Curse of the Black Pearls
The session today began with an opportunity for the characters to find out more about the Privateers Court before they went before them. Firstly, pirate politics are like normal politics except that everyone openly hates one another: Instead of pretending otherwise. Secondly, most of the Court start hostile to the characters or uncertain about their motivations. In total there were seven different factions at the table, all with their own agenda (or perhaps an agenda that has yet to be discovered?) and their own representatives. I gave this opportunity to the players to ask questions and get an idea who the factions were, albeit from a biased pro-Rygar (pro-Seadragons) source. This was so that the roleplaying to follow didn’t feel like an ambush and that there was a basis for who the different characters and their roles at the court were.
Very roughly, the court divides into two main sides led by one of the more influential Princes. Rygar’s Seadragons have the strongest military and are the faction currently under attack by Talitha’s crimson legion. On the other hand, some of the smaller military Princes have gathered around the Shifting Sands, a group of shifters and changelings that have a strong network of spies in the Lhazaar Principalities. This faction feels Rygar is behind the crimson legion attacks himself, effectively leading a false flag operation to attempt to get certain factions to expose their military to his outright superior military force and be destroyed. Overall this conflict played out extremely well, with the players making some key concessions early on in telling the Diresharks they would get back the Contessa from Crimson Legion hands, pledging to support the Wind Whisperers should House Lyrandar attack them as they fear and convincing the Court to hear them on support for an expedition for the Black Pearls.
However the net result from the Court was a stalemate, with no clear decision on if the crimson legion was a threat or indeed, even a real threat to anyone in the first place. This resulted in Rygar calling a close to the proceedings after the Paladin made an impassioned speech to the Court, even if the Shifting Sands took exception to his presence (scars from the Lycanthrope Purge still exist and resonate with this faction). As the characters retired to their chambers they discovered a note had been left for them from one of the Courts representatives, asking them to meet him that night at the Glass Seahorse tavern.
The players obliged and soon found themselves face to face with the Bloodsails representative, Wyrran Sontar. Wyrran had an interesting proposition for them: He and indeed, the characters as well were due to be assassinated by an unknown group. He had called them there to turn the tables on the attackers and ensure he could interrogate one of the assassins. It was essential that the players kept at least one alive: He needed to learn who was behind the attack. He also warned them not to eat the food or to drink the wine, unless they were an elf (elves are immune to magical sleep) as he suspected the food to be poisoned. True to form, Glorkk ate some of the food to prove it was poisoned and discovered an unpleasant tangy taste: Carrion crawler venom.
This encounter ad multiple purposes to it, the first being that I wanted to give the characters another strong ally on the council and indication of how the internal politics worked. Wyrran is also a delightfully demented fellow, willingly exposing himself to an assassination attempt in order to draw out the enemy and putting his faith in the characters. When the inevitable assassin’s burst in, starting with the kitchenhand revealing himself to be a changeling and attacking the party, he sat back and quietly observed how the party handled things.
The combat was short, brutal and used a tiny segment of the overall map in the end. The most notable things from this combat by far was that the Paladin loves getting critically hit, being struck for an amazing 53 damage (he has 51 hp btw) by the assassin Horace (even after I reduced the damage he could do!) and then critically hit by a bugbear later in the fight for another 23 damage. In short: Not a good day to be a paladin 😦
One of the new spells that has been acquired by the Cleric Narvarie, creates an interesting challenge to work around. The spell makes a 15 foot aura, which can exclude allies, of ferocious spirits that make the area both difficult terrain and deals 3d8 damage on a failed wisdom save (1/2 success). This meant that quite a bit more damage than I thought the party could do came up and the main assassin Horace, who was supposed to flee to engage in a tense chase scene across rooftops/wharfs/boats in Regalport didn’t commence: He was awfully unconscious from a massive blow by the Half-Orc (to say the least). Even the last bugbear could do nothing but watch as the Paladin and his sentinel feat prevented any escape: The resulting hate critical in return was more spite than anything else.
Here is where I had to throw out an encounter I planned on and wing something else, because the PCs succeeded much more easily than I anticipated. This is where I feel it’s important to let players have their victories when earned and not try to fudge or outright bullshit them in some way. I could have had him do some kind of disengage or whatever else, but as far as I’m concerned if the players are allowed to attack them/deal damage, I accept the consequences. I moved to the point where Wyrran interrogated the assassin using magic (a spell creating a kind of worm, which burrows into the opponents tongue and replaces it, forcing them to tell the truth on any question told*), something I intended to deal with next session and then informed the players that the council had deeper problems: One member, the Cloudreavers, were working with the Legion to destabilize Rygar for their own ends and had co-ordered the assassination of Wyrran and the PCs. The Cloudreavers were paying for the assassination and the Legion were behind the reasoning.
The proof according to Horace was in the ship owned by 9-Fingers, the representative to the Court of the Cloudreavers. He described her ship and that it wasn’t obvious: They were disguising themselves as a merchant vessel to avoid Rygars attentions and to conduct other business in Regalport in secret. With this description and perfect knowledge of the number of guards left on the ship, the PCs immediately headed off to intercept 9-Fingers and trivially overpowered the 5 guards on board keeping look out. A surprise round makes an incredibly massive difference to how long a combat went: The players massacred the 2 veterans and 3 bugbears in just over 2 rounds – most of these creatures being dead before they could even take a single action to defend themselves.
Next session sees the confrontation with 9-Fingers and some even more dramatic revelations…
*GRIMDARK LEVELS OVER FORTY THOUSAAAAANNNDDD!!!!!!!