|#1zombiegleemaxSep 30, 2006 21:31:25||WARNING! Long Post!|
This thread is also on the Fraternity of Shadows
I started out my first Ravenloft campaign, and my session went smoothly.
The current location is in Zeidenburg, Barovia. Everything is going well, except for one problem: My players are a little bit on the magic-dependent side, and though the group retains a low profile, I fear what may happen when they have to rely on non-magical methods when they lose their equipment or supernatural abilities.
Dromir, a Darkonian Necromancer of the Eternal Order. This may be inappropriate, but fortunately his character has taken a vow to not fight until the blood of his friends or foes has been spilled.
Ace, a Falkovnian Hexblade who enjoys wine, women, and money.
Darryl, an Invidian Hobgoblin Sorceror who favors subtle magic over the loud, flashy kind.
The strength of the party is offensive spells. They could cleanly wipe out the competition, but Strahd's boyars will notice them, and that is never a good thing. Ace is a cross between a spellcaster and a warrior, but he can't compete against the likes of combat tanks without the aid of magic and curses. The spellcasters play it smart, and whenever they casts spells, they make sure an ample distraction is nearby to shift attention away.
Unfortunately, Ace is quite brash and is not above using physical intimidation to get his way with people, and got in a fight with Invidian merchants. Darryl tried to tell him that it was not a good idea, as Invidians are known to hold a grudge for decades.
Ace's character does not really care about back-story at all, and when I first asked where he was from, he said "pick the country with the best beer." I picked Falkovnia. He got mad when I told him that the Barovians were avoiding him.
"What do they have against me?! I'm just a simple peasant!"
"You're from Falkovnia, right?"
"Well then, you should know that the government stamps the national flag symbol upon every citizens' forehead."
"WHAT?! That country sucks, I want to be from somewhere else!"
Anyone have any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions?
Chapter One: The Cautious Crony
It was a quiet, gloomy day in Zeidenberg, Barovia. It was late Spring, and several Invidian wine merchants came in to town. Among them was an intimidating fellow by the name of Darryl, a hobgoblin with a knack for witchery. The three other merchants were Perry, Jameston, and Anderson. They were triplets, all of them muscular, around five feet and a half, and each wore a beard of thick nutmeg brown, with streaks of gray from middle age. Anderson always smoked a tobacco pipe, and Jameston had a golden Blunderbuss, twiddling it in his hands. Perry wore a red kerchief, and his hair was messier than The Dead Man's Campaign. While Anderson was unloading the cart, a brash foreigner, Verbrekan by the get-up, smacked the small of Anderson's back, sending him sprawled over in the mud, the blood, and the beer. The Verbrekan was named Ace, and bore stark white hair that was short and rough. His pupils were pitch black, giving off the impression of a lightless Verbrekan night.
Jameston brandished a pistol at the insolent fool, the Invidian passion fully ignited.
"Trouble be lookin' for you, boy." Jameston sneered.
Darryl motioned with his arm for Jameston to back down, using a silver tongue backed up with some clever thaumaturgy.
"He is not worth it, Jameston. Gunpowder is more expensive than wine in these here parts."
"But the little dick just destroyed our best!" Perry whined.
"Maybe we should make him work off the debt." Darryl mentioned.
"We will not waste any precious bullets, plus we get paid for our damaged supply!"
Anderson stood up and gave out a hearty guffaw.
"I like the way you think, Darryl! You're a born businessman!"
The Verbrekan youth looked at the muscular, fearsome goblin. He knew all kinds of folklore about these reclusive folk. Savages, cannibalism, counting the dead among their friends, all of it was true as far as the boy was concerned. The fact that this beast was clad in exotic merchant's finery did not help either, and only gave mixed signals to the conclusion of whether he was civilized or feral.
"So, now what?" the Verbrekan asked, impatience in his tone. He may be an indentured servant, but Ezra be damned if he would be forced to work with a demon!
Darryl looked around the town, and spotted another foreigner, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the downtrodden Gundarakites. This one was clad in purple robes with gold trim, wore a leather wide-brimmed hat colored midnight black. The stranger carried a large gray sack tied to the end of a stick. He was sitting amidst a four male Gundarakite youths, playing a game of cards. The natives appeared to be losing: amongst the loot in the middle of the circle was a pair of dirty socks.
Darryl licked his lips with covetous anticipation.
"That bag ought to be full of loot. My 'talents' ought to earn us a third meal."
Darryl walked in between the two Gundarakites, and sat down, whipping out a set of a fine Tarokka cards. Ace grudingly sat next to Darryl.
The foreigner, occupied with the game at hand, did not look, but only gave a harsh reply.
"We are in the middle of a game, sirs. Please wait your turn."
The man's accent revealed him as Darkonian. The man was a long way from home.
"Maybe if I up the ante, you'll change your mind," Darryl replied, as he tossed a pouch full of silver coins into the pile.
The Darkonian looked at the visitor. He smiled.
"Well now, if it isn't the lucky dog himself! I haven't seen you in ages!"
"Right back at you." Darryl responded.
"Looks like you got a new pal, Darryl. I always thought that you were not the type to make friends easily."
"Him?! Na, he's just working for his freedom. I don't even know his name! Ha ha!"
"My name is Ace. What about yours?"
"I'm Dromir." the Darkonian answered.
"And Darryl, at your service. No wait, it's the other way around!"
And thus the seven acquantices talked the night away, laughing, drinking and making merry.
Fifteen minutes later, it was down to those three, Ace, Darryl, and Dromir.
"What can I say, I'm beat," Dromir.
"Let's split the winnings by three and we'll call it a day."
The trio stood up and packed their belongings. Unfortunately, they were rudely interrupted by a vagrant.
"Praise be to Erlin!" the man shouted.
"Our God has returned to restore the Gundar kingdom!"
"Who is this?" Ace asked.
"It looks like another pitiful occupant of this squalid nation who clutches onto fairy tales to prevent from going mad with despair." Dromir indignantly said.
Little did they know that The Powers That Be sent one of the more outlandish occupants of the realm to give the group an early warning.
Chapter Two: Faith and Felony
A Gundarakite would cause enough glareful stares in Barovia, but a madman preaching to overthrow the government, was enough cause to send four watchmen over, crossbows drawn.
"Do you not understand?!" the vagrant said to Dromir.
"If only you were Gundarakite, you would understand! Our people's religion and way of life have been tossed aside by the Barovians, and I intend to restore our kingdom! I have foreseen this, for I am a prophet, and I can see your futures as well, Darryl and Ace!"
The leader of the watchmen, a large, burly fellow about 6 feet with black hair, a thick beard and mustache, plus a set of snaggly teeth and a breath that smelled worse than a Goblyn after his meal. The three other watchmen were new to the scene, still in their mid-teens and nervously watched the enfolding scene. All wore leather armor and were equipped with crossbows, short swords, and light maces. The captain took out a bag full of rocks (a sap) and smacked the madman upside the head, causing the poor creature to fall face first, dazed and confused amidst the chaos.
"Leave him alone!" Darryl shouted.
This caused the watchmen to loudly laugh.
"Why do you care about what we do to a lousy Gundarakite? You seem pretty merciful for a Goblyn!"
"I am a Hobgoblin, sir, and unlike those savages, we actually are capable of the finer arts in life! Besides, I am not helping this man out of the kindness of my heart, but because I believe that he knows more about me than he is telling."
"Very well, 'hobgoblin!'" the captain indignantly snorted.
"You can come to the gallows with him!"
Ace knew that trouble was brewing and he charged at the captain, but barely managed to cause a scratch due to the thick hide of the veteran. The extra protection from the armor did not help one bit! Dromir just watched the scene unfolds, eyes looking over the new enemies, intent on finding a weakness in their movement.
Darryl ran several feet back and dived into a nearby cart full of hay. Calmly chanting several incantations, the result of the magic spell caused several glowing white orbs to circle around the captain. Bewildered and scared, the privates lost their ground and Ace mercilessly plunged his sword into the heart of one. Dromir charged and swung his scythe down on another, fully dismembering the left arm.
Roaring in anger, the remaining private and captain turned their attention towards the two indignant outsiders and charged together, knocking both opponents down.
"They forgot all about me! Perfect!" Darryl thought.
Several more hand gestures, and two spectral skulls flew out of the hay stack towards the thugs and bit them from behind in the necks. Nobody noticed the source of the spell as the local commoners were focused on the ensuing fight and the glowing lights in the air.
"Vampire!" the private shouted.
The two professional law enforcement officers were quickly bereft of their talent, as both started running around in circles.
"Quick, knock it off me before it drains my blood!" the captain shouts.
The private attempts to knock the skeleton off his own back, but fails and stumbles forward.
Ace and Dromir grab the unconscious prophet off the ground and start running away, quickly followed by Darryl.
In some anonymous shack amidst the Gundarakite shantytown, the trio tended to the prophet's wounds. The healing was enough to rouse the man from unconsciousness.
Instead of performing any remotely rational action, the fool starts cutting himself with his fingernails, reopening several wounds, causing the blood to spill amongst the dirt.
"What are you doing?!" Dromir bellowed.
"This is the only way I can tell you." the prophet whispered.
As the group tried to restrain him, the old man pushed them off with no effort. The blood started flowing in strange ways, actually forming letters and words!
The message read "Erlin is amidst us, but he does not hold himself to just this land. The unfaithful will be pawns, but will not know that they are the catalysts for these events."
"May the Eternal Order have mercy upon this wretched soul." Dromir whispered.
With that, he plunged his scythe into the madman's heart spraying blood everywhere.
"The hell was that for?!" Ace screamed.
"Do not worry." Darryl consoled.
"He's at least more merciful than the Burgomasters. He offers them a quick and painless death!"
Still unconvinced by Darryl's rationalization, Ace shook his head.
"Well, at least let's gather information about this Erlin fellow." Ace gloomily said.
"Erlin, isn't he that fat boyar that owes me a pig?"
"Erlin?! Sorry, but I am not supposed to talk to you, stranger!"
"Erlin is some fey or some-such, worshipped by a couple Gundarakites in these here parts. Why, I am pretty sure that Filthy Freak may know more about him!"
The only conclusive information about Erlin was that some guy amidst the shantytown still worships Erlin, but out of loyalty, not fear. His name is unknown, but everyone else calls him Filthy Freak.
The clues led to a small tent, smelling even worse than the rest of the town. All slum dwellers and vagrants are at least fifty feet away from the tent, making the pitiful shack a unique sort of monument amidst the shantytown.
As Darryl stepped forward, a man jumped out with surprising speed. The man was in his early twenties, had long, filthy straight black hair, wore a white apron stained with blood and fecal matter, and had a smattering of whiskers, the only well-groomed part of his body.
"Eheheh!" the crazy man said.
"I am Filthy Freak! Welcome, welcome, come on in!"
The filthy hovel was even worse on the inside; several chamber pots, jars, overgrown weeds, and a pet skunk in a cage decorated the abode.
"I am the local apothecary around these parts. By exposing yourself to my Freaky Filth, you will build up an immunity to other maladies! Of course, it may be worse than you expected, but you must look to the long term! Think of how many diseases and poisons you will fight off, possibly even more lethal than your typical fever or cold!"
"What do you know about Erlin?" Darryl asked.
"Oh, I am sorry, but I am not allowed to reveal such information to heretics such as yourselves!"
"Let me put it this way," Darryl sneered, putting on a leather glove and squeezing his hand into a fist, making a sound not unlike the stretching of an old wallet.
"You tell us everything you know, or else you will be a Filthy, DISEASED, Freak in addition to your reputation!"
Frightened, the apothecary ran out of the tent at top speed, crying "Faithful, save me!" all the way.
In hot pursuit, Ace, Darryl, and Dromir quickly followed his trail, leading all the way to a two story house. This place was the only area in the shantytown that was kept in good condition. A drawing of a sickle and hog-butchering knife crossed in front of a star-lit sky was positioned above the doorway.
"Hope this place is abandoned." Ace whispered.
His question was quickly answered as two crossbow bolts fired out of the second story windows on the far left side of the building, hitting Darryl and Dromir, both in the chest.
Our heroes were now in for the fight of their lives.
Chapter 3: A Fateful Fiend
"Looks like our welcoming party greeted us!" Dromir said, pulling out several bones out of his bag.
"What are you doing?!" Ace asked.
"Silence! I need concentration!"
The bones formed into a skeletal dog, which jumped through the window and severely injured a cultist. Darryl started chanting, and three blue, insubstantial orbs formed in his hand. He threw them at the windows, causing several cultists to scream in terror. Ace charged through the front gate and found out that the worst was yet to come.
A large, pot-bellied, butcher with a sickle in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other. Both were stained with blood, and not that of animals. He was clad in drab gray peasant clothing, but several pictures of humans and star-lit skies dotted the garment. All shown vast scenes of Gundarakites, apparently, bowing in worship to a large, impressive, human, clutching a sickle in his left hand, which forms the crescent moon.
A dark, inky, mist formed in front of the man, turning into a shield, floating in mid-air. The butcher roared, sending a shrill, ringing, sound to emit in Ace's ears.
As Ace started screaming, Dromir charged into the building and slashes at the foul Erlin-worshipper with his scythe. The skeletal dog knocked down the western door and bit the butcher in the right leg. The pain was incomprehensible to the priest, who shoved his knife into his heart to be free from the mortal coil.
The building lay in carnage, burning fires and broken furniture lay scattered about. As Darryl walked into the area, a strange, grey fog enveloped the area, robbing everyone of sight.
As the mists cleared up, our protagonists found themselves in the same building, although it was very different; they were knee-deep in brackish, silty, water. Outside extended shallow waters to the ends of sight. The sky was a dark gray, providing a dim, eye-watering light. The building was apparently a century older, rotted, broken wood, and dusty, crumbling, bricks marked the building as anything but, a shadow of its architectural self. Footsteps from upstairs could be heard. A tall apparently human male stepped down to the first floor, several feet in front of Dromir. The stranger wore a brown trench coat, wore a wide-brimmed black hat, and had tangled, messy brown hair. He held a briefcase in his right arm, shackled to that limb with manacles. The man smiled, his muscles stretching the grimace to its possible limits, the sound of flesh being torn asunder could be heard as he bled at the sides of the mouth. His teeth were bright yellow, crooked, and his upper left canine tooth was split open, oozing an abomidable substance, coloring his gums black and dribbling out the mouth.
"It looks like they captured several interesting souls, intent on toying with them as they did me," the ghastly person said.
"Just who are you supposed to be?" Dromir asked.
"My name is not important. I am not what I used to be. For every evil action I took to fight back, I found myself changing. When one does a morally questionable action, one finds it traumatizing. When they keep on carrying out depraved intentions, one finds it easier to do. It is like a glass wall, slowly cracking apart with each action, making the acts of cruelty even easier to do, until that glass wall cracks, and you carry on those actions without a single thought of compassion or remorse, consumed by your emotions, damning those around you, and finally yourself."
"Who are 'they?'" Darryl asked.
"I do not know. What I do know is that someone beyond my senses has been leading me towards a downward spiral. I do not know whether they were toying with me, or trying to teach me the error of my ways. For every reward they offered me, they punished me with an equally malevolent curse, until it was too late to turn back, and I found out that I all the gifts in the world are not worth the cost of your soul."
The man turned to the front door.
"Farewell, now. If I only hurt those around me, then I may as well isolate myself, for my own sake and that of others."
The man started walking towards the distance, with no destination in particular, until he was finally enveloped in the mists. Once again, the enroaching fog enveloped Darryl, Dromir, and Ace, returning them to the normal realm.
"What the hell just happened?" Ace asked.
"I do not know." Darryl answered.
"Regardless, we should concentrate on the now and find a safe refuge." Dromir responded.
Meanwhile, the Burgomaster of Zeidenburg, Jacenty Girghiu, was sitting in what passes for a throne room, stroking his long, curly mustache in ravid anticipation, blood-shot light brown eyes attested to lack of sleep and nervous breakdowns. He wore the cutting-edge amongst the Barovian elite, jewel-studded breeches and vest with the motif of the Von Zarovich insignia on the left breast. Sweat thoroughly shown through the white corduroy of his undershirt. Two nearby guards opened the double doors at the other end of the room. A middle-aged Vistani female, clothed in plain brown robes and glossy black hair tied into a bun approached Girghiu.
"Tell me what happened!" Girghiu squealed.
"Three foreigners, one a hobgoblin, a Verbrekan, and a Darkonian, all male, have engaged in a skirmish with a local Gundarakite rebel cell."
"And this is a bad thing because...?"
"It is not, Giorgio. These outsiders could prove useful in wiping out the Gundarakites once and for all. If we coerce them into working for Strahd, your power and prestige will most certainly rise among the burgomasters."
"Whether they are willing... Well, that does not matter, for Strahd has ways of 'convincing' others to do his bidding."
A look of avarice shot up in Girghiu's eyes. Wine, women, money, he could see it all, standing loyally atop Castle Ravenloft as Strahd's right-hand man!
"Quarantine the shantytown!" Girghiu exclaimed.
"We must prevent these people from leaving, or we can kiss our profits goodbye!"