Friday, May 8, 2020

Part 8: Fallout

I thought for sure that the problems between Jangle and Bubbles would have worked themselves out with some forced confinement after other party members attempted to break up their disagreement, but between Jangle's general greed and (completely justified) defensiveness of his stuff and Bubbles' lack of communication skills and previous shady behavior, there was no way that words were going to settle the dispute. So Savin, being the totally-not-pirate that he is, suggested the only possible solution at solving a dispute at sea.

They were going to land the airship on a random, deserted island, and let the two duel to first blood. Winner takes the potion, loser gets to just live with it.

Specifically, Savin's player clarified that, in this case as well as historically, the terms of a duel were meant to encourage duelists to deeply consider whether the prize they pursued was worth the very real possibility of death, and even though the duel would be called at first blood, in-universe one good hit could mean the difference between life or death.

Of course, these are 7th level characters so one good hit means nothing but an injury to the victim's ego, but, hey, I try not to worry as much about mechanics where I don't have to. These two characters in particular could use some ego-bruising anyway.

Anyway, stage was set, weapon of choice was daggers, the characters rolled for initiative, and, naturally, since he had the advantage in terms of dexterity, Jangle won. The potion was returned to Jangle, and the two continued arguing over which deserved his place in the crew, since neither felt safe while the other was on the ship.

By this point, Savin had had enough of their nonsense and made his way back to the ship. The rest of the party slowly began to follow, including both Jangle and Bubbles, not wanting to be marooned on a deserted island. They decided to put a pin in the discussion until they arrived at the next town for resupply.

However, this decision would have to wait, as once the airship got closer to the mainland and the port city of Doncaster, well...let's just say things have gone from bad to worse there.

Since the city was destabilized economically and politically by the goblin invasion, the empire saw a perfect opportunity to reannex the previously independent city-state.

I suppose I'll take a brief moment to describe my idea for the city of Doncaster in a bit more detail. My idea is based off the Dominion of Fezzan from Legend of the Galactic Heroes (I promise I'm trying to keep things as understandable for those in my audience who haven't watched or read the series, which I'm assuming is all of you). Basically, Fezzan is a group of planets that served as a buffer zone between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, basically setting itself up as a politically and economically-independent region by providing the sole avenue of trade between the two warring factions, able to maintain its independence by sole virtue of the fact that neither side wanted to further incense the other into war by annexing it. Technically it was Imperial soil, but when you have an opportunity to make all the money while providing a decent kickback to your "owners", a smart empire leaves you alone. Kinda like Macau and what Hong Kong used to be.

Anyway, being the largest functioning port between the land of the empire and the Southern Isles allowed Doncaster to keep itself afloat by virtue of money without much of a strategic defense force in place, but all that got screwed up by a bunch of goblins looking for an easy payout.

Couple that with the Empress's increasingly despotic decisions, and...yeah, things haven't been so good for Doncaster.

So the party, upon seeing the port blockaded by imperial sea vessels and the airspace largely controlled by imperial airships, convened to decide how best to approach the situation. Do they land and try to hide Yesmae from the inevitable airship search? Do they try to use her as leverage to get free passage? Do they just course-correct and fly past Doncaster in hopes that they have enough supplies to make it?

Rex, the warforged who almost never does anything onscreen, quickly took inventory of their supplies (food, fuel for the ship that I still need to figure out, etc) and determined that they'd have just enough provided they could get past without causing much suspicion.

So the plan went something like this. They were far enough offshore that a minor (by mere degrees) course correction wouldn't look super unnatural, so all they had to do was (metaphorically speaking) keep eyes forward and just sail through. If flagged down, they would figure out what to do when it happened.

So, they set the plan into motion, slowly, but not too slowly, making their way to the shore on a heading that would take them past the blockade. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as they moved closer, eventually crossing onto the mainland. They could feel an entire armada's eyes upon them.

Anxiously, Bubbles reached for the throttle, his hand slapped away by Savin, and after what seemed like an eternity, the ship had passed through without anyone following them.

The party breathed a sigh of relief, and then continued on. The journey to Halinard's compound was a little longer than they'd hoped to make with the supplies they had, but they would manage just fine.

So a little more description for Halinard's compound. I mentioned before that it's on a manmade island on the outskirts of the imperial capital city. Think Sealand if you want a real life example of what I mean, or, as another fictional example, the Mother Base from Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid V. The rationale being, if Halinard had his own land, even if it's a small platform in the lake that the capital city was built over, he could more easily do what he wanted without interference.

Anyway, the airship docked in a secret hangar on the underside of the platform, and the party made their way into the main compound. However, upon entering the main hangar from the secret entrance, a voice rang out from the rafters.

"Lay down your weapons and keep your hands where I can see them!"

After that, a group of soldiers revealed themselves, specifically three gunmen (I swear I didn't do that just for a Three Musketeers pun) and a magic user.

Savin slowly reached for his rapier, saying, "And to whom are we surrendering?"

"Oh, an old friend of the one you know as Yesmae. You can call me Tylhana." She then melted into a shadow, reappearing on a catwalk closer to the ground floor, about twelve feet up. "Give the princess back so we can stop this madness and bring everything back to normal."

I explained that Tylhana was an NPC from Yesmae's backstory, being a close friend and handmaiden of hers, who had trained under the same master as Yesmae with the same martial arts ability. The idea I have is that she didn't follow Yesmae when she left the palace, torn between her loyalty to her friend and her loyalty to her nation, mistakenly believing that things only got bad after the princess left, rather than the princess leaving after things started to go bad.

I thought I was being super clever by introducing a rival for Yesmae, but because I have like 4 megabytes of RAM in my brain and can't remember things to save my life, I had completely forgotten that Yesmae had previously drunk a potion that altered her physical appearance into that of a human woman, specifically she wanted to look like Merida from the movie Brave.

So basically, I unintentionally created a cutscene where one of the party members was wearing a ridiculous, unfitting outfit.

Anyway, the party played it off as not knowing who she was, to which their unknown assailant suggested, "Well, if the princess isn't here with you, perhaps I'll have to beat her location out of you!" (I'm embellishing things slightly to make myself look less incompetent. DMing is hard.)

As they were talking, a couple attempts at spells were thrown back and forth, to the point where I think I'm just going to not have counterspell be a thing in future campaigns because it makes combat encounters less fun for both the DM and the players.

During this back and forth, Jangle was slowly putting himself into position to attempt to attack Tylhana. At the same time, Savin quickly said the verbal incantation to cast Dimension Door, teleporting himself and Grula to the catwalk to engage Tylhana in combat, who proved to be a decent match for the two of them, but the extra help from Jangle pushed her fight over the edge.

Meanwhile, Somen and Bubbles engaged the rest of the mooks on the ground floor. Despite the difference in numbers, Somen and Bubbles' spells were more than enough to handle the lesser guys.

Eventually, Tylhana realized that things were out of hand and gave the order to retreat to fight another day, melting into a shadow again, warping herself closer to a window to escape while the mage and surviving musketeer (one was thrown into a wall by a psychic blast from Grula, breaking his neck, and one was very roasted by fire magic from Somen and Bubbles) made a break for the exit.

Bubbles fired an Acid Arrow at the mage, hitting him in the back and knocking him over the safety railing at the edge of the platform, and Savin cast Hold Person at a high enough level to, well...hold the two survivors, and we called the session with Tylhana and a random musketeer now in the players' custody, leaving me to try to figure a way where the rival character I created for Yesmae doesn't immediately die in the next session.

Eh, good news is even I have no idea where this is going so I can't spoil myself.

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