Session on 12/13 with the cast:
- The Rogue Marklech, Forced Convert
- The Fighter Stanislav, Monster Hunter
- The Fighter Frederich, Treasure Hunter
October 1, 1st Watch – Revisit the Mass Grave
The players woke up and revisited the mass grave. They looked about the ruined camp and dug up the bodies. Under a torn tarp, they found a necklace and trophy bag (containing ears and fingers) that belonged to the missing witchburner. In the mass grave, they found 16 bodies carrying a total of 200sp. In one the other graves, they found a man who had a golden tooth. He was not the witch hunter. They took the tooth by force. Rather than spend the afternoon digging up the other graves to look for the witchburner, they departed for Bridge so that they could arrive before nightfall.
October 1, 2nd & 3rd Watch – Uneventful Journey to Bridge
October 1, 4th Watch – Arrive at Bridge
The players approached bridge with the sun setting behind them. Two hunters carried a buck tied to a pole. A shepherd led his sheep towards town. The villagers avoided the eyes of the adventurers, politely refusing to meet their gaze.
On the bridge they were stopped by Blaise Knockwood (Town Uncle), who spoke to them for a while. Some of the highlights:
- “All the tears of the gods run through this river. The mountains are named after the forgotten, dead gods. Perhaps you will have a mountain named after you one day.”
- “The town folk are hot and cold, cold with me but perhaps hot for you.”
- “You’ve just arrived and already seek my help? I thought you came to offer us salvation! How quickly the tables have turned.”
- “Find me if you seek a guide through the forests of the soul!”
The party went directly to the mayor’s house and were met by Roman (Butler) and talked to Edna (Mayor) briefly. Edna told them they were welcome to stay at Kingshall while they sought the witch. The adventurers asked if she had any suspects, the mayor said that the watch captain had been accused last week, but there was no evidence to support the accusation. Edna told them to be polite in town, and to come to the council with evidence before taking any action against a suspect.
The group asked Edna about the inn they had noticed in the town square. Edna told them that Ursula Cinderdaughter (innkeeper) had not supported the council when they chose to send for Witchburners. Edna warned the party not to look for a friend in Ursula.
The group decided to visit the tavern. Before leaving Kingshall, they removed their Witchburner insignias. The fighters entered the inn ahead of the rogue, as soon as they approached the bar the other patrons seemed to know who they were. Anya Baronsget was working the bar, she greeted the fighters with a raised voice, saying “So you’re the Witchburners ey? You’re a day late!”
Marklech the rogue kept to the shadows, entering the inn while the fighters had drawn the attention of the crowd. When Anya said “Witchburners” the eyes of most of the room turned to the fighters. Marklech noticed two tables of patrons who looked particularly uncomfortable and kept his eyes on them for the evening, looking for anything suspicious.
After some time, Anya raised her voice again saying, “If ye like the mead, send your thanks to Olga there!” and gestured at one of the patrons who Marklech had been keeping his eyes on at the corner booth. Olga (Beekeeper) nodded and grinned at the adventurers, but did not approach. She left with her two companions soon thereafter. Marklech followed them, keeping to the shadows.
After the fighters asked Anya about the witchcraft rumors, she leaned in close and quietly accused Kristina (the Watch Captain.) “She was the sole survivor after her squad was ambushed by barbarians. She turned up in town a week later covered in blood. What foul deal do you reckon she made to survive when no others did?”
The fighters asked Anya if they could talk to the innkeeper, Ursula Cinderdaughter. Anya fetched Ursula, who gestured the fighters towards the backroom of the Inn. Also sitting at a small table were Irving Staffsend (blacksmith) & Kristina Changemaker (watch captain.) The fighters spoke with the three for some time, during the conversation Ursula offered them a reward if they could hang the witch by the end of the week (October 7th) and let business get back to normal as soon as possible. When they asked what kind of reward, Irving promised Stanislav a sword and Ursula promised silver.
Simultaneously, Marklech followed Olga (beekeeper) and Ursula Bearbreaker (butcher) back to Olga’s house after they departed from the inn. Marklech hid in the shadows and spied on them by using his spider familiar to sneak into the house. While spying, he overheard Olga speak of her debt to a powerful merchant. In response, Ursula told Olga to have faith that the Earthbeater would provide, and that with hard work she would be free of her debt. Afterwards, Olga descended into a cellar of some sort cut into the hill, she emerged with a jug of mead and they drank together in silence for some time.
October 2, 1st Watch – Slept in Kingshall
October 2, 2nd Watch – Town Tour
Petra Inksblood (Notary) took them on tour of the town after serving them brandy for breakfast – alcohol level: 1
Petra showed them the main neighborhoods, the smaller wooden homes built on the North hill and in the woods, and the larger stone homes built near the Southeast cliff wall. She also talked a bit about the main town square and the watchtowers.
When asked what Petra thought of the Watch Captain, who had been accused of witchcraft. Petra defended Kristina, saying that she kept the watch under budget and performing like an oiled machine. She thought the accusation was ridiculous.
Markel Breakwater approached the group on their tour and gave them a smoked goose. He then accused Olga (beekeeper) by telling a story of how she had spurned men in her youth but now fraternized with the young men in town, taking them into the woods.
October 2, 3rd Watch – Doctor’s house
Drank brandy – alcohol level: 2
Investigated the Maleficae:
- Burned fish – found floating in the river by the fisherman
- Gutted cat – nailed upon the schoolhouse door
- Rotten crops – stinking of decay
- Crimson slug – still alive and reeking of brimstone
The players asked about the cursed child (the merchants told the party about the three-eyed baby on the road in session 1). The doctor’s eyes widened that they knew, and he said the child was buried as it should be. Then he told the story of how he had delivered the three-eyed baby after the midwife had forced the mother to suffer for hours of unproductive labor. The cursed child spoke the foul words “Amimam!” as soon as it entered the world, so he slew it as was the custom. After telling the story, he accused Nina (the midwife) of foul magicks and wickedness.
Commotion in the town square, hundreds of hairy caterpillars were eating the roses around Kingshall while some townsfolk wailed and others rushed to help. The adventures avoided the scene lest they be associated with the occurrence.
October 2, 4th Watch – Priest’s Rectory
Rumor from The Chorus: They claimed that Ivan Redbasket (The Baker) is always defending evil creatures and freaks like the Wild Child, they further speculated that he might defend them because he has, himself, been touched by darkness.
David Slingstrider (priest) invited them to drink some wine with him in his rectory – alcohol level: 3
The priest raised the suspicions of the party by performing his functions differently than was standard in religious ritual, liturgy, and exegesis. He kept referring to Prios as the Firebringer, where it is standard to call him the Lightbringer or Lawgiver. He also used a non-standard blessing in response to Marklech’s genuflection.
After Marklech probed about the “Earthbeater”, David spoke about the “Three Avatars” but said that it was the faith of his fathers and grandfathers, now they were all devoted to Prios the lightbringer. The party asked if the three domes of the temple were for the “Three Avatars” and the priest said that it was merely a cultural preference from their history to build this way, but that they were surely devoted to Prios. David added that the party should be forgiving of folk in this town, “We are far from Templewell and I’m certain we do things a bit different out here.” The two smaller domes of the temple were sealed with heavy cloth, robed acolytes busied themselves with tasks but did not wander far from the sealed sections.
When asked about whether Olga (Beekeeper) and Nina (Midwife) were members of his congregation, the priest said that they were both devout believers of Prios who attended every sermon. When the party told him that they had been accused of witchcraft, the priest defended each of them.
He reasoned that their accusers had something to gain by their accusations:
- “Aye, and you don’t think the Doctor has something to gain if the Midwife goes out of business then?”
- “Those men are just jealous that Olga has found someone to warm her bed and that it isn’t one of them.”
When the players asked the priest who he suspected of being the witch, he claimed that it must be one who lives outside of town, “like those woodsmen or herdsmen.”
As they drunkenly stumbled home after dark, they heard the ringing of hammer on anvil from the edge of town. They did not investigate.
October 3, 1st Watch – Slept in Kingshall
Recovered 2 steps of drunkenness, woke up with alcohol level: 1.
At breakfast, the housekeeper Esmeralda Takewood leaned over and whispered “you know that Jonah Prizepeace is as odd as they come, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn that he is a witch.”
Named NPC’s met so far:
- Blaise Knockwood – the Town Uncle
- Roman Takewood – Edna Kingsname’s Butler
- Edna Kingsname – the Mayor
- Anya Baronsget – Barmaid at Cinderhouse Inn
- Kristina Changemaker – the Watch Captain
- Irving Staffsend – the Blacksmith
- Olga Princebrewer – the Beekeeper
- Ursula Bearbreaker – the Butcher
- Petra Insblood – the Notary
- Markel Breakwater – a Bird Trapper
- David Slingstrider – the Preist
- Esmeralda Takewood – Edna Kingsname’s Housekeeper
NPC’s who party has heard about but not met:
- Ivan Redbasket – the Baker
- Nina Dukesget – the Midwife
- No Name Given – the “Wild Child”
- No Name Given – the “Woodsman”
- No Name Given – the “Herdsman”
- Jonah Prizepeace – the Doctor’s Husband
- October 1, 4th Watch – Informal Accusation: Anya Baronsget (Barmaid) accused Kristina Changemaker (Watch Captain).
- October 2, 2nd Watch – Informal Accusation: Markel Breakwater (Bird Trapper) accused Olga Princebrewer (Beekeeper).
- October 2, 3rd Watch – Informal Accusation: Ivana Cleanlined (Doctor) accused Nina Dukesget (Midwife)
- October 3, 1st Watch – Informal accusation: Esmeralda Takewood (Housekeeper at Kingshall) accused Jonah Prizepeace (Doctor’s Husband)
Some thoughts after this session (if you are my player don’t read past here):
One player shared that it was fun to play a “genuine who-dunnit” rather than just rolling persuade a couple times and killing someone. I would agree! We didn’t have combat all session, but I am using some D&D 5th edition rule variations that encourage the players to avoid combat. Specifically, I am using the Gritty Realism rules from the DMG but modified for Witchburner. Short rest is resting for 1 watch (6 hours), where a long rest occurs when you engage in restful activity for 5 days.
I have been making the accusations and spreading rumors by rolling on some d30 tables. Wow, it is difficult to keep track of all these NPC’s! I am going to try out some custom tracking sheets to track accusations and investigations next session. I feel like once one npc spreads a rumor about another, I should track that to remember their relationship status. There were multiple rumors spread per scene, many of the rumors became accusations once the party asked people about them. I think tracking accusations is essential, but I am not so sure about tracking rumors.
The players took some time for table-talk after the session. They were agreed that Olga was probably not the witch, despite the fact that she had the most rumors and fingers pointed at her. They were speculating that there was likely some sort of cabal of individuals, rather than there being only one witch. They thought perhaps the city council was somehow behind it.
They picked up on the strange religious practices quite quickly, putting together the scars on the Notary’s face with the symbols in the church and the overheard mention of the “Earthbeater.” I am looking forward to seeing where that goes. The group has some pretty dogmatic characters in it.
I am not sure if I am getting the desperation/fear tone right. Most of the townfolk have felt more like gossips than like people who are genuinely afraid. Perhaps I should think of this as simply a starting point, and that as the malefica get more dire, I will be able to amp up the fear and paranoia.