So we were back. Kind of. Eric, Gavin and Matthew were playing. Sue and Mike were doing some sort of thing for their kids, Robert and Loren were still gardening… I still think they are trying out a new DM, and want to have the option of coming back… Daron was a no-show.
So the Eric, the party member who played last game and survived the last episode woke up, bound. Matthew, who did not make the last session woke up and couldn’t figure out why he was Deus Ex Machina’d into a cave with his wrists and ankles bound. Gavin worked up a new character. He is now a Polish nobleman… nobleboy? Who was kicked out of his home at 16 and won’t talk about it. But he is educated along with knowing all sorts of knowledge, but he doesn’t want to submit to the church or authority… more on that later.
The party comes to, and finds two old crones (witches) standing over them. Mena and Vedis. The crones make a deal with the party. Become the witch’s pawns, or the witches will steal their souls again. Eric makes no bones about it. He is perfectly OK with switching loyalties to whomever will keep him alive. After all, he had his soul taken in the last session, and found it a little disconcerting. Matthew, who is playing Jake from State Farm agreed, trying to figure out how he was going to make his quota of insurance sales. Gavin was the holdout. Gavin was busy typing a message on his phone, and was not paying attention. Eventually, he figured out that he needed to pay attention with a “wait, what?” and he started playing. Ahhh, the life of a teenager.
So the crones cut the bonds, and gave the party two things to do. Near the town of Loffenbach, the town they recently came from was a white oak tree which needed to be cut down. Eric wanted to know why. The witches told the party that the tree needed to be cut down so that the witches could plant herbs and other important plants at that location. That seemed kind of logical, however, Eric and Matthew wanted to know what was so special about a “white oak”, as opposed to something else. The witches explained that the white oak was a specific type of tree, and it should be easy to find, as opposed to the pine, red oak, cedar and other trees in the forest.
Metagaming here, The Savage Tales of Horror specifically called out “white oak” as having power over the witches. I found that rather amusing, as I am a civil engineer, and the white oak is especially important in the natural world. I am not an environmental specialist, but whenever there is a white oak on a project, it must be super mitigated, if it is to be removed.
But then I digress.
The party is also told to go and look into the well being of one of the crone’s friends, Roger Simeon, who lives in Torkertown. The crones have not heard from Roger in several months. Roger is a sorcerer.
The witches also informed the party that they would be watched over. So they should not try any tricks, since they would always be seen.
So the party moves out to cut down the white oak. Along the way, the party realized that they had all been branded, or tattoo’d with a witches mark. Each of them had a tattoo of an eyebeast on the back of their neck. Since this is not D&D, I can’t call it a “beholder”, as that would be copyright infringement, so we will call them by their alternate name…. eyebeast.
The eyebeast tattoo shows up on the back of their neck, and seems to watch them, no mater what angle they look at it from.
They make it back to Loffenbach without incident. The townspeople in Loffenbach are very interested in finding out what happened to the townspeople who were taken by the witch. Of course, the party told the truth. The townspeople were very upset.
Then the party told the townspeople that they were going to cut down the white oak. The irrational townspeople spun a wild tale about how the white oak needed to stay, after all, the white oak is one of the few things which can hold a witch at bay. The two witches were captured and held in a grave for hundreds of years by the planting of a white oak tree over their crypt. The witches only came out from the crypt when a lightening strike destroyed the tree. IF the witches want to have this tree cut down, then there is something important here, and it must not be done!
Like I said, the townspeople were full of all sorts of superstitious nonsense. Whoever heard of a tree stopping the power of a witch? So Eric decides that he will “fulfill” the witch’s desires and cut down a single branch of the tree. After all, no one remembered exactly how much of the tree the witches wanted cut down. When they said “cut it down”, we don’t know what the definition of “it” is, now do we?
So Eric decided to take the branch, and trim it down, and stick one end of the branch into a fire, and get it red hot, well as hot as possible for a branch. When it was good and hot, he stuck it into his neck, where the tattoo was. It burned his flesh. He suffered a lot of pain. After he slightly recovered, he asked one of the party members if the witch’s mark tattoo was gone. Nope, it looks like it just moved around when he barbecued his skin.
Frustrated, the party decided to go to Torkertown. Now, Eric led the people at the gaming table on a long discussion about how he would not be able to say “Torkertown”, instead he kept going on about Miley Cyrus and twerking, and it must be known as Twerkertown.
You can thank me right now for not posting an image of Miley Cyrus twerking.
So the party is on the way to Torkertown. On the way, they run across a man, standing butt naked in the middle of the road. The man is very unhappy, and looks to the sky as the party approaches asking the gods in the sky “What abominable penance are you going to extract on me now?” The man is named Arcus, the Herald. He tells a tale of woe, about how he was “befriended” by a horrible person, Lukan the Moneylender. Lukan took him for everything by cheating at cards. Lukan lives in Torkertown.
So Mathew takes pity on the naked man, and gives Arcus his cape. Arcus turns the cape into a toga type outfit. As the party continues with Arcus to Torkertown, Arcus tells them of the local history. Evidently a tall man with a large hat came and killed a ghost.
No, he did not have a yellow hat, or a monkey.
But then, there was a problem in Torkertown. The path into the town splits into to two paths into the town. One via the swamp. The other via the forest. Several years ago, people using the path to the swamp would disappear. The path to the forest was significantly longer than the path through the swamp. So the man in the tall hat had figured out that one brother had wronged the other brother, and the wronged brother’s spirit was in the swamp, taking travelers lives. So he forced the living brother to go out in the swamp, and there was a huge fight, and the spirit of the dead brother was appeased when the living brother was killed.
The party decides to go via the swamp path, and get to Torkertown without any problems.
This is where playing with this group gets interesting. Most adventures are laid out linearly. like you do one thing, then another, then another, and the clues lead you through to the end.
Kind of like:
A – B – C – D – E – F
This group likes to do things out of order. Kind of like:
A – F – Q – C – Z2 – B – Mayhem
Sometimes it is
A – Mayhem – D – Mayhem – Mayhem – Mayhem – Mayhem – Mayhem^6
And then everything is borked up, and there is no way to get to F, the final part.
That means as a DM, I need to be on top of it, and figure out how to make it work.
So as the party enters the town, they observe that there is a funeral in the graveyard as they pass. There are four fresh graves. This seems like a lot of people being buried in such a short time.
Rather than going in and starting the adventure by asking what is going on with the funerals, the party decides to go straight to Lukan the Moneylender. A-F, without going through B, C, D or E first.
Lukan is very interested in the story that Arcus told them Lukan told the party that indeed he did manage to do quite well at cards against Arcus. However, Arcus is not poor. Arcus is working his own type of con. Lukan asks the party, “Was he standing naked in the middle of the road when you found him?” answer, yes. “Ahh, that is one of his favorite ploys, he gets people interested in him by looking the sorry sort, then he takes pleasure in knowing that you all feel sorry for him.” Lukan asks several other things, like did they look around where they found Arcus, to see if he had cache’d his clothing near the location where he was found? No.
Lukan then starts asking the party what their con is. Eric gets upset, and tries to whack Lukan on the head with a club. Eric rolls exceptionally poorly, chips the roll, then rolls even worse. Lukan just stares at Eric.
Eric tries to intimidate Lukan by showing off the burn scar on his neck, and the witch mark. Lukan is not impressed with the “toughness” of a person who is willing to self mutilate. That may actually be showing something other, like a mental problem, not toughness. As for the witch’s mark, Lukan can’t see it. Each of the party members can see each other’s mark, but evidently the rest of the world can’t. Maybe it is a mark, maybe it is a hoax by the “witches”.
Lukan asks the party about who they are, and what they are trying to do here. Eric is obviously the muscle, but not very effective muscle. Matthew explains that he is an insurance agent, and Gavin holds to his story that he is a Knight.
Lukan is not impressed. He tells the party that he is willing to take them under his wing, for a cut of their profits to teach them how to be a truly effective organization. However, after he is through with the schooling, they will, of course, have to go find another town to be in charge of.
Lukan looks at Matthew, and asks about the insurance scam. Matthew starts talking about actuarial tables, cost / benefit analysis and other such things. Lukan decides to give his first lesson for free. Insurance, you see is all about profit. You need to go and make sure that people understand that they “need” the insurance. Go into a home, meet with the people, and give them your pitch. For only 5 gold pieces a month, we will make sure nothing bad happens to you. Then pick up the most expensive, fragile thing in the house, and drop it, breaking it… “oops, wow, if you had insurance, this type of thing won’t happen.” Then start telling them about how fires are very unfortunate.
Take for example, a farmer. His field of rye is almost ready to harvest. It is dry, like tinder, and if he doesn’t reap the rye, his family will starve over the winter. Light one farm’s field on fire at night, to show the rest of the farmers in the area what horrible things can occur if they don’t have insurance.
This close to the frontier, you can also make some strategic agreements with some bandits. Cut them in for 60% of the profits. After all, this is easy money. If they get paid, then the people outside the city walls are left alone. If not, well, it just goes to show the value of insurance.
Forget actuarial tables. Forget cost / benefit ratios. Show the people that they need this service.
Then Lukan looks at Gavin, and asks him what his con is. Gavin sputters and blurts out, “This is not a con, I am a knight!”. Lukan looks straight at him, and says “hmmm, a knight? Really, at 18, you are a knight? How does that work, when you left home at 16? Now, I would believe that you were a squire in a knights service at 16, but not a full knight”.
Then Gavin says “Did I say knight? I meant that I was a nobleman”.
Lukan says to Gavin, “There is the problem with your con. You don’t have enough back story to keep it going when it gets questioned. You need to have depth in your con, where you can have truly reasonable answers to normal questions. I mean, I got you to spill your con in under 20 seconds. That is terrible. This is why you need my help”.
He looks at Eric, and says “If you are going to be the muscle, you need to intimidate people, and actually be able to strike them with your club. And the self mutilation, well, that really does not work. You need to mutilate a family member of the person you are trying to con, not yourself. Self mutilation is crazy, and the church is likely to take you away instead of impressing someone.”
So the party decides that being a member of Lukan U (non accredited) would be in their best interest.
So the party asks Lukan about Roger Simeon. Lukan tells the party that Roger was killed several months ago, when the tall man with the large hat came and caused Roger to fight his dead brother.
Lukan doesn’t know anything about why people are dying. He knows that four people have died. Evidently they were gambling with Roger Ivans. Ivans died under questionable circumstances in his home several weeks ago. He regularly played cards with James Carter, Thomas Muchly, Nathaniel Drake And Alfred Dawlish.
After Ivans died, James Carter was found dead, white as a ghost at his home. Then Thomas Muchly was found dead, lying in the road, also white as a ghost. Nathaniel Drake was found dead, also white as a ghost sitting on the outhouse chair. Only Alfred Dawlish is still alive. He has taken ownership of the Ivans property, and is currently kicking her out to the cold. After all, the widow has no legal right to her husband’s affects, and she still owes for her husbands debts. By the way Lukan talks about Dawlish, it sounds like he approves.
The party decides to go and talk with the priest. They find the priest, the Reverend Jeffrey Timothy in the church. The right Reverent tells them much of what they already know, and he explains that it is unknown if Ivans was killed, or committed suicide. Since he didn’t truly know if Ivans committed suicide or not, he gave him a Christian burial anyway.
When asked why the bodies were buried so quickly, the Reverend responds that the Magistrate claimed that they were plague ridden, and had to be buried to keep the plague from spreading.
The party decides that they should investigate furher by talking to Alfred Dawlish. They go to the Dawlish home, and are told by the housekeeper that Dawlish has gone to a nearby town for the day, but should be back soon. If they want to meet him, they should go on the east road, also known as cemetery road, and they can probably meet up with him, and talk on the way back.
No foreshadowing here….
So the party starts walking down the east road, and as they approach the cemetery, they hear a horrified plea for help.
They start running to the sound, and find a man sitting in front of a gravestone, looking in abject terror at a mist of red tendrils reaching out to him.
So the party jumps into action. They run forward, intending to pull the man from the graveyard. Eric and Matthew arrive first, and are struck by the tendrils. They hurt… a lot.
Gavin arrives and thinks he will stay safely out of harms reach, after all a knight, err nobleman would direct the action of the minions… I think he was taking Lukan’s advice, and starting to act like a nobleman.
The party tries to pull the man, who is being attacked by the tendrils. The tendrils keep attacking everyone. They are nasty.
Now the party does not know, but the tendrils are ethereal, and can only be damaged by a character who takes damage from them during that specific round. Gavin and Eric do some amazing damage, but then they don’t because they chipped off their wounds.
After several rounds, Eric gets an amazing hit. He does enough damage to the creature that it would take a shaken and 2 wounds. Then the creature strikes Eric, causing a shaken and a wound. Eric wants to chip it, and I look at him, and say, “take the hit”. Eric looks confused. Matthew says “chip it!” Gavin is looking at his phone. The tension is unbearable.
Eric slowly realizes that he could chip the wound, but the DM is telling him to take the wound. Is it a ruse? Is it a ploy? Is the DM helping, or is the DM setting him up to die?
What to do? What to do?
So Eric takes the wound. I reverse the non-damage on the creature.
Gavin then sees hat he has a higher reason to exist. His two party members are getting harshed. They are being massacred along with the man by the blood tentacle thing. Gavin does the most rational thing that a knight, err, nobleman would do. He goes for help, leaving his two party members to keep the monster busy until he comes back.
Eric and Matthew vanquish the blood mist. They can see the trail clearly goes back to the grave of Roger Ivans.
Even though the creature is dead, the party is sure that something else must be in the mix. Eric and Matthew, along with Alfred Dawlish have suffered severe blood loss, and need several days of bed rest to recover.
The local healer comes in and gives the stricken members of the party different herbs, tonics and oils to restore the balance of the four humours. After all, they have a severe imbalance of lack of blood compared to black bile, yellow bile and phlem.
Gavin is pretty wigged out about this. I explain to him that medieval type medicine is based on the four humours, and if you are imbalanced, that is what causes sickness, so you need to create the balance again. I think that Gavin thought I was joking.
Gavin begins writing his memoirs about how he bravely let the minions fight the monster, while he went for help. I am sure that he heroically went for help, and there is no way that a rational person could think that he was cowardly.
After several days of rest, they decide that they are going to go into the house of Roger Ivans, and look around. They break down the door of the house, and enter. After looking around for a while, they find that the Magistrate and a deputy are standing in the door looking at them.
The Magistrate, Squire Hardwick, wants to know why the party ha broken into the house. After all, Eric kicked in the door.
The party attempts to explain why they are there, to determine what actually happened with the death of Roger Ivan. Squire Hardwick says to them, “Roger Ivans died.My investigation showed that he died, nothing more”.
Gavin tries to explain that things are different. They have new “evidence” that has come to light, and the case needs to be reopened.
Now the Magistrate is not happy with this turn of events. He explains, in very pedantic terms to Gavin that there is nothing to investigate. He has determined the cause of death. He died. Gavin presses, and starts talking about mumbo jumbo of due process, investigative methods, and other such nonsense. The magistrate tersely explains that his determination is all that is needed. It is God’s determination, since God gives authority to the King. The King gives authority to the Baron. The Baron gives authority to the Magistrate. Therefore the Magistrate speaks for God. Any questions of the Magistrate’s authority questions God’s authority. Any question of God’s authority results in death. Questioning God’s authority is an obvious attempt by Satan to exert power on the people.
“Are you in league with Satan?” demands the Magistrate…
Gavin starts talking. Not sure if it is a confession, or any other attempt to question God’s authority, the Magistrate nods to the deputy, who smacks Gavin on the head with his armored gauntlet, really hurting him.
Gavin decides to stop talking.
The party goes back to the priest and describes the blood mist. The priest knows that the blood mist must be a vampire. The vampire must be killed. After all, if not killed, the vampire will rise and feast on others. When Gavin asked the priest if he has ever heard of a vampire putting out a blood mist, the priest responds “I have never seen a vampire, only read a little about what the Holy Catholic Church says about them. There may be powers which are unknown with this foul, unholy beast”
So the party decides to go and kill the vampire. They must unearth the undead thing, drive a stake through its heart, behead the thing, place a small cross in its mouth, place the skull between the ankles, and secure the wrists on the chest above the stake, in the form of a cross, then rebury it.
All of these things must be done in order to kill the vampire. If not, the vampire will rest in unholy slumber until someone places the head back on the neck, and removes the stake.
So the party goes back to the graveyard, in search of the grave of Roger Ivans.
They find the grave quickly. Matthew, the shoveler, exhumes the corpse. It is late afternoon, the sun is getting close to setting. The party decided that it would not do to allow a vampire to live another night, so they decided to kill it, even if it went into the night.
Matthew pulls back the burial shroud, and sees that the fingernails and hair have grown. The teeth are longer. There is blood dripping outside the lips. It is obvious that this vampire has been feeding. It has even gotten fatter on the blood of the innocent!
Eric takes out one of his white oak stakes, and drives it into the vampire’s chest where the heart would be. The beast exhales a long unearthly moan and black bile comes out of the stake wound.
By this time, the right Reverend Timothy is staring in terror at the corpse, screaming “KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT!!!!!”
Eric chops the head off and places it between the ankles, then ties the vampire’s wrists into a cross above the stake. The priest sprinkles holy water on the corpse to be sure.
The party reburies the vampire. They almost got it right… almost. They forgot to place the small cross in the mouth of the vampire. Will this be a problem? Was he a vampire? Will he come back? Time will tell…
About this time, the Magistrate and several deputies come by because of all of the screaming. You see, sad crying and wailing has been heard from the cemetery, however, shrill screams of terror are unusual.
The Magistrate wants to know why the party is here with shovels.
Gavin, not learning his lesson before, starts telling the magistrate that the party was who actually figured out how to solve this mystery (It would have gone perfectly if it wasn’t for those meddlesome kids!)
The Magistrate nods to a deputy, who smashes his armored fist into Gavin’s head causing a shaken plus a wound. Gavin says to me “Hey, can’t I dodge it?” I respond “the deputy smacked you from behind while you were yelling at the magistrate”.
This was an unusual game session. There was no “and then, Daron” However, there were lots of opportunities for the party to do things in an interesting way.