Red Mills

Red Mills (Session 1) – The Trojan Wagons

These adventures take place in the Parchen region of the world, starting in the year 853. Parchen is a massive city trading via the mighty Mezza river with many regions inland as well as trading with many distant places across the Erdel Sea. The Merchant Princes and Princesses of Parchen exert great control over the region through financial power. They get others to do their dirty work for them.
A map of the Parchen Region
The fortress city of Ferz Dern was constructed by them to guard the coastal route to the lands of the Saka barbarians who live to the east of the Vanteld Mountains. The Ouul Valley was similarly fortified with further Derns and so the region stabilized and opened up for settlement.
A map of the Mydaal Region
Seven friends set off on the road from Farz Dern toward Kaffle in search of employment or adventure. They are a half-elf rogue named Rashi, a hill dwarf fighter named Yartalla, a druid called Varis, an elven wizard named Ignorok, a human bard named Chenette, a half-orc barbarian called Issac and half-elf sorcerer called Tinus. After days of traveling they arrived in the small town of Cedar’s Ferry only to be told that the bridge over the river Wrall has been destroyed and so the road ahead is closed. There is a diversion available, by traveling a little north to the town of Red Mills and they carry on in that direction.
A map of the Red Mills
After traveling a mile up the road the group started to hear noises of a disturbance ahead of them on the road. They ventured forward, with Yartalla and Issac taking the lead, followed by all the others. Around a bend in the road they saw two wagons being beset by a bunch of orcs. The orcs appeared to be trying to hi-jack the wagons. Issac caught their attention by throwing a javelin at them and an all out battle ensued. Yartalla swung her greataxe while Chenette flung painful insults. Tinus fired magically glowing missiles at them while Rashi shot arrows from the edge of the surrounding forest. Varis shot fire bolts while Igorok created an illusion of another person to distract the orc and then shot magic arrows out of its eye. The four orcs died one after the other until Issac finally cut down the last of them. Rashi climbed a tree to keep watch and briefly saw some more orcs beating a hasty retreat through the woods.
Blood Moon ShieldExamining the bodies they found that they all had shields showing a moon with blood dripping from it. They found a few pieces of gold on each of them, but the gold was tainted with red. The group gathered up the orcs’ shields and swords and at this point they noticed that one of the bodies had some tattoos.
One said “Bolar luvs Hazzog Sheltok”
The other was a badly written version of the alphabet:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M
Z Y X W V U T S R Q P O N

Then everyone started talking to the drivers of the wagons. They were calmly wrapping bandages on their wounds. They introduced themselves as Lamba and Shufril Bonesnapper, half-orc sisters on their way to Red Mills when they were attacked by these Blood Moon orcs. Peeking in the wagons Chenette discovered that they were carrying sacks of flour and rather tasteless dry biscuits, nothing interesting, nothing worth stealing, unless you’re hungry.
Argent a water wheel gulesJust then a horn sounded along the road and around the corner came a mounted patrol of soldiers. Their shields were white with a red water wheel in the middle; they were clearly from Red Mills. They were led by Captain Alstine Dalker and she was delighted with the group. Calling them heroes for saving the traders and telling them that once they get back to Red Mills Lady Gremlbe would almost certainly reward them for their bravery.
The group then piled into the two wagons and were just starting to munch some biscuits when some of them spotted a folded piece of paper on the road. Someone must have dropped it in the fight.
Rashi got to it first and it read: DVHG TZGV DSVM GSV NLLM HVGH, she could make no sense of this and it didn’t appear to be in any language anyone understood. However Varis was intrigued and took the note started to ponder its meaning.
After this brief diversion, the whole company of two wagons with the Bonesnapper sisters driving, the adventurers piled inside except for Rashi who rode on top to keep watch as well as the heavily armoured mounted patrol all headed along the road toward Red Mills. Finally they rounded a corner between some low smooth hills and saw the town in from of them. The bugler sounded three blasts of the horn and this was answered from the town’s first gatehouse.
A map of Red Mills town
The southern entrance to the town is across a series of bridges and through two fortified gatehouses. There was a queue of wagons waiting to be inspected at the inner gate, but an important looking woman strode forward and waved the patrol and the rescued wagons in. Then in the inner courtyard she introduced herself as Lady Altea Gremlbe. On hearing Captain Dalker’s report she heaped well deserved praise on the group and gave them each 10 gold pieces as reward. Shiny yellow gold.
Then Varis took the others aside and show them the note again, he also showed them the orc’s tattooed arm (ugh). If you swap each letter in the note for the letter above or below it on the tattoo, then it reads: WEST GATE WHEN THE MOON SETS. They agreed that he should show this to Lady Gremlbe, who was both amazed at his cleverness and alarmed that an attack was planned. She immediately ordered that the guard be doubled everywhere tonight and tripled at the West Gate.
The heroes wandered into town and word of their deeds went before them. They sold orc shields to the blacksmith, a dwarf named Cheham Butcher. They got rooms at the large inn, The Miller’s Arms. Issac got a job cleaning the stalls in the stables. Rashi slept in the straw nearby. Varis meditated in his room.
Gibbous waxing moonThe moon rose in the late afternoon, a waxing gibbous moon, 4 days from full. It would set sometime after midnight but before dawn. In the late hours of the night when everyone would be asleep. The perfect time for an attack.
Chenette and Tinus played music in the main room of The Miller’s Arms and they put on such a performance that the owner to The Globe Theatre booked them for the following evening. They haggled their way up to 20 gold pieces each. Red Mills was the group’s kind of town!
Ignorok decided that he wanted to do a little gambling and was recommended that he go to a seedy inn called The Dead Man’s Wife. The whole group headed over and seedy was a kind description of this run down establishment with rough clientele. Issac played darts, sometimes even hitting the target. Rashi wandered through the crowd and dipped her hand into someone’s pocket. Someone else that she hadn’t noticed gently grabbed her wrist and advised that such behaviour could get you killed in here. Then Ignorok raised the stakes at cards and easily beat his opponents Aces and Eight with a Royal Flush. The crowd were shocked and just about to applaud when an observer leaned over, muttered a few arcane words and touched Ignorok’s cards. The illusion he had cast on them fell away and the crowd gasped again at his 2 of clubs, 6 of hearts, 7 of diamond and 3 and 9 of spades. The bouncers immediately grabbed the cheat and were about to give him a good hiding but he charmed them with his bad reputation and they let him off with a warning.
The group reconvened at a nearby table. All eight of them. Suddenly they realised there was a stranger among them. “I represent a certain group of concerned citizens.”, she said, “Some call us the Kalla. We keep a close eye on what comes in and out of Red Mills, especially anything that might be valuable. We noticed that the wagons that you rescued were full of flour and biscuits. Can you guess what the two main exports from Red Mills are? That’s right, flour and biscuits. Now why would someone want to import them to Red Mills. We’d like to understand this riddle.”
“Oh!”, gasped Tinus, “They got through the gates without being searched! Because we rescued them and the patrol brought us all straight in!”
“Interesting” said the stranger, “I wonder what’s in them. We could check but our members are a little shy of all the extra guards around.”
“We’d check” replied most of the group, “but we don’t know where they are now.”
“The Kalla knows”, said the stranger, “They are in a warehouse behind the theatre.” and she drew a rough map on the wet table with her finger. The group studied it and when they turned back to her, she was gone.
They set out for the warehouse and while most of the group gathered at the back door, Rashi and Tinus took to the roof and spied in through shutters from up there. Varis picked the lock and they all crept in. The two wagons were down the other end near the main doors, the horses were gone and all appear quiet. Suddenly, Lamba, one of the half-orc drivers started shooting them with bolts of magic. The group leapt into action and soon overcame her, she was dead.
Most of the group were checking her pockets while Ignorok went to look at one of the wagons. Rashi and Tinus came down from the roof and started looking around.
Ignorok found a lever under the flour and biscuits. He pulled it.
The false bottom of the wagon sprang open and up jumped four Blood Moon orcs. Everyone was in the wrong place and the battle was going badly. Ignorok turned the tide with a flaming hands spell and things looked to be under control. But then the second wagon also sprang open and out jumped four more orcs. They downed Tinus and then Ignorok and things were looking grim. Axes, swords and comical insults from the bard Chenette flew fast and furiously through the air. Until finally the orcs were defeated. Those still standing quickly revived Ignorok and Tinus with magic while Rashi gathered up the orcs’ red gold and gave a portion of it to the others.
The heroes had foiled the orcs’ trojan horse attack on the town!


End of Episode 1


XP

12 Blood Moon Orcs = 12 x 100 = 1200XP
Rescuing the wagons = 250XP
Decoding the note = 500XP
Realizing the wagons weren’t searched = 250XP
Foiling the trojan wagons = 250XP

For a total of 2450XP, which divided evenly between all 7 heroes is 350XP each.

Congratulations to everyone, you are all now Level 2.


Next Session is Sat 23rd


 

News

Librarians are awesome!

So we are starting games on Saturday 2nd March in Cork City Library!

Some time ago a comedian asked for my help advertising a D&D related show. I was happy to oblige and I asked who set him up with his location. He gave me the name of a librarian. That librarian was an Arts and Culture officer who works for the county libraries. She thought D&D was a great way to get teenagers into a library but the county libraries are too far out of the city. She was however more than willing to advocate on my behalf with the city libraries. This morning I spoke to her counterpart in the city libraries and she gave me a room to play D&D in on Saturday afternoons in Cork City Library on The Grand Parade.

Librarians are awesome!

I need to be Garda Vetted again, not because I am a master criminal, but because each organisation must vet separately. There are good reasons for that and I don’t mind. That process will take a few weeks and so we agreed a start date of Saturday the 2nd of March. The room is occupied on the last Saturday of every month by a book club. But that’s okay, we have it 3 out of every 4 which is great.

So now I just need to set up some sort of booking system.

News

The Stars Are Aligning

So the quest to bring D&D to the young people of Cork (and not just restricted to us old fogies) continues.

  • The Club is registered as an “Organisation of Interest” with the Garda Vetting Bureau. But they say we’re too small!
    So we were put under the wing of the Cork Volunteer Centre (CVC), to help us through the process and very nice people they are too. Even though most of them had never heard of D&D.
  • I have been trained in the ancient art of Vetting Officer.
    Which means I can put people forward to be vetted. So I put myself forward.
  • The result was “Nil”.
    That’s the sum total of my criminal record.
    I am unwanted dead or alive or indeed undead.
    There is no reward for my capture.
    In other words I have passed Garda Vetting.

So now we can legally start to play.

Next we need a location. I have two and a possible third and here they are in order of my preference.

  1. A room in an existing business just outside the centre of the city.
    It’s big enough and the owner is very kindly letting us in for free. We just need to have some public indemnity insurance. I fund raised for that and will put the insurance in place this week. It’s “near” the city centre and is safe enough, but younger teens might need shepherding.
  2. In the Local Friendly Game Store!
    Other Realms are keen to have us and we’d have space for three or four tables.
    It’s more central, but we’d have less control on people wandering in. But I’m not sure if that’s a problem or not. But if we grew beyond that we’d have to move.
  3. One last iron in the fire, a possible city library location.
    This would be great and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But I lost momentum on this over Christmas.

So I’m leaning towards the “business location” at least to start with and see how it goes from there. I just need to get that finalised with the owner and get the insurance in place.

So what we need is a date!!
It needs to be soon, but I also need a little time to figure out how to register players.
I can’t use meetup.com (it’s over 18’s) and not sure WordPress (which powers this page) is suitable. Facebook might do it but most teens hate it. Anyway this is small potatoes, we’re here to play D&D. I’ll figure something.

The first Cork D&D Meetup session for adults was on Wed 26th Jan 2017.
So Sat 26th Jan 2019 would have been an auspicious date to begin but unfortunately WarpCon is on that weekend, so let’s say Sat 2nd Feb 2019 instead, at 14:00.

Scraps from the table

The Rise of the Pumpkin King (a review)

The Meetup I run (Cork D&D Meetup) traditionally has a Halloween special every year. Well when I say every year, we’ve done it twice now and we’re not yet two years old, so that’s every year and therefore it’s now a tradition! The idea is that we mix up all the regular tables and once a year you play with people from the other tables and get to make new friends while being killed by a different DM. It’s a “one shot” with disposable characters and most tables play the same scenario. This year we had seven tables and I believe six of them played the same one; “The Rise of the Pumpkin King” by Daniel Vilar Seoane which we purchased on the DMs Guild.

This is  a review of this scenario from my point of view along with the feedback I have received from the various DMs and players at different tables.

RiseOfThePumpkinKingBlack

My first impressions  on reading it were that the scenario was good. It has a good solid plot line which is easy enough for players to follow to the conclusion. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to direct them back in the right direction should they stray.

The adventure starts with the group traveling along the road to a town called Goldgrain. I’m not sure but I don’t believe that that name has much significance outside Ireland (and possibly the UK), but here there is a popular biscuit (cookie) named Goldgrain. I don’t know where Daniel Vilar is from but I don’t think this was on purpose. Anyway the group come across a wagon crashed off the road. Large animated pumpkins are dragging a body into the woods. This encounter introduces the main minions of the scenario and should the group successful stop them (and of course they do), then the body turns out not to be dead and up jumps an informative NPC trader named Wilburg who then acts as a reference or announcer for the group when they reach the town.

This is a classic story element, rescuing a vulnerable NPC who then introduces their new found heroes to the town/village/settlement. It’s a classic because it works. I use a similar one all the time, mine involves the village children “ambushing” the group with wooden swords and soft topped arrows en route to their village, only to have one of the children really be attacked by whatever bad guy cannon fodder the story needs. This introduces the bad guys and the children then parade their saviours to the rest of the village; the good guys. After a while one of the villagers will present the main quest. Poor little Sarles Letjar (7) has had to be rescued at least three times by different groups now; you’d think he’d learn, or at least get older.

The Rise of the Pumpkin King, follows this trope and the group soon find themselves in the inn of a retired adventurer named Joyce. Joyce is basically the village elder and the only one not quaking in fear behind nailed shut doors. This is how we learn about the history of these pumpkins and a possible cause. The village burnt a witch at the stake a year ago. Joyce also tells them about the local alchemist, Dryleaf, who is looking for a cure for the problem.

This scenario is well written. All the major NPCs are well described and come with roleplaying directions. These describe how they will react to certain probable approaches that the group might take and even if they don’t take that exact route the guides act as an excellent framework to adjust the NPC’s behaviour. Furthermore the whole backstory to the adventure is nicely thought out and fits together well. The group is thrown into the middle of the story and must uncover the past to save the future.

And so the group investigates in town. For my group this took a fair amount of time. Time well spent since they uncovered half the plot at this point. Then they set out for the abandoned witch’s hut in the woods.  The hut and the encounters associated with it were good fun. My players exercised a lot of freedom and ended up missing the clue which leads to the main dungeon. The author was aware that clues could be missed and he included ideas on how to get the group back on track. This is great for beginner DMs. Experienced DMs would have no trouble with this. In my case, while battling an abomination outside the hut, they left Dryleaf (whose nefarious deeds they had uncovered) unguarded. He duly escaped, leaving a faint trail through the woods that the ranger managed to follow all the way to the main lair.

And so we come to the main dungeon. It has some great touches, but unfortunately the author did not include a map. I pondered through the description several times and then just had to draw it out to get a better sense of it.

LairPumpkinKing

I won’t go into the contents of the lair. It was fairly straight forward. My group, which was composed of six level threes were getting fairly battered and looking for an excuse to leave and come back later, or to rest up. The scenario as written does not put them under time pressure, so I introduced some. My players were experienced, you might not want to do this to new players. The dungeon includes animated vines which act as a trap at one point. It also describes the lair as being lined with vines. So I took this one step further and had the entrance seal behind them after they had delved in a little bit. Then the vines continued to knit closed behind them; ever advancing, forcing the characters onward. In my devious DM mind, this was the Pumpkin King drawing these invaders on so that he could destroy them himself.

And onward they indeed went but they destroyed him; twice. Although the outcome was in doubt and could easily have led to a TPK. That would have been fine in my case, this was a one shot with disposable characters. If you are including this in a larger campaign, be aware that the Pumpkin King is a tough encounter after a series of hard ones. You might want to let them have that rest after all.

This adventure took us just under 4 hours to run. Which was just a little too long for our needs. Some of the other tables at the Meetup failed to complete it. The scenario has about 8 potential combat encounters, so if you are running under time constraints you should consider dropping some of them or at least making some of the earlier ones easy enough to be over in just one round. This keeps the story moving as intended but also speeds things up. Apart from that everyone enjoyed it, DMs and Players alike.

News

The “Town Guard” are watching you

I was unsure as to whether we needed to be get Garda Vetting in order to run this club. Particularly to run games with an adult DM with teen players, or a mixture of teen and adult players.

So I emailed the National Vetting Bureau and asked them. They replied with an actual physical letter which contained a form and many definitions, including the following, which I thought may or may not apply.

“Any work or activity which consists of the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities (whether or not for commercial or any other consideration) to children unless the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities is merely incidental to the provision of educational, training, cultural, recreational, leisure, social or physical activities to persons who are not children.”

National Vetting Bureau, Schedule 1, Part 1

I pondered it and reread it and pondered some more. We were definitely providing recreational, leisure and social activities. There is a strong case for saying that we are providing cultural activities, since D&D is certainly weaseling it’s way into the collective subconscious, however that doesn’t really matter right now. What mattered I thought was what exactly from a legal viewpoint does “merely incidental” mean? Does this mean that it would happen regardless of whether there were teens there or not? Well maybe, but to be honest we are setting up the weekend meetings so that teens can play. So from a normal point of view it is not “incidental” that we would be running the weekend games. But it might be incidental in the light of the overall club which runs games regardless of whether there are teens there. In fact teens are excluded from our other games due to the time/location. But in short I was confused. So I rang the National Vetting Bureau, it’s their paragraph after all. They were very pleasant and understanding but they could not advise as to whether or not that paragraph, or any other applied. They are not allowed to advise about relevance, that is up to the organisation.

Somewhere inside me my evil DM hat asked why would an organisation intent on harming children register itself? This all seemed pretty silly to me. Surely an organisation should be obliged to register but I’m only a citizen and parent in this country, what do I know?!

Agghhh. I just want to run D&D and kill people! I mean I just want to engage people in exciting adventures wherein they may or may not meet a bunch of imaginary goblins or some such intent on killing their imaginary characters. Of course I want to do it right and I want any young people involved to be safe and for their parents to know they are safe. Also I want any adults involved to likewise be protected from any spurious accusations. So it sounds like I want Garda vetting, or at least to be on the other side, the safe side, of this minefield. I just don’t want to walk through the minefield to get there.

I needed legal advice. And by lucky coincidence the person helping me to find the weekend location is a lawyer. He said yes, we need to vet the DMs. And given that the lawyer in question is a partner in a senior law firm here in Cork, I think I should follow the advice. So, as they say on all the mediocre US TV shows, “on the advice of counsel” we need to register the club as a “relevant organisation”. It’s a good idea anyway. D&D is a great game with great benefits for young people, but way back in the eighties it was accused of all sorts of strange things and those unfounded and disproved accusations linger in the minds of some. You can read about them here, they may seem funny now, but back in the day they were quite serious.

I have filled in the “Application for registration as a Relevant Organisation with the National Vetting Bureau” form and will post it off today. Once the club is registered, I will then apply to be vetted and all adult DMs who wish to run a game at the weekend location will also need to be vetted. Teens who wish to run teen only games will be fine I presume, as long as there is a vetted adult supervising the overall session. But I’ll check that presumption.

How long will all this take? Here, have some string.

TLDR: All adult DMs who play at the weekend games will have to be Garda vetted.