Monday, June 5, 2017

Third Rat Quest: 'Friendly' Trials in Nimh

TL;DR? Don't procrastinate on evacuations, and make sure to charm the budding villains before they turn on you. Also, as DM, there will come a time when you fail to anticipate the consequences of an NPC's actions.

This quest was DM'd by the guy who plays Teddy and Ch'Dar (and who DM'd the Xanadu quests). He started with an interesting setup: after we killed Nimh's evil king and the key necromancers supporting him, de facto control of that city apparently fell to a coalition of wealthy merchants, one of whom formed a "Commission for the Establishment of Peaceful Relations with Rosebush." That Commission invited a delegation from Rosebush to receive a goodwill gift at a festival in Nimh. News from Nimh is scant (the road from Rosebush to Nimh is neither quick nor safe), so we can't really trust that this invitation is on the up-and-up.

[Now that the jump-breaks work again...]

The Rosebush High Council puts together a delegation of twenty diplomatic yet expendable rats, a few guards, our PCs, and some symbolic gifts. Nichodemus' player suggests one of the gifts be a rosebush made of silver or gold which grows as though it were a normal rosebush. I think that works better as a story element in a proper work of fiction than as an RPG item; as an RPG item, it's either a one-time infusion of cash which scales with you as you level up, or it's a litmus test for whether your players are more interested in powerups or world-building.

Banshees attack us on the road again. This time we know what we're facing, and kill them before they can shriek at us.

No real trouble at Nimh's gates, and the merchant who organized the "Commission for the Establishment of Peaceful Relations with Rosebush" seems sincere enough. His magically adept son and daughter, on the other hand, stop just shy of threatening to kill us. We decide not to try casting 'charm' on them right then, because they had magical protections and the commissioner might take offense at seeing us cast spells on his kids. We should have tried something, though, or at least followed them, because we knew they were going to mess with us somehow. The commissioner shrugs it off as youngbloods being youngbloods.

We meet with the city's ratfolk. Conditions have improved dramatically--the city's provided them a ghetto to live in and food to live on, and raised their status from 'untouchables' to 'second class citizens.' Many of them want to emigrate back to Rosebush, but can't on their own because Nimh's remaining undead make the journey too perilous. We consider evacuating the whole population immediately--Nimh's dungeons and laboratories had held only a couple hundred ratfolk, and between teleport spells and a magic book the alchemist can stuff people into, turns out we could move them all in a matter of hours--but we decide to wait and see what the festival brings.

The next day brings the commissioner crucified onstage, with his kids gloating about how they killed him for trying to make peace with the ratfolk. They "invite" us to attempt series of deadly trials. We subtly test the corpse to see how dead it is, quietly warn all ratfolk in the crowd to flee, and ready some area-effect spells as we prepare to rush our two antagonists onstage.
City Guards look on impassively.
Barnabosa, to city guards: "Those kids just admitted to murdering one of your wealthier and more influential citizens. You gonna let them get away with that?"
DM: "I, uh... hm. I didn't think of that. Let's call it a night."
We'd been waiting for the shoe to drop, so the city guards being this corrupt or racist wasn't unexpected; but the DM apparently didn't mean for it to come off that way. He opens our next session by retconning this scene--the commissioner merely had an illusion of corpsehood, the guards are in on the joke, and we pierced the illusion when we tested how dead the corpse was.

The commissioner formally presents us with a chest which requires three magic keys to open, each of which had been transformed into some other object and sent off into the world. We split up to find them all before time runs out. (I forget the consequences of letting time run out--maybe the gift in the chest would lose its power.)
  • The first key had been transformed into a riddle on parchment. Nobody was super enthusiastic about riddles, having each done one last quest, so I took it. It was a straightforward logic puzzle: "a dwarf, an elf, and an orc live in three neighboring houses; if the elf's house is blue, and the dwarf has an ax," etc.
  • Nichodemus goes after the second key, which had been transformed into a pretty bauble in the home of an eclipse giant. The DM assumed the PCs would have to be sneaky, but Nichodemus approaches the eclipse giant openly, playing on a shared distaste and mistrust of Nimh, and swaps the bauble for the promise of an equally beautiful one in the near future. (Not sure if we followed up on that promise or not--it would've happened off-screen, and we weren't especially committed to it in the first place.)
  • Osbald and Skrac pursue the third key in the sewers, where it was embedded in the zombie corpses of the rats we accidentally flushed into the sewers on our first visit to Nimh.
We all succeed. The chest turns out to hold a spell scroll which will make all the cabbage near Rosebush grow to enormous size. Which is good, since (offscreen, in the background) food is scarce, and we're bringing enough refugees to raise our hometown's population by a few percent.


  1. Sounds like a good campaign. Haven't been in/run one of those in a while. Seems like the events that happen are well compartmentalized.

    1. Yeah, you can't tell from my updates, but we've been meeting regularly about three out of four weeks. We take turns GM'ing, which effectively kills any continuing metaplot, but at the same time it gives each GM a chance to recharge.

    2. PS: if primary objective is to make concise intelligent response to my post, then good show. If actually interested in campaign events, must advise that jrients is far superior. Also: skype play == intriguing, but non-viable for me in the immediate future.

      PPS: Forgive phrasing & lack of pronouns in postscript. Back from an event, & have entered the "oh god brain is burning" phase of sobering up.

    3. I'll be honest because we've known each other for so long. There's a cap I have for interest in campaigns that involve me, VanVelding.

      It's so weird you all could actually swap GMs and have things still work. Like human cultures, the different structures of roleplaying groups constantly fascinate me.

    4. Any points of group/gaming structure you'd be interested in seeing highlighted?

      I'm trying to get away from straight out narrating our adventures, and back to giving the minimum for someone else to copy/run the quest, plus points of DMing/tradecraft.