For the first time, the PCs deliver a major blow to a faction in the city, and they do it on purpose.
‘Till now, the group has been reacting to things happening to them and around them.
Things were different this time. They had a goal, made a plan and executed it as a team. Unfortunately, their chosen enemy had a few surprises in store for them.
Calistril 27, 4708AR
The Chalice Bastards, as the PCs are called by the locals, head back to the recently discovered caves under the city. They return to the harem-like chamber to confront the short, turban-topped man they encountered before.
The PCs wanted answers. The bad news: the man is gone. The good news: his harem isn’t. The characters use all their charm and guile to weasel information from the ladies and learn the man’s name is Epherion and that he is a smuggler lord.
Then the PCs learn that one of the girls is actually Felicia, Gaston Cromarchy’s daughter. Gaston is Riddleport’s leader. The PCs ponder over the implications of this as they return to their inn.
Vigor and Crixus speak with Rictus (their vampiric patron) trading the info gleaned from the caves for their weekly payment. Rictus agrees to forgo another payment if Epherion is killed.
The PCS also sell Rictus the Rod of Lordly Might found as treasure awhile ago. Back when they were first level, I’m sure none of the characters in their wildest dreams thought they’d ever give up an item like this willingly. But their current debts and obligations weigh heavy.
The rest of the party goes to see why Wren is late with their fence money, only to find her dismembered in her apartment. The group investigates the grisly scene and find a note written in blood by her hand that says “Saul.”
Further investigation and NPC interaction ensues. The group learns Epherion is staying at a nunnery of Shelyn, which also happens to be HQ for the drow faction. Rictus tells them their top priority is to find Igwilv’s Prize in the caverns.
We Challenge You
With most of the session spent exploring and roleplaying, there’s time left for one encounter. We decide to play a bit late to fit it in.
Long story short, Vigor the paladin picked up a negative level a few sessions ago. When he asked for relief from his church, they said if he killed the dragonspawn leader, Akiku, his glory would be restored.
So, the PCs concoct a plan to whack the faction leader. They do some investigation and learn he would be susceptible to a personal challenge from Rictus, lord to lord, to an arena match between their champions.
The PCs arrange this and plan an ambush for Akiku as he travels with his entourage to the arena for the noon spectacle.
The Bastards open up with an ambush in the streets – a retinue of dragonspawn pass by and Akiku follows five minutes behind with four dragonspawn animals as an escort. He is slain quickly, his corpse illusioned to look like a covered wagon, and is then dragged back to the inn for “processing” by the PCs.
The paladin’s glory returns and the PCs quickly gear up for their arena battle. Though the leader is dead, honour compels them to complete the challenge against the dragonspawn champion. The session ends as the PCs grimly head to the fight.
Post Game Analysis
This session played in late June and ended Season One of the campaign.
We have a brief discussion at the end of the session. The players are frustrated by the lack of party cohesion and purpose.
In a previous RPT issue I talked about there being good stress from challenging play and bad stress from poor GMing, campaign structure or gameplay element.
While the players love the content of the campaign – survival in an evil pirate city factioned-up by eight crime lords and their monstrous allies – they dislike the constant party friction from all the personal side plots and different directions everybody wants to go.
In my mind the irony is that, in a campaign with freedom to do whatever they want, the PCs choose to disagree.
However, the problem is my fault for not working with the group on more integrated backgrounds from the beginning, with mutual and multiple goals for the PCs to pursue as a group.
Further, in this campaign I’m holding the cards close to my chest. I want the PCs to work at gathering information and untangling all the faction and NPC relationships and plots.
However, in a group of six PCs where each has their own circle of NPC contacts, side plots and goals, it’s difficult achieving the unity needed to successfully interact with NPCs. When it takes a lot of party discussion to decide which NPCs, locations or clues to investigate next, gameplay slows.
That structure is my fault. Plus, I’m also paying for not spending more time before campaign start designing various game elements, such as key NPCs and locations. In a sandbox campaign, it’s essential to do a certain amount of prep so you can lead the PCs better with clues and information if they get stuck.
We ended Season One with great feedback and keen interest to resume play in the fall, but with a slightly different campaign structure to keep gameplay rolling along fast and furious.
No new GM aids or tools used this time. Primarily the 1st edition AD&D module, Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Monster Manual V for the dragonspawn, and Pathfinder Core Rules. Oh, and my lucky dice, of course.
I’m very glad the players had their heart-to-heart with me. It’s important everybody has fun. Our discussion revealed the game needs to change a bit for the return of maximum fun to Riddleport.
So, I encourage you to stay open to player feedback:
- Ask for it often
- Best time to get it is after a session while details are still fresh
- Do not get defensive or take things personally (probably the hardest thing to do)
- Repeat feedback back to your group to make sure you understand what they’re telling you
- Act on it, but make small tweaks over time instead of sweeping changes all at once