- Shirazee, female half-eladrin (homebrew half-elf reskin) ardent (dune trader), lvl 3
- Akemi, nibenese female human monk, athasian ministrel, lvl 3
- Nier, male mul fighter of Balic, gladiator, lvl 3
- Tysis, raamite male human psion (noble adept), lvl 3
Similar to the default setting, but before Kalak's death. The King of Tyr is alive and well when the game begins.
The characters first meet in the slave pits of Altaruk; they're unwilling to share the circumnstances that led them there. The only one seemingly comfortable in his slave condition is Nier, who appears to be a recognized pitfighter.
After a night in the pits, the characters are sold, among 50 other able-bodied prisoners, to a slaver called Darkaan Beek, a stout and musclar dwarf wearing long robes and carrying a pair of carrikals in his belt. The dwarf is accompagnied by a tall tri-kreen armed with a set of obsidian tipped javelins and a mul mercenary wearing a bronze chainmail and carrying an elaborate looking bone greatsword.
The prisoners are loaded on two wagons, each dragged by six innixes, and locked inside huge bone and wood cages. Beek seems to be extremely jealous and proud of his innix herd, and since he only owns a dozen crodlus for his twenty men worth dwarven retinue, he forces 10 slaves to take turns on foot, tied behind the wagons.
The players discover that their destination is Tyr; apparently King Kalak is holding one year of gladiatorial games to celebrate the completion of his grand Ziggurath, and there's a huge afflux of slaves from all corners of the Tablelands to provide for combatants. The first day is fairly calm, but it's soon clear that the slavers won't provide full survival day rations of water and food, and thus the desert starts taking a toll on the characters. On the second day, all characters end up being forced in the group proceeding on food. The mul fighter endures without problems, but the rest of the group is taxed by the effort.
DM note: the beginning of the game was fairly straightforward, with a mixed Skill Challenge to determine what informations the players could muster from the other slaves, and some healing surge loss due to the conditions of the trip.
On the beginning of the third day, the first signs of an incoming sandstorm manifest. Around noon, the players spot a small pack of elven raiders approaching the caravan. However, they do not seem aggressive. Apparently Beek had arranged to meet them and he's hiring them as scouts and bodyguards.
After a few hours, the sandstorm becomes too violent to proceed. The dwarves set up camp, each one building a small pyramid shaped tent to get some protection, while slaves are bound in 5 circles of 10 men each; slaves are bound together and chained to the ground, with no protection from the elements.
In the middle of the sandstorm, the heroes start noticing small shadows darting around the camp. Soon, the air is filled with screams as the caravan is attacked by silt runners. The players, despite the limitations imposed by the ropes and being deprived of their equipment, manage to keep the monsters at bay long enough for the tri-kreen and the mul bodyguards to secure the camp. During the fight, they also notice another prisoner, who introduces himself as Sobek; despite his effort to help the group, the scarred man is met with some suspicion as he displayed some skill in the arcane arts.
DM note: simple combat structured in "waves" against theorycally underpowered monsters (but silt runners hit so hard that the fight felt more than proper) with added limitations in the form of the sand storm hazard and the limited mobility of the group due to ropes. Pretty intense and quite fun.
As the sandstorm settles, the player notice that at least a dozen prisoners died during the attack, as did most of the elf mercenaries. The last 2 days of travel are fairly uneventful, and on the dawn of the 6th day, the group enters Tyr.
The city is bursting with life and commerce. The games and the inaguration have brought slaves, merchants, mercenaries and workers to the city. The impressive sight of the rainbow ziggurath dominates the landscape. After a sluggish trip through the chaos of the city streets, the characters are taken to the slave pits. Hundreds of slaves are held there, probably between two and three hundreds. The rumor in the pits is that at least three times as many are held in camps outside town.
The next day the players can hear the screams and cheers of the crowd watching the games. In the afternoon, the group spots some confusion on the other side of the pits. The crowd is observing a couple who just came out of the barracks, a strong looking male mul and an equally intimidating female human. As the characters inquire, they discover that the two are called Rikus and Neeva, and they've made quite a sensation in the last days of arena games. Approaching them Shirazee perceives excitement and energy in the girl, while the man seems to be extremely nervous and concerned.
DM notes: mostly roleplay, with a few interesting moments. I'm giving my unique spin to the story from here on, and the events involving the destiny of Tyr will unfold in non-canonical ways.
At dawn, the group is taken to the arena grounds. Tied in pairs, they're put in rows, waiting to enter the coliseum when called. Soon they notice that the slave couples before them are getting swiftly massacred by what seems to be a popular arena team, led by a huge half giant wielding a massive obsidian greataxe.
As their turn approaches, the characters consider their strategies. Shirazee is tied to a female elf, Nier to a dwarf, Tysis to a short, thin human boy and Akemi to a terrified male human. Soon it's clear that the slave tied to Akemi is losing control. Taking advantage of a moment of distraction of the guards, Sobek approaches the man from behind, and touches him, somehow causing him to drop among convulsions. The guards check the man, and after deciding he's unfit to fight, they kill him. Sobek, being the nearest free slave, is tied to Akemi, and tells her that after what he saw in the desert ambush, he feels safer with them.
Soon the group is thrust in the arena, where they barely have the time to pick up some bone weapons before entering a smaller rectangular area delimited by 2 rows of spears covered in obsidian barbs. On the opposite side, another entrance is surmounted by a wooden walkway, on which a tall woman, apparently of Gulg origin, is looking at them while holding a huge bone bow. Two strikingly similar male humans, covered in barbed bone armors and wielding obsidian short swords and bone spiked chains, jump down from the walkway and start whipping the sand with their chains. From the other side of the arena, the half giant barbarian emerges, and starts charging into the cage.
Apparently not intimidated, Akemi uses her wild talent to burn the rope binding her to Sobek, then charges at one of the two chain wielders, and after dodging his attack, hits him with a flying kick that sends him into the barbed spears, followed by a spinning kick to the face. The crowd cheers with enthusiasm. It's soon clear that the new group of slaves is a much more credible challenge for the gladiators, as Shirazee and the elven girl team up against one of the chainwielders, outmaneuvering him and eventually bringing him down, while Nier and the dwarf keep the half giant occupied long enough for Sobek and Tysis (who is being particularly held back by his nervous companion) to occupy the archer on the walkway.
While the chainwielders are easily dispatched, from her vantage position the archer finally manages to drop Akemi to the ground with an arrow shot in the leg, while the half giant cleaves the dwarf slave in two. However, the group manages to manouver around the barbarian, and Shirazee uses her powers to help Akemi's recovery; meanwhile, Sobek manages to finally down the archer, but in doing so he manifest defiling capabilities, and also a golden glow in his eyes that betrays him as a sorcerer king pact warlock, and possibly a templar. The crowd is shocked, but soon the attention goes to Nier, who manages to parry a blow from the enormous obsidian axe of the half giant, and the group retaliates with flourish, killing the huge gladiators among the cheering of the spectators.
Their joy is brief, tho, as King Kalak rises with his eyes fixed on Sobek, and strikes him down with a golden bolt of energy from his staff. Guards enter the arena and surround the heroes, who are led back to the slave pits, while the agonizing Sobek is dragged towards the golden tower.
DM note: very exciting fight against higher level opponents (I used the half giant lvl 8 brute from the CC and the elf archer leader from the elven entry). Good manouvering and some very lucky rolls led the group to earn a spectacular victory, despite Akemi being dropped to negative hit points for a turn. I made a mistake on Nier's parry, as the half giant had rolled one, and that would have let Nier break his weapon.
Overall a very enjoyable first session. Dark Sun's unique charm is still strong.