Friday, November 2, 2012

Paths Through the Mists: The Story So Far (Part 1)

Matney here (Yeah, I'm going to start doing that... no one knows me as Dave, anyway).  As I mentioned before, I'm running a Ravenloft game every other Friday night, and tonight is our first game back after almost two months hiatus.

(This series contains spoilers for Neither Man Nor Beast and Hour of the Knife. Also, it may contain spoilers for any of my players.)

So, instead of preparing for the game (which I will do, I promise), I'm going to fill you in on the story so far so I don't have to do it again, later.  But first, about me.

I first found Ravenloft through the original 2nd Edition AD&D Campaign Setting and I fell in love.  I bought a couple additional modules, read everything I could about the world, and never got to play a single game on either side of the DM screen.  No joke.

Fast forward a decade and a half, and I've rediscovered everything through torrents the Fraternity of Shadows... about the same time, my regular gaming group was coming to it's typical "we've been playing this campaign just a bit too long" lull, and we needed some spicing up.  So, I made the announcement that I was going to be running a Ravenloft campaign, and a date a few weeks in the future where we'd actually start playing.

Now, I hate being the game master, but I was feeling pretty confident in myself because I had been running a 4th Edition D&D game for some new players, and I had discovered Masterplan so I was ready.

But I was done with 4th Edition, so I opted to run this game using mostly 2nd Edition content in the Pathfinder rule-set (expect an article in the future on speed-convertion from 2nd Edition to Pathfinder).

One final thing, before we get into the story...
the characters. (Spelling may be way off... I'll fix it when I have sheets in hand.)

  • Sir Nathanial Garrow - a young knight from a knightly lineage, played by Erock.
  • Riz and Nyx - A pair of changeling rogues, played by my wife, K-ris, and Erock's brother Evan.
  • Alex (I don't remember his last name) - A mercenary archer, played by Hillbone.
  • Herbert du Bois - a gunslinger of French, or as close to French as Forgotten Realms gets, origin played by The Brad
  • Dr. Frederick Nebbeker - A kind-hearted, but work-obsessed, alchemist played by Terry.
  • Damarius Johnson - A half-elf (half-Black (according to the player)) druid, with a Roc named Dwayne for an animal companion, played by my brother Squink.
Wizards of the Coast
(From this point forward, my own DM commentary will be in italics and parenthesis -- stuff that happens in character, or at least TO the characters, will be normal.

This first part replaces the opening scenes of Neither Man Nor Beast, because I really dislike the narrative intros from TSR adventures that don't give the players an opportunity to make the decision to start the adventure on their own.  Sure, it's just as railroaded, but I feel that this approach works better with my gaming group.)

The game started off in Waterdeep, the City of Splendor -- the year wasn't specified, but we were well beyond what is cannon because Faerun was somewhere within it's Industrial Revolution.  The party -- sans Alex -- had been hired by a noble to deliver a package from his home a few days inland, and had just finished the job and were recouping at a tavern.

(Unknown to the other characters, Riz and Nyx looked in the package.  It contained the severed head of the current King of Mithral Hall's son.)

While they were there, a merchant sailor came into the common room, begging anyone who looked the least bit capable of acting as his ship's guard for the three-day journey from Waterdeep to Luskan.  He had a package to deliver that he was already late for, the guild he had been using as guards just bailed on him, and Waterdeep had a law that wouldn't let him sail out of port without a proper guard.  He was willing to pay a ridiculous price -- well over what he was probably making, in fact -- because he already had two strikes against him with the guild that hired him to transport the package, and if he failed he would never find work on the Sword Coast again.

Being die hard capitalists adventurers, the party took the job with very few questions.

(This was too good to be true, and my players saw right through it.  I had a proper mugging planned if they didn't go along -- Evan once told me, "You know what we've never had in D&D?  A mugging." -- but I didn't have to resort to that.)

The first day is boring -- the ship is small with only 3 crew beside the captain, and a black panther being transported to a zoo in Waterdeep -- and the first night goes off without a hitch.  The second day the party starts getting restless, and Riz and Nyx sneak into the captain's quarters where they found, buried in the first mate's footlocker, the package containing the severed head and a note saying, "The party bearing this item, *then listed them by name and description*, are wanted for murder.  There will be a reward of *X monies* for their delivery to Waterdeep."

Naturally, the party didn't take well to that, and, just as the evening began to set and the glow of Waterdeep became visable in the distance, Nathanial Garrow took the head directly to the Captain, at the helm, to confront him. 

The captain didn't know anything -- the first mate had been the one contacted by whatever shadow organization had arranged everything, and he came forward to confess as a cool mist rose around them.

Read Aloud: On the deck of the ship, you watch as the stars are blocked out by a mist so thick it hurts to breathe. The mists crowd around you, seemingly non-existent and yet thick enough that you can see nothing but white vapors... no ship, crew, or sea surrounding you.
You blink your eyes several times, adjusting to being able to see something other than mist again. The first thing you notice is a soft rain drizzling down from the sky. It splashes against your face and body, soaking everything around. Looking up, you see thick clouds covering most of the sky, giving the entire landscape a gray, forlorn appearance.
 As they found their bearings -- in the middle of the ocean, the coast no longer visible -- they noticed another ship coming upon them fast.  The ship, The Siren's Blessing, was much larger and raked their smaller vessel, shattering the oars and killing one of the crew instantly.  Then the Blessing's first mate fired a ballistia bolt into the merchant boat's first mate's chest, pinning him to the stairwell.

A quick fight broke out, with the party killing a handful of pirates -- because the Blessing was obviously a pirate ship -- in a matter of moments before it became apparent that the party was still outnumbered significantly.  Then, the pirate captain demanded that the party and the smaller boat's crew throw down their weapons and accept surrender.  He had no qualms with dumping their bodies into the drink, but he needed new crew to replace the ones they just killed.  They accepted -- except Nathanial, who opted to be locked in the brig so long as he didn't have to give up his weapons.

(Another great idea that didn't work out well -- I prepared a full color map of two ships, side by side, with every level indicated.  I was honestly expecting a bigger fight, and I would have allowed it if the party showed any real interest in ship-to-ship combat, but they didn't.

Also, it was probably 1 AM or later by the time we reached this point in the game, so the next little bit went really fast).

Artist unknown
The party spent another two days on the pirate ship -- Damarius tried to befriend the panther, but it was starved and angry and scratched him.  Then, on the second night, they were attacked by the Soul-Kraken, which shipwrecked the Blessing, and left the party to drown.

(In Neither Man Nor Beast, the Soul-Kraken battle is set up to look like the PCs have a chance.  Technically, if they roll incredibly luckily, they do, but the Soul-Kraken can hit even the highest AC on the roll of a 1.

This is where I left the PCs, so this is where I'll end this part of the story.  Wait for Part 2!)


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