Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Session 7: New Arrivals in Catapesh

There has been an inexcusably long hiatus since my last session report in January, owing to an unfortunate series of scheduling conflicts for most of the players, which kept us from playing for two months.  Chronic absenteeism has made the current campaign locale impractical, since the ruins cannot be safely explored by less than a full party.  Consequently, I decided to relocate the campaign to an urban setting, which offers adventure of suitable challenge for any number of players, assuring that the game will go on, even when attendance is low.

And, so, the party fled the ruins of Thrace in advance of a horde of vengeful grimlocks that were expected to descend upon the looter's camp, after being stirred up last session.  They made their way west, through the Hellspire Mountains, to the fabled city-state of Catapesh, on the western shore.  The party arrived in the Crimson City when the late afternoon sun glittered gold off of the red slate tiles that adorn the buildings and high-spired towers.

The party, used to life in a lawless frontier, felt greatly put-upon by the strictures of civilization and complained bitterly when the gate guard confiscated their weapons, informing them that only city guards, the Overlord's troops, and licensed members of the Armsman's Guild were permitted to bear weapons and armour within the city's walls.  They were further aggrieved by the requirement that they, as outlanders, must register the name of the inn at which they would stay with the gate guards.

Muttering darkly about 'Dungeons & Paperwork,' the party made their way to The Sullen Ghoul, an inn in the funereal district owned by one of the guard's second cousins, and secured lodgings.  From there they made their way to the offices of the Armsman's Guild and quickly discovered that the 100 gp annual membership fee was well beyond their current financial means.  The guild master took pity on them and offered them membership in exchange for promissory notes; he even gave them contact information for a prospective client named Mustafa al'Zuul, who had so far been unsuccessful in contracting any of the guild's mercenaries, for some reason.

Eager to earn some coin and pay off their promissory notes quickly, the party met with al'Zuul at an inn called The Prancing Banshee.  The client was a slightly nervous, suspicious man and a self-proclaimed student of human anatomy, who required four fresh cadavers for his research.  He noted that the cadavers could easily be obtained from a mass grave pit in the necropolis that was reserved for criminals executed in the Plaza of Infinite Regret, but that the city authorities held a narrow-minded prejudice against 'anatomical research.' Thus, they would need to obtain the bodies surreptitiously and find a way to smuggle them into the city.

The party agreed to supply Mustafa with his cadavers for 25 gp apiece, then began to plan how to obtain them.  Citing the logistical problems involved in stealing fresh corpses from the necropolis, most of the party members argued for simply waylaying four passersby and thereby providing al'Zuul with the freshest possible cadavers at little effort.  Tohm, monk of Thoth, who is usually able to tolerate the ethical lapses of his companions, drew the line at the outright murder of innocents and vetoed the plan.  Instead, the party borrowed a horse and cart from Mustafa and purchased four kegs of ale in which to smuggle the cadavers.  Fearing that coming and going via the northern Anubis Gate, nearest the necropolis, would arouse suspicion, they decided to use the Trader's Gate in the east wall.  After exiting the city, they waited until nightfall, then made their way north to the necropolis.

They made their way stealthily through the necropolis in the dead of night, circumventing a band of tomb-robbers who were engaged in breaking into a crypt, and found their way to the mass grave on its southern edge.  The open pit was muddy and foul with with the rotting corpses of criminals.  None of the party wanted to get down into the pit and haul out the freshest corpses, but in the end it came down to Tohm because none of the warriors wanted to befoul their armour, or so they said.  In all likelihood this was their way of getting back at Tohm for vetoing the expeditious plan to create their own cadavers.  When four likely corpses had been found they were stuffed into the ale kegs and then the party spent the rest of the night camped outside the city, waiting until day to return with their cartload of ale.

This night's work enabled the party to pay off one of their promissory notes, but they ground their teeth in frustration when they heard rumour that a band of tomb robbers had recovered a chalice worth a thousand gold crowns the night before.  Despite being strangely okay with murder, the party was unwilling to stoop to tomb-robbing to pay their debts, and so sought out another client from the Armsman's Guild.  This time they contracted with Kamal the slaver to recover a group of slaves - prime specimens destined for the galleys or the fighting pits - who had escaped from Kamal's recently arrived caravan and were believed to be hiding in the woods east of the city.

Entering the ominously named Black Goat Wood east of Catapesh, the party soon found fresh blood and signs that something, or someone, had been dragged off deeper into the woods.  Following the spoor, they finally found the escaped slaves in an encampment of beast men.  A few of the slaves were still alive, but most had been flayed and gutted and were hanging by their feet to ripen, although one was roasting, already, on a spit.

The party decided to write the slaves off as a lost cause and began to sneak away, but they didn't reckon on the preternaturally sharp hearing of the beast men who were eager for more fresh meat.  The party's retreat soon became a panicked route as they raced through the woods to escape the pursuing beast men.  When it became clear that the beast men had no intention of giving up the chase, the party decided to rally and fight, even though they were badly outnumbered.

They managed to fell a couple with their bows as the beasts closed in, and the sorcerer put paid to one with a flask of oil and a judicious casting of Azoul's Spontaneous Combustion, but he was badly injured himself.  When one of the warriors was slain, Tohm grabbed the sorcerer and ran, abandoning the two remaining warriors, Ebbin and Balinor to their fates.  The two doughty warriors stood back-to-back as the beasts closed in around them, and prepared to sell their lives dearly.  Horus, himself, must have been pleased by the valour they showed, for they overcame the overwhelming odds, cutting down one beast man after another until the few remaining broke and ran into the depths of the wood.  Ebbin and Balinor then made their way back to the beast man camp and rescued the still-living slaves, only to return to Catapesh and sell them back to Kamal the slaver for enough gold to pay off the remaining promissory notes.


Dan said...

hehe, Balinor and Ebbin are such bad-asses. :)

Great report Sean. I'm looking forward to the next one...and to making second level (although poor Balinor has a broken arm that needs tending too.) ;)

burnedfx said...

Awesome write-up as usual. I was hoping that your previous post was leading to another campaign session.

Is "Black Goat Wood" strictly a reference to Lovecraft or are you using Shane's excellent one-page dungeon as a piece to the campaign puzzle?

Sean Robson said...

Hi Burned, thanks. Black Goat Wood is, indeed, a reference to Shane's one page dungeon, which I love.

burnedfx said...

If your players are reading this, nothing to see here. Nothing to google. Move along. ;]

Shane Mangus said...


Another party of intrepid adventurers have raided Black Goat Wood! Let the mayhem ensue!!!

Sean Robson said...

And one day they may discover the horrifying secret of Black Goat Wood, and the origin of the herds of beast men within...