Saturday, November 13, 2021

Ptolus Sessions 2 and 3: Lord of the Flies

The party takes on a job from the Longfingers' Guild to earn their trust, digs deeper into the mysteries just beneath the city surface, and faces death at the hands of a powerful foe!

The Party

, human druid. Seeking out the famed druid Andach and the answer to the last riddle posed by his cousin
Jaiden Daham/Cunningham, aasimar paladin. spent most of his young life in the back of the ironworkers' guildhall, seeking vengeance on the Balacazars for the debt in which they old his family
Lucien Chenier, half-elf bard, has earned the ire of various nobles thanks to his irreverent and abrasive performances, now laying low.

Notable Deeds

Broke into the tower of Golathan Naddershrike and secured it for the Longfingers Guild
Got Terrek Nal sent to Mahdoth's Asylum
Meet the druid Andach and his apprentice Hennam
Recruit the priest of battle Tiel Lawley
Fight an opponent way out of their league. 

The Broadsheets

The Midtown Partisan, 10 Wind 721


A House Abanar member responded to requests by the Ptolus Food Bank by donating a honeycake, said, “Why stick to bread? Pastries are so much more delicious!” We look forward to our emergency supplies being full of stale sweets.

The Guilder, Friday 10 of Wind 721


An ironsmith struck a peaceful silversmith on the street last night, leading to an open brawl between silver and iron guilders. Have the Ironmasters chosen their side in the feud?

The Ptolus Herald, Friday 10th Wind 721


As the sun rises again, so does our noble paper return to your hands, dear reader. Though we struggle under the heavy yoke of tyranny, the stars are right for a change in the hearts of men. Behold the signs, and follow where they lead!

The Game
  • The night of the 9th of Wind, 721, Lucien is woken in his room at the Ghostly Minstrel by... a ghostly minstrel, the patron spirit of the place, playing a haunting tune. He tells it to go away and let him sleep. 
  • Jaiden wakes in the morning of the 10th with a splitting headache, and when he comes down, Tellith shows him his reflection; his sclera have turned pitch-black and the veins around his eyes have darkened. She gives him some makeup to mitigate the look.
  • Miranir heads out of the Minstrel in a rush, heading for the Sages' Guild headquarters. 
  • As the party is having breakfast and reading the broadsheets, a knock comes at the door. The same courier kid that tried to scam Dmitree a couple days back is carrying a message, and is conspicuously apologetic. The message is from their new friend in the Longfingers' Guild, Chelsean Featherhair. They meet up with her at the Old Goose in Midtown, and she gives the the details of a job.
  • The alchemist Golathan Naddershrike of Rivergate, whom the Longfingers have been surveilling for some time, is believed dead. His wife Ardelia went missing last year, and his apprentice, Terrek Nal, hasn't been seen since Golathan last was. Their tower, filled with a great many magic accoutrements, is believed empty, and the party is going to break in and secure the place. 

  • They accept the mission and conditions, and head on over to the sleepy residential district of Rivergate. Naddershrike's home is a quaint one-story house with a three-story tower bolted to the side, leaning over the cliff. His mailbox is overflowing with bills and notices, including from Myraeth's Oddities. Lucien hears the whining of a dog from the tower, which is swiftly cut off. They detect magical defenses, and circumvent them by tossing a rock through a window, triggering the trap at range. 
  • Inside, the building is a mess. Green-orange goop stains the floors, and one bed is soaked through with the stuff, even as one of the rooms is covered in months of dust and perfectly orderly. They move to the wizard's tower, but a wave of magic rips through the air; Lucien and Dmitree see copies of themselves step through a mirror... versions of themselves with no heads, and fanged faces on their stomachs. Jaiden sees nothing, smashes the mirror as they run away, and kicks down the door to the tower.
  • The first floor is filled with crates and boxes, mostly mundane alchemical equipment and supplies; valuable, but bulky. They hear a shuffling behind the crates, and the dog's whining is audible above. They search but fail to find the source of the shuffling, instead just getting a creepy laugh. 
  • They climb to the next floor. There they find a starved puppy in a cage, messy, goop-ridden bedding and a ramshackle alchemical contraption. They move to free the puppy, and a whisper commands them to stop. It swirls around them cackling, and Jaiden strikes at it when it gets near, revealing it. The creature is humanoid, with one side of its body flayed, deformed and oozing goop. 
Jaiden: Okay *whacks it again*
  • The party succeeded in neutralizing and knocking out the creature before it could reach the alchemical contraption and pull a switch. They tied it up, and found that, suspended in a frictionless cauldron within, was a roiling mass of black goo. 
  • Upstairs, they found the body of Golathan Naddershrike, rotting and stuffed under bedding. They looted his office and found off materials; a crystal that floated to the top of its jar, a silvery box filled with mercurial liquid, a vial of sparkling green dust. They also found his ledger, filled with abbreviated records.

Blm 8 720, dlvrd 50 frstn to Savane, 550gp

Grwth 14 720, pudding to Ardelia’s uncle, 250gp

Toil 2 720, full vlls for Dream, 300gp

Mns 27 720, more pudding for Ardelia’s, 200gp

Nwyr 9 721, hlthl for I.P. 80gp, missed a bit

Brth 13 721, 1-dose ithlrd for Khatru, for 13 Wind, 600gp

  • There was also an unmarked book at the bottom of his locked desk drawer. The inside cover was drawn with a spiral pattern, apparently drawn in blood, and the rest of the pages were blank. 
  • Noting all of this, they head back down, wake the creature up and interrogate it. They are unsurprised to learn that it's the alchemist's apprentice, Terrek Nal, whom Naddershrike cursed and was killed by. Nal is no longer strictly human, and nowadays is sustained by the fear of sentient beings. They get confirmation from him that Naddershrike was creating black puddings through an alchemical process, and was selling them to his wife Ardelia's family.
  • They pop back outside to see the tower being watched by a pair of Longfingers, a tall man named Shortman and a short man named Tallman. Shortman and Tallman take the players' report as to the contents of the tower, and recognize the blank book as a ritual item of the Crimson Coil chaos cult, which they are in no mood to take. They hand the party their pay for a job well done, which includes a mage coin; a triangular glass-and-bronze token which returns to the hand of the person who last touched it no matter where it is. 
  • Thus the party leaves the tower and its valuables to the thieves, and take Nal with them back to the Ghostly Minstrel while they figure out what to do with him. They get Tellith to put the word out to Jevicca Nor of the Inverted Pyramid in the hopes she can help. Within a few hours, they're visited by her half-elven apprentice, who is fascinated to learn the story and identifies Nal as a phobophage. He takes Nal into his own custody and drags him over to Mahdoth's Asylum, where he promises the cursed being be taken care of. 
  • With plenty of daylight left, the party decides to follow some leads. They know the alchemist was made and sold at least one black pudding before, and they hear from Tellith that there was a strange black pudding attack in the Necropolis last year, not long after the listed date in the ledger. Dmitree has also been meaning to go there and meet the druid Andach.
  • So they travel from Midtown to the Necropolis, and weave between the graves and mausoleums until they reach a lake festooned with greenery, and cross a bridge to Clasthamus Isle. 

  • They are greeted by a half-elven druidess, Hennam, who greets them and asks after any news from the city. She leads them to her master Andach, who reluctantly accepts the questions of a fellow druid. He hears out the riddle that Dmitree learned from his uncle Uilleague (whom Andach knew, and referred to as a 'little punk') and informs him that it has deep occult and chaotic significance, a close association to the rhetoric of chaos cults like the Crimson Coil, whose name he refuses to speak aloud. He also tells the party what little he knows about last year's pudding attack; it assaulted a patrol of Keepers of the Veil, nearly killing one. These sorts of monsters are not common to the Necropolis. 
  • The party thank Andach and follow up on these leads. They visit the Keepers' headquarters, the Siege Tower in the Necropolis, and speak with the knight, Damien, who still bears the pudding's corrosion scars. He shows them a device, a rune-inscribed cube pulled from the pudding's corpse, which the party suspects is a control device. 
  • Even with this, the party is frustrated by lack of information on Ardelia and her family; they put their heads together and settle on visiting the Oldtown Administration building to locate Golathan Naddershrike's marriage certificate. After several hours of bureaucratic bumbling, they land in the correct line and Lucien puts in an information request under Jaiden's name. They're informed this will take a while. 
  • They call the day there and return home. Dmitree goes out to a haircut, and learns that talk of the democratic-republican movement is gaining steam in some quarters of the populace. Jaiden sets about embossing an insignia into his shield, that of an angel's wing over a blue cross.
  • The morning of the 11th they return to the Necropolis to follow up another lead; the mad hermit Igor Reichstav is supposed to know a great deal of the local happenings, but reaching him is no easy matter. 

  • They travel until they spy a mausoleum covered in flies. Absolutely covered, some the size of large birds. On their approach, two especially large flies peel off from the swarm and assault the party, spearing Lucien through the shoulder with their probosces. The party dispatch the creatures with some difficulty and find a gaunt, tall man covered in insects in the mausoleum. Contrary to their expectations, he's alive and moving. 
  • The party entreats him to share what he knows, and he demands booze in exchange. Dmitree runs back into the city and buys the first bottle of cheap rum he can get his hands on. Igor is satisfied, taking long swigs and flinging the liquor into the air for the flies. 
  •  He tells the party that he saw a cloaked cultist wielding a coil of red string not far from the assault on the Keepers, and that the cultist fled into the Reliquary, the palatial building at the east end of the Necropolis. He appears to speak with the flies, and tells them yet more; the flies say not to trust Chelsean Featherhair, and they appear to know about their search for Ardelia Naddershrike; they say her maiden name was Terian
  • The party thanks Igor for his help, and move on back to Oldtown. They inform the documents desk about Ardelia's last name, which they expect will speed up the process, and head out to lunch. 
  • Throughout the last couple days, the party has become paranoid about being watched by ravens, and are on constant lookout for the birds. At lunch, Jaiden is confronted by a member of the Ironworkers' guild, the same who tried to boss him around a few days ago, and other guilders have to drag him away before a fight breaks out. 
  • In short order, the party has confirmation; Golathan Naddershrike married Ardelia Terian six years ago in a civil marriage, unusual in Ptolus. Their research indicates that the Terians are a small merchant family that immigrated to Ptolus en masse about a decade ago. Little else is known about them. 
  • With that done, they settle on their next stop: the Reliquary. They are undeterred by tales that nobody who goes there comes back, but they pick up some insurance in the form of Tiel Lawley, a famed mercenary who fights for the joy of battle alone, and never backs down from combat. 
  • Back to the reliquary, further east than even the Deathguilders go, the colossal building stands before them. 

  • In the shadow of the entrance lie several humanoids: blood-starved vampires. They beg the party for blood, just a bit to sate the hunger. The party instead open fire with ranged weaponry and spells, and the weakened vampires fall like fish in a barrel, pounding on the shut door. 
  • The party tries knocking on the door themselves, to no avail. They also try to knock it down with little success, but succeed in getting attention. It opens slightly, and a humongous, ogreish creature in the other side demands that they leave. The party refuses. The doorkeeper takes exception to their gauche behavior and shuts the door. Then mist flows out of the keyhole, and the doorkeeper reforms in front of them, carrying a sword taller than any of them. 
  • In the following battle, Jaiden, Tiel and Dmitree engage the doorkeeper in melee while Lucien's cutting words keep the creature off balance. Despite being totally outmatched, the battle seems to go well for them, until Tiel's legendary endurance gives out and the doorkeeper fills the area with mist... and something moves in the mist. When Tiel is crushed by an invisible force, the party books it with his body, leaving the doorkeeper alive but heavily injured. 
  • They reach the paladins at the Siege Tower, but by that point, Tiel's been dead for several minutes. The paladins excoriate the party for their recklessness and take his body. The exhausted party returns to the Ghostly Minstrel to rest and regroup, finally reuniting with Miranir. The next morning, the 12th, they receive a message: a ransom note for their friend Anageo Quigg. 


A whole lot happened in the course of two sessions, even though these were relatively short. We played the assault on Naddershrike's tower on Halloween, which I had prepped specifically to see how well more directed play worked in this campaign. Answer, pretty well, though self-directed exploration + desperate GM improvisation will likely continue to be the focus.

I really didn't expect the party to try assaulting the Reliquary, though I did give them a powerful NPC to tag along and take some hits. Of course, he's now dead, but I expect we'll be seeing more of Tiel in the future. 

We're also reaching places where I'm inserting some of my own content into the book; the connections between the Crimson Coil and Naddershrike didn't exist in the original.  

The tone continues to be semi-serious, with the comedic elements arising from in-character interaction with the absurdities of the world, which the players take deadly seriously. I quite like this tone. 


Thanks for reading! If you're keeping up with the campaign then comment below, be sure to follow the blog and share it with others. until next time, have an excellent week.

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