Sunday, August 10, 2014

Return to Mar Tesaro: City Folk (Part 1)

Up to this point, the players have been adventuring at a steady pace: Killing horrible monsters, rescuing the captured operative, and rooting out the traitor to the uprising. The players have some items stacking up on their agenda they'd like to attend to, such as spending the filthy lucre they've attained so far.
"What do you mean  you don't accept enchanted gauntlets as payment?!"
The players split up to deal with various issues.
(See the rest below the fold.)

The Merchant
Zeus, Traster, and Ronan wander off to find the merchant who will sell them "difficult to find" items. The Family agreed to put them in touch with their favorite black market merchant. He keeps shop in an alleyway between warehouses on the wharf, largely to avoid the prying eyes of the local constabulary. The man greets them in a husky, raspy voice, with an accent that indicates he is an alien in these lands. His appearance is almost entirely obscured; besides the heavy clothing worn for the approaching winter weather, he wears heavy bandages across his face and hands, leaving only a pair of red, glowing eyes visible.
This entire scenario was largely for the roleplaying (and for the record, I usually hate roleplaying casual encounters like shopping), but there's a few notes worth making about this guy. First, his name and affectations were definitely something I borrowed from other sources. I even kept the khajit accent, which is both easy and fun to use at the table. Second, this kind of "acquisition" for magical goods was moot beyond this point in the game, as the players were making their own goods. Plus, as the pace of the game picked up steam, stopping to browse magical amulets was going to be a tremendous tonal shift; it was much more natural at this point in the game. Third, remember when I wrote about long-term setting building? This guy was definitely part of that. He was a demon, hiding out on the mortal plane as a merchant. If the players realized it, they gave no indication. Perhaps they might have pondered his place in life further if they'd asked questions about it. His placement certainly wasn't haphazard, but that little bit of detail never paid off as the game progressed. That last part makes his appearance stick out like a sore thumb, thematically.
After haggling for a bit, the merchant offers to return with the goods at the end of the day, with a price drop in exchange for a favor: Deliver some goods to an old man across town.  The three head off to their next stop.

The Sage
The three turn up at the workshop of a wizened old man named Pascal.
I greatly enjoyed roleplaying as Pascal, but the "wizened old man" voice is difficult to maintain, and really rough on the throat. I'm very glad he wasn't a recurring character.
He's grateful for the delivery, but he is fascinated by the arrival of Zeus, informing them all that he wasn't sure he'd ever in his lifetime see another one of Zeus's kind functional. Stoking their curiosity, Pascal invites them all inside. Ronan declines, opting to guard the door instead.

Once inside, Traster notices that Pascal is a mage of some kind, showing the signs of a dedicated arcane workspace, including a place for creating arcane rituals. Traster receives permission to copy some rituals, and sets about while the old man begins poking around Zeus's internal workings.

As Pascal explains, Zeus was once part of an army brought here by his lord, a lesser noble during the time of the Triumvirate. The army was supposed to conquer the island for his master, but they were defeated without ever reaching the capitol.
"Dude, what?"
Pascal's role was to help maintain the warforged and keep them in prime shape. As Pascal has been explaining this he's been opening up panels, tinkering in Zeus's joints and innards. When he pops open a chest compartment, he gasps. The warforged are normally powered by jet black orbs, a material he was never allowed to acquaint himself with. If a warforged was being sent off to die, on the other hand, it was given a temporary, explosive core, set to release incredible elemental destruction on command. Zeus contained one of those temporary cores, but it was cracked. Pascal had to caution Zeus that over-exertion would stress the core, leading to its inevitable, explosive destruction.
My intent for this was to give Zeus some interesting drama. He didn't have any NPCs in his backstory I could immediately introduce. His player wasn't available every week, so a Zeus-centered arc wouldn't work terribly well. This felt like it could be interesting. I even attached some mechanics to it to give Zeus some extra damage, at a cost, whenever he had a critical hit in combat. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
In practice, it didn't work so well. Without much else to hang his hat on, Zeus's player was rather preoccupied with the fact that he was on the verge of a horrible, violent, irreversible death. He, understandably, wondered why his repair wasn't a higher priority for the group. I still think it wasn't a bad way to go, but implementation is always the key.
Pascal can't repair the core, but he might be able to craft another temporary core if they bring him enough raw material.

The Commander
Outside, Ronan has a brief encounter with a child being bullied by some older boys.
Another roleplaying event that went nowhere. I don't think I was prepared for the seriousness of it, nor was I really sure how to turn it into something meaningful for the character. "The best laid plans," etc.
Suddenly, Ronan is seized by panic. As a former member of the Order of the Thorn, he could still feel the psychic presence of the Thorn commanders when they would come near, and one was approaching the city. Worse, if he could feel her, he knew she'd be at least vaguely aware of his presence. It was time to gather the troops and move on.

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