Thursday, July 18, 2013

Runebearer Session Two -- Basement Dwellers

If you missed the First Session, go check it out.

The Doctor Is In

Or PCs start the second session in the house of Ingrid, the town baker and sometime hostess. They discuss what to do about the four weepers stuck in the basement. Their first inclination is to dispatch them as quickly and painlessly as possible, but but because one of the creatures was Ingrid's mother, they revisit the idea of trying to cure the creatures.

The chance is slim. Sylvanus will require parts from a local still, some medicinal herbs and whatever medical supplies remain in town and still the odds are better than even that the townsfolk will remain mindless ghouls. Still, there is a chance, and Anatoli convinces the group that this is the right thing to do. The townsfolk are overjoyed to hear that there is any chance of saving their kin and they go about helping "Doctor" Sylvanus prepare while the rest of the PCs deal with capturing a test subject.

Ghoul Wrestler

A bit of quick planning finds CJ heading into the basement alone, while Darrington waits by the door with a net in hand. The rest of the group is nearby in case CJ needs moral support... or more likely, in the event something goes wrong.

CJ opens the door and warily creeps in. The basement is lined with crates of food and barrels of drink. The back wall is webbed in cracks and oily, black, fetid water seeps in. One ghoul laps at this nastiness, but the others are nowhere to be seen. CJs takes a few steps before she starts to notice some movement out of the corner of her eye -- they are surrounding her.

The next few moments are a whirlwind of punches, kicks, teeth and claws. The weepers come at CJ from all sides. She sidesteps one attacker and blocks the next, but the third scratches her with his claws. She backs toward the door, hoping to lure them closer to Darrington's net. Another set of attacks. This time, CJ gets the upper hand, grabbing one of her assailants and using him to "block" the others.

By now, the others are calling to CJ to get out of there, and so she tosses her ghoulish shield out of the door and flees. With only a few bumps and scratches, the group has Sylvanus' patient.

Medical Miracle

Meanwhile, after a bit of searching around town, Sylvanus has prepared a makeshift surgery for administering the cleansing agent to the weepers. The agent is a powerful alchemical concoction designed to burn clean areas that are infected with the Black Rain. It is not meant for use on living patients and administering it "raw" will likely kill the weepers. Sylvanus will use his herbal knowledge and physician skills to administer an counter-agent that will weaken the cleanser and make it just caustic enough to do the job, but not enough to kill the afflicted. This is all highly experimental, and so Sedgewick is nearby, watching every moment and taking copious notes, hoping to produce an academic paper on the experiment... he promises himself to mention Sylvanus when he speaks at the university... as the medical assistant, of course.

Before the treatment is applied to the first victim subject, Sedgewick uses his Virtues of the Mind rune on the Doctor, clearing his mind and allowing him to better concentrate on the task at hand.
Peaceful Mind -- Your mind is clear and you get a +1 to all skill checks outside of combat.
In addition, Sylvanus prays and petitions St. Alice to aid his endeavors.
St. Alice 
Born to a poor peasant family, Alice was bedridden with leprosy while still very young. She lost the use of her arms and legs, and then lost the limbs themselves. She became known for her holiness and devotion to Aestra. When a temple to the Mother was built next to her home, she had a window cut into the wall so that she could attend services with the priestesses. She later trained to be a priestess, but never attained the rank of Learned Sister. Nonetheless, it is said her touch could heal. Before her death, she was cured of her disease by the grace of the Mother.
 Praying to St. Alice can give a physician a +1 to any checks that involve diagnosing and curing disease.
The prayers and preparations pay off and the procedure is a success! Everyone cheers and Sylvanus is the man of the hour!

The Other Plague

Now that Sylvanus understand the technique required to heal the weepers, he can adjust how much cleansing agent is used so as to be able to treat three victims with a single kit. Still, that means once the pool behind Ingrid's house and the final weepers are purged, the PCs will have run through all of their alchemical cleansers. Sylvanus sends word back to Wallace at the docks and spends the next several days in Roth tending to the afflicted.

In the meantime, the group talks to the village reeve, Bordas about the ratlings that have taken residence in the manor. Bordas knows very little about the rats and their doings. He sent a couple of spies who indicated that they had seen a dozen or so albino ratlings and a troop of captive brown ratlings digging all over the manor grounds.

The PCs figure they have little to fear from the captives, but the albino ratlings give them pause. Rumors say that the albino ratlings are always seeking out ancient magics and devices. What could they want at Rothchild's manor? At this point, both Vitro and Sedgewick offer up the rumors they know about Rothchild having been a mage... perhaps the ratlings' presence has something to do with some magic that Rothchild possessed?

Ultimately, the group realizes they will have to drive these ratlings from the manor and claim it for Lady Riga. A dozen seems like too many to fight, especially behind the manor's walls. So, the group agrees to head up there, scout, and perhaps talk with the invaders and see if they can learn what they are up to.

Upon reaching the manor, the group boldly heads the gate to parley with the rats and try to get a meeting with Grimjaw. The rats agree, but will not allow weapons or spell casting within the walls. After a bit of a discussion, CJ and Vitro decide they won't agree to the ratlings' demands and will remain outside, while the rest of the group heads in.

As the PCs are led into the manor, they see 25 or 30 captive ratlings wearing some kind of metal collar with what looks to be a lock on it. These captives are digging holes, both by the manor house and behind the chapel, in the graveyard. The villager's assessment of about a dozen albino ratlings in charge seems correct, with about 4 of them on the walls at any given time, and the rest milling about overseeing the prisoners.

Grimjaw is an imposing ratman wearing impressive armor and sporting a bit of an underbite. He sits on Rothchild's throne, embellished with totems and fetishes, most certainly placed there by the ratling leader. Sedgewick leads the PCs in the discussion. Grimjaw is polite, but dismissive to the PCs and obviously believes he has the upper hand. The gist of the conversation is as follows:
o    Why are you here? – We are here because for years we have lived like common rabble, in ruins or burrows, content to simply seek shelter from the sky. My mistress has declared that we shall live as a people free of such fears. This land was ours generations ago, before the Borakki and the grunj forced us away. We are here to reclaim it. 
o    What happened here? – I cannot say, but this place was abandoned by your kind long before we arrived here. The only thing left here were corpses. Disease, I imagine. Your kind are so very fragile. 
o    Church/Priest – (nervously) There were no human priests here when we arrived and we have not defiled your church in any way. If you like, as an offering of peace, I will allow you to enter your church to reclaim any religious relics left behind. 
o    The dead – Burned or buried. I mourn the loss of your brothers and sisters. 
o    Digging – Digging? Digging? Oh, that is none of your business, human. Let us just say that I want to plant a garden and leave it at that. 
o    Rothchild – I knew of your Lord Rothchild, but never had the pleasure of meeting him. I have heard rumor that he died on an expedition far north of here.

Albino ratlings are notoriously superstitious and the PCs pick up on Grimjaw's nervousness in talking about the church. They take the offer to reclaim the relics from the church. A group of rats escort them there, but refuse to enter. The PCs are able to search the small chapel and connected rectory in peace.

The Church

The church is quiet and dusty. No one has been here for many weeks. The PCs search and find little until someone wanders behind the altar. On the floor, meticulously scrawled in blood are a set of runes. It is no language anyone knows, and so the scholars copy and study them to see if they can piece together any meaning.

Meanwhile, Darrington is scouring the rectory for anything of value interest. After ransacking the priest's chamber, he hits paydirt in the form of a journal. Most of it is mundane, but the last few entries shed some light on the mystery of Rothchild.
o    “The lord has returned from his latest expedition triumphant. This is good, since I need to talk to him about hiring some laborers from Roth. Both the roof and windows are in need of repair…”
o    “…when I entered his chamber, he was in a heated discussion with Dr. Ombras. Something about an old book, which was seemingly too important for my eyes, as they rushed to close and hide it as I entered. Their concern was strange, since the only glimpse I caught was that of two blank pages. Still, something about that whole scene makes me uneasy.”
o    “I have been meaning to discuss these blasted windows with Rothchild for well over a week now, but Ombras has been turning me away. Father forgive me, but I cannot stand that man. He is behaving well above his station. I will see the lord in spite of him, but he seems to never leave the lord’s chambers, so I will need to be patient.”
o    “Father, please save us! I set out to discuss the chapel repairs with Lord Rothchild and so I waited for an opportune moment to sneak into his chambers. I wish now that I hadn’t, for when I entered, I was greeted with the sight of both Lord and Lady Rothchild in bed, deathly pale, and covered in a patchwork of bandages, ointments and salves. All of this to treat a myriad of horrible, bleeding sores that have appeared on their skin. It was horrible.”
o    “Even more terrible was the surprise return of Ombras, who had gone only to get even more bandages from his office. He chided me for not heeding his warnings and told me that the Lord had contracted some sort of malady, probably from his contact with the Ghost Grunj during his last expedition. But Ombras had been on that expedition as well. Why wasn’t he sick? He showed me his arm, covered in the same sores as poor Lord Rothchild. Ombras was ill too, and when he saw the horror in my eyes, he laughed at me and said I may be infected now as well.”
o    “As it turns out, I have not fallen prey to the same malady as Rothchild and Ombras. Thank the Father. However, the pox have spread to his hands and face, so Ombras is no longer fit to be seen. That means I am in charge of nursing them. I do wish we had a priestess here. They are not recovering. If anything, their skin is getting worse. Indeed, I am alarmed at the amount of blood seeping from their wounds each day. They live, but they are wasting away.” 
o    “One of the soldiers made a disturbing confession today. When he was with Rothchild on his latest excursion, they came across a village of grunj living deep in the wilderness. Rothchild and Ombras were looking for something there and when negotiations failed, the boy said the soldiers were given the order to destroy the village and kill any who resisted. If they found the book, they were not to touch it for any reason, but to tell the lord. The entire village was wiped out, down to the last child.
o    “I knew the end of this story, but I asked the boy anyway because I had to know for sure. What of the book? He saw it, and it was as I feared, a blank book. Rothchild and Ombras killed an entire village of grunj in their search for some relic. And now they are cursed with these sores that will slowly bleed them to death. Am I wrong to be relieved? At least the rest of us will be spared the horror of their disease. But, what else does the curse have in mind for us? I will save this manor by disposing of these three wretched souls and their confounded book.”
o    “My mission is even more critical than I originally thought. Once they passed, their bleeding stopped and the scabs on their skin fell away. They’re not covered in sores. They’re covered in writing… beautiful”
o    “There is an old crypt hidden away in the woods to the north of here. I think it is Borakki in origin. They bodies won’t burn. The book won’t burn. A feeling of unease has come over me that I cannot adequately describe. I must hurry.” 
o    “It is done. I collected the boy and a few of his fellow soldiers and told them it was time to redeem themselves for the murders of the grunj. We broke the seal on the Borakki crypt and threw the bodies of Lord and Lady Rothchild and Ombras inside. Then, we sealed it as best we could. I am seeing them in my sleep. This place feels like a prison. I am not sure how much longer I can remain here. Father bless us all.”

Also, peppered throughout the last several pages of the journal are the same symbols found on the floor of the chapel...

The PCs conclude that Rothchild was likely a mage who got himself into some nasty mess with some grunj relic, and that Grimjaw is here searching for Rothchild's body and the book mentioned by the priest, all of which is fortunately holed up in some borakki crypt which lies somewhere to the north.

Umm... Are You Sure About This?

The discussion of what to do about the ratlings flares up again and this time, the group is certain the invaders must be dealt with now. Vitro, who has been listening to the proceedings using his rune, The Vault, contacts the group inside and a plan is formulated.
Eavesdrop -- You can listen in on a conversation up to 40 meters away regardless of how quietly the participants are talking. Only magical means can hide the conversation from you.
Far Whisper -- You whisper a message that travels on the wind to a target up to 100 hexes away. The target hears the message as though you whispered it directly into his ear and he will know from who the whisper came, but not necessarily where unless you wish him to know.
Vitro figures he can use his portals to get the group back together in the church if he can get onto the wall for a moment. Then, an ambush can be made by luring Grimjaw inside the church. Perhaps if they say they found Rothchild's body and a book, the ratling leader will be convinced to enter the church regardless of his superstitions. He can then be dispatched and the rest of the rats will fall into disarray!

They implement their plan at night. Vitro and CJ manage to scale the wall unseen and portal into the church. The group informs the ratling guard of their find and ask that Grimjaw come at once. He does, but when Sedgewick tells the ratling that they found Rothchild's body and book, Grimjaw simply instructs them to bring them to the manor and turns to leave. After a moment or two of indecision, CJ and Anatoli make a command decision and engage the ratlings.

Damn Overpowered Math Professors!

The combat is frantic. Anatoli and CJ hold the door of the church against Grimjaw's bodyguards. Grimjaw backs away and shoots bolts from a hand held crossbow. Darrington leaps through one of the church windows, flanks the ratlings and pelts them with arrows. Sylvanus struggles to get a clean crossbow shot off. Vitro summons a giant rat. Sedgewick taps into the First Equation and buffs the heck out of the fighters.
Blur -- +3 to your defenses. Creatures that don't rely on sight to target are unaffected.
The group is pretty defensively minded to begin with and this buff just sends them over the top. The ratlings aren't landing many blows, which is a good thing because if one of the front-line fighters drops, everything will crumble. With their shields and buffs, the fighters manage to hold the door. But time is ticking. The alarm has been raised and in a few short combat rounds, 5 more ratlings will show up and defensive buff or not, that will be a mess. A few have already run down the length of the walls and have started shooting down into the fray.

Not able to shoot through the combat to help out front, Sylvanus heads to a side window and puts a bolt into a ratling. Darrington fires another arrow, but then decides to get a better view of the battle and uses his climbing and acrobatics to get to the roof. Grimjaw gets an idea, quaffs a potion and heads around the side of the chapel. CJ doesn't like the looks of this and indicates she is going after him. Sedgewick will have to take the line... he gulps, but then remembers he was intermural fencing champion back at the university, buffs himself and then steps into the fray.

CJ and Grimjaw meet at the side of the chapel and trade ineffectual blows. Neither of them can land a decisive hit. Toli and Sedgewick have managed to drop a couple rats, but more are coming. Vitro sends his summoned rat to intercept, but that will only stop one or two for a brief time. Darrington shoots at the archers on the wall, and they return fire. Sylvanus loads his crossbow and runs over to help CJ take down the ratling leader.

Finally, both Sylvanus and CJ land telling blows on Grimjaw. The albino ratling is bleeding and hurt. He won't take another round like that. He pulls a jeweled dagger with a rat's head carved into the pommel... then stabs himself in the belly and collapses into a pile of 100 rats, all which scatter. His underlings turn and flee as well. The PCs hold the battlefield!!

And then, before the group can mount any pursuit, they hear a popping and clicking from within the compound as all of the captive ratlings grasp at the collars on their  necks and fall to the ground, choking.