Dragons in the Dark

S1E06: Murdered in Cold Blood

 

Tags: H.A. E.B. E.C. A.J. O.R. Aranna Weaver, Astrologer Emma Frog, Hedge Wizard Veleris, Pickpocket Bob the Priest, Bob Ser Errich Weaver, Knight Ser Aust Booker, Knight Patrick Weaver, Soldier Hemdan, Laborer Elyssa, Archer Beagull, Heavy Footman OSR DCC Gang Lords of Lankhmar Harley Stroh


The Snack Club is rich with 10,000gp in treasure, but stuck in Mlurg Nar due to logistics.

Errich Weaver (OR) and Bob the Priest (HA) have joined the party. Errich, apparently, is another Weaver sibling. So now Aranna (AJ), Lane (AB), and Errich are triplets in some weird retcon backstory. Bob the Priest, as you may recall, was the priest they found in the Pit. They pay off their two lone surviving henchpeople, Elyssa and Hemdan, who ask for extra payment after their harrowing experience fighting The People of the Pit. Errich suggests killing them. Everyone ignores him with a quick and curt “no” in unison. Emma and Veleris are more than happy to oblige the hazard pay.

But how do they get their newfound treasure home to Lankhmar? Emma Frog (EC) – who by the way, now has ram horns due to a misfired spell last session – starts asking around for wagons. Errich asks if he can hijack a wagon. I remind him to stop asking me questions and just do stuff. Errich, now “empowered” is determined to steal a wagon. He tries to enlist Bob the Priest. An argument breaks out amongst the party. Aranna and Emma tell Errich the idea is stupid. Why steal? Let’s just rent wagons and get out of here. Aranna punches her brother. Veleris (EB) steps between them. Errich’s counterpunch misses and is held back.

While this is going on, Emma has gone off to figure out the math of hiring footmen and wagons. The Duke of Mlurg Nar directs them to a cartwright, and Emma negotiates renting four wagons, eight footmen and three archers for a the cost of 164gp. It’s a sensible plan. They’re basically roleplaying Brinks Security here.

But Errich and Bob the Priest have other plans.

The two head out to the farms and see two wagons in front of a barn. A farmer walks out to greet them. Errich asks if he can borrow the wagons. The farmer tells him he needs them for his business and recommends he rent wagons in the city. At this point, Errich draws his sword and cuts down the innocent man in broad daylight. He then drives the wagons back into the city.

Bounded by Rules

At this point, I’d like to remind everyone, as Abed says in S5:E10 of Community:

“I don’t owe you anything. I’m a dungeon master. I create a boundless world, and I bind it by rules. Too heavy for a bridge? It breaks. Get hit? Take damage. Spend an hour outside someone’s front door, fighting over who gets to kill him? He leaves through the back.”

And in this case, murder someone in cold blood in broad daylight? You get arrested and sentenced to death.

And that’s what happens to Errich Weaver. The Duke of Mlurg Nar imprisons him to be executed and tells the rest of The Snack Club to leave his city. It doesn’t matter they were “heroes” who fought the Pit Monster. They got their money. Now leave.

The Snack Club must now leave Mlurg Nar without getting any rest. And they start arguing. Errich pleads for his party to rescue him. He argues with me about how he was caught. He argues with Veleris for not wanting to help. He promises that he’ll never murder innocent people again. He argues with Veleris about how it’s “just a game” and the farmer’s not real… and how he’s “real”. I say something along the lines of what Abed said. If we don’t follow rules, then this game is meaningless. If you murder an innocent person in broad daylight, you pay the consequence. Errich ends with saying he’ll haunt and kill Veleris.

Lesson not learned, I guess.

Aranna leads the party to Errich’s prison cell to see if they can rescue him. She slaps him in the face for his stupidity. Veleris concocts a plan to leave the city but turn back. I remind them the hired footmen and archers would probably be suspicious of this (They would report their activities to the watch). Aranna sneaks back into the city, disguised, to see if there’s anything she can do to save her brother.

Unfortunately, their plan is… not very well thought out. They spend the entire evening before Errich’s execution coming up with a plan. They don’t have one. Dawn comes. Aranna hides in a third story apartment overseeing the courtyard where the execution is to take place. Bob the Priest is in the crowd. When Errich is brought out, and as the executioner is about to bring his axe down on his head… Aranna fires an arrow at the executioner. He’s shot, but alive. Six guards rush to the platform, draw their crossbows and searches for the sniper. They see her and fire. One hits Aranna for six damage. She’s down to 1hp. The guards are drawing more arrows. Aranna fires one more shot, killing the executioner, then she runs.

There’s nothing she can do to save her brother. During this entire time, Bob the Priest has done nothing. There was no plan. No sneaking around. No casing out the joint. No figuring out the guards’ schedule. No bribery. No coordinated effort. No creating diversions. No enlisting help. Absolutely no skullduggery of any sort. Just a wasted night not planning and then a haphazard idea to kill the executioner…. and a whole lot of nothing.

Errich Weaver is executed by sword. In game time, the character lived a full hour. In story time, the Weaver family has lost a brother.

Meanwhile…

The Return of the Dolmenwood Drunes

On their journey from Mlurg Nar to Gnamph Nar… Emma and Veleris’s convoy of wagons runs into two encounters. First, bandits, as expected. Veleris’s keen eye spots them. Emma casts hallucination to great effect displacing where the real convoy is. The bandits are fooled and The Snack Club’s Brinks contingent gets away.

Later in the evening, as they continue to hurry to Gnamph Nar with their treasure hoard, in the distance, they see three guttering green lights. Veleris jokes, must be aliens. As they approach, small green missiles are fired at their lead horse. The horse loses control, runs off the trail and the lead wagon crashes. Suddenly, green lights are lit all around them. The original three green lights approaches. They are the drunes of Dolmenwood carrying their signature staffs wreathed in green light. “Aranna Weaver!” They call out. “You must pay for your crimes against the Order of Dolmenwood.”

Veleris calls out, “There is no Aranna here.”

“Liars!” The Drunes reply. “We saw her with your party headed to Mlurg Nar. Give her to us. She must pay for murdering two of our order!”

Emma and Veleris convene with them and tell them that she is not with them. They search the wagons under their watchful eye and are convinced. And they leave. But now, one of the wagons is broken, and they’re so close to the docks of Gnamph Nar. Emma and Veleris comes up with ways to move the chest inside. It’s too heavy. They can’t carry it to Gnamph Nar. They offer it to their hired footmen. Veleris decides to just leave it on the road for someone. This is the most unreasonable and absurd line of thinking and I couldn’t not step in. I ask them why they can’t hide their treasure. This is a 1,000gp, or the equivalent of $100,000…. and they’re OK with just ditching it?

Veleris finds a spot in the forest with clear markers, a circle of stones and buries their treasure.

Meanwhile…

Home to Lankhmar

Aranna and Bob the Priest, heads down in disappointment and failure, have left Mlurg Nar to rejoin the rest of The Snack Club in Gnamph Nar. The walk down the same trail as the wagon convoy had. Suddenly, Aranna feels a strange sensation of being held by invisible forces while Bob the Priest, paralyzed by magic, falls face flat on the ground. The drunes of Dolmenwood have found their target. Aranna, smartly, turns and runs… leaving Bob the Priest to fend for himself. She escapes into the forest and loses the drunes.

Alone, she almost gets lost, but finds her way down to Gnamph Nar safely. Later, the hold person spell on Bob the Priest wears off. Him not being a target of the drunes was left in the forest unattended. He too, walks by himself, down to Gnamph Nar. At the docks, they are greeted by an old friend, Aust Booker (OR), twin brother of Veleris, childhood friend of the Weavers. More retconning occurs. It’s like how Chandler always knew Rachel, despite clearly not knowing her in the pilot. Apparently, Veleris Booker was always the standoffish kid who read books and was nicknamed Booker the Bookworm. Aust laughs it up with Aranna and Lane.

Reunited (minus Errich), The Snack Club, get on the ship they had chartered a few days ago and with their return token, head home to Lankhmar. Fortunately, the journey across Inner Sea is uneventful. They pay their dues at the gates of Lankhmar, return to Wyrmskull and deposit their money. It is then that Nylokk reminds them of Hriseit, the strange man asking about for them.

Spoilers Ahead for Harley Stroh’s “Gang Lords of Lankhmar” (DCC-L)

The Snack Club do their own HUMINT work on this Hriseit character. Who is he? They hit the streets. Veleris taps into his criminal network. Emma and Aranna pay off a few people… and they discover that Hriseit is a gang member of the Knife Twisters, a gang of alley-bashers. They find out their leader is King Korvul, an elephantine man who likes wine and sycophants. They find out there are two rival gangs, the Street Scuttlers and Forty Owlets. They find out King Korvul is interested in knocking out both gangs and monopolizing all crime in his hood. A crimopoly? And then Veleris tracks down this Hriseit character to a bar called The Dogfish.

They approach him. He’s a sketchy, greasy haired kid. He looks scared. It doesn’t help that Aranna is intimidating. But he screws up the courage to tell The Snack Club that King Korvul is interested in them. And that he wants them to join his gang. The party agrees. They follow him to their hideout, the Grindstone, a tenement block that’s grimy and dirty. The courtyard has a web of rope hung across the opening, with knives, cleavers and daggers dangling from them like Christmas lights. They are led to the “throne room”. The throne is made of rags, crates and barrels. King Korvul makes a deal with them. Join my gang, disrupt the protection rackets of the Scuttlers and you may keep everything you steal.

The Snack Club readily agrees. They are now bonafide gangstas in the hood. Aust gets up IRL and shows us how gangsters walk. They are asked to stay at the Grindstone as their new living quarters. The Snack Club leave to run a few errands.

Messing with the Street Scuttlers

As they leave the Grindstone, they hear a whistle. Veleris looks up. Someone is following them. He also notices someone following them. As they head down an alley, five thugs show up, while another four slip in behind them. The leader, Ipksh, says, “leave this ward and never return.” They’re the Street Scuttlers. The party refuses. They are loyal to their new gang. Emma Frog attempts to cast hallucination to help The Snack Club get away. Misfires. Turns invisible. Charges at the four Scuttlers in the back, breaks through their line and runs back to The Grindstone for help. Meanwhile, The Snack Club draw their weapons and fight the Scuttlers. They cut down two of their gang easily, including their leader, Ipksh. The rest run.

Score one for the Knives.

The Snack Club make their way to visit Ser Purple Nurple’s brother, the tailor who helped them with noble disguises once upon a time. They share the sad news of Purple’s death, and give him 100gp as grievance pay. It is a touching moment of humanity, a genuine closure for Ser Purple Nurple.

But the very next day, it’s back to scheming and skullduggery for the Snack Club. They start hitting the streets to find out what they can about the Street Scuttlers and their schedule for collecting protection money. They discover they visit the Dogfish nightly and bully the proprietor, Dvoranii, who’s daughter has ran off with the Scuttlers. They also discover they steal from the priest of the Rat God every Sunday… and run a pit fight every Saturday at the former slave barracks.

A series of pathetic attempts at disrupting the Scuttlers ensues. At the Dogfish, they sit at the bar and refuse to leave when the Scuttlers show up, despite Dvoranii explicitly asking them to leave and not wanting trouble. They start a fight, killing three Scuttlers. Dvoranii knows this will be trouble for him. There are witnesses to the gruesome fight and while Lankhmar is a city of criminals… the Thieves’ Guild and the City Watch doesn’t like it when too much blood is spilled. I warn the players that I’m tracking this. And if they cause too much trouble, two of the city’s greatest forces will bear down on them. They’re annoyed they can’t kill people willy-nilly in this adventure. Which is funny, given what happened to Errich just two hours ago.

What is Knowledge Without Implementation Called?

They head to the pit fights. Despite spending gold the past week bribing people for information, and finding out the Scuttlers run the games, rig them, and carry their night’s take in an orderly fashion at the end of the night…. the Snack Club completely forgets this was the goal of this little side quest and proceeds to do some… very… weird…. activities. Aranna shoots an arrow at the ceiling and gets thrown out. She shoots an arrow at the lintel of the entrance. They beat her up, kicking her while she’s on the ground. Veleris decided to purchase a banjo earlier in the day and decides to play it at the pit fights, badly. Emma, Bob the Priest and Aust decide to do their hee-haw-hee dance. I, of course, let them do this for a while, until I ask them, do you guys remember what you’re supposed to do here? Veleris does. Finally. So they wait outside and hide.

Four slaves carry a strongbox, escorted by eight Scuttler toughs and a man wielding two swords. Aranna fires an arrow. The group beings to run. Aranna fires another arrow. The group is even further away now. (I’m not sure what The Snack Club is doing at this point… what did you expect a group carrying treasure would do when they get shot at? Stick around and fight?) Finally the Snack Club chase the group, hoping to steal their strongbox. They slay a few of the Scuttlers, but they’re outnumbered. Aust is injured badly. Tibalc, a professional duelist, steps forward and in a series of swings and swipes, kills Bob the Priest.The Snack Club retreat.

The next morning, the Snack Club head to the Rat Shrine. There are rats swarming everywhere. In the center of the open air shrine, a pillar, and on top of the pillar a large golden statue of a rat, the Rat God. The Snack Club is smart enough to not touch it. There’s a priest siting cross-legged in beneath the pillar. The Snack Club decide to sit and meditate as well. Four Scuttlers carrying barrels of rotten fruit and vegetables enter the shrine, they pour out the wasted food as an offering to the Rat God. Rats greedily eat the food. Then, a tall, seven-foot-man, bulkier than the Rock, the Mountain and Schwarzenegger combined walk up to the priest and takes the coins out of his wooden bowl (but only the silver and coppers, leaving the gold, in respect for the Rat God).

As they turn to leave, The Snack Club get up to attack. Aust rushes to attack the big guy, Gricci. Gricci grabs Aust and wraps him in a bear hug. Aust’s strength begins to fade. Emma rams into him. Aranna fires an arrow at him. Veleris tries to cut him down. None of this is going well. Aust doesn’t break out of Gricci’s hold. He loses another point of strength. He could die the very next turn. The rest of the Snack Club deal with the other Scuttlers. Aust finally breaks free, severely weakened. They kill Gricci. The Scuttlers run.

On their way back to the Grindstone to rest, Tibalc and a group of Scuttlers see them. Tibalc calls out to Aranna for a one-on-one duel. She refuses. Tibalc calls them all cowards. The Snack Club is tempted to fight in the streets, but manage to resist. Tibalc walks away self-satisfied, having insulted the Knives.

Three stops in the Scuttlers protection racket hit. Zero gold pieces made. In fact, Aranna was pickpocketed at The Pit, losing all her money. One dead priest (Bob the Priest). And tension levels in the neigborhood raised to the point where citizens are starting to avoid The Snack Club on sight. Vendors refuse to sell to them. And yet…

King Korvul’s Dastardly Plan

Despite their failures at stealing protection money, King Korvul is happy with the party simply for disrupting the Scuttler’s business and killing a few of them. He asks The Snack Club to return to the Grindstone as he has a wonderful plan. He has intel that a bunch of Scuttlers are drinking at the Dogfish and are drunk. He wants the Snack Club to murder them. The Snack Club agree. King Korvul claps his meaty hands and signals someone to come out. A hooded black-cloaked man comes out, He smells of rotting flesh and smelly herbs. King Korvul adds, “This is Jivisto. After you kill those Scuttlers, he’s going to work his magic on them.” Veleris asks if he’s a necromancer. I don’t say anything.

The Snack Club arrive at the Dogfish. With respect to Dvoranii, they decide luring the Scuttlers out to the open street to kill them is better than doing the deed inside the bar. Emma Frog casts hallucination. Fails. Patrick Weaver (HA), the fourth brother in the Weaver family, retconning the triplets to quadruplets now (poor mom)… is a shapeshifter. He turns into a grizzly bear and wanders into the Dogfish. The patrons run out as do the Scuttlers. The Snack Club are ready to ambush them. They mow them down. Patrick gnaws off the leg of one. Emma head butts another. Aranna looses arrows at another. Aust takes down Tilbalc.

With six bodies on the ground. Jivisto, the smelly sorcerer, appears out of the shadows, creepy AF. He glides towards three of the corpses and whispers his evil incantations. The bodies change gender. He places owl masks on their faces.

Veleris realizes what he’s doing. The fight now appears as if the Scuttlers and Owlets had a street fight…. potentially starting a gang war.

/end session

The Snack Club’s Portfolio

Stored in Wyrmskull Vault
(Deposited Year of the Worm, Month of the Eagle, Day of the Fox)

  • 19 Ice Necklaces x 200gp = 3,800gp
  • 12 Ice Jewels x 150gp = 1,800gp
  • 9 Chests of Gold = 8,963

SUBTOTAL: 14,507gp

Hidden Cache in Great Forest b/w Mlurg Nar & Gnamph Nar
1,000gp

TOTAL: 15,507gp

Chekhov’s Ticking Time Bombs

NEW

  • It looks like the Street Scuttlers and Forty Owlets are about to start a gang war.
  • The Dolmenwood Drunes are finally looking for vengeance. Will Aranna survive?
  • Emma Frog, Aust Booker, and Patrick Weaver are all fugitives?? How many prisoners did Emma free?

OLD

  • Thork may be dead, but his wife Aranna isn’t. Her inheritance? 800gp of debt to the cult of Loki.

DM Notes to Myself

You know…. I figured my players would’ve learned by now that I reward preparation and planning. Barring that, clever improvisation. But walk into a fight without any tactics or foresight whatsoever? Get destroyed. It’s that simple. Many of these fights were “unfair” because the Scuttlers simply outnumbered them and had stronger leaders. The Snack Club has a thief, a magic-user and an archer for rear support. And yet, they don’t coordinate. They simply let their two tanks rush in without planning. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

And yes, let’s talk about OR’s strange enthusism for murdering an innocent person. I don’t feel bad about excuting him. Am I going to arrest and execute every player that commits murder on innocent NPCs? No. Because again, I reward preparation and planning. Errich could’ve stated that he cased out a farm. That he went at night when they were sleeping. That he waited until it was safe to hijack the wagons. He did none of this. Arranna and the rest of the party could’ve attempted a much stronger, concerted effort at rescuing Errich from prison as well. They came up with half-plans, gave up on them, and didn’t think how else they could sneak around, gather information, and bribe, blackmail, or get past the guards.

Where is the Snack Club from the heist four sessions ago?

One last note – this is one heck of a module. I like how there are subrules for tracking tension in the city. As the stakes rise, the Thieves Guild and City Watch’s involvement rises as well. I can’t wait to see what The Snack Club does to anger both the Thieves Guild and the City Watch. :)