This was a split meeting. Half Larp and set up, with a small finish on entering the dungeon.
There was a decent Larp session in the beginning as the continued fallout from Karis' assault of a town officer had longer ramifications against the group to a small point and the half-ogre knight to a much greater degree. The respect the party had acquired during the 6 months (game time) had been dampened and hampered and had the town nobleman, Sir Walter Slaine, forced to make a delicate decision.
Yes it was also a device for the party to have 3 unfettered weeks outside of town, a good DM will take what the party gives him and run with it. BUT - and a big but here - Sir Walter would have given the party 3 weeks anyway to go and adventure if there had been no strife. Merely as a way of saying thanks for all they've done and a reward for being such august citizens.
I originally imagined it (remember, the adventures are sort of written out a few months in advance of the actual play) that he was also going to lend them a couple of guardsmen (level 2 dwarven crossbowmen) to help out, perhaps a teamster or two to watch the horses and cart, and hell - if Karis had asked for a loan of 750 crowns for a ruby - I am damned sure that Sir Walter would have found a way to make that happen as well knowing that his wonderful friends and sponsored adventuring party AND bondsmen were good for and trustworthy decent people.
Instead they were run out of town after 5 hours or getting home with nothing but what they had already purchased and enough food and feed to make it to Ponyboro a day and a half away.
Being a DM doesn't just mean checking hit rolls and dealing out damage. It also means watching the party and their actions. And actions need to be recognized and either rewarded or punished accordingly.
Write up follows:
It was about 6:30 PM on Earthmonth the 17th and we've recently (I mean HOURS earlier) returned to town. While the group was getting relaxed and hanging out at the party's home, Karis was summoned to Sir Walter Slaine's council chamber at Slaine Manor. The half ogre followed the quiet page where upon arrival he was surprised to see not only Sir Walter (Larped by Mike), but also Sheriff Phozarn (Jason), Adeptus Bjorn (Matt), and Marzen Copperworks (Kyle). There was the feeling that he just entered a moment after the four of them were speaking about him. Karis stood calmly against one wall and waited.
Sir Walter seemed tired, sprawled out on one of his rich chairs. He looked the half ogre up and down and then launched into a speech about the difficulty of the placement that Karis' actions have put him (the lord) in. How this wasn't once, but twice he has had to hear about Karis' harsh and assaultive nature. What to do? Townsfolk are clamoring against him (not many, but a growing number). The Sheriff wanted Karis removed from the city and have it done now. There seemed to be much talk that Karis should not even have the courtesy of waiting for morning, but should leave now.
Marzen was willing to speak for Karis and of the fine things the Sundered Chain has done. Sir Walter let it be known that he had written a missive to Master Melbourne of Dragonhole, Karis' former guardian and mentor, as to the best way to handle the increasingly difficult half-ogre. Adeptus then burst out that Karis was NOT be expelled from the town and should remain here. There was some conversation and wondering exactly WHY? Well…because of the troll at Fengarth's tower! What if it came here? Karis and his company beat it before – they could do it again. This lead to 3 or 4 cross conversations about monsters in the city and out (indicating that Karis is a monster), snide comments about honor, the betterment of the people, rampant bigotry and the dangerous slope that it is (what's next? Gnomes and Halflings?), and Sir Walter asking roundabout of his Sheriff if he wrote any letters to the Count over this matter (he denied it).
Adeptus then grew frantic and started to spin a tale about a Moon Portal. Revealing at long last his interest in Fengarth's Tower and the rather sketchy reason he ever had for visiting the place 6 years ago. There is something in Fengarth's Tower that the former tower owner and mage had used/built called a Moon Portal. A singular device that if a person could figure out how to work it, could on the night of the Full Moon – teleport up to 7 miles from the origin point to any place that they can visualize clearly, for a total of 7 minutes – upon the elapsed time they are returned to the Portal.
He fears that the Troll might have found it and learned how to use it. No proof of it at all – just conjecture. But he was adamant that Karis should kill the troll. Sir Walter was upse: why had he not been told about THIS? What else? A portal to the Abyss in his broom closet? Adeptus was going on and on about the singular fixed reason and the conversation was getting heated and worn.
Sir Walter cleared the room of his advisors but not before saying that he was going to allow Karis and the Sundered Chains 3 weeks as promised AND that he would allow the rest of the advisors to come back in and share final thoughts after 15 minutes have elapsed and he could speak with the half-ogre alone.
Karis dropped to one knee and apologized for his actions and the two of them spoke, Sir Walter trying to impress upon the half-ogre the gravity of his actions and how his deeds no longer just affect himself and the need for responsibility. Meanwhile the 3 advisors waited in the hall and bickered back and forth, anxiously watching the clock for the 15 minutes. Karis at the end though started to talk about the dangers of the road and his actions and deadly combat and whatnot. A page knocked on the door interrupting and mentioned to Sir Walter that the council would like to come in as 15 minutes are elapsed. Sir Walter was getting cross and said HE would say when the 15 minutes are up.
Karis then had the temerity to ask Sir Walter for a loan of 750 crowns to buy a ruby to fix the healing ring! The Orihalcan noble was losing his patience fast and the council members sent the page BACK in to ask if Sir Walter could have 5 minutes with Adeptus first before the council reconvenes. And then Sir Water threw his hands skyward and shouted 'No! No! No! No!!!' He pointed to Karis and told him to get out and get out of town now. He yelled to his council to be gone and leave him until the morrow. Then his sent his own guards and pages away and told them that unless “this troll everyone is bitching about shows up and winds up buggering me and I’m NOT enjoying it, that should be the singular reason for them to dare to return to me otherwise don’t bother me until tomorrow!”
The guards escorted everyone out of the Manor house and on the steps by town square, the 3 councilors continued their attack on Karis but without the same intensity or vitrolicism and eventually the conversation wound down. Kalt made an appearance, walking by everyone and offering a snide remark to Karis and entering the Manor house. After that, it was about 8:30ish and Karis went home.
Once there he was greeted by the party, our freed kobold women, Deidra, her two children Gregor and Hani, three of the women we had freed from Kuluk, and their 4 children all visiting from the Blessed Children of the Wilted Leaf Orphanage – along with about 4 freshly baked gooseberry pies. Lots of playing and chatter and happiness – group thought they were going to have the night to rest and party and then be gone some time tomorrow. Karis laid it on them about having to go and that he was “thrown” out of town tonight.
Incredulence reigned and the party was not happy with Karis – but as they were a group, they would stand by him. Would need to get the horses and wagons ready, would need to get our belongings and gear, our stuff out the door. We wrapped up the play time with the kids and mothers and most of them went back to Blessed Children. Deidra admitted (when it was brought up) that she had seen Kalt a few times over the last couple of days – making donations to the Blessed Children. We advised her of the problems with him. Then Zoltan told everyone about how one of our kobold women had been seen climbing the lift after hours and was hurt and crying.
We gathered all three and spoke to Ilva the most (since she works in the fields). She was evasive but did admit that the people of Orihalcus have NOT been nice to her/them over the last week since Karis threatened to toss the guard off the tower wall. She doesn't fault them or Karis – as their (the kobolds’) lot in life has not been very good except for lately. We learned (finally) that they are about 14 years of age , and that kobold's become "adult" around age 7. Some apologies followed and the party impressed on the women to keep their nose clean and they’ll do what they can to make it better.
Zoltan went off to see Keohn one last time who he found out was at Marzen's. When he went there he saw the dwarf had gathered a few people in town (Malcath the trader, Keohn, Kegana Atwalt) and was trying to arrange it so the party can at least get their steeds, wagons, and enough food/feed to travel to Ponyboro. Also was going to make sure that we had an escort of a half-dozen crossbow wielding dwarves who would see to it that we were not accosted.
Group eventually convened at the stablers (where Karis was not treated well) and we got food and gear and at about 10:15 at night on the 17th of Earthmonth, we left Orihalcus (only a handful of hours AFTER arriving back home). We traveled carefully in the dark on the roads for 2 hours until the group and the mounts were unable to stay awake much longer. Coruth'tae kept first watch for almost 4 hours, the grey elf not needing sleep the same as the other races, and then woke up Karis. Karis let the group get about 2 more hours sleep and then at 6:15, woke everyone up. There were cries of disbelief and lots of grumblings and Karis relented, giving everyone another hour. At just after 7, Detheron and Karis went to pray while Zoltan and Amal got the steeds and wagons ready and we were on our way.
We drove the animals hard. Weather held and we made it to Ponyboro on Earthmonth the 18th at about 7:30 at night. Stabled the beasts and we went to get rooms at the Rampant Griffon (most everyone forcing Karis to pay for REALLY nice room! Haha). Coruth'tae went to gamble a bit at the Twisted Forelock and left with his purse a bit heavier. We awoke the next day and got a decent breakfast. Zoltan detoured to see Lord Artis Daernhorse and left the letter of credit (the he had gotten from Grath Daernhorse in Cymbarton) with the friendly lord, promising to stop in again on their way back to Orihalcus.
Karis (with Coruth'tae acting as watcher and guardian) went to see the shepherd Heimund (that we met on the road some time ago) but the peasant couldn't talk much and refused to say anything about the fact that he had ever been near Orihalcus (mentioned that there were too many ears about). Did he steal the sheep? What was going on? Karis left a bit disgusted and then went to see Sheriff Yolanda. They chatted a bit and then he left.
Rest of the group was buying LOTS of food and trail rations and feed for the equivalent of 14 days. This was going to weigh a lot and take up some serious room, but as had been mentioned, as we adventure onward, these foodstuffs would be replaced with treasures. We hope. We all reconvened about noon and then we were off.
Days were getting shorter still and temperatures were barely reaching 50 during the days, but we pressed on and 3 days later (on Earthmonth the 22nd) arrived on the site of the former Circle of Thorns. Goloriana the unicorn was here and was pleased with the progress the forest had made. Return of nature was wonderful. No more thallids. Pixies had fled to other places. As she had indicated it, “a serious improvement in the natural way of things.” She told us that no one had come to the site and the wards to the Folly were still holding.
We went through all the items on the carts we wanted to bring with us (opting for now on leaving the mule up here topside) and divided up bags and picks and rope and everything. Then we used our Lyreth Medallions (as we had taken to referring the bronze headed wolf medallions since Vanir’s group called them the same thing according to the paperwork we had found in Tehpaguar’s belongings), popped the wards on the iron doorway, and ventured down into Dargan's Folly at long last.
Set up marching order, a torch was lit, and we followed Zoltan down. Came to a large entrance room with 6 possible ways out. Place had a stale odor like vermin, and if we listened, could hear far off chittering and squeaking. Six doors in total; all hanging strangely in the lintels and posts. Very old and warped and swollen. Each door we saw had gnawed holes on the bottom ranging from a few inches high to almost a foot in places. Vermin holes. Lovely.
While the party was listening about and deciding what to do, Detheron decided to pop open a door and take a walk. The party shouted and him and exclaimed “Hey, stay together!” Detheron fired back, “we could spend DAYS down here and do everything one foot at a time and not find anything.” There was some talk about meeting in the middle with it and maybe do things a bit faster.
We settled on the doorway/corridor that had a strange indentation on the right wall. Upon closer examination, Zoltan informed us that a section of the wall seems like it could move over here if a pressure plate on the floor is stepped on. Karis took the 10' pole and leaned against the plate which released a 9' wide section of the wall. We pushed it in, it went about a foot and then pivoted slightly, revealing a small room with an old weapon rack and some very poor condition dwarven made short spears and hammers.
A detect magic was called for and although the items were normal, the INSIDE of the door had a glamour on it. What was it for? Danger? There was some asking from the druid WHY we care what it was for and it was answered back that if know WHY the ancient dwarves...or even Dargan...did the things they did, it would make it much easier for us to understand what we see and how to interpret it. So exploring doesn't mean shooting from room to room to room but actually taking some time out to check out the places.
Detheron and Karis opted to go into the room and we shut the door. And when it was shut those INSIDE the small room were surprised to see that a 3'tall, 7' wide strip of stone of the doorway became transparent (it was still there and normal to the touch), allowing them to see inside the hallway. Reopened the door and we talked about it, deciding it was an old dwarven secret hole where a half dozen dwarves could strike out behind an invading force. Gwyn took one of the hammers and we went on.
Doors were stuck and required Karis to push them in. Next chamber was some sort of old barracks but a short (10 minute) search showed nothing of interest or value. Footlockers had been long plundered, most of the pallets were weak and dry rotted. Another doorway out of here and the sound of vermin was MUCH louder.
We checked it out, seemed clear, showed a short corridor (20 odd feet) and then another doorway. There was talk about not going forward and retreating, but it was brought up that if we avoided everything down here that MIGHT be an encounter, what the heck were we doing here?
So the group got ready back in the Barracks room and Karis went to the door, grabbed the handle, and SHOVED it open. And we saw this:
This room might have been used as a dining hall for the settlers who stayed here so many decades ago; there are the remains of chairs and tables piled into a huge mound on the back wall of the room. But since then it has been taken over by the numerous vermin that have made these subterranean places their home. Their brown and black bodies squirm over and over on top of each other as they push and force their way in and out of the warren-like hive they've built from the garbage. Some of them are large, larger than the other rats, and a few of them have oversized jaws and hairless skins.
But it is the sight of the huge one sitting on top of the mounded garbage like a dragon of old would on its treasure horde that makes you stop. Its fur is thick and matted, its head like a heavy lined shield. It must be the size of a wolf or bigger and has to weigh closer to a hundred fifty pounds than not.
And it stares at you with cunning, its tail tip lashing back and forth slowly, the end of its tongue emerging from its hairy lips to lick its snout…hungrily.
At this point we ended it. Karis had his greatsword out and the party was about to face quite a number of sizeable vermin.
Yes we are JUST on the beginning part of the dungeon exploration - and there is MUCH to continue. My advice is simply: You guys have to work together. Each person has a job in the group - just do your job and don't worry about the other person's job and you'll do fine.