Session Recap week 4: Telling Stories

Waking before the others to help Fishguts assemble and hand out the platters of hardtack that qualified as breakfast aboard the Storm Reaver, Daina once again found the cook deep in his cups and reeking of alcohol.  Sighing, she admonished him to take it easy today, and gently but firmly reached out to try to take the mug from the belligerent dwarf’s hand.  Jerking it away, he shouted at her to get her own while she scolded him for leaving her to her own devices the day before.  As she began to leave with the trays, he ordered her to return to the galley as soon as possible, for the captain had requested a special meal that evening.  Too drunk to expound on that, he shooed her away to her duties, and she left with another exasperated sigh.

With everyone fed, Scourge handed out his own duties for the day.  Trucco was ordered into the rigging again.  His attempt to ingratiate himself to the sour taskmaster after two straight evenings of lashings fell flat, and with uncharacteristic caution Trucco threw himself into his work in the hope of impressing his new boss.

Assigned to scrub the deck along with Rus, Torlan waited for an opportunity and asked his companion to cover for him while he slipped belowdecks to pay a visit to the quartermaster.  Behind a closed half-door with bars to pass items through, Torlan had his first good look at Cutthroat Grok at last.  A tall, powerfully built half-orc with her long hair pulled back into a ponytail on the top of her head above shaved sides, her most defining feature was the source of her nickname: a gnarled, ugly scar that ran across her neck from ear to ear, and which to Torlan’s eye had very obviously been caused by a knife.

As he came closer, he spied a little halfling at the door, who spun around as Grok turned her back and began stomping down the hall towards Torlan while cursing up a storm.  A friendly query from the old dwarf opened the door for the halfling to unload her frustrations on Torlan.  Agitated and exasperated, she told him that Grok had taken her fiddle, and wouldn’t give it back.  Grok didn’t like her attitude, but she was clearly the one at fault, and ought to be thrown down to Khyber.  Torlan remarked that he didn’t like people trying to take advantage of him either, and the halfling responded with a surprisingly strong but friendly punch to Torlan’s arm, immediately taking a shine to him.  She’d heard about him putting some of Master Scourge’s cronies in their place the day before, and he mused that it seemed both he and she subscribed to the notion of picking on someone your own size.  She brashly declared that all the pirates knew better than to mess with Rosie —  Rosie Cusswell!  She’d kick their asses from here to Khyber!  Ducking into the galley, she asked Torlan if he’d come to talk to Grok, and he revealed that he was looking to get his own instrument back from the stores.  Her eyes lit up at that.  If Torlan were able to retrieve her fiddle as well, she’d be very grateful.  He suggested that they pool their resources to do so, but she had no money, and he inquired what she might give him in return for his help.  She promised friendship, and someone to accompany him when he played.  Was he one of those stupid loners who didn’t mind playing alone?  He told her she couldn’t promise anything. Rosie threw up her hands and declared that she didn’t care, stomping off cursing up a storm once again.

Bemused, Torlan returned to the quartermaster, who demanded to know what he wanted.  He replied that he’d come to bargain, and asked her if she didn’t mind being called Cutthroat.  She laughed and said that she didn’t mind at all — she wore her name as a badge of honour.  He agreed it was good to wear ones scars with pride, turning his head to reveal the side of his head where hair would never grow again, and got down to business.  He was looking for his harp.  He pointed out that it was of no use to anyone else on board, and in the absence of any suitable goods to trade, Grok asked if he would perform for the crew that night.  He asked what kind of songs she was interested in, and she declared that the bawdy ones were the best.  He counter-offered with a promise of the tale of the Bloody Beggar of Dollen-on-the-River, and she conceded that the captain wasn’t likely to care about his harp one way or the other, passing it through the bars to him and telling him that he owed her five nights of songs.  Not yet finished, he offered her a galifar for Rosie’s fiddle.  The halfling’s fiddle? she snarled.  He asked what it mattered to her, and she insisted on fifteen sovereigns.  Finding himself a little short thanks to Daina’s failed attempt at gambling the previous evening, he suggested that she take what he had and glean the rest from a cut of his tips.  Grok sneered at the suggestion that any of the “bozos” on board the Storm Reaver might tip a performance, but eventually relented, and took his offer in exchange for one additional night of songs. Satisfied, he left with both his harp and Rosie’s fiddle in hand.

Down in the galley, Fishguts was still three sheets to the wind.  Unable to pry any more information about the captain’s special dinner request from the drunken cook before he finally passed out in a stupor, she poked her head out into the hall and called for a runner.  After a few minutes, a dwarf she’d seen working with Master Scourge came in and demanded to know what she wanted.  She pointed at Fishguts, passed out in his chair, and told the dwarf that he’d said there was to be a special meal for the captain but had provided no further instructions.  She asked him to go find out what that meal was to be, for it benefited everyone to keep the captain happy, and he walked away laughing uproariously.

The galley was still a chaotic mess, but as Daina rummaged around trying to find what she needed for the day’s meal, she came across a better prize: a shortsword, wedged between a table and a cupboard.  Electing to keep it hidden for later, she focused on her work, and the day passed fairly quickly.

Evening fell, and the Bloody Hour passed uneventfully aside from one lashing delivered to one of Scourge’s lackeys.  As Daina served dinner alone, Torlan began preparing to regale the crew with the tale of The Bloody Beggar of Dollen-on-the-River as he’d promised Grok that he would.  

Rus and Trucco were sitting together as they had been the previous night, and while they chatted, Rus spotted Sandara Quinn and waved her over.  Thanking her for fixing Trucco’s nose, he asked if she’d been down to the cargo hold lately.  Lowering his voice, he told her that there was someone down there, and she whispered back that Master Scourge considered Owlbear something of a pet.  The first day she’d been on the ship, she’d seen the big man forced to fight for the crews entertainment. Rus told her that he looked like he was hurting, and asked again if she could help him.  Getting serious for once as Trucco realized that Rus was talking about a person and not an actual owlbear, the usually self-focused rogue insisted that they had to free him.  Rus pointed out that Owlbear had nowhere to go if they did, but that he hated seeing anyone be mistreated like that, and figured they could at least help him in some small fashion.

Turning his head towards the sound of a small, pointed cough, Rus found himself face to face with Daina, who’d been quietly watching the conversation from a distance.  “Oh, you’re that — that soldier” he said.  “What unit were you in?”  Daina replied that she’d been with the House Deneith 85th and Rus offered that he’d been a part of the Order of the Northern Cross.  “It shows,” she replied.  “May I join you?”  

Taking an empty seat, Daina nodded at Trucco and commended him for keeping his head down and staying out of trouble this day.  He mused that she was better than him at following orders, and she replied that they all had their parts to play.  Looking sidelong at Sandara, Daina asked her to give the three newcomers some privacy, and as the other woman left, she lowered her voice and suggested that she’d learned a few things over the past couple of days.  Perhaps Rus and Trucco had as well, and now might be the time to start sharing them.  She praised Trucco again for keeping his head down, but told him that the time would come when that would no longer be the wisest course of action, and that they should see where the wind took them.  Eagerly catching Daina’s drift, Trucco’s eyes lit up as he expressed his hope that that time would come soon, and Rus agreed that a storm was brewing.  She told them about the harpoons and spears stored in the galley should they need them, and suggested that her new friend Conchobar might turn out to be of use to them.  Having worked with the gnome in the rigging for the past four days, Trucco agreed that he seemed out of place on board a ship.  

Changing gears, Daina asked Rus and Trucco how they were holding up.  Rus replied that everything was relative when you’ve been press-ganged, and Daina mused that she’d seen worse days, and that she was certain Rus had as well.  Trucco piped up that he had been press-ganged several times in the past and had come to see it as a vacation of sorts, but that the Storm Reaver was definitely a unique experience, eliciting a joke from Rus that he’d be sure to write about it in his journal.  Reigning in the jokes, Daina’s face grew serious as she inquired if she could presume to ask them both a favour — and she would owe each of them a favour in return.  Rus remarked that favours seemed to be a popular currency on board, and Daina ruefully replied that she had nothing else to trade. 

Gesturing over at Torlan, she told Rus and Trucco that she knew the old man could take care of himself.  He’d been doing so since long before she was born, and would likely still be doing so after her death.  All the same, she told them that she would consider it a personal favour if they helped him continue to look out for himself, as she had no intention of losing him to this ship.  Rus asked if Torlan was in some kind of immediate danger, reminding Daina that Ms. Quinn was some sort of healer.  She replied that Scourge and the Cloud Reaver dwarves seemed to have it out for him in particular, and that if Torlan got into trouble that she couldn’t get him out of by herself, she would owe each of them a favour for trying.  Trucco declared that she’d already helped him out, and to consider them even.  As he spat into his oustretched hand, she responded in kind, and they shook on it. Wiping her hand down on her trousers, she made the same offer to Rus.  “What say you?” she asked.  “A favour for a favour.”  Rus shook on it as well, and they continued to talk among themselves for a while.

Seeking out the excitable little halfling whose fiddle Torlan had retrieved earlier that morning, he handed the instrument over to Rosie, who crowed in delight along with her now familiar string of expletives.  Reminding her about their deal, Rosie enthusiastically punched him in the shoulder again and began to accompany the tale he spun.  The Bloody Beggar of Dollen-on-the-River was a story he’d told Daina many times, for it had first been told to him by a guard during his stint as a prisoner of war in Cyre in her great grandfather’s day.

“There was once a beggar who sat upon the docks of the Cyran border, who like many others was left without home and without health by the war.  He panhandled and listened to what tales would be told by travelers and sailors.  One day, a crew of privateers came into port, looking to resupply.  They marked the beggar for his circumstance and abused him, and dragged him through the mud.  But not all appearances are as they seem, for the beggar was himself once a smuggler, and he stole away onto the privateer’s docked ship, and found their Karrnathi letter of marque.  For Dollen-on-the-River was a Cyran port, and he gave that information to the Cyran sailors and they formed a mob.  And it was the beggar himself who slashed the throat of the privateers who had harmed him.” 

As Torlan’s audience hung on his skillfully spun words, Rus and Daina chatted some more while Trucco quickly became distracted by the arm wrestling contest happening off to one side.  The table had been strewn with broken glass that would cut up the losers arms and hands, and the opportunistic rogue devised a cunning idea.  With a small distraction and some sleight of hand to shuffle the glass around in a way that favoured one competitor over the other, he successfully bet on the winner, and came away with eight more galifars in his pocket before retiring for the night.

A new day came.  As everyone arrived on deck and Daina saw to passing out breakfast, she and Torlan noticed that the ship had been steadily sailing north, away from the Cloud Reaver principality.  Torlan could sense how fast they were sailing, and it occurred to him that the ship must be made of soarwood, while Trucco felt that they weren’t sailing as fast as they could be.  He recalled Rus sharing Sandara’s story about Prince Mika’s failed reaving and subsequent encounter with a Karrnathi galleon the week before, and suspected that it had taken damage that had yet to be repaired.

Down in the galley, Daina found Fishguts to be somewhat sober for the first time in three days.  He still enlisted her to help prepare the meals, though he’d be taking the lead for once.  As they worked, he found himself in need of more cooking oil, and sent Daina down to the hold to find some.  Faced with an assortment of largely unlabeled crates and barrels, Daina got to work rummaging through the stores when she heard a familiar voice behind her.

“You a little lost there, lass?”

Once again, Conchobar’s eyepatch had switched sides since the last time he and Daina had met.  Sweeping his hat off with a flourish and a deep bow, Daina gave a rueful smile and replied that she wasn’t lost, but it seemed her cooking oil was — would he like to join the search?  He was pleased to have an excuse to spend time with her, and as they worked, she picked up the threads of their last conversation which had revealed that Conchobar’s circumstances were similar to her and Torlan’s.  He spoke of having been press-ganged in Elysium — though he had not known Sandara Quinn until after they were both taken aboard — and admitted with some regret in his voice that he had made the mistake of losing at cards to Mister Lagraa.  He’d also noticed something off with his drink that night, and found himself on the Storm Reaver the following day.  While he spoke, Daina observed.  She sensed that he was clearly no sailor, and that his first love was himself.  While her first goal in courting his friendship was to gain enough allies to eventually be able to turn the Storm Reaver back to Regalport, she also sensed that the time was not yet right to broach that subject with Conchobar.

Finding a small flask of oil at last, Daina stood up and declared that she, at least, had found what she was looking for, and reminded Conchobar that he knew where to find her whenever he wanted to chat.  His eyes lit up as he eagerly replied that he always enjoyed the company of the fairer sex.  Sighing, Daina informed the dandy gnome that she could not give him everything he sought — prompting dramatic protestations of wounded feelings — but suggested that he would find that simply being her friend came with benefits enough of its own.  With a mischievous wink, he returned to his duties on deck as Daina made her way back to the galley.

After several hours of keeping his head down and coiling, stowing, and repairing all the ropes on the main deck as ordered, Trucco couldn’t contain himself any longer.  Sidling up to Master Scourge, he remarked that he’d noticed the ship wasn’t sailing as well as it could, and suggested that they perhaps make port somewhere for repairs.  “Did I ask you for your suggestions?” Scourge growled.  “You don’t even matter on this ship.  Why are you even talking to me instead of handling those ropes?  Three lashes at Bloody Hour for laziness.”  Trucco protested that he had already done his job, and very well at that, prompting Master Scourge to ask him if the sun had gone down yet.  “Well, somewhere in the world, it has” Trucco glibly replied.  “Six lashes,” Scourge growled back.  “And if I don’t see your work, I’ll put you in the sweat box.”  Visibly holding himself back from getting into any more trouble, Trucco returned to work as ordered and steeled himself for his punishment.

In-between passing messages, Torlan paid another visit to Cutthroat Grok — but this time, he just wanted to talk.  He asked how he’d liked his story the night before, and she had.  She asked if he had more where that came from, and he rumbled that he’d seen more than a few sunsets and had plenty of stories to tell.  As they chatted more, she told him how, as a child, she’d gotten her namesake scar when she was robbed and left for dead in Port Verge.  Aboard the Storm Reaver, she was friendly with Fishguts, but not so much the other officers, and she enjoyed spending time with the crew.  She also enjoyed a good drink, and the shipboard grog wasn’t cutting it.  Torlan filed away that last bit of information to relay to Daina later, in the hopes that her work in the galley could help them gain Grok’s favour.

As Daina was making her way back up from the hold, flask of oil in hand, Giffer Tibbs came racing past her.  His face was ashen, and he was cradling one arm while his leg was streaked with blood.  Running up the stairs to Mister Lagraa, they had an animated conversation Daina couldn’t make out…and then the first mate spotted Daina.  “You!” she shouted, pointing at Daina.  “And you!” she shouted as Torlan came up the stairs behind her, and turned to Rus and Trucco up on deck as well.  “There’s some kind of rats causing trouble in the bilge.  Go down there, and don’t come back up until they’re all dead.  Understood?”  Trucco wondered aloud if he was being ordered to catch rats because of his feline ancestors, and Daina led the group down to the galley.  Informing Fishguts that she’d be taking some of his things in order to deal with trouble in the bilge, he nodded and reminded her that he’d still need her help in the galley when she was done.  She assured him she’d be there, and told him that Mister Lagraa was on her case again, but she’d be finished with the rats in no time at all.  He replied that he’d be surprised if Mister Lagraa wasn’t on her case.  She raised an eyebrow and asked what he meant by that, but he waved her off and told her to ask him later.

As Daina took a spear for herself and distributed harpoons to Torlan and Trucco, Fishguts called to them to take a lantern.  Rus took a light in one hand and Torlan’s gift of a dagger in the other, and the four of them made their way down to the bilge.  As they walked, Daina told the others that she’d seen the severity of Giffer’s injuries, and didn’t believe they had been caused by any normal rat.    

The bilge was dark, stuffy, and foul as the four new allies came down the ladder into stagnant water.  Thick cobwebs covered the corners of the ceiling, and they could see nothing past the surface of the dark and brackish water that came up to Rus and Daina’s knees.  As Rus scanned the ceiling in the event that something more unpleasant than spiders lived in the cobwebs, Daina stayed by him and the lantern while testing the water with the haft of her spear in the hopes of scaring up any rats, or avoiding unstable footing.  While Torlan assisted her, Trucco’s opportunistic curiosity got the best of him, and he peeled off from the group to see if there was anything he could steal.  His search paid off, and he came across a small assortment of armour and weapons as well as some gold.  However, before he could bring the news of his find back to the others, he sensed something moving in the water as a massive rat leapt out of the water and latched onto Torlan’s leg.  Its teeth tore him open, barely missing an artery as Daina cried out for Rus and Trucco to help her.  

Trucco moved in to circle the rat, jamming his spear between its jaws as he tried to make it loosen its grip on Torlan as Rus came in with his dagger to force the creature to readjust itself, giving Daina the opening she needed.  Letting out a raw, wordless yell, she drove her spear into the creature, skewering it up and off of Torlan and shoving it down into the water, stabbing it a few more times for good measure.  As Torlan stumbled back into a crate, covered in his own blood, Daina hurried to his side while Rus and Trucco remained on guard for anything else that might be lurking in the water…

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: do you believe in the rule of law or is personal freedom more important to you? How did you come by this philosophy? Rus: “yeah, I believe in law and order.” Torlan: “I believe in respecting the laws and traditions of my clan and our lords.” Daina: “I believe in respecting fair and just laws that benefit the common good.” Trucco: “the rule of what now?”
  • Trucco, Torlan, and Daina all leaned heavily on the Influence action this week, and Phillip clarified a few things for us about the mechanics of it. Where I’d mistakenly thought that its purpose was to try to achieve a specific, one-time goal, Phillip explained that it was a longer-term activity to gain an NPCs alliance and trust, and that it is not necessarily mutually applied to all party members. For example, Daina has now had two successful interactions with Conchobar, but he is not yet considered an ally, and Torlan’s first encounters with Rosie earned him a lot of favour with her, but that’s not love at first sight either. As a huge Dragon Age fan, Influence reminds me an awful lot of the friendship/rivalry system, particularly as seen in Inquisition, where your words and actions determine how others see you, and those bonds (or rivalries) are built up over the course of multiple conversations.
  • Trucco telling Master Scourge that it was five o’ clock somewhere broke the table real good. We were in stitches. He is delightfully incorrigible.
  • What’s up with Fishguts’ ominous warning to Daina regarding Master Lagraa’s attention? They haven’t interacted since the first day on board, but it seems Lagraa hasn’t forgotten Daina’s defiance. Place your bets on how badly this is going to go for me!
  • Yes, we did fight a Rodent of Unusual Size, and yes, it was fantastic. Here’s a quick breakdown of events:
    • Since Michael elected to keep his failed Notice roll, the rat had The Drop on Torlan, giving it a +4 on top of a +2 from its Wild Attack. Phillip, in turn (and egged on a little by Michael), spent two bennies for a total of three damage rolls until he hit the jackpot:
The breakdown of the rat’s attack on Torlan
  • The wildly swingy rolls continued as Michael spent a couple of bennies himself to soak three of six wounds, and at the end of the session we retroactively realized that he had in fact soaked four, but we’d forgotten to apply the +2 soak roll bonus from the Unarmored Hero setting rule we have in play.
    • At that point, Torlan was also last in initiative, and Daina was up next. I had the Teamwork adventure card in my arsenal, and played it with Kevin and Ernesto’s blessing to double their support bonuses for my attack as I went on hold. With the standard +4 bonus for support rolls uncapped due to the use of an adventure card, and Daina using her Martial Flexibility to give herself the Formation Fighter edge at the start of her turn for an additional +1 to her Gang Up bonus, I rolled at a +7 for 14 to hit and 26 damage, ending the rat in one swift motion. This was a really wonderful example of teamwork, not just in how important and effective it is mechanically in Savage Worlds, but also in how important and effective it is between players. Kevin and Ernesto choosing to support me in this way supported the narrative beautifully both by allowing Daina to ultimately be the one to save Torlan, and meeting the circumstances of the favours she’d promised to owe them the day before. Though Trucco insisted that he didn’t owe her anything, I’ll be curious to see when and what Rus decides to cash in.

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