Following the massacre at the gates between Lower City and Upper City, the people of Baldur’s Gate took to the streets and a riot consumed the city. Fortunately the PCs were in the thick of things and were able to sway the masses with diplomacy. Under the powerful and charismatic influence of the Carl the Paladin and the rest of the party, the heroes brought out the best in the people of Baldur’s Gate and convinced them to stop the destruction and senseless violence. Once again the heroes were branded as heroes of the people.
This week at Harry Tarantula North in Toronto we ran two full tables of six. The DM for our third table knew he’d be absent this week and agreed to do a double session for his group next week. My table is finally getting some stability and we had the exact same party we had for the previous two sessions – Dwarf Fighter, Warforged Fighter, Human Cleric, Carl the Half-Elf Paladin, Elf Wizard, and Human Monk.
We began the session a few days after the riots were quelled. The PCs were given a time to rest after their instrumental role in stopping what could have been a disaster from ravaging through Baldur’s Gate.
When we picked things up the PCs and all other Flaming Fist soldiers at Wyrm’s Rock were called to a mandatory meeting. On the way a messenger hand delivered a letter to Carl. It had a wax seal on it, but the seal was clearly broken. Someone had read the letter. When Carl asked the messenger accusingly the boy replied that Ravengard himself demanded to read it.
The letter was from the Parliament of Peers. They formally requested that Carl come to speak before them tomorrow. They wanted to give him an opportunity to officially address them and declare his formal intention of being considered for the open office of Duke.
Carl tipped the boy and the PCs found their way to the marshalling area where Ravengard was about to address hundreds of Flaming Fist soldiers.
In light of recent events Ravengard declared marshal law in Baldur’s Gate. Signs were being posted around the city as he made the announcement. Under this law the Flaming Fist has total authority. Only Fist soldiers are allowed to wear armor and carry weapons. People are not allowed to gather with anyone outside of their immediate family. Everyone must be off the streets by nightfall. No ships are allowed to enter or leave the docks without clearance.
Anyone who violates these terms or any other standing laws can be arrested or executed on the spot. Most of the Flaming Fist members present supported Ravengard’s proclamation, however, a few were clearly concerned that this could backfire if any Fist soldiers let this new power go to their head. The PCs were among this minority.
Despite their misgivings, the PCs didn’t feel that openly opposing Ravengard in this context and at this time would be seen in a positive light. If anything they could be charged with insubordination. They decided to do what they could to ensure none of the other Fist members stepped out of line.
As the crowd was dispersing, a low ranking Fist member approached the Dwarf Fighter. He introduced himself as Favil Blanthe, an exchequer responsible for the Fist’s bookkeeping and armories. He was clearly in distress and asked the Fighter if they could speak privately.
Blanthe explained that he was in trouble. He’d made some bad decisions, was in over his head, and needed help. For the past few months he’d been smuggling weapons out of the Wyrm’s Rock for members of the Guild. These were sub-standard weapons that were going to be scrapped anyway. He’d doctor the paperwork and arrange for crates of weapons to disappear during deliveries.
He’d been raised in Outer City and understood the dangers such a life presented. When the Guild said they needed help arming the poorest and most desperate people how could he refuse? That used to be him. He felt obligated.
At first it was just a few old swords or crossbows, but recently, since Duke Abdel’s assassination, the Guild demanded more arms of better quality. Realizing he would be arrested (at best) if his role in the smuggling was discovered he continued to help them. In light of the recent riots he felt it was time to finally face the music.
Blanthe asked the PCs to help him. He hoped that if they discovered exactly where the weapons were going it might make his punishment less severe. The Fighter agreed to bring it to the party and see if they’d help. Sure enough they were all on board.
After some discussion on the best way to insert themselves into this mess, they decided to let the next shipment of weapons leave Wyrm’s Rock and they’d follow it. Fortunately there was another shipment schedule for later that day.
The carriage heading from Wyrm’s Rock to the Baldur’s Gate was easy to spot as Blanthe had tied a red and yellow strip of cloth to the back of it. The PC followed it through the streets of Outer City. When they neared Little Calimshan the carriage was slowed by the abundance of foot traffic and numerous impromptu stalls near the road.
The PCs closed in, fearing they might lose the carriage in the congestion. Another carriage stopped next to the one they were following and two men quickly jumped out, removed two crates from the carriage and loaded them on their own. The PCs decided not to interfere. Instead they followed the goods on the new carriage and Carl the Paladin managed to crawl under the carriage and grab on to the bottom of it.
The heroes kept the new carriage in sight as it veered off the main road and into an impoverished area of Outer City. The structures in this area were little more than shanties and their haphazard construction formed a maze of sorts. The PCs knew they’d be spotted if they followed directly so they instead split up and tried to surround the carriage.
The carriage came to a stop and the men unloaded the crates. The heroes pounced from all sides announcing themselves as Flaming Fist soldiers. Carl dropped from beneath the carriage, rolled out, drew his sword, and told the men to surrender. They immediately complied and threw their hands in the air. They agreed to cooperate with the PCs.
Two burly looking men were just inside the shanty where the carriage had stopped. When they saw the PCs, they shut the door and locked it. The PCs smashed through the door but once they got inside the room was empty; the men had fled through a back door. A couple of PCs tried to pursue, but after a few rounds they realized they’d lost them.
The men on the carriage claimed they were just hired to deliver crates. They hadn’t done anything wrong and were willing to cooperate. The PCs accused them of stealing the crates from the other carriage, but they assured the heroes that the driver of the other carriage was well aware of the exchange. They had no knowledge of what was in the crates, just that they were to deliver them here.
Convinced the delivery men were just pawns, the heroes let them go. A search of the shanty revealed numerous empty crates. Clearly this was a frequently used drop-off point. The PCs decided to wait to see if anyone else showed up. About an hour later someone did.
A Guild member whom the PCs had met before arrived with arms outstretched. He made it clear he was here to talk. His group was indeed responsible for smuggling these weapons, but it was with the best of intentions. The Guild had reason to believe that “Something Big” was going to happen in Baldur’s Gate following Duke Abdel’s death. They felt they needed to help the poor people of Outer City prepare for this upcoming event.
At first the Guild believed that “Something Big” was the riots, but after the noise and dust settled they continued hearing about this big event. Now they have reason to believe that whatever it is it will happen within 24 hours. They need these weapons to ensure the people of Outer City can defend themselves.
The PCs were not convinced and wanted to arrest the Guild agent. He then asked the PCs how closely they’ve interacted with Ravengard personally. He wanted to know if they felt he’d changed over the past month. None of the PCs understood what he was getting at. He suggested that Ravengard was heading down a dangerous and violent path, as his recent actions would demonstrate.
First he wanted the Fist to shut down business and arrest the proprietors, then he wanted the PCs to strong-arm a candidate for Duke, then he supported the sumptuary laws, then he enacted the tribunals, then he was at the heart of a massacre of innocent people, and finally just today he instituted marshal law. Clearly his actions were growing more violent and erratic.
The PCs were shocked that they hadn’t seen this pattern themselves. They agreed that Ravengard was up to something, perhaps Something Big. They agreed to let the Guild take these weapons but they demanded that the smuggling stop. The Guild agreed. After tomorrow’s event they hoped they wouldn’t need them.
As the group was finishing this conversation they heard an explosion come from Baldur’s Gate. In the distance they could see a plum of dark smoke rising about the city’s wall.
It took me nine weeks but I’ve finally realized that the party doesn’t have to be present for every single important part of the story. Most weeks there were three scenes and each week I’ve tried to give the PCs a chance to be involved in all of them. It’s been difficult and it’s made the sessions run over two hours every single week. This week I decided to try something different.
By now I’ve got a pretty good idea of how my players will or will not insert their PCs into the story. For the most part the group is very passive; they rarely challenge the establishment. Knowing this I correctly predicted that they’d do nothing to stop or oppose Ravengard’s declaration of Martial Law. So I decided to focus on the weapons smuggling part of this week’s session.
Only a hand full of details about the smuggling was provided and if the group was not aligned with the Guild they’d have no way of knowing most of it. I decided to flesh things out and allow the PCs to really get involved, which they did. Although they ended up choosing not to fight, they certainly could have engaged in melee if they’d wanted to. Instead they played to their other strengths.
Regarding the third plot point, I decided that the PCs would not be present when the explosion happened – forcing them to be in the right place and the right time to bear witness seemed wrong and unnecessary. I opted to leave it as a plot hook for next week’s session.
I’m regaining my mojo as we head into the final two sessions. I had fun this week; a lot more than I’ve had the past few session. I think keeping the session to around 90 minutes really helped. Nothing seemed to drag on and all the players had a chance to do something meaningful to contribute.
Next week a lot of the pieces come together in order to set up the grand finale. I think the players who stuck with the adventure will be happy and satisfied with where things go next week.
How are things going at your table? Did anyone confront Ravengard upon learning he declared marshal law? How many parties investigated the explosion? For those who investigated the weapon smuggling where did it lead and what did the party do if they learned who was behind it?
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.
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