Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Recap: Stabbed in the Back

Edit: This series was written before allegations about the authors of this module were released. To respect the players of the game, as well as the brilliant writing of Patrick Stuart, I've decided to keep these posts up. However, all links and art have been removed. Thank you for understanding.

This story is part 1 of a series. The campaign was completed.
| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 |

We finally got together and started my campaign for Maze of the Blue Medusa. I was originally going to do a mini-session in the home-brewed city of Dagos, where the characters could meet each other and explore for a bit, but I was pretty eager to get started on the module itself.

In retrospect, it might've been a good idea to let the players get into their characters more before I dropped them into the dungeon, but I went ahead with it anyway. Besides, there will be plenty of room for character growth within the dungeon! There's quite a few awesome role-playing and non-violent quest things in the Maze, so I'm not worried about it too much.

We met and started off by building our characters together. In true D&D fashion, one of my players wanted to do a weird multi-classing thing that I had no experience with, one had no idea what her character would be, one had never made a character before, and one rolled in with his character nearly completely conceptualized and just about built.

So we spent four hours discussing back story, looking up obscure rules, reviewing the basics, and snacking. Some DM's don't like to be involved in this process, but I find it's good for me to think about the characters as they are being made. It helps me adjust to the type of party I'll be running.

Also, it lets me sprinkle some input on the group to help them in the story.

In the end, we came up with the following characters:
"All I wanted was a family"
Aniria Lightningblood, born to a Firbolg tribe, had always been more magical than the rest of her family and friends. The tribe's elders tried to nurture her powers, but they seemed to come from an unfamiliar source than the druids and sorcerers that occasionally popped up within the tribe. Fortunately, the tribe lived a peaceful life, very in-tune with the forest and the fey, and they hoped that the young girl would never have a need to use her strange powers.

One day, the God of Storms, Tlaloc, reached out to her. He told her that she had been chosen by him for his divine purposes, and that she would need to leave her family and seek greater purpose. She refused, and he responded by unleashing a horrible tempest upon her home. Devastated, she conceded, but not before many Firbolg had been lost. The tribe exiled her, and she began to wander the land, learning the ways of a Tempest Cleric of Tlaloc. She eventually found her way to the city of Dagos, joining up with the Harmony Mercenary Company. She chose her name because she saw herself as a child of the world (The world in my setting is called Ahneria), and her surname was in tribute to her new, if somewhat troubling, source of strength.
Alan: a little fire, a lot of angst
Alan Xanthudides was unwelcome from the day he was born. The human noble family had a bad reputation from their distant ancestor Saint Xanthudides. Everyone knew the story of the priest who would murder holy people and make them Saints, who managed to get away with it for years and become Sainted himself, dying long before anyone found out what had happened. Some claimed that the entire family’s souls are already damned to the deepest pits of Hell. When Alan was born from an affair between Viktor Xanthudides and his Gnomish maid, it was just another blemish on the family name.

That's why Alan decided to move out, change his name to Resnik, and join up with the Harmony Mercenary Company. He was struggling to deal with his new powers of Phoenyx Sorcery, which he knew his father would take as a sign of further shame on the family name. Alan remained in the city of Dagos, avoiding the city districts where he knew his family normally travelled.
"I can cut a rug or your throat, your choice"
Derrik Evenwood was always known for his hot temper. Growing up as a human in Dagos, he was quick to fight and quicker to win, using his considerable size and strength to his advantage. However, he also had a softer side, especially when it came to music. He quickly learned that people feared him for his strength, but his lasting friendships came from fellow musicians and patrons. He began working double duty at various taverns and establishments: playing music for the patrons during the day, and throwing out the rabble at night. Unfortunately, he picked up quite a few bad habits this way, some of which involved expensive drugs and alcohol.

When his local haunt, Slim Jim's Tavern and Gallery, burned to the ground, Derrik was out on the streets with his lute and a lot of debt to be paid off. He had no trouble finding a place to eat or sleep, his music took care of that, but finding enough money to keep up with his vices was a different story. Using his skills as both a Bard and a Barbarian, he joined up with the Harmony Mercenary Company, hoping to evade some of his debts and get back on his feet.
She's a lady with a million faces. Most of them very cute.
Coria Kelvardil grew up loving animals. She was always surrounded by them in the glades of her Wood Elf home, and when her powers as a Circle of the Moon Druid awoke, she was overjoyed. As soon as she came of age, she made her way from the Elven Isles to the rest of the world, searching and cataloguing different animals on her massive voyage. She travelled by boat, going great distances and enjoying the solitude that came with the long sea voyages.

She also enjoyed reading and writing, and in addition to keeping an extensive archive of the animals she had seen, she picked up a habit of reading kitschy novels on her trips, especially books by a relatively unknown author named Caphtor Clowe. The poor writing style and scandalous content provided quite a bit of amusement on her trips.

One day, while getting supplies in the port of Dagos, her beloved vessel was stolen from the docks because of its rare elven craftsmanship. Distraught, she decided to use her magic to join the Harmony Mercenary Company and get the gold needed to buy a new boat.

The group worked for Harmony for a while, going on adventures together and getting to know each other. (We are starting at level five) However, money wasn't really coming in. The group had a job lined up, but they weren't doing well in terms of food and supplies.

Additionally, their own problems in the city were surmounting. Aniria had met a strange pixie a few weeks ago, who had been eager to find a painting called the False Chanterelle. The encounter had left the Firbolg confused and uneasy. Alan had received a letter from his father, saying his elder brother (not the eldest though) was ill and Alan needed to return home so he could be trained as a backup heir.

Derrik had heard a rumor that he had started the fire at Slim Jim's, and rumors could be deadly serious in a hive of scum and villainy like Dagos. Coria had also heard a rumor, that an old sailor she wasn't exactly friendly with had come into town, along with a new crew. If their paths crossed, Coria was sure there'd be trouble.

As twilight fell, a knock came at the door of their barracks. It was "Boots", their contact in the Harmony Mercenary Company. He told them that the job they were waiting on had been called off, tough luck. The group was devastated.

However, Derrik revealed that he had a secret source of potential income: he had stolen a painting off the side of a merchant's wagon earlier that day. It was hung up on his wall, under a sheet. He revealed it to his companions: it was the False Chanterelle.

They briefly debated what they should do with it as the full moon rose. They were interrupted, however, by the woman in chains in the painting.

She asked them to free her, and offered them a kingdom's worth of gold for their assistance. Derrik suspiciously poked the painting and was suddenly transported into the image itself! The others hesitantly followed.

The woman introduced herself as Ashen Chanterelle. She told the group that she was a part of an ancient kingdom ruled by three sister-gods. The mercenaries recognized the description of the sister-gods from a modern institution, the Church of the Triad.

The Church of the Triad taught that these three sisters, Chronia, Zamia, and Charity, once walked the earth as immortals and were banished due to the folly of mankind. Chronia controlled time, Zamia controlled love, and Charity controlled peace. The Church was a pretty generous and kind organization with a strong penchant for historical record-keeping.

Ashen said the sisters were not only real, but they were here in the Maze of the Blue Medusa, being held captive. If they could be rescued, the Triarchy kingdom could be resurrected and the characters would be the greatest heroes of the land.

After some suspicious questioning, the group freed her from her chains, and the door to the north opened. Aniria gave her a cloak to cover herself. Ashen thanked them for their help, and wished them good luck.

The group turned around, confused, just in time to see Ashen touch the painting they had come through, teleport into their room in Dagos, and throw the cloak Aniria gave her over the painting, closing the portal.

The heroes were enraged and bitter about their trust being broken, but decided that even if Ashen was gone they could still go save the goddesses. They went to the next room, where a blue-skinned woman with wings and horns was pacing back and forth.

She was very friendly, and introduced herself as Lady Crucem Capilli. She was a dragon, and was here to destroy the Maze! She was trying to save the Medusa's father, who had also been captured. However, she told the group that there was a literal hoard of art and history stashed in the maze. She wasn't quite ready to let all that go, as she was a true lover of things artistic.

She asked the party to delve into the dungeon and bring her back any art, music, history, or curiosities they might find. She winked and mentioned they could probably find a few statues, too! She wouldn't tell them about any specific rooms but did mention that they were in the Entrance hall, and there were Gardens to the West and "lots of dead" to the East.

The group agreed, and went into the next room. They quickly realized that the light circling the room was turning their shadows into holes in the ground, and after pulling Derrik out of Aniria's shadow, checked out the doorway to the West and the passage leading to the North.

The door leading West seemed to open up into the Gardens area. Coria was keen to look inside and use her Speak to Plants spell, but Aniria pressed forward into the North passage, following the sound of movement.

They entered a furnished room with an old man tottering around in it. He seemed sickly and on the verge of death, and he had three great bastard swords sticking through his back. The group was extremely suspicious of this old man, who told them multiple times that he was just trying to die. Unfortunately, he couldn't do so until someone removed the swords from his back and fought the gaseous remains of his former knights.

Alan was getting a bit exasperated at his fellow party members, as they kept asking petty questions to a man who was clearly a king, clearly in pain, and clearly needed help. Finally, he convinced Aniria to touch a sword, causing the vaporized thanes to float from the king's mouth.

The group fought the various clouds of former knights, doing their best to use magical attacks on their gaseous forms. Derrik, frustrated that his greataxe (literally) wasn't cutting it, decided to pull one of the swords from the old man's back. That turned out to work much better, and the heroes quickly dispatched their misty foes.

The king smiled, and told them the swords could be taken freely now, and that they were the key forward in the maze. The players took the swords, and the king turned into a pile of ashes.

There was writing on each sword - a riddle. The characters also found three thrones in a side room, each one with a picture on it. They quickly figured out which sword should go where (in part because I forgot to mix up the order of the clues) and the door leading North from the king's room swung open.

As they headed towards the door, a small bird flitted into the room. It appeared to be a hummingbird, but crafted of hundreds of slivers of jewels and gemstones. It hovered near the door, beckoning the characters to press forward.

We stopped there for the night. It was a short amount of actual play, but I was surprised at how much the group was able to get through. I'm not worried about running out of dungeon, though. Even if they can keep up the pace of about 5-6 rooms in two hours, there are about 300 rooms in this dungeon. We'll have stuff to explore for a very long time.

Overall, the group dynamic was still growing. Tom and Jackie are definitely more passive players who take a while to grow into their characters, and Megan's boldness was the complete antithesis of Makayla's caution. I think there's a lot of room to grow, it is the very first session after all. Most players can't get into their character's headspace for at least a few sessions unless they've been trained as actors or writers.

Overall, I had a lot of fun, and I'm really excited to meet up again next week and play!

Thanks for reading!

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