It’s been [counts] many much time since I wrote about D&D. March. This year. So not a year yet. Some many much weeks. Multiple months. 5 months. Not even half a year. No time at all. Virtually yesterday, or so it seems.
What’s the rush?
Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
Since I last wrote about The Opposite of Fire, we’ve had two whole sessions. They were great fun. You should have been there. Brilliant. Wondrous.
I think we left the last session with two separate groups of Cormyrian War Wizards teleporting into the ruins of Sember, as hordes of Kobolds poured out to surround our ‘heroes’.
I set up a fairly exciting* battle map using my trusty old Pathfinder dry wipe grid, some wooden building blocks, dry erase pens, a cut out grid map of a boat and some miscellaneous bits of scenery, hopefully depicting the lake shore, and the remains of a pathway leading into a ruined temple, with scattered remains of monuments and statues, shallow pools formed in the foundations of toppled monoliths, and a jetty built from the remains of a toppled monolith.
Plenty of cover, plenty of height advantages, mixed terrain, lines of sight, and goals.
You may note two groups of three figures on the map. These are the War Wizards teleported in towards the end of the previous session. The group closest to the center, in the path of pillars leading to the temple, are the Wizards summoned when Jov (the Rogue) interfered with a magic ring he found in a pot of water suspended above a shrine. The second group, off to the side, are the group summoned when he activated Marlowe’s ring (which he stole in the previous session).
Whilst they are both Cormyrian War Wizards, the two groups have conflicting orders – The first group are responding to a standard distress call from Colonel Karlsson, and may also want to drag him in for being AWOL; the second group are Black Ops and are responding to a summon from Marlowe’s ring. They are fully aware of Marlowe’s mission to gank Karlsson.
With all the Kobolds attacking, the players had a reasonable expectation that the heavily armed NPC wizards would make everything better again with some fireball driven deus ex machina.
Instead the Wizards spotted each other, and quickly secured a small section of the battlefield before debriefing each other and then debating union rules.
Who has authority? What are your orders? I am not at liberty to discuss my orders. What is your security clearance? Who is your CO? etc etc etc
Leaving the rest of the juicy battle to the players.
Because I’d had so much fun with the Kobold Inventor the previous session, I threw another one in, as well as a selection of Kobold Dragonshields, Kobold Sorcerers, Winged Kobolds, and regular Kobolds. The regular Kobolds died fairly quickly, as did the Winged Kobolds. The Sorcerers lasted a little longer, but were kind of boring. The Dragonshield put up a good fight against our Fighter, Regina of Fairfield, before falling.
But the real star of the show was the Kobold Inventor, who used cover to his advantage, and threw a sack of wasps at the party (they jokingly guessed ‘bees’, then howled in delight and horror when it was revealed to be wasps instead). When he finally died, a lone skunk escaped from the wreckage and ran off into the woods to great rejoicing from the party.
We also noted how fucking hard Tomgrir the Dwarven Cleric of the Forge is. Ant, his player, rolled really really well at character creation, so he’s rocking Str 19, Wis 20, Stm 18, stuff like that. With his warhammer and his +1 enchantment from the Forge, he’s dishing out more damage in hand to hand melee than the Fighter, is much harder to hit, has significantly more HP, and is more likely to hit as well. He’s a literal tank, with healing.
I will be upping the CR of any encounters he takes part in.
After the battle, the players interacted with the War Wizards, who were primarily interested in:
- Where is Colonel Karlsson?
- Where is Captain Marlowe?
- What happened to the crew of the Cerberus?
- Who are you people and what are you doing in a war zone?
The War Wizards then spent some time trying to comprehend the answers they were being given…
“You’re transporting a corpse, through a war zone, down a river that stops about halfway to your destination, at a nearly impassable mountain range, and you just happened to hitch a ride with one of Cormyr’s best assassins, and you think this is plausible?”
By this time people had started asking about Marlowe, and where he was. The party last saw him trapped in a bamboo cage hung from the ruins’ ceiling, and were quite happy to leave him there.
Marlowe is no longer in the cage.
After a search, he is found, emerging from Karlsson’s quarters, machete in hand, in a state of visible shock.
The assembled War Wizards, primarily of the second contingent, surround Marlowe and take him into custody.
The party rush into Karlsson’s quarters to survey the damage, and find him dead on the floor. Their reaction: investigate (loot) Karlsson’s quarters.
I roll on the loot table, and roll well. They get 4 Art Objects, each worth 50gp, and some magic snacky items: A Dagger or Warning, an Amulet of Proof Against Detection, and a Cloak of Protection.
Somehow the party democratically decide that Jov is the most appropriate person to have the Dagger and Amulet, and Dio gets the Cloak (because he’s basically topless, and it stacks with his Dragon Scale AC).
We ended the session with the Party, Greynora, Matrice and the late Devon Harding catching a lift back to Cormyr with the first group of War Wizards.
For the next session, I took a different planning approach – I plotted out the session in a Google Doc, printed it out, and ran it from that.
Here’s the intended session. I’ve added notes in bold italics on how it actually played out.
It is worth noting that Jov’s player, Ken, couldn’t make it this session, so Jov snuck off into the city at the earliest possible opportunity. I intend to run Ken through the Downtime activities section in Xanathar’s Guide, specifically the Crime ones, next session.
Structure: Roleplay / Backstory / Plot foreshadowing > Funeral > Roleplay > Undead > Roleplay This bit makes no sense, yet seems like it should…
Party are assigned a member of the War Wizards, an overly enthusiastic 13yo apprentice wizard called Edgar Tenser (I didn’t want to be a Wizard, I wanted to be a Bard, but it’s the family business, and after Great Grandpapa invented the Disc…), to supervise and guide them whilst enjoying military hospitality. Edgar will be a doomed love interest for a recurring NPC**
I also need to introduce the current Queen, Raedra Obarskyr, and the possibility of plots against her. I did this somehow, yet cannot quite remember how…
Debrief: There’s some confusion as to who the party are and who they work for. Some assume that they were with Marlowe, others that they were with Karlsson, others that they are agents of the opposing faction of War Wizards. The explanation that they were trying to transport a body to Suzail is met with blank incomprehension.
There is also confusion as to what Dio and Tomgrir are doing. Are they deserters? Are they permanently assigned to the Harding party? Are the Hardings part of the Purple Dragon Knights?
Party are given basic quarters in a keep on the East wall of Suzail, although they are expected to find their own lodgings in short order. This presents a challenge, as the Hardings are effectively broke.
They are assigned a Liason – Edgar Tenser, an apprentice Wizard. Edgar is training to be a War Wizard, but at the moment is running errands and escorting possibly dangerous dissidents. Gosh. Edgar’s portrayal went from ‘Angus McDonald‘ to ‘frustrated adult surrogate’ within the first interaction.
Shopping opportunity! Sell the art objects they looted from Karlsson’s quarters, and buy some cool shit…
Matrice has three objectives now that they’re in Suzail
- Inter Devon Harding in the Obarskyr Mausoleum (situated within the Grand Necropolis, outside Suzail), with some pomp and circumstance
- Arrange a suitable suitor for Greynora
- Arrange a suitable suitor for herself
Matrice employs Dio and Tomgrir to assist in Goal 1, and Regina and Vash to assist in Goals 2 and 3.
Dio & Tomgrir are asked to speak to the High Priest of the Necropolis and arrange the funeral: The High Priest, Talling Lowspire, is sympathetic, but it cannot be done. The Necropolis is still being rebuilt after suffering extensive damage during the war, and his schedule is absolutely chock full. His deputy, Franklin, is busy overseeing the restoration of the catacombs. After some persuasion, he acquisces to releasing a trainee Acolyte, Gallows, to conduct the ceremony. “After all, Lord Harding was hardly Royalty…”
Regina and Vash are asked to deliver letters to noble households across Suzail: They need to register as Adventurers to carry weapons and armour through Cormyr. They will be challenged by guard patrols and must produce documentation or face fine and/or arrest. Adventurers must apply for registration at the Royal bureaucracy.
The letters being delivered are letters of introduction, announcing Greynora and Matrice’s presence, eligibility and availability within Suzail.
So what actually went down? Reggie and Vash, both being blue-blooded nobles, instantly assumed that they had the right to carry weapons in Suzail, irregardless of the Adventurers Licence requirements. Guards tried to stop them. They blinked in incomprehension at these outlandish requirements. “But we’re Nobility – surely these ‘rules’ do not apply to us?” Edgar had to guarantee their passage and take responsibility for them before they were arrested, and thrown out of the city. No one challenged Dio and Tomgrir, because they’re obviously members of the Purple Dragon Knights, therefore legit. This aggrieved Reggie and Vash even more.
The Funeral: a simple ceremony. No eulogies are read. Matrice lays a simple red rose on Devon’s coffin as it is sealed in the tomb. Greynora cries.
Reggie did deliver a eulogy, because she felt that it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t very good (Gemma rolled poorly on the Performance check), which was in fact perfect.
As they walk out of the mausoleum, Matrice tells Greynora “Good news. Salor Bleth has invited us to dine with him and his son, Jasper, at the end week. They are both highly eligible, so this is a wonderful opportunity for us both. I would like you to practice to oration and dancing before then…”
Greynora pauses for a moment, and runs off into the Necropolis.
The Catacombs: Greynora runs into the ruins; a section of the Necropolis partially burnt and demolished by the recent war. Scaffolding and canvas sheets cover buildings and monuments as they undergo repairs.
Greynora’s tracks lead into a collapsed and down to the catacombs beneath.
The catacombs here are much older than the Mausoleum the party were just in.
The party moved through the catacombs, following Greynora’s tracks in the dust. They found murdered workers and craftsmen, and evidence of more people entering the deeper depths. They fought a Ghoul, a Shadow, and a couple of Crawling Claws, then found a room with Skeletons, Zombies, Cultists, and a Cult Fanatic. Greynora was hiding in the room, watching them. As the Cult Fanatic became aware of the party’s presence, he ordered his minions to attack whilst he fled in to a further room. Greynora followed him, with Vash in tow.
We ended the session there.
- Shadow. MM 269. CR 0.5 (100xp)
- Skeletons. MM 272. CR 0.25 (50xp)
- Crawling Claw(s). MM 44. CR 0 (10xp)
- Ghoul. MM 148. CR 1 (200xp)
- Zombies. MM 316. CR 0.25 (50xp)
- Cultists. MM 345. CR 0.125 (25xp)
- Cult Fanatic. MM 345. CR 2 (450xp)
- [REDACTED]. CR 5 (1,800xp)
- Encounter 1: Ghoul, Shadow, 2 Crawling Claws (320xp)
- Encounter 2: 5 Cultists, 2 Skeletons, 2 Zombies (325xp)
- Encounter 3: Cult Fanatic, Crawling Claw (460xp)
- Encounter 4: [REDACTED] (1,800xp)
Plus roleplay awards
The combat encounters within the catacombs went well, from my perspective. Vash rolled badly, and was reduced to 1 HP (again). Everyone else took some hits and handed out some damage. My only gripe would be that the combat was not that dynamic – the party formed a line and held it, the undead dutifully attacked the line. No one used movement or special abilities. It was OK.
The next session will pick up with the rest of the party following Greynora and Vash into the final chamber, and confronting the Cult Fanatic and [REDACTED].
We’ll then (hopefully) cut to Jov and establish what he’s been doing for the last week or so. Hijinks will no doubt ensue, as well as some uncomfortable anti-halfling racism.
That… that’s not a very good strapline to end on…
**Ssssshhh the players do not know this yet…