Baldur’s Gate faced a crippling garbage strike during last week’s session. The PCs used magic to summon monsters to eat the garbage and clean the streets. The success of such a creative endeavour endeared Carl the Paladin, the party’s leader, to the residents of Baldur’s Gate and now his name is being shouted from the rooftops as a possible candidate for Duke.
This week at Harry T North in Toronto we ran three tables of D&D Next. The other two DMs each ran tables with five players. Three of my five regulars notified me that they’d be absent this week; fortunately we had two brand new players walk in so I added them to my group brining us up to a very manageable party of four. The party ended up consisting of two Dwarf Fighters and two Human Clerics – sometimes you get balance, sometimes you don’t.
The new players had some previous experience with RPGs, but nothing recent. I gave them a brief recap of what had happened so far in the adventure and then asked them how they saw these characters fitting in to the story. I suggested we just say they already knew some of the previous PCs but they didn’t want to do that (which was fine). They decided that they were wandering adventurers. When they heard the tales of Carl the Paladin they decided to find him and see if he really was as great as the stories made him sound.
Building the Roster
Fighter #1 and Cleric #1 (both returning PCs and currently affiliated with the Flaming Fist) were asked to go to the Wide and await an official proclamation that was going to be made today. If it was anything like the reintroduction of the sumptuary laws there could be trouble and the Fist wanted some officers there to see first hand what the reaction was like.
As they walked from Wyrm’s Rock to the Basilisk’s Gate they happened to bump into two travelers, Fighter #2 and Cleric #2 (funny how that happens in D&D, isn’t it?). The newcomers immediately asked these law officers if they’d heard of Carl the Paladin. The player running our would-be nominee for Duke was absent this week so Carl was off on a special assignment which is what the PCs told these curious strangers.
Fighter #2 went on to explain that he wanted to challenge Carl to a duel so that he could see if the stories of the Paladin’s abilities were true or exaggerated. Carl’s friends made no comment and downplayed their affiliation to the absent Paladin.
The strangers having never been to Baldur’s Gate asked the other PCs where they could find some fresh food and replacement supplies including a new crossbow. The PCs suggested they visit the open marketplace called the Wide. Since the PCs were heading there already they continued travelling together.
The Fist PCs cautioned their new friends about the sumptuary laws and advised the newcomers to hide their valuable looking gear lest the offending articles be confiscated.
As the foursome walked through the Lower City people called out to the PCs thanking them (and Carl) for taking care of the garbage problem. Even though Carl wasn’t there, his allies were apparently just as famous as him. This fact was not lost on the newcomers. Clearly these PCs knew Carl well and could lead them to him. The new PCs decided to stick with them for now.
A New Curfew & A New Tax
In the Wide the PCs had an opportunity to role-play and interact with the merchants. About the same time they finished getting the supplies they needed, an officer of the parliament took the stage and began making the new declaration. In response to the growing disturbances throughout Baldur’s Gate, the Dukes and parliament have implemented a new curfew: Upper City will bar its gates after 3 bells to nonresidents.
Residents of Upper City cheered the new law; merchants from Lower City and Outer City booed and threw objects at the stage. Over the next half hour merchants got into arguments and even fist fights with each other over the news. The Watch was in full force in the Wide and maintained law and order. As 3 bells approached over half the merchants packed up to leave the Wide.
The PCs heard a lot of grumbling from Lower City and Outer City merchants. More than a few talked about ways to skirt this new hindrance, and the most popular suggestion was to use Underceller to smuggle goods in and out of Upper City after the new curfew. Underceller was not a term any of the PCs were familiar with.
After a bit of questioning, the PCs learned that Underceller is a series of passages and tunnels that links many of Baldur’s Gate’s buildings together. The catacombs are chaotic, unmapped, and dangerous. But they do run beneath the entire city and could be used to bypass the gates after they’re closed for the night. However, using the tunnels in this way would be illegal. The PCs took the night to think on everything that happened.
The next day the PCs learned that in reaction to the new curfew the Harbormaster decided to start charging a new tax on goods such as incense, spices, wines, magic supplies and art object; typically things that are only bought by residents of Upper City.
Searching for Underceller
Since the PCs had no jurisdiction in Upper City they decide not to get involved in the political battle that was playing out. Instead they decided to investigate Underceller. They found Lower City merchants who stood to lose a lot because of the new curfew and asked how serious they were about using Underceller to bypass the gates. It took most of the day but they eventually found a few who were willing to do it.
Underceller is dangerous, that is a fact, so the PCs decide to provide their service as bodyguards and agreed to escort struggling merchants in and out of Upper City through Underceller. The merchants agree but wouldn’t go until the PCs made sure the way was safe and well mapped. Now the PCs need to find an entrance and a guide.
Despite an afternoon spent trying to learn more about Underceller, the PCs were unsuccessful until they saw a familiar face beckoning them into an ally. It was a Guild operative they’d spoken with before. He said he’s heard what they were planning and could help. He knows a guide who will take them through Underceller. In exchange for this introduction he says they have to do him a favour. Once they start leading merchants through Underceller he wants them to take a merchant from Outer City that he chooses on every run, no questions asked. They agreed. He gave them a location and told them to be there tomorrow morning.
Amidst all chaos of a day spent on the streets of Baldur’s Gate the PCs are hand delivered an invitation to a private soiree. The party was being hosted by Coran, a retired adventurer and a local celebrity in Baldur’s Gate. His party’s are well known as being fantastic and exclusive so the PCs made a point of going.
In order to get the players in the right mood I described the party as a wild night in Las Vegas. Whatever they could image was likely happening. It was a who’s who of local celebrities.
They met Coran and Fighter #2 wanted to fight him to see just how tough he was. Coran defused the situation with drink and stories of great adventures. Coran made numerous remarks about the new tax the harbormaster introduced and wondered who would profit most from hording. The PCs were disinterested and didn’t care at all about the behind-the-scenes political ramifications of such actions.
Welcome to Underceller
The next morning the PCs met their guide. He clearly liked to “party” and was definitely on something (I described him as Otto the bus driver from the Simpsons). Fighter #2 was really hung over from Coran’s party so the guide offered him magic pills to cure his ailment. He took them and they worked, sort of. His hangover was gone but he was having trouble distinguishing colours. Red looked blue, green looked orange, etc.
The PCs told their guide that until they had a safe route mapped through Underceller they couldn’t help the struggling merchants. The guide understood and led the way.
The journey was tedious and they had to backtrack many time to find passages that were dry, structurally sound, and devoid of offensive odors. After spending most of the day underground the guide was confident that they’d almost reached their destination and would surface near the Wide.
Just then the party (except Fighter #2 and the guide) heard movement up ahead. They proceeded cautiously into a large chamber that branched off in many directions. Fighter #1 advanced towards the sounds and was beset upon by two Skeletons. The first scored a crit and nearly killed him with a single blow.
The rest of the party sprang into action as they heard more sounds coming from all directions. Skeletons appeared from all sides surrounding the party. The heroes fought valiantly and in no time destroyed four skeletons. Cleric #2 healed the wounded PCs as they needed it and Cleric #1 turned undead forcing three of the nearby skeletons to retreat. Fighter #2 had more trouble than the others fighting these creatures because he didn’t have a bludgeoning weapon, but he still held his ground.
The fight was fast and dangerous. It only took a few rounds but the players had fun. They wrongly assumed the skeletons were more of a threat than they really were because of the initial crit (which they didn’t know was a crit). As it turned out the skeletons needed 16 or better to hit the PCs and I only landed a few blows.
With the passage cleared of trouble they completed their task and arrive in the Wide. They returned through Underceller to check the accuracy of their map and were confident that they’d found a safe and reliable way through. The next day they began helping the merchants bypass the gate and stay in Upper City past curfew.
Although Carl wasn’t actually present he was given all the credit and praise for helping the little guy stick it to the man. The new PCs were now seen as part of Carl’s crew whether they liked it or not. The other PCs were happy to give Carl the credit as it enhanced his reputation and moved him one step closer to becoming the next Duke.
This was another disjointed week. The DM is presented with a few tidbits of information and has to figure out a way to dump the necessary information on the PCs in a way that makes sense. When my PCs were at Coran’s party the charismatic NPC hinted at a few possible courses of investigation but the PCs had absolutely no interest in following up on any of them.
Anticipating this possibility I again had a mini-combat encounter in my back pocket that I could use if things went a bit off script, which it did. The combat was quick and fun. The monsters didn’t pose much of a threat but did emphasize the dangers of Underceller.
We’re only at the halfway point and I’m really feeling burned out and tired with this season. I just want it to be over. Because I keep having new players join my table (which is something D&D Encounters is supposed to encourage) it’s really hard to get the continuity that the other groups are getting. The few people who have been there since the beginning do seem to be enjoying it. The new players on the other hand don’t have any investment in the story and want to things outside of the printed adventure (which is understandable).
How are things going at your FLGS? Has your party remained the same throughout the whole season or has it changed week to week? For those where it’s changed how are you finding the season? How many groups paid the harbormaster a visit? How did that work out? Did any other groups explore Underceller?
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.