Session Recap week 16: Knives in the Dark

11 Olarune, 998YK. Somewhere west of Port Krez.

Daina ir’Lizani woke at eight bells to one of the darkest nights that had fallen since her abduction from Regalport in mid-Lharvion.  Only two of Eberron’s twelve moons were more than half full, and most of them were not visible at all.  It was the perfect night for an ambush.  It was the perfect night for her and her friends to take back what was theirs – their lives, and their freedom.

She sat up in her hammock and could hear Rus and Trucco doing the same.  Lightly swinging her feet down to the deck, she reached over to put a quick hand on Rus’ arm and whisper to him to start the clock.  Trucco was confident it would take him no more than seven minutes to assassinate the pilot and lookout, reach Torlan, and free him before Rus woke Sandara, Unnao, and the others to begin the attack in earnest, and at Daina’s signal Rus began the countdown in his head.  There was no turning back now. 

Placing one hand on the hull as the Majestic Gryphon’s creaking and swaying spoke to him, Trucco spoke to the ship in return.  He knew that they hadn’t gotten off on the right foot, and were practically strangers, but he hoped she’d understand that he was working to free her from her cruel new masters and they would all be better off for it.  As his claws began to grow, the shifter slipped out a porthole and began working his way up the hull.  The crew quarters were on the opposite side of the deck from where Torlan was chained, and Trucco had planned to work his way up into the rigging and take out Salty, Sarina, and Maheem from above as he traversed the ropes and spars.  Casting a glance over the deck, he quickly and quietly clambered up the forward mast to the crow’s nest…and pulled himself up to find himself face to face with Maheem, who was seated with his back to the mast and looking straight in Trucco’s direction.  As the shifter lunged forward and drew his shortsword in one fluid motion, Maheem’s eyes grew wide and Trucco realized that the man hadn’t actually noticed him in the largely moonless night.  

That sleek, swift shadow was the last thing Maheem saw.

Squinting down to assess the situation on deck, Trucco saw Sarina walk into the lamplight below him, disappear into the darkness, and reappear on the opposite end of the deck as she patrolled.  As Trucco watched, he saw Salty leave the wheel to tell Sarina something as he pointed out over the ocean…and then he turned and began walking straight towards the ship’s bell.  Looking over to where Salty had pointed, Trucco could see a massive storm rolling in, and realized that the pilot was going to call the crew to general quarters  

Up on the poop deck, Torlan was awake and alert.  Having been warned the previous evening of the impending mutiny and quite done being chained to the mast, his soldiering instincts had now kicked in and he had spotted the glint of a pair of feline eyes at the rail before they swiftly disappeared into the night.  He could overhear Salty pointing out the storm to Sarina, and see him making his way for the bell.  “Hey!  Hey, Salty!” Torlan called out.  “You see that?  Those aren’t storm clouds — that’s Aureon coming for his due!”  Salty sneered, but didn’t slow down. “You’re daft, you old codger!”   “Oh, is that right?” Torlan taunted back, praying that the pilot would turn his attention from the bell to his captive nemesis.  “Not daft enough that you haven’t been able to knock the daftness out of me yet!”  Unable to help himself, Salty began striding back towards Torlan to deliver him another beating when he heard Sarina call out behind him and whipped around to see her pointing up into the rigging.

“Salty!  Look out!”

That was Daina’s cue.  From her hiding place at the top of the stairs that led down to the crew quarters, Daina’s dragonmark flared to life as she burst through the door that was all that stood between her and Sarina raising an alarm.  Clapping her free hand over the other woman’s mouth, Daina drove her sword into Sarina’s back.  In the dark and having to guess her enemy’s exact location based on sound and instinct, she found her target, but immediately knew that she’d botched the killing blow… 

As Salty dropped to the deck with one of Trucco’s knives buried in his back, the shifter could see a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye and nimbly landed in front of Sarina with his shortsword drawn before jumping out of his crouch to plunge his blade into her chest.  “See?” he announced, giving Daina a cocky grin, “I told you I got this!”

His friend was in no mood for jokes.  Her internal clock was going haywire, and she knew that Rus’ would be too — Trucco was in no position to free Torlan before Rus began the assault on the crew quarters.  The only thing to do was for her to go back below, find Rus, and tell him to give Trucco a few more minutes.  Turning at the top of the stairs, she met the rogue’s eyes and nodded.  “You did good. How much time do you need?  Rough estimate.”  Trucco shrugged.  “At my best, two minutes.  At my worst…ten.”  Daina pursed her lips.  They might not have ten minutes.  If things went poorly, she told him, he should try to cut the chain instead.  It would be loud, but if they were running that low on time, it wouldn’t matter.  “It’s a really good chain, though!” Trucco protested, earning him a disbelieving glare.  “It..but…yes, sure.”  With that guarantee, Daina finished assessing their situation.  “Best case two minutes, worst case ten…I’ll give you another five.  See you on the other side.”  With that, she disappeared into the dark, and Trucco began high-tailing it back to the bow of the ship.

Down in his hammock, Rus heard a thump coming from the deck above him.  Glancing to where Tamroth slept on his right and Tilly on his left, he carefully made his way past them to wake Sandara Quinn and ordered her to keep watch over Tilly and take her out when the time came.  At the top of the stairs, hidden in the shadows, Daina let her eyes readjust to the darkness that was even more pronounced that it had been on deck.  She soon spotted Rus moving from hammock to hammock as he woke up Rosie, Conchobar, and Crimson Cog, his back to the stairs and no easy way to get his attention.  A few days earlier, he’d taught her some of the hand signals he’d used in the aerial corps so that the two of them could communicate silently if needed, and she began to make her way down to the pool of lamplight below the stairs, where he said he’d look for her, taking great care to avoid the spots in which she knew the planks creaked…

…and misjudged the distance between the stairs and the floor, missing a couple of steps and tumbling down to the deck with a loud crash.  “Eh?  What’s going on?” Tamroth Scrimshaw grumbled as she awoke with a start.

“Tamroth, shhh!” Daina whispered.  “Stay quiet and listen to me…”  “Ah, shut yer mouth!” Tamroth snarled as Rus spun around.  “What’s goin’ on?”  

“Stay down,” Rus whispered, “we’re taking care of somethin’ real fast.”  At that moment, both he and Daina could hear Sandara Quinn behind them — and she was attacking Tilly, who had awoken at the sounds while Tamroth continued to lay in her hammock and watch the spectacle with interest.  “There’s no more time to stay in the middle” Daina hissed as she turned to barely make out Tilly lunging at Sandara with her dagger.  Reaching out to put a hand on Rus’ shoulder, her dragonmark flared as the dancing blue sparks surrounding her flowed off her arm and wrapped around him. Quickly crossing the deck to where Sandara was dancing away from Tilly’s blade, Daina delivered a swift, clean killing blow.  At the bow of the ship, Unnao had also awoken at the sound along with Aejar and Ilyra, his fellow crew members, though ones who had eagerly thrown their lots in with Scourge and Lagraa.  Judging that one scuffle wasn’t worth playing his hand yet when he was outnumbered two to one, he grumbled at Ilyra to ignore it and let whoever was brawling sort themselves out.  He was sick of having his rest interrupted, especially with Scourge and Lagraa forcing everyone to work double shifts, and with that, he rolled over and pretended to fall back asleep.

Deciding it was time to go slow down the officers who would surely start hearing the commotion soon, Rus ordered Rosie and Conchobar to back up Unnao and then glanced over his shoulder at Daina.  “Good luck” he murmured before dropping down the opening in the center of the weapons deck to the cargo hold before.  Quickly finding the oar he’d removed from one of the dinghies the previous night, he slid it through the handle of the door and braced it against the wall.  It wouldn’t stop them completely, but it would buy him and the others more time, and that was all that would help them now.  Back on the weapons deck, Rosie dashed over to the bow with a curse and snarled at Aejar and Ilyra to stay put — they didn’t need to concern themselves — while Crimson Cog and Sandara began piling crates on top the the hatch that connected the officers quarters to the weapons deck.  Equal parts confused and unimpressed, Aejar and Ilyra pushed past the angry, excitable halfling to try to get a better look at what was going on.  

From across the deck, cane sword at the ready, Conchobar decided to try a different gambit — deception.  Puffing out his chest, he lowered his voice in an attempt to impersonate Scourge ordering everyone to cut it out and get back to bed…and promptly fell into a coughing fit as his vocal cords rebelled at being pushed beyond their capabilities.  Rosie, however, was quick on her feet as usual.  “Conchobar, you thrice-damned asshole!” she shouted before turning her ire back to the other swabs.  “Ilyra, were you born yesterday???  It’s the middle of the night, and there’s this cacophony of activity — it’s a goddamned mutiny!”  The woman’s eyes went wide.  She looked back at Aejar and shoved him towards the ladder leading down to the cargo hold, and they both disappeared down the hatch with Rosie hot on their heels and cursing up a storm.  Over where Rus was barring the officers door, Owlbear — who Lagraa had ordered chained up to defend the same door against the crew, and whose chains Trucco had unlocked but left in place the night before — began to slowly come awake, confused.  “Owlbear?” he asked, his voice groggy.  “What — what doin’?”  

“We’re takin’ over the ship, Big Guy” Rus replied as he finished barring the door, “and we want you to come with us and help out.  Team player.”  Turning to where Rosie was taking wild swings at Ilyra and Aejar, he drew one of his wands, pointed it at the fray, and spoke a word he hadn’t spoken in years, a word none of his new friends even knew he had in his arsenal:


A huge clap of thunder reverberated through the belly of the ship as Ilyra and Aejar went flying into the opposite end of the hull and slumped to the ground.  On the poop deck, Trucco looked up with a start from where he’d been carefully working on the complex lock chaining Torlan.  “What the hell was that???” the old dwarf shouted.  “Isn’t there a storm coming?” Trucco wondered.  “Look in the distance!” Torlan replied.  “The Devourer’s coming for us!”               

Shaking off his chains, Owlbear stood up and clapped Rus on the back.  “Big thunder!” he happily declared.  “You Big Thunder!”  Rus grinned and set the big man to block and guard one of the hatches down to the bilge while he covered the other, hoping to drive the officers into the narrowest bottleneck possible — for there was no chance they weren’t awake now.  Back on the weapons deck, Daina’s eyes widened as she heard what sounded like an explosion shaking the planks beneath her feet. “Sound off!” she shouted.  Relieved to hear everyone accounted for, including Rus and Rosie from down below, she also began to hear indistinct shouting coming from the hatch Cog and Sandara were barricading.  The real fight was about to begin.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: which of your old friends do you miss the most? Where are they? And what is your fondest memory of them?
  • This session was a textbook example of rolling with the punches as no plans survive contact with the dice. Let’s unpack some of the more memorable moments…
  • Stealth rolls in Savage Worlds are opposed against the target’s Notice, and while we play with the standard mechanic of the attacker setting the Target Number, Phillip likes to maintain tension by making the defender’s Notice roll privately. Ernesto rolled moderately well on sneaking up to the crow’s nest, and Phillip employed a clever turn of phrase by telling him that Maheem was looking straight in Trucco’s direction — but the moment Trucco attacked, it became clear that Maheem was simply looking in Trucco’s direction. He hadn’t actually noticed Trucco. The result was that Trucco had The Drop (+4 to attack and damage), and Ernesto used that as a rare opportunity to negate the attack penalty from a Called Shot (-4 to hit, +4 to damage) to Maheem’s head. It paid off.
  • I rolled a 4 on Daina’s initial attack on Sarina, and was worried that wouldn’t be good enough to hit her. I felt that it would be very important to Daina to do everything in her power to prevent an alarm from sounding, and spent all four of the bennies I had at that point trying to do better. I rolled 4 3s in a row only to learn that 4 was, in fact, good enough to score a hit…and then only scored 5 on the damage, which I couldn’t try for better on as I’d spent all my bennies on the attack roll. Fortunately, it was enough to at least Shake my target, and at the end of the turn I was awarded a bennie for taking swift and decisive action. That’s the bennie economy at work, folks! Thankfully, Trucco rolled well enough to dispatch both Salty and Sarina in one hit each, making short work of the deck crew.
  • Daina deciding to go tell Rus to hold off launching his attack led to our first crit fail of the night. I had to make several stealth rolls in the process of returning to the crew quarters and then trying to find and communicate with Rus without waking anybody, and yep, that final roll came up snake eyes. Rosie (controlled by Michael) then critically failed her intimidation roll to convince Ilyra and Aejar to mind their own business, and then Conchobar (controlled by Ernesto) critically failed his deception roll to imitate Scourge. It’s always disappointing to see such great ideas foiled by a pair of 1s, but when Ilyra and Aejar bolted for the cargo hold, that gave Rus his moment to shine and unleash Thunderwave for the first time.
  • Speaking of bennies, they did indeed flow in this session, and one thing that players feel freedom to do with a good bennie economy is use them for more than just soaking. More than one bennie was offered to the GM over the course of the evening in exchange for altering the scene. Kevin even did it twice: once, to say that Rus had previously taught Daina hand signals, and then to say that he had managed to stow an oar in the cargo hold the day before, which he then used to bar the door to the officer’s quarters.
  • Having allies to control in combat is always fun, and we had quite a roster this week! Kevin ran Owlbear and Sandara, Michael ran Rosie, Ernesto ran Conchobar and Crimson Cog, and I ran Unnao. It was also really fun to not just dictate their attacks, but to have roleplaying opportunities for them as well. Michael, Ernesto and I all received bennies for our efforts — Michael for appropriately cursing up a storm while roleplaying as Rosie (who it turns out also has the Mean hindrance), Ernesto for his appropriately arrogant performance as Conchobar, and myself for having Unnao deceive Ilyra and Aejar by pretending to be pissed off at getting woken up in the middle of the night.
  • So, that’s half a mutiny completed. What about the other half? Well…you’ll just have to tune in next week. 😉

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