Navah: The Forgotten Sodality of the Old Ones

The party found Garryan with the Outsiders, and Brendan convinced him to accompany them to rescue baby Bailey. The Glorious Guard had located the baby and their mage Endoran had hidden him in a Shaped cavern very near the crib from which they had stolen him. They told the party that the only other things they could tell them was that the entrance to the Red Elf’s lair was a secret door in his stall in the Downmarket, and that the lair was below Cramoisi and the Downlow itself.

Alexios found the secret door and easily opened it. The party descended but the first room frightened them. It was filled with stone poukas of Old Ones whom the earth elemental told them were stone but also alive. Expecting them to attack at any moment, the party moved forward. Eventually they found themselves in a large hallway and turning a corner, Brendan found himself face to face with a Slarg (an enormous demon). Brendan tried fruitlessly to parry the Slarg’s thick and immensely strong clawed arm, which then snipped him nearly in half, crushing his plate armor as well. Brendan collapsed with a grim wound (worth 3 major wounds). Alexios tumbled to his side to help, while Ian attacked the monster itself. He struck it with what would have been a terrible blow to a human, but which to the Slarg was only a minor wound. Thankfully, Josette was able to Banish the creature, else it would have slain them all. Ian did some rough surgery on the archer, putting his organs and intestines back inside of him and sewing him shut. Josette cast Sorcery successfully, healing 1 major wound, and then applied an Elfin healing unguent, healing another. Brendan was still suffering the effects of 1 major wound, but he was well enough to cast Body Control and slow his bleeding. Josette lifted his legs and her earth elemental lifted his upper body, and they carried him after the rest of the party, which insisted on continuing their search for Bailey. They thankfully found nothing but an alchemy lab and supply rooms, where they spent several hours eating and resting. The next day, Josette healed the rest of Brendan’s wounds.

The very next room, while they talked with Pongnam the living +2 helmet, they were attacked by another demon, this time by an old man with blades instead of arms (a Slinderjaard). Brendan took some minor damage, but he and Ian put down the demon with a cut across the belly and then a coup de grace. Brendan made friends with Pongnam, who admired Brendan’s hat. Brendan gave Pongnam permission to wear the hat, while Brendan wore Pongnam. Alexios again made futile efforts to keep the party quiet so he could scout ahead, so Brendan and Pongnam took to whispering among themselves about him.

This brought the party to the bedroom of the Red Elf, whom they knew as Loren Leafrustle (not his real name). They began to explore the room, not knowing that the Elf had successfully cast Glamour on all of them and made himself invisible. When he began to attack Josette, only the Selkie, Josette, and Pongnam saw Josette being attacked, and even they did not see the Elf himself. Josette felt the attacks and recognized that the Elf was using a flaming blade on her, though she could not see it. Josette and the Selkie fled, and eventually escaped. Alexios eventually noticed the attacks, and tried to fight the invisible Elf. Brendan saw nothing, but Pongnam told him of Josette’s difficulty, and he tried to snap Ian (their best fighter) out of his daze. He failed, even after punching Ian full in the face and giving him a nose bleed. Ian was still enthralled, and kept searching for Bailey. Both Alexios (at -4 to hit) and Brendan (at -8 to hit) slashed the air hoping to hit the Elf, so the Red Elf fled the room. Josette had returned by this time, and ordered the fire elemental to burn the area in front of her, hoping to hit the Elf. Instead, she unknowingly hit Alexios, whose legs was burnt to a crisp by the time the party came out of their ensorcelment and Josette called off the elemental. Josette cured 1 of his major wounds with Sorcery, but he had to wait another day for her to heal the 2nd major wound. In the meantime, the Glorious Guard found the party and delivered Bailey to them. Surprisingly, the Selkie was able to nurse Bailey, who was very hungry and needed a change. Alexios tried to pick the lock in the Elf’s bedroom, but failed miserably, and refused to let Brendan use his mithril lockpicks in his own attempt, so Josette Shaped the chest open, and they found emeralds, rubies, and diamonds worth over 5,000 s.

The evening ended with a door and a passage unexplored, and the party split on what they should do next.

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Navah: Gang Wars on Two Planes

The party decided to withdraw with Rametta from the fight, led by Rametta herself. Josette sent her bear to extricate Alexios from the battle. In the two rounds of combat that Alexios and the bear witnessed after the rest of the party left, here’s what they saw:

The stranger whistles and six flying daggers launch from his bandoleer, and begin to harry his attackers, dropping their defense to 2. He begins carving them with each sweep of his sword, stopping only to kill each and every one of the wounded. He is carving everyone between him and her.  

Round 1: Mabilla the Mask is on his left. She is caught on a table as she stumbles back. The stranger’s blade cleaves her side and her body pitches to the right, gushing blood. Nick Wynteryngham is in the middle, and desperately tries to parry. A critical hit carves him in two and the stranger takes a slight step back as Nick’s upper half lands facefirst in front of him.  Agetio is on his right and though much more skilled than the other two, he fares little better. He manages an attack but the stranger parries it easily, and the tip of the longsword rips along his abdomen, and he drops in pain. A second slash cuts off his left foot, and a third separates his two halves. The stranger’s final attack is to Magge Elvet, whose left hand flies off, accompanied by the dagger that was in it. Magge snarls and prepares to attack.

The youth  faces Helewis and Oldio. He cuts Helewis across the chest (minor wound), and then strikes Oldio a major wound in the left arm. Helewis loses his sword as it flies across the room, but Oldio scores a critical hit on the youth’s left arm, and deals a major wound.

Round 2:  In Old Imperial, the stranger says, “back” to his companion, and then ease to the right to cover him. The dancing sword follows. The stranger first cuts down Magge, slicing through her right upper leg, and then brings his sword down on Oldio’s helm crushing his skull. Oldio drops immediately. Helewis manages to retreat back through the other men, as they are now milling in confusion. The youth retreats and wraps a scarf around his left arm. The stranger advances. Mylecent Maudevyle is trying to get out of the fight, but she is blocked by Helewis, and her head flies past the eyes of Jeliana Bours. Jeliana’s head follows Mylecent’s.  Olyver the Bastard lunges at the stranger, and seems to strike him in the head, but his blade passes harmlessly through the other’s helm, placing him dangerously off balance and in the next second, Olyver’s head is split in two. Cecili Crossby, a fine archer but a poor swordswoman, screams and flees, only to be cut down with a slash to her back.

More graphic bloodshed follows, but the players are not interested in hearing it, which disappoints me as a DM but is perfectly understandable I suppose. The players flee, with Rametta leading them to the main guardhouse where she hopes to take refuge. Of her many guardians, only the players and Reine and Helewis escape alive.

The party decides this is a good time to visit Faerie with Garryan, so they purchase animal masks (Alexios is a Rat Snake, Josette is a Cow, Brendan is a Beagle, and Ian is a Lion) and follow Garryan into the Thieves’ Tunnels that lead from the Maze to Uptown. From there they go to Beleby Manor and climb the wall, avoiding the black ooze that guards the top of the wall. They enter the famous Beleby Gardens but their talking brings Raadrapo the Mad Gardener, who protects the Gardens with his slingblade. Ian and Brendan both make several Speak rolls, convincing Raadrapo that they will not harm the garden, and he grudgingly retreats. The party discovers the hidden passage to Faerie in the gazebo and descend, all except for the bear, who cannot fit.

The party emerges in the Gardens of Cramoisi, the Red Elf city. Garryan warns them of the dangers and tells them to follow him. When Garryan is suddenly eaten (an illusion), Ian continues faithfully on and is apparently eaten as well (another illusion). Brendan takes the bait and steps off the path, right into the clutches of a psionic man-eating plant. Luckily, he had his sword out, and he cuts his way to freedom. After a daffodil barbershop quartet and a tempting purple flower that looks like jewels (from Rappacini’s Daughter by Hawthorne), the party emerges into the Downlow, the lowest of the ten levels of Cramoisi. For your edification, here’s the levels, as described by Garryan:

  1. “The Exalted is the top level, for the exclusive delight of the Overlord and his guests. Pray you never go there, because you won’t come back, at least in one piece.”
  1. “The Lord’s Walk is where the city’s leaders live. Nobody I know has ever been there.”
  1. “The Red Elves live up in Pleasant Hills and above. The Citedal, they call the top three levels. Beautiful they say. A few minstrels have played up there, and they tell tales of the magnificence of the furnishings, the elegance of the ladies, and the unmatched quality of the wines. We’ll never see that place, I assure you.”
  1. “The Gallery! Oh what I wouldn’t give to get up there! The finest goods from all over Faerie. Weapons of Quality, Demon Blades, Fancy Potions, and Deadly Poisons. Heavily guarded of course. Nobody gets up there up except the Red Elves and the richest of those from the Market. About the only way to get up there from here is to work with one of the merchants from the Market, one that has a license to sell in the Gallery occasionally. And none of them are going to take a chance on losing that license, especially when it would probably mean being drawn and quartered as well.”
  1. “Oh, you don’t want to go up there. That’s the Towers — giants, ogres, and dragons. It’s always forty feet high or more, but there’s no need of guards. Anyone caught up there just gets eaten.”
  1. “Ah, the Market! This place is great. Good food, lots of things to buy, and enough guards to keep people civil but not enough to get in the way. Lovely!”
  1. “The Plains! Yech. The City Guard is everywhere, and those well-off enough are anxious to keep everything they have, and crawl over each other to get higher.”
  1. “Downmarket. That’s where we’re headed. It’s the lowest of the markets and anything can be purchased here, if they have it. A lot of thieves though, so watch out. Besides the Brambles, this is probably the most dangerous level.”
  1. “The Jungle is pretty safe — it’s most workers’ homes. There’s lots of poukas, but also a lot of Wee Folk. The Wee Folk are better off than most, ‘cause most of them have a secret passage up to the Gallery or Pleasant Hills. They are constantly fighting against the rats, which is why we don’t see the Glorious Guard much in the Downlow.”
  1. “The garden is in the middle of the Downlow. That’s the bottom level of the city, or at least the ground level. It is inhabited only by the poorest of Poukas and the Iron Folk. The Brambles is to the southwest, but we definitely don’t want to go there. The Gnoles control that area and hire Geraede to guard it. But Red Elves rarely come down here, so the Downlow is safe, as long as you can take care of yourself and as long as you don’t stir up one of the gangs. There’s bunch of them: The Toughs, the Iron Folk, the Lost, the Fancies, the Fliers, the Hounds, the Outsiders, the Pounders, the Gnawers, the Old Ones, the Ogres, the Pitfiends, the Puffers, the Unseen, and the Glorious Guard. I’ve got an in with the Guard and with the Lost, and of course the Outsiders, but none of them are very strong. The Unseen are no problem. But around the rest, watch your step. You can see the Gardens is the biggest open space up here. It goes up all the way to the Plains, but we can’t get there from here. Too many guards. We’ll work our way up side paths that run along the Causeway. And the garden is pretty dangerous, so people look, but don’t generally visit.”

The party is caught between a gang war between the Fancies and the Iron Folk, but Josette Shapes a door and they escape into the home of an ancient Pig Pouka. Announcing that he is her nephew, Brendan gains her trust and she provides tea and cookies for all of her nieces and nephews. She is amazed that they have visited, since Faeries cannot have children (that’s they they steal human babies), but she figures she must be an amazing pouka. Garryan takes them to the Outsiders, who tell them that the Monaciello named Bubbles has the baby, and is selling him in the Downmarket.

Garryan leads them on to the Downmarket, where they purchase a few items and then track Bubbles to a stall run by a fox pouka. The pouka sees through their disguises and soon they realize that they are merely talking to an illusion. The fox pouka must have been a Red Elf! Garryan flees, leaving the players to their own devices. The party returns to the Pig Pouka, where Ian manages to convince her he is a lion. He is forced to hide silently in the room while the rest of the team enjoys the cookies once more. Brendan finds the location of the Lost (human changelings) in the Downlow from Piggy, and they visit the Lost, where they agree to help the Lost return to Navah if the Lost help them find the baby.

The Lost take them to the Glorious Guard, where the party buys their help with a silver mirror and some string. Shortly thereafter, the Guard reports they have found the stall where the baby is being held, and that Garryan has returned to the Outsiders. The players prepare for an assault on the stall, while Josette sends word to Garryan through the Lost as to what they are about to do. And here we ended for the night.

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MERP: Trying to Map Middle Earth

I got pretty obsessed with Middle Earth again when I started playing MERP. Pete Fenlon put together a bunch of great Middle Earth maps that were published through ICE in the 1980s, and I have all of those (I think) but they didn’t have everything, and they didn’t have it all on one big digital map. When I game in my world (Navah), I have maps of different scales, all digital, usually with a multitude of layers (geographic features, water, cities & towns, trails & roads, names, forests, secret features) that let me print off whatever maps I want for either myself or my players. All of the ICE maps are set in the Third Age, and our campaign is in the Second, so names are incorrect, and there’s a lot of things missing that are listed in the ICE modules themselves. So I have now made four abortive efforts to create my wondrous map, and have decided to concentrate on mapping only the Anduin Valley (for our campaign) in the Second Age, and then go back and work on my world. Here’s why:

1. First Attempt: I have all those Pete Fenlon maps, so why not scan them in and just stitch them together? Because production of each of these included a camera, which created lens distortion. The further one is from the center, the greater the distortion. To get Northern Mirkwood to match up with Southern Mirkwood and the Anduin Valley, I have to cut up the Valley into 3-4 pieces, move those about in various layers, then distort those pieces to make them match up, make corrections by hand to the sections that don’t match up, and then merge them all again. It would look good, but it would add a lot of distortion to the image. Also, I’d still want to remove all the names from the map (so I can put those on separate layers — Players, 3rd Age, Referee’s 3rd Age, Players’ 2nd Age, Referee’s 2nd Age, etc.) and again I would be left recreating mountain and forest sections that were written over on the original map.

2. Second Attempt: Remember that great black and white map from the LOTR back in the 1970s? The one with all of the red lettering? Well, there’s a huge scan out there of that. It’s covered with the words, and someone’s green and blue markings, but I can remove all of that and then patch the sections where the words were. So I do that, but what I learn is that the resolution is so poor that I’m basically going to have to redraw the entire map, and THEN add in all the details that ICE made. Not my idea of fun either. But anyway, I got the initial clean-up done, and some of you might want to use it, so here it is. I redrew the trails, added some trees (some well, some not so well — I was about to make a tree template png to redo that), and added new symbols for Minas Arnor and Minas Ithil.

B&W map of Middle Earth, without names

3. Third Attempt: My referee gives me the map he uses. We still don’t know who put it together originally, but Michael Heilemann used it as well and aged it for his One Ring game. Kudos to whoever actually finishing that effort of stitching Pete’s maps together! Here’s the unaged map.

Unfortunately, the resolution on the full map is not as good as I was getting in my stitching effort. Here’s what I mean:
My MERP stitch map compared with the completed one on the web.
You can see the junk at the right showing that mine was still being worked on, but the resolution was better. But it didn’t satisfy my desire for the best MERP map ever. So…

4. Fourth Attempt: I am giving up on a grand detailed Middle Earth map and instead concentrating on an Anduin Valley map for our campaign. When Peter Jackson tried to make the Hobbit into a trilogy of movies (shudder!), he hired some enthusiastic map makers. They came up with a cool Google Earth style view of Middle Earth (go to “Explore the Map”), or at least the area involved with the Hobbit. It’s actually six maps. Four of these make up the physical landscape, and are 4 tiles of equivalent size. I glued those together and will try using that as my map, though there are a lot of problems. Right off the bat I can see that Mirkwood Forest comes way too close to the River Anduin, but maybe I can play that off by saying that this is the Second Age, and the forest is larger. I’ll let you know what happens. The other two maps, by the way, were a map showing the heights of the peaks, and a mask map of the water regions, so they could add sparkle and waves.

And in the meantime, I’ll just reread the ICE stuff and organize my old Pete Fenlon maps so I can find them easier. However, I see that Pete Fenlon released a style pack in The Cartographer’s Annual 2, so I think I’ll buy that as well.

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MERP: Escaping the Mines

Elentari, Hammrammr, Araluth, & Bregor lead forty freed slaves, including Theyn Osric, into another slave mine. There the six guards run away, followed quickly by the five guards in the center. The group swells to sixty freedmen, including Jor and Leosil. Arms are not plentiful — over their flight they scavenge 12 scimitars, 10 pickaxes, 7 daggers, 2 clubs, and 2 spears. They flee downwards, cutting two suspension bridges behind them, but the goblins still pursue them from one of the remaining tunnels. The group keeps going, assisting the wounded, with Hammrammr in rear guard and Jor, Osric, and Leosil in the middle, while Elentari, Araluth, & Bregor lead. They reach an underground lake and kill the sole guard, and then start ferrying the wounded across to the other side, 15 at a time. Jor, Osric, and Leosil are sent to the other side. Elentari, Araluth, Bregor, and Hammrammr prepare to hold the rear.

On the other side, a group of goblins descends, and Jor sends a lightning bolt among them. The goblins flee, and the party pursues, only to retreat once more as a Stone Troll comes towards them.

On the near side, Araluth uses two oils to create a flaming barrier 40 feet in front of them, giving them a few rounds of arrow fire to attack. Araluth dons his chainmail and Hammrammr removes his clothes and transforms into a bear. As the fire dies down, Hammrammr attacks and the others follow with sword and shield. They kill another three orcs, then Bregor is sorely wounded and is sent with the third ferry across the water, just as Leosil shouts that there is a Cave Troll. So much for sending Bregor to safety. Hammrammr is taking a lot of wounds, but he does have more hit points as a bear. He’s not doing much more damage though. Beorn is usually pictured as a giant bear, and even in his smallest representation, he’s tearing through the goblins.

David Wenzel's illustration of Beorn killing orcs at the Battle of Five Armies.

There’s even a painting by Tolkien himself showing how he saw a bear fighting goblins.

Tolkien's Polar Bear fights the goblins easily

And here we paused. Our treasure so far? 17 c. and 3 s. but among the freed miners are 4 dwarves, 2 elves, and 12 Northmen. We haven’t lost any…. yet. That will probably change in the next session. We went the same way that Marty the escaped slave did, but we never found him. Too bad, I was hoping we would meet up.

 

 

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Magic the Gathering Cards for the Cold War

The Spanish blog 1d10 en la mochila posted a set of cards based on Magic the Gathering but aimed at re-enacting the Cold War. Natxo corrected me on these. Originally I thought he had created these for his 4th grade English class, but what really happened was that the students developed the cards themselves. Better pedagogical practice, really. The history is messed up at times, which might expect. Here’s some examples:

  • Stalin gives the Soviets +2, instead of killing millions of his own countrymen.
  • Khrushchev actually resurrects Stalin, rather then burying him with the Secret Speech.
  • The Russian bomber in the game is a B-29 Superfortress, not a Tupolev TU-95.
  • South Korea uses a picture from Vietnam (black top rather than white is the giveaway).

On the other hand, the U.S. comes off looking awfully good, with 4 American medics giving lives to everyone and 3 Privilege cards showing how good it is on the other side of the wall. Thanks to Natxo for correcting me! It is always good to see a creative teacher and the work his students do!

Posted in Card Games, Education, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Thinking about Experience Levels and Journeyman

Journeyman doesn’t have levels. It is a skill-based system where characters accrue expertise through training over time. Some characters accrue those skills faster than others.  There are four types of people: Background, Colorful, Significant, and Heroic. The difference between these is how quickly they accrue skills. Heroic characters develop skills twice as fast as Significant characters, who develop twice as fast as Colorful characters, who develop twice as fast as Background characters. Player Characters are Significant characters, and can acquire mastery of weapons by the time they are 21, whereas it may take a Background character 50 years or more to become that skilled. Heroic characters are NPC characters like Conan, who is a master at the age of 14 or 15. Normal NPCs are usually Colorful characters — better than Background folks but about half as good as the Player Characters.

So what does this have to do with levels? Well, a lot of players come from systems like D&D which does have levels, and they are sometimes confused about how to rank characters. The way to think about it is to remember that in Original D&D, a warrior’s level was the number of men that character was worth on the battlefield. So, a 7th level fighter was as good as 7 other men. In Journeyman, a typical Background warrior youth might have a 5 skill in Weapons. A Colorful Character of the same age would have a 10, while a Significant character would have a 20, and a Heroic character might have 40. If the Background character is level 1, the Colorful is level 2, the Significant level 4, and the Heroic is level 8. That’s one way of thinking about it, though the better the warrior is, the more critical hits he will score and the less fumbles, which makes a big difference.  Heroic character would actually deal more like 10 times the damage that a background character would, thanks to critical hits, which would make him the equivalent of 10th level.

An important difference between level systems and Journeyman is that one does not increase in the amount of damage that one can take in Journeyman. There are no hit points. The amount of damage one can take is determined by one’s MASS and by the armor or protection one has. More than that, one typically divides one’s skill against multiple attackers, which make it even easier to get hit. Because of this, it is much easier to get wounded or killed in Journeyman. Combat is usually short and bloody, which I like. The combat feels like combat, and for that reason players will often try to either stay out of it or work to gain an unfair advantage, just as in the real world. Spending less time on combat also makes more time for character interaction and development outside combat, which leads to more richly developed characters. Finally, without experience points and levels, there is no reward for killing everything that moves (unless one’s character just loves killing!).

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Navah: The Waller-Walshe Gang War

Two years have passed since the party’s last adventure.  There are no experience or levels in Journeyman. Instead, skills are accrued over time. It is my belief that adventures are infrequent things, and that 2-5 years pass between them, giving the characters a chance to improve, to seek romance or promotion, or to devote some time to a career.

Josette spent that time ensconced in the library of the Imperial College of Magic, training in Telepathy, Sorcery, and Shaping. She also refreshed her gang of spirits, binding a bear pouka and a medium earth elemental to supplement her Selkie and small fire elemental.

Brendon easily enlisted in the Royal Archers, though what he trained in won’t be known until his player returns from his honeymoon.

Alexios practiced his art, poorly. He made a profit but was flogged twice (the laws of Anthavar have become more severe over the many years we have been playing, but I haven’t revised the yearly update rules recently, so he got off easy). Alexios worked on his weapons, Marksmanship, and Sneak. He also had two new romances, both with older women. His first was a 41 year old merchant with 9 kids, who now serves as his second fence. The second was with a 51 year old knight whose political power may prove useful in the future. He toyed briefly with the idea of revisiting Gardell to see if any two-year-olds bore a family resemblance, but after learning that such a visit would cut into his training (and hence his skill increases), he decided to put it off.

Ian enlisted as a man-at-arms for the first year, and then invested 500 p. in greasing some palms for a promotion, and made it into the Royal Archers, a much more remunerative post. He began a romance with a Seer, and continued it for a second year. He swears he is not thinking of marriage, but she sees a different future for him.

Somehow, Brendon and Alexios both made enemies of the masters of the Cheesemakers’ Guild. I have no idea how that will enter the game yet.

The night’s game began with the death of Alagga Swerd, a Night Guardsman in the Maze. The original rumor of her death was that it was an overdose, but in reality it was an overdose of steel in the belly, all too common in the Maze.

While this was interesting, the main adventure began when Ian’s neighbors Falairmmalind & Meredith Pountfrete screamed that their baby had been stolen. A number of baby thefts had occurred recently, so much so that Uncle Toby of the Broken Branch gang had offered 10,000 s. to anyone who brought an end to the thefts.

A good deal of time was wasted at the start as Ian hired a seer to scan not only himself but all of the rest of the party as well, at 300 p. a pop. He wanted to be sure none of them had stolen the baby. That lost a good four hours on the search.

Once that was done, the party tried a number of methods to discover the culprit, but none were successful. Josette and Ian went door to door up near Wellom Way, where Alagga’s body had been found. Brendan and Alexios went to talk to some of the Apple Pie Gang that Alexios knew. Brendan managed to screw that up again, and Alexios was furious that another of his underground contacts was turned against him, so Alexios sent Brendan into the Apple Pie Inn to interrogate the leader of the Apple Pie gang. Brendan was surrounded, threatened, and tossed out into the pig feces of the road. Alexios enjoyed his belly laugh. Finally, Josette was approached by a talking cat who claimed to know who did the deed, and who led them to an innkeeper who identified her as Meryld de Neuton, a local addict. He didn’t know who her supplier was, but by chance he pointed them to the exact right drug dealer, Andrew Trewe. Andrew remained calm under questioning, but Josette read his surface thoughts and signaled to the others that he knew more than he let on. As Alexios mentioned the reward, Andrew bolted, but he tumbled over something in the alley (perhaps a cat) and Ian caught him. Brendan threatened to skin the  man alive, while Ian begged Brendan to take it easy and just skin one hand. Since Brendan’s player was on his honeymoon, the parts of Ian and Brendan were both played by a single player, who carried on some rather amusing schizoid arguments between his two identities. Excellent roleplaying!

Andrew spilled what he knew, and Josette confirmed he told the truth. If they had pressed him further, the adventure might have ended much sooner, but they accepted his description of where to find Meryld and let him go, promising to visit him later if necessary. Meryld, it turned out, had overdosed, and there was no sign of baby Bailey. When they returned to find Andrew, he had fled, only to turn up with a slit throat the next day.

With leads drying up, Garyyan the talking cat revealed that she was tracking the baby snatchers because she believed they were connected with a faery drug ring smuggling Elfin Dreamwax into town in exchange for human male babies to be sold to the Red Elves. She told the party she could guide them to Faery and the Red Elfin city of Cramoisi, where they might pick up the trail, but the party was distracted by internal dissension that bordered on fist fights, and also by an increase in violence in the Maze. Ian went to his Sergeant in the Archers to explain that the reason he had not been at work the last two days was that he had been looking for a missing baby, which a magical beast had told him had been taken by the Red Elves. Sgt. Frizwald was not having any, and kicked both Ian and his friend Brendan out of the Archers and made them turn in their tabards.

At dinner on the third night of the adventure, Alexios (a member of the Walshe gang) was attacked by six bravos from the Waller gang. The rest of the party aided him and quickly tore through the attackers. Alexios’ new weapon skills proved their worth, while Josette’s bear clawed attackers down with ease. Josette’s fire elemental sent one foe fleeing from the inn, only to die two blocks later from his burns. Ian tried to leap a table but ended on his face, and then faced a vastly inferior foe who would just not give up. Ian delivered two grim wounds and a major wound, but the bravo kept making his WILL rolls against the onset of shock and his Courage rolls to keep fighting. Alexios attacked him from the back, and again, he sustained another grim wound but kept fighting. It took yet another grim wound to his abdomen by Ian to put him down. The remaining two foes surrendered. One died from blood loss and the other tourniqueted his near-severed leg and dragged himself from the inn, grimly nodding in polite agreement as Alexios lectured him at length on his stupidity for attacking them. Ian’s player meanwhile gleefully traced a bloody trail on the hex map and even added a touch of blood to his sword on his cardboard hero. Along the way, the party learned that Edolina Waller’s son Grieg had been killed, and the gang blamed his death on Rametta Walshe, so there was an open contract out on all of the Walshe gang members.

Alexios tried to use this moment to endear himself with Rametta, sending money and blades to her. Ultimately, he went to her personally, and was welcomed by Rametta and given the task of joining the rest of her men in protecting her. He went outside to get the rest of the party, and when he came in he was stunned to see two of Rametta’s men cutting down the rest. He literally refused to believe it, even as Josette tried to convince him of what was happening. As the party stared, one of the men swung his longsword at double normal speed, killing a man with each stroke. The men he was cutting down were Rametta’s best, men more skilled than even Ian with the blade. The first to die was Yellowknife, Rametta’s own son, followed by Georg of Barton and Otho the Unlucky. The stranger’s left flank was guarded by a dancing sword who held two men at bay, and his right flank was protected by a young man of great skill. Josette had her earth elemental form a protective wall around Rametta and herself, while Alexios lunged towards the stranger’s left flank, only to be met by the dancing sword. Ian initially hoped for a way to enter the melee, but as he watched the stranger, his apprehension mounted. The man struck twice as fast as anyone should, and with the strength of two to three men. The stranger cut through a man’s entire thigh, plate mail and all. His skill with a blade was unparalleled. Ian was a master of the sword twice over, but he knew he could not stand against this man in single combat. And the stranger’s plate armor glinted strangely in the low light, hinting that it too was unusual. The night ended here, as the party considered the possibility that they might need to retreat, and fairly quickly.

Ridiculous attack with a longsword splits an axe handle and then a chest

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