One of harvest-tide’s first thunderous downpours drenches Stiglehold, and as they wait for it to ease, the would-be adventurers Lander, Zander and Dorn idle about the Woolsack, as the Adventurers Guild building is known.
The renovation and fitment work seems to be near completion. Workmen gradually and mysteriously vanish whence they came, leaving tankard-rings on nearly every horizontal surface and crumbs and wood shavings on improbably high ledges.
One of the last of the breed pokes his head round the inner hall’s door-frame, announces that the rain’s easing, and ‘more of you lot turned up’ then disappears.
Zander, local lad, animal trainer up until recently, seeking advancement, wanders out through the vestibule – where, if he were rich enough to afford a cloak, or an inconveniently-large weapon, or an incontinent pet, he might retrieve them – and gazes out from the porch.
The Woolsack’s porch looks square out along the cluttered, down-at-heel rear of permanent stalls that occupy the market verge, to the “peremptory” or manacle-stall of the Sheriff’s bail-house. Stiglehold is a peaceful town and today as most days, the stall is merely being used as a convenient shelter for two travelers, speaking with deputy Sheriff Foman Amblesheath. As they speak, they turn to stare over at Zander, – or more likely, he chides himself – the Woolsack.
One is old, with a silver-grey beard down his chest, and bearing an enormous sword. The other appears to be a female, and elven. Both appear to have arrived together and recently. Zander heads back inside to alert the others.
One of the other two young men smiles. This is Dorn the healer, sturdy, determined to serve, whom Zander knows quite well having worked with him during the height of fever. The other young man makes a face of nervousness or guilt: this is Lander the smuggler, quick on the uptake, on the make. They each dust themselves down and knock the worst of the street dirt off their simple workaday boots.
Enter Ghilanna Iliathor, flat-chested female elf, and elderly-but-still-mighty Dolok Kroft. Ghilanna – call me Jill – does all the talking. They have finally arrived out of Karl’s Abbey and handed adventurer disks – porcelain like those of the three meeting them – and naturally, want to know how things work here. No clerk? No missions? No facilities of any kind, really… but they know the Woolsack tavern will sell ale, and Jill would like some food to go with the ale. She tosses Lander a gold coin. There’s a market, right? Buy something for yourselves too…
The sounds of the morning market are as familiar to the three as those of their own voices. The heady smell of fresh baked goods, the cries of the hawkers, the bright colors of the tents, all are a part of a familiar sight in any town. This morning though, there is something off, an undercurrent of fear that explodes in panic as a muscular man lifts a merchant over his head and throws him into the throngs of morning shoppers. Tossing aside a half-eaten pastry, he scours the crowd with rage-infused eyes and gives a maddened howl of challenge!
The three guild members respond as their personalities and physical abilities dictate. As the first rageborne lofts a hapless Zander, Lander essays a stab to the armpit then stays well clear, using a sling. Dorn is more physical. He blinds the stabbed rageborne with his shopping-sack (Zander finishes him by clamping a cask over the sack), and overcomes another by an impressive body-splash off the side of a stall (Zander dives in second).
All over the market alarm gives way to panic as a second, third then fourth rageborne erupts. Citizens are thrown higgledy-piggledy or skittled back into stalls! The first two Twelvemen on the scene fare no better!
But by dint of coshing with clubs, muffling with hides, and Lander’s sling stones, the first two are put down and the third overpowered and bound. Lander casts a last sling-stone. With a final gasp, the hate-fueled fourth target staggers and falls to the ground. As the light fades from their eyes, their look of rage turns to one of profound confusion. Their breathing falters and stops. As death takes them, their features begin to change, softening and shrinking before. Now, lying on the ground, is an elderly man; a man they recognize as a regular vendor in this marketplace. Someone must be responsible…
Dorn’s sharp eyes noted, and Zander confirmed, that baked pastry-crumbs seem to be the common factor. A wandering pie-man sidles away…
Zander rushes after him and, running up some stacked crates and lumber, puts in another flying tackle! And the illusion of a friendly pieman gives way to reveal the twisted horned features and lashing tail of a Tiefling!
Much later, after Westra Greatdew and other witnesses have cleared the trio of complicity and the Tiefling has been properly manacled, they bear pastries (the genuine article) triumphantly back to the Woolsack.
“You were gone quite a time… where did you go for the pies – Leischport?”
With the tavern’s good ale inside him tamped down with a fine pie, Dolok is mellow. He reminisces about his time as an adventurer forty years ago – sixty years, Jill corrects him – and how he got made a landed knight without the bother of learning all that knightly stuff. You youngsters have got it good, he avers. In at the start? Who can write? He can go clerk, or even president. And you other two, vice president and vice-vice president. Why not?
The trio soak all this in, Zander taking very good note, and as they level into genuine adventurers we learn their classes:
Dorn, level one paladin, equipped with holy water, sack, belt knife, and club
Lander, level one sorcerer, equipped with a waterproof sack, empty flask, belt knife, and sling
Zander, level one ranger, equipped with a 10′ pole, belt knife, and club
Clear that cellar!
Previously in the market, Brunhild Coldshore mentioned that her older brother, the taverner of the Woolsack, has a job for them. They present themselves around dock-side of the guild building, to the Woolsack tavern. Swamper/skivvy Addie Ballard inspects with a mixture of admiration and doubt, but she summons her master from where he tends his accounts.
Bret Coldshore, dignified, reclusive, quill behind ear, explains that his outside cellar has odd noises coming from it, at night. Thumping, scratching manner of noise.
“Over the years I’ve stored all manner of gear folks surrendered to pay off a tab… you’re welcome to help yourselves if you clear the cellar.”
The outside cellar is a storm cellar, but used as food-store and general extra storage. The powerful smell of cheese mingles with a feral stink. Beady rat eyes gleam. Big rats! There’s a tall garderobe, closed; open shelves full of foodstuffs and bottles; and roughly in the middle of the floor, a chest left lying open, rusting tools and weapons piled in it.
The trio make a plan: they head back to the market, and to the chandler’s stall. Brandis Rowlock has a net, but the mesh is for fish: a rat would waltz through it. So instead, they each chip in five copper coins for three ells of stout canvas.
Then it’s back to the cellar and the final touches on the plan. Lander will toss a Light-on-coin in, then the other two will kind of flap down the canvas, the rats will politely not wiggle out of the way, they’ll use their clubs, and Lander will be available back in support. He thumps his somewhat-hollow chest with the heel of a hand: nights on the water left him prone to taking ill.
Attack one: fails! exit Lander, rats biting and falling off him! Zander staggers up, rats also falling off him, and last of all Dorn. The cellar doors slam down again.
A SHORT REST later…
Attack two: fails! exit Zander and Lander and Dorn, all with rats biting and dropping off them. The cellar doors slam down again.
“Well we got one of them…”
“You know, I have a ten-foot pole back in the hall…”
“I’m down to Ray of Frost, and I’m staying way back outside…”
Attack three: more through GM pity than anything the 10′ long blunt weapon knocks the smaller rats about enough that the swarm breaks up. Zander plunges through and hurls his dagger at the last great fat rat, cowering in cover. It falls!
And so our level one heroes are free to equip themselves properly, and the session ends.
The Rage half was a fun romp, handing out exhaustion levels rather than death rolls. I was really encouraged that two of the three players did seem to be using the unusual environment and improvised attacks. It bode well for the second half.
Unfortunately once at level one with actual powers, they all reverted to the disastrous inability to think laterally, and tunnel-vision regarding what items from the environment and their own equipment could be used, that marked Choosing Night AKA worst game evar. It was sad. The presence of the paladin with enough strength to drag downed characters, lay-on-hands healing, and medicine proficiency allowed me to avert the TPK.
Props: Goodman Games 5th-edition fantasy line: Fantastic Encounters’ “Bakers Dozen” weakened down to level 0, and Crooked Staff Publishing’s Into the Village maps for the cellar map.