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Unfathomable! Session 2

 The party delves deeper into the mystery of Two Bushel's murder!

Adola the Barmaid, with murder weapon and victim

The Campaign: Operation Unfathomable! and Odious Uplands!, both by Jason Sholtis

The Ruleset: 5e

The Party:

  • Brother Ded, a monk/political shit-stirrer.
  • Mort, a research-minded fighter and fugitive from Imperial justice.
  • Greta, a baby-eating hag-turned-Citizen Lich.
  • Ulther, a ranger and artifact smuggler.
  • Zinee, a wooly neanderthal druid/cosmetologist.
  • Toljin, a magical boy raised by pirates.
  • Doloth, an unwilling-Citizen Lich.
We began the session with a new introduction:
You adventurers with fire in your bellies and madness in your eyes—behold Upper Mastodonia in all its primeval splendor!

Here, wooly neanderthals and saber-toothed apes make ceaseless war upon one another!
Here, the Underworld's ambient Chaos seeps into the day-lit lands!
Here, the Imperial arm of King Syantides reaches from distant Mur, grasping with seething avarice!

What ill fortune brought you to this barbaric outpost, you scoundrels? What inconstant star thrust you into confrontation with frontier justice, callous wizards, and murder? What dark, secret dreams drive you still further into the jaws of madness?

Step forward, you dogs of destiny, who would carve your names upon the Devil’s own backside with a broken dagger and a lunatic grin as you embark up this foray into damnation, this invitation to anomaly, this… Operation Unfathomable!

The session began with Governor Krofax bringing a squad of Fort Enterprise guards into the Beer Garden to celebrate their earlier victory over Koloko the Giant Man-Ape. He bought a round of the good stuff for the house, and everyone crowded the bar to get their flagon. A strangely dressed man came up to the PCs to introduce himself as "Smash" Hannigan, an adventurer dislocated from a 30's pulp universe, now running with another group of adventurers, The Apis Irregulars. With him is a wooly neanderthal compatriot, Krodok of the Standing Stones. Krodok seems preoccupied and keeps craning around to see who else is coming into the Beer Garden.

"Smash" Hanigan and Krodok of the Standing Stones.

Smash is appreciative of the PCs taking the initiative to prove Adola innocent when the local guards can't be bothered. The PCs figure out that Krodok is pining for his unrequited crush, Shantora Lax, another member of the Apis Irregulars and the woman who started a fight in the crowd during Koloko the Man-Ape's attack, right before Two Bushels was stabbed. Shantora said she started pushing folks
 when someone in the crowd got "handsy." But that she was pretty sure it wasn't Two Bushels, and she sure as hell didn't stab the guy.

The party backtracked on their plan to rescue Adola from the stockade, being unsure what they would do with her once she was free. They focused instead on trying to prove her innocence, beginning with keeping Two Bushel's appointment in the Bath House at first light. 

The Next Morning
As they entered the appointed stall in the Bath House, a very good perception check revealed Chenchko, Champion of Mur, hiding in the rafters like a beetle-helmed ninja. Chenchko, unused to being spotted so quickly, dropped down into the stall and demanded to know first if the PCs killed Two Bushels, and then what they had learned. They offered up everything they knew (which was a good choice. Chenchko is way out of their league). Chenchko decided it was worth sending the, to meet with his boss: The Countess Ploomb, an imperial representative in town to oversee an extensive audit.

Their appointment wasn't until after Adola's execution, so they elbowed their way into the Governor's Manse and asked for an early appointment. The Countess Ploomb, a Citizen Lich with designs of her own, was interested in testing the PCs to see if they might make reliable pawns. She offered the group of seven people two chairs to sit in, in order to get a sense of the power dynamics in the group. She then informed them that they might each individually ask her one question which, if "intelligent and germane," she would answer as fully as she can. "But!" she insists, "there will be no follow up questions."

The Countess Ploomb
From this interview, the PCs learned:
  • Countess Ploomb was willing to help them because it served her interest to stir up ill will towards Governor Krofax by having some randos free everybody's favorite barmaid while his guards did nothing.
  • Two Bushels was spying on Yithreela on Countess Ploomb's orders, because the Countess is concerned about Yithreela's experiments into depleted Chaos.
  • Yithreela was employing the Apis Irregulars to accompany her on research trips into the wilderness to gather depleted Chaos.
  • The Apis Irregulars became aware that Yithreela was being surveilled, and brought this to her attention.
After that, the questions devolved into things relating to the question-askers backstories, which Ploomb had little patience for. But they picked up on the gist: one or more of the Apis Irregulars had taken the initiative to impress their boss and gotten rid of Yithreela's tail.

They approached Krodok first, sleeping off the heartache of seeing Shantora making out with some random guy the night before. Thinking he could be easily manipulated, the PCs convinced him that the murderer was trying to frame his beloved Shantora. This resulted in Krodok preparing to go on an indiscriminate warpath through the Fort to find out who was endangering Shantora. Smash Hannigan rushed to clam his friend down, and asked the PCs what they thought they were doing. They outlined their case to him. He was skeptical until they presented a reproduction of the murder weapon (a good crafting roll and some serious foresight by Zinee the cosmetologist). Smash's face fell, and he excused himself. "I gotta go talk to somebody."

And that's where we ended. Smash is headed to the Flop House where the Apis Irregulars are rooming, and, of course, one of the PCs is stealthing along after him to see what's what.

This session was a lot slower than the last one, as I tried to give the PCs plenty of time to hash out their theories and plans. It's hard to know if I hit the right balance, or if things lagged too much. But, next session, I definitely want to get into some action, wrap up the mystery, and set the PCs on the trail of the real adventure for this campaign, their journey into the Unfathomable Underworld!

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