Archive for the ‘Dungeons and Dragons Campaign’ Category

Doctor Lee’s Circus of Sin: Part 4

17 Aug

Low on water, light-headed, weak-limbed, Simon and Tom made their way to Doctor Lee’s caravan. Though they didn’t know it, theirs was to be the final artifact required.

Simon went first into the caravan–a hot, claustrophobic space littered with half-written letters, faded signs, empty bottles of water. At its back was a steamer trunk. Simon told Tom to guard the door, and popped the lid open.

Sand demons leapt from the box and dove down his throat. Simon choked and gagged as most of the moisture was wicked from his already dry body. He collapsed, gasping for water, too weak even to stand.

Tom glanced out the door of the caravan. No-one was coming.

He sat down by Simon’s side, patted him on the head, told him everything was going to be alright…

…and gave him the last of the water from the suitcase.

As Simon regained his strength, Garret and Sandra arrived. By comparing notes, they discovered that they had every artifact except one. This, they presumed, had been found by the others.

“Let’s meet them, then,” said Simon, and stepped outside just as Leonard rushed him with a knife.

Leonard slashed him across the chest, dropping the old man, but not quite finishing him. He redoubled his grip and plunged downwards, but not before Sandra bullrushed him, driving her own knife into his eye.

Leonard hit the ground like a dropped skillet. Sandra barely had time to spit before she faded from sight.

One of them was saved, and now it was time for the rest to leave. They found the corpse of Polly in the church. She was beginning to awaken, to find that she was stuck here along with everyone else. She wasn’t too happy. She screamed, and begged, and insisted that it wasn’t her fault that she was here–that it wasn’t fair. The others had a different opinion.

***
And then they were waiting at a train station–Simon, Tom, Sandra, Garret–cold bottles of water in their hands, tickets in their pockets, with no idea how they’d come to be there. They wouldn’t be able to hear each other over the train whistle, if any of them had spoken, but none of them were going to. There wasn’t much to say.

(That was where the session ended. This is part of a planned trilogy of adventures, with the next one taking place in modern day Nevada. You’ll see more of it at some point down the line).

 

 

Doctor Lee’s Circus of Sin: Part 3

20 Jul

The clock struck three, and as a bell pealed three deep notes, the skies darkened. The wind picked up until it shook the office. The air became even thicker, hotter, drier. The dust outside was whipped up into waves, and then shapes—people, or demons, or something of the like, swimming and leaping in the air. Dozens leapt for the windows of the sheriff’s office.

The party tried to take cover, block up windows, and even fight back, with mixed success. Knocking the cabinet in front of the window checked, but did not halt, the onslaught. There was no stopping a certain percentage of the specters from making it to the party and leaping down their throats. Each time that happened, the character’s thirst gauge went up a few notches.

(Little side note: I can’t remember every instance of the party finding water, or needing it, or getting close to dying of thirst. So in the background of each of these posts, which are themselves very condensed summaries, keep in mind that there’s rather a lot of that going on. One thing all the players agreed on was that it was always a tense, desperate battle to combat the looming, inevitable threat of dehydration.)

After a full minute, the apparitions ceased. It was clear that the party’s window of survival was even shorter than they thought.

There was a search of the police station. They found records that proved the sheriff had been hanging a lot of people for a lot of charges, some of them far too light. A further search turned up a locked cabinet full of boots, purses, nice clothing, and personal effects like hip flasks and spectacles, as well as a bag of loose cash in many denominations.

Outside, they found a man hanging from an archway. His corpse seemed somehow different than the other corpses—for one thing, it seemed to have gone through some decomposition. For another, it seemed somehow stiller, somehow more at peace. The man was dressed pretty nicely. A search of his pockets turned up a map of the town with seven locations, the church and sheriff’s office included, marked with little glyphs.

As the town was fairly large—and conscious that time was against them—the party did what I’d hoped they would, which was agree to split up.

That’s about when Leonard got back, pretending nothing had happened.

They did make one stop together—at a general store—to gather supplies. There were more bodies here, apparently freshly killed, and almost all of the food and water had been looted. They found a gunshot-wounded man in the back, apparently searching for unguarded water, who explained a few things for everyone’s benefit.

Apparently the only man in town who stayed dead was the hanged man, a carnival barker named Dr. Lee. The looter couldn’t explain exactly why they had hanged him, only that everyone was sure it was his fault the town was like this. Suffice it to say that everyone was always thirsty, there was never enough water, the dead came back in a week no matter how they were killed, and if you died there once, you were stuck there forever. The only way out was to kill two people or gather seven items and bring them to the church, and you had to do that before something killed you or else you became a permanent part of the town.

Once it became clear that there were no supplies to be had there, the party organized itself.

Leonard and Polly were paired together and told to go to the church. Tom and Simon agreed to go together to the clock tower. Garret and Sandra ended up heading off to a third location, a doctor’s office.

***

Leonard went into the church before his companion. For some reason, he decided not to tell Polly about what he’d seen there, or about what he had on him. I never got to figure out why not, because they’d barely stepped inside before Polly attacked him from behind with her empty bottle.

What ensued was a short, nasty fight. She nearly gave him a concussion smashing him again and again, but he managed to take it away from her and knock her good too. Then, angry and confused, he demanded a truce from her. She agreed. Then, when he turned his back, she attacked him again. He tried to knock her down, accidentally hit too hard, and killed her.

Leonard was halfway there.

Tom lingered to talk with the looter while Simon went ahead. Then he took a different route, found a well, emptied some of his bottles of snake oil, and filled them with all the remaining water. When he and Simon passed the well later on, and saw that it was empty, the salesman declined to mention that he’d been the one to drain it dry.

They managed to consult a few more dead men and gather a few more talismans without risking injury. Neither ambushed the other, although both were tense. When Simon grew almost too thirsty to continue, Tom reluctantly shared some of his hoarded water.

They discovered that the last talisman on their checklist was in a train car belonging to Dr. Lee’s circus, and headed off there together.

Meanwhile, Garret and Sandra went to the doctor’s office. They found that the doctor had been keeping a man alive—really alive, not merely undead—from the last batch of “newcomers” that went through. He was only keeping him alive, however, as a public service to the next group of newcomers. The man was unlikely to be ambulatory before he died of starvation and thirst, so—the doctor reasoned—the only sensible thing to do was keep him around to go towards another man’s kill count.

Garret declined to kill the man, insisting “ladies first.” Sandra did the job instead.

 

Dr. Lee’s Circus of Sin, Part 2

09 Jul

(The fiction approach wasn’t really working, and I’ve got another fiction project to use as a learning experience, so I’m going to switch to rote narration.)

The six men and women exited the carriage to find that there were no horses–the thing had been rolling downhill, and was now rolling to a stop. They were standing on the edge of a dried-up, dead, unpromising skeleton of a town. The only building they could see higher than two stories was a clock tower down a ways from their position.

Amidst some bickering, the six entered the nearest building, which turned out to be a saloon. The place had been badly served. The windows were nailed shut, the floors were gouged, the tables were upset, most of its goods were gone. There were only a few bottles of spirits remaining. Polly Templeton took one bottle, and Garret–the only member of the party who had not yet given his name–took the other two.

The party moved further into the town. As they walked, they began to notice how terribly thirsty they were growing. It was something about the hot, dry, merciless air–it seemed to burn the water right out of their tissue.

(I wrote down each character’s name on the whiteboard. Every so often, I would draw in a few tally marks next to each. These marks were erased whenever water was drunk.)

On their way, Leonard Maycomb spotted the steeple of a church. Quietly, he peeled away from the rest of the party, who were headed as a unit towards what appeared to be the sheriff’s office.

Maycomb went in through the front. It was dark inside–the windows were boarded up here as well, even the stained glass ones. The meager yellow light evinced scattered pews, torn pages from the Bible, a discarded jacket, a torn hat.

***

The other five arrived at the sheriff’s office. There were the sounds of cursing and the rolling of dice from within.

“Six…god damn it! Nine! Shit! Come on…four? Son of a bitch!”

“Well,” said Simon Gulliver, “at least someone’s still alive.”

***

Maycomb pushed on to the back room, a pitch-black cubicle that smelled of sweat and booze. He stepped inside and stumbled instantly, nearly tripping over a pile of broken glass, and when he reached his hands out to steady himself he caught something heavy that was suspended from the ceiling.

He reached around in the room, found a desk, found a drawer, found a box of matches. A single match was lit.

The priest had hanged himself from the rafters.

“Huh,” said Leonard.

“Only two ways out of here,” said the priest. “The easy way, and the hard way.”

“Heh,” said Leonard.

“Seems to me like you’re that kind of man that takes the easy way.”

“Heh, heh.”

***

Simon opened the door.

The sheriff was dead, slouched in his chair by the big round table with two holes in his head. There were three other dead men arranged beside him. The deputy was dead, too, but he wasn’t done moving.

“Five…shit!”

Arranged in the table’s center was a pile of cash, as well as a single three-quarters-drained bottle of water. The deputy eyed it with naked desire, but made no move to take it. All his movements were focused on rolling the dice.

“Four…god dammit!”

Resting by the pile of cash was a sheriff’s star. On it was scratched a single word: GREED.

***

“The rules,” explained the priest, “are simple enough. You stay here and sooner or later, you die. You die, you become one of us–we can’t die, not for longer than a few weeks, and then we’re back alive and starving and dying of thirst all over again. And we can never leave. It’s too late for us, but not for you.

“There’s the first way. Doctor Lee taught it to us. You got to find all the totems of sin. You got to carry them all to the chapel and atone for what you’ve done. That’s the hard way. Many have tried, ain’t nobody I’ve seen has lived through it.”

The priest reached into his handkerchief. He withdrew a silk handkerchief marked ENVY.

“Here’s one. Most would trade it, but I don’t want it no more. Take it. Take it, because I want you to use it. I really do.”

Maycomb took it.

***

The hour turned. The bells rang. The sky darkened. Outside, a howling was raised.

“What the hell is that?” asked Simon.

***

“I want you to use it, because if you don’t, then there’s only the easy way,” said the priest. His face, already low, fell to new depths.

“Easy way is, you’ve got to kill two living people.”

“Heh,” said Maycomb.

 

Doctor Lee’s Circus of Sin: Characters

07 May

Correction from the other day: this week’s bonus stream will be on Tuesday, May 9th, at 5:00 PM PST. Now, back to this week’s content extravaganza.

A short while ago, a combination of illness and midterms meant a few of the players from my swollen nine-player Monday campaign all played hookey at the same time. Running the regular campaign seemed pointless, so in a few hours, I cooked up a one-shot adventure that I think is worth talking about. It’s an example of forcing choices, using player selfishness as a source of character conflict, and trying to tell a story beyond the usual tropes of heroic fantasy, and–while it probably wouldn’t have worked past one session–as a one-shot with mature players, it was both successful and genuinely enjoyable.

My goal was to have an arc that allowed, without by any means forcing, ruthless and self-serving behavior on the parts of the player characters–in fact, to make antiheroic actions easy and heroic actions extremely risky. It was to create a game that was possible to win or lose. In fact, it was possible for some players to win and others to lose, and for some players to win because other players lost. Oh, it would be possible for everyone to pull together and succeed as a unit…but it would be equally possible for greed and paranoia to ruin things for nearly everyone.

I’ll be sharing the account of that adventure–what happened, and what each player chose to do–in installments. For now, I’ll just be sharing the premade characters I wrote up. I’ll also tell you what I told the other players, which was the only information they had going in: the game was set in the Old West, and contained no supernatural elements that any of them would have previously been aware of.

I printed out each character sheet on a scrap of paper, then drew a little icon on the back to represent it. Players chose characters based on a combination of what icon appealed to them, which sheet was closest, and whether or not they cared enough to pick before everyone else did.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Map, Dawg

02 Oct

The Cahmel LP’s going up today or tonight. Meanwhile: here’s the map for the campaign I launched tonight.

I don’t want to talk about this campaign yet, but it’s actually possible there’ll be a series related to it that runs alongside the current summary. It won’t be the same thing, though…again, if I end up going through with it, you’ll see.

 

Lord of the Scraps: Session Eight, Part 3

27 Sep

Last session, I offered the players a choice: go off into the jungles to hunt mages, go into Royals territory to broker an alliance, or head off into the heart of Deathgrip’s command center to assassinate their leader? I asked you all to guess a.) which option the players picked and b.) which option I anticipated.

Surprisingly, almost none of you got the answer to either question correct.

Which option did they pick? The second one. The party wanted a change of scenery, so they decided to pack up and head south into Royals territory. It wasn’t a unanimous vote, but most everyone was in agreement by the debate’s end.

Which option did I anticipate so heavily I prepared for it almost exclusively? Also the second one. I made the other options as attractive as I could, but somehow, I had a feeling Operation Schmooz was what they were going to go for. Honestly, it only occurred to me to prepare for the others after I’d named a half-dozen NPCs.

The party is put on a cart headed towards the Royals border. They travel for a few days, journeying through back woods and countryside devoid of any other life, before entering a fog-shrouded canyon that gives way to a dirt road. The driver, a gnome, begins to grow nervous.

“Here,” he says finally, pulling the cart to the side. “I’m turning back. Hang around here and you’ll get picked up soon.”

To recap: the Royals don’t trust gnomes, and it’s mutual. That’s why the party’s the one negotiating the deal instead of Vahtzen officers.

Royals outriders appear–true to the driver’s word. To the party’s mild surprise, the outriders are actually riding horses. Two ride to either side of the party to flank them, then a third dismounts to give them a once-over.

The party is regarded with extreme suspicion, especially those—like Roberto—that are walking arsenals. The Royals outriders are decked out in plate mail and armed with longswords, and they look at the assault rifle slung over Roberto’s shoulder as if it were a dead cat.

A few more days of awkward, sullen travel ensues before the party reaches the embassy accommodations. They are not luxurious—the wallpaper is rotted, the beds are hard and worn, and there are few remaining decorations. Here and there, a light spot indicates an area in which a painting might once have hanged.

The embassy rooms have windows overlooking fields. They’re not looking terribly prosperous either.

The party asks when they can see the king about arranging some sort of alliance. As it turns out, he’s already holding a session—they can go right in, but they’ll have to wait their turn to speak. The party gussies up, washes the last of the blood out of their hair, and saunters over to the throne room.

It’s at this point that they see who currently has the king’s ear: a small squad of Deathgrip mercenaries.

 

Random Campaign Details

25 Sep

(I’m starting a new D&D campaign. The players wanted to try something a little more traditional fantasy, so I set about creating a setting in that vein. The trick was keeping classic fantasy elements in mind while putting them together in a way that’s hopefully somewhat fresh. Here’s the introductory pamphlet I gave them:)

After millennia of brutal conflict, the world found something like peace. The plains that once bred horselords and savages are now ruled by the arcane hand of magic; the tribes of the desert have long since abandoned their petty warfare and embraced trade; the races of the lowlands, swamps, and mountains have sundered their pacts with dark forces and content themselves with what land and power they possess. And in the island trading port of Sola Tetri, where you have grown up, life has been busy and chaotic—but without great tragedy.

Lately, however, there have been rumors that something has gone wrong with the world outside. There are whispers that certain magical rituals, such as those that involve transporting mortals within or outside of the plane, now fail. Magical communication over distances of longer than a few dozen miles became distorted, difficult, and finally altogether impossible. Incidences of monster attacks on caravans and cities have increased drastically. And villages on the edge of civilization have vanished without warning or trace…

Major Civilizations

Magistarum: A hundred years ago, the Magistarum successfully conquered the scattered communities of the plains and united them under a single rule. Magic is the backbone of the Magistarum: its power structure is based entirely around magical talent, and one of the most important duties laid upon the towns under its control is to report gifted individuals and give them arcane training. Magic is treasured—and regulated. Within their borders, all spellcasters are required to be registered and approved, but are then granted privileges denied to mundane citizens.

Throughout most of the Magistarum, life continues much as it did before the unification—settlements survive on trade, agriculture, and what meager magical talent they have access to. In the central cities, however, magic permeates every corner of every street. Golems and rituals are used to undertake tasks that were once given to common laborers, and mages of all powers and focuses jockey for power…both political and magical.

White Sands: Not so much a nation as a collective, the White Sands comprises the hundreds of desert tribes scattered throughout the realm. The desert is not so barren as an outsider might think; while fertile soil might be rare and localized, there is much in the way of exotic minerals and goods to be acquired. Consequentially, the people of the White Sands are based almost entirely around trade.

Like in the Magistarum, the sociology of the White Sands varies from region to region. There are many diverse tribes and cultures to be found in the inner deserts, and near the rivers—where the land is most fertile–vast cities of terracotta and stone are erected. Towards the coast are the sea traders, honorable and lawful where they are near civilization, depraved and lawless where they are not.

The Forlorn: Once upon a time, the elves and humans of the lowlands—surrounded on all sides by bloodthirsty dwarf and orc raiders—formed pacts with dark, long-forgotten forces. From there they expanded, building cities and conquering neighbors, toying with the limits of magical power—until without warning, and for reasons that are still unknown, the empire collapsed nearly overnight.

Today, these people are scattered and distant, scraping out meager livings from rocks and swamp while fighting off raiders as best as they can. These people are suspicious of magic, and the spellcasters of the Magistarum wisely avoid traveling through their territory. Perhaps it’s for the best: it is rumored that in some places, near the ruins of cities long since abandoned, magic is best not attempted at all…

Sola Tetri: Sola Tetri is an island port equidistant from many major trading cities. Protected from invasion by its cliffsides and martial culture, Sola Tetri has managed to remain neutral and independent even in more tumultuous times. A teeming metropolis, Sola Tetri is a home for employers of all trades and adventurers of all stripes.

Important Factions

Bantam Company (your employer): Formed half a century ago by the Bantam Four, a famous adventuring party, Bantam Company hires skilled swords to act as mercenaries, monster hunters, guards, and explorers. Many of its hirelings do not survive longer than five years in their employ, but those that do are often promoted to officership and given charge of more lucrative—and sometimes more dangerous—propositions. Bantam Company is situated in Sola Tetri, but operates worldwide.

Rat Pack: Rat Pack is the largest, least-exclusionary adventuring syndicate in the world. With guild halls in every major—and many minor—cities, Rat Pack provides affordable supplies, weapons, and assistance to anyone that walks through its doors. Members of Rat Pack range from sophisticated dungeon delvers to unambitious thugs.

Magi Magistarus: The elite casters of the Magistarum. The Magi are part aristocrat, part wandering peacekeeper, charged with the administration and oversight of large amounts of territory. Their duties are diverse, and might include: settling significant disputes, safeguarding territory, locating gifted citizens, and checking that practicing spellcasters are obeying regulations.

Some Magi are scrupulous and honorable, watching over their charges to the best of their ability. Some are corrupt, using their abilities and prestige for their own benefit while neglecting those beneath them. Most fall somewhere in between.

The Nobodies: There have always been rumors of a thieves’ guild (referred to colloquially as “The Nobodies”) operating within the Magistarum, fleecing magic and nomagic targets alike using a mix of arcane secrets and traditional methods. Ever since the Augris Emerald disappeared from Magi Caeldron’s study, these rumors would seem to be confirmed. It is unknown how a network of thieves could survive in the strictly-regulated viper’s nest that is the central Magistarum.

Red Decks:  An outlaw armada of sorts, made up of smugglers and pirates. They run drugs and goods on the western coast of the White Sands territory, usually referred to as the “Scum Coast,” and occasionally strike merchant vessels elsewhere. The location of their base is unknown.

O’ldru’l: Another pirate faction, this one made up primarily of fish people. They form crews on land and then strike ships at sea, swimming out to infiltrate vessels when they least expect it.

Miscellaneous Information

Permitted Classes:

Any legal. Spellcasters do not have access to teleportation or planeshifting magic, but may summon creatures freely. Arcane spellcasters may spend three thousand gold on certifications allowing them to cast spells within the Magistarum, one hundred gold on counterfeit certifications, or may choose to have no license at all.

Permitted Races:

Human

Elf

Half-Elf

Dwarf

Dwarf, Dark (Custom)

Gnome

Halfling

Half-Orc

Orc

Goblin

Kobold

Changeling

Tiefling

Fishman (Custom)

 

Lord of the Scraps: Session Eight, Part 2

29 Aug

At this point, the gnome lieutenant continued his presentation.

“Now then—the stalemate. We’ve been very successful in seizing the outward bases and farmland owned by deathgrip, and many of the northern villages are under our control as we speak. The new all-terrain vehicles are proving very effective against massed infantry, and ambushes have fallen since we mobilized the most recent scout division. Indeed, until recently, we predicted an end to the war within three months. Four recent skirmishes, as well a frontal assault—the grim results of which many of you have seen the report concerning–have led us to reconsider this estimate.”

The lieutenant gestured towards the map, indicating a line of dots to the east of their position.

“These are Deathgrip’s core settlements, and it is these that are giving us difficulty. Deathgrip’s witch-corps that strains credulity—they are more powerful than we had guessed, and completely—irrevocably—under the control of their masters. We had fought mages on the northern front before, but Deathgrip seems to have been saving their most skilled for their last lines of defense. The most key areas—east of lines here and here, in the thick of the forest–are protected by squads of their slave-born battlemages. It is proving…unexpectedly difficult for our mechanized infantry to uproot them.

“Make no mistake, we have numbers and time. We will win. But in the interests of avoiding a protracted struggle, and preventing the loss of thousands of gnomish lives and untold resources…we have a few ideas.”

The lieutenant reached into a bag by his chair and pulled out three folders.

“Mercenaries. I have called you here to offer you a choice of the following three missions; you may choose for yourselves which to undertake. All of them will be long-term operations, and all of them will require considerable skill and guile on your parts.

“Your first option,” he said, gesturing at the previously-indicated forest area, “is to ship out along with some other specialists to deal with the witch corps directly. You will be operating autonomously, seeking out targets and hideouts on your own, contacting your superiors only to report successful kills. Points will be deducted from your blood-debt accordingly.

“Secondly…perhaps you have heard, in your brief time on this island, of the faction known as the Royals.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Lord of the Scraps: Session Eight, Part 1

14 Aug

Last episode: the party covertly sabotaged Deathgrip’s operations, then began driving back to base.

The party returned, prisoners and trophies in hand, and were relieved of both by Vahtzen soldiers. At this point, a middle-aged gnome civilian took them all aside.

“Hold on a second,” he said, whipping out a pair of calipers. “Got to get some measurements…”

The party stood there, a little awkwardly, as the civilian paced about getting a sense of their height, width, build, and facial features. He noted these down in a logbook, then thanked the party for their time.

Only later would the party find out what this was about. Vahtzen wanted to fake the party’s death so that they wouldn’t be searched for later, and so their disappearance at the time of the sabotage wouldn’t be construed as suspicious. They hired an exceptionally creepy gnomish professional to “modify” a few corpses to get them looking about right, then dress them up in facsimiles of the party’s gear, sans any valuable equipment that would plausibly be looted.

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Lord of the Scraps: Session Seven (All of It)

06 Aug

Okay, it’s been, like, over a month since the last D&D campaign post. Here’s a brief recap, from the top:

The player characters are enslaved by mysterious strangers wielding anachronistic modern-day weaponry, then transported to an island full of warfare and conquest. They fall in with Deathgrip, a ruthless army fighting a losing battle to keep their homeland, and are sent on numerous missions involving the slaughter and capture of soldiers from rival gnomish nation Vahtzen. Eventually, Vahtzen takes them aside and convinces them to work as double agents, undermining Deathgrip from within and earning their place in Vahtzen’s relatively progressive society.

Currently, they’re undercover inside a Deathgrip forward base (one they helped to secure not a week ago). Their mission is to liberate a pair of gnomish captives, steal or destroy a truck, and assassinate at least two Deathgrip personnel—an officer and a specialist, the latter a woman named Harvest. This would be hard enough, but they also can’t get caught, or else Deathgrip will realize that Vahtzen’s maintaining a suite of double agents. If possible, they’re to make it look as if they were assassinated along with the officer and Harvest.

Having learned that afternoon where the prisoners were located, Roberto waits until nightfall and sneaks out of his tent to go visit them. He finds them in the upstairs of the farm manor (the same manor in which they’d fought the black-cloaked mercenaries less than a week before).

The gnomes are tied to chairs, gagged, and don’t look to happy to see him. He undoes their gags, then asks, “Can you understand me?”

The gnomes don’t respond.

Alright, before I relate this part, I should mention that it was late, it had been a hard week, and it’s probable that none of us were thinking all that clearly. Roberto in particular had a hard schedule, and I think it’s totally fair to say that 8:00 on a Friday night was not peak activity time for his critical thinking centers.

Roberto tries a few other languages and the gnomes still don’t respond.

“They can’t understand me,” Roberto says to the other players.

They point out that the gnomes almost certainly can understand Roberto, and just doesn’t want to talk to him since he appears to be the enemy.

Roberto spends a few minutes asking questions, like, “Who do you work for?” “What were you doing here?” and “Who are you?” The gnomes continue to stonewall him, and after a few minutes he looks ready to pull a Walter Sobchak.

“Why aren’t these guys telling me anything?” he asks aloud.

“They think you’re the enemy!” says one of the other players.

“Dammit.”

“Why don’t you just tell them you’re working for Vahtzen?”

“I can’t tell them that!”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want them telling the guards I’m a double agent!”

“Why would they do that? They’re on your side!”

“…oh! Oh, yeah.”

Sleep deprivation can be an ugly thing.

Roberto finally comes out and says, “I’m a double agent. I’m working for Vahtzen.” The gnomes digest this, pause meaningfully, then laugh at him for a good minute and a half. After searching through his effects, Roberto finally manages to produce some documentation that convinces them that he’s on their side. They agree to break out with him at the first opportunity.

While he’s in the manor, Roberto proceeds to rummage through some of the supplies—he steals ammo, the keys to the truck, and a good amount of provisions. He then brings the stuff back to his tent…realizes that he’s going to be in trouble if a search finds this stuff in his possession, panics, and hides it all in Karl’s old tent.

I honestly forget if he remembered to take it with him when he left. I guess probably, since he would’ve had to have had the key with him.

Day breaks. The marked officer contacts the party members, claiming that they’re planning a patrol to go up north and search some possible Vahtzen campsites. He needs at least a couple of volunteers. Roberto and Kelcinator elect to stay, while Eyda, Dirk, and the Sorceror all go on the patrol. Harvest is also brought along with. Like last time, she’s quiet, spending most of her time hanging around in the back and watching things happen.

Eyda, Dirk, and the Sorceror make sure to spread themselves apart in the marching order, agreeing to attack on Dirk’s initiative. They wait until they’re a good distance into the woods—then, out of a blue sky, Dirk rages as a quick action and does a full attack on the officer.

At this point, as I am wont to do whenever the mechanics provide an amusing mental image, I acted out what had apparently happened: Dirk walks along, half-lidded, just out for a routine morning stroll—and then, out of absolutely nowhere, lets loose this blood-curdling  high-pitched predator scream and bugs his eyes out of their sockets. One of my players actually jumped—volume control is not one of my strong suits.

What follows is a white-knuckle, down-in-the-dirt, unsportsmanlike little battle. Entangling vines and lightning blasts are flung around with abandon, the sorceror’s attempts to do damage control are mitigated by a half-dozen attacks of opportunity, and at least one party member is brought to their knees by massive damage. The officer falls first, and then his retinue—until finally, only Harvest remains, desperately fending them off with sword and shield.

At one point, Harvest is knocked off of a small cliff, dropping to her knees below. She is badly wounded, disoriented, and in the space of a moment the whole party is descending around her, circling for the kill. Her jaw tightens; she draws herself up, drops her sword to the ground, and places her hands on her head.

“Please,” she says. “Just let me go. I’ll leave Deathgrip. I won’t say a word about this.”

“Not likely,” the party responds.

“Please…they’ve got my children. That’s the only reason I’m fighting for them; they’ve got my chil—“

At this point, Eyda roasts her with a lightning bolt.

The party had a couple of options here. If they’d spared Harvest and listened to what she had to say, they’d have the option to go on a sidequest to free her children, reuniting them and getting them over to Vahtzen lines. Alternately, they could just let Harvest go and either a.) try to explain their decision to command or b.) just outright lie and say they killed her. Or c.), they could have taken her captive and gotten her to work as a double agent as well. Alternately—and this was also cool—they could have done what they did, and just kill her.

Maybe Noumenon’s comment made me touchy, but I just wanted to point out there were some shiny happy solutions here.

The players get the body parts/uniforms they need to prove they done it, magically get in touch with Roberto and Kelcinator, and within minutes, they’d all legged it back towards Vahtzen lines.