Picking up right where we left off, our heroes were taking a leisurely ride on an eccentric old dwarf’s airship. It was, perhaps the calm before the storm, as they were heading towards the ominous “Fortress of Souls.” As far as they knew, this was the only airship in existence in the entire world.
Not too long after resting up, the players find themselves on some floating mountain islands. In the sky. Why the detour? Gakkeren, the dwarf, had visited those mountains many times before, and their friendly Skypeople inhabitants. But something was wrong.
When they arrived, players found the place a mess. Buildings were destroyed, rubble was everywhere, and no people were to be found. Several of the players went to search through the rubble for items, and several magic items were found.
Then, players encountered a wounded Skyman. He was in agony, begging to be killed, to be freed. He talked of circles being unbroken, the world being false, and tainted. Henrick, sensing a sincere desire from this man to be killed, attempted to secretly cause a rockslide to kill him, but Galixo pulled him away too quickly. Despite his fear and resisting, players pulled the man, Balen, to the ship, and left.
Then, a further oddity. Shortly after leaving the mountain islands, Goblins attacked – in airships of their own. Though poorly constructed, these ships did the job well enough. However, the Goblins were quickly defeated, and even the fearsome OWLBEAR, which they dropped onto the players’ ship, was pushed off to its death by the heroic maneuvers of Galixo.
The mysteries of the world thickened as Henrick, possessor of some newfound magic gloves from the floating islands, discovered an inability to hold on to any item for long. It was not long before he realized that his gloves were tainted with a curse, as Balen had warned. Fortunately, they were able to remove the gloves with Tressa’s most useful goblet.
The players were brought to a secret entrance – an old forgotten well, known to the Dwarf as his ancestors had helped build the Fortress. With some explosives also provided by the dwarf, the players broke through a wall deep in the well for easy access to the Cavern of Souls.
Once in the cavern itself, it took seconds to dispatch the Kobolds left there as guards. But, the heroes found it more difficult to rescue the Hero they were out to save. With 3 options to choose from, players guessed wrong twice and as a result had to battle 2 wraiths, who had waited, in disguise, to be pulled out for a surprise attack. Players managed to defeat the wraith, and then finally pulled the real Hero out. Only, when he was restored, the Hero laughed, spoke of being “free from the circle,” congratulated Godre’s choice of heroes, and then… used some magic to send the players to… somewhere. To be found out next week.
Each session I have designed some encounters to bring out aspects of player’s character’s backstories, and I must say this has worked out very satisfactorily to me. The main challenge this mission was the question of Balen – to kill him and ‘free’ him as he believes, or to protect the sanctity of life? This presents a distinct challenge – separating player knowledge from character knowledge in order to make a moral choice. One player did attempt to kill Balen for his sake, but was unsuccessful. Players argued about their choices, however, and then decided to save the man.
Possibly my favorite part of the session, however, had to do with the magic items. Each player rolled to search and were awarded items based on their rolls, however not all details were provided. Certain items were just not given detailed information, because the player didn’t know enough about it at first glance. In this situation, the use of notecards to keep the found items a secret worked very well – players had a choice to reveal their items to see if others could recognize it, or they could keep the items secret. No player could try to roll to see if they knew about an item that their character might not have even seen retrieved.
Then, a player donned one of the items – the pair of magic gloves he found – without question. Finally, when the curse activated (in a combat session) and the player learned his item was cursed, this caused the other players to question their own items. Is my item cursed? they wondered. Should I use it? It adds a level of uncertainty, of choice, of story, of good ol’ fashioned fun. I can’t reveal here, just yet, if any of the other items they found are cursed or not.
I was actually surprised though that no one asked anyone else to see if they could figure out what their item was. Not surprised that many of them kept their items a secret, but no one offered anyone else a second look, even when offering the item, revealing the item, or wondering if their item is cursed. The players dont trust each other, but i dont think they distrust each other THAT much.
Biggest challenges? I think, for me, mostly just trying to provide enemies that are challenging without being overpowering. I think the creatures I’ve chosen have been a little on the weak side. It doesn’t help that I’ve been trying to ensure shorter sessions. However, I don’t want the players to feel like they’re being babied through the story. Next week, there will be more scary, powerful monsters. And some good, solid stuff for bringing out more of each character’s backstory, As you will soon see.
I like the idea of the hidden items with limited player knowledge. Good stuff.
You know I’m a huge fan of cursed items as a game hook!