This could easily be a long post. I was really on-fire this session, and packed a lot in. The players were very much on their game as well, and gathered some info I'd planned to hold back till much later. We ran over our time slot by at least an hour. In fact, we hit so much in session 3 that I'm only going to cover half of this session in this post, for time and space reasons.
- Burgolt the Nobleman Pistolier
- Hrulgar the Dwarven Runesmith
- Ninewise the Initiate of Ranald (Priestess of the God of Thieves)
- Lina the Bright Wizard (Pyromancer)
Early Evening of Day 2: When last we saw our heroes, they had just saved the family of a merchant, Adolphus Starke, from arson (and probably attempted murder). The PCs killed one arsonist, captured the other and delivered him to the city watch, and did it all in very direct defiance of a man named Bischoff. Bischoff is the main enforcer for The Black Cowl. The Cowl's organization (using the Criminal Empire nemesis card) was dealt it's first set-backs by these developments.
The PCs spent a little time talking with Starke. His boat was almost entirely ruined by the fire (the fire got to the 8th space of a 9-space progress tracker that would have ended in 3 deaths and a sinking) and will need major repairs before it can leave town. The whole point of him being here was that he's awaiting a delivery of exotic Cathayan silks to arrive, a shipment that is now overdue. He's in very dire straits, and deeply ashamed at his own responsibility for what has happened.
A few days ago, upon arriving in Averheim, he was approached on the docks by a gang of racketeers and thugs. They demanded protection money, by Starke refused. Not on principle, nor even because of any amount of personal courage. He refusal was simply because he had a previously standing arrangement with another racketeer. A man named Klaus Keller had been accepting Starke's protection moneys for years, and Starke had credit to spare. "Go talk to Keller," he told them. Klaus Keller was, of course, the very same racketeer whose body the PCs had found in an alleyway the previous day. Bad news for the merchant.
Our heroes are heroes indeed, though, and they weren't about to leave Starke and his family vulnerable on the docks where Bischoff and crew might do them in. Burgolt offered that they could use one of the guest rooms in one of his family's smaller properties for a few nights. This was a very generous offer from a nobleman of Burgolt's standing, and Starke took him up on it at once.
The party heads to Burgolt's house, has some dinner and debates their next options. The rain that started earlier in the day (while they were trudging about the riverbanks looking for Jurgen's hat) continues and gets quite nasty, so they decide to stay the night in the property. There's not actually enough beds since Starke's family is there as well. The dwarf is short enough to sleep on the fainting couch in the foyer, so they make do.
Off-Camera Sidebar: The decision to stay at Burgolt's to avoid the worst of the rain causes the players to miss on several events, but none of them were vital for PCs to attend, and most could be learned later from witnesses (or bodies). Those who have read the adventure will know most of them, but I had also prepared a few special events as reactions to the confrontation with Bischoff.
Chromatahaus, the multi-Order dorm where Lina usually bunks, is surveilled by two of Bischoff's thugs. More on that below, and again in Session 4.
Morning of Day 3
Meanwhile, Bischoff and Gerd Knakk (the docker foreman that Ninewise accidentally caused to join the Cowl's group) organize a mob of Fish to go to the guard house and demand the release of the "wrongly accused" arsonist. More on that in a future post, as well.
Breakfast is quite nice. Burgolt's servants whip up something special… but after the meal, the cook and butler take him aside. They let the young nobleman know that with all these extra houseguests, the pantry is all but depleted. Burgolt dips into his piggy bank and forks over several coins to restock the larder.
The PCs have a variety of tasks they wish to accomplish this morning, so they scatter a bit. Burgolt goes to his father's house to collect his daily allowance (he gets a stipend of 3 silver per day from his father's money-keeper). Ninewyse goes shopping for a detailed map of Averheim, as her previous map had spent rather a lot of time in the river yesterday. Lina kills time in some way that completely escapes me now, but does not involve going to the dorm at all.
Hrulgar heads to a meeting at the Averburg Palace. He'd sent word at some point the previous day (a message carried by a soldier from the arson arrest, if I'm not mistaken) requesting an audience with his old war-buddy Marcus Baerfaust. Since the poor dwarf had to sit around waiting for other people the previous session, I was all too happy to give him some spotlight time.
Baerfaust and Hrulgar Sidebar: Marcus Baerfaust is the Captain of the Averheim Garrison. He is of low birth, but was granted a very minor title (Edler) for his command of the troops at the Third Battle of Blackfire Pass. His immediate superior (the Elector, Marius "The Mad Count" von Leitdorf) died in the battle, and Baerfaust managed to keep the lines from collapsing when it happened.
Hrulgar was also present at that battle. The dwarf was actually part of the impromptu militia unit that was emergency deployed to the center of the fighting in an attempt to reinforced the Mad Count's overwhelmed guard. Hrulgar took a bad head-wound in that fight, and passed out from it. He remembers awakening in the Shallyan hospice, his wounds being tended by a charitable noblewoman (Gravin Clothilde von Alptraum).
Those details are all content generated by the player's responses to the "Battle-Scarred" background card for The Enemy Within. As part of character generation, the player is given the opportunity to color Baerfaust as hero, coward, traitor, etc. Our player decided that (from his perspective, at least) Baerfaust was a hero and capable commander who did what he could to save the Count, but was unable to do so because of the harrowing realities of battle. He also indicated they were friends and comrades, which was a particularly potent decision.
These questions and answers are also where Ingo Baerfaust (see my previous posts, and below) came from.
Captain Marcus Baerfaust is very busy and somewhat stressed, but he's able to find a little time this morning for his old friend. When Hrulgar arrives, Baerfaust sets aside his paperwork and pours them a few drinks. The Dwarf fills in the Captain about the arson on the docks, and the new crime boss. Baerfaust listens intently, but says that his hands are largely tied. His authority as commander of the garrison comes directly from the Elector of Averland, but in the two years since Marius von Leitdorf died in battle, that position has lain vacant. Money is tight, and the squabbling nobles and burghers rarely back his plays. What if this new crime boss turns out to work for some nobleman, who demands his servant be set free? Baerfaust's political situation is precarious.
Criminal Background Sidebar: One of the PCs, Ninewise the Initiate of Ranald, was created with the Criminal Background card. Her answers to the questions on that card made it clear that she was arrested by Captain Baerfaust himself within the past few years. The Captain was forced to acquit and release her due to sworn testimony of a businessman named Friederich Grosz who honestly believed Ninewise to be innocent of the crime (though in truth she wasn't). Ninewise is a bit of a local hero amongst the underclass because of it, as acquittals by any means short of trial by combat are extremely rare in the Empire. Being unable to successfully prosecute a criminal of relatively low stature definitely undermined his position within the city. That said criminal is, perhaps unknown to him, a friend of a friend, just makes it more complicated.
Talk turns to Ingo, who is Captain Baerfaust's nephew, gone missing these past two weeks. Hrulgar was friends with Ingo, and noticed his absence almost immediately because they'd had plans for dinner or some such the day after he was last seen. He'd checked with a few other war buddies since then, and no one knew where Ingo had gone. The Captain doesn't know either, but suspects foul play.
Ingo Baerfaust had been aware of the rumblings about the changes in the criminal landscape of the wharf district. He was doing some "unofficial" investigating around the docks, and had promised to report his findings back to his uncle. On the night he was last seen, he'd left a note for Marcus in the Captain's office. Unfortunately, Ingo's handwriting was notoriously bad, he'd barely learned his letters within the past few years. The note was almost entirely illegible, except for one word that seemed to be written with great deliberation. "Jade". It meant nothing to the Captain. He planned to harangue his nephew about it the next day, but had not seen him since.
Hrulgar asks if the note is available for him to look at. Alas as parchment is expensive, and Marcus thought for certain he would see his nephew again soon, the letter was thrown in the palimpsest bin.
Palimpsest Sidebar: Palimpsest is the common middle-ages practice of bleaching the ink off of a parchment so that it can be used again. The document had no doubt already been recycled before its was ever known that it might well contain Ingo's last words.
At that moment, there is a rap at the door and a female Lieutenant in full-plate enters. "The powder count, sir," she says, handing a document to the Captain. Baerfaust frowns at whatever it says, but doesn't go into the details. It's called foreshadowing.
The woman is introduced as Arta Schaeffer, and she is the Captain's right hand this past year or more. Marcus introduces Hrulgar, and when he does so, Arta's eyes light up. "You're Skullsplitter!? THE Skullsplitter?" she asks. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you! The Captain has told me all about you, and you were truly a sight to behold at Blackfire…"
Hrulgar corrects her, his last name is Steelheart, not Skullsplitter, but she won't hear it. There's discussion for a bit about how Hrulgar's performance at Third Blackfire was so impressive. Hrulgar has barely any memory of it, and modestly replies that "Skullsplit" would be more accurate given that he got near as well as he gave.
Marcus Baerfaust intervenes now to reign in Arta's fanboyish enthusiasm. When Skullsplitter - I mean Steelheart - was convalescing after the battle, he was clearly embarrassed whenever the troops called him by that name, so Baerfaust had ordered them not to do so. Arta's just really pleased to meet him. The scene gets intentionally awkward (the GM is up to something), and Baerfaust stops Arta short. Pulling rank and being quite curt with her, the Captain insists Lt Schaeffer has more important duties than to attempt to seduce her commanding officer's friends. (Yep, the GM is definitely up to no good here. I wonder what it means.)
And with that, the blushing Dwarf decides it's time to go. He promises to report back to Baerfaust anything important he learns about Ingo or the Black Cowl.
Wow, I really packed a lot into this session. This was just the tip of the iceberg. There's still another 3 or 4 really good scenes left to describe, including my favorite of the campaign so far, but I've run out of writing time today. I'll have to finish this session report in another post later this week.