05 August 2014

Earthdawn: Adventure Log 26 - A Very Blustery Day

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

This version of Barsaive features a Theran Empire which diverges from the traditional portrayal. Instead of one primary faction with one set of goals and methods, there are multiple players with designs on the province.

There are a number of personalities with their goals and preferred tactics, and each of them in turn supported by their subordinates with their own goals and preferred tactics. The relationships between these Namegivers is just as important as their means and ends. For most, the ultimate goal is to gain power and prestige back in Thera. Often this comes at the expense of their rivals.

While the Overgovernor in Vivane is part of this Gordian knot of plotting, they still have their hands tied to a certain extent. They are forced to rely on the army and navy for actual forces to carry out their orders. In theory, those units assigned to Sky Point are to execute the Overgovernor's demands, but the reality is much messier. All of the officers owe loyalty to their houses and commanders, not to mention the favors, and so on up the chain.

This all leads to a situation where actually enforcing an order on a recalcitrant officer can lead to considerable trouble down the line. Ultimately, unless you have a commander with clout in your pocket, nothing gets done. Of course, the Overgovernor arranged for this long ago and has a pet general and admiral who are often played against each other to prevent them from establishing power bases to threaten the Overgovernor's.

While things haven't been going well, the rebellious province still hasn't been brought to heel, they were stable and there was plenty of profit to go around. This was, of course, until certain developments forced the factions and their players into action.

Adventure Log – 026 A Very Blustery Day

Written By: Elmod from the Other Side of the Well of Glenwood Deep

Date: 14 Rua – 26 Rua, 1508 TH
Group Name: Mismatched Steel

Group Members
Bongani the Scout
Coriolis the Swordmaster
Elmod the Nethermancer
Honeysuckle Sunspray the Windmaster
Ting the Swordmaster

Resting in Jerris after our crab hunting escapade, we find tickets to airsail our way to Vivane on the ship "The Minnow". During the four day trip, I work on Bongani's blood eye, and he and Coriolis join our Mismatched Steel Group Pattern.

A large airship, Thera's Sword(1), is seen at a distance. Bongani says it is Admiral Lokrun's ship, who he trained with, and am reminded I briefly met before in the Servos Jungle(2).

On the third day, the weather turns for the worse and flying becomes troubled. I realized too late how little constitution I have on wooden airships and add a garish amount of color on many parts of the ship - even in the darkness(3). There was brief respite in the middle of the night, and just when I thought I might sleep, all chaos broke out again. I put a few minor fires out with well placed hurls. Eventually it is clear the ship is crashing though. The captain and a few others are killed by the masts. It is pretty much just us. I help steer Coriolis a bit, allowing us to survive our crash landing.

We survey the carnage, Bongani tending those not killed. Among the recoverable objects on the ship were several pots of Grumbah, one of which contained the corpse of a strange tattooed human. When the commotion died down, I performed a quick Experience Death spell on the corpse(4). The sacrificial being was an odd occurrence to say the least. More said could fill tomes.

With the remaining crew, we move camp eventually into the edge of the forest. Bongani and Honeysuckle decide to make a scouting party to go and get help while we others stay behind.

After a say weathering the storm, I investigate the forest a bit in the astral plane, discerning that the forest has a True Pattern of its own(5), and has absolutely no traces of corruption or taint(6). I investigate with Ting and Coriolis a bit further into the forest, but leave when we hear distant howls.

The next day Bongani and Honeysuckle return with half-a-century of Theran soldiers and set up camp. They depart the next day and break their camp(7).

Our party is again left alone. In the night, I burn the body of the strange tattooed corpse.

The next morning we venture into the Ashwood Forest(8). We come across a small skeorx, and soon find its mother. The young flees, but the others, Honeysuckle lands the fatal blow, decapitating it.

Further down the "trail", the bellowing we heard earlier appears in the form of a large, golden brithan. We parlay for a few moments, nominating Honeysuckle to single-handedly duel it, but we are stopped at the very last moment.

Its keeper turns out to be Kristof the Blue(9), the guardian of Ashwood Forest. We talk and learn of the forest and go back to Kristof's camp to learn of the other forest guardians: bony pig, precis, multi-eyed owl, enormous orange skeorx, purple thundra beast, and the flowing forest spirits.

Kristof cannot apparently leave his guardianship post.

He says the White Hand is an old Horror from the Wastes, and may have had interests, beyond Landis and Cara Fahd, in capturing the old power of the forest(10).(11)

*     *     *
(1) We have other reports of this airship being active in the area, particularly near the Servos Jungle. It is rather famous and commanded by Admiral Lokrun. This is not good for the province.
(2) This intelligence would have been considerably more useful if it had been delivered at the time. Details!
(3) Does this mean what I think it means? [With this guy, who knows?]
(4) Only a Nethermancer would have this as their first response when encountering a strange corpse.
(5) This is typical.
(6) This is not.
(7) Hardly an insignificant number of soldiers. What is being left out here?
(8) We have scant reference to this Name. The texts which do seem to have a higher than usual incidence of disappearance, accident, or failure of preservation spells.
(9) This is another of the "Four Fathers", who have largely disappeared from Barsaive.
(10) My attention - you have it.
(11) Received and edited by Ela Pono

Going back over this session always amuses me, in part because it was so long ago (a year and five months) and is a trip down memory lane. Mostly, it is because of the long term groundwork this was laying, what was about to happen, and what wasn't recorded in the adventure log. There is a lot which is missing. Omitted by accident or on purpose, I cannot know. I do know on more than one occasion it has been remarked certain events should not be recorded in the log, because they are supposed to be the heroes of this story. Seriously, their motto is now "... Well, that could have gone better".

This was the first session in a three part arc which was set to change things one way or another. Spoiler alert: I did not see the final direction coming, which is saying something. The primary purpose for this was to find the next Key Knowledge for Elmod's Sinistral Puppet, Regia. This was supposed to be a three-hour tour scenario in their minds, and is pretty much how it went.

Under the surface, a lot of this was just trolling the group. Tragically, much of the trolling was omitted from the adventure log, though I still have this part to record it for posterity.

During their travel from Jerris to Vivane, there was some tension over the Theran vedette following them. They assumed this was because of them. The pilot of The Minnow was acting increasingly strange because he thought it was after him. They found his journal during the crash and discovered he was having an affair with a Theran lieutenant and the lieutenant's wife had found out. This caused a serious of poor decisions and ended with the pilot deciding to lose the Therans by flying into a storm. Things went sharply downhill from there. Turns out the Therans were just flying the same route because it is a convenient route and there have been some crystal raiders in the area.

Despite their omission, there were actual quite a few survivors and getting supplies for them was important. This was the purpose of the excursion and why the Therans were brought back along with the vedette, Thera's Sword. They were actually looking for survivors of what could only be assumed was a crash. What survivors remained when the Therans arrived we flown back to Vivane. It's also important to note a lot of the survivors disappeared during the night from something in the woods. Only those who wandered in there, but they were given instructions to notify and not let anything strange escape. Those left were suffering from PTSD when they were rescued. Well, that could have gone better.

The strange corpse was both a plot hook into the larger ongoing plot and an exercise in, to put it bluntly, manipulating a player. Other pieces which were omitted from the log was the information gathered about the forest and what happened when the corpse was burned. The Nethermancer had a pretty good idea the corpse was involved in some bad things (they were a willing sacrifice and had been altered via powerful blood magic). He also knew there was a spirit trapped in the body and wanted to talk with it. The forest seemed to do some strange things with spirits. So, he burned the body in the forest to release the spirit so they could have a chat. This was pretty much exactly what I wanted to have happen, but I honestly wanted a player to do my dirty work.

When things go wrong, it has considerably more impact when you are cleaning up your own mess, rather than someone else's mess.

This all seemed rather innocuous at the time. Definitely weird, possibly ill-advised since it was explicitly done without the knowledge of the rest of the group, but nothing terribly untoward. but two sessions down the road, there was a moment when realization about exactly what had been done and what the long-term implications were. I'm not going to lie, it was a very good moment. It's always a good thing to see the player's starting to take responsibility for their actions, even if their character's don't realize it yet. That is the investment I want.

In all, this is one of my favorite arcs from this game, period. I hope those reading it agree.