Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Elder Scrolls GLOG Report 2: The Caldera Trail

It's been two weeks since the first session report, and the #to-morrowind game has been coming along swimmingly since then. When we last left off, the players and their deserter friend had gotten to know each other in prison, escaped through good fortune, found a slaving operation in the caves below their penal colony, took one of the slavers prisoner and stole their boat.

That was when their true journey began, leading them... TO MORROWIND!

To recap, our cast

Vilamon Hawker, Redguard Destruction Wizard - kahva

Gwynabyth Muriel Ysciele, Breton Conjurer - retrograde tardigrade xenograft

Riadell Fernhollow, Bosmer (Wood Elf) Knight - mtb-za

Verdgrss-Wears-Copper, Argonian Hunter - grimlucis

Hama'ak, Khajiit Thief - Walfalcon

The Game

Within a few hours of sailing the calm water of the inner sea, the Seyda Neen Lighthouse was high above he horizon. The party decided to ground their boat on the shore, so they wouldn't have to deal with inconvenient questions. The moment they first stepped foot on Vvardenfell, a strange sensation came over them, and disappeared as quickly. They decide to make camp for the night, and approach in daylight.

They arrived in Seyda Neen on foot, a bustling Imperial port town. Stately stone houses and guard towers on the good ground leer over wooden shacks built on the bog. The players restrict themselves to the local watering hole and general store, Arrille's Tradehouse. The Altmer in question is a salesman with a machine-gun mouth, who gives them what they need to know about finding employment in the area and barters with them for camping gear and basic supplies.

The party heads upstairs to the tradehouse, now mostly empty as the laborers have finished their breakfast. They buy some of the local drink and food and strike up a conversation with one of the patrons, an Imperial merchant drinking heavily and scribbling desperately on maps and ledgers.

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Seyda Neen, Donimic Zdenkovic
His name is Vodunius Nuccius, and he is an entrepreneur, he says. His get-rich-quick scheme involves underhandedly lobbying the Imperial and Dunmeri governments to let him handle the trade of Dwemer artifacts which is currently stalled by mutual distrust. The players respect his ambition, and recognize he's going to crash and burn when he's discovered. Still, no reason not to make some money off of him.

Nuccius' offer is simple. Deliver a shipment of flin, an expensive Imperial whiskey, to the city of Balmora, a week away. This is partly to get some money to keep operating, mostly to curry favo with his clients. This is, unfortunately, slightly illegal; the Seyda Neen guard has placed a hold on major trade as a result of a string of robberies in the last few days. As the players are negotiating with him, a squadron of guards burst into the room with a Bosmer in custody, who points out one of the ruffians in the corner, whom the guard arrest. They've started to crack down.

The players agree, and Nuccius gives them letters of credit to finance transportation and supplies. They run around town getting sacks of food, wagons and pack guar, the dominant burden beast on Vvardenfell. When night falls, they park the wagons outside of town, head down to Arrille's storeroom and smuggle out crates of flin one by one, walking down by the bog to avoid patrols.

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The players leave their boat where it is hidden, to possibly return and get it someday. They do, however, bring the prisoner. Before they leave, Nuccius gives them one last instruction; the flin should be delivered directly to Nileno Dorvayn in the Hlaalu Council Manor, and the players must say, 'Vodunius recommends the Amber Reserve.' With the subterfuge behind them, the players set out on their week-long journey.

This is the players' first real brush with the UltraViolet Grasslands travel system, as I've adapted it to Morrowind. The basic unit of travel is the week, people need supplies, animals and vehicles to travel effectively, and it is altogether risky. Verdgrss, the Argonian Hunter, rolls Misfortune, and the jurney through the Bitter Coast, though muddy and unpleasant, is safe.

In the UVG way, an encounter always occurs in each week of travel. Instead of rolling for whether it occurs, your oll to see how close it is, how powerful it is, and how well disposed it is to you. The players hear the territorial cries of a pair of mating kagouti, which Verdgrss successfully identifies. They quickly get out of there, avoiding a confrontation.

After several days on the road, the players leave the muggy, swampy Bitter Coast, and find themselves in the rocky highland West Gash region. Following the River Odai upstream, they come to Balmora, one of the largest cities in Vvardenfell. Built to straddle the river, a thriving morass of merchant stalls, street acrobats and diversions. It's big, noisy, smelly and lively. The PCs get themselves to High Town, the quieter, more orderly noble district of the city, passing themselves off as bounty hunters/deliverymen.

The Hlaalu Council Manor is the grandest of the mansions lining the main lane of High Town, and they are escorted to its massive double doors by a squadron of bonemold-clad guards. The door is answered by a middle-aged Dunmer woman, dressed more like a steward than a noble herself. As it happens, this is Nileno Dorvayn, the highest ranking House Hlaalu member in Balmora, possibly in all of west Vvardenfell.

After conducting a search of the carts and taking the prisoner, the players hand over the letters and ledgers they found on Firemoth to her. Rather in disbelief, she invites them inside to discuss further. As it happens, she already knows their names. An Imperial messenger passed through by Mages Guild teleportation, informing high-ranking Imperial allies that a group of dangerous, violent convicts had escaped and were likely at large in the region. That said, a public announcement or bounty had not yet been placed.

Nileno decides that the party has much to offer, and she holds the key to their freedom. In exchange for ensuring a public bounty is not placed, in order to save face for the Empire, the party will undertake a certain job for her. It so happens that she is hosting a Hlaalu High Councilor at the moment, one Crassius Curio, who takes a distinct interest in the party as operatives.

The nearby Imperial charter town of Caldera and the mining company of the same name controls the largest ebony mine in the world. Nominally, it is under Hlaalu control, but everyone knows that the governor and company president, Odral Helvi, is embezzling massive amounts of funds and ebony for his own gain. Security there is tight, and most of the mining labor is performed by slaves supplied by the Oran family. As a result, they have been unable to place good operatives undercover there, but the PCs are unknown, and not previously associated with House Hlaalu.

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Hlaalu Nobility, by Igor Levchenko
The party, valuing their skins, agree to this arrangement, take their payment, send a letter to Vodunius informing him of what they dare, and stay in Balmora for a week while they prepare to infiltrate Caldera. They are quite busy, looking into the Guilds, temple, local flavor and carousing. Gwynabyth joins the Mages Guild, and finds a great deal of fellow conjurers there. Vilamon visits the Tribunal Temple to learn about the local faith, and ends up falling into the cult of St. Veloth the Pilgrim. He devotes himself to this new faith, and brings the ability to cast 'Almsivi Intervention' to the party.

Hama'ak investigates the seedier local dives, and encounters the Thieves Guild. He gets along famously with them, and joins the guild. His entry test, an alcohol and skooma fueled burglary of a bakery is successful, though he earns the nickname 'Honey-Hands' from the endeavor.

Vrdgrss follows Hama'ak to the same places, but chooses to party instead of joining the local underworld. He also gets along well with the patrons, gaining the friendship of a Khajiit named Mahmoud, whose mining company is heading up to Caldera in a caravan at the end of the week.

Riadell chose to reside in a safer part of town, but comes across some misfortune of his own. After getting a bit drunk, he goes on a long anti-Imperial rant, with a pair of Imperial soldiers on leave from the nearby fort next to him. He gets a nasty black eye out of the night, plus the enmity of an Altmer agent named Tunagil, but the locals like how he handled himself, and will remember him if he ever comes back.

Riadell also investigates the incidence of a bad dream he had, being eaten by his brothers at the direction of a golden masked figure. The Mages Guild apprentices insist that there is no Aedra or Daedra that fits the description, but Sharmat, the Dunmer folk devil, fits it to a t.

Through all that, the PCs are buying equipment and conversing with each other. That concludes the past two weeks of play, continuing today after a brief intermission. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to whip up an encounter.

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Caldera Mine, by Lukkar

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