All posts by Elly

Seekers of the Ashen Crown Week 43: The Dawn Will Come

With Demise gone, the wraith that had fled from Aruget’s holy light did not return, and Ivello made a happy discovery: while his trusty quarterstaff had indeed been lost in the attack that killed Scorn, he spotted a glint of metal among some rocks and went over to investigate.  Yeraa’s sword had been blown aside and not into the lava pool as he’d initially believed, and he gathered it up in silence.  One way or another, he would use it to honour the murdered duur’kala’s memory.

Looking back down the tunnel where Demise had fled, Ivello considered using his telepathic connection with Malcanus’ bats to scout ahead, lamenting that he still didn’t know what Demise had wanted the Ashen Crown for as Jak murmured that sometimes, you had to live without getting the answers you were hoping for.  Remembering that Yeraa’s journal contained detailed instructions on how to perform the Rite of Arkantaash that would reforge the Crown, the party began to debate the safety and wisdom of doing so.  Ivello argued against it, and Jak agreed – there were too many red flags, they didn’t know what unforeseen consequences might emerge from performing the ritual (or, worse, trying and failing), and perhaps it wasn’t even right for them to do as chaat’oor.  The Kech Volaar could very well be offended if a bunch of outsiders completed such a ritual on their behalf.  Kayde agreed that they should get the Crown back to the Citadel as tasked, and not do Demise’s work for her.  The lone voice of dissent, Aruget wanted to conduct the ritual in order to honour Yeraa’s wishes, but was eventually convinced by Jak and Kayde that this wasn’t the time and place to do so.  Ivello pushed back at Kayde’s insistence at returning to the Citadel – he’d been profoundly suspicious of them and their motives from the beginning, and saw no reason to start trusting them now, especially after all they’d been through.  However, Kayde’s silver tongue convinced Ivello to carry through with their plan.

As they gathered the surviving Deathsgate mercenaries and prepared to leave the tunnels, Aruget made good on his promises.  Awarding Minyu the shifter a hefty bonus for having racked up the most kills, he distributed additional hazard pay to the others as well and together, the party and the mercenaries made their way back to the surface.

The return trip was blessedly uneventful.  Emerging from the tunnels to the dark, stuffy, but relatively safe and familiar surface of the Cogs, Jak called out to a passing labourer to ask what time it was, having lost all sense of it down in the lava pools.  The man replied that it was late afternoon, and they continued back to Thom’s safehouse in Blackbones.  There, they found him keeping watch over an unconscious Tik.  Having been awake when they’d left him a couple of hours earlier, Ivello questioned what had happened, with Thom’s only reply being a shifty smile.  Jak smirked at his friend in return, and then asked him to send a message to Captain Kalaes to warn him of their imminent arrival, and let him know that the situation had changed – he didn’t want to find himself in the Citadel’s courtyard with a blade at his throat and a sniper in the window.

After Thom received a curt reply to “bring them in, with the evidence”, they made their way up to the Citadel’s headquarters in Middle Central with the Deathsgate mercenaries still in tow, having been paid for a full day’s work and their presence making Ivello more comfortable.  Stopping a short distance away, Malcanus sent a bird to scout ahead, and relayed that there were some Brelish soldiers hiding in the shadows.  Ivello passed the information along to Jak, asking the younger man how he wanted to proceed – they were back on his home turf, after all.  Jak, sensing Ivello’s suspicions and hesitancy, replied that if Ivello didn’t want to go inside, he would understand and respect that, but in that case to give him all the pieces of the Crown and he’d take care of things.  Ivello declined, declaring that he wasn’t about to let Jak fuck things up without him this time.  Letting out a short, sharp laugh, Jak smiled sadly and acknowledged that Ivello had been a good friend to him.  Pulling a scroll of Sanctuary out of his pouch, Ivello cast it on Jak, and walked forward with him towards the Citadel’s front steps.

From the left and right, six soldiers emerged from the shadows to flank them.  Silently walking the party up to the doors, the man who appeared to be their commander turned around and ordered Jak and his friends to hand over all their weapons and magic.  Pointing at the dragonmark on his neck, Kayde sarcastically replied that they surely didn’t expect him to flay his skin off, and under the commander’s glaring eye he opened his coat to reveal the large assortment of throwing knives hidden within and began dropping them one by one.  Encouraged by Kayde’s boldness, Ivello handed one of the soldiers his feather token and told him to go jump off a bridge, while Kayde took malicious compliance to a new level by stripping down to his underwear and handing another soldier his suit of shiftweave.  The commander turned and nodded at someone in the doorway to wave a wand over the party, then ordered Ivello to remove his boots.  Still feeling bold, and with no love lost between him and the Citadel, Ivello snidely asked if they had something else for him to wear on his feet.  The commander’s eyes narrowed and his face grew dark; he’d had enough.  He asked Ivello how much more difficult he wanted to make this, threatening to shackle him, and perhaps worse.  Alarmed, Jak whispered to his friend that if he didn’t want Jak to fuck things up, then he shouldn’t fuck things up himself before they even began.  Ivello grudgingly removed his boots, and they were led inside to a small, austere, windowless room containing nothing but a solid wood table and a handful of chairs.  The door closed behind them, and they could hear the sound of it being locked from the outside.  Ivello asked Jak if the kind of welcome they’d had – being surrounded by soldiers and stripped of their belongings – was normal.  Jak replied that, considering what they’d been accused of, they’d gotten the friendly welcome.

After a tense fourty-five minutes, the door opened and Captain Kalaes strode in along with a few guards and his gnomish secretary, Bronal Tuck.  No one spoke.  Taking a seat on the opposite side of the table from Jak and his friends, Kalaes gave them a once-over, crossed his arms, and finally broke the silence, saying “will someone tell me what the hell is going on?”  Jak replied that he’d love to.  As Jak started from the beginning of their journey, leaving nothing out, Kalaes listened with no interruptions and then demanded to see the pieces of the Ashen Crown.  They’d been removed from the party at the door and given to Thom for safekeeping, and he arranged them on the table as ordered.  Kalaes stared at the relics, shook his head, looked over at a still-unconscious Tik, and ordered the guards to put him in a cell to be questioned later – and there was no need to be gentle.

Alone with the party, Kalaes asked them if they were sure that these pieces of the Crown were, in fact, the genuine articles.  Jak replied that they knew at least three of them worked as they’d been told they would, at which Kalaes grimly informed him that shortly after their departure from Sharn, Professor Gydd Nephret – the Morgrave scholar who had originally identified the significance of Ashtura’s blade, earning the party the Citadel’s attention in the first place – had turned up dead, and they no longer had an expert in Sharn who could confirm the relics’ authenticity.  As the party processed this news, Kalaes turned to Bronal and ordered him to take note that Demise was a high-value target and enemy of Breland who should be apprehended…and that the party’s names were cleared.  However, their mission wasn’t quite complete.  Did they have a means of contacting the Kordenga?  Did Yeraa’s journal list any contacts in Darguun?  Jak replied that she had indeed named someone she was to return the Crown to – a seer named Huugan – and Kalaes announced that the matter was settled.  The party would go to Darguun and finish the job.  Ivello pushed Kalaes for more information, particularly in regards to what he had learned about Demise, to which the captain replied that that was Citadel business.  Seizing onto that cue, Jak agreed that Ivello wasn’t a Citadel agent – but what about him?  Was he going to Darguun in a more official capacity now?  Frowning, Kalaes reminded Jak that under no circumstances were the Dhakaani to know of Breland’s involvement in retrieving the Ashen Crown; there was nothing “official” about it.  Jak shook his head.  The captain had misunderstood him.  Gathering his courage, he bluntly spoke the only question that mattered to him: was he being officially reinstated into the Dark Lanterns?

Kalaes gave the young agent a long, calculating look, and answered his question with a question.  Had Jak been in jail?  Frowning, Jak replied that he had, but only under false charges.  Kalaes pressed him again: had he been arrested by the Citadel?  With ice starting to clench at his guts, Jak cautiously replied that yes, he had been.  As his face continued to give nothing away, Kalaes informed the anxious young man that the fact that Jak was sitting in front of the him, as a free man, meant that yes, he had his job back.  He’d helped root out and capture a deep double-agent, and now it was time for him to clean up Tik’s mess as a full and proper member of the Dark Lanterns once again.

Jak sat in his chair stunned, his face blank, unable to speak.  It was over.  He’d done it.  He was home.  

As Jak quietly tried to process what had just happened, Ivello pushed Kalaes for information once again.  He questioned if it was normal to send agents out into the field with so little intel, to which the captain replied that he’d told them what he needed to know.  Ivello continued to push – surely the Citadel had gained more information about Demise in the weeks the party had been travelling.  Though Kalaes was generally quite stoic, he was starting to become annoyed with Ivello, and retorted that Demise hadn’t played her hand until Tik did, and he’d fooled them all.  If Ivello didn’t want to finish the mission, that was his prerogative.  Ivello replied that now Kalaes was the one making assumptions, and he excused himself to wait outside.

Shrugging at the outburst, Kayde told Kalaes not to mind Ivello, and the captain rumbled that Ivello had a chip on his shoulder regarding institutional authority, which was understandable given his past, but not Kalaes’ problem.  Snapping out of his daze, Jak reiterated what had been asked of them – to travel to Darguun and deliver the Ashen Crown to Yeraa’s advisor, Huugan – and questioned what more there was to know.  They knew what they needed to do.  From his vantage point leaning against the back wall, Aruget – who had observed the entire scene in silence thus far – spoke up, asking Kalaes how long Tik had worked for the Citadel.  Kalaes replied that he’d been with them a long time, and had there been any suspicion of his treachery, he would never have been assigned to pursue the Ashen Crown.  Aruget nodded, and commented that Tik had been very hungry for power, to which Kalaes simply replied that he’d been a good spy, and that he and the Citadel had plans to spend a long time questioning Tik.  Continuing to think out loud, Aruget mused that the Citadel seemed to attract people who worked for personal gain, and that he hoped such treachery never happened again.  Kalaes agreed that he did not want to see it happen again either, and that it had been more embarrassing than he cared to admit.  Aruget remarked that it was certainly something Kalaes would like to keep out of the newspapers, and that it would have been quite a problem if Jak hadn’t played his part in taking Tik down, and that that might be worth more than simply giving him his job back.  Leaning back in his chair, Jak silently raised an eyebrow at Aruget and wondered where he was going with this.  Kalaes replied that, as he’d said, he had taken note of all this, and as the captain looked back over at Jak, Aruget noticed that the normally hard and unreadable man’s face seemed to soften. 

With their business concluded, Kalaes waved the guards back in to return everyone’s equipment, and told them that he looked forward to the successful completion of their mission.  Jak replied that he wished for the same, and asked the captain for a quiet word.  Closing the door behind the party as they saw to the business of dressing and re-arming themselves, Jak steeled himself and looked Kalaes in the eye.  He had no idea what Aruget had intended Kalaes do for him, but he did have one more request: when he returned from Darguun, he wanted to be free of his old captain’s command, and work for Kalaes instead.  Kalaes nodded and replied that he’d see what he could do about that, and that he and Jak would talk more upon his return.  As he turned to leave, it occurred to Jak to ask for one last favour: he wanted to be notified when it came time to transport Tik to Wroat for his execution, because he wanted to be there.  Kalaes darkly replied that they’d see if Tik lasted that long.  Jak nodded, thanked the captain again, and returned to join the others in contacting the Kordenga…and settling down for a well-deserved meal together.

Five days later, the Kordenga moored at the Orien enclave in Darguun’s capital, Rhukaan Draal.  Quickly finding himself overwhelmed by the city’s crowded riot of poor shacks and mismatched architecture, Kayde elected to hang back at the enclave and try to suss out if Demise or any of her cronies had made use of Orien’s teleportation services in the time since her defeat in the Dragon’s Forge.  Taking his time to enjoy the enclave’s comfortable pleasures of clean, plush seats and friendly faces, Kayde greased a few palms for information, but no one could recall if there had been a teleportation conducted recently.  Asking to be notified at his expense if anyone did make use of those services, he hung around a while longer before making his way back into the city.

While Kayde did his thing, Ivello decided to give Aruget a small tour of Rhukaan Draal.  It was the hobgoblin paladin’s first time in Darguun, and he was quite excited by all the new sights…and the unfamiliar but very appealing smells of food wafting out from assorted storefronts made his stomach start to rumble.  Ivello knew of a few places, and wound up leading his friend to the Warrior’s Respite.  Aruget happily pushed through the door, commenting that it seemed welcoming enough as several goblinoid patrons looked up from their drinks to stare at Ivello…but many more seemed to stare at Aruget, and the prominent symbol of Dol Arrah etched on his shield.  Blissfully unaware of any ill will, Aruget leaned forward on the bar and wished the bartender a good evening, declaring that Ivello had told him this was a good place to fill his belly.  Looking pointedly at the holy symbol tattooed on Aruget’s forearm, the bartender grunted that he wasn’t from around here.  Aruget loudly and happily declared that no he wasn’t!  He was here with his friend Ivello, who was returning to their beautiful city after many years away!  

At that, chairs screeched back across the floor and toppled backwards as the bar’s patrons rose to their feet, led by a familiar face – a bugbear who had beaten Ivello to within an inch of his life during the anti-foreigner riots that had accompanied the news of the Mourning reaching Rhukaan Draal four years earlier.  Vegdok One-Eye strode up to Ivello, shoving him back and growling that he remembered him, and he’d told him to leave Rhukaan Draal once already.  Frowning, Aruget asked Vegdok what he was talking about, and he snarled that Aruget had no business flaunting symbols of the Sovereign Host in a place that worshipped the Dark Six, and it was time for them to leave.  As Ivello quipped that it didn’t seem the Dark Six had smiled on Vegdok lately, the bugbear responded by cocking his fist, ready to throw a punch…until Ivello caught him with a stiff low blow, putting him down for the count.  With that, someone else smashed a chair over Aruget’s head, and all hell broke loose.  Though surrounded, the paladin was able to hold his own, emerging with nothing worse than a broken nose as Ivello swiped some meat for his friend on their way out. Just another day in Rhukaan Draal.

Content to leave Kayde to his intelligence-gathering at House Orien, and uninterested in partaking in a meal that didn’t smell nearly as good to Jak as it did to Aruget, the newly reinstated Dark Lantern had excused himself before Ivello and Aruget went to the Warrior’s Respite and found himself wandering the streets of Rhukaan Draal trying to get a lay of the land.  His feet eventually led him to the Bloody Market, the city’s trade district.  Crammed with tents, colourful awnings, and a smell Jak couldn’t identify and found hard to stomach even for someone who’d spent most of his life in Lower Tavicks, Jak had a hard time moving through the crowd as aggressive merchants grabbed at his clothing, shouting at him none too kindly to visit their stalls.  Brushing them off as quickly as they appeared, he observed that it wasn’t just the merchants who were aggressive: most of the negotiations taking place seemed to be on the verge of violence.  As he continued pushing his way through the mass of people, he caught a small movement out of the corner of his eye.  Sneaking up behind a merchant and customer engaged in a shouting match, a small, raggedly-dressed hobgoblin child reached their hand up to the table and made something disappear into their tunic.  Jak remembered his own childhood on the streets, and smiled sadly, quietly wishing the child good luck and a better life.  As the child began to make their getaway, the customer who had been arguing with the owner of that stall backed up, ready to throw a punch…and stumbled up against the child as they tried to sneak away.  Whipping around, the angry man saw the child fall to the ground as their ill-gotten goods spilled out of their tunic.  Turning his ire from the merchant to the urchin, he raised his arm to deliver the child a beating…and Jak’s hand wrapped around his fist, stopping his punch in mid-air as the smaller man stepped forward to block the blow.  Furious at being interrupted, he shoved at Jak, sending him tripping over the child and knocking the wind out of him as he hit the ground hard.  As more merchants joined the scene to shout at Jak, he got to his feet and managed to talk his way out of the situation as the child disappeared into the crowd.  Jak quickly scanned the area, trying to catch sight of them, but the market was crowded, and the child was small.  He murmured a small prayer to the Traveler to watch over them, and decided that was his cue to leave the market.

As the party regrouped, taking note of Jak favouring his bruised ribs and Aruget wearing his bloody nose with pride (and a huge grin on his face), Ivello led them to their ultimate destination: an imposing, palatial building made of red stone, rising high above the center of the city.  Khaar Mbar’ost, the Red House, built by House Cannith at Lhesh Haruuc’s orders to serve as his seat of power and a symbol of Darguun’s place in the future of Khorvaire.  Moving up to walk beside Ivello, Jak asked if the former diplomat had left Haruuc on good terms, to which Ivello replied that he liked to imagine they’d had a working relationship at least.  Jak asked if Haruuc respected him, and Ivello could not answer that with certainty.  He’d had little direct involvement with the Lhesh prior to sending the letter implicating Enzo working against him, and had gone into hiding immediately after.  Haruuc had always treated Ivello cordially, but it was hard to say how much of that deference was directed to him as an individual versus being directed to him as a representative of a dragonmarked House that the Lhesh sought a good relationship with.  As they began to discuss the best way to find and approach Huugan, the Kech Volaar advisor that Yeraa had intended to deliver the Ashen Crown to, Jak questioned why they needed a new cover story: after all, they were just simple Morgrave researchers who had stumbled across Yeraa’s party and fallen in with her.  Jak noted that he’d kept Kalaes apprised of their progress as much as he was able over the course of their journey, and that it seemed reasonable to assume that Yeraa had done the same with Huugan – he might very well know of them already.  Ivello expressed his concern that he would likely be recognized in Khaar Mbar’ost, and that avoiding Haruuc might not be a decision entirely left up to the party.  Jak insisted that, if that happened, all Ivello had to do was tell Haruuc the truth: he’d fallen out with House Lyrandar after blowing the whistle on Enzo, and had been forced to start over in a new career.  After all, Jak noted, the best lies were those that contained the most truth.

With Ivello still a bit nervous, but prepared to take the lead in finding and talking with Huugan, The party made their way up the steps of Khaar Mbar’ost, eager to finish their mission and lay Yeraa’s spirit to rest at last.  It had been a long, hard road, but Jak was hopeful that everything would work out in the end.     

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: what item or possession do you have the most sentimental connection to, and what does that item mean to you?
  • Sometimes, the dice smile on us when we’re not looking. At the start of the session, the GM announced that he’d decided to roll to see where Ivello’s equipment wound up after the poltergeists sent it scattering…and the only roll to keep any of it was the one associated with Yeraa’s sword. Pretty cool, right?
  • From his first session with us, Aruget’s taken his self-imposed role as the party’s protector very seriously. He spent all four of his starting bennies on the persuasion roll to ask Kalaes to give Jak some added privileges or accolades within the Citadel, and after finally succeeding with a raise, I’m curious to see how that pans out once Jak returns to Sharn. Arguet’s got some pretty serious party big brother energy, and I’m here for it.
  • We could have walked straight into Khaar Mbar’ost right off the bat and finished the main story and rolled straight into epilogues next week…but we were given the offer to do Interludes in the city, and we’re kind of weak for Interludes, so that’s where the entire back half of the session went after arriving in Rhukaan Draal. I don’t think anyone minded. 🙂
  • There’s a lot for me to unpack after this session, and I’m still in a bit of a daze about it. When I built Jak, I gave him the Shamed hindrance to reflect his personal feelings and sense of self after getting himself indefinitely suspended due to not just addiction, but botching a job and endangering another agent because of it…and I also wanted it to guide his continued interactions with the Citadel and his place in the world. And I had no idea what a big role it would wind up playing. While I initially put it down as a minor hindrance, about halfway through the campaign, I realized that both I and the GM had been playing it as a major one, so we decided to make it official and everything that entails. And that’s when things got real. Ever since the party landed in Graywall in late April, we’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of this hindrance, both for Jak’s personal story and the overarching one.

That being said, my goal from the beginning has been to see Jak redeem himself and return to the Dark Lanterns. That’s how I’ve been playing him, and that goal has led to a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns. At the end of last week’s session, the GM announced that we were getting another advance, and with Demise’s plans foiled and Tik and the Ashen Crown in hand, I couldn’t imagine any more appropriate use of that advance than to get rid of Shamed.

You heard that right. Get rid of my old friend Shamed. A use of an advance that I don’t hear talked about much is the opportunity to remove a hindrance and its associated penalties. There are a couple of caveats to this; for one thing, it has to make sense for your character. You don’t get to just say “yeah I’m tired of having that hindrance” willy-nilly. And ultimately, it remains up to the GMs discretion to allow it, and in this case there was an added layer wherein Shamed has influenced not so much how Jak reacts to certain NPCs as it has influenced how certain NPCs react to Jak. So when it came to playing this hindrance, there was quite a bit about it that wasn’t up to me – it had a larger impact on the game world than Jak’s personal feelings and behaviour. When I originally approached my GM about getting rid of it, he refused, because at that time we hadn’t returned to the Citadel yet. I didn’t know what was in store for me, and he didn’t want me to take an advance of this magnitude based on what might happen. Which I think was entirely reasonable. The day of the session, he messaged me again to say I could go ahead with it. As it happened, with not everyone having a firm plan in place for their own advances, the goalposts shifted a little and we wound up taking that advance at the session’s halfway mark…which perfectly coincided with Jak’s reinstatement. That was one heck of a moment.

As a player, this is turning out to be very bittersweet. It is exactly the outcome I’ve been hoping for Jak for these last eleven months. I created him specifically with the goal of him being able to overcome this obstacle. And I guess that’s where the bittersweet comes from – unless I’m able to pick him up again in a future campaign (a proposition that is on the table, but our plans for the next campaign involve new characters), this very clearly marks the beginning of the end for Jak. He’s done what he came to do.

Jak’s important to me. I’ve never had the opportunity to play out a complex character arc to fruition like this before, he’s been a part of my life for almost a year, and him being redeemed at last and able to move forward with his life just drives home how much I’m going to miss him. He doesn’t need me anymore. 🙂

Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 42: In The Depth A Light Will Grow

Quickly moving away from the ledge that had claimed his fellow Deathsgate adventurer, the Talentan maskweaver Malcanus reached into his pouch and pulled out a handful of small bones.  Scattering them across the ground, he began to summon a spirit of nature to his aid, and as mist rose from the bones, it took the form of a swarm of bats. At Malcanus’ command, they flew up into the air, surrounding Demise’s head as her arms remained bound by Jak’s grappling hook far above the lava pool.

Having had the presence of mind to secure the pieces of the Ashen Crown, Ivello recalled that one of the relics – Murkoorak’s Orb – wielded some sort of destructive power, and he attempted to turn it against Demise.  Tendrils of green energy unlike anything he’d ever seen flew out of the orb and surrounded the necromancer, singeing the ends of her hair.  Tangled in a rope, surrounded by bats, and now feeling a taste of her own medicine, Demise let out a frustrated shriek that Kayde took as his cue.  Reaching into his robes, he produced a knife and flung it at the necromancer, but the friendly swarm of bats proved to be a hindrance as the knife lost its velocity cutting through them and fell into the lava without finding its target.  A few feet from Kayde, with his back to the ledge, Aruget took a swing at the nearest zombie and threw it off-balance before following up with a good shove that sent it to its death.  With the immediate threat of zombies cleared from the altar and the bridge, Aruget saw that Demise was still in the air and took cover behind a large outcropping of rock as he considered his next move.

On the opposite side of the bridge and staring down a massive horde of zombies alone, the shifter barbarian Minyu weighed her own options and retreated to bring herself back to back with Razu, taking up a defensive stance as she moved to avoid the zombie’s frantic claws.  Having felt his strength start to drain as a result of one of Demise’s foul spells, Jak handed the rope binding her off to Razu and took aim with his trusty crossbow.  Well-practiced and familiar with the motions, he loaded a bolt, cocked it, and pulled the trigger…and watched the bolt shatter as it was released from the string. While the warforged monk Watcher joined the defensive huddle with Razu, Minyu, and Jak to keep the zombies from crossing the bridge, Razu braced the rope around her forearm and shouted to anyone who could hear her that she would hold the line – just kill the witch!  Inspired by Razu’s bravery, the unwitting hireling Drakan – who had originally been employed by Tik, and strong-armed into the party’s service when the former was captured – ran forward to join her, throwing his axe at the lone zombie who hadn’t yet joined the horde and splitting its skull open. 

Still holding herself magically aloft over the lava, though tangled up in Jak’s grappling hook and surrounded by bats, Demise began to propel herself wildly through the air, zig-zagging across the pool in an attempt to break free. The rope began to whip off of Razu’s arm, burning her as it went, but she managed to free herself and release it before she could be pulled to her death. Now with her full range of motion and no distractions, she turned around and laid into the zombies surrounding Jak and Watcher, chopping one to pieces and staggering another.

From his position near the altar, as vestigial crackles of energy faded around Murkoorak’s Orb, Ivello felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle and he turned around to see a black, wispy spirit with glowing red eyes emerge from the ground and begin to take the form of a hobgoblin.  He immediately identified it as a wraith: a creature born of evil and darkness.  He suspected that it had been here in the Forge for a very long time, and knew that if he was caught by its touch, it would drain his life from him – and if it killed him, he would himself rise as one of those creatures.  He also recalled that wraiths were weak to sunlight, but what good was that knowledge when he was trapped deep below the Cogs?  As the wraith lunged at him and he took a quick step back, a second one emerged from the ground on the other side of the altar behind Aruget.

While Watcher continued slamming his massive metal fists into the zombie horde, pushing back the first line of attackers, Jak cut down two more and turned around to face Demise.  Transforming back into his own face and jeering about how her minions were no match for him, and neither was she, his taunts quickly trailed off as he realized that Demise didn’t seem to be able to hear him at a distance and over the bubbling roar of the lava pool…or perhaps she just didn’t care.  Freed from her bonds at last and out for blood, she flew towards Ivello and spoke some unintelligible words as a black energy that looked like a corruption of Ivello’s lightning tendrils flew from her fingers.  Unable to duck out of the way, Ivello staggered backwards as the bolts slammed into and around him…and suddenly, his world went dark.  He couldn’t see.  Hearing his friend cry out, Aruget sprung into action.  The holy symbol tattooed on his forearm began to glow as he called forth Dol Arrah’s light on the wraiths flanking him and Ivello.  The wraiths hissed and recoiled, but held their ground.  Still blinded, but able to reorient himself in the direction Demise’s attack had come from, Ivello fought fire with fire and unleashed his own lightning at the necromancer.  As it crackled around her, seeming to be absorbed by some kind of magical force, Ivello blinked hard and gave his head a shake as he found his vision beginning to clear.  As Dol Arrah’s light continued to fill the air surrounding him and Aruget, the wraiths could no longer bear it and began to flee, but the paladin wasn’t prepared to let them leave so easily.  Though one of them evaded his axe, he caught the other one square across its incorporeal body.  Feeling a strange, muddy sort of resistance as he dragged his axe through the wraith, it shrieked and dissipated, falling to his attack.

Back in the huddle on the other side of the cavern, Razu continued her assault on the zombies, slicing through the only one who’d survived going toe to toe with Watcher.  Engraged, Minyu tore through two more as Drakan scored another good hit, cleaning up after her.  Keeping a safe distance, Malcanus reached into his pouch and pulled out a flash pellet, tossing it into the remaining horde where it exploded in a blinding light.  Driven into a frenzy and unable to see, one of the zombies charged at Razu from the back of the pack, but met a quick death before it could reach her as Watcher’s fist punched straight through its chest.  The rest of the horde continued to swarm them, but their blind swings were easily avoided.  Cutting down two more undead, Jak was confident that the Deathsgate adventures could hold their own against those that remained, and he extracted himself from the melee and moved back towards the bridge to take another go at Demise with his crossbow – but not before he saw Watcher shear a zombie’s head clear off with a powerful uppercut.  

A few steps ahead of Jak, Kayde plucked one of the gems off his necklace of firebolts, but throwing such an insubstantial little stone so far proved difficult, and it fell into the lava without finding its mark.  Undeterred, Kayde continued moving across the bridge to join Aruget, and in stark contrast to Dol Arrah’s light the dragonmark on his neck began to emit a dark, swirling energy as he raised his arm and pointed at Demise.  Shadows flowed out of his mark, down his shoulder, along his outstretched arm, and straight for the airborne necromancer.  Though Kayde was more powerful than he sometimes appeared, Demise’s power was stronger, and she sneered at his attempts as she shrugged off the shadow’s ill effects.  Emboldened, she quickly swung around to face another blast from Murkoorak’s Orb, catching the impact on one of her bracers.  Veering off to the side and flying down to become level with Ivello, she extended her hands, and shadows began to emerge from the ground around him.  Caught between some large rocks and the ledge, Ivello was unable to escape the shadows’ grabbing, scraping claws, and they dug deep into his flesh.

As Demise gained some height and flew back out over the lava once again, Aruget was determined to finish things.  The Tiger’s Blade flew from his hand, slashing deep across her body and returning to him before a second pass with it came up short.  Clasping her hands across the wound, her face contorted into surprise that was quickly replaced by rage.  “Damn you all to Khyber” she shouted, as she flew across the lava and disappeared into a tunnel.  Unable to prevent Demise from fleeing, but eager to pursue her, Malcanus summoned another bat and sent it on a chase.  Through the bat’s eyes, he saw her enter the tunnels that led back to the antechamber and – eventually – the surface, but she quickly outpaced the bat, and it soon lost sight of her.

As the final zombies fell to the hands of the Deathsgate adventurers, the party stared at the tunnel in stunned silence.  They had faced Demise on her own turf, suffered only minor casualties, and had all the pieces of the Ashen Crown in their possession at last.  Jak’s thoughts swirled within him.  He’d done it.  He’d done what the Dark Lanterns had asked of him.  All he had to do was return to the surface, retrieve Tik and Thom, make his way back to the Citadel with the Crown and traitor in hand, and then – at long last – he could be whole again. 

Though cautious of their victory since Demise remained at large, Jak found himself claiming permission to feel something that he had kept carefully locked down ever since Tik’s betrayal in Graywall.  For the first time in what felt like too long, he began to hope.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What was your worst or hardest romantic breakup? You can get your bottom dollar that there were immediate and unsolicited remarks about Korbus (who is in fact nowhere close to being on this scale, since her and Jak were never technically a couple, and thus have never technically broken up. 😀 ).
  • Malcanus drew a joker to kick off the session…and drew the bottom initiative on the final round, thus ending the session as well. A very fun bookend that I’ve never seen before, either with PCs or NPCS.
  • Jak’s crossbow bolt shattering was the first and, amazingly, only crit fail of the night. Really surprising considering how many actors were on the field, and how many actions they all had on top of that between a large collection of regular rerolls, free rerolls, multi-actions, and Frenzy attacks.
  • Ivello: “Are those zombies still alive?” Kayde: “That’s a philosophical question.”
  • We almost had her. Kayde almost had an insta-kill on Demise. I’m not 100% sure what the official power was underneath the trappings of his Mark of Shadow, but having rolled two raises on it would have caused Demise to be Stunned, which would have caused her to become abruptly unable to fly, which would have sent her to a swift and fiery death. Unfortunately, it was an opposed roll, and the GM spent all five of his bennies in order to beat it on the last try. The villain managing to escape when they no longer think they can win the fight is a very classic pulp trope, and we are playing a very pulp game, so it’s not out of line, but it’s still a bit of a bummer – I want to see her go down! Also, I can guarantee you that Kayde would have had an epic one-liner to drop as she fell and burnt, and Ivello tells me he was sitting on one as well. Alas, those epic one-liners are lost, like tears in the rain. Time to (not) die.
  • Wow. We did it. We faced down Demise at last, retrieved all the pieces of the Ashen Crown, and the entire party survived. And yeah, there’s the spectre (pun intended) of her return looming over our heads, but for now, I’m feeling pretty darn good and extremely anxious to get Jak back to the Citadel and see what happens next! The next few weeks are probably going to feature some pretty intense roleplaying, and I’m here for it.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown Week 41: Bringing the Heat

As Jak (disguised as Tik) led the party further into the Dragon’s Forge, they found themselves coming up on a shambling mass of zombies.  The outcropping with the massive Khyber shard – and Lady Demise – loomed about sixty feet in front of them across a narrow bridge, with Ivello’s eagle eyes picking out an altar that was presumably at the heart of the ritual.  Though the party was protected by the potions Thom had given them as a parting gift, the Deathsgate mercenaries they had hired were feeling the effects of the heat coming off the roiling lava a mere fifteen feet below the ledge of the series of small islands they now found themselves on.

Moving forward, a large group of zombies shuffled forward to block the party’s way.  Not ready to blow their cover, Jak called out to Demise that he had brought her prize – if she called off her dogs, he would deliver her the Solitaire.  A few moments passed, and then she turned to look at Jak, waved a hand, and the zombies parted.  Ahead of him were even more zombies, and a pair of Emerald Claw knights guarding the natural bridge that separated the ritual site from the rest of the Forge.  Looking up from her work again, Demise took a few steps forward and gave “Tik” a piercing glare.  “You and your…prisoners” she sneered, “seem to be enchanted.  What is that about?”  Jak smirked and replied that it was merely their protection from the heat – he didn’t want them to keel over and die before his Lady got her hands on them.  Helping to sell the ruse, Aruget leaned forward and began shouting at “Tik” for killing Jak, and demanded to know what sort of other enchantment he might have put on them, while Ivello – feeling cocky – snidely remarked that Demise looked much more fashionable in undeath, but a little makeup wouldn’t hurt.

Under her mask, Demise’s eyes seemed to relax, but she waved her hand and retorted that the party’s lives were nothing to her – did “Tik” have the Solitaire?  Jak replied that he most certainly did, for did she really think he’d be stupid enough to return without it?  While Demise digested this new sass, Ivello fell back into his old habit of gathering information at every opportunity.  Taking a closer look at Demise’s robes and mask, he noted that there was something about them that felt off as a simple representation of the Undying Court – in fact, based on some reading he’d done, they suggested a connection to the infamous House Vol.

With no reply from Demise forthcoming, “Tik” summoned all his bluster and declared that before he handed over the Solitaire, he had some business to attend to: Demise had promised to make him Undying as his reward.  She curtly replied that the Crown would make it so.  He questioned how – after all it was only a thing, and a goblin thing at that.  Staring him down with renewed disgust, she sneered that his youth and ignorance were showing.  As she started to explain the history of the Crown, she caught herself, and her eyes narrowed menacingly.  Why was he stalling? 

Grabbing the front of Ivello’s shirt, Jak pulled him forward and replied that he would gladly hand over the Solitaire, but he wanted to see his prisoners join the ranks of the undying as well…as mindless zombies.  Demise snapped at him again to stop stalling; they would do that later.  From the back of the crowd, Kayde had an idea, and called out to Demise to let him serve her.  “Tik” looked over his shoulder and retorted that of course he wanted to serve Demise – he’d heard his friend Jak beg for his life, and didn’t want to share in his fate.  Growing impatient and sensing something wasn’t right, Demise took a few steps forward on the bridge and snarled that she didn’t care about Kayde; his time would come.  She again insisted that “Tik” hand over the Solitaire.  As Jak moved forward onto the bridge, continuing to drag Ivello behind him, Demise demanded to know what game he was playing.  Stopping about ten feet in front of her, Jak held out the Solitaire and replied that he didn’t play games – he could see which way the wind was blowing.  That was Ivello’s cue.

Drawing on the power of his dragonmark, Ivello called up a sharp burst of wind, sending Demise flying off the bridge.  He called out to the mercenary Malcanus to throw him Yeraa’s sword, which landed at his feet.  Grabbing his byeshk spear from the warforged monk Watcher, Kayde struck at the nearest Emerald Claw knight, finding a gap in her armour and killing her instantly.  Moving with him, Watcher laid into the second knight with their fists, splitting his jaw and skull with a massive uppercut.

Back on the bridge, as Demise flew backwards pushed by Ivello’s wind, Jak saw her catch the ledge with her fingers…and then she flew up and began moving through the air.  Pushing his way past Jak, Arguet pulled out the Rod of Negation he’d looted from Tik and ran up to the ledge beneath Demise.  At that distance, he realized that she was surrounded by magic – energy emanated from her staff, a ring on each hand, her bracers, her cloak, and he could sense more coming from her pockets and pouches.  Knowing that the rod’s uses were limited, Aruget took a gamble and targeted Demise’s staff.  Black, crackling energy flew out of the rod and wrapped around the staff, which appeared to dull and fade.  Back on the main island, Minyu the shifter mercenary called on her rage and her inner beast, charging the nearest zombie and throwing it into the lava as she found herself and her fellow mercenaries surrounded by a shambling horde.

Hovering above the fray, Demise reached out her hand as her mask split open, revealing a horrible, contorted visage that she turned towards Aruget.  The paladin was well protected by his unshakable faith in Dol Arrah, and stared back at her fearlessly.  Back on the big island, his sister Razu joined Minyu, cutting through the zombie closest to her and swinging around to drop two more.  On the bridge, thinking on his feet, Jak whipped a grappling hook off his back and sent it flying at Demise.  It was a well-calculated throw, and it wrapped completely around the necromancer, binding her arms to her sides.  Behind him, the warforged mercenary Scorn pulled out his swords and proceeded to make short work of another group of zombies while Jak found himself surrounded by two more who had run over from the altar.  While he was able to dodge their gnashing teeth and grasping hands, he was unable to fight back due to his firm grip on the grappling hook’s rope, and he was starting to be driven closer and closer to the lava.

Seeing Jak’s plight, Drakan – the mercenary originally hired by the real Tik – ran up and ineffectually swung his axe at the zombie in front of Jak as Aruget pulled out his Tiger’s Blade and casually finished the job for him.  However, there were still more zombies crowding them, and one of them shoved into Jak, nearly knocking him over the edge.  Running up to the altar, Ivello quickly scooped up the pieces of the Crown and tried to throw Ashtura’s Blade to Aruget, but it bounced off a rock and fell at Drakan’s feet.  Picking it up, the mercenary swung the blade at the zombies who just kept coming, but couldn’t slow them down.  Dashing forward from the main island, Malcanus threw his boomerang at Demise, but it curved around her before returning to his hand.  As Kayde skewered another one of the zombies surrounding Jak and Aruget, Jak took a defensive stance and began moving away from the ledge to a safer position, pulling Demise along with him.  Seeing an opportunity, Scorn ran forward and traded his swords for the bow on his back, grazing Demise with an arrow as Aruget continued to dance with the zombies surrounding him, dodging one’s attack and taking its head clean off.

Still floating above the lava, wrapped up in the rope of Jak’s grappling hook, Demise began to chant and a swirl of spectral figures emerged from the ground surrounding Jak, Scorn, and Malcanus.  With a burst of dark energy, they sent Malcanus flying backwards, almost taking him off the opposite ledge, but Jak held firm.  Scorn was not so lucky.  Caught off-balance, the warforged fighter was shot out far over the lava, where he fell to his death in the molten pool.  Encouraged by her success, Demise sent forth a stream of black energy that enveloped Jak, and he felt himself losing his strength.  Seeing Jak start to struggle with the rope tethering Demise, Razu moved forward to help him, and then they heard a shout from the back of the cavern.  It was Minyu, alerting them to a fresh horde of zombies that had appeared and were bearing down on her. Though the party and the mercenaries had managed to hold their own thus far, it seemed the battle was far from over.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week:  Did you follow your family profession or did you strike out in a different direction?  What drove that decision?
  • Oh boy. There is a lot to unpack here. Let’s break it down from the top:

– At the end of the previous session, Aruget used Gladiator’s Call to temporarily grant each party member the combat edge of his choice. He got a great roll and chose Improved Level Headed, which gives each of us three cards when drawing initiative, allowing us to choose the one we want. That’s twelve cards drawn per round by the party alone. While the chaos was somewhat mitigated by having the Extras we controlled move on our turns, as well as grouped initiative for the zombies, that’s still (if my count is accurate; I can’t recall if the zombies were in two groups or not) at least fourteen cards drawn per round once you factor in Demise. Although we only played through two rounds of initiative last night, three jokers were drawn (two for us, one for the zombies). On round two, Aruget’s highest card was a Queen, and he decided to go joker fishing anyways and got one on his first try.

– For those of you keeping score, the field at the start of the session consisted of four PCs, six Extras, one boss, and to be honest I lost count of the zombies after the first ten or so. See: we only made it through two rounds of initiative.

– A large part of the reason our Extras managed to clear out so many zombies so quickly was because they had The Drop (+4 to attack and damage) on the shambling ones on the big island. Which was a huge help, since we’re not allowed to reroll for our Extras, and they haven’t always had the best luck.

– There was some post-game discussion over how to play out Jak wrapping Demise up in a grappling hook, and what the consequences should be. For a narratively simple-but-cool action, it wasn’t all that simple from a rules and reason perspective. With two raises on the opposed roll to grapple her in the first place, the GM initially ruled that she was Bound and Entangled, but RAW, she shouldn’t have been able to cast at all after that as part of the Bound condition – something neither of us realized at the time. But there was also a conversation after the fact about how certain parts of Bound – such as the victim being unable to move at all – don’t make sense in the case of someone who is magically flying, and I agree that it also doesn’t make a heap of sense in this particular scenario for it to affect verbal spellcasting. So moving forward, she’s dropping down to just being Entangled, and we’re calling the results of this session even. While I’m pretty bummed about losing Scorn (he was a beast), I think the ruling is fair, and having done some GMing myself (though never for Savage Worlds) I can 100% sympathize with the complications of adjudicating creative actions. You gotta just run with it in the moment and sort out the details later. And as much as I would personally enjoy solving a boss fight with the power of a bright idea and a good roll, that’s not usually a reasonable outcome. 🙂

  • As usual, Adventure Cards sowed chaos and good times. We normally limit the amount of Adventure Cards in play and only get two at the start of each session, going to the players who roll highest on a d100. So of course, Kayde got a card that gives everyone a card..at the cost of a powerful enemy showing up later (this is where the twelve bonus zombies at the end of the session came from). From playing that card, Kayde got a card that gave the entire party a bonus to all trait rolls for one round, and I got a card that gives me an extra d6 for all attacks made against Demise for the remainder of the scene, which will be great if we can ever get her to stop flying. 😀 Aruget got his trusty Angry Mob card – one he has received and played a surprising amount over the course of this campaign – but decided to hold off this time. It’s probably for the best.
  • When Scorn got sent into the lava, so did Yeraa’s sword. Malcanus had been carrying it for Ivello, and in the chaos it was left on the ground in exactly the wrong spot, so it’s gone. Which isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of the narrative, but is something I am personally sad about.

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!

Table Talk: 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 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?

seekers of the ashen crown week 37: the voyage home

With Captain Delan’s blessing fresh in their minds, the party watched the Kordenga fly away to lead the Citadel on a wild goose chase and made their way into Moonwatch.  A large walled town on the western hilt of the Dagger River, Moonwatch was well-populated by the common races of the Five Nations, and both the people and the architecture were a welcome, comfortable sight after hard times in a foreign land.

While Kayde wandered off to see yet again to his mysterious personal business, Aruget sought out the familiarity of a temple where he could pray to Dol Arrah as Jak and Ivello made their way to the docks to suss out quiet passage to Sharn.  Ivello suggested they look out for people who were down on their luck and less likely to ask questions, and Jak made his way down the pier, chatting with the local dockhands and beggars and greasing more than a few palms.  By the time Aruget caught up with them, they had a lead: a halfling smuggler named Hannval Dain, who could be found at the Sailor’s Duchess.  Aruget entered the tavern ahead of Jak and Ivello to take a quiet table in the corner where he could keep an eye on their negotiations if anything went amiss, and a few minutes later, his friends followed.

Jak procured a bottle of wine and three glasses, and the bartender pointed him towards a slouched, weathered, middle-aged halfling sitting alone.  The man carried none of the contentment that his fellow halflings typically did, and Jak seized on this as an opportunity.  Pulling up a chair and pouring wine for Hannval, Ivello, and himself, Jak entertained a quick joke about the sailor’s gossip that had brought him here and got straight down to business: they needed passage to Sharn, four warm bodies, no questions asked.  Hannval responded with the air of someone who was an old hand at such activities, and after some brief haggling and half payment up front, told Jak and Ivello to meet him at the docks at nine o’clock that night.  The journey across the river’s hilt would take two days, and that timing ensured they would reach Sharn under cover of darkness.  They shook hands and parted ways until nightfall.

Anxious to prepare for his return to Sharn as best he could, Jak led the party to the local House Sivis sending station.  He quickly dictated a letter to his best friend and former Dark Lanterns partner Thom, who Jak was desperate to reunite with, and counting on for help yet again.  Stressing his innocence, he asked Thom to meet him at a familiar tavern in Dragoneyes in two days time, and instructed the Sivis courier to under no circumstances deliver the letter to Thom while he was at the Citadel.  Aruget, seeing the wisdom in warning their few remaining allies that they were coming, did not want to wait on a courier – he had been sitting on no small amount of gold, and decided that the time was right to funnel it into an expensive Sending to his sister Razu, a highly decorated Deneith blademark.  Her reply was immediate, and the clerk quickly transcribed it and handed a folded note to Aruget.  

As the party began to leave the station, Jak hesitated, turned back, and shot off another quick letter to someone he hadn’t spoken with in an even longer time than Thom: his estranged brother, Vil.  Worried that the Citadel may have sent agents to question him, Jak once again proclaimed his innocence while telling Vil something he never had before: that he wished things had been better between them.  Feeling something vaguely resembling closure, he joined the others in leaving the station behind them.  The remainder of the day saw Ivello parlaying his well-honed negotiating skills into the fast but fairly profitable sale of the assorted treasures and trinkets the party had accumulated during their time in Droaam.  One thing they did not part with as they took stock of everything was an otherwise unmarked Kundarak key that they’d taken off of a dead enemy during their first run-in with the Emerald Claw.  Jak mused that it seemed odd for a low-level lackey to have such a thing, and Ivello wondered if his friend had any informants in Sharn who could help them access the box without arousing suspicion.  Jak replied that he did, although it would take some time and money.

Nine o’clock rolled around, and the party made their way aboard the Maiden’s Siren and set sail for Sharn at last.  As they traveled, old habits stirred in Ivello and he offered Hannval his help in managing the sails while striking up a casual conversation.  After an hour or two, they sailed into the middle of the river’s hilt, and a wondrous sight caught Ivello’s eye.  He called the others over to the rail to inspect a large school of vibrant, rainbow-coloured fish that had appeared alongside the boat.  As they enjoyed this peaceful interlude, Hannval mentioned that the meat of these fish had hallucinogenic properties, and that some smugglers had run into problems after unwittingly using them for food.  While Ivello wondered what unconventional use Lestok would have found for such fish, Hannval piped up that he’d made that mistake early in his career, blown off course and desperate for food, and didn’t make it back to Moonwatch for four days while under the influence.  

Still at the rail, watching the fish, Jak’s fingers dug into the wood as he remembered his days as a dreamlily addict and he fought to stop wondering what this particular drug might feel like.  Eager to change the subject, he got some distance from Hannval and waved the others over to join him.  His relationship with the Dark Lanterns, he told them, had not always been so fraught.  He reminisced about his greatest success: foiling an assassination plot against Kor ir’Wynarn, Lord Commander of the King’s Citadel for all of Breland.  Kor had been in Sharn on an inspection tour, and the Lanterns had received a credible threat connected to the city’s most powerful anti-monarchist, Hass ir’Tain.  Though Hass was smart enough to always keep himself ten steps removed from any criminal wrongdoing, the Lanterns knew they couldn’t ignore this threat, and sent Jak to gather more details at one of Hass’ famous parties.  The evening was going well until Jak underestimated the potency of his host’s exotic, top-shelf liquor, and his time came to an abrupt end after throwing up on a guest.  Profoundly ashamed and angry with himself, Jak vowed that he would get the job done no matter what. The next morning, he returned to the manor wearing a different face than the night before.  Finding a pretty maid at the back door, Jak seduced her into giving up Hass’ collaborators and returned to the Citadel with all the information they needed in order to avoid the planned ambush and keep Kor safe.

Ivello had only one question: had Jak made things right with the maid?  Jak insisted that she knew as well as he had that they were making a trade, to which Ivello retorted that Korbus hadn’t.  He pushed his young friend about his history of using people, to which Jak could only reply that it might make him a bad person, but a good spy.  Aruget, remembering Tik’s manipulation of Yeraa, mused that Jak might not be so different.  Jak stared him down, shaking with rage, and declared that if he ever compared him to Tik again, he would not be responsible for his actions.  Ever the peacemaker, Ivello suggested that Aruget didn’t mean it, to which Aruget – after taking a second to regroup – replied that he had.  The situation with Korbus, the story he’d just shared – Jak’s job involved a lot of manipulation, and he questioned if the young agent knew right from wrong.  Ivello exhorted Jak to not lose sight of the trees for the forest as his old alter-ego Quentin had, always justifying his actions for the sake of the greater good.  He was concerned for Jak’s well-being, and didn’t want him to compromise his morals.  Jak snapped that he did what he did to protect people like Aruget and Ivello, regular citizens who had no idea what went on behind the scenes, and that if he didn’t know right from wrong, he’d never have felt the guilt that had begun the downward spiral which ended with him becoming a homeless, jobless dreamlily addict.  Ivello insisted that he believed Jak had done a good job on the road, and that there was a better person inside him, while Aruget told him that he still owed Korbus.  Jak rebutted that it wasn’t all on him – she’d made her own choice to help, and deserved respect for putting herself in a difficult situation.  Aruget wondered if Jak was now grateful that he’d been rescued from jail, and he replied that he had no ill will towards Aruget for taking action – he’d done what he thought was right, what he believed he had to do, and Jak could understand that.

The next night, they sailed into Sharn under the cover of darkness as Hannval had promised.  While Dockside wasn’t as busy as it was during the day, the city never slept, and it was still bustling with activity.  As the smuggler made his bribes to the local watchmen and the party quietly slipped away, Jak was in his element once again.  He easily led the party down back streets, alleys, and less-frequented lifts down to the lower city and the all too familiar sights and smells of Dragoneyes.  Finding a flophouse he’d made use of in the past, Jak directed the party to what passed for beds, and fell into a deep sleep.  He was anxious about what tomorrow would bring, but even that couldn’t dampen the fact that he was home at last.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week:  What is your greatest fear?  Or worst recurring nightmare? The GM sincerely regrets not doing this one sooner in the campaign. Turns out someone is mortally afraid of owlbears.
  • Kayde had to work last night, which is why he was so mysterious this session.
  • Out of character, we learned things about Aruget from his private Sending to his sister. Namely, that his nickname is…Tippy-Toes. I am pretty disappointed that Jak was not party to this and will not be able to capitalize on it in-game. We also learned that his blademark unit, at least, snidely refers to the bounty hunters of House Tharashk as “Trash House.” Spicy. There’s gotta be a good story behind that. Is it a friendly rivalry? Something darker? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • A question that Savage Worlds answers very well is the age-old problem of how to make travel interesting in a TTRPG. It satisfies this by means of a mechanic called Interludes. Players draw cards just like they would for initiative, but in this case, each suit comes with its own set of prompts to effectively sit in the DM’s seat for a few minutes and narrate different ways of passing downtime, a story about the PCs past, or an encounter or obstacle the party faced on their journey. The school of fish was Ivello’s “journey” interlude, and Jak’s tale of his greatest success as a Dark Lantern was in response to the prompt to recount a “great victory or personal triumph.” I did not expect it to lead to a deep probing of Jak’s moral compass, but that is just one more reason why I love this group.
  • I referred a few times to the “hilt” of the river. If you search for a map of Khorvaire and look down in the south central-ish part, you’ll see the Dagger River. It looks like…a dagger. It has a “handle”, a “hilt”, and a “blade”, and Moonwatch is on the western end of the hilt while Sharn is on the eastern end. So if you’ve been wondering what the heck I am talking about regarding a river having a hilt, that’s what’s up.

Seekers of the ashen crown week 36: Departures

After an hour at the Cracked Keg with no sign of Korbus, Jak felt that sitting around Graywall any longer would be pushing his luck.  With his disguise carrying him unnoticed past the increasingly large and active Tharashk patrols, he made his way out of the foreign quarter and was halfway through Bloodstone when a voice rang out in his head – Korbus had engaged House Sivis’ famous Sending services, something Jak had experienced only a handful of times in his life.  Her news wasn’t good.  Facing increasing pressure and scrutiny from her House Tharashk superiors regarding her role in the jailbreak, and her “failure” to track down the rest of the party, she found herself unable to leave the city.  She implored Jak to do whatever he needed to do to clear his name, and hoped that they could share a meal together when everything was back to normal.  Though the loss of Korbus’ testimony against Tik was a serious blow, Jak understood very well what it was like to be on your organization’s bad side.  Relaying this back to Korbus and telling her to stay safe, he continued his trek through Bloodstone and left Graywall behind again.

A half hour’s walk later, he spotted Kayde waiting for him at a trailhead when one of Ivello’s birds landed on his shoulder, asking after Korbus.  Jak tersely replied that she wasn’t coming, and sent the bird on its way.  Regrouping with Kayde, he shared his lack of success, while Kayde revealed what his business in the city had been: he had sent correspondences after Jak’s arrest to both his handlers in House Phiarlan and Captain Kalaes, and had received answers.  The good news was that House Phiarlan continued to support Kayde, but also directed him to retrieve the rest of the Crown for the Citadel as he’d been hired to do, finish the job, and put this mess to rest.  Having previously confessed that he’d told Kalaes they had evidence against Tik, he told Jak that Kalaes was demanding they return to the Citadel with that evidence at once.  Something about those orders didn’t sit right with the young agent.  Knowing how the Citadel operated, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Kalaes telling them to come back to prove their innocence – without rescinding the arrest warrant on their heads – was likely a trap, and he told Kayde as much.  Even without that slant on things, Kayde was determined to carry out his house’s orders, and the two of them continued weighing their options as they made their way back to the others.

Aboard the Kordenga, anxiously awaiting Jak and Kayde’s safe return, Ivello found himself wandering the ship when he realized that things were quiet – a little too quiet.  Having become accustomed to hearing Lestok’s idle stream-of-consciousness conversation, or listening to him having spirited interactions with the crew, he began to worry a little.  Going belowdecks to check the small cabin they shared, he found no sign of Lestok – and a note in his place.

“These “Lanterns” scare me beyond reason.  I’m leaving.  Don’t try to follow me!”

Not quite knowing what to think, Ivello headed back up on deck where he showed the note to Aruget and questioned the sailor on watch about the last time he’d seen Lestok.  The man replied that he’d seen him leave about half an hour after Jak and Kayde, and that he had looked unusually nervous for a gnome. Aruget insisted that they had to find him, to which Ivello reluctantly replied he was not sure that they could.  They had a responsibility to Jak and Kayde to stay put at the agreed upon rendezvous.  Aruget, still in shock, could find nothing more to say other than that he hoped Lestok would find his way to safety, and that they would be able to clear his name along with the rest of theirs.  Ivello laid a hand on his shoulder and replied that Lestok had enough courage for both of them.  He’d be okay.

When Jak and Kayde rejoined the Kordenga, they came aboard to find Aruget pacing the deck, which they had come to recognize as a sign that their friend was agitated.  Jak broke the news about Korbus, Kayde revealed the information he’d received from his House…and Ivello told them that Lestok was gone, handing Jak the note and not knowing what else to say.  Jak read it and cursed loudly.  What did that crazy old gnome think he was going to do, wandering a strange country hunted and alone?  It occurred to him that perhaps Lestok giving Jak his favourite coin, and Kayde, his prized whistle, might have been more than pragmatism.  He wondered if it had been his way of saying goodbye, and a wave of guilt washed over him as he read the note again.  It appeared that his revelation of the Dark Lanterns’ existence and purpose had been what pushed the already paranoid gnome over the edge.  Ivello, who had found an unconventional and unexpected kindred spirit in Lestok and perhaps knew him the best, insisted that he must have a plan. Many of his craziest ones had been successful, and Ivello chose to hope that this one would be no different.

With too many thoughts clamoring for his attention, Ivello’s mind turned to his concern for Korbus, and he pressed Jak for more of an explanation.  Kayde reminded him that the Houses were not beholden to the Five Nations, and if Tharashk chose to prevent her from testifying there was nothing they could do, while Jak reiterated that he didn’t want Korbus to get into any more trouble than she already was.  Ivello told Jak that he knew Korbus meant something to him, and that a Sending was very expensive, which showed that she obviously cared about him and felt it was important to say goodbye.  

With his head back in the party’s current predicament, Aruget wondered if Yeraa’s journal contained anything that would exonerate them, but Ivello – having spent several hours with the book – told him that was wishful thinking.  All it would prove was that Tik had done his job, and that Yeraa had admired him.   After going back and forth pondering returning to Sharn, and questioning why Tik hadn’t tried to blackmail or otherwise incentivize them to come to him, Jak tried to assure the others that it would be easy to travel the lower wards unnoticed, and that he had at least one friend left at the Citadel who might be able to help them turn the tables and set a trap for Tik.  Finding Captain Delan and asking him to bring them back to Sharn, the captain suggested that the safest thing to do would be to put them to ground at the village of Moonwatch, where they might be able to hire a smuggler to take them up the Dagger River.  Jak let out a deep breath.  After what had felt like an eternity, he was going home.

Ivello, meanwhile, was always thirsty for whatever information he could glean to help their situation.  His attention turned to Zaraani’s Solitaire, and he proposed using it to contact Lt. Sesko of the Emerald Claw, who Jak had killed in the market.  Knowing that spirits contacted by the Solitaire were not obligated to tell the truth, he suggested that he conceal his true identity from Sesko, and Kayde immediately seized upon this as an opportunity to put on a performance.  Transforming his face and taking the gem from Ivello, he held it up in front of him and summoned Sesko’s spirit.  As mist emerged from the Solitaire and coalesced into a ghostly face, Kayde demanded to know if the dwarf had completed his mission in Graywall.  As he finished his sentence, a sudden patch of turbulence rocked the Kordenga, causing him to break character and yell out “what the hell was that?”  The spirit replied that he didn’t know. Kayde cleared his throat and regained his composure, asking Sesko if he knew anything about the changeling in their ranks, who had stolen the Crown.  The spirit responded that the changeling’s name was Til, and that his orders had been to return the Crown to Demise.  At Ivello’s behest, Kayde asked his third and final question: when was the last time Sesko had seen his young scout Jeffin?  The spirit replied that Jeffin had run from a fight, and not been seen since.  As Sesko melted back into the Solitaire, Kayde suggested that Jak reveal to Tik that he knew him by this other name, which Jak felt would be unwise.  Them having the upper hand depended on Tik thinking he had the upper hand, and they should take advantage of the fact he considered them fools.  Kayde mused that he’d remembered hearing that if you said a changeling’s true name three times, they belonged to you, to which Jak sarcastically replied that it was true, and they also stole babies from their cradles.  Kayde, never passing up an opportunity to tease his friend, declared that he’d known it all along!

As they prepared themselves to return to Sharn, the party took stock of who in the city they could seek help from.  Kayde asked Aruget about the possibility of hiring more blademarks, and he was skeptical of the wisdom of entangling themselves with House Deneith, but suggested that they might be able to at least enlist the help of one blademark: his sister, Razu.  Jak mused that maybe, between Kayde’s house, Arguet’s sister, and his best friend and fellow Dark Lantern Thom, they might not be so bad off in Sharn after all.  As they spoke, Jak walked over to where the party’s gear was stashed and lifted Yeraa’s sword in the air, swearing that he would use it to bring Tik to justice.  Aruget pressed him to also take the ring of fire resistance they’d looted from “Demise”, joking that Korbus clearly thought he was “smoldering hot” while more seriously expressing his concern that Tik had it out for Jak more than any of them, and that any extra protection he could have wouldn’t go amiss.

A day and a half later, the Kordenga was in sight of Moonwatch, and it was time to part ways.  Jak thanked Captain Delan for all he’d done for them, and promised him that he would avenge the Kech Volaar.  Ivello made his goodbyes to Othello, giving him a big hug and something to remember him by: one of the little burlap toys Lestok had made for their ruse in the night market.  Telling Ivello to contact him through House Sivis if he needed anything, Othello asked if he wanted the Kordenga to go anywhere in particular to throw off the Citadel’s scent.  Kayde, impressed, asked Othello if he wasn’t secretly a Phiarlan, to which Othello winked and replied that no, he was a sailor.  Knowing Kayde a little too well, and warning him that his family was off-limits as objects of flirtation, Ivello asked Othello to sail the ship in the direction of Darguun, and Othello promised they would make sure to get spotted along the way.  Kayde boldly declared that he would write a play in Othello’s name, prompting Jak to reiterate Ivello’s warning.  With that, they left the Kordenga behind and began making the rest of the way to Moonwatch on foot, hoping that Jak’s experience with the less savoury elements of society would be enough to get them discreet passage into the city. 

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week:  How has your upbringing affected your worldview?
  • Lestok (both the character and the player) has left the campaign, which is why we did not search for him even though it would have been more in character to do so.
  • Sorry, Team Korbus. I know you were rooting for her, but fate had other plans. Don’t shoot the messenger.
  • Regarding Kayde encountering turbulence during his performance: remember how I said in my post about bennies that, where other tables use them to fish for raises, we joke that with our luck we are using them to fish for crit fails? Yeah, about that. Kayde actually rolled an initial success on his Performance check to deceive Sesko’s spirit, but decided to fish for a raise…and got snake eyes on his first try.
  • Poor Ivello. He’s been determined for a long time that it was in the cards to use, help, and/or redeem Jeffin ever since we put the fear of the Sovereigns into him back on the road to Six Kings. Ivello has tried numerous times to contact Jeffin with one of his messenger birds to no avail, but if what Sesko’s spirit said was true, this really is the end of that road.
  • Til. Who the heck is Til? Is that Tik’s real name? Is it the identity he’s created for working with the Emerald Claw? Are they a different changeling altogether, perhaps the one who was impersonating Demise? Was Sesko just really unobservant and always called Tik by the wrong name? Our characters are pretty well convinced that Tik is Til and Til is Tik, but really, they could be anybody! This is why my mother always told me to never trust a ghost.