Actual Play – Once Upon a Time In Ebberon – Part 1 (10/8/2014)

DnD_PHBTHGM: Brian Engard
Players: Anna Meade, Morgan Ellis, Andreas Stein, and Sean Nittner
System: Dungeons & Dragons 5E
Setting: Ebberon

It started with a tweet…

Actually this totally wasn’t the original tweet, but I scrolled for 10 minutes and didn’t find it, so we’ll call that the original. Brian asked if folks wanted to play a little 5E. I hadn’t checked it out yet (except for looking at an early Next Playtest forever ago) so I was eager to give it a shot. Once he mentioned that it would be in Ebberon I was totally sold. I’ve loved that setting since I first saw it in 2004 but never got a chance to play a campaign game in it.

It’s good to follow @Zelgadas

Our Cast

Doona of Clan Danki – A noble dwarf bucking tradition and making a name for herself. She refuses the title “lady” and is more at home with her axe Bertha, and the hammer she carries in her boot, than with the gentry. Despite her gruff nature, Doona has remarkable intellect and assumes (usually correctly) that she is the smartest person in the room. Doona is accompanied by Dane of Clan Dankil her squire, Arlis Stonegutter her major domo, and Bertha Ramsbottom her lady-in-waiting.

Dermis, a faithful servant of their master Lady Vol, now accompanies new companions. Dermis is quite skilled in penmanship, ancient histories, and has a keen mind for putting details together. What’s better is that Dermis is always deferential to natural life forms, as a dutiful child would be to their elders. Having just picked up the dusty tombs from Lady Vol’s Fist Athenaeum, Dermis is a self taught wizard. Dermis seeks to prepare their self to be a great vessel that Lady Vol may one day be reborn in.

Keer Thorn is a Sharn native and comes from a poor and crime-ridden section of the city. When he was a boy he was employed as a messenger and runner for his uncle a local gang boss. But he was rescued from all that when his remarkable powers of observation and memory were recognized by a well known Inquisitive, and he was taken off the streets and apprenticed to a Cleric of Aureon who was one of the main archivists at the City Archive. In his studies at the university he discover some alarming irregularities in his mentor’s old papers. It seems as though there was a connection between her and the Dark Lanterns. Could they be behind it? Could some foreign power? Who was his mentor really working for?

Raj is an elf who dresses herself in assassin’s garbs. Or is his he the young human son of Lord Rukan? Nobody knows. The entity we travel with however is a changeling equally adept at subterfuge and skulduggery. Ninja!

Our predicament

We were set up! After taking a job for some shady individuals, we realized the fruiting of the work would be the destruction of the lightning rail. Collectively we refused the job, but we were too far in and instead of the deft hand of evil, we became it’s scapegoats!

The adventure started with a chase. Having just learned of the plans to destroy the lightning rail (and to pin it on us!) we raced to the scene of the crime and fought off the less morally minded bandits! By the strength of Doona’s axe, might of Keer’s faith, arcane enchantments of Dermis, and the silent blade of Raj all were dispatched. All save the leader of the bandits, who having planted the bomb, made off in haste!

KABOOM!

We were thrown by the blast. Our ears rung, our vision blurred, when we came to our senses we could already hear the shouts of the guards. With alacrity we traversed the city streets and escaped them, but not without our identities being perceived by the authorities. One among us, the unknown Raj, offered us safe transport if we would meet only read a proposal from Raj’s benefactor. We gladly concented and read by lantern light as our coach sped away from the from.

Letter from Lord Rukan

A new offer on the table

Once coach ride later and we arrived at the estate of Lord Rukan and were escorted by Raj through servants passages so as not to disturb those slumbering within.

Lord Rukan himself was awake, and greeted us kindly. He had Josie, a member of House Jorasco, the healers guild on hand to mend our wounds at his expense, though she was fastidious to gain our connect before applying any magics to us. Rukan also offered us what refreshments he could. As indicated in his missive, Lord Rukan sought to ally with us in the purpose of uncovering who it was that destroyed the Lightning Rail in Sharn and their motives!

With little deliberation we raised our glasses to our new benefactor and committed to this solemn task, and it was beneficent to all.

The inquiry begins

Now wanted criminals we attempted to keep our profiles low when visiting the Rose Flagon, a tavern often frequented by the dwarf Birri, who had first given us the job. Birri, alarmed at our presence – perhaps he thought we would have been apprehended – made haste to depart upon appraising our visage. The ever watchful Keer however, tracked him down through ally and portal, even through a complete change of his person. Instead of spotting Birri the dwarf, Keer perchanced upon an elf in his clothes. Birri was a changeling as well! The elf tried to dissuade Keers interrogation but the Inquisitive’s mind was too keen, and soon all as laid plain.

Birri told us what he knew, which to our great dissatisfaction was very little. He had received a sending stone with information and payment from Voren d’Cannith, no more! What Birri could reveal, in an anecdotal fashion however, was that the destruction of the Lighting Rail would be good fortune for House Canntith, the Maker’s Guild. The house had created Warforged as well as many magical and mundane items in the past, but now their power waned. A disruption in trade would create more demand for their goods. Also, the house was fractured and different families within were often at odds. The Brelish branch in particular frequented illicit opportunities for the trade of arms.

Of note, we also caught the attention from some of the locals. Hetty, the halfling proprietor of the Rose Flagon and member of the Hostelers guild was keenly interested in us causing no trouble in her place.

So Doona deigned to fabricate extramural incidents in the form of throwing a dagger at the fleeing Birri. When it missed and struck a commoner, Thurgel of the banker’s guild, trouble was indeed upon us. Dermis elected the use of arcane eloquence to win over, if temporarily, the favor of Thurgel and took the newfound friend to the healer’s guild where his injury was healed, his clothes cleaned and repaired, and missives sent to his workplace indicating his tardiness. All told he spend 15 gold for the services, which Dermis sincerely hopes to repay in the future!

House Sivis, Purveyors of Postal Services

To inquire more of our intercessor, we ventured to House Sivis, where all sending stones passed trough. We posed several queries to the gnome officer of House Sivis, but our manner was to blunt by far and we were quickly admonished by the scribe for our ignominious rhetoric.

Raj, ever inscrutable, split from our company and by the powers of his races innate magic, returned as a town guard. He entered House Sivis inquiring into a motley group that might have been asking after a lockbox owned by a member of the Dragonmarked Houses. When his suspicions where confirmed he declared that it was critical that he inspect the box in case any of it’s contents were missing!

The contents of the box were only a small pouch of coins and a sending stone which imparted certain knowledge that while delightful, could not be confirmed. The stone conveyed a visage of Voren, a man with red hair, as well as his locale, an enchantment foundry in the lower parts of the city.

Another lead gained by ingenuity removed our present perturbation and illuminated a new path towards our communal exoneration.

Thoughts on this game

First off, some love for 5th edition. I’m very excited that we never had call for miniature or map. Especially in online gaming, minis and battle maps are the mind killer. Not only does tactical combat slow everything down but it presents one more focal point to draw us to our combat stats and away from things like goal, bonds, and ideals. So yay, no maps!

Inspiration by dint of roleplaying your flaws, beliefs etc. is a good step in the right direction, but it’s a binary currency. You either have it or you don’t, you can’t gain “more”. And gaining it doesn’t have any bearing on the source it came from. For instance if you have a goal to become one of the kings archers and you enter an archer contest to prove yourself, you would likely gain inspiration. However, there isn’t a part o the game that says now reflect on your goal and determine if should change. In effect it feels like it’s scraping the surfaces of Burning Wheel beliefs, but not going far enough.

We skipped over the “you met in a tavern” section of the game, assuming we were all working as mercenaries from the start. I like the expediency that provided, but I think the game could stand for some reflection (as we do at start of session, see future AP reports on this game) where we talk some about ourselves, and how we got where we were. Like, Dermis, I can’t really imagine why they would become a mercenary. Unless something really needed the money quickly…perhaps a portion of Lady Vol’s manor falling into disrepair, or worse, a lean on it coming due!

Brian has a really good knowledge of Ebberon, which has enriched the setting incredibly. It’s important to know how lightning rails work, which house presides over which function, and what the political landscape of Sharn is, if you want to create an unfolding conspiracy. Brian is aces at that!

If you can’t tell, I just read a lot of Jack Vance before writing this post. Hence all the unnecessary two dollar words. I like to think that Dermis expresses themselves with eloquence and grace but in play my own personal lack of sophisticated vocabulary reduces my of exchanges to plebeian vernacular.

At some point it came to light that during the night while all others are sleeping, Dermis un-braids Doona’s hair, brushes it, and re-braids it. That crazy oddity was the most “Dermis” I portrayed that entire game. Doona of course does not know this, but Arlis greatly approves!