Seventeenth Session (15 page pdf) – “Press Gang” – As usual, a little bit of time in port results in the PCs really tearing it up. A whole long session, and no real fights, but it’s not slow, with two beatings, several sexual escapades, organized crime activity, shopping, drinking, jail time…
First of all, sorry for getting behind. Between the holidays and job hunting, I’ve been strapped. I’ve got like four sessions of Reavers in the can as well as three of our new Jade Regent campaign. Here’s getting to it!
Last time, everyone finally leveled to level 6. I am all about the low level play and slow progression; they got 5th in February I believe. So they all showed up with kewl new powers to use. But as usual, we kicked right back in seconds after the last session ended.
They took the first part of the session recapping and trying to assimilate new knowledge into what the overall deal is with the Cyphergate and orichalcum and serpentmen and portals and phantom creatures. It’s inevitable that PCs get a little confused about what’s up even with reasonably simple plots because of the long time between games and the somewhat distractable nature of any given PC. So if you have orichalcum glyph pieces embedded in people and orichalcum plates taken from a portal seal, people get them confused. So I helped walk them through a solid statement of “what we know so far.”
Next, I had one of their NPCs mess with them. Last time, you will note how Pirro the pirate got the short end of the stick on healing. Well, they came away from the fight with four magical treasures, so he’s due one, right? He wakes up early, takes one of the items (a magical mithral axe), and goes down to the casino to put it on pledge to get some gamblin’ money. Naturally he loses badly (I rolled for it fair and square), and this causes the PCs a little consternation. I liked this scene because it let me reinforce that the PCs’ pirate crew are by no means mindless minions, and in fact the nature of being a pirate means they are unruly and like it that way.
Next, two things happen that deserve blog posts of their own. The first is the unexpected and sudden “Hey, Serpent needs to get Samaritha pregnant!” plan that emerged to surprisingly unanimous support. See Pregnancy & Pirates for more. The second is the sheer impatience of Serpent wanting to get magic items sold and bought – he literally goes from place to place till 2 AM in the morning desperately trying to swing deals. More on that in Insomniac Monkeys on Crack.
What this demanded of me was a large amount of improv. Urban adventuring is challenging because it’s not like a dungeon or wilderness where there’s a limited amount of stuff that can be going on. A big lawless city like Riddleport is guaranteed to liven up quick if you go through the wrong door at the wrong time. So they kept wandering around and I kept coming up with stuff that I hoped wouldn’t get me into real trouble.
I generally like to use the dice as a general determinant of “is this going to go real well or real badly.” For some reason the PCs were rolling really poorly this session. So when Sindawe goes to the House of the Silken Veil trying to find a Mwangi (African) hooker that might have fertility drugs or magic (I am not sure it ever occurs to the PCs to look anywhere but in bars or whorehouses for anything in this game), the roll comes up really low, so instead he gets a Garundi woman dressed up like some far northerner’s idea of a Mwangi witch doctor for the fetishist market. Heh. Also they’ve gotten on the bad side of Madame Pamodae; they are remarkably unconcerned about this given that she’s a priestess of a deity of revenge.
Then they recruit new shipmates! First it’s the traditional “set up a table in a bar” method, where they try to figure out what’s wrong with the people applying. As it’s a pirate ship, they find plenty wrong but decide”what the hell” with all of them but the last guy. This was a shout out to a previous player who was always an obstreperous muffinhead, and one day in a SF game came in with a new character that we were interviewing for a position on our tramp freighter. Since he was a new PC we were just trying to get any kind of excuse to hire him but his response to every single question was vague “I do… things!” crap. We left him on the planet and in fact he got disinvited from the group (last straw syndrome). This explains Sindawe’s overly violent reaction. (Knowing how to push your players’ buttons and not just the characters’ is a good GM technique.) They also invite their girlfriends Samaritha and Hatshepsut and Lavender Lil along! And they shanghai the hated Bojask, a guy who works for Saul and they’ve never gotten along with.
Also, they make a couple runs at trying to extort a local new bar for protection money. They were hilariously shy about it really. I based the friendly but yelling owner/bartender off a male cheerleading coach in a horrible Comedy Central movie that was on while I was prepping that morning.
Part of this game is definitely the crew control. I rolled for each crewmember’s shore leave. Basically 1 is something SUPER bad and 20 SUPER good; 2 means trouble the PCs can’t fix, 3 means trouble they can fix, and everything in between is general levels of doing well versus doing poorly. There were a lot of 4’s, including Pirro, which basically means “all money gone and got a good beating in the process.” The only bad result was a 3, where Goat got arrested for murder; some guys in a bar hassled him about being a tiefling and they turned up dead later. The PCs went and bailed him out in a remarkably civilized fashion; I liked their sudden realization about “Hey, wasn’t Slasher Jim washing blood off his knife back on the ship?” Turns out Slasher Jim also used to be on Morgan Baumann’s (their new quarry) crew. Big Mike got a 20 so I figured he parlayed into part ownership of the new bar – good for him, and a complication for the PCs’ protection racket!
The one place where the PCs rolled well was around the House of the Silken Veil – Pamodae has it out for them once she found out they killed her pirate ally, and they went back twice; both visits were sexy and hilarious in turn but they didn’t degenerate into murder, and let’s just say that was an unlikely result. It ended with Sindawe bluffing his way past a guard by playing the race card.
And FINALLY they get on their ship and underway! Whew! I thought it would never happen. I think I run pretty fun urban scenes and (properly!) depict cities as full of people and stuff and places and whatnot, so PCs seem to get drawn into doing random things there even when they planned to go do something else.