Sunday, June 10, 2018

Play Report: Tournaments in Seaward

Spring in Seaward is cause for nobles to leap out of bed with a smile - the tourneys have begun! As soon as the blooms begin there is a tourney in Ekull, then at Wyvern Keep, then Timberlake, then at the Shining Keep, and then the Royal Tourney at the capitol.

The noblemen Ludwig and Lenard assumed they could not attend this year when an agent of the king met them and asked them to solve a series of murders....

Note: Adventure added, needs more edit.
The Characters
Jen played Trixie Finespark, gnomish cleric/thief, 2nd/2nd
Jack played Lenard, nobleman, 3rd
Alex played Gari Byuzi, mage, 3rd
Sam played Ludwig, nobleman, 3rd
Nick played Anarawn, bard, 3rd
Henchmen were Murdain (magic-user, 1st), Maura (religious brother, 2nd), and Emerson (man-at-arms, 2nd)

The Background
At the Ekull tourney Sir Moriah, Marshal of the West, was found dead in his tent, killed with a single dagger thrust. At Wyvern Keep Sir Roanny, a famous ranger, was killed by dagger and the master bard Llwellyn the Black was poisoned and was feared to not recover.  At Riverhearth tourney the master jouster Sir Uswain was killed by a secret attack and despite great vigilance at Timberlake tourney Marshal of the North Sir Wasson of the Lake was killed with a poisoned knife. All were killed or attacked within the pitch during the day.

Because of their discretion and skill on a mission to Banath and High Morath the king asked the conroi to go to the Shining Keep and try to stop the killings before more died.

The Tourneys
A centuries-old tradition, the tourneys have their own customs and laws. You must register with the royal heralds to attend as a competitor; there is a 10 g.p. fee for each tourney and you must compete in and finish in the top half of a previous tourney to compete for the top at the royal tourney. While technically only for knights and nobles there are many ways for "commoners" to attend.
Tourneys are 4 days long; a day to assemble, prepare, and meet; the first day of jousting with entertainment in the afternoon; a second day of jousting, with swordmandship in the afternoon; the third day of jousting with a bards competition in the afternoon, then awards. Timberlake has archery on the afternoon of the first day of jousting, as well. While all are popular the joust a plaisance (jousting tournament) is by far the main draw.
The competitors and their entourage stay in an area called 'the pitch' which is divided from all else by special red and white ropes strung on poles. Each competitor traditionally has their own tent for sleeping and most have a pavilion where they can meet with others. Others (squires, lackeys, etc.) usually have their own tents, as well. A shield with the coat of arms of the competitor is placed prominently outside their tent. The shield remains outside whenever the competitor is within and usually tent flaps are open while awake.
Other traditions are for people to be incognito. While using someone else's coat of arms or fake coat of arms is a serious breach (and can lead to expulsion) using a coat of arms with a blue rose in it is accepted as 'I do not wish to reveal my true name'. Commoners have used this as a way to compete for many generations and it is well accepted.

The tourneys in general and the pitch in particular is seen as a sort of neutral ground; no feuds can be pursued there, nor vendettas, nor old grievances. Travellers from other lands can compete and even men from nations at war are welcome. Competitors on their way to a tourney place a white cover over their shield and this grants them safe passage to and from; even bandits have honored this tradition! 
The tourneys have a strong fair atmosphere; villagers come from miles around to watch the tourney, see acrobats and jugglers, listen to the bards, and to visit the market fairs that accompany the tourneys. The Count of Ekull has 100 sheep a day cooked and handed out to visiting peasants, the Count of Riverhearth hands out 100 cheese wheels (each cut into 10 thick wedges) each day, the Duke of Timberlake gifts 300 loaves of bread each with a large smear of soft butter a day, and the Baron of the Shining Keep taps 30 barrels of ale each day. While some complain that the king hands out no largesse at the royal tourney none complain that there are no fees, taxes, or tolls for the week of the tourney.

Some of the other traditions are that no one other than heralds, hosts, priests, and competitors may enter the pitch;  no competitor can be accused of cheating or foul play to the heralds between sunset and sunrise; no money can be exchanged between competitors during a tourney, even for owed debts; and that all be fair, courteous, honest, and just.

The Joust a Plaisance
One the day before the jousting competition begins the jousters tap the shield of the person they wish to face first (first come, first challenge) - this is traditionally between prime and terce (6 am and 9 am, roughly). The three days of the competition jousting is between terce and sext (9 am and noon, about). Each 'round is three 'rides' (passes with lance) that are scored; high score wins. Winner moves to the higher bracket the next day, loser to lower. With a tie both advance. 
I am using the jousting rules from an old Dragon Magazine, #3 I think. In addition to those rules I have a house rule (part of Far Realms/The Book of Seaward/The Nobleman class) that noblemen (the class) count as 1 level higher when jousting.
A miss is zero points, a glancing blow 1 point, a shivered lance 3 points, unhorsing your opponents is 9 points, and unhorsing your opponent with a shivered lance is 10 points total. If one person is knocked unconscious (or, well, killed) the other person advances automatically, regardless of score. If both are knocked unconscious they must continue when they awake unless otherwise done. Any person who has been unhorsed may yield the joust without shame or question.
During jousting competitors are provided with jousting lances (heavy lances with no metal tip) or they may use their own lance with a jousting cap; if using a jousting cap it is required that the capped lance be sent to the other competitor's group for examination. If a cap falls off or is loose the current current 'ride' was to stop immediately and a jousting lance would be substituted. Striking another with an uncapped war lance means immediate disqualification and a fair amount of shame.
When using a cap there is a 1 in 20 chance it slips off, but there is only a 1 in 20 chance this is not noticed by the wielder of the lance who can automatically pull away and not engage. If an uncapped lance hits a glancing blow or a shivering (only) blow it does normal heavy lance damage; on an unhorsed blow of either type it automatically does maximum damage.
When a jousting lance shivers there is a 1 in 12 chance that the end breaks into a sharp point that harms the other; if this occurs the broken jousting lance causes 2d4 damage.

Because the Shining Keep competition was so light this year (because of the deaths) only 12 competitors arrived, meaning that it could easily be one set of competitors at a time (which the crowd loves more).

The Suspects
Since all the attacks occurred during daylight within the pitch it is believed that only the competitors or their retainers could have performed the murders. They are:

Sir Urich of Eagle Valley. From Seaward. A competent swordsman and jouster, has competed in two previous years. Travels with his conroi, consisting of his sergeant Broca, two yeomen named Varn and Yancy, his maiden aunt Alyss, a bard Mick, and a valet named Tanner. Known for his fiery temper.

Sir Melagrance. From Kath. His first year on the circuit. Doing very well jousting. Travels with his squire Pellamare, a junior priest Brother Urlar, his sister Lady Melora, and her handmaiden Ullura. Said to be unsubtle in his search for a husband for his sister.

Zack O' The Briars. Claims to be from Seaward, his coat of arms is a field sable with briars and a blue rose . His first year on the circuit. Doing very well in swords. Travels with a valet Torrance. Keeps his visor lowered at all time in public, very taciturn.

Janosz, Baron Gravac. From Banath. His ninth year. A middling jouster and swordsman. Travels with his son Virchek and his wife Lady Mara and the mage Ivor. His entourage includes 12 guardsmen and 8 servants. Famous for his entertaining, it is said he travels the circuit just to throw and attend parties.

The Adventure
The party arrived late in the day on the eve of the tourney setting up their tents between those of Janosz and Urich with Melagrance beyond Urich and Zack beyond Janosz completing the large circle of tents for visitors at the end of the pitch furthest from the berfrois (grandstands for observers) Five paladins of the Starry banner were the other contestants. The party immediately sent the bard, the thief, and the henchmen to mingle and learn. This continued the next day as the others did more of the same. Lots of reaction rolls, roleplaying, sneaking, etc. and the party learned a great deal, such as:
-Zack was using a clever cloth cover to hide his coat of arms with his blue rose/briars finery
-Torrance carried himself like a warrior, not a valet
-Pellamare was well-liked (he spent almost 10 g.p. a night buying drinks for the other squires!), was skilled in lance and two hander, but lacked the basic skills of a page or squire.
-Brother Urlar was said to be under a vow of silence, but as a member of the Order of Wanderers (his clothing and such) this was not allowed.
-Ullura knew at least the basics of the tongue of mages and carried spell components in a small purse.
-Melora tripped a Detect Evil spell from her intense envy and greed when viewing the prize for best jouster, a great helm of silver.

The tapping of shields led to Lenard facing Melagrance, Ludwig facing Janosz. On the first day of jousting Lenard, Ludwig, Zack, Ulrich, and 2 paladins advanced. Ludwig and Janosz were a close call leading Janosz to salute Ludwig and invite him to dinner. Lenard beat Melagrance handily in the first two rides leading Melagrance to use his personal lance with a cap; when Trixie examined the cap she realized it was rigged to come loose - she used Pick Pockets to surreptitiously fix it. Melagrance aimed for the helm as was promptly unhorsed by Lenard, losing the set fairly badly.

That evening more was learned!
-Pellamare's dagger had a hollow hilt
-Melora has the callouses and musculature of a sword master
-and the big one. Very concerned about Torrance and Zack Trixie arranged a diversion and peeked at his hidden coat of arms to see - the shield Abram, Crown Prince of Seaward! The party realized that while someone associated with the tourney was purposefully killing of the most important nobles they could the heir to the throne was hiding in the tourney itself.
Trixie immediately set a family of field mice to guard the tent, alerted the party, and they focused all of their attention on Melagrance and his party.
Checking the tent where weapons for the tourney were kept Trixie realized that one of Melagrance's lances was rigged to break into a point so she swapped it for one of Janosz'.

The second day started with Lenard facing Zack o' the Briars! After three rides they were tied, both advancing. Zack offered a 4th ride to Lenard, the highest compliment in jousting, and they unhorsed each other! As Zack clasped forearms with him Lenard whispered,
  "Thank you, Your Highness."
Which earned a quiet, rueful chuckle from "Zack".
Ludwig was just barely edged out by Ulrich meaning the top four for the last day in competition for the trophy were Lenard, Ulrich, Zack, and the second in command of the Order of the Starry Banner.
In the 'second half' Janosz defeated Melagrance and Melagrance was injured by a splintered lance. Brother Urlar was seen to heal Melagrance with a touch.
During the afternoon, during the 'Vespers tourney' where squires jousted for fun, a cry went up - someone had poisoned the wine of the commander of the Starry Banner! Between his fabled toughness, his status as a paladin, and the fact that the bishop was speaking to him as it happened he was fine, but a chill ran through the party - what if the killer learned Zack's true identity? They dared not watch Zack so closely as to draw attention to him...

The third day of jousting dawned crisp, clear, and promised to be hot later. First was Lenard facing Ulrich and in the first ride Lenard pulled off a 'true smite' - struck Ulrich's helm unhorsing him and knocking him cold without other harm, the perfect jousting hit! Ulrich came to, stood, and saluted Lenard with a booming laugh.
Then came Ludwig against a paladin (the tourney alternates top half/bottom half), which Ludwig won.
Anarawn was following Pellamare who was trying to take a message to the Commander of the Order. When Pellamare was refused access he threw down scroll acase he was carrying and stroed off. Anarawn examined it and (bardic skill) realized it was a scroll with Explosive Runes! He sommoned the chief bard, who confirmed it, and in a moment a Knight of the Order, 2 guards, and Anarawn were searching for Pellamare in the crowd.
As that began Zack jousted against the second in command of the Order. On the very first pass Zack had his helm struck off, revealing his face. Within a brief moment a cry went up,
"The Prince! The Prince! Prince Abram!"
Note: the unhelming was pure dice! Rolled honest and true.
Melagrance, who was ahorseback preparing for his first ride let out a cry and called to Melora, who tossed him his war lance. Melagrance immediately spurred at the Prince who - charged back with his blunt jousting lance! Melora pulled a spiked buckler and a short sword from... somewhere... and began running forward, seemingly to intercept the Prince after his pass with Melagrance.
Trixie immediately began casting Hold Person and saw Ullura casting, too. Ludwig leapt onto his horse, charging after Melagrance while Lenard likewise mounted and charged Melora to keep her from the Prince.
Meanwhile, in the crowd, the guards spread out to search for Pellamare when an apple seller suddenly lunged at Anarawn, who was a bit apart - the apple seller was a disguised Pellamare who missed his assassination chance, but still stabbed the bard with his Dagger of Venom. Anarawn felt the burning sensation of Black Kiss (a rare paste from the Lands of the Half-horse) and knew the poison would stop his heart in a few moments
Nick rolled a 3 on his save and a 7% on his Lore check. On the fifth round after being injected he would take 30 point of poison damage, easily killing him.
The Bishop was 4 rounds away. Anarawn faced Pellamare and called for help.

Melagrance and the Prince made their pass and Melagrance missed while the Prince only gained a glancing blow. Lenard struck Melora with his lance - and she stabbed him as he rode past, still on her feet! Melagrance whirled, saw Ludwig (also with a war lance) and prepared to engage.
Ullura's spell went off before Trixie's, Trixie failed her spell, and Seal Mouth ruined Trixie's spell and kept her from casting! So Trixie pulled her dagger and charged Ullura. In return Ullura pulled out a club with a viper's head.

Pellamare decided he would do it the Bard way, strummed his lute, and rolled a freakin' 02% on his Fascinate check, and then a 05% on this Charm check as Pellamare blew a save, as Anarawn entranced the assassin with his music.

Ludwig and Melagrance slammed into each other; Melagrance missed but Ludwig struck Melagrance in the helm and knocked him out, but did not kill him. Trixie dropped Ullura to 0 h.p. with a solid blow, Pellamare was trussed by paladins as a cleric cast Slow Poison on the still-playing bard. Suddenly 'Brother" Urlar sprinted from the crowd at the Prince, howling in insane fury, his hands crackling with an unholy black nimbus - Lenard lanced him cleanly, killing him instantly just moments before he reached the Prince. Melora, faced with Ludwig's lance and the rapidly-closing knights, yielded.

Melagrance's shield soon revelaed he was a follower of Lord Whitehill. All but Pellamare were also Whitehill followers. Pellamare had been sent with them as their leader.

The Prince knighted the members of the party on the field and Lenard faced his final joust (his identity revealed, the Prince conceded since out of respect no knight would willingly face him on the field) and won handily, earning the silver helm! Torrance was revealed to be Lord Torvil, Grand Marshal of the Kingdom sans his beard, protecting the Prince personally.

The next day Pellamare's cell was empty with only a note for Anarawn. It read,
  "Grandfather will hear of this."

Tons of fun all around!


  1. The jousting rules mentioned above are Volume 3, Issue 3, or more easily found as #17.