24 September 2013

Earthdawn: Adventure Log 21 - River City Ransom

This is the twenty-first Adventure Log in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

The Twilight Mountains are in the south-western part of Barsaive, just north of Death's Sea. They are situated between two fallen kingdoms, Cara Fahd of the orks and Ustrect of the trolls, and lay between the Theran holdings of Sky Point and Vivane and Throal. The Name, the Twilight Mountains, was given because the glow of Death's Sea to the south makes it seem like twilight when the peaks are viewed from the north.

The most notable thing about the Twilight Peaks is that they are home to the majority of the highland trolls within Barsaive, who are collectively referred to as Crystal Raiders. So named because of the vast quantity and quality of living crystal that can be found within the mountains.

Prior to the Scourge, the Crystal Raiders were almost wiped out by the Theran navy at the conclusion of the Orichalcum Wars in an event know as the Battle of Sky Point. It was only through their tenacity that they managed to survive and return once more as a force to be reckoned with.

There is little quite as terrifying as being assaulted by Crystal Raider drakkars. Something that every Air Sailor dreads and has caused no end of enmity between them and their rival Discipline, Sky Raiders. They continue to raid wherever they can reach, as the mountains they call home are merely inhospitable in the nicest of locations. For the most part, these peaks are treacherous and full of equally dangerous wildlife that call them home.

As for the trolls themselves, there are numerous moots that have claimed territory along the range. Each has their own particular customs, outlook, goals and motivations. Some are more than willing to entreat with outsiders to get what they want, while others are most likely to enslave other Namegivers as newots if they are not simply killed outright.

Adventure Log – 021 River City Ransom

Written By: Honeysuckle Sunspray of Glenwood Deep

Date: 08 Strassa – 30 Strassa, 1508 TH
Group Name: Mismatched Steel

Group Members
Elmod the Nethermancer
Honeysuckle Sunspray the Windmaster
Jak’Tak the Weaponsmith
Sogun the Messenger
Ting the Swordmaster

The others return from Bartertown. They get into trouble when I am not around. I get my hair cut in the Travar style. A Messenger arrives and summons us to the house of Fursthir(1). The house is outstanding. The household is tense.

The Skyseekers troll moot has stolen some cargo, and we are to ransom it back(2). Dar, the Lady's son, is to accompany us. The airship is "Fursthir's Pride", a galley made for speed(3). Dar's Group is made of stalwart companions, including Hetha.

The ship takes off and we go west. The journey takes a week. Reavers, lead by Korrolis, bombard the ship, and we descend towards a mountain peak. We crash and the ship is destroyed. I save Elmod and Hetha in a crash. The mountain fell upon us. Dar and Chalice were seriously injured. Our Group survives and Dar orders us to continue on our mission.

The forest is quiet, and we run across a chimera. Rock worms burst from the earth and we do battle. We defeat the creatures, but they take their toll.

The next day we find the moot and meet with the chief. A Nethermancer in black robes translates for us. We enjoy a hearty meal. He wants us to find a tomb of a great troll king. I visit the troll Weaponsmith and compel him to instruct me with the Pledge Coin(4).

We are flown to the tomb entrance. We discover a trap at the door of the tomb, and Honeysuckle takes care of it. Inside we find a perilous chamber. A shaft with a mechanical elevator. Honeysuckle and Ting scout out the lower floor. I join them presently.

In the next room we find a shadowy ghost, and battle is joined. We defeat the phantom, and continue on our way. Troll cadavermen burst from the far doors, and battle is joined. Inside the doors we find tombs containing objects of art. Honeysuckle opens the chest and finds more treasure.

The far doors contain a looted museum. Shadows appear, and battle is joined. We defeat them and continue on our way. We desecrate the corpses of the Theran Questors and move on(5).

We find some skeletons and they come to life and battle is joined. We defeat them and retreat to rest. The next day we continue on to find a marble room devoted to the Passion of Justice. "What information do you seek, my child?" The voice speaks great truth. Iopos is a vulture ready to pick at the bones of Barsaive. The voice tells us Scarvik the Strangler, a Horror, is sealed beneath the tomb(6). We descend.

We take the king's effects and face the Horror. We send him back to the hell he came from. We loot the tomb, to the trolls' delight. Elmod had a discussion with Tana Lunar, who claimed to know his father. My elf companion's origin is truly a sinister one(7). I train with the moot Weaponsmith, who teaches me the secrets of crystal.(8)

*     *     *
(1) The Fursthir family is very powerful and Lady Fursthir arguably the most ruthless leader since the end of the Scourge. 
(2) What was the cargo to go through all of this trouble? We haven't gotten any reports of anything like this yet.
(3) Intelligence indicates that this was not the first clandestine action for this airship to be involved in. It will, however, be the last.
(4) If not for the Pledge Coin, that would have ended badly. Which would have made me strangely sad.
(5) There needs to be more details on what exactly this means.
(6) What is going on here? 
(7) Very true and there is virtually nothing that sheds any light on what is going on with this.
(8) Received and edited by Ela Pono

From the beginning, this session was going to mark a lengthy break in the campaign. There were numerous reasons for it, but a major piece was expectations. To put it plainly, mine were higher than they should have been. Nevertheless, I wanted this session to be full of excitement, hinting at things forward looking, but lean on things that I would expect from my players.

It turned out to be most of those things. The beginning went great, none of the series of unfortunate events felt forced or scripted. NPCs were introduced to give more depth to what was going on, but I have no interest in playing more characters than is necessary, particularly when the focus of the action is on the players (also, these would have been more like extra weight, as they were lower Circle).

Everything went well right up until the tomb turned into a slog. I know that careful resource management is a big part of dungeon crawling. Indeed, it is a big part of Earthdawn itself - ensuring that you have Recovery Tests and manage your Strain, as well as enough Karma to get you through. That being said, as the GM I often find it tedious. There is only so interesting that I can make a lengthy combat with cadaver men and skeletons.

So having all of those down there was something of a mistake that I realized when it was too late. Though I could still avert some of that as it was happening. The latter half of the encounters were hastily rewritten on the fly, making them less numerous and a little more interesting.

In all, it was a nice for what it was. If it was going to be an end to the first "arc", it was only mildly successful at that. There were no cliffhangers, only some minor foreshadowing; nothing that jumped out of the closet and yelled "plot!".

This also heralded some character transitions. Things don't always pan out how you imagine them, or they go exactly as you planned and it turns out that wasn't as much fun as you had hoped. This is somewhat the culmination of "lessons learned".

When things started back up, months later, I went in with a different set of expectations and started establishing a different tone for the events.

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