Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Whither Thither?" Chapter 7 of the Xanthus River Campaign

Our party consists of:
Valerius (Level 1 Warrior)
Absalom (Level 1 Cleric)
Gwen (Level 1 Elf)
Nip (Level 1 Cleric)
Babu (Level 0 Man-at-Arms)
Jack (Level 0 Man-at-Arms)
Shau (NPC)

When we left our intrepid band, they had reached explored the first floor and cellar of the abandoned and supposedly haunted house of Saltmarsh Manor. Behind a secret door in the wine cellar, they found a large room being used as quarters and barracks by pirates, but as yet encountered no pirates. Exhausted and weary of further encounters, they slept the night in the abandoned study on the first floor. After fending off a late-night incursion by goblin explorers, they woke the next morning refreshed.

At dawn, the party decided to send Nip, Babu, Jack, and Shau back to Thither, a 2 hour hike away, to secure proper lodging and to keep Shau safe and out of the way. Soon afterwards, they were surprised to see Gwen, who had followed them from Wince, where they had left her for dead. After a wary examination and test to ensure Gwen was not a zombie or vampire, they proceeded. 

The party returned downstairs, past the pained screaming spell placed upon the top of the stairs to the cellar, past the decaying body of the knight whose armor Valerius now wore, and into the barracks, which was empty. 

After exploring the barracks they entered a smaller room belonging to a leader. Valerius found a locked box hidden under the bed. Smashing open the box sprung a trap, exploding bright blue eye all over Valerius and half the room, causing Absalom to collapse in paroxysms of laughter. Within were discovered five potions and some coins. In addition, Gwen found a spell-book and a long overcoat.

Another door was sealed from the outside and marked "DANGER" in chalk. This room was left unopened. 

Gwen easily found another secret door leading to an underground passage and some caves. 

The party explored the caves and walked under some dripping corrosive slime. Luckily, Absalom was able to neutralize the slime with a miracle from the goddess Justicia.

They soon found a cavern containing several cages. Within the cages were imprisoned slaves, recently captured from the nearby farms, a few had recently traveled with the party from Wince. Guarding the slaves were three lizard-men from the Screaming Swamps and a man in the robes of a wizard. 

The wizard, surprised by the intrusion, called out, "Who the hell are you? Ah-HA! You are wearing my coat! And YOU are covered in blue ink! So my trap worked and you have been caught red-handed stealing my property! KILL THESE INTRUDERS!!"

A fight ensued. The lizard-men were killed, as was the wizard, who died after two failed casting attempts. Absalom took a great blow to the head, reducing his mental faculties and nearly killing him. Gwen, likewise, was nearly killed. Unfortunately, due to Absalom's handicap, the party was bereft of healing. 

The captives were freed. They said others were recently taken aboard the slavers' ship and that they were coming back for the rest. Among the captives were the dwarf named Sausage, Kern the corn farmer, and Rings the animal trainer.

Soon afterwards, voices came from a deeper passage. Fearing discovery, the party fled. Voices, having found the bodies of the wizard and the lizard men, cried out behind them, giving chase. 

The party made its stand in the barracks, creating a choke point at the secret door. 

Valerius and two of the newcomers fought valiantly at the entrance against three pirates. Absalom threw a clay pot of oil on the pirate and then set him aflame. The pirate fled down the stairs, dying. A second pirate fled in fear. The third pirate fought to his end, having been killed by Valerius.

Weary of their brief encounter, the party decided to return to Thither. It was now only two hours past sun-up.  They arrived at their lodging and met Shau and the others only thirty minutes after them. 

The group sought healing at the temple of Justicia but were unable to afford the tithe. They decided to take care of business, exchanging coins and gems at the money-changers for scrip to be used for large purchases within the city. 

On their way back, they encountered a small group of town guards harassing some neophytes of Justicia at the Old South Gate. The neophytes were carrying recently purchased medical supplies back to the temple. With them was a wealthy-looking merchant with his two bodyguards. The town guards pushed and shoved the young neophytes, knocking their load to the ground. 

Valerius, wearing the tabard of Justicia, and Absalom, being an acolyte of Justicia, intervened on the neophytes' behalf, with Sausage, Rings, and Kern backing their play. They stood up to the guards. The guards decided to back down and let them pass. 

The wealthy merchant introduced himself as Bo-Mont Oacha, wealthy merchant and patron of Justicia. He had recently purchased these supplies to provide to the poor and needy people of Thither. He explained that he was a wealthy philanthropist of humble origins who wished to give back to the oppressed of the city, and that the city establishment did not appreciate his efforts to redistribute wealth and power. 

He thanked the party and offered his villa to them for the evening, and invited them to join him for lunch at midday. 

After lunch, the rest of the day was spent conducting business, having potions identified, loot appraised, etc. 

On their way back to the villa, they encountered a mob riot at the Old South Gate. A mob of the poor had heard about the incident this morning and were seeking revenge against the guardsmen and a riot had erupted. Several of the guardsmen saw the party and peeled off to chase them down. The party fled and was able to make it within the safety of the villa gates. 

They spent the night in the villa but never saw Bo-Mont. They woke the next morning and Absalom promptly healed everyone of their injuries. 

They broke their fast with Bo-Mont and explained that they were headed back to Saltmarsh Manor. Bo-Mont expressed surprise for the manor had been abandoned twenty years and was now haunted. Also, slavers were raiding the area and that the party should be careful. The party mentioned the slavers they encountered and Bo-Mont told them that there was a bounty on the slavers and a reward for each captive rescued. 

When asked about the house, Bo-Mont said that the house once belonged to a powerful alchemist named Yithother, who was searching for the secret of the Philosopher's Stone, the ability to turn base metal into gold. The stories say that the old alchemist up and disappeared overnight twenty years ago. The house was utterly abandoned. 

On their way out of the city, the party was forced to make way for a large wagon carrying pleasure slaves from the south. After it passed, one of the slaves was somehow able to kick open the locked door and escape into the bazaar, chased by two guards. The party chose not to intervene.

Once more at Saltmarsh Manor, they decided to explore the top floor. In the east wing, they quickly dispatched two large spiders in a fireplace. Jack, however, was bitten by a spider and paralyzed. In the next bedroom, they found a middle-aged man bound and gagged. Kern the corn farmer went to his aid but fell through the floor and was injured. Rings the animal trainer took a different route and freed him.

The man was named Edmund. He claimed to be Master Yithother's valet and personal assistant. He said that a few days ago, he awoke standing in a closet and that the house was overrun by miscreants and ne'er-do-wells. He was quickly bound and left in this room. He validated that Shau was the master's niece. He also worried about the master's young nephew, William. He hasn't seen either in the last six days, and he is terribly confused and worried as to the current state of the manor.

Upon exploring the west wing, Rings was killed when he investigated a coat which turned out to be infected with a noxious yellow fungus. 

In the attic they came across four bat-winged blood-sicking creatures known as "Stirges". One of the creatures killed Kern before all four creatures were destroyed.

After that, the party prepared itself to re-enter the cellar.



Two things I wished I'd have done differently:
  1. I changed the hyenas in the module to lizard-men. At first they were going to be fish-men, but I changed to lizard-men at the last minute. Now I wished I'd have made them frog-men. I love frog-men!
  2. I should have had the Illusionist spellburn! He's an NPC, he doesn't need those stats! BURN THEM! But I forgot all about that rule. As a result, none of his spells got off and his death was kind of lame. 
Also, one of the key points of the plot is that the pirates are smuggling goods in the dark of night. I just realized that I had my pirates doing their work after dawn. I should have had all ten pirates asleep or at least resting in the barracks. MISSED OPPORTUNITY!!

On the successes side, once again the Cities source book was invaluable! Every encounter in the city was an unplanned random encounter that I was able to seamlessly integrate into the story!

Encounter 1: the party comes across a fight happening between two factions. 

This allowed me to introduce Bo-Mont and his conflict with the patricians of the city. 

Encounter 2: the party encounters a mob riot and is mistaken by both sides as allies for the other side. 

This just worked perfectly to further illustrate the tensions of the city and made it a very real place.

Encounter 3: they witness a slave escaping. Ironic given the storyline with the slavers in Saltmarsh manor, but the bottom line is that owning and selling slaves is legal in Agartha, but capturing Agarthans to sell as slaves is illegal. Anyway, it was totally up to the players to intervene or ignore, and they chose to ignore. Nevertheless, the escaped slave will return!

I should also point out that this week we were joined by special guest star Jeff who was able to play Sausage, Rings, and Kern. Jeff's portrayal of Sausage the Grossly Overweight and Overbearing Dwarf was inspired and hilarious!