This session concerns the logistics of getting money and hardware into town, turning that into useful gear, and setting off – with a view to finding a new rogue and finding out something about the road ahead. The players achieved all this so well I awarded bonus adventure points.
The characters for this session:
Fennec, wandering hedge-wizard;
Cauleigh, city-born student and warrior;
Jotunn, strange wilderness-hunting warrior; and
Crompton, Runebearer and disowned rogue
The three heroes of Tigley shake its dust (and guano) off their feet early one morning about a week after their triumph. The good folk of Tigley kindly allow them to hire three of the fisher-boys to paddle them road-wards. Now, they pile their bundles at the roadside and begin arranging them for the walk north into Esgaroth.
I do the math while our fourth player is rolling his new character up and drawing a random background. Surprisingly the 19 short sabres, two light crossbows, bundles of bolts, and 1077 coins don’t weigh so much as to be a real hindrance. They are cumbersome of course. The other issue will be that the Dwarves have only flax-woven sling-kits to carry the bulk of the coins in. Any real fighting, and those will start spilling.
The Coast Way is busy but not crowded. Swinging north at steady Dwarf-style gait they are overtaken by most travelers, and in the first short while only a slaver greets them. He offers to purvey a slave, which they politely decline. He passes on south, manacles a-rattle.
As the sun nears its zenith the way is seen to be blocked. It’s a powerful detachment of Coast Way militia, being besieged by about a third their number of peddlers. It’s the sort of situation where things can go bad quickly. They make their way off the Way – and a Level 0 DEX roll means without falling in slime or losing gear – and work around the obstruction.
Rejoining the Way, they’re hotter and tireder, and when another peddler hails them and asks them what the holdup ahead is it’s a welcome diversion. The man is a spice sackman: when they explain what he decides to turn back and rest in the outwall for a while; and recommends the Farting Goose for their midday meal.
At the Farting Goose
Crompton is loitering at the Farting Goose. He holds down a valuable post as a Runebearer, a Dwarf office within the Truerunners, who in turn are city messengers. Three dusty and muddy Dwarves enter and holler for pork pie and beer, and he eyes them carefully. It’s obvious they are down-at-heel adventurers who have just come by swag. Goblin swag from the look of the bundles of short sabres. Their slung pouches jingle richly.
Crompton soon greets the three heroes and sits with them for another round of beer. They ask him if he wouldn’t mind heading back into the city with them. And does he know places where things like used swords can be sold off with no paperwork? He does know, and he doesn’t mind accompanying them.
How to get through the gates and quietly dispose of loot without annoying guilds or being robbed was one of the big issues for the session. A Truerunner’s badge won’t act as a free pass but it won’t hurt either. And Truerunners know all sorts of things about the city not known to normal law-abiding Dwarves.
When the neighborhood kids start begging it’s time to leave and without further ado or tipping they do. Just down the path from the Farting Goose a slopman offers to sell them used clothes, which is a godsend, because neither Fennec nor Jotunn are wearing comfortable clothes. He even gives them five coppers back on the burel vest and troos Jotunn had.
It’s not just hot tired Dwarves who sink a couple of pints at midday. As the four make their way towards the slow-moving crowd at the gates, five brawny young journeyman masons fall into step behind them, commenting loudly on their defects.
Fennec has had enough of this. He wheels, gestures the arcane symbols and shouts:
“Oh Go Away!”
Well it’s not about a sassy comeback if you are a grumpy Dwarf, so the others deposit gear or just hand it to Crompton and get stuck in with cudgel and bowstock. Meanwhile Fennec’s spell was directed at two journeymen and backfires: the two jump him and beat him senseless.
Jotunn hopes to put down the other three before they could, but Fennec is beaten by a double margin while he and Cauleigh manage only a convincing win. Neither do they attempt a maneuver to interfere. So my call is that the journeymen have plenty of time to use their fists and boots. Fennec takes as a learning point that he could also have used a makeshift weapon.
As Crompton swings the flat of a borrowed sabre at them the journeymen take to their heels. Leaving an unconscious Fennec. The others distribute his gear, mostly to Crompton, then Cauleigh and Jotunn look about for someone to help carry the wizard.
dT&T has sensible beat-down rules, so I don’t need to invent any. Fennec will take quite some time to recover and he is heavy. This threatens to turn into a major roadblock, but some good roleplaying about hiring help from Cauleigh gets us back on track. Duly rewarded.
A helpful community scribe later, a sturdy man drapes Fennec’s arms over his shoulders like sack-corners, leans into the weight, and off they go again.
Into the city
The city gate guards know Crompton and accept a few silvers to not worry too much about what the others are carrying.
Beyond the gates of the new wall lie the new suburbs, as they are known – fairly densely-built areas that grew up out of the previous ‘outwall’ once the war regulations against building were relaxed or forgotten. They’re mostly quite old, by human standards. The Way itself is a-bustle with traffic flowing both ways and the going is slow. But at length, they pass through the old southgate and are in the ‘real’ city.
It’s mid-afternoon by the time they pass the streets of muster and pause at the flesher’s yards. Fennec snorts as the vile stench wakes him.
“What smells like pig turd?” he grumbles.
“That pig getting slaughtered just yonder,” Crompton explains.
The laborer eases Fennec down and stretches, collects his silver and leaves. The four Dwarves cut east through the fleshers lanes and around into the Trading Sector. So far so good!
Crompton makes a decision he’s been mulling over since they asked him if he knows places where weapons can be hocked off. Well, two decisions:
- I’m not going to betray these guys – I’ll join them
- I’ll bring them to Coppersmith corner where they can sell the gear without involving any fences I personally know
It takes the rest of the day [at some stage they will score Level 1 on LK SR but it’s not just yet] but eventually, the three heroes of Tigley do find a place to sell 19 short sabres. They decide to keep the two extra crossbows. And the trader doesn’t stiff them – Crompton pockets ten gold finder’s fee and they each add thirty to their existing fortune.
Across the Market by torchlight
By this time evening has announced itself to their eyes and stomachs. They each buy pie and beer from one of the many food-stalls on the Trading side of the Market and study the milling crowds for best options for crossing. Dwarf-home and Cauleigh’s sister’s place lie on the other side.
The daytime crowds are slowly being replaced by nighttime crowds, and daytime peddlers and stall-holders by nighttime hawkers and street entertainers. Respectable folk walk quickly and stiff-shouldered, hurrying home. In the north, a great mass of people crowd the Bridge, waiting to pay toll and cross north.
The four use the momentary space created by the icy-glare of the Vedas Kistarn priest and his spear- and short-sword armed guards to work their way in. Then there comes the cry:
“Way! Make way! ‘Ware arrows!”
There’s a thump as they scatter and they see an Arbalestwright has just demonstrated the deadly power of one of Esgaroth’s most feared weapons. The warriors wish they had the cash and carrying capacity to afford an arbalest.
The diversion has let them gain more ground and they skirt a jig-team and wander through gawping raft brothers, all agog at the night market. Some old women listen to a lone fiddler working an old plaintive tune, and they skirt that politely.
Up ahead there’s a procession. Slow moving too. Sometimes these can really stop everything. This one’s a funeral. They wait.
Which puts them right in front of some youngsters, from the north side by the look of their nice clothes, who take note of Fennec. [Who fails another L1 LK SR.]
These are novices from one of the mage schools and things could get nasty but Crompton helps face them down by sneering at the flickering fire one conjures. He knows the very same spell. Then Fennec solves everything:
“Guard! Illegal magic! Guard!”
Not waiting to argue their case the novices run off, yelling useless threats.
Studying the procession for some inspiration, Crompton realizes he knows a guildsman in it. He asks if they can join. And at first that seems like a good idea: then the outré gear Jotunn and Fennec are wearing strikes a jarring note, [with two fails on CHR] and they are forced to retire hastily as a master dauber and his servants order them begone!
That has at least spun them near Ways Meet and its grim scaffold-block. It’s where major announcements are made, but it also serves a focal point for unrest. Tonight someone is urging real natural justice, not the false justice served by the city. Several Uruk or Urukin can be seen among the crowd, and Cauleigh suspects it may be a race thing.
Skirting this potential hotspot they are among the friendly stalls around Dwarf-home! Safe at last!
The fellowship numbers four
Resting at Cauleigh’s sister’s, Crompton explains his own background and offers to join them in the quest for Ikkutas. He is the son of a lord of thieves, but was disowned for some not very nice morals to do with an Elf mistress. But by one means or another he will find enough gear to join them, resign as a Runebearer, and meet them later.
As for equipping, Crompton advises them to use a Harnesser. They can buy all their adventuring, weapon and armor gear in one place.
Crompton’s player did a nice job of roleplaying his background reveal, in an amusing way, and earned bonus AP. Crompton’s background allowed him to have plenty of gear so I told his player to put a wish-list together.
And so about a week later all preparations are complete. Fennec’s needs are simplest, and once he is fitted with light armour he is ready.
The warriors take serious time to test and select weapons and armour. The lives of the other two depend on their choices, after all. Cauleigh decides on strike power and mobility with a Dwarf War-axe and Gambeson, with shield and fighting-knife as backup. Jotunn opts for spike-shield and axe, with slightly heavier armour. Both keep their crossbow of course.
Cauleigh is still wearing his bright orange cloth gloves. He has learned that they were made for the adventuress Sinope, who didn’t mind being highly visible as she scaled walls or swam torrents.
Crompton joins them dressed in Lamellar armour, and they hand over the third crossbow to go with his ancestral War-axe and a variety of lighter weapons including a vicious double-dagger.
Haversacks bulging with delver goodness, they bid farewell to Cauleigh’s sister and set out to hire a boat across to the north.
The ferry brother
It’s only a few silvers to hire passage, and Fennec seems to hit it off with the ferry brother.
“I see you are a mage! Are you planning to visit the Wizard’s Guild?”
“Er, hadn’t planned to but that does seem a good idea. Where is it?”
Fennec’s tip of a gold coin seems to warm the ferry brother’s heart somehow and he not only describes how a mage would get in – not through the main gate, through the side-gate – he walks up the north embankment to the River Way and points the landmark out for Fennec.
A well spent delay I: Fennec
Fennec heads to the Inns of the Mages (its proper name), leaving his comrades at ease beside a hedged garden, with an adjoining alehouse. Pretty women of easy virtue smile at him as he swaggers in the bright sunshine. He wears good sturdy clothes and his gear is new.
A high stone wall encloses a well-appointed apartment block of three stories. A small gatehouse is crowded with people. That won’t be the place! Fennec swings right as instructed, along the wall to a blank niche where a wicket-gate ought to be.
The Inns are run by retired weak mages, arbourers, and youngsters eager to pick up skills. Fennec discovers he could have stayed here free. But there’s an expectation that adventurers share their good fortune too. So all for the best really.
Fennec takes the opportunity to use the library and picks out some useful, though outdated, information about Ikkutas’ supposed location and the Vale society.
A well-spent delay II: Cauleigh
The hedge screens the Gardens of Yshe, which explains the high frequency of good-looking women in loose bright clothes. They are mostly temple-affiliated prostitutes known as Sisters of Yshe. Yshe priestesses manage the temple atop the gardens and the gardens themselves, and Yshe sisters use the gardens for business.
The three remaining are far more interested in the ale-house tuck at the roadside corner of the hedge, and its superior ale.
Looking up the bustling River Way Cauleigh spots a group of City Guard facing off, or fending off, a woman with her family. He makes his way through the travelers to hear what’s going on.
It’s a spot of luck for Cauleigh, for although he can do little to ease the woman’s difficulty – her husband Sy Gooseman is a poor commoner from the outskirts arrested for something to do with a goose and the case is already committed to the courts of low justice – he does get directions to her village and word that her Great Lady, a woman named Annan, is seeking to hire hardy folk like him.
At length with bellies full of pie and ale, Jotunn and Crompton are joined by the other two.
Through the Communities to the house of Annan
Pushing quickly now so much of the day is gone already, the four comrades pass the broad stone-laid gutter that marks as much of the north’s city wall as has ever existed. Fennec suspects it could be raised by mighty sorcery, in time of need.
Beyond lie the many self-contained communities that service Esgaroth. They tend flocks and herds and grow produce and grow sturdy sons and daughters who wield bows and spears in militias.
At the farthest outskirt, and north of the road to the point where even the line of the river is just a suggestion of deeper green and grey, lies the Community known as Wywood. A peasant tending his field in the last rays of light confirms the big house inside the walls is the house of Annan the sorceress.
Wywood’s mound is steeper than most and its street winds around and threatens to become lost in a tangle of alleys. Dogs are in evidence and the scent of rich stews and porridge are ripe on the evening air. The four Dwarves salivate and their stomachs growl!
Cauleigh boldly knocks on the great house’s door. It is thrust open by a brawny woman, with great thick – and surprisingly hairy – forearms that hint she may be the house cook. Or bouncer.
She easily guesses the four heavily-armed Dwarves are travelers, and impressed by their clothes – mostly new and sturdy – and their gear – mostly new and good quality – she boomingly invites them to sup.
They seat at the kitchen board, tuck into soup and bread, and await the mistress of the house.
This session shows, I think, that it’s perfectly possible to have a light-hearted, low-crunch game but still lean towards sim for encumbrance. A better-paced session since it did not include mass chargen. We finished a little early.
Cauleigh gains enough experience to advance Luck again, and Jotunn and Crompton do the same. Jotunn can now get to L1 without rolling doubles, and Cauleigh on LK11 is in far better shape than the others.
Creighton Broadhurst, The fallacy of the adventurer’s backpack. GM’s Monthly Miscellany, May 2016.
Esgaroth is mostly my own creation. Note that you will need to join the Trollbridge community to download the pdfs. Note also that the city of the archive dates about 150 years before the current story.