Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Gathering Storm part II: Stewpots and Sinkholes

"I will NOT pay 2,000 Karls for a Dwarf-made pistol!  Solid Imperial craftsmanship is good enough for me!"
- Dagmar von Horstrup, Carroburg Noble (deceased)

Welcome to part 2 of our Gathering Storm campaign, a tale of high adventure featuring Fignor Rafflefrank (Dwarven Huntsman), Drogar Hammerhand (Dwarven Blacksmith/Barber/Surgeon), Fulthor Ironbeard (Noble Dwarven Rogue), and Gunter Von Graf (Plucky Human Agent).

In this adventure, the PCs finally make it to Stromdorf!

After two of the party had nearly drowned in the River Reik (when Gunter caused the bridge to collapse -- see part 1), the remaining dwarves had to waited for their companions to recover.  Fortunately, Olaf and Sigmund, the two watchtower guards (who's names I had to come up with on the spot -- note that I quickly ran out of obvious Germanic/Norse names throughout the session, as you'll see), were kind enough to let the water-logged companions dry themselves by the fire while they tried to win some money gambling with the dwarven noble.

The PCs asked the guards whether the missing merchant the players were seeking had passed by (requiring some leadership checks pertaining to impressing the guards), and a few luck checks to see if Olaf's simpleton brain could remember any information longer than two weeks old, the players found out Florian (the merchant they were seeking) had passed by about a month ago, but had not come back over the bridge since as far as they knew.  Sigmund also remembered that he had recommended 'The Stewpot Inn" to Florian as a place to stay (Keila Cobblepot, the proprietess of The Stewpot Inn, gives the guards a small cut of any business they send her way).

When gathering his stuff together Gunter was surprised to see a water-logged rat chewing a page out of the heretical grimoire he picked up a few months back.  He snatched the torn piece of paper from the rat and stuffed it into his pocket, making sure the guards didn't see it and potentially turn him into the witch hunters.  As the PCs left, the guards asked them whether they could let the Captain of the Guard at the town hall in Stromdorf (Captain Kessler) know that the bridge had fallen, so they wouldn't have to leave only one guy at the watchtower to make the report.  The players agreed (and promptly forgot).  Once they got outside Gunter looked at the page of the book the rat had torn out.  It seemed to portend something, but he couldn't figure out its meaning or whether it was for good or ill, so Gunter folded it up and put it away.

DMs very familiar with the Gathering Storm campaign might be able to figure out what the book is trying to tell Gunter, but it hasn't come up yet in our sessions.

The adventurers tromped through the muck to walled city of Stromdorf.  This is where I described the city by comparing it to some of the more famous beer-producing small towns, such as New Glarus, WI (Spotted Cow) or Ashland, OR (Rogue Ale).  Hearing this, my Wisconsin-born/dwarven PCs immediately forgot their mission and demanded to take a tour at the Thunderwater Inn and Brewery.  Gunter commented that maybe they wanted to check out the Stewpot first, but the dwarves' minds were made up.  Brewery Tour!  So the PCs traveled past and mostly ignored a number of buildings and descriptions of important places they passed to get to the Thunderwater Inn and Brewery across town.

The player's map.  Note the special emphasis taken to record the Thunderwater Brewery's location.

After speaking to Klaus, the brewmaster's son, and getting a tab started, the players decided to mingle.  The crowd was astonished to see dwarves at all, so Gunter quickly faded into the background as the dwarves started drinking with the locals.  Of course this leaves a tavern full of people for me to describe/name I hadn't fully prepared for (while the residents of the Stewpot I had fully detailed in my campaign notes).  The PCs quickly met up with the resident bar flies who tried to play a joke on them and served the dwarves a "Marshwater," which is a pint of Thunderwater Ale with a reik eel tadpole dropped in it.
Drogar drank his down whole without chewing (passing his resilience check easily) and earned the respect of the crowd.  Fulthor made a show of chewing his eel, and miserably failed his check, but kept it down long enough with his dwarven fortitude to excuse himself and puke out back (he never would've lived it down had he puked in front of the humans).  He then drunkedly swayed back into the crowd and started making friends by doing keg stands with the locals.

Fignor refused to drink the Marshwater as he still was paranoid about being poisoned...again (he got poisoned, twice, in the Eye for an Eye campaign, so he has been wary of all NPCs ever since...).  As Gunter started questioning the locals who had become impressed with the very drunk dwarf's drinking prowess, I couldn't think of any Germanic names I hadn't already used, so I decided they had run into the Mud Farmer Frat Guy populace of Stromdorf.  The first guy's name was Brad.  The second? Chaz.  Then came Chett, Trip, Trey, Schmitty, and Cooper.   I gave them all very similar "sup' dude!" accents, but they each carried a rumor about the town for the PCs. Only Brad the Quartermaster's son ("Don't mess with me man. My dad owns a dealership.") had seen Florian and his magestic white pony, Perriwimple (+1 clue!).  Giving the tavern NPCs all frat guy accents allowed me to save my repertoire of important male accents, which consists entirely of "Scottish Bartender, Italian Mobster, and Borat," for more important NPCs.

By this point Drogar was mildly drunk as well, leaving both melee-centric fighters in the party intoxicated, so at some point the PCs decided to actually go to the Stewpot to get a room. I had given Fulthor no fewer than three intoxicated cards (I decided they stack), meaning on any check he'd be rolling an extra 3 white dice (good!) and six black dice (very, very bad).  

Arriving at the Stewpot the PCs were greeted by Kiela Cobblepot, halfling proprietor of the Stewpot Inn.  None of them had seen a halfling before so were not expecting my description of someone shorter than they were (I'm not sure the players expected the Warhammer world to even have halflings).  For her I used my sole female accent, which is the "Canadian Hoosier" ('doon't yah knoooh...?).  They immediately took a liking to her.  She made them meat pies and cider, got them three cozy rooms, and answered any questions they had about Florian's visit.

She informed them that he had left very early in the morning a couple weeks before, just before dawn.  She remembers because he had to wake her up before he left to settle his tab, and she always gets up before dawn to make the biscuits!  She doesn't know whether he left with his two caravan guards, as they stayed at the Thunderwater Inn ("The Stewpot is patronized by more law-abiding, upper-crust client√®le... like yerselves, of course.  His two men stayed at the Thunderwater, where tough types like to show their swords to eachother.  Tee hee").  The Stewpot Inn was full of off-duty guards from the Stromdorf militia, and a lone cloaked stranger sitting in the corner.  Only Fignor got a good look at him, and noticed that he was a particularly ugly human, who had one bulging eye, a mishapen nose, stringy thin blond hair hanging from his nearly bald-head, buck teeth, and a weak chin.

However, upon seeing all the off-duty milita, Gunter suddenly remembered about the guards and the collapsed bridge, and told one of the off-duty guards (I had named Greigor, not that anyone asked) about it, who said he'd get the message to Captain Kessler when he got a chance (the guards didn't look very concerned about it).  Considering their guard-appointed side-quest complete, they turned from the fully fleshed-out guard NPC and went back to question the mysterious local.  Before the PCs got a chance to turn back and talk to the ugly patron, he had slipped out into the night.

Gunter and the dwarves thanked Keila for her delicious food and went to sleep that night, all except for Fignor who decided to go out hunting early in the morning and bring back some meat for Keila.  The next morning Fignor surprised Keila in the kitchen and brought her two rabbits, which she quickly cleaned and was so appreciative she showed Fignor how to make her delicious Rabbit Stew (which I told Fignor's player he can now make when he catches rabbits -- its extra fatigue-soothing).  Fignor was quickly warming up to Keila and she was becoming the player's favorite NPC when, while looking for some Lowry's in her spice cabinet Fignor came upon some schlaff.  Fignor remembered from An Eye for an Eye that schlaff was a barbiturate and was used in drugging of the good people of Grunwald Lodge by sinister cultists a few months before.  But Fignor kept his mouth shut, as schlaff may have culinary purposes he didn't know about and Fignor's player thought I might be trying to throw him a red herring since he knew that I knew that he was paranoid about poisons (get that?).  Fignor thanked Keila for the recipe and met his companions as they awoke.

After breakfast (or purging of dinner by a very hungover Fulthor Ironbeard), the players met outside the Inn to discuss where to go next away from prying ears.  Unfortunately their hopes for privacy were dashed, as the nearby (but obviously foreign) drunk (who had passed out across the street the night before) overheard their discussion  and introduced himself to the party.   His name is Eduardo Castillo Rodruigues, and he introduced himself as a master swordsman and famous adventurer of Tilea!  He explained that, while he was an extremely busy man who had many business affairs and adventuring to tend to, that he would be willing to guide them around this one-horse town for a small fee.  As I was using an accent (doing some horrible combination of my Watto and Borat accents), the PCs decided Eduardo may be of some use, and paid him a couple silvers for his help and any information he could give them about Florian.  Eduardo didn't remember any merchant, though when the players mentioned Florian's white pony, Perriwimple, Eduardo did remember a very ugly local driving a cart pulled by a magestic white pony a few weeks back.  He didn't know who the local was, but for a small fee he could help them find out...

From Eduardo and visiting various townsfolk the PCs learned many rumors about the town, like how Burgomeister Adler hadn't been seen in months, how the town elders hated Adler and felt they were woefully overtaxed, how the Brewmaster's young wife had committed suicide by throwing herself down the well, and how Captain Kessler (who?) was always a complete jerk to Eduardo.  Eventually the PCs found out the ugly man's name was Reiner Holtz, and lives in a mud farm near the southern swampland (called "the Oberslecht").  Eduardo told the PCs that, while he had many very important and high-paying business arrangements to attend to in town, that if they were willing to compensate him for his time that he would accompany them into this dangerous swamp.  As overconfident PCs are won't to do, they scoffed at his offer and told him they wouldn't need his help, but they gave him a few more silvers and sent him on his way.

As the PCs left on the southern road out of town, the muddy forest soon gave way to muddy scrub-brush and dead trees.  The PCs became aware of the scent of smoke on the wind, even through the rain.  Making some observation rolls, they saw that a farm was burning to the east!  This gave them two choices: continue south to the Holtz farm on the muddy-but-safe road, or head through the dangerous and sinkhole-filled swamp and try to save the people in the burning farm.  They decided that with Fignor Rafflefrank, expert dwarven hunstman and tracker at their side, that they'd have no problem with the swamp.  Fignor's got all sorts of bonuses to tracking and nature lore, so they weren't worried.

After getting lost for a while in the swamp, and circling back a few times, and PCs finally made it past the fences into the farmland, and were ambushed by crazed beastmen! (Fignor actually failed his roll pretty bad, not chaos-star bad, but bad)  This led to a tense battle in which the PCs had to fight off two Gors (tough Beastmen) and a small pack of Ungors (wimpy beastmen -- though very dangerous in large numbers) in the smoldering ruins of the farm that they failed to get to in time to stop.

The first beastman sucker-smashed Fignor on the back of the head as he led the way into the farm (I considered Fignor "flat-footed" for failing his tracking roll, and didn't let him dodge or parry the first attack).  After that the rest of the beastmen charged in and everybody was grouped into a huge scrum.  Gors attacked the dwarves and gave the thief a good smack to head, and smashed Fignor a second time across the chest.  It wasn't looking good for the stout warriors.  It didn't help that I was still instituting the "wet beard" (one black dice on all checks) penalty for the dwarves.  In retrospect, I realize that's kind of an unfair penalty when the entire campaign takes place in a constantly worsening storm, but it did lead to in-depth discussions by the players on how to avoid having a wet beard.  Excessive waxing and tight knots were some of the best ideas.

In any case, the smaller ungors tried to pull Gunter and feast on his still-living flesh.  But the long-legged human was too fast for the little terrors and he extricated himself from the melee as soon as possible.  In fact, Gunter turned-tail and ran straight away from the melee back the way they had come, burning a couple fatigue to get farther away from the fight. At the end of his move he used his "Guarded Position" card in case the beastmen followed.  Guarded Position is just a simple defensive card that rolls your discipline skill against a single purple die, and gives you bonuses on your defense if someone attacks you or it can reduce your fatigue.  Of course, this is Gunter we're talking about, who subsequently rolls a chaos star on the one dice in his hand that could roll a chaos star.

As he had clearly run away from the farm and into the swamp, that meant that Gunter, in his haste to flee, had run straight into a sinkhole (though he did reduce his fatigue).  He was affectively immobilized until he could get some help or figure some way to pull himself out with rope or something, as he was up to his ankles in the swampy quicksand and sinking.

For some reason as soon as Gunter was gone the dwarves suddenly got their groove back.  Drogar used "Setup Strike" to good effect on one of the Gors and Fulthor subsequently stabbed it in the kidneys and followed up by cleaving away a cloven leg, causing it to collapse and bleed out in the mud.  Fulthor rolled so well on his "Nimble Strike" card he had an extra maneuver, which he used to throw the bloody leg into the face of the other Gor, distracting it enough to let Fignor take a point-blank shot with his crossbow at it (Assist = +1 white dice for Fignor).

Fignor, for his part, was still surrounded by ungors, and yet still used his "Close-Quarters Shot" card.  This required him to take one extra black die for every enemy he was engaged with (and no, in our games a henchman group is not 1 die for group, its 1 die for each member of the group!), which resulted in 5 extra black dice on the shot (plus another for the card and yet another for being a dwarf with a wet beard).  Fignor spent his fortune, exercised his Catlike Reflexes talent, took advantage of Drogar's Setup Strike, and waited for the perfect shot...  and put a crossbow bolt right between the eyes of the beastman, causing two extra critical hits (both to the head!).

Seeing this spectacular display of dwarven teamwork taking down the two toughest guys the ungors had ever known in just a few seconds, the ungors turned tail and ran for their lives.  The dwarves shouted a few obscenities as they congratulated each other on their fine martial skill.

At that point Drogar heard a faint call for help from Gunter coming from the swamp.  The dwarves stomped into the Oberslecht wary and expecting to fight more beastmen, only to find the young mustachioed human trying to retain his composure while up to his waist in mud and quickly sinking to a horrible death.

Classic Gunter.

[End of Session 2]
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