Athes and Fenja are in pursuit of Galen, a well-known bard who may be in possession of a cup, chalice, or cauldron belonging to the town of Ryeton. In the previous session they received information from two new mystery folk, who may or may not be part of a larger organization or organizations. But everyone seems to know Galen and at least two people got the protagonists close: the sewers of the city of Winder’s Gap.
A dwarf sewer guide bribed some guards with gold from Athes and Fenja and gave the two some brief instructions about symbols and which faction controlled the sewers. The sewers are built on the layer of a previous city or cities (think Schliemann’s Troy, but likely smaller) and some of the older part is part of the newer sewer. Footprints lead to the older more dangerous part of the sewer and the characters discover a couple of chattering skeletons near the corpse of a man who was in the process of turning into a crow.
The characters backed off and went another way, finding a secret door that lead to a large room. Inside room was a clean, sweet, and refreshing stream, bisecting the room. Both jumped over the stream because there was no bridge. As Athes landed, a spout of water rose from the stream and that is where I halted the session.
In last week’s session they bolted for the door and we did roll initiative. They got away from the melee attacks of the creature and through the next door, but Fenja nearly drowned from the elemental’s (a modified Water Weird) ranged attack. But the creature could not leave its water and they got away. This brought them to another room which appeared to have been for rituals. This room in turn lead to the hallway on the other side of the skeletons, who were still wondering where their new friends went. (The skeletons could not go past a certain mark).
After some debate and wanting to avoid the elemental and the skeletons, the characters went in the direction they had not been, following some human tracks. This eventually lead to a side area, with five corridors leading off. One of them was stairs leading down to a room where a dark fae creature was torturing a human. A little luck and some good sense motive and Fenja grabbed a broken iron weapon and went to town, while Athes maneuvered and made his own attacks. Together they killed the creature.
The man on the slab thanked them and before dropping to the floor unconscious, managed to give his name. Galen.
We do not talk a lot about techniques, but they are relevant to play. Something like a cliffhanger, which can be overused, I think makes good use of current emotions to keep the player excited about the next session. On the other hand, if the mood is one of no-excitement, a cliffhanger can fall flat. And that is just one technique for hooking the players’ emotions. Another is description. In particular I thought my description of the elemental sloughing onto the stone, stretching its tenuous connection to the water, was immersive or at least a great piece of color added to the scene. And of course, the chattering of the skeletons as they attempt speech in their undead form.
But like anything they can be overused or used to beat the players over the head instead of creating an imaginative world for them to inhabit. So, spoilers for Tommi and Helma, we are done with cliffhangers for a while.
Picking Their Fights
D&D, in all of its iterations, is a monster fighting game. But Tommi and Helma are not fighting just to fight. They are picking their battles well and I think this game is more manageable and enjoyable because of it. We are not constantly worrying over resources and rest or how much healing is needed. And in this way the fight with the dark fae creature feels more dramatic. At least to me.