Sam’s player was absent due to work commitments this week, which is why he’s pretty quiet in this session. It also explains the lack of a bird’s eye view… ha ha ha…
So we start with distributing item cards and catching everyone up to speed. Ironically Dekgrad’s player is the one who reminds everyone of a few finer details as he read the session recaps that morning.
- The group find themselves before the tavern and inn, One-Eyed Jack. They are greeted with a terrible band (named Copperside, singing this song). The establishment is worn but run by dwarves, and while the crowd is rough, spirits are high.
- At the corner near the bar is a rough stone statue of a human, which honestly looks like a trial-run in terms of quality, with half of its face smashed off. The statue is bedecked in shirts, clothes and silly hats. The rogue goes through the pockets quickly, only managing to pilfer a handful of silver and other coins.
- They find an older, beared dwarven matron behind the bar and introduce themselves. They learn that her name is Thorne (or called Thorny by some) and they seem to make fast friends, with Dekgrad’s flattery earning him a stream of free ale.
- They notice a lack of nobles in here, there are exactly zero. The crowd are workers, drunkards and ruffians all. And when Weezl and co. try to determine if there are masque agents in the crowd, they come up with nothing. Then again, the gnome’s experience with rougish types is limited to Dannick’s Masques and Ziggy.
- The party ask about the town’s situation and about the curfew (which is no longer strictly enforced. And it is Thorne’s suspicion that this is intentional but she doesn’t know why.) Thorne says that the place is rather mad and cruel, but she’s staying because she has a bar and even humans deserve good ale and some dwarven hospitality. The group say how they have business in town and that they have connections and Weezl blurts out (at nearly every opportunity this session, hilariously enough) that they’re looking for Akali.
- They get directions to Bedrolls and Broomsticks but find out Akali hasn’t been around and they haven’t seem to be getting restocked so Thorne has had to take her business elsewhere.
- Eventually the conversation turns to procuring rooms, of which two are available, and Ziggy gives a false name for the ledger that Thorne takes out. Dekgrad gives his actual name, which when written quickly disappears- erasing itself. Thorne putting two and two together scratches out the fake name and does not charge for their rooms, which they can have for as long as they need.
- There is more smalltalk, including an amusing moment where both Thorne and Dekgrad ask where each other come from but don’t actually know the names of the locations (prompting a discussion about doing another world building session sometime soon!) Ziggy relaxes while keeping an eye on anyone getting too close, and Dekgrad and Weezl take up the stage to play their flute and bongo drums. They manage to get people up and dancing and earn a hearty 10 gold each for their efforts (during the performance, the gnome minor illusions a beard in front of her face, in the fashion of a poor photoshop attempt, with her moving around all the while- though trying to keep it in place.) Soon after everyone goes to get some rest, with Dekgrad drinking himself into oblivion and then stumbling off to a room, and stealing Ziggy’s bed.
- Weezl takes a look into the night, noting the lower fog and people traversing the streets, and doesn’t notice Ziggy vaulting up onto and across rooftops and he does some urban skulking across the closely packed buildings.
- Making nary a sound across the tiled rooftops he eventually spies a small handful of nobles, noted by the moonlight reflecting off their white masks, with one dwindling behind to relieve himself. He manages to silently scamper down and place himself around a corner from the man, opting NOT to make a leap of faith into a wagon that was off the side of the street (which he learns is filled with wilting produce.)
- When the man stumbles around the corner, the rogue scores a nat 20 on his takedown attempt (with a subsequent, high, sleight of hand check), managing to perfectly strike the back of the man’s skull and neck, knocking him out instantly. As the man falls, Ziggy manages to take the man’s mask and grabs the man’s half-cape gently, silently lowering him down to the ground. He quickly robs him of his coin purse and stuffs the slight man into the nearby wagon, and starts to move when he hears approaching, heavy footsteps.
- He manages to silently evade pursuit, but a clatter of tiles after a leap between rooftops, alerts a Heartsworn, who quickly loses the rogue- who manages to get back to the inn safely and quickly. He then spends time scraping the paint of the porcelain mask and tucks it away, soon after retiring for the evening.
- Morning arrives, the group eat and head out for adventures! (This is after Dekgard is horrified to find that the inn doesn’t have any eggs and he can’t make his hangover cure.) They go to check out the landscape and to make their way to the general store. Firstly they venture out nearer the farming district, where they witness nobles pushing over and threatening a girl, before they continue on their way. Weezl runs over to the child and offers her gold, which the child refuses to take, she doesn’t want to be put in jail for taking it, “for stealing.” Confused, the gnome then offers her some food, which the girl takes despite herself, and quickly she runs off when there’s a pause. She waves meekly and disappears into some nearby alleys.
- The druid goes to approach the nobles, and the group try to tell her to stop, and she picks up a stone to throw at them. Ziggy manages to get her to stop, promising that they’ll get them back, to commit their faces to memory and this is just enough for her.
- The group make their way towards the fields, to notice that half of it isn’t yielding crop and the people working look tired and despondent. But their travels do give them a bit of a lay of the land. They then make their way towards the general store.
- On the way they also notice an argument, overheard by Dekgrad, between some guard and Hearthsworn. The guard had arrested what appear to be three townsfolk and have them in chains, the Hearthsworn demand they be freed (for the very minor transgression they apparently took part in) and the guard bite back. It appears to the dwarf that this takes the Hearthsworn by surprise and one of them steps forward, removing the chains himself and berating the guard, who don’t back down an inch- but they seemingly let the people go.
- Finally, amongst the jumble of commercial buildings and businesses, they find themselves at Bedrolls and Broomsticks; and inspecting the sign, Ziggy notices some Thieves’ Cant etched into the wooden placard, saying: "“Hidden Face. Find Way. Winning Black Jack. Key.”
- The building itself is a couple levels, and looks like a retrofitted warehouse, subdivided into a number of businesses, with about 2/3 dedicated to this store. The shelves are rather bare, with the meagre amount of stock spread thin, and a handful of people listlessly peruse the shelves or walk the isles.
- At the counter is a bored man who, when greeted, jovially and enthusiastically greets the party. His unique manner of speaking takes them all by surprise, but with Ziggy reflecting the man’s speech patterns instantly, and flawlessly (making everyone look around in bafflement and making myself have to bite down on laughter any time anyone said anything.)
- The rogue procures his unique deck of cards, sliding over a Jack of Spades, which gets the conversation starting in earnest. And near-instantly Weezl asks about Akali, getting a stern look from Ziggy again, this time the druid realises her faux pas and quickly redacts the statement, in a very obvious way.
- The man asks why they want to meet Akali and they learn she isn’t around anymore, but if they have business with the Masques he can tee up a meeting with their new leader, her previous second-in-command – Korran.
- The conversation goes around in circles, with Weezl wandering out to scope out the exterior of the building, and Ziggy and Dekgrad organising a meeting with Korran at noon. The “store clerk” walks over to another man who has been seemingly in the building the whole time (no one noticed him previously) and they have a brief conversation- after which, the man leaves.
- Noticing the pace of the man leaving, Weezl turns into a tiny spider and desperately leaps and latches onto the unassuming man. He finds his way to a nearby alleyway, and then starts sprinting down backsteets and parkouring over rubble and broken fences. From Spider-Weezl’s perspective, it’s kind of like the worst VR experience ever with ULTRA shaky-cam. About half an hour of this they reach a number of warehouses (which Ziggy is currently being given the address of) and the man raps out a series of knocks on the metal doors.
- He enters a small room, with a caged off area to the side and a woman pats him down, letting him in the next series of doors.
- Inside is a large warehouse which has been gutted and fit-out in a very ramshackle way. About 30 rough-looking men and women sit around on crates, some drinking and others playing cards or roughhousing one another. The man steps up on a platform announcing some business for Korran, who is sitting on the second level, peering down. He invites him up.
- Passing barricades and bored archers, the man gets near to a man of elven descent, with matted, long dark hair and impossibly dark circles around his eyes. He doesn’t look like he’s slept in days and he’s rather fidgety. Small piles of purple-and-red powder are on the desk in front of him, and he holds an obsidian dagger in his grasp.
- Weezl overhears everything but doesn’t learn much. Korran okay’s the meeting but angers quickly over the mention of Akali. He dismisses the man, who seems relieved to go.
- At this point, when Korran goes to snort up a line of this powder the players affectionately nickname him “Edgelord.” Funnier still when I spoil something later, when I remember that his dagger’s name is Razor’s Edge. The edgelord joke runs strong for the rest of the session and quickly becomes the name for this faction- “the edgelords.”
- There were also two large cages hanging in the area that each held a Flying Snake.
- The man sits down to rest on the bottom level, and realising her beast shape is due to run out, the druid-spider scampers quickly along the side of the room and manages to get out in time for her to return to her form safely.
- Meanwhile, noticing Weezl’s absence, the rest of the party wait a quarter of an hour for her… and then decide they’ve waited long enough and leave. Dekgrad and Ziggy then go looking for a bakery by the name of Munchies that the storeclerk referred them to. They end up finding it, but that isn’t the name, and Dekgrad ends up procuring some egg rolls.
- On the way back to the inn, the group check out the stockades near the centre of town (that were mentioned back at the inn, along with the fact that the prison is now also referred to as “The Pit”, in reference to the excavated area under the building that was made to hold prisoners since the place is massively over capacity.)
- Upon approaching they see the 20 stocks, of which over half are occupied, and nearby is roughly 10 or so guards. They notice townsfolk and nobles (in particular) approaching people in the stocks, eating in front of them, or injuring them. One leaning down to cut one’s leg. They guards seem to laugh and don’t stop the casual cruelty at all… this horrifies the men and they leave for the inn.
- Soon after Weezl returns and before anyone can get angry at her for disappearing she spills the details of her reconnaissance. Everyone quickly decides they’re not going to this meeting and just hope that doesn’t come back to bite them. They lay low until the evening and then go to check out the general store at night in an attempt to get some more information.
- Dekgrad stays on the ground, as he lacks in stealth, and pretends to be a sleeping drunk in a nearby alleyway while the others take to the rooftops to get to the building.
- It’s honestly a bit of a clusterfuck with the gnome’s short legs meaning she’s either barely making or failing at leaping between buildings, but Ziggy spots her, the two finally getting to the building adjacent. Ziggy convinces Weezl to beast shape on the roof and just take the long way down and back up again instead of attempting to leap again.
- During this Dekgrad has a couple youths sneak up and start to pickpocket him, managing to take about 20 gold before he startles them. He doesn’t threaten them but offers them 5 gold if they want to cause a distraction if there are any guard nearby. One of the kids agrees but wants payment up front, when the dwarf refuses, the kids leg it, and the dwarf goes back to his act… but this time keeping more of an eye out… for a while.
- Weezl-as-spider manages to find a window that’s slightly ajar and finds herself in an office. A thoroughly ransacked office on the second floor. Anything of worth or import is gone, and even upholstery has been cut open. She does manage to find some left behind women’s clothing, but that’s it. She hears some voices and counts maybe three voices but decides to go back to the others. She relays the information to the group (who poke at Dekgrad with a stick, waking him up.)
- While they’re talking about what to do (meanwhile I just keep on rolling dice), footsteps appear to be getting closer, and before them are three guards. It catches most of the group off guard (who roll a nat 1 and a -1 for stealth; Ziggy naturally fades into the stonework like a goddamn Predator.) But quickly, in the distance is a pale moon shape, and then another, with the two street urchins mooning and taunting the guards, provoking them thoroughly and they give chase.
- Moments later there is movement at the back of the alley, and a figure steps forward with arms raised. A woman with short dark hair and a beauty spot, she’s heard they’d been asking about her and they should come quick if they wish to talk.
- Akali quickly leads the group to a sewer grate, and ushers the group into it. She takes a particularly long look at Sam, noting his eyes, when he goes down.
- The woman, counting her steps, navigates the sewers without sight and the others follow thanks to their darkvision. She leads them through the narrow and labyrinthine network to a section that is reasonably large and open, thanks to some collapsed tunnels (Dekgrad notes the stonework and finds it to be reinforced with magic and a melding of stone.)
- In the room are a handful of folk that look a lot more like the Masques that Weezl recognises (much unlike the ones she saw in the warehouse.) And Akali invites the group to sit on some salvaged rugs and furnishes and offers them some wine.
At this point we took a quick break and moved over to the lounge room as people were getting a bit uncomfortable.
Full disclosure, there was a lot of conversation that happened at this point, so I’m just going to abridge things. Also, Weezl/Anna did curl up and fall asleep during this for a little while; which led to a cute moment with Dekgrad carrying her back to the inn.
- Dannick’s letter is given to Akali, which contains a number of small coins and a letter. She tucks them away saying they will be a great help in re-establishing contact and she thanks to group sincerely. (The group do hand over the letter without asking for confirmation of who she actually is, but she assures them she wouldn’t be able to open the letter if that wasn’t the case as she used her own blood to break a seal on it.)
- Akali explains that Korran was not her second in command, but one of her lieutenants and isn’t really smart enough to run things; however he is allied with Lord Advisor Sunday Thornton the duke’s uncle. The man had approached her in regards to helping him overthrow the current ruling structure so he could take over as reagent, but Akali didn’t want a part of it… and so she ended up losing control of the Masque faction.
- She calls her new faction the Veiled Brokers and has roughly 20 skilled men and women at her disposal. She has been rather inactive due to being unable to risk losing any manpower.
- The group learn a bit more of the town, and the prisoner carnivals. TLDR, they don’t sound good.
- She informs the group of an advisor, instated by the crown of Hearthshire, that stays by the duke’s side. He goes by the name of Lev and is an anomaly, in that she doesn’t know the man’s capabilities at all. However, she does know he has a side business in the gambling den (The Five Aces, which Ziggy and Dekgrad have both scoped out previously) which is used to launder a large amount of the gold of Sandhill.
- The Flamehearts are mentioned, a small cadre of Hearthsworn spellcasters which also do work at The Five Aces apparently enchanting the gold there… this curse does seem to amplify cruelty and sadism, and as an extension largely effects the nobles in town.
- Akali tells the group that all the royals live in the large Thornton Manor, which is impossible to miss, and that the duke (usually with advisor and bodyguards) and sometimes Sunday frequent the Five Aces and the high-end bar (specialising in wine): the Ethereal Cask. The Cask is not an inn but there are private rooms that are commonly used for business.
- It also comes up that the drug supply seems to be largely coming from the duke’s estate and their spellcasters, and Pixie Dust seems to be cultivated from plants and such from the deep Underdark. Also, she highly recommends against trying the substance.
- Playing towards Sunday’s ego and Korran’s insecurity/instability seem like safe bets if you want them to do anything.
- The plan seems to be to implicate Korran in an attempt on the duke’s life, which will hopefully get Sunday back in power (as a leader, he is believed to at least be “traditional”) and remove Korran from the Masques. The elf also has a lot of her gear that she really wants back. They also find out the flying snakes were her pets.
- Noting Sam’s eyes (and asking his affiliation with the Hearthsworn), she believes that he could be used- under the guise of a Hearthsworn spy, to tell Korran that he can compromise the duke’s security- giving him a clear shot at him. It’s a risky move though but she does offer the suggestion, as it would potentially give them a timeframe to work with.
There was a lot more said, but that’s the gist.
- If they want to get in contact with her, they can leave a mark or note on the statue at One-Eyed Jack’s and she’ll have agents check it regularly so they can establish contact.
- The group make it back to the inn, taking a sewer detour which gets them there a little faster.
- At this point the group spend a couple of days laying low and getting some more information from Thorne, and they find out the wine that Ziggy took from the Nymph’s Grove is worth a LOT and would make a good offering for a wine aficionado.
- This all ties in with their plan: to have Ziggy and Dekgrad appear, disguised, as wine merchants and bodyguard, and use the expensive wine to impress the lord advisor, getting an audience with him and hopefully get him onside for their attempt on the duke (to either try subdue him, rather than kill.) They figure they can play Korran against the duke, as the lord advisor has promised him gold and a title if he succeeds in killing Charles, and threatening the removal of that offer might force him to act.
- It’s a bit of a chess game with a lot of moving pieces to be honest. They manage to relay the message to a Veiled Broker agent, who in turn gives them a coin they can use to converse with Akali (this happens over a few meetings), who eventually meets them and they talk about the plan- which she thinks is pretty solid. She has had contact with Dannick and through Speck she has been told her boss can get them some support. She just needs to be told when to act, but they’re likely only going to be given a handful of specialists.
- They lay low a little longer and gather their wits…. and that about wraps up the session.
There was a lot of info and talking and planning this session. Everyone interacted with a LOT of the town and found out a lot about many of the factions and people in play. Honestly, I was really impressed with how it all ran, and with everyone having fun running their own little missions and managing their own alliances.
Also, the players do not seem very fond of the place at all and I’m really happy the atmosphere of the joint is coming across. Still, time will tell how well their planning will work and I honestly can’t wait to see how it all comes together. It’s sessions like these that make me feel like the hours upon hours of prep are completely worth it. Though it really is a shame not everyone could make it.
So, like, will everyone totally find out what’s going on? Will all the plans be waaaay radical? Or a total wipe out? Find out next time, dudes and lady-dudes! Chyeah!