There was talking too.
Sam’s player wasn’t here this session. As a result of this he was a bit of background for most of the session, which did lead to a few amusing moments when conversations deviated towards and then around him.
Also, everyone ended up with a crammed page full of notes from this session… it’s going to be a dense one… y’all have been warned.
- The session started with a bit of a catch up for Dekgrad’s player and going over some retroactive purchasing. We also all discussed, lightly, Bonds, Ideals and Flaws, since the DM was interested in getting some background… if the player’s had it on hand. This did lead to a few amusing revelations around the table.
- Also- one of the first things Dekgrad did in game is gift Weezl some beard oil.
It has to be noted that Ziggy’s current Personality Trait is, and I quote: “Charming as fuck.”
- Starting out in the Ice Dragon Inn, and speaking to the proprietor Ambert, the group ask about the location of any churches or shrines in the city. They get some information on shrines of Waukeen and Chauntea, which no longer exist as shrines, and a chapel of Tymora, which has been converted into an inn: The Golden Coin. Frankly, he’s surprised they can get away with the name and the fact that the inn is run by ex-clergy.
- Ambert does warn the party, due to the conversation about religion, that it is not advisable to show religious practice though they may get away with holy symbology.
- Dekgrad asks if there was a cartographer in town, and Ambert mentions a young man named Dirke who has a talent for map-making. He’s worked with him before and he does good work. The group are also told about the store: The Mithril Spear, which trades and deals in magical items.
- The party also asked a little in terms of general information about the town and its layout, and they get directions on where to head next- being The Golden Coin. He also mentions the curfew the town currently upholds- 1 hour past sunset. It is enforced by the Hearthsworn and he doesn’t say much else aside from it being around for 8 months or so.
- The group head off, and it’s about midday, with constant cloud cover overhead. Occasionally there are breaks in the clouds and light does break through but it almost seems as though the clouds actively move to stifle the light.
- They make good time navigating the busy streets, avoiding guards and not provoking too many stares. They do overhear a loud argument at a blacksmith they pass. They make their way into the residential district where The Golden Coin resides. The inn is a solid, well built building, though parts look like they have been torn down and rebuilt recently. Walking into the establishment reveals a similar theme.
- While the building is comfortably furnished it isn’t too coherently put together. There are signs that there may have been certain fixtures and the like which are simply bare space now and the layout shows where a podium was. Pews and tables have been used to create a comfortable dining space and the atmosphere is reasonably subdued, with many families, civilians, a couple guard members and businessmen enjoying food and drink.
- Ziggy and the crew take a look to see if anyone is paying attention to them in particular and Weezl notices a young human woman that seems to have a keen interest in the group. Ziggy is fairly sure the guard have them marked (but this could be paranoia.) They notice that instead of the typical arrangement of staff, each of the 5-6 members in simple robes (with no religious paraphernalia) approaches the customers and each other equally.
- They stop one of the men and talk to him about the place after ordering beverages. They ask about how things are going and the religious situation in town. The man offers they move the conversation somewhere more quiet, and seeing a storeroom, Ziggy exclaims (loud enough for the room to hear) that they’re checking out their wine stores for his own personal collection.
- From the ensuing conversation they learn that most of the religious practitioners have left, are imprisoned (some of them being moved to Sandhill, presumably ‘for their amusement’), or died in trying to defend their faith. Hearthsworn enacted the move in a concentrated effort and the followers of Tymora consider themselves lucky in that they survived and that the Duke personally assisted and gave funds to convert the chapel to an inn.
- The man does say that the clergy will wait things out, they have faith that fate has something in store for them. He hopes that their stubborn tenacity, their faith, or both are rewarded in time. He also warns Dekgrad about having his holy symbol seen; it’s a good way to end up in irons if he’s seen practicing his faith.
- He mentions, on the mention of the Grand Duke and Duchess, that they don’t really visit the neighbouring towns anymore. The last time was about 4-5 months ago maybe? But they used to travel through frequently and small festivals and festivities would be held in their honor.
- When leaving Ziggy is given a bottle of ‘repurposed’ “god wine” (as he calls it) and he gives the man a handful of gold for the bottle, and the cover story. A fake argument over the half-elf cheaping out and only buying one helps a bit as the group make their way outside. Weezl notices that the girl that was looking at them earlier is no longer in the inn.
- Dekgrad then suggests they meet up with Dirke so they can maybe get some maps. It’s only about a 5 minute walk from where they are. The group find the right home and within they hear some back and forth yelling between a man and a woman, eventually a young lad, around 18 or so, opens the door and awkwardly asks what the party is there for.
- They say that Ambert referred them to him and that they’ve heard he’s a skilled mapmaker. The boy, flustered, eventually lets the group inside (through what appears to be a house occupied by hoarders) and into his rooms. Dekgrad is interested in a map of Hearthshire (capitol) and of Tradesway.
- Dirke is happy to assist with the first request but is afraid he probably doesn’t have anything up to date on Hearthshire, it’s been some time since he’s been there and he has a feeling a lot of the town has changed. He does show them an older map and says he’s happy to try ask around and research some more accurate details- as he doesn’t want to (and can’t, in a short timeframe) get to the town. He’s sure guards or patrols will stop him. Most people get turned back around these days, if they’re heading to the capitol. That’s what he’s heard anyway.
- They ask if he has any maps on the Untamed Wilds and the kid laughs at them. He’s never been near the place but he’s heard enough stories to know he’s not interested.
- He asks for a few silver, that covers parchment and inks, for the map of Tradesway and uses the extra coin he’s given as downpayment for the map of Hearthshire. Though he’s not sure how detailed he can make it but he’ll do his best. The group, with map in tow, move on, since it’s starting to hit afternoon.
- Ziggy starts looking for a fletcher and recalls the blacksmith they passed on the way there. Stepping into the establishment, they see a ripped, older dwarf with blonde-graying hair hard at work on a greatsword. Dekgrad greets the man in dwarvish, which causes the man to put the blade to rest and he mentions that it should be “good enough for humans.”
- With a hearty handshake he greets Dekgrad and says his name is Beltor Stonemantle. Dekgrad asks about having his shield worked on (to be reinforced) and the dwarf gently refuses as he recognises the holy symbol, saying that he would hate to tarnish it. But he does say that he can give him another shield as a replacement if he’d so wish, he also has some armor that may interest Dekgrad- plate mail. When Ziggy asks if it’s any good, Beltor states that the best stuff he makes is made for dwarves, and invites them into his armory.
- Beltor also strings Ziggy’s glassbow and the half-elf buys a quiver and arrows. Ziggy spends a lot of time with this bow over the course of the session, contemplating just how the heck to make it do anything. He’s CERTAIN it’s magical. Dekgrad confirms there’s some form of magical residue or enchantment but can’t tell much apart from that.
- Checking out the plate mail, Dekgrad ends up trying it on, but finds it somewhat cumbersome (his Strength being 13, 2 less than the requirement for plate) but it’s a beautiful set of armor- for 1,500 gold.
- Meanwhile Ziggy tries out his bow on an armored manikin (using Dekgrad’s plate even) and scoring a beautiful shot, not scarring the armor and keeping the arrow intact.
- Dekgrad asks Beltor about Runestones, showing the dwarf his own. Beltor responds to the thing with reverence, having never seen one like this in his 500 years of life. He doesn’t have any in his possession, but he did once catch sight of the Duke of Tradesway once with what looked like a minor runestone… it was either Luck or Fate, he can’t quite remember.
- After some heavy contemplation, Dekgrad does buy the armor, which they store away. But having impressed themselves upon the old dwarf, he does give them a deal. They also ask, using Ziggy’s cover story (which has been brought up a couple times by this point) that he’s a silk merchant where would be the best place to network to find buyers and business partners. Beltor says the entertainment (dancing and music) house The Maiden’s Fancy would be a good bet- he personally dislikes the place, or the higher end inns in town would be his best bet.
- He mentions appealing to the Duke may work, but he can be hard to get a hold of, but he man is not one to turn down a business opportunity. And with that, they bid the dwarf farewell and head off to strategise their next move.
- They decide upon going to The Maiden’s Fancy with Ziggy posing as a noble silk merchant. With time in the day running out he opts for a quick costume change in an alley, with his allies keeping watch for him. He manages a decent job of dressing discreetly and tidying himself up. Weezl notices a young street urchin that got close enough to peek into the alley, when they cough despite themselves, and when Weezl greets the child they panic and scamper off.
- On the way to The Maiden’s Fancy, across the way, they notice The Nymph’s Grove- a building, covered in foliage, vines and flowers and also having a red lantern (lit) out the front.
- Entering The Maiden’s Fancy they are greeted with music and a rather busy interior, with nobles, guard and businessmen drinking and eating aplenty. They pass two large bouncers and most make their way around the crowd. Dekgrad makes way to the bar, which has a line of patrons, and sits himself next to a young man who is keeping to himself. The young man has a stammer and politely tries to keep up in conversation with the dwarf, offering to get him a drink. The serving staff ask the man if Dekgrad is bothering him but he shakes his head, somewhat embarrassed. Meanwhile…
- Weezl has noticed there are a lot of plates with food. Finger food. Perfect for pockets and hungry mouths. She walks up and starts eating off the plates angering a drunken noble. Ziggy manages to defuse the situation expertly when he hears the drunken shouts. While he’s talking, Weezl keeps on taking more and more food, stuffing her mouth full (crumbs falling into her beard) while Ziggy desperately tries to keep the man distracted. Soon enough they make their way towards the bar.
- Weezl however gets distracted when she sees the woman from the Golden Coin and goes to sit with her. However, also at the table is a drunken young woman exclaiming at the gnome, laughing and asking what she is. However the woman gets frustrated quickly when Weezl keeps reiterating that she’s a Weezl, causing a drunken recursive loop of a conversation. Before long the woman calls for security, causing Ziggy to take a break from his wine to ‘rescue’ the gnome. The security asks the gnome to leave the woman alone, she’s a bit of a bitch anyway, and that there’s no hard feelings when he lifts her from her seat… regardless he’s earned a scowl and a pout from the gnome, who was enjoying herself. During this ‘event’ Weezl does learn the girl from the previous inn’s name is Yuri, who shrugs apologetically when the gnome is forcibly removed. She tells the gnome she should get home before sundown, because that’s when the “creepy shit” goes down.
- Meanwhile Dekgrad talks to the man, who wears plain, well-cut clothes and a tattered scarf made of a dark material. He starts asking about the situation in town, and Ziggy joins him asking about networking in order to find sellers for his silks and wares.
- While the discussion is underway, due to the tone of the conversation, the man makes some slight movements which Ziggy recognises as Thieves’ Cant. When Ziggy responds in kind, he dashes some of his water across the bar top and writes in Thieves’ Cant across the water, wiping it down after each sentence. With the conversation moving forward, and with some wary looks from bar staff, the man offers to take their conversation to one of the private rooms in the building.
- In the building, he gets some ale and wine brought in, and they start talking business. However, the man does struggle to talk and gets flustered and embarrassed easily. He’s extremely humble and self depreciative. When the party back him into a bit of a corner, in regards to what he can openly talk about, he gets up to leave so that he can bring back some documentation which would help but before he leaves he stops suddenly at the door.
- The man pulls the scarf up his face and turns back to the group, moving confidently and faces them squarely, his demeanour… different. Without stammer and a different tone of voice the man finally introduces himself, Dannick Goddard of the Masques.
- He establishes that he may have work for them if they’re so inclined. He needs information since he’s being cut off from agents in other towns. Through this, the group discover that he did have a trusted agent heading the branch in Sandhill (named Akali) but hasn’t heard from her in some time, which is making him nervous with all the madness down there. Things in Woodsrest and Woodsholme are quiet, most places have seemingly shut down or turned reclusive.
- They also discover that Sandhill has been holding what are essentially prisoner’s carnivals and that things just feel off about the place. Shelter in the south also had some agents which Dannick hasn’t heard from in some time, he images they defected when things went to shit- it doesn’t surprise him as The Fury (The Duchess Helena Fairbridge) is an imposing figure and a strong leader. She’s also one of the only leaders that openly oppose the Hearthsworn, only allowing them passage through the town and they are not to stay under any circumstances.
- Dannick wishes to have a letter delivered to Akali in Sandhill, to prove the group is worth his time and potentially resources. He’s been losing power, influence and his information network, and his hands are being further tied- which frustrates him greatly. The group pass on taking the letter immediately but they are interested in coming back. They intend to get some more information, and learn that the Duke (Jaspitt Cranch) is their best bet.
- The group theorise on how they will get a meeting with this Duke, who seemingly owns or is in a partnership with most of the business in town, with what they have. They realise the most unique thing they have as a bargaining chip is an aarakocra, which leads to an awkward moment where that conversation stops prematurely.
- Dannick says they’re best bet is to keep up the silk merchant angle, he heard that the duke started out as a cobbler and tailor and has an interest in such things- if they look halfway interesting, exotic or capable, they should get a meeting. He’s interested in assets and Dannick thinks him quite capable. However, the Masque agent does say that the bird is an option. He tells them to keep an eye out for Excellence, Duke’s assistant, who may be an ‘in’ for them.
- They ask if they have a fence for buying and selling magic items, and Dannick says he can organise something, according to their needs. He asks where they’re staying and provided they can pay for a room (thanks to the curfew) that should be more than sufficient.
- Eventually the discussion heads to a close and Dannick gets the party’s names and bids them fairwell, dropping the mask from his face, his demeanour suddenly shifting as he blinks at the group a little. Dannick asks if everything is okay and if things are finished, and when the group is stunned for a short while he asks if anyone is hurt, suddenly panicked. The group reassure him and he bids them farewell, referring to them all by name. He says that if they wish to meet with him again, simply use the cover story and they can talk business again.
- It’s hard to tell the time when they leave but they start to hear a bell ringing out across the town with guards yelling that the curfew is about to be enacted, and see them moving people along.
- When they arrive at the Ice Dragon Inn they see (well, Weezl recognises) Yuri who waves the group over. They get drinks and a meal, with some of the conversation being peppered with sleight of hand and Thieves’ Cant. Weezl notices the woman using it to show amusement and tries to copy the gesture. When it happens again, Yuri notices and tries to teach her the slight, fluttering gesture- the gnome somewhat gets it down.
- Eventually the group head upstairs and start talking about what they can sell and buy. They hock off a few items (rod of the pact keeper and the medusa’s stone helmet – leading to an amusing conversation about how shitty Duergar craftsmanship is) and gems, and the group jokingly mention how much the bird could be worth. This (thanks to the player not being there really, Sam had been very quiet) causes the woman to recoil somewhat, really noticing the aarakocra for the first time.
They also ask about purchasing some wares, but most are more expensive than they wish to pay.
- This time, openly, she starts using Thieves’ Cant to Ziggy- somewhat aggressively and emotive, she says “What the fuck is this?” The group are confused, thinking that maybe it’s the fact he’s a bird man. “His eyes, he has the same fucking eyes.”
“Same eyes? As what?”
“The Hearthsworn.” At this point the woman is completely uneasy and will not take her eyes from the monk for the rest of the conversation.
- Meanwhile, the rest of the group do not know what was said and the woman leaves, on the way out she signals to Ziggy “Watch your back.”
- The group discuss checking out the prison (this is not the first time this conversation’s been had), to scout out what’s happening there, and if they can find any incarcerated worshippers. It comes down to two options: Weezl turning into a creature and sneaking in, or using Beast Sense on an animal and convincing it to scout for them.
- Long, and hilarious, story short (including moments where the DM had to talk as a crow, which included mimicking Weezl’s “HEY” back at her obnoxiously, repeatedly) Weezl tries to convince a bird to scout the jail but can’t figure out a way to interpret that into something the creature understands. There’s a bit of a “blind” moment where she tries to feed the bird when it turns from her, while she’s looking through its senses. Basically, it’s a massive fustercluck.
- Weezl does look through its eyes when it leaves and does notice that there is a heavy fog that covers the streets. She sees a number of human-ish figures that are huddled around a makeshift bonfire in one of the alleyways.
- She sees two shapes moving in the distance, with glowing orange orbs for eyes, and eventually a smaller figure, running and coughing weakly. It runs into another, slower, figure and screams… eventually the heartsworn(?) move towards the noise where there is some commotion… and then nothing…
- Weezl recounts the story to everyone there and tries to get some rest. As do the rest of the group, retiring to their own rooms. Ziggy sets up a string-bell-alarm across his door, just in case. He then sleeps with his Bag of Holding and Glass(short)Bow, in an attempt to attune to it further.
- Morning arrives and Weezl finds a small package on the floor- the Dust of Sneezing and Choking she bought! Yuri is also gone from her room.
- The group head off towards the markets to get some fresh produce and to ask some more questions about the weather and crop yields.
- On the way, Weezl does notice a bloodstain on the cobblestones and some drag marks where she witnessed the commotion the previous night. They also make their way toward where she saw the bonfire the night previous.
- In the alley are a number (roughly 15-20) homeless people. They look unwell, exhausted, malnourished and many cough weakly. Dekgrad sees to the worst of their wounds, and with spells excises most of their infections.
- A man there, Markus, talks about how there’s nowhere for them to go and that creating fire is the only thing they have that keeps the fog away, though sometimes the Hearthsworn destroy their fires. He doesn’t talk about his past in specific terms but many of the people are there as a result of bad habits or worse luck. The people there are dying but they accept it as their lives. He can’t give an exact time the fog came, but it was some time back.
- Weezl empties her pockets of the food she took from The Maiden’s Fancy, which the homeless give to the young and elderly, and Ziggy gives them a handful of gold. Markus thanks them for their kindness, in his own hopeless way.
- The group then head to the grocers, where they find a man selling vegetables that don’t look too great. Some are wilting or small and the man doesn’t even attempt to half-hearted sell the wares.
- They talk of the weather and fog, which seems to be something that started to occur some 8 months ago. Most of the crops are farmed out at Woodsrest and Sandhill, but Woodsrest is struggling. The Duchess there, for whatever reason, has gone a bit bonkers and apparently magic is banned there. With the detriment of the weather and the lack of assisted growth, the people are growing ill and the crops are failing, and quickly. Apparently there are a bunch of creepy scarecrows about the place now as well, it’s just plain off-putting.
- The man doesn’t believe that the gods are to blame, but he doesn’t know at this point. Things are completely outside of his understanding. The group are understanding and sympathetic to his plight and the man gives them some of his fresher produce he had hidden away. They pay him his exorbitant prices and he thanks them kindly. They head back to the inn to make a stew.
- Ziggy and the group help with preparation, much to the delight of the chef, and they all munch down heartily- readying themselves for their next trip to the noble’s district.
- The noble district is full of large buildings and wide streets, some of the homes have gardens and fenced yards. And not before long they find themselves in front of a gated estate. The fence, made of dark wood, bronze and gold, is a good 500m from the home itself, which is large and beautiful in the distance. Two guards lazily watch at the gate.
- The group say how they’re there for a business discussion, regarding the business of their anonymous employer. The guards feign interest but eventually let the group in, one of them walking them to the home of the Duke. They pass gardens, and plants Weezl has never even seen before, and a few servants and gardeners.
- Ziggy takes it upon himself to do a secret knock on the door, with something like 3 bars’ worth of notes. The door is eventually answered by an albino human woman in her 30’s. She asks the group what they are there for, and when Dekgrad refers to the woman as “her excellence” she, amused, tells them that will gain them entry to the foyer. She invites them to sit in the grand foyer, and after a time summons the Duke, who appears a short time later. But not before Dekgrad gets his patented drink going, which he does offer to Excellence for a taste. She appreciates its uniqueness.
- The group spend some time appreciating the artwork, decor and floating chandeliers in the place.
- The Duke arrives and introduces himself to the group. He asks if they’re comfortable there or would prefer a more private room; they opt for the latter and he takes them to his own study, bringing out an expensive bottle of spirits to help with proceedings.
- He’s impressed with Ziggy’s silks and talks about how much it would cost to set up shop, and how much of a profit split he would expect, and how much time an endeavour would take. But eventually the discussion becomes “frank.” Yet another situation, where the group feel things out, and ask if they can speak freely (a reoccurring theme.)
- A lot of information comes out of this conversation, with Excellence still in the room. So, things of note:
- Weezl accuses the Duke of not helping the people of his town- homeless are sick and dying. He counters that he feeds them when he can, and discreetly leaves pockets of firewood about the town for them. He refuses to mark himself by showing open support against whatever is happening. His own anger apparent.
- The group ask how things went down exactly. How did these towns not defend themselves? Why are they doing nothing now? Jaspitt explains that Sandhill is basically in the Royals pockets, as he suspects the changes at Hearthshire Keep to be their doing (referring to a giant red crystal which sits atop one of its highest spires, always glowing), and it’s too hard to get an in there. The Duke there has been buying up businesses from Jaspitt (as he did own roughly 80%+ of the businesses, or had part of, in the entirety of Hearthshire) and just giving them back to the people. It’s making the economy insane there and the man is simply burning through his treasury.
- Woodsholme has always been self-sufficient and has shut itself away.
- Woodsrest is attempting to continue as usual, but the people are there are getting sick as the fog is more persistent there. They have to work in it, and it is taking its toll. That and the lack of magic, and healing, is causing people to die. The Duchess Salindra Dustwalker is given in to fear and paranoia. She was gifted a diadem which coincidentally sealed away her magic, as such she has banned all uses of the art.
- Shelter does its own thing, being stalwart against the Hearthsworn. It’s Helena Fairbridge’s way, but he fears that she is making a poor decision. She is also too stubborn to work with him and has isolated her town as much as possible. The woman is capable of winning a fight 100-1 however, so he trusts her.
- He’s aware of the Masques, and he does work with them in secret, but their information network is failing. Dannick gave him a heads up about the party.
- When the churches fell, it was a concentrated effort… roughly 50 Hearthsworn were sent simultaneously to each town and tore down each shrine. It was not long later that the fog began, which he believes comes from the keep itself (referring to the crystal, which he thinks may have something to do with it.)
- He says he may be able to write up something that will get the party past guard posts, but certainly not into Hearthshire capitol. They could risk it, however. He’s willing to do this, and offer additional support in their efforts, if they do something for him. At this point he forcibly excuses Excellence, who is pretty pissed at being suddenly excluded from the conversation.
- He tells the party of one of the establishments that he doesn’t own, the Nymph’s Grove- a whorehouse, run by Nylian, a half-elf. The place deals in the exotic and strange and was the only place the grand duchess visited when they were last in town, some 4 months ago. They shut the place down and she left a few days later, seemingly as friends.
- He knows Excellence has a dislike for the place and that is enough for him to wish it gone; he also fears it’s a handhold for the royals.
- He’s had informants tell him of a source of power which is the cause of change in the place. He believes it hidden, perhaps lower in the building. He thinks if that is disrupted, it should ruin the place. He offers 10 Glyphs of Warding, with Explosive Runes, that they can use at that source which should take down the place. The group have objections about this particular strategy, but the duke says he’d rather they have too much than not enough.
- The group are interested in the job but don’t take it up with him just yet. They have more they want to find out about time, which Jaspitt approves of, as he’s seen how astute the group is at investigation. He writes them a note, with tomorrow’s date, saying they have an appointment with him if they need expedited entry into his home.
- Excellence comes back at this point and punches the duke in the arm, seemingly knowing what they talked about and she’s not happy about it. But the group eventually finish up and leave the duke’s home…….. and with that, the session came to a close.
HOLY CRAP THAT WAS SUCH A LONG RECAP. There was a lot of information, it was a horror and a joy to see each player with a FULL page of notes from all the social interaction they did (extraordinarily well.)
Half way through the session I flashed the giant pile of cards for encounters, just in case they thought I hadn’t prepped for combat. It was so crazy to see how this session went down, as I had no idea what would happen and it if would work… but hey, sandbox is pretty cool, even if it’s an INSANE amount of preparation.
Unforunately Sam couldn’t make it, which is another reason this is like 4000-words-detailed, but hopefully that’ll cover most bases. There is a lot that happened that wasn’t mentioned, but I’m sure that’ll get sorted out next time.
So yeah, damn… that was an effort. But all in all, I had a really great time with the session, it was cool seeing everyone slowly get more and more invested in the whole world and situation. So… let’s see what happens next time!