Last night’s session saw us with about half the usual group due to a confluence of work and finals for three of the players. So, that left us with Caleb, Earn, and Yllgrad in the big city of Mickleheim. Their players were pretty pumped about getting stuff sold and getting to the Volcano, but a) I wanted to flesh out Mickleheim some, b) I wanted to give some of the Vornheim city kit rules and others that I’ve compiled a test drive, and c) I needed some more time to properly prep the volcano adventure, so we ended up zooming in on their errands in the city.
First, the group helped the gate guard come to a decision on whether giants warranted a Slave duty or a Beast duty by simply paying him for his guard duty (or lack thereof). They decided to play up the whole spectacle of arriving with captive giants (again, why didn’t I cause more trouble with them, why?) so they hired street performers and tossed out coppers to the crowd and swung torches around and such. Very prince Ali of them. Well, Cnud, the seneschal for House Dagaeca is a rather poker-faced chap, so while he was impressed, he didn’t make a big fuss out of it. He ended up offering the party a fair price (gold = xp for the critters, and they had already received full xp for capturing them) which they accepted on account of prior good relations, even though they were a bit disappointed by the value. Due to some later events, I may end up helping them out some more from House Dagaeca so that they feel like the relationship is going as well as I mean for it to be so far.
Having offloaded their giants for some sort of amusement, they now decide they need to sell the wine discovered in the cellar with the hideous undead abomination. They took Cnud’s advice and headed to the wine merchant his kitchen patronizes. Well, let me just say that the Vornheim shopkeeper table is a lot of fun. It made the whole business of trying to sell the wine a lot more complicated and interesting than it would have been otherwise. At least, I thought so. Hopefully the players weren’t just frustrated. At any rate, the first merchant turned out to offer terrible prices and tried to get the wine for a criminally low price, after helping himself to a bottle to sample. They realized they were being had due to Sir Varian’s vague alcholic’s knowledge of wine, and so said good day, sir. The next merchant was a crotchety old man with a monkey, who was just on the verge of giving them a reasonable (but not great) price when they made the mistake of being kind to his monkey. They figured out their mistake, marched in, roughed up the monkey some and made an offer. After some consideration, he accepted it, but then they told him they had to think about it (aah, intra-party debates). Well, they tried one more merchant, and this fellow was an eccentric butterfly collector, but gave them an excellent price in exchange for the promise to bring him any butterfly specimens they find.
Again, the Vornheim shopkeeper chart was a lot of fun and opened the city up to being more characterful and weird than I probably would have let myself do on my own, so I’m grateful for that.
Oh, and Yllgrad arranged with an apothecary to have some worg fangs turned into a berserker potion, half paid up front, and half to be paid upon receipt. The apothecary was a fat, friendly fellow who rather cheerfully dealt with a somewhat dour Yllgrad. More on him in a moment.
The party then had the option to rest for the night or to carouse. Again, I was anxious to flesh out the game and introduce more wacky complications. Up until this point, I’ve allowed players to blow money willy nilly on booze and wenching in order to convert unwanted gold into xp (we’ve been playing where gold/treasure only earns XP when spent or used, and you only get it once. There’s some wonky bookkeeping for stuff like fine tapestries decorating their personal home, but it’s been working out). I wanted carousing to be more interesting, and Jeff Rients’ awesome carousing table seemed to be just the ticket. Unfortunately, though my players will act all manners of foolhardy in order to obtain gold, they balk in the face of risk in *spending* gold. I worry that it’s a bit fair to be putting strings on spending gold for XP just as they’re getting to the levels where you really need to spend *a lot* to level up, but hopefully this will result in them doing things like getting involved in local politics, building up their town, et cetera. We’ll see. I also think some of the absent players (Sir Varian’s in particular) will dive right into carousing and potential mishaps with great abandon.
So, my players are chicken and decide to rest peacefully. Yllgrad awakes to go pick up his potions and finds that poor Hengist – the fat, friendly merchant – has been brutally murdered at his work! Yllgrad looks around for some obvious clues, gathers the partially ground worg fangs, and then notifies a rather dim-witted city guard about the murder, but otherwise decides not to get involved. Fair enough. For a moment I was afraid that my players, used to plotlines and quests would assume that I was dangling a “necessary” plot opening in front of them and that they would feel obligated to look into this random act of violence in order to find the fun. I mean, I fully intended to wing an interesting and exciting investigation if they did, and things may still come of all this, but I don’t want to give them the impression that they “ought to have” investigated if they didn’t care.
The others have started the morning by asking after rumors of the Volcano and ships that can take them there. Earn’s player seems a little bored with the whole “buying rounds of drinks to learn rumors” thing, but the others are doing okay with it. I end up naming a string of dockside bars after places in Austin (well, two of them, then I had to make up a third because I ran out of plausibly nautical themed names). Investigating, they heard a number of interesting stories about the Fyrberg (the volcano): there’s a fishing village on the island, they worship the volcano by the name of Gurgu, there’s a giant ruby called the heart of the mountain, it was actually built by a wizard, the priests can make the volcano erupt at will, there’s a demon in the volcano, and so forth. We’ll have to see how true they turn out to be.
As for the search for captains, I used the chart at the end of this entry that I came up with to randomly determine some ships’ captains that were in port and looking for work. They ended up being referred to Acca, an enormously fat merchant with a crack crew and a high price, Guth & Spir, a gruff retired watchman and his sarcastic partner who are rumored to be treasure hunters, and Stol, a nervous, twitchy fellow who works for the great house Anlaf, but will take passengers on the side. If you use the ship’s captain table, I’m sure you’ll recognize a few of the fellows, but just use names appropriate to your campaign and change a few details and they should fit right in. Oh, and feel free to make any and all of them women, or randomly determine the sex ahead of time if you so desire.
They wrapped up the evening by going back to Cnud and letting him know that maybe Beorn is a bit of a rip off. Cnud says they’d just always used the guy and he’ll look into it. I’m sure he’ll be pretty grateful when he discovers one of the reasons his house has had trouble with finances. They wrapped up the evening and decided that when we come back they’ll talk to the captains and settle on one of them, and then hopefully set sail for Fyrberg and adventure (Earn’s player is really anxious to get to that volcano).
Rules: Random Ships’ Captains
When characters wish to hire a ship, determine how many options they have/hear about/discover and roll a d12 that many times and consult the chart (or just pick). If you need more than 12, scratch out any who are used and make up your own. “Base control stat” refers to what the captain and crew as described will need to roll under on a d20 to maintain control in a storm or other special circumstance. This can be modified by player actions, hiring additional/different crew, et cetera. If you have a different system, I arbitrarily decided that 15 was average for a professional captain and went from there.
1) Sober, clean shaven, cautious. Former smuggler turned honest. Asks a high price, but crew is very skilled. Base control stat: 18.
2) Reckless drunk. Looking for work, unreliable, crew is drunk and unreliable. He’s cheap, though. Base control stat: 10
3) Charming smuggler and his mountain of a first mate. A local crime boss has a bounty on their heads. His ship is remarkably fast. Base control stat: 15. Ship speed +5 miles per day
4) Enormously fat merchant. Dresses in high style, happy to take on passengers or high-value cargo, employs crack mercenaries as guards. Expensive, but well connected. Base control stat: 15
5) Foreign, doesn’t speak the language very well. Finishing up unloading a cargo that turned out unprofitable, sour mood, wants to get the hell out of here. Base control stat: 14 (10 if crew is local)
6) Stereotypically piratical. Y’arrrr, parrot, peg leg/eye patch, flamboyant clothes, you know the guy. May or may not actually be a pirate. Base control stat: 16
7) Big talker, promises the moon, talks about his extensive exploits at sea. Just purchased his first ramshackle vessel crewed by rank amateurs. He starts out high, but can be bargained to extremely low prices. Base control stat: 8
8) Gruff, bearded retired watchman and his lanky sarcastic partner. They take the jobs they can get, but mostly are after treasures. Base control stat: 14
9) Old man with a great big bushy beard injured by a great beast of the waves. He seeks to hunt it down with a maniacal intensity. Base control stat: 15
10) Employee of a great house willing to take some passengers on the side for his own profit. Thin, nervous, and flighty. Base control stat: 12
11) Captain is stubborn, quick witted former military officer who just wants his space and his freedom, and won’t look too closely into the legality of a job he takes. He might have a light hearted pilot, a hard assed female first mate, a cheery female engineer, some hired muscle, and a sheltered surgeon. Base control stat: 16
12) A cunning and accomplished reaver with a crew of seasoned raiders. He considers passengers an unworthy source of income, but times are rough. Base control stat: 16