- Aju, a hammerhead shark-fishling of the barbarian persuasion, looking for the magic amulet that will turn him into a regular shark again
- Tilbørd, a nosy human priest of the Authority with more supernatural deals than he or we can count
- Lomin Mor, an elf thief who masquerades as dear old Lady Olga of the struggling fief Cullfield
Couldn't make it this session:
- Mike, a human druid/fighter with the grand wish of starting a big animal sanctuary
- Guy, a human diviner who hunts smugglers and other rogues while looking after a crippling 10,000 gp college debt to the Lodge of Augurs and Diviners
DISGUISES, HARPOONS AND RUST MONSTERSWe kick off with a quick recap for Aju's player, who couldn't make it to last session. The plan is to poison their target Vedric von Vermis later in the morning during one of his bath appointments at the Bath House. After all, he's escaped them once before when they were escorting the lovely lady Liselle, which almost cost Mike and Tilbørd their lives!
During the session, my players whatsapp the absent players to keep them up to date. I see the posts pop up in the corner of my eye and it adds to the tension!
- Tilbørd will arrive at the bath house disguised (via magic and a dress) as the assistant Leia, to pour in the poison when Vedric gets his bath.
- Mike is hiding out in the bath house cellar with two friendly rust monsters. He'll create chaos and mayhem to distract any guards in the area.
- Lomin Mor is outside with a getaway cart and a disguise as medical specialist of the Order of the Leaden Mask, in case a fake ambulance is needed.
- Guy and Aju haven't been assigned a place to be; their players weren't at the last session. Guy will attend as a regular visitor, while Aju spends 5gp to rent a second story room in the nextdoor brothel. From there, he can look into the open air sections of the complex and jump in if necessary. He's got a javelin and a rope as an improvised harpoon to prevent the wizard from flying away if necessary.
It's a great plan. It's got an exit strategy, a kill route and ways to sow confusion, and it's going to become a glorious mess.
INCREASED SECURITY"Leia" shows up at 8AM when owner Semyon Bosprus opens the bath house. He's heard (directly from Lomin) that there's going to be an attack on Vedric's life. There's extra security goons present and all guests will have all their equipment stored in the downstairs vault to prevent smuggled weapons. Semyon, Leia spots, is loaded with hidden knives.
Leia will not be preparing the leeches for Vedric's bath; Semyon will handle that himself while she shleps the customers' belongings from and to the cellar. Is Leia/Tilbørd worried? Of course not. He did what he always did, and made a deal with the nature spirit of the hot springs below the bath house during the night.
It turns out that the naiad isn't at all pleased with Semyon committing murders in the complex and even knows Vedric. "The asshole who trails his dirty feet in my sacred pool every year? Yeah, I know him. What's that, can I open up a hidden bottle of poison when he steps into his bath? You got it."
And so the bath house opens for the day. Let's see who's coming in.
HOOKERS, A NUN AND GOTHRUG THE DESTRUCTINATOR
- Freya is a priestess of the Ivory Candle of St. Kurelda, the religious order of the Light domain - which is to say, fire, fire and more fire - this world's inquisition. She's here to snoop around and look into the disasppearance of her sister Hilde, one year ago.
- Helen and Elise are hookers from Madam Palfrey's massage parlor. They just want a damn bath.
- Gothrug the Destructinator is a barbarian from the Vaering. He has just been stood up, and is very hung over. He wants to hang in the sauna, drink, eat and fight someone. The first three can be arranged right away. Leia makes a note to provide the last service in a bit - gotta keep your customers happy!
- Guy the party wizard comes in, hands Leia all his gear, and gets back a complimentary bathrobe with his spell components hidden inside. He starts to mingle.
Then the carriage with the mage Vedric von Vermis arrives. He's been warned by Semyon and has brought four thugs and his personal shield guardian as protection. The thugs spread out, the shield guardian sticks with Vedric, and Semyon leads him to his first appointment, a private massage.
A massage by the latest person to knock at the door, a looming half-orc woman toting a bag full of bondage gear. As the door to the private bath closes on a booming DOWN ON YOUR BELLY, WORM!, the party realizes they didn't investigate what kind of private massage Vedric would be getting.
They'll keep to their plan. Improv kills, don't you know?
ACTION!Up to now, the session has been full of fun chat and wacky NPCs, but with zero action. Then Vedric, wincing and walking very carefully, goes from his massage appointment to his private bath with the poison bottle hidden inside.
This would be a good time to explain how the potion works. In small amounts, it enhances male libido and bloodflow to, ah, certain parts of the male anatomy. The Boswitch Bath House regularly sells it to guests. In large amounts, the stuff also triggers a massive heart attack. Vedric gets into his bath, the hot springs naiad senses his dirty feet and pops the cork on the hidden vial at the bottom of the bath, and we wait while Semyon adds a couple of leeches to the bath for Vedric's blood disease.
"Whoa man, you want a leech down there as well? Didn't know you liked me that much!"
"Ah, how embarrassing...perhaps a delayed reaction to the massage...?"
The poison is working. Mike has been given a signal to get his rust monsters in gear. He's ready. Last time they met, he managed to get this bastard mage down to his last two hit points before getting hit by a cone of cold and a fireball. This time the wizard is going down.
(Mike's player couldn't make it to the session but sent me detailed instructions on what he wanted to accomplish: 1) get his rust monsters in and out safely; 2) return with the head of Vedric von Vermis.)
Meanwhile Leia/Tilbørd, sweet Leia walks over to Guthrog the Destructinator, snoozing peacefully in his hot tub.
And empties a bucket of ice cold water all over him.
Screams of rage fill the air. Leia hightails it out of the room and rushes into Vedric's bath room. Guthrog slips, flounders, finally manages to get out of his own bath, arms himself with a sturdy side table and storms after her.
I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow of the fight. There were many cinematic highlights though, great use of all the bath house scenery to swing the fight:
- Guthrog smashing his way through bath house guards and Vedric's bodyguards, who were stupid enough to yell "stop right there" instead of sensibly making themselves into non-targets by cowering on the floor
- Aju jumping out of the brothel window and reinforcing Guthrog just when he hits Vedric's heavy bodyguards - "ONWARDS, BROTHER!" No questions are asked. Raging together is a language deeper than words.
- The naiad grappling Vedric with the bath water when he tries to fly out of the open air bath
- Mike leading his two rust monsters into the bath and siccing them on the shield guardian, which starts to slowly rust
- Vedric failing again and again to save against the poison; each successfull save would have reduced the potential damage further and further, but he keeps on taking 3d6 poison damage every other round. I rule the shield guardian's ability to prevent half the damage its owner takes works only on external attacks, like Mike's arrow fire or falling into shards of glass; the poison has full effect on the wizard
- The shield guardian shattering the entire glass bath at Vedric's command - shards and leeches flying everywhere and Vedric getting free of the naiad's grapple
- Lomin and Guy coming in through a back door they opened earlier and distracting a couple of bodyguards with deadly arrow fire
- Vedric, not thinking quite straight because of the poison, line-of-sight teleporting to the top of the wall, ready for a fireball or other mayhem. Then getting wrestled down by scrawy Leia/Tilbørd who jumps up, grabs the wizard's legs, and pulls him down into the glass shards where he belongs. Should have used a fly spell!
- Mike rushing in to defend his rust monsters, taking blows from bodyguards, and shapeshifting into a boar. He charges Vedric and the wizard is on his last couple of hit points...
- Ayu making it almost to the room Vedric is in, calling for Guthrog (who is pretty hurt after plowing through all the bodyguards) to find the exit. Guthrog trips one last guard and exits through the front door
- Mike, sending away his rust monsters before the shield guardian can smash them - they escape safely!
- The shield guardian smashing Mike's head in with two hammer blows of its immense arms. The druid drops, dying.
- Vedric unleashing a Cone of Cold on Leia/Tilbørd. Tilbørd calling on his favor from goblin prince Litvars to reflect the spell - the wizard and the priest end up both taking half damage. As does Mike. Already bleeding out, Mike takes enough cold damage to die outright.
- Tilbørd channels a full power inflict wounds right into Vedric's naked body - the shield guardian tries to block the attack but fails. Vedric goes down hard and I start making death saves for him; three strikes and his fatal wound will kill him. He needs to roll a 20 on d20 to pull through.
- Semyon making it from his discussion with Freya and into the fray. Leia the "servant girl" and the shield guardian are the only ones standing; Vedric just collapsed after a burst of magic. From behind, he decides to simplify the situation and slits Leia/Tilbørd throat from behind. Assassins do buckets of sneak dice and Tilbørd only has 15 hit points at full health. Tilbørd drops and starts choking on his own blood.
- The shield guardian, out of enemies, blocking the door into the room but Aju quickly climbing across the top of the inner wall, to succeed in stopping Tilbørd from bleeding out.
- Vedric making that crucial last death save! He decides to first turn invisible, then close-range teleports outside the room. Leia tries to grapple him and steal the shield guardian amulet Vedric is wearing before the mage can teleport, but the invisibility is too much of an advantage
- Aju getting smashed to a pulp by the shield guardian, Lomin and Guy running up, Semyon recognizing Lomin, leading him on a short chase and carving up Lomin, Vedric getting yet another stroke from the poison and giving away his position with a gasp of pain,
- ...Vedric realizing he's going to die here, naked and bleeding and poisoned in his bath, and going out with
Which leads us to a total party kill.
The fight wasn't remotely fair; the wizard alone was a gruelling opponent (but cleverly neutralized) and the shield guardian and assassin/bath house owner just made it an unwinnable straight up fight. The group was amazing in using NPCs to distract or disable opponents, and perhaps if they'd just trusted the poison or if they'd bunched up or retreated earlier...water under the bridge, as the naiad would say.
A rush of a session that ends on a huge letdown.
It sucks, I say; all their characters are dead.
But not done for!
DARKNESS, THEN A BELL RINGINGThe five wake up to the sound of a belltower. The feeling of wind in their hair; crows croaking overhead. Rope around their unbreathing throats, ash gallows creaking. Wearing their most comfortable clothes, all their posessions gone except two copper coins each - except for Lomin Mor.
The group is on the Isles of the Dead (don't peek, guys), between heaven and hell. They'll get a solid opportunity to return to life next session!