Monday, March 19, 2018

The Dark of a Tavern in the Cemetery

Campaign: The Excruciata (Umberwell, 5e D&D)

Characters: Raymondo Cortiz (human assassin rogue); Grumli Fellhammer (dwarf path of the ancestors barbarian); Zanna Cobblestop (gnome wild magic sorcerer); Nina Kessler (genasi way of the frozen fist monk); Hiroshi (human samurai fighter).

Events: Having secured a source of kraken blood, as well as the sulfur and charcoal needed to make black powder, the Excruciata now needed to find someone crazy enough to add arcane power to the mixture so it could be sold on the black market for enchanted weaponry. Spreading a little coin around in the occult underground netted the gang an interesting piece of information: just south of the Tarnished Ward in a shanty town outside the city's walls, there is a cemetery in which a cult devoted to the Adversary meets by night--and that cult might be capable of providing the kind of power the Excruciata was looking for.

Venturing into the shanty town, the group found the cemetery--a sprawling mass of shallow graves and hastily erected monuments in the center of a sprawling mass of lean-tos and shoddily constructed shacks. Oddly, in the middle of the cemetery was what appeared to be a ramshackle pub bearing no visible name. Ducking inside, all eyes turned to the gang. The drinkers within were dressed in furs and the sober clothes of scholars; the Mark of the Adversary was etched on the flesh of everyone in the tavern and worn openly in defiance against the religious prohibition against dealing in arcane ways. The interior walls of the pub were covered in mounted antlers draped with magical wards and charms.

Raymondo decided to keep things on the level before any trouble started; he explained in clear terms that he represented a criminal organization looking for occult aid. An especially black-eyed pureblood woman named Freya stepped forward and explained that the group was a sect of the Church of the Outlander, an apocalyptic cult devoted to the study of occult texts. A possible alliance was discussed, but the Outlanders wanted some assurances that they were aligning with a gang that could get things done. 

A series of trials--something like the cult's version of a job interview--were proposed. First, the diminutive Zanna had to face off against one of the cult's younger adepts in magical combat. A circle was formed around Zanna and the adept as they brandished wands and traded spell for spell. Zanna's unpredictable chaos magic carried the day; no one expected that one of her dweomers would send a ripple of necromantic magic through the assembled crowd that instantly healed the wounds Zanna's foe had inflicted on her. (Even Zanna didn't expect that.) The thought of having to face a newly rejuvenated foe was too much for the adept; he yielded the victory.

The second trial was simply a ritual signifying a formal alliance. Raymondo was placed in the awkward position of having to marry Freya as a way of symbolically linking the Excruciata gang and this sect of the Church of the Outlander. The ceremony was performed in the Adversary's name; the ritual befouled the air--everything stank of dark magic. The marriage was not official as far as the state or normative religion would recognize, but Raymondo felt like it had been sanctified by a far older and viler power. He was also surprised to find that her could now hear his new "wife" speak to him inside his head.

The Outlanders had one last trial to pose to the Excruciata; to cement their business agreement the Excruciata would need to assassinate a physician named Doctor Nymenholt, and make off with his collection of occult tomes.