“If he has a cape, run!” A player exclaimed that as part joke, part new operating procedure, after the group nearly suffered a TPK early in the campaign at the hands of a cape-wearing villain. In session 21, the party meets this villain for the first time since that desperate alley battle, but this time, the PCs are more experienced and much tougher.
Mage Guild Under Attack
The game started at 8 candles, on the 27th day of Calistral. Velare the wizard heads to his guild across the city, taking Thorne with him. En route, a rival gang harasses them, and rather than bothering to fight, they pay the toll and reach the guild fast and safe.
Unfortunately, the front gate is closed, and instead of the usual arcane examination by a Keeper, a wizard from the Loyalist faction greets them and says entrance is forbidden. Velare tries to find out why but the Loyalist refuses to answer.
Suddenly an explosion rumbles and a pillar of black smoke rises angrily from within the mage guild compound. Velare again demands entry and information, but is denied.
Thorne starts asking people in the neighbourhood for information or clues about what’s happening. After an hour, he and Velare learn a troop of about 100 warriors emerged from the river just before dawn and made their way to the Order of Cyphers. Before reaching the compound, however, the troops turned down a street and out of sight, and have not been seen since.
Velare and Thorne talk to everybody they can in the area, but get no closer to discovering where the warriors disappeared. Disheartened, they return to their inn, but not before being accosted by the Wolf Clan gang again and paying their toll.
Help Request From Gas Forge
Meanwhile, at the Silver Chalice Inn, a group of dwarves from the gas forges down the street have camped out at a table, refusing to leave until they speak with Fane. Fane is a dwarven priest PC on the run from his clan, so he is reluctant to speak with the forge dwarves.
The dwarves have stayed all night, and look to make a long-term sit-in, so Fane relents and meets with them. Crixus the pit fighter and Vigor the paladin hover nearby in case of trouble.
It turns out the dwarves do not know about Fane’s past, and only want to deal with a dwarf because that is who they trust with this delicate matter – fellow dwarves.
The miners have a small problem concerning the Order of Cyphers. They want Fane to arrange a meeting with Velare, to discuss some delicate matters.
A meeting time is swiftly arranged and the dwarves finally depart, leaving the inn’s supply of ale somewhat depleted.
The First Follower
At 7th level the player characters can take the Leadership feat, which gives them a number of loyal followers based on a calculation. Crixus is the first PC to take this feat. Last session we discussed how it would work, and I asked players to roll up their followers as they gain them, then present to me for review and approval.
I approved Crixus’s follower before session 21 started, and now was a good time in the session to introduce him.
Crixus and Fane escort Wren to her port smuggler contact to sell some gear obtained yesterday. The group wanted to take no chance that Wren would be ambushed again, by Scab or anyone else, thus the escort.
Arrangements are made, and while returning to the Chalice, the small group is accosted by a pack of goblins. Parley erupts, and the goblin spokesman reveals that his shaman told him to seek out and serve “The Destroyer in the pirate city.” Turns out The Destroyer is Crixus.
The goblin’s name is Grob, and with trepidation, the PCs welcome him to the group and return to the inn. Grob sends the other goblins back to the clan to let the shaman know the mission was a success.
While speaking with Grob, Crixus learns the creature’s clan is plagued by all manner of things, including gnoll slavers, a red dragon, disease, and more. Crixus takes notes.
The PCs reunite at the Silver Chalice. They try to make Saul appear. (Saul was murdered, is now a ghost, and appeared recently to warn the group a beloved friend was being attacked.) the group has no luck with the summons.
During this time, Grob starts marking his territory, which infuriates the inn staff. Crixus has a stern chat with Grob. Grob urines for home.
Blood Gas Black Market
The meeting time between Velare and the gas forge dwarven representative arrives. It seems the dwarves have a black market arrangement with Syzzinar, leader of the Order of Cyphers. They ship him mined blood gas, which is illegal in Riddleport unless the Overarch, Gaston Cromarchy, approves.
Velare learns the fence the dwarves used to sell blood gas to Syzzinar was the same fence the PCs use – Wren (see session 19 summary for all the shenanigans involving Wren). As we know, she died a couple days ago, but was then rezzed by the PCs. Her replacement during the time let the blood gas shipment go missing.
The dwarves want Velare to explain the situation to Syzzinar and for the Chalice Bastards to look into it. As a group, the PCs drive a hard bargain with the dwarven miners for the investigation and recovery of the missing shipment. The dwarf agrees to pay for 7,500 guilders plus the missing shipment of blood gas if found (worth 15,000 on black market).
Grim Fang Cliff Hanger
Last session the PCs left their hireling, Grim Fang, at the lighthouse in the hopes Scab would return. However, Grim Fang has not responded a request Crixus’s messengered over last night for a status update.
So, the Chalice Bastards head to the lighthouse. It looks like Grim Fang is missing. His tracks go to the nearby cliff edge, where a bunch of goblin-sized tracks surround his. The PCs follow the goblin tracks back to the Wharf District.
In a previous session, the group broke into a warehouse and were attacked by ninja goblins. The group suspects the goblins – whose tracks get lost immediately at the edge of the bustling docks area – are from that warehouse, so they head straight there and break into the abandoned location once again.
Ninja Goblin Ambush
The PCs carefully enter the warehouse, but the ninja goblins are ready for them. Archers fire poisoned arrows, throw thunderstones, and breathe fire at the heroes as they storm into the building.
A goblin caster manages to charm Crixus, who is convinced the mortal enemy of his new goblin friend is waiting outside. Crixus leaves the battle and attacks a hapless pirate nearby.
Meanwhile, the mage uses excellent tactics and spell choices to pin most of the goblins down. Then the leader emerges from a trap door and joins the attack. The leader is none other than the caped Barghest who escaped Crime Lord Rictus’s monster gladiator pits weeks ago.
The PCs at the time joined the search for the escaped creature, found him, and were almost slain. The barghest escaped, laughing over his caped shoulder at the PCs.
Now he appears again in the PCs’ lives, and revenge is in the air.
The goblins are swiftly beatened down. Unfortunately, the barghest uses invisibility to escape the group’s clutches once again!
The spell wears off Crixus, but not before he chased the pirate back to his boat and facing the scum’s 100 murderous shipmates. The pit fighter backs off, swears vengeance, and returns to the warehouse.
A Tricky Decision
Goblins defeated, the group follows the trap door into a small series of rooms. There they discover the barghest’s horrifying secret. 200 goblin females live here, along with the now-dead goblin males. Worse, all the females are pregnant.
After some parley, the group learns that the females all bear the barghest’s children. The group fears an army of evil Outsiders are about to hatch. A great group debate triggers about what to do now.
It is decided to leave the females in their lair and return to the inn to plan in private. However, Velare sneaks back and fireballs the lair. He is convinced a new army of barghest-enhanced goblins will assault Riddleport and can’t let that happen. Foul deed done, Velare returns to the inn.
End of session.
Post Game Analysis
The session went well from what I saw behind the screen. We roleplayed Crixus earning a new follower, progressed the plot some, and caught up with old friends.
There was a good mix of action, adventure, and roleplay. Though, the goblin combat dragged a bit, so I will need to make some tweaks to speed combat up next time.
The session ended with Fane’s player saying all the characters are doomed, souls tainted by the wizard’s action against the goblins. A good discussion took place about philosophical issues, and I heard that discussion took place on the trip home (most of the players carpool).
While all the players know what happened, some of the characters do not. It will be interesting to see how the characters react when, if, and how they are told.
When Vigor the paladin was created, his player and I discussed the character’s morals. While Vigor has a lawful good alignment, the player wanted to play him on the edge. The character’s concept was Jack Bauer from the TV series 24 meets Walter from the TV series Breaking Bad.
That suited me fine because the campaign was set in a pirate city, the average NPC level is 8th, and a shiny paladin walking strutting around making things right was a sure recipe for rolling up a new PC.
In addition, my group is fairly loose with alignment, so a gritty paladin who believes the ends justifies the means not only presents a troubled, interesting character to game, but a good friend capable of getting his hands dirty with the PCs.
Next session, it will be interesting to see if Vigor learns of Velare’s actions, and how that turns out. My players are excellent at playing character conflicts without it becoming personal in real life, so there should be some excellent roleplaying ahead.
Alternatively, Vigor might also shrug his shoulders and just turn away. I could see the paladin feeling Velare’s actions probably did save Riddleport from a 200-strong army of Outsider-enhanced blood boiling ninja goblins, especially since the barghest is still at large. And Vigor would just make plans to settle up with Velare when the mage’s use ends; perhaps some eternal time in a dark cell in a prison in Ragathiel’s palace.
Same as session 20 plus:
- TableSmith for random campaign info generation
- Reused the battlemap we drew of the ninja goblin warehouse several sessions ago
- Pathfinder Bestiary
The success of this session came from the variety of encounters. The goblin combat bogged down a bit, but it could have been a lot longer, which would have pushed the last, most interesting encounter to next session.
Instead, we ended on an interesting cliffhanger, with the villain escaping and a moral dilemma + repercussions on the PCs’ hands.
Final Thoughts – Comments From Velare
[I emailed this recap to Velare’s player and asked if he had any comments to add, since his PC was so pivotal to the session’s outcome. Here’s what he had to say:]
I feel Velare actually took a few steps towards the Good alignment during that encounter. The wizard had rolled well on his Knowledge check and knew (or believed) that barghests were intelligent, dangerous, and evil.
Left alone, the nest would soon produce several evil beasts. At best, that would mean more killing monsters wandering around the city. At worst, the barghests could be taken in, trained, and controlled by an even more powerful existing faction.
Any outcome where the beasts live would be bad news – they exist only to kill and feed.
Now if Velare (or the party) were evil, they may have taken over the nest and attempted to raise the barghests for themselves. If we were slightly more entrepreneurial, we should probably have shopped the beasts around to the gladiator pits or other Riddleport factions, and sold them to the highest bidder.
But I think we did what Good(tm) characters would say was right and stopped the infestation before it spread. We broke the cycle. Weeks, months, or years from now, there will be additional Riddleport citizens who still live because there is no gang of barghests committing murder.