Blog central for Nicholas Torbin Bergquist, alias Tori Bergquist, alias Camazotz the Death Bat, Doctor Futurity and other less suitable appelations! About all things gaming, films, fiction, archaeology, physics, astronomy, philosophy, music, writing, self-publishing,and an unhealthy obsession with Apocalyptica and Survival Horror. Warning! Existentialism Ahead.
Monday, March 17, 2014
13 Days of 13th Age VII: The Rescue of Princess Fatana
Usually on this Saturday night I run bi-weekly Pathfinder game, but the principle host had to cancel so instead I opted to run a one-shot intro game to 13th Age at the FLGS. I got three energetic players which made for a great single night session. I designed the game for some 3rd level characters to help show off the interesting differences of 13th Age that aren't always so obvious a level 1. The group had Ithilia the half-elf ranger who was raised by owlbears, Brennis the human barbarian who is the bastard son of the queen of Naminthia, and Brelliard the Bard, who has perfect hair, always. Perfect.
The scenario, in outline, lies below:
The Rescue of Princess Fatana
The adventurers are all employed by the king, Padishah Xanethes Ismulin, of Naminthia to take care of his daughter, Fatana. She has been committed to a wedding with the Al'Jirian prince Ramadus of the great city Dangkhari across the Bloodsea on the eastern continent of southern Takkai.
(in last night's tale the ranger had been her loyal bodyguard for years, the barbarian was given special retainer by the queen, Malekeh Afirin who is actually his mother, and the bard was the princess's teacher of languages and cultural liaison).
The ship which carried the princess across the sea was the great galleon Burning Sky, captained by the reliable but always intoxicated Captain Golvaram Durnos, a man of mixed Naminthian and Cretean descent. On the night that they reach the shoreline of Al'Jhira, the ship finds itself along a desolate stretch of coast about six hundred miles north of Dangkhari. The region is safe to navigate, safer than a direct sea approach to the great city in the captain's estimation. Then...disaster strikes!
The ship comes under attack by something hideous...a great mass of darkness from which immense tentacles emerge drops from the sky and cracks the ship in two. A lucky adventurer (roll 11+ on D20) might have wandered topdeck in time to see two things: a girl, one of the ship's scullery maids, up front at the prow performing a dark ritual in the robes of an unknown cult. She invokes "in the name of S'Groth, I command thee to descend upon this vessel and render it in twain!" and that's exactly what it does. The adventurer(s) who happened to wander top deck could also make a DC15 wisdom check (perception) to notice that the ship's dinghies are already missing.
Either way, in seconds the ship is sundered...the visage of a green dragon swoops down and grabs the priestess off the deck, whisking her away to safety. Not good. If anyone inquires about finding the princess in all this, they will discover that her room appears to be empty and ransacked...
Although you could start the game from Naminthia, I had to keep this one focused so the adventure didn't turn into a campaign, and the game properly started with everyone washing up on shore and recalling in vivid detail the horrors of what befell the Burning Sky. Everyone can make a DC10 CON check to see who's conscious at the start. Aside from the adventurers, a number of sailors have washed ashore, many drowned. Also, the Captain who appears to be unconscious, and the captain's loyal quartermaster, the minotaur named Bull. (Captain is a very generic level 3 dude, see page 254 in the core book for baseline stats). But there's a problem: hideous beasts are ravenously grabbing up and devouring any sailors who look alive!
There will be three of these hideous beasts plus one more for every two players over three you have in the group called addanc (from Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Great Druid by Jon Brazer Enterprises) or substitute dire bears from the core book and reskin them accordingly. The addanc are a salt water variant that thrive at the river mouths of the many outlets along the coast of this rocky, mountainous stretch of shore. They favor moving targets due to their crocodillian natures, seeking to devour and rend flesh, then regurgitate the bones for use in making their charnel dams at the entrances to their river mouth lairs. Fight is on!
After the battle, the PCs hopefully saved the captain and/or Bull. if they didn't then they find the 1st Mate Atag Humaris alive as well, shaken up but okay. One or more will point out that they are all dead men if they don't find the princess alive; the prince of Al'Jhira will surely kill them for losing his bride, assuming that the Padishah of Naminthia doesn't do the same for losing his daughter.
(Plot bit: the 1st mate was having a tryst with the maiden Issada the night of the ship's sinking. She fed him a powerful cocktail to knock him out before approaching her two accomplices to spirit the princess off the ship...while she summoned a demon of the Outer Chaos to make the ship conveniently "disappear...")
Searching along the coast (DC 15 Wis check unless a good background is available) will eventually reveal one of the missing dinghies. It's clear something happened here: there are tracks leading away, lots of them, and not very human looking (lizard man). There's a single arrow lodged in the ground and blood spatters evident; the dinghy itself is loaded with a coffer and steamer trunk of the princess's finest silken garb, about 2D6 of her nicest items of jewelry (about 1D6X50 GP in value each) and the coffer itself contains 200 GP. There's a note dropped in the boat: it says in Naminthian's native script, "When you bring the girl ashore you will be greatly rewarded. Seek out the northern shore, and wait for the scaled ones. Signed, V."
The arrow is an arrow of lethal strike (+1D10 when it strikes) and is covered in a mossy poison that will induce paralysis on a +5 vs. PD strike (once).
The Wilderness: Tracking the Lizard Men
Assuming the group figures out the direction to go, there is evidence of tracks leading directly into the mountainous jungle along the coast, and a ranger can follow it easily enough (or DC 15 Wisdom check). The trail leads about four miles inland before something odd: the tracks continue, but the evidence of the girl disappears. If the PCs have a way of tracking her scent (say, the ranger's beast companion) then it can tell something odd happened here, and there's a faint, brief trace of a draconic scent as well! In fact what happened was that the dragon aiding the tribe, a young whelp named Vangnar, swooped down to carry the princess from the tribe to their village, though there is precious little evidence of this event except for two much larger reptilian prints.
At some point and for dramatic effect the PCs should find evidence of two men, sailors on the ship who actually kidnapped Fatana and brought her ashore, with clear evidence they were hunted down and killed by the lizard men.
Encounter: The Ascetic
If the adventurers take a break or seem confused during the tracking they happen upon an ancient wizened man with great white hair and dark, ruddy, wrinkled skin. He is kindly acting from the get go, a local ascetic named Anji who chose long ago to live in the deep mountains to teach the local mountain tribes called the Anunjari how to write and count. Anji has been following the lizard men and knows what has gone down.
Assuming the PCs befriend him and aren't trigger happy, Anji will explain that the human and lizard man tribes locally live in fear of a great green dragon in the mountain called Drohvas who commands that all in his vicinity must worship him like a god. Although Anji does not know details, he knows the lizard men seek to gain favor by offering up sacrifices, and he is sure they intend to sacrifice Fatana. Anji knows that the lizard men of the Poisonscale tribe are affiliated with the degenrate son of Drohvas named Vangnar but does not know how the son plays into all of this.
(Plot bit: Drohvas hates his bastard son, and drove him out; Vangnar approached the shaman of the village called Ssurak and explained that as a worshiper of the chaos god S'Groth he had many contacts, including a priestess who could gain access to Fatana's vessel across the sea....and that her presentation to Drohvas would be a grand event).
Whenever the name of Drohvas is at last mentioned, either the Captain or 1st Mate if they are present, or one of the PCs who may have served Fatana directly will recognize the name: he is the rapacious elder dragon of the broken coast in Al'Jhira who has thrice now tried to kidnap Fatana to be his unholy bride. Bad news, in other words.
Anji explains there are many human tribes which he can take the players to.
Traveling in the Mountain Jungles of the Anunjari
There are several options for the PCs here. For the purposes of my one night session they decided to have the ascetic take them to a nearby village. He introduced them to the leader of the village, a burly warrior named Tan whom they convinced to aid them with forty able-bodied warriors who all hate the lizard men anyway, giving necklaces to each of Tan's increasingly robust three wives from Fatana's stash that was on the dingy.
The Anunjari have about seven different clans in the region, each one constantly at war with the others. The tribal center's wall is decorated with the skulls of other tribesmen and lizard men alike; this is a brutal region. The local tribe that Tan rules is called the Unhashar, and they are a bit more cultured by the western standards of the PCs due to the ascetic's efforts to teach them language, math and how to barter with the merchants of Dangkhari.
The lizard men have three main tribes, all close to the mountain in which Drhovas dwells, but the tribe with the affiliation with the bastard wyrm-son is not too far. If the PCs take advantage of the villagers willingness to fight then they have forty men plus Tan to aid them. If they go it alone it will be a tougher slog....
Either way head to the Poisconscale village next...
The Poisonscale Village
The lizard men are about two-hundred strong, consisting of about forty warriors and twice as many children and women who are primarily noncombatants. The village consists of dozens of wattle-and-daub mud huts surrounding a large earthen pyramid-platform with an elavating path running along it's length. At the thirty foot height of the platform are positioned two tall wooden poles between which dangles a cage with a winch to hoist it up high. Inside the cage is Princess Fatana.
sample image for an idea of what the village of the lizard men looks like
The village has the following possible enemies, depending on how the PCs approach this:
Lizard Men Warriors: forty lizard men (core rulebook, but only 5 are normal stats; the rest should be treated as mooks)
Lizard Man Brute: this lizard man is a actually a humongous crocodillian mutant. Use the regular lizard man, but double HP (64), +2 on attacks and double damage on all strikes. His job is the protection of the temple platform and the sacrifice.
Lizard Man Shaman: Use the lizard man magician in the core book page 307.
Lizard Man Leader: he uses the lizard man stat block with the following mods:
Level 3 wrecker (humanoid)
Inimical Longbow of lethal striking +1 (+9 attack, 16 damage to target and 6 to self; on hit secondary attack is +7 vs. PD or target is helpless, save ends)
Claw and Bite (+8 vs. AC; 10 damage and can make a ripping frenzy attack against target next turn)
Ripping Frenzy (+10 vs. AC; 3 attacks; 5 damage)
AC 18 HP 52
Treasure: the Inimical Longbow and six poison-tipped Lethal Strike arrows.
Priestess Issada: this cruel woman is the priestess who betrayed the ship and masqueraded as one of it's crew. She actually is a cleric of the Al'Jhiran chaos god S'Groth and a dedicate to Drovhas. She has fallen in love with his son, Vangnar, who like all Lingusian dragons can shape-shift at will into a humanoid form. Vangnar appears as a bull of a man with vaguely reptillian features when in his humanoid form.
Level 3 Caster (humanoid)
Lightning Blast (+9 vs. PD against 1D3 nearby targets; deals 8 damage to each) on an even attack roll the blast ricochets back dealing 8 more damage to each target!
Shroud of the Dragon (free action: +8 vs. all engaged targets; all targets engaged with her take 5 plus escalation number in poison damage per round while engaged)
AC 17 HP 45
The Green Dragon Vangnar: Vangnar is a medium green dragon (page 219) with the raw power trait. Vangnar doesn't usually hang out in the village, choosing instead to lurk in a nearby cave. Either Issada, the lizard man leader, shaman or the temple guard can invoke him with an alarm spell to call to his aid as a quick action.
Vangnar is the one behind all this mess: he wants to present Fatana as a gift to his father so he can get back in good graces. As a young wyrm he's been exiled from the brood for some time now, but he greatly desires a chance to get back in good graces.
For extra fun, if you have worked out icon relationships you could treat Drohvas as one of the the Three, which can have interesting consequences for how the PC with a relationship with The Three approaches this situation. On the other hand, it's not too likely an advocate for The Three would have knowingly been placed in charge of Fatana's protection, so take it where you will.
Concluding the Adventure:
Within the scope of a four hour session my group survived the coastal fight, met the ascetic, spent a lot of time at the village seeking aid, and then assaulted the lizard man village in a huge fight, taking out everyone including the dragon. They loved the mook effect (where damage to mooks cascades) and I deliberately used minis on the board to show visually how different 13th Age combat worked compared to Pathfinder; when you realize that just because you're standing next to someone on the board doesn't mean you're at risk since you're not engaged....or when you deal 27 points of damage and run wildly through the crowd dropping three mooks in a row, it instills a very liberating sense of just what you can do in a more freeform and permissive combat system like 13th Age.
In the end they rescued Fatana and decided to journey south, paying Tan and some of his men to act as a guide. The bard had smuggler as a background, and wanted to see if he knew of any smuggling operations along the coast....and as it turned out there was a smuggling cove five days south, which also partook of some local slave trading. Nonetheless they paid their way in with the remainder of the princess's coffers and got her, with only a week's delay, to her wedding in Dangkhari.
I like the advance system for rewards, as it works well to provide an immediate reward to PCs without leveling too quickly. For this adventure I rewarded two advances.