Players returned to the table yesterday for a bit of adventuring in the village of Piran. We'll do a quick write up of that, but first I wanted to make a few comments about the campaign writing.
First, I am so pleased to see my players explore and engage this world. It is a new one for tabletop roleplaying to them and they're getting learning the new game at the same time. It is definitely coming along! We also have seven regular players (some will be busy with work or classes, so five or six will be more typical), so there is a lot going on at the table! Despite the diversity, our party is somewhat unusual as we lack a rogue and there isn't any spellcasting (at least just yet). Spells are rare and impactful on roleplay in Zweihänder, so that isn't that surprising.
Second, we got into combat! Combat is intended to be snappy and brutal where a lucky hit can leave a player character bleeding out on the floor. I am immediately taken with the action point system and the spelled out actions which cover so, so much in the combat of the game! Hostiles fired flintlocks, spat in adventurers faces to obscure their vision, and tried to jump out of site only to run into more complications. Running initiative at the start of session also feels like a really natural part of setup and transitioning from social time to game time.
Third, as the GM I was quietly marking when and why I was offering Reward Points (RP), the game's experience and advancement system. Our caring ogre laborer, Darek (Catie), showed concern for another character as she went off on her own, while investigator Ariel (Tyler) keeps pressing the locals with questions, including the peculiar Greta Strig who runs the Saw-whet Whistle common house. I got to say, "Hey, that was cool and everyone gets something for it," since RP is always rewarded to the group. Spending RP is still a little slow as some characters were built weeks ago as we finished up the Pulp Cthulhu: The Two-Headed Serpent campaign. And overall, seeing these somewhat bumbling new adventurers explore the world, they're not really that good at it yet! Which is absolutely in line with the way villagers see adventurers as signing their own death certificate by picking up a cudgel and rucksack.
Lastly, I've been doing a lot of writing for this campaign with the goal of making a professional tier product with lessons learned from Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu RPG, and the video games I've cited elsewhere like Diablo, Darkest Dungeon, and--with the mine layout--Super Metroid. I want the lure of the deep and the dark to feel substantial, the mystery of the Girl Accused of Witchery to feel grim and unknown, and the various supernatural elements like the beguiling voice at Selene's Pass and the wil-o-wisps along the Nunnery to be foreboding and alluring. I've also learned that I tend to bite off more than I can chew, but with over 15,000 words to the document already and a handful of maps, I'm feeling pretty good about where this is going.
Now, let's get to the Previously On...
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Note: I've underlined items that hint at quests for coin or reputation in the town. If the quest has been taken up, then I'll mark it with italics, too.
The party delivered the Girl, alongside her retinue of Sister Henrietta and Sister Initiate Maisie to the Nunnery of Saint Barberra and were paid their sum. They would have the opportunity for more shillings when the sisters make a return departure, this time without the Girl who, as Sister Initiate Maisie had said, would have two years of focused tutelage and absolution before being given her choice to stay or to leave, assuming she was then confessed of any ill deeds.
Phebe John (Rachal), was eager for her rest as the storm continued to soak them. She walked from the party toward the Silver Ladle--along with, but not beside, Mort Plunk of the Redleaf Brigade--that they had passed near the center of town. Darek the Ogre (Catie), followed, but Phebe picked up her clip, telling the caring fellow that she preferred to go it alone. Ariel (Tyler), however, was already following the direction of a series of owls carved into the wooden poles of houses and mercantiles that seemed to fly in the same direction. Turning through a few corners, and with the others in tow, Ariel came to the unsigned common house, the Saw-whet Whistle, noted by a youth with nary a hair to his lip leaning outside the door. Ariel and the boy shared a nod, and he opened the door for them, saying inside, "Ma'am Strig, you have company."
Greta Strig, the thickly bespectacled proprietor of the common house, served up goat and vegetable stew in pewter bowls, offering a double portion for the massive Darek for a few brass pennies. Ariel, ever the inquisitive, asked after Strig, who seemed to be the knowledge sort, earning some skeptical acquaintance with the quiet woman. That said, she was not willing to offer much conversation with such a crowd around. They were also joined by the pilgrim Rath Caspian (Kelly), also boarding at the house, whose holy symbol of the shield led to a conversation on theology of the Shield and the Five Heroes with Yrsa. They agreed that there might be much to learn from the Nunnery.
Meanwhile at the Silver Ladle, Phebe inquired after a curious man of sturdy build, white beard, and a herder's crooked staff. Claude Sheer was his name, though most call him Shepherd as he used his staff to wrangle any ne'er-do-wells in the night. With some prodding and encouragement from Mary Beth Blank, the server in the bustling inn and tavern, Shepherd mentioned he sometimes so lights dance along the Nunnery's roof in the night, as much of his business meant late and lonely walks through town. "Forces of chaos trying to get at the Sisters, I believe. We all have to work to keep order around here," he added. While not much for coin, Shepherd would be appreciative of any information he might learn of these specters.
Both groups avoided the boisterous Green Cock Inn, thus sleeping easily and well after days of hard travel. In the morning Phebe met with Nobleman Dalwin Kant with his ledger out on the table. He spoke of some riffraff and rabble out near Hickory Lake that had interrupted his new camp for pulling the clay there. He has a notion of a manufactory for ceramics, fine ceramics, to bring new business into Piran, but first the camp must be setup to pull the clay from the lake! There'd be a fair wage for anyone willing to run the perimeter and clean up the strange split wood alters that had been setup and deal with anyone that might be the source of such trouble. It wouldn't be a good idea to go up alone, so the sounds that Phebe had others in tow was good to Kant's ears.
Over rough graham cakes, the others saw a winded, threadbare man come in and order a morning spirit--sweet spruce molasses rum--with some exasperation from Strig. "Oh, trouble at Finn's Folly mine," he said after a handshake with Okral (Ted). "Jacob, Sweeny, and Cole got themselves in some kinda business in Finn's Folly Mine." After giving Okral a lookover, "The name's Waylon, but most call me Wist. Aye, you do seem capable enough if you can help them out. Finn's Folly is south of town, over the bridge, first right after the road turns rough."
"Why is it called Finn's Folly? That doesn't sound... promising," Okral asked.
"Oh! New in town! Well, Finn O'Shaugnessy was herding his goats out that way and fell down into it! He found a bit of silver down there, but it took his family a day and a half to hear his hollering when they went a'looking, poor soul. Those O'Shaughnessys up in Riceborough still can't live down the story, though. Might cause a fight if you poke them too much about it."
At the notion of "trouble," Ellen (Sheree) went to the Silver Ladle to fetch Phebe, who was eager to share the possibility of coin for a lakeside stroll. Unfortunately, the notion of more lakes, at least for the moment, turned Ellen and she offered the mine option with the others. With a bit of stubbornness, preferring coin to whatever they'd earn from the mine, Phebe and Ellen met back up with the others outside the Saw-whet Whistle and set off to the south.
The bridge and road were in good repair for a stretch before turning rough, just as a fork to the west veered off, lined with worn mining shanties, sheds, and a rooftop with woodcutting equipment in disrepair. Okral, familiar with mines, recognized the twin metal bars and crossed wooden beams of a mining track, confirmed by the handful of tossed aside carts. The hill was dotted with the chimney vents to let in the air and seemed to be higher further in; "Easier to unload a full cart than haul it uphill," Okral thought. Meanwhile, Ariel began pulling at one of the carts to fit it to the rails when the others quieted her struggling, suggesting a quieter approach.
They huddled up and entered, Ellen raising a lit lantern and Yrsa a torch. The tunnel was wide enough to accommodate both a cart and crew, so they could easily fit two wide (or one Darek). As they weren't the most soft-soled types, it was not a subtle entrance. Ariel heard the rustling of activity in the first room, in which was a pile of wooden beams, loading area, and stairs leading below. Darek was the first to enter past the gathering of his party near the entrance. He shouted a warm greeting to be met by a thug leaping onto Darek with a garrote! With some dismay, the amicable giant felt the brief cut of the garrote before swinging the ruffian off! Ellen charged in and swung her mortuary sword at him, cutting deep into his side!
Two other thugs moved out from behind the stair banister, each firing their flintlock at Darek. While landing their marks, the damage was minimal against the fellow, now seeing that these would not be new additions to their ensemble. Phebe ran about the scuffle toward the firing squad, but missed her mark with her blade. They got the better as the others ran into the room, landing a cudgel blow which was quickly answered by a stumbling bolas throw from Darek that took Phebe to the ground. Okral, meanwhile ran around the staircase wall and tried a throwing knife that landed in the supporting beam.
These adventurers were certainly still getting their feet under them.
Yrsa dove onto one of the remaining thugs, wrangling him with wiry muscles and dedication, allowing a clear blow from Okral in a spray of sawdust and spit. The other thug, smirking grimly, swung his cudgel at the tangled Phebe, missing his mark, and then attempting to spit in her face! Once the first combatant patched himself up, Ellen did him a favor and clocked him with the hilt of her blade, knocking the grievously wounded fellow out. A cudgel blow and more wrestling led to a knockout against another, as the final thug leapt down the stairs, only to fall further as the old wood gave way beneath him! With a groan, he lay below.
A momentary breather as the two on their floor were bound, Darek called down to the one below only to be answered with a cacophony of chirps and the flapping of large, leathery wings.
"That doesn't sound good," Rath commented.
To be continued!