Saturday, May 12, 2007

Shadows of the Black Feather

Since I have no one to play Starship Troopers with out here in Eugene, I'm going to post about my recent DnD games that I play with folks all around the continent with the software Fantasy Grounds.

The Characters

Two of three players were fully available for the game, the third was desperately trying to get the Fantasy Grounds installer to work properly and spent the night correcting corrupt video files and such and finally got it working at the end so he could watch, but by then his character had been relegated to the "quiet guy with amnesia in the back" status. To be fair, had it not been the player it was, with the computer haxx0rz skills he had, the installer probably never would have worked and we'd be out a player for the future games.

Anyway, the first character was Garsim Cinderheart, recently un-retired dwarven mercenary and master of the waraxe. He took back up the axe to avenge his namesake for his clan from a less-than-reputable ancestor (who's actions were recently rediscovered in the Records of the Realm when the Dwarven Library was remodeled), and get his family's name crossed out of Citadel Adbar's Book of Grudges. He plans to do this by correcting the wrongs of his nefarious ancestor, so his dwarflings can live without shame.

The second character involved in tonight's game and accidentally caught up in events around him is Milo Nimblefeets, Halfling entrepreneur of dubious goods and services. On a quest to make as much capital as possible in a world ripe with creative investment opportunities, he finds himself on the run from large cities more often than he thinks is reasonable. Clearly the bigger folk of the realm often overreact at the slightest accidental market adjustment to their financial situation. He can also stab folks in the back really hard with his silver dagger.

The Game

The characters individually met at Durkon's Deliveries. A new and untested teleportation business in the realm of Faerun. They had each decided to sign up for the first attempted mass teleport of goods (chickens in cages, etc) and customers across the Anauroch desert from Sundabar to the realm of Damara. Some because they had specific business in the region, and others because they didn't care where they went as long as it wasn't where they were.

Dm fiat, fantasy cliches, and Cory's love of slapstick comedy being what it is, the teleportation cast by the absent-minded wizard went awry and the characters ended up in the middle of a forest with chicken feathers fluttering down everywhere. The halfling was particularly distressed by the teleportation and lost both of his previously-eaten breakfasts to the ground as he hung upside down from a tree. The dwarf quickly retrieved him from his perch. The caged chickens had not survived the trip.

After getting their bearings and looking around, they found themselves near a road in a dark and mysterious forest. Traveling in the direction they figured was "North-by-North-railroad," a mysterious gypsy rode down the path toward them. After making sure he wouldn't put a mysterious gypsy curse on them, they allowed him to hand them a mysterious letter, given to him by a mysterious man looking for adventurers. With all the mystery in the air it was clear that their narrator had taken a creative writing course.

Even though I had pre-typed out eight box responses to questions I felt they would ask the gypsy, who they seemingly randomly met on the dark road who just randomly had a note for them, upon receiving the note they simply turned their backs on the gypsy without a word and started discussing future plans between eachother, instinctually knowing the gypsy's plot role had been fulfilled without ever even asking his name.

With that, the gypsy rode away, his plot role fulfilled.

The adventurers then knew that the teleportation had at least gone somewhat correctly, as Barovia was in the realm of Damara. Also, since Garsim had found evidence that his ancestor had once traveled to Barovia, and that was his destination in the first place, he had no trouble deciding to visit the town and meet the Burgomaster. The promise of wealth enticed the halfling to join him. The mute and unassuming human followed them without a word while he attempted to fix the corrupted dlld20.xml file in his FG Data Application folder. The demihuman duo continued down the road in the dark and mysterious forest.

Eventually they came to an old rusty gate that opened on its own to let them through and then slammed shut after they passed it. They went through the haunted self-opening gate without even blinking. Soon, they came upon evidence of a horrible mauling by some enormous beast of a fellow adventurer on the road. As experienced investigators and righters of wrongs they were, they took his stuff, left the body, and continued on their way.

After that they came to the Village of Barovia.

But instead of being greeted by buxom beer-carrying barmaids, the village was strangely quiet and covered in a dark and creepifying mist. Also many of the buildings looked abandoned and the windows were boarded up from the inside. Soon they found out why, as they stumbled upon a group of flesh eating zombies! (I also remembered at this point to take a few screenshots.)

Not only that, but they were also beset on by large rat-dogs and a necromantic wizard who retained his magical skills even after undeath, and who quickly held the halfling in a magical vise with eldritch words of dark power. As the dwarf battled frantically with the beasts, the halfling was nearly brought down by the dark creatures as they clawed at his motionless body. Suddenly, more zombies erupted from the doorways to the north! The dwarf, thinking quickly, grabbed the paralyzed halfling and threw him in an empty building, blocking the doorway himself so he could '300' the horde of zombies as they staggered toward the party. While this protected the magically paralyzed halfling for a time, it also trapped them in the small abandoned house surrounded by zombies!

Soon the magical holding spell wore off as the dwarf valiantly protected the doorway, and the halfling got his bearings just as the rat-dogs slithered between the dwarf's legs to attack the party. Being living creatures rather than undead flesh, the rat-dogs were susceptible to the halfling's sneak attack, and the little ruffian made short work of the beasts with a few stabs to the spine.

Eventually the dwarf finished off the remaining zombies as they could only squeeze together three at a time to attack him, and the battle was concluded. But what of the village and the people of Barovia? Has everyone succumbed to the zombie plague? Was there anyone left alive? And what of the note from the gypsy who, if they had bothered to ask, would have told them he got the note from the Burgomaster just the day before?

We'll find out, in the next installment of...

Shadows of the Black Feather: Expedition to Castle Ravenloft!