So the gang was gathered for some more D&D.
Krissi and her ranger were suffering from a headcold, and so they were not with us.
This week's adventure was a change of pace for all of us. Our previous sessions have been spent either in the underground or in the wilderness. Aside from a few villagers, most everyone they met was interested only in a good fight. So, our previous sessions could easily be categorized as Dungeon Crawling. This week, they got to test their diplomacy and socializing.
When we'd left off last week, the group had just arrived at the gates to the town of Illyes. Of the three towns that form the majority of this community, Illyes is the religious center. Pretty much all of the good and neutral aligned deities have a temple of some size here. Jerry's cleric went off and spent a little time at the temple of Pelor, Maddie's paladin went and spent some time at the temple of the Raven Queen.
Jerry and Maddie both asked at their temples about jobs - side quest time. Which was totally cool, but left me in the lurch for just a moment. As I mentioned, this week was a pretty serious change of pace for us. I'd been a touch anxious about exactly this, leading up to our game. Maddie wanted to secure a holy symbol of some kind for her Paladin. Jerry wanted to build up some good karma with his people. After a moment of quick thinking, I explained that the head mistress of the Raven Queen's temple wanted Maddie to go to the down of Drugen to pick up the unclaimed corpses of a family that died in a fire. The disciples of the Raven Queen took it upon themselves to handle the unclaimed or unwanted dead. Jerry's cleric meanwhile was asked to take a minor relic to Drugen and bury it, in the hopes that it would help to hasten the coming of spring, since winter was turning out to be particularly harsh this year.
The gang also spent a little time going around town, some to the temples, others to the barracks to inquire if any unusual travelers had come through recently - as they were tracking the missing farm family and their kidnappers. They were told that yes, an agent from one of the well-placed families in Drugen had passed through recently. Obviously, all signs pointed to Drugen.
We also noted that the party was pretty close to third level. In an effort to encourage my players to come up with background stories for their characters, I'd offered a reward of 1/10th of a level worth of XP for a background. Jerry and Jeremy had taken me up on it, contributing toward the entire parties advancement, and with level 3 being just about 30 xp away, John and Andrew both quickly committed their backgrounds to paper, and bumped the party over into level 3. Woo!
The party headed for Drugen, and managed to provide some security for a large train of wagons carrying grain. This netted them some cash. They all looked a little disappointed though when I did not spring an encounter on them. Noted.
The party started digging around in Drugen while the cleric and paladin went about their side quests. Andrew's thief and John's warlord kept their ear to the street, while Jason's fighter passed the time sparring with some of the militia. Nate the thief put out word that he was interested in slaver activity, and they waited to hear from someone. They didn't have to wait very long, as a page boy approached them, and said that someone wanted to meet them at midnight in a disused barn outside of the town.
The party headed there early and staked the place out and waited for Midnight. Andrew's thief and John's warlord headed inside, while the rest of the party stayed outside, hidden in the nearby trees. Soon, a fellow named Nusak showed up, and told Nate and Devlin that he was on the run and hiding from someone people that he was certain wanted to kill him. He'd been invited by someone named Osric to a "secret meeting". He went, along with a couple of other first timers, and found that the meeting had people in long red robes with masks, who brought in a young man, killed him, and drained his blood. He left, and was not interested in going back, neither were the other two first timers there. And he'd learned that they'd both been killed, and that someone was staking out his place. He fled, and contacted the characters, hoping that they could help him. About this time, Maddie's paladin noticed a group of armed people moving in toward the barn, and the fight was on.
The party dispatched most of the bad guys, capturing their leader, a guy named Roric. He was a simple sell-sword from Drugen, who said that he'd been hired by a guy named Athurn to come and kill Nusak. The party learned or was already aware that Athurn was a retainer for house Lathien- the patriarch of which was the head judge in the town, and his son, the subcaptain of the town militia. Devlin (John) convinced Roric to head back to Drugen with them, and to tell Athurn that the job was done - the party would pose as the other sell-swords that were with Roric. He agree'd, and they headed back to Drugen and staked out the Fiery Griffin tavern, a working-class drinking hall frequented by rough necks, sell swords, and town militia. Soon, Athurn and some of his men showed up as expected. He conversed with Roric, who assured him that they'd done the job and killed Nusak (who they'd actually given some money to, and sent away to Illyes to lie low.) Athurn seemed pleased, and bought them a round of drinks. Devlin gave Athurn a false name and asked if he had any work available. Athurn said maybe, and that he'd look him up if he needed people. Athurn and his men left. Roric and Dzur (Jason) drank up, and they went their separate ways, the party sending Roric away to Moore's Creek.
A day or two passed, and Dzur became very ill - apparently from poison. With the help of Father Kreuz (Jerry), he pulled through. Sorrow (Maddie) got a message that she had a package at the north gate. Upon arriving, she was told that some farmers had brought in a body that they'd found along the way, and they wanted to turn it over to one of the Raven Queen's disciples. The body was that of Roric. Dead by poison, presumably.
The party decided that their next course of action would be a meeting with Athurn, who they'd been keeping tabs on.
As I said, this was a real change of pace. This session differed greatly from the previous ones in that our previous sessions have largely been combat with cut scenes/travel/dialogue between. Like I said - kinda Dungeon Crawl. This session was mostly talking and intrigue. I think that it took everyone a little bit to shift gears, I know it was a transition for me. It felt a little strange - I've run tons of games, mostly Werewolf and TSOY, and done tons of unplanned dialogue and city stuff, and not had any qualms about it - but this felt a little different somehow, I assume just because its D&D. But it went down really without any problems that I observed. Intrigue games can be tricky, one wants to be careful that they clues aren't too subtle or difficult to find, cause then the players sit around and get bored/frustrated. The clues and/or action should pretty much come to them, which is what I did. But again, it was a transition. Combat heavy games just require a little tactical planning, and so when you switch to requiring deduction, reasoning and a little cleverness, it can throw folks for a loop. But I'm going on about it, only because it made such an impression on me. My players seemed to run with it.
Good side quests are a little tricky though. I was kindof on the spot, and so I just threw out the first things that I came up with. I'll have to writeup some ideas for this kind of thing so it doesn't blindside me next time. I want to try to avoid "Uh, yeah, the baron needs you to deliver a letter to, um, a priest." Cause carrying letters and packages back and forth is boring, and more the territory of CRPGs. I can do better than that. :)