Thursday, 7 May 2020

Belswick 19: see you in court


Third session over skype, no maps or battle and mostly court drama. My players are glorious assholes and they got away scot free with everything except for the crossdressing. 

LAST SESSION

Last time, in Belswick: A pit fight. A bound and dreaming godling whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Grue- and awesome spectacles. Victorious characters who mourn the loss of one of their group.


THIS SESSION, IN BRIEF

The party gains rewards and is confronted with past deeds. They win grievances put against them by Sir Vennax and oust the kidnapping bastard from his fief; and Lomin's alter ego Lady Olga sees of a challenger to hir domain, although both Tilly and Olga's prospective husband Sir Kerjules now know Olga is Lomin in a dress and wig.




THE CHARACTERS

  • Tilbørd "Tilly" Miven Björnsson, human bard and knowledge priest of the Authority. Survivability of a wet paper towel and arguably the most dangerous of the entire party. Fervent maker of deals with warlock spirits, lich-priests, devils, ghouls, faeries and more
  • Mike, human druid with mild psychic powers after a nightmarish cult sacrificed his entire village to raise their star godMorti Sizzlelot, gnomish inventor from the Duchy Thynne across the spine mountains, sent to the party with an introduction letter from the King
  • Shams, dwarf fighter/arcane knight from the Principality of Stone, opening a trade route with Belswick now that there's war brewing with the southern kingdom Arrayne
  • Mr. Lomin Mor / Lady Olga, Elf from Arrayne who has been impersonating the (deceased) Lady Olga of the fief one over
  • Guy, human diviner wizard with mild psychic powers after a nightmare-filled youth as heir to a lord in Arrayne [couldn't make it to this session]

MY PLAYERS SAID

Morti, previously Mike:
  • DM: good atmosphere and well-played NPCs during the nobles' court
  • Shams: awesome that her armor has special sound effects
  • Tilly: good build-up in those five speak-with-dead questions and delicious roll for the verdict
  • Lomin aka Olga: genius how you player her, and I love how some people now know of the ruse
Lomin: I loved...
  • to level Drake verbally as Lady Olga, then seal his fate with a natural 20
  • Shams' very expressive creaking armor
  • seeing how much fun Morti's player had introducing his character
  • realizing I could afford both a bribe to that goatling and pay for 2 magic tattoos
  • Tilly in his element during the court procedings. Good dice rolls, that man
  • the whole setup actually, where a lot of longrunning threads came together. Nicely done & kudos to our DM!
Tilly:
  • The entire setup: so clear this wasn't a modern court. Hear and rebuttal, direct judgements based on persuasiveness and bribes. Wonderful how there were two completely different cases against the PCs, and nice work giving all the players a role. Shams' trade house, Morti's introduction, Lomin/Olga's wedding and inheritance, and Tilly as spokesperson.
  • Spot-on NPC's again, with Drake as a highlight.
  • Lomin as Olga, just delightful! Well played and well played. Slight snag in that Tilly and Kerjules are onto him now.
  • Shams and the emoting percussion armor!
  • Introduction of Morti the cross-eyed woozy micro gnome. Wisdom 4...oh Lords above and below
  • Questioning Vedric, rolling well, perfect result. Giving him yet another kick in the ass, permanently removing Vennax the elder and younger, putting Lady Liselle in a positive light and rewarding her with a fief of her own. And literally getting away with murder without lying even one word or speaking above my status.
  • When's next session?

IN DETAIL: FIRST, THE AFTERMATH

As the group catches their breath in the fighters' tent, they all try to process the loss of their druid friend Mike. The Autumn Shadows (beaten unconscious and robbed by an Oni) leave with dirty looks at the victors. Tyaak of the Grey Whispers, an Eagling noble son of barony Ballumbie, offers Tilly and his compatriots a role in his mercenary band. There's war coming with Arrayne, and Tyaak intends to lead small, specialized bands into decisive action. Shams notes that the Whispers' tactical withdrawal maybe saved their lives; a solid choice, (s)he even goes as far as naming Tyaak's band the real victors of this fight.

Cheers for the victors as they receive 2000 gp worth of gold, platinum and gems from the Halfling barker Rennis.

Ulrike the potion brewer mumbles her regards to the group as they leave. "Cackle mumble groan *blood* cackle hum"

Shams and Lomin want cool ability boosting tattoos done by Lionel the tattooist. They end up choosing tattoos for +2 Int (Shams) and +2 Dex, +1 Cha (Lomin), to be done over the course of the next week.

Right before entering Walden town, Tilly peels off from the group and unleashes his Red Bottle Imp: over the course of the night, the smoky thing will spread the following rumour all across town:

"The Toad of Ballumbie has made nice with [our enemy] Arrayne and has sent his lackeys Vennax the elder to weaken our border and his son to poison ears at court"

I was sure they'd forgotten all about that imp. Solid use of a limited resource there!

SIDE NOTE: GET INKED

Characters can benefit from multiple tattoos, one per ability and one extra for e.g. faster movement or elemental resistance. Tattoos must be increasingly larger circuits on special body parts, but there's some freedom in the design. Upgrading an existing tat is possible, but requires breaking and reweaving the arcane circuit, which can potentially nullify the entire design. (Progressively harder check: failure = have to restart entire tattoo at extra cost.) I rethought the cost for the ability boosters:
  • score +1 = 500 gp
  • score +2 = 1200 gp
  • score +3 = 2000 gp
  • score +4 and higher: not in Lionel's reach, although he's heard stories

NOBLE COURT AND TOURNAMENT

Baron Walden has gathered all his fief holders and knights for the Winter Court. There are many proclamations, alliances and grievances to get through.

  • The newly-minted King's Herald Rosaly (well-known to the party) brings news of war with Arrayne. Taxes will go up (prizes rise +10%) and nobles' upkeep increases to 10 gp/month.
  • The Crown thanks all those who escorted the King on his secret peace mission, especially the faithful servants of Haine Kerjules: our heroes get a potion of heroism and 500 gp for "services to the Crown", i.e. recovering the King's Spear and shieldmaiden from the Hydra Corruscon.
  • Lord Kerjules and Lady Olga have announced plans to marry and join their estates, but approval must wait until after the grievances are settled.
  • The Dwarf Shams Metalgrog has come to trade Dwarfish alchemy and siegecraft to Belswick in its war against Arrayne. She will be granted land to set up a trade house in the region.
  • A young Gnomish inventor from neighbouring Duchy Thynne, Morti Sizzlelot with top hat, whirring-gear goggles, a red cloak, walking stick and goatee, comes to the party with a letter of recommendation by Baron Radnor (the King) himself. The "inventator" hopes he might prove useful. Guard duty he won't get, because he's a cross-eyed scatterbrain. He has stories about an icy mountain pass with untold treasure and a crazy hermit who told him never to come back.

GRIEVANCES

Sir Vennax of fief Witmarrow accuses his neighbour Kerjules of Crossroads of:

On behalf of Vennax, Mother Iranelle of the Order of St Kurelda (inquisition) speaks with dead the head of Seymon Bosprus, the owner of the Boswitch Bath House, who tells the court that the PCs indeed murdered Vedric and even announced it to Seymon a day before. Iranelle's creepy cold voice is only lent extra weight by the titanic warrior armored in red bodyguarding her.

Hitting back, Tilly obtains Vedric's head (Lady Liselle tasked the group to murder the fucker) and speaks with dead to interrogate it (with zero prep or time to think!) and confirms the following:
  • the wizard was behind the bandit attacks
  • the attacks were aimed at kidnapping Liselle because she'd offended some noble in her home barony
  • the bandits were paid and supplied by Vedric on behalf of Sir Vennax and the toad baron of Ballumbie

Vennax' son Lucius tries to weasel himself into an early inheritance, but Tilly bardic-grants himself inspiration and rolls a stunning 30 persuasion check - result: Vennax is jailed, his son kicked out of the inheritance, and Lady Liselle and her husband Peter Walden (the baron's son) will take control of fief CulfieldWitmarrow.

Strike one for the players. Ready for round two?

Drake Selbern challenges Lady Olga for the control of fief Culfield - the old, sickly, barren and childless hag is exactly the wrong person to control the border fief with war on the horizon. What's more, Drake has proof that Olga sent ruffians of the Violet Cloud thieves' guild to burn down his property - he has two captives who confessed under torture, and an encoded letter by Lomin ordering the deed.

BACK IN THE DRESS

Why should the party care? They don't particularly, except for Lomin, who's sitting there in the dress of his alter ego and deceased lover Lady Olga. Lomin/Olga is looking for a way to keep control of Culfield. She lays into Selbern with a old, wavering and razor sharp tongue.

Baron Walden adjourns court after the crowd got particularly rowdy, and Lolga is accosted by a goatling merchant giving the sign of the Violet Cloud...250 gold and the letter and confessions go away. Olmin is decisive: 250 gold, 50 in advance, and get lost.

Witnesses broken out of jail, the encoded letter isn't worth much and Olga handily defeats the challenge (rolling a natural 20, grumble grumble). Not only does she keep control of Culfield, she can marry Sir Kerjules and decide on who will inherit the fief.

There's just one teensie snag: chatting with the party after court and instructing them to finally clear the Tomb of the Serpents, Kerjules catches an inflection in Lomin's speech he just knows is Lady Olga's. (I roll a super high insight check for the guy and just go shellshocked as the old hedgehog ruler realizes what he's in for.)

Worse - for no-one except for Lomin - Tilly sees through the disguise as well. Grinning like a maniac, he keeps the secret. For now. Who knows what next session will bring?

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