Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ties That Bind - A Bleaker's Gambit: Part One

“So you want to hear the story do you berk? You want to hear about these fair lands and how they were driven apart and then driven back together? You want to hear about Magnus Fallon and the Deva of Eberron eh? About Carnack's Eleven? About the Navvarre civil war and how this whole mess made its way to Sigil, The Cage? You want to hear about the rising of Dast? The formorian war in the tribal lands of Tir? How pirates clashed on the sparrow islands? The siege of Quintus? You want to hear about The Empire?

Nah. There's only one thing you want to hear about. Ain't that right? You want to hear about the God Maker. You want to know if it was real. Well let me tell you son, out there on the planes, the places a man can't get to, they've got a name for this fable. They hang it on the noses of those that see no point in anything. They call it a Bleakers Gambit.”
- An unnamed man during a national survey during the period of malcontent.


Okay. Here we are. After about a year and a half of coming up with ideas, getting models, dice, creating the quests, changing the quests, changing them again, I was ready. I was going in with both barrels. This was going to be one hell of a campaign. Multiple characters, sessions each having a different focus. Thought out loot and random encounters. NPC's with special bonuses to the party. Crafting. Alchemy. Epic weapons and armour. Incidental music. The whole shebang.

Well that was the plan.

The campaign wasn't a massive failure, not by a long stretch. But what it did was teach me were valuable lessons in what works and what doesn't. Problem is, that given it takes us about six months minimum to do a campaign, I wanted to do everything I wanted to do this time, since it'll probably be two years till I get to do another one. I was planning this one right after I'd finished my last one, and God knows I'm already putting ideas together for the next. This long obsession crystallized my desire to go in all guns blazing, and as such overloaded the whole thing with too many ideas. I'll be looking at each session to go through what did and didn't work. But first things first; The Characters.

“After his efforts in Caeoria, Azreal found himself back at the order, filing accounts and dealing with bureaucracy. Despite the fact that he was now considered a worthy hero in the eyes of the Andavian nation, The higher ranking members of Bahamut's Knights were going well out of their way to keep him well out of theirs. Still, that was just how he liked it, and Azreal was happily toiling away the hours in total indifference. As usual, It wasn't long until fate came knocking at his door.”

- Billo Michigen - Another Time, Another Place: The Orders of Bahamut


“As with all Deva's, Nazrin knew not what her divine heritage was, only that she was there for a reason. Having wandered nearly all of Eberron for many years, she had become a competent Artificer, having almost craftsmanlike skill when it came to engineering, though again she knew not where she had learned such talents. Her nature as a force for good repeatedly drew her to adventure, and was one of the first recruited when news of the legendary God Maker relic spread from nation to nation. This job seemed like any other, an ancient relic, an immortal prophecy. This time though, things were going to turn out a little differently for the grounded angel.”

- Matteus Binro – Worlds beyond ours and those who walked upon Them.

As I already mentioned, each player was to have two characters. The intention was that most of the campaign would have them split into two groups of three. This, however didn't always work out, as you will see later. Azreal returned, with the group also being joined by a Deva from Eberron, as a way to introduce a clockwork engineer from that world. As usual Azreal was quiet, stoic and didn't say much.

Nazrin was a new character, with a class taken from Eberron, so I had a bit of fun introducing her into the plot, which I will discuss later. She was a lot more talkative and involved at times, but like Azreal, didn't generally set herself at the forefront of things.

“Due to Farrel's recent expansion, many were on edge with the idea that the small trade nation would soon turn its desires west. Fortunately Megi's presence on the mainland helped ease tensions, somewhat ironically given her self serving character and seemingly afflicted with a superiority complex. When not tied up in the machinations of the Farrelite courts, she would often be found as an ambassador, assuring others that Farrel's ambitions were ultimately humble. Weather or not she was telling the truth remains to be seen, but after the fall of the Navarre monarchy and the subsequent civil war, she soon found more hostility than she initially bargained for, on both sides of the fence.”

- Domasi Aucturis – War on the Mainland: A History


“Time had been indifferent to Trust. While her life flitted between picking the pockets of peasants to working as a hired hand for more unscrupulous types, that big score still hadn't come around. While she still had contacts from the old guilds, the recent upheavals in Andavia had made it difficult to lay any groundwork, and Trust expected that it wouldn't be long till she'd be moving on to greener pastures, though how green and how far even she wouldn't have been able to predict.”

-Ezio de Sirenze – Here We Stand: The Teifling Peoples Road to Acceptance

As always, both and Trust essentially fell somewhere between Chaotic Neutral and Neutral Evil. As always, any attempt at doing something good or charitable was always going to fall short with these two in the party, so I had to make sure that all their goals could essentially be self serving. As always this worked better at some points than others. As with pretty much every other campaign, their player generally took the lead with the party, making most of the choices along the way, so I had to try hard to make sure everyone had a stake in said choices.

“His first year in Andavia had been a good one for Nero Celesious Kah. Despite not currently having any real power from his titles, he was still the man to be seen with by the nobility of the nation. Nero spent most of his days training the King's rangers in more advanced forms of archery, and his nights sampling medicines of a chemical variety, or so they say.

Cardia on the other hand has stayed out of limelight, instead doing more research into the workings of the undead and worship of the Raven Queen. Her tribal upbringing surprisingly did not get in the way of her adjusting to city life, and could often be found spending her free time in ale houses and music halls with the best of them.

All the while news trickled up from Caeoria. The nation had now stablalised, its manipulative city states had begun falling back into line, and the tribal nations were enjoying their independence. It seemed at though the two Caeorian's were truly free to tend to their own lives, which often meant only one thing; Adventure beckoned.”

- Bostock Conroy – Family Histories

Finally we have Nero and Cardia. Generally two contrasting personalities, In this campaign Nero would often find himself trying to look like a badass, threatening, and self serving, seemingly on the same as Megi and Trust's level. This would backfire enormously of course. Another part of Nero's character came from his period in the last campaign where he was pacified through opium, and from this it generally came into common knowledge that the man had little willpower when it came to narcotics. This was something else I ran with throughout the campaign.


Cardia on the other hand was often condescending but otherwise open minded, and tried her best to do the right thing but often found that this never quite worked out as planned. Diplomacy was attempted more than with Nero, but never quite to solid effect, as we will see later. All in all though, Nero and Cardia's player was often the wild card, and I don't mean that in a good way. Some day's he'd been in the mood for dnd, other's he'd hardly put in any effort at all, so I had to do my best to make things interesting.

And finally.

“Despite the passing of time, not a lot had happened in Andavia of late. Jocasta was still flitting between jobs, still not settled on a calling in life. Katie was working a lot in engineering and architecture, trying to push her old airship to be refitted. Kara had been promoted again to greater responsibility in the city guard, and Sakari was still working in the library being the usual bookworm.

Things continued quietly as most people would expect, but it didn't take Jocasta long to start sticking her nose into things, as was usually expected of her. Jocasta first thought something was up when strange goings on were noted in the knightly orders. Azreal being ever the apathetic one, noticed little, so Jocasta took this to local Chronicler Zantir Xanderfell. Zantir began to unravel a whole den of corruption that was beginning to take root, but unfortunately by the time she had gleaned this information, Jocasta and co were long gone, as Kara had heard whispers amongst prisoners about the return of the God Maker, an ancient relic of legend. Had they held back a little longer, they may have found out that there were more to these legends than met the eye.”

- Alysoun Mifflinburg – No Dykes to Watch Out For: Mercenaries on the Road Less Traveled: Volume 2

DM's NPC's are difficult to use as we have seen from past experience. Considering I was going to be including four (and even more later) I didn't want to overburden the party. This worked better at the start of the campaign than it did near the end. Each NPC was supposed to grant a particular bonus when they were in the party, for example Kara granted a bonus to initiative during random encounters, which were cut mostly due to lack of time, and Katie could snipe marked targets as a minor action, unfortunately no character had the ability to mark targets.

Looking back I really shouldn't have used all four so much in this campaign, and tried my best to find reasons to keep them out of the player characters hair as much as possible, but alas I still wanted to make the most out of the models I had, hence they're continued appearance.


Chapter One

In Questionable Company

“Legend has it that the God Maker was created long ago as a pact between the powers. That it is adorned with holy symbols to confirm this pact. The relicry it is contained in is said to rotate between lands, worlds and even the planes themselves. What the artifact does on the other hand, is a secret long forgotten....

.... Magnus Fallon was the only known individual to crack the secrets of the artifact's shifts. It is said that he worked many years with the Farrelite mages, on co-ordinates for an alleged map room that would reveal the present location of the artifact. Not long after that Fallon disappeared, map and all. His eventual fate, like many facts surrounding the God Maker, remains a mystery.”

- Mystra Cropolis – The Relics of Veccna and Other Artifacts of Legend

Our session began on Eberron with the introduction of Nazrin. With a group of companions she is nearing the end of her quest for the legendary God Maker. Finally locating the artifact she must do battle with the notorious mage, Rasputin. After a quick battle Nazrin kills the villain, but as she reaches for the relic is begins to shift between worlds. Cue opening music.

Shortly after we jump ahead to a meeting in the Andavian city lighthouse between most of the characters from the previous campaigns. Kara reveals that she has heard whispers that the legendary God Maker is back in the realms, and that given the civil war going on in neighboring region Navarre, King Richard, or many other leaders, would pay handsomely for such a relic, even if it were just a powerless rusty chalice. Shortly, they are joined by Nazrin, who reveals following leads on the God Maker may be her only way home.

The story of Magnus Fallon is related. The only man who knew the secret of finding the God Maker. It is said he found a map room that would reveal the relics location, and that he made his own map to this location, splitting it in half. Sakari notes that she knows where one half is, as she saw it in the old library of her home village. The other half is deduced to reside in the oppressive state of The Library of Alexandia, where Carnack Cousland once attempted a heist for a valuable painting, suggesting more than a coincidence.

The group track down Zantir, as she was part of Carnack's original eleven who attempted the heist years ago, and discusses its members and tactics. The group then consolidate at the local inn. Trust attempts to track other members of Carnack's group, but fails to find them, suggesting that a second heist will be attempted. Jocasta reveals that the route to Sakari's old village is little known, and not remembered by them as they left by sea last they were there. The only people that recall the way are two old soldiers, Chrissy and Loggo, who have long sworn off adventure. The group mostly gets drunk from here and Nero procures some rare narcotics for his own personal use.

The group split up the following morning, with Trust, Azreal, Cardia, Kara and Katie heading to Alexandria to tackle Carnack. The rest are left to negotiate co-operation with Chrissy and Loggo, who are hesitant at first, then mostly scared off by Megi's offer of money and slaves as reward. Nazrin, being of a race known for being good and pure, manages to talk them round. They then head through the mountain passes towards the village.

Along the way they do battle with frost giants, and then face a rather friendly Beholder, known as a Spectator, who throws some predictions their way. Arriving at the village, they find the residents slaughtered, and face this world's Rasputin who has allied himself with Tristan, Duncan and Alrianna (from my last campaign). They do battle with Rasputin's undead minions as he escapes. Searching the library they locate the map with ease, but the fragile floor causes Megi, Sakari and Nazrin to fall to the ground into a tunnel system leading to a small pier. They procure a boat and do battle with a shark, as they leave the others to make their own way back by land.
What worked:
Generally a pretty good session this one. Most characters got into the diplomacy with other characters, though it was still difficult to stop Megi/Trust just intimidating or scaring people off with non-ethical bargaining. Everyone got a fair bit of session time and seemed interested in the story. They also made a lot out of the non combat parts, like socialising at the inn. As with pretty much all other sessions, the music went down very well. Each character seemed to come into their own, and the world around them felt well realised and interesting to explore.
What didn't:
The sheer number of characters was overwhelming, so the sooner the party got split the better. Also there seemed to be little affiliation to each other within the group. With Megi and Nazrin deciding to bugger off in a boat once Sakari had the map, leaving the others behind. The whole quest to Sakari's old village should have been much longer and more in depth, having Chrissy and Loggo play a greater part in the campaign. Instead, I hadn't planned ahead enough to make the most of this quest, but needed something for the characters to do as we'd have had to finish the session early otherwise.

All in all though, not a bad foundation for a campaign, and it went about as well as I could have hopes. We'll see how well I maintain this as the campaign continues.

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