Monthly Archives: February 2016

5th Edition Spelljammer – Favors of the Arcane, Session 3

spelljammer logoOnce the repairs to Boccob’s Barge were finished, our heroes were ready to once again get underway. Before they could see out this discworld for Xil-ta, however, they had unfinished business on Abeir-Toril: the delivery of the cargo they were hauling to Shoushan in Kuo Te’Lung.

As they were preparing to make way, two people approached the ship. One was a familiar-looking Nkosi: Ra-Jareez. He asked for a job aboard their ship. It seems his irresponsible behavior inspired his own crew to mutiny and depose him as Captain. The other was Gwen Sallas, who came bearing a note from the leader of the Red Knives.

I owe you thanks. I knew some of my people were doing business on the side, but certain members of my organization took our relationship with certain clients too far. I doubt my organization will ever call itself your ally, but there’s no need for us to be enemies.
Unfortunately, Van Sallas had to be sacrificed. The clients those slavers were serving are uncompromising beings and they demanded reparations for their investments. I wish to anger neither one of them. The Illithid already took Brand as payment. However, I am not heartless. To you, I give Gwen Sallas. She understands her brother’s mistakes required consequences. She would fetch a good price among the Suel or if you wish to deal with the Illithid or Neogi or what-have-you, that’s your business.
I won’t insult you with threats we both know would incentivize you to seek “justice,” but I will suggest that perhaps taverns other than the Black Bull would be more suited to spacefarers of your inclination. There are many fine establishments on the Rock that are just as good, arguably better even, than the Black Bull. I encourage you to avail yourselves of their services instead.
— You Don’t Really Need My Name
Prime Blade of the Red Knives
Boccob's Barge

Boccob’s Barge

Captain Straxius allowed both of them to join the crew, assigning Ra-Jareez to be a cook and telling the Nkosi that he was responsible for teaching Gwen to be a sailor. They shoved off and got underway.

A few hours later, they made their way down through Toril’s atmosphere and landed in the bay near Kuo Te’Lung. They recognized two dragonships of Shou Lung’s spelljammer fleet and docked in their regular berth. Chouxing, Shoushan’s assistant met them as they disembarked from Boccob’s Barge.

She apologized that Shoushan was unable to meet them himself; he fell ill and returned to his home in a nearby village. As a result, she did not have the money with her to pay for the goods they were offloading. Straxius put a stop to the unloading and inquired how long it would take to get the money.

At least a week.

Feeling their timetable with the Arcane was too pressing to hang around in Kuo Te’Lung for a week or more, they got directions to Shoushan’s home in the nearby village of Huaxi. It was about a day’s walk, so they left Rexor and Kagark to watch over the ship and crew and set out immediately.

Oni

The Oni

The lands near the village were verdant, yet marshy. As they drew close, an giant figure stood astride a bridge crossing a deep river surrounding the village. The oni intoned “None shall pass.” A servant of the three sisters, he was tasked with keeping people in and out of the village. After a failed suggestion, the crew of Boccob’s Barge attacked.

Despite the Oni’s ability to fly, they brought the beast down without too much trouble and proceeded into the village. The amazed villagers directed them to Shoushan’s estate where they found the old man bed-ridden.

He apologized for his illness. When Flint offered aid, the old man rebuffed the dwarf, revealing stone legs. Shoushan had been cursed by the three sisters and village priest’s efforts to remove the curse succeeded only in delaying its progress.

Long ago, Shoushan made a bargain with a  hag. He gained the influence he currently enjoyed and was to provide the hag with a child in return. Unfortunately, he believed the hag want him to sire her child. In fact, she wanted a child from the village for herself and her sisters. Shoushan refused and was cursed by the hags.

As he wrapped up his tale, they noticed an odd pendant around the neck of one of the servants: an eye watching them. Straxius suggested she come over and tell them about her master and the pendant. The girl was loyal to Shoushan, however, and told Straxius the hags forced her to wear their eye so they could watch her master’s deterioration. Straxius put the eye out.

They then debated how to deal with the hags. Shoushan encouraged them to leave him to his fate; he was paying the price for his greed and they had no obligation to involve themselves. The ideal solution was to attack their lair while they were blinded from the loss of their eye, but no one in the village knew where they hags were. The crew decided to make a show of taking their money and abandoning the village to their fate, then set up an ambush when the hags arrived to seek retribution.

Shoushan's Village

Shoushan’s Village

Using the Sending Stones, Straxius contacted Rexor on Boccob’s Barge to have him seek out the local lord and get military backup for the hag’s inevitable attack. After a fitful, night they received another message from Rexor. At Palace. Hag’s servants here with Daimyo. Village safe return immediately for negotiations.

The hags wanted a child or Shoushan, not the village. The local daimyo felt the old man deserved his fate and assured the crew their trading would still be welcome. Straxius offered to let Flint, Veya, Zinniana, and Kagark off since they were back on Toril, but with the devastation evident on the Sword Coast from the return of Tiamat, they chose to remain with Boccob’s Barge. The crew took their money and left Shoushan to his fate, heading out into Wildspace….

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5th Edition Spelljammer – Favors of the Arcane – Session 2

The next morning, Xil-ta arrived at Boccob’s Barge just as the crew woke from their sleep. He inspected the helm and revised his estimate of the repair time down to just three days. Of course, that did not mean it would be less expensive, much to Sumner Redhorn’s disappointment.

As they discussed the repairs with the Arcane, First Mate Rexor reported that several of the crew did not show up during roll call: Bo’sun Zorag, Kagark, Corva, and Pallas. In the meantime, Xil-ta reported to Captain Straxius that he needed to return to his shop to retrieve some supplies and had his next favor to ask of the crew: travel to a world called Eorôe and retrieve a crystal of ice from there. It was more than simply frozen water, however, as large as a man and they would probably have to deal with the giants on the world in order to retrieve it. Xil-ta didn’t know in which sphere Eorôe was, however; the crew of Boccob’s Barge would have to locate it, and figure out how to keep the crystal intact on their own.

They had a few days to mull over the details, though, because there was a matter of their missing crew. Rexor figured they weren’t deserters, as all their gear was still in their footlockers. Veya, Flint, and Zinni were certain Kagark wouldn’t just abandon them, especially his precious Veya, so they decided to hit the taverns to look for them after Straxius paid a visit to Red Ríognach’s Pleasure Barge.

Red Ríognach was more than just the madam of a brothel; she was one of the Rock of Bral’s premier information brokers. Drunk, oversexed sailors have loose lips, and no one (with the possible exception of Luigi the Beholder) knew more about the Dwarven, Elven, Human, and others’ fleet movements than Red. Her information on Illithid, Neogi, and Beholder fleets were limited however, since the crew of those fleets didn’t frequent her brothel.

When they entered The Pleasure Barge, they were greeted by Red’s major domo, Murray, the Demonic Talking Skull. After his usual tirade of bluster and regret (“There’s so much tasty here and I have no lips and no arms!”), he got down to determining if they were punters or dark seekers. After sussing out “dark seeker” referred to a client of Red’s seeking information, they were permitted to pass through to see Red.

Information she didn’t have was as good as gold to Red, so she accepted Straxius’s account of the Mind Flayer-Beholder battle at the edge of Realmspace in exchange for the location of Eorôe. It was in a sphere called Patria, approximately fifty-eight days away at standard cruising speed through the Flow currents (Radiant Flow à Arcane Inner Flow à Casa Flow. Due to the direction of the currents, the return trip would be about five days shorter.

Their first stop after the Pleasure Barge was the Rock Rat Tavern. After buying a round of drinks, especially for the giff from the HMS Mandragora who were looking for a fight, the crew determined that Kagark and Zorag were drinking there the night before, and overindulged. They were dumped in a couple of rooms upstairs, but were gone when the barkeep kicked all the hungover drunks out in the morning.

The crew decided to split up to cover the remained taverns the ship’s crew commonly frequented. As they did so, Straxius and Sumner noticed someone follow them out of the Rock Rat Tavern. Straxius cast a quick suggestion spell and lured their tail over. Thanks to the enchantment, he revealed he was Van Sallus, a former member of the Red Knives who overheard the crew of Boccob’s Barge inquiring about their missing crewmates. He said he, too, was looking for a missing friend: his sister, Gwen. He believed they were all abducted by the Red Knives, a group of thieves and thugs he left when he found out they were diversifying into selling slaves to vampires for food. Furthermore, he told them the Red Knives main headquarters was under The Red Bull Tavern; the tavern was just a front.

Straxius recalled Flint, Veya, and Zinni as Van explained that going in through the front was a bad idea and he knew of a back entrance that lead directly to the holding area where any prisoners would be. He led them to a decrepit, abandoned church in the Middle City called the Church of Tenebrous. An aura of unease surrounded the building and it was only through sheer force of willpower that they were able to proceed into the building.

The Church of Tenebrous was dusty, full of cobwebs, and falling apart. Plaster fell from the ceiling in chunks as they made their way through the pews and flickers of apparitions appeared in the periphery of their vision as otherworldly moans filled the air. They pressed on, eventually finding the door that lead to the crypt, just as Van Sallas described.

They followed the stairs down, down into the crypt. Flickering scones lit the chamber in dim yellow light as they picked their way through the resting places of the dead. Rats scattered underfoot. Eventually, they reached a dead end where they found the secret door Van Sallus described. It opened into a portion of the Rock of Bral’s sewer system. Following his instructions to stick to the level path, they waded through the muck to another dead end.

2016-02-12 23.32.57Another secret door and a quick passage through rock and they found a wooden door. Beyond that: a small living area. They heard voices coming from a chamber nearby and, after verifying no one else was in the living chambers, they burst in on the meeting.

Five ghouls, three Red Knives, and a Mind Flayer were gathered around an oubliette discussing prices. Veya charged in after hearing Kagark’s voice from the depths of the oubliette and the battle was joined. The illithid immediately began casting a spell that was interrupted by a counterspell from Straxius and the three Red Knives laid into Veya, wounding the barbarian woman severely. Flint turned the ghouls with the power of Sune.

The illithid opened a portal and stepped through, leaving the ghouls and Red Knives to the crew of Boccob’s Barge. One of the ghouls was unaffected by Sune’s power and paralyzed Flint. Straxius cast a suggestion at one of the Red Knives, convincing him the battle was won and he should celebrate at The Laughing Beholder. The remaining ghoul and two Red Knives were slain and when Flint recovered, he herded the cowering ghouls to the back bedroom where they were locked in.

The crew helped the half-dozen prisoners out of the oubliette. Kagark, the three missing crewmembers, Gwen, and one other were all there and greatly relieved. So too relieved, were the dead Red Knives, of their possessions, that is, among them a magical marble elephant (a figurine of wondrous power), a wand (a wand of binding), and clockwork-embellished short sword (a giant slayer). They also found invoices proving the Red Knives were dealing in slaves and planned to frame the Jugglers for it. Straxius turned the papers over to the town guard who indicated they would follow up with them at their ship tomorrow.

D&D Minis, Dwarven Forge, Itar's Workshop accessories & My Own Painted Minis make for a killer combo!

D&D Minis, Dwarven Forge, Itar’s Workshop accessories & My Own Painted Minis make for a killer combo!

They returned to The Laughing Beholder, intent on dealing with the Red Knife they sent there, only to discovered he never arrived. A mystery for another time….

A bit of investigation and a bit of combat made of a rousing second session. Either I’m more into the game right now than I’ve been in a long time, or running my own material is much easier now than it was a couple of years ago. It’s possible 5E’s ease of preparation is making it better for me than Pathfinder was, even though I was running an Adventure Path. The fact that I don’t have to read, read, learn, and read someone else’s material is possibly another factor. I just flat-out told everyone I intended to be more generous with the magic items than Hoard of the Dragon Queen was. I think part of that is I love the quirk tables included in 5E for magic items; I plan to expand them.

While writing up this synopsis, I discovered I printed out the wrong version of the Flow map to put under the plexiglass on my table. Oops. Oh well, it’s accurate enough for now until I get around to sending the proper version to Staples. The next session should see the crew getting back into Wildspace… unless they get distracted by the Rock of Bral some more….

As an aside, I did seriously consider calling the campaign “Brain Eaters and Beholders.” “Favors of the Arcane” is a little more sophisticated, I think.

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