Eleventh Session (9 page pdf) – “Heart of Darkness” – A chance encounter with a pair of Nidalese shadowcallers chasing some tiefling fugitives goes bad. Shallow graves are dug…
I put a lot of color work into the travel in Nidal. Some folks always want to skip over travel in games, claiming “it’s boring.” These are largely people who don’t travel but live on their couch, I assume. (See also: Making Wilderness Travel Matter).
Nidal is a spooky ass place. I did my research – they have a section in the Inner Sea World Guide; there’s a whole section on Nisroch in Cities of Golarion (with sidebar: Favorite Torture Methods), and there’s a novel called Nightglass about a fledgling shadowcaller growing up in Nidal. Then, I just kept my eyes open for coll stuff in the couple months leading up – like the mostly-underground inn they stayed in was based on a real one that was shown in a Web article… On Cracked maybe? I forget. Anyway, I had a page full of possible stuff to pull from by the time they were well into Nidal.
Even weird little details like what their main lumber exports are (darkwood and strangletrees) interested the players enough to ask around, consider buying some, etc. A deeply detailed game world generates its own rewards in player engagement.
It all goes OK till they come between some escaped slaves and some shadowcallers. They don’t help them (much) but they fold under shadowcaller interrogation – the two shadowcallers are just doing standard cop-bullying but the second one of them says they might “confiscate” one of their weapons it’s murder time.
It’s a lively fight, shadowcallers are like Nidal’s Texas Rangers and they’re no joke. They are finally overcome, and the PCs kill their captured slaves to ensure there’s no witnesses. They know they are in a land that makes pre-war Iraq seem like Disneyland, and they’ll be tortured to death just on a whiff of suspicion. Most of the rest of the session is spent carefully covering up their crime. Bodies are buried deep. Jaws and hands are removed. Prestidigitation is used to clean up all blood traces. All the shadowcallers’ loot is bagged, ridden to a nearby forest, and buried – it’s too tempting to get rid of, but too dangerous to keep on hand. Jaws and hands are tossed into the tall grass along the way.
So that evening it’s pretty disturbing when there’s rustling out in the grass and the pieces of shadowcaller they distributed across the countryside start being tossed into their firelight…