Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flashpoint: What Did Happen

In my last Tuesday article I wrote down what my plans were for the last Flashpoint session.  If you haven't had a chance to read that yet, I would recommend doing so as it'll give you a greater understanding of the contrast between a Game Master's plans and how it can actually go down.  In truth, I think the issue here was not a simple matter of players doing the unexpected and more a case of the Game Master not knowing what campaign they were actually running.

Rather than a rollicking game of high adventure on the high seas with a bunch of buccaneers, I have a group of admittedly eccentric characters desperately struggling to survive in a gritty world of danger where precautions must be taken which are both realistic and nasty. 

This contrast became all the more distinct in the last session because their opponents were those rollicking buccaneers whom I'd assumed my own PCs were (and whose behaviors and choices are, ironically, more like what I expected my players to choose and do).  Seeing my PCs take darker courses of action that would not be out of place in a Game of Thrones campaign came as a bit of a shock to me.  Suddenly I had the clash of perceptions literally playing out in game!

So here's what really happened.

Proteus went on to visit another pub to try and spread messages about that they were after Carnegie due to a debt.  He was hoping to draw the attention of the Red Mantis Assassins or perhaps even Carnegie himself in the hopes of flushing out a new lead.  One customer started talking about a mean-spirited fellow called 'Carnage' but that didn't seem right so Proteus kept asking around.

Then in comes a big fellow with that kind of All American build - lantern-jawed and broad-shouldered - who spoke like one might expect from an American Ace pilot from the eighties.  Despite his booming, yet somewhat proper, language he wasn't assaulted by the very lower class customers of the pub which indicated he was known here and known to have skill and power.  Proteus struck up a conversation with him and the man seemed quite interested to here more about why he was after Carnegie.  The man, who had yet to introduce himself, offered a lot of interesting tidbits about Carnegie having his own ship and having turned to a life of piracy.  He didn't seem to know much, though Proteus was now interested in the man for a spot of naughtiness.  He soon figured out that Carnegie was a pansexual.

Proteus got himself invited to the captain's cabin where Carnegie soon called in two of his crew to entertain them.  He rings a bell and 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Schmidt (Shelyn Paladin) and 3rd Lieutenant Bette Rolsh (Desnan Inquisitor) comes in.  2nd Lieutenant Schmidt is an attractive (high Charisma!) woman of Keleshite appearance who sings delicately so as not to overshadow the conversation her captain is having.  3rd Lieutenant Bette Rolsh is an attractive (again, high Charisma) Varisian dancer with bells on her wrist and ankle scarves.  Proteus knows neither their names nor occupations.

Shortly into the whole affair, things go to Initiative as they try to use their various enchantment spells to make him submissive.  Unfortunately for them, he passes save after save and gets quite cross with them - especially when Schmidt attempts to grapple him.  His special vest causes her one damage per round and Proteus thinks the whole thing is rather ridiculous.  He uses suggestion on the captain to force the man to hear him out.

Proteus finds out that their 1st lieutenant had been captured and states that: "It's not my fault he was fool enough to get captured.  It wasn't my captain and it wasn't my ship."  Proteus also finds out that this captain used to own the Egress back in the day, but shipwrecked it on an island (not quite true, as it was his first lieutenant who did so).  Proteus pretty much invokes the salvage rule with a shrug.  Proteus mentally contacts his monkey and tells it to go warn the others.

And at that point Proteus' player had to leave so I took some liberties with the timeline and will need to make an arrangement with the player for what happens in between.  Without some handwavium, there's a chance that the timelines will need massive retroing.

Meanwhile, back on the ship

Everyone returns to their bunks.  Archer finds a note from Kitzy asking for him to come to her cabin.  He drinks some tea (which is how he can regain grit points) and goes to her cabin.  The lantern is facing the door so he has to step inside and out of the way of the light to see inside the cabin better.  He sees that there is a draught in the curtains at the aftcabin windows.  He also sees there is an Aquatic Elf in shadowy armor standing behind Kitzy, likely with a knife to her back.

The stranger demands to know why they have been hunting down Carnegie.  Archer demanded to know who the stranger is and why he came here.  Each refuses to answer the other.

Then Archer uses a babbling speech ability (can't remember the ability name) from his Gunslinger archetype and the stranger is so confused he stabs himself in the thigh.  Kitzy rushes away and Archer shoots him twice.  We then go to Initiative and Archer goes first and gets another turn immediately on the heels of the last.  He shoots two more times, this time doing subdual (guess he just winged him?  or shot a beam to fall onto his head?).  The stranger, Sellanarius (Black Smoke), is knocked unconscious.

They take all of his equipment and leave him in his undergarments, finding that he was actually a Chelish slave.  They bind him with Shackles of Compliance in the midshipman's cabin and Lhye heals him to awaken him.  Sellanarius scowls at them and manages to make his rolls versus the manacles to keep refusing to answer most of their questions.  I'll do it in dialogue form below, as it's more interesting, but this whole thing did take longer.

"Who are you?" asked Archer.  "What is your ship's name and rating?"


"You broke into my cabin and assaulted my guest," said Archer.  "You are at my mercy.  You had better give me your ship's name and rating."

Sellanarius glares at him.  "It's a barge called the Rocker."

This continued for a short while until Sellanarius fails his save and describes it as a large pinnace called the Silent Shade.  Archer doesn't believe him, however, and leaves him to Lhye and Lieutenant Marxus' tender ministrations.  He then goes onto the top deck and meets Proteus' monkey who gestures at the Silent Shade as it leaves the harbor.  Archer quickly leaps aboard the Egress (as its faster) and Lhye, Lunjun and Marxus follow with their prisoner.  The Exodus is left to Wellard's control.

They quickly ensconce Sellanarius in the all the more cramped midshipman's cabin on the Egress.  Archer asks one more time for information before leaving him to Lhye and Marxus to extract the information.

"You're a Chelish slave," said Lhye.  "Did they send you here?  Don't you want to be free?  I can free you *or* I can torture you.  What do the Chelish want?"

Sellanarius doesn't respond.

"Fine."  Lhye leaves and returns with a bucket of bilge water.  He then explains how Feast of Ashes works.  "You will be starving hungry.  You will eat anything I put in front of you but it won't help.  Now tell us who you work for."

Sellanarius, being a loyal person, and also an obstinate one, makes his save versus the cuffs and states, "I work for Asmodeus himself.  He came personally to give me his contract."

Lhye casts Feast of Ashes on Sellanarius (who fails his save) and gives him the bilge water which he desperately drinks before immediately (upon becoming nauseated) throws it back up.  Feast of Ashes means that food and water nauseates him even if its good and it requires a save to hold it down.  Lhye makes a note to himself to keep an eye on Sellanarius so that he doesn't die or fall ill from Filth Fever (which Sellanarius does catch, by the way).

Sellanarius doesn't try to escape as he is just handcuffed because, well, Manacles of Compliance are good for one thing and while I grew bored of rolling for every question, I determined that the trade off would be that he would physically do whatever they said as though he failed those rolls.  He just wouldn't give them answers.

The Egress follows the Silent Shade but the Silent Shade has occasional bursts of wind directly behind the sails using magic of some sort.  This allows the Silent Shade to get 600m ahead of the Egress and then the two well-matched ships largely hold those positions as they give chase.  Ship chases take hours, sometimes days, so Archer settles into the routine.

Lhye returns every hour to check on Sellanarius and asks the same four questions: "Who are you?  Who do you work for?  Why are you here?  How do you know Carnegie?"  At first Sellanarius gives ridiculous answers and then, later on, he starts answering made up questions. 

Sellanarius also starts referring to Lhye as "Chelish".  When Lhye responds aggressively to it, threatening to hang Sellanarius if he continues, and stating that he left Cheliax behind and hates it as a terrible place."

Sellanarius looks at him in wonder and states: "But you brought it with you.  You are Chelish and everywhere you go is Cheliax because you bring it with you."

That really gets to Lhye but he tries not to show it..

I did make a few rolls for Sellanarius to cope with the torture, and he did, and thus even the torture didn't prise information out of him until, after sixteen hours of this (during which time Sellanarius started taking real damage from dehydration due to vomiting and Lhye had to heal him), Lhye tries a few other enchantment spells which gets Sellanarius talking.

Sellanarius admits that he works for Captain Carnegie who had been an ambassador's captain for a time before fleeing with the information.  Lhye states that they should pleased then, as he serves Andoren, and surely they stole that information to use against his Chelish masters.  Anything less would simply paint a target on their backs.  Sellanarius, feeling rather bitter, states that he sees no reason why serving Andoren's interests would benefit anybody as they don't appear to be much different from Cheliax.

Lhye puts forth a plan of action.  They will give Sellanarius the ability to communicate magically to Captain Carnegie to propose a trade: The information and Proteus for Sellanarius.  Sellanarius states that his captain probably would accept such a trade.

The two then argue the rightness of Lhye's course of action, which really showed the flawed nature of the human condition.  Sellanarius is aggressively pushing Lhye's buttons because to do anything less would weaken his resolve and potentially cause him to break and he can't ever let himself become meek again - even though it might get him killed.  Lhye is trying to justify his actions to the one person who's extremely unlikely to validate those actions - the victim.

We left it with the Silent Shade slowly approaching a fort on the edge of an island in an archipelego filled with shoals that they can more comfortably pass through due to their experience and the Egress' inexperience in the area.  Who knows what is to come?

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