The Wife - Trixie Redspark, 1st/1st Cleric/Thief gnome
Son #1 - Lennart von Schwabach, 1st Nobleman (custom class from my Far Realms book) human
Son #2 - Ga'Ree Byu-Zee, 1st Magic-user elf
Son #3 - Ludwig von Schwabach, 1st Nobleman human
Son #4 - Anarawd, 1st Bard (another of my customs) human
We all had so much fun with the playtest of the adventure A Baker's Denizen (which I modified to place in the City of Adrian, a Free City in my campaign) that we all wanted to base the new group there.
The last time I based a group in Adrian was 1980-1985!
Trixie is from the Gladdenstone in the Four Counties, in Adrian to study at the seminary. She is from a long line of gnomish scout-protectors. She rooms at the inn closest to the cathedral [the Bent Scepter], just against the inner wall to the Gold Quarter by the Guild Gate, her boarding paid for by her mentor.
Lennart and Ludwig are twin brothers from the small barony of Schwabach, a fief subordinate to the Duke of Timberlake. Their mother had passed out just before they were born and the elderly mid-wife became confused in the rush so no one knows which of the 2 was born first. Not that it matters, since they have 5 older brothers and 4 older sisters. They arrived in Adrian three weeks ago riding their inheritances. They stay at the nicest inn, the Bent Scepter.
Ga'Ree Byu-Zee is a rather unusual Mariner Elf from Tirgalen who is named for a wandering adventurer who saved his mother's life while she was pregnant. He visits the Bent Scepter each day for their quail pie, which reminds him of home.
Anarawd is from the town of Oldbridge. He has been playing his harp at the bent scepter for a month, earning an average income, but excellent food and the servant's room he gets for free here is better than the best room in any other inn.
Ga'Ree's master has warned him that there is a magical disturbance to the east. Trixie had a dream about meeting a red-headed human woman in the eastern mountains, a woman who cried tears of blood. Anarawd had heard a tale of bandits ambushing travelers on the Old Eastern Road. Lennart and Ludwig heard that a nobleman exiled from Banath was challenging all comers to 5 lances at a river ford to the east and that so far he was undefeated.
The party ribbed me for a little railroading and headed east.
Adrian is only 1 day's ride from the kingdom's border - the party arrived at the walled village that is the border on the Old East Road and found that the local garrison from the keep had put up bandit bodies on poles as warnings. All the men wore the symbols of Lord Whitehill, a baron exiled from Banath for consorting with witches and cults. The area of seacoast, wooded hills, and mountains between the borders of Seaward and Banath is historically a place for exiles, outcasts, and criminals to hide.
The party travelled on into the wilds. They met a patrol at Noon that warned them that no one had returned from the river ford in weeks. Near dusk they camped on Horned Hill, a hill with a few remaining standing stones circling its summit. As night fell a small pack of blink dogs bedded down nearby.
They resumed at dawn and sent Trixie ahead as they approached the river. She saw a large tent and a smaller tent on the far side of the ford. On the near side a jousting tilt had been set up with a number of lances on racks at each end. Carefully scouting she found 20 cavalry hidden uphill from the tilt - 19 men who appeared as bandits with the shoulder marks of Whitehill and a man in a fine destrier, wearing full plate, with a surcoat that marked him as a Knight of the Red Drake loyal to Whitehill.
The Knights of the Red Drake are suppressed in Seaward but in the southern kingdoms they are allowed, if watched. They are warriors of skill with the talents of a knight but they are prone to adhering to the letter of their word while violating the spirit of it.Trixie returned and informed the party.
Of the twins, Ludwig is the better swordsman (his Weapon of Choice is broadsword) while Lennart is the better jouster (lance as Weapon of Choice). They decided to ride up and issue a direct challenge to the knight asking for a joust 'in the standard forms and rules' to try to avoid treachery. After a few minutes the knight of the red drake rode forth, the rules were negotiated, and the bandits crossed the ford to the camp.
The knight demanded 5 lances and made no mention of first blood, etc. Lennart accepted, even though he knew 5 lances in a non-tourney setting was effectively 'to the death'.
I was using the modified OD&D jousting rules found in Dragon #17 that take levels into account. One of the benefits of being a Nobleman is a +1 to hit when fighting from horseback. This counts as 'being 1 level higher' for purposes of the jousting matrix I use.The first tilt was good; the knight scored a glancing blow and Lennart broke his lance; advantage Lennart. They saluted each other, Lennart retrieved a new lance, and off they went. On the second pass the knight missed completely and Lennart unhorsed his foe, causing his some damage. The knight lost his composure and was so crass as to fail to compliment Lennart, the bounder!
Lennart suspected that the knight would be angry enough to want to try something flashy, so he prepped for the knight to aim for his helm. He guessed right (i.e., I had already written the move and Son #1 nailed it)! The knight missed again while Lennart landed a very solid blow, unhorsing the knight and, well, killing him!
The bandits began to charge across the ford, but when the rank and file realized they were facing two noblemen with lances they fled, instead, leaving the sergeant to be captured.
The sergeant spoke surprisingly freely. His name was Dobi and he explained how a few years before he had been in the conroi of Sir Percival, the knight Lennart had just defeated. Percival was vassal to Baron Whitehill, a widower. The Baron had remarried and his new wife, the Lady Shala, was said to be from Outremer [which just means 'from a distant land' in context]. Dobi said that the baron began to change after the marriage; he was harsher, even cruel. he was more aggressive and angry. Sir percival followed suit, being more and more overbearing. When the baron was eventually exiled by the King of Banath most of his men followed him.
Dobi had stayed with Sir Percival out of personal loyalty. Before he changed Sir Percival had saved Dobi from certain death and gone on to save Dobi's family from ruin. He asked only that his master receive a Christian burial.
He also warned them that Lady Shala was using demons to built a fortress for Baron Whitehill in the eastern mountains (!).
The party agreed. After scouting to ensure the bandits were no closer than a few miles they used the abandoned camp for the night, the entire party sleeping inside the large pavilion tent with a coal fire in the field stove.
Late in the watch Lennart caught a bit of motion from the corner of his eye and was certain he briefly saw the face of a lovely woman with red hair peering into the tent from the entrance flap. He leapt to look but found no one there, just the lingering smell of vinegar and offal. He returned to his spot b the fire, but was found dozing there at dawn. He told Trixie of his 'dream' and she swiftly examined him. She feared he had been placed under a curse and made the party (less Dobi) swear to work to destroy the evil which was lurking near.
The party loaded up a fair amount of equipment from the camp, including Sir Percival's gear (which was Lennart's by challenge) and went to the border castle to report. They turned Dobi over tot he authorities; since he had not been caught at banditry and had come along peacefully, and was a knight's retainer, he was released on his parole. The party paid for a funeral for Sir Percival. They sold a few items and the next day headed straight back into the wilderness.
With just an odd encounter with a pack of somethings that stayed outside the firelight the second night they arrived at the ford without incident. That night they were prepared and after the moon set again a face was seen at the entrance flap. Throwing it aside the party revealed...
The party made their fear saves and Trixie tried to Turn the beast - which worked!
They watched it fly up the faint trail heading South, higher into the mountains, then returned to sleep.
They broke camp at false dawn and were on the trail at very first light. At about Noon Trixie spoke to a groundhog who told them of both the strange scary flying thing at night and of the humans with the sheep further up the trail. An hour later they saw stone fences and then a large cabin surrounded by pastures with sheep roaming a bit. As they approached the cabin a lovely, red-haired woman came out to greet them. She offered them lemonade (there were lemonade bushes around the cabin) with bread and cheese.
Trixie scouted a bit and saw a stone shed near the cabin. Inside were barrels holding cheese and a large vat of vinegar, she she tipped over before returning.
The woman, Kara, explained how she had lost her sister a few months previously and then her father had died. She was hoping to sell to a merchant from Adrian, but he hadn't made it, yet. She was nervous about where she lived, but it was her home.
Night was approaching, so the party said they would leave and camp back the way they came. The party left, then button hooked back to a place where they were hidden but could watch the cabin. As night fell they watched Kara carefully lock all the shutters and doors. After dark Trixie saw another red-haired woman come out of the trees behind the cabin and try to enter the cabin, knocking on all the windows and doors before going into the cheese shed. A wailing cry was heard then and a few minutes later the penanggallan was flying down the trail!
The party got ready and I ruled that since they had already seen the creature up close and were expecting it, no saves vs fear were needed. The fight was tough, but in 4 rounds they brought it down and then built a large fire over the remains. Kara came down to the party, weeping.
She explained that a few months before while out with the sheep her sister, Mara, had encountered the Red Maiden, The Red Maiden had cursed her. When they understood why Mara had been compelled to gather the vinegar, it was far too late for their father. Mara had fled to a small shepherds hut in the forest and Kara carefully locked up each night, both of them praying that the curse would somehow be lifted.
The party gathered the sheep they felt they could drive, Kara, and her belongings and took her back to the castle on the border.
The party is fairly certain that Lady Shala is actually using earth elementals to build a fortress for her husband in the East.
The haul for the evening included an intriguing broadsword that is obviously enchanted, a Helm of Languages, a set of full plate that can be (relatively) cheaply fitted to Lennart, 3,000 silver pennies, two good warhorses, a bunch of iron rations, tents, and other campaign gear, and 2 mules.
I rounded experience to 1,000 per player.