Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
Zeitgeist: The Island at the Axis of the World - Session 02

In the previous session the group as members of the Royal Homeland Constabulary provided security for the launch of the first Risuri-built steam warship, the RNS Coaltongue. Having successfully dealt with some troublesome dockers, they were invited to provide further security on the ship, which was to make a short maiden voyage with the king and invited guests. So this session started with a tour of the ship. I had gone the expensive route of printing the map of the ship on two posters to 1" scale, and had an NPC, petty officer Elian Aughtbrook, give them a guided tour to be sure that they knew all the details of how the ship operated. They met a guard, Divianne Athel, at the ship's magazine, telling them how the firedust (powder) for the cannons was protected by wreaths enchanted daily with a fire resistance ritual. And they met the young engineer Fitzcairn Luckshore in the engine room, where he was shoveling firegems into the furnace with two rather more solidly built and older colleagues.

Via Elian Aughtbrook they also organized, as requested, a room for the sister of the king, Duchess Ethelyn of Shale, to nap in. That caused some discussion, as the players with some degree of meta-gaming concluded that this special request meant that the king's sister was in special danger; so they weren't sure to what degree they were supposed to guard just the king, or his sister as well, or the whole ship. In the end they tried to cover everything, but of course the ship was rather huge and patrolling it every quarter of an hour with just 2 people didn't turn up anything suspicious.

Apart from the king complaining about indigestion, which he said was probably caused by some local archfey wanting to let him know their displeasure about the use of technology, nothing much happened during the next hour. The band assembled, ready to play the royal anthem accompanied by fireworks, and after that a speech by the king was planned. At that point the group's boss, Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft approached them with a task: The duchess hadn't returned from her nap, and there was some concern that she might try to embarrass the king by being absent during his speech. So the constables were charged to give her an "escort of honor" and make sure she was present for the speech.

In spite of their earlier concerns regarding the safety of the duchess, the group decided that it would be sufficient if 4 of them went to provide that escort, while the 2 others remained on the top deck in case something happened there. The duchess' room was two decks below, in the back of the berth deck. The 4 constables went there and knocked on the door, and got a response from the duchess' handmaiden, Sokana. She opened the door just a bit and said the duchess was still sleeping. At that moment two things happened: The band on the top deck began playing the royal anthem at full blast, and near the duchess' cabin another door opened. Out came the halfling chef they had observed earlier with a tray of chocolates, but now he was wielding a short sword, and the green substance smeared on that sword didn't look like chocolate. Combat ensued, with the halfling assassin enjoying surprise over most of the group. Sokana wasn't surprised, pulled out a rod, yelled "an assassin, protect the duchess!" and went forward towards where the assassin was facing Merian the avenger, and Aria the sorceress.

Now I played this encounter as written, using the stats given, although I had a nagging feeling that the assassin was a bit underpowered with his 22 hit points. This turned out to be very much the case: The assassin landed a nasty poisoned blow on Aria, who couldn't act that turn due to surprise. But Merian, who stood right next to Aria, hit the halfling with a strong attack for 14 points, and Eldion the, who had likewise succeeded his surprise roll, finished him off with another strong hit. End of round one it looked as if the combat was already over.

At that point the real surprise was revealed: Sokana cast a whirlwind spell attacking Aria and Merian, which as a secondary effect teleported her past them. She then proceeded to summon 3 fire sprites as a minor action, and moved further towards the ladder to the engine room. Artus the ardent, standing at the duchess' cabin door, decided to check what was going on there and opened the door. The bed was empty (remember the empty bed in the vision last session?), the duchess had apparently left through the porthole and was seen outside riding a leviathan into the sea, fleeing the scene. Something was afoot, and the duchess and her people turned out to be the enemies here.

Now the group had to manage several things: Pursue Sokana, stop the fire sprites who were going for the powder magazine, alarm their two remaining colleagues on the top deck, and find out what the enemies were up to. Fortunately for them Sokana's whirlwind spell had missed both targets. And Merian the avenger was uniquely equipped with powers to pursue a single enemy. Sokana managed to summon more fire sprites, get down to the engine room, throw an enchanted fire ritual wand into the furnace and rusting shut the furnace door, but Merian was always right behind her, dealing serious damage. Aria also followed, and being a spirit medium received a message from the spirit of her dead father who is watching over her: Her father was a technologist and could tell her that the furnace was unusually overloaded with firegems (the "coal" of this world), and with the added heat from the fire wand the boiler would surely explode at some point. He was even able to calculate how much time they had to stop this, so there was a countdown until the boiler would explode and kill the whole group. Fun!

Meanwhile Eldion had gone and warned James and Malicia, the two group members on the top deck. Together with Artus they killed all the fire sprites, before they did any damage to the powder magazine, and then went down to the engine room. The guard of the powder room was found dead, apparently killed earlier by the assassin, and in the engine room the young engineer had been killed by his two burlier colleagues who were in on the sabotage and had bashed his head in with a shovel. The two engineers were busy sabotaging the pressure relief valves, and Sokana retreated towards them, blocking Merian's way with a wall of fire. Like a good musketeer Merian drew his musket and shot Sokana through that fire wall, killing her. She had succeeded in all her sabotaging objectives, but never did much serious damage to the group otherwise.

The furnace was hot enough to give fire damage to people standing close, but Aria had some fire resistance due to her dragon origin as sorceress. And unlike a weakly mage the sorceress had rather high stats in force, and was trained in athletics, so she was able with a lucky roll to break open the furnace door. She also found some tongs and managed to remove the fire wand from the furnace, which slowed the reaction down considerably (and doubled the number of turns remaining on the countdown). Meanwhile the other group members went after the two engineers and after a short combat killed these last enemies. Aiding each other they succeeded after a few attempts to unblock the safety valves, further adding time to the countdown.

Now the scenario has several different methods to completely stop the boiler from exploding. The group went for the not very spectacular but effective way of having Aria with her fire resistance shovel the firegems out of the furnace into metal buckets, with the others emptying those bucket through portholes upstairs into the sea. The group did also during this time warn the king about what was going on, but did so discreetly and said an evacuation wasn't necessary. The king's principal minister Harkover Lee called over the tiefling engineer Geoff Masarde, who had built the ship, who as tiefling also had fire resistance and could help Aria shoveling hot firegems. That way the reaction was stopped long before the countdown reached zero, and the ship was saved. On the list of possible outcomes from critical failure to critical success this was a critical success, because not only was the ship and king saved, but there wasn't even an interruption to the festivities.

The group received the personal thanks of the king, who was visibly shaken by the news that his own sister had betrayed him and tried to kill him. He feared there could now be a civil war in Risur. The king then gave his speech, in which he explained the situation to the guests, publicly thanked the constables and announced that after four wars with Danor he would now seek peace with them, convening a peace conference in a year to come, and planning to marry a Danoran lady of high birth. With this successful outcome we ended the session.


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Its always amazing to read your posts about your DnD games. Its inspiring!

Thanks for sharing it with us.
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