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I leave you with this cliched, and wrong, fable on why players should never split the party (hint: it the result of bad setting design):
"When PC death is permanent, whether due to play style or your RPG/setting of choice, it can be a huge blow to the player who’s impacted. Why should this happen as a result of what’s supposed to be a leisure activity?"
"Guys. Our marketing shows that most people play this game for about two years, get tired of it, usually because they can't make much sense of it or they just get interested in other things. So we've got to come up with a marketing strategy that plays to the greatest number of properties sold in the shortest possible window of the new player's interest. I suggest that we should make efforts to simplify the game, bringing it down to the level that nine and ten year olds can play, then hammer with lots of images, miniatures and visual aids on cheap mediums, while bringing the game stores around to selling the notion that 'game nights' can bring families together. Then, our bigger marketing plan will be to sell to parents, who have never played and know nothing about D&D, given that the old 80s satanic scare is mostly forgotten by this generation of parents. To sell to parents, we've got to push the media to write lots of puff pieces about D&D that don't actually talk about the game, encouraging parents to buy without looking at what they're buying."
|Go give Travis Hanson some money. He's doing good work,|
and there are so few of us.
|Resist the denial of reality.|
|How to Write Approved Canadian Literature|
"I've written in the past (more than once, I'm sure) that "there's more than one way to play D&D." But folks inferring some sort of non-judgmental, egalitarian declaration should note that I'm NOT saying there exists more than one RIGHT way to play D&D. Truth is, I secretly believe that many of the multiple ways in which folks run the game of D&D are wrong, some of them dead wrong."
DM: All three of you get a sudden sensation that something has approached you; it is nearby, perhaps ten or twenty feet away, and breathing regularly. But a quick scan around reveals nothing.Josef: I drop my pack off my shoulder, and take my mace in hand, while looking around more carefully. I look specifically in the direction from which we came.Delfig: I’m going to retreat quietly – as noiselessly as possible – away from the now-arming Josef and the noise, shaking my head.
|Not an accurate depiction of events|
Anshelm Helbelinc, the Thief: I let out a sigh and look to each of my companions. “Well, friends, I believe we should do as the man asks.”Delfig Kôlhupfer, the Bard: I nod, as I turn and pick up my weapons and wait for the rest of my companions to join me. I whisper, “I think we should leave and head a little ways into the woods, and then discuss what we’re going to do next.”Kazimir Kropt, the Assassin: I retrieve my weapons and nod in agreement.Tiberius, the Fighter/Mage: I nod in agreement, pick up my weapons and follow the party into the woods.Josef Mieszko, the Cleric: I gather my weapons and join the group.Anshelm: I bring up the rear.Delfig: [OOC: and thus, the party slinks off. “that’s not crying, that’s hysterical laughter ...”]DM: Retreating, you follow the cart track and make your way to the highest ford upon the stream.Delfig: Since this place isn’t visible to the main road, Delfig will look at his companions and ask, “Now what?”Anshelm: Out of danger, I take a greedy pinch of snuff. “Do we tell Mizer what happened? And where is Ells?”Josef: He ran off when things went badly. But he gave me his guild patch first. Let’s get off Meyer’s property, back to the road that got us here.Delfig: I’m curious … will we have to pay a toll to get in Dachau via the gates? When Anshelm and I went out before, we didn’t, and the only tolls you’ve mentioned were over bridges on the way to the homestead.[To the party]: “Let’s get to the forest that lies between the main road and the hills.”DM: Since Josef has Ells’ patch, you can get past the tolls on the road by showing the it. You were able to get back into Dachau because the gate was open; there was no entry fee.Tiberius: I have a writ of passage. Can that be used to bypass toll bridges?DM: Yes it will.Josef: How many toll-bridges did we cross? How long could we follow the road east before we came to the first of them?DM: The closest of these toll-points would be about one mile along the paved road, from where the cart track meets it. You will remember the cart track climbed onto the Meyer hill from where you passed the 5-mile marker (from Dachau) on the side of the road. You crossed three toll bridges to reach the marker.Delfig: “Let’s split up. Anshelm and Tiberius could take the road back to Dachau. The rest of us could hide out near Dachau, say near the blockhouse that was burnt, and wait to hear word from you two on Mizer’s disposition.”Anshelm: “Agreed. You might even find shelter with the cotter and his family.”Tiberius: I look worried. “Then, you should probably give me the gold that Mizer gave each of you, in case he demands it back because of our failure. When will we meet again?”Delfig: “Let’s say that if we do not hear from you by tomorrow midday, we’ll head into Dachau to find out what has become of you.”Josef: “Let’s meet tomorrow, just inside the North Gate - in the late afternoon.” I give the merchant’s patch to Anshelm.Anshelm [taking it, nodding]: “I only hope Mizer doesn’t hold us while determining the veracity of our claims. How about mid-day tomorrow?”Delfig: “I would suggest we meet up OUTSIDE of Dachau … to avoid any issues. Near the blockhouse.”Josef: “Yes, yes.” As we go, I’ll keep my sling in hand, but hang my mace at my waist.Tiberius: “I can simply tell Herr Mizer that I already had enough gold on hand to cover for our ‘fallen’ comrade’s initial payment, even though I didn’t have enough time to loot their bodies after the incident resulting in their deaths.” I agree with the plan.Kazimir: Confirmed.Delfig: Those of us cutting cross-country will take efforts to avoid any contact with others. Our intention is to get close to the blockhouse and then camp out for the night, obviously without a fire.
1st Town Guard (npc): Another one?2nd Town Guard (npc): Yes. Early this morning.1st Town Guard: And hacked to death, just like before?2nd Town Guard: Just like before.1st Town Guard: Who was it this time?2nd Town Guard: Johann Mizer. The bastard.1st Town Guard: Serves him right.Anshelm: When out of sight of the guards, I turn to Tiberius. “Did you hear that? Perhaps we won’t have to rely on a clever tongue to get us out of this. I suppose the Merchants’ Hall is the best place to discover of what it is they speak.”Tiberius: I agree to go to the Merchants’ hall immediately.DM: This takes very little time, as you know the way very well. However, as it is later than five o’clock, the Hall is locked.Tiberius: How late is The Pig open? I think we want to try finding out some information on the recent murder there.DM: The Pig is open until 10 bells.Anshelm: Are there other inns, taverns or places where people might gather in the evening between here and there? Is there anywhere that might serve a more upscale crowd than The Pig?DM: You recall Hornung’s beer garden.Anshelm: I do. If we decide to go there, is it going to take us out of our way back to The Pig?DM: Dachau has a population of about 3,900 people. No part of Dachau is more than 1200 yards from any other part of Dachau. I urge you to remember than an ale at the beer garden costed a gold piece.Anshelm: So noted. I knew Dachau was small, just wasn’t sure how small. To Tiberius, “While Helmunt might appreciate our presence back at The Pig, perhaps we would have a better chance of finding out what might have happened to Mizer by having an ear out at the beer garden, where we took the job. Folk there might know him better than the crowd at The Pig.”Tiberius: “Yes, and it might be better to stick together. To the beer garden!”
DM: You find the beer garden is very much like you remember from last night. The place is much more full than it was, and the fire is less stoked. You’re each served an ale from a beautiful, compelling woman with dark eyes, who takes your gold piece with a disarming smile.Tiberius: I smile at the server while handing her a gold piece. “I was hoping to meet a friend here, and I wonder if you’ve seen him? His name is Johann Mizer.”Anshelm: I add a silver piece to my gold. “Have you seen him around this night?”Mina (npc): “Johann? Not tonight.”DM: She chuckles, taking your money.Mina: “That poor bubbie works too hard.”DM: With that, she’ll spin delightfully and return to her duties.Anshelm: “Perhaps mixing with our present company will yield better results?” I rise and tries to look nonchalant, moving near the fire and making a show of warming my hands, while looking around. I make a circuit of the garden. He’s trying to pick out any conversation that might concern violence, murders, Mizer … or us! I’ll try to find someone who looks relatively well-to-do and speak with them.Tiberius: I guess I will do the same, except I’ll concentrate more on the ladies.DM: As you try to listen, you hear nothing of interest, except the goodness of the beer, some irrational humor among the patrons, the teasing of the barmaids, shouting, laughing and so on. Like any place of drinking.Tiberius: I go up to one of the many beautiful women in the beer garden and strike up a conversation, mostly about harmless, everyday topics.DM: One of the barmaids, Marras, will fall into a conversation with you. She seems familiar with Johann Mizer.Tiberius: I’ll ask a question about his being murdered.Marras (npc) [laughing]: “Murdered!? He wasn’t murdered! One of his horses was butchered in his stable, was all! There’s been someone in Dachau killing the poor beasts for weeks. Where have you been?”Tiberius: I join the barmaid with a roar of laughter. “I must have misheard! That’s what I get for listening to gossip on the street!”
Anshelm: “Ah, thank goodness. We were very worried for our friend.” Feigning compassion, I continue, “The poor beast! Has anyone got an idea of who’s doing these awful things?Marras [her expression darkening]: “No one knows anything! Whoever’s doing it, they’re invisible.”DM: At that point you hear the deep male voice of a barkeep calling out.Barkeep (npc): “Marras, where are you?”DM: The barmaid will hear this and immediately skip away.Anshelm: I wait a moment before saying, “Invisible attackers!” to no one in particular, but loud enough for someone at one of the nearer tables to hear. “Seems a bit fanciful, no? Someone should get to the bottom of it!” I make my way back toward the table Tiberius and I shared, swaying a bit to feign drunkenness. Does anyone seem to be watching?DM: Not that you can tell.Tiberius: I will approach another barmaid and try to start another conversation, meaning to learn something about Johann Mizer’s character, business and so forth.DM: The barkeep will see Tiberius doing so, and will approach to ask if he intends to drink or to accost the maids.Tiberius: I apologize and let the maid get back to work. I’ll rejoin Anshelm.
DM: Has anyone the means to light a fire?Delfig: Okay … time to make a duff bed of some sort; a mound of leaves, even wet, will give us some protection from the ground. We should accept that we’ll need to sleep against each other.Kazimir: I don’t have a way to light a fire. Are there any farms nearby? We’ve seen plenty of people living out here. I say to Delfig, “Perhaps we could give a few coins to a farmer if he’d let us sleep in his barn. Hay and dung would still be better than this.”Delfig: “Perhaps we can try.”DM: Any significant farms will be clustered around mills at the base of a castle or keep, as that is typical in this feudal land. Isolated homesteads like that belonging to Meyer are quite rare, as the country was not generally safe. Meyer being a free person paying rent is also fairly unusual. Keep in mind, entering a hamlet near a keep would risk encountering the local Reeve.Without any means of starting a fire, I will have to start rolling health effects.Josef: I have no means to make a fire. But I have a compass and a tent!Delfig: What would we know about the possible ill effects of “encountering the local Reeve?”DM: A Reeve would wonder why you’re there, what’s your purpose, why are you not on the road, how much money might you have in your pockets, how are you at repairing roofs since the keep needs some work done ... things like that.Delfig: So, not instant death or dismemberment. Is there a keep or hamlet that we can see, or that we remember passing just before the sun set?Kazimir: Would a fire attract a Reeve where we are?DM: Extraordinarily unlikely. A Reeve would be no more anxious to investigate a strange fire in the back country than you would be – to the Reeve, you might be bandits. Any one would be sure to collect a strong group of combatants before digging out what might just be a random cotter caught after dark.To answer Delfig’s question, there is a hamlet perhaps a half mile away.Kazimir: “Well, what say you?”DM: As you talk, it’s getting awfully cold. Kazimir has spent so many years sleeping on the street in cold weather, he can endure it fine, but Delfig is a little soft to such things. The bard is probably wishing for a few moments, at least, to have the bed in his father’s house tonight. So far, the members of the party have experienced no poor effects, but your fingers do feel a bit numb, which is worrying.Delfig: “Kazimir, Josef - let’s go back to the hamlet we saw a little way back. The worst case is that we’re turned away, and we’re no worse off. We might be able to earn a corner out of the elements in exchange for work or a song.” I will turn around and head back in the direction that I remember seeing the hamlet.Kazimir: I nod in agreement and gather my things.
DM: You see not a light showing in the village. On a hill, a quarter mile away, you can dimly see a tower surrounded by a curtain wall, and the dim twinkle of torches burning atop it.Josef: Will we have to go among the buildings to see if any are of better construction than the others? Are the all shacks? Is there a church? A common green or a well? Do watch out for dogs.DM: You hear no dogs. The houses are built into the side of the hill next to the stream. Each house has a turf roof, which extends out of the hillside and over the house walls. All look equal to one another; no house is poor, or a shack – yet they are hovels, in that they are built of low-cost materials, and are small in size.All three of you get a sudden sensation that something has approached you; it is nearby, perhaps ten or twenty feet away, and breathing regularly. But a quick scan around reveals nothing.Josef: I drop my pack off my shoulder, and take my mace in hand, while looking around more carefully. I look specifically in the direction from which we came.Delfig: I’m going to retreat quietly – as noiselessly as possible – away from the now-arming Josef and the noise, shaking my head.
Stranger (npc): “You were here last night, with Johann, were you not?”Anshelm: I signal for another beer. I speak in a carefully neutral voice, not to be hostile; “Who might you be, friend?”Tiberius: I will also order another beer.Stranger: “Karl Ludd … and you are?”Tiberius: “I am Tiberius. How do you know Herr Mizer, if you don’t mind my asking?”Anshelm: I settle back in my chair and watch the crowd for now.DM: He waves his hand, signalling the answer to Tiberius’ question isn’t important.Karl Ludd: “I know him only in passing. I am the architect who rebuilt his house last year.”Tiberius: “Herr Mizer helped me out of some legal trouble only a few days ago. Ah, where are my manners? Come, sit down, share a drink with us!”Anshelm: “I’m sorry to hear of Johann’s recent misfortune, though my friend Tiberius and I are glad that we first heard the news wrong. We thought he was dead.”DM: Karl grins.Karl Ludd [to Tiberius]: “I don’t drink.” [then to Anshelm] “You don’t fool me. I saw your pleasure at the news when you heard it at the West Gate.”DM: He leans in and speaks quietly.Karl Ludd: “Would you like to know truly why horses are being killed?”Tiberius: I’m puzzled by Karl’s tone.Anshelm: I stop mid-swallow at Ludd’s response.Tiberius: “Do you know something, friend?”Anshelm: “We’d very much like to know.”Karl Ludd: “It is a wind. “Those who have been struck at know this. It is not merely the killing of horses. These are messages, warnings to those who have grown fat and presumptive. And you, friends, have been watched. Your interests are known.”DM: He looks directly at Anshelm.Karl Ludd: “You did not see the innkeeper’s corpse hanging from its scaffold with much pleasure. True enough?”Anshelm: I take a pull from my mug. “To be honest, I did not think it good or ill until I learned of the reason for innkeeper’s execution.” I take another drink. “Truth for a truth, Herr Ludd. How long have you been watching us? And might we know why?”Tiberius: I look at Karl uncertainly, and wait for him to answer Anshelm’s questions.Karl Ludd: “I have not been watching you. One other that I know has been; he has known you since you first arrived in Dachau. He is an associate of yours. What think you, then, of the hanged innkeeper? Does his death not put us all at risk?”Anshelm: An associate of ours!?“I think what was done to the innkeeper, if the tale I was told was true, is a grave injustice. It seems to bode ill for the residents of Dachau. But who, exactly, do you mean by ‘us?’ “Karl Ludd: “All who are not in the guild, of course. The guild freely threatens every other person in the town.”Anshelm [nodding]: “Of course. What happened to Jan and his family could happen to anyone at the mercy of those in power. It is a most egregious situation, and one that does not sit well with me.”Tiberius [worriedly]: “I think you both need to control your tongues with a little more wisdom. This hardly seems the appropriate place to discuss these matters.”Karl Ludd [looking about him]: “These patrons are too full of drink to understand us, and we already speak quietly, dear sir. But if you will be more comfortable elsewhere to speak freely, tell of the place and we will go there.”Tiberius [with a measured look]: “Fine. If you are comfortable where you are, then so am I. I have nothing to hide.” I lean in closer. “What happened to the innkeeper is a tragedy, I will admit. I would not wish it upon my worst enemy. However, you have us at a disadvantage, sir. You know more about us than we do of you. Why don’t you tell us what you want from us?”Anshelm: I raise my hand. “I don’t think we need to retire from this place. We’ve nowhere to go this late at night save The Pig, which is just as much in public view. However, Tiberius’ words have wisdom. We’ve been rather free with our words to you, but how do we know you’re not in league with the very merchants of whom you speak so lowly?”Karl Ludd [nodding]: “What you say has merit. Let us not speak, then, until you have better reason to trust me. And I think it might be better if you and your other companions have a private opportunity to speak. In the meantime, I will give you this as a mark of my good will, and shall prove to me yours. Tonight, Johann Mizer’s stable will find another horse dead. It will happen after the tenth bell, and before the eleventh. You may choose to warn him, or you may choose to let him lose an animal worth more than a thousand gold coin. I leave the matter to you.”DM: He stands up, and calls out a cheerful farewell to you and to those at the nearest tables, who wave in acknowledgement. Then, he does not give you time to speak with him again as he departs.Tiberius: I look soberly at Anshelm. “Shall we go back to The Pig?”Anshelm: “I could use a bed after the day we’ve had. I only hope our companions are faring well in the countryside.”Tiberius: What time is it now?DM: It isn’t quite ten bells.Tiberius: I think we were planning on letting whatever comes to pass with the slaughter of the horse come to pass. None of us know where to contact Herr Mizer, or even where he lives, if we wanted to warn him.Anshelm: Yeah, that’s the plan. We return to The Pig.
DM: In light of the threat that is concealed in the dark, Josef suddenly turn and runs off, without explanation. Delfig barely has time to recover from this surprise, when Kazimir begins to back away. He has his own crisis of doubt, and he runs off as well.In the inky blackness, Delfig senses more than ever that he has not been left entirely alone …Delfig: I back away from the thing, as quickly as I can, reaching for the lyre strapped to my back.DM: Backing away in which direction? While there is definitely something out there, you’re not certain where. It seems to be moving in a circle around you.Delfig: I’m backing away towards the houses and the hill.DM: A stone will thump on the ground and lightly bump the back of your heel. There is a paper wrapped around the stone.Delfig: Do I still feel like something is there?DM: Yes.Delfig: I’ll reach over and pick up the stone if it doesn’t seem like I’m about to be attacked …DM: The note reads, “Behind You.”Delfig: Oh man, I am so being played with … I’ll groan, take three steps forward, then spin around. I still have my (now useless) lyre in my hand.“Hello?”DM: There will come the chortle of laughter from several voices around you – they are uncomfortably close, though you cannot see anything. One speaks, from somewhere in front of you.1st Voice (npc): “Herr Kôlhupfer, you have nothing to fear from us.”2nd Voice (npc): “We might have killed you at the farm.”3rd Voice (npc): “It’s good that you let the Jew alone.”Delfig: I gulp and slowly lower my arms into a non-threatening position. “I am … ahh … glad that I have pleased you enough that I’m not going to die for my mistakes. Who are you? Might I be allowed to gain shelter from the cold so that we can talk?”1st Voice: “No, we will not give you shelter. We do not rest with humans. But we will ask a question: will you continue in the employ of those snakes who seek to swallow the people of Dachau? Or will you accept our coin?”Delfig: Who are these snakes? The merchants? And who are you?3rd Voice: “He’s not that bright, is he?”2nd Voice: “He thinks we mean actual snakes.”4th Voice (npc): “And he didn’t answer the question.”Delfig: “I beg your pardons. I will answer. No, I do not wish to be a party to the merchants who would squeeze everyone dry of their wealth and then look for more. It’s the merchants who caused much of the bloodshed of recent past wars, and I have no small love for being played as a fool in a merchant’s game. I wanted to talk to Herr Meyer and find out what we’d gotten ourselves into. I count myself fortunate that Herr Meyer didn’t kill me.I didn’t mean actual snakes – but as I am talking to the wind and darkness, who sound as if they are opposed to the merchant, I wonder what powers the merchants may also have. As for whether I’ll accept your coin, while I am in need, I am also wary of things I cannot see, that speaks to me from the dark and asks if I will get involved in something that may leave me in the same condition as the innkeeper, with a rope around my dead neck. Before I accept any coin, I would like to know more.”DM: As an answer to your speech, you will see Josef reappear from the darkness. He has tossed away his weapons and his hands are empty.Josef [as an npc]: “Do not concern yourself with the powers they have. Nor with the consequences that might await you. None can know their future. Forgive us for our distrust. It is not to threaten you that we remain hidden, but because we must protect ourselves.DM: Saying this, Josef’s face will begin to transform, while his body will visibly shorten. Watching, you are quite mesmerized – and probably too stunned to make a move. In less than the count of twelve, Josef has transformed into Ells.Josef/Ells: “I killed the dogsbody and left him in the underbrush. And I inspired your friends to change their minds about trusting Johann Mizer.”DM: His visage shifts again, this time to a face you do not recognize. It is pleasant and unthreatening.Josef/Ells/Other: “And now I approach you to ask you to do some small part in breaking the Merchant’s Guild in Dachau.”Delfig: [OOC: Okay, that’s just damn cool]I look in astonishment as the darkness shapes into Josef, then Ells, then to the stranger in turn. “I’m sorry, Josef … or by whatever name you have for yourself. I meant no disrespect with my answers. I did not know.“I have felt uneasy about the goings on in Dachau since I learned of the innkeeper and his wife. I did not go with my friends in service to Mizer to fulfill his wishes. I have no particular loyalty to the Merchants Guild. I live for my art.” I break off, gulp nervously, and continue. “What would you have me, a single person, do against the Guild?”Josef/Ells/Other: “You may call me Triskoon … when we are not in the company of others. In company, call me ‘Hans.’ And what I want is for you to take a journey. Not to any place in particular, except that it should be away from Dachau. If you will give me but a sample of your blood – and a single personal item – your disappearance from the town will make an excellent frame.”Delfig: I shiver in the chilling air and rub my arms. ”Forgive me, Triskoon, but the air begins to affect me poorly. I was seeking shelter in these buildings, in order to make it through the night. Could I please have some shelter before we talk further?”Triskoon [with pity]: “Come with me.”DM: He leads you to a shed, a quarter mile from the village, where dry hay is stored. As you enter the shed, the two of you seem to be alone now.Triskoon: “If you climb down into the hay, you may pass the night more comfortably. What say you to our bargain?”Delfig: I thank him gratefully as I rub my arms and legs to get warm. Then I look at him curiously. “A drop of blood and a personal item. You say those will serve as an excellent frame. How will my blood, my essence, and an item of mine, give you a ‘frame’ - the murders of the horses seem to have already gotten attention enough. A drop of my blood won’t be so unusual.”Believing myself warmed for now, I will slowly remove my pack from my back. Opening it, I remove my wineskin and some of my hardtack, and offer a share to Triskoon.Triskoon [declining the offer]: “More than a drop – a small bottle I think. Identified by a cleric as blood spilled in violence, associated with Herr Mizer in the proper manner, so that he will be found guilty of your murder. We must bring the two of you face to face again, and we must raise Herr Mizer’s temper in public. Then we shall manage the rest.”Delfig: My eyes widen. “That is an audacious plan and would indeed be a serious accusation against the merchant, especially with the involvement of a cleric. You have some powerful friends. I must admit reluctance at having that much blood taken from me. I have little wish to find myself sickened from an imbalance of my humours. How will you keep Herr Mizer or his companions from simply carting me off to the jail or worse?”DM: Triskoon will change shape again … and Herr Mizer takes your wineskin from you and has a pull.Triskoon: “Why would Mizer need to be involved at all?”Delfig: I resist the urge to involuntarily make the sign of the Cross. I chew noisily on my hard tack instead. “Your point is well made, Triskoon. But as you, or one of the voices you created, stated outside, you haven’t answered all the questions … you mentioned coin?”Triskoon: “It will be enough.”Delfig: “I want to speak with my companions first. If you agree to that, I’ll meet with you to provide the blood.”Triskoon: “I confess, I am somewhat squeamish. I would prefer if you would do the bloodletting yourself. More than that, it must happen soon, to be of any use to us. I have friends in town acting on a schedule. First thing in the morning would be the best possible time to set up Johann Mizer … otherwise the window will be missed.”Delfig: “You seem to have avoided talking about the promise of payment. I would like to know what we will earn from this venture and when we’ll be paid.”Triskoon: “Oh, I had not meant to avoid the payment. Will 100 gold be sufficient?”DM: He will demonstrate a large belt pouch that jingles.Delfig: I nod and take the small vial from Triskoon. I make a small incision in my arm and allow the blood to fill the bottle. Once full, I’ll stopper the bottle and wait expectantly for the gold.DM: Triskoon will happily pay you.Delfig: Then I inquire about remaining in the warm hay until prior to sunup, so I can leave without being harassed.
Hans Frinkel (npc): “Until the perpetrators of this sinful act are caught and executed for their crimes, the town of Dachau has been placed under marshal law. Citizens and foreigners may continue to be about their business, but to leave or enter the town shall now require the signed seal of the Mayor’s office …”Anshelm: I turn to Tiberius. “Well, I suppose this means Karl was telling the truth, eh?” I sigh as I watch the military assemblage in the town square. “Of course, now we need to contrive a way to find our companions again.”Tiberius: “We didn’t meet with Herr Mizer last night, because the guild hall was locked. Shouldn’t we take the time to do that now?”Anshelm: I nod at a suggestion. “We should make good use of our time.”Tiberius: “That doesn’t mean I’m going to trust the man. I’d like to keep my head, after all.” I look at the guards gathered in the town square. “Come, our companions can wait a little longer. We still have yet to meet with Herr Mizer. I can’t imagine he’ll be in a good mood after this, and with the news we have …”Anshelm: I grin at Tiberius’ words. “Perhaps it’ll mean our failure won’t be seen in such a bad light, comparatively,” I say as I follow. “Probably not, but this at least keeps our hope alive.”DM: You may try to meet with Mizer if you wish. But no specific time and place was specified for the meeting. At best, you can try to contact him by presenting yourself at the Hall.Tiberius: That was how I was going to do it.DM: Quite out of expectation, you find that the Market Hall is still closed – but now, a dozen guards are posted at the massive main entrance, a giant double door. The guards will tell you politely, as they tell others who have also approached, that the members of the Hall are having an “emergency session” of the Merchant’s Guild. This has taken up most of the morning, at least two hours. The guards don’t believe the session will end before the sun sets.This news elicits much discontent among the others who hear it.Gentleman (npc): “It is unbearable that business should be run this way, over the question of a few horses! Must the whole town sacrifice its livelihood for men who can’t post a guard or two at their stables?”Old Hag (npc) [wagging her finger]: “A few horses, do you say? A few horses! Seven horses, I say! Do you not know the meaning of Seven dead horses!?”Anshelm: I say to Tiberius, “Well, it looks as if Herr Mizer’s other bad news will be delayed. All the better for him.” Turning to the old hag, I say, “I have an idea, lady, but pray tell, what do the seven horses mean to you?”Old Hag [raising an eyebrow]: “Did your precious mother tell you no tales?” [Then, with great import] “And the earth boiled, and rose there the witch, and her chariot was pulled by seven horses; and with her she had seven dogs, and in her seven hands she held seven swords …”Anshelm: I raise an eyebrow. “I know little of these tales. What could they possibly tell us about this situation? What, pray tell, do you think this portends?”Old Hag [shrieking at Anshelm and others]: “Do you not remember!? The horses are gathered now! What will it be next? What will it be?”DM: She asks the questions as though she knows the answers. But others begin to poke at her, raising their voices at her.1st Man (npc): “Shut up woman!”2nd Man (npc): “Push off, hag!”DM: Using their canes, they drive her away from the doors and out into the square. Finally, she shuffles off towards the Cathedral.Anshelm: I chuckle, spit, then turns to Tiberius. “Ha! Seven swords and seven dogs ... I’ve enough snuff for seven days; perhaps that’s what brought this ill wind upon us.” Looking around at the folk milling in front of the Market Hall, I continue. “Well, there’s not much more we can do here. P’raps we could see if there’s really no way out of Dachau without the mayoral seal.”Tiberius [agreeing]: “I would prefer not to stir up any trouble. If we can obtain the means to leave Dachau legally, then we should try.” I follow Anshelm.Anshelm: “To the mayor’s office!”
Delfig: I speak little to Kazimir about his flight into the dark, the night before. “It was a night to not remember and to not be believed.”Kazimir: I eye the guards warily and say to Delfig “Now I don’t like the look of this, not one bit.”Delfig: I suggest that we take some shelter in the groves that I had formerly explored, but avoiding the cotters. We will keep checking throughout the day for signs of our companions, or to see if the guards are continuing to stay at the gates. We’ll avoid any contact with anyone passing in or out of Dachau.DM: Midday arrives.Delfig: “Kazimir, the guards have not lessened and I am worried about our friends. I think that we should find out what is going on. I think it best that you simply ask if you may gain entrance to the city. If you do not return, or you gain entrance, I’ll wait another couple of hours, then I may confer with some associates that I know in these parts.”Kazimir: “And where be these associates, should I need to find you later?”Delfig: “They are some cotters in the groves near the blockhouse. Be warned, they are suspicious at first. You might want to return to this place, so I can look for you later. I will return here if and when I’m done speaking to the cotters.”Kazimir: I head for the city gates.
Anshelm: I push through the crowd toward the doors of The Rathaus.Tiberius: I follow Anshelm.DM: It is hard work moving through the crowd. You are both jostled and battered, but you do make steady progress. Eventually you push your way near the front.Tiberius: I present my writ of passage to the guards, in hopes that it will get me through the door.DM: One of the mayor’s private guards allows Tiberius forward … but he puts his glaive in front of Anshelm to deny his following his friend.Anshelm: I tell them that me and Tiberius are seeking permission to pass the town gates.DM: You don’t get an answer, Anshelm. The crowd has swelled to some three hundred, and although the guards are trying to pull the people apart and find the most aggressive, as they strike these people with gauntlet or mace or club, it is only antagonizing the crowd. While at the moment the objects being thrown are only large enough to bounce off the guard’s armor or helmets, there are signs of escalation. Anshelm will see someone pick up a large crockery pot, smash it on the street, then pick out a piece the size of his fist and prepare to throw it, before being pulled down and beaten by three guards.Anshelm: Yikes! I retreat back into the crowd.Tiberius: “I’ll meet you at the gasthaus!” I shout at Anshelm. Turning to the guard, I ask were to go to obtain the Mayor’s signed seal, to enable us to leave Dachau.DM: The guard tells Tiberius to stand where he is and wait. There are eight other men pressed against the outer wall, near the door of The Rathaus, keeping as far back from the crowd as possible. Several members of the crowd are throwing small stones now, or bits of plaster and lumps of broken roof tiles, at the guards or those waiting by the door.Anshelm: I retreat to the nearest side street and watch events unfold from the crowd’s edge, doing my best to remain unnoticed. I try to see if there’s a familiar face in the crowd, especially Karl’s.Tiberius: Ducking any passing stones, I wait as patiently as I can for my turn to come up.DM: Tiberius is struck with a lump of plaster the size of a plum, and a fair-sized piece of brick breaks against the wall near his head. The guards begin to move Tiberius and the others who are waiting into The Rathaus.Anshelm, you note a close group of a dozen unarmored men, in cloaks tied with yellow ropes, moving along the Lane Krankenhaus. Upon entering into the square, they spread out, speaking oddly and making distinctive motions with their hands and bodies.Anshelm: I’m taking that by their uniforms that these newcomers are members of a group. Do I know who they are?DM: You’ve possibly noticed one such person dressed in like fashion, and known them to be a mage … but it has never entered your mind that it might be an Order. Do you take any action? They are within a few feet of you.Anshelm: This smells of sorcery. I retreat a short way down the lane and watch what happens.DM: The crowd sees the Order and some hurl rocks. One apple-sized stone strikes one of the spellcasters, spoiling his spell and tumbling his body at Anshelm’s feet. Anshelm can see a sizeable gash on the mage’s forehead.Seconds after, the first of the spells is discharged. At once some forty people collapse into sleep. Three exploding puffs of smoke – stinking cloud spells – break out over various parts of the crowd. A fog bank abruptly rises from the stones of the platz and obscures a great part of the mob. The effect is profound. The crowd disperses, screaming, flooding in every direction away from the spellcasters. The distinct odor of the stinking clouds induces many of the crowd into vomiting, while stumbling and tripping over the prone bodies in the platz. Then one of the mages transforms into the shape of a hill giant, bearing a massive club. The giant roars for the square to be cleared. Nearby, one mage appears to have cast a spell and is now holding it, a crackling lightning ball sizzling between his fingers.What does Anshelm do?Anshelm: Is the unconscious caster close enough to grab? If so, I take a quick look around to see if any guards or mages are looking his way, then drag the body into a convenient alley. Please say there’s a convenient alley nearby …DM: In the chaos, it is impossible to tell if someone might have seen you, but you do not catch anyone’s eye. There is no alley, but a glance indicates a door well leading into a warehouse, twelve feet away from you and the body.Anshelm: I jump to the door and test it, to see if it is open before dragging the body.DM: The door is locked, but with a fairly rusted padlock and chain. Your chance to open the lock is double, and will take you six seconds.Anshelm: I’ll roll to open. d6? If it’s a normal open doors roll, just to move it along: I rolled a 2!DM: Sadly, that doesn’t work. Remember that open locks is a percentage; your chance at 1st level is normally 35%. Double that makes 70%. This time, however, I will accept your roll, since a 2 in 6 is a 33% chance, less than the number you need. The lock opens, the door is accessible.Anshelm: I drag the unconscious mage into the warehouse and shut the door behind me, leaving just enough for a sliver of light.DM: As you look out through the slit, you see no one outside moving towards the door. Action?Anshelm: I pat the guy down, looking for any valuables, papers, weapons, etc.DM: The mage is a young man, 25 years old, a bit of a pudding in his shape and musculature, with a bit of a baby face. You’ll notice a large belt pouch with at least 70 coins in it, a 3-inch copper holy symbol, a pair of low leather boots, a embroidered woolen doublet with lace cuffs and collar, a silver ring, a meerschaum pipe and a small pouch with what appears to be opium. He had a staff; it’s fair to say you grabbed that, too, as you took him from the street.The mage will groan, not quite gaining consciousness.Anshelm: I grab the ring, pipe and pouch. I have rope listed in my gear. Are we assumed to be walking about with it?DM: I’m judging that you have your backpack, so yes, you have your rope. It isn’t heavy waxed rope, like you see in films; the rope is a soft twisted hemp, like horse rope.You find 37 g.p., 29 s.p. and 17 c.p. in the pouch.Anshelm: I tie up the mage and kick the staff across the floor of the warehouse, out of reach.DM: Presuming you’re not going to get it back, scratch the rope from your equipment list. Consider him tied up.Anshelm: Keeping my back to the light, to hide my features, I slap the young mage to wake him. I try to alter my voice to something deeper and more gravelly than my normal speaking voice. “Who do you work for?”DM: The mage wakes groggily; he’s in negative hit points. In something less than good shape. After some confused replies, and presuming Anshelm makes repeated inquiries, the mage eventually answers coherently.Mage (npc): “Who … who do I work for? I’m part of the Mage’s Guild.”Anshelm: I’ll mutter under my breath, “Useless flunky. This’ll go nowhere.” I shake the mage and say, “You may want to re-think your allegiance.” I gag the mage and blindfold him with strips torn from his clothing.DM: Done.Anshelm: I take a look outside to make sure no one is watching the door, then as nonchalantly as possible, I join the crowd and make my way back to The Pig.
Tiberius: I look at the other men herded in with me to see if I might recognize one. Otherwise, I stay where I am inside The Rathaus, until I’m called upon.DM: You don’t recognize anyone. The others speak of what’s happened and begin making predictions that this is only the beginning. Clearly the people of the town are quite unhappy.An official approaches, announcing that everyone here may remain inside and safe until the crowd is dispersed, but that the Burghermeister will not be granting any permissions to leave the town of Dachau until the following day. There is much grumbling at this.Tiberius: I wait.DM: Let’s presume you’re free to step out now. You find the square almost empty, except for a few stragglers. Some who have been injured are being loaded onto two carts, but even that matter has nearly finished and the carts ready to leave the square. Aside from this, Tiberius finds that Karl is waiting for him.Karl (npc): “My friend. Did you have any luck escaping the walls of our fair town?”Tiberius: I view Karl with some suspicion. “No. No one can leave until tomorrow.” I gesture at the injured men. “Is this what you had in mind, when you went about whatever it is you’re doing? Civil disorder, crazed mobs, martial law?”Karl [chuckling]: “Is that so bad? The merchants are off-balance, the measures being taken do nothing for their business, and our plan is fully in place.”Tiberius [still skeptical]: “Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out. What do you need us for?”DM: Karl stares at Tiberius for an uncomfortably long time.Karl [tilting his head]: “Perhaps we don’t. Good luck.”DM: He begins to walk away.Tiberius: I follow doggedly after the man. “That’s it? How does your plan even keep the tragedy of the innkeeper from repeating? It seems to me that you’re only making things worse.”Karl: “You think in such flawed terms, magician. Good. Bad. We do not make means to bring about happiness for innkeepers and the rabbling crowd. We will clean Dachau of the poison that possesses it, by amputation if need be.”Tiberius: “Good, bad, that doesn’t matter to me. But who will pick up the pieces after you’ve spread your chaos? What comes after your day of judgment?”Karl [waving his hand dismissively]: “What, do you fear change?”Tiberius: “I do not fear change, but disorder. If you cut the purse strings, how will this town survive? Who will pay for the food? Who will pay the guards? Will you cut them free to feed on the countryside like parasites as brigands?”Karl: “BAH! I don’t talk to Old Women!”DM: Again, he turns on his heel.Tiberius: “Wait!” I follow after him. “If change must come, why can it not come in another way?”DM: Karl refuses to speak any further. He avoids you, getting away.Tiberius: I will go my own way, back to the gasthaus to meet with Anshelm.
Kazimir: I slowly approach the guards, doing my best to look confused, waiting to be stopped, or for them to assume a threatening stance.Guard at the Gate (npc): “Ho there. Be known the city of Dachau has been placed under martial law and entrance is not permitted.”Kazimir: “Good sir, what is the cause of this martial law? I have walked the streets of Dachau recently and the streets seemed untroubled!”Guard at the Gate: “A gang of murderers, sir, and rumours that deeper matters are afoot. It is said the gates will be opened at noon tomorrow.”Kazimir: I nod and go to find Delfig.Delfig: I am stunned by the news. I finger a recent wound on my arm absent-mindedly. “Well, I suppose we might try the cotters I met recently. They may know more than some simple guards with orders. Or not. Either way, we shouldn’t be loafing about around the woods.” I lead Kazimir towards the cotters.DM: You make their way through the apple orchard, seeking the company of cotters. As you come in sight of the shanties, you hear a blood curdling scream--a scream that is distinctly not human.Driven by a human compulsion, you rush forward, until you reach the clearing surrounding the small cotter settlement. Once there, you hear the scream repeated – and are able to locate it as coming from inside one of the shanty houses.Delfig: Picking our jaws off the floor, figuring out what the hell to do … I wait for Kazimir’s response. Are there any cotters about in the fields or orchards that would have heard the scream, only to mistake us for the source?I assume we have our weapons.DM: You see no one else in the apple orchard, or indeed anywhere around.Kazimir: I look to Delfig and heft my club and shield. “These friends of yours … you want to risk your neck for them?”Delfig: I pull my crossbow off my back and load a bolt. “Do I want to die for them? No. Do I want to possibly help? If we can. Do I think we’re in the mess here now, and better to face one’s opponent rather than flee and be chased? Most definitely.”I will shrug off my pack and lyre as quietly and quickly as I can and sneak and move quietly, and hide as best he can as I move upon the shack, listening. I’ll motion to Kazimir to wait.DM: Inside the shack, you can hear voices talking. Then someone asks a question, with a deep, booming voice you haven’t heard before. There’s silence. Then suddenly there’s another scream. Let me emphasize again: it is definitely not a human scream.Delfig: Is there any chance that this shack is shabby enough I can peek through a crack and see inside?DM: No. The weather is too poor in southern Germany to allow open holes in the walls in the winter time. Holes would be filled with plaster, mud, bits of whatever could be found.Delfig: Where is the door to the shack in relationship to where I’m at? Can I make out what is being said, if I’m right next to the shack?DM: The nearest you can tell regarding what is being said is that apparently someone is being interrogated.Delfig: I’ll wave Kazimir over to me, and put my finger to my lips to indicate he should be quiet.Kazimir: I will move as quietly as I can toward Delfig. I will keep an eye out for anyone that might be approaching from our sides or rear.Delfig: Aside from the deep voice and the screaming, you mentioned voices. Do I have a clue as to how many different voices? I’m trying to determine odds.DM: There are maybe three people you can hear.Delfig: And again, where are we in relationship to the door? Can we assume we’re opposite the door, or that we’re on the side of the shack with the door?DM: You have time to be as near to the door as you wish.Delfig: We are on the wall opposite the door. I’m going to hold up three fingers to Kazimir to indicate how many inside. I’m going to quietly lay my crossbow down after removing the bolt and draw my long sword. I’ll indicate to him, using hands, no voice, that we’re going to go around opposite sides of the shack to the door.We’ll pick it up when you tell me if the door is closed and if we’ve made it that far without raising any noise.[OOC: And I’ve been assuming I’m going to die since we burst out on those cotters. It’s a healthy way to look at a first level character, living in a world I’m not used to as a player]DM: The door is closed. You raise no alarm.For reference, the shanty hovel is about 15 feet square, so there’s enough combat room for about nine hexes. Assuming you both burst in the front door, normal reaction time would allow both of you to get into the interior. There would only be space for a maximum of four attackers against you. Presuming that the voices you hear talking all sound human, and the screaming is non-human, it is reasonable to assume that anyone you would have to fight would be human. The cotters are certain to be unarmored and their club-like weapons would do 1-6 at best. While conceivably they might have a weapon or two, they would be unlikely to have a strength or dexterity bonus. Finally, they know Delfig … and they like him.[OOC: So while I appreciate the SWAT argument, it kind of assumes that someone other that the cotters would be inside and waiting for you. I can’t think of what I’ve said that would suggest that is the case]Delfig: [OOC: My thoughts were that these are the Baron’s lands, he could be mixed up in whatever is going on, and there’s nothing to indicate that the cotters are the humans inside. You’re right, I have no basis for assumption, aside from wild speculation]I’m assuming that the non-human voice might also be Triskoon or one of his compatriots, which I’m in for blood money with. I’m also figuring that we’re going to use the door as a choke point if we have to, let them come to us, if need be. It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s the best I have at the moment.I take a deep breath and glance at Kazimir, who has been following me and is now on the other side of the door. I think, “What a strange place to be in right now …” and glance down at my wound. I listen one more time, to see if I can recognize the voices, and then I kick the door open to see the scene inside.DM: Everyone inside is surprised. There are four men in the room, three of whom you recognize: Emmanuel and two others, whom you’ve met and we’ll name Igen and Heinke. The last man is a rotund, spartanly dressed friar, his robe tied with a belt and a large rosary of 168 greenstone beads. He is clean-shaven, with workman’s hands, a slightly balding pate and bright blue eyes.These men surround a table, four feet long and two feet wide. The table has rope wrapped round and round itself and the body of – something – that seems to be tied to it. The body is difficult to see. I don’t mean that it is hard to look at, or ugly … I mean that it is virtually invisible. It is something of a man’s shape, but you find that some trick of the light makes it appear as though the rope is wrapped around nothing at all. You have to keep adjusting the position of your head a bit to catch a glimpse of the humanoid form, and then it is lost again. Now it appears as a part the table, now it appears as part of the ropes binding it in place.No one here is holding weapons, but Igen’s hands are wrapped around where the creature’s throat ought to be. He’s not putting pressure on his forearms, but seems ready to do so.Emmanuel (npc) [surprised]: “Delfig?”Delfig: I fill the door with my bulk, keeping my eyes on the friar as I speak, sword held at the ready. “What in God’s name is that noise and what are you doing?! Who is dying in here?! We heard the most awful sound and feared the Devil himself was in this place!”Kazimir: I lower my club and shield and stare in confusion at the semi-invisible form on the table.Friar (npc): “It might well be the devil.”Emmanuel: “We’ve caught something, that’s for sure. We’ve been learning things, friend, that would turn your heart to ice. Lower your sword – we’re not your enemy.”Kazimir: “What in the blazes is going on?”Friar [with much hushed fear]: “Dweomercraft.”Delfig: I lower my sword, but I keep my eyes on the friar. At the first sign that he’s going to toss a spell at us and not the thing on the table, I’ll attack to do non-lethal damage to disrupt the spell. “What is that thing? Does it have something to do with the city being closed? And who are you, Friar?”Emmanuel: “This is Father Jan. He is a close friend. We called him to help us – we caught this thing last night, and have held it fast since that time. It had been stealing food … we only chanced to trap it in the granary, and then only because we could see the impression its feet left.”Father Jan (the friar): “It is a skulk. Sometimes they act alone, but not always. I suspected something when I was asked to come – and now I see that all our troubles begin with this loathsome thing.”Kazimir [to Father Jan]: “It’s a devil, then? Some kind of spirit?”Father Jan: “No, a humanoid … but an odd one. Alone, they are thieves. We have discovered that this one is not alone, but that it serves another master.”Delfig: I listen to the friar and nod gravely. “What troubles, friar? Are you referring to the horse murders in Dachau? Do these things have a lair or some sort of place that they inhabit?”Father Jan: “Yes, it is connected with the events in town. We have learned that something is being called upon, something which will be gated into the town tonight. We don’t know if the gate will remain open or not – but if it is …”Emmanuel [blessing himself]: “Father! You raise the very hackles on my neck. You don’t believe that this thing can happen!”Father Jan: “You have heard the creature speak, my son.”DM: The father gestures to Igen, then speaks to Delfig, addressing the bard’s question about the horse murders.Father Jan: “Hear it for yourself.”DM: Igen will close his hands upon the creature’s throat, and the creature will let out an unnatural scream. Then it speaks, like a wind whispering through a hollow.Skulk (npc): “The mounts have been found for Reekhova … The blood has been willingly given …”Father Jan: “That is all it will say.”Delfig: “What does it mean, Reekhova? What do you mean by a gate?”[OOC: And thus, we now turn the screws on Delfig]Father Jan: “Reekhova must be the name of the creature to be gated.”Delfig: “Friar, do you know if this thing has a lair or home?Father Jan: “I have not heard of the thing Reekhova before this day.Delfig: Have you learned anything of that? And has it spoke about any particular person … perhaps named Triskoon?”Father Jan: I do not know of any Triskoon that has been mentioned. Who is this person? Why do you think he might be mentioned?”Delfig: I sigh a deep sigh. I drop my sword to the ground and push back the sleeve on my arm. “Forgive me Father, I think I have sinned and have been tricked by the Master of this creature here. I was assailed by a group of invisible creatures last night. I feared for my life. Their power seemed too great and they tempted me with gold and freedom. Fearing that they would kill me, I gave them my blood. They threaten to up-end the merchants. They are particularly interested in protecting a Herr Meyer – the silversmith a few hours travel from Dachau.“The person who spoke to me, who could change his very shape and seemed unnatural in nature was named Triskoon. This very creature here might be one of those who were with him last night. He, or they, seem to be able to take many different shapes.“Their plot seems centered around causing trouble to the merchants, and they seem intent on Herr Mizer, as my blood is to be used in a plot to cause Herr Mizer to be implicated in a murder he did not commit.”“I fear that I am a fool and that my blood is to be used to summon this creature. What shall I do to make this right, Father?”I fall to my knees upon finishing that explanation.