Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SR38: Cheap Crypt ("He's tight!")

This session happened Friday, March 4, 2011, and was the only session I ran this past weekend.

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
– Dame Yasha of Bereste (Su Bel’s human cavalier cohort)
Tycho von Helmont (elf alchemist)
Agnes Sunbeard (dwarf rogue)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
 – Kainen (Thorngrim’s human fighter cohort)
Sal Ty (elf wizard) [via Skype]
– Maenwen (Sal’s human wizard cohort)

Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.

After the disaster of the stone giant fight, the adventurers spent time recovering (Maenwen needing a week before Su Bel could recast restoration and remove the remaining negative level she was under) and then making or improving some magic items to address flaws in their camping procedures (not enough fighting types ready on each watch).  All told, this entailed staying at Drop-off Tower for 17 days before heading back out.

Seeking to supplement their experience and wealth, the group decided to travel west and revisit the Terrace of Fallen Horses.  They rode on horses west, following Gravemarker Road to the Woodcutter’s camp.  There they discovered that the camp now boasted a ditch and earthen wall to protect the camp from auroch stampedes.  Continuing west, they took Terrace Road out into the Sea of Grass.  The grasses the road was cut through were not as high as they expected.  At the bend where the road turns southwest to the Ruined Hills, they found a new trail splitting off and heading northwest.  It had none of Thorngrim’s arcane marks – in fact it had no marks at all.  Curious, but on their way elsewhere, the adventurers made note of the new road and continued to the Ruined Hills.  They arrived at the Terrace of Fallen Horses as the sun was setting and made camp.

The next morning, the adventurers started off surveying the site, attempting to see if anyone else had explored the area during the two months since they had last been here.  To the best of their ability, this did not seem to be the case.  Having checked all but one of the tombs on the lower terrace, the adventurers decided to investigate that last tomb.

Sadly, they were disappointed.  The wall paintings along the entry hall were generic and of a lower quality than the other tombs on the lower terrace.  The first chamber they entered was decorated with a sky-scape.  The domed ceiling was supported by three columns, the bottoms of which were carved to resemble goddesses of some sort.  As Sal entered the room to scan it with detect magic, the “goddesses” animated and moved to attack.  After a short fight, the animated statues were rubble and Sal let the rest of the adventurers enter the chamber before re-entering himself (he had run to the back of the party during the fight).

With nothing supporting the upper halves of the three columns, the ceiling started to groan and cracks appeared.  Agnes was able to identify a pending collapse and warned the rest of the adventurers.  Su Bel quickly stepped up and cast a wall of stone in the shape of an upside-down “U” and braced the ceiling with it, stopping the impending collapse.  Agnes continued to investigate the now safe chamber, eventually identifying a door concealed behind some plaster work.  This was protected by a minor pit trap, which she easily disabled with a few spikes, and a puzzle lock, which she quickly solved.  Beyond was the tomb itself with a huge granite sarcophagus.  Inside, the king was entombed with a red dust (fake cinnabar) and low quality beaded clothing.  Clearly entombed on a budget.

Disgusted with this, the adventurers decided to return to Drop-off Tower, rather than check any of the other tombs.  [Actually, we needed to stop earlier than normal so my wife could go to a friend’s house that was near a business conference she was attending all weekend and we had gotten a late start.]  Just as they were passing the Woodcutter’s Camp, they met an elderly human leading three burros loaded with sacks and crates back west, away from the Iron Keep.  This was very unusual, so they stopped to chat with him.

His name was Curtains (he admitted it was a nickname, but he had been using it so long it was the name he regularly used) and he was a merchant for a new place named Westcastle Crossing.  The adventurers learned that Westcastle Crossing was a new settlement in the coastal hills to the west, apparently based around a tin mine and a stone quarry.  Very curious about this, most of the adventurers decided to follow Curtains west, back to Westcastle Crossing while Su Bel and Dame Yasha returned east to Drop-off Tower.  Westcastle Crossing turned out to be more of a walled village, but showed signs of expected growth.  From the flags being flown, Sal was able to determine that whoever ruled here was a minor member of a different duchy than the one the Baron belonged to.  Suddenly possibilities started appearing in the adventurers eyes.

The adventurers very nearly did not enter the village when the gate guards asked for a five copper a person toll for entry.  [Actually, the PLAYERS balked at paying the toll until it was explained that this was a historically common practice.  You’d have thought I was asking to pay with real money from the way they squawked.]  After having the toll explained to them and paying the five copper each, they went to the village’s tavern/inn for drinks.  They were pleasantly surprised to find that goods here had no 40% upcharge as they did at the Iron Keep.  Considering how much this saved them on meals and drinks that night alone, the five copper entry toll suddenly seemed a minor inconvenience.

*End of session*

[So this is where I finally introduced the new, competing “town” to the players.  I had originally thought to put it on the coast to the east of the Iron Keep, possibly in the ruins of the old village the PCs had discovered at the mouth of the eastern river (still unnamed), but eventually decided that the coastal hills to the west were more defensible and a better place for a new colony.  The entry toll was a last minute addition, mostly to test the player’s reactions to minor taxation.  They reacted about how I thought they would – they squawked like outraged chickens.  I’m interested in seeing how they react when the Iron Baron demands an actual oath of fealty in exchange for allowing the construction of Drop-off Keep.  Or the yearly taxes, which are due soon.  This skirts really close to breaking the sandbox mantra “there is no adventure in town”, but I think it is worth doing.  Name level should require some maturity on the PCs part and picking a fight with the Baron should not be their first option.  Although it is what I’m expecting.  We’ll see.]

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