The characters for this session:
Phoenix Pilandaros, lvl 6 barbarian – minding Piego;
Cat Weasel, lvl 6 warlock – minding the Omen;
Seck Rustrau, lvl 6 rogue – minding Chur; and
Vir Onden, lvl6 ranger – dispatching Badger on a solo quest
The Long Roaders are 26xp below level 7.
The funnel characters for this session:
Captain Piego, revisionist river-rat. “As an adventurer I shall help the deserving and not worry about what the empire thinks about my Coaster heritage.”
Omunrol Putrack, AKA the Omen, pact-bound chuuni. “As an adventurer I shall learn to bind my ultimate-world-break-power away!”
Jeras “Cherryboy” Revenmar, AKA Chur, discerning urchin. “As an adventurer I shall go my own way, stepping out of the assassin’s shadow.”
Taran, AKA Badger, humble trapper. “As an adventurer I shall do as best I can for folks, I guess.”
Bidwell Tully’s widow, AKA Biddy, pious mother. “As an adventurer I shall help the helpless.”
These five and a couple more have seen “Dimgaard Guild of Adventurers Wants You!” or “Adventurers Wanted!” and heard or read the tempting offer “Small wages! Life-threatening conditions! Constant danger! Safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”
Most of them are victims of the spread of the New Mire and/or the loss of their menfolk, who went a-robbing on the highway and whose bodies eventually turned up slung into the forest fringe like so much vermin.
At last their days of waiting and begging in Milborne are rewarded. The Long Roaders are back! On first sight, these tea-colored wretches bode ill! But once they are scrubbed up and new-clothed, there is no doubt these famed adventurers are the gatewardens to adventure!
Group reputation check
Three of the four score 15 or better, using a 20+d8-d4, the d4 representing their filthy condition on arriving.
Logistics – things ticked off in Milborne
- New clothes (one set Explorers) for all the Long Roaders, and new boots for Cat and Seck. Purchased from the general store.
- Restock adventuring gear. Purchased from the general store, prep pool rises to 3d6.
- Ongoing accommodations/fees for storage to date. Agreed and paid Bart at the Baron of Mutton.
- Secure valuables storage arrangement. Agreed with reeve Darius Carman, as a lien on the reward for the Garlstone Mine mission.
- Directions to the mine and conditions/terrain around it. Gathered from both Old Grizzler and Carman.
- Rumor update, especially in regards to the Giants’ attack on Thurmaster. Covered by Phoenix, but nothing new gathered.
- Sort out adventurer recruits, sign them in. Dealt with by Cat then the whole party, at the Baron of Mutton.
- See to porcelain tags for them. Arranged and paid for by Vir from the village potter.
Combined these check-off precautions are worth 4xp once they are completed
Phoenix is allowed 100 copper coins by his wingman Vir, and has an easy time [Persuasion with advantage, scores his max of 19] guiding the pub conversation.
The story of the great golden stag has become widely discussed. They say it came over this way, and that Warcrown will be hunting it. Opinions are divided as to whether bringing down the stag would be a blessing, or bring doom. Phoenix leans into the harbinger angle.
As for the source of the raids, the yarns here are no wilder than reality, though by the time Phoenix has told his yarn the numbers of giants involved has grown.
The other rumor concerning Thurmaster is the treasure said to be buried under the ruined wizard’s tower.
This little episode is good for Phoenix who can now, away from Helena, focus on being on mission and not be too tempted by booze.
The Garlstone Mission
From the very first time they met him, genial hospitable reeve Darius Carman has expressed a concern about trouble at the mines. The Carman mines are the source of Milborne’s prosperity. But rumors of banditry and humanoids near the eastern mine, along with putting two and two together from other events and rumors, has him worried that some incursion is being planned. He is willing to pay 50 gold coin to adventurers exploring the old Garlstone mine and reporting back on what inhabits it.
“And knowing your reputation, the report will be ‘there was a dragon and we killed it,'” he jests meaningfully.
Garlstone facts and directions
Between them Seck and Vir get clear advice. Best to go first to Carman’s mines, where, at the eastern works, Brag the security chief or Norb the foreman can say their say on what’s afoot.
The mine itself is a series of natural caverns of great size, in two main levels, enlarged while mining for Garlstone, a blue gem. It was abandoned as mined out when Old Grizzler was still prospecting (about two generations ago). Much of the lower caverns may be waterlogged or flooded by now.
Old Grizzler, who has provided most of this information, reminds Vir that the unsolved murder (or murders) is still unsolved.
Hires and funnel missions
The interview process, occurring the morning after a good long rest at the Baron of Mutton, is a matter of Cat paying for breakfast and a drink. He dismisses a too-young farmboy telling him “finish your drink then beat it” and gives shy stableboy Slim a test mission to arrange hire of some horses. Slim fails completely and is returned to his lawful place of work, at his uncle’s stable.
Captain Piego is older than Cat by some years, and has knocked around the rivers of the south for about 17 of those years, ever since he left the Alshon estuary. Yes, he is a Coaster and has a chip on his shoulder about the Teulon. But he feels that a new start as an adventurer will allow him to break free of all that.
Captain Piego is a warrior sidekick or barbarian NPC.
The Omen has made a pact with a weird deity, whose sigil (traced in beer) looks like a floppy tree, or a tentacled stalk. Stripping away his talk of cursed multiple lives and world-ending powers that he keeps dormant, he is a farmboy who has lost his dad, and has ambitions. He is a couple years younger than the youngest Long Roader. Later, Cat explains carefully that hinting at world-ending powers is a sure way to end up taken seriously – burnt at the stake.
The Omen is a spellcaster sidekick or warlock NPC.
Unlike the other farmboys Chur endorses the idea of his dad waylaying pilgrims and travelers, and knows about the Assassins Guild up in Mooregate. But he is not a member and has never killed anyone, and says he is willing to ditch that path in favor of being an adventurer. He is some years younger than the youngest Long Roader.
Chur is an expert sidekick, or rogue NPC.
Badger is a very simple soul who takes his adventuring name from the badger he slew after what sounds like an epic struggle. He wears its pelt and considers himself lucky by nature. Though of farm stock like most of the seven prospects, he is already used to trapping game. He is relatively devout in the OTF, and is a couple years younger than the youngest Long Roader.
Badger is a warrior or expert sidekick, or ranger NPC.
Biddy is about the same age as the oldest among the Long Roaders, though hunger and hard farmwork makes her look older. She has children -the oldest aged 9 – and is determined that they will not starve. She is devout in the OTF and seems to have been gifted with a healing talent.
Biddy is a spellcaster sidekick, or cleric NPC.
It’s really hard to get these players to think as players!
We have kind of a step-out at the hour mark, where I ask the players to think about what use level 1 adventurers might be. But my impression is that no-one really breaks right away from the point of view of a group of tier-2 adventurers in Milborne, Haranshire.
The main productive thought is that the Long Roaders themselves can use them as pack-bearers. Other thoughts (again reflecting only the immediate past of this group) is that they could investigate the New Mire or tunnels under the ruined keep, or be sent to Mooregate to strengthen that guild’s numbers.
Based on that and the fact that they are unfamiliar with sidekick rules, I decide that for now, I need them to assign some kind of mission to each, then let things spin out until they can decide if they want sidekicks.
Jahia’s second letter, and a fool in hand
As Vir, subsequent to listening to Carman’s thoughts on the mine and with the two referrals committed to memory, leaves the mansion house, he hears a hoarse wheezing off to his left. Hitched to the stable-rail with a bridle strapped over his head, is a man, doubled over with exhaustion.
His clothes are so badly torn about and his skin so scratched, it appears that he was ridden through brambles. And all that is left of his boots are the uppers: his soles are bloody.
The kindly Vir rescues him, throws a Cure Wounds into him, and on removing the bridle, recalls the features of Beorn Quittlewhimp, boatmaster. Clutched in one hand, Beorn carries a letter, and now presents it to Vir.
Vir tucks this letter up his sleeve for now, and shepherds the barely-conscious Quittlewhimp back to the Baron of Mutton.
XP: lvl7-25, I liked the precautions taken by Vir and the others around this letter and the commitment to their true friend and patron
The final five recruits being approved, Vir heads off to pay the potter 25 coppers for the five tags, Biddy and Badger head off to pray at the temple, and Phoenix leads Chur, the Omen, and Cptn Piego to the general store and then the smithy. Seck and Cat check over their own packs and think about distance and time, and possible weird feywild jaunts.
In alphabetic order:
Badger is given a mission to head south and inspect the New Mire. Alone. True, words such as “keep out of trouble” are used. No-one refers him to Old Grizzler or friendly contacts in Harlaton. We may yet see Badger again. His equipment is a shortbow, shortsword, leather armor, and the handaxe and snares he began with.
Biddy is given a mission, or task, to nurse Beorn to full health. She is also to take notes on any words Beorn lets fall about how what when why and who. It may prove relevant! As a side-note, Seck wishes to seek out Biddy’s relatives here in Milborne and either intimidate them or offer them guild insurance [but he does not do this]. Her equipment is a holy symbol.
Chur will be pack-bearer on the mission to Garlstone. His equipment is a shortbow, a new dagger, his own dagger, leather armor, and a few basics of equipment. And a pet mouse.
Piego will be pack-bearer on the mission to Garlstone. His equipment is a greataxe, a shortsword, five javelins, and a few basics of equipment.
The Omen will be pack-bearer on the mission to Garlstone. His equipment is a spear, a couple of daggers, leather armor, an embroidered buff or dew-rag bound around his left hand and wrist that he swears dampens the furies coiled within him, and a few basics of equipment.
Pack check! Pact check!
As noted, gear from the time they left Milborne has been united to gear brought back from the Colrath mission, and topped up with more from the general store.
These loadouts are heavy – for example with the usual four waterskins and rations for six days, Seck’s normal dungeoneer/burglar’s pack mix easily tops 80lb, and with the same water and rations, an explorer’s pack such as Vir and Phoenix need, gets to around 80lb. Cat carries a mixed scholar/entertainer/diplomat type of loadout which is probably around 40-50lb depending on how many days’ rations and whether he packs a book.
By sharing with three packbearers, weights are reduced, but only to the extent that the Long Roaders aren’t slowed. It allows the Long Roaders to carry weapons, sling potions and water, and wear armor, without risk of exhaustion. The pack bearers of course are walking at a slowed speed.
Phoenix decides to be in pact with his own totem the Sea Eagle. It gives him extra speed and the ability to see great distance and avoid disadvantage Perception checks in dim conditions.
Vir decides to set down Erzlie’s pact and once more bind himself to Ulruf in the Mageslayer pact. He begins shaping Ulruf to glaive-like configuration and fastens the weapon to its pole staff. The former operation takes three long rests (Vir learns of the cavernous nature of the mine on day one, so has taken one of these) and the latter operation takes but a short rest. With Ulruf-as-polearm, Vir has his proficiency doubled when attacking thanks to Erzlie’s Great Weapon Fighting knowledge. He has both Sentinel and Polearm Master feats. Ulruf does 1d10 in slashing melee damage, aside from charges spent on Smite Corruption or Cleave Magic.
Medium armor notes
Both Phoenix and Vir are wearing medium armor, but they differ slightly. Phoenix’ comparatively rigid half-plate confers disadvantage in Athletics, Acrobatics and Stealth checks. Vir’s more flexible chain shirt does not confer disadvantage on Stealth.
XP: lvl7-20, the 4xp earned through gathering information and taking precautions comes through here
The first leg to the Carman mines
Since there’s a long summer afternoon and evening ahead of them, the Long Roaders present the porcelain tags, ensure names and next of kin are left with Biddy, and set out. Biddy (who may be about to count Guild Clerk among her duties) waves farewell from Quittlewhimp’s window.
Advantage Survival checks for the Long Roaders: 3/4 good.
CON SV from the packbearers: Chur picks up a level of exhaustion.
The expedition follows the wooden rail from Milborne towards the Slug: then, reaching the foothills, swings due east and makes its way around to the easternmost mine.
DC14 CON SV: Chur manages to avoid a second level of exhaustion
Below the approach to the mine, Vir stops and scans about and listens for out-of-place sounds. All seems normal. A baked-blue evening sky with red clouds horizoning; a few scavenger birds idling on high currents; the echoes of tapping metal, ore scraping, and wheels grinding up in the hills; a few scrawny goats watching from the nearer slopes; back below, a stand of trees and a shepherd enjoying the shade there and watching on.
An eyewitness to a fugitive
Seck walks down to the shepherd while the others set packs down, sip water, and watch Vir scouting the mine approach. Cat steps the Omen aside and proffers that useful advice mentioned earlier.
The pretty young shepherdess dimples at Seck and judges that he is not there to rustle a sheep. She confirms that the Carman mine is there above.
Seck asks her if she has seen anything odd or out of place. While she does say that generally, odd folks and even things that may not be folks are seen from time to time headed for the old Garlstone mine, she has seen something out of place more recently.
Twas only a few nights ago, when a handsome golden-haired swain walked up that way.
Seck extracts a gold piece from… somewhere near his heart… and gives it to her!
The Carman miners are hospitable
As evening shadows thrown across the foothills make the way even trickier for the packbearers, they come to the mining-shack village that marks the eastern Carman mine. The off-shift miners are readying supper, sitting about smoking, or cleaning and repairing gear. Dubious faces register the arrival of seven armed and armored strangers.
But Vir is ready with his referrals and before too long hospitable miners are sharing hot food with the expedition, in exchange for a yarn from Cat. It’s an edited version of the Death of Syralth.
Chur is long asleep by the time foreman Norb gets off shift, those sharing the meal have heard a local yarn named “the hot and naked but foul-mouthed water-sprite” and Cat has regaled the company with the tale of the Village of the Dead.
Norb provides Vir with exact directions and landmarks to get to the Garlstone. He’s reassuring about the air in the mine. A shrewd man, he, like Carman, has put two and two together and links the mine to bandits, but maybe also hostile humanoids.
Long Rest for Chur, a fairly short night for everyone else.
Vir and Seck are up before dawn, checking pack loads, redistributing gear, refilling canteens. As the others belt up and boot up, it’s time for the Long Roaders to decide what gear they have to hand once they shuck packs.
Party order and gear to hand:
Vir, some coin and gems, tinderbox, a torch, healers kit
Cat, the Garlstone map, few coins gems and the big ruby, the component pouch with potions and scholar paper ink and pens, a torch, his magic canteen
Seck, hooded lantern (carrying), few coins and gems, tinderbox, thieves tools, component pouch with potions
Phoenix, his last potion, a canteen, component pouch [with any remaining unknown potions] and a few coins and gems
We’ve rung the front door bell!
Cracking on at dawn, the last leg of a few miles brings them round again walking westward to the Garlstone entry. After a scout around Seck and Chur return reporting no unusual traffic or guard stations, and the packbearers are assigned a temporary camp with some basic communications instructions, essentially: “we’ll shout if we want you, if you hear screaming that’s us retreating.”
As Old Grizzler mentioned, Vir finds the first few dozen feet tool-worked, a nice level path. The path stays level as the darkness closes around them and about forty feet back, Seck adjusts his hooded lantern to a comfortable puddle of light. The roof is at least 10′ at all times, and there is plenty of elbow room in the tunnel – it’s at least a dozen feet wide.
After more then 200′ the shaft widens and becomes a more natural cavern. The roof jumps to a good 30′ though lower here and there, as far as Cat’s vision reaches. Vir and he creep forward cautiously. Ahead, so the map tells Cat, there’s a major branch right.
A good spot for an ambush?
Vir uses his Primal Awareness power to Detect Magic and does indeed feel the use of Abjuration magic – an alarm has been triggered! – and the session ends.
DM Note on the word Chuuni
The most appropriate translation of the full word, romaji chuunibiyo, is “middle-school-syndrome.” A difficult age where intense introversion might make a kid imagine and portray super powers, or magical powers, or a hidden identity from another universe… some kids (in anime, a lot of kids) never quite grow out of it. The Omen is still my favorite of the new recruits!
DM note on the Shackleton advert
Yes I am aware it is an urban legend. I’m also aware it is recycled in the Saga of Tanya the Evil, thanks.
DM Note on Milborne NPCs
There’s no designer’s note on the inhabitants of Milborne, but perhaps the “moral quandary” trope lies behind the idea of populating the village mainly with total or partial assholes. Personally I don’t see why Milborne should be populated by assholes, thus challenging players to decide if they want to help in any way, so none of the NPCs the Long Roaders have dealt with are assholes.
What do I know – I’m just a bald assholeSimon Miller, WhatCulture Wrestling
Players will vote on whether the recruits are sidekicks, or NPCs, before we proceed with the game. There are pros and cons to each.
NPCs are each a full extra character, thus even further slowing combat, the most egregiously slow element of D&D. They can always choose to act, and only fumble on a 5% chance, less so if using a spell. They are very fragile.
Sidekicks require an extra, distinct, d10 rolled each combat round, but only if they are used in combat. Otherwise they do not delay combat at all. They can slow down exploration, requiring a decision to roll a d10, but significantly enhance exploration itself. There is a 10% chance that they fumble, each time they are used, so statistically speaking a long combat will see every sidekick deployed fumble. They are extremely hardy.