosa stands powerfully in the distance, towering above all else in the grand city.

Citadel Volshyenek, the Korvosan Guard’s fortress stands as a beacon of defense alongside the winding Jeggare river which widens in many places to seem more like a pristine lake then the river it is.

High above you, a pair of sable company marines proudly borne on the backs of hippogryphs soar through the sky to the excitement of children down below.

A quick walk through any of Korvosa’s marketplaces brings yet another rush of activity, despite the fact that sunset’s completion lies only an hour or so away.

A large gnomish band can be seen across the crowd in a raised pavilion playing jaunty tunes that whirl around your ears while a mixture of exotic smells overwhelm you, of spiced krenshar meat sizzling on a bed of hot coals, deep-fried guttersnipe shish-kabob, and warm gnomish goldspeck ale.

The sights, the sounds, the smells, all drown you in revelry.

True, and beautiful Korvosa.

But not all in Korvosa is beautiful. And you, of all people, know this. The city harbors evil in its alleyways, and death in it’s shadows. This city… harbors Gaedren Lamm. The man who destroyed your life.

Gaedren Lamm, hunchbacked thieving snake, plague on Korvosa’s forgotten children, and all around despicable wretch, is of apparently no concern to the Korvosan guard, much too busy with other 'more important matters.' They have assured you of course that they are doing the best they can, but in such a large city, it’s easy for one man to get lost in the shuffle. It’s easy for Gaedren Lamm to roam free.

Some of you have been born here, while others have just been in Korvosa for the last few months. But one thing binds you together. And it begins with a simple card."

The first to arrive at the small house on Lancet street was the young sorceress Tulia. The girl knew not who resided there, but recognized the card she'd found as a Harrow card (the card of Journey). Whoever had sent it clearly knew her, but more importantly, knew the man Gaedren Lamm. The man that had kidnapped her half-brother all those years ago.

The house was filled with odd furnishings and a single table around which sat five chairs. A note on the table indicated that the owner of the house would return shortly, but that there was bread and drink beneath the table for any who wished it.

The second on the scene was the rough-and-tumble dwarf Einkil. The dwarf had found his card (the card of Warrior) at the bottom of his ale tankard - surprisingly dry... Hoping that he would finally have a chance to restore his honor by saving the young dwarvish daughter of her employer, Einkil was still wary of the strange fortuneteller's home. The fighter hid in a nearby alleyway, seeing what would happen, rather then entering the home.

Third to arrive was the slightly-tipsy human swashbucker Ramius who entered the house with a tipsy flourish (also finding his card, the card of Joy, at the bottom of a glass). He announced his arrival proudly, knelt to kiss the back of Tulia's hand, and quickly sat - grabbing at the wine and taking a swig.

The final person to enter the house was a heavily cloaked woman who mostly hid within the folds of her cloak, save for the walking stick she carried, and the brown bandana around her forehead. Lowen, the cleric, had found her Harrow card (the card of The Self) casually set beside her as she'd bent to the river for a drink earlier that day. As she arrived, the three introduced themselves and engaged in slow conversation over the next several minutes. They had all recieved Harrow cards, and apparently all knew Lamm, though they kept their pasts a secret for the time being.

Finally, the fortuneteller Zellara returned. She apologized for the delay and looked frusturatingly at the empty seat. Zellara introduced herself and explained that she too had been harmed by Gaedren. He had stolen her Harrow deck and killed her only son. However, she claimed to know where the wretch lied. She claimed however to not be able to strike at him, and needed the group's help. They all agreed that Lamm needed to be dealt with, but Zellara could offer them little other information.

Since Zellara had opened up about her past, Ramius felt inclined to share his haunting past. Apparently, he had been born and raised in Korvosa, only to be hooked on Shiver by Lamm at an early age. When he decided to make something out of his life, he applied for the Korvosan Guard and was accepted. Apparently, seeing Ramius's new position as more of a threat then a gateway into the guard, Lamm cut off his Shiver supply and severed all contact as Ramius entered training. It wasn't long until the withdrawal rocked the swashbuckler to his core and his addiction was discovered. He was thrown out of guard training, and had his reputation in Korvosa ruined.

Zellara offered to do a Harrow reading for the group but said that she needed the final card returned to her deck first. She said it was being held by the fourth she'd called who apparently 'had better things to do with his time.'

Ramius and Tulia took their leave of the fortuneteller, saying that they were going to scout out the fishery where Lamm supposidely had his base of operations. On the way however, it didn't take much to notice the male dwarf akwardly following them as he tried to blend in with the crowd. Turning to question the strange man they were only met with a stern glance and an angry glare that made Tulia and Ramius shrink back from the belligerent dwarf.

Though each party was distrustful of the other, thinking that perhaps the other group worked for Lamm himself, they finally found that they were on the same side. Though the dwarf wished not to deal with the gypsy woman, he did give them his card so the reading could be done.

The reading, Zellara explained to the three who remained, was a simple one. Past, present, and future. Revealing the past card, she found Strength. In this place, Zellara explained, it represented not just physical strength, but the strength of their beliefs, their convictions, and the strength of their vengeance that has brought them to the point they were at.

Revealing the present card, she found The Unknowable. This, Zellara explained, was bad. The Unknowable card had no reversed position, though it meant a great change was to come - usually not for the better - that no one could foresee. A great shift and a disruption was on it's way, one that no one could stop, and that no one could foresee.

Finally, for future, she revealed Protection. Zellara said that this meant the four adventurers were destined to be protectors. It was their destinies to rise as saviors, as heroes. Perhaps of Korvosa, perhaps of the world...

As the reading finished, she allowed each of the three that attended to draw a card from 9 of the decks cards. These, she explained, were the cards of power. She could not predict what they would mean, but perhaps they could offer guidance in the days to come. Ramius drew Gateway, Tulia drew Warrior, and Lowen drew Possessions. Wishing the adventurers luck, she bid them farewell.

The four adventurers made their way towards the fishery with earnest. Scouting around the buildings perimeter, they eventually settled on two points of entry. Einkil and Tulia kicked in the front door, as Ramius and Lowen entered from the side. Unfortunately, this landed them in two different rooms. With a shot from her crossbow however, Tulia was very easily able to dispatch the guard dog in the front room while a deadly stab from Ramius's rapier was more then enough to kill Crookshanks, the gnomish guard who was watching over some children workers in the side room.

Not having much time to recoup from the battle, they set the children free and were quickly encounter by a fat faced man named Yargin. He barely had time to react however, before Tulia chanted her charm person spell, locking the man beneath her enchantment. Suddenly, he was quite kind and even offered to show them the way to Gaedren at Tulia's request.

Making their way into a back room, the party found themselves on the catwalk above a low room. Several children stood on the catwalks, stirring a large mixture of "slurry" - a mix between fertilizer, bait, and 'dumpling stuffing'. The half-orc Giggles flew into a rage when he saw Yargin just leading these would-be do-gooders into his workspace and commanded the children to attack. Hesitantly, the orphans advanced on the adventurers, readying the long wooden spoons as makeshift weapons.

Moving into the room however, Lowen tried to calm the orphans down while Ramius convinced them to join the fight against their master. Giggles' eyes went wide as the orphans turned on him, moving down to knock at his legs with their spoons, trying to trip him. With a hollar, Einkil leapt from the catwalk, cutting into the half-orc. Ramius joined him, but the dwarf clearly had things under control, neatly severing the half-orc's head with his axe.

Rushing over to one of the children, a young female dwarf, Einkil's hopeful look quickly turned disappointed. Apparently, this wasn't the child she'd been looking for. She told the child to return to the bar which her clan frequented. They would help her there.

Clearly nervous by the fight, the charmed Yargin asked politely to return to his quarters and hide under his desk. The request was granted, but only after Yargin explained how to reach Lamm. Apparently, a hidden hole in the floor dropped down into a skiff boat below, from which they could walk across the dock beneath the building to Gaedren's home.

Of course, nothing is as easy as it sounds, and shortly after Ramius dropped down he came face to face with a shark which had been swimming lazily in the nearby water. The party tried to clamber down to help the swashbuckler, but the battle was hard. Finally, the shark fell unconscious to the silent thanks of the injured party. After some healing from Lowen, the group made their way to Gaedren's home.

The "home" was nothing more then a clutter of Gaedren's "treasure" surrounding a large hole in the floor which led to the water below. Gaedren was there waiting for them, greeting each of them in kind.

"Ah, Einkil. I've heard about you... I think we'd make great partners. Hows about you put down that weapon and we can make a deal. Oh uh... Ramus! I should have fed you to Gobblegut the moment you showed up snot-nosed on my stoop. Tulia? Yes I have heard of you. Your brother told me all about you before I fed him to my crocodile... Said he wanted me to send you a message, but silly me I seem to have forgotten it. Lowen?! How the hell did you find me?! Ah well, I guess it doesn't matter anymore. What a wonderfully lovely team you've assembled. Well, I highly suggest you simply give up now. I wouldn't want to have to kill all of you..."

"Then how about we kill you?!" Einkil cried, and battle was joined.

The man himself was no real challenge, calling out bitter insults as the group attacked him, though dealing no real attacks himself.

"Is that all you've got Dwarf? Pathetic."

"You didn't need my help to get kicked out of the guard Ramius! Is that your best shot?!"

"Lowen, how sad. Good thing I framed you! I don't think you could pull off a real murder if you tried!"

"Your brother didn't put up much of a fighter either Tulia!"

With a loud whistle, Gaedren called to his crocodile which lunged from the waters at Ramius, nearly knocking the man off his feat from the force of the whip he made with his tail. Backing into a corner Gaedren snarled. With a battle cry he raised his handcrossbow at the dwarf's forehead, though before he could even pull the trigger Einkil's axe took the man's entire arm off as Ramius ran Gaedren through with his rapier. The man's face took on an entirely new shade of pale as he collapsed into a pool of his own blood.

Gaedren was defeated.

Content with their victory, the party gathered up the spoils of war and found among Gaedren's belongings a list of orphans in his employ. Apparently, the young dwarf that Einkil was seeking and Tulia's brother were not dead at all. Rather, they were "working abroad".

Also among his belongings, the group found a familiar looking harrow deck with a hatbox sitting next to it. Within, to their surprise and dismay, they found Zellara's head. Apparently, the woman they'd recieved a fortunetelling from no more then half an hour ago had been dead for several weeks.

Confused and filled with new questions, the party pushed the concerns from their minds. Vengeance had been achieved. Justice had been brought. Happy with their victory, they made their way to the fishery's exit...

Storyteller: "As you make your way out of the fishery, the first thing you hear, is the scream. A woman’s shrill cry pierces the night air. Your heroic instincts kick in, bringing you in a rush to the door and out into Korvosa’s streets, and that’s when you see it. Korvosa is burning.

Smoke rises on the horizon in all directions, and the frantic clang of alarm bells sing out in harmony with a multifarious cacophony of screams, the clash of steel on steel, painful moans and cries for help, and even the periodic explosion of arcane might.

Far above, a squadron of Sable Company Marines soar. You feel the light drops of rain upon your skin, before you realize it is blood. An injured hippogryph begins to falter as it’s rider lets out a terrified scream before the both of them meet a bone-crushing demise as they crash headlong into one of Korvosa’s many stone statues.

The others in his squadron do not even pause, as they soar at a breakneck speed for Castle Korvosa.

Amid the chaos the voice of a Korvosa herald cuts through the din: “The King is Dead! Long live the Queen!” only to be shouted down by the ragged cries of “Hang the queen!” and “The usurper whore must die!” Down an alleyway, you spy a small group of figures completely clad in black spiked full plate iron armor and horned helms. Hellknights. They seem to be pursuing a small gang of what appear to be looters.

Korvosa has gone mad. And... we'll pick up there next week!"
[players groan]

- - -

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

What the party seemed to enjoy
- A lot of battle based enjoyment. I think that this is a great group of personalities in the party however, so I think that out-of-combat roleplaying between them will really evolve well.

- I think the harrow reading worked really well and those involved seemed to enjoy it.

- The kills were spaced out really nicely. This wasn't me, it was simply the dice, but I think all of the characters have a great reason to start respecting each other since everyone contributed in a big way to the fights.

- The party loved the NPC names and I think Gaedren was an appropriate jerk.

What I could have done better
- The dwarf chose not to participate in any of the Zellara encounters so I was a little worried since it's a large part of the opening campaign. I think in the end it worked out but perhaps if I'd planned ahead more for a backup reason to get them into the meeting the separation of the party could have been avoided. In the future I should have a backup plan for things like that.

- Forgot my Varisian accent for Zellara. Darn it!

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.

- No one really got to shine today since it was our first session, but everyone got to strut their stuff. Ramius got a few criticals and shared the killing blow of Gaedren. Lowen knocked Crookshanks out before he could escape. Einkil dropped the half-orc and also got the killing hit on Gaedren. Tulia killed the guard dog and charmed Yargin.


Ryan said...


I have never been one to believe in the concept of fate. It implies that anything I do is simply a part of the grand scheme—what is supposed to happen. My decisions should play a role in the greater picture, not the other way around. Do I not have control over my own life? Am I not free to do as I choose with obligations to no man but my own?

Regardless of my feelings on fate, I cannot choose but wonder at how I have found myself a part of this camaraderie. I neither asked for it nor planned for anything but my own personal revenge to occur. Joining with these strangers was not part of my plan, and consequently I must question how our unification came about through four cards from a Harrow deck save by an intervention beyond my ken.

While I do not yet understand why we have been brought together as we have—save killing Gaedren Lamm, although, of course, it would have been much more satisfying had I slain the bastard alonee—I am still interested to see where our paths will take us. A dwarf fighter who, while certainly competent with large, oafish weapons, seems to…shall I say…experience difficulties with tasks that require any semblance of mental capacity; a half-elf cleric who gives my every move a disapproving, almost haughty, glance down her nose—and then takes time to heal me in battle; and a young—and quite attractive—sorceress whom I have yet to decipher aside from her skill with uniquely chosen sorceries and a wit above even mine own.

Upon seeing the dead gypsy’s head—and realizing that the woman we had spoken with but hours earlier had been dead for weeks—it became apparent to me, even feeling as I do about fate, that perhaps the Harrow reading we received (whoever it was actually conducted by…) was truly accurate. Strength brings us together, the present is unknown, and the future holds that we will be the protectors of…something. Right now the present is certainly unknown. Korvosa has been plunged into chaos, and my new companions and I have been plunged right into the middle of it.

Ramius Lightfoot

Storyteller said...

Thanks for the post Ryan! I'll be in touch with XP bonuses.