Wednesday, October 6, 2010

S&W Sessions Journal: So Much for the Stargazer

I’d thought we’d be spending last night's session really tearing into Raggi's Tower of the Stargazer, but things went in an unexpected direction. One of the players mixed up the session dates and didn’t make it, so I had his character sit down in the front foyer of the tower and drink one of the fine bottles of wine he’d found on our previous session. This was Gulch the Assassin - I didn’t feel comfortable having him tag along without his player. Without him along and after losing one of their hirelings at the door, the party was pretty nervous about the whole business. Wagstaff’s player started fishing for some information about how long it might be before Agnal levels up and gets a spell (clerics don’t get anything until 2nd level in my game), but all I could tell him was that it was soon and that he was closer than Wagstaff himself.

So somewhat reluctantly perhaps, the party started up the stairs with their leader Wagstaff the Thief encouraging the other characters to pay particular attention to their environment. With the quick death of their new hireling just entering the tower, they knew that this was a deadly place. After exploring the second level of the tower, they made their way up a flight of stairs, discovering some blood trickling out of a keyhole. They checked for traps but remained uncertain about what to do next, when Wagstaff commanded Olav to try the door. Olav the Dwarf was afraid after seeing what had happened to the last guy, and declined. The porter, poor fellow, was asked and also declined. Wagstaff suggested they all draw lots, but the porter didn’t want to be included. He finally relented that he would include himself in a drawing for a large bonus sum. This was too much for Wagstaff and they decided to call off the whole business, leaving the tower!

I hadn’t expected that, but I can’t say I blame them either. The party backtracked to the river, narrowly avoiding a troll on the way. They had to pitch camp on the beach and waited another day until a passing ship came by that they could flag down. Booking passage, the dwarf brothers Olav and Aleger decided that they wanted to check out the mining claim they’d inherited which was downstream only another day. Wagstaff wasn’t interested in this, and the party then split, with Agnal and Gulch joining Wagstaff and the dwarfs (NPCs at this time) convincing all of the hired help to go with them. Ouch! Another seriously unexpected development. I honestly didn’t understand this as the dwarfs' interest was on the way downstream to the High Falls which lie at the head of the Dordogne Valley to the east. All I can think is that there might have been some resentment or feeling of being railroaded but that’s fine… roll with it right?

So the three characters continued downstream after bidding farewell to their former companions at their drop off point. I got a little nervous since I was completely improvising so much. Still, I was happy that it appeared the Dordogne setting was going to be used after all since I’d originally begun developing it for my wife who’s since shown little interest in playing (and I’m not going to press it). That said, linking the setting into the larger world hadn’t really been sketched out yet. Though it’s based on a location in France, I wanted a way to isolate it from the larger world - hence the High Falls, a steep drop off and cliff that extends quite a distance north and south, with a valley beginning at the base of the falls with the water continuing to flow east.

There was a small permanent camp at a place just short of the falls and at the top of a steep trail which descended into the valley. The party was considering hiring guides when they were approached and offered employment as additional guards for the goods that had been offloaded. This they accepted, and they were led down the trail to a place where the road diverged a little ways from the river to the south. The caravan was heading to a medium sized keep on a rise slightly to the north, else they could continue onwards to the east, following the river before it entered the valley proper with its numerous tightly packed castles and small towns. Perhaps due to their small number, they decided to stick with the caravan and made their way to the keep where they secured lodging and sought an audience and employment with a certain castellan. This was when I brought out a trusted old friend published by TSR way back in the day. I knew I'd use it for at least one of the castles of the region, and since I wasn't quite prepared, the time seemed ripe.

Funny thing is, I'm rotating that tower back into play at some point. It's going to have the same quality as that fortress in Krull that disappears and randomly appears in other locations every so often. When it does, everyone will talk about it of course because of the lightning. So it'll be there when and if the players are ready again.


Bob Reed said...

Ha ha! That's an awesome chicken-out! I've had the same problem before too. The players are just being smart though, I can't really blame them.

Seriously though, these are the stakes of playing these ridiculously high-mortality scenarios favored by a certain sector of our gaming niche. These scenarios might be fine as con one-shots or whatever, but I can't imagine them fitting well into campaign play. I don't advise coddling players, but a lot of random save-or-die stuff gets to be not-so-fun pretty quickly.

christian said...

Cyclo speaks wisely.

Have fun at The Keep. I ran the 25th anniversary edition of that adventure in AD&D 2e Forgotten Realms and it was a blast.

ze bulette said...

@Cyclo: Yeah, I'd spoken with James a while back for some suggestions about how to make the Tower less deadly considering its use in our larger campaign and was planning on using one or more of them, but you're right, and I still have my concerns.
@Christian: Shh! What are you talking about? ;)

JimLotFP said...

Thing is, if they'd gotten through that door, there is quite the large treasure (especially for low-level standards) just sitting there to be taken.

High risk, but certainly high reward.

Loquacious said...

I love the porter refusing. Classic!

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