Session One - June 27, 2012We were scheduled to go through another round of playtest this week, but only my regulars showed up and I elected to kick off the paragon level campaign instead.
Dramatis PersonaeDrazdur (human male druid 10 - G; played by Bruce)
Ezekial McLoughlin (human male cleric 10 - LG; played by Kyle)
Kanatari (kalashtar female ardent 10 - G; played by Rachel)
Acolyte to Ohgma (human male; NPC)
Baroness Sadre Cormaeril (human female; NPC)
Belphanor Cormaeril, Dragon Troubadour (human male; NPC)
Daeles Cormaeril, Dragon Troubadour (human male; NPC)
Dolabella Escalus, Priestess of Malar (human female; NPC)
Emly Cormaeril, Dragon Troubadour (human female; NPC)
Fergus Cormaeril, Dragon Troubadour (human male; NPC)
Guster Windblown, Dragon Troubadour (halfling male; NPC)
Servant (human male; NPC)
Talorwen Cormaeril, Dragon Troubadour (human male; NPC)
Pre SessionI've basically been preparing for this game for a month. I've researched the history of Cormyr, read everything printed about the country and its capital for fourth edition and skimmed over a lot of earlier material, and I've culled the non-player characters from every source that they're mentioned in. I've hounded the players over and over to expand their characters' stories in directions that will be useful for me and to name NPCs related to those stories. I've expanded that list to include another 20 or so characters of my own too. Before the game even begins, I have over 100 characters to draw upon, and that list will only continue to expand.
That said, I had no idea what direction I was really going to go with. That's pretty normal for me though. I find that if I have a well developed list of NPCs, I only need to come up with a hook or five and see what the players go after. Encounters style play, where the story is rigidly structured into scenes that follow a prescribed direction, is not something I do naturally, even though it is most of what I've done with 4E.
SessionSince this was the inaugural session of the game, and I didn't want to waste any more time than necessary bringing the player characters together, I did a little railroading. Hopefully I won't have to do it again in this campaign. To complicate matters a little more, both Bruce and Kyle had forgotten their character sheets. I'm pretty comfortable improvising die rolls though, so it wasn't much of a problem. The only time it was really an issue was when the question of whether Ezekial could read Supernal came up. After discussing the requirements to learn the language and informing Kyle that he would have to reassign one of his feats to Linguist if it turned out that the character didn't have the language, he opted to have an NPC interpret the text.
Baroness Sadre Cormaeril, wife to Baron Bardolph Cormaeril, sends servants to summon the heroes to meet with her on an urgent matter. I didn't ask if they accepted the invitation, skipping to the point at which they enter the Cormaerils' manorhouse through a rear entrance, shortly after dusk, and are left to wait in a sitting room. I prompted the players to describe their characters at this point. Bruce did well with this, focusing on obvious details and avoiding game jargon such as class and level. Kyle is a little on the impetuous side and wanted to describe a hidden birthmark that may become a plot point later on. Rachel struggles at times with what to say, fortunately the other two players helped by prompting her for additional details.
The baroness, a short and round matronly woman in her forties, begins by informing the three heroes that her daughter Paedra has gone missing and that she fears the young woman has run away. She goes on to say that the baron has arranged a marriage for Paedra and that she believes her daughter has fled to avoid the unwanted union. Sadre soliloques a little about how this is all her fault, confessing that she indulged her child; having her trained in the Art by none other than Glathra Barcantle, one of the most famous of the War Wizards.
Sadre begs the heroes to take up her cause, seek her daughter, and return her to the manor before her husband returns from business in Marsember. Drazdur, being just a little on the mercenary side, inquires as to what reward the good baroness offers in exchange for their service. Looking only a little hurt by the druid's avarice, Sadre produces three large rubies from one of her sleeves and says that they are family heirlooms said to be the tears of a dragon, and that they are talismans of great power. If the heroes can return her daughter safely, she will give the rubies to them gladly.
Once the heroes accept the challenge, the baroness tells them that the only person likely to know where Paedra has gone is Emly Cormaeril, Paedra's cousin. The girls are close like sisters and Emly is a member of the Dragon Troubadors, one of the many adventuring companies of Suzail. Naturally, being experienced players and consumers of adventure stories, the players ask to see the young woman's room so they can look for clues.
After tossing the room, causing the baroness to faint in the process and infuriating the servant, the heroes found a heavy spellbook, a diary written in supernal, and a box full of knives with different enchantments on them. Many of these items found their way into the kalashtar's bag of holding. Being confronted by a language that they've seen before but are unable to interpret, the heroes decide to seek help from the Silent Room; the temple dedicated to Oghma in Suzail.
Unfortunately, the temple keeps hours from dawn to dusk. When the heroes arrive, a short, bald man in acolyte's robes, wearing spectacles, whispers that they must return in the morning if they wish to partake of Ohgma's wisdom, then shuts the door in their faces. Being persistent and desperate, the three heroes proceed around the block to the shrine of Malar, which they know to hold services at night. The priestess of Malar, a woman named Dolabella Escalus, who's body is badly burned on one side, agrees to read the book for them in exchange for their favor one day. The three player characters swear on Malar's altar that they will give her what she asks.
An hour later, time spent in one of the many taverns dotting Suzail, the player characters return to the shrine and are told that the girl intends to seek the legendary Four from Cormyr. A quartet of legendary magical items that will confer great power to the person that carries them. Paedra's notes indicate that she believes one of the four is hidden deep in the King's Forest. Bruce immediately jumps to the conclusion that they will need to leave the city. Cooler heads prevail though and Rachel suggests that they first follow the lead given to them by the baroness and speak with Emly Cormaeril.
The House of the Trumpeting Dragon is the headquaters of the Cormaeril family adventuring company, known as the Dragon Troubadours. The Dragon Troubadours actually take their name from the Cormaeril family crest, a purple dragon on a field of white with a trumpet. They are a long established and well known company with a royal charter. The Troubadours tend to focus their efforts on bounty hunting, particularly seeking out enemies of the crown and bringing them to justice. Emly Cormaeril is the second in command, under her father Belphanor Cormaeril; the baron Cormaeril's brother.
Our adventurers approach the House of the Trumpeting Dragon and gain entrance by Ezekial informing the young man answering the door that he Ezekial the cleric of Baphomet and that he wishes to speak with the master of the company. Not wanting to make getting in too much of a challenge, I played up the character's reputation and had Belphanor invite them in; demanding that Ezekial tell the tale of how he defeated the werewolves of Duskendale. I'm hoping that the players take this example to heart and that they assert this kind of background reliant element themselves at some point.
While Ezekial regaled Belphanor with his story (poorly, he rolled badly on his bluff check), Drazdur distracted the brothers Daeles and Fergus in a game of chance. This permitted Kantari to speak with Emly, woman to woman. I handle these kinds of social exchanges in a manner similar to skill challenges. I have the player roleplay out what argument he or she will take, then make an appropriate roll to back it up with a modifier based on how I think the NPC would react to the argument made by the player. For simple exchanges with a willing NPC, I'll only require one success. In situations where the stakes are higher, I require more.
In this instance, because she was attempting to gather information that Emly was specifically attempting to conceal, I wanted three successes. Rachel managed to pull it off with four attempts. Had she failed twice, things would have gotten ugly. After explaning that Paedra had gotten in over her head and that she intends to seek out the Four from Cormyr, putting herself and anyone with her in great peril, Emly agreed to tell Kantari where the girl is hiding.
Post SessionI awarded each player 550 experience points for participating. At the end of every session, I have each player nominate one person who demonstrated exceptional play and I award the person with the majority of the votes 100 bonus points. I also award 100 bonus points to one player that I think performed especially well. This evening Rachel received the group bonous award and Kyle the DM bonus award.
At this rate of advancement, it will take around eight sessions for the players to achieve 11th level. To expedite that and incentivise online participation, I will also award 100 bonus experience points per session to any player that posts their own, in-character, session notes on the WotC blog system. Note that my session notes are not typically this long. Usually, I outline the scenes that were described and any significant NPCs that turned up, plus critical events that occurred. No one will be required to write a novel to earn their bonus points. All I'm really looking for is about the equivalent of a double-spaced page in Word. Additionaly opportunities for bonus point awards may come up later.
This session went exactly as I intended when I pitched this campaign idea to my regular players. There was not one second of combat. I introduced ten NPCs, several of whom have their own stories. And I dangled the Four from Cormyr in front of the players. To be 100% clear, I have no plan. This story can go in any direction and I won't even try to predict what way the players will take it.