Duke Abdel Adrian is dead – killed in front of hundreds of witnesses while addressing the people of Baldur’s Gate on Founder’s Day. Fortunately a group of adventurers were on site and helped defeat the assassin before there was any other loss of life.
That’s how things began last week for the PCs. Following their spectacular heroics they were approached by three different people who wished to enlist their services while Baldur’s Gate tries to reestablish some sense of order in light of the Duke’s death. By night’s end they needed to decide which of the three offers seemed most appealing.
Last week at Harry T North in Toronto we had a lot of players and only 2 DMs. This week we were back up to 3 DMs but had even more players. The result was two tables of seven and one table of eight.
I ran the table of eight which included seven new players. None of them had ever played D&D Next, and three had never played any form of D&D. After letting them choose from the pre-generated characters, we ended up with the following PCs in the party: Half-Elf Paladin, Gnome Druid, Dwarf Fighter, Elf Mage, Human Monk, Halfling Rogue and two Elf Rangers.
I spent the first 30-40 minutes providing a recap of last week’s events and tried to offer an unbiased breakdown of what each of the three factions had revealed to the PCs during week 1. Eventually the PCs agreed to side with Marshal Ulder Ravengard of the Flaming Fist company. A few were leaning towards supporting Silvershiled, but they were eventually convinced to come on board.
Once the party accepted Ravengard’s offer he made them all members of the Flaming Fist, gave them all silver badges denoting their affiliation and reminded them that as long as they work for the Fist they need to uphold the group’s ideals and behave within the rules of law (something I needed to remind the party of no less than five times this week).
Ravengard tasked the party with closing down two gambling houses: the Oasis in Little Calimshan (Outer District) and the Low Lantern in Brampton (Lower City).
The party decided to split up and scout out both locations. They wanted to get a better idea if they would need Flaming Fist soldiers as back up or if they were capable of shutting down these locales on their own. The Rogue, Ranger #1, Druid and Fighter went to the Oasis. The Mage, Monk, Ranger #2 and Paladin went to the Low Lantern. Not being from Baldur’s Gate, the PCs new nothing about either of these establishments, including where to find them. They relied on the kindness of strangers to provide directions.
The Rogue and Fighter were both seasoned gamblers and were excited to visit the Oasis. The Fighter, Ranger and Druid entered first. It was a dingy bungalow where patrons could play games of dice or cards. Off to one side were large pillows where a couple of patrons were sipping tea while others were chasing the dragon.
A very portly Calishite man slithered towards the PCs, arms extended in friendship. He introduced himself as Ibiz and welcomed them to his Oasis which he hoped they would make their Oasis. Ibiz had scars and pocks on his face which he tried to cover with makeup. Although he believed he was beautiful nothing could be farther from the truth. He appearance was borderline repugnant. The PCs allowed Ibiz to show them to a table where they all proceeded to lose a few coins while scoping out the Oasis.
The Rogue, a frequent visitor to these kinds of places fit in immediately. She moved around without arousing suspicion, gambling just enough to keep off the radar. She spotted a few rooms near the back of the Oasis where people seemed to hold private meetings. She briefly toyed with the idea of sneaking into one, but realized once inside she’d been seen by the occupants.
After about an hour the PCs left the Oasis, satisfied that some illegal activities and probably some clandestine meetings were taking place. They’d return later with the party to close the place down. They expected minimal resistance from Ibiz or his very docile patrons.
The Low Lantern
When the PCs arrive at the Low Lantern they discover it was a listing, three-mast ship permanently moored in the harbor that now serves as a festhall, tavern and gambling house.
The Paladin decided to enter alone. Drawing upon his performing background, his intention was to start playing his lyre and keep the patrons distracted while the other PCs entered unnoticed. Inside the Low Lantern the gaming tables were set up in the middle of the ship’s hull allowing patrons to easily move around the ship’s perimeter.
The Paladin spotted a small stage at the far end of the ship. He stepped up and began tuning his lyre. The crowd was obnoxious and mean spirited, taunting and insulting him. He began performing but failed to win over the unfriendly crowd (someone likened it to a scene from the Blues Brothers). As he struggled to play one of the strings snapped on his instrument which brought cheers from the crowd.
The other PCs entered the Low Lantern as soon as they heard the music start. The Mage and Monk stuck together while the Ranger wandered around solo. The crowd was all armed and looked dangerous. It was apparent that these were hardened pirates who often saw combat.
While scoping out the place, the Ranger noticed stairs going up to the main deck and another set going down to the lower holds. The stairs going down were chained off. He tried to sneak his way down unnoticed but got caught on the chain and fell. Some patrons laughed at his blunder. A bouncer picked him up and placed him at a gaming table.
A stern Half-Elvin woman came storming up the stairs to investigate all the ruckus. She was clearly in charge as the staff and patrons all quieted down and immediately showed her respect. She berated the Paladin for taunting her paying customers. She then walked the floor chatting with the regulars and introducing herself to the other PCs as Captain Laraelra Thundreth.
The Monk was a bit direct and impatient and flat out asked her if he could look around. She said he could go to the high roller area upstairs but not the private area below. He pulled out the writ of closure, identified himself as a member of the Flaming Fist and demanded complete access. Captain Thundreth didn’t flinch. She loudly exclaimed to the room that this man was here to shut them down and stop the party. The patrons were not amused. The PCs were outnumbered at least 5:1.
Captain Thundreth snatched the writ and ripped it into many small pieces before telling the Monk and the other PCs to leave now while they still could. The Monk, feeling justified, attacked her… and rolled a 1. She drew a sword and held it to his throat. She gave the party one last chance to leave before she let the crown at them. The PCs realized their predicament and left.
Second Chance at the Low Lantern
The party had agreed to meet back at a neutral location at a predetermined time. The Low Lantern group was really early. The Oasis group was right on time. When they compared their stories they realized that they should head back to the Low Lantern as quickly as possible so that they couldn’t destroy any important evidence. They all put on their Flaming Fist badges and ran as fast as they could back to the Low Lantern.
When the party finally got there they could hear the sounds of fighting coming from inside. The Rogue snuck up to the door and saw the city Watch battling the patrons. She quickly waved the PCs over. When the Watch saw the PCs with their Flaming Fist badges they pleaded for their assistance. The heroes immediately complied.
The ensuing combat didn’t take very long. The PCs made short work of the pirate thugs, knocking them out with almost every blow. However, the pirates didn’t stop attacking. With five of the eight Watch soldiers already down the Paladin decided that it was time to make a statement. He killed the next thug he battled, sending his long sword through the combatant’s chest in a bloody display. The room came to a dead halt.
The Paladin made an intimidate check and demanded that everyone drop their weapons and surrender. They all did. No one wanted to die. The PCs helped the watch detain the thugs and tend the wounded.
As soon as the fighting came to a stop the two Rangers and the Rogue heard sounds of movement upstairs. The three PCs ran up to investigate. They arrived just in time to see some of the thugs trying to escape through a porthole. A rope ladder was lowered down the side of the Low Lantern where a small row boat awaited them. The Rangers shot warning arrows at the men trying to flee and they immediately surrendered.
When the Rogue looked out the porthole she saw another rowboat way off in the distance. Captain Thundreth had clearly fled as soon as the fighting started. She was too far gone to catch now.
Once everyone was detained the Watch claimed jurisdiction on this mess. The PCs argued that they were here earlier and it was their collar, but when they couldn’t produce adequate paperwork they realized they were fighting a losing battle.
Fearing the Watch might be headed to the Oasis next the PC made there way there as fast as they could.
Second Chance at the Oasis
The PCs removed their Flaming Fist badges and entered the Oasis together. Nothing had changed from their earlier visit and again Ibiz welcomed them. The Rogue and Paladin asked if there was a somewhere they could play for high stakes in private. Ibiz personally showed them to one of the back rooms.
Once the door was closed the Rogue explained that they were under orders to shut down Oasis and preferred to do it quietly and orderly. Ibiz didn’t miss a beat and produced a sack of coins. He apologized for missing his last payment. The Rogue took the money and the Paladin produced his Flaming Fist badge and the writ. Ibiz realized his mistake and put up no fight at all.
The PCs allowed Ibiz to return to his office to collect his personal belongings before shutting down the Oasis. Ibiz told the patrons and employees that he had a personal emergency and that the gambling house would be closed until further notice. The PCs escorted Ibiz back to Wyrm’s Rock for questioning.
Although they didn’t meet with Ravengard personally when they returned, the ranking officer debriefed them. The PCs believed they’d failed since they didn’t get the collar for the Low Lantern. The officer explained the all Ravengard cares about is results. He doesn’t care that the Watch closed it down as long as it was closed which made the PCs feel a bit better.
I was a bit worried that the tasks set out for the PCs would be too simple and take no time at all. In a strange way the extremely large party I ended up with actually helped stretch the encounter out. It ended up taking a lot longer than I would have liked, but that was mostly due to the fact that most of the players missed the first week.
It never fails to amaze me how players can take what should be such a simple task and make it complicated by over-thinking it. I found that during this week’s session I was biting my tongue a lot when the players were talking to each other. They were making a lot of assumptions that I knew were wrong. Of course I did provide clarity when the players made statements of fact that their PCs would realize are actually incorrect.
One additional challenge we had this week was that two players were very young (I’m guessing in the 10-years old range). This actually helped me as the DM because it made me describe everything in very simple terms that even these young kids could relate to. I think the other players found it helpful as well for the same reasons. I know that having the kids at the table eliminated most of the cursing and swearing that always seems so rampant among the regular players (something I try to discourage during public play). I did find it challenging to hold the kids to the same standards as the adults. For example I made it an easy to moderate check when the kids wanted to look for “anyone sketchy” whereas I made the adult players be a lot more specific about what they believed would constitute sketchy.
I was a bit disappointed to see that the Stage 1 events were the only thing on the docket in-game for that day. It’s not like the PCs used a lot of their resources or spell allotments, but I don’t like players getting used to one combat and then an overnight rest. It doesn’t accurately reflect the characters’ true potential nor does it make the PCs feel like their ever in any real danger since they always go into every fight at full everything. I’m in the process of reading ahead and I hope that some of the upcoming sessions will all happen in the same day.
Now that we’re into the actual meat of the adventure where does your table stand? Which of the three principles did they align with? How did they handle the tasks set before them this week? Did any DMs beef up the combat or add an additional fight to keep things interesting?
Recounting Encounters Podcast
Recounting Encounters is a weekly podcast I record with fellow Toronto DM, Craig Sutherland, and Marc Talbot (Alton) from 20ft Radius in which we recount that week’s experiences with D&D Encounters. We share the highlights from our respective FLGS and we talk about what worked, what didn’t and what we might have done differently. Find all episodes of Recounting Encounters on iTunes.
Actual Play Podcasts
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