Hearts of Stone 8: All at Sea

Posted: 23 November 2016 in Hearts of Stone

31 March 216 to 9 April 216 – Concord and the Midland Sea

The odd convoy leaving Concord for the nearby docks hurtles through a nearby wood, surprising a mercenary archer called Nishanja who has stopped for a brief rest and a snack. The Fox peeled off as they passed Concord and disappeared inside briefly, so what Nishanja sees approaching before he is hauled aboard the cart is this: The cart itself, driven by Boris with Hayes in the back holding the dungeon heart; Soreth, X7-09 and Kowalski on foot; Dave and Silmaria riding a stone fin as it cuts through the earth; about a dozen armed half-orcs screaming threats and insults; and behind them, Ssh’ta and Cali, with Casila catching up and The Fox spurring a recently-acquired horse some way behind.

While they are figuring out what to do next, a bearded man going the other way runs towards them, pursued by a red dragon.

“They’re early!” he calls. “Run! Run!”

“Who, us?” Silmaria wants to know.

“No!” calls Beardie. “The drakes!”

What was in Hayes’ mind at this point will never be known, but he throws a turnip at the bearded fellow and kills him outright. “Nailed it!” he crows. The dragon turns lazily to follow the cart. “Kill-stealer,” it accuses.

“Oh, another challenger?” asks Hayes, beckoning in the traditional martial arts fashion. The dragon affects not to notice and begins a conversation in draconic with Soreth, who is after all a red dragonborn. Meanwhile Boris has decided that the dragon might be female and rubs his long fingernails together in excitement, and Silmaria sings an ode to the marvellous dragon… “Oh wonderful dragon! Your power is so mighty! Your scales so shiny!” and so forth.

Breaking away from Soreth, the dragon uses its breath weapon to wipe out all of the half-orcs, then lands and paws at the bodies, looking for something interesting to eat.

Boris casts confusion on the living dungeon following Hayes, attacking it with illusory mystic ghost zombie snakes. Dave and Silmaria step off the dungeon’s fin as it submerges and climb aboard the cart. By now, they can see that the port is in flames, and hovering over it a little way out to see is a large stone building festooned with dragons, who occasionally launch themselves off it for a strafing run of the docks.

Soreth asks the dragon why it and its friends are attacking the port. “For the lulz, obviously,” it replies. The Fox calls out something to it, and it moves over to talk to X7-09.

“Your colleague back there,” it begins conversationally, “Tells me that you are full of valuable treasure. Is this true?” X7-09 denies this and opens his chest compartment to reveal a chamaeleon and not much else, before pointing out that the Fox appears to be a noble and probably has gold on him. “Hmm,” says the dragon, which is now joined by a pair of friends curious to know why it is talking to these inferior creatures. After a brief exchange with the Fox in draconic it loses interest.

The party debates whether to hitch a ride with the dragons on their flying whatever-it-is, but decide against it on safety grounds.

Now, they’re approaching the docks, and Hayes peels off in disgust. Finding a small, single-person craft he throws his few possessions aboard and casts off. Assuming treachery, Ssh’ta shoots an arrow at him. X7-09 runs after Hayes and attempts to join its master, but is unable to clamber aboard in time. Everyone except Hayes boards a merchantman at the docks, and exploring it they find a skeleton crew cowering below decks. Persuading the sailors that they can protect them from the dragons, they cast off as well and head for Glitterhaegen, singing a selection of sea shanties. Nishanja the archer watches them sail off, the richer by two horses.

The voyage of some 625 miles takes about 9 days and is uneventful except for the Fox attempting to throw X7-09 overboard. This does not go down well, but by the following morning it is (literally) forgotten. The dungeon, now dubbed Big Bad Barry, continues to follow Hayes, thus answering the question of whether living dungeons can swim.

Arriving in Glitterhaegen, except for Hayes who is a day or two behind the others, the party splits up. X7-09 goes off to sell loot, Silmaria seeks out an alchemist to appraise the value of the dungeon heart, and the Fox goes off on some secret errand. The rest of them go to the nearest pub, where Boris requests a fine beer and a fine lady, and Dave affects to buy ale but actually drinks cranberry juice.

Soreth decides X7-09 has been holding out on her, since she killed all the goblins inside Big Bad Barry but he collected and sold all the loot. This escalates into a fight, with Kowalski and Silmaria selling tickets and collecting bets. Boris sends mystic ghost zombie snakes into the ring for a little extra pizzaz. However, when Soreth breathes fire over X7-09, he realises he no longer has his axe – did he mislay it aboard ship? Has someone stolen it? Either way, he turns and runs, to general disappointment.

At this point the party realises that perhaps using fiery breath weapons inside a wooden building is a bad idea, as the pub is on fire. They emerge in pursuit of X7-09 – and stop, as they become aware of a horde of demons descending from the skies.

One of them is wearing Kowalski’s beard.

GM’S NOTES

This was the point at which I sensed there was now too much going on for the party to process, so a bit less insanity may be in order for future sessions. In my defence, a lot of the madness is caused by the party using icon dice to prank each other. The first dragon rolled maximum for its reaction to Soreth, and then Silmaria charmed it with her +6 Charisma, so it was feeling at first curious and then friendly. That could have gone badly wrong.

The group continues to run more slowly than I expected for three reasons. First, there are 9 PCs in the party, in fact 10 last session when we had a visiting player; modern games are designed for 4-6 players and that’s what I’m used to now. Second, there is a huge amount of whisper chat going on in the background, usually at least three player-to-GM asides at any one time and others between players; I’ve asked them to keep that down to a dull roar going forwards, as I’m losing track of what’s going on. Third, a number of the PCs (not the players) hate each other and are constantly trying to rob or kill their rivals – I am pondering whether to tell them they don’t have to use their Hindrances to control their in-party relationships, and if they keep this up some of them are going to die. However, they’re fighting each other so much that traditional opposition is hardly required. This may even be realistic for a group of murderhobo loners with no real reason to cooperate.

Meanwhile, I am moving away from using 0One and Cry Havoc! tiles and maps towards the ones free to download at Dungeons Unlimited. The latter are a convenient size, and Roll20 works better with a D&D-style square grid than a hexagonal one.

Finally, I believe the party members are now generally aware that the Fox stole X7-09’s axe while they were in the living dungeon, and that his One Unique Thing is that everyone forgets him at midnight…

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