Riddleport Session 19 – Power Struggle

Riddleport Map

This ended up being a tricky session to GM. Just four of six players were present. In addition, instead of continuing further into the cavern complex discovered last session, the PCs unexpectedly decided to return to town and take care of some business. Finally, the PCs triggered an investigation-pursuit mini-plot, and it was interesting playing out something forwards in time that I developed by going backwards in the timeline.

It’s a miracle

Last session ended with Fane the dwarf being slain by a family of arumvorax – vicious dungeon cats. The dwarf’s player and I met between sessions over coffee to chat about how he wanted to proceed. His first choice was to somehow continue playing his character.

No problem; we settled on his character having a conversation with his god in the afterlife. His god has a stake in Riddleport, so it was easy conjuring up a plausible quest in exchange for bringing the character back to life. A miracle!

At the metagame level, as we played a month ago, I wanted to keep the game moving along at a fast pace. I wanted to forestall an in-character party debate about whether to pay to resurrect Fane, and whether to venture further into the caverns. It would have been a great discussion, but the game needed to advance to get some wind back into its sails.

With Fane back, the party would not have to wring their hands about continuing onward or metagaming and getting Fane rezzed so the player could participate in play sooner than later.

A mysterious watcher

The party is glad to have Fane back, but decide to return to town, rest up, and take care of a few items of business. Leaving the caverns into the abandoned lighthouse above, they exit into the early morning air. A glance at the sea reveals ominous clouds – another storm is coming to besiege the port city.

Following the path back the group senses someone watching them. They get a sound fix on the spy and charge, but the watcher escapes. The group discovers clawed footprints that just disappear after a few steps. The PCs conclude the spy was tengu, a mysterious bird faction they’ve encounter before, and move on.

A gang leader is green lit

Before hitting their home base, Crixus the pit fighter PC snags a Red Cap messenger and sends a message to Krug.

Krug is a street boss for the PCs’ patron. The message reads, “Klash retires today.”

Smooth move and good call. The PCs have given their boss notice they are taking out one of his minions, whom they have had violent encounters with in the past.

I overheard the players talking last session, and I think their plan is to take over Klash’s gang. That’ll be fun, if it happens. The gang is responsible for collecting extortion money from the neighbourhood merchants, for keeping the peace on district streets, and defending the district from rival Crime Lord gangs.

An angry lady

Back at The Chalice Inn, the party is confronted by a livid Lady Warren.

In session 18, the Lady returned to the inn carrying a wounded companion. She told the heroes her crew of mercenaries, the Diamond Rats, had heard there were caverns with untold treasures beneath the lighthouse. They indeed found a cavern, but were promptly struck down by a fire-breathing creature with five hideous heads. The Rats retreated with only Lady Warren and one other escaping alive.

The pair fled back to the Chalice, whereupon the Lady confided all this information to the PCs.

The next day, the PCs left for the lighthouse before Lady Warren awoke, apparently keen on getting all the treasure for themselves. I use the term heroes to reference the PCs with sarcasm hereon in.

So, the heroes return from the lighthouse and Lady Warren is waiting for them. She pounces. “You were supposed to take me with you!” Crixus responds with deadly insults. She storms out of the inn. It looks like the PCs have lost an ally – a rich ally, unfortunately.

Clash with Klash at the arena

The big moment arrives. After taking care of things at the inn, the party heads as one to the arena, where matches are scheduled to start at 12 candles. They arrive at 11 candles, spot the section in the stands where their district sits, and saddle on up to Krug, their Crime Lord’s street boss.

Klash and two of his thugs sit beside Krug. The street boss acknowledges the PCs, stands up and says he has business to attend. The stands are packed, and this move gives at least one PC room to sit beside Klash, murder in their eyes.

The PCs surround their three targets and attack. Spectators flee, many out of respect for the violence the PCs are getting a reputation for.

Klash jumps out of the stands and down into the arena. He makes it halfway across the sandy floor before getting cut down by fierce arrow fire. The muscle, Scab and Grim Fang, are no match for the heroes. Grim Fang falls unconscious. Scab surrenders and offers his services to the PCs – a true mercenary with his former employer’s blood still pooling.

As the PCs negotiate a weekly payment of 50 guilders for Scab’s services, an arrow strikes Crixus. Poison seeps into the wound. Crixus staggers, but rallies. Then a PC spots the assassin crouching on the topmost wall of the open-air arena.

In an amazing surge, the wounded pit fighter flies a hundred feet through the air and charges the archer. Crixus lays down the damage and the assassin collapses, then topples over the side to hit the street far below.

That little matter taken care of, the PCs dismiss Scab, pick up the bodies of Grim Fang, the archer, and Klash, and return to the Chalice. They are now leaders of a new gang, replacing Klash’s, all with the street boss’s blessing. Well done!

Another recruit, Klash’s plans revealed

The group revives the archer. He says his name is Tiger. Everyone thinks it is an alias, but do not press the point. They broker a deal in exchange for information. Tiger agrees to not attack the PCs for a year and a day, as his contract to kill Crixus is technically not fulfilled. However, Tiger reveals it was Klash who contracted him, and as Klash is dead the temporary truce becomes possible.

The PCs revive Grim Fang next. He quickly offers his services like Scab did. The Chalice Bastards, as the PCs are known in Riddleport, now have two henchmen.

The break-up

After matters are settled with Grim Fang, he asks about Scab and cannot believe his ears when the PCs tell him they let the man go. Grim Fang says Scab has probably returned to the Green Daggers’ headquarters and looted the place, with Klash now gone.

Everyone immediately heads to the Green Daggers’ HQ and find Klash’s girlfriend, Mira, on the stoop crying. Klash had given her a dear John note earlier in the day, before heading to the arena. Klash wrote he was headed out of town and not taking her with him.

She also confirms that Scab had been by an hour before and left with arms full of stuff. Mira is also the PCs’ barmaid at their inn. They calm her down, then send her to work. What kind employers.

The group then enters the HQ and confirms Scab has looted it all.

We owe how much?

The Green Daggers worked for Rictus, the local Crime Lord. Rictus is also the PCs’ patron. Now that the PCs have killed off or recruited the Daggers, they are now the gang. Grim Fang delivers terrible news that Scab’s treachery is more than just a missed opportunity to loot the Daggers.

The deal was the Green Daggers collected 15,000 guilders every Moonday from the neighbourhood merchants for protection fees. The PCs are now responsible for that payment, due Sunday. And Grim Fang says that Klash and the gang had blown through all the money this week partying. But that’s ok, because Klash said he had a plan for getting more money to pay Rictus, and everybody would be ok. However, Scab has just taken all the money while looting the HQ, and Klash died without revealing his plans. The PCS have three days to come up with 15,000 guilders or risk the wrath of Rictus!

The group ponders their plight. Night falls. They need to find Scab and get that money. They decide to head to Mira’s apartment, on a hunch.

A gruesome surprise

The group heads to Mira’s. The door is ajar. Cautiously they enter and discover a body in a sack, tossed in a corner. With reluctance, they uncover the corpse. It is their fence, Wren.

Last night the party gave Wren all their undesired loot to cash in. She was to return with the guilders in two days. But now she lies dead in Mira’s apartment, penniless and with no loot.

Further investigation reveals the body was cut in many places and most of her blood would have bled out. A smart player reasons the fairly clean apartment is just the dump spot, not the scene of the murder. Another smart player asks why someone would want to frame Mira with Wren’s murder?

With no answers, the group leaves. In the darkness, returning to the Chalice, the PCs spot a flickering torch in the distance wending along the path to the lighthouse. “Must be Lady Warren,” Crixus mutters.

Not a ghost of a chance

The PCs bring Wren’s body back to the inn. They want to have her resurrected to find out who killed her and to get their loot back.

Way back in the campaign, the PCs’ neighbour Astrinus offered them free resurrections if they would sign a contract that gave their soul to Astrinus in the afterlife. Some PCs signed. The group’s plan now is to offer a soul to get Wren raised. Hey, it saves a buck, right?

The group approaches innkeeper Illium. Will he sign Astrinus’s contract to save Wren? No.

The party cannot believe it. They demand to know why. That is when Illium reveals a secret he’s been keeping since the start of the campaign.

Illium is a ghost.

Everybody is stunned. But it is true. He can make himself corporeal when needed, but he can also go ethereal at will, which he proves by fading out and passing his hand through Thorne’s shoulder.

So, Illium cannot offer a soul he does not possess to help Wren. Muttering, the PCs look for another…and eyes slowly turn to Thorne, a recent addition to the group. Thorne does not like it, but he agrees.

Smuggler’s treachery

They go next door, Thorne signs a contract, Wren gets rezzed.

Then the group interrogates her. The last thing she remembers is taking away the party’s goods to the port where her smuggler contact lairs. A shadowy arm grabbed her from behind and she lost consciousness.

Taking Wren along with Grim Fang, everybody heads to the port to see Wren’s smuggler.

Klash again

The smuggler tells a strange story of Scab bringing Wren to him drunk and barely conscious last night, with the PCs’ loot. Scab gets the smuggler to pay him for the goods at the standard rate, and then Scab leaves carrying Wren.

The PCs realize Klash is a step ahead of them yet again!

Furious, the group forces the fence to take them to his stash to give them the monies from the goods, which he had promptly sold after Scab’s departure.

The fence leads them along the beach to a hidden cave that contains just blankets and rotting furniture. He goes to the back and uncovers a secret hole in the rock. The smuggler jams his arm deep into the hole and then shouts in alarm. His money is gone. He has been robbed!

Scouting outside the cave, they find a set of footprints. They follow these along the beach, up a hill and to the lighthouse path. Whoever stole the money is in the lighthouse.

The scrying game

The PCs are furious. But they are nervous too. The deadline to pay Rictus looms.

They resort to magic. They send Velare to his guild to buy a scroll with a scry spell on it. He returns and casts it, questing for Scab.

An image quickly forms in the mage’s mind. It’s Scab basking in the warm glow of a hearth fire, surrounded by beautiful wenches and a crowd of sycophants. He seems to be regaling all with some tale. He pauses, orders a new round of drinks for everybody, and then resumes amidst cheers from all. Velare pans back in his mind’s eye and realizes Scab is just up the street at the Gold Goblin tavern. The nerve of the guy, living it up and spending all their money!

We ended the session there. Next session the group will storm the Gold Goblin and seize Scab to collect what they are owed.

* * *

The players have put most of the pieces together. They figured a lot out during the game, and then puzzled out more stuff afterwards. Here is the backstory, with some extra details added in, just between you and me. (Spoiler warning for any of my players reading this!)

Klash knew the PCs were about to attack him, so he made a hasty exit plan. First, he pretended to spend the 15,000 guilders his gang had extorted. Though he did spend some, he hid most of the rest. Then he had his man Scab ambush Wren to take her profits from the PCs’ loot. Klash knew the PCs did business with her, and counted on them needing her services this week, which they did.

Then Klash ordered Scab to follow the smuggler to discover where his stash was so he could rob him too, which ended up being pretty easy to do.

Next, Klash ordered Scab to kill Wren and put her body in Mira’s apartment to frame her for murder. That would take care of two loose ends at once. Klash left Mira a note and was preparing to head overland out of Riddleport, pockets bulging with over 25,000 guilders.

However, Klash made two errors. First, he did not count on Krug setting him up at the arena. Krug summoned Klash under the auspices of having good news for him. Klash went, then Krug took off, leaving him at the hands of the murderous Chalice Bastards.

Klash also did not count on the Bastards going to the extreme of raising Wren from the dead and letting them know about Scab plus the identity and location of her smuggler contact.

It is too bad, as Klash seemed to have a good plan. Poor guy.

* * *

As GM, I made a couple of mistakes. One resulted in a minor retcon between sessions.

First was getting the date wrong. I thought the PCs had given Wren their goods for fencing two days before, not one. That resulted in me making some hasty changes to Klash’s timeline. Fortunately, it worked out and no logic problems presented themselves.

Second was missing out a detail on Klash’s note to Mira. Klash had not only broken up with her, but had written he was leaving town with Wren. He did that to provide damning motive for Mira to kill Wren – a jealous lover dumped gets her revenge – as part of his setup of Mira.

The third was the worst. Scab was supposed to be in the lighthouse when the PCs scried him. The tracks at the smuggler’s cave were his. But when the PCs surprised me and did not follow the tracks, I forgot. During the scrying, I said on-the-fly Scab was partying it up at the Gold Goblin tavern.

The first mistake I fixed in the timeline and let the players know. No issues there.

The second mistake I will fix by saying Mira left out the detail about Wren when talking with the PCs. It is something a humiliated person would keep a secret anyways. The characters sensed motive on her, and she did reveal some information. If caught, Mira and I will come clean and just say the PCs did not press her enough.

The third mistake causes no logic issues, at least. I will rule that Scab went to the lighthouse, got bored, and went down the path to town and to the Gold Goblin. Klash hid most his money elsewhere in the city, and Scab only has the 5,000 guilders Klash gave him. And those guilders are going quick.

However, Scab must know the PCs are after him. And he’s partying just a block away. I will need to think on this before next session. I could just say Scab is being stupid. However, I’d prefer an answer with more adventure in it. We’ll see.

I hope you enjoyed this lengthy session log. A lot of stuff happened in session 19!

Gerald

Surely Scab must know that the PCs will be after him at some point. Perhaps he plans to “party it up” at the Gold Goblin every night until the PCs attack.

And fall right into his ambush!

Gerald

Depends on the level of the party, but I imagine that even 5,000 guilders might be enough to start up a small gang of thugs. Perhaps Scab was crazy loyal to Klash and is seeking revenge, or perhaps he is just an opportunist and wants to strike at the PCs as quickly as possible before they are established so he can take their place under Krug.

Ambush – I think you’re playing pathfinder? Perhaps he’s hired a doppleganger or other type of shapeshifter, or a warrior/sorcerer with an illusion spell. The hireling takes the place of Scab and is “partying it up” in the Goblin.

The scrying did work, only Scab was close by, in disguise (perhaps even magical?) waiting for the PC to attack. The PCs, when scrying, immediately saw what they expected to see, and so didn’t look carefully enough to note that the focus of the scrying attempt was actually a shifty-eyed “drunk” just behind the free-wheeling Scab in the image.

It would be nice if the Gold Goblin had a second level open to the main floor (around the edges looking down into the center of the tavern) so when the attack begins some swashbuckling thugs could swing down while others pepper the PCs with arrows.

Alternately, he’s just bought enough drinks and told all the bar patrons a tall tale of how he’s being unfairly hunted, hired a bard to stir up their feelings of courage and bravado and hopes that when the PCs attack the mob will rise up and defend him.

Gerald

I’m cheering for the Bard!

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