DGA7.05: Kidnap the Archpriest, part five – Odill to Dawndenn

The characters for this session

Phoenix, level 7 barbarian: hails from a folk hero’s family of the usually pacifist Coaster people. His Ideals make him a straightforward, amicable type. Had early experience with the Alshon marine, then a brief and unsuccessful spell as a brigand before joining the Long Roaders. Fights against his father’s alcoholic fate. As the only character with waterborne vessel proficiency, Phoenix is center stage!

Vir, level 7 ranger: an ex-soldier with a strong desire to live and let live, but who will never leave a friend behind. A far-wanderer whose mother is a half-elf matriarch and whose last name, Onden, Vir took with him.

Seck, level 7 rogue: one of those kids that grow up among siblings of different fathers. Survived a battle that killed his family (as far as he knows!). Dragged from the rubble to become a young scout to the regiment that saved him. His guardians instilled deep respect for authority and honesty in the lad.

Cat, level 7 warlock: grew up in Tarfondom or thereabouts, stunted under the “care” of a horrible trickster, Roeburr. Titania, who found the free spirit of her distant descendant amusing, rescued Cat from captivity and set him on a different path. His charlatan background allows Cat to “run” a second background, scribe, plausibly.

The Long Roaders are 104xp from level 8.

Boatmen

Phoenix switches the plan, saying “I’m not liking the chances of switching boats, let’s stick with this one.”

“I’m with you!” lubber Cat exclaims.

Seck and Vir have thoughts, and time ticks by. Phoenix leans over to the other boatman and explains, “you’re the decoy.”

Danger money? Vir passes over some money. Cat can see the same thought passing though their own boatman’s head. At that moment the white cathedral’s great bell begins ringing, ringing urgently! Cat urges: “Row – row now!”

At the mid-stream, he thumps down a princely sum, leaving it where he can easily grab it away if things go badly. But spurred on by greed, their boatman wrenches a shoulder badly. And all the time, the alarm bells are ringing in the cathedral and alarms are spreading across the city!

Phoenix takes over the oars and Vir feeds him a Bull’s Strength potion! From then on, it all goes extremely well, barring some flung rocks and curses from drunks. Vir spots a sheltered landing just above the river market and – as licentious nobles scramble into clothes and flee – Seck feeds the boatman a healing potion. The Long Roaders plus barrel o’priest disembark safely and clamber up worn stone steps to the river market. Vir has long since shed his tattered pilgrim’s robe, and Seck leaves his in the boat.

XP: lvl8-102

Street race

The river market is closed by night, but Vir can hear people in the side-streets. Best not to hang about! Almost immediately they are surrounded by an eight-man street gang. Seck essays some cant but they heard “riches” and won’t back down. Cat uses his Fey Presence on two at one end, and manages to create space: the all dash through and away!

Navigating the street that runs between the market and the dock is nearly painless, but then the tromping of heavy armored boots comes to Vir’s ears. Suddenly, eight Endoguard swing into the street ahead. Side-street! Quick!

The Endoguard give chase to these obviously guilty types. Thanks to the Bull’s Strength Phoenix makes it to the dock well ahead of the pursuit.

The docks for this quarter of Odill never sleep. Pools of light spill onto the quay from many a dive and grogshop. Drunks and peddlers, merrymakers and bullies, all mingling, fill the night with noise that bids to swell over the cacophony of bells.

Phoenix and Vir each have one level exhaustion, Vir picks up a second as they make this final push

XP: lvl8-100

The boat

As the Long Roaders hasten through the crowds as best they can, they find their way barred by a small cloaked figure. Or say rather, they find a small cloaked figure jogging alongside them.

This is Shaesica, Shaz to her friends, halfling with a secret and a need to get out of Odill, but fast! And she happens to know they are leaving now! Since they have no leisure to sort things out they allow her on with them.

Mainly based on answers from the players we now learn about the Long Roaders’ escape vessel.

Name: Slippery Eel.

Master and sole crew: Captain Piego, who takes up his role as Phoenix’ sidekick again.

Type: a light barge, manageable by one crew. It has sweeps that can be managed by a single man though two per bench works best. It has a single mast with a sail that can be close-trimmed, to catch light airs.

Gear: their own gear is stowed out of the way below. The deck – aside from a very obvious barrel that Seck is lashing down – has only rope and some shields laying about.

Phoenix casts off and shoves off. As the Slippery Eel sails gently toward the Aldian’s mid-channel lights and movement on the dock suggest the Endoguard have seen their departure!

XP: lvl8-99

We’re pretty sure he’s evil, let’s not worry about comfort

Whether there really is a great chain that can be raised to block the entire Aldian or no, the Slippery Eel has a shallow draft and works along the mid-channel and clear. The final western quarter of the city fades from view, leaving them in complete darkness. Then thoughts turn to the cargo.

“We need to pull our chap out of the barrel, he’s about to turn normal size again.”

Various unsympathetic plans are laid for preventing spellcasting. Tomas is extracted and the hangings and rope loosened as he swells back to normal stout cleric size. They make sure to gag him! Then his hands are secured again and plunged into hot pitch so there is no chance of any naughty somatic component!

Cat thoughtfully removes all of Tomas’ rings before this operation. Vir notices.

“If you plan to Detect Magic I can do that,” Vir offers.

“No, I got this,” Cat assures him, summoning Dis (but invisible).

Dis finds one thick gold band set with a smooth dark-red stone to be magic. Aside from that, Vir determines that a key and Tomas’ vestment have Abjuration magic.

Shaz looks knowingly back from where she has installed herself in the bow.

XP: lvl8-97

The chase and river dangers

Piego is a trifle downbeat about their options.

“It’s maybe eight days to Argerport – or say rather, eight to Alshon Landing – and after that we need take our chances channel by channel for two more days – and it’ll take us two days to pass the Yellow Mountains, to starb’d. Port side though, there’s pirates to worry about. But mid-channel, we could strike big ships coming up, and that could mean navy. Or pirates.”

Piego points out something else:

“We’ve no supplies for such a voyage. Dawndenn’s the best bet, over on the left bank.”

Grim faces are pulled, but it’s true: their march to Odill left them with but a few stray rations. So they tentatively agree on Dawndenn.

And far behind them as yet, but with sweeps flashing up and down, two large barges become visible!

Hi-jinx ensue! Including Seck falling out of the boat at a patch of uneven water, and being rescued by Vir’s well-flung rope. Then as the pursuit lengthens to dawn, they catch sight of a part-submerged log.

Phoenix helps guide them over it, coaxing one of the barges to strike it. The pursuit gets close enough for the pursued to see both heavy barges are full of Black Endoguard! But only one remains in the hunt.

XP: lvl8-94

And self-made dangers

Approaching Dawndenn, they are far ahead of their pursuers. Cat has an idea.

“Draw us in close to the bank. I’ll cause some of the vines to become killer vines, or at least annoying vines.”

Slosh! Splash! Splash! The boat strikes a river-bank eddy, Cat and Vir take a plunge.

Some valuable distance is lost, but no harm done.

XP: lvl8-94

Dawndenn

Piego admits to not knowing much about the town. A prince’s town? Nobles maybe? But big enough that the docks won’t be deserted and supplies can be had. The night deepens. Full cloud cover rolls back, permitting some starlight.

So their cunning plan is: Phoenix, you launch yourself out of the barge as we get within striking distance of the dock, run along grabbing food, then leap on as we drift past the far end.

Of course this doesn’t happen. I don’t recall requiring a roll

Phoenix calls back from the deep-water dock that the plan won’t work, since the town proper is set back, along a side-river. He sets out towards a visible steeple.

The Slippery Eel eases into the side-river. At least there’s a chance the pursuers will miss them in the dark.

It takes Phoenix about two minutes to walk past the town’s orchards to a barrier, a thick hedge growing atop a dike. At the river verge there’s a weak point, perhaps where lazy townsfolk take a short-cut. He crosses. Ahead there’s an unlit huddle that is probably huts, but half-left, the lights of a tavern!

Encouraged by the others, Phoenix sets off to the tavern. The Slippery Eel lodges hard in by the dike.

XP: lvl8-94

Give us the halfling!

Phoenix finds himself surrounded. Dark figures bulk out of the shadows by the tavern. Seven of them.

“Give us the halfling!” The accent is unusual, a barking tone Phoenix has not heard before.

“What halfling?”

“Don’t mess with us, we’ve scried her all the way downriver.”

Initiatives: Cat, Seck, Phoenix, Vir, Shaz/Jackal elite

The fight would be bloody save that the dark figures, though up-armoring with heavy shields as Cat’s Repelling Blasts flash across, give up the initiative and become increasingly defensive.

It’s a nice change of pace for Phoenix, who has twice been put down before getting into action!

Shaz summons a spell. The Jackal elite center falls out of formation, reduced to a dumb beast.

Vir rains arrows on the flanker. Phoenix makes his life hell with repeated flanking moves. Cat keeps knocking the heavy fighters out of formation with his blasts. The flanker falls!

Then Shaz summons something horrendous, a black mist of whirling groping nastiness. Phoenix takes necrotic damage as he wrestles out of it. The survivors flee!

As Shaz assures Cat she’s one of the good guys, she just happened to pinch a bell for summoning Graz’zt and his followers are annoyed, Phoenix loads up with provender and booze. Seck and Vir loot the corpses, pulling hefty coin pouches.* It seems the heavy barge went past Dawndenn, so all’s well!

Until the Endoguard’s heavy barge sweeps up from downriver and makes for the dock.

XP: lvl8-91

When nat ones speak of victory

The Long Roaders cook up a cunning plan, overruling Phoenix, who prefers to just leave once the Endoguard are committed to the shore. It seems now is the time to royally f**k up the heavy barge, with oil, pitch, flame, and maybe Mocair.

All they need to do is swing hard to starboard and row to the dock where the enemy are berthed.

Piego rolls a nat 1 for navigating, the Slippery Eel follows the natural current off to port and down into the Aldian.

Meanwhile, as the Endoguard tramp to the barrier, their watch looks out upon the nighted river.

The watch rolls a nat 1. The Slippery Eel’s departure is not noticed at all.

Friendlies

In the growing dawn of the left bank, the Slippery Eel next encounters some fishermen, chanting as they haul their catch up. These are Coasters and Phoenix gets two items of news or advice from them.

  • A seahawk, out of place here, seems to be patrolling the river lanes
  • Selt Quag above Alshon Landing is still hostile – its folk, the “bugs,” prey on small craft

For want of a better strategy the Slippery Eel takes the midriver channel for the next day. They encounter no hostiles, and Cat Seck and Vir manage to get a Long Rest. The Slippery Eel next ends the day by striking for the right bank and another village.

These folk are friendly as well – they seem to know about keeping mouths shut and decide to believe Cat when he explains that Tomas (who is in a sorry state by now) is just a guy that owes him money.

And as the Long Roaders plus Shaz lift a convivial drink with the locals, and Phoenix gains a Long Rest, the session ends.

XP: lvl8-90

*I definitely heard Cat say, “looks like the Archpriest has a new cloak” and while the looters didn’t follow through, hey, I may be a bald asshole but I’m basically a kind DM, and I did give this credit when friendly villager A looked at the gagged and bound prisoner.

DM Notes – Props

Aside from the city escape itself this was a homebake session. There’s not a lot in the current edition about river travel or chase. I adapted some Complications from the DMG chase rules, which worked well (basically 50% chance of something needing a DC10 SV). From the distant past I pulled:

  • Kim Mohan’s AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide, for things like weather and barge size and movement;
  • D&D Expert Rulebook, Dave Cook with Steve Marsh (ed) for encounters and sub-tables.

And freely adapted the encounters to fit denizens of the Aldian.

I pinched Dawndenn from a 3rd-tier Dimgaard adventure that I won’t ever get to and switched it to the Aldian. Mainly for the options it gave me for enemies!

Mini-review, Kidnap the Archpriest

A system-less, setting-less heist module by Skerples (coinsandscrolls.blogspot.ca) and available on drivethrurpg.com

Skerples gives the DM instructions and you’ll need to pay attention to them. This adventure is jam-packed with information, too much for a casual DM to absorb without post-it notes and extra excerpts for key elements. On the other hand it is exceptionally easy to slide into any campaign that includes (a) church and (b) state. I switched the patron and destination, is about all.

The design is exceptionally clever. The only weak point I found was the physical and roleplay separation between the city (where the PCs have to lodge) and the castle (where corrupt guards and priests hang out). I did some early changes to kite some weaknesses in the castle, and after that it all balanced out. Without those I fear the timeframe of 48 hours would have been too tight.

There are no right and few wrong answers in kidnap plans. Hacking their way through is the only purely wrong plan that I could see.

The escape end is well enough covered that the DM need have no fear of having to just hand-wave elements.

At higher tiers, the adventure would probably get too complicated, or require too much nerfing to be enjoyable. Even with my level 7’s, a Fly potion or Water Breathing potion or four would have unbalanced play too much.

However, definitely one of the highlights of the campaign, and thanks as usual to Bryce for reviewing it.

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