Posts Tagged Antiva

The House of Bastardy.

Location:The Great and Glorious Embassy of the Khutan Empire.

Iswann, The Bastard as the locals called him, contemplated the state of his affairs. He was sat one of the many reception rooms in the Great Embassy of Khutan. He eyed the remains of the lavish breakfast he’d consumed and considered the merits of another round. It had been some time since he’d spoken to Antiva, the Monk-priest and he felt good about that. Oh, they’d resolved their differences after the falling out they’d had when investigating the mansion after they’d banished the mad Frog Priest Spune. Antiva had much more invested in the ways of the Old Country then he had. He was obsessed with this search for some long lost power – the arcane ruled his life and that wasn’t high on Iswann’s agenda.

Iswann, in contrast had been the Bastard in residence in Lankhmar for so long now, and the official duties of Bastardy were so esoteric and light that privately he felt very little loyalty to the Empire any more. Of course he never gave Voice to these thoughts but no one in the Embassy would have dared batter an eye-lid if he did.

He was more interested in the family business and getting the Swordsmans’ Guild back into the state it deserved to be. For this he needed pots of cash – really pits of cash. That’s where the Jade Gluditch of Solitude came in. Or rather it didn’t because fuck knows where it was.

He really couldn’t recall all the finer details of how it fell into their possession and why Burli was entrusted with keeping it. It was something they’d got from the Dough Magnate – Pilsbury. They had made substantial money out of saving the city and getting the Jeweller back to safety. However the real deal breaker, and what could get the Guild and his personal estate back into the black that his mother insisted he sorted out was by selling off that Artifact. Problem was – no one would touch it with a barge pole. Then Burli had been robbed. Then he’d been charged with manslaughter in the first degree in passionate flagrantly – or whatever it was the lawyers were calling it today. And just to kick them firmly in the teeth – the Last Princess of the Cold Wastes – stone-cold fucking dead. He threw a dagger into the wall disconsolately as a passing minion tidied up around his largesse. Of course the minion didnt speak – they were trained not to. Nor did she show any outrage or reaction to his outburst. They all knew better than that. She just silently plucked the dagger from the priceless stucco-decorated wall, popped it onto the tray to return with the other things and made a mental note to inform Gregorious of the need to hire the famed Artist to come and re-do the face of the Third Inglorious Bastard. Again.

He toyed with his cream-cheese bagel as the minion cleared things away. He stared for a moment at the smoked salmon on his fork. Fish. Fishing. It rang a bell. The fisherman and that hedge-witch type. He struggled to recall their names. Amberrh had sensibly left Lankhmar to lie low and keep a low profile. Burli had gone with. They’d got caught up with some Marshlanders. Ironically this escapade had brought them back to the city. Antiva had been involved – somehow. So the princess ended up being in danger again. It made his head spin. His thoughts turned to the death of Grendowynn. Now the death of the princess. The Bastards were infamous instigators of mass death – well, his great, great grandfather Tehrwann was the last Bastard to raise the Warrior-Caste into battle.

His eyes fell on the dramatic painting that depicted the Almighty Destruction of the Gerhun. No Gerhun lived it was said. The wrath of the Caste had been such that the battlefield was impervious to life and remained so to this present day. The desert of death as it is known now, the tenuous transcendental inter-planar junction to the after-life. So many had been sent to their deaths (so the record-keeping caste told him) that a bridge direct to the underworld had to be built by the Magus. Problem was he never quite figured out how to dismantle it afterwards. Another thought tickled him but he pushed it away as sheet insanity.

Oh there’d been skirmishes since then, all presided over by the Bastardy. None as great as his ancestors. When that fateful day he ascended the Endless Stair to meet with the God-Emperor, and in doing so was appointed the task of the office of Bastardy his mother had been insufferably proud. Auspicious she’d called it to have two of their line in such a prestigious role.

What had it brought them? A posting to the Heathen Lands. Banished to this forsaken pit of seething villainy. How he loved it. Everything he could do to prolong the need for the Empire to have the Embassy at Lankhmar was justifiable to Iswann. Even if that meant arranging for the Last Ambassador to have an untimely accident. Well those reports he wanted to send – sedition! Recommendations for the cessation of political indemnity. Insufferable!

His fingers stroked the Writ of Legal summons. Once the seal was broken you were magico-legally bound to appear before the issuer. This was heavy stuff. Shame he’d not undertaken to open it. But then he had no need to. The Emissary had invited him anyway. So he could appear and not be bound by the magical imperative and hear out the evidence that Burli’s defence lawyer required for the hearing.

Maybe he had the opportunity of getting Burli off the hook without recourse to strong-arm diplomacy. Perhaps he could find out if the Emissary had encountered the Artifact. If so, there was a chance to at least tie up that loose end if nothing else. In the meantime perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to see if he could locate the Hedge-Witch and the Huntsman. Maybe they could e d value after all. They’d been partly responsible for bringing the Princess and the Toymaker back to the city ill-advisedly early. So from his point of view they could at least make amends for this mess now that it affected him and the House.
He turned to the serving-boy who had been stood stock still for at least a half-hour by the doorway. He uttered four words that catapulted the boy into action.
“Bring me that priest”. He bit his tongue after saying it, however he could see no other way of getting things to happen without dealing with Antiva again. He stabbed the fork into the arm of his chair, rose, adjusted his swords and swung his cape majestically around his shoulders before heading off to his first appointment of the day.

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Main Hydra Campaign Session 10 – What Became of the Hirinian Jeweller?

Preamble and What To Do With Your PC’s In Between Scenarios.

Adjust The Speed Of Game Time & Explore What PC’s ‘Do’ Between Adventures.

We had a bit of extra time at the beginning of our last session because I managed to pitch up early to the RPG club for once in my life. We used the opportunity to work out what the characters had been up to flush from their success working for Lord Pilsbury and eliminating the terrorist Grungh threat. (See Sessions 1-9 in the Campaign Session Journal). Here we did the old DM’s trick of accelerating gametime to quickly zip through the intervening time between sessions. I just did a quick roll on 3d3 for how many months had passed and described the changing of the seasons accordingly. (We’ve are now in month of the Lion which is the Lankhmarian equivalent of July). It also enabled me to continue trialling the Hydra rules on training up attributes and skills that the player can do at the cost of time and money.

Get Them To Spend Their Hard-Earned Smerducks On Character Development.

In this way the player characters can spend their hard earned adventuring money not just on pretty baubles, but also on self-development – purchasing new spells, new skills and working on making themselves heroic. Just in time to become skint enough to take on another foolhardy adventure! During this time you can have NPC’s they know (like Burli or Fillestro  in our campaign) sidle up with new bits of info, plot-hooks and developments on the remainder of plot- elements from previous games. In this case there is still the matter of the Jade Statue of the Gods of Trouble. Burli advised Iswann to keep it hidden, and if he wanted to try and claim the ‘reward’ on offer then he was best served getting some other sucker to try and collect it. It being common knowledge that the Temple was on the warpath to get their statuette back –rumours of assassins, mercenaries and the like being approached to get it returned. This scenario follows on and picks up from one of the events that wasn’t followed up in the previous scenario. In this way you get a sense of congruity and meaningfulness about the off-shoots of events and sub-plots that you scatter in amongst your main games.

Portray The Development Of The PC As They Strive Towards Heroism/Notoriety.

In a matter of about a half hour of real time we’d figured out Iswann’s focus of activities for the next 3 months, taking the party from spring into summer. Vincent did all his experience checks from the last scenario and I described any noticeable improvement in skills qualitatively as a result. He then paid for Iswann to do some weapon and strength (attribute) training. Whilst the attribute has increased numerically it hadn’t shifted a descriptive category or influenced any derived attributes. However I like to indicate progress with skill increases by indicating qualitatively how close the character is to the next category level. So for instance having had his Cliff Toad Whip made Iswann spent most of his three months in training at his family home using the new weapon. He started off as ‘Poor’ (the opening category description for using a Whip) and we checked out whether his dexterity was good enough to use such a tricksy bit of kit – which it was. He then splashed out his hard earnings on a weekly training programme to push the percentile underneath up, and with the two and a half-months he had available to train and with the money that he had to spend he was able to push it up to ‘Fair’.

Appraisal Of Skill Use And Chance of Success.

In Hydra there is a systematic way of describing the probabilities attached to these skill levels, and at a ‘Fair ‘level of ability the individual is described as being able to hit the mark about half of the time provided it’s not too far or more difficult to hit. This gives the player an idea of their ability without knowing the actual amount. The DM provides ‘appraisal’ descriptions depending on the degree of success of an appraisal roll the player makes with their given ability that enables them to have some idea of how likely they are to be successful in using their skill in a given situation. Naturally the DM applies situation modifiers and adjusts the accuracy of their appraisal according to the degree of success of their appraisal roll.

Iswann found himself a bit out of pocket after all this and is now a bit in debt to the family because of his largesse. I role-played this out a bit by having a ‘family meeting’ and his mother giving the family a lecture on fiscal responsibility and the need to fill the family coffers this coming season. I made the matriarch of the house give him lots of eye contact throughout this little interlude. Of course unfortunately George’s character Glenda died in the last session so all we could do was finish off a few bits with his new character Moolsh – just tying up a few loose ends. We have yet to establish how Antiva spent his downtime as Jordan was tied up at the beginning of the session but we will do so retrospectively.

“I’m not a Dwarf, I’m Hirinian you Lofty Delicate Types.” Gray’am AxeSplitter of Xanth.

By the month of the Lion the company as is was sat in the cracked head reminiscing over their lost compatriot. This time George took on the role of Moolsh the thief-spy compatriot of his previous character Glendawynn. Sat in the head having a few jars they are joined by Burli who taps the Bastard for a drink. Burli is desperate to get some decent cash together so that he can pay off various members of the militia to help out his girl-friend the feisty self-styled barbarian princess Amberrh who is ‘laying low’ in the outer reaches of the Great Salt Marsh. (See the Second Playtest Group Sessions for more of Amberrh’s predicament). She has had so many run-ins with the local constabulary for ‘misunderstandings’ (mainly assault) and also with unlicensed thieves intent on stealing her family heirloom from her (hence the assaults) that she has had to go into hiding. Burli is trying to sort out the mess with the constabulary. And that costs! Burli has heard that Pilsbury has a job for Iswann and his friends and he wants ‘in’ on the escapade. Unable to lay hands on Antiva for the moment, who is absorbed in telling Riffkin’s fortune in the bar, they head off the same evening for the Flour magnate’s mansion on the West Side of the Park District.

Batting off the usual offers from street vendors and prostitutes that comes with being men about town late at night Moolsh, Iswann and Burli arrive relatively unmolested at the impressive mansion house of Pilsbury. They chat with the somewhat bizarre late-night gardener Titchmarsh, whom some say uses arcane abilities to foster the impressive topiary. They sit in the waiting room until Pilsbury makes his entrance with his newly acquired Ogre bodyguards. Moolsh isn’t impressed by his choice of companions but they are a fearsome pair. Ogre guards are the ‘must have’ of the would-be elite this season he notices. Pilsbury is rubbing his hands in contemplation of mayhem and profit as he smiles at the trio.

He reminds them of the fracas surrounding the loss of the Jeweller’s son at the same time his businesses were being attacked by Spune’s Terror Troops. A Hirinian Dwarf went missing all of the sudden named Darak. Several months down the line and he’s still missing. Nobody knows what’s happened to him but he has a significant stake in the Hirinian Family’s Jeweller’s business and there are taxes to be paid. Pilsbury is a ‘silent partner’ in this business and has a vested interested in what happens in terms of the ownership of the business, If he is dead, killed by the terrorists as some allege, then this needs verifying. There should be a will or similar, and if there is then Pilsbury wants that document so he can broker the transition of power. It may turn out that he could contest the will and get a controlling stake in the business and expand out of Flour and Bread into the profitable Jewel Market. Iswann and his band have proven themselves able to get results where the city Watch and Constabulory can not. Pilsbury offers them whatever support they need – he’ll pay for additional brute-force if needed, and the company can keep all the bounty and treasure they find on site. By all accounts Dashak was pretty mean with his money and loaded as a result. All he is interested in is either proof of the Hirinian’s death, and or/his will, or the Hirinian alive so that he can resolve his estate and financial affairs.

The party consider whom else would be useful to bring along and when Antiva arrives and they clue him in on the situation – to explore the possibly deceased Dwarf’s mansion and resolve the mystery of his disappearance. He immediately suggests they hire a Hirinian he met a couple of evenings ago in the Head, the first he’s ever seen. Going by the name of Gray’am Axesplitter he is an ex-pit fighter from Xanth and is working as a stevedore at the south docks on a small ship called the Silver Unicorn. The Party locate the Silver Unicorn thanks to the somewhat potty Harbourmaster and the bushy bearded Hirinian takes little persuading when he learns that it is a fellow countryman whose plight it is they are investigating. The prospect of reward and repair of his arms and armour is also a consideration. The stout fellow soon corrects Iswann however over the use of the term ‘Dwarf’. Most frowned upon – damn lanky impertinence!

They head into the north-east quarter of town where the Dwarf Artificer has his residence. It’s close to Ulris’s School near Death Alley. It stands alone in the centre of a walled-off garden. The garden has gone to pot and the mansion is locked up tight but with signs of ongoing neglect to the general décor. The double-doors are bound, banded and locked. Antiva and Moolsh climb their way up onto the roof as the Hirinian Axesplitter tackles the door with Glenda’s lock-picks. He gains entry just as Antiva and Moolsh scramble onto the roof.

Never Split the Party!

Gray’am, Iswann and Burli survey the entrance hall of the mansion. It’s deeply carpeted, no furniture. Smashed stain glass lying on the floor. Several doors lead off and stairs lead up to the second storey with an overhanging balcony. As they get lanterns prepared (it’s all sealed up inside and gloomy) and go to check out the respective doors they hear the sounds of chains rattling and low moaning from deep within the house, up above. It swiftly subsides however and Iswann worries that there may be zombies in the house. They can hear nothing beyond their own more anxious breathing and they make their way, Gray’am taking the lead down a small narrow corridor. Once again the Dwarf makes relatively light work of the door courtesy of the borrowed picks and they are in a much larger chamber, about equal in size to the front entrance with some light coming in from the window overlooking the garden.

The floors a bare and look in one corner to be rotten with woodworm. Iswann pokes about at the floor with his sword to see how bad it is and before he knows it the floor is collapsing before him. Scurrying out of the darkness two giant centipedes – a good 2’ high (they come up to Gray’am’s waist and over 10’ long attempt to bind themselves around the adventurer’s legs. Their scales deter Iswann’s frenzied dagger blows and their jaws are able to find nooks and crannies even in the Hirinian’s scale armour. Both Iswann and Gray’am fight off the sluggish effects of the centipede’s natural poison as Burli tries wrestling the outsize creatures off his companions. His grappling skills enable him to eventually hurl one of the centipedes into the corridor behind them and Gray’am slams the door shut with a well-timed axe swing. He is struggling with the poison of the the second giant centipede wrapped around him and the group as a whole rain blows upon the biting, twisting giant insect. Eventually their joint efforts batter it to death and Gray’am collapses sick with poison and bites upon the floor…

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