Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rat Quest #4: Psionic Magnet

This was essentially a test of whether we'd ambush a potential threat before trying to parley with it. Short, just two sessions, run by Osbald (the hairless fighter)'s player.


The Prelude

It's about a month after our last quest, and for the last few weeks, Ratfolk have been vanishing from Rosebush and the surrounding villages. Ch'Dar (dragoon raider) and Barnabosa (my sorcerer) discover this on their own, Nichodemus (wizardly patriarch) is recruited by Rosebush's baffled sheriff, and the three of us eventually rope in Skrac (the plague alchemist). All four PCs resist an unidentified psionic effect during the night.

We figure out that nobody in Rosebush knows anything, except (if I recall correctly) one NPC saw one of the missing rats sleepwalking the night they disappeared. I think Nichodemus scries the surrounding villages to see which ones are empty; from that survey, we decide the disappearances are moving in a generally northern direction, but we don't detect an epicenter or (again, if I remember correctly) a particular path.

The only way forward is to wait for a sleepwalker and follow them. Which we do. Casting "Read Mind" yields only white noise and a slow mantra; spoken questions get simple, flavorful-but-unhelpful answers. I may have spent longer trying to wring useful info out of this guy than the rest of the party cared for.

Not sure how I feel about the prelude.

The DM warned us it would be a short/simple quest, so I shouldn't be disappointed that there was only one path leading to the main encounter, or that there was so little to be achieved on that path; I guess it just feels like we spent too much time spinning our wheels. Probably doesn't help that the PCs spent much of the first session operating separately.


The Encounter

The sleepwalker's path leads to a bonfire surrounded by a few score ratfolk, most of them on the cusp of adventuring age. Our party watches stealthily, invisible or flying as our individual talents permit, from beyond the reach of the firelight, as the much older sleepwalker has a joyful reunion with a young child near the edge of the camp.

We determine that the most magical person is near the fire, flanked by two guards similar skill to ourselves. Nichodemus, pretending to be a sleepwalker himself, approaches the sleepwalker and his kid to question them about this camp and the person running it. I forget how we start talking to the Psion--maybe Nichodemus casts dispell on the sleepwalker and his kid, persuading them to leave. I think the Psion interrupts here telepathically, to ask why we're bothering his people, at which point Barnabosa flies into the middle of camp to speak with him directly, and the other PCs join. (Nichodemus' player tries to inject tension back in by traveling spectacularly--but needlessly--in the form of a whirlwind.)

Turns out the Psion is subconsciously overpowering these people's individual wills, but doesn't know it. He thought they all just really liked the idea of following him into the wilderness to found a new civilization. Him and Nichodemus take turns expositing about how Psions like him were used long ago in the wars between Rosebush and Nimh, and how Rosebush hunted them to extinction. This Psion was apparently in the bunch of refugees we rescued last quest, and whatever suppressant Nimh had been using on him took a while to wear off.
Psion: "I hear the 'good' king was killed. Where do you stand on that?"
Barnabosa wordlessly points to the crown on his head, a prize from said king's corpse.
I don't know if the other players keep forgetting that Barnabosa wears the dead king's crown, or if they only pretend to forget; if the latter, then good on them. It's a fun moment to have every few sessions.
Psion: "Part of me wants to go back to Nimh and make them pay for what they did. But I know that would be wrong."
Skrac: "How were you planning to do it? I was going to use a plague."
Barnabosa: "Here's my card; call on us anytime."
I think the DM forgot our party is mostly chaotic or evil. Nichodemus, who I think is neither, suggested that instead of razing Nimh, the Psion go to a monastery in the northern mountains to learn to control his power.

This encounter was pretty fun. Clear dilemma in needing to approach the Psion, but not knowing what will be interpreted as an attack; and when we did get talking to NPCs, getting their cooperation wasn't--at least at first--straightforward.

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