Thursday, July 30, 2015

the Saturday night game

I rarely post about the game that I GM on Saturday nights. We don't play every week, and scheduling conflicts sometimes means we only play once a month. It's a 5th edition D&D game set in the Forgotten Realms and Planescape and it's played mostly by the book with very minimal house ruling. I wouldn't normally run a campaign like this by choice, but I inherited the game from the original GM who preferred to be a player and when I first started GMing I pitched a couple of ideas but they were both vetoed and the other players didn't want to reset the whole campaign either. As a result I've been very disorganized with it, sometimes not planning anything ahead of time. Other times having lots of plans prepared, but since the game is played outside of my home one thing I consistently do is forget to bring something with me and then I have to make everything up anyway. I'm incredibly self-conscious about running a game so carefree and loose, but the other players all seem to be enjoying themselves and I never feel pressured to bring a tighter story into play.

Until now.

One of the PCs is a master thief, the Ferret, who has been rivaling his former mentor, the Black Fox. The Black Fox, also known as Koban Tarvis, started using the name Black Ferret in a very deliberate way to tarnish the Ferret's reputation and when they last crossed paths the Ferret threatened to kill the Black Fox. The Black Fox threw Ferret some information that sent him scurrying after a stolen artifact but Black Fox also had no intentions of being cowed and didn't stop using the name Black Ferret.

Fast forward six months in the game and the PCs have just arrived back in Waterdeep to find that in their absence the southern wards flooded and during the flood a blizzard hit town and froze almost everything. The dock ward suffered the most damage, and many people are staying inside but the city hasn't stopped functioning. Couple this with several outbreaks of diseases that are all being credited to the Black Ferret, whom "everybody" has heard of.

Upon learning this last fact, the actual Ferret is pissed that Black Fox is still using his name and immediately wants to start hunting him down so he can kill him. The player detailed exactly how Ferret would go about finding the Black Fox and I had to say "Let's wait until next week to go over those details."

In the moment that I dropped that information about the flooding and the diseases and the Black Ferret, in my mind I was thinking "I really want to run Forgive Us with this group, I think this is the perfect opportunity." And it was! Eyebrows waggle, toothy grin.

In the downtime between sessions I worked out all of the details of the module so nothing would be contradictory. I've got two players who might recognize the Forgive Us module so I've changed a few things as well. The disease worshipping cultists were a hidden sect of Talona worshippers. In fact, Talona fits the adventure so perfectly that its almost like she was tailor-made for it. The name of the tavern is now the Widow's Cat and I'd already given them a map during the last session that nobody understands thanks to a mysterious patron named Lord Purple, the Lord of Secrets (also known as Lord Purpon, the Hoarder).

In his own way, Lord Purple is assisting and petitioning the halfling wizard in the party, Kirani Gemgather, to work for him. Lord Purple helped all of them escape a horde of demons in the Abyss.

I could probably have started this last session with "You've tracked down the Black Fox to his most recently known base of operations, a little tavern called the Widow's Cat" and the party would have gone in without a thought, except I didn't want to throw the adventure at them like I'm expecting them to go in crossbows ablazin'. Instead, the map they had mentioned the Widow's Cat and they went straight for the tavern crossbows ablazin' without any prodding from me!

Despite the creepy nature of the adventure, and the abandoned tavern, I don't think anybody was truly scared until they made their way into the vault. They found a dead body with a hideously long tongue in the cellar and the cleric, Brigga, cast speak with dead to great effect.

"Who are you?" - "I gave them a name but since it wasn't important now I don't remember it."
"Who killed you?" - "My friends."
"What is this place?" - "The secret vault beneath our hideout."
"What is in the vault?" - "My friends."
"Who has the keys to the door?" - "Kurt Anheim, Will Speck, and Koban Tarvis."

It took some doing to get there, but once they had the door open they entered into the rooms of the vault and I foreshadowed the diseased occupants by putting one of them in the corner of the second room, shivering and slowly turning to face them. When it fully turned around it ran toward them and was killed pretty quickly. The rest of the vault that lay in darkness was swarming with more of the diseased and they rushed the party. Kirani fireballed them as they got nearer and Eriel stood her ground cutting them down as they approached.

Because this was 5th edition D&D, I gave the things in the vault these stats:
AC 14, HP 22
+2 attack (additional +2 if within 5' of another Thing, additional +2 if target is already grappled per Thing grabbing them)
no damage, but hit = grappled + Constitution saving throw vs DC 20
each failed save marks one of the Death saving throw circles, if the third circle is filled in the PC becomes a Thing

I think I made them pretty fucking deadly considering 5th edition's power levels. The PCs got really lucky however. Only one PC managed to avoid getting hit and only one PC failed their saving throws against the Things. Brigga the cleric actually almost died but cast lesser restoration on herself just before she might have marked her 3rd death saving throw. Inspiration was spent all around the table, but in retrospect I probably should have forced a saving throw for making a melee attack against the Things too.

The PCs were able to loot the vault, they just swept everything off of the tables into sacks and then booked it back to their inn because they were too creeped out to stick around. I may hit them with more disease saving throws because I haven't determined what all of the loot is yet and I probably won't use the stuff from the module word-for-word. But most importantly, they didn't explore anything beyond the main tavern and the cellar.

They heard dogs barking but didn't investigate. Additionally, they know (via player knowledge) that there's another group exploring the place, but they were feeling icky from having fought weird tentacled-flesh sickness monsters. It's possible they'll end up going back there, but even if they do Waterdeep is super fucked now.

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