Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A New Campaign!

I’m playing in a new campaign and I’m pretty excited about it.  My college roommate (who is a player in the game I run) has started up a new campaign.  He’s done some amazing world design.  The campaign is very gritty and incredibly low-magic.  Our party (best as I can figure out thus far) consists of a barbarian, a fighter, a rogue and my bard, Rhyss Ravenwind.  We’re in a city in the middle of the continent. 

The main meta-plot element is that magic doesn’t work very well.  It just kind of stopped about a hundred years ago.  This was bad news for the races that relied heavily on magic, especially elves and gnomes.  The dwarves and the humans allied and basically hemmed all the magical creatures into a ghetto country on the southwestern portion of the continent.  The dwarves really run the show, as they essentially control the economy.  Even in the human lands, they are pretty clear powers behind the throne.  Halflings, no surprise, have ended up as slaves.

Recap:

Last night was our first session.  I’m playing a bard, so I’m relatively well-known around town.  (I’ll post Rhyss’ stats at another time).  I’d ended up tied up with an elf who was looking to bring his wayward daughter home.  She’d gotten tied up in a commune or cult or some such, all of whom have been tattooed with the “TREK” symbol.  (I have taken to calling these partisans the ‘Trekkies,’ much to my GMs annoyance I fear).  I really am trying to give the symbol, which is a stylized form of ancient words (in Elvish or perhaps a language pre-dating it) for ‘tryanny’ and ‘infinity.’ 

None of our characters had met at the opening of the show.  Rhyss’ mysterious elven companion got taken away by the town guards after they’d tried to convince her to quit the Trekkies (I’ve done it again).  He had apparently been involved in a bit of a murder shortly after he got to town.  (It’s okay though—the government’s totally corrupt and being an elf is liable to just get you made a slave, so forcefully resisting arrest just for being alive is rational).  But, the elven companion had another friend who’d been laid up at the inn.  Her name was Aliana.  Things got excited when Rhyss was headed to the public square for the public execution of the elf and his companion, named Aliana.  Given that Rhyss was with the REAL Aliana, things very a little bit confusing.

We arrived and they put on a brutal show.  The fake Aliana (alas, Rhyss’ friend the elf’s daughter, who apparently should have known to come home when her father tried to be a good dad) was drawn and quartered.  Then, all hell broke loose.  Rebels?  Rioters?  We don’t know except that a bunch of incendiaries were thrown onto the dais.  The guy running the show’s bodyguards hustled him off while the town guards came out in force.  We hightailed it back to the Inn Aliana and Rhyss were staying at, with some other randos (including, it seemed, our other two PCs) in tow. 

Back at the inn, we learned that the authorities in this town really don’t do well with defiance.  We barricaded ourselves in the inn.  Rhyss got some time to meet his new companions.  He and Aliana were already getting along famously, less so Joramon.  Joramon’s a dwarf, but has been kicked out of his clan (Rhyss thinks there’s a story there).  He decided to pick a fight with the proprietor of the inn over free booze.  Unfortunately, said proprietor puts a roof over Rhyss’ head and Rhyss was already having to calm things down.  Fortunately, the complete chaos outside helped with that.  We tried to help some ladies get in to the inn from the danger through a window upstairs, but one of them was shot down (literally!) while trying to climb up.  The other ran off in the scuffle, but we ended up killing some guards.  This was very cathartic, but in retrospect, probably not a very good idea for remaining non-slave members of society.

Then a building near Joramon’s home caught fire.  In a fit of over-niceness (the guy had tried to kill Rhyss’ boss), everyone agreed to accompany this dude to his home.  So, we start hauling ass through the streets.  In a riot.  (But not a zoot suit riot).  The journey through the streets was brief, but harrowing.  Every building was boarded up from the inside and dead bodies were everywhere.  The only folks about and about were guards, looters, victims, and—of course—us.  We saw soldiers trying to force their way on a young lady.  Well, actually doing so.  We took out those guys.  With extreme prejudice.  Aliana and Rhyss learned that they work pretty well in combat together, which was a nice thing to learn.  One rapist got away, and called for reinforcements—we were wanted fugitives!

The group finally made it to Joramon’s home.  On the bright side, it hadn’t burnt down yet.  One the less bright side, all of Joramon’s stuff in the house had been looted.  So, kind of a waste going there.  About that time, the inn at which Rhyss had been working collapsed in a burning heap.  It was only a few blocks away from the tenement in which Joramon’s small dwelling was, so we had a nice view of our last connections to civilization go up in flames.

Aliana made it to the roof of the building next door while Joramon was checking out his house, so she noticed the folks in the street first, three more guards upset about the morning’s execution gone wrong.  They seemed to be coming our way.

We made our way out to meet them, but suddenly two guys dressed like the bomb throwers from the execution intervened.  They too had the mysterious TREK symbol.  We made quick work of the guards (including a brief reappearance of our sexually demanding friend from earlier in the scenario) with their help.  That’s when we noticed that one of the buildings had been unboarded.  People were gesturing that we go inside.  The TREKies seemed okay with it, and we were apparently all on the same team, so in we went.  That’s where our session ended.

End scene.

Thoughts:

Our GM did an amazing job.  First of all, the map was gigantic.  He’d clearly made plans for any number of things that we might say or do.  Also, this was my first time on the player side of fog of war in Roll20.  Damn, that feature can get annoying.  What seems like just a minor shading on the GM’s screen is completely opaque to the players!!!  I am going to try and balance between ‘the map shows only what you can see’ and ‘here’s enough information to orient yourself.’  Honestly, I had enough information to orient myself.  Maybe I will start keeping some maps?

The opening scene was HUGE.  By huge, I mean that I had my screen zoomed to only 40% and I still couldn’t see everything.  The square and the barracks looking over it took up more space than I could really keep track of.  It made it easier to just focus in on what Rhyss could see and focus on.  Well, sort of.  One of our players is also out of DC and he and I share my computer.  Keeping the screen wide enough so that we could both see things was a little disconcerting.  I may ask him to bring his laptop next time.

This is also not a campaign that’s going to concern itself about niceties like CR.  There were several times when it was fairly obvious that if we attacked we would die (having arrows raining out of the barracks and twenty guards headed into the crowd we were a part of come to mind).  As a GM, I struggle to keep encounters challenging but still pretty close within the CR system.  As a player, I like being part of a story and knowing that CR has gone out the window.  There are encounters that we cannot win.  I embrace that.  It will only make things sweeter when we do win everything in the end.

Also, our GM had created several factions and given them motivations.  What didn’t become clear until about halfway through the session was that all of these factions were playing on the full board and he was having to keep track of where they were, what they were doing, and how they might react to us.  It looked like a lot of work, and my sympathies lie with him. 


On balance, I’m interested and intrigued with the new campaign.  It’s unclear whether or not we’ll learn where the magic went.  But, we are definitely going to learn who these TREKkies are and what’s going on with the political situation in the city.  I look forward to recapping our sessions as we go along.

Enjoy hearing about the adventures of Rhyss?  Find them boring as watching paint dry?  Leave a comment below!