After a 14 week hiatus we've returned to the table. There have been a few shifts in the makeup of players at this time. I suspect that the game with run a bit more serious based upon the changes. There is no right or wrong way to play or DM D&D, it's personal to everyone who sits around the table.
At my age and with the free time I have available to me, I find myself drawn to immersive crunchy games. I prefer campaigns that move along where you aren't a badass out of the box and have to earn it. I like lower magic. I like the threat of death. I like to know my players are having a good time and are getting something out of their time at the table as well as adding their own indelible mark to my world and table.
I don't have the time for lighter, airier games. One shots grate one me. Hobby shop pick up groups feel jarring. Slaughtering the Monsters-Of-The-Day in alphabetical order from the Monster Manual isn't my cup of tea. I also hate joining a game only to have the DM flake out 6 months to a year later and drop it in order to try something else.
Again, that's me. Not you or anyone else. And my likes have been forged and molded after 34-35 years of D&D. All I care about is the people at the table have a good time and if not, let me know and we'll see what we can do to fix that; and if not, not a problem and just a parting of ways. Life is too damned short for regrets or for not doing what you want to do.
Ask yourself this though, if you are going to carve out time from the rest of your life and family, wife/husband, kids, job and whatnot to play - don't you want to at least sit down with friends and people you can relate to if there wasn't a game going on? You should try to have more than just D&D in common with the people you play with.
As for this adventure, we are finally going to take out the Yuan-ti. Sisspak has been a thorn in the party's side since Candlewick Keep and with new magic weapons on our belts and backs, we're going to track him to his new and final lair and finish him off.
Write up follows:
After 6 weeks plus of travelling and training, the party had the opportunity to reconnect at the Hall of Heroes on Restmonth the 25th where Avidius’ wife Senna has put together a meal and feast sufficient for everyone to have a great time. A few bottles of our wine, some aged ale from the Pixie Down Inn, braised goat flank steak, winter tubers, a thick stew and spiced porridge.
Sir Flimflam our gnomish leader, his manservant the youthful Taulib, Tranis Fistlorn Ranger and Kingsman of the 2nd order, his henchwoman and lockpicker Viridia, Erdan the elven fighter, his maid and open admirer the buxom Julain Sheepsheerer, Wizard-Lord Marcus, his bodyguard and henchwoman Geld, Brother Steiner of the Apollonian Temple, Caius Avidius and his wife Senna and his two daughters Ria and Gem, our Castellan Fermius, and all the associated animals we’ve collected over the months and then some (Whosea, Princess, Brutus, Hugin, Archimedes, “Squirrel”, Ringer, and a big assed Lynx). The dining room was full, the tables groaning under the weight of the food and drink, and the walls were singing with stories, talk, tales, and laughter.
The weather was still decidedly winter but there had been a warming trend and we’ve had more warmer days than not, bringing most of the snow covering down to 3” or less in many places. In a few weeks it will be the muddy season as the ground thaws and becomes super saturated but that also means the caravans will then start to come with greater frequency and that will be a good thing for Shakun.
Your town has weathered the winter well with a steady trickle of people emigrating to its walls. The new tannery, headed by Joaquim Farthing, hit the ground running after refitting its racks, by declaring a need for any and all skins and was willing to offer 5 commons over market price for hides brought in, was willing to do the initial dressing and butchering, and was willing to deal with the butcher directly getting most hunters a 5-10% better price on the meat brought in.
This has been a good thing since the timber and stone stores around Shakun have not been replenished. In fact after the Hall or Heroes refit and the Tannery rebuild, there have been no real supplies brought in (most stone and timber have been shipped south at a premium to Brewer’s Bridge and other thorps along the Black Water River to help the rebuild after the flooding and Kraken attack). So between the normal compliment of 40-50 hunters, there have been 20 or so other hunters and gamesmen who have made the trip to Shakun in an effort to make a living for themselves, and now you have the 50+ masons, limners, caulkers, builders, and carpenters who were expecting to have gainful employment during the winter months take to hunting to stretch their winter coin and bring some game in – getting a better part of the coin that the Fathering Leatherworks is offering.
This means that for the last 2-3 months there have been 3 times the normal number of hunters out hunting. Game local to Shakun has become difficult to come across so many of the hunters and hunting teams have been forced to venture further and further afield, making their trips take longer than a day to return.
In addition, the party learned that while they were south in Varohelm, Sisspak assaulted a homestead and bit one of the women there, poisoning her but she survived (although weakened). Marshal Westwinter and his people could not find the yuan-ti so sent off to Timberton and Sanric and Company to have them come to town and try to remove and/or kill the snake-man. The bounty was for 15 crowns and it took two days but they managed to find and wound the monster, chasing it north of the city until it was lost in the darkness of the Grassy Hills. Since then, the yuan-ti has not been seen and there have been no further instances.
We did learn through Fermius and some of the others who’ve been in Shakun during the training and travelling weeks (Fermius, Avidius, and Erdan) that about 2 weeks ago some of the hunters hadn’t been returning so Marshal Westwinter put a moratorium on further trips out maybe 7-8 days ago. This has pissed many of them off who have come to rely on their trade and need to keep out there (even though they have had to range much further afield). Three days a group of four left through Southgate as if they were going to visit a Homestead but instead had snuck out bows, nets, spears, and travois during the prior day, collected their hidden supplies, trekked far enough east that anyone on the wall would be unable to stop them, and headed north into the Grassy Hills to do some hunting. This has angered Marshal Westwinter who looks upon it as an affront to his authority and even Captain Thragriel is pissed since it made his men and militia look incapable and easily fooled.
While we’ve been chatting about the local news the party had noted the Erdan has been more quiet than usual, rubbing his missing finger, and Julain has been hanging even more on her employer and not-so-secret crush. A bit after 8 PM there is a knock at the door and Steiner being closest went to answer it. There is a young man there, 6’ tall, healthy, has a militaristic bent to him, asking to speak with Sir Flimflam. Identifies himself as Caidius.
Once he is in, Erd seems happy to see the guy. He arrived in town 2 weeks ago, went looking for the adventuring group in order to try and talk and join, and spent the last 2 weeks drinking and befriending Erd, Avidius, and Fermius while waiting to Marcus and Flimflam to return. We talk for a bit and learn that he is the 2nd son of General Pelinor who was intrinsic in keeping the Du’uk Tsarith from mowing over Ferron and Elven Keep by bottling up the northern front. However, as we learn Caidius was too young to do anything more than join the war effort while it was winding down and has not had the opportunity to make a name for himself.
When the stories that have been coming east about the Peacemakers and their plight against banditry and disorder arrived at Ferron and beyond, Caidius gathered up his belongings and came west in order to offer his sword and service. And that’s when it was dropped that Erdan was going to temporarily take some time off from adventuring. With his missing finger and the fact that he has seen a Kraken he has had an opportunity to reflect. At over 350 years of age, the elven fighter knows that it was luck at best that has kept him alive and he wants to reflect upon it for now. So when Caidius offered to try and join, Erdan felt it was perfect – he’s taking a break and Caidius can fill in for him.
We talked and learned what we could, deciding that we can try Caidius out for now. He was offered some time at the table and was given a plate and some ale. The night passed well and we were all happy and well fed.
The next day, Restmonth the 26th, we awoke and after breaking our fast and discussing going to the Magistrate and getting Caidius added to the charter. There was little on our plate and we were debating on what to do when a knock sounded. One of Father Gavilerin’s assistants was here and needed the party to join the Father at the Hospice since there was a dead body there and Marshal Westwinter wanted the group to see it as well and firsthand.
We gathered our gear and set off across Town Square, through the shrines and altars and into the Hospice. Right inside we were guided to a sick room where Father Gavilerin, two of his aides, Marshall Westwinter, Deputy Caladis, and what looked like one of Captain Thragriel’s men as evidence by his tunic and tabard met and greeted us.
The last figure was a male, human, lying on his side and pretty travel worn and scratched up. There were 3 goblin darts sticking out of his back and he appeared to be scratched and bruised a bit. There was a ragged hole in the front of his face, blowing off most of his nose, and part of his upper lip and in the back of his head was a much smaller hole.
The story given was that this was one of the four hunters that snuck out 4 days ago, named Whealan. The guards at Northgate heard someone calling for help and saw this guy running south from the Grassy Hills towards Shakun, staggering and weaving over the hills and rises. Three of them got permission to leave their post and crossed the main road going north in an effort to make it to the running figure when there was a valley separating them and the guard describes a sound like “Zeus himself was clearing his throat” echoes across the land and Whealan pitched forward dead and rolled down the hill. After the Kraken attack everyone has been on edge with the King of the Gods so the guards waited to see if another thunderbolt was going to fly and when it didn’t, went to the body, claimed it, and brought it as is back here where the Marshal had them come to the Hospice and then the party was brought in.
We examined Whealan some more. His backpack had been cut free, leaving only the straps in place. He still had a well-worn belt knife but no other weapon on him. We turned him to the side and that’s when we saw it. His left arm was swollen up, two large fang punctures in his forearm, and greenish tinges running up his bicep to his shoulder. We’ve seen enough of it before – yuan-ti bite.
It seems Sisspak was still alive and hiding north of here wherever Whealan and his group stumbled upon him. We didn’t know where, only his boots had some clue with a black oily gravel in the cuffs of his boots. Marshal Westwinter wanted this matter with Sisspak brought to an end once and for all. He offered the party 30 crowns for Sisspak’s death (and proof this time) and an additional 20 crowns if we could bring back news of Whealan’s companions and their fates (or themselves if possible). 10% of anything found would be the crowns but the rest is for the party to take. We agreed and immediately got on the case.
We learned that Whealan lived at the south end of town with a Morena and Carnish Cicero so we thought of going there; we also talked about going to Farthing Leatherworkers to see if there were any records of Whealan and his hunts – maybe someone knew where they had gone? Also, we could try the Ogre Door Inn if we were desperate; since there was no hunting contracts being awarded right now, most of the gamesmen were whiling away their time at the tavern and drinking.
Farthing was first. Tanner’s Way was still a mess of missing cobbles and filthy streets, deplorable buildings and homeless wandering about; but there was also improvement. There were far fewer hobo’s in the streets, and the Apollonian Poorhouse that was situated at the western beginning of the Way was open and there were men, women, and children availing themselves there of a place to stay and some shelter.
Joaquim Farthing met us at the Tannery and we were escorted to this office on the 2nd floor. He was earnest and apologetic that his company had anything to do with the hunters that have not returned yet. We assured him that was ok and the conversation turned to Whealan. Records were reviewed. He and his crew had come back 32 times to date. The beginning their efforts were small (fox, rabbit, etc) but as time went on their game grew in size and their payment for the skins, meat and the like grew as well.
Their best to date was a 700# elk brought in 2 hunts ago. It had netted the four men the most money they had seen and for a short time were the envy of other hunters and groups. Their last trip was a few turkeys and some deer but Joaquim remembers the four men talked long about going after another elk, and then the halt was called off on all hunts.
We asked a few questions but the only thing we learned that was of interest was that the elk had heavily black sooty stained hind quarters and feet. The meat was fine and the hide cleaned up eventually after some liberal lye was applied to the leather.
We left and then went off to the Cicero’s. Morena answered the door, expecting someone else (Whealan it seemed) and we then saw a young boy aged 4 than Thanuel (Whealan’s son) who was coaxed to go upstairs. We were invited in and met with Carnish who was a Centurion at one point some time ago and was now retired from military service and spent his time as a hawker and trainer of hawks (which is what he thought we were there for to request his next captured and trained animal).
We told the Cicero’s the bad news about Whealan (making sure Thanuel was not nearby), learned how the bricklayer cum hunter had come to live and rent a portion of the Cicero’s home (his wife had died in childbirth and Morena’s birth had been stillborn – since she and Whealan’s wife had been friends before it seemed natural to invite the bereaved father to stay with them and he’s been here the 4 years since). We asked to look around Whealan’s portion of the home and were led upstairs.
The place was neat, small but neat. His bricklaying gear was prominent near the front door and ready when the building season would restart. There were signs his wife had once lived here (pearl handled comb, hand fasting ribbon, etc...) but it was in the bedroom that we saw a piece of tear off that had come from the job board at town square. It detailed the same deal that Farthing was offering to any and all hunters but it was on the back that we saw something else written.
There were 9 locations listed with strange names (Bogun’s Rise, Thrusher’s Ridge …) that had numbers written next to them and tally marks on the other side. The numbers ranged in no order other than a floating rise from 1 to 8 (Shadowfeet Crossing) and the tally marks were heavier towards the top than the bottom. We thanked the Cicero’s and left, discussing the paper and what it meant.
Bogun’s Rise was a landmark about a mile north of Shakun which we knew about. There were also two other places that had the name Digmund and Malius next to it. Digmund according to Tranis was a local long time hunter. Since that locale had fewer tally marks we deduced that Whealan, not being a hunter himself, might have been accidentally poaching on Digmund’s area and was warned off. The same with Malius.
We went off to the Ogre Door Inn where some money was spent on decent ale and we made our way to a group of hunters who looked on Tranis with some scorn (he is a ranger after all) but the ale loosened lips and we were able to get more information. The numbers were most likely miles from Shakun and the further places would mean any hunter who trekked out that far would not return for a day or two later at best.
As for the places, Shadowfeet Crossing was thought to be too far from Shakun and most likely in Du’uk Tsarithian territory. No hunter would risk going that far for game.
We left and talked about where to go next. We went back to the Hospice where we stitched Whealan’s lip back in place with a brief bit of Marcus’ magic and then had some incense lit. Brother Steiner called to Apollo and he brought life back to Whealan enough for us to Speak With Dead. Limited to two questions tops and a total of 1 minute to answer, we learned that Whealan had been hunting with his friends at Shadowfeet Crossing, the grasses were very high, he was bit by a snake man and managed to twist away and beat it off, his companions were felled by goblin darts, he cut his own backpack away and was running even with a few darts in his back, he had toughed his way through the pain, the poison, and the blood loss and it sounded like he ran through the night, 8 miles back to Shakun before he was suddenly killed. Fucking bad-assed tough bastard. The spell ended and we never got the rest of the story.
With a destination in mind we went off to Marig’s General store and purchased a few quick supplies and a pile of iron rations to help us last the 4 days we expected to be out. Anticipation is we’d leave Shakun today around noon.