This post picks up after my previous one, and details the other events of the 3rd session. We ran over by an hour, and nobody noticed (or wanted to quit) at the point I finally said "fade to black".
• Burgolt the Nobleman Pistolier
• Hrulgar the Dwarven Runesmith
• Ninewise the Initiate of Ranald
• Lina the Bright Wizard
Let's see, we where on Day 3, and the PCs were attending to a number of tasks in various parts of town. Is there anything I still needed to say about that? **Consults notes, realizes there certainly is.** Well, then...
Backing Up to the Captain-Dwarf talk. In my last post, I forgot to mention one very important fact that came up when Hrulgar was talking with Captain Baerfaust. Bischoff, the enforcer and faceman of the Black Cowl's organization down on the docks, was mentioned by name to the Captain. Baerfaust responded with a bit of shock at this. He knew Bischoff. He's ex-military, a former NCO of the Averheim Greatswords. When the Templeman Expedition was being put together by Johann Templeman and Graf Friederich von Kaufman, they knew they'd need some guards and men-at-arms. So they approached the Captain about hiring some of the soldiers under his command. The Captain was happy to oblige them. With no Elector-Count in the County, the Greatswords and their garrison and both running on shoestring budgets. So Baerfaust loaned to them a unit of soldiers who's contracts would be running out during the time the Expedition expected to be gone. Kaufman would cover their pay during that time, and Baerfaust hoped there'd be a new Elector before they returned. There isn't an Elector, things are just as dire as when they left, and some of the returning men (including Bischoff) did not re-up.
Or at least I hope I got those points across. My notes are real clear about what I planned to say, but less precise about what actually did get said by the end of the scene. It's now been several weeks since that session, so it's hard to recall.
Time marches on. The PCs go about their business, as mentioned in my last post. **Looks at his notes again.**
That bit about the Witch-hunter. So much happened in this session, that I missed a few things when writing up the first half of it. I mentioned in my last post that Burgolt earlier went to collect his daily stipend from his father's money-keeper. What I neglected to mention in that post is a small detail I told Burgolt he noticed on his trip there. A witch-hunter was walking down his street. Female, with a hook (like a pirate), and the obvious witch-hunter hat. They didn't interact at all, but clearly the sight of a witch-hunter in a wealthy neighborhood is noteworthy, especially when you suspect your father of witchcraft.
The PCs meet up back down at the docks, have lunch and compare notes. Ninewise hopes to talk to Ute again, but the info-broker isn't at her usual post just outside the White Horse tavern. They'll have to catch up with her later. **Evil GM giggle.**
As they are leaving, they pass by a large crowd at the entrance to an alleyway, with some great light shining or reflecting beyond it. Elbowing their way through the crowd, they see a Light Wizard. Specifically, Luminary Konrad Mauer. (My players mishear me at first, and think the middle word part of his title instead of his name, Luminary-Comrade Mauer. Oops. Though I must admit that would be cool.)
Lina and the Light Wizard Sidebar: Lina, being both a Wizard and having the Academic Background, has pretty strong ties to Mauer.
Mauer is one of the heads of The Sun Society, a group of intellectuals that meet at the Journey's End Coaching Inn for dinner and a speech once a fortnight. A few times a year they publish a journal on topics esoteric, arcane, intellectual and verbose. The answers to the questions on the Academic Background card established that Lina is a member of the society and has previously published a paper on magical cauterization.
When we reached the end of the first day of the campaign, I asked the players what they figured their housing situation was. The answer I was given for Lina was that she stayed in some sort of dormitory for apprentice wizards. Averheim isn't exactly the intellectual center of the Empire, so there's not really a College or University there, but it seemed likely that there might reasonably be a single multi-Order boarding house. A place where wizards can be with their own, and not have to worry about angry mobs or social prejudice. Since the adventure already includes Luminary Mauer as an important wizardy NPC, it seemed only natural that he be the Dorm Coordinator.
Eyes glowing like lanterns, a gleaming aura shining around him, Mauer is anything but subtle. I chose to play Mauer for fun. He's an older fellow, terribly powerful but also quite eccentric. I basically broke out more or less the same persona I use for Dworkin in Amber campaigns. Crazy inspired genius meets dottering old man, prone to both flights of fancy and taking figurative statements literally. It's an easy persona for me to improvise, and I haven't had much opportunity to use it these past few years. Never fails to amuse the players.
Mauer was investigating another body found on the docks. Since Lina knows him, it's not hard for a couple PCs to get behind the cordon of city guard. Ninewise quickly recognizes this body to be that of Herman Hallheimer, another local racketeer. The wounds show the same signs of poison/magic as Klaus Keller's body did. "Don't touch that! It's evil!" says Mauer to Lina, before covering his own finger with a glowing nimbus and then using it to probe the depth of the wounds. The two wizards share what they know about the bodies. Wounds are shallow, but corrupted. Bodies left as a message. Likely suspects, etc.
The most important bit of info conveyed, perhaps, is one that has nothing to do with the body. Mauer says that he and the various apprentices at Chromatahaus were very worried when Lina didn't come home last night. The reason her roomies were so concerned was because there were some unsavory types at the end of the block who seemed to be watching the dorm. Mauer didn't like the looks of them, so he spent most of the night on the stoop making sure they didn't try anything. He chides Lina a bit about staying away from the dorm. In trying to explain that she crashed at Burgolt's place, Lina inadvertently gives Mauer the impression she was staying with a beau. "I was young once. Say no more. Given the skullduggery and murder that seems to be afoot, though, perhaps you could send discrete word if you aren't going to be coming home to the dorms at night. Then we wouldn't have to worry about you." We yammer on in-character for some time.
As the wizards ham it up, Ninewise watches the crowd. She notices that her old friend Frederick Grosz is there. He seems quite worried, so when he leaves, she follows him.
Per the Criminal Background, Grosz is responsible for Ninewise escaping the law. She was arrested by the Captain himself some time ago, and Grosz' testimony lead to her surprising acquittal. In the players answers to this, she established that Grosz honestly thought her innocent… at least of this. So rather than being a hardened criminal, our Grosz is at least a little more innocent than the default assumption for the story. He has at least a veneer of respectability, a reputation to maintain.
Grosz heads back past the piers in the same route that the PCs just came from. He looks over his shoulder, but fails to notice Ninewise as he's actually looking for someone specific. He waits at the porch to the White Horse for a few stress-laden minutes, dotting at his sweaty brow with a kerchief.
Ninewise approaches and asks for a minute of his time. They step inside for a drink, and Grosz glances about the room as if he's still looking for someone. They take a table in the corner and start to converse.
With a charm roll and a bit of talking, Ninewise gets him to spill the beans about what's on his mind. Bischoff and the Black Cowl. This new criminal boss has been leaning on all the businessmen in the Wharf District, legitimate or otherwise. A lot of people have knuckled under, but not Grosz. Not yet, any way. He and a few others had been talking about standing up to this Bischoff fellow. Keller and Halheimer were going to be their strongmen for doing so, and now they're both dead. That leaves just him and Ute as the backbone of this resistance. Where the hell is Ute anyway? She was supposed to meet Grosz and Halheimer here this afternoon.
At this point, Ninewise breaks out her trusty map and lucky coin. She says a prayer to Ranald, and pictures that off-tune hurdy-gurdy that Ute is always playing. The coin flips in the air, and lands so as to be partly covering the intersection of sepia and blue inks that marks the end of a pier. Ninewise rushes up from her seat and out on to the dock (leaving her map behind with Grosz, just in case she falls in like yesterday). She can't see the hurdy-gurdy, but standing on the end of that dock, she's sure it's out there somewhere beneath the waves. Does that mean foul play, or just someone got sick of her playing foul tunes?
They've known each other for a while, so Ninewise heads off to Ute's tenement flat. No answer when she knocks. Ninewise breaks in, and looks for signs of a fight. Nothing. She tears through the closet, to figure out if there's any chance Ute is wearing something memorable. She's brass tier, so it seems reasonable that she only owns one pair of shoes.
Back to the White Horse to get her map from Grosz. Elsewhere, the Initiates of Morr have taken away the body, so Mauer left and the other PCs returned to the bar to see if that's where Ninewise wandered off. They meet up, and talk about Grosz's revelations.
Ninewise shares with them her concerns about Ute. By this point, the players are also worried that Lina might be on Bischoff's list, given her interactions with him re: the arson. Tension is high.
The coin sails and lands again, this time directly on the part of the map that represents this very block. Ninewise's player gets a lot of successes and a chaos star. She gets a very clear sense of where those shoes are, very close and underground. They ask to check the bar's pantry and cellar, but there's no sign of Ute or her shoes. Ninewise is stressed, and can't get her mind off of it. She's got to find that shoe. NOW. What else is under that coin? It covers most of the block on the map. There's the gong-farmer / nightsoil merchant's place, and a couple tanneries.
Burgolt, didn't you say something yesterday about a tannery being closed? As it turns out, the two temporarily-retired tanners are drinking just across the room. The PCs give them a bogus story about there being squatters in their property, and I invert the intoxication condition to boost their guile roll (so +2 Fortune, +1 Misfortune). Yes, once they've finished this drink, they'll go show you that their tanneries are still locked and boarded up per the city council's orders.
SPOILERS! That's Day 9 stuff: As GM this worries me a bit, as the PCs aren't expected to connect the dots to the tannery for a couple more days. I'd been warned about that "X marks the spot" blessing. But I've GM'd Amber, Continuum and Gumshoe, so I'm no stranger to systems where the PCs have the ability to trivially shortcut the plot. Knowing the plot and stopping the plot are two very different things.
Expecting things to go pear-shaped at the tannery, Lina steps outside to start channeling power and preparing beneficial buffs. Hrulgar follows close behind, since there's some concern that Lina may have made Bischoff's list. A well-dressed man (clearly out of his element) is approaching from the street and steps up to Lina, and seems to know her, though she does not know him. The "stranger" (who really shouldn't be, but I forgot that there was a more direct connection between Lina and this NPC) is flanked by two soldiers wearing the livery of the von Kaufman family. The man introduces himself as Curd Weiss. He says that Lina's room-mate (a Celestial Wizard) directed him to look for her here at the bar, because she (the room-mate) was unable to accept his business proposal.
As much as they'd like to make some money, they don't have time for this. Ninewise gets a little snippy. That chaos star earlier means she's' got a Misfortune die on anything that doesn't get her closer to those shoes. They can't get rid of him fast enough. Party Tension Meter steps up to 5. Undaunted, Curd Weiss proposes that he and Lina meet at the Journey's End Coaching Inn in the morning, as he really does have a business opportunity for a wizard with a bit of courage.
The drunk tanners stumble out. One of them has to step off the road and onto the crumbling retaining wall to "fill the Aver"… or rather, piss in the flooded mudflats that border the River Aver. This serves a few related purposes. It reminds the PCs that it rained horribly yesterday and the tanneries are closed because of flooding. They know they're about to get into a mess. I also get to drop a bit of trivia about how tanneries work in this era, and how if it was in business there'd probably be large pots outside for people to piss into, since uric acid is an important ingredient in the leather-treating process. It just keeps getting worse.
They finally get the tanners on-track and willing to unlock the doors. Inside they find… that the time has run out on this rather packed session, and we're going to have to wait till next week to find out what's going on inside. End of Session 3. Tension 5, Agenda 5, Stability 7.