You know those sessions where everything seems chaotic, and there's as much out-of-character discussion/off topic as in-character/on topic?
That was Session 4 of our Far West Castles & Crusades campaign this past Friday night at Saltire Games.
Our group was meeting a week later than usual because of the (U.S.) Thanksgiving break. I honestly think that was half the reason for the lack of focus, but it was also just getting to hang out again and BS with people that love many of the things you love.
Unfocused or no, it was a great time. Gaming groups need those now and then, and as long as everyone is having fun, I think it's great. Topics covered included a large dose of Napoleonic history, reflections on the hard luck of Poland and Belgium, British movie characters, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, identification of child predator vans, Margaret Thatcher's funeral planning, making fun of Twilight, no one biting on Warhammer Fantasy 3e, Lunch Money, Blazing Saddles (repeatedly), and yes, a few things not related to our campaign.
When last we left our heroes, they had regrouped in the city of Sidon. There was much debate on whether to strike out towards one of the cities further west (such as Morsten, the City of the Towers), head back into the still-unexplored portions of the Troublesome Tunnels, or follow up on rumors that the Shipwright's Forest was being afflicted by a strange blight.
There were also a few items to be identified, including Leyton's Ring of Luck (limited), and an axe Antigus found which has powers that may be yet to be unlocked. The group also got around to drawing up a group charter. The Laughing Frog was their expedition ship before it foundered off the coast, so, it appears they are now the Company of the Laughing Frog! Antigus spent time drawing frogs, and made an order on future item distribution.
Well, any time you have a party in town for more than 5 minutes, you're going to have some nuttiness. Without going too deeply into it, a goodly portion of time was spent laughing at the naming of the Bear Pit (a nasty shoreside dive complete with a bear-baiting pit), possibly lumping it in with Police Academy's Blue Oyster Bar (it wasn't). At the Inn of Sargent Street, meanwhile, Leyton tried out his Ring of Luck on some friendly gambling (net gain for all uses: 8 silver), and Llewellyn continued to drink cheap swill--that is, until Vas got drunk and had a wild magic "surge" at the wrong time, causing dirt to appear a rain down on everything in the bar.
Vas paid restitution, and the Inn at Sargent Street no longer welcomes Vas & Friends.
The party learned that there was to be a meeting between the Admirality Board (ruling body for Sidon), and the owners of the shipyards and other concerned parties regarding the blight in the forest. They discovered it was invite only, but Nalgan (our dwarven priest) and his assistant/batsman/whipping boy/man o' the people Friar Charles managed to finagle some credentials from Brother Diego at the small local church.
The group made it in to the meeting, and Nalgan prepared to present his case to those assembled to allow this group to go deal with the blight in the forest (and gain some renown and further assistance). Nalgan didn't quite make his Charisma roll, so I said, "your speech is going to have to really do the trick".
"Check," says he.
Nalgan's player is a refugee of amazingly worthy Hackmaster, which means he was Born to Hack. But here he absolutely knocked it out of the park with an inspirational speech somehow tying in logging rights, patriotism, and...well, it was beautiful. What topped it off is that the rest of the group spontaneously began humming Battle Hymn of the Republic, crescendoing at the triumphant final phrases of his speech. Oh, it was a...tremendous...group effort.
Mad, mad XP for that.
The next morning, off the party heads, to the northwest portion of the forest (their mapping efforts are doing pretty good, too, I should add). Antigus used his druid skills to befriend a brown bear (named Julia, apparently) that wandered across their camp while they still travelled through the verdant portions of the forest. At the end of the second day, they came to the edge of the blighted area. It was almost like a direct line running through the forest. On one side, healthy, green plants and grasses. On the other, the plants seemed rotted, bark sloughed wetly off the side of trees, and a sickly-sweet rotting odor permeated the entire area. With night quickly approaching, the group pulled back about 100 yards to set up camp, and would explore the infected area in the morning. The forest was quiet, with the few animals Antigus sensed seeming panicked or nervous.
That night on 2nd watch, Leyton, standing vigil by a spot on the edge of the blight, was nearly run down by something black, snarling, and scaly. It shot by him and into the middle of the camp, snapping and hissing at everything in reach. Looking like a quadruped dragon breed, it was the size of the tiger, and moved like one to boot. It managed to get its slavering jaws around Julia, which was soon the end of the Druid's bear friend.
A couple of players were able to supercharge some damage rolls (Leyton with an arrow and Vas with a magic missile) to really hurt the nasty beast, and I couldn't roll worth snot. Nalgan the cleric threw some flasks of oil and managed to set the beast en fuego using flame from the campfire, which continued to hurt it. Friar Charles dropped his mace, and wanted to try to punch the beast, which was hilarious. The way he said it made him sound like a hardboiled 7o's detective--he just needed a snub-nosed .38 to complete the picture . Antigus missed several times early, but mortally wounded the beast at last. After it fell, Llwellyn connected on a coup-de-grace to finish it off. That's where we stopped for the night, with the group getting ready to head into the diseased portion of the forest.
It turns out nearly everyone in the party leveled after this session. No more 1 Hit Point characters! Luck was definitely on their side, as the odds of progressing to Level 2 on one HP are not sparkling.
I was really proud of the group stepping up on the roleplaying this week. For me, it doesn't have to happen to have a good game, but it is a sign people are getting into things. I can't say enough good things about this group, and how much fun they are to run for.
We will have our last session of 2009 on December 18, and will resume after the New Year!