(For those who came in late: this is a session report from my ongoing GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign. You might want to catch up by reading the first session report, or my reflections on the first session, or me bemoaning the rules I forgot in the first session. – or go all the way back to read about me setting up the campaign.)
Sitting Down to Play
Everyone arrived at precisely the same time – which was on time. Score! We cracked out the character sheets, dice, and a few snacks, and after a bit of brief introductory chit-chat, we were ready to play…
Scene 1 – The Aftermath of the Battle of Sleeping Dog Square
To start with a brief digression: when GMing fantasy, I like to signal the start of each session by saying “When we last left our heroes…,” and then recap a bit. This being the second session, it was my first chance to do that. Doing it reminds me of longer-running campaigns I’ve been in over the years, so doing it this session made me happy.
When we last left our heroes, they had just finished a big fight with three strange shadow-creatures and a platoon of possessed city guardsmen. So the first order of business was to work out what happened in the aftermath of the battle. We’d previously discussed this over email, so I’d had a chance to prepare for what was coming.
So what did all the characters do in the aftermath of the battle?
Siv (our half-elf bard)
You might recall that Siv is an odd fellow. He has a strange bardic mania – after a battle, he compulsively re-enacts it while humming snatches of verse, trying to compose it as a few stanzas of his ongoing ballad. So he did that, which was quite amusing.
When he’d finished running around manically, he re-united with his old buddy Glimdin (dwarf cleric), whom he hadn’t seen in two years. Glimdin was unsurprised to learn that his friend’s mania hadn’t waned a bit.
Siv: “Glimdin, what are you doing here?”
Glimdin: “I was about to ask you the same thing!”
Siv: “What a battle it was! I think it will make for some wonderful verses…”
Which brings us to Glimdin.
Glimdin (our dwarf cleric)
Immediately after the battle, Glimdin called upon the power of his goddess, the Stone Maiden, in order to heal himself of his wounds.
Then, while Siv was caught up in his familiar mania, Glimdin questioned the city guardsmen (and little Billi!) about their experiences to see whether that would shed any light on the whole “I am possessed and trying to kill you” thing.
The Sergeant of the city guard platoon was initially wary of Glimdin- after all, he was in a tough spot: he had suddenly woken up in the town square, with only very hazy memories of the last few minutes, and now a crowd was gathering, and this dwarf he didn’t know was telling him that he’d been possessed and tried to kill innocent people…
…but Glimdin managed to negotiate the awkwardness of this situation very sensitively, making a solid Diplomacy roll to reassure the guard that his authority was still intact, while convincing him that he and the other guardsmen really had been possessed. It helped that Glimdin was a priest, and thus a respectable authority to turn to regarding this sort of thing (this is where Clerical Investment works as a social advantage).
Having brought some order to the chaos of the scene, Glimdin then questioned the guards, to try to discover if they remembered anything at all about who or what had possessed them…
For fun, I had Glimdin’s player make IQ rolls for the guards, to see how much they could remember. Some guards made their IQ rolls, and some didn’t. I know this is not standard practice, but whenever possible I like to hand over dice rolls to the players. I just think it’s more fun if the players get to roll more dice – and making dice rolls very openly and publicly gives the whole game an ‘objective’ feel that I like. The dice are what they are; I don’t fudge them.
It turned out that most of the guards couldn’t remember much at all – the last few minutes were simply a blank. But a few of the guards could at least describe the kind of memory blankness they had: basically, it felt to them as if a whole heap of ash had been smeared across their memories, smudging them and making them vague and dim. A couple of guards – including the sergeant – remembered just a little more: they remembered having a strong desire to kill anyone who knew about the existence of the clay tablet that Glimdin was carrying…
So that was interesting.
Glimdin then re-united with Siv, as above, and was introduced to Ignus. (Glimdin was polite to Ignus, thanking him for his help, but Ignus cares little for clerics of the Stone maiden, and mostly just shrugged and glowered.)
Then Glimdin proceeded to question both Hirald the Inkeeper and little Billi. Little Billi remembered very little, but was pretty upset anyway – after all, he was an eight-year-old boy, who had just been possessed and tried to kill an innocent priest. Glimdin, being a very nice fellow, reassured Billi that all was forgiven, it wasn’t his fault, etc.
Finally, Siv and Glimdin headed up to the Sea Archive of Frith in order to do a bit of research, and to translate the clay tablet Glimdin had acquired… but that’s the next scene.
Then we cut to Ignus…
Scene 2: Skulduggery in the Streets of Frith
Ignus (our Unholy warrior)
Ignus is a brooding loner, and so he had little interest in tagging along with the other two. Instead, he decided to continue his own investigations into the cult activity in town.
His basic plan was to head off to the seedier parts of town, sell off the second-hand shortsword he’d acquired from his assailant in session 1, and then use the proceeds to bribe whoever he needed to bribe in order to get the information he wanted.
This plan called for a Streetwise roll… which Ignus, amusingly, critically failed. It seemed that he’d been very unsubtle while making his enquiries, and had attracted the wrong sort of attention to himself…
A short time later, he was heading down a dim alley in the Undercircuit district when he realized (as a result of a good Perception roll) that he was being followed. He did a marvelous job of turning that situation to his advantage…
…it turns out that it’s really easy to shake a tail when your Unholy Powers are named things like “Uncanny Silence” and “Cloak of Shadows,” plus a solid Stealth score...
… and moments later Ignus was using Shadowing to follow the man who had previously been following him, the hunter having become the hunted.
Ignus soon realized that the man who had been following him was possessed, like the city guards had been last session.
Cutting a long story short, Ignus followed the possessed man around the city for quite a while – the possessed man was clearly at a loss, looking for Ignus and not finding him, since hey, he was right behind him – and eventually the man snapped out of his possession, and seemed to return to his senses. At that point, Ignus accosted him, Intimidating the hell out of him to get him to confess all that he knew… which was nothing at all. A dead lead!
…which, I’m afraid, is what you tend to get as a result of a critically failed attempt to gather information using Streetwise….
So Ignus decided to call it a night, and began to head back toward the Sleeping Dog Tavern for a rest.
At this point, we cut back to Glimdin and Siv at the Sea Archive…
Scene 3: To The Library!
Glimdin and Siv had headed to the vast old library known as the Sea Archive of Frith, to see if they could discover anything about the evil clay tablet, the evil shadow-creatures, or the (suspected) evil cult.
A note on my GMing: when the PCs arrived at the library I called for a Detail Round. This is a tabletop technique I invented for my own games, and I find it so useful that I’m often a bit surprised when I remember that other people don’t use it too. (There’s really very little to it, so I’m sure many people must be using this technique, from time to time, without ever mentioning it as such – but if so, I never seem to meet any of them….). At any rate, I find it to be a really fun technique to wheel out during tabletop play – it’s great for keeping everyone involved by giving everyone a stake in the world you’re building together. Plus it takes some pressure off the GM, too.
This time, the detail round gave a lot of nice texture to the library: it turns out that…
The Sea Archive of Frith is built out of huge stone blocks in a 12th-century Gothic style, full of arched doors and vaulted chambers. Inside it’s musty and lit mostly by candles (which is a danger to the books). In classic “Stodgy Librarian” style, the Archivists here are a bit haughty, while being very protective of their books.
Siv headed back up to his room in the Sleeping Dog Tavern for a good rest. He was due to perform in the tavern common room that night, to earn his keep. Though he had intended to play his ol’ faithful “Ballad of San Pievov, the Pious Paladin,” now he had a mind to sing some snatches of his brand-new ballad for the first time… So he went up to his room to continue working on the latest verses.
Siv going back to the tavern to keep composing his ballad might seem like mere background color, but it was to lead to some big consequences in a few hours’ time…