Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ravenloft session #4: The Murderer Escapes

The campaign was back from hiatus last night, and from my perspective it was a rocky few hours. I felt really off my game, and a solid half-hour of technical difficulties to start things off didn't help. By the end I think everyone was pretty well immersed, but for a while I was struggling through my notes and probably just not as prepared as I could have been. Hopefully things only go up from here. The PCs are sifting through a frustrating patch in Marais d'Tarascon, but I think that scheduling a more lengthy session in the near future should help get them through it.

We picked up the morning after the untimely death of Duncan d'Lute at the Full Moon Inn, and the party was eager to explore the rest of the village, starting with the Tarascon plantation. As they made their way to the edge of town, the PCs took note of the Tarascon townhouse, a lavish, two-story structure at the edge of the village proper owned by the three brothers. Its doors were locked up tight and its windows covered with heavy curtains - the place looked all but abandoned.

The manor house at the plantation (a half-mile outside the village) didn't show much more promise, with no people or field-workers to be found. After discovering a mutilated cattle carcass in a wheat field, the party prodded around the servant house, prying a lock off the cellar door and entering through the basement. Inside the house's main chamber they found a disembodied arm (female and presumed to be a servant's based on its tattered sleeve and dirt underneath its fingernails) and dried patches of blood. Otherwise, the house seemed in reasonable repair, neither pristine nor drastically unkempt. In a side chamber that appeared to be the head servant's room were records of the plantation's field-hands scrawled on sheets of parchment. The attached stables yielded little but rope and miscellaneous supplies.

Satisfied, the PCs turned back to the stately white manor house, hoping to find an easy way inside. As they searched, a stout man bearing sword and shield made his way toward them from the road, declaring himself the town constable (Gremin by name). Gremin seemed overly perturbed that a group of outsiders had taken it upon themselves to pry about the plantation, and was equally distressed at the presence of Luc among their numbers, making it clear that the youngest Tarascon brother was not welcome anywhere near the village.

As the PCs pressed for information and denied Gremin's requests for them to leave, the exchange quickly soured, and when they questioned his diligence in investigating the murders, the constable broke down and revealed that his own son had recently died in the manner witnessed the previous night at the inn. Distraught, Constable Gremin made to arrest the party - until he was interrupted by a second man calling for him from the road. Seemingly a laborer, the newcomer brought word of another murder, just outside the Full Moon Inn. With a look of contempt for the PCs, Gremin turned and followed the villager hastily back to town.

At this point, Aginot and Leilana made a case for forcibly entering the manor house, especially given that Jean Tarascon still had yet to be located, but were refuted by Alaric and Rapacion, who feared that such action could spoil them in the eyes of the village - a stance that the constable would undoubtedly support. In the end, the party elected to trail Gremin back to the inn with all speed.

They arrived to see a throng of people gathered around the body of a dead barmaid in the morning shadows outside, the corpse spattered with slashing wounds and a few pieces of red licorice at its feet. Lillin, the staff manager and daughter of the innkeeper and his wife, explained that the woman was en route for her morning shift and killed a few hours earlier, just before sunup.

"Such a shame, such a shame," a voice uttered behind them, and the PCs spun to see Mordu, the town eccentric, standing closely at their backs. Mordu's expression oozed of intrigue and excitement rather than sorrow, and he was quick to lead the PCs back to his nearby cottage, imparting that he had a theory about the murders. Obviously guarded, the party followed; inside were shelves filled with old histories and tomes, many of them likely fictional - or at least in reference to places nowhere near Marais d'Tarascon. One volume in particular seemed to interest the strange man (a self-proclaimed scholar), titled Infamous Rulers and Societies. After distastefully offering them all licorice from an earthen jar, he flipped the book open to a chapter called "The Cult of the Swamp God," attempting to link its content to the town's recent deaths and slayings.

The PCs found the theory far-fetched at best, but had little time to ponder it further as a scream from outside resonated through the open windows. The companions rushed to the door - though divided on whence the scream came, they followed Alaric on his hunch to the east. A few houses away, the party caught sight of Lillin being assaulted by a black-cloaked figure brandishing a blade. Leilana cast entangle as the others sped for the scene. At Alaric's call for the attacker to cease, the hooded form disappeared into the shadows, allowing the innkeeper's daughter to escape. The PCs darted behind the building where the attacker had fled but found nothing aside from twisted foliage livened by druidic magic.

Frustrated and distressed, the party questioned Lillin, who explained that she was on her way to find Pierot, the cemetery caretaker, when she was assaulted from the darkness. She saw nothing that allowed her to identify the attacker, though when asked about the Tarascon brothers, she revealed that Marcel and Jean were Luc's senior by fifteen years and that their mother, Claudine, had died twenty years prior. Marcel was one of the first in the village to die (if not the first), though Lillin knew not the cause of death nor if any private funeral was held - for none was held publicly.

XP and DM's Commentary

Throughout Marais d'Tarascon, the villagers (with the exception of Mordu) seem resigned to their grim fate, and the continued presence of dark, unbreaking storm clouds overhead does little to mend their confidence. Out of game, no further commentary aside from the notes at the top of this post, and I'm again waiting for a more suitable stopping point before divvying up and awarding XP. Our short sessions make it difficult to progress much over the course of a single evening, though I'm hopeful we'll be able to schedule for a longer stretch a week or so out.

1 comment:

  1. "Throughout Marais d'Tarascon, the villagers (with the exception of Mordu) seem resigned to their grim fate..."

    To be honest, Aginot's pretty resigned to their grim fate as well. He cares (probably a bit unreasonably) for Luc, even though I'm pretty sure he's either possessed or a whack-job crazed killer or a werewolf, but the rest of the town is a loony bin.