Character art: Big Trouble in Lower Tavicks

Jak aka Jack Fenton by Julio Azevedo

If you’re reading this, this guy probably needs no introduction – but I’ll give him one anyways. This rather perfect likeness of Jak – you know, the character I’ve been playing in Seekers of the Ashen Crown – comes to you courtesy of the immensely talented Julio Azevedo. After some unforeseen delays, Jak is here just in time for our final showdown with Lady Demise when the Seekers reconvene in two weeks! If you’re one of those TTRPG players who has superstitions regarding a correlation between character art and the subject’s untimely doom, I don’t want to hear about it. 😀

As I mentioned at the end of the last recap, if there’s anything you’d like to see tackled in a Table Talk article while we’re on hiatus, drop it in the comments! Maybe you have some unanswered questions about Savage Worlds. Maybe you have some unanswered questions about the assorted twists, turns, and conflicts of this campaign. Maybe you want to know what Arguet’s favourite cheese is. Go ahead and suggest a topic, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Otherwise, I’ll see you with what is sure to be one doozy of a recap on July 7.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 40: Trading Places

While Thom left the safehouse to meet a contact who could help identify the enchantments on Tik’s sword, chain shirt, and jewelry, Ivello spoke a message to Roscoe the rat and sent him scurrying off to find Razu with instructions for hiring reinforcements. He then turned his attention to Jak, who was determined to mine Tik for more information, and wanted Ivello’s help.  The former raincaller summoned a peaceful wind around his friend’s head, blocking out distractions and helping him focus.  He then motioned to the others to leave the room and shut the door behind them, leaving Jak to his own devices.

The young agent sat back in his chair and took a long, calculating look at his unconscious captive…and then slapped him sharply across the face.  Tik, having already been wounded before taking his knockout blow back at the Traveler’s Rest, didn’t so much as moan in response.  Jak frowned and tried again, a little harder – still nothing.  Frustrated and feeling the time ticking away, Jak pressed his hand into the ugly gash across Tik’s bare chest.  That got the traitor’s attention.  As Tik’s eyes flew open and he screamed in pain, Jak leaned back in his chair and grinned.  “Feeling better?”

Having the upper hand at last, and reveling in it, Jak presented his nemesis with a very short list of options: he could answer Jak’s questions…or they would let Demise know he’d failed her.  Tik sneered and questioned how being turned over to the Citadel’s custody would go any better for him than facing Demise, and Jak replied that it would be the difference between a quick death and a long one.  Arrogant as ever, Tik scoffed and continued in his familiar pattern of goading Jak, harping on the younger man’s past failures and accusing him of naive ignorance in an attempt to throw him off his game.  Unimpressed and enjoying the unfamiliar sensation of being in a position of power, Jak easily fell back on his training and began his interrogation in earnest.  The follower who’d managed to escape the Traveler’s Rest when the tide had started to turn against Tik – who was she?  What was her name?  Tik rolled his eyes.  Yes, she was a member of the Emerald Claw, but why would he care beyond that?  She was of no importance.  Jak continued to rattle off questions.  What was Demise expecting from Tik upon his return to the Dragon’s Forge?  And just what did an Undying Aereni elf want with an ancient symbol of Dhakaani rule, anyway?  Tik grudgingly replied that all Demise was expecting from him was the safe delivery of Zaraani’s Solitaire – the one piece of the Ashen Crown the party had managed to keep hidden from her – and that any of them who he brought to his Lady would be turned into one of her undead followers, a fate he’d been eagerly anticipating for Jak.  As for the Crown, it had been an elven artifact before it was claimed by Dhakaan, and it was said to have some sort of power over the dead.  With that, he fell back into taunting Jak, still believing that he somehow held power over his situation.

Jak had had enough.  Screwing his thumb deep into Tik’s wound, he leaned in close and in a cold, hard voice – and wearing a perfect copy of Tik’s face – informed the traitor that he was going to take his place in the Dragon’s Forge, and Tik was going to tell Jak everything he needed to know in order to pull it off.  Wracked with pain, Tik began to babble. Caught up in the heat of the moment, Jak found that he was enjoying inflicting pain on the one who had caused so much pain to him, and as he pressed his thumb in harder, Tik screamed and his facade broke.  Unable to hold his human form any longer, he found himself looking up at Jak with his true face as he began to spill his guts.  His only job had been to deliver the Solitaire to Demise, or else interrogate Jak to learn its location in the event that they’d stashed it somewhere.  Demise had no personal interest in Jak and his friends – having conveniently stumbled across Ashtura’s tomb what felt like a lifetime ago, they were simply a means to an end.  In the same vein, Demise was merely a means to an end for Tik himself, having promised him immortality in exchange for his assistance in retrieving the pieces of the Ashen Crown.  Even so, having been undercover with the Kech Volaar for over a year, he’d had little contact with her, though he did have a sending stone she’d given him to stay in touch.  His return to Sharn this past week had been only his second time meeting her face-to-face.  He had planned to bring any survivors of the Traveler’s Rest to Demise, not only to gloat, but to eliminate any witnesses – he believed it would be better if the Citadel never found them, if they simply disappeared, and he had not accounted for Jak’s arrest in Graywall.  As for what they would face in the Dragon’s Forge, the entrance to it was guarded, and beyond that, Demise had already begun the ritual to reforge the Ashen Crown, but it could be interrupted.  

Satisfied that he’d learned everything he wanted to know, Jak leaned back in his chair again, smiled, and thanked Tik for his cooperation.  He promised that, as a show of his gratitude, he’d be in Wroat to watch Tik hang – after all, he’d always wanted to visit the capital.

Shortly thereafter, both Thom and Roscoe the rat returned to the safehouse.  As Roscoe scurried up to the safety of Ivello’s pocket, Thom gave the rundown of the enchantments on Tik’s gear and then dumped an assortment of potions out of his satchel.  He’d gotten everyone something to help protect them from the searing heat of the Cogs, as well as some healing potions just in case.  Jak frowned and asked Thom how he’d been able to afford all that; he’d always been broke.  Thom smiled and reminded his friend that he was still a Citadel agent in good standing.  In case Jak had forgotten, there were certain perks that came with the job.  

While the party divided up their spoils, with Ivello claiming Yeraa’s sword as Jak set it aside in order to strap on Tik’s trademark rapier and complete his disguise, Razu returned with the Deathsgate mercenaries she’d hired on the party’s behalf.  Ivello’s message had urged her to spare no expense, and she had delivered. Sizing up their new allies, Aruget declared that there would be an extra twenty galifars for the one with the highest kill count as he did a quick roll call.  There was Malcanus the Wry, a Talenta halfling maskweaver whose eyes lit up at the promise of extra gold in exchange for a challenge, and Minyu the shifter, an imposing figure who also perked up at this promise.  Accompanying them were two very different warforged: Scorn, a sleek, tactical model who spoke in the third person as they rested their hands on the swords on each hip, and Watcher, who lived up to their name, silently observing the room from under the hood of their flowing robes while radiating an aura of protection.  Pleased with Razu’s decisions, but still eager to fight at his sister’s side, Aruget asked if she still had the time and will to join them.  Smiling, she replied that she’d already told her Deneith captain that she had a personal matter to attend to, and would be glad to accompany him. 

Over in the corner, with the importance of their task (and no small concern for his friend) weighing on him, Thom admonished Jak not to fail.  Overwhelmed with emotions and struggling to find the right words, Jak began to tell his friend goodbye in case things went south.  Putting a hand on the younger man’s shoulder and looking him in the eye, Thom cut him off and insisted that nothing more needed to be said – he just needed Jak to get the job done, come back alive, and clear his name.  Awkwardly throwing his arms around Thom in a quick hug, Jak stepped back, holding him at arm’s length, and transformed into Tik again.  This time, he completed his disguise by matching the other man’s body language and arrogant smirk, and Thom smiled – it was an impressive performance, sure to fool the Emerald Claw.  Promising to keep an eye on Tik until the party’s safe return, Thom shooed them out the door and they began making their way into the heart of the Cogs.

Making regular stops to consult Yeraa’s journal for directions, the party worked their way through a series of oppressively hot, stuffy tunnels.  As they approached the entrance of a large cavern filled with light, they spotted several figures ahead – surely, this was the guard post Tik had spoken of.  Pausing just outside the chamber, Aruget and Ivello called on their respective magics to help improve their chances.  As Ivello summoned his focusing wind again, this time wrapping it around everybody, Aruget began to pray to Dol Arrah while Kayde and Jak remained on high alert.  Jak took note of three women in Emerald Claw livery – one of whom stood out as a leader – and Kayde’s eagle eyes spotted some kruthik skittering about who appeared to have been killed and raised back to life.

As Jak confidently strode up to the woman he assumed was the Emerald Claw captain, with the mercenaries behind him leading his friends as their “prisoners”, she turned to him with a dark glare.  “Tikulti”, she snapped, “where have you been?  You’re long overdue.”  Calling on his memories of Tik’s unmatched arrogance, Jak produced his most insulting smirk and replied that that was between him and his Lady.  Scowling, the captain demanded to know who his prisoners were, and he told her that they were the ones who had found the Ashen Crown for him – and that their reward would be a second life joining the legions of Demise’s undead.  As Kayde and Ivello helped sell the ruse by shouting at “Tik” that he wouldn’t get away with it, the captain grumbled and made her feelings known.  He thought he was so special, didn’t he?  Always figured himself better than her.  But he wasn’t one of them, really; he wasn’t a true follower.  Jak continued to smirk at the woman in silence, and she grudgingly stepped aside, pointing out the entrance to the Dragon’s Forge.  Waving the others forward, he assured her that her loyalty would be rewarded.

Making their way through, the party continued deeper and deeper down under the Cogs as the heat increased, and they could hear the sounds of smoldering lava flowing around the tunnel’s walls.  Before long, they found themselves in yet another large chamber, this one featuring a small outcropping of land that jutted into the middle of a humongous, molten pool.  In the middle of the island on an unnatural, circular platform, there stood a cluster of Khyber dragonshards stretching fifteen feet tall, and several figures milled around a table beneath it.  Having spent many hours poring over Yeraa’s journal, Ivello believed that they’d reached their ultimate destination – a belief which was confirmed when a familiar face turned around to confront those who dared interrupt her.  After weeks of hardship, peril, and loss, all for seemingly very little reward, the party had caught up with Demise at last.  It was time.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
  • Ivello flavours most his powers as some form of calling up wind. In this session, the wind he called up to calm and focus Jak and then the party at large was Boost Trait, which he used to increase everyone’s Performance skill by one die size.
  • Assuming our encounter with Demise devolves into a fight before long, we will be enjoying the assistance of six allied Extras under our command: the four new Deathsgate mercenaries, plus the one captured alongside Tik last session, as well as Aruget’s sister Razu. Is it a really bad idea to bring six potential corpses into a necromancer’s lair? Maybe! We’re nothing if not confident. 😀
  • Oh, how the tables have turned. Tik spent a bennie attempting to resist Jak’s interrogation…and he wound up fishing for a crit fail just like the rest of us. Turns out I didn’t need to spend my own bennie fishing for a raise to set the target number!
  • Speaking of Jak’s interrogation…things got kind of dark there. As a professional intelligence operative of a nation known for embodying the philosophy that the ends justify the means, I believe Jak’s always had the capacity to go morally questionable places – and it’s certainly something Ivello and Aruget have called him on in the past, and Ivello will most likely call him on it again when the opportunity arises. That being said, roleplaying a rather nasty interrogation and then (if I don’t say so myself) doing a pretty good job of sliding into Tik’s particularly mean brand of arrogance to sell Jak’s disguise was a little intense. From a storytelling perspective, it made a ton of sense for Jak to take out his anger on Tik and make good on the threat he delivered from his jail cell in Graywall, and I imagine that this kind of thing would have been part of his Dark Lanterns training as well. From a player perspective, I kind of felt like I needed a shower afterwards. Was Aruget right all along when he accused Jak and Tik of being two sides of the same coin? Have all of Ivello’s attempts to save Jak from himself come to naught?
  • Due to an IRL combination of work and play, the Seekers of the Ashen Crown are taking a two-week hiatus…but that doesn’t mean this space needs to be quiet during that time! If there’s a subject you’d like me to tackle as a Table Talk article, go ahead and suggest it below, and I’ll see what I can do. It could be a mechanics/gameplay question, something to do with our current campaign, etc. Topics already covered include bennies, hindrances, and cinematic combat. Otherwise, I’ll see you on July 7!

You Seem Like a Decent Fellow – I Hate to Kill You! Cinematic Combat in SWADE

The dice tell their own story…but so do you.

As the Seekers of the Ashen Crown regroup after one of our most epic battles to date – and prepare to take down Lady Demise at last – I thought it might be nice to have a little chat about how to pick a fight in Savage Worlds…and do it in style.

First and foremost, combat in Savage Worlds likes to be cinematic and narrative, and that is going to be the focus of this article.  To make the most out of a combat encounter often means going above and beyond “I swing my sword at the enemy.”  Sure, you could swing that sword – but what if the enemy’s Toughness is 12, and your sword only does 1d6 damage?  You’d be gambling on getting a pretty big dice explosion…or, you could forgo an attack in order to set your fellow adventurers up for their own moment of glory by means of a Test.  Tests are non-lethal actions that, when successful, impose a penalty on your enemies to make them either Distracted (less able to hit you and your allies) or Vulnerable (more susceptible to your and your allies attacks) until the end of their next turn.  An opposed roll, a Test can be conducted with a fairly wide variety of skills.  While you can feint at an enemy with your sword to distract them – making a Fighting roll, just like you would on an attack – other actions like throwing sand in their eyes, delivering a scathing verbal blow to their morale, or yelling “hey, your shoe’s untied!” are equally useful.  In the party’s first meeting with the Emerald Claw, Jak took Lt. Sesko down a peg by spitting in his face, and this past session in the Traveler’s Rest, Kayde’s suggestion that Tik’s henchman wasn’t being paid enough for his trouble wound up being something the man took to heart, an epiphany which quite possibly saved Kayde’s life.

In a similar vein, Support fills in the gaps when a Test isn’t quite the help you’re looking for.  Let’s say my friend wants to catch a group of enemies in an environmental hazard like a sticky web or unstable ground.  In strictly mechanical terms, he wants to cast a utility spell, and the prize he’s chasing is a raise (or two) in order to increase his spell’s effectiveness.  This is an instance where Support actions shine.  I can use my turn to do something like bolster his confidence or point out a weak spot in the environment that he can exploit, rolling the associated Trait (as determined by the GM) to confer a modest bonus to his casting roll.  A +2 in Savage Worlds is nothing to sneeze at – it could very easily be what pushes his roll over the edge from failure to success, or from baseline effectiveness to something better. 

Another contributor to cinematic combat is the Multi-Action, a mechanic which allows you to, as the name might suggest, take more than one action per round.  Declared and defined at the start of your turn, a regular Multi-Action consists of two actions at the cost of a -2 penalty to each roll, or three actions at a -4.  With multiple combat edges available that negate the standard -2 penalty, it can be an incredibly useful tool.  Jak could, in theory, Test and attack an enemy on the same turn – and while he doesn’t have any edges that specifically negate the Multi-Action penalty, he does have Killer Instinct (which grants him a free reroll on Tests) and Frenzy (which adds an extra die to his melee attacks).  With those edges working in tandem, the chances of succeeding on both his Test and attack aren’t half bad, not to mention cool as heck if he can pull it off.

As I’ve already discussed in this space, bennies can go a long way towards cinema and narration in a combat encounter.  While they’re good for straightforward rerolls on attack and damage, they can also be spent to alter the flow of battle as we saw in Graywall, when Ivello traded a bennie for some scaffolding that he was able to pull down onto the heads of the guards pursuing him.  The only limits are your imagination – and the GM’s discretion.  I suspect most GMs (including mine) wouldn’t allow you to casually negate an encounter for one measly bennie, but I also suspect that most GMs in these scenarios will be happy to encourage player creativity and reasonable degrees of the Rule of Cool. After all, there was absolutely no guarantee in the example above that Ivello would succeed at making use of that scaffolding – but allowing him the possibility of doing something awesome and game-changing was very much in line with the Savage Worlds philosophy of “fast, furious, fun.”

That being said, there is one circumstance I can think of in which a combat encounter can be significantly altered in the players favour by a single resource: the play of a well-timed Adventure Card.  From keeping Kayde’s brain safely inside his head to enlisting the help of a giant owl to facilitating Tik’s capture, Adventure Cards add a fantastic layer of twists and turns to even the most pedestrian, seemingly hopeless, or already completely gonzo combat encounters.  And it’s always worth it for the look on the GMs face.

So, there you have it: a small taste of the stories you can tell once initiative is drawn.  As much as the dice determine the outcome, us players have an incredible amount of agency and choice when it comes to resolving combat.  It can be a lot to remember in the heat of battle (and, full disclosure, I am often the first one to forget), but when the narrative and actions line up, it’s incredibly satisfying.  Looking back at this campaign’s most memorable encounters, they all share a common thread: the clever and/or timely use of one or more of the mechanics I’ve explored here.  Picking a fight in Savage Worlds can be dangerous and unpredictable.  The good news is, it can also be a whole lot of fun.

seekers of the ashen crown week 39: Revenge, Reconciliation, and Reckonings

As Jak ran Yeraa’s sword through the henchman in front of him and surveyed the common room-turned-battlefield, he wondered if Thom had really come to the Traveler’s Rest with no one but Tik as backup – surely, if he had intended to turn Jak in, he hadn’t been so foolish as to bring no one but one agent he knew only by reputation?  Kicking the dead goon off his blade, he ran up to flank the one facing Thom as the two of them easily ducked under the wide swing of the man’s axe.  In spite of Thom’s betrayal, old habits died hard, and he and Jak fought in sync just like old times.

Still up on the table, but much more limited in his options after being sliced open, Kayde clutched at his wound and traded his spear for theatrics.  He implored the henchman who had dealt him this near-mortal blow that surely he hadn’t been paid enough to protect Tik – surely, it wasn’t worth dying over.  As the man hesitated, Kayde looked over his shoulder and, seeing Tik start moving to the door, called out to Ivello not to let him escape.  At the bottom of a bottleneck created by still more of Tik’s men, Aruget’s axe cleaved one of them through the chest, killing him instantly.  As he kicked the body out of his way, the blademark heard a rush of footsteps approaching the tavern…and saw a familiar and very welcome sight as a unit of House Deneith blackblades shoved their way past him to join the fray.  Razu grinned at her brother and explained that, having caught wind that he was in trouble prior to his return to Sharn, it had behooved her to come to their meeting prepared.  The blackblades sprang into action, surrounding the henchman in front of Razu and easily dispatching him before turning their attention to the real prize: Tik, who had tried to make a break for it only to find himself in the thick of the party’s new allies.

Shoving his way through the blackblades to come toe-to-toe with Tik, lightning erupted from Ivello’s fingers and engulfed his foe, dropping him to one knee as the smell of burnt flesh filled his nostrils.  Feinting with his sword at the mercenaries surrounding him and brushing off a follow-up blow from Ivello’s quarterstaff, Tik stumbled to his feet and began to run for the back door.

Still trapped in the doorway – now, because he was cut off from the tavern by a crowd of friendly blackblades – Aruget was jostled out of the way again as a furious changeling muscled his way into the building, with a large group of equally rough-looking men hot on his heels.  The changeling raised his hand and pointed straight at Tik.  That was the one who had kicked him out of his own bar!  It was time to take it back!  Not sure what was happening, but anxious to not let Tik get away or fall into this angry mob’s hands, Aruget sprinted after him.  Summoning one final burst of strength, he circled the crowd, caught up to Tik, and tackled him into a headlock as one of the new arrivals punched him square in the nose, spraying the traitor’s blood into Aruget’s face.  Thirsty for his own revenge, Ivello joined the fray, leaping off the small stage in the center of the room and slamming his quarterstaff into Tik’s head.  He yelled at the now unconscious man that immortality wouldn’t be such a great idea if he angered an entire city getting there, earning him a strange look from Aruget.

With the henchman fighting Kayde having taken the performer’s advice and fled, Jak smirked at Tik’s remaining goon that he’d clearly picked the wrong side.  The terrified man threw down his sword and yielded, insisting that he didn’t have anything to do with Tik’s schemes, and Jak declared that he’d be confessing everything he knew in exchange for his life.  Straining his neck to make out any familiar faces in the crowd surrounding Aruget (and still wailing on Tik), he spotted the regular bartender of the Traveler’s Rest – the changeling at the head of the mob.  Jak shouted at him to not kill Tik, that he was Jak’s to deal with, and together with Ivello managed to calm the mob as Aruget bound Tik’s arms.  Moving over to check on Kayde’s injuries, Jak paled a little at the extent of them and called Aruget over to work his magic.  Though the paladin was able to channel some of Dol Arrah’s healing power, he was spent from the fight, and unable to heal Kayde completely.  As Jak stitched up the remainder of his friend’s wounds – working through a steady stream of complaints about how his methods hurt quite a bit more than Aruget’s – Thom piped up that he could get the party to a safehouse to deal with the aftermath and question Tik.  With everything seemingly under control for the moment, Razu congratulated her brother on the fight as he in turn observed that she was always two steps ahead of him.  She reminded Aruget that she would always be there for him, and to send a courier to the Deneith enclave if he needed anything more, and the two parted ways again.

As Thom led the party down to Blackbones in the Cogs, the awkward silence was palpable.  Walking beside Jak, he hung his head and apologized to his friend, stressing once again that he hadn’t known about Tik’s treachery.  Jak retorted that it didn’t matter that he hadn’t known Tik was a traitor, but that he had believed Jak was.  As Kayde snapped at Thom to make things right, Jak shouted at him to stay out of it and again asked Thom why he hadn’t believed him.  Thom, struggling to defend himself, replied that as a good agent, Jak should know he couldn’t have come to their meeting alone, to which Jak asked again why he’d brought Tik – a man he’d never met before and knew only by reputation – instead of one of their friends.  Thom tried to explain himself.  With his reports of the Ashen Crown missing and the Kech Volaar murdered, Tik had the Citadel riled up like Thom had never seen before.  This was no longer an in-house matter: it was of grave concern to Breland, and things had escalated to the point where Captain Kalaes’ superiors were coming to Sharn to deal with it.  Jak’s face went dark as he shot back that it seemed not even his best friend believed Jak the screw-up over Tik the golden boy, suggesting that this was to be his fate going forward if he couldn’t even get Thom on his side, and the remainder of their trip reverted to awkward silence once again.

At the run-down safehouse, Aruget sat the still unconscious Tik down in a chair while Thom tried to make it clear to Jak that he meant to help him and atone for his betrayal.  He advised his friend that the Citadel would look differently on his attempt to clear his name if he turned up with the intact Crown, versus without.  Kayde questioned this tactic, feeling it would make them look more guilty to turn up with all the artifacts they’d been accused of stealing, but Thom insisted that he knew better than Kayde how the Citadel worked, and how they would treat the matter.  Hesitant, Jak suggested that they could just return in their current state and have the Citadel question Tik, but Thom felt that was too much of a gamble.  A highly trained double-agent such as this could most likely resist interrogation longer than it took for Demise to skip town for one of the other ritual sites mentioned in Yeraa’s journal.  Interjecting that they could use a scroll of mind-reading to learn more, Ivello caught himself as he spoke and looked at Thom warily, seemingly hesitant to say more in his presence.  Filled with conflicting feelings, Jak couldn’t ignore their history in spite of everything.  Reminding Ivello of the story he’d relayed to them on the Kordenga of being trapped under the Cogs, drug-addled and pursued by their enemies, he revealed that Thom was the one who had been with him that day and who had saved his life and stood by his side.  They were brothers, and if Jak could get a second chance, so could Thom.  For all the disagreements they’d had, Ivello conceded that if Jak trusted Thom, so could he, and mused that Thom at the very least must have a good sense of self-preservation: he was complicit in attacking and capturing Tik, and things might not go well for him in the current climate if word got back to Kalaes.  Thom narrowed his eyes and asked Ivelllo to explain himself – this sounded like a threat. Ivello calmly replied that their fates were now intertwined.  Thom nodded and replied that he was okay with that.  He owed it to Jak to make things right.

Getting down to business, Ivello explained what he’d meant by his comment at the Traveler’s Rest regarding Tik’s immortality.  He told the others that, while Razu and Aruget protected him, he’d used one of the scrolls of mind-reading during the fight to learn that Lady Demise had promised to bring Tik into the ranks of the Undying.  Jak questioned what the far-fetched promise of immortality had to do with anything, and Thom pointed out that it must be Tik’s underlying motive for his treachery.  As Ivello further explained that each scroll was good for one question, so they should be careful with the remaining two, Aruget relieved Tik of his items and weapons as the faint but distinct aura of magic emanated from the still unconscious man.  Jak helped himself to the traitor’s chain shirt, wriggling into it and noting that it was much lighter than he’d expected, and turned his attention to the henchman they’d captured.  The terrified fellow – whose name was Drakan – insisted that he was just a blade for hire, working out of the Deathsgate adventurer’s guild and paid up front, and Jak informed him that he was now working for the party.

Meanwhile, Ivello continued to focus on the matter at hand.  Speaking the words off the scroll, he probed Tik’s mind to answer the question of how and where he planned to meet with Demise: she was expecting him to arrive, with the Solitaire, at the Dragon’s Forge deep within the Cogs.  As the party considered what their final question for the remaining scroll might be, Aruget – still not convinced of Thom’s good intentions – suggested that they should perhaps use the scroll on him. Did Jak really trust him?  The young agent struggled to find the right words.  He admitted that if it were just him and Thom, he would say yes unequivocally, but now he had his other friends to look out for…and he didn’t want to speak for them.  Ivello repeated that he trusted Thom’s sense of self-preservation, and Aruget turned his questions to the man directly.  Thom once again insisted that he recognized his mistake, and that he owed it to Jak to make things right, and Aruget decided that he was satisfied to take Thom at his word.  They could go ahead and use the final scroll on Tik as planned.

Debating what the final question should be, Jak urged Ivello to ask Tik what they’d be facing in the Dragon’s Forge.  Did Demise have an army with her?  What sort of resources were at her disposal?  Taking his third and final trip into Tik’s mind, Ivello learned that Demise was a powerful necromancer who often had the dead at her beck and call.  Tik believed she’d gone into the forge with an entourage for four ghouls and four zombies, not to mention a host of personal magical items, including a powerful lightning wand that he’d seen in action.  Jak suggested to Aruget that they’d need Razu’s help again, but the blademark questioned the wisdom of bringing extra people into a necromancer’s lair in the event that they could be used against the party.  Ivello pondered if they could somehow draw Demise out of the forge or otherwise catch her off-guard, to which Aruget pointed out that they had their own changeling at their disposal – along with Tik’s clothing, jewelry, and trademark sword.  Kayde jumped on the chance to put on a performance, challenging Jak’s ability to pull it off, and Jak pointed out two things in his favour.  First, that his disguise was more foolproof than Kayde’s, and not subject to any sort of magical scrying…and second, that Tik was a colossal jerk.  Giving Kayde a cocky smile and Thom a much sadder one, Jak mused that he wouldn’t have much trouble selling such a role.

Taking stock of everything they’d learned, the party concluded that Demise was expecting Tik to return to her relatively soon.  The longer they waited, the more questions there would be.  Jak proposed that “Tik” capture the party and make his triumphant return to Demise, having slain his upstart scapegoat Jak and gotten the others dead to rights, and successfully retrieved the Solitaire to boot.  They decided to hire some more mercenaries, who could wait until the time was right to descend on the forge, a proposition made easier now that they found themselves in possession of the full pair of speaking stones.  Aruget asked the captured mercenary, Drakan, what he was being paid, and the man replied that Tik had given him the going rate.  The blademark grinned and informed Drakan that it was his lucky day – he’d be getting some hazard pay.  As Jak donned Tik’s clothes and carefully inspected the face he’d be taking on, Thom and the others put the finishing touches on their plan.  After everything they’d been through, it was finally time for the party to finish the job – and they intended to leave nothing to chance.  

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What is your favourite solo hobby?  What do you most like to do when you are hanging out by yourself?
  • OH BOY. This session started off with a bang! First off: the joy that is adventure cards. Our house rule for adventure cards is that everyone rolls a d100, and the two highest rolls get a card. While this happened as usual, it was also my birthday, and the GM offered me my choice of gift: an extra bennie to start the session with, or an assortment of three adventure cards, from which I could choose one to play. I took the cards. While I’d been hoping for Hot Iron and Whiskey (to heal Kayde mid-fight) or the card that heals/revives all allied Extras (just in case things went south for Thom), it turned out that was a failure of imagination, because what I got was ten times better: Call the Cavalry, which spawned Razu’s blackblades. And things just kept looking up from there…
  • To keep the good times rolling, both Aruget and Jak drew jokers on the very first round of initiative. I seized on the opportunity to take my turn first and play my card immediately for maximum effectiveness…and then Aruget played his card: Angry Mob. Angry Mob is a double-edged sword, because it leaves it up to the GMs discretion whether or not the mob is for or against the PCs. In this instance, I made a case for a friendly mob, seeing as how the Dragoneyes district and the Traveler’s Rest in particular is Jak’s home turf – and the GM agreed. Happy birthday to me, indeed! Tik’s last mistake was underestimating the raw power of a bunch of angry, displaced barflies.
  • For the record, by the time both the blackblades and the barflies made it on to the scene, them plus us plus Tik and his remaining henchmen totaled twenty-three actors crammed into one average-sized tavern. To say nothing of all the corpses on the ground. It was our biggest, wildest brawl yet, and it was glorious.

seekers of the ashen crown week 38: reunions

After spending the night at a nearby flophouse, the party split up in the morning for their respective meetings.  Kayde went with Jak to keep an eye on his meeting with his old friend (and current Dark Lantern) Thom, while Ivello joined Aruget in meeting his sister Razu, a decorated House Deneith blademark.  Before parting ways, Ivello – always on the lookout for trouble – caught a small rat off the street and prepared it to take a message from Jak in case things went sideways. Jak slipped the rat inside his coat and made his way back to a familiar place: the Traveler’s Rest.

The Traveler’s Rest had, in its lifetime, been both a warehouse and a theater, and its decor leaned more towards the latter.  Old masks and costumes lined the walls, along with shelves full of props and other knick-knacks.  It hadn’t changed since Jak was a child living in the small, run-down apartments above, and its familiarity was both comforting and unsettling given everything that had transpired since his last visit and everything that lay ahead.  Scanning the common room and seeing no sign of his friend, he took a seat in one of the cramped private rooms lining the tavern’s wall, ordered two beers, and waited.  As the greasy-looking bartender brought his drinks, a familiar shape appeared in the doorway, and Jak’s heart caught in his throat.  Thom had come to him.

As Thom drew the room’s curtain shut and in a low, stunned voice asked Jak what he’d done, Jak cut him off.  He was grateful to see him, but given the events of the past week, needed to know that he was who he seemed to be.  Back when they’d first met, Thom had only said four words to him all night: what were they?  “‘You talk too much’,” Thom replied.  He frowned.  “And it seems nothing’s changed.  Jak, what did you do?” Slumping down into his chair, Jak insisted that he’d done his job – and Tik had screwed him over.

Across the street at the Drunken Rabbit, a tavern and gambling hall full of riotous colours and mismatched furniture, Aruget immediately spotted his sister at the bar trying her best to not look like the highly placed blademark she was.  Awkwardly running over to give her a hug, he hesitated as she stood up and caught him in a quick embrace herself.  While Ivello made himself scarce with a glass of juice at a nearby table, Aruget struggled to find the right words to sum up everything that had happened in the last few weeks.  He asked Razu if she’d heard about them being wanted by the Citadel, and she replied that she had indeed heard about him and his friends – she could only see Ivello with him, had the others been lost?  Waving Ivello over to join them, he told her the story of Tik’s betrayal, to which she shook her head and asked why he’d returned to the hornet’s nest.  He wanted to clear their names, but he’d need Razu’s help, fearing that they would soon wind up in a situation where they found themselves outnumbered.  She scowled, considering the logistics and her position in House Deneith, but agreed that she could probably cash in some favours.  What would they be needed for, and when?  Aruget replied that he couldn’t say exactly, but hoped she could have backup ready to go.  Relieved for her help, and overcome with emotion at seeing his sister again, Aruget lamented that it felt like months since he’d been back in Sharn, and he had so much to tell her – he’d been back to Graywall, and gotten more information regarding the strange circumstances of the death of their brother, Dabrak.  He intended to follow that lead, hopefully with Razu’s help, but first, he had to finish this job and help his friends.  

Back in the cramped room at the Traveler’s Rest, Jak relayed to Thom the whole story of their adventure – the trek to Droaam, their run-in with the Emerald Claw, their triumph under Six Kings, and the murder of the Kech Volaar, culminating in Jak’s arrest.  Feeling quite overwhelmed and struggling to stay present, Jak noticed that while Thom was listening to him, he seemed distracted and kept staring at the curtain.  Turning back to Jak, he shook his head and told him that he didn’t know what to say.  “You believe me, right?” Jak asked, anxiety rising in his gut.  He insisted that he didn’t hate the Citadel, and that all he wanted was to come home.  Thom grimly replied that he didn’t know what to believe, and that he was sorry.  Jak pleaded with him, reminding Thom of how he’d bailed him out once before, and that he needed his help again – he was the only one Jak could trust.  Thom looked down at Jak again, crestfallen, and simply repeated that he didn’t know what to believe.  And that he was sorry. 

With that, the curtain opened to reveal a human man dressed in dark leathers, with a smirk on his face…and a familiar sword with a ruby pommel on his hip.  Tik grinned and congratulated Jak on being so predictable.  He made Tik’s job so easy.  As Jak stared at Thom in horror, barely able to speak, Kayde revealed himself.  He jumped out of his seat, demanding to know what Tik wanted, and what he’d done with the stolen pieces of the Ashen Crown.  Tik nonchalantly turned his attention to Kayde and replied that he was playing the long game.  He’d been at it for a long time, ingratiating himself to that Khyber-damned Kech Volaar to manipulate them into doing everything he’d wanted, just like he was doing with Kayde and his friends.  He knew they’d come to him – like Jak, they were nothing if not predictable.  He continued to gloat, glancing back over his shoulder and telling Jak he was surprised the young agent had made it as far in the Citadel as he had.  As for the whereabouts of the artifacts, Tik ignored Kayde’s question and demanded which one of them had Zaraani’s Solitaire.  “The other artifacts, you dimwit” Kayde snapped. Tik scowled and replied that they were safely in the hands of Lady Demise.  Jak looked over at Thom again.  His face typically gave little away, but his jaw was clenched and his eyes had narrowed as he listened to Tik’s gloating and admission of working for the enemy.  Jak implored Thom to listen to him – Tik was obviously out to get him.  As Kayde pulled his byeshk spear off his back, deciding that the talk had run its course, Tik scoffed that he was just as much an amateur as Jak.  Did he really think he’d come alone?  With that, the patrons of the Traveler’s Rest got to their feet, drawing their weapons and advancing on him.  Jak quietly asked Thom if they were the Citadel’s people, to which he replied no – and repeated that he was sorry, though this time, it sounded like he was genuinely sorry for not having believed his friend.  Jak steeled himself.  As he spoke a code phrase to Ivello’s rat, which jumped out of his coat and scurried away, he turned back to Thom with a determined look on his face.  “Just like the Terminus job”, he declared.  Thom nodded, and they sprang into action.  

Pulling the magical lion’s tooth he’d bought in Graywall from his pocket, Jak threw it to the ground behind Tik and spoke the command word, praying that he hadn’t been swindled.  As the tooth disintegrated in a cloud of smoke, the form of a lion emerged from it, snapping at Tik’s leg as Jak shoved the traitor backwards into his new ally.  Caught off-guard but catching his balance just in time to avoid the lion’s jaws, Tik jerked in a different direction as Kayde’s spear lanced just past his head, wiping the smirk off his face at last.  Backpedaling away, the lion caught his cloak as he stumbled back and pulled out his rapier. Feinting up at Kayde, who had jumped onto the table for a better vantage point, he called out to his men to take them dead or alive.  With Jak’s exhortation to get out of this mess and sort things out later ringing in his ears, Thom flung his dagger at Tik, who once again managed to dodge at the last second.  Convinced he had the upper hand, the traitor was nothing if not persistent.

Having received and understood Jak’s message, Aruget bolted out of the Drunken Rabbit and called on Dol Arrah to protect him as Razu ran past him into the doorway of the Traveler’s Rest and flung her own dagger at the nearest Emerald Claw agent.  Following hot on their heels, Ivello pushed past Razu and summoned a freezing wind which blew open the tavern’s shuttered windows, enveloping Tik and sapping his strength.  As Kayde made quick work of one of the goons flanking him, the one rushing Jak buried her mace in the wall beside him while Ivello and Razu traded blows with three more.

Seeing the mess in the doorway, Aruget roared as he raised his shield and rushed the enemy closest to his sister, slamming him and the one behind him down to the ground.  As the closer one fell, Aruget sent the Tiger’s Blade flying, slicing the man’s head clean off.  Further inside, Tik finally got a good swing at Kayde, knocking him down and moving towards the door – which was still blocked by Ivello, Aruget, and Razu, as well as the bodies of several of his men.  Thirsty for information even in the heat of battle, Ivello saw an opportunity.  Reaching into his pouch, he found one of the scrolls of mind-reading looted from his assassin’s cabin back on the Kordenga.  Prying deep into Tik’s thoughts as the scroll disintegrated in his hands, Ivello sought to uncover Demise’s ultimate plan for the Ashen Crown.

Back in the heat of battle, Jak stepped between Thom and his foe, drawing Yeraa’s sword and plunging it into the man’s chest.  Raising the bloodied blade above his head to show Tik, his lion jumped on the man who’d come up behind him, dragging him to the ground.  The man’s blood-curdling screams filled the room as he was mauled, and Jak commanded the lion to go after Tik next.  As it rushed the traitor, Tik angled his rapier just right, using the lion’s momentum against it and driving his blade through its eye.  

As Thom swung around to flank Kayde’s attackers, the performer was putting on a show to be remembered.  Running another enemy through and dealing a nasty blow to a second, his luck finally ran out as yet another Emerald Claw agent advanced on his position.  Finding just the right opening, her sword tore into Kayde’s gut.  Staggering back as blood gushed from his side, he glanced behind him to see two more enemies close in on Thom.  The party had dealt a nasty blow to Tik and his men…but the fight wasn’t over yet, and it seemed like the tide might have turned against them.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: do you have any personal long-term goals or aspirations?
  • It was great to see Aruget’s sister finally make an appearance. We had hoped for Aruget to be able to pursue more of the lead into his brother’s death while we were in Graywall but…uh…stuff happened. Perhaps it will make for an excellent epilogue.
  • Hey, remember that time when Jak and Aruget were in jail, and Aruget was trying to do some tricky stuff but was out of bennies, but luckily had a card that would replenish his bennies for a price? And how Lestok and I egged him on out-of-character to play that card because I, at least, thought things couldn’t get any worse? Haha, yeah, about that. The name of that card was “Betrayed!” and the description of it reads that a trusted ally will turn against the party…and it finally came home to roost. If Thom survives this (please survive this), that’s going to make for an interesting conversation. This is a big deal for Jak. Him and Thom have always been as close as brothers, so…yeah. At least he’s not working for the Emerald Claw and was also deceived by Tik, right?
  • However, Kayde had his own ace up his sleeve this time: one of our favourite adventure cards, “Spill the Beans.” Playing it on Tik is what got him to reveal his affiliations and plans in front of Thom…and what convinced Thom that he’d been tricked, and should be on our side. I don’t think anything will top the time Ivello played that card on an inanimate object, but I’m pretty glad that this play had the added bonus of Thom believing Jak’s story at last!
  • The lion’s noble sacrifice was how we all learned that Tik has the First Strike edge, which grants him a free attack on anyone who moves into his reach. Kayde’s spear has First Strike on it as an enchantment, which has served him very well in this fight, but now it seems the tables have turned against us! Rest in peace, lion. You did good.
  • A neat mechanic in Savage Worlds that we have not had the opportunity to use until last night is that of players having allied Extras under their command. Thom and Razu each had their own initiative, but myself and Aruget respectively controlled them. The lion, being a magical item, was a special case that moved and acted on Jak’s initiative, but the same principle applied of being responsible for its decisions. It definitely added a new dimension to the encounter.
  • Between having the Bad Luck hindrance (which starts him off every session with one less bennie than everyone else) and not being shy about spending them, Kayde – as usual – ended the session with none to spare. Which was very unfortunate when the final attack of the night dealt him three wounds he couldn’t soak. One more hit will incapacitate him and have him making a Vigor roll for his life. So that is our cliffhanger for the week: will Kayde live to fight another day?