Monday, April 25, 2016

FR #7: A Brief Foray in Neverwinter

9 Mirtul, latefeast

As the daylight began to wane over Port Llast, the party made its way to the gates. Thirty-five miles north of Neverwinter, the small town of 700 was known mainly for its skilled stonecutters and excellent harbor - a small bay sheltered by a high, rocky spit, with a fine beach and inlet. The port was overlooked by cliffs upon which boulder-hurling siege engines could be spotted from the road below.

Passing the gate-guards with few questions asked, Lincoln had become notably white and feverish, having broken into a cold sweat. As such, the party secured rooms at the Drunken Mermaid, a waterside inn and tavern, at two gold pieces per night each. Lincoln took his leave, and in the taproom the remaining PCs caught rumor that an inbound caravel had recently encountered a naga while traversing the inlet. Though no one aboard the ship was injured, water nagas, usually only found upriver or in freshwater lakes, were considered dangerous enough that a five-hundred gold piece bounty was placed on the creature by the First Captain (Port Llast's highest-ranking official).

As the evening drew on, the party was approached by a cloaked man with long, dark hair. He carried a scimitar visible at his belt and wore a pair of forged bracers, though he appeared otherwise unarmored. After flipping a gold coin onto the table (which Wren quickly pocketed, before stepping away), he sat, introducing himself as "Rumolt the Wanderer."

Rumolt explained that he was looking for adventurers to accompany him into the Neverwinter Wood to enact vengeance against the orcs of the Yellow Eye, a malicious tribe that had ambushed and slain his previous companions during a recent hunting expedition. Rumolt alone escaped, trailing the orcs to their forest lair before returning to Port Llast only a handful of days ago. To further substantiate his claim, he rolled up the sleeve of his right arm, revealing a jagged, clotted gash. Rumolt sought to recover what he could of his allies, and was willing to pay handsomely for capable assistance.

After some deliberation, the party declined Rumolt's offer, opting to continue on its original path to Neverwinter while Lincoln recuperated in Port Llast. They set out the following morning, breaking at dusk amid an encampment of caravans halfway along the two-day journey between cities. As they prepared for the night, a raucous bonfire erupted across the encampment, surrounded by a dozen surly caravaners, bellowing and drinking heartily.

Seeing opportunity, Wren and Riwyn approached the men and seated themselves on either side of a particularly intoxicated specimen, and while Wren teased the caravaner with innuendo, Riwyn pickpocketed his coin purse. Though the man tried to physically detain the women when they rose to leave, Arendeth's advance curtailed any possibility of an escalation. The caravaner passed out some time later, still oblivious to the theft. The following morning, the party ended its watches early and departed at sunrise, reaching its destination before dark.

The PCs passed two days in Neverwinter, a city of more than 20,000 inhabitants (and one much richer in culture and diversity than Luskan), seeking information about Grimmantle and hoping to discern its approximate location. Arendeth procured shelter for Aranos and himself at the Sword and Shield, a Tempuran temple, while the others roved between inns (the Silver Harp, one gold piece per night), libraries, bookstores, the office of a local cartographer (Arphon, a middle-aged balding man), and the House of Knowledge, a renowned temple to Oghma. The aggregate yields of the party's research were that Grimmantle was built into the southern face of mountains, constructed partially above and partially below ground (similar to neighboring Mirabar), and would likely only be located with substantial magical aid. At the House of Knowledge, Berwyn was given the name and residence of a local diviner (Naerinth), though attempts to locate the wizard proved fruitless.

Before setting out north again, Arandeth bartered the bloodstone from Lady Deidre to various traders, finally settling on a "best price" of 800 gold pieces.

The return journey to Port Llast was uneventful. Rumolt was still present at the Drunken Mermaid when they arrived, and made a final offer of 100 gold pieces each, along with an equal share of treasure found, for the party's aid in the forest. The proposal would stand for one night only, as he otherwise meant to depart for Neverwinter at sunrise, hoping to have better luck finding help in a larger city.

XP

The last two sessions have been mostly barren of XP, though I do want to award points for the sale of the bloodstone. It's 200 XP to each participating character, bringing their totals to:
  • Berwyn - 7,756
  • Arendeth - 8,240
  • Riwyn - 4,120/4,120
  • Wren - 3,745/4,120
Wren inches ever closer to her third fighter level; unfortunately, being a multi-class PC without a prime requisite bonus makes it slow-going. She'll get there.

Party totals are updated on the right side of the blog as well. Of note, the cost of Lincoln's week-long stay in town amounts to ten gold pieces. This covers all meals and lodging, and assumes that the dwarf found more affordable accommodations after the first night.

The Mystery Roll

As we approached sunrise on the morning following Riwyn's pickpocketing of the caravaner, I rolled a d20 simultaneously with 3d6 into the dice box. A player made a declaration that the roll was not meaningful (i.e., that I was rolling for suspense and not for any mechanical purpose), to which I replied that I would reveal the reason for the roll after the session. The roll was a Constitution check to see if the caravaner would wake up early after a night of drunkenness, or if his hangover would keep him passed out until stirred by his companions. In any case, I figured he'd have a chance to notice the coin purse missing upon waking, and if he did it seemed likely that some sort of incident would transpire. (As this was very much instant decision-making on my part, I can't say for sure exactly what the man's actions would have been.)

It didn't matter in end, because the check result (19) failed against the impromptu Constitution score (9) that I rolled for him. As a random caravaner, no pre-generated ability scores were on hand, so I decided to roll them on the fly. 3d6 seems appropriate for arbitrary scores for commoners, though for leveled NPCs I'd use 4d6-drop-lowest. Pretty much any time you see a set of d6 rolled alongside a d20, this is probably what I'm doing. A solitary d20 is often an ability check or a saving throw against a known, target value, d% (two d10s) is either a thieving check or a roll against a percentage chance to see if something happens. (d6s and d20s are also fairly common when checking for random encounters.)

I don't really go out of my way to be misleading with the dice. It tends to not be necessary very often, and most of the time I'm too preoccupied with making actual rolls, looking up information, and trying to decide on NPC reactions to worry about psyching out the table.

On Thieving from Commoners

Wren and Riwyn's incident with the caravaner drew some in-character criticism from Arendeth, which I think was very fitting, given his persona. For my part, the PCs can do as they wish and I'll try to make sure that the reactions elicited are fair and unbiased. This is an area where the DM of a narrative-style game can find difficulty, especially when plot lines assume a party of noble-minded adventurers. Characters stealing from non-threatening NPCs can unravel fixed adventure paths quickly and create a sticky situation for the DM, who consequently feels pressure to step in and wave a finger at the players wreaking havoc on his story.

Fortunately, this game is not being run that way, so I can adjudicate these kinds of situations without a conflict of interest in terms of how I want the sessions to play out. I think the result of this is a much more organic environment, where any repercussions enacted on the PCs are based only on predetermined information (meaning that I won't hand-wave that the caravaner you're trying to pickpocket is actually a 10th-level wizard because I want to teach you a lesson) and untainted by any path that I'm trying to force. I don't doubt that, eventually, a thieving character's luck is likely to run out - but I won't go off the reservation trying to make it happen.

The biggest thing the players need to remain conscious of with these kinds of dealings is the overall cohesion and trust within the party. When that starts to break down, games can get derailed, characters can become ousted and players can leave the table with bad feelings. Something to keep in mind going forward, though I don't think we're anywhere close to that happening at present.

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