Wednesday, November 4, 2009

AP: What was I doing here? It's not important...

Following a mid-week email that fast forwarded us to our destination, Thrace, the usual group assembled:

Paulic (Valenar Elf Archer Ranger 4) - Learned a new skillset this session, that of teppanyaki master. If this adventuring thing falls through, he can always fall back on twin striking cuts of meat on a hot grill.

Arashi (Stormsoul Genasi Assault Swordmage 4) - Slid right into the role of Tavern owner like he'd done it before. Amazing for a guy who spent most of his life in a cage, but he held the mantle of authority well. Usually by holding it over our heads in a menacing manner.

Phaedra (Arenal Elf Devoted Cleric 4) - Since death worshipping powers don't port well into the hospitality industry, she fell in line as the Tavern's main chef. With meals consisting of all-vegetarian fare, and (apparently) delicious cakes, she was kind of the main draw. And she made sure that as a tavern wench, she had her cleavage appropriately maximized.

Hogorth (Eladrin Hybrid Fighter/Warlord 4) - Despite a keen mind and quick blade, he was dropped in the most obvious spot befitting a man of his strength. As being a bouncer for the mildly overbearing Arashi, he spent the beginning of this session drunk. Playing second fiddle to a mildly intelligent lizard will do that to you.

Jasper (Gnome Hybrid Wizard/Warlock (Fey) 4) - With magical tricks up his sleeve and the charisma to make it work, Jasper should be obvious as the main performer in the tavern. Unfortunately, the wrongness of it all and his inability to handle stress led to a near mental breakdown. He compensated for this by sobbing uncontrollably out of view of the rest of us.

Senzamei (Eladrin War Wizard 4) - With her player absent, alternated between mindless zombie, DM controlled personality, and comatose baggage. She was the waitress, though it was hinted that there might be another profession she engaged in on the side.

Boxed text that kicked off this session set the stage. Jasper is playing his crystal keyed xylophone on stage, while Phaedra and Paulic prepare meals for guests. Arashi surveys his bar, keeping an eye on Zap and Hogorth as they watch the door.

Any questions about our reasons for being here were met with "You start thinking about it, and then realize that it's not important." We are all working in a tavern in Thrace called The Eye of the Storm. Arashi came into town awhile back, and set up the tavern for our arrival. About two weeks later the rest of us came following him into town, and for the past couple of months we have been spending our day-to-day lives running the tavern.

As for our other options, such as leaving town or exploring the nearby castle, "You think that is a very bad idea. It makes you uncomfortable to think about it." Residents of the town are currently packing our bar and enjoying themselves very much. With no real reason not to, we all stop fighting the compulsion and do our job.

The action this night is a possible bar fight. An unruly patron is getting violent and a brawl would be bad for business. Hogorth confronts and forcibly removes the offender from the bar. Crisis averted. . .not quite, as a couple of kids dash through the door and steal some drinks from a table. Hogorth sees them giving their drinks to a shadowy figure in an alley across the way, so he goes to investigate. It is the drunk troublemaker from just a moment ago. Two of his companions use the distraction to dash into the bar and start making with the brawling. By time the bouncer returns, things have devolved into a messy barfight, and the evening is quite ruined.

Getting things cleaned up once the guard has carted away the offenders (Guard insignia is best not thought about, since it is not important) is a priority. The Prince of Thrace is having his 8th birthday party here tomorrow, and we have much work to do. While Phaedra slaves away in the kitchen preparing, everyone gets the mess cleaned up, and Hogorth and Arashi have a FIGHT. Not like, with fists, but about Hogorth's supposed lapse in judgement and the resulting mess. Hogorth, for his part, remains drunk throughout the evening, and prefers to blame Arashi for holding him back. After Hogorth stumbles off to pass out for the evening, Arashi draws up a post advertising an open position as a bouncer, and tacks it up by the door.

The next day, everyone is up preparing for the Prince's arrival. Some drama is inevitable, though, when Hogorth sees the ad for his position. He brings it to Arashi, upset about this (and apparently, a lot of other unresolved baggage). It remains unresolved when the Prince and his retinue arrive.

The Prince and a herd of children his own age are accompanied by a dozen guards, and the old cloaked and bearded vizier. Among the guards is the Captain of the guard, an ex-pirate named Captain Regal. He lives up to every stereotype a pirate ever had, with a peg leg and a pirate hat (non regulation, I imagine). In an effort to keep Hogorth's bad attitude from ruining the party (and his reputation), Arashi sends him up to the main marketplace to purchase some blue dragon meat for the prince. Paulic then puts on a show with said meat, chopping and grilling it with flair. He unfortunately rolls a 1 on one of his opening moves, and is only saved when the harried Jasper manages to catch the haunch before it hits the ground. Playing it off as intentional, Jasper holds it over Paulic while Paulic slices bits off with his deft knifework. This is while Jasper is simultaneously playing the xylophone, and using ghost sound and prestidigitation to duet with himself. I believe the song was "Farmer in the Dell" or it might have been "The Hokey Pokey".

The party is going quite well. The meal is a success, and the guards dig in to the dragon meat leftovers while Senzamei brings out the Prince's cake. She places the eight candles, and then lights them with a cantrip. This seemingly mundane act gets Paulic all disoriented. He has seen Senzamei do this before, even in his current life as a grillmaster. Something about the setting though, with the prince, and the magical flame, causes him to loose it. He remains quiet throughout the rest of the party, and then attempts to approach Jasper about something. From the outside, it appears like. . .well "We've been friends for awhile now," and "I've been having these strange feelings." and "Why can't you just make this easy?" lead us to believe that Paulic has just now professed his love for Jasper. Jasper is not pleased by this (and any effort to steer the conversation to *why* is, predictably, not important) so he retires to his room.

Part of our mental compulsion is the sealed chest at the foot of our beds. Whenever we think that things don't feel right, we are comforted by going to our rooms and meditating on this chest. Several things in our current circumstances trigger these feelings, like the magic room under our cellar, Old Thrace, and any suggestion about a life before our current one. Paulic, in his manic insanity, breaks several knives trying to pry open his chest, and eventually uses an axe to chop into it. Inside he finds his old belongings. This is quite the development for him, but given his recent failure to talk sense into Jasper, he decides to sleep on the problem for now.

Arashi, on the other hand, can't let a possible workplace romance get out of hand. He awakens early and goes to talk to Paulic about his overtures to Jasper. He makes it clear that Paulic's acts in the bedroom are his own business, but he doesn't want anything to interfere with his work. Paulic, for his part, manages to break Arashi's compulsion. The Prince of Thrace, and Captain Regal seem to be a key, as they are figures from their shared adventures.

With Arashi now fully aware of his real self, along with Paulic, they split up to convert the rest of the party. Arashi confronts Phaedra, and tries using his hatred of her religion to jog a memory. She steadfastly clings to the delusion, until he mentions stillborn. She swoons, and remembers. Paulic is unsuccessful in convincing Senzamei. Arashi tries to talk with Hogorth, and things predictably go downhill. His methods include a mop, and hand to had combat. They crescendo with attempted electrocution, and his familiar as an improvised thrown weapon. They climax with a verbal drubbing where Hogorth's ambitions are questioned, and for him that is the final key to unravelling the domination.

Senzamei, now quite afraid of her insane-seeming companions, is trying to get into Jasper's room, but he is having none of it. After her chest is broken open, she falls unconscious, and Hogorth breaks down Jasper's door to talk with him. Jasper is able to shake off the effect when his meeting the party is mentioned, and he remembers that he thought we would make a very poor archaeological team.

With Senzamei's unconscious body forgotten in the hallway, we all gather downstairs to talk about what happened. We have memories of 2 months working in this tavern. For Arashi, he has memories of an additional 2 weeks waiting for the rest of us to arrive. Since he only entered the town of Thrace a few seconds before the rest of us, we come to the tentative conclusion that while in Thrace, time runs at a different pace. Very different, since as Phaedra looks at her journal from the past couple of months, she reads that the Prince has had his birthday here about every 2 weeks. Her entries are regular, and reveal that we have been basically repeating the same actions over and over. It then dawns on us that if the party we were looking for has been missing for about a month, odds are that if they made it this far they died of old age long ago.

We decided to investigate our tavern before we go anywhere. On our way to the magic room below the basement, we stop to check out the cellar. Inside it we make a horrific, or mundane discovery. We uncover a stack of signs that we posit once hung in front of the Eye of the Storm. They are the names of the past taverns (Lydia's Rest, Heart of Fire, Ale's well that ends well, and the Laughing Minotaur). Lydia is the name of the leader of the last expedition. It is reasonable to assume that she was stuck running a tavern and throwing a birthday party for the rest of her life. Hogorth found that horrifying, and possibly one of the worst punishments imaginable. Phaedra felt that it wasn't so bad, since the laughter of children can bring a smile to your face.

We also found a few chests identical to the ones we just destroyed to get our gear. Upon opening them up, we find some increasingly ancient magic items. All of the mundane material has decayed away, but we collected quite a few useful pieces. After that sobering revelation, we climbed down the ladder into the next basement. The room was covered in arcane glyphs written in glowing blue. The arcane specialists in the group were not able to make any sense of the gibberish. The other feature of the room was a glowing blue sphere hovering in the center of the room. Arashi touched it and disappeared. Not wanting to arrive two weeks later wherever they were sent, and end up a bouncer again, Hogorth touched it, and the whole party followed suit.

We appeared in a jungle. Despite various clues, such as the vegetation and the wildlife, we are unable to determine where we are. It doesn't seem to be a different plane entirely, but we are not able to figure anything out beyond that. In our immediate area are some blue crystals, and just beyond those are some red. Experimentation reveals that:
- We are not seeing precisely the same thing
- Some force will not allow us to move deeper into the jungle
- The resonant hum of the crystals can be enhanced with Jasper's tuning fork, and that creates a hovering blue ball like the one that teleported us here.
- Nothing else seems to do that

Fruitless in our efforts to determine more, we leap through the next glowing light, and reappear in our sub-basement. It is quite possible that we are more confused now that we were before that little jaunt. We gather up Senzamei and decide that our best option is to check out the castle. A few things we conclude:
- The vizier who looked like an old wizard could be Alomar, the last man known to have the artifact we need
- The Prince's birthday seemed odd to us. Every two weeks, really?
- It was the only other landmark we really knew about
- It was on the other side of this odd bubble in time, so we would pass through the center and be able to see what was what on our way

Right away Jasper sees something odd. As both a Gnome and a wizard he was able to see that all of the buildings beyond New Thrace appeared. . .odd. Illusory, probably. Not that the buildings here in town were normal, they were described ass oddly constructed as well. We soldiered on towards the center of town, and the open air marketplace that dominated it. As we neared a guard checkpoint in town, Paulic saw one of them jump on a horse and ride hard to the North. With no way to catch him, we just knew that meant that our decision to go to the castle was probably warranted, and that things could get violent.

Entering the marketplace was yet another revelation. Jasper noticed something odd about the vendors there, and a piece clicked in his head. Looking around he saw the same face repeated a dozen times over. His sharp eyes noticed some imperfections in the proportions of the people milling about. It looked like the population there was entirely illusory. When the squad of five soldiers galloped up he was shocked yet again to notice that the plate armor didn't have seams. There was no way to get into or out of it.

The soldiers announced that we were not allowed to have weapons in the town. Hogorth rebutted that *they* had weapons. Things didn't really devolve from there, so much as they exploded:
- Paulic had taken the time to climb a scaffold as he saw them approach.
- Hogorth and Arashi stepped out in front to protect their allies. They both consistently hit this fight, which kept the attention focused on them.
- Arashi kicked things off by marking a swordsman, dashing to slice at an archer, and then riding the lightning to engage the Arcanist.
- Hogorth was dazed the entire fight. His very nice allies kept the enemies within reach of his spear, so it was a non-issue.
- Jasper showed his depth by killing things in a much less flashy manner than before. The opposite, in fact, as his curse+eyebite managed to finish off a couple of the enemies
- Despite his position very far behind the party, Paulic drew fire from the archers after they saw his effectiveness
- Straining the probability of this encounter, Phaedra crits twice, and keeps the party up. While doing that we discover that the healing dampening effect of the Mournlands is not present here.
- The last archer had climbed to the roof, and was immobilized, cursed, and quarried before he was killed. He dissolved into weird nothingness like the rest, and Jasper rode the curse to teleport back down to the ground. Showoff...
No pictures this week. My cameraphone is just not up to the low light and unsteady hand. I'll have to start stealing the actual camera.
The bulk of our evening was spent roleplaying as confused tavern workers. It was quite fun. Enough so that we were going on and on about how it would be awesome to play in a campaign where we owned a riverboat tavern, and traveled from town to town, adventuring and serving drinks.
Poor Paulic was the first 'awakened' and every time he tried to talk to Jasper about it we really gave him a rough time. It just sounded like he was hitting on him. A lot. Senzamei was the prostitute in all but name, as the stereotypical tavern wench. Of course, before when she was not there she was taken advantage of by Phaedra, so she seems to attract those sorts of things...
Hogorth and Arashi had a few spats about Hogorth's attitude problems, drinking problems, people skills. From the outside looking in, Hogorth was an accident waiting to happen, but the real scary one was Jasper. He was not taking the stress well, and as someone pointed out "Its always the quiet ones...".
Some other good lines:
- "Please help me. I am retarded. I need the following things:" - joked about hanging that sign around Hogorth's neck when he went to market. We had just established that he can, in fact, read.
- "Yours consist of murder and horse farts" - Arashi, about Paulics recently recovered memories.
- "Your are just the inside of a cage." - Paulic, about Arashi's memories.
- "Like a family friendly Hannibal Lechter!" - Trying to deal with the comatose Senzamei eventually involved loading her on a sled painted with smiley faces, tying her up and putting a mask on her (to prevent spitting).
- "Keep your government out of my bag of holding" - The next idea was to load her in Paulic's bag of holding with her head sticking out.

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