So continuing my tale from yesterday...that opening sequence by my pal 'D' was amazing. I was very impressed. I felt sorry for the sad sap who had to follow that opening act. I mean how do you top a burning ship, flaming zombies and a mystic sceptre wielding drake engulfed in an aura of lightning and fire? Yeah you'd have to be crazy to GM the group after that.
I decided the best thing to do with my part of the game was to not even try to one-up my buddy but instead go low key and focus on plot and investigation. We know what just happened. Now why did it happen?
I borrowed an idea I've used for many years but which I've had more at the forefront of my thinking since reading the game InSpectres by Memento Mori. Essentially, instead of creating a story or plot and having the PCs ask questions until they guess the 'right' answers (and having to drop clues if they don't see what I want them to see), I went with the idea of setting up certain events and ideas and letting the players questions and decisions actually establish what was happening.
So basically, now that I was DM my Gnome was an NPC. Established as a Bard of sorts (regardless of his actual class - loved that) I figured he knew a little something about the local lore. He described a legend he had heard as a youth that involved a rod of magical power similar to the one they had seen the dragon creature holding.
"The Sceptre of the Scarlet Storm was once the prized possession of a Baron who ruled these parts many generations ago. He would flaunt the power of his Sceptre, which could make lightning and fire, thunder and smoke and could carry him away on bolts from the sky. He invited nobles and merchants to witness his great and terrible magic and always noted he would never actually use such power on friends. As such he had many friends.
Finally the King of the time, wary and weary of the stories of the Baron and his Sceptre, paid the man a surprise visit. The King was accompanied by his wife the Queen and the loveliest of his daughters. So smitten was the Baron by the Princess's beauty that he showed off as never before. The storm he brew was so bright and terrible it destroyed his keep and him with it. The King and his family escaped but just barely."
That was all the Gnome knew. Soon the PCs were discussing and debating what they believed to be happening and eventually decided to interview the Merchant, the First Mate and the Merchant's assistant, the learned Young Woman. The players asked the usual questions as to what the Sceptre was doing on the boat, where had they obtained it, what were they going to do with it, etc.. They believed some answers and not others and soon painted a picture of what happened that they explained to me as the DM (kind of in reverse of what you'd normally experience in an RPG investigation).
The Merchant obtained the item in the market place of a far away nation for a fraction of what he thought it was worth. He showed it to his assistant, a young woman studying ancient art and artifacts as part of her journey to become a respected sage some day. The Merchant hoped she would evaluate the price they could get for the item but she recognized it as likely being the Sceptre of the Scarlet Storm. She recommended they buy it but bring it to the Duke or King of their land to keep it safe or dispose of it. The Merchant was none to happy with the idea but was convinced there would be a reward for bringing it in.
The Paladin's feeling was that the drake or dragon might well be a demon sent by the old Baron's restless spirit to retrieve the item. The Thief seemed to know of the ruin of a keep three days Northeast that may have been the Baron's home. When asked, my Gnome could not confirm this but said he did know there was a ruin there and that many travelers say its haunted. That was all the team needed to decide to head for the ruins in hopes of finding the beast and the stolen scepter.
On the way I threw in an un-random encounter (as my friend Shawn called it - "Watch out! Its one of Adam's un-random encounters. This isn't just some wandering monster. It might mean something." lol). Basically the PCs get a bit lost on the way to the ruins and discover the ground has been shifting beneath their feet. Eventually they discover SodDobbies (or Soddy Trow, as the Gnome called them), a cross between goblins and stray sod.
Another Adam signature move it seems; I sometimes create original monsters that sound like they could be from folklore but aren't exactly.
As the party battles the little bugaboos, the Ranger figures out a way to get his bearings using the road and the position of the Sun as guides. As more and more of the SodDobbies are defeated (driven off or slain), the easier it becomes to find the correct path. Eventually the creatures also drop hints and cryptic, rhyming clues as to how to get into the dungeon beneath the ruins so we'll stop beating the tar out of them. I guess it worked since we proceeded forward. We did manage to obtain a few faerie magic items and weapons to help us in our final battle however.
A battle I will describe tomorrow in the final chapter of 'The Sceptre of the Scarlet Storm'.