The characters needed some time to recover. This session, Kenan-Tal’s player wasn’t present so I decided he went on an errand for the Church by Vallerend and Lucian still had not returned from the woods, so the other three tried to decide what to do. Long Tom spent his time dallying with the wench at the local tavern and Arakhe spent his time befriending the guards with wine and ale. They heard a rumor of a ‘wise man’ in the northern woods and, thinking this was ‘quest bait’ they loaded up and headed north, dragging the dwarf (who very much didn’t like forests, thank you very much) with them. Before they left, Alfric hired another retainer, a tough warrior woman named Bruna who was both a strategist and a healer from her former days in the military.
After beating the bushes for a day, they came across a filthy, crazed man picking berries. His eyes lit up when they told him they were here to ‘speak to the wiseman’ which he immediately identified himself as. He told them to follow him to his home where he would speak with them. Upon arriving in a blighted clearing, he asked which of them was the leader. Alfric, who remarkably has the highest Charisma of any of them, stepped forward. The wise man told him to follow him and he would show the dwarf a magic pool of wisdom.
At this point, I rolled a ‘20’ for Havelock, the retainer with Alertness. He noticed, in the tree branches, a mountain lion waiting to pounce. He shouted a warning. When everyone was staring at the animal (who was now leaping in the air towards Arakhe) the wise man stabbed Alfric in the back. First backstab and first character to drop to 0 hit points. The group erupted, several stabbing at the lion with spears while others charged the crazy wise man, forcing him back from the dwarf. Bruna began to minister to his wounds and he got a lucky roll. Brief visions of his betrayed ancestors danced in his vision before she called him back from the brink. The dwarf was hurt and would need time to recover, but would otherwise be ok.
Meanwhile, the party managed to kill the crazy man and the lion, though many of them suffered injuries from the lion’s attacks. After binding the wounds they inspected his tree and found some money, a potion and a knife that later turned out to be magical.
At this point an element of the ACKS rules that I’m not fond of appeared. The player’s found out that magical items sold for gold = xp so long as they don’t use said items. Suddenly, the magic dagger (and even the potion a bit) was not an item of awe and interest, it was a pile of experience points waiting to happen. They dared not use and even considered putting it in a bank until they could find a way to sell it. I don’t like the mentality this rule encourages and am contemplating either removing it as an option, or perhaps using the AD&D experience charts for finding item, so as to remove the incentive to sell them immediately. Not sure yet. Granted, when they see how difficult it is to find a buyer for a magic item, maybe that behavior will change?
Back at the keep, they rested a week so Alfric could recover. They heard a few more rumors, some they knew to be wrong. When Alfric was better, he went to the banker to see about putting some stuff away, he met a man trying to pawn some bracelets and rings. These were obviously dwarven gravegoods, so Alfric immediately grabbed the guy and strong armed him into finding out what was going on. The frightened man revealed that he was working with a gang of tomb robbers that were busy clearing out a dwarven tomb a few days north. He’d been sent south to try and move some of the pieces at the keep. The thief was thrown in a cell while they went to investigate.
The other characters assumed that the dwarf was interested in restoring dwarven honor, when in fact he admitted that he recognized the tomb names and ‘they’re dicks’ so the party should get the goods, not the thieves. The other characters more or less went along with this. Mouthy dwarves, apparently, get what they want.
After three days following the thieves map, they managed to find the ruins of a city and a cliff face next to a large graveyard. There was a tomb inset in the wall of the cliff, it’s door long since smashed in. So, they party formed up and moved into the tomb.
The thieves were caught on the back foot, but a battle ensued and quickly the party put them down. They explored the smallish family crypt and put the thieves they found to the sword. They passed a barred door and then went into a room where the master thief was hiding. He tried to surprise them but failed. While he was tough, the toughest thing they’d ever encountered (4th level thief) he was no match for a large group. Quickly he quaffed his potion of gaseous form and floated out of the crypt. They wanted to follow the cloud in hopes of being there when he became corporeal. In the process of looking up it’s duration, I discovered you drop everything when you become gaseous, so all his goods (including a magic sword and suit of leather) fell on the ground. He floated up the cliff and got away and will, possibly, show back up at some point.
The players found the thieves treasure, the largest amount of money they’d found so far. They also found a ledger which contained a list of the various fences and money dealers they’ve moved the stolen goods through. Though there are no storefronts or locations mentioned, the players immediately glomed onto the idea of heading to Threshold and either blackmailing or using the fences for their own ends.
On the way out, they went to the door and saw that the thieves had barred it from their side. The players threw the bar back and headed into a dark tunnel. At the end of it, they found the tomb of the crypt’s owner. Hesitant to open the door into the tomb, they retreated and decided it was time to return to town for now.
Interestingly though, they left the door open on their way out.
This session was fun because not only did we see the first Mortal Wound inflicted (sadly I had to reroll the result because the first one I rolled made no sense, and the second one left no lasting consequence), it really started to showcase the PC’s personalities. And the players picked up the idea of the ledger and started making sand-boxy plans with it without any input from myself (in fact, I’d not really thought of the ledger as a thing at all… they totally ran with it and so of course now I’m going to make it interesting because they are interested in it).