Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 10: To Ardev, and Beyond!

As their flight came to a close, Quentin had a chat with Captain Mag about the workings of the airship, and afterwards privately confessed to Jak that he wanted to see if he could move the wheel.  Aruget, petrified of being in the air, went down to the galley to try to eat his stress away, hoping they would have his favourite – boar meat.  Coming away empty-handed, he turned to the group’s arcane practitioners to see if they could summon him a boar to eat, or at least to fight as a distraction.  Kayde cast an illusion on a barrel to make it look like a boar that Aruget could chase around, and tried to enlist Jak to push it around for him, with Quentin eventually using his own magic to create a gust of wind that sent the barrel moving around the deck.

The next morning, the party arrived in Ardev.  Not large but not tiny, Ardev was a walled city with a castle overlooking it, and a spartan but new tower being built which the airship docked at.  Making landfall, Jak led the group to The Burning Harpy for food and drink and to relay the information the Eminence’s crew had given him regarding the Orien trade road.  After some deliberations, the group agreed to take the trade road to the Six Kings, as well as try to find a pack mule to make their travel a little easier and look like a legitimate expedition.  While Jak and Kayde left the tavern shortly after to canvas the streets for information – Jak hoping to learn about other travelers besides the Kech Volaar headed towards Six Kings, and Kayde wanting to learn about any other threats on the trade road – Aruget got himself a good meal at last, and Lestok decided to try the tavern’s specialty: the “burning harpy drumstick.”  This was when Lestok discovered that he wasn’t made for spicy food, but he did anticipate that its intense burning properties might help with a future invention.  His mouth burning, his eyes watering from the spices he’d inadvertently rubbed on his face, Lestok made his way to the kitchen to quiz the chef for his secret recipe.  The very large and abrupt chef wasn’t willing to part with his secret and unimpressed by having Lestok in his kitchen, but a bribe and a disingenuous compliment softened him enough to allow Lestok to take some of the spice blend before Lestok pressed him for the recipe yet again and was chased out for good.

With that, Quentin proposed that him, Lestok, and Aruget make inquiries around the local outfitters to see if they could provide any more information about the Kech Volaar party.  Aruget used the description given by Captain Kalaes to draw an incredible likeness of the party’s leader, Yeraa, while Quentin and Lestok greased a few palms for more information.  Quentin learned that the party stopped at a shop called The Laden Troll to stock up, and also spent time in the city’s goblinoid tenements where they asked specific questions about some landmarks, leading Quentin and co. to a mapmaker.  He told them that the hobgoblins had arrived in the morning of the previous day and only spent a few hours in town, mostly being very quiet and private.  Lestok hoped to get a copy of their map, but the mapmaker hadn’t gotten a good look at it, though he did sell them a copy of his own map of the Breland-Droaam border.  While this was going on, Jak quietly found a Dark Lantern contact in town, who hooked him up with a donkey. Regrouping at the Burning Harpy, the party loaded up the donkey and started down the road.

Their first leg of travel was not without its hardships.  Lestok became very sick from his “harpy drumstick” a few hours out of town, necessitating an early night, and strong rains later resulted in the party needing to find a cave in order to narrowly avoid getting caught in a flash flood.  The next morning, they continued down the road, following a river flanked by a cliff face.  They were walking peacefully when Aruget suddenly drew his sword.  Quentin heard a voice on the wind, and Kayde, concentrating, was able to make out stern-sounding talk and the sounds of someone being assaulted.  Though Jak insisted that it wasn’t their mission, and that they should let any fights come to them instead of looking for trouble, Kayde stealthed off into the woods up the cliff, leaving his loyal friend no choice but to follow.  Lestok sprayed his and Aruget’s boots with his new wall-climbing concoction while Jak and Kayde remained undetected at the top of the path.  As they drew closer, Kayde caught sight of a dwarf interrogating someone who wasn’t talking, and hear another person commenting that “the Orc” wouldn’t like what the dwarf was doing, which the dwarf dismissed.  Meanwhile, Aruget deftly walked up the cliff face and took cover in a bush, while Lestok brought up the rear with Quentin…and sent a small boulder tumbling down the cliff, causing a cascade of smaller rocks and making quite a sound.  The next thing he saw was an arrow heading his way…

Behind the Scenes

  • Aruget rolled a success with three raises to draw that portrait of Yeraa. Seems he’s been holding out for us on his true calling as a sketch artist!

  • Meanwhile, Jak critically failed his networking roll for information about other travelers headed to Six Kings, and the only information he got was a story about a gilded carriage from Thrane, headed to Great Crag on a diplomatic mission with a full compliment of paladins. Mmm-hmm.

  • Due to a series of very bad/very good stealth rolls, that archer has The Drop on Lestok. The Drop is a condition in which you get to attack an unaware enemy for a +4 bonus to your rolls, and in a system where a lot of these rolls are made with a d4-d8 at our level, and all you need to succeed on a ranged attack is a 4…things aren’t looking great for our resident gnome.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 9: The journey begins

As the party remained locked in battle with Lady Dannae and her remaining zombies, a closer look revealed that “Lady Dannae” was an illusion over a monstrous, undead creature of some sort.  Jak quickly followed up Kayde’s attack with one of his own, but only served to further enrage the wight.  Frustrated, unable to escape Lestok’s entangling substance, and gravely wounded, she did the only thing left in her power: she psychically scooped the gnome out of the fireplace and sent him crashing through a window, still on fire, to the ground two stories down.  Kayde and Jak continued to try to take her down while Quentin recovered enough from a nasty spell backlash to rejoin the fight.  Meanwhile, Lestok retained enough presence of mind to activate his featherfall token, and gently floated to safety.  Still on fire, he studiously ignored a well-placed rain barrel and began to climb a trellis back up to Nephret’s apartment.  The flaming inventor came barreling back through the window to find the party still in battle, and launched himself at Lady Dannae, wrapping himself around her leg and setting fire to her and the sticky stuff she remained trapped in.  That distraction proved to be what was needed for Jak to finally dispatch the creature, dragging his dagger through her guts (and perhaps deliberately splashing a little on Kayde).  Kayde dealt with the remaining two zombies, and the fight was finally over.

The party got to searching the trashed apartment for any sign of Prof. Nephret, dead or alive.  They found nothing but her promised notes and journals in the secret compartment, but Jak spotted a scrap of paper with another note on it in Nephret’s handwriting declaring that Lady Dannae was actually Demise of the Emerald Claw.

By then, it was late at night.  Jak was anxious to return home to make his last goodbyes to Jonah before leaving Sharn in the morning, while Lestok and Quentin made a very late library visit to try to discern where the professor might be, but were unsuccessful.  In the morning, the party met up once again at the Citadel to see Captain Kalaes for their final briefing.  He told them that Yeraa’s party from Kech Volaar had arrived in Ardev the day before and would be traveling overland to the Six Kings, though he advised the Orien trade route as the safer option.  He didn’t seem surprised that the Emerald Claw would be after the Ashen Crown, and asked the party if they had any final questions.  Lestok’s main concern was for Prof. Nephret’s safety, and at his and Quentin’s request, Kalaes promised to put reliable Watch officers on the case in the event that she was still in Sharn.  On the way out, Jak took another private word with the captain, asking how he was to make contact with the undercover Lantern, Tik.  Kalaes relayed his instructions and wished Jak luck, and he rejoined the party to go see the quartermaster before making their way to Lyrandar tower.

Lyrandar tower was an impressive place.  With Quentin lost in old memories, he and Jak grabbed a drink together before making for their ship, the Eminence.  Captain Mag d’Lyrandar greeted them aboard, directed them to their cabins, and they began their journey to Ardev.

During the day’s travel, everyone got up to something.  Quentin and Lestok continued working on their plan to “improve” the Eminence’s speed and efficiency, though Quentin was more interested in improving Lestok’s environmental suit in an attempt to propel it through the air and replicate the effects of a featherfall token.  As they worked, he regaled Lestok with stories of a ghost ship of House Lyrandar that he’d heard as a child.

After that project was completed, Lestok somehow managed to gain access to the engine room and observed a fluid on the machinery that seemed to keep its moving parts from wearing out.  Collecting some, he spilled a little on a piece of metal and proceeded to cut himself quite badly.  Surmising that the fluid had helped make it sharp, and remembering eavesdropping on Jak’s conversation with the quartermaster regarding better weapons, he started formulating plans for a new alchemical concoction.

Kayde, meanwhile, decided to try to make a new friend.  A pretty deckhand caught his eye, and he tried to win her over, but was shut down.  His pride injured, Kayde decided to get petty and enlisted Lestok to help him prank the deckhand instead.

Jak also decided to try making new friends, with greater success.  Pulling a bottle from his pack, he went in search of off-duty sailors, and found them gambling.  Welcomed to their table, Jak shared his drink and tried his luck while pressing the sailors for stories.  They happily shared their experiences in exchange for Jak’s wagers, and by the end of the night – down five galifars and a bottle of cheap whiskey – Jak had learned of good routes to take to the Six Kings, good camping spots along the way, and been given warnings about raiding groups along the border.

With that, the party settled in for the night, and continued their journey to whatever awaited in Ardev.

Behind the Scenes

  • That fight against two zombies and one half-dead wight? Half a session. Our rolls were historically bad, and so were the GMs! We used bennies. He used bennies. It was just this bizarre stalemate of bad odds.

  • A question I frequently see pop up in tabletop spaces is, “how can I make travel interesting?” Savage Worlds has an answer to that, with a mechanic called Interludes. The way it works is, every player draws a card, and they get to choose a backstory, downtime, or journey element of the story to play out, depending on what suit their card is. Lestok’s interlude was looking towards his next skill learned on advancement. Jak’s was answering the prompt of finding something that benefited the party on their journey. I love interludes, and whenever we get the opportunity for one, there are usually more people wanting to do one than the GM has time for!

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 8: It’s a trap!

Jak’s day began with Quentin and Kayde at his door, Quentin’s day having begun with the delivery of an ominous message from Prof. Nephret.  Along with a warning about Lady Ulyan “not being who she claims to be”, and expressing fear for her safety, Prof. Nephret sent Quentin a key and asked him to come to her apartment at 8pm that night to take the rest of her notes before she left Sharn.  After gathering Aruget and Lestok, Jak urged the group to make for the Citadel immediately to alert Capt. Kalaes of this development, with Quentin and Kayde splitting off to do some business at the Kundarak bank while Jak led the others back to Kalaes’ office.  Kalaes’ secretary, Bronal, was guarding the door as usual, and unimpressed with Jaks’ pleas of urgency as this was the second time he’d seen Jak try to score an impromptu appointment that week.  Thankfully, after Lestok and Aruget helped bolster Jak’s case, Bronal relented and called the captain, who made time for Jak and Lestok while Aruget waited outside.

Kalaes told them that Lady Ulyan was not known to the Citadel, but thanked them for the information and asked them how they wanted to tackle this new threat.  Lestok was insistent about replacing Prof. Nephret’s documents with misleading forgeries to throw Ulyan off the party’s scent, and Jak managed to not only convince the gnome that forging documents himself with Lenard’s Alchemy Department seal was not only a bad idea, but called on his history with the Citadel to get official forgeries made.  Kalaes dismissed them, and the trio went back to the waiting area while the forgers did their work.  Kayde and Quentin showed up, the group waited, and about three hours later they were presented with some very convincing fake documents.

With several hours left until the appointed meeting time, Jak split off to go have dinner with Jonah while the others decided to go to Prof. Nephret’s campus housing a few hours early to scope the place out and make sure that Lady Ulyan didn’t get there first.  Aruget’s heavily-armed presence on campus was a little conspicuous, so he opted to wait outside the building, and Lestok stayed with him as Aruget had been tasked with holding Prof. Nephret’s key. The gnome’s insatiable curiosity to get in and see what they’d find was eating at him.  He tried to convince Aruget to go to the apartment with him (minus Kayde and Quentin), but Aruget held firm, and Lestok was able to rein in his curiosity in a herculean feat of self-control.  Meanwhile, Kayde and Quentin worked the building’s common room, trying to look natural and learn more about Gydd Nephret, but to no avail – it seemed that she kept herself fairly distant from her peers.

Half an hour before the appointed meeting time, Jak showed up to find all four of his companions huddled around outside the building and doing, in his opinion, a rather poor job of appearing inconspicuous.  For all the hours they’d been there, no one had seen anything suspicious, or heard any suggestion that Lady Ulyan had beaten them to the punch, so they made their way up to the professor’s apartment.

The door was ajar.  Kayde slipped into his shadow form and entered the main room to find it ransacked.  He alerted the others, who made their way inside…and Lady Ulyan emerged from the bedroom, her face a grotesque death mask, gloating of her success.  She informed the party that Prof. Nephret was “safe” with Ulyan’s mistress, and that death was inevitable.  With that, half a dozen zombies began emerging from different parts of the apartment.  Jak managed to keep nimble, avoiding their gnashing teeth and grasping claws, but put on the defensive, he found himself locked in a stalemate in which he wasn’t able to deal much damage in return.  Lestok promptly dispensed his “fun in a can” at Lady Ulyan, who became entangled in the orange, suspicious substance.  Quentin’s whirlwind knocked some of the zombies off their feet, and Kayde went to work with Ashtura’s blade, gutting several of them while Lady Ulyan monologued…and as she did, her face flickered, revealing a horrible creature beneath the illusion that looked like an unholy combination between a zombie and a ghost.  Now fully enraged, she called on her mysterious powers to snatch up Lestok, sending him flying through the air and into the lit fireplace.  As Kayde moved forward to deliver what he thought was the killing blow, Ulyan rallied at the last second and didn’t go down. Jak rushed forward in an attempt to drag Lestok out of the fire, and the party caught a second wind, ready to finish off Ulyan and her remaining horde…

Behind the Scenes

  • Oh, “fun in a can.” Acronym G.R.O.S.S., it’s basically a web spell that Lestok has flavoured with the trappings of an orange can of silly string. It’s effective, and it’s hilarious. Trappings are one of my favourite things about Savage Worlds; I love mechanics that enhance the story and vice-versa.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 7: Down to business

In Captain Kalaes’ office, Jak pulled him aside privately to confirm how much the others could know about the true nature of his and Kalaes’ work for the Citadel. Kalaes informed him in no uncertain terms that they were not to know of the Dark Lanterns’ involvement, then left to get their briefing materials.  When he returned, he filled them in on their mission: a journey to the mountains northwest of Graywall, to retrieve another piece of the Ashen Crown under the ancient Dhakaani monument known as the Six Kings.  They were to join up with a Kech Volaar dirgesinger named Yeraa, the leader of an expeditionary force whose first wave had tried and failed to retrieve the crown fragment now in the party’s possession.  Amongst her number was a changeling named Tik, a Dark Lantern infiltrating Yeraa’s unit undercover as a hobgoblin warrior.  The party was given two warnings: first, that members of a rival kech were pursuing Yeraa’s party, and were to be considered enemies who cannot gain a piece of the crown at any cost…and second, that Yeraa intended to “deal with” the party after their work together was done.  Kalaes told the party to sort out what cover story they want in order to approach Yeraa, and Jak was able to convince the party of the merit of Lestok’s idea to present themselves as a Morgrave research expedition.  With that, Kalaes informed them they’d be leaving Sharn in three days, giving them time to prepare, make goodbyes, and tie up loose ends.  Quentin was glad that this would still give them time to meet with Gydd Nephret, the researcher who they had first brought Ashtura’s blade to, and who had told them to return in a couple of days for more information.

Before that meeting, however, the party found themselves with a free afternoon, and they parted ways.  Kayde was determined to source a bag of holding, and spent his entire afternoon trying to get a lead.  Arguet went to check in with his captain at House Deneith.  Before leaving the Citadel, Jak stopped in to see his old friend Alan, the Dark Lantern quartermaster who handles the “special orders.”  To Jak’s surprise, Alan seemed pleased to see him, and got him measured up for a new suit of shiftweave.  And then, there was Quentin and Lestok…

Lestok, pleased that his idea to impersonate a Morgrave team had gained traction, was quite concerned about getting proper identification papers.  He had the foolproof idea that something to forge papers with could be “borrowed” from the office of his arch-nemesis, Lenard in the alchemy department…and somehow, he was able to convince Quentin of the wisdom of this plan.  Jak seemed bemused, but did not try to discourage them.  The two set out for Morgrave, and hatched a scheme to convince the school that there had been an infestation of Divalian fleas, allowing them to slip into Lenard’s office without suspicion in order to “fumigate.”  The members of the alchemy department bought Lestok’s ruse, helped by Quentin stirring up some dirt particles to look like fleas milling about, and they quickly shut themselves in Lenard’s office with Quentin keeping watch.  Though he was planning on “borrowing” letterhead, Lestok found an even better prize: a Morgrave seal, which he pocketed.  They then considered how to leave without raising suspicion, but not before Lestok pulled a few thumbtacks off the bulletin board and left them on Lenard’s chair.  With a sign in the door and a puff of fumigating gas helped along by Quentin’s magic, the pair boldly left the same way they’d entered the school: through the front door.  When they met up with the party the next day to meet with Professor Nephret, Lestok was eager to share the tale of his success…at which point Jak broke the news that he’d requisitioned a proper forgery at the Citadel, like a responsible agent.  Quentin was a little taken aback that he’d gone to all that trouble for nothing, but Lestok was easily convinced that his little prank was indeed a story for the ages.

When the party met with Gydd Nephret at the appointed place, Jak was alarmed to find her in the company of two Aereni elves, a woman and a man.  The woman introduced herself as Lady Dannae Ulyan, and Jak quickly took the party aside to impress on them the importance of saying nothing, and letting Lady Ulyan do all the talking – after all, Prof. Nephret was supposed to have kept their find a secret.  Everyone agreed, and Lady Ulyan and Prof. Nephret explained that what was now the Ashen Crown was originally an Aereni artifact that she had great interest in collecting.  Lestok was unable to keep all his excitement about some of the tomb’s contents to himself, and while the professor seemed interested in the shrunken head he produced, Lady Ulyan remained unreadable.  Eventually, she offered the party 3000 galifars for Ashtura’s blade, which were refused.  She did not attempt to argue or bargain further.  With that, Jak hastened the meeting’s end, and the party left Prof. Nephret to her studies.  On edge and with his danger senses tingling, Jak informed the party that he was bringing the news of Lady Ulyan straight to Captain Kalaes, and the group parted ways again.

Behind the Scenes

  • Jak levied his Connections edge (King’s Dark Lanterns) into that free suit of shiftweave. Not too shabby, Jak.
  • Lestok and Quentin’s downtime prank was played out as a mini dramatic task! For those unfamiliar, a dramatic task is a type of encounter in which the GM adjudicates that the party has to accrue x successes before y failures. Raises (rolling 4 more above the target number, which is also typically 4) count as multiple successes, and players can use their turns to support another player for a bonus to their own roll. The best part about dramatic tasks though, for me, is the players narration of what and how they do with their skills!