An Introvert's Conversation With Himself (silentclarity) wrote in roleplayers,
An Introvert's Conversation With Himself
silentclarity
roleplayers

Witchfire Session 1

My Iron Kingdoms Game

Or Jeff returns to D&D

I'm not a big fan of D&D.  I like it for what it is (a tactical combat mechanic with a bunch of other stuff tacked on) but for the most part I'd rather play any number of other RPGs.  However, an IK game was called for and I'm the guy who stepped up.  I'm running the Witchfire Trilogy.  This post is about the first session of the game, and includes a summary of the events in play as well as my observations about the pre-written adventure, the Iron Kingdoms setting, and D&D in general.  Warning if you're a big D&D/Witchfire fan: A lot of it is [i]not[/i] kind.

I'll start off by describing the players and their characters:

Jim is a close friend of mine; he and I have gamed a lot before - though I think this is the first time he's played in a game I'm GMing.  His character is Candyn D'Elise, a Llaelese Gun Mage and a distant cousin of Ashlyn.  He's a bit of a dandy (Cha 18).  Candyn's alignment is neutral good.

Wolf is another close friend, he and I have also gamed a lot before - with both of us in the GM seat.  He's a great player and a wonderful "actor."  In this game he's playing Theldane Stonewrought, a Rhulic Warrior.  Theldane has a Cha of 6, and it manifests in his inability to hold back on what he's thinking - you can depend on him to say the worst thing at any possible moment.  His alignment is lawful neutral.

Chris is someone I haven't known as well, and I've never gamed with.  He does play Warmachine with us.  His character is Sir Wyatt Reinhardt, a Paladin of Morrow.  Naturally he's lawful good.

Phil is someone I haven't gamed with much, despite knowing him for some time.  His character is Herne, a swamper who's a bit of a scavenger and a would be bodger (actually a rogue right now).  His alignment is neutral. 



Setup:

The Witchfire trilogy begins with the characters escorting a merchant caravan to the city of Corvis.  Once in Corvis, they're hired by prelate Pander Dumas of the local church to investigate a series of grave robberies.  I hate this kind of setup, where the players are just dropped in randomly so I decreed the following:

1)  The PCs all have known one another for a while and have been companions.  It was left up to them how this worked out.
2)  Herne has contacts in Corvis - his father journeyed to the city every year or two to do business and took Herne with him.  Through this Herne knows Prelate Dumas; his father was friend with the churchman. 
3)  Sir Wyatt has been tasked with taking a minor relic (the fingerbone of a saint) to the church where it is to be kept. 

For #1, I let the players brainstorm on what went down.  Here is what they came up with:

Candyn and the dwarf met one another first - the Dwarf was about to get into a fight due to his big mouth and Candyn tried to sweet talk the other guys down.  It didn't work out so well, and the dwarf ended up saving Candyn's ass.  They struck out together in Fellig as a sort of odd couple.

The two were hired by a local unsavory type to steal an item - they weren't given the details of what it was.  This is where they encountered Herne, who was stealing the same item.  They worked out what was going on, and Candyn and the dwarf gave the item to their employer, from whom Herne stole it. 

Sir Wyatt was at the same time hunting the same item.  In a wacky twist, it turns out that Herne's employer was planning on giving the item to the church so a big conflict was averted.  It turns out that he was trying to atone for a life of crime by recovering a relic for the good of the church.  Conflict averted (think of the movie The Mexican). 

When the caravan guard job came up the PC's jumped at it.  Wyatt was also asked to take the fingerbone to Corvis.  There, that's much better - already I've got a tighter starting point than the actual beginning of the adventure.

Actual Play:

I'm not going to provide a total play by play, but rather an outilne of the events as they occured.  Then I'll talk about a few things I thought were interesting. 

The adventure begins with a fight, a Swamp Gobber attack on the caravan.  There are 12 gobbers, against 4PCs and the master of the caravan (the drivers are all cowards).  The PCs win pretty easily, driving the Swamp Gobbers off without too much trouble - only a few wounds were taken. 

Then the PCs arrived in Corvis.  They got paid (the swamp gobbers managed to steal only one chest, and a packhorse was injured by the dwarf as he hit it instead of a gobber - figuring that hitting the horse would make it shake away the gobbers trying to steal it).  They then went to the Temple of Morrow, where Sir Wyatt returned the finger bone.  Prelate Dumas asked Wyatt's help in investigating a recent series of grave robberies that have plagued the city over the past month or two; the authorities claim they are too busy with gang violence & the upcoming Longest Night festival to worry about this relatively minor crime. 

Herne and the Dwarf waited outside the church, where they encountered young Alexia Ciannor - a ward of Prelate Dumas and a friend of Herne's from his youth.  She invited them inside, where Prelate Dumas reacquainted himself with Herne.  The PCs were given a list of the stolen bodies, as well as a letter from Prelate Dumas identifying Sir Wyatt as his agent in this matter.

Cue the PCs investigating the robberies.  The crime scenes were spread over seven sites, and each site had some clues.  The sites, and the clues that were discoverred:
- at the northern boneyard the PCs met the gravedigger, who basically had no information for them.  The adventure indicates that if they "get him drunk" he'll give up some information; I'm not sure but I guess it's assumed that "getting him drunk" is some sort of D&D information gathering trope.  Needless to say the PCs didn't do this, so this site yielded no information.
- A farm outside of town.  They were greeted by a three year old boy playing in the fields, and they had the presence of mind to ask him about what happened.  He indicated that on the night in question he saw grandpa get up and walk away "because he was bored down there, probably."  The farmer didn't have much else to add. 
- A noble's estate, where the family mausoleum was desecrated.  The noble was pretty hostile to the PCs (the dwarf is an unpleasant looking sort), demanding that the dwarf wait outside before he'd even speak to them.  He would not let the PC's see the tomb.  Later that night they snuck onto the grounds and discovered that a) the heavy marble door of the tomb had simply been ripped away and b) a small patch of white silk was left behind, caught in the metal hinge of the door. 
- Another graveyard, where a beggar revealed he saw a glowing ghost in white sheets on the night the bodies disappeared.
- Another farm, where the real useful information was - the woman's husband's body was stolen and she blames witchcraft (she blames witchcraft for EVERYTHING).  She mentions that her husband served on a jury in the Corvis Witch Trials a decade back and when shown the list of names identified three others as jurors. 

This last clue lead the PCs to ask the watch about the trial - they confirmed that all of the stolen corpses were jurors on the trial.  The judge is still alive, as is the prosecutor - who has risen to great power in the city off his fame.  The actual executioner was, by custom, kept secret.

Upon sharing this information with Prelate Dumas the PCs were advised to trek to the Witch's Tomb, where the bodies were interred after execution.  The session ends with them heading to said tomb to investigate.  They also suspect Alexia as being involved, since her mother was one of the witches executed.  HURR AN NPC WITH a CONNECTION TO THE DEAD WITCHES, WONDER IF SHE IS SIGNIFICANT.

What's really going on behind the scenes:

Alexia is a sorceress of no small talent.  She is a burgeoning necromancer and has stolen the bodies of the jurors that convicted her mother and sentenced her to death.  It is very likely that her plans extend beyond this simple vengeance.

So, my thoughts on this:

Advancement is totally screwed up in D&D.  The Gobbers were all CR1/2, and there were twelve of them with four PCs.  That ends up being 450 XP per character for that one fight (I guess I should maybe include the caravan master as a "PC" for the purposes of computing XP gain, shouldn't I?).  The adventure provides no guidance at giving XP for all the investigation, which was probably 2/3 of the actual play session.  Once again D&D only explicitly rewards killing.  :( 

The investigation... sucked.  I could tell the players were bored.  Chris had a blast as his Paladin took the lead - but for a lot of it Phil just had his character go off and rest; leaving him time to flip through books.  Jim spent a lot of time flipping through No Quarter magazines as well.  Wolf was somewhat engaged, he was having fun with his jerk of a dwarf.  Nonetheless, it's an awful process - as written there are five useful clues:
- The gravedigger at the first cemetary saw a lovely young girl the night of the robberies; she fled when she saw him
- The boy saw his grandpa get up and walk away
- the scrap of white silk in the noble's tomb
- The second farm, where it's revealed that the stolen bodies were all jurors in the witchcraft trial
- Alexia is the daughter of one of the witches.

I really did not like this.  D&D is not built for this kind of play; and it showed.  "make a spot check.  Oh you failed?  Make another until you succeed."  I didn't actually say that, but that's what it boils down to.  I really should have just handed them all this information in five minutes and let them move on to the next dungeon.

The PCs also spent a lot of time trying to figure out if there was a pattern to the deaths of the stolen corpses, or if they had enemies, things like that.  Of course once they learned about the jurors there's a HUGE RED ARROW pointing at Alexia.  The players all know Alexia is the villian (the cover of the frickin' book makes it obvious; and she's a character of renown in the Warmachine universe) but they're being good sports about it.  Jim jokes about shooting her every time I mention her, but that's about it.

So overall?  The adventure is kind of poorly written thus far.  It gets better though. 


The next session should be better - it involves two dungeons and a lot less "investigation," so it's a lot more suited for what D&D does well.  Hopefully it will engage the characters more.  I'll also have my grid mat by that point so CUE MINIATURE COMBAT BABY!
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