We've arrived at the second to last session for this series of ventures. Things got JUICY! However, players have further dug themselves into their fan favorites despite advising them to branch out. I get the feeling that part of this might be that the group has taken a bit longer to actually really get into the meat and potatoes of who the knights are. Early on and for the first few sessions, some players were still sticking to the gimmicks of each knight rather than deeper motivations. Specifically, Wulf who seemed to only really boil down to the Salty Sea Dog trope, in this session he had a pretty stellar moment that sprung up out of some improvisation.
Just Rbaja Influence in Spurr for this one. I went with a narrative that people have been abandoning their villages ahead of survivors that seem to escape a horrifying force that envelops entire communities and leaves behind swarms of undead that remove all hope of ever returning unless with the help of a small army.
Plain and simple, a Yoggoth and a squad of Draugr are the ultimate baddies if the knights can get there without mucking up their charm rolls. I had the thought that a Yoggoth is almost like a giant slug/amoeba. It's drawn to densely populated areas and as written the creature itself is a Rbaja zone, self-contained. I thought that it would be much more of an intimidating force if everything in its wake is turned into a Rbaja zone that ends up leaving vast cuts through a landscape.
The place I direct the knights toward is a cliffside fort (inspired from ventures that Ron ran myself and some friends through). This place's promise of high stone walls and hospitality to the refugees drew in quite the crowd leading to some crowding due to overpopulation (pseudo-Humanitarian Crisis component).
Lotrund (Peasant), lost his parents to the threat.
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Fernot (Gentry) Leader of the town's defense. The first obstacle for players
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Ina (Freeman) Lotrund's adoptive mother. Cares for the other refugee children.
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A few players REALLY wanted to go to Spurr. Namely: Kaleb, John, and Conlan. The shared trait among them... they've all played Wulf. Coincidence? I think not! So, here's who we have.
Tre (Otomar Kaspar, Gentry Wizard)
Kaleb (Lutz, Priest)
John (Wolf, Fisherman Wizard)
Conlan (Karlman Oswald, Outdoorsman Wizard)
Each of them REALLY stepped into their character's profession in interesting ways and Wolf's key event took center stage. Kaleb honored how John had played Lutz before (Making use of a D20, essentially a coin flip to determine what the character's inner voices were saying). I won't spoil how all this beautifully plays out, so here we go!
Smells on the Wind
The knights make their way south after I inform players of the venture. The players have collectively determined that Wulf is the Circle's collector of gossip, an ear in every conversation even if he can't quite hold one himself. He almost can't help himself it seems. So Wulf gathers up any other knight that'll tag along and tolerate him.
They set off and I tell them all how Wolf seems to really know the area and might even recognize a few of the villages that he had passed through to get to the citadel. However, as they continue down to the rocky flatlands of the Spurr in my head, they find that more villages are either empty or nearly empty. Wulf activates his wizard senses, faint Rbaja almost as if carried on the wide. The sharp chemical smell of rubbing alcohol and dead bodies, something harsh to the nose. Wulf casts Perfection to get an overview of land to see if he can spot anything.
He spots a traveling group of what seem to be refugees along the edge of one of the distant cliffs. They decide to follow. The fort comes into view and the knights decide to armor up. The gate is partially ajar and there's a single armored man partially exposed. At the knight's approach, he calls for backup expecting a fight with the clearly battle-ready men. Otomar takes the lead but botches his charm with Fernot. The rest of the knights try to pitch in and it's an even half and half between success and failure between them all.
Wulf gets a bright idea and practically drags all of his comrades away by their mail. Knowing that things are tense with the guards they decide to use Seem to disguise themselves as a Spurr family seeking refuge. Changing their clothing and facial structures to really fit the look of the local people. They wait till sundown to give things time to cool off at the gate. They establish fake identities and their relationships to each other and in character they share some laughs in the support crew's wagon as it pulls up to the gate.
During their prep at a hastily erected camp of sorts, Lutz consults with the voices. However, he brings me into the mix wondering what he should be looking for within the fortress. I divide the D20 results into three just based on which character the knights could actively seek out. I give an ominous description of a child haunted by what pursues them.
Fernot fails his Wits vs. 12 roll to overcome the spell and the knight's enter in without issue. They find an unoccupied dark corner amongst many hastily erected domiciles to house the crowds of people that have flocked to this place.
Improvising the Past
The knights set up a lean-to within the walls as Seem wears off and they get a good night's sleep amongst the refugees. Lutz takes the lead in the morning and successfully nails a Wits roll to find where most of the refugee children are being cared for. They've removed armor at this point.
They enter into a small longhouse that's one of the local's houses. Inside the place seems to have children taking up almost every available space with three women weaving through the crowded space tending to them all. One, in particular, seems to be in charge, Ina.
Karlman has used Beast 1 to essentially summon a therapy dog and they all step carefully into the cramped quarters. The three women notice the strangers enter and Ina addresses the group wondering why they're there. Lutz takes the lead with Karlmann and Wulf close behind him.
During their interactions with Ina Lutz makes a good first impression. However, as we've come to learn with Wulf he just can't quite keep his nose out of things. He starts trying to talk to Ina as well, asking about her home and where she's originally from (Failed Charm here). She seems wary of Wulf, but says Saskia. Not at all coincidentally that's the village that Wulf seems to have come from (they also used this as the name of the village they made up to get into the fort in the first place, also Wulf's idea).
Wulf seems somewhat taken aback. I have him roll for Wits...success. He recognizes her and subsequently so does she and she definitely isn't happy to see him again. She visibly becomes more upset and draws her knife. She tells them all how her husband was one of the men killed when wizards clashed on the shores of Spurr. Back then, Wulf was a wizard of Rbaja. When another wizard came to his village preaching of light, purity, and transcendence in the blinding light confrontation was inevitable between the two. Abyssal darkness and blinding light distorted the shores and toiled the waters. Whole families were decimated. Wulf was presumed dead.
Now, here they were, perhaps all that remained of that ill-fated place once called home. A brief silence falls over the table. Nobody had expected this turn, not even me really. Ina starts shrieking for Wulf to get out, the knife shaking in her hands and she takes lunging steps forward. Wulf needs no further instruction and skitters out of the dark house. Ina drops the knife and starts to sob as he disappears from view. Otomar picks up the dropped knife while Lutz comforts the grieving woman.
After gleaning some information from one of the orphaned children the knights know where the looming Rbaja threat is and where it may very well be. They do their best to make a gracious exit. However, Otomar gets the final word. He jabs the knife into the threshold and holds eye contact with Ina. There's a brief unspoken understanding that if she comes looking to murder Wulf (as many have) that she might get more than she bargained for. Successful Charm roll, message understood.
The knights travel southeast about a days march toward what they surmise to be a Yoggoth. Wulf muses at length about what it might be like to fight it and he makes his own preparations to fight it. They travel the rest of the way and arrive at an abandoned village shrouded in a thick fog. Wulf gets a strong whiff of Rbaja, it's close.
The cloud rolls forward and combat begins! The actual fight with the Yoggoth ends quite quickly. Despite it having the advantage the knights get a few solid blows in and Wulf reveals his trump card, Quell. Once the Yoggoth's Storm starts to manifest he counters it with his own magic. He gains a mark of Amboriyon and the Charm gift.
The rest of the fight is easy, but once it's dead the foul ichor spills everywhere and the hidden draugr squad in the murky depths move in. The knights are starting to flounder at this point as the Splotches also take shape on those that were inside the Yoggoth when it met its end.
Otomar assesses the situation. Outnumbered. Struggling. Lesser forces beginning to panic. He raises his hand and with a voiceless shout everything around them turns to a photonegative of itself. Then a blinding flash of white.
The knights blink away the blindness and find themselves someplace entirely different. A flat meadow with no village in sight. The air is crisp but has a bit of a chemical bite to the nose of a wizard. Gleaming white clouds float overhead and whisps of silvery mist float alongside the knights. The epicenter of an Amboriyon zone half an acre in size. Unsettled, the knights make a swift exit before any Valkyries arrive.
As the knights retreat back to Rolke the Amboriyon zone slowly fills in and subsumes the trails of Rbaja left by the Yoggoth, the clouds rapidly spreading their influence. The knights know they'll need to return and the players agree that next session they're going to come back and fix the mess they've made.