Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Oiling the Bone Sword

Last time the player-characters made a daring raid on the Archmage's floating prison Highrock in order to rescue the famed pirate captain Morgan -- oh dear -- who turned out to be a medusa. Still, a legendary sailor is a legendary sailor whether or not they have snakes for hair and can turn you to stone with a glance, so the team started planning their voyage into the uncharted east to search for Jordan Young's great treasure. Before they could set out there was the small matter of a brewing conflict between the Elf Queen and the Three, dragon overlords of ultimate evil.

The party were asked to investigate an abandoned abbey thought to be a nesting site used by the dragons and destroy any eggs found there, in an attempt to dissuade the Three from further attacks against the elves. Amras the elf wizard, always more of a politician than a warrior, decided that instead they would capture the eggs and hold them as insurance, which seemed to everyone to be a much more sensible idea.

Why were the dragons hiding out in an abbey? Well, because it tied into the players' relationship dice rolls from the previous session but as they made no attempt to research the place -- this lot would be terrible at Shadowrun -- and sneaked in by a secret entrance they didn't really engage with any of it.

As an aside, there's an interesting tension here. The Icon relationship rolls are supposed to drive story and to tell the GM what sort of elements will come up in a session, but if the players wander off and don't interact with the rolls, is it better to let them miss out if that's their choice or have the rolls impact the game anyway? I'm inclined toward the former and that's how I played it -- so among other things they never met the travelling cleric who was looking for a saint's bones -- but the game itself seems to suggest that the Icon rolls are treated as a sort of Quantum Ogre, and so the cleric -- or someone else associated with the Priestess -- should have popped up anyway. This is part of the game that's worth further thought I, er, think.

The abbey, its grounds, and the saint's remains were borrowed stolen from "A Box of Old Bones" from White Dwarf #71. I stuck it on the little island to the east of the Spider Wood on the 13th Age map as that seemed like a nice place close to both the Elf Queen's wood and the Three's headquarters in Drakkenhall, and it gave the player-characters an excuse to use their brand new sailing vessel. Along the way there was a brief argument between the party and their new captain over who was in charge of the ship and as a result they demoted Morgan to first mate. Attentive readers will remember that Morgan was the only one who could take them to the island on which the precious treasure was hidden, and was also a medusa, so that's not going to come back and bite them at all.

They spotted an obscured cave at the base of the island and decided to investigate it as a potential entry point to the abbey. Leaving "first mate" Morgan in charge they rowed over to the island -- in broad daylight! -- and then chucked a couple of light spells into the cave, alerting the guards to their presence and setting off all the alarms. If you're thinking "well gosh, this doesn't seem to be a very stealthy approach" then you would be correct. I'm still not sure what the plan was but so be it; it allowed me to have some fun with kobolds.

Kobolds in 13th Age are a great laugh. They're the same low-level humanoid sword fodder of other D&D variants but they also get a wonderful bonus ability; if a kobold rolls over an opponent's Wisdom score with an attack roll then they also activate a hidden trap -- generated on a random table -- that causes a little bit of extra damage and sometimes a minor negative effect. It's not much but it adds a little bit of fun unpredictability to the little dragon-dog things and guess which set of player-characters chose Wisdom as their dump stat? Yes, there is an element of the Quantum Qobold about all this as the traps don't exist until they're triggered but I was having too much time to care. The resulting battle in the caves beneath the abbey was one part Viet Cong and one part Road Runner and it was ace; I have now fallen in love with kobolds and my players fear them so all is well in the 13th Age.

Moving on to the crypts beneath the abbey the player-characters ran into some black dragonspawn who mimicked Sartheen the Red's sneaky backstabbing abilities, and after killing them -- responding to the sound of something pounding on a door nearby -- set free one of the former abbots, who had turned into a ghoul at some point in the preceding decades. They found the bones of a saint and looted the tomb of a famous warrior -- both would have tied into relationship rolls if they had pursued the matter -- coming away with a pair of fancy duelling swords, a set of magic gloves and some magic oil. Even with all his knowledge of magic Amras couldn't discover any particular use for the oil but the party's enchanted items began to cry out to be slathered in the strange glowing liquid, a clamouring that continued until Jordan Young doused his bone blade in the oil, the sword letting out a contented sigh.

A set of narrow spiral stairs led up to an impressive but ruined church and three blue dragons who looked on with much amusement as the player-characters placed all their attention on the ground and never once looked up until it was too late. Not that the element of surprise mattered much as this party seems to have quite the aptitude for killing dragons. After a bit more exploration and some more Tom and Jerry kobolds the player-characters found the central courtyard of the abbey and around thirty dragon eggs, there for the taking; Sartheen, Jordan, and Rarity stepped out into the open and with a loud "POP!" vanished into thin air, leaving the two spellcasters alone with an unknown number of kobolds, dragonkin, and dragons lurking nearby.

Amras and Ne-0n then engaged in some Olympic level faffery as they tried everything they could think of to avoid leaving the relative safety of their building, thinking that the other three had been disintegrated. They did manage to confirm that the dragon eggs were in fact a powerful illusion but that didn't help them solve the more pressing problem of what to do next.

Meanwhile the others had not been turned into a cloud of fizzy atoms but instead had been transported a hundred miles or so south to Drakkenhall where they found themselves in a large hall and face-to-face with an enormous blue dragon. This was of course the Blue herself, who explained that she had come to an agreement with the Elf Queen; if Sartheen was delivered to the Blue, then all hostilities between the two Icons would cease. This was because the Blue was very interested in studying Sartheen -- the only red dragonspawn in the entire world -- although Sartheen got the distinct impression that "studying" in this context meant "dissecting".

The elf and the robot turned up at this point -- having summoned up the courage to step into the teleportation effect -- and Amras attempted to negotiate with the Icon, although his terms seemed to revolve around leaving the red dragonkin behind while the rest of the party returned to the abbey. With things getting desperate Sartheen's player traded in his relationship die with the Prince of Shadows to have Sartheen recall a time when he was in Shadow Port -- hive of scum and villainy, city of thieves, etcetera -- and saw an unusual pyramidic box that contained -- or so he was told -- the geas that bound the Blue to the Emperor's service and kept her off the path of evil. Sartheen could get this box for the Blue, he said, if she let them all go.

Clever little dragonspawn.

The Blue accepted the terms and with the wave of one enormous clawed hand slapped a geas of her own on Sartheen, and with the wave of another opened another portal, this time to Shadow Port.


  1. I'd like to go on the record that I (Sartheen) did suggest we approach the island by night, but was overruled by my compadres!

    1. Your dangerous, irresponsible compadres.