Wednesday, May 15, 2013

K06 - Many doors, many chambers.

Thranduil Hall, Gwirith 16th FA 15 (April)

This gaming session took place on May 14 2013 and involved +Arne Jamtgaard (Bain Stonetongue, viceroy), +Alex Safatli (Donarik Swiftfoot, ranger of the Ardacer), +Justin Aquino (Gimvar Arrowroot, ranger of the Ardacer) and +Jason Woollard (Khazek Strongmoss, Leader of rangers of the Ardacer). It was a continuation of K05 - Prisoners or visitors?  , where a dwarven diplomatic mission had to contend with a lukewarm reception in Thranduil hall. A visual representation of the social network is available here.

Act 6, Scene 1 - Breakfast with elves

The morning air was cool and crisp. The dwarves left their cottages and found their way to a nook in the Queen's ground where they were expected for breakfast. Already waiting were three of the Queen's retinue: Akshana, an haughty close advisor of the Queen, Lord Meldor, the Queen's administrator and Ngai, the Queen's stepdaughter and youngest child of the King. Bain sat first, followed by Khazek and the rangers. More fruits on the menu it seemed. Donarik and Gimvar were drawn to a gold carafe containing a sweet and sparlink fruit juice. "It's got alcohol in there", though Donarik. Good enough. Elves really don't drink ale for breakfast.

Lord Meldor proceeded to ask Bain a number of questions. Bain ran through his many-times rehearsed explanations while Meldor took notes. Then, out of the blue Akshanna asked whether business had anything to do with the Grey Mountain expedition. Bain and the other searche through their recollection but couldn't figure out what she meant.  Bain, a strongly empathic dwarf, got the strange vibe that Akshanna had broached a taboo topic. The others looked nervously at her. There was an awkward silence, then Meldor excused himself from the table. Soon the dwarves were left on their own. 

Act 6, Scene 2 - Much Ado about Mimosa

The bottle of Mimosa were long drank dry when the dwarves decided to stretch their legs. The butler came from down the promenade to fetch the silverware. He looked very nervous and peered over his shoulders. He grabbed Donarik's sleeve and whispered in his ear:"

"The dwarves' bones are in the north cottage, if you are wondering". He was so nervous that he dropped the carafe on the table and made a ruckus. 

"And why do you think that I should care?", replied loudly Donarik. This startled the butler who nearly ran out of the area and hustled down a vine covered alley to the East [ Brilliant GMing moment here. I so wasn't expecting this reaction from a PC, but it was so dwarven that it almost tasted like ale.] [+].  Khazek read in the situation that something interesting just happened, and also that Donarik wasn't much of a diplomat. Donarik repeated the butler's words, clearly not interested in its implications.

Khazek rounded up Gimvar and quietly launched a pursuit for the butler [ Both passing easily a Stealth check.] [+]. This lead them along a flagstone path and down a flight of stairs to the kitchen of the Queen's ground. Before entering the building, Khazek and Gimvar both looked for signs that they were in the right direction: a faint smell of Mimosa was still lingering amid the floral scents  [ Very difficult tracking here: on flagstone, but against a 30 seconds old trail. Khazek nailed it with a Margin of Success +8, +3 for Gimvar. I gave them credit for thinking about using smell in this case.] [+]. 
Inside the building were three elves working at decorative arrangements of a set of dishes. These dishes were much more elaborate than what they had seen before: probably destined to the Queen. The maids looked up, moslty uninterested in the presence of dwarves. Khazek, now getting a little used to elf aloofness, told them that he wanted to talk to the butler [while Gimvar was performing the international sign language for "I'm looking for something to drink" in the background]. Awkward silence. Khazek threw a line here and started to blather about the tiger pansies that were artfully arranged on the salad [ Naturalist-11, roll 10.] [+] in a bid to make the skill Naturalist part of the diplomat's toolchest. The elves, caught into a surprise food discussion of botanical value with a dwarf, lit up and even drew smiles [ OK, this fast thinking is worth something. The reaction level with the kitchen staff went from neutral to good.] [+].

The butler was less than impressed to see the dwarves hounding him into the kitchen area. He grabbed two bottles of Mimosa and darted out of the building, in hope that none of the discussion to come would take place in the presence of his colleagues. Khazek and Gimvar followed and caught up with the butler. The butler offered a carafe to Gimvar who, unable to understand Sindarin, began to sing loudly, burp and live the stereotype of the rude drinking dwarf while Khazek had a quiet chat.

Khazek got out of the butler that many on Thranduil hall though it shameful that the "Gray Mountain dwarves" suffered such end on the grounds. The butler was clear that although he wanted to make things right, that he didn't want to be associated with any action coming out of this information. The butler specified that the bones were kept in the Northern cottage, beyond the training ground. Kahzek got a weird vibe from this discussion, as if the elf wasn't completely truthful, or maybe coerced [ Detect Lie-13, roll 11 I know, this should have been a secret check...] [+]. The butler passed the second bottle of Mimosa to Khazek, and fled back indoors.

Act 6, Scene 3 - It ain't over until the elf prince sings.

The dwarves found themselves at the breakfast table, downing more and more Mimosa.  Donarik felt a hole in his soul and did the dwarven thing: he pulled his drum and began beating, beating to his heartbeat and to the the heart of his friends. Soon, all six dwarves were signing in unisson [ No one in the party was a true war-chanter. ] [+]. A music of the ilk never heard in Thranduil hall filled the hidden valley. This drew the attention of many elves, including Prince Imeptannen. The prince, visibly intrigued by the rangers, sat at the table and observed the religious ritual. The song was wonderfully compelling, and Gimvar even stood up to convinced the Prince to join in, but in vain [ Carousing-13, roll 16] [+].

The Prince of wood elves may not have wanted to join in a religious ritual in a tongue that he doesn't know, but there remains that he showed interest in the visitors. This was in itself a sign that things were going well. He invited the rangers to go on a patrol later in the day: "You'll get to see more of Greenwood", stated the Prince. Khazek and the rangers gladly agreed. "I want to see what dwarves can do". 

Act 6, Scene 4 - I could hear you think, master dwarf.

Bain and the rangers separated when they decided that someone ought to at least check the Northern cottage. The rangers shuffled into the lush and intricate gardens. Bain drifted from garden to hidden court in the Queen's ground to find elves to engage. Bain drew a rough map of the ground from memory, wrote down labels using the few Sindarin words that he knew. He smiled at passersby and enjoying the perfect day [ Bain has bought off Dislike(elf) and is working towards Cultural Familiarity (Elves)] [+].   

As he was writing down a few lines on a piece of parchemin, Princess Ngai invited herself to sit beside him. She was smiling, a gesture that struck Bain as distinctive as most elves kept to the dwarves a neutral expression. Ngai, a young elf who looked barely in age to care, asked Bain about his rumination about the eagles. Bain then remembered that asking about the Eagles had been on his mind before, but couldn't recollect mentioning any of this up to now. Bain openly proceeded to explain to Ngai how he though that the Eagles would be able to take dwarves to the summit of Mount Silvertine and access Khazad-dum from above. He made a good historical accounts of precedents, particularly how Gwahir the wind-Lord had saved Thorin Oakensheild in the recent past. 

Princess Ngai listened carefully, still smiling. She replied that few in Middle-Earth were friends of the Eagles. Mithrandir was one of them. She stated that eagles would probably eat dwarves if they spotted them from to close. She confided that her brother Imeptannen maybe the only living friend of the eagles in Middle-earth. The two smiled in silence for a long enough time that it could have been deemed awkward. She stood up.

"How do you know that I was thinking about eagles, Princess Ngai?", asked Bain. She replied that she could hear him think late into the night. She grabbed his elderly hand and gently kissed it. Before Bain had landed on his feet, she was gone.  To this day, Bain still question whether this encounter really happened [ Earlier in the session. Bain had resisted with his Will-13 the attempt to eavesdrop on his dream during the previous night. ] [+].  

Act 6, Scene 5 - Shooting at pansies to make friends

The three rangers switched to tactical mode, except that their gears were back at their cottage and their stomach bloated with fruit salad. It is hard to describe the beauty of the Queen's ground using the English language. There were countless plants and birds yet to be named outside of Thranduil hall. Only Khazek truly appreciated the rare sight. The plan was simple and vague: wander northward pass some training ground until they found a cottage.

They stumbled upon a large open area where the Prince and his hunters were practicing archery. They seemed to be enjoying themselve: shooting at small tiger pansies that they had pinned to targets. The hunters did not seem to be surprised to see the rangers, and invited them to join them. The dwarves fetched their bows and enthusiastically joined the exclusive opportunity. There were targets at 35 yds. and at 15 yds, with pansies pinned on them. The dwarves sized their challenges well and shot at 15 yds. Donarik and Khazek acquitted themselves well over the next hour, while Gimvar struggled a bit more and resorted to shoot larger targets [ Base modifier -11 3"@ 15 yd, +7 on-the-range bonus +Acc and aim. And yes, +Jason Woollard these dwarves Bow skill were way too high... I put them together too quickly.] [+].

The dwarves did impress the elves, and the attitude of the hunters went from a distant glance to benevolent assistance. The rangers got some tricks on drawing faster, and tuning their bows. They were given small string silencers made of feathers. The hunters eventually withdrew Easterward and indicated to the rangers that the patrol was to begin in about 2 hours. The ranger were left on their own on the Queen's ground... and somewhere a cottage yet to be found.

Act 6, Scene 6 - Bones in cottages

The rangers put away their bows and collected their arrows. While packing up, they carefully surveyed the surroundings [ Khazek Observation-15, roll 8, Gimvar Perception-11, roll 13.] [+]. Khazek managed to get pretty sure that they were not being observed, but Gimvar wasn't so sure and kind of gave away the ranger's effort to "look casual". They proceeded north under a thick tree canopy and arrived at a group of cottages which matched the location described by the butler.

Khazek halted and signed the other to pay attention. The path was lined with finely carved slate, but Khazek noticed a few light and recent footsteps disturbing the pollen on the ground [ Tracking-18, roll 11] [+]. Two or three people had been here within a few hours.  Khazek manage to hear some very quiet shuffle of feet in the undergrowth to the south. Gimvar looked for a good vantage point and attempted to conceal himself. Kahzek, Donarik and the two other rangers approached the cottage. The place had not been used in weeks, but still the footsteps lead into the building. Peeking through the window revealed a freshly cut tiger pansy on the kitchen table. The door wasn't locked, so Khazek and Donarik entered the place to search for... bones. What to look for? They scoured the place without disturbing the place. Khazek accidentally knocked over a large mirror that went crashing on the floor [ Critical Fail on a search check. ] [+]. They proceeded to the two other cottages, but both were locked and none of them had been recently visitedr.

Khazek went very close to break into the locked cottages, but got hold of his impulsivity and recoiled. The rangers, left the cottages by way of the wood. Khazek too advantage of the occasion to teach [ Teaching Check successful. ] [+] about tracking and stealth: his pupils learned a bit more about covering their own tracks and how to proceed silently over a ground covered in dry leaves. To his great disappointment  Khazek found the cleverly concealed tracks of elves where he first heard some shuffles. This was not boding too well for the secrecy of their excursion.

Act 6, Scene 7 - All dressed up and nowhere to go

Bain and the rangers reunited shortly after lunchtime and shared a meal. Elf food was, in fact, not as bad as everyone seems to imply. They ate their fill and waited for the hunters. The day wore on and no hunter came.  The rangers were sharply disappointed to be stood up. They also wondered whether this had anything to do with their walk to the north cottage. A page informed them that the King would hold and audience for the diplomatic mission in the coming hour. 

It was a great role playing session: thanks to the players around the virtual table. The diplomatic mission needs help and counsel from the elves, and this voyage to Thranduil hall is part of a multiple session social engagement to "win" favors from the wood elves. The set is now staged for the audience. 


  1. Just one note, when Khazek went to the training grounds and cottage searching, he only took two Dwarves with him, the other two he left back with Bain. They were thoroughly bored.

  2. At the end of the second paragraph, I presume you meant Meldor. I sure hope Melkor wasn't at the table, anyway.

    1. Whoa! Melkor isn't slated to enter as a NPC before Session 6 - The uninvited henchmen...

      Thanks for pointing this out!