Sunday, 22 September 2019

Belswick 7: planning a murder

Last session in Duchy Belswick, our heroes saved the young lady Liselle from a kidnap attempt by bandits and the vile wizard Vedric vor Vermis. Mike and Tilbørd were this close to taking him down, and so he dropped a fireball on top of them. Let's find out what happens next.


THE CHARACTERS

  • Mike - human druid/fighter. Loves all kinds of animals. Wants to run an animal sanctuary. Has crazy mental powers to summon headaches and tentacles and freak waves out of nowhere.
  • Lomin Mor - elf rogue and gambler, formerly of noble blood but chased off by murderous brother, has a second identity as old Lady Olga of Culfield, right next to Kerjules.
  • Tilbørd - human priest of the Authority out of the Vaeringjar. From a criminal family. Insanely curious about anything and everything secret. Made deals with: some crazy eye-amulet to gain spellcasting powers, the church of the Authority to become a junior priest in Crossroads, a Ghoul gourmand names Jacques Cousteau, the ghost of a nun called Sarah Vennis, a body-riding spectre working for someone called Harkness, the Radiant Maiden, and a couple of bandits.

Players not present this session:
  • Aju - shark fishling barbarian who was originally a shark but wanted to see the surface world and got turned into a freaky half-fish by a crab wizard who wants him to retrieve an amulet with an eye.
  • Guy - human wizard of former noble stock - caused a horrific accident after having endless nightmares of sea and darkness. Saved by his Lodge mentor Fergus, tracked down a cult that wanted to anoint him as The Messenger, and started working for Crossroads' lord Kerjules.



COLD OPENING

We pick up the game in the very next round. Lomin Mor, taking care of Liselle and KO-ed Guy, sees his buddies disappear in fire. Vedric sneers triumphantly - then the smoke clears and Mike and Tilbørd reappear, alive but frozen in a huge block of ice. Vedric shakes his head in amazement, then uses his very last spell slot to Fly away.

With only 2 hp left, I tell them.

Aju and Lomin start chipping away at the ice block. Both frozen PCs survive, but Mike fails a roll on the Death and Dismemberment table and loses his right ear to frostbite. The group heads back for their home village with the captured bandit Sonet in tow.




TAXES AND DEATH

The players shlep over two dozen pieces of armor, short swords and crossbows to Crossroads via improvised sled. They earn the following rewards:
  • safely escorting Liselle, 500 hp
  • exterminating the Withmarrow bandits, 1000 gp
  • two magical daggers of parrying and sneak attacks, 250 gp each
  • magic longbow +1, 1000 gp
  • red bottle imp that can spread rumours, 100 gp
  • 17 pieces of armor, crossbows, short swords, 800 gp

Taxes on the above:
25% on all of the items (not the rewards), but the group decides to just gift their lord with all the confiscated weaponry. Identical weaponry with the owner's brand carefully sanded off - very suspect.

Total haul: 300 gp in coin per person, and the magical items.


DEALING WITH BANDITS

It looks like Sir Vennax might be behind the bandits working from the swamp in his domain. Sonet confirms as much, giving up the "merchant" Vedric von Vermis as middleman.

"Two hit points", says Mike. "This close."

Two bandits kept alive earlier are admonished STERNLY by Tilbørd. They've tried to flee twice already; the next time sends them straight to the cells, without a chance to confess their sins. Brent and Jannick agree to play ball. They will assist Father Eustace in church maintenance, and will work Mike's new farm in the future.


BRING ME THE HEAD OF VEDRIC VON VERMIS

Liselle is furious over the kidnapping attempt. It's clear someone doesn't want her wedding with the baron's son to go through, and her father-in-law's bannermen cannot protect her. Tilbørd convinces her not to cancel the wedding straight away and helps her write letters to her father and to baron Walden.

"Dear father. Please send me half the promised dowry to Walden so I can hire people to murder a wizard. Love, Liselle."

Liselle will offer 800 gp for Vedric von Vermis' head on a platter - silver, wood, whatever - and extra payment for proof that shows who ordered the kidnapping. It's illegal, it's murder, it's a sin, it's a deal that doesn't even need discussing.

After all, let's hear it from Mike: "Two hit points. This close."

Totally a coincidence that I have an image of Baron Ballumbie here. The place Vedric spent a lot of time the past couple of year. Also where the group's patron-to-be Liselle was almost married to baron Ballumbie. Shh!

THE CURSED SWANLING

Dinadan the merchant returns to Crossroads from a trip to Copperstone mine, in the shadow of Dread Sir Ulric's castle Gale. Unlucky as always, this time he's sporting a foot injury.

Dinadan explains to Tilbørd how he was once a fairly succesful merchant, until asshole competitor Vedric von Vermis from barony Ballumbie arranged to have his ship run aground. A person called Harkness, whose cargo was late, saddled Dinadan with a specter who has been riding him since.

Vedric always sends Dinadan a mocking invitation to his annual birthday party at the Boswitch Bath House. It's coming up in seven days and is about two days away by road.

Careful though - the guy doesn't go anywhere without his nigh-invulnerable metal golem. Still, the bath house has to be an easier place to pick him off than his fortified watermill in Sir Vennax' domain.

The band isn't worried about the golem. The band knows where to find a nest of rust monsters. Vedric von Vermis is going to end up on a platter.

Sans hit points, specifies Mike.


TO BOSWITCH

Scenic Boswitch on lake Ful is a big town. Not a city, but definitely larger than li'l old Crossroads. Our band of murderers to be find themselves an inn - the Stuffed Boar - and start planning.

Mike is staying outside town with two teenage rust monsters. He's just learned to speak with animals, their mom needed space in the nest and was easily convinced the nice biped with the 100 lbs of scrap iron would take good care of her big boys. As teenagers do, they're laying in their bench all day munching scrap metal.

Bro, is it ok if we murder a guy in your bath house?
Lady Olga-- sorry, Lomin Mor tours the town to look for signs of the Violet Cloud crime guild. He finds them - hidden in the decorations of the Boswitch Bath House! It's a hot pool behind a high wall, half open to the air. The next-door "massage parlor" has a second storey and windows overlooking the baths.

Lomin talks to the owner of the bath house, a Seymon Bosprus. A wiry human, 50-ish, with an accent that drops like the temperature in the room when Lomin tells him that a well-paying regular of his will be assaulted in his bath a few days hence. He also gets a look at the layout of the place.

Seymon is a cold one; for a 2000 gp bribe, he'll let the assault happen. Lomin promises to think about it and leaves.

The group doesn't have 2000 gp to spend on this shit. They'll rough it. I so enjoy the eye-rolls of other players when one of them waltzes in and blabs the plan to the baddies :D



The other guys
Tilbørd, meanwhile, has heard rumours of a planned heist at the bath house via his own crime connections. The gang meet up with a fixer, an owlling called Vesuvius from Asturia. Vesuvius is concerned that this murder on a bather will tighten up security in the hot springs. Likewise, the PCs worry that a heist will make their murder all the harder. The only thing for it is to partner up!

And so we spend an hour or so going over options. Vesuvius is a handy NPC to feed info to my players! He can tell them about the rough time schedule of Vedric's visit, about his gang's plan to buy off a night guard and incapacitate the live-in stoker, a mouseling living in the basement, and make off with all the stashed money and the special bath potions and poisons.

Poisons? Sure!

There's this herbal concoction they drip into your bath or sauna. Just a drop gets you raging and ready to go next-door to Madame Palfreys. Take the whole bottle, and your heart could stop...and for just 250 gp, Vesuvius will give it to the PCs!

What if the heart attack doesn't kill off the wizard though? In a heist movie, this is when the thieves would roll up in a fake ambulance. And so a costume is put together for Lomin to impersonate a priest of the Leaden Order of St. Vivione. Leaden mask, white robes, satchel of unnamable metal tools and potions. He'll be outside waiting for someone screaming for a doctor, to finish of Vedric or sweep him away.


THE HEIST

We move to the break-in on the night before Vedric's anniversary. Vesuvius' gang gets the group in, ties up Carglop the mouseling boiler stoker, and empties the vault. They wave the PCs goodbye and hightail it out of the bath house.

Tilbørd has been thinking - which bath to poison, and what if there's a guest going in before Vedric? The appointment book shows that the custom bath, at 10am, has no previous bookings. But it will be filled with leeches for a bloodletting first thing in the morning. It would sure be suspicious if the leeches were floating belly-up when Vedric comes in.

The night is getting on - 3 AM already - and there's no time to waste: the group look up who will prep Vedric's bath and race to her house. 3:30 AM. Leia the bath attendant would be thrilled to get out of Boswitch - Seymon is a cold creep - but the money, the money... Would she accept a position in Crossroads? Hell no, she's got her eyes set on a job in metropolitan Domesbury, the Duchy's capital.

A 40 gp bribe convinces Leia to lend Tilbørd one of her dresses so he (and his new Disguise Self spell) can impersonate her the next morning.


End of session
Mike is in a dark cellar with two rust monsters and a tied up mouseling; Tilbørd is trying on a dress; and Lomin is fitting his leaden mask the next morning when a street urchin runs up. Tilbørd has spent 3 gp to get himself a little info network. The wizard Vedric von Vermis has just sailed into port with a couple of badasses and a metal man. He'll be at the bath house in an hour.


YOU GUYS SURE ABOUT THIS?

I ask, just to be sure. They do know they're planning a murder? An unforgiveable sin? (Well, there's an indulgence you can buy.) And for what, exactly?

My players are very clear in their replies.

"YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!"
"Two. Hit. Points."
"He lived."

Here's to next session!


OTHER EVENTS THIS SESSION

  • Dinadan also brought back the miner Dorek, a dwarf accustomed to the privileges of the miner's guild. Tilbørd takes Dorek to inspect the tomb they found nearby and see if the stones can be quarried and used to build a watch tower. The upper level turns out to be good for decoration and paving only, but the lower level is made of excellent blocks. Dorek will need the entire complex cleared and mapped before he can start quarrying.

(Cost, for who's curious: 25 gp per 5x5x10 ft block of stone quarried and built into the new complex. Guy's mentor will foot the bill, as he'll be living here.)
  • In the full sunlight, and speaking Waldic so his rider can't understand, Dinadan is swan enough to confess he's smuggling letters and packages between Sir Ulric and the feuding baronets of Emlyn. Both brothers want to rule the baronetcy, but a blessing from their fairy godmother prevents them from straight up killing each other. Apparently Sir Ulric is lending a hand.


DOMAIN BUILDING

  • Mike is a few dozen gold coins shy of buying the first plot of land for his animal sanctuary. Lord Kerjules is willing to sell 1500 gp worth of farmland in blocks of 500 gp; monthly revenue 12 gp per block. This is post taxes and expenses like upkeep, worker salaries etc.
  • to oust Sir Vennax from his domain, the group will need to pony up a hefty 4000 gp bribe for Baron Walden. They're decided he needs to go - mistreating his serfs is bad enough, funding bandits to rob his neighbours is even worse. (I dread what they'd do if they discovered he was behind the kidnap attempt on Liselle. They've taken a liking to that girl.)

    Any items and rewards that relate to this (for instance, matching the bandits' matching weapons and armor to Vennax', or the reward for ending the robberies) will count towards this number.
  • Lomin is having succession trouble. His alter ego, old Lady Olga of Culfield, is childless and heirless. A cousin twice removed of her late husband is sniffing around.

    Lomin meets with this Drake Selbern, owner of pretty much a big farm and a noble title. He offers to set Olga up nicely in a little cottage - no more trouble ruling these tax cheating peasants.

    Olga declines and informs Selbern the succession is already taken care of; young Silas Kerjules of Crossroads will take her domain after she dies. It's not arranged yet (4000 gp total, of which lord Kerjules covers 2000), but Selbern doesn't know that. He races off to his buddy, sheriff Corrick, who advises the baron on the succession.

The gang will really need to rob Vedric's water mill next, and clear out the rest of the Tomb of the Serpent Kings, if they want to finance all their plans. But first:


BRING ME THE HEAD OF VEDRIC VON VERMIS!

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