Actual Play – Once Upon a Time In Ebberon – Part 5 (1/14/2015)

DnD_PHBTHGM: Brian Engard
Players: Rhea Friesen, Sam Simons, Morgan Ellis, Andreas Stein, and Sean Nittner
System: Dungeons & Dragons 5E
Setting: Ebberon

We’ve had a change up of cast. Exit Doona and her entourage and enter Argon and Störm.  Two dragonborn with very different pasts. One of them generated by Who the Fuck is My D&D Character. A princess from 200 years ago turned to stone by a sorcerer named Lady Vol and just awakened. Cool!

We also decided to try out some NPC hireling rules that Brian made.  Since the game, they have been published over on Kobold Press! I was excited to try them out.

Arrival at Fairhaven – assembling   our party

Upon arrival a messenger arrived for lady Doona, insisting that she return home at once to tend to family business. At the same time another messenger arrived with a letter from lord Rukan that he had two associate we should meet up with and that we could find them at the local Rose Flagon inn. After some a bit of “How do you do?” and some “What is he?” and the usual “Oh, no, I don’t claim a gender but I would be happy to serve in any way I can.” and a bit of “Charmed, I’m sure”, we were once again a party of adventurers!

But wait, we traveled with the remarkable Fieri and Thurgul who certainly had talents of their own. As Fieri wanted to see the world and Thurgul was paid to protect her, it was easy to convince them to come with us. And look, we even had rules for them as Hirelings! Fieri is a Mage, Thurgul a Bodyguard.

Investigating the shipment of Warforged

Keer was quick on the draw, and asked the harbormaster captain Vathra d’Lyrandar and her ship the Stormchaser. Good new it was still in port! The harbormaster would not be more specific, but gave us a place to start.

From there Dermis used  their divination to Locate Objects. As Warforged would not normally appear as objects, these particular “inert” warforged would be distinguished from any others that might be in Fairhaven, and of course from Dermis themselves. Levitating a lodestone in their palm and walking about the harbor with the protection of their friend, Dermis was eventually able to locate the crates… just in time to see them being offloaded.

Getting closer led to some unwanted attention. A group of sailors stopped us and asked in the kind of “we just want an excuse to club you and take your money” way what we were doing snooping around Vathra ship. Dermis of course said the truth… that we were looking for the warforged she was transporting.

The sailors bristled but Keer saved the day with his charm and wit, saying that yes, we did want to meet with their captain, and if they could just point the way, we would go to her now with and offer. The directed us to the Cat’s Cradle. Wonderful. What could go wrong.

Who is ambushing who here?

The Cat’s Cradle is in the bad part of Fairhaven. All the seedy things that need a home, they find it there.

Raj and Störm entered as an enterprising couple, looking for Vathra to move good for them. Dermis cast an invisibility spell on Keer and he scouted the area for threats, of which there were plenty.  Dermis and Argon waited outside consorting with the locals like very out of place tourists in a place tourists shouldn’t go!

Vathra told Raj and Störm they could talk about transporting cargo elsewhere. She led them several blocks away with Keer on their heels and Dermis and Argon keeping a safe distance. Once they were in the ally she whistled and black clad men dropped from above onto the street. The were armed and ready for a fight. Cue fight scene…

…or not. Keer who had been watching from close by snuck up, still invisible, to Vathra and put his dagger to her throat. As he came into view and gave her some pretty obvious options, she told her good squad to stand down. It was tentative though, it still seemed like she had some fight in her. Keer’s knife however, gave her a reason to hear out Raj, who told him her we weren’t after her, we just wanted to know about her supplier Hans.

The conversation ended in “Oh, yeah, I’m not real keen on working for him either. Let’s be friends!” Or at least that is how it sounded through the filter of Dermis’ optimism and faith in organics life.

Warehouse full of Wonder

Vathra told us that she didn’t like working for Hans, but that he was a scary dude she didn’t want to cross. She also said that his family operates the lightning rail, so it doesn’t exactly match up with why he would have it blow up.

If we could help her get work elsewhere she’d be grateful. She has been doing for moths already though. Delivering crates of Warforged to a warehouse, and every time she comes back the warehouse is emptied out, but someone else.

She took us to the location. we cracked open the crates and sure enough, a dozen warforged just like Dermis… only not quite. They had several enhancements. A massive gem built into their abdomen that appeared to be a receptacle for an incorporeal creature, spells woven into them to make them strong, faster, stealthier, and resistant to magic. The one thing they didn’t have was an animating spirit, the spark of life that made warforged alive.

Communing with the Elders

In order to understand these creations better, Dermis asked Fieri about her communion with the dead. How it worked, and if it would be possible to summon one of them to occupy one of these mechanical husks.  She was game to give it a try!

A few rare hallucinogenic herbs and spices, a goat to sacrifice, several hours of chanting later, and a ritual we all took part of and the spirit was upon us. For Störm the ancestor was pleasant and refined, like a reunion of old friends. For Dermis, she was full of fury, fighting against the remnant of Lady Vol that still was inside them. When the ritual was complete the ancestor spirit entered the gem and the creature came alive. This is what we learned:

  • The machine is intended for an astral spirit
  • It is warded against magic.
  • It’s from an unknown origin
  • It has some illusionary capabilities
  • It’s only weakness is if the crystal network is destroyed, however most of that is embedded deep in the core of the creature.

When the spirit left, we stood there wondering what to do now. The Quori were building an army. No more weak flesh suits, these machines would give them power beyond our ken!

Thoughts on the game

A major strength of Brian’s games is that he isn’t married to a resolution. He’s got a big enough conspiracy going on that it doesn’t really matter what part of it we start with or how quickly we learn about it. Perhaps were moving at the pace he expected, but no matter what he’s done a great job of keeping every unfolding piece of this puzzle exciting and intriguing. We want to know answers to lots of questions, and have enough leads that we can follow up on at least most of them. We also know there is an impending doom of sorts if we don’t act fast.

I can see this game quickly becoming political, which would be fun. Like, at some point we should tell someone about all of this. One of the Houses? The Kalashtar? The Lord Mayor or Council of Sharn? The allies of Lady Vol? I see lots of possibilities.

When we were first introducing the new characters I asked Rhea if Störm sorcerer nemesis could have been Lady Vol (she’s certainly been around long enough) and she went for it. Yay, characters connected in complicated ways.

I don’t think the intangibles (personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws) are as powerful as I hoped they would be. When I saw them and the inspiration mechanic I hoped they would be guiding principles for our characters like Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits in Burning Wheel. Mostly though they seem to encourage a shtick (I’m the naive one, I’m the charming one, I’m the suspicious one) rather than drive play.  Brian changed the rule that we can get more than one inspiration per session (but that they are all lost at the end of the session) to try and encourage us to hit more of them, but I still wasn’t feeling the immediacy of them that I’d like. I think in part because by design D&D is supposed to be about the adventure your DM provides you and not about the character’s goals. But that’s a longer discussion…

XP: We gained 450 XP from two encounters. New total is 1575. Halfway to 4th level!