James Mallard – Family Matters


Big game last week – I have been putting off writing it up. We ended up a plot arc involving a our patron, Sir Leonard Griffinshart, which was cool.

A big out-of-character issue was to do with our rogue, Tarry. The player built a classic halfling I’m just a poor boy from a poor family thief/pickpocket. And has been playing him correctly in-character. The problem being, of course, that that kind of thing gets up everyone’s nose OOC. Mine included – me being a grumpy middle-aged man and all that.

Now, one way to deal with this is that once the party – in character – finds out about the filching – in character – then the rogue – in character, you understand – gets held down and stabbed repeatedly. But firstly, that’s not the kind of game we want to run; and secondly the player is not being a dick, he’s just trying to do the correct thing with the character and the 13th Age icon. To be fair – he was in a very, very awkward spot plot-wise.

So, it’s fixable, maybe even without heavy-handed retconning. As I understand things: Tarry failed his mission for the Shadow Prince, who has written him off; but for some reason he has caught the notice of the High Druid. What can this mean? Why on earth would the High Druid be interested in a halfling rogue?

And there you go. A bit of re-engineering, and we go from “Halfing who swipes party gold” to “helpful halfling who always saves the day by having something useful in his pocket (just don’t ask where he got it)”.

The Jolly Heroes of Griffinshart, triumphant – Mayor’s warhorse in tow – returned to town. But the Mayor was in a right state. “What have you done to her! Where is she?” There was some bewilderment – “Surely, your worship, you realise that this is a stallion?” But no, it turned out that the Mayor’s daughter had been abducted. Everyone in the lockup – wererat, sailors, and Sir Leonard as well had gone, and the Mayor had a note “If you want to see the girl again, send Griffishart’s “heroes” out beyond the docks. We’ll find them.”

Naturally, the heroes could not refuse. There was something going on between Sir Leonard and the Mayor’s daughter, as everyone knew. It looked bad.

The party headed down to the docks, looking for a ship to hire. A certain “Breaded Chicken” was captained by one Captain Colonel, a man oddly dressed in a white top hat, string tie, and white handlebar moustache with a trim beard. There was some chat, including the tidbit that there were many ships from Drakenhall in the waters. The party explained their business, “We need to go out beyond the docks, rendezvous with another ship, and return” – but did not mention that that other ship was probably the Salty Maiden, captained by Salty Jim, the Devil of the (Salty, obviously) Seas.

James spoke to the captain and failed to mention that important little fact. It was a little out-of-character for the young lad, particularly since this man was indeed an ex-colonel. All I can suggest is that he has a Cha and Int of 16 and is a bit look-down-his-nose on the less noble. A colonel is not a knight.

Nevertheless, it was not right for the character. On reflection, James should have – on discovering that he was an ex-Colonel – appealed to his sense of duty and dropped the name of Leonard Griffinshart.

Sigh – will I ever stop playing bad guys?

They headed out beyond sight of the docks. A low longboat pulled up, and aboard was the wererat. He had the Mayor’s daughter at knifepoint. After some insults were traded, he – still smarting from the fight in town – invited the party aboard the longboat. In a manner of speaking.

Oh – first the wererat invited Captain Colonel’s crew to turn coat and sail with Salty Jim. A few of them did. Then the party boarded and attacked. The first thing the wererat’s crew did was to sink the Breaded Chicken. We weren’t getting home that way. Fight ensued, and the wererat and all but one or two of his crew were killed. Then the Salty Maiden bore down. “Surrender or be sunk!” The party surrendered, and were taken on board the Maiden.

Regrettably, I have lost James’ usually impeccable account of the battle. I’ll just try to hit the points.

The party tied up to the mast, there was a bit of villain’s exposition. After all – the Devil of The Sea has a reputation to maintain (for deviltry, I imagine). James tried to undo their bonds with a cantrip, but failed;

“Cantrip Mastery” talent:

If you want to do something particularly cunning or surprising with one of your cantrips and the GM isn’t sure whether you could pull off that use of the spell, roll a normal save (11+) to cast the spell the way you envision it.

Happily, not everyone was entirely disarmed. Tarry still had his concealed blade and dealt with the rope. And then the fight was on. Three of the pirate crew transformed and revealed themselves to be weresharks (nice!).

Now, Sir Leonard had been in posession of a magical necklace, and unknown to the group it was Tarry’s mission from the Prince of Shadows (who I rather think might not be a single person) to snarf it. This necklace was in a pile of Sir Leonard’s belongings which had been hastily dumped over by the gunwhale. Tarry grabbed it and put it on, nd was suffused with a feeling of well-being, of safety. More that that, though: Tarry has the unique ability to smell gold, and he smelled it. Boy did he smell it: massive amounts of the stuff aboard this ship. The spoil of years of very sucessful pirating.

Meanwhile, the fight was on. Three weresharks and crew. After a few hits, Salty Jim himself transformed and revealed himself to be a were-crocodie. A salty, of course. Huge and mean.

For anyone from other parts of the world, here in Oz we have spiders and snakes and all kinds of things will kill you. Even the seashells and tiny jellyfish. Hell – even a roo will gut you with a well-aimed kick if you startle one. We cope with this – leave ’em alone and they won’t bother you. Although sharks will bite a human, they really prefer fish and fatal attacks are rare. But Saltwater Crocodiles will actually stalk and attack humans to eat them for food. Different category of thing altogether.

Here’s a pic of one with a shark, just to give you an idea of how nature’s hierarchy works here in Oz:

James wasted his time reviving Sir Leonard. Most of the rest of the party were busy trying to rescue the Mayor’s daughter, by means of killing Salty Jim. There was a huge shadow in the water – moving. A kraken? A giant killer shark?

tl;dr: I separated from the group and moved to the other end of the ship to try to free Sir Leonard. Wasted turns and command points waking him up. Got hammered off on my own. My fault, but I was thinking that Sir Leonard might be able to deal with the BBEG. My mistake – that’s not what he was there for.

The shadow in the water attacked! No kraken or shark, it revealed itself to be a black dragon. It chomped right through one end of the ship, swallowing wood and gold. Gold is how dragons level up, of course – they don’t just accumulate piles of it to sleep on, and black dragons are aquatic. The Salty Maiden was a fine, fine catch. She began to sink. Parts of the deck disappeared, but the fight went on. Sir Leonard was freed, but still disarmed.

Salty Jim was finally brought down, his ship and the gold of his whole career lost. But in a final cinematic moment stabbed the Mayor’s Daughter – whose name obviously I can’t recall so I’ll call her Eleanor – in the lung. There were still weresharks to deal with, but Sir Leonard – freed moments ago – rushed to her side as she lay dying. “My Necklace!”, he shouted, “Has anyone found my necklace?”. He cradled her in his arms and said, “Oh Eleanor, you look so much like your mother.”

The dragon chomped down on the other end of the ship as the final bad guys were disposed of or escaped into the sea. James, suspecting Tarry of theft (so racist!), yelled at him up in the rigging “Tarry! The necklace!” Tarry was torn – his mission was to get that necklace, with consequences if he didn’t; but if he didn’t hand it over now – what then?

Tough call for the player, as I said.

For whatever reason, he brought the necklace to Sir Leonard, who placed it around Eleanor’s neck. Mist’hanar – who served the grandmaster of flowers in ages past – recognised its design: the necklace was ancient. Around Elanor’s neck, the silver bud opened, flowered, and crumbled to dust, its ages-old magics finally discharging their purpose.

And then it was into the water. (Oh, but not before Isabel the sorceress snagged 3kgp of pirate loot). The dragon left to digest its heavy meal, the party clinging to floating wreckage. As they floated not far from the port of Chancer’s Hope, it was soon enough that another vessel came by to aid them and fish them out of the water.

“What happened here?” They asked. “What happened here,” the party replied, “is that the Jolly Heroes of Sir Leonard Griffinsheart have slain Salty Jim, the Devil of the Seas, and sunk the Salty Maiden with all hands!”

“Gods! They’re right! It is the Maiden!”

And there was much rejoicing. The Jolly Heroes of Leonard Griffinsheart, who need a shorter name, were truly heroes at last. Light of heart they sailed aboard the nameless fishing skiff back to the dock of Chancer’s Hope.

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