This session went well, I thought. I was running though, so maybe this is not the unbiased opinion you are looking for. That also means that I did not take notes and was only able to get one picture of the action. I will do my very best to lay it all out, though...
Jay DMed and played Therryk the Dragonborn Paladin
Dan was playing the newly resurrected Arlarond, Human Wizard
Jesse played Halma, the Human Rogue
Colin was Lucan, Elven Fighter
and Chelsea played Ana, Half Elf Cleric.
We picked up the party as they journeyed down the river back to Fallcrest. Gennal left them to do some rangery foresty things, and the party enjoyed a leisurely float home. The crew of the ship was feeling good about their contributions to the adventure, and insisted on being told over and over again how their knots and ropes helped the party descend below the temple.
They party arrived home early in the morning of the annual Autumn Festival. News of their arrival must have preceded them, as there were two guards waiting to escort Ana to speak to her father, and a less benevolent welcome awaiting Halma.
Lord Markelhay was waiting for his daughter in his study. He was mostly concerned about the Heroes of Fallcrest being missing for so long. He had planned on asking them to travel South of town and secure the old quarries. Fallcrest was in hills dotted with quarries. Most of them were private operations run by individual stonemasons or groups providing stone for artisans. The trade had dwindled over time, to the point where now, nearly ninety years after the Southern wall was destroyed there was no sign that it would ever be reconstructed.
Until now. The recent news of the Drow just to the Northwest of the city, along with the escalation of other threats in the wilds has motivated the Lord to begin reconstruction of the wall. A palisade was erected while the party was gone, and Ana's father had intended the group to complete it's tour of the Southern quarry before the Autumn Festival to allow him to announce it's reconstruction during the festival. With no time to do that, Lord Markelhay asked his daughter to take the Heroes of Fallcrest South and see to the quarry, and he would announce that it had already been done. He gave her rough directions to help her find it, but as it had been centuries since anyone had done any serious work there, it might still be difficult to find.
Halma's meeting was less cordial. The man wishing to speak to him was familiar. So was their conversation. A blast from the past, so to speak, this was the same thug that had pulled Halma aside on our very first session. I didn't include it in the write up there, so I will summarize. Weeks ago this man, Ervan Lances, had pulled Halma aside and told him that the powerful storm had delayed a cargo ship headed to Fallcrest from the South. His informant told him that it had been damaged and that the owners of the ship would be willing to pay whomever could retrieve their cargo.
Ervan now told Halma that he had information linking Halma to a recovery of this cargo, and demanded his cut of the reward. Halma naturally had no idea what he was talking about. Ervan, feeling cocksure told Halma that he would give him 'some time' to come up with the money, and that they would speak again.
The party made their way to the Blue Moon Alehouse. They had decided that when they could they would meet up here at noon, were they ever seperated. Lucan spied someone in the crowd, and was surprised to see Arlarond striding towards them. Last anyone had seen of him, he was dead on a slab in the Temple of Erathis. While tight lipped about specifics, apparently he had been raised by a Temple of Ioun, and had been studying and rehabilitiating while he waited for his friends to return.
The party got a table in the taproom and discussed recent developments. Halma and Ana relayed their new information, and everyone enjoyed the chance to relax and have some fun at the carnival.
A stage had been set up inside the courtyard of the Moonstone Keep. A constable kept order, allowing anyone who wished to perform for the crowd, and marked down the stand out acts. A few members of the City Council were there to help choose the best talents of the day. Halma decided he would try his hand at some juggling and slight of hand. From the crowd Arlarond spiced up his show by making the daggers appear to be flaming or enchanted in other ways. Halma used the magical properties of his dagger to make it dissapear only to reappear in his hand, and the crowd loved it. He catered to the crowd and kept them thinking he was an instant away from painful failure.
Arlarond tried next, using his magic to make bright fireworks burst in the sky, and his new pet owl flew circles around them. The crowd was dazzled by his display, but Halma's act would be hard to beat.
The last of our group to try was Ana. She had been working up some jokes to tell before the crowd. Arlarond helped cover the groans and stunned silence with some illusion of laughter, but it was clear that the previous acts had stolen their hearts. In the end, Halma's act edged out the others, though he was put into a sudden death with an elderly Tiefling quiltmaker and her gorgeous quilts. Though her talent was undeniable, Halma's ability to play to the crowd won him the day, and the first winner's token of the day!
Next was the eating contest. A local bakery supplied the pies for 1 cp apiece, and this was one of the more popular contests. More than a few people dropped out, however, when the almost 7 tall foot bulk of a dragonborn named Therryk got in line. Arlarond also got in line, and in all there were seven eaters for the first heat. Arlarond was one of the first two elimintated, but Therryk survived through the next heat of 5, and into the final round, with two bulky humans. It was looking like the end for Therryk, the guy to his left was clearly going to win. Suddenly, though, he got a pained look on his face and excused himself from the stage. Seconds later the sound of retching could be heard from around the corner. Arlarond later confessed to using a little magic to make his pie taste like warm snot. The edge was enough, and Therryk earned the second token of the day!
The contest was over in time for the group to enter the Treasure Hunt. The edges of the Tombwood held 5 small golden coffins. The person or group to find the majority would win the contest. Ana and Lucan had the sharpest eyes in the group and signed up. Beforehand, Arlarond and Halma pulled them aside and gave them several pointers about good hiding places and in spotting something unnatural in the woods. Ana was able to locate two, and Lucan two more, meaning they shared the win for the third token.
The next even was the most popular of the day. The town sponsored a wrestling competition. Men and boys from all over town came in to try their hand at each other and win a token. This competition was popular enough that all five members of the party entered it, though Therryk was eliminated early. Lucan was unlucky and his first and last opponent seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of how to subdue him. Ana was the only woman who signed up, and her opponent was clearly disturbed by that. The members of the town guard in the area no doubt contributed to that, so the lad took it easy on her. Her downfall came in a moment of bravado, when she mounted the corner post and attempted to dive onto him. Her clumsy maneuver was easily avoided and he plopped on top of her, keeping her down and knocking her out of the running.
Halma was a dark horse in this competition. He was smaller and more wiry than everyone else (aside from Arlarond), but used his quickness to great advantage. Intimidating his opponent with his dagger prowress was just the edge he needed. He won his first match handily, and moved on to the next round.
Arlarond was the real underdog. He used a bit of magic to coat his bare torso in a slippery film. His opponent was clearly not expecting this to be much of a threat, and was surprised when Arlarond slipped from his grasp. This happened a few times. Arlarond was eventually able to get him pinned down and move on to the next round.
A few more fights narrowed the field down to four, Arlarond, Halma, the man who had defeated Lucan, and one other. Luckily Arlarond and Halma did not have to fight each other. Halma won his match quickly and easily, but Arlarond struggled. While he slipped out of holds again and again, he couldn't maintain his grip on the other guy. After a long fight, he was finally subdued.
Halma's final fight was pretty anti-climatic. He evaded the first grapple and moved behind his enemy, subding him and winning the contest. Another token won, and Halma's second.
The next contest was the carnival. All day the thieves' guild was running games down in the Lower Quays. A wooden token was hidden somewhere, in one of the games, and you can bet that the game was rigged to allow only the person that they wanted to win. The party played some games, and found the token. Halma elected to play a dart game, where for a copper the player got three darts to throw at a board. The board was covered with inflated bladders, and popping one won you a prize. Halma threw all his daggers at once in a blinding barrage, but was puzzled when one of the darts just bounced off it's target. He slyly threw his dagger at that balloon and it returned to his hand immediately. The thug running the contest was obviously confused, as the rigged balloon should not have burst, but gave up the prize anyways. Halma's third token!
The next contest was an all day affair. A board in the courtyard of the Nentir Inn was erected with names on it. Anyone could ask to have their name on the board. People came by all day long and chose the person they thought most deserving of the token. Ana put her name up, and loitered for awhile talking to passers by and garnering votes. Her position as one of the Heroes of Fallcrest certainly helped, and her contributions to the town before that. The only serious competition they saw was Constable Blackshield. The party had an intense dislike of him, and spent some time following him around and telling the people he spoke to the truth about him. Most were appaled by his behaviour, and this sealed the deal for Ana, earning her a token when the votes were counted.
The last two competitions were tough for the party to participate in. The Livestock competition was to show off animals that had been raised in the past year. While Ana had been raising a 1000 lb pig named Petunia, it was not as impressive as some of the other animals. Nobody elected to try and cook something, either.
The day was ending when people gathered at the gates of the Moonstone Keep to hear Lord Markelhay announce the winner. With 6 of 8 tokens it was clearly the Heroes of Fallcrest. He presented them with a staff (his confused look betrayed the fact that he had not expected this to be the winning prize), and the party led the procession down to the Southern wall.
Lord Markelhay had been busy. He had ordered a scaffold built and had the green dragon draped over it, with its wings spread and looking dangerous. A gallows was nearby. In the shadow of the dragon he outlined the recent threats to the city. A man with a sack on his head was walked to the gallows, and the hood torn off.
The party recognized him, it was one of the Drow they had captured, the one they called the cabana boy. A noose was placed over his neck and he was hung until dead. By now the mood was somber indeed. Lord Markelhay began to outline his plan. The Heroes of Fallcrest had been working for the city again! The need to rebuild the wall was great, and the Heroes had been to the quarry and established a base there. Soon stoneworkers would begin the work of walling in the city and making everyone safe once again -
He was interrupted by Nimozaran the Green coming on stage. He whispered something in Lord Markelhay's ear. From their higher vantage on the stage they could see something over the palisade. Lord Markelhay called for the gate to be opened and the entire city of Fallcrest watched the Elves enter the city.
Four Elves riding on War Zebras entered first. They were dressed in ceremonial armor and were flying the banner of the Elf tribes of the Harken Forest. They were followed by an enormous tortoise. A howdah on the back held an Elf Lord, and a strangely dressed elf, similar to a witch doctor, sat on the leading edge of the shell and guided the beast. At this development, Lord Markelhay was ushered away, and the Elves followed him to the Moonstone Keep.
The Festival had ended in a sudden manner, and the party now had several decisions to make.
That was the first ninety minutes of the game. I had a great time running it. I had created this Festival with a couple adventure hooks and a lot of roleplay. My goal was to do this, and then unleash the party. Let them go. No rails. Try some semblance of the sanbox we had set out to do.
This is a good argument for not trying a 100% sandbox approach. Only bringing in content as the party discovers it is cool, but scheduling something like this with the party's participation implicit with it's creation allowed for a whole sled of roleplaying, and aside from being very fun to do, allowed for a lot of character development. As a DM it was great because the increased definition in everyone's backstories allows me to come up with better and more pressing hooks.
The best moment for me was the mention of Constable Blackshield. The party has had a couple bad run ins with this stereotype of a crooked cop, and just mentioning him riled them up. Real anger and emotion, followed by them scheming to ruin his attempt to win the contest. I felt like I had introduced a viable NPC that I could bring back again if I needed that emotion.
The grappling competition was I think the highlight for the players. Everyone tried it, and almost everyone tried some unorthodox thing, and the penalty for losing a fight not being instant death was mentioned as a selling point. This is something to think on.
I had some individual roleplaying planned for each player. Halma and Ana had theirs outlined here, but Arlarond's raise from the dead also had some, with a DM to player email earlier this week and a mysterious message to go with it. What Dan chooses to share about his character is his business, though, so I will not go into that here. Colin's character had tougher history to work with, but when I do part two later you will see what I *tried* to do.
I do not want to portray Lord Markelhay as an opportunistic greedy politician in these writeups, but it is coming across that way. He is using the Heroes, I think everyone knows that, but his motivations are noble, at least for now.
Next time, the party chooses, and a 100% improvised scene that stole the session...