In which Farshad and Utana offshore their jobs
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim
The group take stock of their situation. They have a dying Kurrim, , recently taken down from a sacrificial frame, and, through a good deed taken advantage of, have left the villainous priestess and priest of the Temple of some unknown deity go, and, in so doing, they deceptive two have absconded with an apparently compliant José.
Dhran, Jushuur and Jalabu attend to the expiring sacrifice, Utana and Farshad quickly find a duty urchin, lurking outside in a doorway, and sent them off to alert her gang members, “Be on the look out for the three that fled this place, an unnaturally beautiful woman, her male companion and Juan José, the big western mercenary who should be known to them.”
This leads to a discussion on whether the whole of their adventures could be run from a decent tavern, and by dispatching a sufficient quantity of urchins, all quests could be undertaken with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience, to the party at least.
The Kurrim, croaking, calls himself ‘Hurrus’, and begs for his body to be taken home, back to the village of Marshtown, across the river from Iralun. The group, having bound his wounds as best as they could, their healer stolen away, they think that there is no way Hurrus can survive the journey, him being so close to death. They make a stretcher from the robes of one of the possessed dead and some wooden staves and, tie Hurrus to it, gently pull him up the ladder and take him out the house and into the street towards the Temple, seeking better medical attention there.
There is a problem in scenario design, I’ve done it, this scenario has it, that unless the party do exactly the one thing expected of them or, worse, make a roll to persuade someone, or spot a vital clue or research some essential fact, then the adventure cannot progress. There are other ways to approach this. Adventures using the Gumshoe system will always give you some basic clues, the group can chose to invest in getting more information, other systems have tasks with discrete chunks, and the characters gain chunks of the task and there should always be room for role-playing to clever ideas to perhaps speed up, or slow down, the process.
On the route they are stopped by four of the citizen watch..
“Evening all, what’s all this ‘ere then? Is that a Kurrim? Don’t you know that iy is han hoffence for a Kurrim to be within the city walls unless on a market day, and honly then in possession of a proper licence? What are you doing with one, and carrying him about too?”
I noticed I’ve been tending to a bit of third party GMing of late “They say X to you” instead of acting out the NPC. I’m trying to get more into acting, I did for this, but I exaggerate in the report above.
Utana shortcircuits the potential for trouble presenting the bona fides given to them by the priestess Teralag, the citizenry look at them in suspicion, and decide that the best thing to do is to escort them to the Temple. If they are accepted then the authorisation is genuine.
There is some kind of hubbub in the streets, groups of muttering folk, side eyed glances at other but, of course, the group are accepted by the Temple and the watch are slightly satisfied, though they await outside. The acolytes Senyag and Annuran are in the courtyard at weapons practice. Seeing the group they escort them to the infirmary and Hurrus is treated, stabilised and going to live. The group, wanting to find out more about what Hurrus was doing in town, find him reticent, and they discuss drugging him to find out what he knows. That plan founders, not through inability, but because Jalabu, alchemist as well as assassin, as distracted as a six year old in a sweet shop, being given full run of the Temple’s pharmacopeia to actually go through with the plan.
The decide to do as Hurrus asked, and take him to Marshtown. Grabbing the 4 citizen’s watch outside, they are escorted to the Watergate and beyond, to a bowshot outside the walls. Crossing the ford, they follow the road till they reach the edge of the marsh proper, where they can see, built on artificial islands propped up on log piles, the village, huts forming a perimeter around a central communal area, and they start along the causeway to the village.
As the group get closer, an older, brawny Kurrim sees the procession, recognises Hurrus, his son and, runs screaming at them, taking an axe from his belt. The group stand there, dumbfounded and it isn’t until Jalabu is hit by an axe that they loudly tell the violent newcomer that their charge is alive.
The Kurrim introduces himself as Tassus, apologises, and invites them to a feast while his shaman attends to Hurrus. He explains that he thought the group were Iralunin, bringing his dead son, Hurrus, to dump the corpse in the village, as is the habit of the arrogant city dwellers. He knows Hurrus was visiting a human woman in the city, a prostitute, by the name of “Alhyri” or “Elhari”.
The group enjoy the feast, and see the healing of the Kurrim, involving scrapping skin and snipping hairs into a potion that, when finished, is fed to Hurrus, who drifts off in a healing stupor. The potion is sampled by members of the group but, unsurprisingly, lacking the elements of body to ties the potion to them, just get an unpleasant sensation of having hairs in their mouth.
In the morning, having slept in Tassus’s hut, they learn more from Hurrus. The woman he was seeing works in “The Rebel’s Head”, a low dive named for the tarred heads of failed rebels hung from ropes from beams outside A former mansion fallen on hard times in what is now a rough part of Iralun. Hurrus also supplies the name of the two in charge, the woman, Ulaliritu, the man Dzhughael and, from what he saw, Ulaliritu was in charge, Dzhughael was very deferential to her. He also tells them how he got in and out of the city, using a forgotten and supposedly sealed postern gate that can be moved, exposing to a gap between the walls where the filling has collapsed. It is a tight squeeze for all save Farshad.
This episode is odd. In the original the found sacrifice is a lizardman, and they expire immediately after asking for their body to be returned to their village. Firstly, why couldn’t the characters use magical healing? Certainly more available in AD&D than it is in DragonQuest.
Secondly, would the characters every time cart a corpse back out to its home, rather than just leave it there and avoid awkward questions? It’s a bit of an assumption.
Returning to the Temple, they find a group from rent-an-urchin awaiting them. They sell them the information that they know where the group’s captors and friends went. For some more silver the gang will sell them the actual location. Utana the generous pays the cherubic extortionists, though not without some grumbling. Surprise surprise, it is to The Rebel’s Head. The group, minus Dhran who stays at the temple in case of any more urchin reports, head off, and guided by urchins to the Rebel’s Head.
The Rebel’s Head, having once been a mansion, is beyond a wall, though the gate is long gone, the advertised heads dangle in front of the town house, and four bouncers guard the door. They make the group check in any weapons larger than a knife, issuing clay chits and placing the weapons into a cupboard built against the wall.
Inside the place is a crowded den of drink, underhanded deals and unsavoury conversations. The bar is opposite the door and, at either end of the building are two fighting pits, a smaller one for animals and a larger one for fights between mortals. Drink is bought, a vile spirit, called raki, but unlike the spirit of the same name in the southlands, this is rougher and does not have the same flavour. Farshad is also supplied with some tsipouro (ancestral ouzo) which does seem like the genuine article.
Scoping the place out, and engaging some of their near neighbours in chat, they learn about the diversions and entertainments here. One of those they speak to is a huge human, named Zhigul, the resident champion of the fighting pit. Utana places a bet on him, and wins, though the odds mean that the return is not good. It is the judgement of the group that Zhigul makes the fight look harder than it is, to encourage betting and new challengers, but it does not tempt any of the group to take their chances.
The other topic that the group bring up is to look about for or ask after a preternaturally attractive woman, and had such a one been seen in the Rebel’s Head, but no such beauty has been seen. On the upper level, they do see some young women, and men, apparently prostitutes engaging customers from the bar. There is another door, but most who go through that door seem more desperate, and those that leave seem glassy eyed and unable to engage with others.
Jalabu eventually approached the bar, and enquired after “Alhyri” or “Elhari”.
He was directed upstairs to “Elhiri”, and one of the bouncers gives him further guidance when he got there, introducing him to Elhiri, who seems to be in the mid twenties, and is simply, but sparsely dressed, though with silver jewellery with lewd themes.
Jalabu follows her into a neatly but sparsely featured room. Elhiri, is up front about the transaction, 10 silver pieces for an hour, and Jalabu pays up. He is intrigued by the offer of a bath, and is led into another room for that, the water uis mostly clean and still warm. As she ministers to him with oil and strigil, Jalabu questions her about Hurrus.
Downstairs, drink is consumed, Farshad in particular seems to prefer the tsipouro to the raki, though both get the job done.
Upstairs Elhiri denies all knowledge of Hurrus or Ulaliritu, though seems distracted and one of her nails scratches Jalabu. She starts back as Jalabu starts to become aware that she had attempted some magic upon him. He does not have time to react to this as Elhiri jumps back, pulls a rope and shouts all sorts of vile accusations as loudly as she can.
As Jalabu struggles out of the bath, bouncers arrive, grab him by the arms and throw him, and his gear, out of the window, though luckily he is bruised rather than injured. He garbs himself, goes around the front, presents his clay chit and gets his weapons from the bouncers, who eyeing up this damp and dishevelled stranger.
In a rage, Jalabu pulls out his sword and attempts to go in, stabbing at a bouncer who gets in his way, he is clubbed to the ground, stunned and unable to do more as the rest of the group hurry out to see what is going on. Seeing the situation, they retrieve their own gear, and carry Jalabu back to the Temple. They spot at the time, but it doesn’t really register, a half sunken side entrance to the Rebel’s Head.When Jalabu recovers, he is still angered, and the group watch him like a hawk lest he go back in a violent rage but, by morning, a more calculating, cold desire for revenge takes him.
And there we left it, José is still unfound, but they know something is up
As far as the vile accusations go, I wish I had used comedic accusations rather than the one I had used. We were all adults but still and all, if I had my time again I would have used “barratry, impersonating a clergyman of the Church of England, possessing a dog without a licence“. That sort of thing.
In a playtest of the latest edition of RuneQuest, I found new players, in their late 20s and early 30s, felt uncomfortable with some themes that we took in our stride in the 80s. This was not them being delicate, but a changing realisation that being flippant about some things is perhaps not the way to approach them.