Friday, November 7, 2008

Crimson Throne D&D: In Retrospect

The following is an in-character journal recollection as written by Ryan, one of the players in my Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign path. He plays the swashbuckler/rogue Ramius, and has logged his memories of the events so far as follows...

A letter, by Ramius Lightfoot

As much as I detest the concept of fate, I am beginning to feel more and more that I should not try to tempt it. My encounters over the last few days indicate that perhaps fate plays more of a role in my life than I would like—a desire to become a grand adventurer, and consequently being thrown into the midst of a band of individuals devoted to the single purpose of achieving our individual revenges on Gaedren Lamm; a Harrow reading predicting that I would become a protector of Korvosa, and soon thereafter achieving an honorary post in the Korvosan Guard; a Gypsy woman who turns out to be dead but uses her Harrow deck to pull together a band of adventurers who otherwise would have been content to go their separate ways. As a result of these events, I find myself significantly shaken by an incident I would ordinarily be wont to laugh off—namely, a crazy old man we passed in the street who suddenly approached me and swore that he saw me dying in a dream. Had my most recent experiences with prophecy and fate not occurred, I would have paid it no mind, but now I must confess it worries me. I feel that I should perhaps be a bit more cautious for a while, just in case.

Our run-in with the renegade Guard Vancaskerkin proved… worrisome. The guards below refused to take us to him, and I later learned this is because Vancaskerkin knew nothing of his men’s plan to hire themselves out as mercenaries, but it sparked argument within the party over how to get inside. I was all for sneaking in the back, Einkil, of course, wanted to stand outside and look threatening until the guards came out to us, and Lowen and Tulia wanted to take another try at talking to them. Eventually they ventured inside and charmed one of the guards—but sparked a fight while Einkil and I were still outside. We took great efforts to keep the Guards alive, but it made our battle significantly more difficult, for they fought to kill. I was also concerned that Tulia ended up starting a fight while our two melee combatants, Einkil and myself, were standing outside, helpless to stop the other guard from attacking the poor magic-users. In such a small room with only one entrance--guarded by a rather brutish guard—it proved difficult for us to muscle our way inside to provide assistance as well, which is yet another cause for concern. I must be sure not to let Lowen and Tulia put themselves into such situations without either Einkil or myself around.

Meanwhile, my trust in Einkil, which was beginning to grow upon seeing the dwarf’s competence as a fighter, has waned once again. The tactless fool charged upstairs while we were dealing with the guards and engaged in single combat with Vancaskerkin. As soon as I was able to break myself away from the fight, I charged upstairs and tried to reason with them both, but to no avail. Einkil was dead-set on taking Vancaskerkin down himself… though Vancaskerkin seemed to be willing to at least talk with me if Einkil would disengage himself from combat—something the poor dwarf will never find himself able to do, methinks. The fool did not seem to consider that Vancaskerkin was wanted chiefly for information and that we should try to take him alive. His refusal to disengage and his insubordination upon receiving a scolding from the rest of the party upon Vancaskerkin’s defeat makes me wonder just how trustworthy this dwarf truly is.

Despite the… rifts… that Einkil’s stubborn individual engagement of Vancaskerkin created, I cannot choose but find myself at least mildly impressed that Einkil was able to single-handedly defeat a high-ranking former member of the Guard with a reputation as a notable fighter. I simply wish, though, that the dwarf had some degree of judgment in his person. Without it, I worry that he will get himself or someone else killed… quite possibly even me. We will have to keep a closer eye on him and see if he might begin to make better decisions.

Imagine my surprise — and horror — in finding, while returning to Citadel Volshyenik, someone I had once met, and now knew to be dead: naturally I refer to none other than Zellara. It has now been revealed to us that the Zellara we met with was merely an apparition created through her Harrow deck, whose purpose is to protect Korvosa and bring us together to defeat Gaedren Lamm. Tulia has now become the holder of the Harrow deck, as she is the only one capable of making use of it, although she, and the rest of us, are unsure of how devoted she will prove to be to the protection of Korvosa.

Despite entrusting the attractive young sorceress with this (apparently) powerful and valuable tool, Ziaphas seemed… strangely interested in the deck upon the revelation that Zellara was, in fact, dead. And by strangely interested, I mean eyes-widen-and-go-pale strangely interested, and he then asked to see the deck. Surprised, and mildly disturbed, by the sudden change that seemed to overtake Ziaphas, we all immediately told him no. This young wizard has yet to gain my trust, especially while he carries that damned snake with him—I will not deny that the slithering reptile disturbs me. And on that subject, so does Tulia’s furry rodent. The accursed fuzzball bit me!

Ziaphas himself seems eager enough to join our merry band, but at the same time, there’s something in it that is deceivable…and all I have are a small handful of pieces to analyze the man. He seemed frightened by the imps that we encountered, and said they may have been familiars of Academae mages (but what of that?); he was shocked when we were informed that the Academae’s doors had been sealed shut in the madness that ensued after the King’s death (as anyone of the Academae might be…); he was… strangely intrigued… upon learning that Zellara was long dead (as was I… though I was much more frightened than intrigued). I will continue to take note of Ziaphas’ behavior, and I feel he has warmed up to me fairly quickly — perhaps because I was the first to step forward to save his neck—so it should not be too difficult to learn more of him.

Field Marshall Cressida Croft seems to be pleased with the work we are doing for the Guard, and even went so far as to endow us with an even greater task to perform since we would not be recognized or acknowledged as affiliates of the Korvosan Guard. Much as I wonder at her eagerness to trust our little ragtag band, especially in such difficult times, I am proud to be considered trusted enough by Korvosa’s brilliant Field Marshall to conduct our own investigation into the Ambassador Amprei’s potentially underhanded dealings. Apparently, Field Marshall Croft (rightly) suspected that he is attempting to place an embargo on Korvosa so that when hard economic times ensue he can buy up half the city. As a result…she wanted us to investigate, and attempt to find blackmail-worthy material on him if possible. To be honest, it was simple.

We went to Eel’s End to dig up any material on the ambassador’s personal life that might have manifested itself in one of Korvosa’s… lower places. After some bribes and a couple of rather terrifying, but victorious games of “knivesies,” we convinced the Devargo Barasi, the King of Spiders, to give us some rather… vivid accounts into the ambassador’s love life. They were enough even to make Cressida Croft blush, and were deemed more than sufficient leverage.

I was surprised that I was so eager to partake in a game of knivesies even after being warned of impending death by the street prophet. Either I had too much to drink beforehand, or I was too eager to prove myself capable of winning the game after Einkil managed so bloodily, or I merely wanted to contribute so we could accomplish our mission—whatever the case, I jumped into a situation that apparently many men do not come out of. While I was successful, I daresay it was a rather foolish decision. Watching the drunk go flying off the table, though…that was highly entertaining.

Apparently my shameful addiction to shiver reached the ears of some higher crimelords in Korvosa—the King of Spiders being one. He even went so far as to bet a vial against me in knivesies…and suggested that we talk business after the game was completed. It was easy enough to string him along…but disposing of the shiver I won was far more difficult. If I come across more, I may have more of a struggle. It is my hope, however, that whenever I am presented with an opportunity I will do my best to thwart the shiver market.

After our little encounter with Korvosa’s criminal underworld, Cressida Croft presented us with yet another intriguing duty. I have personally heard many rumors that the King was assassinated, and Field Marshal Croft gave us the source—members of the Queen’s personal guard, one of which being Captain Antony’s late brother, who committed suicide after dropping a name: Trinia, a young art student at the university. It was feared that the mob would find her and kill her before the guard would have a chance to question her…and it was our job to find her, catch her, and bring her back safely to the Citadel Volshyenik.

We probably should have planned things out a little better in our search for the girl once we reached the Shingles…I’m sure we looked completely inconspicuous in our inquiries. A man in leather armor with a bow and rapier, a dwarf in chain mail with an axe, a skinny, nervous-looking mage, and a tall, heavily-cloaked woman all asking questions of residents of the same building as a rumored assassin and trying to pass it off as looking for my “cousin.” Wonderfully subtle. Naturally people who lived in the building had a system in place to warn Trinia of anybody suspicious…so when we arrived in her room there was only an illusion on the bed, and she was out on the roof. Upon Ziaphus’ informing us of the situation, I promptly leaped out onto the roof, and she promptly began running. The chase ensued.

I must say, I highly enjoyed the chase. The girl was quite nimble, and presented a challenge that the others—aside from Lowen, who caught up to me when I had difficulty with a wide gap—could not manage. Einkil actually fell to the streets below, though he was thankfully uninjured and elected to shove his way through the crowds to pursue us. I finally managed to pull ahead of the rest and catch onto Trinia, though…at which point she broke down in tears. She seemed…far too innocent to be capable of killing a king. Yet she did produce a skilled illusion and seemed to have a very strong escape plan that was not easy to foil. My heart tells me that she is innocent, but my brain tells me that there is a very real possibility that we caught a skilled assassin.

Perhaps I am in Cayden Cailean’s favor, despite all my past mistakes. Getting discharged from the Korvosan Guard may well be the greatest step in my career. I’m now a trusted agent of Cressida Croft, with yet another mission. Thousand-Bones has requested that we retrieve his grandson’s body, which was sold to a necromancer in the Gray, in order to prevent an attack on Korvosa. Naturally, I am proud for another opportunity to serve Korvosa and her people.

Another commentary on Ziaphas, while I am discussing our new assignment—he seemed deeply absorbed in thought when presented with our next task. He also... rubbed a strange, discolored spot on his temple and appeared to be in pain. I don’t know what any of this means, but there’s something he hasn’t told us yet. Time will tell, I am sure. Until then, Ziaphas shall receive the benefit of the doubt as a tested member of the party.

The prospect of going to the Gray, even with such a critical situation resting in our hands, makes me nervous. I’ve never bothered to go there to begin with, and I’ve heard from some that it’s not particularly pleasant. Also…I am yet untested against any wielder of magic. Everything I’ve done has been against fellow swordsmen and soldiers. This is truly an excellent opportunity to test myself, but I again bear the street prophet’s words in mind and approach this mission with equal parts pride, humility, enthusiasm, and hesitancy…

Ramius Lightfoot

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