Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Return to the Ruins of Adventure - Session 1: New Hopes

So the adventure begins! We open on a small ship sailing the Moonsea towards the city of Phlan. Aboard it are the crew and 4 young adventurers:

  • Kordan, Human Fighter who prefers sword and shield
  • Javanni, Half-Elven Bard and master of the wand, the longsword, and the mandolin
  • Mikal, Human Warlock powered by an infernal pact, user of the wand, the spear, and occasionally the crossbow
  • Althea, Eladrin Wizard, student of the staff and occasionally the longsword
They have heard rumors of the riches to be found in the ruins of Phlan and that the Council seeks to expand the civilized section of the city by reclaiming the ruins. They have put out the word to adventurers of all types that they will be welcomed and supported by the town as they venture into the dangerous lawless areas and fight for what's right.

(So, it's not only adventure and loot but it's government-sponsored adventure and loot!)

Now this is 1400-something in the Dalereckoning, long after the spellplague and all of that so the inhabitants don't think of this stuff as "new" - it's how things have always been to humans and halflings for the most part and even to a lot of Elves and Dwarves. Yes Phlan was destroyed in 1306, partially reclaimed back in the 1340's, but then it was destroyed again in the early 1400's and largely abandoned by civilized men. The dock area was reclaimed about 20 years ago and the old wall repaired but expansion has not really been attempted until now. Now several trading companies are trying to reestablish the Moonsea trade and Phlan is a nice open place to do it. There isn't much of a government structure to bribe or topple, no entrenched nobility, and if adventuring bands can keep the monsters busy then the merchant traffic should be safe. So this is primarily an economically-driven expansion, although some temples and some individuals might have other reasons.

The party steps off the ship and begins exploring the dockside area. Over time they locate the city hall, the major temples, and Javanni manages to find the local criminal underground and pump an underboss for information with his remarkable charm, streetwise ways, and his willingness to buy a lot of drinks.

The local Thieves' Guild controls a lot of the traffic in and out of the slums, the area nearest to civillized Phlan outside the walls. They have a member named Wyler who runs a tavern in the ruins near the wall that handles a lot of this business. Lately though he has gone independent and isn't paying his dues. he knows everyone in the guild so when they tried to shut him down he saw it coming and several valued guild members were killed and Wyler is still in business. The guild captain mentions that since the party is new in town they could take care of this problem much easier and with less bloodshed. Javanni agrees to help by burning down the Bell (Wyler's tavern). The bard's new friend also mentions that there's a group of beggars running around out in the slums causing trouble for the guild too and if they could be dealt with then he would be personally grateful to the party as well.

The group also gets a meeting with a council member, one Barnabus, who is handling the recruitment and guiding the incoming adventurers. He informs our heroes that a group of goblins led by a nasty piece of work known as Whiteye has moved into the slums and this is part of what has spurred the recent recruiting drive - the council does not want goblins living that close to the city. If the party can wipe out the goblins and bring Whiteye's head to the council, then they will be rewarded and given a chance at some additional work in the ruins as official agents of the city. When Kordan asks about rewards, Barnabus mentions that the city has many items in its vault from various expeditions over the years, and that they would be presented to trusted agents of the city as both a tool to expedite their tasks and as a reward for accomplishing those tasks. Then he pulls out a weapon that makes the fighter's eyes bug as he recognizes it as a Sun Blade. Kordan is now very much on board. The party then retires to the Laughing Goblin for the night - one of the better inns in the city - and plans to head out in the morning.

In the morning the adventurers pass through the gate into the slums. On the way out the gate guards take down their names and warn them that the gate shuts at sundown and is not opened for anyone. The group acknowledges this and heads on into the ruins.

The only guide that the party has is that the main crossroads in the Slums is known as The Square and has a large dry fountain in the center. They have a rough idea from there where the Bell is and plan to watch for goblins and beggars along the way. They follow the main road out from the gate, noticing that most of the surrounding buildings have collapsed or burned and that many seem to have been built on stone foundations but were often largely of wooden construction above that.

Entering The Square the party spots the large once-ornate fountain. Apparently a statue of some kind once topped the thing but now all that's left is feet, broken off at the base, and the three large, almost nested bowls that once presumably held water. The party also spots a barricade across one of the 4 entries into the square, where some goblins appear to be gathered around something on the ground. They do not appear to have noticed the party just yet.

Excited the heroes sneak up to the large fountain to both close the range on the goblins and to try and get a better look at what has so distracted the humanoids. This goes well for the eladrin, the elf, and one of the humans, but Kordan is just not very good at being silent and alerts the single goblin who was actually keeping an eye out. Combat ensues.

The Wizard and Warlock blast goblins from a distance while Javanni shouts directions and Kordan charges the clustered hostiles, sword and shield at the ready. The goblins respond with hurled javelins at range and short swords up close. Kordan manages to hold most of the attention on him, beating down the gobbos one by one, then Althea unleashes a Thunderwave spell that blast goblins in all directions, leaving a battered fighting man standing in the midst. The combat picks up again as combatants workaround the barricade and into the rubble, exchanging blasts and crossbow fire while fighter and wizard have a discussion about rules of engagement and targeting priorities. The goblins are soon overcome, with the party keeping one alive for questioning.

As they pause to bind up their wounds and their prisoner, the heroes realize the object of the goblins' interest is a rag-clothed human body laying on the ground. He carries nothing of interest and appears to have multiple small puncture wounds. About this time Mikal notices movement in the rubble across the square. A lone, ragged figure can be seen near the fountain too, and he shouts out:

"They killed Fritzie - Get 'em"

and 20 of his friends rise up out of the rubble and charge.

DM Notes:

  • This session went pretty well, setting up the scenario and the initial location and getting us into our first combat. This whole thing only took us 3-4 hours as there we got a slightly later start than usual. For our first run through of a new system I thought it went very well. It helps that Javanni the Bard's player has played and run some of 4E on his own so he can help with the rules questions and already has an idea of how things run.
  • No minions in this first fight, it was 5 goblins - 3 warriors and 2 shooters. Next time it's all minions, so we'll see how those work.
  • Party composition is good, we have one each of the defined roles. Player composition is good too. They are all interested in seeing how this edition works in an extended campaign as the most they have done is short LFR type sessions. They also are working well together and figuring out how each character can make the others better.
  • Old school flashback - well well well the wizard managed to catch the fighter in the blast area of her big blasty spell. Wizards: "Accidentally" frying the fighters since 1978. Some things never change. Some powers have a target of "all enemies in blast" and some are "all creatures in blast". It's an important difference.
  • Yes the beggars and the Bell are minor quests and Whiteye is a major quest. I did a lot of forum research before the campaign and the chief complaint in 4th is "the grind" where too many combats in an adventure that can go on too long end up sucking the fun out of things. The 4th ed formula is 10 encounters per level. Completing a major quest gives XP equal to one encounter. By including a major quest in each section of the town, I shave that formula down to 9 encounters. By including a few minor quests, which give XP = to one creature of that level, I can cut that down a bit more and help the players who get into the situation a bonus in leveling up a little faster.
  • The bard really got into the RP with the underworld element and the rest of the party didn't instantly rebel against the authority figures in the town. A different player mix has had a definite impact here and hopefully it's a positive one. I see interesting possibilities ahead in working for both the Council and the criminal element.
All in all I was happy and so were the players and that's really all you can ask.

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