Friday, August 4, 2017

Session Report - Into the Redlands - 22 July 2017

Emil Durkheim (shaman 1)
Totem, the raven totem-animal
two wild dogs
Petruccio (human 0)
played by Emily

Hitch Huxley (mage 1)
Gambino, the loyal manservant (human 0)
Scarface (human 0)
played by Corey

In the third week of spring, Emil Durkheim met up with Hitch Huxley and his manservant Gambino. Hitch was an imposing figure, tall and long-limbed, hairless and wearing a metal skullcap, wearing black and gold robes in a mockery of religious garb. He also spoke in an angry falsetto voice; Hitch was a former castrato singer in the church choir. Since reaching adulthood, he'd abandoned the church, devoted himself to the study of esoteric lore and black magic, and generally transformed himself into one of the scariest men in Lesserton. Gambino was athletic, but easily winded, foolish, and basically useless without Hitch's instructions.

When Emil ran into Hitch Huxley, he was in the middle of trying to set up his own network of spies and informants by co-opting a couple of the messenger boys who spent their days running across town to deliver news and messages. Usually working for a copper coin a message, the boys were awed when Hitch gave them silver, tempted when his promised them the chance to earn gold, and then scared witless when he told them that if they got caught they were fired, and if they talked they'd be killed. The boys, "I-I-I'm Jack Kelley sir, and dis is my friend, D-D-David," confirmed that they knew some other boys they could recruit, "Well, dere's my buddy Spot Conlon, and David's got a little brother, Les." Hitch Huxley ordered Jack and Spot to hang around the Market Square and sent David and Les to the Heights. He commanded them to listen for business opportunities, steal anything they thought they could get away with, and generally report any chance to make money they heard about to him. "And remember, if you talk, you die!" he reminded them before the kids ran off in terror.

Sensing that Huxley was a man of ambition, Emil approached him about heading into the ruins of ancient Mor. Hitch Huxley had recently heard rumors about the great wealth and treasure to be found in the ruins, so he was receptive to the white-robed shaman's sales pitch. (Emil had recently heard that Lesserton had no real thieves' guild, that all the beggars and pickpockets were disorganized and worked alone, and that stories about a thieves' guild were just lies meant to frighten people. For the sake of his new friend, Emil hoped this was true.) They decided to hire some guards to come with them for protection. Emil turned up young Petey once again, now wearing his late brother's old armor and carrying his spear, and going by the ancient name Petruccio. "It'sa me! Petruccio!" Hitch didn't trust loyal Gambino to protect him enough, and hired a menacing-looking young man named Scarface to come along as well. Scarface had a single long scar running diagonally across his face, and spoke with sinister sibilant S's. "Sssure thing, bosssss!"

With these preliminaries taken care of, the next morning the group set out for the ruined city, Emil Durkheim accompanied by Petruccio, two excited wild dogs, and his totem-animal raven, and Hitch Huxley accompanied by Gambino and Scarface. Walking the old road, they made it to the banks of the moat by noon, where the orcish guard seemed thrilled to see Emil and Petruccio again. "Hey! It's Mister Appleseed!" The orcs were happy to let the pair across the bridge for free, and asked them to check in with the boss of the Trollbridger Clan on the other side. Hitch tried to follow close on Emil's heels, but the guard stopped him. "Excuse me. I don't know you. You wanna cross the bridge, you gotta pay the toll." Hitch eyed the length of the rope span across the moat, and decided against intimidation as a tactic. Just before crossing, Emil called out that the orcs were fond of canned food, much to Hitch's relief. "Are those canned yams? Oh, those are exquisite!" One payment later, and the entire group was across the bridge. Once they were through the broken section of the city wall, the leader of the Trollbridgers approached them. He informed Emil and Petruccio that his tribe, although still involved in the lucrative bridge industry, had mostly moved into orchard, where they had adopted the dogs living there. The orcs were concerned, however, about the buildings bordering their new territory. If they could be sure the buildings were empty, they'd like to move in, but if they weren't empty, they didn't want to risk walking into a dangerous situation, or risk being ambushed by something coming out of the buildings in the night. The boss offered free passage over the bridge, and free shelter in the buildings once they were cleared, along with an unspecified financial reward, if Emil and his companions could verify the safety of the buildings. After a brief conference, they agreed, and set out along the clear passage to the orchard.

In the orchard, they saw that the orcs had established camp, and a dozen happy wild dogs were running between the trees. Emil Durkheim's dogs greeted the members of their old pack, but continued to follow the shaman as he and Hitch Huxley headed to the cluster of buildings to the northeast. They saw three structures standing amidst the piles of broken stone and fallen bricks. The first structure they entered was two stories - apparently just two rooms from a larger destroyed house. The group first circled the outside of the structure, then lit a lantern and went inside. They searched the room, then went upstairs and search again. Although they found nothing of note, they took a moment to look out the open doorway that used to lead to an adjoining room, and saw a view of the orchard. Satisfied, they went back downstairs and outside and walked to the next building. Again, they searched outside the lone freestanding room, then went inside and searched again. They found a hole in the floor with a ladder leading down. Gambino dropped to his belly and held the lantern down as low as he could, revealing what appeared to be an old root cellar. Hitch took the lantern and went down alone, checking the crumbling burlap bags and low piles of disintegrated root vegetables. Again, they left and walked over to the final building in the area. They circled the final small structure, and again, deemed the exterior relatively safe. They refilled the oil in their guttering lantern and headed inside. Their search revealed a third safe, empty building, and they left to return to the orchard.

Back among the trees, they talked to the orcs. Emil and Hitch reported that the first group of buildings they'd searched was safe, and asked if there was any reason the orcs were afraid of going in themselves. The orc leader claimed that several members of the clan had spotted a dangerous looking swarm of biting insects in the area. He also pointed out that his group wasn't particularly large, and it was always dangerous trying to claim new turf with so many gangs of unsavories squatting on other portions of the ruins. Satisfied that they had a better understanding of the situation, Emil and Hitch took their group to the buildings southeast of the orchard, due south of the previous block. The first structure they encountered here was a complete house in relatively good repair. The plaster was damaged where the decorative lintels had fallen away from the windows and doors, but the faded red tile roof was still intact. Lighting their lantern again, they went inside. The group immediately noticed that the air in the building was colder than in any of the other buildings, colder than the shade from the roof could explain. It was also unaccountably humid, almost clammy. They saw a staircase leading up, with another set of stairs heading down to the basement under the stairwell. While the others searched the room, Hitch rigged up a short span of twine strung with the cheapest goat-bells he'd been able to find, and tucked the ends between loose bricks to create a makeshift tripwire alarm guarding the basement stairs. Satisfied that he wouldn't be ambushed, he led the others upstairs, where the temperature was normal and the air was dry once again. They went back downstairs, and Gambino led the way into the basement, with Scarface close on his heels. They only made it about halfway down the basement steps though, because the room was flooded with at least 5 feet of rainwater. The lantern light reflected off the flooded basement, casting dancing lights onto the ceiling. Emil's dogs started barking, so the group wasn't surprised when a giant toad surfaced and attacked!

The toad lashed out with its freakishly long tongue, grabbing Gambino by the neck, dragging him into the water, and then biting off the poor servant's head. Hitch responded by shoving Scarface off the steps and into the water. "Gee thanksss." Scarface waded to the center of the room, but couldn't pierce the toad's blubbery hide with his dagger. Hitch headed down the steps to take Gambino's place, and Emil and Petruccio crept down to join the fight. The toad opened its giant mouth and tried to gobble up Scarface, nearly killing him. The wounded hireling floated on his back and paddled himself back toward the stairs to get away. Emil had tied a rope to his rune-carved spear, and threw it at the beast (fumble!) but he lost his footing on the steps, and dropped the end of the rope. Hitch felt worried about the group's chances at this point and cast a spell to summon warriors to his side, singing out in his pure soprano. Upstairs, they heard running footsteps and voices calling out "For glory! For Valhalla!" and four blond muscular men carrying a variety of oversized weapons appeared in the doorway. The men tore off their shirts and swan dived flawlessly into the water. In an instant, they'd hacked the frog into quarters, and at Hitch's command, carried the parts back to him. "For the feast! Tonight we feast!" Hitch urged them to make sure the room was safe, and for several minutes, the four warriors pearl dived to the bottom of the room over and over, finally marching up the steps bearing piles of silver and gold coins in the fabric of their shirts. Knowing that time was short, Hitch called on his warriors to run after him to the next building. "Onward! Onward to glorious battle!" (Emil retrieved his spear, helped Scarface out of the water, collected the and freshly butchered frog meat, and followed at a slower pace behind.)

Hitch and his summoned warriors ran into the building, saw a staircase, and ran up. The upstairs was empty as well, and for a moment, Hitch worried there'd be no second battle for his berserkers. It was only a moment though, because then the air filled with the sound of buzzing, then tiny biting flies swarmed in through every window, converging in the center of the room and then descending on one of the warriors, who fell dead to the floor as the insects rapidly stripped the flesh from his body. Hitch stepped forward to pour lamp oil over the body and light it, and the flies exploded away from the body, before reforming in a smaller cloud that before. Hitch ordered two of the warriors to secure the basement, then handed the remaining berserker a bottle of oil and told him to pour it over himself. "Witness me!" screamed the warrior, "Tonight I die victorious!" The flies descended on the second man and began biting him, and Hitch set him alight. The warrior grasped the insects toward him, and waved his blazing arms at the ones trying to escape, sending the few surviving insects out into the ruins. Hitch saluted his second warrior as he fell to the ground and was consumed entirely by the flames. Going downstairs, he met up with Emil and the others, where they found piles of gold and silver coins set at the top of the stairs, alongside two gemstones. Taking the lantern from Petruccio, Hitch went down to the basement, searched, but saw no signs of violence and no remaining trace of his warriors. Returning upstairs, Hitch helped the others pack up their supplies as the lantern went out again.

By now the group was tired after hours of searching and fighting, and the sun showed that it was late afternoon, or perhaps early evening. They returned to the orchard, where they presented the frog meat to the tribe. The leader - cheftan Emeril - was pleased, and even more pleased when Emil offered up his garlic. "That'll really kick it up a notch! Bam!" Everyone dined on garlic frog legs with apple sauce, the the humans bedded down, feeling safe surrounded by so many warrior guards. Scarface now had a second scar from the frog bit, forming a giant X across his face.
In the morning, they learned that there had been a brief disturbance in the night when a giant rhino beetle landed among the trees, ate some leaves, then flew off again. The cheftan didn't seem worried, "Eh, this kind of thing happens all the time," but Hitch and Emil were quite worried about the danger the beetle might pose to their new comrades. Emil decided to consult his revered ancestors, invoking a ritual that allowed him to commune with their wisdom. (The player, Emily, announced "my ancestors are not from New Jersey!" right before we started the consultation, so I made them ambiguously British and decided to dial back the silly voices a little bit.) Emil praised his ancestors repeatedly while asking their advice, and thanked them profusely for the information they offered. He asked if the rhinoceros beetle could be killed - and learned that his present forces might just barely be up to the task, although it might be a costly victory, and success was by no means assured. He asked if the beetle was alone - and learned that it was not with others of its kind, but it was also not alone in its lair. Finally, he asked if the greatest treasure in the city was nearby - and was told that the city's greatest treasures were obscure, and probably located in the citadel or palace, but that there were treasures nearby to the northeast and the south. To decide which of the nearby treasures to seek, Hitch and Emil questioned the orcs more about the beetle, and learned that it had flown off to the northeast. They set out, first passing the three empty ruins they'd searched initially, before arriving in a section with three intact buildings.

Circling the first building, the group was unable to discern if it was occupied from the outside. The contrast of the interior shadows was too dark to see inside in the bright sunlight, at least not without holding a lantern through one of the empty windowframes. Instead, they went in as a group through the front door, where they saw a group of three orcish hunters mending a rope net. Hitch invoked the authority of the Trollbridger Clan and tried to frighten the hunters into surrendering, but the toughs picked up their spears instead. Scarface ran forward and shivved the lead hunter in the gut, stabbing him a dozen times in rapid succession. Hitch threw his dagger at one of the other hunters, hitting him in the shoulder, then backed up behind his friends. Petruccio charged forward with his brother's spear, running through the injured orc and slaying him. Emil sicced his two dogs on the last hunter, and they brought him down and mauled him to death before Emil recalled them. Flush from the fast victory, the group checked the bodies and found that they had a bag of loot, holding gemstones, scrolls of ancient writing, and two bottles of unidentifiable liquid. Each hunter also had a crude scarification of a flying insect on the palms of their right hands.
A moment later however, the giant rhino beetle burst out of the basement, cracking the plaster around the door as it stormed up the steps. The beast was enormous, its body as long as two people laid end to end, and its horn rising to human head height even when the insect held its head right near the floor. The group backed away as the beetle sniffed and gored the dead orcs' bodies, then turned in several circles trampling the corpses to paste. Emil tentatively approached the giant, offering it his hand. Two nostrils at the end of its horn sniffed Emil's outstretched fist, then snuffed. The insect then turned away from the group, waddled out the front door, and flew off in a buzz of wingbeats. The group breathed a sigh of relief that the giant insect hadn't attacked them, then gathered up the swag, the net, and all three of the orkin spears from the floor. The group then descended into the basement where the beetle had been, and saw that it was basically empty except for some leaf bedding, and another ladder leading down to another root cellar. Searching there turned up a cache of silver coins, which the party pocketed before walking over to the next building and heading immediately inside.

The moment they entered, however, they saw that the sunlight hitting Scarface's back was casting a giant shadow on the far wall, much larger than anyone else's. The shadow began to move menacingly, but Petruccio was ready, throwing his bloodstained ancient spear into the thing's chest. A hole of sunlight opened around the spearpoint, now stuck in the wall, and wisps of shadow stuff drifted away from its sides near the injury. Emil threw his spear of rune-carved white oak, and Scarface threw his new orkin spear, but both weapons clattered off the wall and seemed to have no effect on the monster. Emil sent his dogs forward. One barked and growled at the creature, while the other bit at the shadow and tore away a mouthful of shadow stuff - which it immediately began spitting out. Hitch worried about what would happen if this monstrosity were ever allowed to attack, and called out in his clear high voice, summoning his magical berserkers. Cries rang out behind them - "For victory! For Valhalla!" - and four burly warriors burst into the room from behind, nearly tearing down the far wall as they hacked the shadow creature to pieces which evaporated as soon as they separated from the main body. Hitch called to the warriors to follow him, and again, they ran across the gravel to the next building and rushed inside.

There they found a great green pulsating ooze on the floor. "For the glory of Valhalla! For the glory of victory!" Three of the berserkers hacked at the slime (one fumbled) but ended up coated in the "blood" of the creature without seeming to harm it. Hitch ordered them to secure the basement, then poured oil on the ooze and lit it. Emil and the others entered the room behind Hitch in time to watch the green slime turn black and burn out, leaving an oily black slick on the floor. In the basement, they heard screams of agony that unnerved them. "Witness me! Tonight I dine in Valhalla! I die glad and glorious!" They were further unnerved when they heard a buzz of wings behind them. The giant rhino beetle landed and blocked the front door, sticking its head into the room. Worse, at the same time, three more livid green gelatinous blobs emerged from the basement stairs and began slinking toward the group! Emil turned to the beetle, and began petting its giant horn. Hitch handed out flasks of oil to Scarface and Petruccio. All three lit the wicks on their military flasks and tossed them at the creeping oozes. All three hit and burst into flame! The oozes continued slinking forward, on fire, then stopped and guttered out, leaving nasty burnt oil patches on the floor. The beetle seemed to be focusing on Emil, rather than the battle, and nuzzled the side of the young man's face with the end of its horn, making a pleasant rumbling vocalization, then backed out of the room and flew off again. The group went down to the basement, where they found the last warrior, who handed over sacks of coins before running up the stairs and disappearing. "Witness me!" The group searched the room, but found nothing more.
They returned upstairs, where they saw another giant toad, this one staring wide-eyed at the four smoldering patches of burnt slime. The shocked-looking toad turned its gaze from the floor to the party, then looked back at the floor, then back at the party, then hopped quickly away. The group gave the room a once over, but found nothing new, then returned to the house where they found the shadow and searched there as well.

Satisfied that they had cleaned out the inhabitants of another block of buildings, they returned to the orchard and related their tale to the orcs. Cheftan Emeril agreed with the group's opinion that although those buildings were now empty, they were not necessarily safe, especially since the giant rhinoceros beetle seemed to be living in one of the ruins. He also explained that the scarified fly hunters probably belonged to a gang from the far east side of the city. The leader called for his group to bring forward their latest proceeds to pay the group for their help. They had 5 gold coins, "Sorry, the bridge business has been a little slow lately," and what looked like a silver tiara. Hitch Huxley made a shocked face as he examined the tiara. He realized it wasn't silver, it was platinum, and set with several flawless pearls. The group happily accepted their payment, and bagged it before the cheftan could notice its full value, then returned the half-day's march to Lesserton.

Next time - the fate of Vodka Gimli!

2200 silver coins
95 gold coins (including 5 in payment from the Trollbridger Tribe)
5 gemstones of unknown quality
1 platinum tiara
2 scrolls with ancient writing
2 bottles filled with unknown liquid

(This comes out to 1975 gp worth of treasure, plus the magical items. Divided into 2½ shares, each share is 790 gp, meaning that Petruccio and Scarface will each want 197 for their ¼ share. Assuming that Emil Durkheim and Hitch Huxley keep the tiara for now, they have enough in cash and gemstones to pay their hirelings, but they'll either need to sell the crown, or one of them is going to have to either borrow money or write the other an IOU to settle things between them. Or who keeps the crown can figure into their negotiations about how to divide the magic items. One of the scrolls has a lot more writing on it than the other, so that may figure into their decisions about how to divvy the loot.)

Gambino (eaten by a giant toad)
5 magical berserkers (2 eaten by insects, 3 transformed into slime)

1975 from treasure
71 from the giant toad
65 from the insect swarm
30 from the Fly Hunter orcs
83 from the shadow
152 from the green slime

(This is 2376 XP total. Divided into 2½ shares, each share is 950 XP for each player, and 237 XP for each of the hirelings. In retrospect, I wonder if I only should have awarded 38 XP for the original green slime, with no additional experience awarded for fighting the berserkers who were transformed. It's something I'll try to consider the next time the sort of monster that can make copies of itself.)

(Corey is probably my most experienced player. He plays Laetoli, Beastmaster, Will, and Kerhs in my Island of the Blue Giants campaign. He also comes to the table with a lot of previous experience as a player. In chatting, I've learned that his resume includes the Red Dragon Inn chatroom, Werewolf: The Apocalypse LARPing, and the new Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game. He actually hasn't played using the B/X or ACKS rules before, but he's obviously familiar with the tactics of old-school play, as evidenced by his decisions to buy and then deploy so much lamp oil. Corey is the first player in this campaign to roll a "failed character" - the ill-fated Gambino had slightly above-average Strength and Dexterity, but the rest of his ability scores were very low, so he became a free henchman instead of a player character. I also offered Corey the option to either accept the standard starting equipment, or to roll for the chance at better or worse equipment. He got the "eunuch sorcerer" template, which paid off very well the summon berserker spell and 95 starting gold. Summon berserker comes from the ACKS Player's Companion, so in this campaign, it's possible for elves to learn that spell at random, but human casters use the shorter lists from the Core Rules. So receiving the spell in his template is pretty much the only way Hitch Huxley could learn the spell, which unarguably affected the group's tactics throughout the night. All that extra starting money paid for lanterns, a lot of military-grade lamp oil, and some other useful equipment that didn't come into play. The eunuch sorcerer is a master of intimidation, which is what let Hitch Huxley attempt to start up his own network of spies and pickpockets by screaming at a bunch of children.)

(Being able to summon magical, suicidal vikings who want to die gloriously in battle once a day certainly affected how the group played! It feels like a very powerful spell, but in a way, the effect it creates is also not very far beyond what the group could create for themselves by really spending big on their retainers. The biggest effect the berserkers have on play isn't just that the players are suddenly able to win in battle, it's that they suddenly have an incentive to pick as many fights as they can, as quickly as they can, knowing that the berserkers will vanish whether they die in combat or not. I think that combat should always take up a full exploration turn no matter how many rounds it lasts, so the "30 minute" duration - 3 exploration turns - means that he berserkers can be in two, or at most three combats before vanishing. The berserkers were one factor that let the characters win so many fights in this session. Another was the fact that the hirelings rolled really well in combat. They players were rarely surprised, won initiative almost every time, and Petruccio and Scarface both got in some impressive hits. The group might have done nearly as well, even without their magical reinforcements. A third factor leading to their success was the liberal application of flaming oil, a time-honored old-school tactic. I'm not particularly enforcing any kind of encumbrance rules, but I should think about any upper limits I want to set on how much oil a single character can carry. One thing I've been thinking about recently is how, for a rule to matter at the table, it has to be simple enough to remember and enforce regularly. Any kind of complex rule just gets replaced with the ultimate alternate rule, "ignore this." You would think that making movement rates and encumbrance matter would call for more detail, but I'm thinking it might call for more simplicity instead. Using the character sheet itself as a reminder or enforcement mechanism probably helps a lot too. Anyway, the other effect that the berserkers had - beyond me getting to do a lot of warboy viking voices - was that their deaths really heightened the tension in both fights where they died. Pitiful Gambino getting eaten by a toad was a little scary, but it really freaked my players out when the insect swarm skeletonized one of the vikings, or when they could hear the whole group of them screaming in agony from the basement after they touched the green slime. The monsters this week were relatively dangerous for 2-3 HD creatures, but still - they had unusual attacks and invulnerabilities, but what they didn't have was that many hit points. Showing the monsters killing the strongest warriors the team has had on their side so far really amplified their appearance of threat and difficulty.)

(For the most part, I had this session's encounters mapped out ahead of time. It was a nice slow simmer of tension that the first block of buildings they entered was completely empty, but the dice decided that, not me, and if they'd gone somewhere else first, they'd have found whatever was there. Lesserton & Mor had me roll a d4 to determine how many buildings were in a group, a d% to determine the size of each buildings, a d2 to decide if there was a basement, another d2 to decide how deep, a d20 to determine if each building was occupied, and then a d6 to determine what kind of occupants. I also followed the Labyrinth Lord dungeon stocking advice to give each empty basement a 15% chance of containing unprotected treasure on the lowest level. I'm glad I took care of it ahead of time, because I think it would have been too much time watching me roll dice if I'd tried to do it during play. When the players first asked the orcs if they'd seen anything dangerous in the area, I just rolled on the wandering monster table, expected that whatever I got would be the next thing they encountered when they finally came upon a wanderer. The fact that I got the insect swarm - which was in the next group of buildings they went to - was a happy coincidence.)

(I was surprised that the fleeting overnight appearance of the giant rhinoceros beetle from the wandering monster table grabbed my player's attention so much. First, they were afraid of the beetle as a threat, then it kind of became a sympathetic figure, and even a potential future ally. I rolled a d12 to determine the clock direction the beetle flew off in overnight, so it ending up in one of the remaining hexes of unexplored buildings was a coincidence, although a nice one. The group of orcs I'd rolled up as the occupants for that building were described as "fly hunters," so it made sense that they'd be hunting the beetle, and since I knew it flew to that hex, it made sense that the reason the orcs were in that building was because they'd cornered the beetle in the basement. The second time the beetle showed up, it's because the group was set to encounter a wandering monster, and the result on the table was roaming orcs. Since they'd just beaten a group of roaming orcs, I decided that meant the beetle showed up instead. The beetle becoming affectionate was the result of Emil Durkheim rolling high on the 2d6 reaction rolls. The beetle flew off overnight in the first place because of its reaction roll, and the giant toad that showed up after they killed the slime kept on hopping for the same reason. Lesserton & Mor recommends that neutral reactions in the ruins are likely to result in the wanderer giving the party their space unless they make trouble, which I think is good advice. Some combat may be unavoidable - although you can run from it! - but not every encounter has to turn into a fight unless the players themselves are feeling bloodthirsty.)

(Besides the encounters with the rhino beetle, the other really unplanned event of the evening was the size of the payout for investigating those buildings. Before the start of the session, I knew a couple things. I knew that young Petey was going to change his name and become much more interested in Imperial history and culture. And I knew that the bridge orcs were going to move into the orchard, adopt the wild dogs, and start thinking about hiring the players to check out the buildings. I hadn't thought much about what kind of payment they'd have, so I decided that they would just offer up one standard share of orc treasure from the Labyrinth Lord rulebook. I knew from stocking the buildings that this could result in a very variable payout - just look at all the magic items the fly hunters were carrying! - but I hadn't seriously considered the possibility that it would amount to all that much. So imagine my surprise when, at the end of the session, I had the players get out their d%s so we could roll up the orc treasure together, and they end up rolling a 1500 gp item of jewelry! For all the fighting, and all the basement hordes they uncovered, the players had cleared less than 1000XP for the evening up to that point - still good compared to their first ventures! - and with one roll of the dice, they end up closing in on 2500. Petrucio and Scarface are definitely promoted to 1st level fighters at this point, and even with their quarter shares, they've got enough experience to be on a path to 2nd level, and enough cash to really get into trouble back in town.)

(Speaking of town, at the moment, I'm not sure how I'm going to handle Hitch Huxley's sneakernet of child sneakthieves. The easiest solution would simply be to make the kids another source of rumors. Another obvious option would be to roll on some kind of "town events" or "campaign events" table, but unfortunately, Lesserton & Mor doesn't supply one of those. So far, I've avoided having players roll on a town events table because they keep going out adventuring. I conceptualize town events as being like wandering monsters - as a potential hazard that threatens you when you spend downtime in the city. Because I haven't tried to have the players roll on the town events table yet, I hadn't noticed that I don't even have one. Lesserton does have a table to determine if attempts to search for adventure are successful, unsuccessful, or result in a mishap, along with a list of the potential mishaps. What it does not have is an obvious list of occurrences for a successful search. In the Shadow of Mount Rotten has a "what happened to the tribe?" table that might work, although it's intended to be campaign events affecting stone-age orc tribes, not dark-age human neighborhoods, so I'll have to see if I can make it work. Otherwise, I will probably try to consult some of my other gaming materials to see if I can find something serviceable. I've been thinking about what you need to run a successful campaign, and I think that a random table of hirelings and a random table of town events should probably make the list of necessities. I think anytime one of Hitch Huxley's teams suffers a mishap, that pair of kids is probably going to retire. Long term, if he wants to make himself the head of a criminal network, he's going to need to hire some actual criminals. There could also potentially be some repercussions from press-ganging a group of children into a life in intrigue, but I'll let the dice decide that. If Scarface or Petruccio get into any trouble carousing, the newsies will probably bring word of it back to the party.)

(The other thing I'm not completely sure how to handle is Emil's interactions with the giant rhinoceros beetle. As a shaman, Emil has the power to take on animals as hirelings. I think that places most insects off-limits, but that's not really my main concern here. The problem is that the thing has 12 HD. I feel like it would be out of the question that a human NPC who was nearing the apex of wealth and worldly power would agree to let themselves be hired on as the personal assistant to a novice adventurer, particularly not on any kind of long-term basis. On the other hand, I think that if the beetle shows up again, and if Emil gets another good reaction roll, it should maybe follow him around until the end of the session - or until it fails morale, but I doubt that will happen since it should take a lot to scare something this dangerous. Of course, if Emil rolls badly, it might also try to kill him and his friends - but it would have to be a pretty bad roll since he's fairly charismatic, and I think he gets an additional reaction bonus with animals. So the issues to decide become whether the beetle is only wandering or if it has established a lair, what the chances are of encountering it inside its lair if they visit that, and what the chances are of encountering it as a wandering monster. I feel like encountering it again should be more likely than simply rolling "giant rhinoceros beetle" on the encounter table again - there's only a 1% chance of that happening - but I'm not sure how much more. I'm tempted to say that there's a 2-in-6 chance of finding it in its lair, and that there's a 1-in-6 chance of each wandering monster turning out to be their beetle, but I'm not sure if that's too high or just right. I suppose the only way to find out for sure is to try. And honestly, wandering monster encounters haven't happened that often so far. Anything lower than a 1-in-36 chance per in-game-hour of encountering the thing, and it will probably never happen, and that's not what I want either. I don't want a certainty of finding it again, but I do want the chance of it happening at random to be large enough to be meaningful, and 1-in-600 per in-game-hour just isn't large enough.)

(One final consideration. I've been running each session as 1 week of game time. I wonder if I should be incorporating a week of downtime between outings however. The pros of doing this would be a more realistic adventuring schedule, so Emil Durkheim, for example, would have gone on 3 adventures in a month-and-a-half, not 3 adventures in three weeks. Another pro would be that if I did want to incorporate town events, the week of downtime would be the sensible opportunity for them to happen. The con of allowing for downtime - at least in this campaign so far - is that Vodka Gimli is currently set to make her first save against death at the end of next session. Stephanie, Vodka's player, hasn't been available for the last couple sessions, but might be free next time, and able to take a proactive role in saving her character's life. If I were letting two weeks pass each session, then Vodka Gimli would have had to survive one save already, and would be about to make another, all without Stephanie having much chance to get her character any medical treatment. I'm not sure how much weight to give this con, however, since this feels like a unique problem, not a common occurrence.)

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