During the last session the PCs witnessed tensions grow in Baldur’s gate as sumptuary laws were implemented and the Watch and Flaming Fist officers began enforcing it. The PCs got caught up in a street brawl between Flaming Fist officers and a mob of angry Lower City residents. The Fist prevailed and the PCs escorted most of the troublemakers to Wyrm’s Rock for processing.
A few PCs split from the group and met with Rilsa Rael, a member of the Guild working out of Little Calimshan. She provided a different perspective of the recent events happening in Baldur’s Gate and suggested the PCs stop working for the Flaming Fist. She went on to ask them (again) to help her and the Guild do what was best for Baldur’s Gate.
This week at Harry T North in Toronto we had another large turnout. In addition to our many regulars we had 2 brand new players join in the fun. For the first time this season we actually had four DMs ready to run tables.
Since this season began I’ve run massive groups each week (9 players twice and 8 players once). In order to try and fix this problem and speed up our sessions we recruited a fourth DM. Players at the first two tables (6 each) were all punctual so they started on time. That left two DMs and 6 players. Normally I’d just group these folks together and run a table of 7, but we were still expecting as many as 6 more players so we waited.
After about 10 minutes we decided to begin with both DMs running tables of 3. After all, none of the players had called, texted, emailed or Tweeted that they’d be absent, and I didn’t want to start with a table of 7 and have it balloon up to 9 or more. Of course no more players showed up so I ended up running a small group of 3: Half-Elf Paladin, Dwarf Fighter and Human Cleric. You know if we’d started with 7 everyone else would have shown up. Oh well.
D&D Encounter Forum
This week Wizard of the Coast released a completely new website for their forums and online community. It’s been a rough release and many of us are having difficulty find our favourite sub-forums. Here are a few of the new links D&D Encounters players and DMs may be having trouble finding.
10 Missing Hands
The party was still stationed at Wyrm’s Rock as members of the Flaming Fist. During the morning briefing the sergeant was handed an urgent notice. Five statues around Baldur’s Gate were vandalized over night – the hands removed from each of them. The Fist soldiers on duty were each assigned different tasks in the investigation. The PCs volunteered to check out the closest statue: Balduran Looks Out to Sea overlooking the river from East of the city.
In order to get there they had to enter the city through Basilisk Gate and then exit through Cliffgate. While passing through the Lower District they saw a lot more vandalism and graffiti. Apparently the hoodlums were busy over night.
Once the PCs arrived on the scene they looked for clues. Upon examining the statue and the surrounding area they realized the hands were carefully cut off with some kind of hacksaw. The cuts were relatively clean and precise. The hands were definitely not smashed off and the absence of rubble nearby meant that broken hands didn’t just fall to the ground. Someone, likely a team of vandals, acted quickly, quietly, and then took the hands with them.
A quick canvas of the area was a waste of time. The locals refused to help the Flaming Fist as most of them had been accosted yesterday because of the sumptuary laws or knew someone who had. The really, really bad Charisma checks didn’t help (they rolled 1, 1, and 2).
Next they wanted to check out the other statues. The closest was the Faithful Shopkeeper Meets the Honest Trader near the Counting House pier. Just like the other statue, the hands were sawed off cleanly. There was no sign of smashed appendages anywhere. The locals were more willing to answer questions but they didn’t know anything. No one saw or heard a thing.
We didn’t play it out, but we assumed the PCs visited the other damaged statues and turned up the same information. There were absolutely no witnesses to the vandalism.
The PCs concluded that whoever did this was well organized. They knew when to cut off the hands and not be seen or heard. They had the right tools and were quick. At the end of the day they reported these details to their superiors.
The Beloved Ranger… Handless!
The next morning at the briefing the sergeant was again handed a notice. This time he was a lot more angry and excited (in a bad way) about what it said. Over night the hands were removed from the Beloved Ranger statue. Minsc’s hands were removed including the one holding the hamster Boo. Although the PCs didn’t know what the big deal was, the locals were outraged. These vandals had taken things one step too far!
The PCs were asked to go to the Upper City and investigate. The sergeant reminded them that they had no authority up there but perhaps their fame as heroes would be useful. As they were leaving Wyrm’s Rock a messenger arrived stating that Esgurl Nuthammas, the master of cobblers responsible for the city’s roads, bridges and public stonework (including the statues) demanded a representative from the Flaming Fist come to his villa immediately. The PCs agreed to go.
Nuthammas was fuming over the vandalism. He clearly felt a personal connection to the works and wanted to see the people responsible for these acts pay dearly. He even went so far as to request the PCs “make these devils pay with their souls and save the city the expense of a trial.” It was pretty clear he would be happier if the vandals met with an accident than be brought in alive. He gave the party 150 gp with a wink. “I know you’ll do what’s best when the time comes.”
Next stop was the Wide and the scene of the latest crime. The Watch on site treated the PCs with distain until they mentioned that they’d just met with Nuthammas. That got them access to the statue. The Ranger’s hands were not sawed off like the others. It looked more like they were chiseled off, and poorly at that. The heroes looked around and with some stellar checks found two significant clues: 1) a golden broach with the Ravenshade family crest, and 2) a dagger with the Oberon family crest. In order to identify the crests they had to ask some of the merchants in the Wide which ended up costing them a few gp.
Questioning the Noble Families
The PCs went to the Oberon villa first to speak to the family. The family patriarch was willing to answer their questions. When they showed him the dagger he identified it as his son’s. However, it was lost a few months ago so anyone could have left it in the Wide. They were unable to speak with the son because he was still out. He was at a party with his friends the night before. The parents had no idea where the party was held.
A few blocks away was the Ravenshade villa. The matriarch was not happy to see the PCs and was uncooperative and snooty. They decided to try and trick her into answering their questions. She confirmed (inadvertently) that everyone in her family had their own fine cloaks and that each of them had a personalized golden clasp. When they showed her the one they found she let slip that it belonged to her son. She quickly recovered and demanded her family’s property be returned. The PCs said they’d return it to the son if he answered their questions. She said he had not yet returned from a party held the night before. They refused to give it to her saying it was evidence in an ongoing investigation. She took offense and had a servant call for the Watch. The PCs fled the villa.
After running a few blocks the PCs managed to elude the Watch. They did notice a couple of very drunk girls dressed in very fine party clothes staggering home. They offered to help them home and asked where they’d been. They talked at length about this great party they were at last night. When asked if Ravenshade and Oberon were there the girls said yes. However, after the two boys got really drunk they left unexpectedly on an adventure. They did not return to the party.
The PCs escorted the girls safely home and then headed for the nearest gate to Lower City. They asked the guards if anyone passed through during the night, specifically two rich teenagers. The guards did indeed remember opening the gate for the two boys and watched them head to the docks. It didn’t take long for the PCs to learn the boys hopped a ferry to Twin Songs.
Back to Outer City
Later, while asking questions in Twin Songs, the PCs were approached by Rael’s companion whom they’d met during the last session. He told them that Rael wanted to help them catch and punish those responsible for damaging the statues. She wanted to impress upon the PCs that the guilty parties and their family bear the full burden of repairing the statues and that the costs not be passed on to the common folk in the form of a tax hike. In exchange for their support he told them the boys were last seen entering Horgold Hadru’s pottery shop on Wyrm’s Crossing.
The PCs returned to Wyrm’s Rock to get reinforcements and then stormed the pottery shop. The proprietor was shocked at the raid and screamed and squealed. When the PCs tried to head upstairs to his meager apartment he very loudly shouted that they should not go upstairs and that there was no one up there. The PCs ran upstairs anyway and caught the two boys trying to escape through a window.
Among the boys’ possessions were the Ranger statue’s hands. The boys sobbed hysterically and were unable to answer questions. The PCs marched them back to Wyrm’s Rock. As the passed over the bridge the Cleric remembered the words of the stonecutter. He seriously considered pushing the boys over the edge. He could easily claim they’d tried to make a run for it. However, the moment passed and he allowed them to live.
The boys were unwilling to cooperate and at the advice of their solicitor they didn’t say anything. They were offered leniency if they returned the other hands but they refused. They were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment – one for each missing hand. Their families tried to weasel out of paying damages explaining that the boys were drunk. None of the other Upper City families came to their support and the Ravenshade and Oberon families had to pay all costs.
I did not have a good time this week. This session was the one I had the least fun with in about the last 6 months. It felt extremely forced and unnecessary. No matter what the PCs did the events of the story would continue onward. In fact the PCs could have done nothing but watch and little would have changed.
This was the fourth week without a significant combat showpiece. I enjoy political intrigue and I like opportunities for role-playing but combat is a big part of D&D and we’re just not seeing it this season. I had a small side quest/combat ready to go this week but by the time we did all the scripted parts there wasn’t any time for it.
Despite my small group it still took well over 2 hours to get through everything this week. The two full tables were both close to 3 hours. I may have to read ahead and find things to potentially cut. I don’t mind going 2 hours once or twice a season but not every single week. D&D Encounters is supposed to be quick, like 1-1.5 hours.
On the plus side my group is clearly starting to question the power players and is wavering between their loyalty for Ravengard and Rael. Assuming we have better attendance next week I think things will really get interesting.
How did this week’s session play out for your group? Where does the party’s loyalty lay? Did your party have a different outcome to this week’s events than mine did? Did anyone kill the culprits? Did anyone help them escape punishment? Did anyone recover all 12 hands?
Regarding combat, are other groups doing more combat this season than I am? Are other players and DMs as frustrated as I am at the lack of meaningful fighting? Any suggestions for giving the combat loving players more of what they want/expect from the adventure?
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
We continue to record our D&D Encounters sessions and make them available to you for download every week. These recordings are made in a loud, crowded game store so at times it may be difficult to hear everyone. Some language may be inappropriate for all ages, although we try to keep it as family-friendly as possible.
Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.