Sunday, 23 October 2016

Introducing Aya (and another contributor)!

Dear readers of The Last Day Dawned; those of you with eagle-eyes may have noticed a secondary contributor recently joining the illustrious Mr Soper.  I am that secondary contributor; I play with Corey in his North Corner campaign as first Tazzak Redscale and then Karvarus Tobias and I run a campaign in which Corey plays as his favourite (anti?)Hero; Righteous Fire Cleans and Scours the World.  My campaign is set roughly 15-20 years before the North Corner campaign (which has its own set of challenges that I’m sure will be discussed in another article) and is called; Aya.  I would like to bring you up to speed with the Aya campaign and perhaps relieve Corey of his topic posting duties, if only temporarily.

Arkus – A mysterious and contemptuous Tiefling Sorceror.
Dorjan – An Air Genasi Monk and worshipper of the Iron Tyrant.
Enid – A shy, reclusive human Warlock.
Ikki – An Aarakocra Ranger struggling to make his way in an alien world.
Righteous Fire Cleans and Scours the World – Devout human Paladin of the Iron Tyrant.
Theresa Levasseur (Tess) – Roguish scallywag half-elf pirate, eager to find her lost ship.

Aya is the name of the World and plane that our characters inhabit.  Our adventurers (I am loathe to call them heroes) were called to the mining town of Whetstone in the country of Teres to help rescue a number of civilians who were seemingly lost within the Chiara Mine by the town Duke; Jon Milner.  After a brief sojourn into the mine our characters discovered a strange Artifact that was spirited away by Dark Ones as they battled Gibbering Mouthers that the Artifact had created.  They returned to the town with two rescued civilians in tow to find that Jon Milner had been taken ill and his son, Jacob (who was possessed by an unknown, evil entity) had taken control of Whetstone.

Jacob asked for the characters to retrieve the Artifact with the premise that it would heal his father.  Jacob’s sister, Sephina, requested that the characters somehow heal Jacob of his supernatural affliction during a night-time encounter.  The leader of the Merchant’s Guild, a large, opulent man by the name of Mardouk Vabadou also asked for the Artifact as a collector and purveyor of such relics, while bribing one of the party members with a particularly powerful item that had unknown (and sinister) properties.  The party were missing a few members, so decided to help the local brothel; Annabelles, locate a number of missing ladies.  This led them to an Alchemist by the name of Alkarist who told them that an experimental creature of his had been released into the sewers below and this may be the cause of the missing women.

Arkus, Dorjan, Enid and Tess progressed into the sewers where they fought a many- tentacled and foul creature that seemed to heal as it consumed the various prisoners of its lair with its gigantic maw.  The tenuous party managed to kill the beast, almost losing a member in the process and saving a young girl and a young woman.  Here the party split; Arkus and Dorjan went to Annabelles to collect their reward and to return the young woman while Enid and Tess took the young girl back to her “mother” - a Dragonborn priestess who was responsible for a temple dedicated to Bahamut which doubled as a makeshift Orphanage.  Arkus and Dorjan received their pay from Annabelle and left to head to Alkarists’.  Enid and Tess received a blessing from Zenrish the Dragonborn priestess before also leaving for Alkarists’.

Here I will break from the narrative for a moment to offer a few things I learnt as a new DM during these 3 or 4 sessions (the first session was about 8 hours long during a weekend);
The first thing I would mention is that my sessions during this period (and probably a few afterward) were planned to the most minute detail.  There are many characters, hooks and combat encounters that never happened and likely never will.  This is no bad thing, characters can be rehashed into new ones or simply reused in another setting, combat encounters and hooks with appropriate quests can be transferred to other locales.  Slowly I “let go” and realised that I would have to improvise much of the time anyway, so I might as well plan less and “go with the flow”.   I don’t think this is something that can be taught or learnt, it is something that grows and comes with experience.  That is not to say that I stopped preparing sessions, but my session preparation would focus not on what “the players might do” and more “what the NPCs in this environment might do”.  One of the most important things for me is to make the NPCs feel real, so they have drivers, they have aims, they have ambitions and they will move towards them, regardless of whether the characters choose to do anything or not.

The second thing I would state is that during this period and as time went on I slowly learnt to read the players better.  Some players are more confident than others at role-playing, some players are tacticians and love to focus on combat while others like to charge in without thinking too much, some players want to focus on the story while others want to get to the next combat as quickly as possible.  Reading these different players, getting a feel for their play styles and most of all realising when they were getting bored or losing interest was key for me as a new DM.  It helped me manage the sessions much better and introduce various ideas to help alleviate some potential “boredom traps”.  I will talk about this in much more detail at another time, but if you are a new DM, don’t be offended if your players give you the signs of impending boredom – use them to identify what is boring the player and try to manage it during your sessions.

The final thing I would like to say is that I learnt probably the most important lesson (for me at least) during this period – I learnt to read myself.  After a particularly bad session I looked not at the players to see what I could’ve done differently for them, instead I looked inward.  I think the reason I did so is because before the session I just knew it was going to be a bad one.  I wasn’t in the mood for it, work had been particularly stressful and I didn’t really want to be there – all these things added up to make the session quite poor, as one might expect.  Needless to say before the next session I ran I made sure as best I could that I was in a good mood and it made a massive difference.  As daft as it sounds I now listen to my favourite music, drink a bit of coffee and do anything else I can the few hours before the start of a session to make my mood as positive as possible.

What follows is the first session recap that was put online in our secret group on Facebook, for posterity’s sake.  It immediately follows the events of the sessions above. This session was interesting to manage, as two players rejoined the group at different times, one at the start of the session and another (who happened to be Mr Soper!) during the middle of the session.  You will notice the session recaps slowly get longer and more elaborate as I get used to their production.

Aya Session 5 – Digging to Deepmire

Arkus – A Tiefling Sorceror with a penchant for acquiring items of considerable power.
Dorjan – An Air Genasi Monk and who falls but always gets up, worshipper of the Iron Tyrant.
Enid – A morally dubious human Warlock.
Ikki – An Aarakocra Ranger struggling to make his way in a strange world with strange colleagues (joined at the start of the session).
Righteous Fire – Devout and pious human Paladin of the Iron Tyrant (joined mid-session).
Theresa Levasseur (Tess) – Roguish scallywag half-elf pirate and slayer of experimental creatures.

After defeating Alkarist the Alchemists' experimental creature, Tess, Enid, Arkus and Dorjan all went to meet Alkarist to collect their reward. Choosing a leisurely stroll over a sprint, by the time our adventurer's arrived at Alkarists' they found it to be under the guardship of two of Jacob's loyal and most powerful enhanced foot-soldiers.

After a brief discourse Jacob revealed himself, he explained that Alkarist was unavailable and was unhappy at the lack of any attempt to retrieve the Artifact. After some particularly clumsly discourse from Ikki, the heroes were told to go to bed or to be imprisoned. The adventurers chose the latter and stayed at the Azure Ankheg Inn for the evening.

The following day Tess, Enid, Arkus, Dorjan and Ikki enjoyed a brief and varied breakfast before being bothered again by one of Jacob's goons, who suggested that his "master" was not happy that they had attempted to go back into the mines and that they should make haste before Jacob decided to employ another band of adventurers. A large sack of gold was provided for the party with the promise of more to follow. Ikki realised that the Artifact was the same shiny object he was *so close* to retrieving in the mines and flew as quickly as possible to the site where the Dark Ones were first encountered. The rest of the party followed, at the appropriate leisurely pace.

When the party eventually grouped up they progressed through the same tunnel the mysterious Dark Ones had apparently fled through some days before. During a close encounter with some Ankhegs, Righteous appeared using his blessed travel stone and the group ploughed on. It was ironic they ploughed, as the claustrophobic tunnel opened onto a farm area where Undercabbages were seemingly grown in vast quantities. The party here encountered unusual psychic vegetables which after much fire, confusion and headache (quite literally) were dispatched.

Travelling further still down into the depths of the cavernous Chiara mine system the adventures next stumbled upon Deepmire, a Dwarven town in a state of ruin, disrepair, death and abandonment. Here all members apart from Tess travelled straight to the lab, unwittingly setting off an archaic alarm system that awoke golems created from the very walls of the lab only for them to be destroyed and re-purposed (enter Chester –a Golem literally made of a chest and under the control of Righteous Fire). A number of ‘Boomsticks’ or ‘Exploserous Carneleans’ (read – Dynamite) were also discovered by Dorjan.

Tess disappeared from the party during the battle with the golems and returned later with a smile on her face, a new sword at her side and a sprightly gait to her walk.

Artist's Depiction of Chester the Chest Golem

Explosives discovered – 8
Golems destroyed – 2
Golems (Chester) created – 1
Legendary swords discovered – 1
Psychic vegetables slain - 3

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