Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Earthdawny Freshness

Marilyn and I went up to the mountains again this weekend to visit with family and friends. The highlight of the weekend, for me, was the chance to sit down and roleplay with the Slussers and my wife again after so long. Even better was the fact that Marilyn was the one who suggested we do some gaming. So we pulled out our old favorite, Earthdawn, and continued with the adventure we had left off playing when we moved out to Minneapolis. I was originally considering starting an entirely new adventure, but then I happened to find a huge stack of notes that I had taken for the original game. They even pinpointed the spot where we left off. I knew the fact that I never throw anything away would pay off...

I've been running them through the old Basic/Expert D&D module B10: Night's Dark Terror. I had forgotten how jam-packed with encounters and challenges this adventure was! We've gotten several sessions out of it, and we're almost halfway through. It's much more epic than most D&D modules I can remember, and while the original has something of a Dark Ages Russia feel to it (the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, for the Mystara setting), it translates to Earthdawn fairly well.

We have Michael playing Notilos Iajo D'avanza, a T'skrang Swordmaster; Joanna playing Lara Whisperwind, a Windling Elementalist; and Marilyn playing Myra, a Windling Warrior. They are accompanied by a number of NPCs: Vagnus the Puzzler, a Dwarf Illusionist from Bartertown (my PC from our previous adventure); Karska Thu'quol, an Ork Weaponsmith from a nearby lumber camp; and Taras, non-Adept Dwarf cousin to the PCs' patron, Stethus. Vagnus travels with the PCs because he was intrigued by the idea of the adventuring life (something he's finding is much harder and less pleasant than he'd originally anticipated).

My conversion is set in the southern Throal Mountains, along the Alidar River. The PCs have been hired by a Dwarf merchant to see a herd of white horses to sale in Tansiarda, but the sudden incursion of the Skull Whargs Ork scorcher tribe have thwarted that. Now they've discovered that the Skull Whargs - and a mysterious group of slavers calling themselves the Iron Legacy - have been working for a Man In Black named Golthar, seeking a magical tapestry the PCs are now carrying. Furthermore, the scorchers have abducted the party's patron, Stethus, and they've been told that he's been taken, along with other slaves captured in their search, to a ruin in the north... I've been adding encounters or altering them to suit my tastes, and a few of the players' decisions have forced me to improvise some things, but that's good. It's all been working out to make running the adventure a richer and more enjoyable experience.

One of the more interesting events that sprung up due to improvisation was an encounter on the Island of Lost Dreams. In the original module, there is a small island in a lake inhabited by pixies; also on this island is something called The Black Mirror. In my re-write, the island is on the Alidar River, and has recently been settled by a Windling clan. There is the remains of a tower there which pre-dates the Scourge. Subsequent attempts to settle the island and rebuild the tower by the Throalic Army and T'skrang of House Syrtis resulted in disaster, as the workers inexplicably slew each other. The matron of the Windling clan informed the PCs that there was something evil in the tower's ruins - those Windlings who had ventured inside later became irritable, argumentative, and threatening to those who had been their friends. Eventually, they had to be banished. The Windling matron asked Myra if she would deal with whatever it was that was causing this problem - as long as this darkness laid beneath them, she said, her people would always be tempted to investigate it, and she did not want to lose any more of her people to this corruption.

The PCs delved into the old tower's gutted lower levels. They discovered the cause of these problems: a black mirror, made of polished obsidian, set into a gargoyle-like stone frame. The PCs knew from tales they'd been told that the island had once been home to a seer, a seeker of visions. They figured that looking into the mirror would be a bad thing, so they devised a strategy of figuring out what the problem was - primarily, tying up an NPC and having him look into it and tell them what he saw (in their defense, the NPC - Vagnus - volunteered, and had some knowledge of things magical). He saw visions of what appeared to be future events: Ork scorchers in stone barricades, a human in black robes taking the party prisoner while Karska walked away with a pouch of coin, of Taras and Stethus walking away from Notilos and Vagnus in chains. He also saw the man in black holding up their tapestry while a needle wove a thread through it...

Well, things looked a little dicey and Vagnus didn't want to look away, even though it was causing him pain, so they knocked him out. So far, according to plan, but then Notilos couldn't resist and glanced into the mirror. He saw similar visions: Karska arguing with Stethus and Taras as he sorted through the loot the PCs had all taken from some tombs together; an Elven Questor of Garlen that Notilos had been healed by the day before being carried out of her home on a bier, her throat slit... The PCs discussed what the visions could have meant, whether they were distortions, lies, or just one possible future. In any case, Myra discovered that the mirror could be damaged, and so they destroyed it, with Karska (blindfolded) hacking it to pieces with a pick, and then dumping the remains into the river.

Nonetheless, Vagnus began to act suspiciously toward Karska, and there was some concern that he might have been enchanted by the mirror. The next morning, an Elf arrived in their camp to tell them that their Questor of Garlen had been slain in the night...

The background on this mirror, the seer, and the island had all been developed; I wrote a pretty extensive background on it when I first planned to run it, years ago. But the events that the PCs saw were more or less improvised, if I can risk ruining the illusion (well, not all the events, but I'm not going to say which ones!). The PCs' reactions to these have been intriguing, and I'm interested in seeing how things pan out. I have a pretty good idea of what's going on, based on what I wrote, but I'm interested in seeing how the PCs interpret them, and ultimately what they do about it.

Man, I've missed playing, even though I was kind of rusty with the old Earthdawn rules. It was really good to get together with my old gaming group - well, most of them. Next time I need to invite Dan, so we can have the entire crew present.

3 comments:

Michael Slusser said...

And the game rocked!

Well, Notilos rocked. The game was pretty good.

As always, Mr. Parker, your Mastering of Games is engaging and delightful; we had a fine time, and hope you did, too.

And, of course, the next question is: when are we doing it again?

Easy E said...

Why did you leave MN bereft of your GMing skill. I would have loved to gotten an RPG in or two.

Oh well, the possibilities will always tantalize me from teh shadows of my mind.

Devin said...

Because you lived, like, over an hour away, Eric.

Seriously, though, I had always hoped we could have gotten a game in. As much fun as it would have been to try to indoctrinate Pat into the cryptic ways of gaming, I would have enjoyed the chance to do some gaming with you. One of my few regrets about leaving Minnesota...