The Long Roaders have accepted a big heist job from Lord Jackalham! The job is to steal his daughter, Sarissa, away from Lord Kellerin. And if they can, they also mean to rescue a boo’ful lady, sneak a purple crystal globe into Kellerin’s library, and steal Kellerin’s gambling ledger.
The characters for this heist:
Cat, inside man;
Seck, cracksman, and Phoenix, hard man, as the heist crew; and
(NPC this session) Vir, lookout/wheel man
The team divides into two. Cat uses their legit invitation to get himself and his date Elke inside house Kellerin; while the other three work to break in from below… but they strike a spot of bother being caught in the city’s daily sewer-purge, then attacked by sewer blobs and a giant albino croc!
The sewer fight is not supposed to do more than cost a few resources, so I bring in an escalation die, and, so as not to stress over what particular equipment they have, a “prep” pool using 5 countdown dice. Shout-out to @morrus!GM
Seck changes the game! With a standing jump [and a couple of great rolls] he clears the mighty snout [disadvantage Acrobatics] and then with a long run along the croc, makes a fine long-jump to Vir’s ledge. His lantern swings wildly but he still has it!
Vir has seen, coming up the broad reach of this main channel, a raft… a raft of priest types!
The croc swims hard across the surge, being pushed along a little, and fails its next lunge. It has been pushed away from Seck, close to the gully to Kellerin’s.
Phoenix stands, rips clear the blob [CON SV] and splashes hard against the flow of running water, makes a leap across a gully, to Vir’s side of the entrance to Kellerin’s sewer [disadv Athletics to get the run-speed needed] and swings Mocair at the croc! Mocair dashes down on the albino snout and red ichor gouts! Phoenix’ back-cut glances off its armored hide.
Vir assesses the situation.
“If we had a raft…” – Seck
The priests have a bullseye lantern, and are only outlines at first, but as the raft’s advance brings them within the radius of Seck’s lantern, he recognizes the robes. These are Sebek worshipers, the same he helped eject off the dock – and they are no fighting men. He advises Vir.
“And they’re evil?” – Vir
“Don’t know, but violent, yes” – Seck
“I’ve got this one’s attention – you two handle it” – Phoenix
Vir makes a fine [disadv] run and jump onto the raft. With a Bonus Action he throws Hunter’s Mark onto his chosen target and Ulruf knocks the man off. A second stroke and a second priest is off and sinking. With a flick of Seck’s wrist Maelsauga flies with deadly accuracy into a third, dropping him.
“Be ready to catch the lantern when I drop the guy holding it” – Seck
Vir takes a couple of body-shots from batons, easily handles them, and sweeps two more priests off. The final two have nowhere to run – the current is pushing them closer to Seck! Maelsauga explodes out of the lantern-holder’s head and Vir catches the lantern.
Meanwhile – the croc slams Phoenix with its vast tail, but [with a good Acrobatics check] he keeps his feet, bats away its door-size jaws with Mocair – and cuts deep once more! The bloodied croc has had more than enough! It sinks and disappears, perhaps scenting delicious worshipers in the sewer!
Phoenix now has to deal with a swimming globule that has caught him again, then turns his attention to his fellows: but they have captured the raft by this time.
Over the next few minutes a spike and a short length of rope belays the raft, and the heist team is ready for the next task: grappling a sewer-grate below Kellerin’s and clambering up.
Vir’s message scroll is wet: Seck has the clever idea to bake it dry on his hooded lantern, now they have a bullseye to work with.
Vir also picks up a disease attack from being immersed last session, and will need to make a CON SV, with advantage because of his soldier background
Meanwhile Cat – who knows cards, but has a background as fake scribe, not card-sharp – has been coping with a social challenge. As far as he knows, this is his first meeting with a score or so of rival gamblers. And they are all or nearly all masked.
Here I use a social attack mechanism. Cat has to decide, without knowing his target’s Mental Defence (MD) whether to press a social attack. It carries the risk of tiring (taking mental damage) and thus becoming an even worse gambler. I feel this works, though I should really have been able to elucidate the penalty more clearly. The mechanism offers a payoff for success, but not so great that Cat’s player wants to spend many minutes speaking to many gamblers. He learns some facts, but also takes a little mental damage, which later on, makes him a less effective gambler. He chooses Persuasion for these attacks, since his forte, lying, might backfire badly.GM
He speaks to a Demon Lord, then a Farmboy, and learns that his paranoia notwithstanding, he is not the lone mark. They both seem quite naive, or at least so nervous they can’t speak with any confidence. More generally, the wearing of masks and the free consumption of strong liquor are lowering inhibitions. Talk is loud and women are beginning to move away from their earlier defensive clusters and speak more freely. A woman costumed as a Bandit Queen stares brazenly at the men on view: there are perhaps twice as many men as women, so she has many to choose from!
As Cat mingles, Coralis Lady Kellerin, a scintillant beauty with an exotic accent, gains the company’s attention. Her dear Lord Ullandor is ready to interview those that have goods to exchange for coin. But it seems we are a few revelers short, and she is not sure how to divide tables…
A strapping man, dressed – or undressed – as a Barbarian cries “surely we must begin with Karnoeff!” And this is taken up by a reveler dressed as King Wine, who stomps up and down chanting:
Karnoeff! Karnoeff! Karnoeff!
A woman dressed as a barbarian – though Cat, looking closer, is pretty sure those tattoos and bone piercings are real – catches the mood and she, too, starts chanting. Lady Coralis holds up her hands in cheerful surrender:
“Very well, it will be Karnoeff to find the top twelve… perhaps those of you with ready coin…?”
King Wine sweeps Barbarian Woman along with him and he and Fake Barbarian head across the lobby into the same door cloaks and weaponry were being checked into. After a moment’s hesitation a man dressed as a Noble (or a real noble not bothering with costume) joins them.
We are gamers and we roll dice! In place of the real Karnoeffel, I simply made a partnered-dice-roll, plus a trump d4, to stand place of tricks. Cat is not at that table, so I can narrate pre-rolls where necessary.GM
While queuing for interview Cat also manages to speak to Gargoyle, another nervous sort – Shade, who reveals he is a spellcaster – and an older woman, Butterfly, who is resigned to losing but enjoying the funny costumes and the thrill of entree to such an exclusive club, so to speak. She reminds Cat, who knows this but has chosen to disbelieve, that if you make something exclusive, everyone wants to join.
The “cloakroom” is no such thing – near as large as the happy-hour bar, with a couple of doors off it, one opposite leading to stairs up. Part of the room has had a screened table set up, at which Ullandor Lord Kellerin can interview each patron in privacy. He mimics the languid drawl of most Mooregate nobles: assesses Cat’s gems with the eye of long experience in such things: hands Cat eighty platinum coins, ten per “round.” Cat also notices that Ullandor wears a silver-grey chainmail byrnie under his finery.
With his basic stake ready and more coin in reserve Cat now has to tell his date Elke the bad news: plus-ones are not permitted in the gaming room. She takes it in reasonable spirit [Cat makes a fair CHR check] decides not to stay drinking alone with the creepy bartender, gives him a peck on the cheek and departs.
Later I heard Cat’s player curse quietly to himself, he had not claimed Lord Jackalham’s stake, which would have gotten Elke up gaming too. But no-one can remember everything, and it may have worked out best this way.GM
The Kellerin gaming room is circular, with a quadrant curtained off for on-deck privies. Red is the prevailing theme! The room is carpeted – in red – and the curtain is blood red. About a half dozen of the tall, bald, albino servants are already present, seeing to card supplies and that all present are comfortable.
Some half a dozen tables stand but as Cat arrives, only two are in full use and a third is just choosing partners. From that table, Bandit Queen looks assessingly at Cat, and across at another patron dressed as a Squatch (a hairy ogre of legend in these parts). Cat nips adroitly in front of the latter…
“Perfect,” Bandit Queen murmurs. “We hadn’t a chance to talk downstairs but, as you see, I rob men for a living!”
Their opponents laugh politely, not realizing she is completely serious. Gargoyle shuffles his uncomfortable mask and Peacock gazes vaguely at a feather her costume has shed.
“I think this will be a jolly table… shall we play?” – Cat
“Are we side-betting… it’s traditional…” – Bandit Queen
I’ve mechanized side-bets to simply be the difference between winning (lowest) score and losing, times ten.GM
Cat agrees to side-bets like a good fellow, but – given his slight loss of edge from earlier – is not a great partner. The first rubber closes with him losing his first 10pp stake and down a further 50 gold coins.
Casing the joint
But at this stage, proceedings are interrupted in a big way! At the first table, the second rubber has been under way for some time. In a huge outburst, Noble begins loudly accusing everyone, flips the table, and punches King Wine very hard! He elbows Barbarian Woman in the jaw, at which point she crash-tackles him! Servants swoop in and – despite the enraged King Wine wanting a piece of that guy – pinion Noble and escort him briskly away towards the game-room entrance.
The perfect time for an absence to not be noticed for a while! Cat slips to the men’s side of the curtain, where a circular stair to downstairs is also accessible…
This is the one and only change I have made to the Kellerin layout. It makes little sense to me that the gaming room only accesses the dining area by way of a back-stairs and right through the galley. My circular stairwell connects to the passage between exchange foyer and galley. Guests would walk down, turn right, then left, to the dining experience. It also hugely simplifies the basic issue the adventure poses, of how to slip away during gambling.GM
There are two doors to choose from. Cat gets a sense of bustle from the left, and quiet from the right. He goes right. It’s a bare, tidy exchange or foyer between a beach – a beach! and a long room, dominated with cat statuary. Some of them great cats. He eases that door shut…
The door that sounds like it leads to a kitchen galley does indeed lead there. [Disadv Perception as Cat decides to risk just a quick glance] Servants again, very busy. Cat slides in, using galley shelves as cover. It takes him no time at all to pick out the one different person, a normal human, but shaven. [Adv Perception, because Seck got everyone to refresh on what the Package looks like] It’s Sarissa, recognizable despite having no hair!
Cat sneaks up to Sarissa – the other option being to swagger about like a rich noble who just don’t give a damn – and asks if she wants to get outta here?
I roll a 1 for Sarissa’s “keep it cool” CHR check
She throws everything she’s holding into the air, leaps to clinch with Cat and screams quietly:
“Help me outta here help me outta here help me outta here….”
Cat reacts swiftly. He deals a masterful bluster, ordering her to be about her business while at the same time whispering that his team will be here soon… and asking for directions to the library! [nat 20 on Deception, Cat’s real strength!]
As Sarissa begins picking up the pieces Cat saunters boldly around the busy servants – who are now convinced he’s just some rich, over-entitled guest – and heads out the door Sarissa indicated. It’s a passage right, while to the left, stairs lead back up to the gaming room. He follows right, past several service-area or dormitory-seeming doors, and up again to a fine door.
Meanwhile beneath Kellerin’s the prep pool is significantly smaller as the break-in crew knot the climbing-up rope and use it to grapple the grate below Kellerin’s then another rope to bring with them up the shitter outfall, so as to draw up gear and be able to lower Sarissa. By the time Phoenix emerges into a luxuriously-appointed bench privy the prep pool is finished. Beyond the privy, a vast walk-through closet.
Vir’s message scroll is dry and ready. He keeps an ear on Seck’s murmured reporting as the latter moves to find three options for leaving the walk-through, then reports:
“We are in. Coat closet. Haven’t explored much. Which way?” – Vir, through the scroll.
Seck ignores the sweet, scent-smelling door option and at random tries right, finding a huge important bedchamber type of area. It is unlit, but mysterious subdued lights come from the far right. Seck paces towards a vast platform-bed area, past two ironbound chests, and goggles at a translucent circular convex wall of something – surely not glass? The light source is a mystical looking water garden beyond, delicately lit.
Meanwhile Cat opens the door. Another large circular room, this one featuring a huge wyvern chandelier pouring its light across the room and beyond – for two vast sections of convex glass give a view of right and left. Across left, two sleepy-eyed cats possess themselves of the two most comfortable chairs in the room. But some book-shelves stand in the center, about a pedestal bearing a huge shell. This is where Lochren has asked him to conceal the grapefruit-size purple crystal.
And where has Cat been hiding such an obvious thing?
Cat lifts his ornamental Elf-Prince sceptre. And with a cunning smile, unscrews the huge, obviously-fake orb from it. Feeling extremely pleased with his foresight [this is where I ask how it has been concealed all this time – GM] he Mage Hands it up, up, and delicately down, to a niche atop the chandelier. [DEX check for control, Cat makes DC15] And all without doing more than reaching into the room at arm’s length!
Allowing the door to close he activates the message scroll: reports on his success in the library, on Sarissa’s location in the kitchen, that she has a shaved head, and that he is heading back to the party.
Hellri’s side-job is a bust
Other than being an impossible feat of architecture the circular nook contains only comfy armchairs and a hookah. No book. Seck briefly looks at the bed platform: cushions, throws. He heads to the chests, makes sure they are actually locked, and gets his thieves toolkit out.
I use a “push” mechanism, to represent the nervous strain of trying to open a lock quickly, without roll-until-fail d20 checks, which I loathe. Seck makes an initial not-too-bad roll then can decide to push, with another d6, each time risking exhaustion. It’s a bit ad-hoc and probably needs reworking but it works here.GM
Exhausted, Seck finishes rummaging through the second chest. Still no ledger. Certain that the others will be very cross if and when Seck describes the chests’ contents, he closes the lid and heads out.
Meanwhile Phoenix is surprised to find a bald-headed chick headed towards him… but Vir has passed on Cat’s message, and Phoenix remembers that Cat is “Elf Prince” so the momentary panic Sarissa has on meeting a large stinking man is soon over! It seems that Cat asked Sarissa about what Vir has told him about the walk-in: she knew the place: Cat told her to take her chance!
And away! Sarissa has spent a whole year skivvying for the Kellerins and even the prospect of sliding down a pit toilet shall not sway her from the prospect of FREEDOMMMMM!!!!
Inside man out
Cat is out into the city night, himself, within the hour. Little note seems to have been taken of his endless privy break, and Bandit Queen is vaguely open to a second rubber. And of course, Peacock and Gargoyle are very happy to see this poor hand at cards again! The second rubber loses Cat both his second stake of 10pp and his third stake of 10pp in side-bets.
Bandit Queen is unimpressed, especially since this shared loss also eliminates her from the next round and the dining experience. They are shoulder-tapped and politely wished well. Drinks are still available in the bar…
Heist team – the washup
Down below, wheel-man Vir has the raft ready. Phoenix [who has the Coaster identity, a background for waterborne transport] maneuvers the raft into the side-channel the heist team chose and by dint of that, they pole back to the waterfall. The crate is all ready, making the return up it easy.
Two encounter checks, no problem
And without seeing more than the odd filth lizard the heist team escort Sarissa back up into her family home!
On their third scrub-down and rinse, Lord Jackalham cannot wait, and enters the wash-room to bellow his thanks and gratitude and assure them clothing can be found. Sarissa, he says, is with her old maid, planning wig-buying. As the reward, of course they can take the 800 gold he had assembled right now, and the rest will be delivered in stages, as he previously pledged. With the offer of fine wine and food – and a good bed to sleep in – the night concludes!
Lord Jackalham is a good contact for those wanting noble backing, but not needing any wealth to go with it. Sarissa, lady Jackalham, is also a plausible contact.
We turn our attention to the following day, noting that Cat has redeemed himself in the eyes of lady of the moment Elke by springing for a private luxury meal at the Ducal Crown. And he has told her his entire true origin.
The Long Roaders are expected at the Duke’s castle and have no problem getting there. The van of the crusaders, led by Friar Gellius Drumwind, has left by the west gate, and relatively few soldiers now wander about looking for trouble.
Duke of Trussia, Garrett Greycastle, is an ascetic-looking man of indeterminate years. His information systems are unrivaled: he not only knows of the green dragon cultist attack in the new town, he also knows more about the Ring of Mind Shielding than the Long Roaders do.
It seems that there are two present threats from dragon cults. The duke will activate the Can’allo guild against white dragon cultists again. But it seems that the green dragonborn retreated south-west, to Haranshire. That is where he wishes the Long Roaders to go. Vir is very happy to hear this, because it parallels his own mentor’s request.
One of the duke’s key advisers is the physician Evaine of Odill. This is the man Kaleb asked them to speak to and persuade to let he, Kaleb, press on with his healing at the leper hospice.
We will retcon any tidyup of patronage and prep, when we begin the Haranshire arc; and flashback for an interview with Evaine.
What’s left on the list?
As they leave the castle grounds the Long Roaders say farewell for now to Vir, who intends intelligence-gathering on the path to Haranshire and conditions there, and agree on a relatively short priority list for what to deal with next.
- Continue the work of cleaning the warehouse, then progress to repair
- Speak to the lepers there
- Deal specifically with the valuables stored there
- Speak with Hellri’s mob (Cat backing up Seck)
- Speak with Aleena Ironsky (Phoenix)
- Review Lochren’s information about the statue and other items
Lepers: Phoenix is worried that conditions below are abnormal. But the lepers reassure him. What the Long Roaders found is what the lepers know too. They avoid the globules, the priests and the croc by staying in less-broad channels well away from the main runs. They will certainly move out completely, and out of the warehouse cellar, once the hospice backlog clearance allows more beds there – why on earth would they stay? Phoenix will decide between taking out the croc, and contracting that job out to the guild.
Hellri: With Cat whispering into Seck’s ear, honeyed and reassuring words drip from the normally-taciturn rogue’s lips. He smoothly asserts that while they may not have stolen the ledger, he has the exact direction to two treasure chests lying in Kellerin’s bedchamber. And that lord is so shady it is almost a civic duty to relieve him of that wealth. Hellri’s mob neither let them off the hook, nor promise retribution, but the situation is stable: the status quo ante, in fact.
To spell this out, I mean that Hellri’s mob still intend to charge protection, and see no barrier to squeezing the Long Roaders if terms need to be negotiated, but don’t intend to keep insisting that the ledger be retrieved.
Aleena: Phoenix attends old widow Lise Buckthorn’s funeral. She lasted barely a day after acknowledging that her husband was really dead. As a founder member of new town her funeral is very well attended, and she is laid to rest in the manor grounds. With an Inspiration spend Phoenix has a happy interview with Aleena, she has been updated on the “settling” of the Grindol case and that the Long Roaders are “needed” not “wanted” by the Duke. Aleena also knows from Oskar that leper cures appear to be working now. As for Nightwall Farm, Phoenix finds that the deed is the law, and all they need do is register their possession at Chancery in order to own it. And as for Kali the entertainer, the new town will look after her – she may not be able to sing, but she will not be abandoned. And to conclude, Phoenix invites Aleena on a date! But since he has been told to keep a low profile, the only places he can invite her to are places she normally eats at. They part on good terms.
For those wishing for a cute, somewhat naive rich girl very much on the side of the law, Aleena is a good contact
The Mooregate arc begins to draw to a close! Next session we work through cleanup, sorting out items, and perhaps, begin to bring Haranshire into focus.