Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)
Serenity, Aasimar Wizard Divination-School (played by Mummy)
Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the ‘Princes of the Apocalypse’ campaign. If you have yet to play through the campaign, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.
Yeah, I’m behind on my session reports. Jojo keeps pestering me to keep these up to date; I think we’re about 5-6 sessions ahead now. A new year’s resolution, perhaps?
Tempest and Serenity bid goodbye to Keehar and their aarakockra friends, and head off to find Folax. Meanwhile, the intrepid gunslinger decides to find out more about his Knights of Samular rescuers. Or, more specifically, the precious ‘saddle-bags’ that the knights were so keen to recover when they rescued Folax.
Evan says, “So I ask lady whats-her-name? That knight lady who spoke to me earlier?”
“Lady Ushien Stormbanner,” I inform him primly.
“Yeah yeah, her. I ask her what’s in those saddle-bags? Treasure? Some sort of magic items?”
Lady Ushien replies, “We are transporting scrolls of Samular scripture to Red Larch. We have a contact in Red Larch who is going to bring them to our chapterhouse in Waterdeep. In exchange, he is going to give us some other items of interest.”
Folax blanches, “Just normal scrolls? Not even magic ones? They went to retrieve these from a griffin’s nest?”
“Pretty much,” I say gravely.
“Gah, these guys are nuts,” the gunslinger mutters as he rolls back in his bunk in the wagon.
Eventually, the wagon caravan stops to make camp for the night. Folax clambers gingerly out of his wagon to stretch his legs and observe the group of knights he is with. I tell Evan that he counts about half a dozen knights, along with several attendants and squires. “There are two covered wagons, one of which is where you were put in. Everyone is busy setting up camp.”
I tell Evan, “You suddenly get the feeling like you’re being watched.” The gunslinger cautiously peers around, and then finally sees something perched on top of the wagon he just clambered out of. “It’s a very large snowy owl, about the size of a large dog like a mastiff!” The owl stares unblinkingly at Folax, its gaze tracking the gunslinger no matter where he moves.
I’m watching you!
Of course, the kids try to experiment with this. Jojo suggests that Folax should try running circles around the wagon, to see if the owl twists its own head off. As the gunslinger rounds the wagon, he runs into Lady Ushien. “I see you’ve met my owl animal companion,” she says. “Whitefeather is just being wary and curious about anyone new she meets.”
“Oooo, an owl companion!” says Jojo. “I definitely like Lady Ushien!”
I turn to Mummy and Jojo. “Meanwhile, you guys have finally caught up with the Locate Object directions to Folax’s spork. You come to a camp which has a couple of wagons, and several people in armour milling about.”
After some discussion (and a prudent request for visual confirmation that this is the same camp that Folax is currently in) Jojo decides that Tempest will approach the camp in a non-hostile way. About fifty paces away, she is challenged with a ‘Halt! Who goes there!?’ from one of the knights. Tempest introduces herself as a “friend looking for a friend. Ugly human guy with a gun? Seen him around?”.
Eventually, the three adventurers are re-united. Lady Ushien introduces herself and her knights of Samular to the newcomers.
I tell Jojo, “Suddenly, you feel something rattling or vibrating on your belt! You look down, and see S'il-vous-plaît rattling in his sheath!”
Evan quips, “I think you left him on silent mode!”
Jojo hesitates, “I tell Lady Ushien not to be alarmed that I’m taking out a sword; he’s harmless, really! I take S'il-vous-plaît out.” The sword practically leaps out of his sheath, and S'il-vous-plaît’s excited face appears on the blade.
“THE Knights of SAMULAR!?” blurts S'il-vous-plaît. “Really!? I’m a HUGE FAN!”
My kids can detect an exposition from a narrative mile away, so they settle back as I ramble on (as S'il-vous-plaît) about how amazing the knights of Samular are, and their historical role in beating back the invading hordes of orcs and trolls from the region. The knights are named after their founder, Samular Caradoon, a knight of great re-known. “In fact,” says S'il-vous-plaît. “When I was a kid, I used to dream about becoming a knight of Samular! All the kids in my village had a Samular Caradoon action-figure!” He looks a bit crest-fallen. “Unfortunately, all I had was a Renwick Caradoon action-figure. Renwick was Samular’s wizard brother. Skinnier, and more pasty-faced.” We agree that the Samular Caradoon action-figure must look like a He-Man action-figure.
“I have the Power!”
Jojo chortles, “You? A Knight of Samular!?” She takes a moment to compose herself. “I mean, yes, that’s great! Hang on, did you say this was back when you were a kid? How long ago was this?”
“Good question,” I reply. “S'il-vous-plaît’s village doesn’t even exist anymore. And he’s been guarding that tomb for over a hundred years. The Troll Wars were about two hundred years ago. These days, the knights of Samular are still respected, but their order has greatly diminished. In fact, Summit Hall is the last keep that the knights still have.”
“Oh, Summit Hall!” gushes S'il-vous-plaît. “The happiest place in the world!” I tell them that S'il-vous-plaît starts singing some sort of Samular theme-song, and of course the kids help come up with some verses, “Sa-mu-LAR! Sa-mu-LAR! We are awe-some for-e-VAR!”
Surprisingly, Lady Ushien is the one who stops S'il-vous-plaît mid-song. “Sorry,” she says firmly. “That song tends to... get stuck in one’s head. Well, Folax, I am glad that you have found your friends. They are welcome to travel with us to Red Larch.” With that, the adventurers join the knights of Samular and the whole party continues the next day towards Red Larch.
I originally tossed up the idea of keeping Folax separate from the party, and then having some dramatic event that brings them all together. But I eventually decided that it’ll be a lot easier DMing-wise if I kept everyone together.
“Very few monsters are bold enough to attack a fully-armed contingent of knights, so the journey to Red Larch is pretty uneventful,” I tell Mummy and the kids. “It’s about mid-day by the time you guys all arrive back in Red Larch. There seems to have been some changes in town since you guys were here last. For one, the work to convert the underground tunnels under the street into underground streets is truly underway, with dwarves and humans digging out rubble and signs of construction everywhere. You guys notice that Ironhead’s second-hand weapons shop is closed. What do you guys want to do?”
Of course, throwing an obvious plot-hook about Ironhead’s closed shop isn’t incentive enough for the group to stick together. The group splits off, with Jojo heading off to see Kaylessa at the Swinging Sword Inn, Evan wandering to his make-shift lodgings at Landro’s tavern, while Mummy goes to check on her friend Meg.
So much for keeping them all together. Sighing, I start with Jojo. “I suppose you’re going to tell Kaylessa about what happened to her niece Savra and the Feathergale Knights?”
“Sav-who? Oh yeah, her! Oh shoot, I hate bringing bad news!”
However, when the dragonborn arrives at the Swinging Sword Inn, Kaylessa isn’t around. One of her staff tells Tempest that Kaylessa has gone on a trip to Waterdeep and will be back in a few days. Jojo says, “Whew! Oh well, I suppose I’ll go visit the tavern then.” And the dragonborn heads off to the Helm at Highsun tavern.
Next, Evan. I tell him, “Folax gets to Landro’s tavern, and you’re surprised to see the place bustling with customers!”
“What the-!?” The gunslinger squeezes his way through the crowd of drinkers, and gets in the front room. He chases off a few people sitting on ‘his’ couch, and then hears a familiar voice calling from the back room. “HO! Folax! Is that you!?” The burly form of Ironhead emerges from the back. The old half-orc is wearing a dirty apron that might have passed as white in the long distant past.
“Ayyyee, Ironhead!” Evan and I mimic the gunslinger and the half-orc exchanging a couple of fist-bumps and low fives. “What are you doing here?”
Ironhead grunts. “Well, after Landro up-and-left this place, some of us were missing our old watering hole. So I decided it was time to shift from weapon-selling to bar-keeping and take over the tavern! You’re definitely still welcome back as the tavern bouncer; with all these customers, I need all the help I can get!”
As Folax thanks and congratulates Ironhead, the burly half-orc slaps his forehead. “Gah! Almost forgot! Hey, there’s someone in Landro’s back-back room. You know, the room with all that weird equipment? Says he’s looking for whoever uses the stuff. Since you’re here, maybe you can go talk to him because I know you and Landro had some special arrangement with all that stuff.”
Evan frowns. “Really?” The gunslinger cautiously enters the back room. I tell Evan, “You hear footsteps from the back-back room, and out emerges a dark-skinned, powerfully-built bald dude. He’s got a no-nonsense look, and what is most distinctive is a snake tattoo trailing down the top of his bald head.”
It seems that my character description intimidates Evan so much that he is somewhat speechless. The dark-skinned man stares at the gunslinger. He gestures with his thumb over his shoulder and speaks in a deep voice, “Is this equipment... yours?”
You might recall from session 3 that Landro had made a ‘special arrangement’ with Folax that he could use the equipment in the back-back room to craft his musket balls. And if anyone comes around asking about the strange equipment, the gunslinger would claim that it belonged to him. I was gleefully building it all up to this point.
Evan squeaks, “Um, it’s Landro’s!”
So much for ‘honour among thieves’. The dark-skinned man narrows his eyes at the quaking gunslinger. “And where’s Landro?”
The gunslinger shakes his head. “Dunno!”
The dark-skinned man seems to consider this, and then says, “Do you know how to operate this equipment?”
Evan relaxes a bit and looks at me. “Do I?”
I shrug. “You’ve used some of it to make those musket balls of yours. As far as you know, the whole setup is like a mini-forge. Obviously, you don’t know what Landro uses it for.”
The gunslinger replies, “Um, yes?”
The man pulls out something from his belt and holds it up. “Can you make.. these?” I tell Evan that he sees a half-moon disc, about the size of one’s palm.
Evan astutely identifies it before I can even finish my description. “Waterdeep Harbour Moons!” I am pretty impressed as Evan proceeds to explain to Mummy and Jojo that this is the currency used in Waterdeep for trading. And of course, it all finally clicks in his head. “Landro makes fake Harbour Moons! He counterfeits coins!”
The man repeats his question, and Evan squares himself up. “Uh, yeah sure. Of course I know how to make these!” The dark-skinned man tells Folax that he will pay 500 gold for 100 Harbour moons. I tell Evan that in Waterdeep, a Harbour Moon is worth about 50 gold each. After some quick math, the gunslinger readily agrees and goes into the back-back room to fire up the mini-forge. “Time to make some money!”
I toss Evan a d20. “Time to make a roll, you mean. You can use either your Dexterity or Intelligence for this.”
On hindsight, I should have given Evan an Inspiration for playing his Criminal background. And perhaps allow his Proficiency bonus for this roll given that he is somewhat proficient with Landro’s counterfeiting equipment. Ah well, hindsight is d20-d20, I suppose.
Evan blows on the die and rolls it. It comes up with a 10.
I tell Evan. “The dark-skinned man picks up one of your counterfeits. It.. sorta looks like a Waterdeep Harbour Moon? If you kinda squint at it with one eye shut. Or maybe even both eyes shut.” Unimpressed, the man places the coin down and growls at Evan. “I ask again - where is Landro!?”
When the gunslinger profusely denies any knowledge of where Landro is, the dark-skinned man calms down. “Very well,” he says. “If you do share with us any knowledge of Landro’s whereabouts, know that the Black Network will see that you are handsomely rewarded.” I tell Evan that all criminals know who the Black Network are; an evil criminal network belonging to the power-hungry nation of Zhentar.
Yeap, it was about time some of the major factions of Faerun start making an appearance in our campaign.
Meanwhile, Mummy heads off to ‘Tarnlar’s’ clothing shop, and is happily greeted with a warm hug by Meg. “Serenity! I’m so glad to see you safe! How did your business trip to Feathergale Spire go? Oh wait, before I forget, there’s a message for you from your Guild in Neverwinter!”
“A message? From my guild?” says Mummy nervously. The aasimar wizard is somewhat apprehensive when she opens the sealed scroll addressed to her. I tell Mummy, “Your guild sends greetings and are glad to hear that you’ve arrived safely in Red Larch. And they say that they feel that there are plenty of business opportunities in the area, so they are instructing you to start a guild shop right here in Red Larch!”
Mummy says, “They want me to start a shop here? Thank goodness, I thought they were going to fire me because I didn’t secure any business from the Feathergale Knights!”
Meg is enthusiastic about the news. “That’s wonderful! Your guild is right about Red Larch, this place is perfect for new business start-ups!” Mummy and Meg discuss enthusiastically about having a travel clothing shop right next to a decorative armour shop, and the possible synergies.
Mummy says, “Hmm.. wasn’t there another person who sells armour in Red Larch?”
Meg rolls her eyes. “You mean Ironhead’s? That half-orc scoundrel is a sad excuse for a business-person! His shop is more like an iron junk thrift shop! In fact, I think he’s looking for a buyer for his shop ever since he’s taken over that seedy tavern down the street.”
“Interesting,” murmurs Mummy. “What about that lady who sells leather armour? Chan-something?”
“Chansryl? She sells mainly leather goods. Which does include some leather armour.”
Mummy says, “Maybe she will consider going into some sort of business-collaboration with me? I mean, her leather armour with my guild’s armour designs? It might work!”
Meg winces. “Well, I’ve known Chansryl for a while, and I must say that she’s a very... intense young woman.” But Mummy decides it’s worth a shot anyway, so they both send a boy (Meg’s youngest son) with a message to Chansryl to tee-up a meeting.
And no, I didn’t expect Mummy’s business instincts to kick in here. I was happy to go along with the ride to see where this goes. You know, “Give the players what they want” and all that jazz.
So later, Mummy, Meg and Chansryl meet up at Chansryl’s leather goods shop. I get Mummy to present her business proposal to Chansryl, and I hand her a d20. “Let’s roll a Persuasion check, and see how this goes!”
Mummy rolls a 4.
Chansryl draws herself up airily. “I’m sorry, but I cannot allow the ‘Chansryl’ brand to become... diluted like this! Do you have any idea how much sweat and toil, how long I’ve worked to keep the brand pure for my customers!?”
Meg snorts. “You started last month!”
“Exactly!” declares the young woman. “The ‘Chansryl’ brand is in its infancy! It’s a newborn baby that needs to be nurtured!”
Sighing, Mummy thanks Chansryl for her time and heads off with Meg. “At least we informed her about me starting a business in Red Larch,” says Mummy. “It’ll make it less seem like I’m popping out from nowhere and competing with her.”
Next, the two ladies head off to Landro’s tavern to speak to Ironhead about buying his used weapons shop. Meg is a bit concerned about them being ‘two respectable ladies’ in a seedy establishment, but eventually the two business-women manage to get the befuddled half-orc to agree to sell his shop to them.
As they head back to Meg’s store, Meg agrees to go 50-50 with Mummy on the purchase of Ironhead’s shop. Mummy says, “Oh, Meg. Thanks for investing your hard-earned gold on my new business!”
Meg smiles, “Oh, I don’t invest in business. I invest in people.”
And that, gentlemen, is how you DM your wife.
I tell Jojo, “You arrive at the Helm at Highsun, and while the usual crowd is there, you see Garl the bar-tender running around like a madman serving drinks and taking orders himself.” The dragonborn manages to stop the flustered bar-tender mid-stride, and Garl complains, “That lousy good-for-nothing beer-maker of mine Justran went off and disappeared! How am I supposed to run this place with one man short!?”
The kids recall that Justran is the guy who makes the beer for Garl, and serves ‘off’ beer to Folax because of some remark the gunslinger made about the beer being too weak. Tempest says, “Hmm.. disappeared you say? Is it okay if I go check his room? Maybe he left a note or something.” Garl waves Tempest through down the stairs into his basement.
I tell Jojo, “The basement has a workbench and some wooden vats for brewing beer. In the corner, some makeshift drapes cordon off a section that must be where Justran sleeps.” The dragonborn searches the mattress and the workbench but finds nothing of interest. Eventually, she finds a set of spare clothes belonging to Justran, and I tell her, “You find a hidden seam along one of the sleeves. It’s a secret pocket!” The dragonborn carefully opens the seams and finds a leaflet in the sleeve.
I describe the leaflet. “It’s made of waxed paper, and it is basically a message from the Crushing Wave Water Cult! It mentions a place called Riverguard Keep, and there are some instructions on how to form the Water Cult symbol using your fingers in order to greet other members of the cult.”
The campaign book goes into detail on different hand-signs for the different cults. Sort of like a ‘secret handshake’. How cultic!
Thanks to DasUberGamer for the excellent demonstration!
Jojo is impressed by the hand-sign. “I’m going to use this with everyone I meet, to see if they’re part of the Water Cult!” She heads upstairs to tell Garl about what she’d found. “Um, Garl? Look, I found evidence that Justran might be part of the evil Water Cult. He might be at this place called Riverguard Keep.”
Garl shakes his head. “The evil Water-what? Never heard of them! But Riverguard Keep? That’s the place east from here, next to the river.” I show everyone where the place is on the Dessarin Valley map.
Jojo says, “Well, thanks for that. Just to let you know, if I see Justran again, I might have to smite him. For being evil and all.”