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Unfathomable! Session 3

 The Party confronts murder in its den! Death swoops from the skies! A victory is twisted into deeper doom!

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.

The Story So Far:
A man named Two Bushels was stabbed to death during a public gathering, and Adola the Friendly Barmaid stands accused! The PCs have until the next morning to prove her innocent before the expedient justice of the frontier claims her life!

The PCs have discovered that:
  • Two Bushels was actually an Imperial Investigator, observing Yithreela, a wizard
  • Yithreela hired another band of adventurers, The Apis Irregulars, for various expeditions
  • Countess Ploomb, Imperial representative, assigned Two Bushels to keep an eye on Yithreela
  • Ploomb would be happy for the PCs to solve the mystery and publicly embarrass Governor Krofax
  • The PCs confronted one of the Apis Irregulars, "Smash" Hannigan with their evidence, including a model of the murder weapon. He clearly recognizes it, and departs with intent
And now:
Three members of the party follow discreetly behind Smash, who goes to the Flop House, upstairs where the private rooms are. Brother Ded sneaks up to listen at the door. Hears the following drama unfolding within:

"...Maybe you feel a certain way about me. And maybe I feel a certain way about you. But the feelings of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this big, crazy world compared to an innocent girl whose going to die for a crime she didn't commit."  

Auruna and Smash, having a moment

"It's bigger than me, Smash. It's bigger than all of us. The scandal this would bring on House Apis... You don't understand the ramifications!"  

"Face it, you made the wrong call, sweetheart."  

"Oh, Smash! I stepped in it this time, didn't I? Just... Do this one thing. Hold me, Smash. Hold me like it's the last time you'll ever hold me!"  

"C'mere, Princess."  

Thump! There is the sound like that of a man wearing jet pack falling to the floor.  

The PCs bust the door down and see Auruna of House Apis halfway out the window. There is a tussle, and they prevent her escape, but she activates a snailshell-shaped sending stone and calls out, "Hey Rube! Help! Those criminals who killed Two Bushels just attacked Smash!"

As this happens, the PCs hear the voice of Countess Ploomb in their heads: "You've flushed her out! Keep her alive, if you can, but get her before Krofax's guards do. I shall arrange a distraction."  And outside, the Monster Attack horns begin to blare. Dark winged forms begin to circle over Fort Enterprise.

Both the rest of the PCs and the Apis Irregulars descend upon this one room in the Flop House, and, for the first time this campaign, everybody rolls for initiative!

Now, the PCs outnumber the Apis Irregulars 7-to-4 (not counting unconscious Smash), and among the players are some very mechanics- and tactics-savvy folks. So I made the Apis Irregulars plenty strong. Any one of them could one-shot a PC. I imagined they'd have to divide their time between attacking and healing their felled comrades. But the players, who have consistently been rolling garbage since the campaign started, suddenly couldn't stop with the crits. Only two Apis folks got even a single attack in, and one of those was a fumble. (The other attack did one-shot Doloth the Reluctant Citizen Lich, however.)

Krodok v. Doloth

Shantora Lax, legitimate badass, felled by a Sleep spell mid-charge

The PCs decide that they need to secret Auruna and get her to Countess Ploomb, so they stealth along to the Bath House, where they had earlier met Chenchko, her Champion. As they pass through the streets, perytons are swooping down and snatching up guards from the palisade gangplanks, Wilhelm-screams agogo. 

Chenchko meets them in the Bath House, where the PCs, outraged by the exorbitant price of entry, are making the most of the amenities, taking in a sudsy soak with plenty of fragrant oils. The party, for probably the first and last time, is clean and sweet smelling! Chenchko tells them to hand Auruna over to the Governor's guard. The story will be spread that the PCs saved good ol' Adola from Krofax's unjust execution.

They are invited to have dinner with Krofax that evening, where the Governor tries to spin there actions as proof that the Guard doesn't need to police the populace—the populace will police itself. He then "rewards" the trouble makers by conscripting them for a prestigious and doomed expedition into the Underworld! 

Governor Krofax, in his cups

The evening wraps up with the Governor letting the PCs outfit themselves with mundane equipment from the Guards' armory, and Countess Ploomb, having now adopted the PCs as her pawns, sneaking them a packet of very powerful items, including things like a wand of Magic Missile and a scroll of Fireball. And everybody advances to Level Two!

I made a cocktail for the evening, the Action Economy, and people did not pick up on the fact that it was martini-strength. So play was a little floppier around the edges than usual, but it worked out. I'll share the recipe in another post.

I'll also share character sheets for the Apis Irregulars. I really like the dynamic of having a rival party striving for the same goals as the PCs in a campaign. I'm glad they all survived. The PCs will encounter them again in the Underworld, suffering a punishment that just happens to be the exact same thing as the PCs reward. They may be joined by a few other rivals from the PCs backstories.

When the flying monsters showed up to attack Fort Enterprise, I was pretty sure they were illusions cast by Countess Ploomb. But the players were so thrilled by the horror of her conjuring real monsters just to provide a distraction that I pivoted to it being a real summoning.

And it was gratifying to see the player's delight turn into concern as they began to wonder why I was being so generous with the magic items before their expedition began.


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