What Do I Know About My Campaign? Tales from the Old Margreve Campaign Journal #8

I need to get my recap of the last session of my Tales of the Old Margreve up before we play our next session. I’m cutting it a little close, but let’s see what we can do. First off, if you are interested in the previous recaps, you can find them here:

Tales of the Old Margreve Campaign Journals

Prep Time
Moving into playing this, I will admit that I only wrote up notes to get the PCs to a certain point of the adventure, because I was getting ready for Gamehole Con and just coming off of my games at FlatCon. Most of my prep was reading and taking notes, substituting a few monsters, coming up with a framing mechanism to get the PCs into the action, and determining when the adventure started.
In case you were wondering, it’s time for Slaughter Festival!
Sure, it just means people prepare some of their best livestock to be eaten, but c’mon, how awesome does Slaughter Festival sound when it comes to a holiday?
At the Table
We were short a player, so we didn’t have Scarlett, our fey pact warlock, for this adventure. It’s easy enough to envision that Scarlett has business with her patron, possibly delivered by the mysterious roaming dentures, but this also means that we have a little bit of the ongoing plot of Chairo still unresolved.
Because the players really like having Levoca as a base of operations, we’ve had a lot of NPCs move into the vicinity. Chairo, her sister, and her Aunt live in town now, and so do Elsee and Obiah now that Elsee has a tie to Gurralt.
The bearfolk are all pretty adamant that Chairo isn’t going to be trained by Baba Yaga, but they also want to train the children due to their interest in magic.
We’re playing through The Challenge of the Fang this session, which assumes that the players are near the Great Northern Road, near a coaching inn. Since Levoca is fairly far removed from this location, I wanted to come up with a nice tie into this adventure.
To accomplish this, I had Chairo’s aunt hire Shandor, our Kariv NPC that has been brokering Isobel’s pit fights, to guide her through the Shadow Roads to a coaching inn, so that she can meet with a relative from Zobeck that will help her with aid from the family to settle in Levoca and take care of the girls.
Shandor isn’t completely lost as a guide through the Shadow Road, but since the PCs have charms that ward off dangers on the Shadow Road, he decides that he would love to have their help with this job. We’re all set to get the PCs near the Great Northern Road and some coaching inns.
Time to Start
Since Shandor and Aunt Kinga don’t have ward tokens, I had them beset by a swarm of spirit wolves, because I love that monster from the Tome of Beasts, and I felt like spirit wolves were a nice foreshadowing of the overall theme of the adventure. Shandor and Kinga took cover while the PCs took care of the ghost pack.
The group reached the Great Northern Road, and ran into the dead huntsman and the Very Special Axe. I had already had the Moonlit King play to Gahl, are gearforged noble warlord, and his ego, but suggesting that a moment was going to arrive that would let him become the champion of civilization. That made it even more amusing when Isobel grabbed the axe without a second thought.
Because I like to give my proprietary Kobold Press monsters a workout, I swapped the wolves in the original encounter for Roggenwolves from the Creature Codex. I also liked the idea that these kind of corrupted local guardian wolf spirits would be involved in the challenge.
Time at the Inn
The PCs have fought wolves and picked up the special “Axe of Destiny” for the adventure. Time to give them a little more context. They enter the Inn and run into Mother Babushka. In addition to the information she delivers and the potential fortune-telling, I decided to model the Fortune each one is given by letting them draw a Luck card from my Nord Games Luck deck, and they can turn in their card whenever they want their fortune to play out.
Outside the Inn, the group runs into Hodel, and he explains that his daughter is the prey in the ritual with the wolves. The bearfolk were all VERY upset with the father for letting his daughter participate in the ritual, and the party began discussing how horrible some of the rituals of the Margreve are. The bearfolk are dedicated to saving the girl, but in spite of her father or the villagers involved.
The group then ran into the pilgrims, including the scouts and the werewolf. This encounter went a lot faster than I would have liked. Wolf Killerdoes a number on the poor werewolf, since he starts in human form, then fails his save, and loses a round to transforming. Even more than the Roggenwolf fight, the warlord’s extra damage cut the time of this fight down considerable.
That said, Gahl (and his player) was obsessed with the worg salve and if it worked on gearforged. Since I couldn’t find a rules reason for the worg salve not to work on Gahl, we had a lot of fun coming up with mechanized wolf manifestations for him.
The Paths of Gamayun
It was time to get the PCs lost in the forest-like maze for the challenges, so I had them start to navigate the paths.
The PCs ran into the Polymorphing Pool. We have three bearfolk and a gearforged this session. Surely they won’t be that interested in turning into animals, right?
After the pool, we had a bearfolk, a bear, and an owl, as well as our gearforged. After this, the party ran into the worg with its worg salve. Since Gahl really enjoyed getting mechanized wolf features, he was all for this encounter and getting more salve. The bearfolk were looking for a fight, and we ran the bearfolk hunting the worg as a chase scene. We didn’t play out the combat, because I felt that resolving the chance was enough of a mechanical challenge, and we could forgo the final outcome once the group caught the poor wolf merchant.
At this point, we called it a night, because I wanted to make sure I could review the challenges again before I ran them.
Takeaways
  • Once again, having established NPCs gave me the tools to provide connective tissue to an adventure that was only really connected by being “in the Margreve.”
  • Giving players open-ended options is fun, especially when the description of the option is going to be more fun than the potential short term issues with the option
  • The warlord class is definitely front-loaded, and it has come up a few times—the one thing that has kept me from being too concerned at its ongoing use is that it is front-loaded in a manner that makes everyone attacking over powered, not just the player of the warlord
  • Handwaving combat feels more satisfactory when you still engaged the mechanics in some manner before the handwaving
  • I love having players that are invested enough in their characters to make them do the heroic thing without too much of a nudge

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