Professor Deepwood's Academy for Exceptional Youth
This past weekend I ran a 12-13 hour D&D session, the second-longest session I’ve ever been in (there was one longer in high school, but it included a 2-hour break to play Super Smash Brothers, and at least one point where the DM accidentally dozed off and the game stalled (I think this might have instigated the Super Smash Brothers session, actually)).
I designed the game as a one-shot “double session” for Stephanie’s birthday, because she wanted to explore the character of the mom of her character in my regular campaign, so I took the idea and ran with it, spinning it into a paragon-tier 4th edition game.
The characters were
Alvilág Xiafalla (Stephanie’s character), a tiefling warlord and matronly gang boss
Romulus “Romie” Widdering, a human wizard running from his past
Eckard Vectomon, an elf seeker from the Feywild who talks to the spirits in his head more than the people he meets in real life
Piotrek Durand, a half-orc thug who gets his way through violence and making a point to know people’s secrets
Sord, a dwarf barbarian who gave up the seafaring life of her people to become an equestrian
Bertram Halifax Rosario St. Germaine, a human swordmage who is a son of privilege, and is trying to make his way in the world to prove that yes, in fact, he is as awesome and worthy of respect as he claims to be.
This small rag-tag group made up a gang called The Sly, a criminal organization of some notoriety (especially in their home borough of Bedstye), but whose reputation is overshadowed by the larger, more ruthless gang called Eleven Sons.
It all started when The Sly got a notice of late shipment from their main suppliers, the Tradewind Caravan Company. However, they weren’t expecting any shipment to be delivered at all, so after using Bertram’s magical reading monocle to decipher the illegible signature on the order, they snooped around until they found Mason Locke, the man whose name was on the form. Mason was at a tavern/arena fight club called The Pit (so called for the big sandy pit right in the middle of the building, where the fighting takes place. Also, at request of the PCs, they also have really good ribs). He had just finished meeting with a client when the PCs approached him and showed him the notice, inquiring as to what was going on. Mason Locke apologized profusely, saying that the PCs should never have known about the order because it had been arranged for him to pick it up at The Sly’s headquarters (a used book store and pawn shop that also doubles as a black market of sorts…for the right customers), but the supplier never showed up at the rendezvous on time, so the transaction was never completed. He offered to let the PCs speak to his employer, for whom he had made the order.
The Sly made their way to the Terasein Council Hall, where Locke’s employer was talking with Councilman Rowe. Council Hall is a nice building, built in classical Elenathan style, but because of the high crime rates in Terasein the barracks for the Imperial Guard and the Brotherhood flank the entrance. The Guard are the bread-and-butter police and armed forces of the Eastern Empire. The Brotherhood are elite warriors recruited from the best of the best of the Guard who undergo intensive training to become almost superhumanly powerful combatants. The outer walls of the Brotherhood barracks are adorned with 22 dragon skulls, each engraved with a different name. There are 22 Brothers stationed in Terasein. In a city were anything that isn’t nailed down (and most things that are, if you have a big enough pry-bar) is fair game, none of the decorations have ever been stolen.
Inside Council Hall, Locke led the PCs to Councilman Rowe’s offices, and introduced them to the politician and also Locke’s employer, Alexander Bartlett. Bartlett is a member of the Artificer’s Guild, who is trying to sell a new technology they’ve invented to make travel around the geographically expansive Empire more efficient – a sort of teleportation that allows you to enter a controlled, close space and emerge at any location anywhere else in the world…so long as it is precisely identical. The Guild is trying to sell an exclusive contract to the Imperial government—along with the contract to build these precisely identical rooms—in Imperial offices and Council Halls all over the Empire, in an effort to increase their visibility and reputation around the Empire so they can make a move to become a political player like the College of Magic, rather than just a trade organization. The PCs bring up the matter of security (wouldn’t instant teleportation make it that much easier to assassinate important officials?) and the Rowe charges Bartlett to address this before they settle the contract.
Now knowing what the shipment was for, but still not what it was, the PCs decided to go investigate why the shipment was late. They go to Tradewind Caravan Company’s Terasein office, and Jeanine and Mr. Katthwaite tell them that the shipment won’t be coming in, because the caravan carrying it sent out a distress signal over a week ago and then disappeared. Also, a large section of road collapsed north of Terasein, making it very hard to travel the long distances between Terasein and the northern cities of the Empire. Piotrek accidentally becomes British for a moment, and Sord took a handful of lollipops from the bowl on Jeanine’s desk before leaving.
The PCs decided to go investigate the caravan themselves, and found exactly what they expected. The road (and a good portion of land on either side) had collapsed into a big pit, and the caravan was inside it. Nearby there were two large graves that, when exhumed, revealed the bodies of two of the caravan horses – My Little Horsey and Pony Stardust. Sord had once worked with both of these beasties, and lamented appropriately. Bertram and Romie tried to detect magic, but any traces they got from the area were faint and old. Eckard noticed some faint tracks around the site that looked like they could belong to gnolls and hyenas, but they were at least a week old. The PCs decided to start digging out the site to see what they could find, and Romie summoned a phantom steed for Piotrek to ride back into town to buy shovels, since no one had thought to bring any.
While in town, Piotrek was tracked down by Lucas Lockhart, the Eleven Sons’ “handler” for The Sly. Lockhart told Piotrek that Councilman Rowe was in the pocket of the Shadow Rogues, a powerful rival gang from Terasein’s Chitonwa district. He suggested (ordered) The Sly to investigate everything the could about the teleporter project, the missing shipment, and Councilman Rowe, because if he was the one signing off on the project and he is at the Shadow Rogues’ beck and call he is basically their ticket to an unimaginable amount of power, and that would give them an unmitigated advantage over the Eleven Sons and all their affiliated gangs (including The Sly). Also, it was gnolls that attacked the caravan, so that might be a good place to start to try to trace the events of that day.
Piotrek returned to the dig site and relayed this information to the other PCs, and they decided to go back to town and investigate. Gnolls are mostly nomadic (in part because their predilection for the taste of the flesh of sentient creatures makes them unpopular with almost every other race ever), but the Gunankoh clan has settled semi-permanently in Terasein and started their own gang called Fang Hard. They are not very prolific, but Fang Hard is under the wing of the Shadow Rogues.
The PCs barge into the Fang Hard headquarters and find no one there but a curmudgeonly old coot of a gnoll. They demand to know what happened and he says he doesn’t know the details except that the order and the money didn’t come from the Shadow Rogues and they should talk to Keegan Royale – he’s the one who makes deals and takes contracts from other people. The PCs demand him to tell them where Keegan is, and he says no. Piotrek offers him some money, then smashes his hand into the table with a mace, and he finally tells them Keegan is at The Pit for PitCon.
The PCs go back to The Pit and find Royale in a sleeping drunken stupor draped across two chairs in a corner. They slap him awake and demand to know who gave them the hit on the caravan, and still hung over and drunk, Keegan tells them it was Councilman Rowe before throwing up and falling back asleep.
The PCs do a careful investigation on Rowe, but don’t find much condemning evidence or strange behavior, except that he doesn’t always go home to his own house at night. It turns out the second home belongs to Liza Casare, with whom he is having an affair.
The PCs break into Liza’s house at night with the intention of interrogating her. Alvilág takes her cat, Mr. Flufflemuffin and holds him “hostage”, while Romie casts Illusory Wall to “trap” Mrs. Casare in her room. Alvilág passes through the wall doing the “hellfire and damnation” bit that tieflings are so good at, and demands information, threatening the cat if she doesn’t get the answers she wants. Mrs. Casare is in tears – it soon becomes obvious that she doesn’t know what’s going on, and begs Alvilág not to hurt the cat, or tell her husband Jeff about the affair. Apparently, she was not even aware that her husband had died on the job (Jeff Casare was the leader of the caravan that caved in on the way to Terasein). Just when things didn’t seem like they could get any worse for Mrs. Casare, Sord pokes her head through the wall and asks where the lollies are. Having no idea what’s going on any more, Liza breaks down completely into hysterics, and the PCs leave, deciding they should have gone after Councilman Rowe after all. Before leaving, Piotrek cases the joint and finds a wall safe behind an inexplicable Thomas Kinkade painting. Probably this one. There’s nothing in there but some money stashed away as a “rainy day” fund, so they PCs leave without taking anything.
The next morning the PCs put their plan into action to kidnap the Councilman. Piotrek abducts him as he makes his way to Council Hall, and Bertram uses his Exodus Knife to create an extradimensional space for the interrogation to take place. Eckard takes watch outside the interrogation “room”. The Councilman compliments them on their professionalism, sits back comfortably, and takes charge of the situation. Yes he’s having an affair with Lize Casare, and yes he ordered the hit on the caravan via the Fang Hard gang. Jeff had upset Liza by choosing to work and be on the road instead of spending time with her on her birthday, so Rowe had ordered the hit because he’d grown attached to the woman and hated to see her so neglected by her husband, and he saw this as an opportunity to get him out of the way. As an added benefit, the caravan was also carrying supplies for Bartlett, and the late shipment meant that he was in a weaker negotiating position, meaning that Rowe could pressure him to bring the price of the contract down again (and also implying that Bartlett had caved before, as the room was already under construction even though no contract had been finalized). And on top of that, if the Shadow Rogues started giving him trouble, he could deny them access to the teleporter room (which is the main reason they tried to “buy” the Councilman in the first place). It turns out that the balding, portly councilman was something of a mastermind in his own right. Seemingly impressed, Piotrek asked how the councilman would react if offered a counter-bid by the Eleven Sons. Rowe said he’d be willing to consider such an offer, and that the PCs should return to his office the next morning with more details about the offer.
Rowe then took his leave from the interrogation room, and the PCs went to go find Lockhart to get approval for the counter-offer. Lockhart gave it eagerly, and the next day the PCs went to go speak to Councilman Rowe.
Rowe was delighted to see that all of them had shown up, and immediately called a set of Twins (Brothers who had been specially trained to fight in pairs) to detain the PCs. Since the Brotherhood barracks were right by the front doors, the only way out seemed to be to get to the mostly-complete teleporter room and try to escape to another city. the Twins pursued them relentlessly, but between several rounds of delaying tactics and strategic use of an Arcae Gate spell, the PCs were able to get to the teleporter room before the Twins, close the doors, and activate the room.
When the PCs opened the doors again, it was dark. Lanterns revealed that they seem to have ended up in some sort of massive cave. The consensus was that the PCs needed to get back home so they could reorient themselves and figure out what to do about the Twins.
After exploring for a little while without really knowing where they were going, they crosses paths with a party of drow who were swaying and wailing and chanting “The Queen is dead, long live the Queen”. The drow paid them no mind, and continued along their path. Several minutes later, Eckard and then the others heard footsteps approaching from behind. They turned to confront, and it was a male drow from the earlier party. He was carrying a white cloth (a sign of truce) and begged to talk with them. He’d been a part of the mourning party for over 8 days, and was sick of all the wailing and shrieking, but was afraid to say anything to the priestesses because of the ruthless efficiency with which they would respond to his complaint. According to the priestesses, Lolth had been discovered almost a week before, strangled and hung by her own webbing in the Demonweb Pits. After letting the drow vent for a while and let off some steam, the PCs asked him how they could get out of the cave. He said there was no exit he knew of, unless they wanted to try to use the Vestige of Old Nerath to get out. The problem, however, is that the Vestige is inaccessible at the center of the Cavern Sea, in the palace of the King Under the Mountain who has been sleeping for centuries and having mad nightmares, and as soon as he awakes he will attempt to use the Vestige to visit that madness upon the world. If the PCs are insane enough to try, though, the people that sealed the King Under the Mountain away scattered 6 pillars across the shore of the Cavern Sea that, when all activated, would both lower the water level so that the bridge to the palace was once again accessible and also teach them the syllables of a long-dead language they would need to activate the Vestige.
The six pillars—one of which teleported away when approached, another of which illusory and the real pillar was hidden some distance away, the third which raised and lowered itself to random heights, the fourth which existed only in a forest of other identical pillars, the fifth which was encased in a stone wall, and the sixth which didn’t even exist at all until the other pillars had all been activated—proved a bit of a puzzle, but the PCs learned the words and began the process that lowered the sea so they could reach the King’s palace.
The Vestige was on a platform high above dais upon which the King’s throne sat, and his guards and vassals thronged throughout the throne room. He condemned the PCs for waking him, and then attacked them all in full force.
The PCs were surprised by the initial ferocity of the assault. The King blasted them with waves of madness, his guards with spears and axes and crossbows, and his vassals with their clubs and fists. The vassals were relentless, even sacrificing their safety and lives to ensure their blows landed on the PCs. The guards were as well, but they were heavily targeted by Romie as he conjured illusions of fantastic treasure to distract them from battle, and visions of armageddon to paralyze them in fear. Slowly, through expert archery, brutal sneak attacks, raging fury, powerful spells, and resourceful planning the PCs managed to work their way through the throne room, then up the majestic staircases leading to the Vestige, and by reciting the Words of Power, were able to fulfill their wish of going home.
And now Stephanie wants a sequel. At epic tier. I don’t know what I’m going to do . O__O