Session Recap S2E7: Cliffscrape Conundrum

Leaning back in her chair, the old thief-turned-legitimate businesswoman Laurina steepled her fingers and scowled across the table at Trucco.  The rogue had brought Daina and Torlan to Laurina’s shop hoping to bring her on as the Crown & Bell’s new quartermaster, but his old colleague was not entirely pleased to see him.

“The last time I saw you,” she began, “you dealt a serious blow to my business.  Tell me why in the world I should join your crew, or join anybody you’re crewed up with.”

Trucco hesitated, and his captain came to his defense.  She recognized that it might be hard to believe, but over the past three months, she’d seen Trucco transform from a man who only cared for his own wants and damn the impact on anyone else, to someone who she’d now more than once witnessed willingly give up money or treasure to someone who needed it more, and without any benefit to himself.  Though she’d barely contained her laughter while hearing Laurina’s case against Trucco, for Daina had experienced that side of him firsthand and knew just how incorrigible he could be, the Trucco whom Laurina had known all those years ago wasn’t the same Trucco Daina knew.  Well…mostly.

“Look, ma’am,” Daina drawled, “I’m not going to sugar-coat it.  In a lot of ways, he’s probably still the same old Trucco you know.  He’s — ah — he’s a character.  But he’s proven himself to be someone that I am very happy to have under my command, on my ship, and by my side as a friend.”

Trucco splayed his hands out in a conciliatory gesture.  “As I was saying, Laurina,” he opined, “I’m a changed man!  A shifted shifter!  I am a person who is now willing to engage in high morals, as you can see from my companions here!” 

Laurina remained unmoved.  Even if Trucco had changed, what would the point be of giving up her shop to join a ship’s crew?  What was in it for her?  Daina glanced sidelong at Trucco, who gave an almost imperceptible nod, and the captain made her pitch.  Laurina was from Metrol, was she not?  Surely she knew as well as Daina did that whatever Oargev was doing in New Cyre wasn’t cutting it, wasn’t good enough for their people.  This crew’s mission was to give Cyre a new life, a better life, carve out a home, claim their position and power in Khorvaire once again, and matter.  It was time to take back the seat at the table that Cyre deserved, and had had before the other nations turned against them.

“If you want in on something bigger than this—” Daina gestured out towards the cramped, harsh streets of Cliffscrape — “my ship is the place to be.”

Torlan piped up from where he’d been quietly standing behind Daina’s chair.  The ship, he asserted, was for people in search of a home.  They had Cyrans, yes, but they had welcomed Brels like him and even, he admitted grudgingly, those “flamingos” from Thrane into their circle.

Laurina leaned forward.  This was all very interesting, she agreed, and she bled for the loss of Cyre as much as anyone, but did Daina and co. really believe they could take some land for themselves out here?  Daina smiled, her eyes hard with the look of someone rising to a challenge.  They wouldn’t be the first people to claim land in the Lhazaar, she declared, and they wouldn’t be the last.  Laurina’s eyes narrowed.  What did she mean by that? 

Daina chuckled.  Everyone who had a port of call in the Lhazaar Principalities had taken it by force.  Everyone.  No one had been given their land, no one had gotten any by sitting around waiting for it to happen.  The crew of the Crown & Bell was no different — though they did have some standards that weren’t par for the course in this part of Khorvaire.  They weren’t reaving, they weren’t stealing, they weren’t cheating.  And while they would happily claim and take from those who had it coming — such as the Cloud Reavers — they wouldn’t be preying on anyone who didn’t have it coming.  They would come by their treasure, their name, and their land honestly and with dignity.

And besides, Trucco interjected, wouldn’t Laurina appreciate being free of Cliffscrape and the Bloody Blades?  The business opportunities afforded by new ports, new lands, and new people were surely too good to pass up!

“And besides,” Patch piped up, “you’ve gotta at least want some hope for Cyre and the Cyrans.  Without hope, what else is there? Besides,” he added, “you hate it here.  You’ve told me that more than once.  Why not take a risk?”

Patch’s words fell on deaf ears as Laurina turned on Trucco again.  Yes, she agreed, certain business ventures here had made her life in Cliffscrape miserable.  Daina held up a hand.  All that being said, Trucco wasn’t the captain of the Crown & Bell — she was.  Their past was behind them, and it was time to look forward.

Laurina sat back in her chair again as her small frame relaxed into it.  It was crazy, she mused, to think of a new home for Cyre.  They were all clearly out of their minds…but they could count her in.  Holding out a hand, Daina welcomed Laurina aboard.  They would set sail at noon on the first of Therendor, and they’d get Patch as far as Regalport as well.  It was settled.

Though the Mourners had managed to round their crew out nicely for the time being, there was still much to do before leaving Clliffscrape.  The mysterious circumstances surrounding last night’s shipwreck were eating at Torlan, and he enlisted Trucco to help him make some inquiries.  Returning to the Lazy Boar, the two pressed the bartender for information and learned that the Bloody Blades had been stepping up their operations in Cliffscrape as of late — and that a rash of pickpocketing and petty theft had been sweeping the docks, with Leeza and Glib at the helm.  That caught Torlan’s attention.  He’d met Leeza and Glib the previous evening when they barged into the Lazy Boar, Glib half-dead from a gushing leg wound, and though they had told Torlan and his friends about the shipwreck and exhorted them to help, they had been content to sit back and watch from the shore until the rescue was completed before demanding payment from the exhausted survivors.  Increased gang activity, new pickpockets, and the still-outstanding matter of the mysterious bald woman and the powerful magic she seemed to wield…none of it was adding up, and Torlan found himself left with more questions than answers as he and Trucco bought themselves a round and tried making sense of the situation.

For his part, Patch had come to Cliffscrape with a purpose: he was for a woman named Desarian Trohut, a Cyran refugee who had a story to tell about how a “living spell” had slaughtered her friends on the Day of Mourning.  Patch had spent the last four years fixated on solving the mystery of that cataclysm, and as he pushed Desarian for details, she rebuked him for his cold, clinical interest — this was a great tragedy she was talking about; millions of lives lost.  He insisted that the more data he had to analyze, the more likely it would be that the world would never see a second Mourning.  Desarian relented, and they spoke well into the afternoon.  Patch couldn’t help but notice that she had been eyeing the assorted gadgets he carried on his belt, and she began asking pointed questions about him and his craft.  She’d been wanting to learn the craft of artifice for a long time; could she come with him and learn from him?  He replied that he’d secured passage on a ship, and she would have to do the same in order to join him, and quickly excused himself. 

Meanwhile, Daina had gone straight from Laurina’s shop to the docks to see if any mail had arrived from Rickety’s Squibs.  Torlan’s seance in the graveyard, and the summoned spirit’s revelation that none who died in the Mourning had passed through Dolurrh, had left Daina in a crisis different from one the same revelation had caused the old man, and Patch crossing her path again after so many years had only served to reinforce a harsh truth: it was time to stop running.  Gaius ir’Trun — the smooth-talking Free Captain whose unintentional intrusion at Rickety’s had thrown that small port into turmoil — was there squibbing a captured Karrnathi ship, and a few months earlier, Daina had overheard some Karrn sailors discussing a prize and crew they’d captured.  One of those people captured sounded an awful lot like her old friend Jurian Bartell, a flamboyant character who had made Cyre his adopted home and had served as the medic in their Deneith unit during the war.  It was a very long shot in the dark, but stranger things had happened, and Gaius had seemed very eager to assist her and her crew.

There was, indeed, a letter from Gaius awaiting her at the harbourmaster’s.  Daina’s heart caught in her chest.  Had he found Jurian?  Surely such a swift reply was good news… 

When you play the Love Interest card one too many times

Daina could feel her face turning red as equal parts disappointment, embarrassment, guilt, and just a hint of…appreciation washed over her.  Surely a man who spoke like this had a reputation that she didn’t want to encourage.  Surely he was the type who had a woman in every port, and it would do Daina well to keep their relationship strictly professional.  Folding the letter, she shoved it in her pocket and returned to the Lazy Boar, where she made an excuse to Torlan and Trucco to go to her room to wash up before dinner.  

There, on her nightstand, was something even more unsettling than Gaius’ flowery words.  It was the tricorn hat Sandara Quinn had given to Rus…and, tucked into it, a letter addressed to “Miss Daina.”  Daina’s hands shook a little as she broke the seal and scanned the contents.  Tucking Gaius’ letter into her journal, she steeled herself to go deliver the news to Torlan and Trucco.  Returning to the common room, she dropped into the waiting chair and slid a letter across the table, her expression distant and sad.

“Rus is gone.”

Torlan’s eyes widened in alarm as Trucco sat up with a start.  Rus had been sick with troll fever, and…

“Wait,” Trucco interrupted, “You mean, like…gone, gone?”

Daina waved her hands in a frantic, negating gesture.  “Oh!  Host, no, I’m sorry!  I mean, while we were at Laurina’s, he got a message from his…fiancée.”

No one could have expected this turn of events, let alone Rus.  But, he revealed in his letter, he’d been resting that morning when he received a Sending.  The last time he’d seen Castela, she’d taken off running for the throne room in Metrol to see to one last, desperate defense of the queen, and Rus had taken to the skies.  A few short minutes later, the mists of the Mourning had begun rolling in beneath him, and when he finally found a place to land, he became a guest of a Karrnathi prisoner of war camp.  In that brief hour, he’d watched his home, his country, and everyone he’d ever known and the few he’d ever loved be consumed by the mists.  

And yet, it seemed Castela had escaped.  It was nothing short of a miracle.

By the time Rus had received the Sending, the others had gone to Laurina’s, and he’d found a ship leaving for Korranberg within the hour.  From Korranberg, he would take the lightning rail as far as he could, and hope to find Castela in New Cyre.  He was sorry for leaving without saying goodbye, but his destiny lay on the mainland — and for the first time in four years, he found himself living in hope. 

How was this even possible?  Torlan wondered.  He’d thought Rus was too sick to travel, he was still recuperating from that awful fever, and now he’d gone off?  Daina smiled sadly.  Surely Torlan could understand that if she were ill, and somehow got a Sending from Mazello, there would be nothing that could keep her from going.  She’d board that ship in a heartbeat, same as Rus had.  Torlan conceded the point.  He knew how boneheaded and stubborn his goddaughter could be, and that had been something she and Rus had in common.

Trucco sighed.  He would have liked to say goodbye, but the heart wants what it wants.  “It’s such a funny thing,” he remarked.  “Love seems to be in the air a lot here, this evening!”  Across the table from Trucco, Daina’s face began to flush bright red.  Torlan shrugged, oblivious.

“Well, he was a reliable fellow,” Torlan rumbled.  “I’m sure it will be some time before we can replace him.  I’ll miss him for a few days, I guess.”

That earned him a laugh from Trucco.  He would miss Rus as well.  Raising her glass, Daina called a toast to their departed friend.  Fair winds and following sails to him and may the Host watch over his journey, she prayed.  And may he find his love.  

“To the Blue Jacket!” Trucco grinned.

“To the Peacock!” Daina clinked her glass against his.

“If I ever find any other Valeris running around in the wild,” Torlan declared, “I’ll be sure to shake their hands.”

The next morning, it was back to business as usual.  Daina had gone to the market to order provisions for the ship, and Patch had joined her.  As they walked, Daina idly recounted stories of her time in the war, and the colleagues she and Patch had shared during the times he’d been seconded to the Deneith 85th.  Trailing off, she broached the question that had been on her mind ever since Patch burst into the tavern, covered in rain and someone else’s blood.  How had he survived the Mourning?

It had, he revealed, been a bit of a lucky break.  He’d been sent across the border to Breland for a quick in-and-out supply raid, and then one minute Cyre had been there, and the next, there was a wall of grey mist preventing him from going back.  It was good, he admitted, to see a friendly face, even if they’d known each other during dark times.  So how had Daina survived?

Daina paused, her expression blank as she looked down at her boots.  She’d left Cyre in 993, almost a year earlier.  She’d expected Patch to have heard about her desertion, had assumed he’d worked with the 85th between then and the end, but it seemed he hadn’t.  There in the market wasn’t the time and place to confess her sins, so instead, she asked him a favour: if he ever found himself in contact with House Deneith again, to not mention having found her.  He assured her that he would not.  Their awkward silence was sharply broken by a rough voice calling out.

“Well, well, well!  Fancy seeing you again!”

Emerging from between some vendor stalls was a familiar and unwelcome sight: the man Daina had stood up to when she put herself between him and the shipwreck survivors, and at least twelve of his Bloody Blade goons.  Holding her arm out defensively across Patch’s chest, she assessed the situation, and her expert opinion as an experienced soldier, trained in combat and tactics with years of wartime experience was: run.

On the opposite side of the market, Torlan and Trucco were continuing their inquiries about the shipwreck, and regularly splitting up to make shorter work of it.  As he chased the meandering trail of leads, Torlan emerged from a shop to see Trucco being held aloft by a huge, hulking orc.  Blood was streaming from the shifter’s nose, and the orc was shouting at him.  He seemed to be yet another of Trucco’s old “friends,” and as the two tussled, the wiry rogue managed to break the orc’s grasp and drop to the ground.

“Torlan!” he yelled, “don’t ask questions, just run!”

The old dwarf agreed that it did indeed seem to be in their best interests to flee to the ship, because the orc wasn’t alone.  He knew when it wasn’t worth fighting an uneven battle.  Following Trucco as the rogue ran down the street at full tilt, completely unaware that Daina and Patch were in a similar predicament, he shouted some scathing words back at their pursuers as Trucco shoved a cart full of barrels into their path.

The chase was on!

Behind the Scenes

  • This session marked Savage Tales of Eberron‘s first use of SWADE’s Social Conflict rules, to persuade Laurina to join the crew! Mechanically, it went like this:
    • We had three rounds to accumulate a baseline target of six successes. Only one person per round was allowed to make the Persuasion roll needed to accumulate those successes, though anyone else could Support as usual. Rolling a 4 on the Persuasion check earned one success per round, with raises earning more.
    • Trucco was required to lead the first round, and then deferred the remaining two rounds to Daina. This not only made narrative sense as she both defended Trucco’s honour and is ultimately responsible for the crew crew, but it also made mechanical sense as Daina has the Charismatic edge which gives her a free reroll on Persuasion.
    • The number of successes was set to determine if Laurina would say yes at all, and if she did, what she would be willing to negotiate for. By the end of round two, we had accumulated enough successes for her to agree, but she did want to know what was in it for her. An 18 on Daina’s final argument, followed by one last roll Phillip chose to contest, easily won Laurina over!
    • As is tradition, a critical failure occurred. On the final round, Patch added his voice to our case, and came up snake eyes. Like with any other Support roll, critical failure meant that Daina received a -2 penalty to her roll. And, like with many other critical failures at this table, Ernesto (Trucco) turned it into a wonderful narrative moment as he took the heat, declaring that what went wrong with Patch’s argument wasn’t anything to do with him, but that it made Laurina remember how much Trucco has screwed her over in the past!
  • This session also saw us try out Savage Pathfinder’s chase deck for the first time. It is a truly fantastic upgrade from SWADE core’s already very solid and fun chase mechanics, and I’ll dive into that more next week.
  • That exceedingly flowery letter from Gaius to Daina was the result of having played the Love Interest card on him prior to the crew’s departure from Rickety’s Squibs. I got a really big kick out of that letter, it seems Phillip is also having fun with making sure I don’t weasel my way out of the not one but two such cards I’ve played in the past few weeks of this campaign. And, as the guys are used to hearing me say: I’m here for it.

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