The group was given their first “real” assignment: to break up a smuggling operation and to find a missing informant, Jerass, who disappeared 2 weeks prior. The only real clue they had was that Jerass often worked the docks, the busiest place in an already busy port city.
The party decided to gather information throughout the town, but to concentrate their search at the docks. The party was aware that a rival guild had a strong presence in the docks, the Varns, and would have to tread carefully; technically the Varners are supposed to uphold the law like the other Guilds, but rumours are that they are not above backroom deals and strong arming others who enter their ‘turf’.
The party isolated and approached a lone member of the rival guild and tried to pump him for as much information as possible on the location of Jerass, and the shipment. The thoroughly intimidated Varner confirmed that Jerass was double-dealing, and that he had gone missing 2 weeks prior without warning. He was also able to confirm that a shipment was due to come in that night. After confirming they got what they could out of him the party dispersed around the docks and waited for nightfall.
I made this a skill challenge, just to get them familiar with the idea. I have since decided I’d rather err on the side of roleplaying and only if it really REQUIRED a structured setup to use a Skill Challenge.
After gathering again, they intercepted and quickly dispatched Varners who came to the dock area heavily armed, accompanied by a mounted soldier pulling a wagon. They killed the soldier and his (very weak) followers, and after a few failed attempts was able to calm the horse, hoping to ride him later.
Making their way inside the warehouse the ship they were looking for docked and was being unloaded during the fighting by a separate group of soldiers. Inside, they could see that the Varners had slaughtered the dock workers and smugglers and were looking for the shipment. Apparently they were not the intended recipients. The party encountered heavy resistance from archers, a few ‘new’ Varn recruits and a Mage of some power.
The mage inside the warehouse was onboard the ship, blasting them from above and stayed well protected behind a few archers and mooks. The party wasn’t really prepared for it and took a ton of damage. Because there are 6 of them they tend to clump up and anything that hits in a burst or targets multiple people really does a number on them.
On the plus side, they really loved the detailed scenery I think and it ended with a bang. Murrik jumped off the ship onto a big stack of crates and jumped 25 feet off THAT to crush the remaining mook with his hammer. Probably going to go down as one of the most memorable moments of the campaign.
After a very hard battle, leaving several people close to unconsciousness before healing could be applied, they found a curious thing: boxes full of blank white masks that seemed to have no value. They checked them for magic, both arcane and divine, and found nothing.
Puzzled, they moved into the ship where movement could be heard. Going down into the crews quarters they encountered light resistance from a few straggling looters. After a brief struggle with the boarders, they investigated the captain’s quarters looking for some hint on the valuable cargo, and possibly Jerass’ whereabouts.
I should have just skipped the fight in the ship. They were only a 4 random mooks in closed-quarters. I’ve learned now that there is no reason for these fights. They aren’t particularly interesting, and the time investment is way too high for a fight they are going to win effortlessly.
They found a hidden ship manifest detailing deliveries being made to this port, along with a port to the North in Likai. The ship apparently was of Illean origins. It also mentioned that the destination for the crates in Loccain was somewhere South, towards the town of Gerald’s Folly. This thickened the plot considerably. Apparently the masks ARE the ‘valuable cargo!’
Eventually, they work their way down to the cargo hold where a massive Dragonborn Mercenary, lieutenant of Varn, was roughing up the captain of the ship. Apparently Zhoppa, the Dragonborn, thought he was being tricked, and that the ‘real’ valuables were hidden somewhere on the ship. Frustrated by this, and the arrival of the party, he knocked the captain unconscious and engaged in battle.
This was my first “boss fight” idea. I was proud of the flavour of the fight, although I think I should have made them feel more threatened. It started out well enough as Seravanon rushed forward (his character is purposefully reckless in battle) and got punished for it by being picked up and thrown back at the party, nearly knocking him unconscious in 1 turn. Everyone played keep-away at that point, and I don’t know how threatened they felt. It definitely forced them to play more cautiously, but I’m actually pretty sure the mage fight earlier seemed more difficult for them.
They finally managed to bring him down and they were able to resuscitate the beaten and bruised captain. After a short interrogation into the whereabouts of Jerass (who had been arranging the pickups, and who disappeared 2 weeks ago without notice; the same story everyone seems to be sticking to) they brought him back to Wrex to deal with him and to plan their next move.