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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - The Key of Inquiry

We played some more of the Key Ring campaign last night. We're gearing up for the big classic adventure that I am going to run them through soon. I started planting the seeds tonight.

Tonight we started to go through Wyrmsmere by Chris Perkins, from Dragon Annual 1996. It's very short. The story in the adventure is about the heroes going to find another band of adventurers that stole potions of green dragon control. The group ends up exploring Wyrmsmere, a small keep on an island.

Problem: A thing happened that I dreaded: Technical difficulties. This is the reason why I don't want to do live games on Twitch. I want to post recordings on youtube so that way if something goes wrong with the recording, it's not live, no big deal.

I ended up accidentally doing something stupid with my power cord and it made things so the group had a hard time hearing me. They said my voice had a robotic quality.

I was quite dismayed, but I decided that this was a good opportunity for me to be quiet and let them do most of the talking.

Silence is Golden: They took over and all sorts of things happened. It was very eye-opening. There was a lot of character development and they pretty much sat there and made me laugh for two hours.

Ever since I ran that game for kids at the game store, I have a slightly different DMing mindset. I don't have kids. When I run these games, sometimes I feel like I'm the dad and the players are my kids. Not literally! I don't take them out for ice cream or anything like that.

I mean that I take pride in their achievements. I feel like my responsibility as a DM is to make sure they have a good time. That's the ultimate struggle, avoiding the billion pitfalls that can ruin sessions.

So tonight I had to sit back and with some groups I've run for, the game would have died. Either nobody would say anything or one person would try to take advantage of the situation and ruffle everyone else's feathers.

These players are all contributors. They work together to build something and seize on opportunities without ego. I would say that they saved this session tonight.

The Key Ring

(Andrew) Finy Teetoe - Halfling Rogue
(Pat) Gurn Sirensong - Gnome Bard
(Ashley) Lemuel - Human Rogue
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock

Last Time, the group stole a gem called the Star of the East. This gem apparently has the power to defeat the devils that are infesting the city.

Gurn had gotten sick, so I started off with him going home alone. He ran into some gnomes from out of town. They asked him for directions to an inn and were acting quite suspicious. They gave him a scroll and warned him that once he read it, his life would change forever.

Gurn went home to the tower and read the scroll. He felt energy enter his blood and a presence meld with him in some way. He remembers little of the contents of the scroll except for a giant letter "K."

This is all stuff linked to the future adventure, which I've started preparing.

The rest of the group fled the mansion, having successfully stolen the star of the east and a ton of jewelry.

On the way home, they passed by nobles heading to the party, unaware that the group had ruined it. The wife of Lord Lethos was wearing a key on her necklace - one of the keys Zavagor needs to complete his quest.

I had found an article in an old Dragon Magazine about magic keys, and looted it to use for this game.

Zavagor sweet-talked this lady and made up some story and got her to "loan" him the key in exchange for some of the stolen jewelry. The lady seemed quite charmed by him.

They continued heading home. A big procession was heading down the street towards them. It was the queen, carried on a palanquin. She was actually going to the party!

Lemuel recognized the Queen. We did a quick flashback. Lemuel used to work in a casino in the astral sea (created by one of my old players in the Scales of War campaign). The casino hosts major NPCs and entities from all over the D&D multiverse.

The Queen was a guest and Lemuel's job was to escort her around. Lemuel had 3 challenges:
  1. Stop Elminster from hitting on the Queen. In my campaign, I run Elminster like he's an overbearing jerk.
  2. Catch cheaters in three-dragon-ante games. Lemuel let the cheater cheat. The Queen has lots of money.
  3. Lemuel had to make a choice - Stop the drunk Queen from embarrassing herself or help her friend out of a jam. She helped the friend, who was dealing with an angry fire genie. The group learned about this backstory a bit later.
The heroes headed to Pollidemia's tower and studied the Star of the East. They learned that it has two powers:

It has a power that can be used only once, something that brings forth immense heavenly energy.
It can summon a creature.

When Zavagor held it, it actually did radiant damage to him. The gem seemed did not burn Lemuel or Finy.

The group studied the key of inquiry. Basically, you can used it on a bound creature (as in, tied up with a rope). You touch it to their head, and if they fail the saving throw, they must answer the next three questions truthfully.

Once the key is used on someone, it never works on them again.

The group decided that they should be immune to it so nobody can use it against them. So one by one, they tied each other up and used the key on each other.

This was a really amazing way for them to share their backstories with one another. The group learned a ton of stuff:

Origin of Lemuel: Lemuel was once some kind of planar entity. He was punished by Mari, he goddess of luck and cast to this world in mortal form. Lemuel had gotten involved in a love triangle with Mari and Lemuel lost.

What's funny is that Finy had stolen a statuette of Mari last session. For the rest of the evening, Finy would use it and sort of tease Lemuel with it. The group seemed to come to a consensus that Mari is a jerk.

Old commission of Mari, Goddess of Luck

This is when being the audience for your players is so great. Mari is a character who went from level 1 to level 30 in 4th edition. I would say that out of all the people I've ever played D&D, Mari’s player was the best player I've ever run for. She could see "through" the game in a unique way. Sometimes, when I would start to read the description for a trap or puzzle, she'd solve it before I finished talking!

Mari was hilarious. She made fun of everyone. She said some pretty vile things to Vecna to his face and lived to tell about it. She was part of the group that actually killed Tiamat in my setting.

So here I have players who have never met this person giving me their take on her character. Old players of mine love to hear when my new group runs into their character in some way.

Gurn actually admitted he really did believe in Zotzpox the imp as a god and that he would betray the group if Zotzpox asked him to.

Finy refused to answer questions. Zavagor answered some and Pollidemia, the somewhat evil sorceress did, too.

That night, Zavagor the warlock was summoned by his patron, Eeman. She's a fiery demon lord. I'm using some of the warlock ideas from Brimstone angels. Eeman marked Zavagor with infernal tattoos on his arm. Through this mark, they could sense each other's feelings and she could scry him much more easily.

Zavagor also met another warlock of hers - Warduke! In my campaign, Warduke's helmet is passed from person to person. This Warduke is a fighter/warlock. Zavagor learned that Warduke was taking care of some things just a few hundred miles from the city Zavagor was staying in.

Warduke looked him up and down, said nothing, and left.

The next day or two, the group sold their stolen goods and met again with Aryzon, the guy who is secretly a silver dragon.

He dropped the adventure hook on them - potions stolen by adventurers, went to Wyrmsmere... and off the group went. They were aware that Wyrmsmere is where Toxin the green dragon and the devils lived.

They journeyed through the forest, dodging winged cats who tried to swat at them.

They heard noise. Dragon wings, flapping. They looked up and saw a green dragon. Toxin! It didn't see them. What would they do? I had no idea.

Finy said something not in a quiet voice and Toxin heard him. Toxin swooped down toward them. Panicked, Finy held up the Star of the East and summoned the creature linked to it - it was an angel wearing gold and white. She was Aurora, Angel of Love.

Angels of Love are from the 4th edition Ecology of the Succubus article. Angels of Love are what the succubi were before they fell into hell. So an Angel of Love is a sort of good version of a succubus. They have powers which amuse me greatly.

Aurora is a goody-two-shoes. She flew up at Toxin and tried to give him her pacifying touch, but she missed.

Toxin breathed acid on her. The group started laughing as she fell from the sky and crashed to the ground. She was summoned and killed all at once!?

The group spread out and fired off ranged attacks, rolling a series of critical hits which actually staggered the young dragon.

Aurora got up. She was alive! She flew at him again and missed him again. The dragon gave her a claw/claw/bite and did piles and piles of damage. She fell from the sky again. She was still alive, but just barely.

One more critical made Toxin decide to flee for now.

The heroes joked around with Aurora, asked her if she could heal herself. She actually can't. She can heal others, but not herself with her power.

The summoning lasts for one hour, and can be done once per day. The group realized they had a new NPC sidekick on their hands if they wanted one.

While they were talking, Gurn noticed a presence in the forest. He slipped away. His "god" Zotzpox the imp was there, invisible! Zotzpox told Gurn he had a plan. He gave Gurn an infernal contract. If Gurn signed it, his soul would belong to Dispater for all eternity when he died. Gurn immediately signed!

That's where we stopped.

Good session!


Michael English said...

I am very curious. What boon did Gurn receive from Zotzpox/Dispater for signing the contract? And would YOU consider that worthwhile if your character would be confident they would live a full life? I could never see any of my players allowing their characters to do so. Even the thoroughly evil ones.

Michael English said...

(If you can't say on the forum, that's ok.)

Sean said...

Michael English: The boon is going to be a thing that sort of develops over time. In my campaign I use the Planescape idea that belief is what powers gods. Because Gurn really does believe in Zotzbox, Zotz has gained just a shred of divine might and someday he might be able to grant Gurn a spell or something. Gurn will need to form a church first!