My players are awesome

I don’t spend enough time writing about my Friday night game. I’m OnlineDM after all, and this is my long-running online game. We’ve just passed our one-year anniversary of playing together. How cool is that?

Anyway, we weren’t able to play for the past two weeks (it felt like forever) because I had other plans on a Friday night and then I had to work late the next week. So this week we got the band back together – six of the seven players were able to make it (though one had to drop out about 40 minutes before the end of the session).

I had done a fair amount of prep work for this session over the past couple of weeks, and then realized in the 30 minutes before we started that there was a whole aspect of tonight’s session that I hadn’t prepared for. I threw that stuff together partly in the few minutes before game time and partly on the fly during the game, and it worked out just fine.

We’re running the War of the Burning Sky campaign saga from EN World. We’re currently in the fourth adventure (spoilers follow). The party had recently helped a noble win a war against his own king who was trying to destroy him. Tonight, the party traveled with the noble to the king’s capitol to talk about peace. They were wary but went along to protect the noble against any funny business.

The peace accords were celebrated with festivities – jousting, food, games, spelldueling, fireworks, etc. These would ultimately be followed by some treachery and combat. I had prepared the treachery and combat. I hadn’t prepared the jousting and spelldueling, so I threw those together quickly.

For the jousting, I drew a quick jousting ring (wood for the border, dirt for the center of an ellipse) and used an existing knight monster with a lance as the opponent. For the spelldueling, I took advantage of my new quick monster creation tool (what a lifesaver!) and whipped up an opponent. While the party talked amongst themselves later, I whipped up a second opponent, based on the first. It worked out great.

The party began with the fighter entering the joust. I ran the first round as an event that started on horseback and finished on foot. That was a mistake – the on-foot part was boring and dragged way too long. When I ran a second round later, I changed the rules so that becoming unhorsed would end the joust (which I ruled would happen when someone took a total of 25 or more damage). That worked much better (even though the fighter lost that round). I think the adventure is supposed to include detailed rules for jousting, but I couldn’t find them.

After the first round of the joust, the party explored the festival. They ran into a halfling cook arguing with a man who clearly didn’t appreciate how special the halfling’s food was. They calmed the halfling down, and he revealed that he was Randas, head cook in the king’s castle, and he was royally pissed at being told to clear out of the castle and cook outside at the festival. Rylos the cleric calmed him down and enjoyed an absolutely amazing bowl of soup. Randas became a favorite, at least of Rylos.

A shell game in an alley followed, in which our sharp-eyed elf seeker was able to follow the coin quite easily. Then we moved on to spelldueling in which the wizard/swordmage and the warlock in the party both vanquished their first-round foes. The other PCs cheered them on.

The good-natured thief in the party joined a game of horseshoes and taught the old man running the game how it was done, earning a round of beers for his skill.

Coming back by the halfling cook’s stall, the party found it empty with some guards clearing it out. The guards didn’t know where the cook was, so the party went on a mission to find him. They tried to talk their way into the castle to talk to the guard captain about the missing halfling, but utterly failed, insulting the head gate guard (Merrick) in the process. They tried again later, with the plan being that the thief would sneak in if necessary, and a better bribe got them the access they wanted. The guard captain told them that the cook had been disturbing the peace and had been locked up for the night to make sure he didn’t cause trouble. The PCs were satisfied with this and left.

Back at the spelldueling area, the warlock and wizard/swordmage had faced off against one another with the hybrid coming out on top. She then faced another spellduelist for the championship and lost in awesome fashion. The hybrid opened up an Arcane Gate leading out of the arena and tried to push the spellduelist through it with Thunderwave. She missed, spent an action point, cast another Thunderwave… and missed again. Whereupon the spellduelist walked around her (opportunity attack missed) and cast a spell that pushed the hybrid through her own Arcane Gate and out of the arena, thus costing her the duel. I felt a little bad that she lost in that way, but it was actually a really cool finish to a cool battle.

Some fireworks soon distracted the PCs; the alchemist who was setting them off asked for help in getting more supplies, as his normal alchemy supply houses had been shut down for a special project for the king for the past three days.

A “test your strength” hammer game proved irresistable for the dwarf fighter, who completely missed the target with his first swing (a natural 1) but shoved the cleric out of the way to take another turn, winning a stuffed polar bear toy that he soon gave to a small child (too sweet!).

While the party watched the action at the hammer event, a dwarf emerged from the crowd to surreptitiously pass on information about some fishy goings-on at the castle. They shared the information with their noble patron, who asked them to investigate. He was on his way to a royal banquet.

Here’s where things went off the rails. Rather than investigating by following the suspicious trail into the castle via the sewers, the party decided to go investigate the closed-up alchemist shops. Improvising completely, I had them go to the alchemy district where the shops were all closed up. They broke into a shop and ultimately found some ledgers that documented big deliveries to the king… for ingredients that could be combined to make a poison that would cause insane, murderous rage.

Uh oh. Time to run back to the castle, where the banquet was in progress. They debated whether to fight through the front gate guards or sneak in through the sewers before finally realizing that they were invited guests and just needed to talk their way in. Easy enough.

The dwarf fighter had grabbed some powder back at the alchemy shop that he believed was flash-bang powder, but knowing nothing about Arcana he wasn’t really sure. He was so excited to burst into the banquet hall and throw down the powder that I just ignored any possible resistance from the guards in the hallway and had him toss down the powder…

Which turned out to be stink powder, enveloping the group in a nasty stink bomb. Feeling that there was no way I could top this with a mere combat, I decided to call it a night at this point.

So, in the end, we had no real fights (just some jousts and spellduels) but all kinds of fun adventures and some advancement of the plot. My players were awesome and creative, getting into the role playing and character interaction and… well, I just can’t say enough good things about them. They clearly had a good time, and I had a blast. I’m really excited about next week’s game!

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