Thursday, 23 October 2014

AS&SH - Session 12

Session 12 (October 18, 2014)

(Back to Session 1)

In which the party inquires about a way of getting home, sets sail toward the west, and suffers a great tragedy.

This time the party consisted of the following characters:
  • Harald Greentooth (Viking Fighter 4), the last of the original cast
  • Esja Waldensdottir (Viking Ranger 2)
  • Phlianos (Ixian Legerdemainist 2)
  • Laoise (Ixian Druid 2), a non-hater Ixian, who grew up among the Kelts
  • Styrr (Viking Fighter 2), a member of the crew promoted to PC status

Harald, Esja, and their crew - after barely running away with their lives - arrived at Port Zangerios, where they learned some elementary things about Hyperborea. They also sought the help of a sage on Babel Square in an institution called the Condominium of Solemn Seers. They spoke to Rhunzill Moireach, who told them there was a way of finding out when and where the fabric of space-time might disrupt so they may leave this world; unfortunately, the method requires rare herbs with a cost about 1,000 gold pieces. Also, this rather unhelpful audience also did cost some money, in lieu of which the party offered their help in gathering some iceroot (learning of which ultimately cost another 100 gp; sages are really Khajiit, as my players put it).

An inquisitive woman, Laoise, overheard the party discussing their plans and offered her help. Another adventurous fellow, Phlianos, also joined the party (fortunately, it kind of made sense in the fiction plus it was kept very short). They bought some supplies, paid their crew (and the guardsmen they recruited during the last session), and set sail towards west (they heard of a small Apollonian village, Larchmere Yys, which interested them).
Referee's note: Before this session I prepared a couple of adventure hooks and presented them to the party (imagining the information will have been heard in Port Zangerios), so they have some idea about the world and my work spent on prep will be useful.
The party sailed for a couple of days, most of which were rather boring. One night, however, as their designated lookout, Styrr, was answering nature's call, a member of the Elder Race appeared from thin air and paralysed him that instant. Fortunately, the thud his 200-something lbs body made woke up several of his mates, and the horrific creature soon found out how courageous Vikings really are. Although several of them were paralysed (including Captain Harald), they rather quickly dispatched the monstrosity. They were quite alarmed, however, when they realised the creature was after Gegnir, their weirdo priest-apprentice. When confronted, he admitted he used to dream about such creatures quite a lot.
Referee's note: It was a random encounter, of course; I have a fairly detailed table designed for the seas surrounding the Zangerios Islands, with possible motivations and other useful details for some of the creatures. This time the dice indicated that the creature was interested in a specific item; because the only interesting item was a magical bow, I decided it was after Gegnir, instead, which was a nice fit, I think. Also, I just decided it was time it switched to disintegrating rays when he received a tremendous amount of damage. Or I rolled poorly on its hit points.
A few days after their ship was hit by a terrible storm, tearing their sails and throwing one man off the deck. Fortunately, around sunset they reached a fishing village, where the locals helped the party dock their ship and provided quarters for the exhausted crew.
Referee's note: I randomly determined the weather and wind directions as per the rules presented in AS&SH, and the players had access to a map indicating the location of this village. Random results continue to amaze me.
About half of the crew and the player characters were escorted to an abandoned building with a large enough hall (sort of like a temple); the locals offered some food, wine, and blankets to the stormstruck crew. They were a short folk, however, and they asked for a couple of helping hands. Styrr and a couple of Vikings went along. They walked to a nearby stone building on a hill of sorts and the locals pointed at a cellar entrance; they continuously made excuses as for why they cannot bring the heavy chests and barrels up themselves, which aroused Styrr's suspicion. He sent down two of his men and insisted two of theirs follow, which they did - but the Vikings never answered Styrr's call ever.

He quickly explained he would bring more strong men - which the locals welcomed -, and they all headed back to the great hall. After sharing his concerns with the rest of the party, they decided they all should go (that is, the player characters plus Gegnir). On their way there Phlianos used his magic to appear like one of the locals (Disguise Self); he quietly convinced them that the guards left in the great hall became violent, so that only a single one of the treacherous locals would stay - whom he conveniently back-stabbed.

After securing the cellar - by throwing down some burning sacks of rotten grain -, they searched it, finding no sign of their Viking comrades (not even their burnt remains). While they were looking for secret doors and useful items (they eventually borrowed some fishing nets), Phlianos sneaked out to check the rest of their crew. To his horror, he found some obvious tracks indicating that they had been taken to a stumpy tower right next to the water.
Referee's note: Honestly, I hadn't pulled an Escape from Innsmouth on my players ever, usually reasoning it would be too obvious. With AS&SH, however, I was practically invited to do it - and it went quite well, partly because some of the players were not familiar with the story (although they soon got the impression that something was fishy off about the villagers), and partly because the random nature of the results made the details less troubling.
The tower's entrance was at the top of it. They descended the stairs and found themselves in front of a large door, on the other side of which was a huge room with full of villagers chanting. Rushing in, Harald and Styrr managed to trap the slow moving cultists with their fishing nets - and a long and bloody combat ensued.
Referee's note: The battle dragged on longer than I expected. With stats like (HD 1; AC 9; weapon d4; morale 7) they were pretty hard to kill. Also, the battle stopped twice for parleying. First, it ended when the players noticed an open altar in the middle of the crowd, down which they had lowered their crew; Phlianos, with a quite cinematic manoeuvre, jumped on top of the still entangled cultists and took the plunge down the altar. There he managed to save two of their men: Gustavsson (Harald's henchman, now Fighter 1) and Hrótgeirr (now Phlianos's henchmen, Thief 1 by the start of the next session). The second time meant the end of the battle.
After the battle the players tried to haul up the remains of their crew - but, apart from the two mentioned, they were all dead. Even more unfortunately, one of the cultists managed to get away earlier; when the survivors were asked whether he was running for backup, they told them no, "He went to make sure you never leave this place." - Phlianos ran up to the top and beheld the sight of their burning ship.

Although, with clever logistics and taking some affordable damage, they managed to haul out some of their stuff from the burning wreck, their loss was non-recoverable. They found a relatively safe place to spend the night, after which they left their captives tied up and headed towards Larchmere Yys.

On their way, three events worthy of mentioning occurred. First, a triad of zombies attacked the party; they were easily destroyed. Second, a giant ferret almost pilfered their supplies; fortunately, Phlianos took it out with a single hit. Third, a group of giant frogs hopped to attack; one of them even swallowed Harald whole (which, given his height, seemed very unlikely to the player); fortunately, he managed to cut himself out with his handy short spear javelin, which made the frogs flee and look for food elsewhere.
Referee's note: The loss of the Bloody Turtle and its crew was tough. Hyperborea is a dangerous and unforgiving place full of relentlessness and treachery. This event made my prep for Port Zangerios useless for now, which is kind of sad; but it opened up now possibilities, as well. Next time, the party intends to go back to the Dagonite fishing village and, once and for all, destroy them all.
(Next session)

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