Session 4, Part 3

 By Shamus Oct 5, 2005 12 comments

They are north of Crossway, standing on the wooded hills looking down on the city. They can see the city is guarded by a massive wall to the south, but on this side they can easily slip in.

They watch the movement below as they discuss how to enter unseen. They know this city is controlled by the Alidians. They want to avoid the attention of the soldiers. Last time they met Alidian soldiers was in the wild. The soldiers demanded to see the party’s travel papers (which they didn’t have) and then assumed they were mercenaries. A battle ensued. Although they won that battle, the odds would surely be against them here in town with hundreds of soldiers about.

They know they must not attract attention. With their backpacks, they will stick out quite a bit in the crowd. Their armor and weapons will make them even more conspicuous.

Eomer plans to go into town to test things out. He wants to wait until dark and hide in the shadows, but the others think they have a better chance if they just hide in the crowd during the day. They debate for a while on the merits of each plan. Finally they decide to separate and slip in among the crowd, since traveling in a group would certainly attract attention. Eomer points out a large tower on the south side of the city. They agree to meet in front of the tower if all goes well.

Enoch and Thordek enter together. They develop a cover story where Enoch is a traveling healer and Thordek is his bodyguard. Eomer and Beck will also enter together. The other two will follow seperately.

This city is a hub of activity. The north side of the city is the housing district. Narrow, winding streets snake between the rows of small homes. On the southern side of the city is the shopping bazaar. It is a large circle of shops situated near the tavern. There is a large stone keep overlooking the shopping district. The south side of the city is guarded by a massive wall with a single wide gate, which stands open during the day. A score of Alidian soldiers stands watch at the southern gate.

They melt into the crowd easily as they slip into town one at a time. Nobody gives them any trouble.

Eomer and Beck work their way through the masses, which, as they get closer to the square, seem to be pushing away from the market toward the outlying houses . The market is beginning to empty as the people start heading towards home. Eomer finds that the keep where they are all heading to is covered with Ailidian soldiers. This is their base of power in the city, and the party has agreed to make it their meeting point! He waits for the rest outside the market rather than head to the keep.

Thordek and Enoch walk into town together. It is late afternoon, and by now many businesses are closing. The crowd is moving against them as it is moving towards the houses to the north and away from the businesses to the south. They see the keep as they walk through the square. The people here are mostly closing up shop. They make their way to the keep which is crawling with soldiers. They decide to head over to the church nearby. Enoch does his cleric thing, praying to Pelor.

Eomer spots them as they enter the church and decides this is the new meeting point. As the other members of the party approach, he silently indicates they should head there.

Eomer and Beck watch the soldiers at the gate as they wait for the rest. One group of soldiers marches out from the gate and relieves the group there. They note six scattered soldiers different from the rest, not being relieved from duty, wearing plain heavy armor. These soldiers do not move. Their helmets are solid metal, with no holes for eyes. The fronts of the helmets are stamped with the now-familiar symbol of the Alidian army:

The other soldiers seem very well organized as well. They travel in groups of 7. They do not spend time chatting or sitting around. They walk the streets alert and ready for action. People seem to give the soldiers a lot of room.

Once the rest of the party has assembled in the church, Eomer and Beck join them. They share their observations about the city and discuss their next move. Skeeve notes that one of the guards in any group always has a magical aura around him.

Thordek and Enoch will continue traveling together, sticking with the cover story they developed. Beck suddenly announces that he also has a cover story:

“I’m the new drunk in town. And I’m going to get started on my cover story right now.” He then marches over to the tavern and does exactly that.

Skeeve takes a room. The rest of them secure rooms at the inn. As evening draws in, they get meals and Thu’fir goes to the tavern to keep an eye on Beck. He seems to be a quiet drunk and doesn’t cause any trouble.

This isn’t what I had planned for Beck’s character. Over the past few sessions I can tell the attitude of the players towards Beck (their NPC friend) has been more or less indifferent. I thought his story, about a guy trying to earn enough money to go home and marry his pregnant girlfriend, would capture their interest. After four sessions, they have no interest in the guy. They ignore his advice whenever possible. They don’t want to share food or booty with him.

In character, they SHOULDN’T think of this guy as “an NPC”, but they do and it shows. When Endo was their party’s NPC “friend” they treated him like any other member of the party. With Beck, I’m sure they would feed him to a dragon to aid their own escape, and never think of him again. I’m not sure where I went wrong with this guy, but he’s not working.

He was going to have a much stronger personality, but their indifference to him led me to tone him down. Now he’s a drunk, sad over the loss of his former crew-mates. We’ll see what I can come up with as a way to fix this.

-Shamus

They all have the first nice bed they have had in a long time. Thu’fir wanders to the tavern and listens carefully, hearing nothing of interest.

Enoch spends the evening working on translating his book. He manages to translate the next section.

Part II: The Conquest of Mar Tesoro

Here the story of Thul Marblade continues. Several aspects of this tale are plainly ridiculous, while others simply stretch the imagination. It is, however, a fascinating piece of folklore.

- Chronicler Norvus

Dwarven King Thul Marblade returned from Mt. Fiore and came again to Ellas Morad, leader of the mountain Elves. This time asked for leave to dig deep into the mountain and bring forth its treasure. He promised to pay half of all that was mined in tribute.

But Morad forbade him saying, “Not if you were to surrender every gem brought fourth to the light would I give you permission to do this, for we Elves care not for gold or silver or for gems, but love only our homeland. Our desire is not for wealth, but to live in a land unspoiled.”

Marblade became enraged, saying, “We offer to do all of the work, and in return you will receive half of the profit. Never has a Dwarf made such a generous offer! You find yourself atop a mountain of gold, and your only thought is to use it as a garden, and will not let the Dwarves even peer inside of it! It is unjust that the greatest of all mountains should be in the hands of Elves, and not the Dwarves. If we had the greatest of all woods in the world, surely we would share it with the Elves, who love such things best. Therefore give us now leave to mine the mountain.”

Morad was unmoved, and did not see his peril. For he replied, “Nay! You wish to barter with me a forest you do not own and have not seen, against my home and the home of all my people? No! Cursed are you that look on such a fair place and can think only of tearing it open to find what is underneath. Depart from this land, and come never again to the gentle slopes of Mt. Fiore!”

The Dwarf King’s rage was now fully kindled, and he answered, “You bid me, King of all the Dwarves, to depart from the king of all the mountains? I will leave indeed, when I have all the treasure hidden within. But you shall depart now!” And with that word he slew Morad and all his men, for the Dwarves were strong and sturdy in battle and the gentle Elves could make no contest against them.

Then the Dwarves roamed throughout the land, and killed every Elf they could find. They hunted them like animals, killing even the youngest, until not a single Elf drew breath in the land of Mar Tesoro. Their bodies were thrown down the southern slope into the great chasm, which is now called Bohrung Khel Toten, or “The Chasm of the Dead”, in the common tongue. And so were the fair mountain elves of Mar Tesoro forever wiped from the face of the Earth.

Then Thul Marblade took for himself the mountain, and they renamed it Khelberg, and they set to mine deep into the mountain and take its treasures.

Continued in Part 4…
12There are a dozen comments.


  1. MikeSSJ says:

    “Bohrung Khel Toten” means “Chasm of the Dead”? Could the origin of this name maybe ly within the German language?

    The German “Bohrung” can be translated as “hole”, which isn’t that far from “Chasm”, and “Toten” is the German plural for dead people.

  2. G32boy says:

    I’m just reading through so I don’t know what happens to Beck the difference I see in the characters is that Endo was a player where as Beck is not so the player treat Endo as a player when hes not being played and Beck as every other NPC. The only fix I see is that Beck would have to be played but that would require another person.

  3. Dr. Manhattan says:

    The campaign I’m in has a similar situation. One of our close friends and party member moved, but his fighter, the tank of the group, was an essential character. So, we NPC’d him, and we all treat him like we would treat our close friend’s character. On the other hand, most NPCs are just “that [race] [class] with the really nice [coveteable item].”

  4. Hmott says:

    Umm… Did I miss the first installment of the Conquest of Mar Tesero?

  5. Mister JTA says:

    Hmott: I think it’s in this update, complete with a bit of background on the (awesome-sounding) translation mini-quest.

  6. Trae says:

    My D&D party has 2 NPC characters played by the DM (compared to 3 PCs (of which I’m playing 2, as well because one person has been away for a month)). A much needed healer type and a bard. Was never quite sure why a bard for the second one, but the songs are useful so I’m not complaining.

  7. Gabe says:

    If you want to have the party members show more respect to Beck, maybe you should have him do something like save the party’s lives. However, this could make the party feel useless in this situation, so to fix this problem Beck could be mortally wounded or simply do something heroic that grants the party an opportunity to kill whatever is threatening them, with Beck’s help.

  8. thumper69 says:

    Well, expecting them to respect Beck is useless. He’s done nothing that such “seasoned heroes” would respect. He gives good advice, but caves in when the ignore it. Then, doesn’t bother to point out their error, after it creates a problem. Then, he begins to wallow in self-pity, and becomes a drunk. He’s acting more like a player, than a character.

  9. Point-out-the-obvious says:

    The real issue is being ignored. Beck, as an NPC, is played by the DM, the guy running the campaign. The advice given is given by the guy who wrote the campaign. Just look at how the players react in DM of the Rings and Darths and Droids when the DM tries to use NPCs to give advice. That is accurate. Combine that with the natural distrust of the DM because let’s face it, what’s good for the story that he came up with isn’t necessarily good for the players (like that factory that only R@ could save everyone from and know it is all screenshot but the comic makes the movies make sense) and the notion that the DM will NOT let his character die and he will take over if you give him an inch and you have why players are reluctant to accept the NPC. Now me, I am different. I’ve only played 1 role-playing game and enjoyed it (haven’t found a group since) and was pretty much led through by an NPC the DM put in to assist our party of 2. It was Star Wars, I was an inept clone experiment when Palpatine tried making a force capable clone that managed to escape sterilization when it failed. I had no clue about any technology and only managed to shoot something with a ship turret when my screen went blank. Good times.

  10. dunereader says:

    Most of my experience playing was with a DM who viewed NPCs as:
    A. a walking hole in the party’s defences
    B. A Redshirt to be killed off to show the situation is serious.
    No one would ever dare let the NPCs so much as take a piss without a PC supervisor for fear of him starting a feud with the local thieves guild or picking a fight with a horde of orcs while our back was turned.
    On one long expedition to a ruined city held by orcs, the NPCs had a 100% mortality rate. One was killed by the alpha orc on his first swing (a phenomenon known as the WORF affect) and the other basically comitted suicide by trying to run across a rickety rope bridge while carrying our knights chainmail (the explanation given was that another character was carrying a helmet that gave a morale boost to everyone in the party, which apparently had the side effect of turning NPCs into complete idiots)

    • The Scrabbler says:

      We never have to worry about NPCs starting fights, because one of our party members does that for us. If he’s not just pissing off all of the locals, he’s convincing people to attempt to mug one of his teammates.

  11. Ander the Halfling Rogue says:

    I am someone with very little (but not nonexistent) tabletop RPG experience, but I think I know what the problem with Beck was, or at least the problem with his romance plotline.
    Romance gets jammed into seemingly every story in every medium. Now, this is only bad if it is forced in with no reason or without adequate explanation (not the way Beck’s was, in other words). Still, people are desensitized to romance in almost all forms of media, to the point that it only gets processed on the level of, “Oh. So here’s the useless romantic subplot,” even if only subconsciously. People just don’t care about a character whose characteristic is the romance unless something else gets them interested first.
    It’s like what you said about blogging (you know, in the post that isn’t years old). People don’t care about your life and its many problems until you say something interesting. People don’t care about a character until they are interesting in some way other than their built-in attraction to the opposite gender.
    The only exception is unrequited love. People loves them some unrequited love; everyone (almost) roots for the underdog.
    So, in long-awaited conclusion: don’t count on romance interesting anyone on its own. It might work as a motivator for PC’s, though; who knows?

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