A House of Cards

DATE: Wednesday May 27, 2015.

Background

We begin in Blackmarsh, a fantasy quasi-Romanized Gaul.

It is a time of change. A holy war has just drawn to a bloody close. There is a magical insurgency in Blackmarsh. Blackmarsh is ruled by Lord Nazar, the current Duke of Blackmarsh. There has been a coup-d’etat in the capital. It was orchestrated by the “Praetorian Guard,” the 1st Legion. Further afield, The City-States of Mycenae have settled their 100 year war, even if the Matriarch’s goddess is the goddess of war. Exiles who refuse to stop fighting are given Scorpion Shields, signifying their outcast status. The Crystal Tower of Kuzic has fallen. In Blackmarsh’s Southern Reaches since the end of the holy war, outlying hamlets have been found abandoned. None of the inhabitants have been found, dead or alive. Instead, they simply seem to have vanished, leaving all their livestock and other valuables behind.

Blackmarsh’s Decrepit Temple

Outside Blackmarsh Castle is found a burnt-out temple, left to commemorate the 16 children and 4 adults who died in a mysterious fire. Shortly after the fire, some years ago, Maedoc “Templeburner” left town leaving her family to bear the name of her accidental deed.

Questions:

  • To whom was the temple dedicated?
  • Did they reopen another temple?
  • Were any of the dead from powerful families?
  • Is it true the fire started from a friendly game of spin-the-burning-candle in the shed played between a handful of juveniles?

Leontius

Leontios Tagaris Kaleothes, along with the Shield Maiden Ionna Khomninna, are hunting a giant wild boar with Lord Nazarus, For many in the party, things are going badly. Aided by Ionna’s bow-work, Leontius slays the large pig, but not before it has gored to death numerous other huntsmen. However, despite bearing the shield of the Black Scorpion, Leontios’ works gain him the esteem of Lord Nazarus after felling the 15’ foot beast.

Questions:

  • How did Leontios and Ionna come in the employ of Lord Nazar?
  • Are they the Lord’s body guards?
  • How far are the City States of Mycenae from Blackmarsh?
  • Is there a temple, or perhaps ruined temple, in Blackmarsh?
  • Are there other Myceneans in Blackmarsh?

Silanus

After a hard day of breaking in the recruits and conscripts housed at Castle Blackmarsh, Silanus fears they will never become the heavy infantry he is contracted to create. His thoughts are interrupted by a knock at his door.

Answering warily, he finds an old comrade from the 11th Legion at the doorstep with another man. Both this 11th Legionnaire and Carlos attempt to enroll Silianus into an insurgency to retake the Empire, much to Silanus’ irritation. Silanus repeatedly notes that he is uncomfortable with this entire discussion. Upon realizing Silanus was not interested in becoming a cadre in an insurgency, the pair of noisome visitors prepare to leave.

Thinking his night would return to normalcy, Silanus spies Carlos treacherously unsheathing a blade to backstab the Legionnaire of the 11th. Silanus intercedes with his own blade, saving his friend by slaying Carlos in a single blow. Having thwarted an assassination on his old comrade, and discovering that Carlos bears the mark of the 7th Legion, Silanus suggests that his old friend stay for dinner.

Questions:

  • What happened to Carlos’ mortal remains?
  • What is the old comrade’s name?
  • Was Carlos actually trying to ferret out who was and was not loyal to the current Emperor? Or was he merely trying to tie-up other loose ends?

The Honourable Carthonian

The Honourable Carthonian is hearing a local case in which a neighbor is accusing someone of using witchcraft to spoil milk. Irked, he notes aloud that witches wouldn’t waste their time souring milk. He then metes out swift justice, sending both defendant and accuser to jail for four days. This sentence will only be commuted if they can get along. Clearly, His Honour is unused to the business of the more peripheral of the Empire’s Courts.

Before the next interminable case can be heard, the Judge’s keen senses reveal a cloaked figure has dropped something black and tiny on the court’s floor. Before this figure can be stopped, it slips away through the crowd. Swiftly, this something becomes a larger scorpion, stinging to death a bailiff and pinching in twain two (presumed to be) innocent bystanders. Thinking quickly, His Honour summons a hero (Move 90’, 20 HP, Lvl 4 fighter, Dam d6+4, AC 8). While the Hero is dispatched, the Judge’s spells eventually dispatch the giant summoned scorpion. The Honourable Carthonian then stomps off to complain to the Duke of Blackmarsh about the indignities of court duty in this provincial backwater.

Questions:

  • Did this happen inside or outside? (I thought outside, but my notes don’t mention it).
  • Is this sort of thing (i.e., Scorpions of Unusually Large Size) common, uncommon, rare or never-before-experienced-in-Blackmarsh?
  • What are the penalties for releasing giant scorpions? Is it just reckless homicide? Treason?
  • Is there a local Wizard’s Guild in Blackmarsh?

Temperance Beneficent and Maedoc Templeburner

Leaving the large city of [FILL IN THE BLANK], the (maternal) cousins Temperance and Maedoc encounter each other on a ride back to Blackmarsh. Temperance relates that in an odd twist of fate, he has inherited the lands and manor of Aunt Industria Templeburner. He does not share that he has been sent back to Blackmarsh to follow up with Salazar Raman Tiberion Masalla Thieron de-Antanaria, a blessed priest of our God of Order, Ammonar.

Oddly, Maedoc says little about her reason for returning to her homeland. Perhaps she wishes to show contrition for the accidental conflagration that sent her from Blackmarsh at an early age. Unbeknownst to her cousin, Maedoc’s light fingers were caught in the till of her boss,_ Antonius Grande_, for whom she worked as a bookie. Fearing his thugs, she gingerly left behind her former city of employment in search of relative safety.

Temperance invites Maedoc to stay at his newly inherited manor. Not only would he like to catch up with his cousin, he also is somewhat concerned for her welfare. He is certain that if it can be shown that a Paladin of Ammonar will take her in, the parents of those 16 dead children or families of the four dead adults will feel compelled to let bygones be bygones. In case they won’t, he suspects being around might help her deal with anyone casting an evil eye upon her, or otherwise suggesting harm. And truth be told, Temperance is worried that his Aunt Industria might be haunting the place, rocking in her favorite chair on the back patio. Better to have another person around in such cases!

Maedoc and Temperance make themselves at home in his recently inherited and quite stout manor. After his aunt’s former servant show them how to operate and maintain the hypoclast, (i.e., floor heating), he learns that the hamlet attached attached to the manor by right (if not proximity) is Auster Industria [South Industry]. Temperance then recalls that Aunt Industria never could tolerate the smell of the peasantry. Also, she feared ogres, which she alleged ran rampant in those parts. “Silly old woman,” he thinks. “We all know ogres were cleared out long ago.”

The next day, Temperance and Maedoc take the road to inspect Temperance’s inheritance. Roughly halfway between Blackmarsh and the hamlet, a tall brutish figure lumbers out of the shrubbery. It stands 9’ tall, wields a club, and wears a mis-mash of beast skins. Yelling “Horses!” in a particularly culinary way, Temperance decides it is either an ogre or a barbarian. The pair gains the initiative. Temperance dismounts from his medium warhorse, Bice. While Temperance takes 8 points of damage, he remains afoot, bolstered by Ammonar’s faith and high constitution. The following turn, the pair collectively inflict 16 points of damage on the foul beast. Sorely wounded, it fights on, but misses. The next turn, Maedoc stabs it mortally from behind. After it finishes twitching, Temperance cleaves free the corpse’s head, tying this grisly totem to the Warhorse. They reckon there should be a reward. The ogre’s bag contains most of a fairly fresh pig, 7,000 cp, and 1,400 ep. Laying hands upon himself, he heals himself back to 15 HP.

After slaying the ogre and healing themselves, Temperance and Maedoc continue on to the abandoned inheritance. While the residents’ goods and animals have been scavenged by those living in the surrounding countryside, the pair note a strange symbol upon the door of a particularly squalid hovel. Maedoc deciphers a strange symbol on the door of an abandoned hovel. Temperance notes to himself that in her Knitters’ Guild, his cousin must have picked up many useful skills while embroidering fine-linen handkerchiefs with initials of big-city nobles and merchants. Maedoc relates that the sigil is Old Taurian for the equivalent of the letter “R.” [Taurians were quasi-Picts]. Searching the rest of the hovel, they find the place looted. As they continue to the hovels, they find no signs of struggle. All 40-odd families simply disappeared. Drawing on Ammonar’s wisdom, Temperance’s Detect Evil on the Taurian letter “R” reveals that not just the sigil, but in fact the entire surrounding area radiates evil.

Realizing that this area must be consecrated before resettlement by the good citizenry, Temperance has an epiphany: Maedoc’s friends from the “Knitter’s Guild” should relocate here after the hamlet’s (re)consecration. Temperance assumes it would be “…the perfect place to house a colony of knitters.” “Fresh air, bird song and country-living would do them good!” he mutters to himself. Thinking this a gallant observation and offer, he is a bit perplexed by Maedoc’s indifference to this suggestion.

Temperance and Maedoc ride back to Blackmarsh. After nailing the ogre’s head to a post on the front porch, they tuck into a simple feast of the fresh pig found in the ogre’s bag—after roasting it, of course. Temperance also wishes to hire a servant, and perhaps invite over the Lord of Blackmarsh for a simple repast of swine stew.

Questions

  • In what city were Maedoc and Temperance residing?
  • Was this the capital city?
  • How far away is it?
  • Are the roads to it well-maintained?
  • How many people live in the Town of Blackmarsh?
  • How many people live in the Duchy of Blackmarsh?
  • How many hamlets are there?
  • How formidable is Blackmarsh Castle?
  • What is Blackmarsh known for exporting?

What’s next?

Many questions stand before the party:

  1. How will the party meet?
  2. Will Temperance find the cleric he has been assigned to accompany?
  3. If so, will he show the mercy of Ammonar to apostates?
  4. Will Maedoc shank her kind-hearted but insufferable cousin?
  5. Will former legionnaires succumb to seditious calls?
  6. What of the feast of the 15-foot boar?
  7. Who will claim the glory of slaying it?
  8. Who was the seditious user of scorpion magic?
  9. What happened to the miscreants in the Affair of the Soured Milk?
  10. And most importantly, how many XP did the ogre-slayers receive?
  11. Will we remember to roll Initiative EVERY round?
  12. Will we remember to declare our action BEFORE we roll initiative?

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Sparky_Mcguffin

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