Sunday, August 9, 2009

Praktas - The Pirate Queen

Game Date: 8/8/09

Drew Baker (Bryan) - Human Fighter (Tempest style)
Damakos Redhorn (Rick) - Tiefling Rogue (Brutal style)
Ruu - Drew Baker's pet bear
Jacob - Damakos Redhorn's pet wolf.
Hector Goldheart (NPC) - Dwarven Cleric of Moradin

House Rule Clarification:
One small change to the house rules set up in the last session. Last time we had the players and their pets both rolling initiatives. Now we're just having each player's pet go after their owner.

Last Session Wrap-Up:
When we last left our, uh, "heroes", they had defeated the Necromancer Predek. Their vampiric curse now broken, the adventurers set out from Predek's Tower to turn in the evildoer and (more importantly) collect their reward. They wanted to loot the tower, but Hector forbade them from doing so. "These objects belong to the church now," Hector explained. "We 'ave to make sure none of it is cursed. You try to use anythin' you find 'ere, and it's as likely to blow up in your face as to do ya any good!" Since the objects were mostly arcane in nature, and therefore unlikely to be useful to our melee-oriented adventurers, they didn't push the issue.

As they left the tower, the building vanished behind them. Hector cursed and muttered something about unholy necromancers and their extra-dimensional lairs. They passed back through the town of Mil, where the halfling citizens were very happy to see Predek in captivity, and offered to pay a reward if the necromancer were to be released into their custody. Knowing that a much larger reward would be waiting for them in Trasa, the PCs declined the offer and continued their journey.

It was a two day ride back to Trasa on horseback. The first night, they set up camp, and Drew had the first watch. About two hours in, he heard something shuffling in the woods, and so he woke up his companions. They soon found that they were surrounded by undead monsters, bent on freeing their dark lord. All in all there were four normal skeletons, a blazing skeleton, a skeletal wolf, a zombie, and a wraith. Hector immediately recognized that the wraith was the only enemy with any sort of intelligence, and warned the others not to let it reach Predek, lest it find a way to undo Predek's magical bonds.

It was a decent battle, but in the end, the so-called good guys won the day. The rest of the ride back to Trasa was uneventful. They turned in Predek, got their reward, and checked in at the church of Moradin. The High Priest looked over their vampire bites, and declared them completely healed and curse-free. As a parting gift, Hector gave each of the adventurers two scrolls of recall, which can be used to teleport back to Trasa in a pinch.

The Pirate Queen

A few days later, Drew and Damakos were having lunch at "Dreg's Shanty", a run-down seafood restaurant/tavern near Trasa's southern docks. They noticed an odd woman sitting at another table... she was dressed in mismatched clothing with messy hair, and had a rather obvious facial tic. But what really got their attention was the way she kept talking to thin air. She noticed them looking and waved them over.

She introduced herself as Madeline "Mad" Starkraven, and introduced the empty seat next to her as Merea Scorne. Madeline seemed to be a bit on the eccentric side, saying random things and having violent mood swings. Every few sentences I would roll this die to determine her next mood:

Mood Die

Madeline explained to them that Merea was a ghost, and was haunting her as revenge. Madeline had once been a member of the Hell's Fury, an all-female pirate crew commanded by Merea. One day Madeline grew a conscience, set the ship on fire, and swam for shore as the ship exploded behind her (they'd been storing explosives on board). Ever since then, Merea's ghost had been tormenting her. Madeline believed that if she could just give Merea's body a proper burial, then the spirit would finally leave her alone. Madeline still remembered the exact location where the ship went down, and gave the adventurers instructions for procuring a ride. As payment, she offered them some gold and an enchanted shortsword. Madeline also gave them a Wanted poster, which revealed that there was a bounty out for Merea and her crew.

I was waiting for the players to ask her how they were supposed to breathe underwater when they found the ship's wreckage (a question which would have prompted her to give them a couple of potions of water breathing), but apparently the thought didn't occur to them. Actually, there were a lot of questions I'm surprised they didn't ask (would Merea's body still be at that spot at the bottom of the sea, after all this time, and after the ship exploded?), but I'll be kind and assume they didn't believe it would come to that. Once they saw the wanted poster, they probably figured out that the pirates would still be alive.

Drew and Damakos found a ride on the ship of a fisherman named Captain Jarran. A few days into the trip, they were in their cabin, when they heard shouting outside. They walked out on deck to find they were under attack by pirates. The pirates had secured the ships together with grappling hooks, and were in the process of setting down a boarding plank between the ships:

This was a fairly large battle, with six pirates (all female), Captain Jarran, six of Jarran's crew, Drew, Damakos, and their pets. It began with the crews of both ships firing crossbows at each other from their own ships, until two of the pirates started crossing the plank. Damakos used a rigging line to swing to the other ship, and took out more than his share of pirates. After a few minutes, three more pirates came on deck, including the acting captain Risha Thryst.

Risha was a bit exasperated that her crew was having so much trouble with a simple fishing vessel. Soon she was the last one standing of her crew, and she surrendered once she realized she was so outnumbered. They interrogated her, asking her questions about Merea. It turned out Merea was alive and well, having escaped her ship before the fire had spread to the explosives. She called herself the Pirate Queen now, and rarely went out on missions herself any more, preferring to send out her captains on raids.

Risha refused to reveal the location of Merea's hideout. Damakos searched her cabin, and found several sea charts, showing a lot of the ship's routes. All of them had the same origin point, a tiny isle labeled "No-Man's Island". They managed to get both ships back to Trasa, turned in Risha and her crew to the proper authorities, then piloted the pirate ship to No-Man's Island.

They anchored the ship a bit off shore, and took a landing craft to the beach. Jarran took six of his crew members, all of whom were wearing red shirts, and the large party began exploring the island. They were eventually ambushed at the base of a hill in the middle of the island, but managed to take their attackers down pretty quickly. They noticed that a couple of the pirates had emerged from hidden hatches in the side of the hill, so that was the next place the party explored.

They found a long, well-lit tunnel. Parts of it were just natural caves, and other areas had been carved by sentient hands. They reached a place where the tunnel split. Jarren took his crew left, while the PCs and their pets went right. Soon the players passed a door on their right, and chose to investigate this side room before continuing down the tunnel. Damakos showed amazing stealth ability as he quietly opened the door and looked around. It was the living quarters, filled with bunk beds. On the opposite side of the room, there was another door, through which he could hear running water... and singing. They decided not to check it out any further, and continued down the tunnel.

The road not taken: Had they investigated, they would have found that the far room was a bathroom and shower. They would have seen a woman showering, her back to them as they entered the bathroom. They might have assumed that she was oblivious to their entrance, or they might have realized it was a trap. It would be obvious to them that she was unarmed, so they might have felt safe even if they were expecting a trap. As soon as they prepared any sort of attack, she would have turned around and smiled, before casting Acid Orb, then turning into a cougar. Callexia Galean is a Druid assassin, and her name was also on the Wanted poster they'd seen earlier. Upon hearing their cue, four exceptionally sneaky pirate minions would have rolled out from underneath their bunk beds, thereby sandwiching the PCs. Of course, this was all dependent on the players not attempting to look under the beds on the way in.

Anyway, they didn't fall for it. They reached another door at the end of the hallway. Damakos rolled very high on his stealth check, and managed to peek through the door without being seen. It was the training room, filled with combat dummies, archery targets, and weapons racks. There were two other exits from the room - one small door identical to the one Damakos was using, and a large set of double doors. There were four pirates in the room, barricading the double doors. Damakos rolled another high stealth check, tip-toed into the room, and clobbered one of the pirates with a sneak attack.

After the four pirates were defeated, the PCs sat down to rest, and Captain Jarran came through the opposite small door, alone. His group had been ambushed in the dining hall. Only two of his crew were still alive, but one was greatly injured, and the other was tending to his injuries. Jarren joined the PCs as they unbarricaded and unlocked the door.

One hallway later, they found the throne room. Damakos was not as successful in getting through this door silently, but it probably wouldn't have mattered if he had, as Merea was well aware of the invasion. The Pirate Queen sat on her throne, flanked by her caster Lyyra Syyr, and her Dwarven bodyguard Bruta Grax. There were also four minions standing about the room. After a short bit of dialogue in which Merea refused to surrender quietly, the battle began.

Merea, Bruta, and Lyyra were tough customers. All three were completely custom, thrown together using whatever powers I thought suited their personalities. Merea was a dual-wielding swashbuckler, Lyyra was a powerful caster, and Bruta was an armored tank. Under normal conditions, it would have been a very long battle.

However. In a previous session, I allowed the PCs to find a very powerful grenade-like weapon, the, um... *cough* Holy Hand Grenade. *cough* I statted it myself. It has a complicated list of instructions for throwing it, but it does colossal damage, and has a huge blast radius. Where it lands is based on the player's die rolls, and Bryan unfortunately rolled fairly low. It bounced off a few walls, and still managed to do a lot of good. It vaporized all four minions, and stunned and knocked down all three bosses, along with Drew. The rest of the PCs were unaffected, because they were still hiding in the hallway.

While the bosses were stunned/prone, the PCs took every possible advantage of the situation. Later, when Lyyra created a zone of fire, the PCs kept pushing Merea into it, and blocking her from exiting in any way that didn't result in her getting flanked. It was still a long fight, but the Grenade made it a lot shorter. I was planning to have Lyyra teleport away when she reached 1/4 health, but they managed to finish her off too quickly. When Merea got down to 1/4, she surrendered, as she was the only one left and surrounded on all sides.

After the battle was over, the adventurers rooted through Merea's personal quarters, and found some treasure maps labeled "Arachna Island". Everyone returned to Trasa, and turned in the pirates they had captured, including Merea, Bruta, and Lyyra. They went back to the living quarters on their way out, but it was completely empty. Apparently Callexia knew Merea had been defeated, and felt it was better to escape now and fight another day.

Madeline Starkraven didn't take the news well. The revelation that Merea was alive meant that Mad was truly crazy. Still, she stayed true to her word, and gave the PCs their reward. That's where we ended the session. Next time, they plan to check out this mysterious Arachna Island. They also plan to join the Bounty Hunter Guild, whose entrance exam is quite extensive.

Funny note: The most damage any player took in this session was party inflicted. At one point Drew rolled a 1, and using the fumble chart I introduced last session, he rolled a low number. He ended up throwing his weapon, which hit Damakos in the face, and critted. Ouch.

XP Rewards:
I know I designed the adventure, but I was actually surprised there was as much XP as there was. Sure, the battles were large, but the players had some sort of help with almost every battle, which should have soaked up some of the XP. They had their pets with them at all times, and were often joined by numerous NPC allies.

Stat-wise, they were some difficult encounters. However, I rolled absolutely horribly on my attack rolls the entire night. So much so, that it became a running gag. I kept switching out my d20s, but that didn't help. But even with my ineptitude, I do feel the players definitely earned what they got.

Encounter 1 (Undead): 500/5=100
Turn in Predek: 300/3=100
Encounter 2 (Pirate Ship): 600/11=55
Turn in Risha: 100/3=33
Encounter 3 (Hell's Fury Ambush): 400/11=36
Encounter 4 (Training Room): 400/4=100
Encounter 5 (Merea): 700/5=140
Turn in Merea & Associates: 400/3=133
Total each: 698

Drew and Damakos both reached level 3.

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